Wednesday, December 25, 2013

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Sergio Aragones

(With this last post of the year I am going to take a break to work on some other projects, but I will return...)  Here is the short biography from the National Cartoonist Society on one of the most popular cartoonists around, the multi-talented Sergio Aragones. Born in Spain in 1937, my family left because of the civil war and settled in Mexico. I have always drawn and started selling to humor magazines in 1954. Went to architecture school but spent all of my time mostly drawing cartoons, doing theatre, pantomime, and being a clown in an aquatic ballet troupe. Decided to come to the States in 1962 with twenty dollars and my portfolio. It is really a long story but soon I was working for Mad magazine and freelancing (I am still doing both). In 1967 started doing comic books for DC (Plop, Bat Lash). In 1982 created "Groo the Wanderer", then "Buzz and Bell", and ""Smokehouse Five". Published over twenty books and animated numerous TV programs (Laugh-IN, TV Bloopers). Have won lots of awards. Traveled all over the world. Love building model ships, furniture. Have a lousy memory and drink too much coffee!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Unpublished Gems: The Silver Surfer

Many times when you see an unpublished cover there are just some slight changes from the original published version. However on this  great John Buscema Silver Surfer cover for issue #7,  August, 1969, we see a real dramatic change for the better. Rather than having our sky-rider of the spaceways a victim of Baron Frankenstein on the unpublished version featured below, the Silver Surfer is appears victorious in his attack against the mad scientist. Other than Jack Kirby, John Buscema is the penciller most closely associated with the Silver Surfer and his work on this particular run is one of the most celebrated in the history of comics. Though the subject matter of the two covers is essentially the same with  characters and caption, the second version's composition is much stronger showcasing a larger image of our stellar hero. Studying an unpublished cover as compared to the published one gives us great insights into the artist's creative process as well as the standpoint of Marvel's editors of the time. As you can see, the creators first chose to depict a scene within the story where the Silver Surfer is about to be replicated. Fortunately there was a change of heart by someone at the "House of Ideas" and they decided to run the printed version above, though both pieces are great, I think they made the right choice on this occasion. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Direct Currents: The War That Time Forgot

DC Comics, "The War That Time Forgot" series was another of t unusual concept that debuted in Star Spangled War Stories #90 for May of 1960. Created by writer Robert Kanigher, and artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, it ran for eight years, ending in 1968 but returned as a limited series in 2008. A wild combination of fantasy, science fiction and World War II all rolled into one, the stories featured a group of American soldiers, stranded on an uncharted island during the Pacific War which unfortunately is populated by savage dinosaurs. Probably influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs' "The Land That Time Forgot" series , its very similar as WWI soldiers are stranded on a dinosaur infested land deep in the Antarctic. Our heroes of the early stories were usually not recurring, but occasionally a few brothers would show up like Larry and Charlie, fighting airborne brothers Steve, Henry, and Frank, early prototypes for the G.I. Robot (who would later get his own series), sailors PT and the Professor, the Suicide Squad, and a flying ace, Brother No Wing. With colorful and imaginative scripts by DC workhorse Kanigher were perfectly executed by Andru's solid pencils and highlighted by Esposito's moody inks. But as the tales eventually ran there course, it was replaced by the Enemy Ace feature, though it did show up in reprints years later and some other titles used the premise in other DC war comics.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Gary Larson

One of the most loved caertoonist of out times,Gary Larson was born and raise in Tacoma, Washington. He drew The Far Side for fourteen years, begining in 1980. and when it ceased publication in the United States on January 1, 1995, the featured appeared in more than 1900 daily and Sunday newspapers. It is still being syndicated internationally and runs in more than 150 newspapers across the world. Larson recieved the Ruben Award for outstanding Cartoonist of the Year from the National Cartoonist Society for 1990 and 1994, which also named The Far Side as best syndicated panel in 1985 and 1987. In 1995, the artist won the Grand Prix at the Annecy International Animation Festival for his animated special, "Gary Larson's Tales From The Far Side." He also has the unusual distinction of having the scientific community name a butter fly and a biting louse after him. Larson attributes much of his success to the cafeene in the numerous cups of coffee he drinks daily as well as the enlightening (endarkening?) time his older brother compelled him to spend in the basement as a child. He now lives above ground, in Seattle, Washington, USA.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Joe Jusko Gallery

