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WRITHES AGAIN!

SPOTLIGHT (HEADLIGHT?) ON “GOOD GIRL” ARTIST

Retouched art ©2005 AC Comics.

MATT BAKER

MEANWHILE:

PLUS: PLUS:

ALEX TOTH MICHAEL T. GILBERT BILL SCHELLY ALBERTO BECATTINI JOHN BENSON JIM AMASH et al.!

In the the USA USA In

No. 47 April 2005


Vol. 3, No. 47 / April 2005 Editor

Roy Thomas

SPECIAL ISSUE ON

MATT BAKER

Associate Editors Bill Schelly Jim Amash

Design & Layout

Christopher Day

Contents

Consulting Editor John Morrow

FCA Editor

Writer/Editorial: A Baker’s Dozen . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Baker Of Cheesecake. . . . . . . . 3

P.C. Hamerlinck

Comic Crypt Editor Michael T. Gilbert

Editors Emeritus

Jerry Bails (founder) Ronn Foss, Biljo White, Mike Friedrich

Production Assistant

Eric Nolen-Weathington

Cover Artist Matt Baker

The life and times of Good Good artist supreme Matt Baker—by Alberto Becattini.

Matt Baker & St. John Romance Comics . . . 36 An aesthetic appreciation by John Benson.

“The ‘Matt Baker Woman’ Struck A Responsive Chord” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 The artist’s loving kinfolk talk to Jim Amash about a remarkable Golden Age talent.

Cover Colorist Tom Ziuko

And Special Thanks to: Heidi Amash Lee Ames Matt D. Baker Mike W. Barr Alberto Becattini John Benson Bill Black Mike Britt Shaun Clancy Ray A. Cuthbert Howard Leroy Davis Shane Foley Frank Giella Janet Gilbert Ron Frantz Carl Gafford Jennifer Hamerlinck Mark & Stephanie Heike Jeffrey Kipper Lance Laspina

Mark Lewis Herb Lichtenstein Jean-Marc Lofficier Brian K. Morris Frank Motler Jake Oster Bud Plant Fred Robinson Jerry Robinson Eric Schumacher J. David Spurlock Marc Swayze Dann Thomas Alex Toth Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Hames Ware Tom Wimbish Marv Wolfman Glenn M. Wood

This issue is dedicated to the memories of

Matt Baker, Kelly Freas, & Marcel Navarro

“6 Billions Of Us, As Models” . . . . . . . . . . 57 Alex Toth on the art of drawing human beings in comics.

The Great And Wonderful Work Of Orestes Calpini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58

James Vadeboncoeur, Jr., and Hames Ware toast an animator-turned-comic-book-man.

Comic Crypt: The Quest For Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon #1. . . . . 61 Michael T. Gilbert hosts Ray A. Cuthbert’s essay on vanished/stolen classic art.

Finding The “Inner Bud” – Part I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 Bookseller Bud Plant tells Bill Schelly about his days in 1960s comics fandom.

Tributes To Frank Kelly Freas And Marcel Navarro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 re: [correspondence, comments, & corrections]. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 FCA (Fawcett Collectors Of America) #106. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 P.C. Hamerlinck presents the views (and art) of Marc Swayze and C.C. Beck.

About Our Cover: Since Alter Ego is primarily (if not solely) a magazine about heroic comics and their creators, it was all but inevitable that, in an issue spotlighting the work of the great Matt Baker, our cover would be graced with the image of the “Foxy” Phantom Lady, with whom the artist is forever identified—and not only because Dr. Frederic Wertham reprinted one of her covers in his 1954 screed Seduction of the Innocent. We think we even found a perfect scene—from the “Red Rain” story in 1947’s Phantom Lady #15, celebrated by Albert Becattini on p. 14. But we decided that, since we were reprinting a splash panel, we wanted to add two Baker panels of other characters to make up the cover—and we chose art from “Tiger Girl” and “Sky Girl” stories. Hey, we may not know art, but we know what we like! Special thanks to Bill Black for providing a special scan of the “Phantom Lady” art, from the AC Comics publication that reprinted the story—and to publisher John Morrow for assembling this montage. [Retouched art ©2005 AC Comics.] Above: Another “Phantom Lady” panel by Baker—but maybe you noticed that already! [Retouched art ©2005 AC Comics.] Alter EgoTM is published monthly by TwoMorrows, 10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614, USA. Phone: (919) 449-0344. Roy Thomas, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Alter Ego Editorial Offices: 32 Bluebird Trail, St. Matthews, SC 29135, USA. Fax: (803) 826-6501; e-mail: roydann@ntinet.com. Send subscription funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial offices. Single issues: $8 ($10 Canada, $11.00 elsewhere). Twelve-issue subscriptions: $60 US, $120 Canada, $132 elsewhere. All characters are © their respective companies. All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter © Roy Thomas. Alter Ego is a TM of Roy & Dann Thomas. FCA is a TM of P.C. Hamerlinck. Printed in Canada. FIRST PRINTING.


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Baker Of Cheesecake An Appreciation Of MATT BAKER, Good Girl Artist Supreme by Alberto Becattini A 1940s studio shot of Matt Baker, flanked by the kind of “Good Girl” art that he did better than just about anybody. Photo provided by Fred Robinson and Matt D. Baker, the artist’s half-brother and nephew—see the in-depth interview with them that begins on p. 39. [Photo ©2005 Fred Robinson.] (Left:) Logo and figure from the famous/infamous “headlight”/“bondage” cover of Fox Comics’ Phantom Lady #17 (April 1948). Featured in Dr. Frederic Wertham’s 1954 diatribe Seduction of the Innocent, this has become probably the mostoften-reproduced image by Baker. Most visuals in this article were provided by the author. [©2005 the respective copyright holders.]

A

(Below:) Ginger Maguire, a.k.a. Sky Girl, in what author Alberto Becattini calls her postwar “canteen-waitress” phase, in a splash page from Jumbo Comics #111 (May 1948). [©2005 the respective copyright holders.]

