Translate

Tuesday, February 27, 2007



Number 100



Wally Wood's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde



As you can see from the number above, this is Pappy's 100th posting!

For this occasion I wanted to bring you something special. I'm showing you a very early comic by Wally Wood and Harry Harrison, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

This comic has an interesting publishing history. I scanned it from my copy of Charlton's This Is Suspense #23, dated February, 1955, the last pre-code issue of that title.

Click on pictures for full-size images. The story was reprinted a couple of years earlier, in 1952 by Star Comics as Startling Terror Tales #10, with a cover by L. B. Cole. But the original printing was in 1950 by Fox Publishing in A Star Presentation #3. I don't know of any other one-shot comic book reprinted three times by three different publishers in less than five years.In the 1980s it was reprinted as The 3-D Zone #1, with a 3-D process job by Ray Zone. Those are the only printings I know of, so this may be its first presentation in cyberspace, the fifth time it has been presented in 56 years.

This is a very fast moving adaptation of the famous Robert Louis Stevenson classic, an examination of the two sides of good and evil. It is a very rushed-looking job, but probably because of the Harrison inking. Harrison bragged once about how fast he could ink with a #7 sable brush, and this appears to be something he did using that big brush. Wood later did work on The Spirit for Will Eisner, and there are some Eisnerish characters and layouts spotted throughout the story. It's far from the best thing Wood or Harrison ever did, but based on the careers they both had later--Harrison as a famous science fiction author and Wood as one of the most revered comic book artists of all--it has a great historical interest.

I haven't read the original Stevenson version of the story for decades, but I remember enough of it to advise you kids, do not use this comic book version as the basis for a book report in your English class.

Page 1 (274K) / Page 2 (293K) / Page 3 (282K) / Page 4 (279K) / Page 5 (275K) / Page 6 (266K) / Page 7 (301K) / Page 8 (308K) / Page 9 (259K) / Page 10 (263K) / Page 11 (306K) / Page 12 (259K) / Page 13 (275K) / Page 14 (265K) / Page 15 (261K) / Page 16 (269K) / Page 17 (256K) / Page 18 (250K) / Page 19 (265K) / Page 20 (254K) / Page 21 (251K) / Page 22 (262K) / Page 23 (247K) / Page 24 (249K) / Page 25 (263K)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Number 99



EC Comics: Adultery Is For Adults!



EC Comics' Shock Suspenstories #11 was the first non-Mad EC Comic I ever read. I was too young to read EC's when they were originally available, and I was buying them blind via mail-order from Bill Thailing of Cleveland, Ohio. Bill sold most EC's for about 50¢ each in 1960 and '61.


Click on pictures for full-size images.

I remember being disappointed by the cover; a guy and girl (even if the girl was in a bikini) on a sailboat, another guy getting knocked out. It didn't look like what I thought of as a horror comic. When I looked inside I was additionally puzzled. There was a splash panel with a pretty girl carrying a basket, a man behind a tree, and big letters, THE TRYST. I thought, "What's a tryst?"

Well, at age 12 I wasn't really expected to know, which was a problem with EC Comics. They were written for older readers, but a lot of kids read them, too. I'm sure that if parents were looking over their young boys' shoulders in 1953 when this comic came out, they had their eyes widened by that word. A tryst is a lover's rendezvous. And in the case of this story, refers to one character's perception of the tryst as an adulterous one.

When I read the story I really didn't pick up on a lot of the subtleties. I didn't know the older man hiring the young girl wanted to protect her virginity from other men because he wanted her sexually for himself. Virginity was also a word I didn't know. You may think I was naïve when I was 12, and you'd be right. It's hell when you have to get your sex education from EC Comics.

