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Saturday, November 28, 2009

POST # 15 - "FAIR EXCHANGE" by Neal Adams

Before Neal Adams drew for DC Comics, before he helped give life to Deadman, before he helped re-invent the Dark Knight in Bat-Man and Detective Comics in the late 60's, he did a small number of black and white stories for Warren Publishing. FAIR EXCHANGE is in fact his second Warren tale, from EERIE #9, in May of 1967, and for the most part, no one knew who he was...yet. Previously, he had worked mainly in the commercial art arena of advertising, notably for Goodyear Tires. In 1960 a young Neal Adams found work as an assistant to Howard Nostrand (notable for his Harvey Comics work throughout the 50's), drawing backgrounds for the syndicated newspaper strip 'Bat Masterson' for about 3 months. In 1962 he would become the artist for the syndicated comic strip Ben Casey, written by Jerry Caplin (aka Capp - Al Capp's brother), which would run successfully until 1966, when Adams was looking for something new to do. That next thing was to be a handful of impressive stories with Archie Goodwin for Warren's new horror magazines, before finding his 'home' at DC.

So here we have Adams' second full comic book story ever to see print, and it reveals much of what was to come  --  a one-man revolution in comic book illustration. At the time, there were two big names breaking on the horizon that influenced comic book art from that point on. Adams, for DC, and Steranko, for Marvel. Both broke new ground and astounded the competition, and when Steranko left comics to pursue greater things, Adams continued to help mold and shape DC comics into the 70's. Now, please take a moment and enjoy Neal Adams'...


extra bonus - here's Adams' one page Monster Gallery featuring The Minotaur.
From EERIE #11, 1967.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

POST # 14 - "KEEP YOUR SPIRITS UP" by Reed Crandall

I'd like to keep things short and sweet today. Reed Crandall is a name you will see here from time to time, as he did so much beautiful artwork for Warren's horror magazines in their early days. Undoubtedly one of the Golden Age's greatest talents, Crandall drew this story for CREEPY #25, 1969. The story, written by Bill Parente, reminds us that, no matter how dark the circumstances seem, you should always...

Friday, November 20, 2009

POST # 13 - "THE CITADEL AT THE CENTER OF TIME" by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Hey, you know I like you, right?
I hope you realize that. I'll bet you don't know how much I like you...well, let me show you!
I like you so much that I went way above and beyond the call of duty with this post.  No mere 4 - 8 page story for you, uh uh...not today! You deserve a real treat, and I'm about to give it to you.

How would you like a full length Conan story?  But not just any Conan story, oh noo! How about a 44 page epic featuring not one, but two incredibly talented artists? Trust me, you're going to want to kiss me after you check out the stunningly gorgeous black and white artwork taken from Marvel's SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #7, 1975. While this particular story isn't based on any known Robert E. Howard story to my knowledge, the uncredited (likely Roy Thomas) story is a good one, and coupled with the beautiful visuals, it becomes a masterpiece.

This is the first post here to feature two artists, and both are fully deserving of credit. John Buscema started drawing comics for Stan Lee and Timely/Marvel comics in 1948. In the mid 60's he found himself back at Marvel where he became one of their most important, capable and best-loved artists. In 1973 he took over for Barry Smith drawing CONAN THE BARBARIAN, and he would soon become the artist most associated with the popular Robert E. Howard character. Now, let me say that personally I think Barry Smith is a wonderful artist, and his later Conan artwork was certainly more accomplished than his earlier stories. But, for those of us who had read the Lancer paperbacks and seen the iconic representation of Conan by Frazetta, Smith's Conan was a skinny kid. That just wasn't really Conan. Gil Kane did a wonderful job drawing two issues, but it really wasn't until John Buscema stepped in that we saw that real Conan again.  To me, and to many others, this was the way Conan should look, or at least the closest thing we had to the Frazetta version. A year later Marvel published the new black and white SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, and of course Buscema would be the main artist in nearly every issue. A new phenomena was being born, and Buscema would be the architect behind the visual onslaught that was just beginning.

Starting in issue no. 2 of SAVAGE SWORD, Buscema was paired with a relative newcomer to American comic book readers, Alfredo Alcala. Alcala was born in the Philippines, where, like Buscema, he also would enter the comic business in 1948, working for the Philippines biggest publisher, Ace Publications. American audiences got their first exposure to Alcala's art in 1963 when he published his own creation, VOLTAR, a Viking in the sword and sorcery mold, very similar to the work he would be doing later in CONAN. Here is what the World Encyclopedia of Comics had to say regarding VOLTAR and Alcala: "...an astonishing display of sustained artistic endeavor. Every chapter contains a spectacular center spread. Each panel is embellished in an etching style that rivals the works of the old masters. Inch for inch, it is probably the most detailed art ever to appear in comic books." I couldn't have said it better. In the 70's he came to New York and was quickly recognized for his amazing pen and ink work, as you will soon discover (or re-discover) for yourself here.

As I was scanning this story, I can't tell you how many times I stopped and found myself saying "Wow!" right out loud as I examined each amazing page. To enjoy this story, you must not rush...have something to drink handy, maybe something to eat, your not going to want to go anywhere for the next few minutes. The combination of Buscema's Conan, his solid, exciting story-telling visual style, and Alcala's detailed, lush pen and brush work elevates the comic book to the level of fine illustration. This story is absolutely breath-taking!

You can thank me later...and never, ever doubt how much I like you!
Now, finally, I will shut up and let you feast your brain on...



Ishtar's Knotted Knickers! That was a BLAST! Well, see you next time, CROM willing!

Art by Boris Vallejo.