UTHOR’S NOTE: I had been wanting to write an article about Matt Baker for quite a while, and I was enthused when Roy Thomas suggested that I write it for Alter Ego. My aim, in compiling what has ended up looking more like an essay than an article, was to put some order in what had been hitherto written about Baker, scattered here and there, often incorrectly, as well as making my own points about his works. The result is a sort of cavalcade through three decades, during which I have deliberately taken the liberty of writing about people and facts connected to Baker that I thought deserved some attention, too. Whereas I’ve triple-checked each and every piece of information, errors and omissions are still possible, so I expect feedback from whoever can provide further data. For helping me build up the present essay I must primarily thank Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. for his enlightening insights, and Jim Amash for his invaluable tips. I am also grateful to all those who provided information, either directly or indirectly—Lee Ames, Jerry Bails, John Benson, the Baker family, Bill Black, Shaun Clancy, Bill Devine, Jay Disbrow, Steve Duin, Michael Feldman, Al Feldstein, Jeff Gelb, Stephen H. Gentner, Bob Lubbers, Michelle Nolan, Mike Richardson, Antonio Vianovi, Hames Ware, and Steve Whitaker, as well as the late Jerry Iger, Les Zakarin, and Ray Osrin, and—of course— Roy Thomas, for making it happen! —Alberto.

Beginnings North Carolina, 1922. It was there and then that one of the most talented artists that ever graced the comics field was born, an African-American kid called Clarence Matthew Baker, who would soon move with his family to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he did most of his growing up. Though nature had bestowed an outstanding talent on Matt, the rheumatic fever he suffered from as a child left him with a weak heart. One can imagine that Baker’s precarious heart condition, preventing him from doing sports or other physical activities, in a way favored his “addiction” to the drawing board, i.e., his career as a comic artist and illustrator. On the other hand, it was that very condition that would eventually (much too soon, in fact) steal him from


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An Appreciation Of Matt Baker, Good Girl Artist Supreme

Webb, Blum, and Baker (Top left:) Some of Baker’s earliest work was done assisting artists Robert Hayward Webb and/or Alex Blum on Fiction House’s “Sheena,” circa 1944. This splash from an issue of Jumbo Comics, probably from a year or more later, shows off Webb’s art on the most celebrated of all jungle queens. It’s even possible Baker may have drawn this Sheena figure—or the lady in the next art spot. Reprinted from Good Girl Art Quarterly (Spring 1991)—a black-&-white comic still available (as are most of its great reprint mags) from Bill Black’s AC Comics; see ad on p. 34. [Retouched art ©2005 AC Comics; Sheena TM & ©2005 Paul Aratow/Columbia Pictures.] (Top right:) “Shark Brodie” splash by Alex Blum from Fiction House’s Fight Comics #31 (April 1944)—repro’d from a photocopy of the original art, courtesy of George Hagenauer. [©2005 the respective copyright holders.] (Left:) This 1945 “Sky Girl” page—an early example of Baker’s World War IIera work—is from AC Comics’ slightly-renamed Sky Gal #1 (1993). [Retouched art ©2005 AC Comics.]


Baker Of Cheesecake his family and friends, as well as from all those who admired his craftsmanship and who had the privilege to publish his artwork.

To New York City After finishing grade school, Baker left Pittsburgh to attend art courses at the Cooper Union in New York City. Reportedly, his favorite artists included such great magazine illustrators as Andrew Loomis as well as such prominent comic book artists as Will Eisner, Reed Crandall, and Lou Fine. Although he never managed to work together with the latter ones, Baker started his comics career at the studio run by the man who had been Eisner’s partner, as well as Crandall’s and Fine’s coemployer, up until early 1940—Samuel Maxwell (“Jerry”) Iger (19031990). As Iger himself recalled, “[Baker] came to my studio in the early ’40s; handsome and nattily dressed, ‘looking for a job,’ as he put it. His only sample was a color sketch of (naturally) a beautiful gal! On the strength of that, and a nod from my associate editor Ruth Roche, he was hired as a background artist. […] When given his first script, he showed originality and faithfully executed its story line. His drawing was superb. His women were gorgeous!”

The evolution of Baker’s style, from his early “Blum-ish” phase to a more personal post-war approach, somewhat paralleled the evolution of “Sky Girl.” The splash-page caption to the “Sky Girl” story in Jumbo #87 (May 1946) read: “They mustered Ginger Maguire out of uniform, but they couldn’t muster her away from flying… Yet the nearest she can get to flying now is an airfield cafeteria, serving mustard to the better class of pilots!” With Ginger demoted and working as a waitress, the strip now decidedly veered towards comedy. Ever wishing she could go back to her previous pilot status, Ginger did manage to fly again, yet she was more often seen hanging from planes’ wings rather than holding the control stick, in a whole series of predicaments whose ill-concealed purpose was to allow Baker to highlight the girl’s long legs, regularly uncovered by pitiless turbulence, to the delight of male readers. Ginger’s legs were the real plus in these stories. Baker drew them from every conceivable angle, in positions that were often ungainly. Deliberately so. In fact, Baker was the first comic artist who had the

Although in The Iger Comics Kingdom (1985) Jay Disbrow writes that Baker joined the Iger studio “early in 1946,” it is evident that he was already working on staff at the office located at 250 West Broadway by March or April 1944. In fact, Baker’s earliest documented art appeared in Jumbo Comics #69 (Nov. 1944), published by Thurman T. Scott’s Fiction House, which was Iger’s best client from 1938-53.

The Early Iger Years Like other “comic shops” of the time, the Iger Studio provided story and artwork to different comic book titles issued by various publishers, including Crown, Fiction House, Fox, Green, and Gilberton, to name a few. As in other comic shops, art chores on the same story were often shared between different artists, and at the start Baker apparently penciled backgrounds and female characters for other studio staffers. Thus, his earliest efforts are often hidden within somebody else’s artwork—mainly Alex Blum’s and Robert Hayward (Bob) Webb’s—mostly in the “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle” stories published by Fiction House in Jumbo Comics during 1944. Blum—a former painter/muralist old enough to have been Baker’s father, having been born in 1889—was kind-of the dean at the Iger Studio. Acting as an art director during the early 1940s, Blum was an early inspiration for Baker, who also occasionally teamed with him on “Wambi the Jungle Boy,” which appeared in Jungle Comics. In fact, Baker’s apprenticeship did not last long. By mid-1944 he was able to stand on his own feet and had become the resident artist on “Sky Girl,” a regular feature in Fiction House’s Jumbo Comics. Script-wise, “Sky Girl” was attributed to “Bill Gibson,” one of the many by-lines used at the Iger Studio, behind which hid different writers, including Iger himself. The titular character, whose real name was Ginger Maguire, was a curvaceous, red-haired Irish girl (reportedly based on actress Ann Sheridan) whose early, semi-serious adventures took place mostly in the Pacific theater, where she acted as a ferry pilot, often helping out Air Force aviators on missions against the Japanese.

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You’ll see plenty of photos of Matt Baker, his friends, and his family later this issue— but here’s a primo example of his early “Sky Girl” art, from a 1945 issue of Jumbo Comics. [©2005 the respective copyright holders.]