I met Joe Jusko a few years ago in Dallas at a small show and can honestly say he is one of the nicest guys in the business. Joe is best known for his realistic, highly detailed painted fantasy, pin-up, and cover illustrations, mainly in the comic book and trading card industry. Growing up in New York in the 1960s, he attended the High School of Art and Design and graduated in 1977 with DC Comics Award of Excellence in Cartooning. Briefly working as an assistant with Howard Chaykin, Jusko sold his first cover to Heavy Metal magazine at the young age of 17. Skipping college, the artist went straight into commercial illustration and eventually worked for almost every major comic book publishers including DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Top Cow Productions, Wildstorm Comics, Crusade Comics, Innovation Comics, Harris Comics,  and Byron Visual Publications. Many fans fondly remember his beautiful cover work on Savage Sword of Conan, The Incredible HulkPunisher and many other Marvel titles, as well as his striking images for numerous trading card sets of Vampirella, Wolverine, and the Edgar Rice Burroughs properties. Producing storyboards for ad agencies, he also created exciting images for the World Wrestling Federation. Winner of the Comics Buyer's Guide Fan Award for best painter, the artist  also received Wizard's Fan Award and a Certificate of Merit from the Society of Illustrators in his long career.



Monday, November 25, 2013

Atlas/Seaboard Comics: Weird Suspense

Weird Suspense was one of the better books Atlas Comics produced in their short run. Written by Michael Fleisher and drawn perfectly by the moody work of Pat Boyette it starred a spider-man monster called the Tarantula. The story begins in Europe during the Middle Ages where hideous huge spider monsters led by their Spider-Priestess terrorize the countryside transforming the innocent villagers into these vile creatures. Count Lycosa follows the giant arachnids back to their lair  to find their princess. He quickly returns to the village, rallies the townsfolk, slaughters the tarantulas and burns their beautiful leader at the stake. Unfortunately, before she dies she places a curse upon all the male descendants of the Lycosa family, the curse of the Tarantula! As the tale shifts to the modern day, Count Eugene Lycosa, the 11th in line to bear the heinous curse, has vowed to use his tarantula powers for good to protect the helpless and prey on evil. So over the next three stories, our European nobleman transforms to the humanoid-tarantula creature to confront some escaped prison killers who think they can prey on the Count and his butler in there mansion estate, a gang of city hoodlums, and  even a tricky swami. But the Tarantula's greatest foe was the Spider-Priestess being reborn from ancient rites preformed by her Spider-Cult, as she is revived by an hypnotized thug only to eat him as his grim reward. This evil woman kills the Count's manservant, luring him to her secret arachnid infested mountain cavern to trap our weird hero. But at the last moment the tables are turned by a stroke of luck as the Tarantula battles the Spider-Priestess on a cliff edge where she falls to her death below. Featured here is the unpublished cover to the fourth issue that never saw the light of day by artist Pablo Marcos!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Frank O'Neal...In His Own Words

