Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Marvel Spotlight: The Mighty Thor

With his first appearance in Journey into Mystery #83 in August 1962, The Mighty Thor has endured these last forty eight years as one of Marvel's most popular characters both in his own magazine and as a member of The Avengers. Fascinated with the deities of Norse mythology, artist Jack Kirby and writer Stan Lee created this god-hero early in Marvel Comics renaissance filled with noble warriors, fierce ice giants, crafty trolls, and fire-breathing dragons. The story surrounded a frail doctor named Donald Blake who while vacationing on the Norwegian coast found an ancient wooden staff in a hidden cave. After striking a bolder with the walking stick it changed into the enchanted hammer Mjolnir, as the spindly physician transformed into the golden-haired "God of Thunder" in full Norse battle garb with winged helmet.

Over the many yarns Lee spun, he added a huge cast of supporting characters including the evil half-brother Loki, Balder the Brave, The Lovely Sif, High-Father Odin, Heimdall, Volstagg, and many other memorable nefarious villains and stalwart heroes. Written with Stan's colorful neo-Shakespearean dialogue and illustrated with Kirby's majestic cosmic images, the series thrived for years, even overcoming the departure of Jack in 1970 and Stan in 1972. John Buscema was chosen from Marvel's bullpen to take over the art chores, with Roy Thomas writing the scripts, which continued the popularity of these mighty Asgardians for years to come. As a legion of other talented creators worked on the series over the past decades, all helped prepare The Mighty Thor for its major motion picture debut to hit the silver screens in the very near future.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Foreign Favorites: Bernard Prince

Created for the Belgian weekly magazine Tintin in February of 1966, Bernard Prince was written by Michel Regnier and illustrated by artist Hermann Huppen. A former Interpol agent turned soldier of fortune and journeyman, Bernard Prince traveled the world on various adventures aboard his yacht "The Cormorant" with his trusted stalwart crew. Accompanied by the hairy hard-drinking Barney Jordan, and his teen-aged sidekick Djinn, this unlikely trio traveled from the deserts of Central Asia, to the jungles of Amazonia, and the mean streets of Manhattan Island. Set in the classic adventure strip tradition, this thrilling feature introduced many memorable over the top villains such as the international criminal mastermind, Kurt Bronzen, or the bloodthirsty General Satan, captain of a band of assassins. Hermann's illustrations were simply electrifying, done in his bold powerful style from Regnier's dynamic whirlwind scripts. With plenty of gun play and exciting chases, the strip was reprinted in numerous volumes of Editions du Lombard and the American magazine Wonderworld.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Roy Crane

Born Abilene, Texas, 1901. Reared Sweetwater, Texas. When the bottom of my swimming lake blew away in a cloud of dust, I caught freight, went to sea, later became H.T. Webster's assistant on New York World. Other turning points: Given job doing Wash Tubbs-Captain Easy with NEA because, luckily I had taken art editor C.N. Landon's correspondence course. Days of joke comics, but I couldn't think up jokes. Dreamed of adventures in far away places; thus became early pioneer in both story and adventure strips (1924) . Switched to Buz Sawyer for King Features in 1943. Schooling: Chicago Academy Fine Arts, Hardin Simmons University, Texas University. Honors included the National Cartoonist Society Reuben, 1950, Banshee's Silver Lady, Navy Distinguished Publication Service Award. Have Wife (Ebba) two daughters, two grandsons, two orange groves, three assistants and ulcers. If I had to do it over, I'd never do a Sunday. It's the straw that breaks backs.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Direct Currents: The Creeper

DC Comics Showcase #73 from April 1968 introduced one of the most bizarre characters to come from comic genius Steve Ditko, his strange anti-hero called The Creeper. Jack Ryder was a network security agent, a type of TV reporter with a badge, who was trying to track down a brilliant scientist who was about to be kidnapped by communist spies. At a wild costume party disguised in colorful attire, Ryder discovered a professor who gave him an instant-healing serum, that also provided super strength and other powers before the scientist was suddenly shot dead by an enemy agent. With the help of his new powers, The Creeper tracks down criminals with his reckless mad behaviour and maniacal laugh that chills to the bone every crook that inhabits the underworld. Misunderstood by the police, our weird avenger fights villains such as the blank faced Proteus, and other uncanny Ditko rogues that were way ahead of there time for most 1960s National Comics readers. After his try-out and a short six issue run, The Creeper was not heard of until the middle of the 1970s when he showed up in various Batman related titles, which brought the character before a new generation of fans and a new found popularity that spawned series being printed even today.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Society of Illustrators Profile: Edwin Georgi

I think I'll start out the new year with a brand new feature focusing on that wonderful illustration art from some of our top American artists. Founded in 1901, The Society of Illustrators was created to promote the art of illustration in all its forms, hosting various projects by a dedicated group of volunteer members. Starting in 1958 the Society created the Hall of Fame Award recognizing the foremost American artists of the last two hundred years, including in this first feature, the 1992 award winner Edwin Georgi. After eighty long years, in 1981 this devoted group of art enthusiasts founded the Society of Illustrators Museum of American Illustration in New York City to exhibit the best in vintage and contemporary illustrative art to an appreciative world wide audience. But let us start off with one of my favorites artists...

A football star who studied engineering at Princeton, Edwin Georgi, left his studies when WWI started to become pilot for the U.S. Air Force. After the war, he got a job doing paste-up in the art department of an advertising agency, but seeing promise in the youth, art director Rene Clark encouraged Georgi to follow his own illustrative talent. Soon the artist was creating beautiful work for big name clients like the Hartford Fire Insurance Company, Stetson Hats, Yardley Soap, Studebaker, U.S. Steel, and Crane Paper, just to name a few. An artist who excelled in drawing beautiful women, the national magazine market took notice of Georgi in the late 1930s just as color was being introduced on a large scale.

Edwin's unique style coupled with his bold use of color had publishers calling for his dynamic pictures of elegant women in social settings which appeared in Collier's, McCall's, Redbook, Women's Home Companion, and Cosmopolitan. The artist's early works where characteristically done in muted subtle tones, but years later Georgi developed a new style done in a pointillist approach and vivid colors. Pushing the limits of realism with his short paint strokes of cool and warm colors, these high impact illustrations took advertising art to a new level on the printed page. A perfectionist who would often do his paintings over two or three times, Georgi also enjoyed composing and playing music in his spare time.