Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dell TV and Movie Comics--1

Crawford in the Comics
King of Diamonds was a short-lived American TV show from the early 1960s. It wasn't much. I watched it because I liked its star, Broderick Crawford, with whom I'd grown up watching Highway Patrol. John King, the protagonist, was a tough private security agent who worked in the diamond industry.

In 1962 Dell Comics published a one-shot comic based on the series. This was the period during which Dell, having separated from Western Publishing (which in turn created the Gold Key line), was going it alone. It was an interesting period for Dell. While they continued a decades-long tradition of publishing media tie-ins, their choices were often odd (e.g. Michael Shayne, Private Detective, set in its original World War II era). They also launched their own titles, some of which have become cult favorites--Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle and Brain Boy, for instance--but are remarkable both for their oddball subjects and their downright strange scripts.

I have read that L.B. Cole was editor during this period, though a fan letter I sent to Nukla was answered by D.J. Arneson. They may have gone through more than one editorial regime. The artist roster, which often changes with a change of editors, began with upper-middle-level artists like Mike Sekowsky and Bob Fujitani. By the Frankenstein/Dracula/Werewolf days, almost the only artists left were Tony Tallarico (with Bill Fraccio) and Jack Sparling, both famous for drawing for the worst-paying companies.

King of Diamonds was pencilled by Mike Sekowsky, and it featured the sort of things Sekowsky was best at: real world settings and guys in suits. While the artwork obviously sped up a bit in the latter pages (backgrounds began disappearing), Mike still did a nice job. He was served especially well by the inker. For years I believed the book was inked by Bob Fujitani. This still looks likely, especially in the earlier pages. However Sy Barry could have been in there, too, as could the prolific Bernard Sachs. Sekowsky's strips were often split up among inkers (especially if they were assigned to Frank Giacoia, who was a one-man splitting machine). Whoever it was, between them Sekowsky and the inker(s) did a damned nice likeness of Broderick Crawford. For that alone they get five Smurfswacker stars.

I sold my Dell collection years ago to pay the rent. The examples on this page are from the excellent fan site "Beware, There's a Crosseyed Cyclops in my Basement," which has recently been posting scans of many of the post-Western Dells.

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