Sunday, February 01, 2015

Much More Fun

Sunday Meskin Measures.

The real Mort Meskin fans may know this story, because I pinched the More Fun #97 scans from Sandy Jarrell's site ( Sandy is a comic book artist (who is currently drawing the very enjoyable Batman '66 series) who has contributed scans of the more rare Mesking stories to my blog. In various groups he is one of the more vocal voices asking or a full reprint of Meskins two major DC series from the forties: The Vigilante and Johnny Quick. He has bought books and collected scans as well as made a couple of his own and you can see them on his site. But I am going to do something different with them here. I will try and sya something intelligent about every page. I have shown so many Meskin pages with general remarks, that it may be fun to see what I can say about these undividual pages.

Here we get a first glimpse of the trademark way Mort Meksin had of depeicting Johnny Quick's speed. No red lines, no blurring, just a whole lot of single images, as if someone used a shutter lense on the camera. It's like we are looking at the storyboard of a animation movie. It is also a pure comic book way of doing this. The way DC's other speedster, the Flash. was protraied in the comics proved to be a lot more transferrable to the small screen. This idea of having a lot of single images pulled together into one, is something that can only be done in comics.

One of the most remarkable things about this page is to note that this story is one of the few that were inked by the very young and already talented) Joe Kubert. Kubert confessed to being influenced by Meskin, although in his early days he showed more signs of picking up tricks from another idol, Will Eisner. Later on in this story, I will note a Meskin panel that looks very Eisnerish as well.

Eventhough Joe Kubert is the inker, there are a few touches here that look like the way Meskin would later ink when he was working with Jack Kirby (and on his own at Prize), like the multiple brush strokes on the roof in panel three or the bends and shadows on the stove in the last.

In the forties comic book artists moved the camera around a lot more freely. The upshot with the underside of the roof shown in the last panel, was a frequent trick of cinematic artists such as Milt Caniff, Mort Meskin and Alex Toth to highten tension... and to avoid having to draw a lot of furniture.

For a comic strip about a speeddevil, the absense of speed lines is remarkable. Even the old guy looking around has to make do with three faces and a Whoosh sound. It seems Meskkin made a conscious decision not to use any speedlines at all.

There sure are a lot of spolights hanging around, though. Jack Kirby used a lot of abstract arches in his work in the late fifties (when it got to be more abstract than ever). They work, but they also give the action a staged feel.

These days, with all the computer coloring going on. artists are (or feel) forced more and more to 'close' their inklines. If they do not do that, seperate areas can not be filled with a paintbucket. Cartoonists like Hank Ketcham and artists such as Stan Drake, Gene Colan and Mort Meskin show that a much more lively feeling can be given to a comic book page if the lines are not all closed and a more designoriented impressionistic approach is taken.

Earlier in his career, Alex Toth observed Mort Meskin using a unique approach to his pages. He would make a whole page grey with a soft pencil and create shapes with a kneedable eraser. After which he would fill in the shapes with details. I don't know if he was still doing that in this period, but he remained an artist who tried to tell his stories with shapes all of his career.

Silhouets. I love silhouets. Alex Toth was a master at using readable silhouets on almost every page. They help give the storytelling speed (details only slow the reader down) and variety (Will Eisner siad that you only need to show the face of your hero once every page).

Just look at those Johhny's go. Only in comics can you do this effect.

The borderless panel five is one that could have come from any Will Eisner page, in my opinion. And hey, speedlines!

Every artist has his own way of drawing punches. Meskin did a punch effect and follow strough, emphesizing movement over force. And look at the folds on that table cloth in the past panel. No way Joe Kubert came up with those. So either Meskin added them himself or he indicated them in his pencils.

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