Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Number 2517: Fritz Frazetta's ugly tree

Frank Frazetta was a master of fantasy, muscular guys, exotic, beautiful women. He was also able to draw funny animals, which seems strange to those only familiar with a painting like “The Death Dealer.” In this particular funny animal story he gives us a reasonably good knockoff of Walt Kelly’s Albert the Alligator called “Al,” and a cute squirrel called Munchy. Who came up with those names? I hope it wasn’t Frazetta. Being a funny animal strip, it is a fantasy, just not the kind you expect from Frazetta; so he signed his name “Fritz.” The tree is the main character of the story, and is the ugliest tree I have seen outside of my neighbor’s front yard.

Altogether the story falls short of genius, Frazetta’s or anyone else’s, it is short, at 5 pages, so you get to look at another facet of Frazetta’s drawing talent, without having to invest much time or brain cells on the story.

From Coo Coo Comics #47 (1949):


Monday, April 26, 2021

Number 2516: What is news is the news itself

“Blonde Bomber,” from Harvey Comics’ All-New Comics, was a wartime newsreel reporter, Honey, who had a camera man, Slapso. They were out looking for stories to tell. The stories of Honey and Slapso are old fashioned, but Honey also seems modern. I am not sure how many women in that time (with the exception of Lois Lane and Brenda Starr) were out beating the bushes for news. So I see Honey as ahead of her time. (I remember when network news was solidly male. The times, they are thankfully a'changin'.)

This episode with the cool splash panel that has nothing to do with the story except draw us in, is from All-New #9 (1943). Female artists are sometimes credited for this feature, but the Grand Comics Database has no writer or artists listed. Time marches on! Maybe someday someone will tell us who drew it.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Number 2515: The cowboy and the artist

The internet biographies of comic artist Russ Heath say that his father had once been a cowboy, so young Russ took to admiring Western artists, especially Will James and Charles Russell. When he went to work as a comic book artist his first assignments were  in the Western genre.

Dale Robertson, actor, was born in Oklahoma, and was a cowboy. After his service during World War II (where he got the Purple Heart for being wounded on two separate occasions), he went to Hollywood and became an actor.

The two men, the cowboy and the son of a cowboy, crossed paths when Heath illustrated a Dell Four Color series comic book of Tales of Wells Fargo, a popular Western television show. The show starred Robertson, and was on the air from 1957 to 1962, for 202 episodes. They are still being shown today on at least one pay cable network and one nostalgia channel on basic cable.

Robertson had a presence as an actor; tall, handsome and as his war record showed, just shy of bullet-proof. He was mucho macho. Heath was perhaps one of the top comic book artists of the era after World War II, when he worked for Timely/Atlas, and then freelanced for many years, doing a lot of war comics, among others. Heath’s art style was dynamic. He had studied art, and he could draw. Robertson became an actor without studying acting.

Both Robertson and Heath are now deceased: Robertson in 2013, and Heath in 2018.

Gaylord Dubois, who also wrote the comic book Tarzan for Dell, wrote “Thunder Over Lost Soldier Gulch.”  

From Tales of Wells Fargo #1215 (1961):

Monday, April 19, 2021

Number 2514: Dr Miracle's miracles

Dr Miracle is described by the folks at Public Domain Super Heroes:

“. . . the Master of Magic (white magic) who used his “miraculous” powers to fight crime and the Axis powers during World War II. His magic powers included telekinesis, the ability to levitate and fly at tremendous speeds, the ability to elongate his own limbs, the ability to transform himself into a flying ball of fire, the ability to walk through solid walls and the ability to cast illusions, often used to disguise himself or others. He was pretty much given any ability as the plot required, but he was not omnipotent. Apparently, he could not stop bullets, so guns were a potential danger to him. He was not omniscient either, but he was a good detective. Also, he was powerless without the amulet that he wore around his neck. This amulet could neutralize the power of amulets of black magic.”

I like the part about “he was pretty much given any ability as the plot required.” On the one hand a character can be boring if he is always doing the same old stuff (Mandrake “gesturing hypnotically”), but on the other hand, a character who can come up with a power to meet every danger can be dull and give the reader that old so what else is new? attitude. In this story we get to see Dr Miracle wrap some criminals in a fiery ring, and my favorite, Dr Miracle floats through a wall like a ghost. (See the teaser panel above.) A cult leader is the villain, and he leaves some documents that prove he is not who he claims to be. Dr Miracle doesn’t need any special powers to catch someone who is dumb enough to leave damning evidence in plain sight.

From Champ Comics #21 (1942). No writer or artist(s) listed by the Grand Comics Database.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Number 2513: “Hup! Toop! Thrip! Four!” Soldier ants are marching!

It’s April, and time for the appearance of insects, without whom I would not know it was spring (I don’t get out much), when ants begin their annual invasion. I am not fond of ants making my home a residence, so I have my ways of getting rid of them. What if, though, the ants were as big as a human, and could think. Not only think, but say things like, “O antmen! It is time for your first test! Go forth this night and try your new power! Kill the hated mortals! KILL!”

My usual ant traps would not work with man-sized soldier ants. What I may have to depend on is the solution to get rid of those giant ants in the story. Personally, I had not heard of an enemy of soldier ants, but it is right here.

The artists who soldiered on by drawing this tale, are listed as Ken Bald ? (which means the Grand Comics Database is guessing) for the cover. Dick Beck and George Klein are credited for the artwork on “The Ant Master!” It is from ACG’s Forbidden Worlds #21 (1953).

Monday, April 12, 2021

Number 2512: Tomb it may concern...Frankenstein in love

In this tale of the meandering monster, Frankenstein is smitten with love for a woman who has a young son. Said son gets sick. Appendicitis, no less...oh woe. While the doctor takes the boy to a hospital, Frankenstein makes off with the mom to a nearby tomb, where he keeps her a prisoner...of love. The monster is apparently not up on a mother's love for her child, and of course not only would she rather be with her sick boy, she’d much rather be anywhere else than with the Frankenstein monster.

Dick Briefer, artist/writer, did the story, “Entranced!” for issue number 29 of the Prize Comics’ American Frankenstein comic book. As longtime readers know from lessons I have been pounding into their skulls (I have a big hammer), Dick Briefer had done three different versions of the monster until the title ended when the Comics Code came in.

This black line version is from the UK Frankenstein #4, published by Arnold Book Co. I have blown out the yellow color of the pages and enhanced the black lines. The only things I left alone were the the bottom tier of panels. Arnold Book Co. cut the bottom panel borders off. I guess the act of cutting had something to do with the proportions of the printed product. But really, who knows? Who cares? The comic book has 68 pages, and besides Frankenstein it has a non-Frankenstein story by Briefer, and what looks to be the contents of an issue of Airboy Comics. Also, an ad for their reprints of Black Magic, another Prize Comics title, is done by Mad artist Bill Elder. Elder, who had done it for the EC Mad or Panic comic books. I haven’t done the research (laziness) for which comic it originally appeared in. Maybe one of you know.