Saturday, September 27, 2008

Buried Treasure: Jim Aparo's Stern Wheeler

How many artists do you know that would draw a daily strip for free just to get the publicity? Well that is exactly what illustrator Jim Aparo did for The Hartford Times back in March of 1963. With the help of fellow creator and writer, Ralph Kanna, they introduced readers to a thrilling new adventure feature about a private investigator named Stern Wheeler. Both men were working for the William Schaller Company at the time, but secretly wanted to break in to the syndicated newspaper strip market. Aparo had been trying for years to work in comics without any luck, growing tired of his uninspired commercial illustration doing diagrams and instruction sheets, with Kanna working in the Radio/TV division of the firm, and hosting a popular local kiddie TV show part-time.

Stern Wheeler with the help of his crafty assistant and pal, Wally worked for a bombastic cigar chomping boss, J.B. Shoreman for only two brief adventures, "Sea of Matrimony", with some great Aparo underwater action, and "Diamonds in the Rough", starring a beautiful mysterious jewel thief. Working long and hard on this try-out strip, The Hartford Times agreed to publish the story, but unfortunately never paid the creative team a dime! The only form of "payment" received would be their exposure to the different syndicates that would hopefully buy the property. Even with some very slick Aparo graphics and enjoyable Kanna storylines, the two voluntarily pulled the daily after a few short months, believing they were just wasting their time, and continued working for the ad agency. But both men did finally leave the Schaller Company. Kenna ended up illustrating a number of children's books and did instructional videos for his own company, and Aparo was picked up by editor Dick Giordano to draw for Charlton before Jim's move to DC and much success on Batman and other National characters.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Bill Griffith

Born in Brooklyn, New York on January 20, 1944. Grew up in the quintessential American suburb, Levittown, Long Island (a great place to escape from). Attended art school (Pratt Institute), took student loan and went to Europe. Tried in vain to be the next big thing in the New York art world in 1964-68. Failed miserably. Turned to comics for solace. Broke into the "business" in the late 60's (a dimly remembered period) with first appearances in various New York underground newspapers. Came out to comix mecca (San Francisco) in 1970, settled in for the long haul. Gave birth to Zippy weekly. Started with King Features in 1986. No sign yet of burn-out, but anything's possible. Married to cartoonist Diane Noomin. Currently doing "cartoon-o-journalism" for the New Yorker. Am I done yet?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Sheldon Mayer

Born April 1, 1917 in New York City. Started haunting newspaper syndicates and newspapers at fourteen. Earned occasionally learned often. In 1935 got published in Major Nicholson's early comic books. No money, but a very amusing contract. Same year joined McClure Syndicate in minor editorial capacity. Ghosted George Storm's Bobby Thatcher as part of the job. Left McClure 1939 to start All-American Comics with M.C. Gaines. All-American joined National Comics (me with it) in 1945. Resigned editorial directorship in 1948 to do a "novel " in comic book form - Scribbly, the kid who wanted to be a cartoonist. Had fun with it till 1950. Now having fun with Sugar and Spike, a comic book about two babies who can walk but can't talk yet. (Have a theory that humans think harder, learn more under the age of two, than they ever do later.) Hobbies: serious writing and sloppy guitar playing. Ambitions: To get my two kids through college, write a hit play (while reclining in a hammock), do a successful daily strip (the same way), and have Morris Weiss ask me for an original.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Seventies Prices on Fifteen Complete Stories

A good friend and comic artist recently said he loved my regular feature on those crazy 1970s prices "fascinating - but horrifying!" was the words he used. Well, here we go again, so everyone get ready to be scared by these prices once more. In my endless search for information about comic artwork from the past I ran across another great ad from the Comic Buyer's Guide that focused on only complete stories for sale. It's always good to know what's out there in circulation, waiting to be bought up (hopefully at these prices), but I imagine these gems of comic art are probably just locked up in a few lucky fans collections. If you like those wonderful tales of horror from Jim Warren's trend setting spook magazines from the mid sixties, your in for a real treat, since many of these stories listed are from his publications. Lets start off with a beautiful Dan Adkins tale called The Wanderer! from Warren's Eerie #9, that was an eight page story in striking wash tones for just $150. Sounds good to me. What about a moody Gene (The Dean) Colan story, For The Birds, from Eerie #10 of eight slick pages for only $150. If you wanted a Golden Age master like Johnny Graig drawing in the Silver Age, try Blood Fruit from Eerie #11, eight terror driven pages could be yours for the grand sum of one hundred thirty bucks.

Lets jump over to DC for a minute and see what was out there floating around at the time. You could tell Dick Giordano was a fabulous inker as well as a first rate artist as shown in his work on the Batman #247 story called, And A Deadly New Year, eighteen powerful pages with an exceptional splash would cost you $450. What is that $25 a page? Unbelievable. Or how about, The World of the Perilous Traps, a spectacular thirteen page Gil Kane tale staring Green Lantern fighting none other than Sinestro from issue #13 for only $350. But unfortunately it did have some slight stains on the title page, maybe that's why it was so cheep? I always loved DC's anthology books, including My Greatest Adventure #58, which this dealer had an entire eight page story, Trapped in the Land of L'oz, for $225 by comic master Alex Toth! Is a complete story not enough for you? How about the whole book, you ask? OK, I have just one by fan favorite Dick Dillin from his run on Blackhawk, issue #192 with two terrific stories. First a nine page backup yarn, The Mirage Blackhawks, where our hero obtains super powers in a mysterious floating Metropolis. Or take the title feature, King Condor's Fabulous Birds, sixteen pages of high-flying action and adventure, and both could be your for $600. These two wonders had everything this period at DC was known for, truly some wild and wonky stories at their best.

Continuing with more Warren artwork, there was a Roger Brand six page story entitled, The Haunted Sky, from Creepy #17 for a mere $90. One of my favorite artists, no matter who he was working for at the time, was the uncanny Jerry Grandenetti. His seven page story named, Rub The Lamp, from Eerie #9 was as bizarre and surreal as any of his best work, and it's twice-up too for just $12.14 a page! Now that really is a scary story in more ways than one. Another solid draftsman was featured in Eerie #4, Gray Morrow's ten page Island at the World's End cost $225. Eerie #5 from 1966 had a chilling seven page story by Rocco Mastroserio called Dr. Griswold's File for $85 that sold last year at auction for $1840.30. Would you like another titan of comic art, try a six page masterpiece called, Foragers, from the innovative Blazing Combat #3 by Reed Crandall for one hundred fifty dollars. Angelo Torres also did some marvelous war art in Blazing Combat #4, especially the seven page story called, Night Drop, an excellent wash job for $200. There was an Old Lady, was a weird little tale of six pages by the talented Sal Trapani from Warren's Creepy #16 that sold for $60, our lowest price yet. But for my money, I would just pay a little more, $65 for a six page Eerie #11 story called Witch Hunt, by Joe Orlando.