Friday, December 30, 2011

Number 1079

Goodbye to the future

We're winding up 2011 in fine fashion, with a couple of beautifully illustrated stories from Planet Comics #49 (1947). Artists Lily Renée and Murphy Anderson were two of the top artists at Fiction House.

I told more about Ms. Renée's work and personal story in Pappy's #1015.

The future presented in the 'forties is pretty much long gone, replaced by the actual future. I love to look back on that never-to-be future. There was really a lot of optimism in it, considering the most terrible weapon in the history of humanity had been unleashed just two years earlier. Some popular magazines of the day painted a glowing future full of leisure time and personal uses of technology, others a more dystopian view of what would be left of humanity, staggering across a nuclear landscape. (Or in the case of "The Lost World" series in Planet Comics, being under the heel of the alien oppressor, the Voltamen.) A lot has happened since this issue of Planet Comics appeared and then disappeared from long-ago newsstands.

Here's to the future that will be, and to the one that never was. Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Number 1078

Going crazy for horror comics

Steve Stiles is an artist I first encountered in early '60s fanzines.Years later I saw his artwork popping up in underground comix, alternative comics, even Heavy Metal magazine. You can see examples of Steve's art, professional and fanzine work, at his website,

In '91 and '92 Bruce Hamilton published some black and white horror comics, Grave Tales, Dread of Night, and Maggots. There were only eight total issues of the three titles, and Stiles had stories in five of them.

Both of the stories I'm showing today are about insanity and comic book artists. "Black and White and Red All Over" combines art styles of Jack Davis, Graham Ingels and Johnny Craig in homage to EC Comics. It's from Grave Tales #2, 1991, and is written by Eric Dinehart. "Perchance to Dream," published in Maggots #3, is written by Russ Miller. Both stories are lettered by Bill Pearson.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Number 1077

The Clock strikes!

Happy day after Christmas. I trust you had a nice one. I did. Today I'm being lazy, hanging around the house, my Christmas feast a pleasant memory, and the spirits imbibed now fading (the thumping in my brain is almost gone), my bloodshot eye looks to the wall behind my monitor. There is my vintage 1960 GE wall clock, and like me, still ticking. Let's hope for one more year of taking it one second at a time.

It reminds me of the stories I'm presenting on this Monday morning: the Clock by George E. Brenner. The Clock, as told in this article in Don Markstein's Toonopedia, is one of the oldest comic book heroes. He appeared in comics in 1936, before there was a real comic book industry. Here he is, early in his career, cover-featured on Detective Picture Stories #5, from 1937.

The two stories I'm showing today are two of the Clock's appearances in Crack Comics. They share some things in common: Brenner's static page layouts (common in comic books at the time), and despite being only nine issues apart, they use similar villains, gang leaders wearing hoods (common in pulp fiction, movie serials and at Ku Klux Klan rallies), and corrupt politicians (too common, even today).

George Brenner became editor of Quality Comics, which published Crack Comics, and the Clock stopped ticking in 1944.

From Crack Comics #1, 1940:

From Crack Comics #9, 1941:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Number 1076

A Dan Dare Christmas

"I saw three spaceships come sailing in,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
I saw three spaceships come sailing in,
On Christmas Day in the morning..."

Merry Christmas to all you Pappy readers. We're sailing across the pond to the United Kingdom via our online "spaceship" to celebrate the holiday, with a strip from the 1955 Eagle Annual, featuring Frank Hampson's Dan Dare.

Dan Dare was published weekly in Eagle in the UK. I like the strip very much, and especially the beautiful painted work of artist Frank Hampson. I'll refer you to some websites: Frank and the Wikipedia entry on the Eagle comic paper, where Dan Dare appeared.

What ties this strip to Pappy's is that the Eagle was created as a more wholesome response to the American horror comic books introduced to that country by American GI's stationed in England, and British sailors bringing back comics they picked up in U.S. ports. American comics weren't the only things imported that caused alarm. As I recall, a couple of years later there was this little thing called rock 'n' roll...

Happy Christmas to all!

Here's a vintage Pathé newsreel story about Hampson. Just click on the picture:


Creig Flessel, one of the earliest of the comic book journeymen, left comic books and after a stint as an assistant to comic strip artist John H. Streibel on "Dixie Dugan" went to the advertising agency, Johnstone and Cushing. In the heyday of comic art many ads were drawn comic art style by top comic artists (Lou Fine, Milton Caniff, Noel Sickles among others). The real money was in advertising, where pages were drawn for hundreds of dollars rather than a paltry few dollars at the comic book companies.

Beginning in the early 1950s Johnstone and Cushing provided the 8-page comic supplement to Boys' Life magazine. Flessel did this two-page adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol for the December, 1952 issue. It boils the story down to 23 panels, but the tale is so familiar we just fill in the details in our own heads. Flessel's artwork is outstanding. Flessel worked for many more years in various fields of comic art and advertising. He died at age 96 in 2008.