Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rare Premature Sunday Afternoon Culture Corner with Basil Wolverton

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Golden Age recursion

Unlike most comics companies (which generally came from the pulp side), Fawcett was the publisher of major magazines like Mechanix Illustrated and Family Circle (as well as racier titles like True Confessions). It's not surprising that Fawcett's comics were a bit like MGM movies -- well crafted and entertaining with good production values if sometimes a bit stiff. You won't find many of the flashes of (often dark) genius that you saw from artists like Eisner, Cole, Simon&Kirby*, Briefer, Ayers, Meskin, even Shuster. What you will find are stories that are beautifully drawn (particularly those by Mac Raboy), charming, clever and often gently and subtly medium-pushing.

From 1947:

From 1951:

Though Simon and Kirby did a brief stint on Whiz Comics.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I know of nothing special or worthwhile about this comic...

except for the fact you could get fourteen issues out of a book with the title "My Secret Marriage."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A bit of Golden Age whimsy with the big red cheese

By some measures, Captain Marvel was the best selling character of the Golden Age. His adventures (like this one from 1949) were always whimsical, clever and well-drawn. There was something about the character that lent itself to a light and cartoony touch. Perhaps it was his innocence (he seemed, if anything, less worldly than his young alter ego).

When this artist (Kurt Schaffenberger) became the artist for DC's Lois Lane story he was arguably my least favorite artist with a major publisher; here he's just about perfect.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Whut a handy-cap bein' SANE is to a cartoonist!!"

For some reason, runs the same two segments of Li'l Abner (one from the Thirties, one from the Fifties) over and over. Fortunately, in the middle of the second segment we get one of the best and unquestionably least sane of the adventures of Fearless Fosdick.

Check it out if you dare.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

With a talking monkey, Jack Cole comes into his own

From the first L-shaped panel to the ironic return of the clock tower on the last page, this may be the first fully realized Jack Cole story. The art may not be as polished as his comics of the late Forties or his Playboy cartoons of the Fifties but in terms of visual ideas and using the medium, this is a stunning piece of work.

To illustrate my point, I had intended to pull some panels but it just didn't work. Not that some of the individual panels aren't good enough to stand on their own, they certainly are, but all lose something when excerpted. You can only fully appreciate what Cole is doing in context. I suspect that, at the time, only Eisner had a better grasp of sequential art as a story-telling medium.

From Smash Comics #21

Update: Click here for Paul Tumey's loving detailed analysis of this story.

In the Sixties, you could buy real estate from a comic book

Not that the current system is that superior,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Graft, orphans and a glimpse of great things yet to come

It would take another story or two for Jack Cole to hit his stride and for Midnight to become one of the great series of the Golden Age, but there is is still plenty to appreciate here, from striking composition and use of perspective to explosive and sometimes rather gruesome action to an almost Capraesque tale of social injustice.

for Smash Comics #19

"Paul Bunyan has gone to war"

There is something sadly alien now about the concept of shared sacrifice and pulling together, even if you were only eight years old and collecting scrap paper and metal.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Attentive. Sympathetic. Still.

What makes a good comic book artist?

Economy. A strong sense of composition. An understanding of body language. Inventiveness. The ability to suggest motion. A feel for evocative images. A knack for visual storytelling.

Which brings us to Jack Cole. Cole is best known for his over-the-top, often grotesque images and explosive scenes of mayhem...

but the natural complement of the ability to suggest motion is the ability to suggest stillness. Take a good look at the second of these two panels. It's a beautifully composed shot that perfectly captures the sad, quiet moment. Check out how Cole depicts each characters' attitude. (and keep in mind this is the same artist who gave us the image of a hypodermic about to puncture an eyeball.)

Of course, like all good comic art, this is best appreciated in context...