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An Appreciation Of Matt Baker, Good Girl Artist Supreme

(Above:) Baker’s Ginger Maguire (twice) in a prototypical situation: about to fall from an airplane, her clothes in dishabille. The splash at right is from Jumbo Comics #104 (Oct. 1947). Both these art spots, as restored by Bill Black & associates, saw print in Good Girl Art Quarterly (Summer 1991). [Retouched art ©2005 AC Comics.]

(Left:) Eisner & Iger/Fiction House/Fox collector George Hagenauer informs us that this art is a “Feldstein/Baker Vooda” page—which we take to mean Baker pencils and Feldstein inks on this page from the Iger Studios. George, who owns the original art, says the club in Vooda’s hand was originally a knife—doubtless a Comics Code-required change. At the turn of 1955 Four Star/Farrell/Ajax turned its horror comic Voodoo into Vooda (Jungle Princess) for its three remaining, Code-approved issues. [Retouched art ©2005 AC Comics.]


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Matt Baker & St. John Romance Comics An Aesthetic Appreciation by John Benson (Captions by the Author, Except Where Otherwise Noted)

M

att Baker illustrated over 175 stories (over 35% of the stories) for the St. John romance comics. St. John reprinted these stories heavily, some of them as many as three times. Nine are over 10 pages long, including five 16-page stories and one 17page story. Baker’s contribution over the six years of these titles was very uneven due to the boom-and-bust nature of 1950s comics publishing.

From January to June of 1949 (all dates given are cover dates) Baker did only five stories. In the headlong plunge from July to November 1949, when 15 issues were published, Baker did a whopping 28 stories, about 5H stories a month! In the long dry spell from December 1949 through June 1951, St. John averaged less than one issue a month, and Baker slightly more than one story a month. In the second boom period from June 1951 to July 1953, when St. John was averaging nearly five

Roy T. here. Alberto Becattini calls this cover from Cinderella Love #25 (Dec. 1953) “the best romance cover Baker ever did.” It was reproduced in Romance without Tears, John Benson’s recent book on the St. John love titles. Thanks to John for the scan. [©2005 the respective copyright holders.]

issues a month, Baker averaged four stories a month. Then, in August 1953, production dropped back to about 2.3 issues a month, with an average of one new Baker story in each issue. In July 1954 St. John switched entirely to reprints. Until Baker began doing romance comics, his successes in comics were largely in drawing enticing pictures that were attached to primitive narratives. The pictures had only to be dynamic and eye-catching, and to

From Pictorial Confessions #1 (Sept. 1949): Paula is Tom’s younger sister, yet she “bosses him around.” In the previous panel, she’s made Tom duck outside. This panel is the first time the reader really sees her, and her character is strongly emphasized. Casually leaning against the doorjamb, yet confrontational, with her hips thrust forward and her arms blocking the way, she’s obviously used to having her way. She has a butch-style haircut (very unusual in 1950s romance comics), but she’s still sexy. The rain barrel and the old-style hinge indicate the setting as a square dance in a barn. [©2005 the respective copyright holders.]

From Teen-Age Romances #6 (Oct. 1949): The heroine of this tale can’t seem to land a steady, even though she’s attractive. Her older sister, seen here, has a long-time steady “who is very sweet to her.” Baker portrays the sister as a bit plump throughout the story, with a suggestion of extra flesh on the jaw-line and slightly wider hips and waist than his usual heroines have. Her weight isn’t a factor in the story and is not mentioned. Perhaps the writer suggested it in his script, but just as likely Baker himself used this to add individuality to her character and to emphasize that she has a life of her own. (Incidentally, the heroine’s best friend at the office wears glasses.) Other romance comics occasionally highlighted the romantic problems of overweight girls, but this isn’t the only young woman in a Bakerdrawn St. John story who’s well adjusted and overweight but whose weight is not remarked on in the text. [©2005 the respective copyright holders.]


“The ‘Matt Baker Woman’ Struck A Responsive Chord”

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MATT BAKER’s Loving Kinfolk Talk About A Truly Remarkable Golden Age Artist— And Their Talented Family! Interview Conducted by Jim Amash

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he Matt Baker story has always been a short and sweet one, but that was due to the lack of biographical information and not because of the material that he created. Matt Baker was a prodigious worker who was almost always at the top of his game, and while his countless admirers (pros and fans alike) may have been frustrated at the lack of insight into his life, they have rarely been disappointed by the quality of his work. Matt Baker is one of the most historically important comic book artists ever—not just because he was one of the earliest AfricanAmericans to break through into the comic book industry, though that was a significant achievement, considering the times in which he worked. Baker is just as important because of his drawing style. He didn’t just illustrate a story—he kept the action moving at a brisk pace with varying camera angles, compelling compositions, and expressive body positioning. And he drew the sexiest women in comics! “The Matt Baker Girl,” once seen, is not easily forgotten, as evidenced by the many reprintings of his Phantom Lady covers, among other examples—and not just by Dr. Frederic Wertham. But I’m leaving the comic book analysis of Baker’s work to Alberto

Transcribed by Tom Wimbish

Matt Baker at his drawing board, probably at his apartment on 45th Street in the mid-1950s—and a previously-unpublished sketch from that same era of his Fiction House heroine Ginger Maguire, “Sky Girl.” Illo provided by Fred Robinson and Matt D. Baker. The original art is the property of Matthew D. Baker and cannot be reproduced in any form. [Art ©2005 Estate of Matt Baker.]

Beccatini and John Benson, whose comments you can read elsewhere in this issue. Right now, it is my personal pleasure and singular honor to present an interview with Matt Baker’s half-brother Fred Robinson, and Matt’s nephew Matt D. Baker. Between the two of them, we get a good look into not just Matt Baker, but the Baker/Robinson family itself. Strong, proud, and successful people, raised by their remarkable mother Ethel, the family history of the Baker/Robinson sons makes a compelling story. One that you now get to read—accompanied by numerous photos (all of which they provided) and illustrations. All photos accompanying this article are ©2005 Fred Robinson and/or Matthew D. Baker. —Jim.

“Everyone Back Then Was Below Middle-Class” JIM AMASH: Matt, since you have your grandmother’s family Bible with you, let’s start out with some information about your family. MATT D. BAKER: My Uncle Matt Baker, whose full name was Clarence Matthew Baker, was born on December 10, 1921, in Forsyth County, North Carolina, and died on August 11, 1959, in New York City. My Uncle John Franklin Baker [Matt’s older brother] was born in Forsyth County on November 16, 1919, and died in 1980. My dad, Charles Robert Baker [Matt’s younger brother], was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on April 29, 1924, and died on April 17, 2003.

