Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pappy’s Tenth Anniversary Sunday Special #5: The Mask of Fu Manchu

Author Sax Rohmer introduced the supervillain Fu Manchu to the world in 1913. He wrote some popular books, then like his contemporary Arthur Conan Doyle, he tried to kill off his creation just as Doyle had tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes. Fans clamored for more. Rohmer wrote 15 books about Fu Manchu, the last being published as late as 1959. Rohmer, who was born Arthur Henry Ward in 1883, died the year his last book was published of — you cannot make this up — Asian flu.

So Rohmer was alive the year this comic book adaptation of The Mask of Fu Manchu (novel published in 1932, comic book in 1951) was released by Avon. You will not find Rohmer’s name anywhere because for some reason in their comic book adaptations Avon sometimes left off the original author’s name.  It is odd to me, but there is no one left alive to tell us why. (You may recall that two weeks ago I showed an Avon adaptation of a popular novel where the author’s name was not deleted, so it was not a totally consistent practice for Avon.)

And yes, Fu Manchu is a blatant example of the racial attitudes toward Asians from that period, a viewpoint that seemed hard to kill even midway through the twentieth century. The lurid True Detective cover above is from 1930. I have been over that ground several times in this blog. I am not ignoring the “Yellow Peril” plotline, but I am showing the comic primarily because it is drawn by Wallace Wood and whomever was helping him at the time.

The second story is also of interest because it is drawn by Alvin Carl Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth was one of the rare African-American comic artists, who usually signed his work A. C. Hollingsworth. Later he left comics and went into fine art and teaching. He died in 2000 at age 72.

This ends the Anniversary Sunday Specials feature. I like the way this month’s posts turned out. I will be doing more Sunday Specials in the future, but not every week.

The actual start date for Pappy’s was July 26, 2006. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Number 1942: Jack Davis’s lucky Lucky Star

July 27 was a sad day for Jack Davis fans when it was announced that the master cartoonist had died. Jack had a long and great career, which began with comics in the late forties

Wikipedia gives a brief synopsis of artist Jack Davis’s early career with this: “In 1949, he illustrated a Coca-Cola training manual, a job that gave him enough cash to buy a car and drive to New York. Attending the Art Students League of New York, he found work with the Herald Tribune Syndicate as an inker on Leslie Charteris’s The Saint comic strip, drawn by Mike Roy in 1949–50. His own humor strip, Beauregard, with gags in a Civil War setting, was carried briefly by the McClure Syndicate. After rejections from several comic book publishers, he began freelancing for William Gaines’ EC Comics in 1950.”

Wikipedia doesn’t mention the work Davis did on the Lucky Star comic book, probably because it is obscure. As is explained in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, the comic was a giveaway for the Lucky Star Western Wear line. Lucky Star is listed as being published by Nation-Wide Publishing Company, has a 5¢ price on the cover. It is small, measuring 5 inches by 7.25 inches. This is another of those comic books I have seen only in digital form, and they were provided to the Internet by James Vadeboncoeur Jr and scanner rangerhouse. (I have provided the obsessive-compulsive brighening and clean-up.)

Despite the hurried look to the artwork, a look at Davis’s early work shows what quickly developed at EC Comics as his mature style. The figures in action, the distinctive inking style. Davis once said he emulated Bill Mauldin’s Willie and Joe cartoons of World War II. Despite his influences Davis quickly became the influential one, imitated by several other comic book artists. Davis went on to become a highly sought after commercial artist whose distinctive style became known to the world through movie posters, magazine covers, and Mad. Jack retired a couple of years ago and was living in his home state of Georgia when he died.

From Lucky Star #2 (1950):