Monday, October 09, 2006

Number 35

Bob Powell's Shrunken Skull!

In Pappy's Number 34 I showed you a Bernard Baily shrunken head cover. Now I'm showing you one of my favorite Harvey Comics horror stories, The Shrunken Skull, drawn by the great Bob Powell. It appeared in Chamber Of Chills #5, February, 1952.

Powell, born in 1916, was an old-timer at the comic book business by the time of the horror comics explosion of the 1950s. In the early 1940s he had worked for Will Eisner on The Spirit Section doing Mr. Mystic. He had worked for virtually every comic book company at one time or another. In the 1950s he ran a comic book production shop. His work appeared in all genres of comics for several clients, but I believe his
main clients at the time were Harvey and M.E., with a lot of work also going to Fawcett and St. John.

What characterized Powell's work was quality. I don't think he ever let a job out of his hands until it was refined to perfection. If it took a gallon of white paint to correct mistakes, then so be it! I have seen original art of his that looks to be half ink, half white paint. I don't know how he worked, or what exactly his assistants did, but Powell signed the pages, and the work is so distinctive I believe he had a lot to do with the actual drawing, or at least the inking.

To show you, I'm including a scan of the original art for the splash page to The Shrunken Skull. You'll notice the light blue watercolor wash on the artwork. That did not reproduce when photographed by the lithographer's camera during production, but was an indicator to the color artist of what areas of the artwork were to be emphasized with color. If any other artists used this technique I'm not aware of it, but you can compare the original art to the published art and see if it worked.

It's also to Powell's credit that he could take a story as screwy as this and through such fine art make the story work. Most horror stories have crazy plots…this one a little crazier than most.

In the future I will have episodes of what I think was Powell's 1950s magnum opus, Jet Powers. I own all four issues of that M.E. science fiction title. So far I have scanned the first issue for inclusion on this blog at some point.

But that's in the future, and right now it's October, Halloween month. Outside the sky grows dark, and the wind is chilly. Leaves blow across the lawn. Jack O'Lanterns with their gappy grins are winking at you from porches as you walk the unlit sidewalks, pulling your coat tighter around you. It's time to read some horror stories. Time for The Shrunken Skull!

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