Friday, April 30, 2010

The Door Is Always Open

Friday Comic Book Day.

Gene Colan was one of Stan Lee's major talents in the late fifties. Even though he had managed to sell himself to DC and was doing quite a ot of work there, Lee was happy to have him for his books as well. So happy, that Colan was one of the only artists allowed to work on smaller pages and he was given permission to open eacht story with a full page splash - all, to allow for the smaller pay rate (especially compared to DC). More often than not those stories and those splashes were used as the first story in the book, showing the amount of respect Stan Lee had for Colan. In my opinion (which I have laid out in an article for Alter Ego, I hope Roy Thomas will find droom for one of these days) I think his work for Stan Lee was better than that which he did for DC. Even though Colan himself adopted the current DC opinion that slicker art was better, it's the rough work for Stan Lee, which stands out today as more personal and well, just better comics. A major factor in that is the fact that he inked his ow work for Lee, something which he wasn't allowed to do at DC. And I think he did so very well. I know even in later days, Colan himelf came to believe that his work could not be inked and looked better in pencil, but for me those pages he inked himself are the pinnacle of his work as a comic book artist.

Anyway, rates kept on dropping at Lee and Goodman's and finally, they stopped production for a while, forcing artists to go and look for other work. Gene Colan stayed at DC and ended up doing oads ad loads of blandly drawn and inked romance stories. In the early sixties, when things started looking up at Marvel, he returned (often using a pseudonymn, so his bosses at DC wouldn't know he was 'moonlighting'). I had always thought he returned with the earliest superheroes, but a recent look at the pre-hero books showed me he did in fact return at the end of the pre-hero period. Here are two of his earliest stories, unsigned but mentioned at his own website (although I have to say that I don't agree with every attribution on that site).

What is remarkable is that the first story in Strange Tales (although not the first he did for Stan Lee after all those years, as he had stories in Journey Into Mystery and some roamnce comics) is a story full of shots with people opening doors. This is one of Colan's signature images and it is surprising to see it featured so prominently in what must have been a scripted story. How did Stan Lee know to write this story for Colan, or if he didn't write it himself, how did he know to assign it to him? Was it because some of those 'opening doors' had already appeared in Colan's work in the late fifties...?

From Strange Tales #97:

From Strange Tales #102:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dirty Pencilling

Thursday Story Strip Day.

One of the highlights of the fanzine Alter Ego is formed by the remaniscences of artist Marc Swayze for the Fawcett section of the magazine. Swayze worked as an artist on Mary Marvel and other Fawcett properties, but in his column he also talks about aborted projects and others parts of his career. It is odd that he does talk about his work for the newspaper strip Flying Jenny, but no art of this strip has ever been shwon. He worked as the credited artist n the strip for more than a year in 1945 and 1946. Here is a relatively complete run of his Sundays from 1945.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dik and Coe

Wednesday Advertising Day.

Monday I showed some of Roland Coe's cartoons. My friend Mike Lynch had some extra information about the artist on his site (see the link on the right). Here I have some of Coe's advertising strips for Nebisco. This was his best knows series, although he did other things as well. I don't know if he did them on his own or through Johnstone adn Cushing, but I do think he was an influence on the early advertising work of Dik Browne. Escpecially his Roger Wilco series, which you can see if you follow the tag. In the same style as Roger Wilco was Colonel Mint, which I therefore think is by Browne as well. I will show those when I get home later today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Not Yo' Gramma

Wednesday Comic Strip Extra.

I keep track of my visitors using a tracking site. That leads me to new and interesting websites by those linking to me. One of those is my new favorite. I have added it to my list. Diamond Lil is a new newspaper strip from Creator's Syndicate by Brett Koth. I have often asked here where the sarcasm and attitude of the early sixties has gone... well, apparently to a retirement home.

When Dinosaurs Ruled The Comic Page

Tuesday Newspape Strip Day.

Last time I showed you some early B.C. Sundays, animation director John Kricfalusi linked here from his blog (see the link on the right), saying he used to read this strip when he was young, but lost interest when it lost it's voice in the sixties. This is something I have heard more often and franly, I don't agree. I to, think that B.C. is on eof the freshest, funniest and sharpest strips of it's age, but what surprised me when I looked at it a little bit closer, is the fact it didn't lose its egde until somewhere in the seventies. and even after that, up until the nineties, some flashes of brilliance occur. Is this atrick of memory most people have? That they know it became less special at some point, but they can't remember exactly when that was, so they say it's in the sixties (because they can't imagine anything holding it's freshness longer than say, seven years)? I actually think there might be another reason. If you look at these Sundays from 1966, you'll see they are as good as any of the earlier ones I have shown here. In fact, personally, I think this period is the highpoint of the strip. There was a color book of Sunday gags that was full of this sort of stuff from the seventies and sixties and if you can get your hands on it, you should. I think it was called Color Me B.C, but someone will correct me if I wrong. But what yo also see if you look at these strips, is how much the upper tier is missed. I have said many times that I think most strips are better with their third tier added, but what if that was actually truw? What if the fact that were three or four strips on each page in the late sixties, influenced peoples perception of the strip itself? For one thing, at a certain point Johnny Hart lost the freedom to direct the timing of his gags, because papers would more often than not cut away any panels that seemed superfluous...

It wasn't until later i the seventies, when artists strated incorporating the restrictions the newspapers were giving them and started limiting their creative possibillities that the comic stip as a whole took a nose dive. I personally see the appearance of the two tier version of the tabloid strip (two long tiers stacked in such a way that four or five strips could be placed on each page) as the turning point in the downfall of the American newspaper strip.

So enjoy these mid sixties strips and let's hope someoene somewhere will publish a collection of the best Sundays in their full three tier glory.