Saturday, May 29, 2010

Out-Eisnering Eisner is not always a good idea

Jerry Grandetti gets very adventurous with panel layout here but the result is, for me, one of the less effective entries in the series. Perhaps it's because, unlike the Spirit stories and the best of this series (check this example out), the experiments don't do much to support the story.

Briefer's bodies in motion

One of the qualities Briefer shared with other great comic book artists like Eisner, Kirby, Kubert, Kane, Adams and almost any other one you can think of is the ability to convey motion. The only notable exception here is Ogden Whitney whose characters looked static when they were flying through the air, but Whitney falls more into the brilliantly bad category.

For me, the two frames below beautifully capture Briefer's feel for both violent and languid motion.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Frankenstein as Moby Dick

A nice example of Briefer's pathos-laden take on the monster in the 50s. Briefer's wonderful economy, sense of composition and ability to suggest motion are all on display here. The scenes of the mad old whaler are memorable and the ship is depicted with obvious love.

On top of all that, this story sets up one of Frankie's last great adventures.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Did Stan Lee borrow from Jack Cole... twice?

The previous post featured a character call the Comet, a particularly grim superhero whose eyes emitted deadly beams when not covered with a retractable visor, a power more than slightly reminiscent of the Marvel Comics' Cyclops, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Pretty much all of the great Silver and Golden Age creators borrowed stories and concepts, but Stan Lee's borrowing seemed to have struck a nerve (Stan Brag, Stan Me). Some of this was possibly driven by envy but the volume and his dismissive attitude toward his peers didn't help.

The Comet was an early creation of Jack Cole who would go on to create one of the greatest of Golden Age heroes, Plastic Man. Plas (as he was affectionately known) bore more than a passing resemblance to Kirby and Lee's Mr. Fantastic so it seems reasonable to ask if Cole contributed to a couple of Marvel heroes.

Probably not. When we talk about Lee borrowing from Plastic Man, Ghost Rider, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Little Lulu, or EC's horror line, we can safely assume he was familiar with these titles. These were hugely successful comics that exceeded anything Timely/Atlas/Marvel would do until the early Sixties. Anyone who had leafed through a spinner rack had seen them and Lee had been producing comics since 1941.

But the Comet never even had a cover of his own and was dead (perhaps the first superhero murdered in the line of duty [excluding, of course, those who were murdered then became superheroes]) by the end of 1941. Kirby and Lee might have seen and remembered him but the odds are against it.

A muderous, psychopathic hero before muderous, psychopathic heroes were cool

Pep Comics #1 (January, 1940) is probably best remembered for introducing the Shield, a flag-themed superhero who beat Captain America into print by more than a year, but comic book historians would probably direct your attention to the character who got third billing.

The Comet was one of the first characters created by the legendary Jack Cole. Two of Cole's recurring (though strangely contradictory) themes were disturbing violence and inspiring redemption. Even in an era when Batman was packing heat, the Comet's eagerness to vaporize evil-doers was a bit on the unusual side.

Someday you'll be sitting in a bar

And you'll get into an argument about whether there was really a strip called "Garfield without Garfield." When you do, make a bet, show them this post...

Then send me my share of the money.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

For fans of theatrical animation

Hulu has just added Roland and Ratfink, one of the last cartoon series produced to run in before movies in theaters (before cinema owners realized they could use that time to show commercials).

They won't make you forget Looney Toons but they sis have their charms.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stan Lee rips off Stanley

Comics creators are, without notable exception, compulsive thieves. There's no shame in it. It's part of the charm of the medium.

Stan Lee started his career as a magpie among magpies, producing almost two decades of incredibly derivative comics before hitting that amazing stretch in the early Sixties and even then continuing to borrow whatever DC's lawyers hadn't nailed down. None of that diminishes his legacy. However, his tendency to dismiss the work of other creators does.

Over at Stanley Stories, Frank M. Young has an example of Lee ripping off one of the giants, John Stanley, perhaps the best writer of comic dialogue to ever work in the field.