Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I wonder if Lee and Ditko read The Barker?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Extraordinary WWII propaganda from MLJ

Before they became synonymous with teenage humor and changed their name to Archie, MLJ was known for its notoriously violent superhero line. One of their most prominent characters was a Spectre knock-off known as Mr. Justice.

The art in the following story is crude in places but the images are striking and the portrayal of Hitler is a fascinating glimpse into the mindset of the times.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A couple more memorable Golden Age Covers

Unfortunately the actual comic is not nearly as lurid as the cover.

From, believe it or not, the people who brought you Captain Marvel.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Matt Helm -- the Removers

Just finished reading the third of Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm books. Most people are probably familiar with Helm through a series of bottom-of-the-barrel Bond spoofs starring Dean Martin. The films range from weak to wretched and Martin plays them as if he were doing a sketch with the Golddiggers.

This reputation as a second-rate cartoon is doubly ironic, first, because Hamilton was a very good writer and second, because Helm was, if anything, a less cartoonish version of Bond. In broad outline, the two series were similar, but Helm's world was far dirtier. He had more of a conscience than Bond but he did worse things: beating women, letting colleagues die, killing bound prisoners with untraceable poisons, doing wet work to prop up dictators he personally despises. Anything the mission required.

In one telling incident in the Silencers, Helm crosses paths with an agent from another bureau who is trying to prevent the death of a number of scientists and congressmen. Though Helm's mission (killing a minor enemy operative) is clearly less important, Helm only gives what assistance he can manage without jeopardizing that mission.

The Wrecking Crew has a nice summary of Helm's attitude:
"The man in the bushes with a broken neck," she whispered. "The one by the cabin with a bullet in the back. In the back, Matt!"

"Yeah," I said. "In the back. He happened to be facing that way."

..."But he'd surrendered, Matt! He had his hands in the air!"

...I said, "It was my job, Lou. I had to finish it, no matter where his damn hands were. I couldn't leave it for some other poor sap to have to do all over again."
Matt Helm was one of the definitive Gold Medal protagonists. The cinematic version was one of the primary inspirations for Austin Powers. You don't get a bigger jump than that,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cole goes for broke

Other than a scantily clad damsel, you can't ask for much from a cover than this.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Damn, what a party...
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Think of them as the senior class of the "usual gang of idiots." Or the original MAD men perhaps.

There's Al Jaffee, who at 90 still draws the optical illusion fold-in gags for MAD magazine's back page. And Sergio Aragones, still whipping out eye-straining and gut-busting miniature cartoons in the magazine's margins after 48 years. And Jack Davis, who was there at the beginning, drawing the horror spoof "Hoohah!" that appeared in MAD's debut issue in 1952.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another reminder why they call it the Eisner

The Post-war Spirit stories have such beautiful, fully realized quality that it's easy to forget that comics was a very young medium, still in the process of being invented by its creators, particularly Eisner, the artist who, as Jules Feiffer put it, was the artist other artists stole from.

The story of P'Gell is justly remembered for the extraordinary sexuality of the titular character, but it also shows Eisner playing with visual storytelling, using the repeated motif of translucent curtains to suggest depth and build mood and enhance the sensuality of the piece.

Great stuff.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Introducing Frankie

Briefer was still growing as an artist and a writer when he created comics' first ongoing horror series and the medium was still in its infancy, but nonetheless there are signs of major talent in this 1940 story. Powerful images. A fine eye for composition and panel-layout. A flood of visual and narrative ideas.


Monday, August 1, 2011

"Shakespeare made enjoyable"

Stories by Famous Authors Illustrated was a knock-off of Classics Illustrated. As far as I can tell both the title and the publisher never made any real impression, but some of their ad copy is good for a chuckle.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Joe Kubert and the importance of sucking

The following story sucks.

There are glimpses of talent here but on the whole it's crude and ugly, like something a teenager might draw.

As a matter of fact, it was drawn by a teenager. This seems to be the first story published by Joe Kubert, who would, in a few years, produce some of the most beautiful and influential comics of the Golden and Silver Age. He was able to do that, in part, because he was in a field where a young artist could support himself while learning his craft.

The first requirement for achieving greatness is the opportunity to suck.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Keri Krane -- another groundbreaking Golden Age series by Dick Briefer

Dick Briefer is famous among knowledgeable comic buffs (particularly here in Mippyville) as one of the best and most innovative cartoonists of the Golden Age. His fame rests almost entirely on his three interpretations of one character, Frankenstein.

But Briefer created other series as well and at least one also deserves a place in the history books. Keri Krane was (as far as I can tell) the first tough female private eye appearing in genuine noir stories. Briefer's style was light and there were humorous touches but these were not funny stories. As you can see here, Krane dealt with truly bad people and faced dangers that were decidedly non-cartoonish.