Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Number 973

Russ Heath's Kid Colt

Russ Heath, Will Eisner Hall Of Famer and Inkpot Award winner, began his comic book career with Timely/Atlas in 1947, drawing Western comics. Quoted in a Wikipedia biography Heath says, "My father used to be a cowboy, so as a little kid I was influenced by Western artists of the time. Will James was one, an artist-writer—I had most of his books. Charlie Russell was my favorite because his work was absolutely authentic, because he drew what he lived..."

Heath was mostly self-taught, but his art had a polish even in his early days, as seen in this Kid Colt story, "Mystery Of The Mad Monk," from Best Western#59, 1949. Heath went on to draw in most every genre Atlas published, then went to DC Comics, doing science fiction (his run on Sea Devils being one of my favorites), but a lot of war comics with other great artists like Irving Novick and Joe Kubert.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Number 972

Tense Suspense

The Grand Comics Database tells us that there were 10 issues of five titles published under the Fago Publications imprint in 1958-59. A couple of the titles were begun as St. John Comics, but in 1958 St. John shut down its sagging comic book line. I have no information on the details of Fago Publications. Alfred "Al" Fago was an artist, editor and packager of comics for Charlton in the 1950s. I assume Fago Publications was his company.

Tense Suspense was a title that lasted two issues, both illustrated exclusively by Dick Ayers, and written by Paul S. Newman (or maybe not...GCD gives us a ? after his name, which means they aren't completely sure). The stories are as good as any other so-called mystery comics of the era, and Ayers' art is good, but it was probably distribution that did Fago Publications in. At the time many publishers were flailing about or went out of business after American News Company went out of business. Maybe it was a lack of advertising. Tense Suspense #2 is strictly comics and no ads. But, it could also have to do with reduced sales of comic books. Many comic book readers blame the Comics Code, but an argument can be made for television being the culprit that reduced the number of readers over all, not just of comic books.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Number 934

Buster Brown and the Gods of Egypt

Buster Brown Comic Book was published by Brown Shoe Company for several years in the 1940s and '50s. They used some top comic artists, and they had interesting stories set in interesting locales. These two stories are set in Egypt, one in ancient times, one modern. They are written by Hobart Donovan, who was apparently the only scripter for Buster Brown Comic Book, or at least the only one given credit.

The Grand Comics Database does a guess on the artwork for "The Power Of The Great Cat" from BBCB #9, dated Fall, 1947. They credit Alex Kotzky?, so if you're a Kotzky art-spotter you tell us if it is by him. "Seb-Ek Crocodile God Of The Nile," signed by Dan Barry, is from BBCB #12, and is dated Summer 1948. I'm not sure how Grand Comics Database knows the dates, unless someone checked them with the Brown Shoe Company records. You won't find any dates in the comics because they don't include an indicia, or any kind of copyright notice, for that matter. Maybe the Brown Shoe Company didn't care. Maybe for them it was enough to publish these comic books to be given away to young customers in their shoe stores, and to make the kids holler, "I want Buster Brown!" when Mom and Dad said it was time for shoes. What I remember about the Buster Brown shoe store where my mom bought my shoes, besides making sure I got a copy of the free comic book, was sticking my foot in the fluoroscope and seeing the bones of my foot. That sort of thing is banned nowadays, but six decades on I haven't detected any problems with my feet caused by Buster Brown's fluoroscope. Any damage from the Buster Brown Comic Book is co-mingled in my brain with the thousands of comics I read in my life.

Note the variant spelling of pharaoh as "pharo" in the first story. Was this ever an accepted spelling?