Friday, May 24, 2013

My Greatest Adventure: The Shadow

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" The Shadow knows! From the characters humble beginnings in radio in the early 1930s, it followed the exploits of the fictional vigilante who fights crime using his many skills and psychic powers posing as a "wealthy, young man about town", Lamont Cranston. Becoming one of the most famous characters of the twentieth century, The Shadow was marketed on his own radio program, pulp magazines, comic books and strips, television, serials, video games, and motion pictures. So when DC Comics got the rights to portrays the classic hero in the early 1970s, it did an "atmospheric interpretation" of the character using writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Michael Kaluta for the first issue. In its twelve issue run from this first DC series, from November 1973 to September 1975, Kaluta illustrated five moody issues in his unique detailed style, before Frank Robbins and Filipino great E.R. Cruz finished out the series. True to both the pulp magazine and radio drama character, The Shadow and his many agents fought the seedy underbelly of crime on DC pages which began an fan favorite, but could still not stop its cancellation. But before the series ended National payed homage to the Master of Darkness as he teamed up with Batman on two occasions as the Caped Crusader called the ageing crime fighter his "greatest inspiration". The Shadow even once saved young Bruce Wayne's life before his later dark transformation into the dreaded Batman.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Wally Wood's 1970s Tower Comics Art Prices!

Known as one of the greatest comic book artists in the war, crime, science fiction, superhero, and humor genres, Wally Wood was  a child prodigy,  influenced by the best newspaper strip artists. Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, and Will Eisner were all blended into Wood's detail heavy style all his own. After briefly working as an assistant to both Will Eisner and George Wunder, Wally producing some early romance comic stories for Fox, and soon came into his own at EC and Avon, working mainly on science fiction stories. Equally impressive was his hilarious work for Harvey Kurtzman’s EC humor title, Mad. During the Silver Age, Wood even re-designed Daredevil for Marvel, and was greatly involved in producing the superhero and spy line-up, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents for Tower...Once again I ran across a fantastic ad from the early 1970s Comic Buyers Guide from art dealer Ken Spivey featuring a good collection of Wood Tower Comics pages. Ken mentioned how most dealers were asking the top prices of $25-30 for an average page, though he only had two in that "high" range that were really exception examples. The eighteen pages of art in the sale were priced for the grand sum of $376 but could be had for $312 as a group, but  he would also consider serious offers! Stressing how it was harder to find these T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and Dynamo gems (some with Steve Ditko inks), this dealer from Georgia also had two Total War and a Captain Action page in the group as well. Hey, just check out this list and the cover above that sold for $21,850 back in 2004!

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #9 pg. 45 for $15
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #12 pg. 9 for $25 (Ditko Inks)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #15 pg. 2 for $22
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #15 pg. 5 for $20 (This nice page is shown above)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #15 pg. 8 for $22 
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #15 pg. 10 for $22
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #15 pg. 11 for $20
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #17 pg. 1 for $30 (The splash listed below sold for $5377 in 2011)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #17 pg. 2 for $15
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #17 pg. 3 for $20
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #17 pg. 5 for $20 

Dynamo #1 pg. 44 for $25 (Ditko Inks)
Dynamo #1 pg. 47 for $20 (Another great page listed below with Ditko Inks)
Dynamo #1 pg. 48 for $20 (Ditko Inks)
Dynamo #1 pg. 52 for $20 (Ditko Inks)
Total War #1 pg. 26 for $25
Total War #1 pg. 31 for $25
Captain Action #1 pg. 11 for $15

Monday, May 13, 2013

Society of Illustrators Profile: Charles Dana Gibson

At the young age of twelve, Charles Dana Gibson was already getting rave reviews on his silhouettes in art shows, before he attended the Art Students league in his mid-teens and sold his first drawing to Life magazine at nineteen for four dollars in 1886. After some time in London and further studies at the Academic Julian in Paris, he returned to the States being offered extraordinary fees. As the magazine were fighting over his illustrations to be seen on their pages, Collier's Weekly signed the artist to a $100,000 contract for 100 drawings and also agreed to share him with Life. In this Golden Age of Illustration, Charles created for Life the "Gibson Girl" who ran in that publication for twenty years. One of the most famous of fictional characters of the day, this spirited beauty was the new image of womanhood whose fashion and hair styles became all the rage and a marketing phenomenon. A master of pen and ink, Gibson detailed pen point almost looked more like brushwork as he "painted" the elegant and high society types. Using his influence as President of the Society of Illustrators during WWI, he recruited top illustrators to design billboards and posters for the war effort. After a lifetime of success with the pen, he retired to paint in oil for the last fifteen years of his life.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Foreign Favorites: Fist of the North Star

With excellent scripts provided  by Buronson and illustrated by artist Tetsuo Hara, Fist of the North Star (Hokuto no Ken),  was serialized in Japan's Weekly Sh┼Źnen Jump from 1983 to 1988, spanning a whopping  two hundred and forty five chapters, that were later collected in a twenty seven volume edition by Shueisha. In the near future with the world now destroyed by a nuclear war, our hero warrior Kenshiro, the last successor to a deadly martial art style known as Hokuto Shinken, wanders the wastelands righting wrongs and protecting the weak and innocent. With the gritty feel of a Spaghetti Western featuring Bruce Lee as the star on the set of The Road Warrior, Kenshiro's knowledge of killing his opponents from within comes from striking a human body's secret vital points, with always gruesome results. There is plenty of action and adventure as the warrior with the seven scars eventually defeats the ravagers, rival martial artists, and even lost "brothers" from his own clan. From its huge success in print, the story was adapted into a popular anime television series, several films followed as well as video games, graphic novels, and even a live action motion picture.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Comic Art Legend: Alessandro Biffignandi

An artist whose striking covers always increased sales, he worked in many genres including war, western, horror, romance, mystery, and especially erotic titles. Born in Rome in 1935, Alessandro Biffignandi  attended the Favalli Studios learning his craft before moving with his family to Milan in 1958. From the late fifties to the early sixties the artist worked with various Milanese art agency's producing pieces for the French market. He painted covers for numerous mini comics  published by LUG including Nevada, Hondo, Kiwi, Yuma and Rodeo. The illustrator also drew the interiors for features like Rombo Bill, Flambo, Antonin, Agent Special K3, Sergeant Fury and Peter Berg. The late sixties found Alessandro working for the British company Fleetway where he was painting  covers for The Spider and Johnny Nero, where he based the image on Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni for the Super Library series. The Super Library was a reprint of the original series that started in the Lion comic series, as Biffignandi also drew at least one cover for Thriller Picture Library. Always feeling more comfortable painting in oils, Alessandro made a career move in the early eighties, leaving comics to concentrate more on magazine and book illustration. His colorful and dramatic covers have graced books published in England, the United States and Italy. From the late nineties Biffignandi moved into drawing calendars for, amongst others, Italy's fiscal police force, the Italian Guardia di Finanza. Today he lives with his family in Rome.