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Mostly Old Stuff. Some New.

Black Cat Mystery #45 "Colorama" preliminary by Warren Kremer, 1953.

Herewith my attempt at something Tim tells me is called “link-blogging”. Look for a lot more of this in the future. Don’t all cheer at once.

My Wally Wood obsession knows no bounds. I might also note that the Wood catalog published in Spain really is worth the money.

Zom, of The Mindless Ones, who have been kind enough to lend us Amy Poodle, takes a look at The Killing Joke, with typically thought-provoking results.

Allan Holtz brings us Old Boy Binks, a deeply obscure 1915-16 strip by the great Ed Wheelan, whose strip Minute Movies is a favorite of mine for its intense compression and flippant drawing. In his 1940s less-than-salad days Wheelan also drew for comic books, and must’ve wondered how the hell he got there, amidst all those amateurs.

 

This link is old for the internet, but I only just saw it: Gill Fox cover roughs and color guides over at Comic Book Attic. Fox, along with Harvey’s Warren Kremer, was a great golden age workhorse, who could produce a package from the inside out. His production is, in some ways, as impressive as his artwork. Also, this is more evidence of what we might call the “Heritage Effect“, because the auction house continues to uncover deeply obscure items — things otherwise left in filing cabinets and certainly not available to gaze at in deep digital detail — everything from Kremer cover roughs to Dave Berg unpublished comic strips. I don’t think it’s rewriting history, but in providing a somewhat random resource of unseen ephemera, it’s deepening it significantly. I have to say I sometimes forget it’s an auction house in the business of selling art, not necessarily archiving it. Oh, and fun fact: Gill Fox drew the classic pizza box art of the 1970s and ’80s.

Today’s content:

R.C. Harvey’s monthly column, Hare Tonic, make its debut with a profile of Dick Locher, whose final Dick Tracy will appear on Sunday. I’m fond of Harv’s take on newspaper strip cartoonists — he gets at the day-in, day-out grind of it, and in this piece manages some great Chester Gould anecdotes, to boot. Vanessa Davis’ final diary entry. Thank you Vanessa: You have set the standard by which all cartoonists must now procrastinate productively. And finally, Matt Seneca reviews City Hunter by C.F. Two in one week from the Seneca. We hope he never grows old and tired like the rest of us.

And this weekend: Watch out for Frank Santoro’s TCJ debut!

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38 Responses to Mostly Old Stuff. Some New.

  1. ChanceFiveash says:

    I must be a major comic nerd but I assumed Ed Wheelan's comic book work was common knowledge amongst us all. I am shamed I suppose. At any rate, I am enjoying the new TCJ online so far.

    • Dan Nadel says:

      Thanks, Chance. You have deep comics knowledge, though. I didn't discover the Wheelan comic books until long after I'd known and loved Minute Movies. Whatever, just knowing how Ed Wheelan IS is nerd cred.

      • ChanceFiveash says:

        Well I hope you didn't take my reply TOO serious beyond a wink, a nudge and a "how do ya do". But Wheelan is a great talent and his comic book work should be rediscovered one day. One can dream.

      • Dan Nadel says:

        Oh no, wink and nudge well appeciated, and man, I couldn't agree more. TCJ ran a selection of his work in one of the later print issues. Seriously, though, you have to wonder what guys like Wheelan and Tom MacNamara thought when, after some measure of fame and respect in the strips, they wound up in a disreputable field surrounded by guys 20 or 30 years younger. Would've been fun to interview them THEN. What an odd transition.

      • vollsticks says:

        That was the first time I saw Wheelan's stuff, TCJ #289–you just encouraged me to go and dig it out to re-read those Minute Movies! Man, that is some glorious cartooning…to use a cliche, "they certainly don't make 'em like that anymore"…..
        Oh and whilst I'm here–I'm absolutely GUTTED at the loss of ComicsComics but I'm really liking how you've overhauled TCJ's on-line presence. Really…I can't see how you can put a foot wrong if you keep doing what you're doing. And I'd totally, utterly appreciate a piece or something on the great Walt Holcombe…c'mon, see what you can do, please?!?!? "Nah, we don't take requests!" But seriously…please?!? I know I'm not the only one who'd love to see Mr. Holcombe get more coverage on the internet…or anywhere, really.
        Okay cheers gentlemen, keep up the great work!

