Friday, January 03, 2020

Original Art Friday! 1/3/20 Gil Kane & John Severin

Maybe my playlist of The Doors "The End," Springsteen's cover of Edwin Starr's "War" and Country Joe's "Fixin' To Die Rag" wasn't the best audio choice this morning, but all those dark feelings shall abate as we do a deep dive into ORIGINAL ART FRIDAY! That magical moment when I share yet another piece of art from the MV library...

Today it's a cool cover drawn by the inimitable Gil Kane (I know, I've tried to imitable him!) and inked by the equally awesome John Severin. Two legends of comics, together on the same page! Sadly the art page itself has seen somewhat better days, but the genius of design and figure drawing is still wildly evident. I especially like the sense of action we get from Two Gun (he's the guy in the dust) as he rolls over to surprise those two owlhoots with his blazing six guns.

But a moment, if you will, to consider the fates of those two clearly bad gents. Was their destiny written early in their lives, or was it some tragic turn that led them to a life of crime and the attempted murder of a Western hero wearing a Lone Ranger mask? These two woke up that morning, pulled up their pants, tossed back coffee (or maybe whisky), then strapped on their gunbelts never anticipating the grim fate in store for them. So yes, take just a moment to remember these long dead hombres, whose names I don't have since I don't own this book... okay, that's long enough.

Two Gun Kid was one of several Marvel Western "kid" comics (alongside Kid Colt Outlaw, Rawhide Kid, Outlaw Kid and Kid Kid the Kid -- sorry, on that last one I kid!) that survived well into the 70's and off and on since. I had not kept up on recent (i.e., the last 25 years) events in Mr. Kid's life so I was perplexed to read in the ever-accurate Wikipedia that in 1995 Two Gun fought a battle with weapons he brought back from the future (!), was rescued from time travel limbo by She-Hulk (!!), then joined the Avengers! ­čś│

Well, sorry, but he'll always be simply Two Gun to me, blasting "too slow hombres" from the dirt and wishing he had a TV show like that dumb Long Ranger guy...

Monday, December 30, 2019

Original Art Friday! 12/27/19 Jordi Bernet

Ahh, another Christmas has passed... I hope all reading this had a peaceful day, in whatever fashion you personally define "peaceful." And now, as we careen toward the new year, what better time to offer yet another installment in my never ending series of ORIGINAL ART FRIDAYS, the made-up day of the week I chose to share another piece of (mostly) comic art culled from the recesses of my collected heap o' goodies...

Today is a pin-up by one of my favorite artists, Jordi Bernet, illustrating what is perhaps his signature character, the 1930's gunman known as "Torpedo." The provenance for particular piece informs that it appeared in Playboy in 1991, but I can neither confirm not deny. What I can say is, it's an especially cool rendition of Luca Torelli, the aforementioned Torpedo...

So who, or what, is that? Thanks to our friends at Wikipedia, here's the quick lowdown: "Torpedo, or Torpedo 1936, is a Spanish comics series written by Enrique S├ínchez Abul├ş and drawn by Jordi Bernet, which depicts the adventures of the antagonistic character Luca Torelli, a heartless hitman, and his sidekick Rascal, in context of the violent organized crime culture of New York City during the Great Depression era."

That pretty much nails it. Torelli and Rascal have various violent and sexual adventures in 1930's NY, sometimes with unexpected twists and turns. Torelli doesn't always "win," whatever that means, making the stories more than just cops and robbers in depression times.

Original artist Alex Toth bailed on the series after drawing the first two stories, a situation that does not sound all that unusual given Toth's legendarily mercurial personality. But he set the tone for the Bernet-illustrated series to come, and Bernet really went to town. Gritty, violent, sensual, goofy and often funny, it's a really good strip. The IDW publishing house has released five volumes of English-translated Torpedo books, all of which appear to still be in print.

Now, did Torpedo have a peaceful Christmas? Given the general tenor of the stories, eightball says "no"...


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Original Art Friday! 12/20/19 Al Feldstein!

What a week! Christmas MUST be coming! There's a new Star Wars movie, two new Springsteen live shows circa 1978 (visit live.brucespringsteen.net), a new collection of Smithereens demos, some President got impeached, and it's ORIGINAL ART FRIDAY!

