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Posts Tagged ‘Comic Books’

  1. FF #1: The Pages They Never Reprint

    September 24, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Have you ever been tempted to crack open the seal on that $10,000 copy of Fantastic Four #1 to see what’s inside? Of course not! You have that story in your $50 Marvel Masterpieces edition or your $15 Essential Fantastic Four or even an old beat up copy of Stan Lee’s Origins of Marvel Comics. But, did you know,  not everything  from the first issue of Fantastic Four was reprinted in those editions? Aren’t you just a little curious?

    STOP! Don’t break that seal! Just check out the scans below made by a guy who’s copy of FF #1 is probably now worth a lot less than yours:

     


  2. What was Lois Lane Doing 50 Years Ago? (Pt. 2)

    September 22, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    I can’t tell you how tempting it was to title this post “Who was Lois Lane Doing 50 years Ago?” This Curt Swan cover from Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #29 (Nov. 1961) depicting Lois being gang-kissed by the Justice League of America is perhaps one of the most disturbing images to come out of comicdom in 1961. The expressions of sexual  urgency on the faces of Aquaman and Batman are exquisitely rendered. Aquaman’s impatience is palpable. And Batman appears more than a little conflicted about being in the position of partaking in Aquaman’s sloppy seconds. However, as animalistic as their urges may be, the heroes still have the decency to form a proper line. I doubt any member of  Hell’s Angels would display such classy comportment.

     


  3. The Creature in the Black Bog

    September 21, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    The Jack Kirby cover of Tales of Suspense #23 depicts a scene from a Stan Lee/Steve Ditko backup story called The Creature from the Black Bog. Ordinarily, the cover of ToS would show a scene from the Kirby drawn first story in the book. The lead story that month (“I Entered the Dimension of Doom”) contained a number of features that would have made for an exciting cover; a two-dimensional world populated with frog-faced creatures and a giant “hypno-creature”.

    Kirby’s cover is strikingly threatening compared to the rather sweet and endearing story and artwork by Lee and Ditko. (I like the way Ditko draws old people!) One aspect of the cover that is an improvement is the title. The Creature in the Black Bog makes more sense than the Creature from the Black Bog.

     

     


  4. 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:

     


  5. 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?

     


  6. 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.

     


  7. Aug. 1961: Mandatory Two Pages of Text

    August 27, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    An odd feature of early comic books was the mandatory two pages of text required for publications to take advantage of second class mail rates. Until someone stumbled upon the clever substitution of a letters page, every comic book published until the early Sixties had one of these text stories. I’m uncertain what difference it made to the post office. If a comic book without pages of text wasn’t a magazine, what was it? Art? Think of the prestige comic book publishers could have garnered if they’d just spent a few pennies more on stamps!

    This month’s mandatory two pages of text comes from Tales of Suspense # 21.  Author unknown.

     


  8. Kirby Covers

    August 26, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

     

    Here’s an interesting exercise in putting yourself in the shoes of a comic book reader fifty years ago. Pretend you have never heard of the Fantastic Four when you walk into your corner drugstore and see these Jack Kirby covers on the magazine rack. Are you immediately drawn to the new title or do you have to take a closer look before you realize it’s not just another monster book?

     

         

     


  9. Ditko & Lee: Anatomy of a Collaboration

    August 24, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    The debate over the ratio of creative input between Stan Lee and his artists is one that has raged for years and is revived each time a new Marvel film is released or another member of the old bullpen passes away. Not surprisingly, these debates center on Marvel’s most iconic and popular characters, probably because that is where the money was, and continues, to be made. Any debate involving the comparative contributions of  Stan Lee and Steve Ditko inevitably revolves around Spider-Man. The major evidence in that debate are the evolving credits found on the splash pages of the first 38 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man. (From “Written by Stan Lee; Illustrated by Steve Ditko” to “Scripted by Stan Lee; Plotted and Drawn by Steve Ditko”)

    Curiously enough, nothing is ever made of the fact that the only writing credit Stan Lee predictably received (or took) in the years before the birth of the Marvel Universe with Fantastic Four #1, was on those stories drawn by Steve Ditko. In the Atlas years of the late Fifties and early Sixties, Stan and his brother Larry Lieber not only plotted many of the stories for artists like Jack Kirby, Don Heck and Paul Reinman but they also wrote all of the captions and dialog. Yet they were never credited as Stan was on the splash page of every Steve Ditko story. Mind you, the credit is in the form of Stan’s own signature, sometimes before and sometimes after Steve’s. To my knowledge, neither man has commented on this (at the time) unique convention.

    Which brings us to this five-pager from Tales of Suspense #22 (Oct. 1961). Even with his face obscured, the writer before the typewriter on page two looks remarkably like a certain editor.

    If I was a stickler for logic, I might be tempted to call shenanigans for the depiction of such earthly props as a mid-20th Century typewriter, waste basket and desk on page two, only to be replaced with the odd furnishings in the last panel. I don’t fancy the idea of  “nightmare pills”; that’s what I used to call Tylenol PM.

    I don’t know if it was Stan or Steve who came up with the initial idea for this story but whoever did may well have been inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone  (“The Eye of the Beholder”) that aired the previous November. In that story, the props were also illogically earthly. And we all know that aliens all like a good smoke!

     


  10. Jet-Ace Logan and the Missing Spaceships

    August 23, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    A few weeks ago I came across some 50-year-old British comic strip art while researching illustrator Sydney Jordan and was surprised by how much more detailed and “clean” it looked compared to American comic strips and comic books from 1961. The absence of color may have something to do with that impression but I suspect the British artists simply took more time penciling and inking than their harried American counterparts. I spent a bit of time online searching out  samples of strips like Jeff Hawke and comic book serials like Captain Condor, but as impressive as the art was in those titles, nothing was more striking than that found in a strip published in the British comic book Tiger.

     Jet-Ace Logan ran from 1956 until 1968 (switching from Comet to Tiger in 1959). The titular hero was a space pilot with the RAF, 100 years in the future. He and his wingman, Plumduff  were entrusted to thwart the plans of nefarious aliens, smugglers, and other space-baddies. Here are two beautiful pages from the fall of 1961, drawn by an artist I know nothing about; Brian Lewis. Click for a larger view.