Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Esteban Maroto's "Buried Pleasure"

I thought I'd end the year with this captivating and detailed pirate tale by the talented Spanish artist, Esteban Maroto. It features ten dynamic pages of swashbuckling action. The complete story is a wonderful example of Maroto's moody work. It includes a fantastic full page title splash and a "creepy" sexy vampire finale page. Maroto was no stranger to fantasy and horror, having worked heavily in the genres within CreepyEerieSavage Tales as well as other Warren and Marvel magazine format titles. But don't take my word for it enjoy this tale entitled "Buried Pleasure" published in Creepy #49 in 1972...



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Direct Currents: Ultra The Multi-Alien

With his first appearance in DC Comics Mystery in Space #103 for November of 1965,Ultra the Multi-Alien pushed out both long-time space heroes Adam Strange and Space Ranger from that anthology title. Created by writer Dave Wood and artist Lee Elias, Ultra was originally Earth spaceman Ace Arn, living in an future era when spaceflight was commonplace. After crash landing on a planet in a far off solar system, he was attacked by four aliens, each a member of a different species from their respective planets Ulla, Laroo, Trago, and Raagan. The four aliens simultaneously shot him with ray guns designed to transform him into an obedient member of their respective species. Because all four rays hit him at the same time, he was instead transformed into a combination of the four aliens, but free of their control. The upper right section of his body grew green fur and gained super strength; the upper left section turned blue and gained magnetic powers; his right leg grew feathers and small wings, giving him the ability to fly; and his left leg was transformed into a bolt of lightning. He combined the first letter of the worlds the four aliens were from, along with the first letter of his name to come up with: U-L-T-R-A, his new name. He soon finds a device to convert back to human form, giving him a secret identity. His series lasted until issue #110, September of 1966, when Mystery in Space was cancelled. He would not reappear for several years again in the DC Universe and occasionally pops up in titles still today.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Atlas/Seaboard Comics: Ironjaw

The first of the Atlas sword-slinging characters, Ironjaw #1 debuted in January of 1975 with a dynamic cover scene by artist Neal Adams. Written by comic veteran Michale Fleshier and drawn by Mike Sekowsky and Jack Abel, our savage hero roams the world in earth's distant, post-apocalyptic future. The story starts out as Ironjaw is hired by rebels to help overthrow a tyrannical king, but the warrior soon discovers his true heritage. As an infant, his mother's lover killed Ironjaw's father, the true king, and ascended to the throne himself. With the complicity of the queen, the new king ordered the infant killed, since he would inherit the throne and depose the usurper upon reaching adulthood. However, a soft-hearted stable hand abandoned the boy on a snowy mountainside, rather than kill him. The baby is then discovered and raised by the bandit Tar-Lok and his tribe. Ironjaw eventually kills the tyrant-king and claims his throne with the help of his sister who noticed their identical birthmark that revealed his true identity. But the new crowned majesty slips away in the night since kingly duties are of no interest to a barbarian. The only character in the Atlas line up to have four issues and one appearance in the anthology title, The Barbarians, Ironjaw was one of the most fleshed out characters as we discover his origin in Ironjaw #4 how his jaw was removed by a jealous group of thieves and replaced with the hideous jaw made of iron. Pablo Marcos' bold style was a good choice to continue the artistic chores as new writer Gary Friedrich took the barbarian in a different direction before the company suddenly folded.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Comic Artist's Speak...Al Williamson

This may be the wildest interview ever with the classic EC Comic artist Al Williamson, It's his "Let's Get Cozy With Larry Wargo" presentation. Unfortunately this is just some excerpts from the longer version on YouTube you have to see, and I understand why Al wore the dark glasses for this one, but  he does explain his long career and love for the Western, Science Fiction, and fantasy genres.... 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nova #12 : Anatomy of a Mighty Marvel Comics Cover

Now there are numerous quality books published on how to draw comics and break into the comic art business, not to mention all the online courses, schools, and other programs on the Internet to help artists both young and old. But back in 1977,  "How to Draw The Marvel Way" was one of the few books Marvel Comics ever published at the time to instruct new artist's on their method of drawing for the company. Using one of their best artists,  "Big" John Buscema was chosen to illustrate the book with instructions by Stan "The Man" Lee himself. One of my favorite sections is Chapter 10 and the process followed for a making a Marvel cover design. As we can see from the art provided below, first it begins with some very quick pencil thumbnails for a design, before landing on one (here the bottom right) to do an initial rough. In this case John used his cover for their star-crossed hero, Nova, for issue #12 where he encounters the amazing Spider-Man. Next its followed by a more detailed rough pencils before moving on to more full pencils to fill in all the last needed details. Finally there is the published pen and ink cover to the book, with some slick inks by Frank Giacoia, and it appears that may have a few touch ups by Spider-Man artist, "Jazzy" John Romita Sr. But for young kids dreaming of one day drawing their heroes, it was a real sign to behold, and still is today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Peter Millar and CARtoons Magazine