Interviewees Matt D. Baker (on left) and Fred Robinson.

Their mother, Ethel, was born in Kernersville, NC, on March 15, 1896; she passed away on February 14, 1968. Their father was Clarence Matthew Baker. He went by the name “Clarence,” and was born in Abbott’s Creek, NC, on December 5, 1895. He died on December 15, 1925.


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Matt Baker’s Loving Kinfolk The fabulous Baker brothers, late 1920s (left to right: John, Robert, and Matt)— plus photos of their parents, Clarence and Ethel Baker. Clarence Baker died in 1925. Matt D. says of his Aunt Ethel, seen at right in the early 1950s: “She was always standing on the front porch looking for one of her kids—typical pose of hers.”

FRED ROBINSON: Matt Baker and I had the same mother; her maiden name was Ethel Viola Lash. I don’t know what year she married Matt’s father Clarence, who was also known as “Mac.” After Clarence died, I believe she married my father in 1930. I was born June 23, 1938, and I was really a big surprise, needless to say. My full name is Fredrick Leander Robinson. My father, Matthew Porterfield Robinson, was born in Newberry, South Carolina. When I was a child, he worked in a steel mill in Pittsburgh. He died in 1948. I was the only child that my parents had together. My father already had a family from a previous marriage when I was born, and they were all much older. There were six boys and one girl that were all living at the time. There was also an older sister to Matt and the brothers, but she died very early, maybe before Matt was born. BAKER: That’s right. The sister was named Ethel Viola, and she was born in 1918, and died in 1922. ROBINSON: We lived in Pittsburgh, and grew up in the Homewood-Brushton area in the eastern part of the city. The reason we call it that is because those were two main streets— Homewood Avenue and Brushton Avenue—and we lived in between them. They were several blocks apart, but people referred to the area as Homewood-Brushton.

Matt Baker (seen here in a self-portrait he drew in 1944, around the time he entered the comics industry) was kept out of World War II by his heart condition. But he kept up morale on the home front with the early “Sky Girl” in Fiction House’s Jumbo Comics, which was less a “cheesecake” effort during the war years. Still, his prowess at drawing the female form was advancing apace—and no doubt both editors and readers were noticing. The original art is the property of Matthew D. Baker and cannot be reproduced in any form. [Retouched art ©2005 AC Comics.]

JA: Matt was named after his father, Clarence, but he never went by his first name, did he? ROBINSON: He never used the name Clarence; he always used the initial, “C.”

JA: I understand that Matt had rheumatic fever as a child. ROBINSON: Yes, he did. As far as I know, that caused the heart problems he had throughout his life. JA: Fred, what do you remember about Matt, John, and Robert from your childhood? ROBINSON: Robert and his future wife Cynthia were, for all intents and purposes, together from their youth. You couldn’t call it dating; they were only teenagers. I don’t think they were even in high school yet, but they called themselves boyfriend and girlfriend. Cynthia lived maybe two houses down from my family. The story goes that when I was born, I kept Cynthia from getting a very bad spanking. She was late


“The ‘Matt Baker Woman’ Struck A Responsive Chord”

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coming home from school, and her mother was just getting ready to really light into her for it when she told her mother that she’d better get up to the house because Mrs. Robinson was having her baby. She was lying about that—she had no way of knowing—but it just so happened that it was true. I’ve always said that I spared her a beating because I arrived on time. The boys were young when Mac died, and my mother virtually raised them herself. I don’t know when she met my father, but they knew each other for a while before they married. I have no idea how they met. She supported the boys by working as a seamstress. She made and altered clothes, and she was very good at it. She had a little grocery store in Pittsburgh at one time, too, and I think she might have still had it when she met my father. I don’t think she worked for anybody else until after my father died. When I was a teenager, she took a job for a while in a laundry that cleaned and altered uniforms. JA: Did anyone help her to raise the children? ROBINSON: Yes. I had a Great-Aunt Mamie. She helped my mother with me until I was six, which was when she died. There were a few other relatives that helped out, but basically, my mother was pretty much self-supporting. She was a very resourceful, strong woman. A true matriarch. JA: What was the economic status of your family at the time you were born? ROBINSON: It seemed like everybody back then was below middleclass. Even though my father was working at the steel mill when I was born, my mother was still taking in sewing. We were like any other family: my father worked, and my mother worked inside the home. It was the same for everybody else in the neighborhood. We never had a car; matter of fact, I don’t even know if my father ever learned to drive. There was no money for a car. The only time there was a car in the family, Robert brought it in. He was the first in the family to learn how to drive, because that was his interest; he was a mechanic. Matt learned to drive later in life, but John didn’t. JA: How many people were living in the house back then? ROBINSON: By the time I came along, it was my mother, my father, my sister Anna, and myself, plus Matt, John, and Robert, who were still teenagers. I think Robert quit school and joined the Army when he was 16 or 17. I don’t know if Matt had moved to Washington, DC, at that time or not. I’m pretty sure that the three brothers left Pittsburgh shortly after they got out of high school.

“[Matt] And John Were More Or Less Born With Pencils In Their Hands” JA: That would have been around 1940. Why did Matt move to Washington, DC?

The Baker brothers at Coney Island, 1940s. That’s John in the buggy, and Matt on the horse. Both were talented artists.

given it any thought. JA: What else can you tell me about him? ROBINSON: He was close to the rest of the family, but he was kind of a wild man. BAKER: My father was the renegade. He was the type of person who didn’t take any guff from anyone. He would often get into trouble because he would just go on and do whatever he wanted to do. My grandmother was constantly on him, always reining him in. My father was the sort of person that, if you said something to him that he didn’t like, he would tell you to go to hell and quit the job. He did that for quite a few years until we moved out to California, and then he started to settle down, and actually... I don’t want to say he’d accept whatever was going on, but he wouldn’t fly off the handle as fast as before. Over the years, I saw him mellow out quite a bit, and one of the things I was quite proud of was that he came to look at a job as something that he needed to hold onto for retirement, and he made sure that there was a retirement for him. He was never a person to not have a job; he’d have ten jobs in ten weeks if that’s what it took. I always thought I was one of the richest kids in the neighborhood because I’d have 15 or 16 cap pistols, but he was working in a junkyard where he’d find pieces of guns, and he’d bring them home and put them together. He was always a provider, but he wasn’t a person who would swallow his pride and walk away. If you were looking for a fight, you would find one with my father, but he was a very kind and gentle person to the people he loved. ROBINSON: He was very giving to those he liked or loved.