The panel where the new wife asks her older husband, who has stashed her away on an estate to keep her away from other males, if she could have a baby, got my attention. I knew a bit about babies and where they came from, but I was a bit weak on the mechanics of the process. I sure did like the picture that artist Johnny Craig drew of the young blonde babe, though.In the story the old man suspects his young wife is having an affair with another man, so he kills that man. I knew about jealousy, but sexual jealousy of this sort was beyond my comprehension at the time. Actually, it still is. It's not for me, anyway, although I'm aware of the crimes people commit when under its influence.

The capper is when the husband follows his young wife into the woods, thinking she's having a tryst with a lover. Craig, writer as well as artist, loads up the captions with information about her buttoning her blouse, or blowing kisses, which would lead a reader to suspect she's up to no good.
So the husband does the ultimate act: he shoots into the woods, killing the person he thinks is his wife's lover. The "lover" that the young wife was meeting was an orphan boy named Tommy, who lived behind the estate in an orphanage. The last panel shows a dead boy near a pond. Then as now, victims in fiction are objects, not "real" victims, like we find in life.The fact that the orphanage hadn't been mentioned before didn't bother me at the time, but now I realize that it's good to plant that information in the story somewhere so the reader doesn't feel the denouement has come out of left field. Which is exactly what this ending did. We know the young woman wants companionship, but the husband's jealous mind has turned her actions into cheating, when she's innocent of nothing more than making friends with a young boy. What we don't know ahead of time is that there is anything like an orphanage nearby.

Well, that's comics for you! They don't have a lot of room for information, so sometimes this sort of thing is left out, and it weakens the ending. Still, when I read this story the first time I wondered why the husband would have a problem with his wife meeting a young boy. Wow, was I dumb, missing the whole point of the story because of my unfamiliarity with the ways of sex, love and lust.

Three of the stories in Shock Suspenstories #11 deal with adultery. Only the second story, "In Gratitude," doesn't deal with a triangle love affair.

I bet most of the readers of Shock Suspenstories were probably in the 13-to-16 year age group, almost all of them male. In that more innocent time this issue should have set off alarm bells somewhere with somebody's parents, but maybe the excesses found in the horror comics trumped this comic. I think parents were probably more upset by walking dead than jealous husbands.

In my personal opinion, showing a dead child, murdered as a result of mistaken sexual jealousy, seems over the line. By that time in EC's history I'm sure it was just another snap ending to another story. In retrospect it seems more powerful and disturbing.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Number 98



Toth and Tufts in Drag Cartoons!



I got my first car in 1963. Those were the days when we thought all of the "bitchin" cars came out of Southern California. We--my buddies, me and most all the rest of the adolescent and adolescent-acting males in America--all wanted to be part of the car culture they had. Nowadays I'd just as soon take public transportation. Being cool isn't enough reason to own a car, as I found out very early on.

But the car culture produced one of the most unusual comics of all time, the black and white hot rod cartoon books, CAR'toons and later, Drag Cartoons. Both of these magazines were started in Southern California by racing enthusiast and cartoonist, Pete Millar. The story is that he created CAR'toons, walked out when he had a disagreement with the publisher, and started Drag Cartoons. Millar's artwork was pretty good, and the cover to this issue is extremely well done. But the art seems rooted in its era, maybe even earlier. It looks very 1950s to me, but it also seems perfect for the stories he was doing, about cars, hot rods and the kids who drove them.

In the earlier issues some of the best comic book artists who lived in Southern California worked for Drag Cartoons. In this installment of Pappy's I'm showing two of them, Alex Toth and Warren Tufts, both four-page stories from Drag Cartoons #2, December 1963. Toth is legendary for his comic book work, working in all sorts of genres. I think this example, "The Tell Tell Car," is a fine story. He didn't get a chance to work with satirical material often, and the splash panel shows the Mad influence of Mort Drucker. For you younger readers, the fellow making the speech in the splash is a caricature of distinguished actor E.G. Marshall. Along with "Mr. Brady," Robert Reed, he starred in a popular early 1960s TV drama called The Defenders.

