Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Number 1674: Severin and Kurtzman beat us to the draw

It’s Christmas Eve! Thanks for checking in, even though you might be taking a quick break from wrapping presents or preparing for Christmas festivities. Take a few minutes to upwrap your present from Pappy, two stories drawn by John Severin and Harvey Kurtzman from Prize Comics Western #79 (1950). Both of those much admired talents would later make their mark as comics immortals with their work for EC Comics. Severin usually worked with Will (then Bill) Elder as an inker (see the story below the Severin/Kurtzman collaborations).

Black Bull was a masked character, and it seems there was no shortage of masked six-gun totin', quick-draw heroes in those days. In this case Black Bull is accompanied by his butler, Egbert, and his secret identity is as the son of a wealthy man.


Severin, Elder and Abe Lincoln

As mentioned in the comments above, Severin’s usual inker in the forties and early fifties was Will Elder. “Severin and Elder” jobs are found many times in Prize Comics Western, and EC science fiction comics. I do not know how many love stories the pair worked on, but this three-page story of the romance of Abraham Lincoln and Ann Rutledge not only shows Severin’s mastery of time and place, but also likenesses. Elder and Severin separated professionally, but for a time their beautifully crafted stories were on display in comics that may have been otherwise indistinguishable from their many competitors.

For decades there has been a dispute over how involved Lincoln and Rutledge were. After Lincoln’s death stories came out about Rutledge being the love of his life, and when she died he was profoundly affected. Some historians dispute the details, and you can read an interesting scholarly work on the subject in this article by Lewis Gannett for the Journal of Abraham Lincoln.

From Standard’s Thrilling Romances #8 (1950):


Ryan Anthony said...

Thanks for the nice gifts, Pap.
Yesterday, I ordered my first golden age comics from eBay. They're coverless, so I got 'em cheaply. Two of them include Sparky Watts stories.
May your Christmas be happy, Pappy!

7f7f3e2a-4856-11e4-900a-bb8e57f8828f said...

Severin did splendidly in these stories. Western comics were refreshing in their scarcity of "super" heroes. But as you pointed out, Pappy, there were a lot of Lone Ranger/secret identity types. Comics always tended to over-do themes to make the profit —but that is part of the charm, I think.

Fascinating to me how silhouetting with color was used so much. Again, it charms me. But the red pistols in the last page of the first story, "The Stranger In Benton Bowl", just wows me. Now that's coloring!

Season's cheer and all that, Pap.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

In the second, almost comedic story , many interesting things could be pointed out like the english butler, as stereotyped as the easily scared mexican workers (this doesn't disturb me at all by the way, I'm not a fan of politically correctness, and those were the fifties); the not - very -scary candles on the horns, the silly "brit style" lines ("old filbert" ; "pater")...
The concept of a "masked gunfighter" is interesting indeed, as it combines western with superheroes. I guess it all comes from Zorro the straight blade... :)

Believe it or not, we too had a handful of "masked western heroes". Most of them were simple Lone ranger's knockoffs, but one at least is quite original:
Plot: A kid, Sam Boyle, is scalped by the Indians along with his parents, but he survives and becomes an accomplished gunfighter. Years after, he builds a "horned devil" mask to strike fear into indians, and begins a ruthless revenge on those who attacked his ranch and on their families.
This Kinowa is interesting to me because his mask might (not sure though) have been inspired by the one used by Hal Foster's Prince Valiant, that was olso source of inspiration for Jack Kirby's "The Demon".

Thanks and Happy Holidays.

Mike Britt said...

PRIZE WESTERN had some many wonderful S&E and Severin stories and covers (especially the covers)but these two stories and a couple of other collaborations with Kurtzman are my favorites. Thanks for yet another posting just for me!

Alicia American said...

Happity Christmas Pappity <3 xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Pappy said...

Ryan, I find a lot of joy in even coverless comics, especially Golden Age. I have printed covers from Heritage Auctions to put in the bag with the comic. There is room for both collectors of reading copies and high grade, slabbed copies. Since I read comics and the condition is almost secondary for most of what I have, I guess I fit into the former category.

Pappy said...

J D, thanks for the link. It is always interesting to see characters set in the old West, especially when seen from a European point of view. Some of the versions I have seen have been more accurately depicted than the home grown American, but there are also similarities in the styles of stories.

Looking at the mask in Kinowa yes, I agree it comes from Hal Foster, and you are also correct that Jack Kirby adapted it for The Demon. I visualize collections of tear sheets from Prince Valiant and Flash Gordon for use in artists' swipe files, so often do images from Foster and Alex Raymond show up in old comic books.

Pappy said...

Mike, thanks for your note. It is always good to hear from the guy who steered me onto the path I follow to this day.

(For other readers, Mike published a fanzine, Squatront, that I credit as the basis for my love of EC Comics. Issue #2 was the first fanzine I saw, and it demonstrated that a person could write and publish his own magazine. What a mind-blowing experience for my 12-year-old head!)

Pappy said...

Alicia, thank you for the Christmas greetings. I hope you had a great holiday.