ROBINSON: There were a lot of government jobs down there then. Of course, Matt was draft-exempt because of his heart condition. John was also classified 4-F, because he had a busted eardrum. Robert was the only one healthy enough to join the Army, but he didn’t wait to be drafted; he volunteered. He served until the war was over, for five years. It wasn’t like today, when you can serve a couple of years and then leave while a conflict is still going on. Matt and John and Aunt Elva (John’s wife-to-be) were all down there at the same time. Washington was a big party town, and they were young.

ROBINSON: Yes, he was, almost to a fault of the person he was giving it to. He and Robert had that relationship going for a long time, until Matt told Robert “no” when he wanted something. That caused a rift between them for a while, but eventually Robert realized that it was the best thing Matt could have done for him, so he wrote Matt a long letter thanking him for saying “no” at that particular time.

JA: Was Robert in the service by the time Pearl Harbor happened?

JA: Do you know anything about what inspired Matt to draw?

ROBINSON: I would think he joined up afterward, but I’ve never

ROBINSON: I think it’s just that he did it all his life. Both he and John were more or less born with pencils in their hands. They always drew,

JA: Matt seems to have been that way, too.


“6 Billions Of Us, As Models” W

ALEX TOTH On The Art Of Drawing Human Beings In Comics

[Art ©2005 Alex Toth.]

e’ll let the legendary artist’s few words and many pictures speak for themselves this issue. All art on this page ©2005 Alex Toth. —Roy.

Visit the official Alex Toth Website at: www.tothfans.com.

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“The Great Unknowns” Part IV

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The Great And Wonderful Work Of ORESTES CALPINI When An Animator Played King Of The Hill (Hillman Publications, That Is!) by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr., and Hames Ware

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OTE: Jim and Hames’ “Great Unknowns” series, which first introduced Orestes Calpini’s distinctive signature. most of us, at least by name, to Ernie Schroeder and Mike Suchorsky and Our previous several talented Italian artists, has been too long missing from these columns covered pages, due to our over-crowded docket. We’re glad to feature them lesser-known again, at last, and hope to present more of their articles in the very comic book near future. All art reproduced with this feature ©2005 the respective artists who never copyright holders and sent by Jim V. —Roy. signed any of their comic book work. This time we feature an artist who did sign some of his wonderfully whimsical features at Hillman Publishing Company in Punch & Judy... Calpini’s cover for Punch and Judy #10 (May 1946). but only with part of both his names, and only for the first five issues! At first glance the signature reads more like abbreviations for two western US states: “Ore Cal.” But, if one was cross-referencing other cartoon media as I had been, specifically animated cartoon credits, then those two abbreviations clearly stood for a great animator at Fleischer Animation Studios... Orestes Calpini. He was the director, along with Dave Fleischer, on their classic 1939 movie masterpiece Gulliver’s Travels and provided animation and stories for many other Fleischer cartoons of the 1940s. He was there at the very beginning of Hillman’s main comic title aimed at children. (Their only other titles at the time were Air Fighters and Clue Comics.) He drew and signed the “Starry Eyes” feature in Punch and Judy #1, 1944, through #5, Dec. 1945. With issue #5, he added the “Fatsy McPig” strip to his workload, but didn’t sign it. He continued on with both features for two more years, but never again signed his name to either one.

The splash of the “Starry Eyes” feature in Punch and Judy #1 (1944). The title ran through 1951.

The artwork was elegant, fluid and often surreal. He championed (or pioneered) the use of full-page panels that startled the reader and often made extensive use of shadow, especially in “Fatsy McPig.” He may have written his strips as well, since he was often credited at Fleischer as having contributed to scripts and stories. His comic stories were consistent: “Fatsy McPig” had a personality that constantly resulted in conflict and “Starry Eyes” had gentle adventures usually involving the


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Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt

The Quest for Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon # 1 by Raymond A. Cuthbert [Article © 2005 Raymond A. Cuthbert] From before the time I could read, I loved Flash Gordon, Alex Raymond’s most wonderful strip. For decades I have felt that Al Williamson was the greatest of all the successors to Raymond’s creative tenure. Al’s claim to fame in that area occurred in 1966-1967, when he drew three comic books, four covers, and one record album cover featuring Flash. I have long considered Williamson’s Flash Gordon’s as the best-dressed series of comic books of all time.

(Above:) Panels from pp. 14 & 22 of the first King Features Flash Gordon comic book. Al Williamson used his longtime pal Gray Morrow as the model for Dr. Davro, a character invented by Williamson and writer Larry Ivie. In one panel we see the essence of Flash Gordon, with the romantic clinch between Flash and his lifetime love, Dale Arden. Repro’d from photocopies of the original art. [©2005 King Features Syndicate.]

back. And they said they’d have to get back to King Features on that, but they went along with the price, although they were hedging on the originals. I insisted that, if I don’t get the originals back, I don’t do it. Forget it. I wouldn’t touch it until I had it in black and white that I’d have the originals returned to me. I’d already had one book ripped off from me, and I wasn’t going to let it happen again. So I stood my ground, and they sent me a letter stating that the originals would be returned, and if any are lost they’d be insured for such and such a value, which I’d receive.”

In 1983 I ordered from Tony Raiola a softcover book done in large size, which had been printed by “Club Anni Trenta” of Genova, Italy. It was a marvelous product that reproduced in full color and at full size the first story (with the exception of the splash page) contained in the King Flash Gordon #1. On the back cover was a strange announcement in both Italian and English: “Important: This book is not a book for collectors. Not only that at least. This is a catalogue of original art on sale. We keep every page here printed, on sale. Please write which page you are interested in!*” The asterisk pointed to a Francesco Pozzo, and gave his address. I was tempted, but skeptical, since I knew that if I sent money overseas there would be no way of ever recouping it if the guy was not legitimate. That’s how things stayed.

VAN HISE: What book was stolen from you? WILLIAMSON: All of my originals from Flash Gordon #1 were stolen out of King Features offices years ago, and I still want them back! I’ve never heard about them being offered for sale, but whoever has them is in possession of stolen property and they belong to me. So if anybody knows where they are, I’d appreciate any help in getting them returned.” (Van Hise, p. 37; used by permission. Learn about Hise’s revised RB/CC at jimvanhise@aol.com) Al W. inscribed this panel of original art from p. 22 of Flash Gordon #1 to Ray at a 1996 convention. [©2005 King Features Syndicate.]

