Sunday, September 30, 2012

Number 1236: Inspiration for Carl Barks...?

One of my favorite Donald Duck stories (which I still own in the form of my original 1957 subscription copy of Walt Disney Comics and Stories #204) is the untitled story the Grand Comics Database lists as “Losing Face.”*

Donald, Daisy and the kids are taking a ride near Mt. Mushmore, and Daisy wants to swing by and see the giant carved head of Senator Snoggin.
Donald is nervous. Daisy asks him what's wrong, and he tells her a story of he and the boys getting a job the past spring cleaning up the park grounds for the tourist season, including a clean-up of Senator Snoggin's head.
While cleaning, Donald has trouble with an eagle. After being kicked out it comes back at Donald with a vengeance.
Donald spills a weed killer, which turns Senator Snoggin's nose bright red. In order to get rid of the stain, which won't wash off, Donald uses a jackhammer, which breaks off the senator's nose.
Donald and the boys build a new temporary nose with plaster, with disastrous results.
Donald whittles the nose down to its original shape, but needs to use the jackhammer to set pegs to hold the nose on.
The ultimate gag is after Donald tells Daisy the story the whole thing comes apart.
I've always thought this was one of Barks' masterpieces of gag building, pacing and drawing; one of his best.

Imagine my surprise to be flipping through issues of Pep Comics from 1943-44, and find a three-part story, “Catfish Joe,” which has some of the same elements as the later Barks story.  Check it out. From Pep Comics numbers 43, 44 and 45:

Okay, so what do you think happened? Here's a thought, what if Carl Barks, in the early part of his comic book career, was going through comic books to see what others were doing. He saw this story and it had some gag elements he liked. Years later he recalled some of those elements and put them into this classic Donald Duck story. As you can see, “Catfish Joe” is no Donald Duck and Larry Harris** is no Carl Barks.

The Donald Duck story by Barks is funnier, better written and better drawn than “Catfish Joe,” but it gives one pause about the creative process and where those ideas come from. I could say that Barks remembered the story consciously and used it as a springboard for his own, or I could let Barks off the hook and say that he had cryptomnesia, which is thinking a memory is an original creation. Memory is a tricky thing.

The two stories make for an interesting comparison.

*I'm sorry that I can only show panels from the Barks story and not the whole thing. I have heard that Disney lawyers troll the internet looking for copyright infringements.

**Harris isn't a bad artist, but uneven from panel to panel. His art reminds me of a cross between Roy Crane and Al Capp. I've never heard of Harris before. It's possible that the Larry Harris of “Catfish Joe” is this Larry Harris, gag cartoonist of the fifties and sixties.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Number 1235: “Release the kraken!” The last Whiz

This is the final posting of our Fawcett week.

Captain Marvel's last adventure in Whiz Comics came in issue #155, cover dated June 1953. There would be more of Captain Marvel Adventures (the last issue, #150, had a cover date of November, 1953), but Whiz Comics, the Old Number One, the first comic book in a long string of comics under the “A Fawcett Publication” colophon, was finally cancelled. I'd like to know if the Captain Marvel comics were making money up until the Superman verdict. I assume they were.

By that time in 1953 horror was big in comics, and Fawcett's titles and covers reflected that. Whether the stories were genuinely horrible isn't the point, they were aiming at the monster crowd.

In his final Whiz, Captain Marvel faces the kraken, a monster out of classical mythology.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Number 1234: Faux Fawcett

This is number three of four postings this week from Fawcett comics. But these are Fawcett comics not published by Fawcett.

Fawcett licensed their comics for publication in other countries, including the UK. This story comes from an issue of Captain Midnight, #100 to the British, but reprinted from the American Captain Midnight #50 (1947). I like the crisp black line printing, which I prefer to the usual sloppy Fawcett print jobs (see Monday's posting for a couple of good examples).

I know little about the character. I know Captain Midnight was an aviator, a popular radio programme (spelling in honor of our British cousins-in-comics), and later a TV show, with reruns retitled Jet Jackson. According to some things I've read, the comic book version was different than the mainstream version. Someone with more familiarity with the character will probably have to confirm that.

The story is credited to William Woolfolk for the script, and Leonard Frank for the artwork.

When Fawcett folded their comic book line in 1953 — a combination of losing the lawsuit brought by DC for copyright infringement on Superman by Captain Marvel, and too many comic book titles flooding the stands — they sold some of their titles and non-Marvel characters to others. This story is the first issue of Danger and Adventure #22 (1954), actually #1, but continued from This Magazine is Haunted. Charlton, who bought the rights, published an Ibis the Invincible as well as Nyoka the Jungle Girl story in this issue. It was the only Ibis story reprinted by Charlton in this title, which lasted another few issues before being cancelled. I don't know If they continued Ibis somewhere else, or just left him standing with his Ibistick in his hand.

“The Viking Horde” is an old story, reprinted from Whiz Comics #45 (1943), identified by the GCD as being drawn by old-timer Alex Blum, although probably in collaboration with an unknown inker.