Saturday, July 12, 2014

Americo-European Research

Saturday Leftover Day.

I am member of a facebook group called Comics History Exchange. I don't know if it is a public group, I was invited (sometimes it pays to know people). I ran into a comic history thing hving to do with European artists moving to the US and finding work there. In the late forties three Belgian comic artists (who later on all became very famous with their creations for Spirou magazine) decided to move to the US because they were afraid that the Russians would come and take over Europe. Or they wanted to try their luck or broaden their horizons. Anyway, Jopeph Gillian (Jijé), André Franquin and Maurice de Bevere (Morris) made the trip, had some fun and decided to come back again. Only Maurice de Bevere returned to the US again, met up with a group of New York artists which included Harvey Kurtzman, the genius cartoonist who later invented Mad. I recently read his biography and found out that he says he drew some comics as well, never a complete job, only inking and sometimes pencilling (especially the western stories). Since he later went on to do the famous Lucky Luke series, that fits. Funny enough no one in Europe ever bothered to find out what he may or may not have drawn en no one in the US was familiar enough with his Euopea fame to look into it from that side. He did also do at least one children's book story, which was signed, so that is pretty well known.

In discussing this with the Facebook historians, Jim VandeBoncoeur Jr. told me that Denis Kitchen has looked into the children's book aspect and found out something more about that. I will try and get in touch with Denis (a Harvey Kurtzman expert, whom I interviwed years ago when he was still a cartoonist and Will Eisner's representative) and aske about that. I guess his interest in these children's books tems from the childrens books Harvey Kurtzman did four years earlier for a different publisher (one of which was in collaboration with René Goscinny, another French cartoonist in their circle, who went on to collaborate with Morris on Lucky Luke and create Asterix with Albert Uderzo).

He also mentoined that a French publisher had looked into the whole matter and found out that Jijé (Gillian) had in fact drawn and published a short romance story in DC's Romance Trail series. I kicked myself for not having seen that, but it turns out it's in the one issue of the six issue series I haven't got. Because it's so obvious it's by Jijé, even I would have seen it.

So here is that story, along with some samples of Jijé later western succes Jerry Spring...

But that's not all... there is still the questio of what Maurice de Bevere drew. Well, in the late forties Harvey Kurtzman shared his studio with a couple of artists, including René Goscinny, but also John Severin. Severin picked up a lot of western work from Prize for Prize Comics Western and got people from the studio to work with him. His main partner in all those stories was Bill Elder (who later did all those really funny stories for Mad and created Little Annie Fanny for Playboy wth Kurtzman). Elder inked Severin for years, up until the war stories tehy did for Kurtzman's war titles at EC. But in Prize Comics Western there were other combinations as well. Kurtzman himself inked a couple of Severin Stories and there are one or two that have dfferent hands on them as well. In fact, when Jim VandeBoncoeur discussed the list he had made with Severin himself there were two that were attributed to him that he had doubts about himself. Since we in Europe only know Morris for him funny work (although he did do some srieus illustration work in the midfifties) so we have nothing to compare it to, bt it seems that these two stories are in fact the prime candidtes for being pencilled by de Bevere - with inking by Bill Elder, which makes it similar enough to the Severin and Elder stories from that period to have them be mistaken for Severin's work.

It was only after that that I found a funny filler strip in DC's Romance Trails that could be by Morris as well...


Mike Britt said...

Thanks for the new insights into PRIZE WESTERN. I've always been a big Severin fan and have many issues of this title and have wondered about different hands in these two stories in particular. There is evidence of Kurtzman layouts as well as inking of Severin's pencils in some stories. There are later issues that have Severin and Williamson collaborations.

ph.Capart said...

Morris had a much more structured drawing style (regardless it being realistic or caricatured), i doubt very much that he would have pencilled this. I am looking forward to seeing the funny fillers mentionned at the end of article. Ph.Capart.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Yes, the structured style is what I would be looking for as well. Problem is, I have seen very little of his realistic work, apart from one or two later illustrations that are serious/funny. The fillers are probably not by Morris, but they are uncredited and look more European than American to me. I will send them to you privately, if I can.

ph.Capart said...

Hello Ger,
In "La Face Cachée de Morris", compiled by Yvan Delporte, you have a few drawing that Morris did in art class in NY. What seems to me specific with Morris is the structured drawing, volume intentions and efficient narrative "mise en scène" and great "face" caracterisations. All that seems to be lacking here. Don't hesitate to contact me.