Recently was turned on to virtually unknown comics genius Fletcher Hanks thanks to the wonderful Fantagraphics compilation, I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks. Hanks, by all accounts a vicious drunk who regularly beat his wife and son before abandoning them sometime in the ’30s, was one of the unsung pioneers of comic book art. His crude, yet fascinating panels are filled with weird, stiffly-drawn characters and an imaginative color palate. Hanks’ melodramatic story lines (which usually revolve around a group of gangsters intent on destroying New York City before being stopped by an omniscient, all-powerful superhero) are filled with nightmarish retributions visited on the perps. In one story, the villain is transmogrified into a disembodied head before being thrown into a cosmic abyss and into the arms of a headless giant whose gaping neck swallows it whole. Potent stuff. Hanks’ career was brief — beginning around 1939 before ending abruptly in 1941. Little is known about his whereabouts although his estranged son claims the old man met a raw end sometime in the early ’70s. I’ll spare you the details but you can read about them in the emotional afterword of I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets by editor Paul Karasik.