Friday, November 25, 2011

Foreign Favorites: Bruno Brazil

Offered here is another one of the many fantastic strips to come from Belgium and a personal favorite of mine. Created by writer Michel Regnier and artist William Vance, Bruno Brazil first appeared in a 1967 issue of Belgium's weekly magazine, Tintin. A strip spawned by the spy craze, it was a rough mixture of Mission: Impossible and the The Dirty Dozen. Bruno Brazil is the leader of a motley crew of mercenaries known as the "Cayman Commandos" who takes on special espionage missions around the globe. Along with main characters "Gaucho" Morales and the lovely lash-wielding heroine called the "Whip", Bruno drives his unsavory team to the limit on every adventure, whether fighting Mafia Chieftains, counterspies, or island dictators. Regnier dynamic scripts and Vance's lush illustrations packed these tales with exciting characters, exotic locals, lots of violence and a break-neck pace that always made the feature a suspenseful thrill ride with a loyal fan following even today.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gus Arriola...In His Own words

Here is a short biography written by the artist in the 1960s for a trade publication who was one of my favorite cartoonists with his entertaining feature Gordo... I was born in the northern part of Mexico, now known as Arizona, July 23, 1917. I was reared in Los Angeles, California and was graduated from high school directly into the M.G.M. Cartoon Department as a story-sketch man on Tom 'n' Jerry cat and mouse series. That was in 1937. I created and sold Gordo, June 1941, to United Features Syndicate. Ten months after Pearl Harbor I joined the Army Air Force's Motion Picture Unit where I spent three and a half years making animated training films. A post-war search for an ideal home led me from Los Angeles to La Jolla, California for three years, thence to Phoenix, Arizona for five...then I finally found it in Carmel, California where I settled in an old redwood house by the beach, with my wife, Frances, my swinging son, Carlin, and Smelly Dave, the funniest, most charming of countless cats we've owned.

I'm interested in GOOD everything: music, books, food, wine, friends and times. I work alone on story and art. Consequently I lack enough time to enjoy all the GOOD. My working habits are sporadic. I spend from six to sometimes twelve hours a day in my studio at home. My mind works twenty-four hours a day. I rough out strips and Sunday pages on tissue...and ink them in over a light board. I like to vary material from nutty continuities or social satires, to single, daily gags. Sunday pages are my favorite. I love color. I try to work color and design into the Sunday pages to help ease my frustration of not having the time to paint.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gold Key Comics...Tragg and the Sky Gods

When Don Glut got the chance to write for Western Publications in the early 1970s, one of his first stories he produced was a rejected idea he had for Jim Warren about a caveman encountering the world's first werewolf.  Appearing in Gold Key's Mystery Comic Digest #3, "Cry of the Dire Wolf" introduced Tragg and his lovely mate, Lorn fighting both saurians and the supernatural in a thrilling tale drawn by Filipino great, Jesse Santos. Another appearance followed the next year in the same anthology title, but editor Del Connell didn't want another dinosaur book since they already had great success with both Turok, and Tarzan. However in 1975, Erich Van Daniken's books were suddenly all the rage, Western wanted to develop a alien book in the same vein, so Tragg and the Sky Gods debuted in June of 1975. A strong mixture of science fiction and Stone Age action, the story revolved around the space aliens (Sky Gods) whose experiments on a prehistoric couple (Tragg and Lorn) creating the first Cro-magnons who eventually lead their Neanderthal brothers in revolt against the alien race. Lasting just twelve short issues in various anthology books and his own title, Santos commitments to other projects left the pencilling chores to Dan Spiegle, though Jesse still did the fantastic painted covers for the series.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Make Mine Marvel: Iron Man

Tales of Suspense #39 from March of 1963 was the debut of one of Marvel Comics most inspiring new heroes, the "Golden Avenger" known as Iron Man was written by Stan Lee and initially drawn by Don Heck. Millionaire inventor Tony Stark while in Vietnam was kidnapped by the evil warlord Wong-Chu, who demanded the industrialist to build him the world's most powerful weapon. With an injured heart from his sudden capture, Stark fabricated an iron suit with built in pacemaker to keep him alive during this grueling ordeal until he eventually escaped by the sacrifice of another fellow scientist. Though Jack Kirby helped create the early look of the character in his bulky grey iron suit, Steve Ditko later greatly streamlined the flexible suit of armour, now forged in flashing gold-and-red. After fighting hordes of Vietnamese villains, Iron Man finally returns to America to work as Tony Stark's bodyguard, to be always close at hand when danger strikes. With a legion of various armour changes over the decades, Iron Man has become one of Marvel's hottest and long-lasting properties, especially with its blockbuster silver screen treatments with Robert Downey Jr. in the title role.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Direct Currents: The Haunted Tank

Back in May of 1961, DC Comics introduced another of their unusual war titles with The Haunted Tank, appearing for the first time in G.I. Combat #87 by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Russ Heath. The story revolved around a Yankee Sergeant named Jeb Stewart who commanded a Stuart M3 tank during World War II that was possessed with the spirit of the Confederate General, James Ewell Brown. This ghost was chosen by by the spirit of Alexander the Great to watch over future brave warriors, including the noble crewmen of this chosen "haunted" tank. Sgt. Stuart was the only soldier able to see the spirit who appeared in times of trouble to guide their tank out of many dangers. Sporting a Confederate Flag in honor of their shared namesake, the Sargent's courage under fire greatly impressed the spectre, while his crew often thought their senior top-kick was either shell shocked or suffering from excessive heat stroke. Eventually Jeb Stewart was transferred with his crew to a number of different tanks across the European Theater, but the loyal ghost of J.E.B. never once left his side.