Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Number 2387: Uncle Sam is just Fine!

This exquisite collection of original art is all one story of Uncle Sam, from National Comics #13 (1941). I have used the scans from Heritage Auctions. They did a beautiful job showing near-pristine artwork by Lou Fine; very few globs of white paint, no pasteovers — or at least none that I can readily see — and what blue pencil marks I see are very light.

Lou Fine is credited with the artwork for this story, and Will Eisner with the writing. Seeing the original art is depriving you of seeing it in full eye-blasting color, but here is an example from the printed comic book of the phantasmic look it gives to the story.

Blue boulders? Egad. Other pages have bright red skies, and other color anomalies. Like most comic book publishers of the time, Quality Comics’ “quality” in printing left much to be desired, even with the oddball coloring. The colors cover up the delicate line and feathered brush work that Fine was known for, which is why I am showing the original art and not the comic book version.

Heritage Auctions sold the artwork in 2013 for $53,755.00. Thanks to them for providing the art on their website.

Here is the origin story from National Comics #1. Just click on the thumbnail.


Neil A. Hansen said...

Great stuff. Have downloaded the pages. Many thanks!

Daniel [] said...

One of the ways in which you might find me mad or obnoxious is that I like the absurd coloring of those early Quality comics.

Fine's work is indeed beautiful.

I'd caution against relying upon Wikipedia for a study of the history of the character of Uncle Sam, but in any case it's an interesting history. An earlier personification of America was Brother Jonathan. Some people have insisted that the two personifications are one-and-the-same, and Uncle Same certainly picked-up some of the secondary attributes of Brother Jonathan, but there were episodes during which the two characters were clearly regarded as distinct.

I wonder to what extent the theme of secret slave camps recurred in golden-age comics not simply as a matter of writers adopting the ideas of other writers, but as an expression of some cultural fear. Of course, the Nazis were using slave labor in what had been ordinary factories, the United States had chain-gangs and the like, and various nation-states were conscripting soldiers. But secret slave camps in '40s America would be a somewhat different arrangement.

Brian Barnes said...

This is just beautiful. Honestly, so much of the older comic art is better in B&W, a lot of the shadow or shading work gets lost at times.

The alligator on page 5 is goofy as all hell but what a great image.

The story is certainly interesting, half the time Uncle Sam just ... lets himself get caught. He pretty much could have wrapped this up without any trouble!

Pappy said...

Daniel, I advise wearing dark glasses to prevent damage to the eyes when reading old Quality Comics.

I don't remember the name of the book that describes the obvious, that Hitler got ideas for treatment of the Jews from the way Americans treated black people. I once had a boss who went into racist diatribes and when he had a couple of drinks (during work) would get onto a tear and yell out, "Hitler was right! Kill 'em all!" about all minorities (he didn't discriminate...he hated them all). I didn't last long working for that guy.