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‘Art’ Category

  1. Pinball Art: 1961

    November 8, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    The backglass art below is from pinball machines that began arriving in arcades, drugstores and bowling alleys in 1961. The three big pinball machine manufacturers at the time were Gottlieb, Williams, and Bally, all based in Chicago. The designers of these machines sought to incorporate a theme and unique rules of play that almost created a story when successfully integrated. It was up to the artists to illustrate that story as framing devices around the various bumpers, slots, and chutes of the playfield, as well as the backglass which not only served as a score card but also as the game’s initial enticement to those willing to sacrifice their loose change to engage with that “story”.

    The most prolific among the artists who illustrated backglass (the upright part that displays the score) and playfields (where the ball rolls) at the time were two Chicago artists Roy Parker (Egg Head, Flying Circus, Hi Dolly, Lancers) and George Molentin (Black Jack, Bo Bo, Darts, Highways, Hollywood, Music Man). Click images for a larger view.


     


  2. Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Giant Robots

    October 31, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    In the last few months I’ve written a couple posts on the world of plastic models in 1961 and one thing that struck me was how important it was for companies like Revell and Aurora to have impressive artwork on the boxes that contained the less than awe-inspiring unassembled and unpainted pieces of plastic inside.  That’s when I discovered the artwork of Shigeru Komatsuzaki (1915-2001). The first pieces I discovered were for two plastic models by the Japanese company Nichimo depicting floating automobiles. I can’t tell you why, but I really like the way Komatsuzaki draws cars.

    Although Shigeru Komatsuzaki’s art apparently dominated science fiction publishing in Japan during the 1950s, there is precious little of his early work available online.  Almost all of his prewar work, including his personal collection was lost to wartime firebombing and the paper used for domestic printing for a decade after the war was done on the most perishable of paper.  A fire at Komatsuzaki’s home in 1995 destroyed much of his remaining archives.

     

    The format of his most renowned work in the Fifties was a double-page tableaux with some descriptive text portraying a variety of monster attacks, natural disasters and futuristic inventions. These works were not comic books nor were they any sort of proto-manga although the influence of his style is readily apparent in modern Japanese sequential art.

    Starting in the late Fifties Komatsuzaki worked as a production designer on several Japanese films, including The Mysterians (1957) and  Battle in Outer Space (1960) designing futuristic vessels and monsters. While Manga was undergoing a huge boom during the early Sixties, Komatsuzaki stuck to single-image paintings, mostly as the artist of hundreds of dramatic box illustrations for plastic model kits of subjects as varied as floating cars, giant robots, spaceships and the entire fleet of craft featured in Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds.

         

         


  3. SF Magazine Cover Gallery for Oct. 1961

    October 26, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Although they’re not as striking as his black and white inksVirgil Finlay‘s color paintings like this one for the cover of Galaxy are always filled with background detail other artist might not bother with.  Depicting a futuristic sport called space diving from Fritz Leiber’s story “The Beat Cluster”, Finlay shows the beatnik musicians, artists and dancers that inhabit the hamster-tube enclosure in high Earth orbit, as well as those whose thrills require them to wear spacesuits in the vacuum of space.

    Chesley Bonestell‘s cover painting for the October, 1961 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction combines the artist’s ultra-realistic style of depicting both space hardware and space landscape. Most Americans were first introduced to Bonestell’s work when LIFE magazine published a series of paintings of Saturn as seen from several of its moons in 1944.  This cover is intriguing because it is not immediately apparent whether the rocket ships are taking off from the cratered planet or landing.

    A side note on this particular issue of F&SF is that it contained the first printing of Kurt Vonnegut’s Hugo award-winning short story, “Harrison Bergeron”

    Amazing Stories‘ October cover, like the month before, is by Alex Schomburg  and is another depiction of near future technology in the vein of  Popular Mechanics. It depicts off shore missile silos that seem rather impractical and unneccessary in an era where both the United States and the USSR were rapidly developing and deploying submarines armed with nuclear missiles.

    Schomburg spent the 1940s working in comic books for companies like Marvel’s precursor Timely Comics. Stan Lee called him the Norman Rockwell of comic books. Before he left comic books for magazines in the early 1950s, Schomburg had drawn almost 600 covers for comic books featuring characters like Captain America, the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch. The amount of detail he put into even the most ephemeral of media was matched by only a few other artists of the time (like George Evans with whom Schomburg shared cover duties on Aces High ).

    John Schoenherr‘s cover for  Analog Science Fact-Fiction once again shows off the talent  Schoenherr honed while doing freelance work for the Bronx Zoo in the early 1960s.  In addition to the cover,  Schoenherr also did the interior illustrations for the story, “Lion Loose…” by James Schmitz.


  4. Peanutz

    October 14, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    I just can’t get enough of these MAD comic strip parodies; it’s the element of truth in them that makes them so wonderful. This and  fifteen more original comic strip parodies were part of a Sunday funnies pullout included with a MAD magazine collection in 1961 (The Worst from MAD #4).  This one is by Bob Clarke, who may well have been the first to point out that Peanuts isn’t about children or dogs; Peanuts is all about an adult named Charles Schulz. Click the image for a larger view.

