Saturday, September 06, 2014

On The Fritz

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.


8 comments:

jhegenbe said...

Yop! The sunday shows signs of Fritz. But I still don't see them in the dailies. Ask Russ, to be certain.

Thanks!

Bob Foster said...

Ah, but what about that suspiciously altered lettering on the awning in the first panel of daily #6? Was that somebody trying to slip their name into the artwork?

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Hi, Bob. Great to have you here. If you have anything else to offer from your collection my door is always pen. I 'know' of you primarily from Michel Nadorp, who always spoke well of you. Among the thins I am desperately lookinf for you might have... the Daan Jippes Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse strips and Sundays.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

As to the rewritten awning, it's too smalal to have said Frankie's at first. The last half obliterated letter seems like a W. It already looked like Fran's work to me, but the Sunday clinches it. But as with Li'l Abner, Frazetta's pencils on the dailies might have been very light.

tim557188 said...

Sorry - I don't see anything of Frazetta in these strips. Perhaps you are selling Lubbers short.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

The consensus among historians is Frazetta did the Sunday and pencils for the first few weeks (inked by Lubbers). Two or three weeks pencilled was normal for a proposal. The look of the first few weeks (see the last panel of day two, for instance) is consistant with his work on the daily Lil Abner strip at that time. Perhaps you have a limited view of Frazetta's capabillities.

tim557188 said...

Not at all. Is there a consensus among Frazetta experts?

Ger Apeldoorn said...

There has been a lot of discussion at The Strippers Guide when Alan Holtz first showed the dailies. I don't know if there were any Frazetta experts involved, but my guess would be that those who would call themselves that would be more fans of his later realistic work than the work for hire he did for Al Capp. My opinion is my own and is based on comparison to the Frankie storyline in the daily Lil' Abner. I am an experienced art spotter and I stand by my opinion in this case. Which is not to say that Bib Lubbers would not be capable of something like this. If you compare it to his work on Tarzan just previous to this, I just don't see some of the sharpness that I would associate more with Frazetta.