Monday, November 30, 2020

Number 2474: Al Williamson races for the moon

A story was told by Al Williamson of the time he went looking for work after the big comic book crash in the 1950s. He went to Harvey Comics, where they gave him some penciled pages to ink. The penciling was done by none other than Jack Kirby for Race to the Moon #3 (1958). At first Williamson did not think that their styles meshed, but like Kirby he was a solid professional, and what might have seemed unusual for Williamson looks very good to me.

Heritage Auctions has this and other stories from Kirby/Williamson at their web site, which is where I appropriated the story. To make it more legitimate I am also giving Heritage a plug: Go to the Heritage Auctions website, sign up and behold the many wonders of what Heritage is selling and has sold, in sharp reproductions that make even the most finicky collector or casual browser swoon with joy. According to the details, the auction company sold this original art in 2013 for $15,535.

This and other artwork from Race to the Moon on the Heritage site came from the Joe Simon estate.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Number 2473: Thanksgiving Turkey Award: Stardust!

It is the day of the American Thanksgiving, the holiday gathering, with food, on the last Thursday of November. Sorry, nothing to eat here. The annual turkey award is only for the silliest, or most stupid or awesomely oddball comic book story I have seen this year.

I picked an example of what made Fletcher Hanks one of the most screwball comic book men of all time. His stories are trippy, and his artwork just plain weird. Stardust lives on a planet and watches what goes on in our solar system so he can get the criminals. Get them he does, usually with a bizarre and vengeful punishment.

For this particular story, taken from Fantastic Comics #12 (1940), Stardust rescues a woman who remains nameless throughout the story. Artist Fletcher Hanks has made Stardust much bigger than the only other people, a villain, Kaos, and the no-name girl. Stardust’s head is twice human size, even though in a couple of head and shoulders panels his head looks tiny! Still, he and the girl seem to have a physical attraction. “Would you like to come to my private star for awhile?” asks Stardust, a real smooth talker. She agrees.

Hanks’s artwork is always unusual. He breaks whatever comic book laws there are in depicting super people in flight. Hanks’s decision in this story is to show Stardust’s body from a birds-eye view of his back while flying. Hanks didn’t need to draw Stardust’s face.
Considering the body of his work in the early days of comic book, it is almost too easy to name a Fletcher Hanks story the award winner. But, he gets the prize. I give this story 3 and 1/2 turkeys.

Here is the Stardust story from Fantastic Comics #1. Just click on the thumbnail.

Go to the Turkey Award winner for last year. Links will take you eventually back to the first entry, from 2006.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Number 2472: The man with the magnetic personality

I imagine a 1940 Ace Publishing Company editorial conference on the creation of Super-Mystery Comics. Men smoking cigars, jackets off, wearing white shirts and suspenders to hold up their pants are kicking around ideas for superheroes. Someone says “a magnetic guy.” But what would be his origin? How did he get those magnetic powers? Well, who cares? It's a comic book, and they are flooding the market so let's get it out now and worry about the details later.

That is just from my imagination, but what I understand from Toonopedia is that Paul Chadwick, who created and wrote Secret Agent X pulp stories, also wrote the story of Magno, the Magnetic Man. Chadwick used as its basis a story he wrote in 1934 called “The Octopus of Crime,” starring Secret Agent X.

In future issues Magno got a boy named Davey to help him. In this first story Magno is alone, yet up to the task. The artist on the story is unidentified.

From Super-Mystery Comics Volume 1, Number 1 (1940):

Monday, November 23, 2020

Number 2471: Little Men

Dick Rockwell was an artist who worked in comic books after World War II. I have seen his work in Charles Biro’s crime and Western comics. He apparently stopped at Atlas/ Marvel long enough to do some work, including this story, “The Little Men.” Biographies of Rockwell always mention that he was the nephew of Norman Rockwell, one of the best known American illustrators of the 20th century.

In “The Little Men” Dick Rockwell used his uncle’s working method, taking photographs as the basis for his drawings. The story is fantasy, not a horror story, and features a nagging wife, one of the clichés of days gone by. My sympathies are with the wife in this story. 

The last work I saw from Dick Rockwell was when he took over the Steve Canyon comic strip after Milton Caniff’s death. I found out he had been Caniff’s assistant for 35 years. Telling a story on his famous uncle, he said Norman Rockwell didn’t mind him so much working for Milton Caniff, but Uncle Norman had a problem with Caniff signing drawings that Dick Rockwell did. Alas, that is the nature of the comic strip business. Dick Rockwell also did courtroom sketches for years. I assume he got credit for them.

From Suspense #9 (1951):

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Number 2470: Little Lulu assaults the king!

A few weeks ago I had three stories about witches for a Halloween posting. I originally intended to show a Witch Hazel story from Little Lulu also, but here it is, late.

John Stanley wrote the story for Little Lulu and Her Special Friends #3, a Dell 100-page giant comic from 1955. In the series featuring Witch Hazel. Stanley carefully crafted stories that are told on the spur of the moment by Lulu for the neighbor kid, Alvin. Of course Lulu makes herself the heroine, although as a “poor little girl” living with her mother in dire poverty. Trust Stanley to make a dreadful situation funny. Lulu is a middle-class American kid living in the suburbs with her mom and dad; the same world as I, old Pappy, grew up in. I wish my own world had been as interesting as Lulu’s.

Finished artwork is by Irving Tripp, from rough layouts by Stanley.