Halloween approaches and that means it's time for a SCARY, ALL-TRUE STORY of DEATH and HORROR that, for once, actually IS all true! And kind of horrific! It's a story that explains why all those horror hosts are coughing all the time, a story we like to call... SMOG.
The actual name of the story is "Donora's Deadly Fog", from the pages of "Blake Harper City Surgeon" #1, and it's about the industrial town of Donora, south of Pittsburgh, a city of trains, power plants, steel mills, all kinds of furious smoky industrial activity. Gosh I wonder if this might be affecting the air quality?
The fog's first victim is quickly restored with a shot of aminophyllin, which I'd never heard of but is something I'm definitely going to get ahold of the next time I have sinus trouble. Who says you can't learn anything from comics?
Suddenly the town became overwhelmed with thick choking fog, inescapable in a time before HEPA filters or fashionable Japanese surgical-style face masks or home air conditioning, or the double-paned insulated windows we take for granted nowadays.
Okay doctors, you can quit checking up on old Mrs. Johnson, because she's dead, or a Martian. Get back to your furious needling of townspeople!
Dammit Chief Brody we aren't going to cancel 4th Of July - I mean, the Halloween Parade - just because of some shark! I mean, fog! Get those kids out there and put some masks on their faces and have them march up and down Main Street until I tell them to stop!
yes, the specter of death looms over us all. We get it, Halloween. Enough already
"Yup, the fog was so bad I had to walk in front of the car holding a flashlight to guide that car along the streets!"
"So you had to walk anyway... so... why did you need the car, again?"
"Uh... um... next question."
Want to see more thrilling adventures of fearless undertakers? Don't miss the next issue of "Bob Harker, City Undertaker."
Patients were brought in but one was already dead, depriving the staff of Serial Killer Massacre Community Center a potential victim.
Then without any warning or explanation, the killing power of the mysterious fog suddenly seemed to vanish! It's almost as if the relief came once the town finally convinced the zinc plant and the steel mill to shut down. ALMOST, I say. We don't want to make any hasty conclusions about the possible source of deadly air pollution.
Yes, the burning question was in all their minds! WHAT MADE THIS FOG A KILLER? Did it involve burning? Hm, let me see... back on page one of this story...
Steel mills, zinc and sulphuric acid plants all pouring smoke into the rolling fog in a 1948 America without pollution controls of any sort, I wonder if that might have had something to do with this deadly fog. I mean, that zinc plant killed all vegetation within a half-mile radius! It's a no-brainer! Let's see if this comic book will come to the obvious conclusion.
Wow, way to fudge the facts there Gold Key Comics. "No single substance was the killer!" Well, no. Industrial pollution is made up of SEVERAL substances. So I guess this comic is technically correct, and unlikely to offend any steel mill plant managers who might happen to pick this comic up.
And there our four-page filler story ends, never bothering to explain that a temperature inversion trapped Donora's deadly fog over the town causing the worst air pollution disaster in American history, or that the plant managers didn't shut down their mills until five straight days of death and illness had passed. The shocking destruction in Donora led eventually to the passage of the Clean Air And Water Act and the state and federal pollution laws in place today - laws that wouldn't start to be passed until three years after this comic story appeared, so perhaps Gold Key Comics did some good after all.
Today Donora is a much smaller community; being the site of a deadly air pollution disaster will do that to a town sometimes. The various corporations involved settled with the survivors for pennies on the dollar and by '66 all the steel mills were closed down, but Donora refuses to go quietly and today is the site of the Donora Smog Museum, so if you're in the area drop in, check it out, and take a deep breath of relatively clean air, brought to you in part by... "Donora's Deadly Fog."
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