        Ant

      • patford says:

        My first sight of Wheelan was the excellent "The Demon Dummy" which was reprinted in the 1975 DC Treasury comics reprinting of Flash Comics#1.
        The story was obviously inspired by the film "The Great Gabbo" which featured the great Erich von Stroheim.
        Wheelan did considerable work for E.C. but none of it has been reprinted, a shame because it's great looking work. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/7a/Edw

      • vollsticks says:

        That is a gorgeous page–such an arresting image in the splash panel! Now I'm kind of shamed I hadn't heard of Wheelan before the Comics Journal reprinted the Minute Movies strips…I take it he had a long career? I'll check out his Lambiek entry.
        Oh and which is the Captain Easy tabloid-sized reprint you referred to in your later comment? Not the recent Fantagraphics book, is it? I'm looking forward to their Buzz Sawyer book–Crane's beautiful linework and his utter mastery of that double-tone Craftint–"this, to me, is pure poetry". I'll be honest, I'm a bit of a "newbie" to the wonders of Crane…

      • patford says:

        Absolutely the FB Captain Easy book.
        It's big, and beautiful.

      • vollsticks says:

        Ah I didn't realise it was tabloid-sized! It looks like a gorgeously-designed book from the cover I've seen, beautifully simple.

      • ChanceFiveash says:

        Wheelan worked for the All American side of DC which was headed by Gaines. Once Gaines split with National (DC) he took Wheelan with him where he had his own comic book for a short time.

  2. ChanceFiveash says:

    Yeah, I know what you mean. These were guys on top of the world and then sank into the lower depths of *shudder* "comic books". I would have loved to have interviewed Milt Gross as well.

  3. desert_island says:

    Where am I supposed to get that Wood catalog?

  4. Jeet Heer says:

    Did Wheelan, MacNamara, Gross and other big name cartoonists (one could also add George Carlson) feel like they were losers by doing comic books in the 1940s? I'm not so sure. Remember, at that point comic books were taking off and had the excitement of novelity. It would be a like a big name writer — say James Wolcott or Andrew Sullivan — starting to blog in 1999 or 2000 when blogging was relatively new (which in fact Wolcott and Sullivan did do). Certainly someone like Gross was still a big name in the 1940s and wasn't doing comics just for the money — it might have been a chance to get in on the ground floor of a potentially lucractive new market (and Gross like to jump from job to job, as did MacNamara).

    Comics didn't really acquire their low rent ghetto reputation till the comic book scares of the late 1940s and early 1950s.Before then, it might have seemed like a viable career move for an accomplished older artist.

    • Dan Nadel says:

      Good point, Jeet, though if not disreputable, they weren’t as high end as the strips, and those veterans would have found themselves surrounded my amateurs. Just an interesting culture clash, I guess. There were, of course, companies like ACG that churned out entire titles written and drawn by successful animators, and such, so who knows.

      • ChanceFiveash says:

        Hey, any job you can get can look like a good option. I understand what you mean though. My comment was from years of reading interviews with older creators. I'm sure not all of them felt that way. Especially after the first wave was over and the second wave came in the late 40's that grew up reading and wanting to draw comics.

  5. Jeet Heer says:

    Comics were slightly disreputable but not completely so. After all, someone like Barks, who had a nice little animation gig at Disney, was still willing to make the jump into comics at a fairly late stage in life (Barks was what, 43 or 44 when he started doing the Duck stories; certainly not a spring chicken but rather a cartoonis with many years of work behind him).

    Maybe I'm wrong about this … but I don't think comics were completely disreputable in the 1940s. That came a little bit later.

