Thursday, November 25, 2010

Driving Mippyville

Within this vale

Of toil and sin,

Your head grows bald,

But not your chin.

Use Burma Shave

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Frankenstein meets Frankenstein

Dick Briefer always had fun playing with the line between the merely dark and the truly grotesque. In the Mippyville stories, he normally pulled back before things got quite as potentially gruesome as this 1946 tale.

Briefer also enjoyed parodying popular culture figures from Bing Crosby to Inner Sanctum host Raymond. Boris Karloff fit right in.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The early art of Walt Kelly -- "the Adventures of Peter Wheat" part two

As mentioned earlier, before creating Pogo and coining the immortal words "We have met the enemy, and he is us" Walt Kelly was a gifted comic book writer and artist working mainly for Dell. One of the more unexpectedly charming works of that period was a series of promotional comics for a now forgotten bakery.

You can find pretty much the whole run at the Digital Comics Museum.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The early art of Walt Kelly -- "the Adventures of Peter Wheat" part one

Before the glory days of Pogo, Kelly was (along with John Stanley and Carl Barks) part of the great but nameless trio at Dell Comics that produced what are still widely considered the best children's comics ever made. It was around this time that Kelly wrote and drew a promotional comic book to be given away at bakeries. "The Adventures of Peter Wheat" should have been awful, but Kelly manages to pack considerable charm and a surprising amount of actual adventure into these stories.

For students of Kelly's art, Peter Wheat offers great examples of the artist's ability to anthropomorphize animals without simply making them people with funny ears and noses.

Friday, November 12, 2010

More adventures in intellectual property -- the other other Captain Marvel

Comic books have always been the badlands of intellectual property law, but even by the slack standards of the industry, MF Enterprises' Captain Marvel was exceptional.

The man behind the other other Captain Marvel was Carl Burgos, who had created the original Human Torch back in 1939. Burgos had tried to sue Marvel when the Fantastic Four came out with a reworked version of Burgos' Golden Age creation (an approach that Stan Lee and publisher Martin Goodman had appropriated, with remarkable if not acknowledged fidelity, from DC's Julius Schwarz).

Perhaps it was bitterness over the suit that prompted Burgos not only to name his character after arguably the most popular character of the Golden Age (the original Marvel's titles had often outsold even Superman), but to use the names of other famous comic book characters to fill out the book.

Despite Burgos' role and a seriously goofy power (you really have to see it), this magazine came and went almost unnoticed except, according to some comic historians, by Stan Lee who immediately brought out his own Captain Marvel as soon as MF dropped the title (despite the fact that the original Captain Marvel was not in the public domain). The land grab worked, which is why DC has the right to publish the Golden Age character but not to use his name in a title.

Somehow, I suspect that Burgos didn't get a lot of satisfaction out of this particular contribution to comics history.

(If all of this isn't weird enough for you, check out the story of the MF behind MF Enterprises... Strange, strange stuff.)