Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's Wolverton -- "Weird" is redundant

Before DC's Plop! Before the head shop posters or Mad Magazine or even his winning entry in Al Capp's Lena the Hyena contest (judged by Boris Karloff, Salvador Dali and Frank Sinatra), Basil Wolverton was producing some of the most beautifully strange and strangely beautiful comics ever seen.

Wolverton's sense of narrative logic was always... well, let's just call it unusual. Sometimes, though, the lapses created the perfect dreamlike quality to match the images.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Avatar -- the Prequel

Vin Sullivan's Magazine Enterprises published some of the best looking comics of the Golden Age from Ghost Rider to Thun'da. ME was where Frank Frazetta came into his own, particularly with the beautifully drawn White Indian.

As the title implies, the series was the story of a colonist who had been adopted by a native American tribe (already an old trope in 1949). The handling was respectful and the creators' sympathies were clearly with the hero's adopted people.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Checklist for a Plastic Man story

Inspired comic premise?

Grotesque caricatures?

Disturbingly violent slapstick?


Looks like we're good to go.

New Stuff -- Robots! Robots! Robots!

The speaker and the coat rack with the bucket are regulars. The rest are up to you. (click for the full image)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ghost Rider -- the character Stan Lee stole twice

Stan Lee's claims in the Sixties that he didn't read other comic books were a lot like Milton Berle's claims that he didn't listen to other comics' material. Lee had spent two decades in a closely-knit industry jumping on trends and borrowing ideas, starting with DC and EC derived books and ending with an unacknowledged appropriation of Julius Schwartz' successful formula for rebooting Golden Age heroes with science fiction origins and streamlined looks.

The difference between Berle and Lee was that a large part of Lee's audience didn't get the joke. Many of them had gotten serious about comics in the mid-Sixties when Marvel had hit its stride and really was putting out the best and most innovative comics. For them, Lee's comically over-the-top claims seemed entirely reasonable.

It's safe to assume that in 1967, few of those teen aged fans had any idea that Marvel's new Western themed hero, Ghost Rider, had a strong resemblance to another company's hero, a resemblance that included having the same name, costume, concept, atmospheric look, and artist. The retread only ran for seven issues but that was enough for Marvel to claim ownership of the name and, a few years later, launch another Ghost Rider.

If you had to lift a character you could certainly do worse. Ghost Rider was one of the last great superheroes of the Golden Age, sharply written by Ray Krank (with guidance from Vince Sullivan) and beautifully drawn by Dick Ayers with an occasional assist by Frank Frazetta. Don Markstein described him as "perhaps the most visually striking comic book hero of the decade," but you can judge for yourself.

If you're going to have the DTs, you might as well do it with style

From 1904

Airboy and the Rats

This sequel to Airboy Fights the Rats may be even better drawn. Check out the damn-busting sequence at the end.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Maladjusted Ghosts

Psychotherapy was big in the Postwar ear (remember Lucy's alternative to the lemonade stand?). It was, after all, a period where nearly everyone was trying return to normal despite the fact that much of the population had no adult memories of anything but war and economic upheaval. Those who couldn't afford therapy gobbled up books and magazine articles and talked about complexes and phobias and being maladjusted.

Even ghosts.