Saterday Leftover Day.
A couple of weeks ago, Alan Holtz (the author of the unmissable American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide) used his Strippers Guide blogpage to show the first three weeks of Long Sam, a long forgotten strip by Al Capp and Bob Lubbers about a pretty girl who has grown up without knowing there is such a thing as men. The strip ran from 1954 and 1964 in many papers. The main attractions must have been Bob Lubbers' art - more particulary, his pretty girls - because although the scripts (by Al's brother Elliott Caplin, maybe even from the start) were enjoyable enough, the who thing felt like an unused storyline from Li'l Abner that went on a bit too long. Fans of Bob Lubbers' artwork have been asking for a reprint of this series for many years, but that was not the main reason for reprinting those first three weeks. What the very pretty and very sharp first 18 strips showed, was that the first artist on this strip probably wasn't Bob Lubbers, even though he was credited from the start. First time I saw them (having clipped many strips from this series, but never the first weeks) I saw that this must have been the work of long time Al Capp associate Frank Frazetta! As did Alan and Bob Foster (the Disney funnybook editor, I suppose), who provided the scans. Of course, there were some who commented that it really was the work of Lubbers and that we should compare it to his equally lush artwork on Tarzan just before that, rather than the later years of Long Sam herself, but to my eye there was no doubt.
Ever since I started art spotting, I developed a rule for myself. Good art styles are very individual and most times, the identity of the artist is very easy to spot. Especially if he is doing both the inking and the pencilling himself or if the inker was not instructed to obliterate the original work. And even then, it can be easy. The work of Gene Colan on DC's Hopalong Cassidy bears almost no resemblance to his art for Stan Lee at the same time, because while Stan Lee allowed him to ink his own pencils at DC they asked John Giella and others to make it look like every other DC title. And even then I can pick him out easily. Therefor, if something looks like it Could Be drawn by a certain artist, it probably isn't. Because if it was, you'd know for sure. Now this is not a foolproof rule, but it has helped me a lot. And funnily enough, I developed it while looking at Frazetta's contributions to Li'l Abner and Flash Gordon. Because he couldn't help himself. If it's Frazetta, it looks like it is. And those first three weeks of Long Sam do.
Now, Frazette didn't start working for Al Capp until 1954 (I'm using published dates here, so in the real world we'd have to subtract a couple of months). Before that he had been doing his own more realistic strip Johnny Comet/Ace McCoy. Ad to that the fact that the strips Alan shows are numbered 1 to 18, leads me to conclude that this is probably part of a proposal package that sold the strip. But by the time it was sold, it was either decided that Frazetta couldn't make his deadlines (it wasn't that he wasn't good enough, as he immediately was hired as a pinch hitter at Li'l Abner) or maybe Frank himself decided that is was not enough work. I don;t think money was the issue, as Long Sam was sold and ran in quite a few papers. And, uniquely, it started with a daily and a Sunday at the same time.
But of course I wouldn't just be representing Alan's scans if I didn't have anything to add. When I briefly mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, I also mentioned that traditionally a presentation package would include a Sunday as well, so maybe we should be on the lookout for that to be by Frazetta as well. Well, today fellow Dutch collector Arnaud W. surprised me with a scan of that first Sunday and indeed it is by Frazetta. Probably even more obviously so than the dailies. My guess is that Frazetta did ink the Sunday (or some of it) and that the dailies were presented in pencil form and inked by Bob Lubbers after the strip was sold and he was added as the artist.
So here it is, look for yourself. And enjoy. Because whoever drew it, Long Sam was always a feast for the eyes.