Peter Millar was an American illustrator, cartoonist, and drag racer best known for his work with CARtoons and DRAGtoons magazines. The artist often used the pen names Arin Cee and Millarkey for his humor work. Millar had the idea to create a car culture humor magazine along with Carl Kohler for the Petersen Publication CARtoons magazine in 1959, which ended its long run in 1991. Millar's wacky, irreverent view of the fun, foibles, and frustrations of professional drag racers hit home with the drivers and readers as well. CARtoons first issue included the story of the hot rod community and introduced the term "Rumpsville".  One of the most unlikely success stories in 20th Century in magazine publishing, CARtoons by itself would have guaranteed initial editor Millar a place in comics history. The humor mag sold extremely well for years, offering its MAD-style outlet for talented West Coast cartoonists like Mel Keefer, Russ Manning, Gilbert Shelton, Alex Toth, Dale Hale, Dennis Elllefson, and others. In a time when nearly all comics publishing was based in New York, there various publications helped launch many a career. The first issue of DRAGtoons debuted in June of 1963 after Millar secured a deal with a distributor to cover advance editorial costs and shipping. When the federal authorities took out his printer, Millar rescued 100,000 copies and their mailing labels and sent them to various parts of the country himself. Irregular distribution would be a troubling theme in the creator's career as a publisher. Millar was not only an important mover for one magazine, but an entire sub-culture of comics expression. He worked on his projects well into the 1970s, including Millar Publications four issues of the popular Ed "Big Daddy" Roth Magazine. 



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Marvel Spotlight: Star-Lord

Marvel Comics Star-Lord first appeared in the black-and-white magazine publication Marvel Preview #4 for Jan of 1976. Created by writer Steve Englehart and artist Steve Gan, Peter Quill was the son of a human mother and alien father. Quill assumes the mantle of the Star-Lord, an interplanetary policeman, even though Englehart had plans for the character that went unrealized. He said later, "I conceived something very large. My hero would go from being an unpleasant, introverted jerk to the most cosmic being in the universe, and I would tie it into my then-new interest in astrology. After his earthbound beginning, his mind would be opened step by step, with a fast-action story on Mercury, a love story on Venus, a war story on Mars, and so on out to the edge of the solar system, and then beyond." But when the author left Marvel, Chris Clarmont revised the character comparing him to Robert A. Heinlein, and a threat of legal action by the science fiction writer. Teaming up with artist John Byrne and inker Terry Austin the character continued in Marvel Super Special, Marvel Premiere, Marvel Spotlight, and later with Michael Golden in Marvel Preview #11. Star-Lord appeared off and on in guest appearances over the years before being awarded his own series and is still alive in a recent incarnation from "The House of Ideas".

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Buried Treasure: Straight Arrow

Riding on the popularity of movie and TV Westerns of the 1950s, the daily strip Straight Arrow debuted in 1954 and only lasted around a year but was published in many American newspapers. It was unusual to have a three-part deal to get the strip published, Nabisco owned the character, Magazine Enterprises produced the feature and the Bell Syndicate distributed the strip. Artists John Belfi and Joe Certa had been drawing the bi-monthly Western comic Durango Kid for Magazine Enterprises when they were teamed with their editor Ray Krank and writer Garner Fox to create the feature. But from the beginning, it was a difficult process. First to get the Enterprises editor and writer to create a plot synopsis that was then sent to Nabisco to see if the character was properly maintained. Next it went back to Enterprises to be broken down to more specific action before passed on to the Bronx studio of Joe Certa to draw the characters and John Belfi two miles away to pencil  the backgrounds. Then the strip was sent back to Enterprises to re-check and once again to Nabisco to re-check before Belfi inked the piece and send it to the Bell Syndicate for publication in the newspapers. But since the feature had plenty of action and adventure, it is well remembered by many a baby boomer even today.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jerry Grandenetti's "The Carrier of the Serpent"

Jerry Grandenetti was one of my favorite artists who worked for Warren Publications back in the seventies. His moody expressionistic drawings were perfectly matched for those spooky tales he created by himself or with others for the black and white magazines, Eerie, Creepy, and Vampirella. So just in time for Halloween I thought I would show this weird little tale. The one story that stood out in my mind from the rest of the pack might be his collaboration with writer T. Casey Brennen in their story "The Carrier of the Serpent" published in Eerie  #38 for February of 1972...



