Sunday, April 26, 2015

The War Zone

Saturday Leftover Day.

I am selling my Timely Atlas books on Ebay and I am already regretting letting go of all the Jerry Robinson stories before scanning the, Thanksfully, all of Mr. Robinson's romance stories have been collected online my Mike Vassallo on his Timely Atlas blog, but doing the crime titles I some coming across that I should have done. Anyway, here is a great story Mort Meskin's partner in the late forties did after Meskin had a nervous breakdown and he had to work alone.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Oh What A Horrible War

I have been looking at the war comics from Timely Atlas in the early fifties. When superheroes (and their easy solutions for complex problems) started losing their appear for the readers that grew up on them, in the late forties and early fifties new genres started to take over. First there were the many crime comics (following on the success of Crime Does Not Pay), then the romance genre was invented by Joe Simon and Simon Kirby and all the while western comics flourished. In the late forties EC introduced horror comics as a viable option, but one of the biggest influences was the coming or the Korean war. I am not sure who started doing war comics, but Martin Goodman's Atlas was quick to flood the market with many new titles. But what's inside them that makes them special.

The new wave of war titles came at the time that the later Marvel had just fired all of it's bullpen. The result of this was, that instead of a company style that was made by many hands, artists were encouraged to all work in their own style. For many years, comic book historians have acted as if this was the invention and sole practice of EC's Bill Gaines. But in fact, there were many more companies who either didn't care what style their artists worked in or encouraged individuality. Atlas editor Stan Lee was especially effective in that way, finding ways to combine inkers and pencillers in such a way to create a unique vision for every story. This can be seen in all of their line, but in the war books it is very visible. Between 1951 and 1953 there were many titles covering the war in Korea and there is not one of them that hasn't at least got one extremely surprising story in it.

This was helped by an editorial via towards the writers and the stories themselves that seemed to follow the same principle. Instead of talking through every story for every with every writer, Stan Lee and his war book editors let the writers do their own thing and there too the results were varied and  often unique. Jerry Robinson and Don Rico were allowed to produce four issues of one book that have continuing stories of the same group of characters, split into six page chapters. And then there was Hank Chapman. I have written about him before and will again in the future, but for here it is enough to say that the form and tone of Hank Chapman's stories was shockingly different from anything produced at the other companies, including the terrific but much more politically correct stories of Harvey Kurtzman for EC. Chapman was a very accomplished storyteller and he used his capability to write deeply disturbing war stories from the viewpoint that war was horrible but necessary. I am trying to make a list of his work (which was uniquely all signed, rare for a writer) but already I can see that in about half of his stories the so called 'heroes' die at the end of the story. It isn't until later in 1953 he discovers a way out of his dilemma when he starts to write characters such as Combat Casey, who turn the other way around and just relish in killing as many Koreans as they can. I am not sure of Chapman (who fought in the war as a parachuteer) had PTSS, but he sure shows all the signs of it.

Anyway, all of that is a long preamble to introduce four Gene Colan stories, two of which were written by Chapman. The unique quality of these stories is the art of Colan. Before this, he had been stuck in a weird sort of realism, often bordering on caricature. Around this time he was encouraged by Stan Lee to let loose. he developed his pencils to the level we know from the work he did later in life. As for the inking, at this point he still struggled to find a way to represent the greys in his pencilling. Later in his career he would say that no one could ink him in that mode and started doing without inking at all. But he did find away himself in the later fifties. But that's another post for another day.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dangerous Profession

Thursday Story Strip Day.

Now that I have been showing some of the better drawn soap opera strips of the sixties and seventies, here is another one. Dateline Danger! was done (and bylined for) Alden McWilliams. Just before that he had ghosted huge portions of Don Sherwood's Dan Flagg and taken over Davey Jones from Wayne Boring. Other artists have problems just doing one strip, so either he was a very prolific artist or he was only doing bits and pieces on either or both. Although Friday Foster is often mentioned as the first strip do have an African American lead, Dateline Danger! had a multicolored cast years before that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fresh Mint

Wednesday Advertising Day.

I have shown several of these Colonel Mint ads before, but most of them were not in color. Here are two more I came across. Stylisticly thye have a lot in common with the Roger Wilco ads for Powerhouse, but I can't be sure they are by the same artist (which in Roger Wilco's case often was a gining Dik Browne). Still, there is a connection, as these ads never ran in the same week as Roger Wilco. All I have seen were from the first half of 1946 and they were once a month.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Don't Just Stand There, Say Something!

Tuesday Comic Strip Day.

Over the years I have shown many samples of Howie schneiders wonderful The Circus of P.T. Bimbo. Most of my self scanned samples came from the early years of the strip, which begin in 1975. I recently came across a lot of Sundays that were done in much later. Apparently the strip ran all of 1980 and even beyond. Together with some color scans I may or may not have shown yet, here are the last month of 1979 plus the forst three of 1980. Sadly, you can see the decline of the American comic strip if you compare the earlier ones to the later ones. PLike many strips in the late seventies, the shrinking of the size and the step to use four instead of three strips to a page, often meant a lot of the movement and cartooning left the strips and what remained was hardly moving characters and dialogue. At least with Bimbo, these were still great.