Friday, June 29, 2007

Number 153

Son of Frankenstein Friday…again

Yet another in our on-again-off-again series featuring our favorite monster.

This is a diverse group: a Garbage Pail Kids card, a Marvel "Classic," a Joe Maneely satire strip from Cracked, an indy comic with a famous cover artist and two covers by Dick Briefer. There's even a snack to nibble on while you look at all of this. The Kellogg's Monster Fruit Flavored Snacks I bought last Halloween. Hurry and eat them, though…the expiration date is tomorrow, June 30, 2007.

For a time in the 1970's Marvel Comics had their own line of Classics Comics, with art usually done by the Filipino artists that took over comics for a time during that era. This was a rush job by Dino Castrillo, an artist I'm not familiar with. Despite the visualization of an ugly monster on the cover by artists Gene Colan and Ernie Chua (Chan), Castrillo's monster is actually--gasp--handsome.Not so handsome is John Pound's Garbage Pail Kid Frankenstein. Jeez, is that a cat he's stomping? Don't tell PETA, please. I don't need any trouble, and it's all Pound's fault, anyway.Tomb Tales was a black and white homage to horror comics published in the late '90s. This is issue #7, from 1999, with a cover by none other than the great Jack Davis! I don't know how the guy swung it, or how much he paid the artists, but he used other EC artists for other covers. Check out his website for all of the covers. Not only does Davis do a great job on the Frankenstein monster, he includes Dracula, the Wolfman and even the Gillman. A regular Universal Monsters gang.

Click on pictures for full-size images. The pages below are already full-size.

From an old 1950's Cracked magazine comes Frankenstein by Joe Maneely. Joe did a much better version in an old issue of Atlas Comics' Menace.* I scanned the story from a reprint in Cracked Monster Party #2, from 1989. If you're getting eyestrain from trying to read the small type, don't feel bad. I've read it and it's not worth the trouble.

Finally, two great covers by the master of the funny Frankenstein, Dick Briefer. These issues of Prize Comics are from 1947.

*You can see that story if you click on Joe's name in the labels under this posting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Number 152

Space Ace and the Nothing Weapon!

Space Ace returns for his third appearance in Jet #3. It's his first appearance drawn by Al Williamson. As a treat, here's a scan of the original art for the splash page of this story.
Click on the picture for the full-size image.

Space Ace runs into a rare book and a pirate queen. Flor. She pulls the ol' come on over act on him, wearing her sexy dress with the slit up the side...on Saturn's moon of Titan, yet! She doesn't think that he knows that she knows that he's slipping her a mickey. He really knows that she knows but he also knows she doesn't know he's switched the mickey around. Too bad, Flor. Space Ace gets one up on you. Flor ends up on the floor.

This is full of more space opera hokum courtesy of scripter Gardner Fox. I like the "paralysobeam" reference she uses to her henchman, Gayta. (Gayta?) The henchman takes off with the book, but the rest of her pirate gang is still around. You can tell they're pirates because one of them is wearing a punk rock mohawk, and a shirt with a skull on it. Or it could be he picked up an old rock t-shirt from the Titan Salvation Army Thrift Store.

I don't think Al Williamson ever did a job by himself. Harvey Kurtzman called the Williamson posse "The Fleagle Gang," and they were tight: Al, Torres, Frazetta, Krenkel. I've seen this strip reprinted in several different fanzines over the years. Pre-EC work by Williamson (and his gang) is so desirable it's the reason most people would have for collecting Jet #3.

In the upcoming and final Space Ace in Jet #4, you'll see he even enlisted some aid from Wally Wood.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Number 151

"I Discovered The Secret Of The Flying Saucers!"

Sixty years ago today, June 24, 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold was flying his private plane over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State when he saw a flight of what he described as "crescent-shaped craft." It caught the public's attention in a big way. From the early news reports grew the legends, stories and mythology of flying saucer lore. Nowadays we call them UFOs, but I still like the term "flying saucers." So did Jack Kirby, who did this story for the resurrection in 1958 of the deceased Atlas Comics.

Here's how I understand the events: In 1957 comic book publisher Martin Goodman sold his distribution company, and within short order had his editor, Stan Lee, fire his staff. No comic books were produced for over a year until Goodman made a deal with his main competitor, DC Comics. DC agreed to distribute Martin Goodman's comic book line as long as he kept it down to six titles a month. The first of those titles, which is dated December, 1958, was Strange Worlds #1, with the cover and lead story by Jack Kirby.

