Wednesday, March 17, 2010
With the recent attention given to Ronald Searle's 90th birthday and new interview,I decided to look at one of his books.
The book is titled Modern Types and it was published in 1955. The writing is by Geoffrey Gorer with Searle providing a drawing for each type. I love Searle's linework. The thick scratchy lines in the foreground with the thin lines in the background is just beautiful.
Even with the focus on a person on each drawing,what he includes in the background is worth paying close attention to and just marvel at what he does.
The big surprise was the writing. Gorer's take on each type is powerful stuff;at times funny but at other times sad,biting observations. Its interesting to see many of the same types still around with little to no changes after 55 years.Happy birthday,Ronald Searle!!!
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I just finished reading Theodor Seuss Geisel by Donald E. Pease. Theodor Seuss Geisel is better known as Dr. Seuss. This book is a quick read on the life of Dr. Seuss. I have to say it covers many of the high points of his life and a good book to start on Seuss' life. Peace's writing is very good and gets you into the feel of Seuss' life. The time he spent at Dartmouth and Oxford helped make Seuss a great artist. Dartmouth in he found lifelong ties and at Oxford he found what not to be (he didn't like it there). The work Seuss did for Flit bug spray made him lots of money and was in many ways his true first successful break in the commercial world. Geisel grew up in Springfield,MA and his family was doing quite well with the family brewery but with Prohibition that went downhill. Things got worse when World War 1 began and a growing anti-German mood was all around him. The political cartoons Geisel produced are worth looking into and a book was published a few years back and I think was brought back in print again.The changes in his life during World War 2 working for Frank Capra's unit making newsreels. Pease does a great job of putting Geisel's children books in relation to his private life. How some books relate to Geisel's relationship with his father. The challenges that his editors gave him. This book shows what made Seuss great and made me want to read some of his books again and to look at the other books out there on the life of Dr. Seuss. The cover is a painting by former comic book artist and portrait painter Everett Raymond Kinstler. This is a 2010 book by Oxford University Press.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I read this cool crime comic titled Crimefighters # 1 from 1948 and published by Marvel Comics. The crime comics of the 1940s and 1950s are very interesting and fun comics to read. Some comic book artists did very well in the genre. People like George Tuska,Jack Kirby,Harry Anderson,Bob Powell,John Buscema,Joe Maneely,Fred Guardineer,Rudy Palais,Vernon Henkel,Alex Toth,and John Severn are just a few of the folks who did fantastic crime stories. This issue starts with "A Clint For The Hangman!" that looks like Syd Shores and Al Avison but I see on Gene Colan's website that he did this story. Gene Colan would speak highly of Syd Shores the few times I talked to him at shows. Shores was one of the top artists at Marvel at the time and makes sense that the younger artists would look up to him or work in his style. Looking at the story carefully to find hints of Gene's later style and its there.Its a bit crude but the way he composes a panel is there and it is the standout of the issue. Great hanging panel on the first page.
The next story is "One Was Guilty!" and I can't tell who did the art. It ok but nothing great. Story of two guys who look alike and the wrong guy gets caught. The last story is "Killer At Large!" and the art is better in this story but can't figure out who it is. Looks familiar in the way the figures stand and the faces are drawn. Great prison break story with a bland ending but these stories get better with the coming years until the comics code takes over. Atlas Comics and Orbit Comics are favorites of mine and hope to have some Wanted issues up on this blog.
Friday, February 19, 2010
I got a chance to read some more of the final issues of Little Lulu. I started to do this to get a look at Irv Tripp's artwork without John Stanley scripts. Little Lulu # 247 from 1978 seems to be a better than average issue. Tripp's artwork is rock steady through most of the run. Irv Tripp does all the art in this issue. Arnold Drake did the Little Lulu stories and Fred Fredericks wrote the Witch Hazel and the Little Scarecrow Boy story. Drake starts off the issue with "A Taxing Day" and its an odd story for kids but funny because of it. Snobbly the Butler is not himself and reveals that he has tax problems. Wilbur's Uncle Thaddeus decides to do battle with the IRS. So Thaddeus and Mr. Smith from the IRS do battle over the phone over a bill for $3.27!!!! Its a pretty cool story and shows how this government agent (who has a Hitler mustache) is wasting tax dollars on this and building a toy model at work!!! A little dig at the IRS?? The next IRS agent takes over and wants to deport Snobbly... The story has a nice end to it but I wonder how many kids thought it was funny or how many kids today would think its funny. I do think some adults would see the humor in it.