Warren Tufts did a fantastic comic Western comic strip called Casey Ruggles, but as was claimed, was a perfectionist who spent a lot of hours at the drawing board and at some point quit the syndicated comic strip biz. The "Vincent Van Gears" story he did here shows how hard he worked. Every panel is beautifully composed and drawn. Toth's is too, but has the look of a strip done with looser pencilling, more spontaneous. The Van Gears strip, as good as it is, seems labored over. But what a great-looking story with a very strangely grown-up Dennis Mitchell, swinging into a real close approximation of the Dick Tracy comic strip. Oh yeah, for you younger readers again: The "Kennedy foot bit" the hot-rodding Dennis refers to on the first page would be the Presidential Fitness Program founded by President Kennedy in the early '60s, putting more emphasis on physical activity. And we would think, less on driving. (John F. Kennedy was assassinated just before this issue went off sale.)

All of the men mentioned on this page are gone now. Millar died in 2003, Toth in 2006, and Tufts died in a flying accident in the late '70s or early '80s.

Looking back, it seems odd that a black-and-white comic magazine about dragsters and hot rods could survive on the newsstands, but Drag Cartoons was around for many years, even after Millar sold it to settle debts incurred by forays into other magazines like Big Daddy Roth and even two issues of Wonder Wart-hog by Gilbert Shelton. Or maybe it isn't so odd. Mad and its imitators were still fairly comic-bookish, and the Warren black-and-white comic magazines, Creepy and Eerie, were coming into their own. Drag Cartoons, its predecessor and its descendents, were products of their time, and had a loyal following of young readers for whom cars and that California car culture were "Bitchin, man, bitchin!"

The Tell Tell Car by Alex Toth
Page 1 (213K) / Page 2 (219K) / Page 3 (232K) / Page 4 (250K)

Vincent Van Gears by Warren Tufts
Page 1 (212K) / Page 2 (247K) / Page 3 (264K) / Page 4 (158K)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Number 97



Frankenstein Friday: Frankenstein And The Plant!


Shades of Audrey II. For the final story in the horror comics incarnation of the Frankenstein monster, from Frankenstein#33, October-November 1954, creator Dick Briefer turns to the world of botany and plants. Of course, this is a horror comic, so the titular plant is a meat-eater. The Monster is in the story as an observer, standing back from the action for the most part, until the end when he is once again set upon and betrayed by humans.

The botanist, a "mad" scientist (there are no other kinds in horror comics), remains unnamed, but gets his just desserts, a la Little Shop Of Horrors. That movie in its original, non-musical form, was released just six years after this comic was published, and it's not too much of a stretch to imagine the screenplay writer had this story in mind. Stranger things have happened.

In the next-to-last panel of the story the Monster takes off for parts unknown, but we never get to find out where he's going. The series is at an end. The last panel is reserved for the mad scientist's gruesome fate.

I said this would be the last Frankenstein Friday, but I lied. Next week a 1966 Steve Ditko story.

Page 1 (254K) / Page 2 (313K) / Page 3 (318K) / Page 4 (259K) / Page 5 (264K) / Page 6 (337K) / Page 7 (332K) / Page 8 (328K) / Page 9 (318K)

I just got this book:

The Monster Of Frankenstein, written and drawn by Dick Briefer, reprints all of the horror comics issues of Frankenstein, numbers 18 through 33, from the early 1950s.

Production on the book is good. The stories, for economy's sake, are reprinted in black and white, but the reproductions are clear. This is a page from the story that I have posted this week in color, and you can compare the two.
In an afterword, Briefer's granddaughter, Alicia Jo Rabins, says she grew up with her grandfather's paintings, including Frankenstein, but beyond that tantalizing claim nothing is shown. If the cover artist of this volume is identified I can't see it. The painting seems crude compared to the rest of Briefer's art, but if it is by Briefer, could have been done in his later life.
I think the covers from the individual issues should have also been reprinted, a la Marvel's Essentials and DC's Showcase series'. I believe it was a mistake of omission.