In retrospect this is the comic book that led to the creation of the Marvel Comics line as we know it today. No writer is listed but it was probably Stan Lee, working with art provided by Kirby. It was inked by Christopher Rule, who did quite a bit of inking of Kirby before Dick Ayers took over the chores.

This particular copy of Strange Worlds #1 I've scanned is the one I bought off the stands in 1958. I was impressed by the story and the dynamic Kirby artwork.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Number 150

John Buscema's Helen Of Troy

Dell Movie adaptations were very popular in the 1950s. I bought my share of them.

What interested me about Helen Of Troy (the movie) was the star, Italian actress Rossana Podesta, who in my nine-year-old brain I had elevated to the level of goddess. I thought she was totally hot. My dad must've thought so, too, because he took me to the movie. Did I mention I was nine-years-old? Do nine-year-olds harbor such lusty thoughts? I did.
Besides Rossana Podesta I had another secret fetish for Helen of Troy. Dad had some books his father had bought for him about 1930-31. The books were a four-volume set, My Book Of History, published in 1930 by The Book House For Children. They may've been published for children, but some of the pictures were very un-childlike, either to a nine-year-old kid or a 59-year-old adult, for that matter. This is the My Book Of History version of how Paris met Menelaos' wife, Helen. See those perky boobs--and how can you miss them--she's pointing right at Paris? Boy, howdy, did that picture make an impression on me. The artist is someone named Simpson.Click on pictures for full-size images.

John Buscema was the artist who drew Dell's adaptation of Helen Of Troy, but I didn't know that until quite a while after Buscema's art became familiar to me in the late '60s-early '70s. By that later stage of his career Buscema was fully immersed in the Marvel Comics style, drawing super-heroes like The Avengers and sword-and-sorcery like Conan. His art was full of action, Jack Kirby-style. By comparison, Helen Of Troy (published as Dell Four Color #684, and dated March, 1956) was more sedate and illustrative, more Hal Foster's Prince Valiant than Jack Kirby. Not that he didn't draw some action in Helen. The fight scenes are very good. Buscema's art is solid and well-suited to the material.

The thing I immediately noticed about the comic Helen Of Troy is that in the end Paris lived. In the movie he was killed. The comic doesn't dodge this, nor does the movie, but basically the story of Helen and Paris is of a guy stealing a man's wife. Yeah, it's also a story about a big war and eventually a big wooden horse, but in its distilled form it's about two people with a hankering for hanky-panky. For a long time in literature and motion pictures there was an unwritten rule about adultery. If people committed adultery then someone had to die. Adultery was one of those understandable, but unforgivable sins, so the punishment was usually death. In the movie, Helen Of Troy, that unwritten rule was enforced, but in the comic book it wasn't. We found out that Paris had survived just a couple of panels before the "Dell Pledge To Parents" which says, "[Dell Comics] eliminates entirely, rather than regulates, objectionable material." OK…if they say so.

Some vandal--and it was most likely me--took a grease pencil to some of Page 5. Sorry about that.

I thought you'd enjoy this special treat to commemorate Pappy's #150.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Number 149

Jet Powers and The Devil's Machine!

What th--?! At the end of "The Dust Doom," the first story in Jet #3, (Pappy's #146) the human race was having to make a new beginning after near annihilation. Now here we are with story two and everything seems as it was before the first story. So what gives? Well, I don't know, but can tell you that the storyline begun with "The Dust Doom" is continued in Jet #4. It's an odd way of doing continuity, and the confusion it caused among readers might be the reason that Jet only lasted four issues. That and the fact that science fiction comics weren't very good sellers compared to other genres.

"The Devil's Machine" is from the same template as "House Of Horrors" in Jet #2. Another mad scientist. Another girl. More civilian victims. Another pseudo-scientific device from the mind of writer Gardner Fox. No Su Shan this time, though.

Professor Mikla has developed a machine, "the multipliciter,"* that duplicates animals. A herd of cloned elephants and lions escape his laboratory. Since this is a comic book, the authorities handle it in the least humane way possible. Instead of capturing or tranquilizing the marauding beasts they machine gun them to death from the air. I guess PETA didn't have a chapter in that part of the country in 1951.

As is also usual for this type of story, the mad scientist comes up against his own equipment and it kills him. Actually, he kills himself--or himselves, as it were.

Once again the story has good art by Bob Powell, hurt by bad printing.

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*Anticipating by four-and-a-half decades the movie, Multiplicity(1996), starring Michael Keaton.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Number 148

Pussycat, Pussycat, I love you…

Did anyone ever draw glamorous, sexy chicks as well as Bill Ward?

