Friday, July 29, 2016

Number 1942: Jack Davis’s lucky Lucky Star

July 27 was a sad day for Jack Davis fans when it was announced that the master cartoonist had died. Jack had a long and great career, which began with comics in the late forties

Wikipedia gives a brief synopsis of artist Jack Davis’s early career with this: “In 1949, he illustrated a Coca-Cola training manual, a job that gave him enough cash to buy a car and drive to New York. Attending the Art Students League of New York, he found work with the Herald Tribune Syndicate as an inker on Leslie Charteris’s The Saint comic strip, drawn by Mike Roy in 1949–50. His own humor strip, Beauregard, with gags in a Civil War setting, was carried briefly by the McClure Syndicate. After rejections from several comic book publishers, he began freelancing for William Gaines’ EC Comics in 1950.”

Wikipedia doesn’t mention the work Davis did on the Lucky Star comic book, probably because it is obscure. As is explained in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, the comic was a giveaway for the Lucky Star Western Wear line. Lucky Star is listed as being published by Nation-Wide Publishing Company, has a 5¢ price on the cover. It is small, measuring 5 inches by 7.25 inches. This is another of those comic books I have seen only in digital form, and they were provided to the Internet by James Vadeboncoeur Jr and scanner rangerhouse. (I have provided the obsessive-compulsive brighening and clean-up.)

Despite the hurried look to the artwork, a look at Davis’s early work shows what quickly developed at EC Comics as his mature style. The figures in action, the distinctive inking style. Davis once said he emulated Bill Mauldin’s Willie and Joe cartoons of World War II. Despite his influences Davis quickly became the influential one, imitated by several other comic book artists. Davis went on to become a highly sought after commercial artist whose distinctive style became known to the world through movie posters, magazine covers, and Mad. Jack retired a couple of years ago and was living in his home state of Georgia when he died.

From Lucky Star #2 (1950):

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Number 1924: What is Mad Hatter mad about?

The Mad Hatter was a costumed hero, non-super powered, who appeared in two issues of a self-titled comic in late 1945, early 1946. He shared his comic with some kiddie characters, Danny the Demon and Freddy Firefly, which is to me an indication his first issue was thrown together with some existing inventory. (So thrown together that the cover promoted a story that didn’t show up until issue #2.)

Although the publisher in the indicia is listed as O.W. Comics Corp., there was some connection to EC Comics and Maxwell Gaines. Danny the Demon and Freddy Firefly also showed up in some early EC Comics. Whatever the connection it didn’t last long.

By the end of the war superheroes were going out of vogue, and the push was on to find new genres. Mad Hatter isn’t a bad character or comic...just more of a curiosity, created and put on the newsstands at the wrong time. Unless, if my theory of existing inventory is true, two issues may have been all that were intended to be published.

Writing is credited by the GCD to Bill Woolfolk, but artists listed in their credits included Mort Leav and John Giunta. The art for “A Date With the Mad Hatter” isn”t specifically credited.

From Mad Hatter #1 (1946):

Another Mad Hatter story, this time from issue #2. Just click on the thumbnail.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Number 1923: Thomas Dun, undone

Thomas Dun was a real-life highwayman in England circa the year 1100. He was no Robin Hood. He disguised himself. He robbed, he murdered. His victims piled up.

For the most part Dun’s story, from Crime Must Pay the Penalty #4 (1948), describes Dun's criminal career in much the same fashion as the biographical information I have read online. The main difference is in the manner of Dun’s ultimate fate. History tells us that Dun was executed, without trial, in one of the most hideous ways the human mind can think of. Even a crime comic book dared not show something that gruesome. If you’re up to it, you can read about Dun, including his true demise here

The Grand Comics Database gives Ken Battefield credit for the artwork.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pappy's Tenth Anniversary Sunday Special Number 4: Anarcho, Dictator of Death

It is no big deal to have comic book stories that go cover-to-cover, but Fawcett’s Anarcho, Dictator of Death (1948) is called Comics Novel. No, it probably doesn’t qualify as the first graphic novel because it was sold alongside other mainstream comic books. (Fawcett also did another book length comic the same year called On the Spot, the story of Pretty Boy Floyd.)

It stars Anarcho, a villain bent on bringing fascism back to the world. And some would say he must’ve been successful, the way the word fascist is used nowadays to describe any political opponent with whom one does not agree. But I digress. It also stars as the hero, Radar, a character who had a fairly short run for Fawcett, not exactly the most popular character, but one created in conjunction with the United States government’s Office of War Information.

Fawcett editor Will Lieberson told the story in an article from the book, Fawcett Companion, the Best of Fawcett Collectors of America (1991). He said he met with a distinguished literary group, Clifton Fadiman, Paul Gallico and Rex Stout, to create a feature. What came out of it was Radar, an International Policeman, who went around the world solving crimes and beating back the flames of fascism. I can see why Radar had a non-star costume. To a comic book fan's way of thinking a reversed topcoat — turned inside out it was green plaid — is not really a costume. Radar was introduced in Captain Marvel Adventures #35 (1944), and then went to Master Comics, to appear in issues #50-87.

According to the GCD, Anarcho, Dictator of Death is written by Otto Binder, and drawn by Al Carreno. I admit I was not only ignorant of Radar (never read a story about him before this), but also of artist Carreno. He was a journeyman with a solid illustrative comic art drawing style from that era. With further research I found out Albert Carreno was born in 1905, educated in Mexico, came to the U.S. and worked in comic books for several companies in the forties and fifties. He became a member of the prestigious National Cartoonists Society, and died in 1964.