Saturday, April 27, 2013

George Wunder Terry Sundays 1947--3

Four More from the War on Bor

I'm putting off my glimpse at Alfred Mazure to post a few more George Wunder Terry Sundays. The story continues as fat man--make that vast man--Theodore Bor and sexy viperess Ermine Toy try to take over an oilfield. Terry, Hotshot Charlie, and Pat Ryan don't think so.

22 June 1947

29 June 1947

6 July 1947

13 July 1947

By the way, if you want to see the entire storyline (but not all the art) of this and the previous story, check out The Digital Comics Museum. Charlton Comics (of all people) published three issues of George Wunder's Terry and the Pirates. In typical Charlton fashion they were numbered 26, 27, and 28. Also in typical Charlton fashion, the stories are wretchedly-printed chop-ups of Wunder's first two continuities. However you can get a look at the stuff that happened between the Sundays I'm posting.  This link will take you to the Charlton Terry page.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Alfred Mazure's Romeo Brown

Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?
Romeo Brown first appeared in 1954 in London's Daily Mirror, home of the grandmother of "girlie" strips, Norman Pett's Jane. Romeo Brown was a clueless private detective who fancied himself irresistible. His mysteries always found him surrounded by beautiful girls wearing clothes that never stayed on. The drawings were by Alfred Mazure, a Dutch-born illustrator with a long and interesting career both at home and in England. (I'll talk about his background in my next post.) Mazure drew the strip through 1957.

Romeo Brown is poorly-documented and its history is obscure. Many online sources credit writer Peter O'Donnell as co-creator with Mazure. This is clearly an error: O'Donnell began writing Romeo in 1956. No one seems to know from whom he took over. In an interview O'Donnell merely said he was offered the job because "the editor was dissatisfied." Given that Mazure had written his own scripts in the past, might he have been the original Romeo writer? Maybe, but several sources state that Mazure, after working with O'Donnell for a year, left Romeo to launch "his own creation," Carmen & Co., at a rival newspaper. If he'd been the original Romeo Brown author, wouldn't Romeo count as his "own creation"? At any rate, following Mazure's departure O'Donnell continued writing and Jim Holdaway took over the art chores. We all know where those two wound up. (One source said Holdaway had been Mazure's assistant, but I haven't found confirmation of this.)

In a 2002 online interview, O'Donnell described the strip thus: "Romeo Brown was a comic private detective, and my brief was that every story was to revolve around a girl or girls, and the more clothes I could safely get off them the better."

The Holdaway-O'Donnell Romeo Brown has gained a small international following, though reprints are few. It's too bad that Mazure's Romeo has suffered as a result. While Mazure's free, brushy style and Holdaway's sharp-focused penwork were worlds apart, both men were excellent cartoonists and both did a fine job on Romeo Brown.

Perhaps the greatest difference between the two artists' approaches was in posing. Holdaway developed a broad slapstick approach, while Mazure's work was always tempered by fashion-art elegance.  As we see in the present story, languid, long-legged realistic women co-exist with broadly-cartooned men. Romeo himself has a cucumber head and shoebutton eyes, while his adversaries' husbands--one a wizened alcoholic, the other a bloated bureaucrat--are so incongruous that the reader wonders what the girls see in them. However there's no question what their husbands see in them.

As a fan of both men's work, I'm reluctant to label one the "better" artist. All the same, I'd like to suggest that though Holdaway brought a more consistent, more exciting look to the strip, he never managed to best his predecessor in one area: drawing pretty women. Don't misunderstand me. Holdaway's beauties had great bodies. Their faces were cute. But Mazure could draw a face that was knock-down gorgeous. He proves it in this episode, especially with Pussy, the more free-wheeling of the larcenous ladies. Mazure knew he had a good thing going, and provided us a wealth of ravishing closeups. These faces showcase the best features of Maz' bold, free brushwork.

The following story begins with strip N208. British strips I've seen with letter/number identifiers use the letter to identify which story it is (A for the first story, B for the second, etc.) and the number to indicate where the strip falls within the story (so A1 is first story, first daily and E65 is fifth story, 65th daily). That doesn't seem to be the system here  "N" may mean the 14th story, but "208" must mean something else. Probably not the cumulative number of strips--that would yield an average of only 15 strips per story!

I have never found Mazure's work in English. This story came from an Italian fanzine called Wow. I translated their script back into English. But it's possible that the Italians shot their strips from a French reprint. In that case my approximate script is three generations removed from the original dialogue. But we're here for the pictures anyway, right?

