Archive for September, 2010
Here’s a very early appearance from William Van Horn, later one of the definitive modern Disney duck artists, working here with his own little known character Nervous Rex.
Former Archie editor Harry Shorten was one of the folks behind Midwood Books, a 1950′s publisher of sleazy adult paperbacks. One of the artists who worked on some of these paperbacks was Frank Frazetta. Here’s a portfolio of some of his illustrations.
Frank Robbins was a polarizing artist in comic books of the seventies but few would deny that his work on Denny O’Neil’s The Shadow was his best work of that period.
Finally, here’s fifties artist Don Perlin at Charlton in the sixties with an I Spy-style adventure story entitled Focus: Danger…as opposed to the completed unrelated but very similar newspaper strip from the same era entitled Dateline: Danger.
Loyal readers of the ITCH blog know that every Tuesday, I, DJ David B, like to share with you the best, the rarest, the catchiest and the most fun music that has to do with comics and cartoons. I also enjoy bringing you complete garbage. And today is no exception. What can I say? I like it all.
A couple of Tuesdays ago I posted a pretty awful track called “The Green Hairnet,” a weak parody of the Green Hornet by the Jimmy Bowen Orchestra and Chorus. The readers’ reaction wasn’t exactly overwhelming. In fact, the reaction was exactly zero. <sigh> Back to the drawing board.
The way I figure it, the record was bad but not THAT bad. In order to get the ITCHers excited enough to post a comment the song has to be truly atrocious. Not just a dud. A real rotten record. This week I think I’ve succeeded. Here’s a record that’s not only an unfunny superhero parody, it has that lame attempt at “Jewish humor” that was almost mandatory for records of this ilk at that time. It’s “Captain Gorgeous.”
Super heroes were hot in the mid-1960s because of the Batman craze. (Not really, but that was the word on the street.) “Put out a record with a guy in a cape and you’ve got a hit. And throw in some Yiddish words. Then it’s even funnier.” I don’t know if that’s an exact quote but it’s probably very close.
So without further ado, here is a truly bad record you’ll wish you never heard. You won’t get up and dance. You’ll just sit in your seat and squirm. Click the link below to listen.
— DJ David B.
This Monday & next, examples of an overlooked group of late Victorian Age comic booklets, generically labelled as Drummer’s Yarns.
“Drummer” was 19th century slang for a travelling salesman (drumming/rapping at your door). As depicted below in a page excerpted from the 1925-1926 52 Letters to Salesmen – contrasting the pitching style of then-contemporary salesmen versus those of the past – the approach of “drummers” was to sit around telling jokes with a client, with the aim of becoming their friend in order to sell to them.
Click on any picture, to open a larger version.
As drummers were popularly known for telling jokes, titling joke books as being collections of their yarns/stories, was a natural.
These paperback collections began with nearly all prose content, with but a spattering of cartoons — such as the two Excelsior Publishing House books whose covers are reproduced below — Drummer’s Yarns (1886), and Capital Jokes and Traveler’s Yarns (1887). The art on the cover of the below 1886 Drummer’s Yarns — showing travelling salesmen gathered in a hotel lobby, telling each other funny stories, while the hotel’s desk clerk (in the role of potential purchasers/readers of the book) listens in and enjoys their yarns – is a theme found in the cover art of nearly all later Drummer’s jokebooks.
Following the success of NYC Excelsior House’s Drummer’s Yarns book, rival publisher George W. Ogilvie of Chicago, released their Yarns by a Thoroughbred Drummer, May 1887, Humor Series Volume 1, Number 2. The cover art here is similar in theme to that of Excelsior’s, showing a travelling salesman (drummer) in a country store, telling jokes to an appreciative customer and clerk behind the counter.
Differentiating Yarns by a Thoroughbred Drummer from the earlier Excelsior House booklet, is the addition of significant cartoon content, including sequential comics — most if not all, likely lifted from other sources. A couple examples are shown below.
In 1895, another Chicago publisher — Laird & Lee — published Hearty Jokes and Drummer’s Yarns, two printings of which are shown below. The cover art of Hearty Jokes is patterned after that of the original 1886 Excelsior House book (plus further Excelsior House books in the series, which I’ll show next week). The contents of Hearty Jokes, reprints the entirety of Yarns by a Thoroughbred Drummer above, including all the same cartoons, plus adds still more pages and cartoons.
Below is an example two-panel cartoon — Absent Minded, by Wilder — which is amongst the newer material added to Hearty Jokes and Drummer’s Yarns. These cartoons, I’m certain, were lifted from humor periodicals.