     

    Bob Clarke 2011


  5. Wally Wood Parodies Walt Kelly

    September 18, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    A little back story is necessary to really appreciate this 1961 MAD magazine parody by Wally Wood of Walt Kelly‘s Pogo comic strip. Kelly was drawing comic book adaptations of the Little Rascal films for Dell in the early 1940s when he came up with the idea for a comic built around southern swamp life. His first story appeared in Dell’s Animal Comics#1 and featured Albert the alligator, numerous other talking animals, and an eight-year-old black child named Bumbazine (Shown on the right). The only human in the strip, Bumbazine was portrayed as sweet, friendly and naïve, but Kelly felt awkward with racial stereotyping and soon retired Bumbazine with Animal Comics #12, replacing him with an equally innocent and naïve possum, Pogo. In 1949, Walt Kelly adapted the animal characters into the very popular daily comic strip, Pogo.

    I’m unsure if Wally Wood is skewering Kelly here for replacing  Bumbazine with a possum years earlier or just taking a pot-shot at Pogo‘s progressive cachet by implying a double standard in the segregation debate raging across America in the early Sixties. 

     


  6. The Super-Luck of Badge 77

    September 17, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    The Superman comic strip ran in as many as 300 papers daily from 1939 to 1966. Readership at the peak of the strip’s popularity was over 20 million. In the early Sixties, storylines ran to about forty 3-panel daily strips. Although some famous comic book characters like Lex Luthor and Mister Mxyzptlk debuted in the strip, by 1961 the strip’s  stories were being lifted from 3-year-old Superman comic books. The artwork was new and the scripts were tweaked to fit the storytelling conventions of a daily strip, but the plots were lifted wholesale from the comic book.

    The story arc that ran from August 14, 1961 – September 16, 1961, was adapted from a story (“The Super-Luck of Badge 77″) in Superman #133 (Nov. 1959). In that story, Clark Kent’s boss, Perry White sends Clark undercover as a police officer.  Otto Binder wrote the original story for the comic book but I don’t know if it was he who adapted it to the strip. I believe the artist is Wayne Boring. If not, I’m sure someone with a better eye will clue me in soon. Here are a few strips from that arc. If you want to know why badge 77 was so lucky, just turn the numbers upside-down to see whose initials are displayed.

    The whole story arc can be read here

     


  7. Mark Merlin and the House of Secrets

    September 16, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    There were several comic books in the early Sixties that included tales of both magic and science fiction, but the two genres were rarely combined into an individual story. An exception was the DC title House of Secrets which between 1959 and 1965 featured a magician named Mark Merlin. Mark Merlin was a supernatural sleuth (think Doctor Strange, except more sensibly dressed) who lived in a mansion he inherited from his stage magician uncle. The mansion was located on Mystery Hill and contained a vast collection of occult books and artifacts. Defying all expectations from an expert in the supernatural, Merlin would use these tools to battle extraterrestrial threats to Earth far more often than he used them to thwart villains with an occult bent. Along for the ride was Merlin’s beautiful blond secretary and girlfriend, Elsa Magusson.

    Mark Merlin was created and drawn by Mort Meskin, however, as with My Greatest Adventure, the covers were all done by the prolific Dick Dillin. Here is the 1961 cover gallery for House of Secrets:

     


  8. Nancy Ekholm Burkert and the Giant Peach

    September 14, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    If you pick up a copy of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach (1961) today it will likely be an edition illustrated  with the wonderfully spastic drawings of Quentin Blake or pictures by a half  dozen other artists who have taken a crack at the children’s classic over the last 50 years. When I was about 9 years old, my parents bought me  a copy that was illustrated by an artist whose name I can no longer remember.  Although that book was a treasured addition to my small bookshelf, I couldn’t help coveting an earlier edition of James and the Giant Peach found in my elementary school library. That edition had pictures that almost exactly matched those I created in my own head while reading the book. Four decades later I could still recreate in my head the pattern created by the seagulls as they lifted the giant peach into the air.

    It’s ony recently that I decided to try to identify the illustrator and find out which edition of the book it was that had the great pictures. Turns out it was the first edition published by Knopf back in 1961. It’s fortunate that I didn’t own a first edition illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert when I was nine.  In all likelihood I would probably have torn out the pictures and hung them on my wall. On the 50th anniversary of that first edition I’m going to do the next best thing (less destructive, too!) and post some of those illustrations here for all to enjoy.

     


  9. King Kirby, King Ghidorah?

    September 13, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    You can quibble about the number of tails and legs all you want, but you can’t deny there is a resemblance between Jack Kirby‘s three-headed monster that appeared in Fantastic Four #1 in 1961 and Toho studios’ King Ghidorah who debuted in 1964. Some nerdly scholar should seriously explore how much (if any)  cross-pollination there was between the Atlas/Marvel offices in Manhattan and the Toho studios in Tokyo.

     

    Since I’m hardly a scholar nor very serious, I only have one question: Who needs Godzilla or Rodan for eradicating three-headed space dragons when you’ve got Mr. Fantastic?

     


  10. My Greatest Adventure

    September 9, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    My Greatest Adventure was a DC science fiction and fantasy anthology series similar to the ones that dominated the Atlas/Marvel line in the early Sixties. Along with two other DC titles, Tales of the Unexplained and Strange Adventures, MGA‘s covers were filled with alien and supernatural menace. Although he drew none of the interior artwork (that was done by Will Ely, George Roussos, Lee Elias and others) every MGA cover in 1961 was drawn by Dick Dillin. Dillin cut his teeth on titles like Blackhawk (Quality Comics) in the early Fifties. After Quality Comics went out of business he was delighted to find that DC had bought the rights to Blackhawk and were looking for an artist. It was while performing the duties of full-time artist for Blackhawk (covers and interiors)  that Dillin added a few bucks to his paycheck by drawing the covers below.  Dick Dillin would gain fame a decade later with his unprecedented run on Justice League of America between 1968 and 1980.