If you read Short Ribs at all, you can see that a substantial amount of evolving has gone on in regard to the design of the characters. This is, I hope, the result of a desire for constant improvement of the product. Since an individual character doesn't appear more than once or twice a week, I have a little more freedom design-wise. Otherwise, the idea behind Short Ribs hasn't changed a great deal. My purpose is just a quick little spot of entertainment...perhaps with a little thought thrown in once in a while. Also, I make an attempt to make it visually interesting. I make a point of meeting deadlines, which I'm given to understand is something unique in the cartoonist. Really, there isn't any set pattern in the production of a week's work. I do, However, complete all the daily strips before starting on the Sunday page. Everything is done on clearprint tissue, in pencil, and then pasted behind a sheet of #2 ply board, and inked with  a #2 brush. Once in a while I'll use a pen for fine detail. The lettering is done with a #14 relief pen. I have a studio here in Carmel Valley Village, since I find it difficult to work at home. Too, I have an assistant who comes in three days a week. He does just about all my, filing and house cleaning. I tried to work without an assistant for quite some time...largely because of financial reasons, but I found that the assistant helped remove much pressure, and that Short Ribs was the better for his help. If I have a gag that requires a little different atmosphere, we can spend more time experimenting with backgrounds and characters. In the gag department, I usually have something ahead in order to get the week started on Monday morning. However, there have been many times when I've had the "empty page blues." So far, I've managed to come up with a gag every time  I've headed for the bathroom to cut my throat. Thank goodness. Normally, I arrive at the studio between 8:00 and 8:30. I leave any time between noon and 5:00...just depends on how things are going. Mostly however, I like to be able to see the end of a week  before I start goofing-off. By that I mean that I like to have a really good idea of just what I'm going to wind up with when I mail my weekly package to the office in Cleveland on Friday.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

American Comics Around the World: Turok, El Guerrero De Piedra

I never thought about the reprint market outside the United States, but within the last few years I discovered there were a lot of Turok, Son of Stone issues published in Latin America by one main publisher. England, Italy, and Germany attempted some minor reprints in the 1970s from the original Gold Key series, but only one or two issues ever saw print, with one company publishing nineteen books in their entire run. Editorial Novaro, based in Mexico City started their Turok, El Guerrero De Piedra series in 1969 and lasted a whopping 274 issues that I know of, over twice as long as the original Dell series! So what do you do when you run out of reprints? Start creating your own stories and covers adopting the customs and flavor of the publisher’s home country. Artist Francisco Betancourt did many of the colorful painted Turok covers in his bold style, often using direct or composite swipes from the Gold Key covers, while the interiors miserably failed to live up to the standards set by Alberto Giolitti. As well as the covers, art swipes from Frazetta, Boris, Kubert, Thorne, and many other American and European artists could be found inside these books. Columbia’s Epucol started their Turok series in 1976 lasting over 200+ issues, being a sister company with Novaro, they had the advantage of using many of the prior Mexican covers and stories, though they created wild new adventures too. Often a little bright at times when compared to American comics, these little digest gems  were extremely popular and sold a great number of copies. Published as two issues a month or more at the height of their popularity before their demise, Novaro’s printing presses were destroyed in the devastating Federal District earthquake of 1985 which finally closed the company and Turok’s long run south of the border.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Bil Keane

Like the portrait of Dorian Gray my photo keeps aging in each National Cartoonist Society album (but so does the real-life Bil Keane!) I'm making a living doing what others are jailed for: exploiting my family and peeping in windows. I was born at a very early age. The Stone Age (1922) in Philadelphia and grew up there physically if not mentally. Best idea I ever had: marrying Thel in Australia (1948). I penciled in five children, Thel did the reproductions. Sold gag cartoons to all the magazines that folded. I was a staff artist on Philadelphia Bulletin from 1946 to 1959. When I tired of drawing staffs and moved to Arizona where I'm still studying to become a saguaro cactus. Did "Channel Chuckles" from 54 to 77. Created "Family Circus" in 1960 and I've been going around in circles ever since. Little Jeffy is now my assistant. He's no longer two feet tall and a pest in the studio. He's six feet tall and a pest in the studio. Thel and I spend a lot of time these days counting our many blessings.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Society of Illustrators Profile: Dorothy Hood

