Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Completely Bonkers Story of How Uncle Scrooge Creator Carl Barks Also Created Lost in Space


It may be entirely apocryphal, but fan lore has it that Carl Barks pitched a Space Family Robinson comic to Gold Key editor Chase Craig around 1960, based on the then popular Disney film adaptation of Swiss Family Robinson. Barks' duck stories were full of science fiction elements and the Disney connection is a no-brainer. The actual comic debuted in 1962, written by Del Connell and designed and drawn by Dan Spiegle. When a tv series called Lost in Space featuring a family of marooned-in-the-stars Robinsons started in 1965 on CBS, the publisher and network came to an agreement that the comic book could use the Lost in Space title, since it seemed there was a clear case of influence, if not outright plagiarism involved. So now there is a new Lost in Space on Netflix. Do we owe it all to Carl Barks?

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Seth Profile in Toque Magazine

From "Seth's Art of Preservation" in Toque #3, Winter 2018. Text and photos by Chris Tiessen.



















Thursday, November 02, 2017

Kirby on Unions and Efforts to Organize Comic Book Artists


Kirby was very much of his times in the post-War world. Although many of his heroes seek solutions in collective action, many of his early characters were individualists and his themes tended towards the little guy against vast conspiracies... 

From the Comics Journal interview with Gary Groth...

GROTH: Who did you deal with at DC? Did you have an editor that you dealt with directly?
KIRBY: They had several editors. I dealt with Mort Weisinger, Julie Schwartz, and Murray Boltinoff.
GROTH: Can you distinguish between the editors? Did they have different approaches?
KIRBY: They were different personalities certainly, but they were all great to get along with. We’re still good friends. Mort Weisinger is gone. When we first moved to California, Mort Weisinger came to visit us.
GROTH: What kind of man was he? I understand he was a tough taskmaster.
KIRBY: Everybody was a tough taskmaster. Mort Weisinger wasn’t a particularly tough taskmaster. He was trying to do an editor’s job. Comics have a caste system — an editor has to act in a certain way, an artist has to be humble, right? An artist has to be humble, an editor must be officious, and a publisher must be somewhere out in the galaxy enjoying godhood. It was a caste system, pure and simple. And it was accepted that way. Nobody thought of contracts, nobody thought of insisting on better deals.

GROTH: Did you assume when you did a book — any one of the many books you’ve done — did you assume that the publisher owned it? Or did you think about it a little later and think, wait a minute, I did this and I didn’t have a contract, and I don’t see why he should own it 100 percent.
KIRBY: No, I was growing up and becoming aware of those things. Joe Simon knew about those things.
GROTH: At the time you just assumed that the publisher owned it?
KIRBY: Yes. I assumed that he took it, OK? [Laughter.] I assumed that he took it, and I didn’t have the means to get it back. In other words, I didn’t save my money for a lawyer. I was a very young man, and saved my money for having a good time.
GROTH: I understand that sometime in the mid-’50s Bernie Krigstein tried to start a union among comic book creators. Were you aware of that?
KIRBY: I was aware of it. It was something that I knew would fail.
GROTH: But you didn’t go to any meetings?
KIRBY: No, no. Unions almost had the connotation of communism.
GROTH: You were wary?
KIRBY: Everybody was wary. Remember, this was a time when communists marched through the streets, waving flags and shouting. The unions did the same thing so you began to associate them. I’m speaking now as a human being, not as a businessman — the unions are great. The unions are great for the working people because they protect you, but I didn’t see them that way as a young man. First of all, the papers would connect them with thee communists — labor unions were communists.

And Joe Simon on Fighting American, from Wikipedia and the intro to a 1989 Marvel collection: 

Simon said in 1989 that he felt the anti-Communist fervor of the era would provide antagonists who, like the Nazis who fought Captain America during World War II, would be "colorful, outrageous and perfect foils for our hero." He went on to say,
The first stories were deadly serious. Fighting American was the first [C]ommie-basher in comics. We were all caught up in Senator McCarthy's vendetta against the 'red menace.' But soon it became evident that McCarthy ... had gone too far, damaging innocent Americans.... Then, the turnaround, [as] his side became talked of as the lunatic fringe.... Jack and I quickly became uncomfortable with Fighting American's cold war. Instead, we relaxed and had fun with the characters

