Monday, September 30, 2013

Number 1446: Harvey (ol' bwah) Kurtzman on Flatfoot Burns

Harvey Kurtzman, one of my favorite comic book creators of all time, started his comic book career working for the Louis Ferstadt comics shop. Kurtzman earned his genius status over many years of toiling in the comic book factories, like drawing one-page gag strips for Stan Lee until landing his gig with EC Comics. When Kurtzman created, edited and wrote Mad it basically sealed him in comic book immortality.

But these early strips, “Flatfoot Burns,” six-page fillers which appeared in Police Comics, are the work of a 19-year-old artist looking to make a living in comics. Kurtzman was dismissive of this early work. As written in Kurtzman’s bio, Art of Harvey Kurtzman, Mad Genius of Comics, by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle, Kurtzman is quoted as saying: “‘I never had a style so I had nothing to sell.’ In another interview Kurtzman referred to his pre-war output as ‘very crude, very ugly stuff.’ Nonetheless these give subtle hints of what is to come.”

When you look at these strips you will see panels here and there that are foreshadowing the future and his work on Mad and beyond. Mostly you are seeing a young cartoonist learning his way. These three stories are from Police Comics #24-26 inclusive (1943. When reference is made to “pre-war” in the biography I assume it means that period before Kurtzman entered the service.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Number 1445: Strange adventures of the three genius hillbillies and the monster fisherman

There’s a sense of humor in both these stories from Strange Adventures #21 (1952). The three Herbert brothers, hillbillies who speak like, “We’m the Herberts. We’m heerd tell of a war goin’ on! We’m come to jine the fightin’!” are actually much smarter than they originally appear. The second story, which is cover featured with a beautiful illustration by Murphy Anderson, who also drew the story, is a reverse fish tale.

And that second story causes me some reflection. This issue of Strange Adventures is dated June, 1952. The Al Feldstein/Jack Davis story, “Gone...Fishing!” is from Vault of Horror #22, dated December, 1951-January, 1952. It probably went on sale in October, 1951, and if he saw it could have conceivably planted an idea in writer Jack Miller’s mind. In the EC story the “fisherman” is unseen. Perhaps Miller thought it would be fun to show what was fishing for humans.

From Vault of Horror #22. I scanned this from the Russ Cochran reprint, Vault of Horror #11.

It’s just conjecture, but I find the timing of both stories with similar themes interesting.

“The Genius Epidemic” is by Gardner Fox, drawn by Irwin Hasen and Joe Giella, and “The Monster That Fished For Men” is written by Jack Miller, drawn by Murphy Anderson.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Number 1444: Walt Kelly’s Funnybodies

According to the timeline on the history of the Pogo newspaper comic strip, 1949 was a busy year for Walt Kelly. However occupied he was launching the strip that would make his fame and fortune he found time to do comic books for Dell, including Four Color #244, The Brownies.

This story, “The Brownies in the Funnybody Kingdom,” is pure Kelly, story and art. I showed it before, years ago. These are new scans.

Walt Kelly used a pen-name in 1945 to do this beautiful childrens’ book, Trouble On the Ark. Click on the picture to see it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Number 1443: Charlie Chan on the Dude Ranch

Considering how well known Earl Derr Biggers’ character, Charlie Chan, was in books and movies, the comic book history wasn’t one of long-term success. The longest running series was published by DC in the late fifties, based on a TV show with J. Carroll Naish as Chan. It lasted for six issues. The Grand Comics database lists the publishers of comic books called Charlie Chan, and besides DC, amongst them are Prize Comics with five issues, Charlton with four, and Dell with two. That’s excluding various UK reprints and Pacific Comics Club reprints of the comic strip by Alfred Andriola.

Perhaps detectives like Chan and Ellery Queen (who also had a spotty publishing history), successful in more cerebral whodunnits, just didn’t fit in action-oriented comic books. But there were some interesting attempts to bring Chan to comic books, including the Prize Comics series, which included stories by Dick Briefer, who drew all Charlie Chan material in Prize’s last issue, #5 (1948). I’m posting this story because I like the Western setting. I like the crime plot that hinges on sex. And I think anything drawn by Briefer, famous in comic circles for his various incarnations of Frankenstein, is interesting.