Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The General Feeling

Wednesday Advertising Day.

One of the more enduring legends of comic book history is the idea that Will Eisner was a good businessman. The evidence of that seems to be the fact that he sold his comic shop to his partner Iger for a tidy sum when he got the opportunity to start his own newspaper insert series The Spirit, the fact that he always kept all the original art for The Spirit 'knowing' that one day it would be worth a lot of money (when all around him most publishers were throwing 'their' original art away), the way he set up several comic illustrated magazines about safety and maintanance in the army in WW II, and the way he built that into a little empire of informational comics called American Visuals (producing, above all the army's PS magazine). The ony problem with that, is that for all his enterpreneurial flair, he never became very rich and in fact, the number of books produced by American Visuals uncovered sofar can be counted on the fingers of four hands. Especially the claim that he worked exclusively for General Motor's Information Rack Services seems to have been an overstatement at least. The majority of booklets from this service seem to have been book condensations or flower or recipe books made without any illustrations whatsoever, by all sorts of companies. And some of those that did use comics (like the Steel! booklet I shared a couple of weeks ago by Lou Fine) were produced by a totally different company. So imagine my surprise when I came across not one, but two Americal Visuals produced 16 page books using not comic style illustrations by boted comic bok and newspaper strip illustrator Alex Kortzky. As far as I know, Kotzky never worked for PS, so he must have been especially assigned for these books (and maybe even more). As with the Philip Morris ad series 'Duke' Handy, he did not long after these, Kotzky does a bang-up job on them. The first one is signed on one of the later page, but the second one is filled with typical Kotzky shots and poses. In fact, it reminds me more of his later Appartment 3G strip than the more Milton Caniff influenced 'Duke'Handy (which I will show in full someday, it's just a lot of scanning, you know).

I was surprised to find some comments recently on one of my favorite comic book groups by people declaring that they found the later work of Lou Fine dull and bland and too slick. I must confess, I like the slick work better than the showy and more effeninate work he did in the forties. Kotzky's work here is slick too and again I have to confess I like it better than either the work he did in the early forties imitating Fine (so much so, that some of his pages have long been attributed to Fine) or the work on Appartment 3G from the seventies onward, which to my eyes look as if a costume designer has accidentally walked unto the comic page.

So, not one, but two samples of books done by American Visuals. I should dig up a third one I have with a more comical story (possibly by Klaus Nordling) and scan that as well. If anyone has or knows of any more samples, I'd love to have them as well.

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