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.




I was intrigued by the listing of Jack Davis as inker on the first story, and like you, found it hard to believe. Davis, whose style is likely one of the most easily recognized in all comicdom, throughout virtually his entire career in comic books rarely inked a story he had not also done the pencils on. Looking at the story I tried to find any signs that Davis had been there, and nothing screams out "Davis". It didn't seem likely. I mean, what an implausible pairing of styles!

I looked through my own collection and GCD's records to see if there had been any other cases of Davis inking another artist, in order to compare the work. Perhaps Davis was able to ink another artist without overpowering the pencils? The only other case I found was Davis inking the pencils of Jose Gual in a spot illo foe Skywald's SCREAM #4, 1974. Since I do not own that issue, I could not compare it. There was a case for EC in 1951 when Johnny Craig's father-in-law died and Davis had to finish work on his story, "The Vamp" in HAUNT OF FEAR #10. In that case, even when Craig's pencils were evident, Davis' style as inker was also visible.

"You Never Can Tell" appeared in 1959, and according to the EC artist tome FOUL PLAY it was during this period where Davis "took work wherever he could get it". GCD's matter of fact reference to Davis as inker seems odd, as there is often clarification of source, especially given such an odd claim. That leads me to assume that the inker claim might be based on ACG editor Richard Hughes own records, he being also the writer of the story. To seek that info would no doubt take time.

My last bit of food for thought is a link and this info on Davis' pre-comic book career. Just prior to his start in comics Davis was inker for Mike Roy's comic strip THE SAINT. An example is here:
While not conclusive, I think it does show that Davis was capable of inking another artist without completely overshadowing the art with his own style.

Lastly, at second glance, while I do find it highly unlikely, and that there is little artistic evidence to suggest Davis' hand in the story, I admit that "You Never Can Tell"...looking at the figures in the background of page 1 panel 4, and the treasure trunks on page 1 and page 3, as well as the figures on page 3, I'm not so certain anymore. It's not pure Davis, for sure, never can tell.

Pappy said...

Apocolyte, interesting observations, as always. As I said, I don't see Davis in this story, and I'd just like someone from GCD to write and explain why they think it is Davis.

It's unlikely that Hughes' records (if they exist) would list Davis. Williamson had his little circle and they helped him. I hsve a pre-Code ACG story by Williamson coming up in July. The inkers are listed as King Ward and Larry Woromay, but their styles aren't as apparent to me as is Davis'.

What I see when I look at "You Never Can Tell" are figures outlined in pen. Anyone could do that...Kirby's wife did that at times on her husband's work.

Could it be Davis? Sure, maybe Davis came over to Al's house one day and helped him knock out the story, but as you say there is nothing in the story that SCREAMS Davis. For me not even a whisper.

Daniel [] said...

For me as well, nothing in the first story screams Davis, but there are still things here-and-there that are more like Davis's work than not, such as the first panel of the last page, and the little splotches close to the larger spotted blacks in some of the panels (eg 2:4, 4:6).

Mike Britt said...

Although it was sixty years ago I recall Larry Ivie (1936-2014) telling me that he had done some inking for Williamson on some ACG stuff and I always assumed that the weak spots in "In the Beginning" were his. I also assumed that "You Never Can Tell" was a Kirby and Williamson team effort.

Pappy said...

Mike, there was also a story Williamson told on himself, that he turned in a job at ACG when editor Richard Hughes was out of the office. When he got home he got a phone call from Hughes complaining to him that the art did not look like his. I'm paraphrasing, but I believe he also indicated he didn't work for ACG after that.