Wednesday, November 24, 2010

GE Giveaway Comics

Adventures in Antiquity

Those of you who don't know ought to check it out. This site archives hundreds of rare old comics from a galaxy of publishers. One collection includes several of the giveaway comics released by General Electric during the 1950s.

These 16-page, cover-free comics feature Johnny, a red-sweatered high-school boy, and Ed, a business-suited know-it-all who never stops smiling. In each comic Ed takes Johnny to some place where they'll find lots of General Electric products and explains the related technology. One issue deals with the history of jet power, another the story of television, and so on. We learn during the course of the series that GE is a kindly, selfless benefactor responsible for inventing and/or developing almost all the life-simplifying technologies of the modern world.

I used to own most of these comics, but they went in the Great Collection Sale some 20 years ago. Finding them at allowed me to revisit the series and see if the art was as good as I remembered. Some of the GE books stuck in my mind as quite well drawn. In later years I doubted those memories, because the art was credited to George Roussos, who (as George Bell) had unimpressed the hell out of me inking early Marvels.

Thanks to Ger Apeldoorn and other bloggers, I've learned that early Roussos work was actually pretty good. Ger has questioned the common assumption that Roussos did most of his old comics work teamed with Mort Meskin. The GE comic I reprint here supports Ger's theory. The art certainly looks like Roussos, despite the faces on the main characters (which have a weird Lou Cameron vibe, but that's probably coincidence). The middle-aged men, a Roussos specialty, have his look. So does the drapery inking. I see no Meskin here, however.

Be that as it may, if this is George, it's one of the finest and most painstaking jobs he ever did. Good figure drawing is surpassed by even better background work, and the sheer effort he put into some of these pages (check out page 9) is impressive. Despite the fact that most of the story is walk-and-talk, this is an exciting old-school art job.

This comic, "Adventures in Electricity," is identified as "number seven" and bears a 1950 copyright date.


Paul Chadwick said...

Holy cats, that assembly line page is a stunner. Must've taken a week.

I hope he got big-time corporate money for this job.

Has anybody done a Mort Meskin bio? That would be worthwhile.

Smurfswacker said...

Meskin's sons just released a coffee table Meskin book co-written with Steven Brower called "From Shadow to Light." It's gotten great reviews but I haven't seen a copy yet. Supposed to be loaded with rare old stuff.

Paul Chadwick said...

You sent me a-Googlin' and I must share this YouTube video promoting From Shadow to Light.

It's wordless, hands flipping through the book, sometimes bringing the book up to the lens to get a closer look -- exactly what you'd do in a bookstore or at a convention, deciding whether to buy it.

I love web minimalism. Modestly brilliant.