Now that we've all admired these beautiful drawings, will someone please explain the talking neck shot in strip N218???!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

George Wunder Originals, 1947

Original George
Since I seem to be on a George Wunder kick, I dug out my two and only Terry originals by GW. Both date from 1947. I bought them through an ad in the Menomonee Falls Gazette. They've suffered over the last forty years, having barely escaped a major ceiling-leak that destroyed much of my collection in the mid-1980s. Water chewed the bottom of the first panel of the earlier daily and both took on those brown dots which I believe are called "foxing." They're gems none the less.

Here is the daily for 14 July 1947. It comes near the end of the Theodore Bor continuity from which I've been posting Sunday pages. I've said before that I feel Wunder wasn't a great dialogue writer. In support of this view I offer the amazingly convoluted sentence in panel two.
The other original is the daily for 27 October. This is the beginning of the storyline which introduced Spray O'Hara. Spray chummed around with the boys for some time, then married Hotshot Charlie. Before long both were out of the strip. I remember reading somewhere that Wunder felt the marriage was a mistake because it severely limited Hotshot's usefulness as a sidekick. For several years afterward Wunder tried out replacements.

By examining the originals closely (they're huge--over 20 inches wide) I noted a couple of technical tidbits. I was interested to see that in many panels Wunder seems to have outlined everything first before applying shadow. For example in the second panel of 10/27 you can see Terry's eyes, nose and mouth were inked with a pen. These details were obscured by shadow. Other bits include buttons and folds on Pat's suit jacket and the steps and runner on the stairs in panel 3. This doesn't seem always to have been the case, though. I can't see signs of Chopstick Joe's hat line, ears, or collar under the shadow in panel one. Of course they might have been inked with a brush rather than a pen, in which case they wouldn't show.

The ink is remarkably black and dense. Few brush strokes are visible within the black areas. Either Wunder laid ink on really thick or the ink he used was much denser than modern inks. Maybe both. I also see that in the last panel an excess word ("to" at the end of the second line) was scratched off with a blade, yet the paper's surface is barely damaged. Sure can't do that with present-day Bristol board!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

George Wunder Terry Sundays 1947--2

Nine Days' Wunder

I have no idea whether anyone is interested in these things, but as long as I have them I'll post a few more before giving it up as a waste of time. Here are nine more Terry Sundays from George Wunder's first year on the strip. In these 1947 halves Wunder begins his second storyline. The femme fatale from the previous story, Ermine Toy(!), returns in the company of Theodore Bor, an amazing fat man of the sort only Wunder could have designed. Chopstick Joe continues his supporting role and Terry's old pal Pat Ryan makes a final appearance. Again--regrettably--some strips are missing.

[UPDATE: I didn't get my facts straight. This is not Pat Ryan's final appearance. He continues into the next story, the one introducing Spray O'Hara.]

Ermine Toy represents something that irked me about Wunder's early stories. Under Milton Caniff Terry's romances had always been a big part of the strip. Wunder continued that tradition. The difference is that we could understand Terry falling in love with Caniff's women. (With the possible exception of Burma, who was plagued by the temporal paradox of having met Terry when he was a schoolboy.) Instead Wunder hooked the guy up with a string of wackos that leaves us wondering what the hell Terry saw in them. Murderous, bitchy, vain, manipulative...the prize of the lot was Baroness Popoffnikoff, who was so self-centered that she secretly dumped a cargo of desperately-needed relief supplies to make room for her fancy wardrobe. All these women had to do was approach within twenty feet of Terry, and he would instantly jettison all common sense and fall madly in love.

After awhile Wunder switched the romances to secondary characters, like Hotshot Charlie and his future wife, Spray O'Hara. This was a wise move, as it saved Terry from seeming a complete idiot. These other women were however cut from cloth similar to that of Terry's ex-paramours.

Visually Ermine is a knockout. As Wunder's angular style of character design evolved, women's faces suffered the most. Ermine combines Wunder and a bit of Caniff with excellent results. In my opinion Ermine was Wunder's hottest hottie.

I also need to mention Chopstick Joe. Wunder's work always contained a streak of humorous exaggeration, and Chopstick Joe was right up his alley. Though Caniff created Joe, it was Wunder who brought him to life. Design, posing, even his dialogue, make Chopstick Joe one of my favorite Wunder characters.

