Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Number 2144: Two by Feldstein

In the early days of EC Comics’ New Trend Al Feldstein was the edtior/writer/artist who led them to success with a small bunch of titles. His figure drawing may have been stiff, as Feldstein admits, but the graphic design and the covers he drew caught the eye of comic book buyers.

These two stories are early work for two issues of Weird Science, and despite Feldstein’s tendency to use too much text, his pictures have impact. The scans are taken from Heritage Auctions, without permission, but with love in my heart for them, posting enough original art for what is for me an online museum of comic book artwork.

Feldstein gave what was probably his last interview to Comics Journal publisher Gary Groth in 2013. I have excerpted some things I think are pertinent.
GROTH: Now I’ve heard you say that you were dissatisfied with your drawing; is that true? Do I remember that correctly?

FELDSTEIN I always felt that my drawing was stiff. Although there were periods where I improved, when I started doing the romance stuff with Bill. And my drawing was better. I always felt that a guy like Johnny Craig was so much more talented than me. I have since learned that my particular style of drawing was very unique. And though I felt it was static and stiff, it had a kind of personality.

GROTH: Absolutely, absolutely. I can see where you would notice that Johnny Craig had a kind of fluidity to his work that I suppose yours lacked. But yours had a kind of baroque inking style that gave it this marvelous finish.

FELDSTEIN: I don’t know how it developed over the years. I started with Iger, I sat next to Matt Baker and learned to draw headlight comics. Jack Kamen and the rest, all the rest of those wonderful artists in Iger’s shop.
From Weird Science #13 (Actual issue #2, 1950):

“Made of the Future” is a concept I don’t think is that far off. When AI can be successfully adapted there will be guys lining up like they are for the latest iPhone. I disagree with Gary Groth’s assessment that it is “not a realistic possibility.” The idea of a robot used for sexual purposes is already here. Not like the Feldstein story. Not quite yet, anyway. (Disclaimer if my wife is reading this: Not for me, of course. Heh, heh.) (See this article from Rolling Stone magazine.)

On February 14, 2013, Gary Groth interviewed Al Feldstein for Child of Tomorrow (a collection of EC comics drawn by Feldstein).

On “Made of the Future”:
GROTH: One of the stories you did that was not a realistic possibility was “Made of the Future.”

FELDSTEIN: I tried to step further into the future of science and technology in terms of being able to create your own robot human.

GROTH: The perfect wife.

FELDSTEIN: In that case, yes.

GROTH: [Laughs.] Which was such a crazy premise, but it worked.

FELDSTEIN: I think it fulfilled a kind of an idealistic fantasy. To be able to have a realistic enough robot to be able to relate to sexually and otherwise.

GROTH: And as crazy as it was, you believed it while reading the story.

FELDSTEIN: All the stories were tacked on a realistic level, because that’s the only way I could convince the reader that this was what could happen.
From Weird Science #5 (corrected numbering, after four issues using numbering continued from Saddle Romances, 1951)


Kirk said...

His figures may have been stiff, but Feldstein was no slouch when it came to drawing beautiful, sexy women.

Brian Barnes said...

Feldstein was incredibly important to EC, but I still don't know what to think about his art. Sometimes I love it, somethings it's meh. I never hate it, and he is certainly great at pin-up art, slightly worse at sci-fi art, and probably passable on horror art.

His ability to get out scripts, get his artist in line without stepping on their toes, is legendary though.

Pappy said...

Kirk, Brian, a guy wrote me once after a Phantom Lady posting and said he thought the infamous Seduction of the Innocent cover of PL #17 was not by Baker, but by Feldstein. Baker has always gotten the credit. I didn't respond at the time, but it could have been a collaborative effort, Baker with another artist in the Iger Studio, including Feldstein. Feldstein certainly was capable of drawing the Phantom Lady character, but did he? I still don't know.

At EC I think Feldstein was glad to hand over art chores to the other artists. It must have been burdensome to be writing all the stories and drawing covers and lead stories, also.

Something I have noticed in going back over Feldstein's art history, when he was drawing for Iger he was doing a lot of teenage strips (Junior, Meet Corliss Archer), and changed what he could of his art style to accommodate the EC Comics. Jack Kamen, who drew beautiful girls including jungle girls in tree-swinging action, seems muted by EC...eventually drawing housewives and pipe-smoking husbands in suburban settings. It was claimed he got those stories because Jack was such a "nice guy."