Friday, March 13, 2009

The Powell That Be

Friday Comic Book Day.

I have given some attention to some of the great forgotten comic book artists of the fifties, such as Mort Meskin and Joe Maneely. But one of the most prolific of them, whiose work and career is mostly forgotten (probably because he dies in the mid sixties and wasn't around to promote himself at any of the comic conventions) was Bob Powell. Powell started out as one of Eisner's contemporaries. He picked up a lot of tricks from Eisner and it took him until late in the fifties to shake them all. He worked for lots of different publishers, often filling whole books or major parts of them, so he never belonged to any famous crowd of creators sch as the Sickles-influenced gang at DC or the top creators at EC. In the late forties he had his own studio, cranking out pages and pages of stuff, often helped by his two inkers. One of them was Howard Nostrand, who later joined him at Harvey in their horror books. They did the Mad imitation Flip for Harvey as well, although Nostrand has said that Powell didn't have a sense of humor at all. Strange, because Powell paid the bills for the last years of his life by doing satirical work for several Mad magazine imitations. First for a magazine called Panic, but from 1959 until his death in 1966, he was one of the major contributors to Joe Simon's Sick. I have written an article about this forgotten period of the often forgotten artist for Alter Ego and I am sure Roy Thomas will schedule it as soon as he has finished doing my Mad Comic Book Imitation article for the late summer issue of Alter Ego later this year.

In the meantime, here are three Powell pagesm you will probably not have seen. Lately, his horror work from the fifties is getting some attention at some blogs. Mostly the stuff he did for Harvey, but he also provided stories for all of the pre- and post-code horror books of Stan Lee's company, Timely/Atlas.

We start with the cover to Top Secrets #8, which I consider to be the best comic book cover ever. There is a strong Eisner influence, but the tension and the treatning atmosphere are all Powell's. From the same book I have two one-pagers in a genre I quite like, the 'can you guess who did it' type of detective stories. These were done in several forms, both in comics and outside of it. I used to be a big fan of the short story mysteries with the french comic book character Ric Hochet, which were done for the French comic book weeklyTintin and reprinted in the Dutch similar weekly Pep. I also loved the Ellery Queen books and followed the television version, which let the audience guess who did it before the last conmercial break. I even tried to create my own comic book character called Emery King when I was in my early twenties. I had put him in the early fifties, a period which fascinated me even then.

I hope to be able to show more of them in the coming weeks. There were the four page stories by Fred Guardineer in one of the the Gleason crime titles, there was a newspoaper strip called Lance Lawford, there is a great French satirical one by Gotlib from his Rubrique-a-bric seies in Pilote in the seventies and there is a dutch satirical strip taht Hanco Kolk did in honor of Gotlib's but in a style all of his own. And many more.

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