Next Monday, in Part Two, we’ll concentrate on the series of Drummer’s Yarns paperback digests published by Excelsior House. Excelsior quickly picked up on Ogilvie’s addition of cartoons to the Drummer jokebooks, populating their later versions with cartoons and sequential comics.
Here’s Gold Key’s Mighty Samson, a title a never appreciated back in the day but have latterly come to enjoy. Early issues of this post-nuclear adventure were by Otto Binder and Frank Thorne. This particular episode, like most later ones, is drawn by Jack Sparling.
In my opinion, one of the perfect writer/artist teams to come out of the eighties boom consists of Mike Baron and Steve Rude. Here is a fairly early issue of their signature Nexus that shows off their symbiotic relationship well.
Caniff-inspired artist Lee Elias did a lot of war comics in his day for various different comics publishers but here we have a heavily illustrated look at a late period Elias romance comic that just happens to have a war setting.
Finally, the Comics Cube is presumptuous enough to name the five greatest pre-Superman superheroes in comics. Some good, if obvious, choices here but take a look and see if you agree.
Cool Air, one of my favorite early Warren jobs by Bernie Wrightson–later acknowledged as Stephen King’s favorite artist–, turns up over at Grantbridge Street today for your visual enjoyment.
Comic book covers are an art form all their own and some of the best-designed ones of all time were found on 1960′s issues of Marvel’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.–not just the ones from Steranko either!
The Charlton Story offers up a nice review of Craig’s recent volume, The Art of Ditko, that ends up with a not-in-the-book reprinting of a highly-stylized late seventies Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves story.
Finally today, I am never going to turn down the chance to recommend the great newspaper strip, Alley Oop. Here’s a sequence from 1964, juts about the time I discovered it myself!
Like I wrote when I started this thing I’m trying to work my way through sixty years of comic books before I die, but I suppose I should confess I don’t have anything like a systematic plan of attack. Oh, at first I tired to work my way through them one publisher at at time, one genre at a time, title by title, but I’m afraid my childhood ADHD wouldn’t let me stay that organized for long.
This week alone I’ve downloaded issues of Flippity and Flop, Leave It To Binky, All-American Comics, Marvel Mystery Comics, Here’s Howie, White Princess of the Jungle, Johnny Law, Popular Comics, Speed, Feature, Crack, Kitty, Sparky Watts…
As you can see I try not to play favorites but must admit I have a sneaking fondness for Marvel’s predecessor Atlas Comics to the point I’ll download a copy of Cartoon Kids (a anthology of Stan Lee’s theoretically ‘funny’ little kid characters) just as readily as a run of Joe Maneely’s The Ringo Kid. I’m perplexed by how Kathy (The Teenage Tornado) started out as a lush Archie variant but by the end of it’s relatively lengthly run it was being drawn in a increasingly realistic (and dull) style and had became a whole lot less funny (the only one who probably knows why is Stan Lee, and I’m guessing even he doesn’t remember any more). I may be the only man alive hoping against hope someone will finally get around to posting issues of John Severin’s Sailor Sweeney.
So as you might imagine I was well pleased when I found a copy of Love Romances #99 from 1962 which cover features the story “The Teenager and the Truck Driver” (which could be the title of a Troy McClure movie) signed by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby! Well, it sure looks like Jack Kirby work, but I’ll happily admit I’m no expert when it comes to artist identification; heck, I didn’t know Kirby was even doing romance comics at this point in his career). So, somebody out there, you tell me.
Welcome to Fantastic Felix Friday in which the iconic cartoon cat is justly celebrated on blogs throughout the land to highlight Craig’s just published Felix the Cat: the Great Comic Book Tails. That scamp Felix will be popping up throughout the blogosphere as the day progresses but here are a few early starters!
And Everything Else, Too starts us off with a story from the book itself, Felix in Roboteria, in which Felix can’t convince his porcine friend that his adventures are real without taking him on one to see for himself!
The Horrors of It All offers Felix in an appropriately themed Mask Bawl complete with witches and ghosts and other nicely timed Halloween-oriented goblins as we move into that season.
Over at my own place, Four Color Shadows, here’s a not-in-the-book story entitled Felix Frees a Freeze. Felix’s comic book tails have been published by various companies over the years but this was from a late 1948 Dell issue of Felix the Cat.
Finally, Pappy jumped the gun by a week but presented one of my all-time favorite Felix tails when he posted the not-in-the-book Misdeal from Dell’s first Felix issue in late 1947 which you can read here.
