Friday, September 21, 2007

Number 192

Death On The Earth-Mars Run!

Over the past few days I've been wondering if there's ever been a comic book artist who went as far in the art world as Everett Raymond Kinstler. He's a man who, in the early 1950s was drawing sci-fi potboilers like "Death On The Earth-Mars Run" for Avon's Strange Worlds #8, and by the turn of the 21st Century had painted the portraits of five U.S. Presidents, having two of them chosen as official White House portraits.

Offhand I can't think of anyone else who reached those heights after a background in comics.

Kinstler wasn't ashamed of his comic book work, either. He signed it when he did it; he mentions the comics work in his autobiographical materials. Kinstler was very influenced by James Montgomery Flagg, who is most famous nowadays for his iconic World War I poster image of Uncle Sam, pointing and saying, "I Want You!" In his pen and ink work Flagg was known for his flourishes with a flexible pen point, but that was the style of the day. By the time Kinstler used the Flagg-style in his comic book work it was passé. That didn't bother Kinstler, though, and it helped to make his work some of the most instantly recognizable of any comic book artist.

"Death On The Earth-Mars Run" strip isn't signed. Not my copy, anyway. I scanned it from a reprint in Skywald Comics' Heap #1, dated September, 1971.

There may be some other changes as well, dictated by the Comics Code, but I don't have the first printing with which to compare. It looks like Kinstler didn't spend a lot of time on it, but it's a fun read, anyway. Some of it is also similar to the work that Alex Raymond was doing on Flash Gordon in the mid-1930s. The whole story has an old-time feel to it; more like something published 20 years earlier. Nothing wrong with that; not when Everett Raymond Kinstler was wielding the pen.

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