The book is available from Amazon.com for $20.99. If you've enjoyed the stories I've posted from Briefer's horror phase of Frankenstein you'll like this book.

The Monster Of Frankenstein, Story and Art By Dick Briefer. Supplementary Material by David Jacobs, E.J. Robinson, Alicia Jo Rabins. 2006, 246 pp., 7"x10 1/8" trade paperback. Color covers, black and white interiors.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Number 96



Sparky Watts and The Father Of His Country!



I've been waiting for President's Day to show you this story from Sparky Watts #5, 1947. It's by the great Gordon "Boody" Rogers, in my opinion one of the top cartoonists of the Golden Age.

I last showed you a story by Boody in Pappy's #32, where I posted a story from his regular monthly appearance in Big Shot Comics #86. Boody had a unique and clear cartooning style, which he developed as Zack Moseley's assistant on that cartoonist's Smilin' Jack comic strip.

I also showed you a favorite science fiction theme of mine, time travel, in Pappy's #89, when I told you about what I liked about the Alley Oop comic strip. This Sparky Watts story has a form of time travel. Instead of them going into the past, they bring George Washington into the future. Actually they resurrect him, using a special "life restorer lite" that Doc Static has invented. Considering its shortness, three chapters adding up to 20 pages, Rogers manages to make some pretty good gags. The man-out-of-his-own-time possibilities are well exploited by Boody.

Learn what really happened when Washington cut down the cherry tree, or why he stood up in the boat crossing the Potomac. See George Washington in a zoot suit! Learn how many stars Slap Happy thinks are on the 1947 American flag!Enjoy the laughs, and Happy President's Day!

Page 1 (302K) / Page 2 (268K) / Page 3 (282K) / Page 4 (281K) / Page 5 (320K) / Page 6 (301K) / Page 7 (347K) / Page 8 (277K) / Page 9 (293K) / Page 10 (303K) / Page 11 (301K) / Page 12 (288K) / Page 13 (287K) / Page 14 (272K) / Page 15 (291K) / Page 16 (275K) / Page 17 (267K) / Page 18 (285K) / Page 19 (279K) / Page 20 (266K)

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Number 95



The Original Ghost Rider



The movie, Ghost Rider, was released yesterday. In it Nicolas Cage plays the Marvel Comics character, a supernatural being with flames shooting out of his head. We Golden Age comics' fans know that's not the true Ghost Rider, but some usurper who is using his name.

Ghost Rider #1 came out in 1950 from Magazine Enterprises (ME), a comic book company founded by one of DC Comics' original editors, Vincent Sullivan. It wasn't a big company, but its output was quality. They used some of the best artists: Bob Powell, Frank Frazetta, and the Ghost Rider artist, Dick Ayers.

The original Ghost Rider appeared in his own title for 14 issues between 1950 and 1954. He also made appearances in several other ME Western comics. Ghost Rider was canceled because it wouldn't survive the new Comics Code, but in 1967 Marvel Comics published seven issues of a new series, also drawn by Ayers. AC Comics re-named the character Haunted Horseman when they began republishing the original ME stories.

The 1950's Ghost Rider stories were fast paced and entertaining. They had elements of horror, but as in the story posted for Frankenstein Friday in Pappy's #50 sometimes the supernatural turned out to be a trick, like the Ghost Rider himself.

In the origin story the supernatural appears to be real. The "Calico Kid," Rex Fury, hovers between life and death, he is trained by famous dead Westerners. It packs a lot into six pages, and as always, the art is superb.Click on pictures for full-size images.

Page 1 (280K) / Page 2 (259K) / Page 3 (262K) / Page 4 (269K) / Page 5 (280K) / Page 6 (282K)

Friday, February 16, 2007



Number 94



Frankenstein Friday: Death O'Clock!



This is the second-to-last story from the Monster Of Frankenstein series, written and drawn by Dick Briefer. It was published in Frankenstein #33, October-November 1954. That was the last issue, probably because the Comics Code was about to be instituted. Frankenstein likely wouldn't have passed the rigid censorship in the earliest days of the Code.