In June 1981, a fanzine called Third Rail was put out, edited by Ken Feduniewicz and Tom Yeates. I never saw the fanzine until after I’d seen the large Italian art catalogue. It had an interview with Al Williamson that contained this piece of unfortunate news:

WILLIAMSON: “My first Flash Gordon book was ripped off at King Features.… I busted my hump on that damn thing and it was ripped off. Some sonofabitch has got it somewhere, if they haven’t burned it or something.… I only got paid $35 a page to do that stuff! I didn’t do it for the money! And that’s what a businessman can’t understand. He thinks you’re stupid for doing it for the sake of doing it. They don’t understand the mind of an artist!” In 1983, James Van Hise’s The Art of Al Williamson was published. Inside, Williamson told Van Hise: “King Features and Western called me to do the Flash Gordon movie adaptation. I said, yeah, I’ll do it for so much and I want my originals

In July 1990, I was unable to attend the Chicago ComiCon. My friend Kim Takeuchi was going, so I gave him a very selective want list for artwork: Alex Raymond, Al Williamson, and Dave Stevens, I believe was the sum total, although I also might have mentioned Virgil Finlay. I told Kim that if he saw anything he thought I’d like, to give me a call collect and tell me what it was. Kim did call. There was a piece that Kim said I might be interested in. Kim started describing a Williamson Flash Gordon page in rather vague terms, and I started filling in the blanks. Yes, it had Flash being awarded some kind of medal by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yes, the top left panel had Flash and Dale waving to a crowd from a balcony. I said to Kim, “Uh-oh, that’s one of the stolen pages from Flash #1.” I was in a dilemma. It was also one of my favorite pages in the whole book! Kim said that he thought he saw Williamson’s signature on the page. I asked him to check that out definitely. He called me back a few minutes later and told me that the page was inscribed “Al Williamson after Alex Raymond.” That made me think that there was a possibility that the page was a legitimate piece for sale. The pages had not been signed when they appeared in the comic, so it seemed that Williamson


Title Comic Fandom Archive

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Finding The “Inner Bud” ––Part 1–– Getting To Know The Owner Of Bud Plant Comic Art! by Bill Schelly [Interview conducted by telephone on June 26, 2004. Transcribed by Brian K. Morris; edited by Jeffrey Kipper.]

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Introduction

s most of Bud Plant’s catalogues say in the front, “Yes, there really is a person named Bud Plant.” I guess some people think his name is “too cute” to be real. He had to have been ribbed about it a lot during the pot-smoking 1960s and 1970s, but the fact of the matter is that Bud Plant is really his name. Really. But who exactly is Bud Plant?

For most comics fans, his name is a household word owing to his mail-order bookselling business which has been going strong for forty-plus years. We know him as a businessman with an impeccable reputation, and when we do meet him in person, it’s usually at a booth at this comicon or that. Again, it’s Bud the Salesman we see. I’m a long-time customer and think it’s wonderful that such a nice guy is so successful with his life’s work, which has turned out to be disseminating books full of the wonders of comics, illustration, and related subjects. I am a book lover, so that puts Bud high on my list of favorite people. Still—I wondered…. What about the “inner Bud”? He obviously loves comics, and illustration, and pop culture in most of its many varied permutations, but… what does he collect? What comics did he love most as a boy? How much and in what way did he participate in the early days of comics fandom? Who are his favorite artists? How did he end up finding his life’s work? You get the picture. I wanted to get a picture of the comics world according to Bud. And, happily, he was receptive to my request for an interview, if a bit non-plussed. His public mode comes second nature; his private one is something he isn’t used to talking about. Not to worry, I found him an enthusiastic conversationalist and before long we were sailing along on uncharted—but relatively serene—waters. Did we find the “inner Bud Plant”? You decide! BILL SCHELLY: I would mainly like to talk to you as a comic book collector and fan, rather than as an entrepreneur. BUD PLANT: It’s kind-of hard to separate the two. BILL: Most people probably don’t know who you are as a collector. They know who you are as a book merchant. Can you tell me the early comics that you saw that you could remember? BUD: I think the earliest ones would be Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. My folks had a subscription to it, I believe, in and around ’59, ’60, ’61, which would put me about 7, 8, 9 years old. And my earliest

(Top left & above:) Bud Plant, yesteryear and yesterday—at about age 15, shortly after discovering comic fandom—and in 2004, as the head of Bud Plant Comic Art—flanking the cover of his 1982 catalog, drawn by George Metzger. [Art ©2005 the respective copyright holders.]

memories of that are fighting over the subscription copies with my sisters. I have two older sisters. One’s four years older and one is six years older. I was born in 1952. BILL: What is your family background? BUD: My mom is from the east coast and my dad’s from Oakland, California. My parents actually met overseas during World War II. My mom was a nurse in the Nurse Corps. They were sending the wounded down to North Africa and she was caring for them. My dad was in the Signal Corps. Later he was in Motor Maintenance—he’s basically a maintenance guy. They met at a troop ship going to North Africa before the invasion of Europe. U.S. forces were in North Africa, then went into Italy after it fell. After that, they went northwest into France and Belgium. Dad was behind the lines. My parents got married in Cairo, Egypt. I have a lot of feeling about the whole World War II thing. I can see a movie like Saving Private Ryan and it really sort of chokes me up, because I just have this real great respect for people that went over there and put their lives on the line. It’s pretty amazing. So maybe some of that is just because my parents both were over there. BILL: World War II, in 1960, had ended just fifteen years earlier. And Combat was on TV, and there were lots of war comics being produced. We were really hyper-aware of the war. BUD: The post-war period was significant cultural change for everybody in the US. My folks came home to California and built a house in East San Jose, right up against the foothills of San Jose, and that’s where I grew up until I was about 19.


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Comic Fandom Archive you hear about comic fandom? BUD: Starting in 1965 (when I was thirteen or fourteen years old) I went to the Twice Read Book Store in downtown San Jose. It was closest place to home that had used comics. They would sell comics for a nickel and even sold coverless ones. Sometimes they had old Atlas comics from the mid-’50s. One time I was there and some guy walked in and asked the clerk, “Can I look at your dollar comics?” The clerk pulled out a little stack of comics from behind the counter. I’d never heard of a “dollar comic”. That was a big thing for me. So after the guy was done with the stack, I said, “Can I look at your dollar comics?”

Three early favorites of the Plant family—at least when published in book form: a Chic Young Blondie daily from 1947, a Crockett Johnson Barnaby from ’46, and Charles Schultz’s Peanuts from 1950. [©2005 King Features Syndicate, the respective copyright holders, & United Features Syndicate, Inc.]

