Monday, January 14, 2008

Number 247

Shriek of Araby

This past weekend Karswell showed us a gruesome horror story by Howard Nostrand from 1954. In the story I'm showing from Harvey Comics' Flip #2, also from 1954, Nostrand tries his hand at humor and satire.

Bhob Stewart interviewed Nostrand for Graphic Story Magazine #10, in 1974. Nostrand talked about "The Shriek of Araby." He gave the reason for the color scheme: the movie it's based on, Rudolph Valentino's The Sheik, was a silent film done in sepia tone. The comic book version is a good try, but because of the quick-and-dirty printing of comic books, experiments like this didn't always work out. Some of the panels are too dark, and in the captions the white-on-black lettering is hard to read in spots.

Nostrand liked the story. In part of the 1974 interview he claimed, "That was the one Kurtzman commented on." Stewart asked, "What did Kurtzman say?" Nostrand answered: "He thought it was the best one of the book, and that sort of thing. Didn't mean much 'cause I wrote the rest of the book, too." Later he confessed, ". . .I think I stole it from S. J. Perelman. He did the synopsis in his 'Cloudland Revisited' series. I just sort of changed the plot slightly, and then it said what I wanted. Some of the dialogue is pure Perelman. . .I have a feeling that Perelman doesn't read comic books, anyway, so I wasn't in…you know, when in doubt, plagiarize, but make sure the guy who wrote it doesn't read it." What, plagiarism, in a comic book?!! Say it ain't so, Howard.

Along with "Shriek" I'm including these two "Ulysses" single-page gags by Nostrand, also from Flip #2.


Karswell said...

Ha ha... neat story. Now I'll have to start collecting Flip I guess. This is actually much better and funnier than any of the Atlas humor mags as it's not so obnoxiously scatter brained. Speaking of Atlas, didn't they have a pre code story with the same name, or maybe it was Shriek of Arabia maybe? Something like that.

On the art, I think it works just fine... it's all high contrast enough to be perfectly readable, clear line of action and silohuette. Some publishing company seriously needs to put out a Nostrand collection. Even the Ulysses one-pagers are loads of fun. The Harvey horror mags had some funny stuff like this too occassionally.

Rudy Tenebre said...

Thanks for introducing me to Nostrand... obviously a Davis-Elder-Severin knock-off, (I use the term with as much, or more, esteem as it allows!) and the use of inversion as the crux of the gag is straight outta Kurtzman's Mad. Speaking of, I recently heard another attribute of Kurtzman's efforts was a strip for the famous communist rag, The Daily Worker, entitled Lil' Lefty. If I'm not mistaken, the recent homage from the Comics Journal Library leaves out this line on the old master's resume.

Pappy said...

Rudy, I looked but couldn't find a comment I believe I read in either the Kurtzman or Crumb specials from Comics Journal. In one of those issues it's said that Kurtzman's parents were communists. Rather than have to re-read those issues I'm hoping someone can find it and tell me who said it and where. As for "Li'l Lefty," wow, that's one I hadn't heard of. If it does exist and is by HK it should be shown.

Rudy Tenebre said...

Pap, I heard the item (Lil' Lefty) on National Public Radio via interview with a certain professor from the University of Wisconsin, who studies the history of the communist party in America. Perhaps there are some issues of the Daily Worker available for research...

Bhob said...

As far as I can see, only a single sentence (bottom of second page) is taken directly from Perelman's "Cloudland Revisited: Into Your Tent I'll Creep" (THE MOST OF S.J. PERELMAN). You can use "search inside" on that book at Amazon and see that Perelman's piece was actually satirizing the 1919 novel, not the film. Apart from that sentence and "Why have you brought me here?" (which might be a line from the original novel), Nostrand's heightened approach is quite different.

The interview was done in 1967 or 1968, not 1974. Nostrand must have been told about Kurtzman's reaction to the story, because my memory is that Nostrand did not meet Kurtzman until 1974.

Bhob @

Bhob said...

I was incorrect. Nostrand did meet Kurtzman in the 1950s or 1960s.