    • patford says:

      Jeet, During those early years the page rates in the comic book industry were very poor.
      Newspaper strip work would have paid far better,
      In fact it was the goal/dream of many comic book cartoonists to leave comics and get their own newspaper strip.
      Funny thing is it was the early 50's when page rates in the comic book industry were at their height.
      After the industry was hurt by the controversy at that time page rates shrank by half or more, and 100's of cartoonists left the field.
      Neal Adams complained to DC management in the 60's that the artists were still being paid the same page rates they had been making back in the early 50's.

      • Jeet Heer says:

        Hi Pat,
        I understand and agree with the point about page rates. But it's still possible that the chance to get in on a new medium might outweigh page rate. That's why I used the blogging analogy: when Sulliven and other already well known writers started blogging they were getting very little if anything, but they were eager for the chance to gain new readers in a new format.
        The cartoonist who I think would have fit the model as the Andrew Sullivan of the 1940s best is Milt Gross. Gross was not a down and outer in the late 1940s: he had a long career behind doing comic strips, syndicated columns, bestselling books, screenplay writing, public speaking (he was much in demand as an m.c.). Soon he was about to dip his toes into television. If he just wanted money, there were many better ways he could have gone than comic books. In his case I think this is clearly someone who wanted to investigate comic books as a form (to do things there that he couldn't in the other arts he dabbled in. But perhaps Gross wasn't alone in this.

      • patford says:

        Jeet, Good point about Gross. His interest in the medium is something of a mystery, since as you say he apparently had other options.
        When looking at comics from the past on the whole I tend to find more value in comic strips than I do comic books. Strips are generally better written, in fact it's very hard to find old comic books which are worth reading.
        This is unfortunate because the comic book medium is a far more flexible medium than the newspaper strip format where artists were there are a whole variety of format restrictions the artists had to deal with.
        We can see the great newspaper strip cartoonists could have easily worked in a comic book format based on multiple full pages with a flexible design by looking at their Sunday pages.
        My current favorite Golden Age comic book is the tabloid sized Captain Easy Vol. 1 where Crane employs a wide variety of inventive layouts, bright unnatural colour, and 30's style adventure in line with the best adventure films of that era.
        Kind of light stuff, but with subtle commentary reflecting what are to me the very appealing populist ideas that were so much a part of popular culture during the early decades of the 20th century.
        Comic books on their own level reflected those ideas as well quite often. I'd like to think the instant smash success of Superman had a lot to do with the very strong political subtext in many of the seminal stories.
        Today it's unimaginable that Time Warner would make a Superman movie where a corrupt mine owner was kidnapped by Superman, and left in the depths of a collapsed mine tunnel.

      • RobClough says:

        I seem to recall hearing an anecdote noting that Siegel & Shuster were so ashamed of mentioning they were doing comic books that they told a neighbor they were bookies instead. I can't remember the source or vouch for the veracity of the story, so I'm curious if any S&S experts could chime in.

      • patford says:

        The "bookie" part of that anecdote sounds like a joke, but there is no doubt that after the well publicized Senate hearings many comic book artists and writers felt ashamed of their connection to the industry.
        The outstanding book 'The Ten-Cent Plague' by David Hajdu deals at length with the topic.
        There are also the well documented mob connections described in the Men of Tomorrow book by Gerard Jones, but I don't think the public was at all aware the Frank Costello was literally Irwin Donenfeld's godfather.

      • Jeet Heer says:

        We really need to distinguish between different time periods. The early pulpy mysteryman comics had a slightly disreputable air to them, just like the pulps themselves. But there were other comic books that were just reprints of comic strips.

        And after Superman took off, the comic strip people were envious and tried to tap into the energy and popularity of the new genre: hence The Spirit insert, and various comic strips devoted to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Spirit and what not. As creators of Superman Siegel and Shuster were celebrities in the early 1940s and not at all ashamed of what they did for a living. And when the first wave of anti-comics hysteria emerged in the late 1940s, the comic strip guys (particularly Al Capp and Harold Gray) showed solidary with the comic book industry (Capp for example debated Wertham on the radio).