From the press release: Craig Yoe edited the book, which is jam-packed with rare Felix art, ephemera, animation insights, and, of course, a plethora of comic book stories by Otto Messmer, Joe Oriolo, and Jim Tyer. Yoe says, “I am jumping out of my skin with excitement that this bodacious blogging event will turn thousands of people onto the great Felix art and stories that those genius cat cartoonists drew.” Don Oriolo, the son of Joe Oriolo, and head of Felix the Cat Productions, wrote the heartfelt introduction to “Felix: The Great Comic Book Tails.” About “Fantastic Felix Friday,” bountiful blogging of all things Felix, Oriolo shouted a joyful “Righty-O!”
Hopefully this all whets your appetite for more Felix! You can order Craig’s book elsewhere on this very page!
I come by my love of foreign comics honestly by way of my Grandmother, God rest her soul. When I was growing up she used to go on these Church sponsored trips overseas,and invariably she would bring home a comic book from the country she visited for me. Even though I couldn’t read most of them I treasured them, as ample evidence of my Grandmother’s love (of course at the time I never gave it a second thought but it couldn’t have always been easy for her to find them) sure. But they were also proof positive that comic books were being published all over the world, a pretty heady concept for a kid in 1960′s America to accept let me tell you.
But once she brought me a back one that I actually could read, an issue of a British boys weekly. I wish I could tell you it had been a copy of the legendary Eagle, home to Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, but to be absolutely honest I’ve completely forgotten it’s title. I’ve lost that comic somewhere along the line, but even decades later can still vividly recall two of it’s on-going serials.
One involved a trio of schoolboys who protected their little seaside village against Nazi’s using their souped up BMX bikes (thirty years prior to their invention). While the other concerned the travels of an orphaned boy on the run from his evil uncle who coveted his inheritance. Coincidentally in the installment he was in America and was rescued in the nick of time by a hippy porter who, even at the age of ten, struck me as being remarkably unauthentic. And my only exposure to hippies was exclusively from their occasional appearances in episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies and Hawaii Five-0.
In the decades that followed I’ve mostly read about British comics, seeing as how there weren’t a lot of reprints readily available in America. But recently I’ve managed to establish contact with an underground cabal of scanners and have downloaded a couple hundred of the actual comics. Enough to fully appreciate their intelligence, imagination, wish fulfillment and eccentricity, to know that I have favorite artists, titles and characters. But mostly I’ve read enough of them to know that I want to read more.
British weeklies being anthologies published weekly the adventure stories were of course serialized so it’s hard to find a self contained sample to share with you here. So thank heavens for the British Annuals which were generally large-sized hardcover books with over 100 pages and a high colour content which came out in the Fall in time for Holiday gift giving.
So, from Buster Holiday Fun Special 1974 I give you a story of one of my favorite character, Galaxus, The Thing From Outer Space. Created by editor Ken Mennell who wrote his first installment, the rest of its 339 episodes were written by Scott Goodall and drawn by South American artist Solano Lopez (who’s best known here for his Adults Only Eros Comic Young Witches).
Galaxus was a space alien with the face of a platypus, body of a yeti and feet of a mole who could shrink down to two inches or expand to giant size. Befriended by a couple of British kids who tried to protect him from the uncaring adult world that refused to understand that he meant us no harm. He was sort of an inarticulate anti-Hulk who in spite of his size and strength advantage most often shied away from a fight, regularly expressing himself with the forlorn wail of a heart broken child. It seems a little short of insane that no one has collected this, or turned it into a cartoon series, or plush figures; Galaxus would make one hell of a huggie.
Where can you find Felix, the wonderful wonderful cat? In the new book presented by IDW and Yoe Books: “Felix The Cat: The Great Comic Book Tales” Spreading the feline fever today for Fantastic Felix Friday with posts of classic Felix comic book stories are the following bloggers:
Sherm Cohen of http://CartoonSnap.com
David Gerstein of http://ramapithblog.blogspot.com/
Steve Thompson of http://fourcolorshadows.blogspot.com
Beth Davies-Stofka of http://www.comicbookbin.com/Beth_Davies-Stofka.html
Chris Lopez http://comicrazys.com/
The book “Felix The Cat: The Great Comic Book Tales” was recently reviewed at:
Mykal’s The Big Blog of Kids’ Komics
… and Pappy’s Golden Age Comics Blogzine:
Below is the story “Vegeteria” and nothing like a little DDT to save the day.
— C. Yoe (in the funny papers)