Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grab Bag of Strips

Stuff I Used to Have
If there's one thing I love more than artwork, it's being able to pay the bills. Somehow the second love has always managed to overcome the first. So it is that today I have very few pieces of original art left. I suppose it's just as well. I never had the space properly to display them, so most of the pieces resided in file drawers. I'm sure all of them are in better homes, unless dealers have got their hands on some of them. I feel like taking it easy today, so instead of writing something important, I'll share scans of some nice originals I was fortunate to own for a while.

First is one of Neal Adams' legendary Ben Casey dailies. I still marvel at the delicacy of Adams' pen line. I grew up drawing twice up and never really adapted to smaller original sizes. The control Adams had while drawing at this tiny size amazes me. So does the lame dialogue in the first two panels.
Another master of stroke control--brush strokes, this time--was Alden McWilliams. He must have assisted, ghosted or drawn a hundred different strips, not to mention his comic book work. He must have been a prodigious worker! He also was damned good. I think only his rather mundane leading men held him back. It certainly wasn't his luscious women. Here's a fantastic example from Twin Earths.
His great inking licks have won Enrique Romero a big following. It hasn't hurt that he draws lotsa naked women with big breasts. While I admire Romero's craftsmanship, to me his characters have always had a generic look. Despite the admitted merits of his Modesty Blaise (which was far superior to his Axa), Romero never shook that Spanish-romance-artist look. This was a great example of his artwork, but note how much the fugitive in the last panel resembles Willie Garvin. By the way, I love the way time turned the pasteover balloons transparent and revealed the art underneath.
As long as we're on the subject of Modesty Blaise, here's another artist who worked (briefly) on that strip. I bought this John Burns Seekers daily thousands of years ago from the editors of the late lamented Menomonee Falls Gazette. While I like Burns' work, I was struck by how little work (especially backgrounds) he put into this.
No lack of work in this strip. It's a fine example of Caniff's wartime Terry and the Pirates. Terry isn't in this, but Raven Sherman and Captain Blaze are. The inking is top-drawer throughout, as is the composition. That first panel is a beaut. Can't believe how much dialogue Caniff could cram into a panel without it seeming crowded.
Just for fun here's an enlargement of panel 3.
We can't discuss Caniff without discussing Caniffists. Or is it Caniff-Sicklesists? Give a nod to the excellent Mel Graff. I found this Patsy daily in Italy in the mid-1980s. It was the only one I had ever seen. Since then I've seen the original immediately following this one and I gotta say, it makes this one look like chopped liver!
Winding up this trip down memory lane is another Caniffist, one who's taken a lot of flak. Someday I'll go into detail about my schizophrenic relationship with George Wunder. For now suffice it to say his very early stuff was much, much better than his later work. But he never was completely without merit. This daily was from 1946 and showed off Wunder's best aspects.
It also shows some of his worst aspects, like Hotshot's arm (which seems to have three segments rather than two) and his dreadful dialogue. But what the heck. Let's end with a closeup of the typically statuesque babe in the first panel.
To these beloved originals, wherever they may be long and may you never moulder!


Diego said...

Please tell us what you think about George Wunder, an artist I absolutely love! I really admire his inking, which, influences aside, is one of the most precise and cleanest I've ever seen. If he could only draw human figures better, he would've been one of the greatest artists in the world! Am I the only one here who thinks so? I know Steranko also loved George Wunder and, like you, he says it was the early work he loved. I guess in Wunder's later work there were too many "hands" working on the art... And talking about Wunder, what about Lee Elias at the time of Beyond Mars? Another Caniff copycat, who was a much better inker than Caniff himself...

Germund said...

Interesting, both the 1940 Caniff and 1947 (not 1946) Wunder have visited my collection the past decade, though have now parted with both of them (not to pay the bills, though, but in trade deals). They were, probably are(!), nice indeed!

Smurfswacker said...

Fascinating! It'd be fun to follow the travels of old artwork over the years. In my typically fannish way I always hope they'll wind up with people who really like them. What interesting oddities do/did you have in your collection?