Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hokey Cokey

Saturday Leftover Day.

I recently came across a week's samples of a strip I had clipped in 2011. It is one of those army themed strips, that were everywhere in the second world war. Not only did a lot of regular strips send their characters to the army (like Joe Palooka), there were also lots of artists who had created characters for their army camp newspaper and when they got home (or even while they were still in the service and not doing a lot) tried to sell them to a syndicate. Cokey is a pleasant, but not very exciting sample of this type of strip. It didn't survive the war, but the artist did.

When I got to researching his name, I found that Duane Bryers had a very succesful and interesting career after the war. Somewhere in the fifties he created a series of painted specialty calendars featuring a plus-size model called Hilda. This plump but attractive redhead was not based on anyone Bryers knew. Instead he made her up from his imagination and put her in all sorts of situations. He approached a professional calendar company called Bigelow and Browne and sold the idea to the,. They were so successful that new calendars were produced from 1957 to 1970 (although Bryers did go on to make more images after that). I had never heard of him and so did most people, until an artist called Les Toil rediscovered them. In fact, Toil is a pretty good artist himself, like Bryers before him specializing in 'zaftige' girls.

Anyway, Les Toil immediately cleared a part of his website for a showcase of Bryers work, found the man himself and interviewed him. In the interview, Cokey is mentioned as Corky and it is said to be an army paper strip. So either Mr. Toil got it worng or there was indeed a camp newspaper version before it was syndicated more widely. Anyway, the girls of Duane Bryer got a whole new life out of it and Les Toil got a lot of well deserved out of it. If you want to see more of these pretty ladies, go to But that is not all.

I have been working on a longer article for Roy Thomas' Alter Ego about the satirical work of Bob Powell. The prolific forties and fifties artist (who got his start under Will Eisner and may be the only one who truely inherited his story telling style) usually gets a bad reputation. Both Eisner and Powell's former assistant Howard Nostrand have badmouthed him, recalling one or two anti-semetic remarks and saying (in Nostrand's case) that he had no sense of humor. Unfortunately John Benson, whio interviewed Nostrand for His Graphic Story Magazine, has repeated the attacks on Powell's humor when writing about the Mad comic book imitation Flip (where they both worked on). I don't know about the anti-semetic remarks. Nothing in Powell's career would suggest he was anti-semetic and from all we know Will Eisner was the kind of boss that would sometimes create enimity. The fact that Powell had no sense of humor is proven false in the pages of Flip itself, as far as I am concerned. It seems to me that Powell and Nostrand had different senses of humor, one (Nostrand) leaning more to the silly and the other (Powell) more to the reality-based. It is my experience as well, that one camp does not always understand the humor of the other.

But the best proof of Powell's sense of humor seems to me that he worked for satirical magazines for the last ten years of his life. Eventhough most comic book historians like to pretend that Powell hardly did not do anything between the comic book industry implosion of the late fifties and his death by cancer in 1967, except maybe for some unsuitable inking of Kirby at Marvel. Others may recall that he worked for Sick between 1960 and 1966 (often called a Mad imitation, which it didn't become until after Joe Simon and Powell left). But hardly anyone ever mentiones his work for some of the other Mad magazine imitations of the late fifties, most prominently Panic. Where he did not only draw a lot of very funny (and well drawn) article that were most probably written by him as well, he also brought in the work of artists such as Angelo Torres, Howard Nostrand and Don Heck.

Which is all a long preamble to show you a very funny calendar Powell did for Panic #5. It is done in a wash style and I show it here because it is obviously inspired by the images of Hilda. No reference was made of that name or her calendars, so I am guessing even then she wasn't well known enough to be assumed common knowledge.


Allan Holtz said...


Actually Cokey ran until 1950.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Thanks Allan, I was too lazy to go up and look it up in your book.