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Unpublished Gems: Conan the Barbarian

One of Marvels most popular characters that started the "barbarian" invasion in comic anti-heroes, we were lucky to have the talented Barry Smith on the title to provide the lush illustrations. But don't take my word for it, just take a look at this unpublished cover for Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #9 from 1971. Robert E. Howard's most famous creation savagely fights as he falls in this action-packed cover from "The House of Ideas" most renowned Bronze Age title. With wonderful backgrounds as supremely detailed as the main figures themselves, you can see why Smith's art, especially his covers, are so prized by original art collectors. Thought somewhat different than the actual printed version as shown here, I imagine this was an earlier version of the piece, most likely changed at the request of the editor. Perhaps to make Conan a little larger and more centered in the image. In many ways, however, one could argue this version is clearly superior to the version that was eventually published. Incidentally this cover sold at auction back in 2003 for the grand sum of $7,590, so who knows what a cover of this caliber would cost  today eleven years later.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jonny Quest...Adventures in Animation

Here is a rare documentary featuring interviews, rare clips and insight into the origins of baby boomers favorite television cartoon, Jonny Quest, featuring it's creators and other artists it inspired over the years. This amazing documentary highlighting Doug Wildey's work originally appeared on the excellent JONNY QUEST DVD box set.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Comic Artist Speak...Hogarth, Buscema, and Druillet

I hope you enjoy this little film starring three of the top names in comic art from 1972 in a rare Manhattan meeting between Burne Hogarth, Philippe Druillet, and "Big" John Buscema! While Druillet starts us out with some of his fantastic creatures, Tarzan artist Hogarth creates a drawing of the jungle lord in pastels, while Buscema renders on of his best characters, The Silver Surfer.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Greatest Adventure: Kong the Untamed

Created by writer Jack Oleck and artist Alfredo Alcala, Kong the Untamed made his first appearance in July of 1975 with only a five issue run ending in March of 1976. With some interesting story lines for this short-run hero, the real draw was the lush detailed artwork by the Filipino master. Our young hero was an adolescent Cro-Magnon man who lived during the Paleolithic era some 4,000-10,000 years ago. Kong was born the son of the woman Attu and the tribal chief Trog the One-Eyed. The tribe's shaman, Magl, took note of the infant's blond hair and likened him to a mighty warrior from ages past named Kong. Believing that her child housed the spirit of this great warrior, Attu named him Kong. Trog however, feared that if Magl's assertion proved true, then his son might one day grow up to overthrow him. To prevent such a thing from occurring, he expelled both mother and child from the tribe.Years later, Kong grew into manhood and learned that his mother had been slain by Trog's hand. He swore vengeance against his father and wandered the region for many years, partaking in many wild adventures. It is unknown what became of Kong as he grew older, as his final adventures have yet to be recorded.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Comic Artists Speak...Chris Sprouse

One of my favorite modern comic artists, with his extra clean attractive line as shown in his dynamic books, TOM STRONG and SUPREME. Sprouse talks about his early influences, working methods and meeting writer Alan Moore in this short interview. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Make Mine Marvel: Thongor

Lin Carter's Thongor was a fan boy's homage to the great Robert E. Howard's Conan as he merged Howard like characters with a more Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired world. Carter's character first began in the mid-60s during the Edgar Rice Burroughs boom and appeared in novels, short-stories and a variety of fantasy anthologies. Could Thongor have been Marvel Comics first barbarian character?  Writer Roy Thomas planned to get the rights to Thongor before he tried for the Conan license because he imagined Howard's estate would want more money for the character. However, Thomas soon found out that he could get Conan for the same price as Thongor, so he opted to purchase the Cimmerian, who became the star of Marvel's first and best known sword and sorcery magazines. After Marvel struck it big with Conan, his peer Kull soon followed, as the company  started adding  more sword and sorcery properties to their bullpen. Creatures on the Loose became their "barbarian try-out mag" since Kull made his debut there with issue #10, followed by Gullivar Jones of Mars, and finally Thongor with issue #22 in December 1972.  Thongor's storyline lasted through issue #29 ending in February of 1974. Science Fiction writer George Alec Effinger wrote the first four issues (with Tony Isabella helping out on book 25), then Golden Age great Gardner Fox wrote issues #26-27 before the  Steve Gerber completed the run with issues#28-29. Talented newcomer and barbarian fan Val Mayerick handled the artistic chores from issues #22-27, with the might Vincente Alcazar finishing out the tales in the last two issues.