Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Comic Art Legend: Ric Estrada

Ric Estrada truly is one of the last living legends in the comics field today, being born in Havana, Cuba on February 26, 1928. Estrada made his his first professional sale at the young age of thirteen illustrating the cover of a popular Cuba magazine, but his real break came in 1947 by an uncle in America and a family connection with writer Earnest Hemingway that got Ric to New York City to further his artistic studies. After attending the New York University, the New School for Social Research and the Art Students League, Estrada jumped into comic publishing working for many companies in the different genres of the time. Western, crime, sport comics, romance, war, and horror were all produced with ease and grace in his simple cinematic style for some of the best companies including, EC, St. John, Hillman, and Ziff-Davis, before landing with National Comics.

Though not a fan of most super-hero titles, preferring reality stories over fantasy, Estrada did his part in creating Power Girl, Lady Shiva, Richard Dragon, Amethyst, and other long lasting DC characters over the years with the company. But he is probably best know for his vivid war tales on titles such as, Our Fighting Forces, G.I Combat, Unknown Soldier, Star Spangled War Stories, Our Army at War, Weird War Tales, and a personal favorite, Bob Kanigher's Gallery of War. Even though he is known for his comic work, Estrada also did political cartoons overseas, advertising art, movie storyboarding, newspaper strips, and animation work in later years after leaving DC Comics. A deeply religious man, Ric was able to illustrate a comic adaptation of the New Testament that was in print for over fifteen years, and the artist is now currently changed focus to another one of his gifts, writing novels.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Paul Fung Jr.

Born Seattle Washington, March 9, 1923. Graduated from Pratt Institute. From age three, I grew up with every great cartoonist -- called all "Uncle". Marion DeBeck was my godmother. Didn't realize how lucky I was to mingle with such great company till later in life. Nor of Dad's reputation -- at four was in "Our Gang" comedies -- Did vaudeville for a few years, plus movie shorts -- then some radio kids shows, Was a New York Yankees baseball team mascot via Lefty Gomez, Gerhig & Demaggio in 1936 to 39, flew with Chaunalt, in the 14th, 7th, 5th & 2oth -- Air Force, CBI. Worked in advertising agencies after discharge in 1946. Artist, art director, production manager and account executive. Then King Features Syndicate for eighteen years as artist for special service department, drew Blondie comic book for forty years in all, over 500 comic books. Am proud of being voted best book artist and humorist by NCS in 1964 and 1980. Live on a 62 acre plot of land with my wife Carol, and a son who returned after wife problems. Daughter moved back too, after a ten year Army career. Have 4 grand children -- all girls. Working on animal cook book and entering local art shows. Still drawing (with a slanted view).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ted Cowan & Reg Bunn's...The Spider

"I do not allow failure in my army of crime. Should we fail, I promise you a most unhealthy future." Those few lines just about sum up the delightfully creepy British strip The Spider that sprang from the boys' anthology title Lion on June 26, 1965. This strange new anti-hero, similar in ways to Italy's master criminal Diabolique, was created by writer Ted Cowan and artist Reg Bunn who spun yarns of terror and adventure for the brilliant megalomaniac 'King of all Crooks". An evil scientist who turned to crime, the mysterious Spider sported a black bulletproof high-tech suit, and wielded two spectacular guns, one shooting a paralysing gas, while the other a sticky web making mesh. This boastful Shakespearean spouting thief had a sleek helicar that looked like an overgrown French coffee press which whisked him away from the boys in blue or other crime lords that wanted to see the despicable fiend dead. With the help of his two main cronies, Professor Pelham and Roy Ordini, this trio waged all out war in their quest to take over the underworld from their secret castle hideout transplanted stone by stone from Scotland. The earlier Cowan stories were cast in a darker tone, before writer Jerry Seigel of Superman fame took over the feature adding more pulpy aspects like spacemen, sorcerers, and making the character more heroic.

But give me the early Spider thwarting New York's finest, namely Detectives Bob Gilmore and Pete Trask at every bizarre twist and turn. But if the Spider was tough on cops, he acted the same to crooks, or even his own men, who could get a shot of deforming face spray if they disappointed him in his conquest of crime. Reg Bunn created a startling figure that resembled a sinister Mr. Spock with his jet black hair and Vulcan ears that would often defy the laws of gravity with his acrobatic prowess on the Big Apple's skyscrapers. Bunn's moody imagery coupled with Cowan's zany stories had our anti-hero fighting monster arachnids, wild bears, giant pythons, and even Mirror Man projected hypnotising dinosaurs! Too bad The Shadow never caught up with his wild bombastic character, The Spider would have given him a run for his money.