So far as storytelling goes, this is fairly good. It relies too heavily on captions, some of which tell us what we're already seeing (a common error with captioning in comic books), but the plot is good, the characters are interesting and the art is well done, especially for this series.

While competently drawn, I wonder if Briefer's heart was into this more serious cartooning style after the years he spent with his funny Frankenstein character.Page 1 (252K) / Page 2 (311K) / Page 3 (300K) /Page 4 (309K) / Page 5 (329K) / Page 6 (288K) / Page 7 (309K) / Page 8 (316K) / Page 9 (304K) / Page 10 (272K)


Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Number 93



Airboy Dazzled and Duped By A Dame!



I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out what I could do to commemorate Valentine's Day for you. I never got around to collecting love comics, so I dug around and found this story of how Airboy found--and lost--love.

When Airboy was created by Charles Biro and premiered in Air Fighters Comics #2, he was a boy. When this unnamed story was published, in Airboy Comics Volume 5 Number 4, May 1948, Airboy had grown into a young man, maybe 20-years-old or so. When he was younger his special plane, Birdie, was his first love. But by this story Airboy shows he could be dazzled by the opposite sex, just like all of you horny jokers out there reading this.

Fred Kida was the artist. In the late 1940s the art of Milton Caniff on Terry And The Pirates and then Steve Canyon was very influential with other artists. Caniff's style became the house style at DC for several years. Some artists pulled off the Caniff look better than others. Kida was one of the best. Looking at this story I find every page a primer in how to draw in that style: naturalistic figure drawing, bold inking, great camera angles and composition, not to mention the use of interesting and exotic backgrounds.

Kida also drew a very nice looking babe in Laura. We can see why Airboy was so taken by her.

Oh, did I mention? The story is interesting, too.

I got this story in the form of tear sheets over 25 years ago. A man interested in this style of art had bought the comics, then cut out what interested him. I got a box full of loose pages, and reconstructed several stories by various artists of the late 1940s. Unfortunately the last three pages of this story have a chunk out of the bottom corner. Sorry about that! You'll see enough to figure out what's going on, and the missing pieces don't really hurt the story.

The cover is from the Internet, and is drawn by Dan Zolnerowich.


Page 1 (250K) / Page 2 (279K) / Page 3 (247K) / Page 4 (273K) / Page 5 (248K) / Page 6 (275K) / Page 7 (276K) / Page 8 (260K) / Page 9 (276K) / Page 10 (263K) / Page 11 (259K) / Page 12 (274K) / Page 13 (255K) / Page 14 (252K) / Page 15 (245K)

A PAPPY BONUS! FOR YOU LAZY GUYS WHO FORGOT TO BUY YOUR SWEETIE A VALENTINE! Here's a valentine from Humbug Magazine #8, April 1958. Print it, cut it out, and give it to your special someone.


Monday, February 12, 2007



Number 92



Secret Origins and Sky Bird #2



June, 1961 was a good month for me. On June 22 I got Superman Annual #3, and on June 29 I bought the first Batman Annual, which I thought was excellent, and still do! But a couple of weeks earlier, on June 15, I waited impatiently at Sunnyside Pharmacy for Gus the pharmacist to put out that week's comics, pouncing on the one special squarebound issue I'd been waiting for, Secret Origins. I'd been primed for it since seeing the ads in some DC Comics.

I was 12-years-old, would be 13 in less than a month. A teenager! Time to put childish things like comic books behind,* but not just yet. I just had to have something called Secret Origins. After all, it promised to show me the origins of the Superman-Batman team, which I followed in World's Finest Comics, Adam Strange, a terrific strip from Mystery In Space, Flash (one of my favorites), Green Lantern, and even lesser super-heroes like Green Arrow and J'Onn J'Onzz, the Martian with the stupidest name ever. I could have skipped the Wonder Woman origin, but I was especially interested in the Challengers Of The Unknown, by a "new" favorite artist, Jack Kirby.