That was the introduction to the old comics for me, because I was collecting all the Marvels. I knew a little bit about older comics from that Feiffer article. I went through that stack of comics at Twice Read Books. In it was Thrills of Tomorrow #19, a reprint of Simon and Kirby’s “Stuntman.” That was my dollar comic. [laughs] I spent a dollar and walked outside the store.

My dad was working as a maintenance man at a fairly big company that was manufacturing vacuum tubes and big high-voltage vacuum switches. It started out with somebody who had a good idea and a few employees. By the time I was aware of it, it had become a fairly big company with about 400 people or so. My mom came home as a nurse. But once she started having kids, she stopped working. When I was about twelve she went back to work as a nurse again. BILL: Your parents approved of your interest in comic books? BUD: My dad has always sort of enjoyed cartoons and comics, although I couldn’t say he was a hardcore comic fan. He seemed to have some memories of Superman and Batman and stuff, but nothing really nostalgic for him. I remember we used to have a book that was a collection of 25 years of Blondie—one of the early cartoon reprint collections. We also had a reprint collection of Barnaby by Crockett Johnson and the early Peanuts books.

This guy who had first been looking at the stack was out there and asked me, “Hey, are you into comic books?” And I said, “Well, yeah, I sort-of am.” He said, “Hey, well, I’ve got a bunch of friends, we’re into comics,” etc. That was the instant that I connected up with fandom. The guy was Jim Leal. He dropped out of the group, but he was friends with John Barrett, who became my partner in Comics and Comix. BILL: And so right there, there’s a quick connection to someone who became quite important in your life. BUD: Yes. He had several friends interested in comics, but unfortunately, they all lived in west San Jose. This was a significant distance from my home. My mom usually had to take me over there, since I was too young to go that far by myself. Jim Leal, was also connected with Jim Buser (Buser was involved with comics and comix later on)— another guy, Tom Tallmon, who was in and out of fandom for a while— and Michelle Nolan. There was this whole little group, which I hadn’t known about it until then. They were publishing a fanzine since just before I met them. It was called Eccentric. John was doing a ditto or mimeo fanzine. He’d gotten one of these cheapo, ditto-master things. Jim Buser was doing artwork for it, imitations of the Justice League and stuff like that.

BILL: Where did you get your comic books when you were a boy? BUD: At a drugstore. There were two or three places within a couple miles of my house—two drugstores and a sort of a pseudonewsstand that had liquor, soft drinks, and packaged goods. They had a pretty well-stocked newsstand. The newsstand was the furthest away, so I had to make a major excursion to get there. They had the best selection of the magazines. Actually, I picked up (believe it or not) Fantastic Four #1 in late ’61. I was just a little bit over ten. BILL: So you got in at the very beginning, more or less, of the Marvel Age. BUD: I only had a casual interest in collecting, at that point. I also was into making model cars and painting them. One of the disastrous things I remember was using my copy of Tales to Astonish #22 as a pad. [chuckles] I got paint and glue on it. That memorable incident was “Pre-Collecting.” But, I read the Jules Feiffer article in Playboy around 1965, because my dad had a (Above:) This copy of Tales to Astonish #22 (Aug. 1961) is one that Bud didn’t use subscription. as a pad while he was painting his model cars. Pencils by Jack Kirby. BILL: At what point did

[©2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.] (Right:) Thrills of Tomorrow (Feb. 1955), starring Simon & Kirby’s Stuntman, cost Bud a fast buck in the mid-1960s. [©2005 Joe Simon & Estate of Jack Kirby.]

John used to have get-togethers at his house on Friday nights. We would meet, swap comics, and talk about the new issues and stuff like that. Then they introduced me to The Rocket’s Blast. That was the big deal. They had a couple issues and had a flyer for it. I thought that was exciting—people


[Art Š2005 DC Comics.]


81 it. And that’s the way I went at it. Those cuffs, casually rolled back a couple of turns, were my own… in a mirror… sketched many times… same as the entire costume… all in the name of consistency. I wanted our boy to make a lasting impression wherever he went… like that “other fellow”… in the red suit.

By

mds& (c) [Art

logo ©2005 Marc Swayze; Captain Marvel © & TM 2005 DC Comics]

[FCA EDITORS NOTE: From 1941-53, Marcus D. Swayze was a top artist for Fawcett Publications. The very first Mary Marvel character sketches came from Marc’s drawing table, and he illustrated her earliest adventures, including the classic origin story, “Captain Marvel Introduces Mary Marvel (Captain Marvel Adventures #18, Dec. ’42); but he was primarily hired by Fawcett Publications to illustrate Captain Marvel stories and covers for Whiz Comics and Captain Marvel Adventures. He also wrote many Captain Marvel scripts, and continued to do so while in the military. After leaving the service in 1944, he made an arrangement with Fawcett to produce art and stories for them on a freelance basis out of his Louisiana home. There he created both art and story for The Phantom Eagle in Wow Comics, in addition to drawing the Flyin’ Jenny newspaper strip for Bell Syndicate (created by his friend and mentor Russell Keaton). After the cancellation of Wow, Swayze produced artwork for Fawcett’s top-selling line of romance comics, including Sweethearts and Life Story. After the company ceased publishing comics, Marc moved over to Charlton Publications, where he ended his comics career in the mid-’50s. Marc’s ongoing professional memoirs have been FCA’s most popular feature since his first column appeared in FCA # 54, 1996. Last issue, Marc discussed The Great Pierre strip, which finally led to his long-sought syndicate contract. In this issue, he continues his recollections of Pierre and his dealings with Bell Syndicate. —P.C. Hamerlinck.]

When I was in high school, my father bought me an ancient Model-T Ford. Got it for fourteen bucks! My cousin and I drove it all the way to the Chicago World’s Fair… but only after we had spent several weeks overhauling the engine. To me, the sight of all those auto parts… pistons and things… spread out on the ground… waiting to be reassembled… was discouraging… maybe even a little frightening. But not to Gus. When we finally cranked that old baby up again, she ran like a top… probably better than when she left the factory. That’s the way, when life got around to it, I tried to put together my comic strip characters… piece by piece… thought by thought. Seemed to make them less vulnerable to criticism. And it was more fun that way. Pierre… no exception. The various qualities that made up the Cajun were not casually thrown together like cards in a hat. Sketches of the character were all over the place by the time the strips were ready for printing. Reviewing the work, I had to confess to a moment of satisfaction. Five weeks… of writing and art… 30 strips… 90 panels… rendered at top speed, but pretty darn good! If the feature was ever to hit the market, I had done my part. Now it was up to the syndicate. But not so fast. That wasn’t the opinion of everyone involved. In the correspondence from Agnelli there was a wavering of the original enthusiasm. In his letter of February 1, he had said: “If you are coming to

