Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Number 1785: The abominable snowbots

Sunday mornings, Bellevue, Washington, 1958...and the arrival of the Sunday newspaper. Mom takes the Women’s section, Big Pappy takes Sports, and I grab the funnies. Life is good. In that Sunday comics section: Prince Valiant, the Phantom, Mandrake, Blondie...and Flash Gordon.

At the time I was not familiar with Mac Raboy’s former work on Captain Marvel Jr or Green Lama, both for comic books. But a few years later when I encountered those Golden Age strips for the first time I knew instantly who Mac Raboy was. He was the artist who drew Flash Gordon, and he did it until he died at the young age of 53, in 1967.

I don’t usually show Sunday pages...I’m a comic book guy, after all, but I found these pages online. I wanted to share them, as well as thank the anonymous scanner who uploaded them. They appeared originally in newspapers from July 21, 1963 to November 17, 1963.*

*That was the Sunday before the John F. Kennedy assassination, on November 22, 1963. That is not pertinent to the comic strip, but when I see anything close to that date I place it in context of my indelible memories of that time.


Daniel [] said...

Man, I had a hard enough time just migrating from an 8086 to a Z80; Flash can reprogram an alien robot on-the-fly!

And bad news, as I suppose, for China, that so many people there were going to be killed or sickened by the fall-out. But ya just can't have everything.

I wonder about fashion in the illustration of comic strips and comic books.

Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon was one of the most elegant — if indeed not the most elegant — comic strips of all time. This work is nothing like that. It's also far from the most elegant work that Raboy did. Meanwhile, Raymond himself moved away from elegance even while he was still doing Flash Gordon. Those who followed Hogarth on Tarzan moved away from the elegance that he and Foster had given it. Similar things were happening in the comic books. Lou Fine seemed to track Raymond. Bob Powell's work stopped looking so much like that of Eisner. Reed Crandall's stuff for comic books became flatter and otherwise simpler.

In some cases this may have been a matter of declining talent; but in other cases it was plainly a design choice. Issues of economy surely played a rôle, but I consider some of what Dan Barry did to Frank Frazetta's remarkable pencilled images for Flash Gordon, in the early '50s — some panels completely redrawn to present a less dramatic image.

Pappy said...

Well, gee, Daniel, China was an enemy of the U.S. at the time. What about the nuke testing in Nevada that killed and sickened Downwinders in Utah and other states over which the prevailing winds blew?

As for elegant illustrations...Raymond wasn't a science fiction artist. He had done illustrations for slick magazines and the well-dressed Secret Agent X-9 for the comics, and the syndicate must have had that sort of fashionable look in mind for Flash Gordon.

What I remember about Raboy's Flash Gordon was furriness. It seemed to me that he drew a lot of clothing with fur.

Daniel [] said...

A state that believes that it's entitled to conscript some of its subjects to serve as soldiers is likely to believe that it may conscript others in different ways that will also prove deadly or otherwise injurious. The downwinders got caught in a draft. Likewise the people sickened or killed by the biological warfare experiments carried-out in the NYC subway system, and the people who were given hallucinogens without their consent.

When the public allowed itself to accept that majority vote was the only consent-of-the-governed that rulers need get, we all had heart-plugs installed.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Always considered McRaboy really good and a necessary "link" between Raymond's Flash (which can be described as elegant, but really, I think Raymond is so peculiar an artist that the only basis for comparison is.. Raymond himself), and Barry's "Bondish" Gordon of the 60's.

Interesting how this Flash is no more a space opera hero, but a character more similar to a British strip I mentioned before, Jeff Hawke. Many Hawke's stories take place here on Earth where a mistery needs to be solved (many others are not, on the other hand) and even the "timid" alien here may resemble some of the creatures Hawke has to deal with (no more Ming or Vultan here). Compared to Hawke, the Gordon story is more action packed and less profound and sarcastic. We have a comic book character here that could have been perfect for such a story: Martin Mystere, detective of the impossible (1982 -)

The pacing is interesting,too. First, let me say that here in Italy comic strips were never popular IN the newspapers. There were attempts in the 50's and the 80's but all the great American and English strips, we saw them not on newspapers but in magazines, or collected in books. So, as an editor said, often they were heavily manipulated. Some panels (he was talking of Dick Tracy and The Shmoos) were cut because they were simply "summarizing" what happened the week before, and that didn't make sense in a book. In this story I like the way every strip ends with a "cliffhanger".
I think I got carried away once again. As usual, please forgive my inaccurate grammar.

Bill said...

I notice the page for 9/15 is missing. Any chance you have it available to post?


Pappy said...

Bill, sorry...9/15/63 is missing from the raw scans I found online.

Pappy said...

J D, I got to a point where I liked comic strips that were collected rather than reading them on a daily basis. For a time I even clipped daily continuity strips like the Phantom and would wait until the story was finished before I would read it. (All of those clippings are now gone.)

Pappy said...

Daniel, you cannot see me, but I am nodding vigorously in agreement.

It is a subject about which I could go on and on, but this probably is not the place.

As always, thanks for your comments.

Alicia American said...

I saw a comix 4rum wear theze "comix xperts wer all axing each otherer who Mac Raboy was. They dsideded he waznt importint like modern cartunists since if he was they wulda herd of him.

I figured if I xplainded it 2 em they'd call me stupid so I just closed tha page & weept silently LOL

Neil Hansen said...

Hi, Pappy, very delayed response. Any way you could blog the Flash Gordon Harvey stuff which featured the Alex Raymond artwork to give everyone who may not be familiar with Alex Raymond's work? I know it is doubtful,but they rearranged the panels to reszemble a comic book page. Just curious if that could be done.