May 11, 2010

Golden Age Artist Spotlight -- Frank Frazetta -- UPDATED

UPDATE: 5/11/10

The news regarding Frazetta's death hit the wires yesterday. Frazetta passed away at the age of 82. I was never very good at obituary-writing, but suffice to say that Frazetta was an artistic influence that cannot be overestimated. His work redefined several genres, including comics, paperbacks, and sword-and-sorcery, among others.

Here is a re-published interview with Gary Groth at The Comics Journal (originally conducted in 1994). It shows great insights into the man: Frank Frazetta Interview.


April 20, 2010

Golden Age Artist Spotlight -- Sheldon Moldoff

Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff celebrated his 90th birthday last Wednesday.  A living legacy, Moldoff has had an impact on comics that cannot be underestimated.   Besides his obvious stylistic influences on characters like Hawkman, the golden age Green Lantern, and Batman, Moldoff also created a bevy of new characters like Poison Ivy, Ace the Bathound, Hawkgirl, The Black Pirate, and Moon Girl. 

I will expand upon this blog post at a later time (I'm still reviewing some audio sources), and will discuss some rather controversial treatment of Moldoff by some legendary comic figures, but wanted to get both a placeholder and an exhibition of some of Moldoff's most distinctive covers (as well as a PSA and a Batman interior). 

March 31, 2010

Golden Age Artist Spotlight -- Fred Guardineer

"When I sat down to work at Chesler, I started with a blank piece of paper and did the whole bit:  I penciled it and I lettered it and I inked the lettering and then I inked the pencil drawings and turned out the finished product.  I know of no other way to work."  -- Fred Guardineer (interviewed by Dylan Williams in Comics Journal #282)

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are the names that come to mind when Action Comics #1 is discussed.  For those not in the know, it's the historic issue featuring the very first appearance of Superman, and depending on who you talk to, also heralding the success of an entire medium.  A recent on-line auction of a higher-grade copy of this issue went for a reported million dollar final gavel price.  But Superman wasn't the only costumed hero making his debut in the first issue of Action.   There was also a tuxedoed magician-detective named Zatara with the ability to create magic by speaking commands backwards (it's probably more impressive displayed in print than in real life -- where it probably resembles a mentally ill person shouting gobbly-gook or a Baptist preacher speaking in tongues).  Fred Guardineer was the creator of this sartorially splendid magical crimefighter.   Zatara, while often on the periphery of D.C. Comics up through the decades following his debut, did outlive a good chunk of his golden age compatriots, finally meeting his demise in an issue of Swamp Thing (#50) in 1986.  His daughter Zatanna, famous for the fishnet stockings, continues his backwards-spoken-spell legacy in the Justice League and in her own set of solo series.  But Zatara wasn't Guardineer's only magician-adventurer.  Zatara was merely the first, of many magic-spouting heroes, across numerous comic companies, most lost to the ages.

March 22, 2010

Golden Age Artist Spotlight -- Joe Maneely

Joe Maneely was as much a story of "What if?" as he was an example of a prolific, immensely talented golden age artist.   He was a relative star for Atlas Comics (Martin Goodman's precursor to Marvel Comics), and handled assignments in every genre.   An excellent draftsman, Maneely drew characters and scenes with a distinctive style, yet with almost photo-realistic detail.   His cowboys dressed like real cowboys and his soldiers fought with off-the-assembly-line-like gear.  His drawing was above all action-oriented.   Not as pretty as some other artists, but very vivid.   And his inking became stylized over time, resembling fine etching as he reached the apex of his career.  

March 4, 2010

Golden Age Artist Spotlight -- Irwin Hasen

Irwin Hasen was born in 1918 on the west side of Manhattan, and lived around 110th Street and Amsterdam Ave.  Like many of the other creators profiled on this site, Hasen was always drawing as a child (and then as a teenager).  He devoured the Sunday comics, and appreciated the artistic talents of legends like Roy Crane (of Wash Tubbs fame) and Milton Caniff.  A graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School, Hasen had the fortunate circumstances of a supportive mom and the National Academy of Design across the street.  A class in drawing turned into three years of drawing instruction and attendance at the Art Students League (also in Manhattan). 

Hasen started out as a boxing cartoonist, doing caricatures, action poses and blurbs, which were then sold to Madison Square Garden as pre-fight public relations for the weekly fights.   This association with boxing probably led to the creation (with the golden age legendary writer Bill Finger) of Wildcat, whose alter ego is Ted Grant (no relation to the anchorman who worked with Mary Tyler Moore, presumably) and whose dayjob was heavyweight boxing champion of the world.   Hasen went fully into comic books in 1940, working on such titles as The Green Hornet, The Fox, Secret Agent Z-2, Bob Preston, Explorer, Cat-Man, and The Flash, through the Harry 'A' Chesler shop. While at All American Comics/DC, in addition to Wildcat, Hasen drew stories and covers for Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman, and All-Star Comics.   Under the editorship of Sheldon Mayer (who will get his own spotlight here soon), Hasen contributed many memorable works, including being the only artist who drew a complete 38 page All-Star comic (they were generally divided up among artists to concentrate on individual characters, with another artist doing the wrap-around story as well).  He was also able to work as a contemporary with young artists like Alex Toth and Joe Kubert, and noted their incredible talent right off the bat.   Unfortunately, with a change in editorial direction, Hasen, like other artists responsible for the birth of the golden age, was unceremoniously let go by D.C.  A bachelor in his thirties, Hasen took this opportunity to travel the great cities of Europe and expand his horizons.

It was another trip to Europe, this time Germany, during the Korean War, to draw for the troops as part of a USO contingent, that Hasen encountered another opportunity, after meeting Gus Edson, to be a regular artist on a daily strip, to be named Dondi.   An adventure strip about a young boy, the collaboration started in 1955, and lasted until discontinuation in 1986.  

Post-Dondi, Hasen went into semi-retirement, but even now, in his early nineties, he continues to create and teach.   A long-established senior instructor at the Joe Kubert School, and despite a stroke in the spring of 2007, Hasen has just recently produced an entertaining 128 page graphic novel, semi-autographical, called Loverboy, and available directly from the publisher Vanguard here (and via Amazon here).  A regular featured guest at conventions, Hasen continues to provide a living legacy of the golden age.   He might be short in stature (topping out at 5'2"), but he stands tall as a creator.   It seems appropriate that Hasen is most proud of his tenure as the editor and publisher of the Fort Dix Post, a military base newspaper in New Jersey, during World War II.  He virtually handled every single aspect of the publication, from editing, writing, interviewing celebrities, taking to the printers, distribution, to of course, handling the comic page.  He worked so hard on the job that he ended up in the hospital.   That's dedication to serving others, including his country, before himself.   


So, if you see him at a convention, at the Joe Kubert School, or on the street, remember to thank him.  

Enjoy the covers!