Herron and Allard, two Fawcett names at the top of my personal roster of masterminds, never once, as well as can be recalled, spoke the word “consistency” when discussing Captain Marvel. Yet the word… its meaning… was ever present in the atmosphere. Can you imagine that? “Consistency,” as it might relate to the drawing of a super-hero? It meant, I came to realize, drawing your character to be easily identified and remembered… by the readers… all of ’em! I never questioned it. When Captain Marvel came from my drawing board, even as a tiny figure at great distance, the intention was that he be recognized immediately and remembered forever! And so it was in fashioning Pierre. I thought of him very much as I had Captain Marvel… but not quite the same… a good Joe, but without all the super-hero fanfare. There would be no red suit, no bright chest emblem… but there would be consistency. He would be seen in his casual, rustic attire whether in the wilds of the swamp or the offices of the Border Patrol. The same clothes… all the time? Absolutely. “Glued on him, if necessary,” my witty brother would have expressed

“When Captain Marvel came from my drawing board ... the intention was that he be recognized immediately and remembered forever!” And it worked! Illustration by Marc Swayze for Fawcett’s picture magazine Spot (1942)—also reprinted in Fawcett Companion (TwoMorrows), page 20. This drawing was later modified (as above) for “Captain Marvel Joins the Army” in Captain Marvel Adventures #20 (June 1942). [©2005 DC Comics.]


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The Birth And Death Of The Golden Age by C.C. Beck Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck [Originally presented in FCA #15-17 (FCA/SOB #4-6), 1980-81]

Part I The Illusion of Action In Pictures Over a hundred years ago Eadweard Muybridge startled the world of art when he produced photographs taken in sequence. When these photographs were viewed one after another they created the illusion that the people in the pictures were moving … that they were in action. Muybridge projected his pictures on a screen and his first audiences were artists. Later, Thomas Edison perfected the projecting of “moving pictures” and the movie industry was born. As live actors were being captured on film by photographers in the early movie studios, artists were making the first animated cartoons. Drawing pictures to be seen in sequence, not individually, taught cartoonists the importance of the panel format or “strip” approach which developed into the comic strip, and within a few years every newspaper featured a line of comic strips, which became immensely popular. Cartoonists had long been producing individual cartoons, mostly political, but now they really came into their own with their daily and Sunday “funnies.” The public could see their favorite characters move and talk just as if they were alive! It made little difference that the characters were comic characters with potato noses and shoe button eyes; they seemed real to the readers. There were a few attempts made to introduce realistic drawing in comic strips, but they got nowhere. The world of comic strips was a world of illusion and fantasy where anything could happen; realistic drawing seemed out of place. In later years, after some comic strips had degenerated into soap operas, realistic drawing began to be used more and more. In the realistic strips the action was slow and dragged out and there was little or no humor. But both kinds of strips continued to be published in newspapers and still are to be found there today. The leading comic strips today, as in times past, are strictly comic, however. In comic books, which are a different thing entirely, the reverse is true today.

Captain Marvel figure extracted from the double-page portrait in Captain Marvel Adventures #13 (July 1942). Special thanks to Eric Schumacher. [Captain Marvel TM & ©2005 DC Comics.]

Although the early comic books looked and were intended to be read like the daily strips from which they were derived, there was pressure from their producers to get away from their “comic” look. It was this pressure which within a few short years caused comic books to lose the immense popularity they originally had at their start. By the early ’50s comic books were not comic, there was no action in them, and sales had dropped almost to the vanishing point. The Golden Age of Comics had ended.

Part II How To Kill The Illusion Of Action The early comic book heroes—Superman, Batman, Plastic Man, Daredevil, Captain Marvel—were drawn in comic style by cartoonists,


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not by serious illustrators. Within a very short time these strips were expanded by their publishers to where dozens of artists and writers were employed in producing each of them. The new employees were not cartoonists but pulp editors and writers and artists from the fine arts and illustrative fields. They knew nothing about cartooning, which they regarded as childish and crude. The writers over-wrote their scripts, packing them full of outlandish action and long speeches which appealed to the editors, who then turned the stories over to be “illustrated” as they would have been in pulp magazines. The artists, anxious to impress the editors and writers with their knowledge of art, broke their comic pages into elaborate artistic layouts filled with captions and variously-shaped panels which would appeal to the eye, although they meant nothing to the reader. As a result, the illusion of action which the early comic strips had created by showing portions of an action panel by panel as if it were a movie was destroyed completely. Action is an illusion; it exists only in the viewer’s mind. No action can exist in a single picture; a picture is frozen in time and is as motionless as a piece of statuary or an exhibit in a museum. Cartoonists draw crudely and simply because they know that the more that is left out of a picture the more the viewer’s imagination will fill in the gaps. They know that a series of pictures leading up to an action is always more successfully shown than the action itself, which they usually indicate by a sound effect, a cloud of dust, or some other abstract symbol. The moments before and after an action can be drawn but the action itself must take place in the imagination. C.C. Beck, the original artist and co-creator of Captain Marvel, illustrates Muybridge’s photos The new editors and writers and illusof moving subjects. Art from Beck’s unpublished The Principles of Illustration. trators tried to show action, not to suggest From the collection of P.C. Hamerlinck. [©Estate of C.C. Beck.] it. They put in countless captions and panels filled with explanatory copy which led up to the action, then put the action itself into a drawing. Comic books became picture books – albums filled with all sorts of startling and eye-catching drawings, which looked attractive but meant nothing to a reader who was looking for an exciting story, not a collection of meaningless pictures. Far too many people, including far too many artists, believe that realism is preferable to non-realism. “I want to see everything just the And the action shown in the new style of drawing was forced and way it really looks,” they say. “None of your abstract art for me. It’s melodramatic. Characters gesticulated wildly while striking silly poses silly.” like ham actors. Backgrounds and props and costumes became so overelaborate that the reader was bewildered. “What is going on?” readers What such people don’t understand is that nothing is sillier than began to ask. “Where is the story?” realism where it doesn’t belong. It’s even sillier than non-realism in the wrong place. Pretty soon there was nothing going on. There were no stories, no action, and no more comic books. The Golden Age of Comics was over, Ordinary, everyday things like houses, cars, mailboxes, telephones, killed by the non-cartoonists who had turned them into non-comics. and the like are real objects in the real world. When an artist draws one

Part III The Deadly Dullness Of Realistic Art


Alter Ego #47