Friday, May 30, 2014

Number 1585: Man of the atom

By way of announcement, beginning with the month of June I am cutting my posts by 25%, going from four postings a week to three. I will post on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Many of you won’t even notice. It is time to cut back on the work. And yes, this is work. Nobody pays me, but it’s work.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled post...

Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom was created by Gold Key comics to compete against the popular superheroes of the day. At the time I liked the first three issues, finding them well drawn in a more sophisticated, illustrative style, but lost interest when Dr. Solar gained a costume. I just didn’t think he could go toe-to-toe with what was coming from Marvel Comics. But I was wrong; the costume was what fans were clamoring for.

Jerry Bails, the godfather of comics fandom in the early '60s, had a letter in Doctor Solar Man of the Atom #7 in 1964, praising Gold Key for putting Dr. S. in a costume. Jerry was a bit more conservative about villains. He said, “Nothing destroys a super-hero faster than fantastic villains.” I’m reasonably certain the readers of superheroes wanted those fantastic Marvel Comics had proved.
The story is from that aforementioned issue #7. Script credited to Otto Binder by the Grand Comics Database, and art attributed to Frank Bolle.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Number 1484: Viking Prince by the crown prince of comic artists

The Viking Prince feature, which ran in The Brave and the Bold for the first two dozen issues in the mid-to-late fifties, is a collaboration between Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert. I believe the Viking Prince was a version of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, although the comic book character was original enough in his own right. Being written by Kanigher in the Comics Code era meant that the blood and thunder was not in violent battles between humans, but often with supernatural entities, like the living giant stone statue in “The Secret of Odin’s Cup!” Kubert’s art on the story is superb.

From The Brave and the Bold #20 (1958):

Monday, May 26, 2014

Number 1583: You never can tell!

Al Williamson is credited with just a handful of stories at ACG in the late fifties. I haven’t done the research to tell you how many (lazy me). After early 1960, though, I believe the only stories credited to Williamson are reprints.

’You Never Can Tell!” is a story about a little man with a big case of obsessive-compulsive disorder involving auctions and treasure. It’s from Adventures Into the Unknown #107 (1959).* “In the Beginning,” with its shopworn science fiction/early man plot is from Forbidden Worlds #76 (1959).

Williamson often worked with other artists, but I don’t see the most obvious, Roy Krenkel or Frank Frazetta, in either of these stories. There are some Frazetta-style touches in some of the Neanderthal men panels, but I don’t see his dynamic pencils or inks. Al also worked with George Woodbridge and Angelo Torres on some, and they could have helped him here. The Grand Comics Database doesn’t say, crediting Williamson with pencils and Inks on “In the Beginning,” and Jack Davis with the inks on “You Never Can Tell!” That is a collaboration I don’t see by looking at the story. Someone will have to explain to me how they came to that conclusion.

I have shown these stories before many years ago. I have re-scanned them for this posting.

*“You Never Can Tell!” likely got its inspiration from “Rock Diver” by Harry Harrison, which was first published in the science fiction digest, Worlds Beyond #3, in 1951. In that story prospectors use similar suits to explore underground.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Number 1582: Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy, Dell squareback days of summer

It would not have seemed that summer vacation was coming with its mouth-watering anticipation of 12 weeks of freedom from school had I not had the large Dell squarebound vacation specials. They arrived in April or May to remind me those golden-hued days would be upon me. But that was illusion. Summer vacation was usually not that good; it was mostly unstructured and boring, and worse than boring it was hot. I often retreated to a shady spot behind the garage with a stack of comic books, including the Dell specials, to read and wait out the heat of the day.

Bugs Bunny’s Vacation Funnies was part of that reading. I’m posting the lead story from that title’s issue #2 (1952). It’s a funny fantasy. Bugs travels through time to meet his and Elmer Fudd’s ancestors in the town of Salem. The art is by Fred Abranz (1909-1992), an animator/comic book artist I associate with Bugs. You can see more examples of Abranz’s work from Mykal at The Big Blog of Kids’ Comics and a Chilly Willy story by Abranz from Steve at Four Color Shadows.

The cover, attributed to longtime Bugs Bunny comic strip artist Ralph Heimdahl, has Porky and Petunia swimming in their clothes!