The next Lulu story is "Friends To The End" and its got a Peanuts feel to it. Its all about friendships and how Annie's actions teach her fellow classmates and even the adults what friendship is all about. A bit corny but if you're in the mood its well done.
The Witch Hazel and Little Scarecrow Boy story is titled "Wail Of A Sale" and not much to say about this bland story. Its nice just for the Tripp art. It seems Fredericks had a hard time coming up with different stories for these characters over time. It must have been restricting due to the formula of Little Itch always hating Little Scarecrow Boy. The worlds of the witches and Little Scarecrow Boy never really blend well together. There are exceptions here and there. Also,its great to see Tripp's art on characters outside of Little Lulu.
The last story is with Lulu and its titled "Charmed Lives" and its okay but if John Stanley had this in his head it would have really been funny and more depth to it.
As is its got a very weak ending. This issue has credit boxes for all stories. I wonder if this was done on many of the Gold Key/Whitman issues during this period.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
The other day I got to read a copy of Falling In Love # 73 from 1965.
This has a great romance cover by Gene Colan,which is also the splash from the story.
The first story has the standard DC style from the period. I can't tell who did the work.
In some panels it looks like John Romita,in others Gil Kane and Mike Sekowsky. So its a bit of a mystery. The next story looks like Mike Sekowsky and has some nice silent/mood panels that speak volumes and moves the story.
The last story is by Gene Colan. Gene's DC work from the 1950's and 1960's is so interesting to look at. Early on DC felt the need to make everyone fit into the DC house style and Gene's early work for them got the same treatment. Someone there decided not to keep that policy with Gene's work and that was a smart move. Colan's work really needs to be inked with the right touch. So its easy to mess up his work. Also,Gene Colan is one of the best American romance comic book artist of all time. Jack Kirby,Alex Toth,Bob Powell,Lee Elias,Bill Everett,Joe Maneely, just to name a few, all did some of the best romance stories to see print. However,Gene Colan really tries to have all his stories have a fluid,fast-paced feel to them and it works in the romance stories. The panel arrangements in this story are a whirlwind of activity and emotions. If you get a chance,look for Gene Colan's romance stories in DC and Marvel comics of the period.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
On Nov. 27th,2009,Irving Bud Tripp passed away. He was the great comic book artist on Little Lulu and other Dell titles. The work he did off of John Stanley's layouts on Little Lulu are fantastic and easy to take for granted. Lloyd White did the same work from layouts by John Stanley on Tubby,another great run of humor comics. However,with Tripp I didn't even know he was still with us in 2009. I hope someone got to interview this man at some point and more than once.
This got me to look at more of Tripp's work outside of Little Lulu. I saw that Frank Young wrote about Four Color #1274 Santa Claus Funnies which had some nice Tripp artwork.
I decided to look at the Little Lulu's after John Stanley had left the book. I guess I took it for granted that many of those issues were filled with reprints and weak work. I had read that Arnold Drake had worked on the book but didn't look to see if Tripp was still on board. So I picked up some issues and they are not anywhere as good as the Stanley issues but it is nice to see how Tripp developed after Stanley. So I decided to start from the last issues of Little Lulu. Again,I was shocked to see that the book ran until # 268 and published in 1984!! Now I was buying lots of comics during those years and even worked at a comic book store in Albany,NY named FantaCo for those later years and I don't recall those books. Maybe they fell off my radar of stuff to look at and those were fun years of looking at lots of new and old comics.
So I got issue # 263 recently and read the issue and saw credits in the issue!! The Little Lulu stories were by Arnold Drake and Irv Tripp and the Witch Hazel and the Little Scarecrow Boy story by Fred Fredericks and Irv Tripp. The credits appear at the end of the stories and the Little Lulu credits only once at the end for all the stories.