Born in New Holland, Pennsylvania, in 1902, Dorothy Hood early interest in art encouraged her to attend the New York School of Applied Design. Later while working for Macy's department store, she met art director Harry Rodman who took the artist with him when he landed a position with Lord & Taylor. Rodman capitalized on his new advertising  "Lord & Taylor Look" in the 1930s using the talented illustrations of Hood which had there own unique style. Her black-and-white wash drawing technique done to size was ideal for newspaper reproduction and instantly recognizable as one of Lord & Taylor's. Working directly from life, Hood posed her models depecting real life activities women could identify with. Her extra additions of a slight background of a spray of flowers here or a chandelier there added more dimension to her scenes. Helping establish the "look" of the high-quality department store, her successful illustrations would appear in newspapers and magazines for decades providing the public with a sense of what the well-dressed American woman should be wearing. Short deadlines faced by fashion illustrators poised no threat for Hood, since her studio was located close to the store as models, merchandise, and her artwork could easily travel back and forth. While on vacation in the 1950s in Bermuda, a motor bike accident seriously injured her right arm, but taking it in stride, the artist taught herself to draw with her left hand. Only her most close friends were aware of the very difficult transition the artist overcame as she continued to illustrated for Lord & Taylor until her death in 1970.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Moore & Sprouse's...Tom Strong

One of the most enjoyable heroes to come along in the last few years was by Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse with their retro superman, Tom Strong, which made his first appearance in 1999 with America's Best Comics. Moore's homage to adventure, fiction, and pulp characters, developed a Doc Savage inspired hero with a 1940s comic book feel. Strong is a large muscular man whose strength and intelligence lies in the rare Goloka root his scientist parents gave him in their experiments to make the ultimate human being. Over one hundred years old, with just a touch of grey at his temples and a simple costume, Tom grew up in an alternate world similar to earth, in the wild jungle land of Terra Obscura. Upon the death of his parents in a freak accident, his father's manservant, a dapper robot named Pneuman, helped raise Tom until he chose his mate, the lovely Dahlia. With the help of their daughter, Tesla, they set up the Stronghold in Millennium City to help fight for truth, justice, and the oppressed. Rounding out the cast is the snappily dress ape called King Solomon and a wonderful cast of evil villains including the scientist/magician Paul Saveen. To complement Moore's imaginative adventure stories was the handsome sleek line of Chris Sprouse which capitalized on his love for drawing gadgets, so the tales have lots of planes, spaceships, and other complex machinery. But with only thirty-two issues of his own title and six books from a spin-off series, Tom Strong vanished from the comic racks as many of the heroes before him only to return recently in some new mini-series! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Foreign Favorites: Valerian

In November of 1967, Valerian, Spatio-Temporal Agent debuted in the popular French magazine Pilote #420 written by Pierre Christin and drawn by the delightful Jean-Claude Mezieres. In the year 2720 A.D. the people of Earth have extended their reign over the entire galaxy in which spaceman Valerian and his lovely female assistant, Laureline, are special Agents of the Terran Empire. An instant fan-favorite across France, Christin and Mezieres space-opera was full of cliff hanger thrills, rocket chases, numerous narrow escapes, and many bombastic battle scenes. Readers anxiously came back every issue to sample the snappy dialogue of the superior written scripts as well as the stellar scenery and lovely costumes of the beautiful secondary character. Even though no real super villains ever come to mind when remembering this inspiring and  inventive Valerian comic, it was still a beloved fast-paced feature that have been nicely reprinted by France's Editions Darguad.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Atlas/Seaboard Comics: Planet of Vampires

Another science fiction effort that lasted three issues with Atlas Comics was Planet of Vampires, under the creative team of writer Larry Hama, artist Pat Broderick, and inker Frank McLaughlin. A manned mission to Mars return to Earth after its five-year journey only to find they can't reach Mission Control so they land outside a devastated New York City. The team is instantly attacked by a savage gang of bikers who kill one of their crew before being rescued by one of the "dome" people on his floating aircraft. Taken back to meet the Protector at their dome headquarters, the astronauts soon learn that a nuclear war has destroyed the planet and society is now split in two factions, the technological "domies" and the savage hordes who now live outside. Grateful for the offer of protection from the barbarians, Captain Galland and his crew let down their guard, only to find out something is terribly wrong. The savages outside have developed an immunity to a plague that ravaged the land, and the only way for the dome people to survive is to extract a serum from drinking the blood of these outsiders. Fortunately, before our team is processed for the mutated "vampires", a captured biker helps them escape to lead the war against these advanced ghouls. As Russ Heath's superior art was added to help with the series, Neal Adams also did a fantastic cover to the second issue. However, over the next three tales the astronauts and their wives are killed off until only Captain Galland is left to fight alone on this planet of vampires.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Unpublished Gems: The Avengers