      • Jeet Heer says:

        All of this changed in the early to mid 1950s, when the mood against comic books turned really ugly. That's when the comic strip guys (Kelly, Caniff) went to the Senate herings on juvenile delinquency and tried to distinguish between what they did (good wholesome family entertainment) and the lawlessness of the comic book insdustry. All of this is very complicated and perhaps worthy of a seperate essay.

  6. AlexBuchet says:

    2 questions…

    1) Are the International blogs all cancelled? Aw, that would be such a shame. A pity to throw out the baby with the bathwater. (I should know– I was part of the bathwater, as a columnist at the Hooded Utilitarian.))

    2) The comments have reputation buttons. Someone is already abusing them. See my comments on the Fiore 'Illusionist' column. They are totally anodyne, but someone's been overloading them with thumbs down clicks. Is this system really desirable?

    Overall, I love the new version of Tcj.

  7. Benjamin D. Brucke says:

    AlexBuchet wrote: "The comments have reputation buttons. Someone is already abusing them. See my comments on the Fiore 'Illusionist' column. They are totally anodyne, but someone's been overloading them with thumbs down clicks. Is this system really desirable?"

    Participants can't vote more than once for each comment, Alex. So if you received several thumbs down clicks, it's most likely because several people didn't like what you had to say.

    That being said, it appears one doesn't have to be logged in to intensedebate in order to vote — I know because I just logged out and voted thumbs up for patford's comment — so my guess is that each vote is paired with the voter's IP address. If such is the case, anyone who doesn't have a static IP might be able to vote more than once, though not during a single online session. I must admit, however, that I don't know enough about the inner workings of the voting system to say for sure.

  8. AlexBuchet says:

    I think any system that can be gamed so thoroughly by trolls should be scrapped. Dan, review all my (few) comments and decide whether I'm worth such a low score.

    • vollsticks says:

      There is something decidedly off about it, isn't there?!? Minus 50?!!?! For a few innocuous comments?!!? I'd try to not get too steamed about it, probably just some cowardly fools with an imagined "problem", or something…there was enough of that shit on TCJ message board and I think most people who're regular visitors here are pretty sick of it!

      • Benjamin D. Brucke says:

        Alex's posts as of right now break down as follows:

        1 hour ago @ The Comics Journal – Mostly Old Stuff. Some… · 1 reply · 1 points
        5 hours ago @ The Comics Journal – Mostly Old Stuff. Some… · 0 replies · 1 points
        1 day ago @ The Comics Journal – Dick Locher and Dick T… · 0 replies · 1 points
        2 days ago @ The Comics Journal – Goodbye To All That · 0 replies · 0 points
        2 days ago @ The Comics Journal – The Illusionist and Hi… · 0 replies · -6 points
        3 days ago @ The Comics Journal – The Illusionist and Hi… · 0 replies · -6 points
        4 days ago @ The Comics Journal – The Illusionist and Hi… · 1 reply · -5 points

        On the face of it, 3p -17p = -14p, after 7 posts.

        However, here's what IntenseDebate support has to say about how the reputation scores are calculated:

        "Reputation scores are determined by an algorithm that takes into account the number of posts you make, the number of up votes or down votes, and also factors in a time variable. Negative votes will impact your reputation score more heavily. Please note that this means that you will not receive an increase in your score every time you post a comment or receive an up vote. Keep posting and you’ll get there!"

        It might just be coincidence but notice that over 50% of Alex's posts so far have a score of 0 or lower. Personally, I think it's a big part of the explanation of why Alex's score is -50 right now. Also notice that the three posts by Alex that are in positive territory only have the plus one score that one receives automatically when one posts — plus one being the score most people would give themselves if they could vote on their own posts. The number of replies one's posts receive might also be a factor. Notice that only two of Alex's seven posts had received replies at the time of my calculations.