The stories are real bland ones and not much depth to them.Really simple and lame in some cases. The real joy is seeing the Tripp art. Some of the panels have plenty of animated multiple figure movement.Tubby coming and going in the same panels and filled with multiple Tubby figures in the same panel really works. The big change is the use of one big panel on many of the pages but not on the first page of a story. It opens the page up more but its not as effective as the grid that John Stanley used. Maybe the larger panels would work better if the stories were better but they aren't. Stanley really had a balance to his stories almost like a cause and effect theme.Even when there was a meanness to the characters or story there was something else that would offset that meanness that was funny and had a logic to it,no matter how twisted.
In these stories you do get to see Tripp draw Tubby in a robot suit and how the Witches interact with the Little Scarecrow Boy. Even his take on other adults is interesting to see,like a business man,secretary,driver just a different feel than what Stanley did. On the page that I scanned with Tubby in his robot costume,if you look at the fifth panel Lulu is in the panel twice,one has the colors of the backgrounds and looks like someone forgot to catch that mistake but when it was colored someone saw it and maybe it was too late to get the extra Lulu out.
This issue has the added contrast of having two short John Stanley reprints from 1954 and its a drastic night/day difference between the writing and pace of the visuals. The use of words and how they are lettered is really forceful and dramatic.I never realized how much the characters yell in a John Stanley story. They are well done and flat out funny stories.
Well,I look forward to seeing more of Tripp's artwork on his later Little Lulu run and anything else he may have done.
Monday, January 18, 2010
I really love the cover to Men's Adventures #23 from 1953. The art is by Bill Everett and its a panel cover which isn't a common cover design on too many comic books through out the years. Its not the best design for what a cover is intended to do which is grab you to pick up the book. Atlas did some other covers with the panel layout and some worked and many didn't. The build up of suspense with this cover is well done and the use of dialogue at the very end is effective and funny at the same time to me. Many years ago I was at a show and saw a copy of this issue and could tell it was Everett from quite a distance. I had a rule back then to only get Everett comics that he did stories in since he did many covers in the 50's. I asked to look inside the issue and was disappointed that Everett had nothing inside.Gave the book back and said thank you and made a mental note of it and never thought about getting the book. I did the same with Lorna (big mistake) which Bill Everett did fantastic covers on. Since then I have changed my rules on what I will pick up and like getting the different artists on these books.
So last year,I see this book on Ebay and saw that killer cover and went for it. Boy, was I glad I did. The inside art is so strong. The first story is by Howie Post. I have always loved his Anthro and wished it lasted longer than it did. I like his loose Walt Kelly-like work from the late 40's-50's work. This story is a horror story drawn with a rough feel to the art and it works oh so well. The 2nd story is by Mort Lawrence and I don't know if he did all the work on this story as it looks to me like he worked with other people on his stories as many of them have a different look to them. Regardless,there are some really detailed well worked panels in this tale. The next story has art by the great Reed Crandall while doing a genre that he was so good at pirates. Myron Fass does the art on the next story. Nice moody art works well with the story. Matt Fox did the art on the last story. I was told a long time ago that Matt Fox didn't pencil much in comics but did lots of inking. Don't know how true that statement is but there is no mistaking Matt Fox's style. Very heavy gothic feel with lots of black to his work. I really enjoy his work and could spend lots of time just looking at single panels,there is much to be gained from his work. The website Atlas Tales lists Larry Woromay as the penciller with Matt Fox as inker. This whole issue should be reprinted,not a bad job in the bunch and was a great joy to read.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Up for today are 4 Atlas war comics. First up is Battlefront #4. This has a knockout cover by Jerry Robinson. Just like issue #5 that I cover here,this is such a well designed cover and the vibrant colors work with Robinson's image. The title of this tale is "The Death-Trap Of General Chun!". This issue is also a full length tale broken up into chapters. Robinson does a great job on this issue and look forward to finding issues #1-3 and see how he did. I have some romance stories he did at the same time for Atlas and they are stunning.
