Sunday, June 28, 2009

Alex Nino's Space Voyagers "The Delta Brain"

Alex Nino is probably the best know Filipino artist DC brought over in the early seventies to draw their various Western, science fiction, mystery-suspense, and war features for the anthology books produced at that time. Space Voyagers was a short-lived feature published as a back-up in Rima, The Jungle Girl, with some fantastic Robert Kanigher scripts, but only lasted a few issues. If one can look past the editor's love of blue pencil corrections over this splendid artwork, you really can travel into realm's bounded only by man's imagination in this story called...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Buried Treasure: Lawrence & Longaron's Friday Foster

In 1968 writer Jim Lawrence, with three popular strips already listed on his resume, noticed that there were no black lead characters being published by any of the syndicates, so inspired by this fact and seeing the lovely Donyale Luna on a television program, he decided to create a feature about a black career woman in New York. The idea of Friday Foster was born. At that same time the Chicago Tribune-New York Syndicate was looking for a daring new strip, so from the popularity of black characters in there other one panel features, they welcomed Lawrence's fresh approach to create a first in comic-strip history. After two long years in development, the talented Jorge Longaron was chosen to do the artistic chores in his decorative European style for a Sunday and daily which debuted on January 18, 1970.

Starting out as an assistant to high-fashion photographer Shawn North, Friday after learning the ropes, eventually moved in front of the camera to become a world traveling supermodel leaving her troubled life in Harlem behind her. Early on, Lawrence's story lines had a harder edge showing the contrast of Friday's family with her street-wise brother trying to accept her new found success in the world of magazine publishing. But soon its episodes changed focus to showcase more soap-opera thrills of romance and travel for the gorgeous African-American. Hong Kong, Paris, London, and even Africa were all shown with equal flair from the detailed artistic masterpieces produced by Longaron from his home in Barcelona.

However, the numerous problems of a writer and artist being thousands of miles apart, coupled with the lengthy lead time to produced the strip, finally caught up with the creative team, and Gray Morrow was asked to step in to draw the feature in the early 1974. Unfortunately, from a steady decline in popularity the syndicate decided to end the feature in May of the same year, but not without riding on the coat tails of its prior fame, American International Pictures released its action-adventure film Friday Foster in 1975 staring Pam Grier in the title role.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Chester Gould

Here is the very brief bio for one of my favorite cartoonists and his world famous crime fighter, the hawk-nosed detective, Dick Tracy, one of the greatest features of all time! -- I was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma on November 20, 1900. Had two years at Oklahoma State before I came to Chicago in 1921. I worked on every paper in Chicago while up finishing college. Graduated from Northwestern University in 1923. Did strips, etc. for Hearst's Chicago American from 1924-29. But had my eyes set on one spot, The Chicago Tribune -New York News Syndicate. After ten years of trying, I finally sold my idea to J. M. Patterson in 1931. Wrote and drew Dick Tracy for the next forty six years, two months and twenty one days. I retired from active production on December 25, 1977. Now as a "consultant" I am having one very long siesta.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sensational Strips: Beyond Mars

In 1952 the New York News wanted to celebrate there success from a steady increase in newspaper circulation and decided an exclusive feature created for their publication would be just the ticket. Soon after a full page action-packed Sunday entitled Beyond Mars debuted on February 17, written by science-fiction author Jack Williamson and illustrated by popular comic artist Lee Elias. Roughly based on Williamson's novel Sentee Ship, this antimatter powered vessel soared across the universe by counteracting the pull of gravity on other celestial bodies. Mike Flint was the star of the feature, with the help of rotating alien side-kicks, and though he was billed as a licensed spacial engineer, he turned out to be more of a policeman for the surrounding solar systems.

It is said Chester Gould suggested many of the story lines and helped Williamson from time to time on a proper way to present a comic-strip plot. This colorful space-opera drama with a stellar "Dick Tracy" feel, was beautifully rendered in the "Noel Sickles School" by Elias with its amazingly detailed exotic locals, amusing alien creatures, beautiful women, and lots of two-fisted action. But as with many strips over time, the New York News believed their creation did not live up to its expectations and cut the size to a half page in late 1954, which probably contributed to its untimely demise on March 13, 1955 as the creative team wrapped up some final loose ends in the last Sunday.