Yes, once again, that made-up day of the week when I share a piece of (usually comic book) art pulled from the MV archives.

And now the dilemma! What to share? A check scan shows I have no Christmas-related pages. Nor do I have any Star Wars or Springsteen related artwork. There must be SOMETHING fit for the season...

Feldstein. Why you can just feel the love radiating off the page. Especially in panel 4. Of course, the guy IS a "detective" investigating a series of muggings, and he suspected poor Nina was somehow involved, so that might explain the lack of sparks. I have this story somewhere in reprint form but I can't find it and so I can't tell you if Dan and Nina eventually fall in love. However, I'd put money on it!

So. Al Feldstein. A bit of an acquired taste, but I acquired it, especially after reading his eye-popping work on "Sunny" and "Junior" comics, both Archie-inspired titles from the Fox publishing company. IDW published a fancy hardcover collection of Feldstein's stories from those books and a quick look will explain what enticed readers back in the 1950's and the again in 2014. Basically, Feldstein dedicated an enormous amount of ink to, well, delineating the female form. Archie it ain't...

Feldstein later chucked his illustrative pen to become an editor, most famously running Mad Magazine for decades. And fans of stiff figures wearing clothing two sizes too small were heartbroken everywhere! But we'll always have Modern Love...

Friday, December 13, 2019

Orginal Art Friday! 12/13/19 Ruben Moriera!

Another work week pirouettes into the past as Friday once more arrives, bringing with it ORIGINAL ART FRIDAY... the singular day of the week where I share another piece of original, mostly-comic-book related art with the WORLD!

Today I bring you a lovely page by Ruben Moriera from DC's "The Adventures of Alan Ladd" #5, circia 1950. A quick trip to Wikipedia reveals this Mr. Moriera was a Puerto Rican artist who worked on any number of titles in his career, most notably (AGAIN, per Wikipedia! Don't yell me, Mark Evanier!) co-creating Rip Hunter Time Master with Jack Miller. To my eye, Mr. Moriera was a solid draftsman who told the story without a lot of flash.

But there's more!

It occurs to me that some reading this may not even remember Alan Ladd, one of the more popular actors of the 50's, best known for "Shane." (I was going to say he was one of Hollywood's biggest stars, but apparently he was 5' 6"... not that that's a crime!). He was so popular, in fact, DC Comics decided to publish this unfortunately short-lived title (only 9 issues) "starring" Mr. Ladd.

And these books are really something. The first few issues are literally tales of Alan Ladd, actor, being dragooned into threatening situations. So we're treated to the cartoon Ladd (again, as himself, Hollywood actor) punching out gangsters and pirates and assorted other miscreants. It so tickled my funny bone that I haunted comic conventions for, well, weeks, and managed to get every issue, along this original Moriera page...

But there's more! The Alan Ladd book also inspired my screenplay for 2008's "My Name Is Bruce" (still time to order for Christmas!), starring the inimitable Bruce Campbell. In "Bruce", Bruce Campbell, theoretically playing himself, is kidnapped by a kid who think he can kill a Chinese demon terrorizing in a small Oregon town. However, unlike Alan Ladd, Bruce is a drunken, lecherous goofball who, after reveling in the town's praise -- he believes it's all a birthday prank arranged by his agent -- runs for his life when danger appears. Well, I thought it was funny! And so did Bruce, who shot the entire film in his back yard in Oregon...

And so that's how movie history is made... "ish"...

Friday, December 06, 2019

Original Art Friday! 12/6/19 RUSS HEATH

Well, it is once again the day before the last day of the week... one more day to work and toil, one more day to work-avoid, and the one day of the week when I celebrate ORIGINAL ART FRIDAY, my messianic quest to share some of the comic book art I've accumulated over the decades...

Some of you may be wondering, "gosh, Mark, how do you decide which piece of art to share every week?" Well, I utilize a carefully created logarithm that calculates various factors, all designed to help guide me toward the very deliberate selection of a new artwork. Or, to put it in layman's terms, it's totally by whim.