I took the book home and with shaking hands started to read, only to find by the last page that I'd been screwed. It wasn't at all what I wanted or what I'd hoped it would be.Apparently Jim Harmon, who wrote the issue of Sky Bird#2 devoted to just that subject, felt the same way.

I showed you Sky Bird #1 back in Pappy's #26. Number 2 is a five-page fanzine produced like the first issue on a spirit duplicator. The cover artist, Ronn Foss, was a talented amateur who was expected to go places in comics. As it turned out he didn't--not the way he had planned, anyway--because by the time Ronn was ready for comics they weren't ready for him. Comic book companies by 1961 were closed shops; they had all the artists they needed or could keep busy. Ronn worked on fanzines, taking over The Comicollector and Alter Ego from Jerry Bails, and published his own 'zines for several years.

Jim Harmon wrote the book, The Great Radio Heroes, and was one of the first writers to take popular culture of the 1930s and '40s seriously. At the time I read this issue of Sky Bird** with its critique of Secret Origins I said a loud, "Amen!" in agreement. In the 46 years since I've softened my opinion. For its time the editors published what they felt was the most commercially viable material. They probably thought that no one would be interested in the early 1940s comic books.

I pulled out my original copy of Secret Origins (I still have it, along with the other DC squareback annuals I bought that month) and re-read it. I should say I skip-read it, since the stories were familiar enough to me. I agreed with Harmon in his original assessment of what should have been included, but neither he nor I had any idea that by the mid-1960s we'd see The Great Comic Book Heroes by Jules Feiffer, reprinting several great stories, which in turn begat book after book of comics archives and reprints. (That's not to mention the Internet and Pappy.)

In 1961 neither Harmon nor I could have dreamed that within the next few decades we'd be seeing all of the things that we wanted for Secret Origins and much, much more.




*I'm still reading comics nearly five decades later. So much for outgrowing them.

**Incidentally, I scanned Sky Bird #2 before selling it a few years ago on eBay for the outrageous winning bid of over $200. I'm still shaking my head over that one. It made me wish I'd held on to more of the old fanzines, which I thought were interesting, but to which I assigned no value either personally or financially.

Friday, February 09, 2007




Number 91



Frankenstein Friday: The Monster's Mate!




Pity the poor Monster. As Don Rickles used to say, "So lonely. I gotta find a broad."

In this pathos-heavy story, a mute and mutilated 7' circus woman wanders into the Monster's life, and he suddenly finds friendship and some sort of monsterly fulfillment in her companionship. Too bad the stupid and superstitious villagers--as all European villagers apparently are, according to old movies and comic books--don't see anything good about the Frankenstein Monster and 7' woman palling around together. They go after them with the usual tools of European villagers: rakes, clubs, torches…even some guns.

The story comes from The Monster Of Frankenstein #23, February-March, 1953.

Click on picture for full-size image.

In his transition from funny Frankenstein to the Monster of Frankenstein, with a style change from comedy to horror, our favorite creature has perhaps forgotten he was once married. That story was posted in Pappy's #27. Unfortunately, the Monster's new girlfriend, with whom he shacks up in a cave, isn't much better looking than his ex-wife. The guy can't catch a break.

Since last week's posting I've been informed of a trade paperback book called The Monster Of Frankenstein, which reprints all of the Briefer stories from The Monster Of Frankenstein numbers 18 through 33. I have two more stories to post, both from the last issue, #33. I don't have the book, although I've got it on order. The book's contents are printed in black and white but if you've enjoyed these stories I've posted you might want to go to Amazon.com and check it out.

Next week: The next-to-last Frankenstein Friday: "Death O'Clock!"

Page 1 (323K) / Page 2 (302K) / Page 3 (331K) / Page 4 (326K) / Page 5 (282K) / Page 6 (335K) / Page 7 (299K) / Page 8 (319K) / Page 9 (295K) / Page 10 (295K) / Page 11 (305K) / Page 12 (327K) / Page 13 (308K)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007



Number 90



Bob Powell's The Man In The Hood!