Pussycat was a feature Ward did in the 1960s for Marvel Comics owner Martin Goodman's line of men's magazines, after having established himself as a cartoonist of excellence in drawing the female form. Ward had worked as a comic book artist for years. He created super-siren Torchy, as well as being an artist specializing in love comics and several other genres, including Blackhawk. It was the pin-up art that made him famous, though.

Pussycat was a satire on the spy craze started by the James Bond phenomenon, continued on with TV shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, et al.) The character she most resembled was Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder's Annie Fanny in Playboy. Like Annie, Pussycat was an innocent, without guile. She apparently didn't understand the effect she was having on the men around her, who acted like horny idiots.

This particular strip was originally published in 1966, then reprinted in 1968 in a compilation magazine, Pussycat #1, listed in the indicia as being published by Marvel Comics. It contains one story by Wally Wood and another by Jim Mooney. The cover is by Bill Everett. The rest of it is all Ward.

Click on pictures for full-size images.

Several books have been published reprinting Ward's pin-up cartoons. For years he sold about 30 of them a month to Goodman's Humorama Publications. You couldn't open one of those digest magazines without seeing a new Ward.

Years ago I got lucky and found some of Ward's cartoons for sale at a San Diego Comicon. I even found a rough he submitted for approval, most likely to the aforementioned humor magazines he contributed to so regularly.
Even though it's a rough he lavished his time and attention on the girl. The guys in his cartoons, and even in his comic strips* were drawn as generic guys, with a lot less attention than he gave to his girls. The guys in his cartoons all went crazy at the sight of a pretty girl. If you were ever to see a living Ward girl walk down the street you might go crazy too.

*Ward was also a regular for years in Cracked Magazine, sometimes under the name McCartney.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Number 147

Stan Lee and Joe Sinnott's Witch In The Woods

When Stan Lee wrote "The Witch In The Woods" in 1953 for Menace #7, comics were under direct assault by parents and teacher groups, from the pulpit and even from investigators in the government. Considering the avalanche of criticism burying the comics industry Lee's satiric story seems tame, not so much a 'repel all boarders' defense as a gentle and funny rejoinder to the critics.

Lee is right that Brothers Grimm stories, gathered as they were from European folktales, are often cruel and nightmarish, especially for children. But comics were available on practically every newsstand, in every drugstore and mom-and-pop store in the country. In the early 1950s I could walk two blocks and find three stores that sold comic books. Almost every kid had access to comics and they sold in the millions every month. On the other hand, unless I went to the library or bookstore I'd have a hard time finding a copy of "Hansel and Gretel." Stories by the Brothers Grimm were considered literature. Comics weren't. Even so, it wasn't the story material that bothered the do-gooders, it was its marketing and availability to children.

"The Witch In The Woods" is a good story, anyway. Lee did a fine job with the familiar tale and its framing device. Joe Sinnott's artwork is, as usual, top-notch. He made his real fame with his inking of Jack Kirby in the 1960's, but he was an above average artist in his own right.

You can find other postings with Joe Sinnott artwork by clicking on his name in the links below.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Number 146

Jet Powers And The Dust Of Doom!

Forget all about global warming. There's a more immediate danger: The earth is going through a cloud of radioactive dust! Yikes! We've got three days, so live it up, folks. In this story as the doom approaches anarchy reigns with looting and murders. Then Jet Powers makes an appearance.

Speaking to the world over loudspeakers, and telling an involved and personal story, Jet tells how he went into space with sexy Su Shan and his spaceship conked out from the radioactive dust. Due to Jet's ingenuity they got back, but I'll let you read about it.

This is pretty heavy doomsday stuff for just a 9-page story, starting off this third issue of Jet, written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Bob Powell.Ever since Su Shan admitted to Jet that she liked him (second story, second issue), I've wondered what's going on. There's no indication there was any weightless whoopee going on in space, but I mean, still, you've gotta wonder where Jet's head is, traveling alone with a beautiful girl and not being more attracted or something. She blinded me with science, as the song goes…or Jet was blinded to her by science. Who knows? It's been a long time since 1951 when this appeared. Anyone who could tell us where the Jet Powers/Su Shan partnership was going had Jet continued its run past #4 is long since dead.

The printing on this story is pretty bad. The ink blobs up, fills in delicate lines, drops out in other places. Whoever printed this comic book must've been sleeping on the job. I did the best I could with what I had to scan.

