Sunday, April 22, 2012

Number 1144: “I must've given him an overdose!” Smokey Stover and Spooky

Dell's Super Comics #118 (1949) published 24 pages of 1945 Smokey Stover and Spooky Sunday strips by the inimitable Bill Holman. I'm passing along the favor by re-presenting them to you.

Holman came up with wordplay and puns for practically every Smokey Stover panel he drew, week after week, month after month, and year after year. Holman's Spooky strips are more dependent on sight gags than words. They were originally published as the bottom tier of the Sunday Smokey Stover pages, expendable if the subscribing newspaper decided to drop them in favor of advertising.

Paul Tumey's new blog, Screwball Comics, is a celebration of the zaniness from the comics of a lifetime ago, including those of Bill Holman. I strongly recommend you check it out.


Craig Yoe's latest book in his series of affordable yet high quality appreciations of comic art and artists is Frazetta Funny Stuff. It's a long overdue compilation of the work Frank Frazetta did in his earliest days as an artist, spot illustrations and strips for comic books featuring funny animals and even funny humans. According to Yoe's biographical information on Frazetta, Graham Ingels was an editor at Standard Comics in the late forties and put Frazetta to work in his books. The result is a run of some of the most charming and for sure the funniest artwork to come from Frazetta. For years the comic books featuring Frazetta's drawings for the obligatory Post Office-mandated text stories have been major collectibles in the Golden Age comics market. But finding all of them is a major task, not to mention expensive...not to mention many of the comics have been slabbed in plastic, so the drawings can't even be seen.

Craig Yoe has solved those problems with this volume. Frazetta fans get funny animals like Hucky Duck and Bruno Bear, dozens of the aforementioned single illustrations, the hillbilly strip, "Looie Lazybones," and Frazetta's collaboration with artist Ralph Mayo, "Kathy," among others. It's 256 pages of great comic art.

My guess is that most Frazetta fans will welcome it for what it is, early, talented work in a different genre from that which Frazetta's name is usually attached. Some will dismiss it as kids' stuff. No dark fantasy, no "Death Dealer" or Conan the Barbarian in this book! But for those willing to look past preconceived notions there will be a rich reward. In Frazetta's Funny Stuff we see a major artist in his early days, learning to draw human anatomy (at the request of Ralph Mayo, told in a humorous story recounted by Frazetta), showing his early skill at drawing figures in action, both animal and human.

The book is beautifully produced. Reproduction from old comic books—as I'm here to attest—can be frustrating, but I love the over-sized pages, and especially the enlarged spot illustrations. As always, Craig's books are impeccably designed and printed. Permanent binding, thick quality paper to ensure the best reproduction possible. You will never go wrong buying a book with the Yoe imprint.

Frazetta Funny Stuff is available from, Yoe Books, and your other favorite booksellers.


Kirk said...

I wonder if any of the early artists for MAD--Will Elder in particular--has ever claimed Bill Holman as an influence. After all, Holman seems to have pioneered the background sight gag, which has since become such an integral part of MAD.

Pappy said...

I don't remember anything about Holman's influence on Elder, but he was undoubtedly aware of such a popular strip.

Unca Jeffy said...

Great stuff Pappy...from the Smokey Stover right on through news of the Yoe book...I'm off to Amazon!