And my whim today is to share another piece by the amazing RUSS HEATH. Long time OAF readers know I'm an unapologetic fan of the late Mr. Heath, and short time readers will learn that truth soon enough!

Anyhow, here we have a black and white ink-wash cover recreation (I think, I can't identify the original cover) that shows Heath's genius at staging, lighting, figure drawing and drama. I could look at this for hours and indeed, I have, since that's easier than working! Heath's lengthy career spanned the early 1940's into the 2000s, and he drew every conceivable genre, though his greatest work (for me) was his war and Western illustration. That said, he also did superguys, ranging from Batman to Iron Fist, and a few exceptionally funny comic stories for National Lampoon... some of which I'll have to share soon as well!

Meanwhile, lean back and enjoy this monochromatic masterpiece while I unfortunately, and this time for reals, get back to work...

Friday, November 29, 2019

Original Art Friday! 11/29/19 GRAHAM INGELS

So for Thanksgiving we parked it on the couch and watched a couple hours worth of "Town Called Panic" stop motion animation shorts, which are surreal, hilarious, ridiculous and just generally awesome... but, if I may be allowed, that was Thursday. And this is ORIGINAL ART FRIDAY, the one day of the week where I share a piece of (mostly) comic book art yanked from the MV archives.

Today, in honor of Black Friday, a shopping holiday which I assiduously do not celebrate, here's a classic page from EC Comics and the Haunt of Fear #20, released way back from Summer 1953. Say hello to "Thump Fun" by the always amazing "Ghastly" Graham Ingels. An adaptation(ish) of Poe's Tell Tale Heart, it's a grisly tale of a murderer driven mad by the beat of his victim's dead heart, with a customary EC twist.

Ingels' work is drenched in atmosphere, making him perfect for these semi-Gothic tales of revenge and murder and monsters and death. His striking ink work was sometimes buried under the not-great comic book color of the day, but the power of the art still shone through. Unfortunately, when EC Comics were mostly swept away (with the ultimate exception of Mad, which went to magazine format) by a wave of moralizing, crusading idiots called Senators who blamed horror and crime comics for ruining America's youth, Ingels lost a venue for his particularly eerie horror illustration and eventually left the field.

But the work lives on! "Thump Fun" is included in multiple EC reprints, including a black and white version in the still-in-print Fantagraphics Ingels book "Sucker Bait." I personally prefer the black and white reprints when it comes to Ingels (or most of the other EC artists), after I got spoiled by a series of fancy, large size box sets with stories all pulled from the the original art, produced by Russ Cochran in the 80's and 90's. IDW has also released a couple enormo EC art books which show all the incredible detail of these great pages. And Dark Horse is reissuing everything yet again, in color, in a series of hardcovers.

Which just goes to show, EC will never die... even if poor Marvin does...

 

Original Art Friday 11/22/19 GILBERT SHELTON

Another glorious week has passed, precursor to the holiday season and welcomed with my grateful appreciation for NOT having to fly anywhere over the holidays... AND, of course, for ORIGINAL ART FRIDAY, the day of the week I picked from a hat to share a piece of comics related art from my over-stuffed collection.

Today it's artist Gilbert Shelton and a page from his 60's masterpiece, Wonder Wart-Hog. Yes, that's "Wonder Wart-Hog." Here, the Hog of Steel is on a mission that involves a crushing special delivery to a villain named Pie-Man and a visit to LBJ, or, for the younguns out there, Lyndon Baines Johnson, for what promises to be an interesting chat with the then President of the USA.
Wonder-Wart Hog was a superhero parody that appeared in Drag Cartoons and two glorious issues of his own magazine back in the day. Shelton, a contemporary of R. Crumb and the underground comics, was also the creator of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy's Cat and per Wikipedia he was one of the co-founders of Rip-Off Press, an early underground publisher.

For what it's worth, I thought Shelton was one of the most genuinely funny cartoonists of that era. Humor is relative, of course, but I can remember issues of WWH and the Freak Brothers that l had me laughing so hard I was gasping for breath. Beyond that, I can't tell you how subversive this stuff was to a young comic book fan. Wonder Wart-Hog was definitely one of the milder titles to come out in that era, since it was published by Millar Publications for a broad newsstand audience. But if you want to talk gateway drugs, it was this book that led me to the serious, mostly "adults only" undergrounds like Zap, Insect Fear, Legion of Charlies and many many others that completely scoured my young mind.

