Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pat Boyette's...Dungeon of Harrow

Back in 1962 I was just rolling around in my crib, as Pat Boyette was putting the finishing touches on his horror film masterpiece, Dungeon of Harrow. And if you jump thirty-six years later to Fort Worth, I was lucky enough to see this film the first time with the director himself, sitting in his living room with a bunch of other comic/original art fans. Now if you never were privileged to meet Mr. Boyette, you missed out on hearing that smooth baritone voice he perfected over years in radio and TV broadcasting. For me, it was seventy-four minutes of pure entertainment from the opening "Black Forest" script credits to the end title. It was like watching one of Pat’s Charlton comics come to life, or on second thought, really more like some of his Warren stories from Creepy or Eerie -- in full color. Shot in only two weeks in his native San Antonio, Boyette wrote the screenplay, designed the sets, and filmed the entire production in record time! No matter what the credits say, he also wrote the score, edited the entire film, provided the narration, and did just about everything else, costumes, sound, you name it. Even though Pat declared the acting of his main character was as wooden as some of the sets, (they were more papier-mâché than wood), he did need the financial backing from the "star" of the show, Russ Harvey. Russ also picked a few of his close friends to be in the production, since he was titled as the casting director too.

Does this movie have "cardboard" sets, and a "comic book" plot, coupled with some amateur acting -- most definitely it does, but that’s part of the film's charm. This first print I ever saw was a bootleg video that had some big problems with a muddy soundtrack and severely faded picture quality, but fortunately Alpha Video got hold of a better print when redistributing the film years later. It’s made Pat very popular in the B movie crowd, even more famous that his comic work I imagine, but you can give me some of his moody detailed original art anytime. However, no one should be surprised that this artist chose a horror film to make his mark on cinema. When I started looking over his comic art work, I was shocked to see that out of the roughly two hundred ninety six stories he published over the years with Charlton, DC, Marvel, Warren, Atlas, and a few other minor publishers, almost half that volume, one hundred thirty-nine stories, were of his chilling horror tales. Take my latest page offer here for your enjoyment from Archie Comics Red Circle Group from Sorcery #9. Another beautiful example of Boyette’s lush artwork in the spirit of the Caniff school with ghosts and demons haunting a local church. Unfortunately, these pages seem harder to find than just a few short years ago, but I’ve had my fair share of Pat’s artwork. I also am including another favorite spook page from Atlas Comics Weird Suspense #2 from the 1970s with two cops being eaten by a couple of giant tarantulas.

Pat said it was one of the happiest moments of his life, making this flick, and even though he did not set out to make schlock, with his limited resources, that’s the best he said you can hope for. It’s too bad though, that his later experiences in marketing this feature, discouraged Pat so much, he gave up the movie making business after only a few more films. Not wanting to give away this chillers plot, the film has many of Boyette’s classic themes like, a Victorian setting, one deserted island, damsels in distress, ruthless pirates, ghosts, a big spider, some torture, an insane host, the dungeon of course, disease, a touch of romance, and the shocking twist ending. I noticed many of these themes in his later Charlton comic work, and especially in one memorable Warren story that was pretty close to the "monster" of this motion picture. If you ever get the chance to see this movie and you enjoy Pat's moody detailed artwork, you're in for a real treat.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

National Cartoonist Society Profile: John Romita

This is one comic artist that I have unfortunatly never met but would love to do so, since I respect his work so much. After a short stint in commercial art, John Romita broke into comics in 1949 working for Stan Lee on various war, Western, romance, crime and horror titles at Atlas. When that company folded he went to National to perfect his slick illustrative style doing mainly romance stories for a few years, before his return to Marvel jumping head first into super-hero titles like Captain America, The Avengers, Daredevil, and his best know work, Spider-Man. Leaving that title in the early seventies Romita became an art director at Marvel working numerous special projects and overseeing Marvel's children's book line, before returning to his signature character illustrating the popular Spider-Man syndicated newspaper strip.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, January 24, 1930 to Vic and Marie Romita. who eased me thru the Depression and set me on a good course. New York School of Industrial Art (now Art and Design) forged and launched me into comic book art. Marvel Comics' rise to prominence and collaboration with Stan Lee, creative force behind that rise, led to Spider-Man strip team-up of Lee and Romita in 1977. Handled by King Features Syndicate, the strip appears in over four hundred sixty papers. My wonderful Virginia has made it possible to meet deadlines - her support and patience cannot be gauged. She has also blessed us with two sensational sons, both well on their way to successful careers - Vic, a fine teacher, and John Jr. doing a great job as a comic artist.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Al Williamson

I've been writing the past few months about some of my favorite NCS artists who are no longer with us, but thought I better start honoring some of the greats that are still drawing today. I'll begin with a gentleman I met only once years ago, but he made a big impression on me, Al Williamson. Meeting this cartoonist was a real treat, since I admire his Raymond inspired work so much. If you never got the chance to met Al, you feel you know him straightaway once you see him since he used his face as the model of his super secret agent, Phil Corrigan. Here is his brief autobiography he provided to the famous cartoonist organization.

I grew up in Bogota, Columbia...inspired by Carlos Clemen - Argentine artist...began to write and draw my own comic strip at age nine...discovery of Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon Sunday page really decided me to be a cartoonist...returned to New York in teens...attended Burne Hogarth's cartooning classes...first job penciling several "Tarzan" Sunday page for ten years drew science fiction and Western comic books...assisted John Prentice on "Rip Kirby" for three years...drew several "Flash Gordon" comic books for King Features Syndicate...received National Cartoonist Society award for comics in 1967...some years ago took over "X-9" daily strip from writer friend Archie Goodwin for King Features Syndicate...strip now called "Secret Agent Corrigan"... I collect newspaper strips...original comic art, records...16 MM movies and art books.