December 28, 2009

Golden Age Artist Spotlight -- Mac Raboy

When perusing Golden Age comics listings on Ebay, Mac Raboy covers tend to stand out like the proverbial sore thumb for several reasons.   Firstly, they tend to resemble recruiting posters, as they contain some of the most iconic and colorful World War II propaganda ever to grace comic book covers.  Secondly, they are artistically superior to the vast majority of other comics also available at the time.   Raboy draws his heroes in classic action poses, but particularly in the case of Captain Marvel Jr., de-emphasises bulky musculature and cartoony action in favor of lithe, agile figures and photorealism.  While his covers deliver striking detail, careful shading and intricate pencilwork, they also remain paradoxically simple and effective, both in tone and use of background lighting.

Raboy's available history is scarce compared to many others from the Golden Age.   Born in New York City in 1914, Raboy   began his art career with the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. He started out in comics in 1940, working for the Harry "A" Chesler studio, but his pinnacle as a comic book artist would be working for Fawcett Publications. As exemplified by the various covers provided below, Raboy (and writer/editor Ed Herron) took a character that was a spin-off of a more popular comic book figure, Captain Marvel, and re-introduced Captain Marvel Jr. during the lead-up to wartime World War II (his first appearance was in Whiz Comics #25, dated December 1941) as more of a hero with identifiable humanity and real-life limitations (his alter ego, Freddy Freeman, was actually crippled, destitute and poor, and lived in a hovel). The stories and themes created by Raboy were more serious and darker in tone than Beck and Binder's whimsical Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel Jr. regularly dealt with espionage, organized crime, murder, and Nazis in more-or-less straightforward adventure styles with often somber overtones.

Raboy left Fawcett for Spark Publications in 1944 to create the Green Lama, and did so until 1946. In the spring of 1948, he signed on with King features to illustrate the 'Flash Gordon' Sunday page, and continued drawing the strip until his death in December, 1967.

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