Those books could be ultra-violent, nasty, utterly fearless and unfortunately were sometimes sexist as hell, but they were definitely an antidote to the more anodyne books from Marvel and DC. For me, the route to always doubting and questioning authority can be traced directly from Mad Magazine to Drag Cartoons/Wonder Wart-Hog to the undergrounds. The conservative powers of the day were probably right, this stuff should have been snuffed out. But wherever there was a well-stocked head-shop, freedom reigned, baby!

Original Art Friday 11/15/19 GENE COLAN

Even though I've traversed the nation to lovely New Orleans, thousands of miles away from the MV archive, I will NOT be deterred from presenting yet another offering on ORIGINAL ART FRIDAY, the made up day where all people of good cheer gather to look at some cool funny book art.

Today it's a very nice piece from Captain America #128, circa 1970, drawn by the great Gene Colan, inked by Dick Ayers, written by Stan Lee, and lettered by the great Artie Simek. In honor of this weekend's travel theme, here Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, has eschewed his costume for a time to cruise the country on his hog, only to run into a dirty rotten local cop who doesn't like the cut of his jib. Something tells me this won't end well.

I love love love the inking on this piece. The thick line, which reminds me of George Klein, compliments Colan's pencils perfectly. And the page, which is otherwise a bit static, still has drama through the staging and "cuts" between panels. In comics, you always want the last panel on the page to draw you to the next, and the close-up of Mr. Mean-Cop and his club certainly does that.

Since I did not ride my non-existent hog to New Orleans, I hope and pray I do not run into troubles like poor Captain America. Updates will be posted, including requests for bail, should the official clubs come out...

Original Art Friday 11/8/19 RUSS MANNING

So it's been a week of rampaging and rollicking and raising heck, which means it's also time of ORIGINAL ART FRIDAY, the one day of the week when I share a page of "pretty" excised from the well-tended MV archives...

Today is a page by one of my all time favorite artists, Russ Manning, from one of my all time favorite titles, MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER. Manning was an exceptionally talented fellow who was perhaps best known for drawing Tarzan in various configurations. His clean style and beautiful figure work is classy and elegant, and his Magnus world benefits from his eye. Sadly, Manning died at the much too young age of 52 in 1981, but his work lives on...

Here's a little rundown on the book from our good friends at Wikipedia: "The original series, titled Magnus, Robot Fighter, 4000 AD, premiered in 1963. It was written and drawn by Russ Manning, and as a nod to its influences, included Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics as a quote in the beginning of the first issue. For the duration of the title's original run, Magnus battled rogue robots, aliens, space pirates and other threats. He fell in love with Leeja Clane, the daughter of one of North Am's senators. Leeja developed limited telepathic abilities after training by M'Ree and other humans who had acquired them as a result of their minds being linked together while imprisoned in suspended animation by H8."

Yes indeed! Published by Gold Key, Magnus ran for 20 plus issues, with Manning drawing the bulk of them. His impeccable draftsman and the design of Magnus and the future world absolutely enthralled me as a kid, and still today.

Magnus had metal implants in his arms and legs so he could literally karate chop into metallic bad guy robots, usually decapitating them as the machines made a strangely satisfying SQUEEEEEEE. Despite all the excitement, the future of 4000 AD didn't look all that bad, though as this page suggests, the "youth" didn't care for all the regimentation and wanted to do more stuff for themselves. In some ways Magnus was almost the flip side of The Jetsons, where people kind of liked having robots cater to their needs. Magnus would have lopped off Rosie the Robot's head and demanded George Jetson hit the deck and give him twenty...

And what I wouldn't give for metal implants when my computer starts fritzing. Though I'm not sure the SQUEEEE would have the same glorious resonance...

Monday, October 14, 2019

Question After All These Months...

Does anyone come around this blog site anymore? I realize there is no impetus if I don't post, but... just curious. If there's interest I'll get back into it...