Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Number 1580: Powell surprinted

Artist Bob Powell took some chances with the crummy reproduction of most comic books by including things like the surprints in both these stories from Weird Thrillers #3 (1952). A surprint is created by inking a drawing on a separate sheet of clear acetate, then using it as an overlay on the primary artwork, where it is photographed separately. It was then engraved onto the blue plate, and printed without the usual black lines around it. Sometimes in the printing process if the pressmen weren’t paying attention or didn’t care, the surprint got the bad end of bad printing. But here the surprints show up well.

The other thing I’ll mention is that with some editing (like changing a panel of a man run over by a car), either of these stories would have fit comfortably into a post-Code comic book. They aren’t horror stories as we usually think of them.




Interesting note on the practice of surprinting. I had actually not heard that term in regards to comics before. It's also interesting how many things nowadays, with the advent of computers, are so much easier to accomplish. To do what Powell did would now be considered a color hold, where the black line is converted to color, and is utilized often in modern comics, and is easily accomplished via computer.

It is practically forgotten how many artists in the Golden Age (and Silver) went to such lengths in their work in order to produce something that in the eyes of some(many publishers, indeed!) was a throw-away item, a comic book! Similar overlays (as you likely know) were needed to create the 3D comics effects in the 50's, too.

Lastly, I wanted to comment on Powell's artwork. GCD doesn't show a writer credit for these stories, and I suspect Powell himself wrote them. In any case, both stories show his ability to design and layout each panel and page beautifully to enhance the and progress the story. For example, the last page of the last story...I wouldn't want to edit out that car accident for any reason. Simply wonderful artistic design in sequential art by an often underestimated master of the form.

Thanks for posting!

Brian Barnes said...

Fun little twilight zone ditties, nothing special story wise, but the art. Wow. Powell was just a master of facial expression.

The second story didn't give Powell a lot to work with, it's a lot of static heads looking at a TV, but he went the extra mile with the overlays, something very few artists would have done.

But the first story, you can actually see the gradual transformation in our Scrooge stand-ins face. It's an amazing piece of work. There's pride, anger, resentment, caring, understanding. A lot of artist can do facial expression but roughly, and usually there's a few categories. This just runs the gamut.

Pappy said...

Brian, what you describe about Powell's facial expressions is probably why he was so successful in drawing all manner of comics, from love to horror, without changing his style.

Of course, his assistants had a lot to do with it, too. He worked with some very talented people, but I believe the faces are all Powell.

Pappy said...

Apocolyte, my knowledge of this kind of printing processes goes wayyyyy back to the the late sixties-early seventies when I worked in the printing trade. As you say, computers have easily taken over things that we used to have to accomplish using mechanical means.

My brother is a craftsman who stayed in the business as an artist and designer, and has run the gamut of technologies, having to re-train several times since 1970. I remember being in awe of the work he was producing on his drawing board, all done by hand using the tools of the day. Everything that was laborious about the process has been removed by the ocmputer, but personally I always thought it was kind of fun producing brochures and advertising using a t-square, an X-acto knife and rubber cement. It was definitely a lot more hands-on in those days.