Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Number 816

Love comes to Everett Raymond Kinstler

E. R. Kinstler, famous artist, portrait painter, distinguished watercolorist, started his career in comic books at age 16. Unlike most other famous artists, Kinstler never denied his comic book work. In the biography, The Talented Miss Highsmith by Joan Schenkar, Kinstler worked with writer Patricia Highsmith (Strangers On A Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley) at Nedor in the early 1940s, when Highsmith was scripting stories for editor Richard E. Hughes. Kinstler, a teenager at the time, claimed he had a crush on her.

When Highsmith went on to new heights in her career she (almost) completely buried her comic book past. She wrote comics like Black Terror, and after the war wrote for Fawcett, scripting Golden Arrow, amongst others. Kinstler's career in comics is much easier to track, because he usually signed his stories. Even when he didn't, his work is easily spotted by his slashing pen style, influenced by James Montgomery Flagg. In "Untamed," done for the first issue of DC's Romance Trail*, in 1949, he doesn't use quite the fancy penwork he used later at Avon...probably due to the editorial dictates at DC, which had a prominent house style.

Highsmith wrote comic books for the extra income, and then when she became a world famous novelist never mentioned her work in the field. Kinstler features his comic book work in his biography because it's important to him to show that even though he came from what was considered at the time the bottom of the illustration industry, it helped turn him into the artist he later became.

*Julius Schwartz, who edited Romance Trail for DC, claimed it was DC's first love comic. (Source: Alter Ego #26, page 12.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Number 815

Maureen Marine

I believe Harold Delay (sometimes spelled DeLay) is the artist for this strip from the short-lived Blue Circle Comics. It's a well-drawn but silly feature from Blue Circle Comics #1. Unlike the Land Of The Lost story I showed you in Pappy's #706, this soggy saga is told straight-faced, without the whimsy of the EC children's comic.

Blue Circle Comics was one of a series of titles put out by Rural Home Publishing, who also did Blazing Comics.

Harold Delay was an old-time illustrator, working on book illustrations at the turn of the 20th Century, drawing for pulps in the twenties and thirties, then into comics for a time in the forties. I can't find any birth or death information on Delay, so if you know please tell me. He was one of a group of artists* who were working long before comic books existed, and whose drawing still reflected an earlier era. Maureen, for instance, looks like a girl out of a storybook from the pre-World War I era. In 1941 and '42 Delay did outstanding adaptations of Gulliver's Travels and Treasure Island in Target Comics, which fit his style well.

*Besides Delay I can think of H. (Henry) C. Keifer (who also had a strip in Blue Circle Comics #1), Alex Blum (sometimes under the name Alex Boon), H. (Harry) G. Peter, longtime Wonder Woman artist, and George Carlson (Jingle Jangle Comics).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Number 814

The Wild Pursuit

The chase is on! Crimebuster chases down the arch villain Iron Jaw in this breathless tale from Boy Illustories #69, 1951, drawn by Norman Maurer.

The first part of this tale, from Boy #68, was shown last Monday in Pappy's #811. You might want to read it first. Or what the hell, read the stories in reverse order! I guarantee, it won't make one bit of difference.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Number 813

The "First" Batman

Tattered, worn, battered, torn...Detective Comics #235 rests in a comic book bag in a box in my basement. I lost the cover eons ago. This comic is one I bought in the summer of 1956, just after my ninth birthday, when I took my 50¢ allowance to the drugstore for my weekly ration of comics and a candy bar. I was knocked on my keister by this story, written by Bill Finger and drawn by Bob Kane's ghost, Shelly Moldoff. I didn't know about Finger or Moldoff at the time, obviously. It was the first time I'd seen Batman's origin, and I was impressed. Detective Comics #235 is one of those comics I treated shabbily as a kid with repeated re-readings and mishandling until it ended up like this.

Batman was a favorite character of mine. In 1956 I was considered the neighborhood expert. "Does the Batman fly?" asked my neighbor, Bobby. "No," I said, "Not unless Superman carries him." That was what passed for expert.

This is one of the books I'll keep until they pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Not that anyone else would really want it, being in the poor-minus condition it is. Just so you can see how bad it is, I've scanned it without cleaning it up.

I haven't read any Batman comics in a long time, and no recent stories. When I quit reading I felt that too many hands were working over the character, writing and rewriting the legends.

This beat-up old comic book is a sentimental favorite of mine, as you can probably tell.

"The First Batman" has been reprinted several times. According to the GCD, it's been reprinted in these places:

Batman (DC, 1940 series) #255 (March-April 1974)
Batman Annual (DC, 1961 series) #4 (Winter 1963)
Best of DC, The (DC, 1979 series) #2
Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, The (DC, 1988 series) #nn [1]
Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, The (DC, 1989 series) #nn [1]
Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, The (Warner Books, 1989 series) #nn

My additions to the list:
Batman: Secrets Of The Batcave (2007)
Batman: The Black Casebook (2009)
Batman Annual 1968 (UK)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Number 812

Phantom Fliers

Two important ties to the golden age of comics have been lost with the deaths in 2010 of Frank Frazetta and Al Williamson . Both of them lived a long time and have prodigious bodies of work. Williamson stayed within the relatively small world of the comics, whereas Frazetta went into the larger world and the stratosphere of artistic recognition.

"The Phantom Fliers", from ACG's Out Of The Night #4, in 1952, is credited by the Grand Comics Database as being a Williamson-Frazetta collaboration. It seems rushed, and I'm not seeing much of Frazetta in it. The slapdash nature of some of the artwork may have kept them from signing it. Despite what may have been a hurried job to meet a deadline, I still see things that made Williamson and Frazetta stand out as comic artists. The rest of the issue is done by competent artists from the ACG stable, and is somewhat dull. Despite some artistic shortcomings, "The Phantom Fliers" is not dull, and is the highlight of the issue.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Number 811

Iron Jaw and the Iron Lung

Iron Jaw, one of the best comic book villains of the 1940s, stars in a two-part story from Boy Illustories (formerly Boy Comics) #68 and #69, 1951. This is part 1. Come back next Sunday for the second part.

I've shown a couple of vintage Iron Jaw appearances fighting Chuck Chandler, Crimebuster, in Pappy's #492 and Pappy's #532. Even after the war, Iron Jaw was still the totally ruthless villain he'd been when he was a Nazi agent.

Both stories are drawn by Norman Maurer. I've written about Maurer before. He did a lot of work for Charles Biro and Boy Comics, then teamed up with Joe Kubert to help create the first 3-D comic books.

Maurer married Moe Howard's daughter, Joan, and became the manager of the Three Stooges, moving on to Hollywood. Years later, in the '70s, Maurer did the comic book, Little Stooges, for Gold Key, in the same clean, clear style he'd used on these Crimebuster stories. Biro's comics became dense with dialogue, averaged about nine panels a page, and many of those panels were packed with detail. Notice the crowd scenes on page 10, where Maurer drew a bunch of characters which were haphazardly colored by slapping a single color over them, obscuring the drawing. This was fairly common in Biro's comics of the era, where he apparently demanded the artist draw everything, which was then sabotaged by the usual suspects: bad coloring, bad paper, and bad printing. I hope the paychecks made up for the artist's inevitable disappointment in how all his hard work looked in the finished product.