The truly great Golden Age comic book artists were the artists of whom it could be said, "that guy could draw anything.*" Bob Powell could draw anything, and he drew anything extremely well. It didn't matter the genre: crime, science fiction, jungle, western, horror, romance, super-heroes…he could draw it.

Even though Powell worked from the late 1930s until the mid-1960s when he died, my favorite period of his is in the mid-to-late Golden Age, circa 1947 to 1954. Powell never worked for the biggest of the bigs in the publishing industry. During his time in the 1950s he was active with four publishers, mainly Magazine Enterprises (ME), Fawcett, Harvey and St. John. As far as I know during this period he didn't draw any stories for DC Comics, Dell, or Atlas. My favorite stories of Powell's from this early 1950s era are his horror stories. He did some fine ones. Luckily some of the original art from those stories still exists, found in a warehouse for Harvey Comics.

I'm posting a story scanned from original art that I think is topnotch Powell. The story, "The Man In The Hood," from Chamber Of Chills #13, 1952, is a gruesome story set in the period of the French Revolution, involving the guillotine and the executioner, a man who stays safely inside his mask.
The artwork in this story is superb. Powell did use assistants--he'd have had to or he'd never have been able to produce as much work as he did in those years--and they did a wonderful job, but he had the control. The art always looks like Powell.

In looking at the individual panels in this story you can see attention to detail: the horse and carriage on page 1, the costuming throughout the story, and even the anatomy of the executioner. In panel 2, page 4, the executioner, with leather straps around his bare chest, is shown to have some love handles! ( Now that's attention to details!)

With good drawing came great inking. I don't know if people ever really look at inking, but in those days the main tool of the inker was a sable watercolor brush called a Winsor-Newton Series 7, Number 3. These fine brushes were--and still are--made in England and they can come to a precise needle thickness of a tip or expand out to give a broad line, which is why inkers could create those wonderful thick and thin lines that give comic art such a unique look.

Another characteristic of Powell's artwork was to give the color artist a light blue watercolor wash in areas he wanted emphasized with color. I'm sorry that wash doesn't reproduce better in my scans. I did them at 900 pixels wide so you could revel in the art, but Photobucket, where I store these pages you are linking to, doesn't do anything that large and automatically reduced them to about 685 pixels wide. Oh well…I think you'll get the idea.

Page 1 (219K) / Page 2 (207K) / Page 3 (238K) / Page 4 (233K) / Page 5 (220K) / Page 6 (227K)

*Or, well, almost anything. One of my all-time favorite artists, Jack Davis, couldn't draw love comics. He could draw everything else, though.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Number 89



Alley Oop And The Epics Of Homer!




I always thought of Alley Oop as the best comic strip I never got to see. As a kid in the 1950s I was aware of it. I'd seen some comic books here and there, so I was familiar enough with the character that when the popular song by the Hollywood Argyles came out in 1960 I knew what it referred to. My parents never subscribed to any newspaper that featured the strip. What fascinated me about it was the science fiction idea of time travel.

V. T. Hamlin, created Alley Oop in the early 1930s, and it's still running today, almost three-fourths of a century later. Now that's time travel!

Oop has been popular enough for continuous publication, but didn't have the kind of distribution other popular strips had. It was syndicated by NEA, which wasn't King Features or Chicago Tribune, both of which had strips in thousands of newspapers, popular in all kinds of formats, from movies to radio to comic books. I have wondered if Alley Oop wouldn't have been twice as popular as many of the other comic strips of the era had it been given their syndication.