16 March 1947
23 March 1947
6 April 1947
13 April 1947
27 April 1947
11 May 1947
18 May 1947
25 May 1947
8 Jun 1947
Next time: respite from Wunder puns.

Friday, April 12, 2013

George Wunder Terry Sundays 1947--1

The Wunder of it All
I read that Hermes Press is reprinting the first two years of George Wunder's Terry and the Pirates. It's a welcome project, though a 9x12-inch book isn't likely to full justice to Wunder's artwork, Especially the Sundays. I feel a shiver whenever I read that Sundays will be "thoroughly restored."

In a recent post Ger Apeldoorn offered black-and-white samples of early George Wunder Terrys. As it happens, a couple of the Sundays which open Ger's post are the ones missing from my stack of 1947 tear sheets. Wunder took over Terry and the Pirates on 30 December 1946. As Ger notes, when he started drawing the strip Wunder followed Caniff's lead for a while before developing his personal style. However this was true mostly with character faces: Wunder's highly-detailed, heavily-inked approach to drapery and settings changed the strip's look immediately. Ger's posting prompted me to dig out my box of old Sundays and scan the few examples I have of Wunder's first Terry continuity.

In this story Wunder polishes off two major Caniff characters. Wunder only used six members of Caniff's vast cast. Three enjoyed long runs. Hotshot Charlie continued as Terry's comic sidekick for several more years. Eventually he married Spray O'Hara and left the strip. Chopstick Joe, a shady Chinese entrepreneur, was the boys' sometime employer in the years preceding Terry's return to the Air Force. The unforgettable Dragon Lady continued to pop in and out during the life of the strip, looking different every time. The other three holdovers were Terry's big-brother surrogate Pat Ryan, arch-villain Tony Sandhurst and the voiceless giant Big Stoop. Pat returns briefly in Wunder's second continuity, then fades forever. Sandhurst and Big Stoop make their final appearances in this episode.

As a young fan I used to wonder why Wunder didn't use more of Caniff's famous characters. Over the years I realized Wunder probably knew he'd never satisfy anyone with his take on the likes of Burma, Normandie, Flip Corkin, and the other wartime friends and foes Caniff had made famous. I'll wager he decided to make a clean break and create his own group of players who could rise or fall on their own merits. Except for the Dragon Lady; he'd have been a fool to dump her. At any rate, Wunder's story philosophy was different from Caniff's. Instead of complex, intertwining storylines with characters disappearing and reappearing, Wunder told self-contained stories. He almost never brought a character back.

The following Sundays were published in February and March of 1947. Sorry about the missing dates; check Ger's site to view some of them.

2 Feb 1947
16 Feb 1947
23 Feb 1947
2 Mar 1947
9 Mar 1947

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Frank Godwin at Home

Frank Godwin in the 1930s

Frank Godwin, Party Animal
One of the wonderful things about the Internet is the way you find valuable information in places you never thought to look. For example I finally unearthed an example of Alfred Sindall's Paul Temple art on a website devoted to media depictions of ventriloquism (because the Temple story concerned a ventriloquist).

I recently stumbled across another gem: a remarkable glimpse into the everyday life of Frank Godwin during the 1930s. It seems that in 1928 Godwin and his third wife, Sylvia, bought a "cottage" called Fallbrook in upstate New York. The article I found was written by Kihm Winship, an historian of Fallbrook's neighborhood, the lakeside village called  Skaneateles. Curious about the house's history, Winship discovered that Godwin had made the home a sort of "artist's colony," entertaining not only other artists but A-list celebrities like James Thurber. The Godwins held legendary house parties. Though one source called them "wild," a description by Thurber makes the parties sound not like drunken debauches, but rather extended weekends full of fishing, boating, hiking and long luxurious dinners--the sorts of things wealthy Upstate New Yorkers did in Nancy Drew novels.
Sylvia Godwin in the 1930s

I'm not going to paraphrase this excellent essay; rather I charge you to visit the site yourself. You'll find a bio of Frank's wife Sylvia, who not only ran the house but toured South America and brought back textiles which she exhibited at an art museum. You'll also find some great visuals--not only the photos I reproduce above, but also a Godwin family Christmas card, shots of the house, and candid photos of visiting celebs. Be sure to read the comments. People connected to the house, including Godwin descendants, offer further details.

