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...