Reprints of Alley Oop have been sparse, but there have been some. My favorite reprints so far have been those of Kitchen Sink, but especially Dragon Lady Press in the mid-to-late 1980s. I don't know how hard these are to get now; I bought them off the stands from my local comic book shop when they came out. Dragon Lady was one of my favorite reprint publishers of the era, but may have been submerged by a comic book boom and glut during that time.
Besides the historical reprinting of the first Oop strips in #1, "The Legend Begins," the real historical (in both senses of the word) reprinting started with #2, "Enter The Time Machine," with the introduction of Doc Wonmug and his fantastic invention. Oop is plucked from the prehistoric world he had inhabited for the past six years of his strip's lifespan, and suddenly the whole world of plot ideas opened up. I was never overly fond of the Moo sequences, where Oop would return to the tribe of fellow cavemen. The real Sense of Wonder the strip had for me was in the time travel elements.

The time travel sequence had a brief tease a few days before the strip did its abrupt turn in plot, a sequence where Ooola and Oop witness a camera, sent back through time, materialize and dematerialize before them."Enter The Time Machine," and its follow-up in #3, "Oop Vs. Hercules," contain an uninterrupted 15-month story of Oop's adventures outside of his own time in Moo. Hamlin picked two epics, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey to kick off his new look for the strip. Oop and friends are in on the Trojan War, end up with Ulysses on his voyage home, then on their own odyssey with Hercules.

Oop was a strip with humor, suspense, good storytelling, and above all, great artwork. As you can see from these two strips, Hamlin (and his assistants) didn't cheat the reader when it came to perspective or detailed drawings. Most artists just wouldn't go to that much trouble, not then, not now. Excellent drawing was a big part of the strip's appeal.Besides the perspective in drawing I like to put things into perspective. In 1939 comic strips were a major popular culture force. During World War II paper rationing caused strips to shrink and they've never stopped. In 1939, just before the start of their steady decline, they were full-size, and they were wonderful. Think of the titles of even a fraction of the popular strips of the era: The Phantom, Mandrake The Magician, Terry And The Pirates, Wash Tubbs, Li'l Abner, Dick Tracy, and the list goes on and on. It was almost an embarrassment of riches. As far as I'm concerned, Alley Oop held his own with any of the major comic strip players of the era.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Number 88



Frankenstein Friday: World of Monsters!



Dick Briefer's Frankenstein series went on hiatus for about three years. The last issue of the comedic, cartoony Frankenstein, #17, was in 1949. In 1952 the character was revived to be more like he was conceived in the movies, an inarticulate, grunting beast, not totally human. This was during the horror comics boom of the early '50s. Frankenstein isn't quite like other horror comics because of the recurring character, but also because there isn't a whole lot of horror going on!

This story, "World Of Monsters," is a tale incorporating elements from H.G. Wells' The Island Of Dr. Moreau, (the human girl created from a wildcat), and Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, (a mesa with dinosaurs). There's also a panel of the Frankenstein Monster in hand-to-hand combat with a dinosaur, which brings King Kong to mind.

With all of those influences the story promises to be interesting, and it maintains that level of interest for its thirteen pages. The Frankenstein Monster seems almost a secondary character in the story, which seems more interested in the relationship between the reporter, Frost, and the wildcat-girl, Kit. The interjection of the Monster brings the final resolution.

I'm not a good enough art spotter to tell you whether Briefer actually drew the story. He signed it, but it's different enough from his cartooning of the former series that it's hard for me to spot parallels in the artwork. Later stories I have show more boldness in the inking, more detail in the shading. The artwork in this story is pretty much just linework without a lot of shading or detail. It's good enough to tell the story.The revived series ran to issue #33 in 1954. I only own issues #21, 23 and 33, which contain a total of four stories. After I've posted those four, Frankenstein Friday will end. It's been a fun run for me. I like the character and I enjoy being able to bring these stories to you.

Page 1 (276K) / Page 2 (267K) / Page 3 (300K) / Page 4 (328K) / Page 5 (310K) / Page 6 (288K) / Page 7 (315K) / Page 8 (339K) / Page 9 (326K) / Page 10 (310K) / Page 11 (307K) / Page 12 (307K) / Page 13 (337K)