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.

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.


Daniel [] said...

I liked John Buscema's work considerably more than I do his stuff at Marvel in the '70s.

Scott Rosema said...

Do you have other comics featuring John Buscema's art that you could scan and post like you have with Helen Of Troy and the crime comics? I really appreciate your time and trouble posting these treasures. Most of us can't get our hands on these older issues; I consider your efforts a public service! :0)

Thanks very Pappy! - Scott Rosema