Photo source:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Frank Godwin Connie Sundays 1935

Miss Mystery, 1935
Here are scans of four tabloid Sundays of Frank Godwin's Connie.They appeared in the Milwaukee Journal in 1935. I bought them a long time ago (you can guess how long by noting that the ad appeared in the Menomonee Falls Gazette).

At the time I had seen only one Connie Sunday, a translated, undated reproduction in a French fanzine. It was  part of a continuity and was drawn in Godwin's familiar Flagg-Gibson style. So I was surprised to find these Sundays to be self-contained "mysteries of the week" drawn in the simpler style of the early Connie dailies. That would change within a year, because by 1936 Connie was a full-blooded adventure continuity strip. The Sunday stories didn't tie into the dailies, which was a good thing. Few papers carried Connie dailies; fewer yet ran the Sundays.

20 January 1935:

27 January 1935:

3 February 1935:

10 February 1935:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Great Moments in Comics

Be Prepared!
A good villain is a villain who knows how to keep things organized.
From Fawcett's 1947 one-shot, "Anarcho, Dictator of Death."
To be fair, Dr. Mabuse came up with his first.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chip (Cip) by Benito Jacovitti

A Cip off the Old Block
I've spent a while working on this, so I hope it will please some readers.

Benito Jacovitti (1923-1997), though a legend in Italy, doesn't seem to have caught on in other countries. Certainly few American fans have heard of this crazy cartoonist, whose unique style and manic energy filled thousands of pages from 1940 on. Perhaps Jacovitti's use of puns and invented words contributed to this situation. At any rate, Jacovitti (usually signing himself  "JAC") created lots of very funny, very weird, comics.

Jacovitti by Joe Zatt, from Wikipedia
Jacovitti's first major gig was for the Catholic kids' weekly Il Vittorioso (The Victorious). He created many characters for them, including Pippo, the leader of a kid gang, and Cip l'arcipoliziotto, a cross between Sherlock Holmes and hardboiled private eye. What follows is Cip contro Zagar (Cip vs. Zagar), in which the detective grapples with his nemesis, super-criminal Zagar. In terms of the artist's career it's an early piece (1945-1946), before Jac had abandoned himself to cramming each panel with word play and joky detail. A beneficial side effect for the amateur linguist is that the dialogue is therefore easier to translate.

As mentioned above the Cip character (the name is pronounced "Cheep") began as a Sherlock Holmes parody. Cip's pipe is a token of that heritage. But Jacovitti's rough-and-tumble spirit was more suited to in-your-face characters, and the detective moved quickly into the hardboiled arena. He's quite a character: self-important, arrogant, bombastic, violent, often very stupid and never owning up to the fact that he's largely incompetent. He pretends to be cool and brave, but as we see here, Zagar scares the pants off him.

Cip and Zagar hint at the origins of Jacovitti's cartooning style. Cip himself is strongly influenced by Segar's Castor Oyl, and Zagar is Mickey Mouse's enemy The Phantom Blot. But Jacovitti's personality was so strong that he soon left influences behind. In this story his unmistakable character design is almost fully-matured. So is his obsession with sausages.
Source: Il Faro del Glifo  blog

As an amateur translator I feel the need to justify a few things. First the names. I changed Cip to Chip because it's close to the original and easier to read in English. Other character names were changed for the same reason. Chip's sidekick was originally named Gallina, or "hen." With a nod to Douglas Adams I renamed him Roosta  because it was still a chicken name and it sounded better than "Hen." I gave the dog Kilometro ("Kilometer") his original name because, again, it had a nicer sound. Jacovitti tended to give secondary characters rhyming names: Raimondo il Vagobondo (Raymond the Tramp), Mario il Veterinario (Mario the Veterinarian). I tried to give them English names that followed the same pattern. One exception was Easterly, the castle administrator. He started out "Pasquarello." Early on Jacovitti played on the first part of his name (Pascua=Easter) by having Chip call him "Nata-something" (Natale=Christmas). I called him Easterly to access some of those puns. Most troubling was Chip's label l'arcipoliziotto  ("the arch-policeman.") It just doesn't make sense in English, where "arch" has come to imply evil (arch-enemy, arch-criminal). I finally gritted my teeth and called him "the super cop." While unlovely, it carries the original meaning.

But enough of this stalling. I hope you find as many laughs in this as I did, from the first page to its preposterous conclusion. It's show time!


 This story was scanned from the 1974 reprint by Camillo Conti.