Battle Action #13 has a nice cover by Harry Anderson. Anderson has a really solid style that I like so much. In fact,I have been trying to get more of the books he has worked on. Years ago,I was with a friend and we were looking at old comics and really liked one cover from a 1950's Atlas comic and we could not figure out who did it. Then not too long after,the Comics Journal had an article and story by Harry Anderson. There was a showcase of his covers and the one we were trying to guess on was by Harry. So since then I have been on the lookout for his work. His work to me is a cross between Bill Everett and Graham Ingels. Anderson only did the cover but there is some good art in this issue. Artists include Paul Hodge,Al Gordon,Al Eadeh and John Forte. The standout in this issue is John Forte's work. John Forte is more known for his work at DC Comics on Legion of Super-Heroes and Jimmy Olsen but I prefer the work he did at Atlas. Its more loose and not as stiff as he would later become. Forte did some great precode horror jobs for Atlas that are worth hunting down. The title is Thirst! and worth being reprinted. Bill Everett did a job for Atlas on Mussolini that should be reprinted too. Many of these war books have bland stories that when they do one one real events they stand out. Maybe the artists felt like doing a better job on them. Al Eadeh's Viking story is the best work I have seen of his so far.
Battle # 47 has a scratchy drawn cover that looks like Carl Burgos or Sol Brodsky to me but I have a hard time telling their work apart at times. The online site Atlas tales lists Carl Burgos as the artist and I will go with them. The art inside is by Gene Colan,Vic Carrabotta,Dick Ayers, Joe Orlando and Dave Berg. The Gene Colan art is the standout in this issue for me. Love anything by Gene Colan so to see some work of his I have never seen is a treat. This issue has a light humor touch to it. Colan's ability for facial expressions is already serving him well this early in his career.
Battle # 48 has a cover by the great Joe Maneely. One of the best all-time American comic book artists. The work he did on Yellow Claw and Black Knight was the first work I ever saw of his and it knocked me out. They were reprinted in various Marvel giants and always remembered the name. Joe did a super job on a Frankenstein story in Menace that holds up well today. The artists inside this issue include Bob Forgione,Jack Abel,Paul Reinman,Pete Morisi,Gene Colan and one story I can't make out who it is. The Morisi and Colan jobs are the standouts. I'm guessing its a nice tip of the hat to George Tuska's influence on Morisi's work that one of the characters last name in the story is Tuska.
Friday, January 15, 2010
I have been reading some great old comics of late and Atlas Comics (Marvel Comics) of the 1950's have some really strong artwork. One issue is Battlefront # 5 from 1952. This entire issue has artwork from Jerry Robinson (The great Golden Age artist on Batman). The cover is by Robinson too and its so well designed. Robinson's work on Batman is well known and the great covers he did on the title still hold up today as strong covers. Robinson did great work with Mort Meskin and George Roussos on different titles and love the work he did with them. Jerry Robinson's work on Battlefront #5 is among his best and seems like his output at Atlas is overlooked. First its not often that these 50's Atlas titles have one artist doing the whole issue. Sure Joe Maneely,Robert Q. Sale,Bill Everett,Dan Decarlo,Howie Post all did full books too but what makes this different is that this issue is one complete story.Its broken up like the other titles of the time like they are different tales but its more like chapters. There are 4 chapters,one sets up the story and characters and the other 3 are all told from the viewpoint of the 3 main characters.I don't know if Jerry Robinson wrote these stories but they are better than the average war stories from Atlas at the time.It feels like Jerry Robinson put so much into these comics,he did the first 5 issues.
The other issue is Battle Action # 29 from 1957. What a fantastic lineup of talent. The cover is by John Severin. The 1st story has art by Gene Colan,followed by John Romita,Jay Scott Pike,George Tuska,and Bob Forigone. The art is strong through out the issue but the George Tuska artwork is really well done. I can see why he was so well respected for his work during this period (big fan of his work in general). I would love to see Marvel collect some of these stories by artist, since Gene Colan is still with us; it would be so nice to see some of his war,western,horror and romance stories in one collection (maybe as a benefit to help with his medical bills).