In the 1980s Ray Zone used his wizardry to transform this issue into a 3-D comic book. You collectors will want to look for that. Zone had some of the same problems I had making the blobby printing acceptable.Page 1 (283K) / Page 2 (274K) / Page 3 (283K) / Page 4 (251K) / Page 5 (260K) / Page 6 (282K) / Page 7 (271K) / Page 8 (269K) / Page 9 (252K)

If you're looking for the other Jet Powers stories posted in chronological order, you can find them by clicking on "Jet Powers" in the links below.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Number 145

Kurtzman Cuts To The Core

When I look back on Harvey Kurtzman's career, and especially his satiric comic book stories, I think of two things: He was lucky to have good friends who were such great cartoonists, and he saw through to the core of what he was satirizing.

These two 3-pagers are from Humbug #3, October 1957. Kurtzman satirizes a current popular movie and a current television show, getting maximum laughs with minimum space.

The "A.P.B. On The M.O. At The O.K. Corral" takes on the Burt Lancaster movie, "Gunfight At The O.K. Corral." My friend, Eddie,* who sent me the scans I used for these stories, asked me one time, "Is the O.K. Corral [shootout] the most important event in American history or what?" He was referring sarcastically to the then popular movie Tombstone, and the surge of interest in an event that in real life wasn't as dramatic as the movies made it seem.

The splash panel to "A.P.B." is Davis being inspired. I don't know how much of Kurtzman is in the secondary figures, like the little Indian wearing a hat with eyeholes, the drunk passed out under the table, or even the hound dog flopped over on the floor. But the gag is pure Kurtzman, as is the rest of the strip, which, in three pages, basically takes the movie apart.

I remember "You Are There" as a once-popular CBS television show. It ended its run in October, 1957, about the same time this issue of Humbug was going off sale. Kurtzman had nothing to do with the show going off…it had just run its course. What Kurtzman got right about the show was its premise, the odd idea of a modern reporter walking around an historic event with a television camera and microphone asking questions. The assassination of Caesar is hilarious for the principals explaining the events.

Kurtzman did something obvious for the time, which was use the instantly recognizable TV star Sid Caesar as Julius Caesar. He's even got Sid Caesar's sidekick, Imogene Coca, on the sidelines sticking her tongue out. (Following behind Caesar is Howard Morris, one of his sidekicks from the show. Morris went on to play Ernest T. Bass in the Andy Griffith show.) Caesar's humor, as well as that of song parodist Stan Freberg and radio stars Bob and Ray, were elements that Kurtzman folded into his comic book stories. He also used the cartooning and caricature skills of best buddy Will Elder. Elder shared Kurtzman's vision of parody: Make it look like the original. Of the cartoonists Kurtzman worked with, I don't think anyone understood Harvey as well as Elder.

*See Eddie's blog, Chicken Fat. It's not a Mad or Kurtzman blog, but Eddie is a big Kurtzman fan and uses elements from him in his blog.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Number 144

COVERING UP: Xela Xes: Wonder Comics by Alex Schomburg

In the war years Alex Schomburg was in demand by comics publishers for his covers. The eye-popping, continually inventive scenes of superheroes clobbering nasty Nazis and Japanese made the books fly off the racks. Several publishers used him. After the war he toned down his approach somewhat; there were still covers of superheroes clobbering gangsters or stick-up guys (sometimes wearing domino masks), but the covers weren't as cluttered with men and machines.

These five covers he did for Nedor in 1947 and 1948 are some of his best. He used airbrush as his medium. I don't know whether that was his idea or the publishers, but whatever, these covers worked. He must've felt his airbrush artwork was different enough to sign a pseudonym, so he became Xela.

Three of the covers shown here have the typical damsel in distress (D-I-D) covers. Those are the ones featuring the character Wonderman. The blonde on the other covers is Tara, a Fiction House-styled babe with boyfriend trailing as she adventured on various planets. It's interesting that when women are the titular (no pun intended) characters, they can be shown kicking butt. Otherwise it's the tried and true D-I-D cover: muscular hero coming to the rescue of voluptous babe.

And voluptuous they are…I'm not sure who did this sort of thing better, but the girls on these covers are pin-up lovers' dreams. I also like the fact that each of the covers could be a poster, and that there are no cover blurbs or speech balloons to deface the artwork. Schomburg's--Xela's--artwork speaks for itself. No words were needed.

I own this copy of Wonder Comics #16 (above), and this is my copy pictured. I will be scanning the interior stories for future postings.