Thursday, March 03, 2011

Debatable art

Friday Comic Book Day.

A discussion on the Mort Meskin Group at Yahoo Groups over a particulary well drawn science fiction story from the early fifties, made me have another look t what I have from publisher Ziff-Davis. They were big players in the field of pulps, but in the late forties (I guess) they decded to try their hand at doing comics. This was when the superheroes were dying out and they tried to do a number of more pulpy genres: horror, western, science fiction and fairy tales (with a book called Fairy Tales). They must have spend a lot of money, since they attracted the best artist, who did their best work from them. The quality of these books is such that it is a surprise that collectors have not given them a lot of attention over the years. That could be because the stories were not all that good (their war material was particulary safe and bland), but my guess is it has more to do with the fact that they did not do superheroes. Only the companes doing those attracted the kids that later would write about them, EC being a later exception because they were so extraordinary that they attracted readers and later scholars just for that reason.

The science fiction story that we discussed seems to have been drawn by Frank Giacoia in some sort of combination with others. I am not quite sure how many hands were involved. Although Giacoia later developed the reputation of being a bit lazy (or scared) and preferring to use friends to help him out with the pencilling, we must not forget that those same friend found him a very good artist in that earlier time. Carmine Infantino calls him the best of his generation and an inspiration to all. So if we find hints of other people's work in his material, it may have been that he influenced others instead of the other way around. All in all, I thought it would be a good thing to show some more of this early work of his.

In my collection I have a few Ziff-Davis comics, among them a sports book with some very pretty signed Giacioa work.So he did do work for them. So I went looking through some scans for more, but unfortunately most of the material in the books I came across was unsigned. What I did find was lots of very good material, not only bu Giacoia. Maybe due to the lack of interest in Zif-Davis, most of these books also haven't been written up properly at the GCD. The story lists are there sometimes, but there is almost no art identification other than what was signed or mentioned in interviews.

So here are two pretty stories fro G.I. Joe, that I think could have been done by Giacioa. I am open for different opinions. To that I have added one very pretty story by Bob Powell from G.I. Joe and one that is purported to have been drawn by Erwin Hasen and inked by Bernie Sach. Sachs has been called one of the most incompetent inkers he ever worked with by Gil Kane, but here he does a pretty good job (if it is him). I end with a typical collaboration by Dan Barry and Frank Giacoia from Weird Thriller. As far as I can seem that is not a Ziff-Davis title, but it could very well be.

Next week, I'll try and shame some of the other goodies in these Ziff-Davis books.


SpaceLord said...

Yay! Can't believe this Stalin story with G.I.Joe. Where the foreign agents come and catch Joe in a sack... tch! That's a nice piece of comedy. Americana at its best: arrogant, but lovable.
Says the german to the dutch... wink, wink!

Smurfswacker said...

You're right, Ziff comics contain some of the cream of 1950s comic art. Great painted covers, too. Sadly I've never been a good enough art spotter to unravel some of the mysteries there.

Explorer Joe had some nice artwork...along with Giacoia in this story I get Bill Draut vibes, but I could be mistaken. I like the typo on page 5, where the guy says the natives "damned" the river instead of "dammed" it.

"Buddies" is an exceptionally nice job. Something unusual is going on here. Giacoia might have penciled it, though the layouts are more dynamic than he usually used. But the inks are quite unlike him. Especially the use of pen hatching and outlines (e.g. BG of splash panel, pg 5 pn 6, pg 6 pn 3). I'd swear it looks like Gene Colan inked some of these, but that's a stupid notion as he only inked himself. At any rate there are two(?) very good draughtsmen working on this story.

The Art of Bob Chambers said...

The coloring is top notch, too. That gradated coloring is amazing! Why couldn't Dell and DC comics have that kind of coloring?

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Smurf, the point here is that even I am not sure who did these stories. I get a Giacoia vibe from the first two, but I may be wrong. And I would never gave guess the Stalin story to be by Irwin Hasen.