Sunday, September 30, 2007

Number 196

Paperback comics

A while ago I told you how I was influenced by The Mad Reader paperback. Comics were used in paperbacks, but they were mostly reprints of newspaper comic panels, comic strips or gag panels from magazines. In the 1960s with the popularity of the Batman TV show paperbacks with comic book characters popped up on the paperback spinner racks, but whether they sold well or not I don't know.

At the time I was surprised that the EC reprints from Ballantine Books, probably influenced by the popularity of Creepy and Eerie magazines, went only one volume each. I thought there would be a whole series and was disappointed when the series didn't materialize. In that way EC reprint material frustrated us collectors who were still searching out original issues we could afford.

Here are a few other paperbacks from my collection.

The House Of Mystery isn't a reprint of the comics from that title, but text rewrites of some of the stories. It has a great Bernie Wrightson cover, though, and Jack Oleck is a writer who also did stories for EC.

Executive Comic Book is desirable because of the reprint of Kurtzman and Elder's "Goodman Goes Pl*yboy" story, originally published in Help! The publishers of Archie comics took offense and Kurtzman agreed not to reprint it; then he had Elder "disguise" the characters for this edition, after which the Archie folks got real upset. So it hasn't been reprinted since.

Tower paperbacks were reprints of their own line of comic books, which had a brief existence in the mid-1960s. The Wally Wood stuff for these comics is incredible, and the line is well remembered. Unfortunately, these paperback reprints are printed about as bad as it's possible to get. They're still fun to find in used bookstores, though.

I don't know how many editions the Batman paperback had, but there were other books in the series. DC got a lot of mileage from old material.

I like this Christopher Lee book because the stories are original to the book, and because of the Mort Drucker cover. There's also one of the best of the post-EC Johnny Craig stories, a Rudyard Kipling adaptation called, "The Mark Of The Beast."

My favorites I've saved for last. Humbug was Kurtzman's attempt to recreate the lightning-in-a-bottle he had created with Mad, and apparently Ballantine Books was hoping it would have the success of their Mad paperbacks. The Jungle Book I bought off the stands when it came out in 1959, and I had Harvey sign it for me in the 1980s. It's one of those things I'll never let go.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Number 195

Air Ace Jet Powers

If you're a new Pappy's reader then you don't know that all four issues of the M.E. Comics series, Jet Comics have been posted on this blog in chronological order. Just click on the link for "Jet Powers" at the bottom of this page.

Jet was a science-fiction series, written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Bob Powell. After the four-issue run it was replaced by American Air Forces, which also starred Jet Powers, not as a scientist, but as a fighter pilot in action during the Korean conflict. That's a big switch. You have to wonder why they kept the same character to confuse the reader. It would have been smarter to just rename him something like Ace Powers, and tell us he was Jet Powers' twin brother.

This story, the last in my personal inventory of Jet Powers stories, is from Battle #15, a reprint circa 1964, of American Air Forces #7. The publisher was Super Comics, which took old comics, reprinted them, packed them three to a bag, and sold them for a quarter.

"Whom The Gods Destroy" is the kind of war story that Harvey Kurtzman hated, which motivated him to create Frontline Combat over at EC Comics. It's typically violent in that guts-and-glory, jingoistic war comics way. The Chinese femme fatale looks a lot like Su Shan, Jet's female "friend" in the science fiction series. Maybe Bob Powell just had one stock Asian woman character in his portfolio, and she happened to be sexy and beautiful.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Number 194

Al Hartley Throws The Bull

I haven't ever read much about cartoonist Al Hartley, except when he started drawing Christian comic books for the Fleming Revel Company in the 1970s. I read an article in a Guideposts magazine about the series.

All-in-all he drew about 60 Spire Christian Comics; some even starred the Archie characters, used with permission, of course.His main body (yuk-yuk) of work was in drawing pretty girls and his résumé is full of romance comics, teen comics, etc., mostly for Stan Lee at Atlas and Marvel. He later drew Archie comics.

This particular strip, "The Bull Thrower," is from Atlas Comics' Crazy #3, 1954. Crazy was yet another Mad imitator. Just about every panel shows how Hartley could draw females…and how. The torero in this story makes me bullish, that's for sure.

Hartley, according to what I've read about him, was very fervent about his faith, and it came through in his Christian comics, but he hadn't forgotten his bread-and-butter, pretty girls.

I say, religious or not, once a boob man, always a boob man.

Hartley died in 2003.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Number 193

Miss Purdy loves Uranus

"Queen Of Uranus" comes from Forbidden Worlds #78 (1959). It's part of the Pappy tear sheet collection; a box of hundreds of loose pages of stories cut out of old comics, given to me in the early 1980s. I reassembled what stories I could, and am slowly bringing them to you.
The story just about encapsulates everything an ACG story by writer Richard Hughes, writing under one of his numerous pen-names, was in those days. It has a person who isn't very good-looking, who's under-appreciated by her boss (whom she secretly likes), finding love from an unlikely swain. Hughes was good at this sort of underdog-makes-good tale. There were always things about Hughes' stories that bugged me, though. In this one it's that Miss Purdy, despite being smart and a very good teacher, isn't even noticed until she glams up, uses makeup, gets a new hairdo and a new dress. The word is out to you girls: work on your looks. Men don't like you for anything else.

The artwork by Ogden Whitney is excellent. This sort of story was meant for Whitney's style, which was about as matter-of-fact as it's possible to be.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Number 192

Death On The Earth-Mars Run!

Over the past few days I've been wondering if there's ever been a comic book artist who went as far in the art world as Everett Raymond Kinstler. He's a man who, in the early 1950s was drawing sci-fi potboilers like "Death On The Earth-Mars Run" for Avon's Strange Worlds #8, and by the turn of the 21st Century had painted the portraits of five U.S. Presidents, having two of them chosen as official White House portraits.

Offhand I can't think of anyone else who reached those heights after a background in comics.

Kinstler wasn't ashamed of his comic book work, either. He signed it when he did it; he mentions the comics work in his autobiographical materials. Kinstler was very influenced by James Montgomery Flagg, who is most famous nowadays for his iconic World War I poster image of Uncle Sam, pointing and saying, "I Want You!" In his pen and ink work Flagg was known for his flourishes with a flexible pen point, but that was the style of the day. By the time Kinstler used the Flagg-style in his comic book work it was passé. That didn't bother Kinstler, though, and it helped to make his work some of the most instantly recognizable of any comic book artist.

"Death On The Earth-Mars Run" strip isn't signed. Not my copy, anyway. I scanned it from a reprint in Skywald Comics' Heap #1, dated September, 1971.

There may be some other changes as well, dictated by the Comics Code, but I don't have the first printing with which to compare. It looks like Kinstler didn't spend a lot of time on it, but it's a fun read, anyway. Some of it is also similar to the work that Alex Raymond was doing on Flash Gordon in the mid-1930s. The whole story has an old-time feel to it; more like something published 20 years earlier. Nothing wrong with that; not when Everett Raymond Kinstler was wielding the pen.