      • Benjamin D. Brucke says:

        For the sake of comparison, my own posts thus far break down like this:

        27 minutes ago @ The Comics Journal – Mostly Old Stuff. Some… · 0 replies · +1 points
        3 hours ago @ The Comics Journal – Mostly Old Stuff. Some… · 0 replies · +4 points

        Again, on the face of it, 1p + 4p = +5p, after two posts. But my actual score right now is 35p.

        See what I mean?

  9. vollsticks says:

    So are you saying it's kind of averaging it out? Forgive my ignorance (please!) but I was totally lost after the word "algorithms". Maths isn't my strong point…..

  10. patrick ford says:

    There is a very good interview with Kremer in Alter-Ego magazine #89.

    Interesting thing about Harvey publications is in the early 50's their horror comics were as lurid, as anything on the stands, arguably more-so than E.C., and it was Kremer who drew many of the most extreme,
    http://www.rtsunlimited.com/images/TombTerror%231
    yet later Kremer produced kids comics like Casper, Richie Rich, and so on.

    Heritage has several of Kremer's full colour cover layouts, and they are a good example of how "roughs" often look better than a finished product.
    http://comics.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No
    Kremer talks fairly extensively about the aviation art he did before getting work in comic books.

    Kremer: "These were all planes of the future. And this is the airport of the future (Kremer was a great archivist of his own work, had saved much of it, and is showing the illustrations to John Benson). This was 1945, it was a diagrammatic kind of thing. This is one of the last jobs, the last wash illustration I ever did. Like I said, the whole bottom dropped out, and I didn't do anymore, but I had done hundreds. I don't know how many planes I drew for this guy…his name was Dave Cook. He put out aviation books."

  11. Caroline_Small says:

    You know, that's an awesomely atomic background on that cover image up there. Do you have a bigger scan?

  12. patford says:

    Anyone can see a gigantic scan of the original art at the Heritage Auction Gallery, but to see the large scan you have to spend a few seconds and register. http://comics.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No
    Kremer created Richie Rich, and Stumbo for the Harvey children's comic books.

    • Caroline_Small says:

      Brilliant; thank you so much, Pat. I googled him and read that he drew for aviation magazines in the '40s; I'd love to see some of that work too.

      • patford says:

        There is a very good interview with Kremer in Alter-Ego magazine #89.
        Interesting thing about Harvey publications is in the early 50's their horror comics were as lurid, as anything on the stands, arguably more-so than E.C., and it was Kremer who drew many of the most extreme, http://www.rtsunlimited.com/images/TombTerror%231
        yet later Kremer produced kids comics like Casper, Richie Rich, and so on.
        Heritage has several of Kremer's full colour cover layouts, and they are a good example of how "roughs" often look better than a finished product. http://comics.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No
        Kremer talks fairly extensively about the aviation art he did before getting work in comic books.
        Kremer: "These were all planes of the future. And this is the airport of the future (Kremer was a great archivist of his own work, had saved much of it, and is showing the illustrations to John Benson). This was 1945, it was a diagrammatic kind of thing. This is one of the last jobs, the last wash illustration I ever did. Like I said, the whole bottom dropped out, and I didn't do anymore, but I had done hundreds. I don't know how many planes I drew for this guy…his name was Dave Cook. He put out aviation books."

      • Caroline_Small says:

        Pat, thanks so much for the lead to the Alter-Ego (and props to the AlterEgo people for making it so easy to buy a digital copy.) So far my Google searching hasn't turned up actual titles of avation books by Dave Cook; next step Library of Congress. I really want to see that airport of the future!

        Kremer's illustration work is actually a little earlier than I'm interested in in general, though; I want to know about artists who did straight illustration or advertising work between 1946-1964, so if you know of any send 'em my way…

  13. patford says:

    Thinking about Ed Wheelen resulted I my finding this exceptional blog post by Ken Quattro http://thecomicsdetective.blogspot.com/2011/02/19

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