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):


Daniel [] said...

I know that Davis regarded his work as in decline, but I wonder to what extent his decision to give-up drawing proved fatal.

Adjusting for the small page-size, there's about six pages worth of story here, told across twenty. I don't think that I would have felt my nickle well spent had I bought this comic book in 1950.

And, reading with the eyes of an adult in the 21st Century, I cannot help but be annoyed that the Mexicano boy was depicted as too foolish to stifle his sneeze, and at the stereotyping more generally. (Granted that all the characters are stereotyped, but some stereotypes are more demeaning than are others.)

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Yes, it's too bad.

He was just one year older than my father, and had the same heart condition.
But as someone else noticed, JacK left us a huge amount of work to scrutinize, and hopefully to get inspired by it.
You probably now this already, but look at this video posted by Mr.Cavin, it's just toot beautiful:

Pappy said...

Daniel, the Price Guide line about it being a giveaway for a kids' clothing company makes me curious about the 5¢ price. Nationwide did have other titles, and I wonder about their distribution. I haven't seen any hard copies of those magazines either.

I always thought pocket-sized comics were a bad idea because they could be easily shoplifted. Apparently by 1952 Nation-Wide was gone.

Since I intended the posting to be a tribute to Jack Davis I didn't mention the crude stereotypes. But yes, I agree with you about them.

Pappy said...

J D, that video was emotional for me. Jack Davis has meant a lot to me (and to my brother, also) for over 60 years.

Thanks for sending along the link, and thanks to Mr Cavin for posting it on Karswell's site.

Unknown said...

A true original is gone. Wotta legacy. I was always happy to see a new Jack Davis Comic (Like Yak Yak) or Movie Posters album covers, trading cards etc.
A very relaxed yet manic style where everyone (Except the babes)looked unwashed.
One of my favorite things being "Book! Movie!" in Mad.
Gone but a heck of a lot of great stuff to peruse.

Daniel [] said...

I notice one Nation-Wide comic, without the price, noted as a give-away at the Grand Comics Database. Perhaps this caused some confusion for the Overstreet Price Guide.

Brian Barnes said...

Interesting. Davis always seemed, to me, to spring up fully formed when I first encountered him at EC. Somebody like Ghastly, who IMHO was the best horror artist ever to walk this planet, didn't turn in particularly good work (for Bill and Al) but they were loyal and kept him around and suddenly he found his niche when horror started and his absolute genius shined through.

Davis, to me, started out as great, as fully formed.

Davis, it didn't matter what you threw at him. He could do it all. He could mix cartoon-y and realistic in the same panel; he could do war stories, horror stories, comic stories, advertising, albums, posters, you name it. And he was *fast*.

How many people had that giant Frankenstein's Monster picture in their room?

While other artists of his generation might have floundered Davis always hit the ground running. And these other artists were the GREATS. The top talent of their day, and any day. They says a lot.

We lost one of the greats, if not the greatest.

Mike Britt said...

Lucky for me I have two different issues of LUCKY STAR that I acquired back in the late fifties. I did purchase one Nationwide title (the superhero one) when it came out about 1950 and was disappointed in the content. As far as the "distribution"
it was in the penny candy glass display case at a Mom and Pop grocery store of the day in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Alicia American said...

We luv Jack Davis #RIP Our flavor8 is his cover of "Life Can Be Mizerable" by Homer & Jethro. BTW theirs no video @ that JD link, I wanna peep tha video :( #RIPJackDavis

Pappy said...

Brian, that giant Frankenstein poster is yet another bit of comiciana (is that a word?) I have never seen. It was because I would not have had a place to hang it, or get it past my mother, She of the Censorious Eye. (Dr Wertham in female form, that was my mom in the late '50s, early '60s, until she finally gave up trying to keep popular culture away from me.)

I agree with certain qualifications to your observation that Davis came "fully formed." Some of his early work seems a bit rushed, and he learned to hold off on bringing in his work for a few days so it didn't look like he was as fast he was. He did mention once that when he brought in his completed jobs Bill Gaines would cut a check, so it certainly paid him to be fast.

Pappy said...

Mike, I love it when guys who were there give me first hand information like that. The grocery store Mom and Pop were wise to keep a pocket-size comic away from pockets where they could be spirited out the door without being seen.

I recall that when I was buying comic books in drug stores the racks were usually in full view of the pharmacist or the checkstand. I would have been too chicken to steal anything anyway, having a deep-seated fear of punishment and humiliation.

I agree that early Nation-Wide Captain Atom comic seems very pallid, and I probably would have skipped over it had I seen it.

Pappy said...

Daniel, maybe it only clears up my confusion, but that looks more like a giveaway than the issues with nickel prices on the covers. Thanks.

Pappy said...

Alicia, any time I spy one of Jack Davis' album covers (not easy to find) on one of my collectible-buying excursion it makes my day. I remember that Homer and Jethro cover, but only in photos. I hope I can find a copy someday.

The link in Mr Cavin's note to Karswell worked for me. I checked it after I got your note. Try it again, it's worth it.

Alicia American said...

Oh its a GR8 album, if u dont wanna kill urself after listenering then u werent listenering.

Oh TY I didnt get it that tha vid was in tha comments.

OMG Pappy I'm trying 2 DSide who my Vice Prez should B I got a poll up but I need more peeps 2 vote

XOXOXO Luv u Pappity

Pappy said...

Gee, Alicia...kill myself after listening to Homer and Jethro? I survived buying a copy of H & J's versions of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You" that created a firestorm of complaints to Top-40 stations from outraged Beatles fans. Those people needed to get a grip; the Beatles were great, but they weren't religious icons. (...or were they? John did say they were "more popular than Jesus." Hmmm.)