February 16, 2010

Golden Age Artist Spotlight -- George Evans

George Evans (Feb. 5, 1920 - June 22, 2001) is widely recognized as one of the comic field's greatest illustrators, with over a half a century of both comic and comic strip art and stories for almost every major publisher.   An aviation buff, his airplane covers are easily recognized, and his proficiency for drawing them led to his showcasing in probably the last great aviation comic ever produed, E.C.'s Aces High

Born in Harwood, Pennsylvania, Evans began a lifelong fascination with aviation after being exposed to aviation pulps at the age of 9.  At the age of 15, Evans had his first art (and poem) published in an aviation pulp, Daredevil Aces, and his career as an illustrator was underway.  At the onset of World War II, bad eyesight prevented Evans from enlisting as a pilot, but he worked as an aircraft mechanic in South Carolina, which obviously informed his technically accurate drawing.   After the war, he entered the comics field with a staff artist position at Fiction House, while there meeting future talents like Frank Frazetta and Al Williamson.  At Fiction House, Evans contributed to series like Wings, Jungle Comics, and Planet Comics.  From there, he went on to Fawcett, drawing adaptations of When Worlds Collide and Captain Video

But it was at E.C. Comics, like many others there, where Evans turned in outstanding work that continues to stand the test of time.   He contributed underrated stories and covers to the crime genre books Crime SuspenStories and Shock SuspenStories, but it was Harvey Kurtzman's war books where Evans found great success (ironically, Evans bridled a bit under Kurtzman's heavily thumbnailed art layouts -- he described himself as "Kurtzman's hand" in doing the "finishing work").  Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales set the table for Aces High, which focused on aerial combat from the days of World War I.  If ever there was a book ideally situated to an artist's interests and strengths, Aces High was it.  Evans drew all of the series' covers (as well as coloring them), and the lead story in each of the books.  Unfortunately, when the comic censorship hearings and distributor battles sucked the life out of William B. Gaines, it also drained the man of patience and financial risk-taking to allow the New Direction titles much of a run.  Gaines' heart wasn't in comics anymore, so the attention was focused solely on the magazines, Mad predominantly.   Aces High was discontinued after five memorable issues.

Evans would go on to contribute in numerous titles, including Gilberton's Classics Illustrated line (adaptations of Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and Alexander Dumas' Three Musketeers), Dell (The Frog Men, among others), and Gold Key.   Evans joined other great former E.C. artists in Jim Warren's stable, illustrating stories in Blazing Combat, Eerie and Creepy.  He would later go on to D.C. and freelance art in books like Weird War, Weird Western and House of Mystery.  Some of his notable covers from that period are available below. 

Evans' syndicated strip history might be as impressive as his comic output.  He ghosted for George Wunder on Terry & The Pirates from the late sixties until the early seventies.  In 1980, he took over Secret Agent Corrigan from his old Fiction House friend Al Williamson and continued to draw it until 1996.   In the later years of his life, Evans revisited his classic aviation drawings with a series of commissioned paintings, like the one provided here:

By all accounts (and I recommend picking up TwoMorrows' Comic Book Artist #17 for further insights), George Evans was a kind, generous, giving man, who went out of his way to help young artists, aviation art and aviation pulp aficionados, and those who wanted more insight into the artist behind the great drawings.   He was reportedly a daily fixture in his small Pennsylvania town, walking his dog, and making the rounds, while simultaneously plotting new adventures for his comic strip secret agent.  Although he has passed on, his highly proficient and always enthusiastic stories and art continue to draw attention to a genre which has sadly been eclipsed in ubiquitous superhero mediocrity.   Evans' high standards and worksmanship are missed.

Enjoy the cover sampling.


1 comment:

  1. Great piece. Love the art you picked to highlight Evans' work.
    Thanks for posting!