Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Prize Contest

Friday Comic Book Day.

I have been selling my Prize crime comics from the late forties and early sixties on Ebay and in the course of describing them I was interested again in what I call the 'unknown Prize artist'. Through the efforts of people such as Jim Vadeboncoeur and Hames Ware and The Grand Comicbook Database, we know a lot about the artists of these book - but tehre remains a couple of stories that are either unattributed or attributed to the wrong guy, in my opinion. I have started collection some of those stories from what I could find on that other great resource, the Digital Comics Museum. Part of the problem is, that almost no one in the 1948/1950 books inked his own pencils. In some cases there may even be several hands present in the pencilling and/or inking. Belgian artist Maurice de Bevere (who worked in the US around that time) has said that he never inked his own work when he pencilled, but was asked to ink other people's work as well. And in thise days, inking often meant finalizing the art as well. As for De Bevere, he said he wa allowed to draw his westerns in a funny style, but that does not mean he was doing funny westerns. The inker may have beefed them up. That is even more likely, because in the (intentionally) funny comcis, artist were allowed much more often to ink their own work (because they often sketched even simpler and cheaper).

Here are some of the stories I gathered, that show some of the traits that identify this penciller and possibly a seperate inker. Join me as we go hunting for the name of this unknown artist.

In the first story we see some of the unknown penciller's charactaristics, but nothing very extreme. There is a stiffness to the figures that reminds me of John Severin. But the composing of the panels does not have his style here (or in any of the other samples). The second thing is what I call a cruelty of the mouths, sometimes in the same manor as JohnSeverin (again) and sometimes in a wider grin that reminds me of the work of anotehr Prize artist (though usually restricted to the romance books, George Gregg. All this combined with a heavyhandedness of the inking, expecially in the folds of the clothes, which I why at times I have referred to the artist of the inker as 'the fat inker'. This style of inking is similar to the inking of later Mary Perkns artist Leonard Starr, but again, not strong enough to attribute the whole job to him.

In the second story, the similarity to John Severins facial structures is even more evident. The fat inking is there prominently, the cruel mouths are less. This is the pairing of pencilling and inking you see the most with this artist. Recently, an early unpublished proof of a story by Harvey Kurtzman for a commercial comic was found by Carol Tilly. There are a lot of similarities there, apart from the inking, but that could be because his realistic work at that time bore a lot of resemblance to that of John Severin (and Bill Elder) since they had a studio together. Maurice de Bevere visited that studio often and I would love for him to be a candidate scolars of his European work (under the name Morris) assure me nothing in here reminds them of his (admittedly funny) style. On emore argument against including Harvey Kurtzman as a possible artist is the fact that he did do other solo work for Prize Western Comics which looks totally different. That may be because in those cases he inked his own pencils, but still.

More Severin in this third story. That may be because Severin actually was involed in this one. The inking is more nuanced this time, giving the whole a more understated look.

With Shoe-Box Annie we get a full blown sample of the unknown artist's style. The fat inking, the cruel smiles. There is also a hint of another aspect - the long limbness of some of the characters. Most visible here in the arms of the guy in the last panel of page 4, it is something that shows up in at least some of the stories (even though it is underrepresented in this sampling).

By now you should be getting a sense of this artist. If possible, I get even more of a Kurtzman/Severin vibe of these figures than in the previous stories.

The next story is different from the previous ones because what we see here is what Simon & Kirby expert Harry Mendrick has labled 'studio inking', which can mean anything from Joe Simon inking Jack kirby himself to Mort Meskin, George Roussos, Bill Draut, Marvin Stein and whoever else was available joing in. some of the figures, especially the policeman on the first panel of page six suggest to me that MArvin Stein may have been the penciller, at least on some of the pages. The reason it is in my selection is because of the long legged running figure on page two.

In the last story here, we see some of the featurres of the earlier ones, especially in the inking. The long legged figures are back, as well as the buttonnosed characters featured in some of the other stories I have come across (but could not find digitally). I have included it here, because the difference between this and the first samples at times makes me think I am looking for not one but two unknown penciller, whose features sometimes look alike because of a third and common inker.

That's it for no. If my Justice Traps the Guilty's remain unsold, I will try and scan some of the other samples myself rather than rely on what's available on the GCD.

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