Who knows why this action-packed Don Heck cover was not used for The Avengers #37 for February of 1967, since he did a colossal job on the interiors for this fan favorite Marvel title. Heck's professional career began in 1949 when he started working in the production department of Harvey Comics and studying art by mail order correspondence courses and junior college classes. Soon he graduated to penciling, and after a stint freelancing with Quality Comics, Hillman Comics and Toby Press. Heck then started at Atlas (Marvel) Comics on the recommendation of fellow artist Pete Morisi, becoming a mainstay, illustrating superhero, mystery, western, romance science fiction, fantasy, and war stories. When the House of Ideas began its Silver Age revolution, the artist's first major success was the legendary Iron Man origin story in Tales of Suspense #39 for March of 1963. He then drew a handful of early stories featuring the Mighty Thor, Giant Man and other heroes, but for most comic fans, it's Don's long run on The Avengers for which he is most fondly remembered. For some reason Gil Kane's exciting cover was chosen instead to grace this colossal issue, but it doesn't really matter, its just as terrific as the unpublished version in my opinion.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chas Kuhn....In His Own Words

I was born March 20, 1892 in Prairie City, Illinois. I later attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. But long before that, I quit high school in my second year so that I could take a job in the local tank works. Then came jobs in a plow factory, and of all things the Canadian harvest fields. I was in the First World War and spent two years on a battleship as a fireman. After my discharge, I went to work in the art department of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. At the end of three years I was offered the job of editorial cartoonist  on the Indianapolis News. I stayed there for twenty-six years. About that time I thought up the idea for Grandma. I quit the News and worked full time on my comic strip. King Features Syndicate has been syndicating the strip for the past sixteen years. Grandma now appears in some 300 papers around the world. I married the former Lois Stevens, of Denver, 'way back in 1922. We have lived on the same five acres of briers and weeds for the past twenty-seven years, and I don't mind telling you that I'm getting tired of cutting grass. My assistant and I both carry our lunch to work, and during our lunch hour we sit around and "brainstorm." The Grandma  ideas as so easy to think up we once came up with fifty during one lunch period. We toss ideas around, and then I block out the four panels on a rough sheet of paper. Once the wording is okay, we go directly to work and put the strip on cardboard.

Friday, September 20, 2013

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Tom Gill

I started on the New York Daily News, made the first map of the Pearl Harbor attack. Left in '46 for Herald Tribune to draw own comic strip about a New York City cab driver. Later staffed at The New York Times. Freelanced to Golden Age comic books on war, love, sports and also did syndicates and TV. Drew The Lone Ranger comic book for twenty years and his spin offs, Hi-Ho Silver and Tonto. Also children's books for Golden Press, Simon & Schuster. Most pleased that throughout my career I have been able to help others as initial faculty and administration at School of Visual Arts. For forty years I have taught over 1800 students, many now NCS members and leaders in advertising, TV and publishing fields. My new how to book will continue when I retire. Travelled with NCS Armed Forces shows worldwide. Still at it traveling to Greenland in 1987. Served National Cartoonist Society as Vice President twice, and Membership and Vet Affairs Chair three years each. Awarded Silver T Square in '64, Reuben comic book category in '70. Back on NCS Board in '87-'89. In "96, teaching at Nassau Westchester Community Colleges. Son, Tom a San Diego attorney. Daughter, Nancy, a speech therapist and business woman. Three grandchildren, ages eleven to thirty.