Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Make Mine Marvel: War of the Worlds

With his first appearance in Amazing Adventures #18 in May of 1973, Jonathan Raven, AKA Killraven was the leader of a small band of freedom fighters trying to turn the tide of the Martian conquest of a post-apocalyptic earth, using concepts from H.G. Wells classic War of the Worlds novel. Created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Neal Adams (who only drew eleven pages from the original story before leaving the project), the series is best remembered for the later creative team of Don McGregor and P. Graig Russell. Many talented Marvel artists and writers worked on the series in its short three year run including Herb Trimpe, Howard Chaykin, Gene Colan, Rich Buckler, Gerry Conway, and Marv Wolfman. Raised by the Martians to be a gladiator in there terrible games for their amusement, this highly skilled killing machine eventually escapes and forms a band of fugitives; M'Shulla Scott, Hawk, Old Skull, Carmilla Frost, Grok, and later allies Mint Julep and Volcana Ash. McGregor's dashing scripts with poetic visions of humanity's struggle for freedom and mankind's potential greatness coupled with Russell's delicate, elaborate, Art Nouveau inspired graphics made this series an instant fan favorite. Killraven's band travel the country trying to build a resistance of freed slaves to fight for our planet's grim future as they encounter strange mutant villains. The High Overloard, Rattack, Abraxas, and the evil Skar are just a handful of the many menaces these freemen fight before the original series unexpectedly was cancelled in November of 1976. Killraven's saga continued though with appearances in other titles, a one-shot, and mini-series, and hopefully will see other incarnations from "The House of Ideas" in years to come.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mel Lazarus...In His Own Words

Mel Lazurus is best known as the creator of two comic strips, Miss Peach which ran from 1957 to 2002 and Momma that debuted in 1970 and is still going strong today. This American cartoonist and novelist also worked with Jack Rickard from 1966 to 1969 on the strip  Pauline McPeril, where he used the pseudonym Fulton, which is also the name of a character in his novel. Here is an early 1960s interview he did before Momma had even sprung into the cartoonist's imagination....I was born May 3, 1947 in New York City, where I currently reside. I never actually graduated from high art teacher flunked me. I have since, however, attended many classes of one kind or another. I frequently lecture to colleges and to other groups around the country. I sold my first cartoon at sixteen. I did commercial art and edited children's books prior to February 4, 1957 when my comic strip, Miss Peach, was launched. The character Miss Peach are not actually modeled on real persons...with the possible exception of Lester, the skinny kid in the strip. Possibly the most loved character is Arthur, the dopey little kid. I make notes all week based on thoughts, conversational fragments, etc. I sift through all these notes on Monday mornings and select several of them to develop. I then write gags for them. I do six daily strips and a Sunday page. In addition to two Miss Peach compilations, I have completed my first novel, The Boss Is Crazy, Too. I will also adapt the book for the stage.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Foreign Favorites: Andrax

A 1973 German Strip produced in Spain, Andrax debuted in Primo #27 by the talented team of artist Jorge Bernet and writer Miquel Cusso. In 1976, Michael Rush was an Olympic decathlon winner who caught the eye of the eccentric genius professor named Magor who had observed the athlete at the Montreal Games. Thinking him to be the perfect male specimen, Magor had the youth kidnapped and injected with a secret serum to keep him in suspended animation for over two thousand years. Believing the Olympian would wake to a perfect civilization in the future, Andrax quickly discovered a savage war torn Earth turned to barbarism, apparently devastated by a nuclear holocaust. Fortunately, his well honed athletic skills helped Andrax survive countless battles with hostile tribes, giant mutated rats, dinosaurs, and other hazards in this challenging world of tomorrow. Fast-paced and well written scripts were highlighted by Bernet's masterful raw style that demanded your attention in every panel. An instant hit with fans, Andrax was showcased in other German publications and numerous foreign reprints that have encouraged a legion of new readers even today.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Greatest Adventure: Sea Devils

National Periodical Publication often had some unusual series they experimented with to attract new readers, Space Ranger, Rip Hunter, Bwanna Beast, Tommy Tomorrow, Cave Carson, The Maniaks, Top Gun, and Strange Sports, were just a few that appeared. Some of these titles eventually won their own books, but others did not. With their first appearance in  DC Comics anthology try-out book, Showcase, issue #27 for August of 1960 introduced kids to a new super team of deep sea divers. Calling themselves the Sea Devils, these four superior underwater agents travelled our Earth's many oceans and waterways battling all types of problems including ferocious sea monsters, super powered aquatic villains, natural disasters, and often discovering beautiful ancient undersea kingdoms. After their debut in some successful introductory issues, divers Judy Watson, Dane Dorrance, Nicky Walton, and Biff Bailey got there own underwater title that lasted only twenty five short but thrilling comic books. They lasted better than most of the new creations. With some very wild stories and slick artwork by artists like Russ Heath and Bruno Premiani, the original series unfortunately ended in May of 1967, but the team have been resurrected at times to show up in other titles over the years.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gold Key Comics...George Wilson Gallery

One of Gold Key's finest cover artists, George Wilson realist painted covers never failed to grab the attention of young  readers drawing them in for another exciting adventure and their parents twelve cents. Wanting to be an artist from a early age, Wilson was inspired by many creators but preferred studying the classic work of Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon and later the slick line of illustrator and cartoonist Noel Sickles. Equally skilled in pen and ink, George worked in commercial illustration before and after his years with Western Publishing doing numerous Hardy Boys drawings, romance paperbacks, wild west and war material, and whatever else he was called upon to produce for the ad agencies. But most of his fans remember those lush watercolor and acrylic paintings for Gold Key's adventure, sci-fi, jungle, and mystery titles. Another of the publisher's unsung heroes, Wilson's work was rarely signed if at all as he produced these mini masterpieces with his usual creative flair. Depending on a brief synopsis from the writer, the artist would make a few rough pencil sketches before going to his collection of photographs to get the right pose or locale for the setting, and often used model and actor Steve Holland for his hero image. His straightforward classic style can be seen on the many titles shown below whether is was one of the comics company's numerous licenced properties or their own super-hero creations. A jack of all trades, George would even act as a model if he couldn't find the right pose and is the case of the gun-toting villain coming out a window on  this Phantom cover from August 1964.