Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Number 2375: The Black Condor...he’s so Fine!

Don Markstein’s Toonopedia says of the character, Black Condor: “The Condor's origin story wasn't too implausible, at least by superhero standards.” I guess if you consider being raised by condors, and learning to fly by watching other condors not too implausible, then yes, Black Condor fared well by the standard of superhero origins. If that is not enough, the Black Condor’s secret identity was him taking the place of a deceased United States Senator, Tom Wright. There are so many things illegal about impersonating a senator, alive or even dead, that I cannot imagine it happening except in a comic book.

What truly redeems Black Condor as a feature of early comic books is the artwork of Lou Fine, born Louis Kenneth Fine in 1914. He was one of the (excuse me) finest artists of the Golden Age, whose work was not only influential to other artists, but jumped off the newsstands at comic book readers. The Black Condor was done and gone in Quality’s Crack Comics after issue 31. Fine, who had been helping to ghost the Spirit while Will Eisner was doing military service, left comic books in 1944 and went into advertising. Later in his career he drew some newspaper comic strips. Fine died of a heart attack in 1971 at the young age of 56.

From Crack Comics #15 (1941):


Brian Barnes said...

You can tell why Fine was a good match for advertising -- his art is clean and very finely detailed. This is a really great job for a early 40s book, it's dynamic, bright and colorful.

The story just bounces all over this place and could have used some editing, but the art makes up for it.

Daniel [] said...

Another 'blogger went rather far in treating Fine as simply an imitator of Alex Raymond … but … Fine didn't simply have a style influenced by Raymond at this stage; as Raymond's style evolved (in ways that I consider regrettable), Fine's style took a parallel path. Perhaps that were more a matter of each artist independently responding to a changing market, but there is an appearance that either Fine lacked confidence in his ability to find his own way, or opportunistically used Raymond as a windsock.

In any case, I was first exposed to Fine's comic-book illustrations in Steranko's History; and, even in thumbnail reproduction their artistry stood out amongst work largely selected for its visual appeal.

Pappy said...

Brian, Daniel, when Fine went on to advertising it was a good career move, I am sure.

When I look at Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon artwork I "see" (mentally) the photos I have seen of Raymond drawing from models. Using models and photos of poses is fair use for artists, but I don't think a lot of comic book artists would have had the money to hire model models (those models whose job is to pose for artists or photographers). It would also be time consuming, considering the amount of pages an artist would have to produce to make a living. So most artists just compromised and swiped the art of artists like Raymond, who used models. My guess is Fine probably used models while producing work for advertising. Having his work on a comic book cover must have boosted sales, and I have no idea what the pay was, but it was probably peanuts compared to his advertising work.