Friday, October 27, 2017

Working Class Heroes: Humphrey Bogart and the Steel Fist


I have to thank Humphrey Bogart for helping me find out about another working class superhero. Here's Bogey reading a copy of Blue Circle Comics #3, published in the Summer of 1944. It is cover dated September and has a great image of the mermaid superhero Aquamarie punching an octopus who looks like Hitler. 
At the time, Bogey had just met Lauren Bacall on the set of To Have and Have Not and was starting his whirlwind affair with her. The movie came out in October 1944 and Bogey & Bacall were married in the Spring of '45. I'm assuming the photo was taken sometime around then, but I haven't been able to find a source or date for it. 
It's a great comic, published by one of the smaller comics publishers of the time, and only lasting for a handful of issues. The main draw for me today is a strip by HC  Kiefer featuring The Steel Fist, a crime-fighting factory worker . His secret origin is that Nazis try to blow up the steel plant where he works and when he gets in their way, they stick his hand in a vat of molten slag. The spirit of Justice appears (she looks like the Statue of Liberty) and magically makes his steel hand fully useable. Naturally, he puts on a dumb costume and goes around smashing spy rings and beating up saboteurs, and in this issue he gets a taxi driver side-kick who hits people with a thermos.
As I've discussed before, actual working class superheroes are pretty rare. Most superheroes are millionaires or royalty or work for the government. But not Tim Slade, the Steel Fist! Thanks Bogey!

Read the whole comic Bogart is reading here.

Read The Steel Fist's origin here.






Friday, October 20, 2017

Comic Fan Project: Don Heck era Avengers

A new entry in the Comic Fan Project, the search for early Canadian comic book fans!

This entry brings us a letter printed in Marvel's Avengers #31 from August 1966. The letter is a comment on the character and plot developments in the run of Avengers co-plotted and illustrated by cartoonist Don Heck who replaced Avengers co-creator Jack Kirby on the feature and was the other primary visual chronicler of the era before Big John Buscema and Neal Adams made their mark later in the "Silver Age":

Dear Stan and Don, 
No! No! You can't do this! You can't leave Henry Pym a ten-foot-tall freak!.You'll be rouing one of the most beautiful romances in comicdom. We Marvelites will never tolerate this man's being deprived of what he has needed most in life since the loss of his first wife --the love of Janet Van Dyne. On this we all stand firm. As a matter of fact I'm still amazed that he and the Wasp are not already married. They had plenty of time in which to be wed during their recent period of inactivity. Except for this weakness, the come-back of Giant-Man was rather spectacular. His new costume finally adds that last basic color that has been missing in the new Avengers, and that is yellow. Two things still puzzle me --one is his size. The 25-foot version is too big and too clumsy, as we frantic fans noticed as he struggled to squeeze through the corridors of the Collector's castle. In this state he more of a hindrance than a help to the Avengers. The ten-foot height is slightly undersized. Giant-Man always was and will ever be at his peak in mobility, strength, and power at his standard 12-foot combat height which is the height he displayed on the cover of issue #28. This is the way I and many other old-time Marvelites remember him and will always remember him. The other thing I find hard to accept is his new name. Somehow the name Goliath will never overshadow the glory tha was once in the name of he who we called Giant-Man, for this was how we grew to admire him. The old name sticks close to the heart of many of us. Should these few flaws be remedied, I am sure the new Avengers would reach a peak that might even surpass the glory of the old Avengers.
Claude Paquet5834 Molson St.Montreal 36Quebec, Canada


A great letter full of early fan entitlement and some size puns devoted to perennial nobody's favourite Hank Pym aka Ant-Man aka Giant-Man aka Goliath aka Yellowjacket. At this point in Marvel's development, it's interesting to read a reader self-identify as both a Giant-Man fan and as an "old-time Marvelite" --the Marvel U is at this point only 4 or 5 years old and the letter is written in response to Avengers #28! Also interesting that at this point, the Avengers was basically "The Adventures of Giant-Man"...

Thanks to Claude Paquet of Montreal!











Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Forgotten Comic Book Character: The Lepra-Duck



Panels from the first appearance of The Lepra-Duck from the story "The Battle at Hadrian's Wall", the cover-feature of Walt Disney's Donald Duck #107 (Gold Key, May 1966). The story was written by Vic Lockwood and drawn by Tony Strobl. In the story, Donald is given the Lepra-Duck's wishing stone, previously in the possession of Donald's lucky cousin Gladstone Gander, and, through a series of wishes, first travels to Uncle Scrooge's ancestral homeland of Scotland, and then back in time where he and his nephews meet Emperor Hadrian and some of Donald's own "barbarian" ancestors who they teach to play baseball!

The Lepra-Duck is in the tradition of puckish magical interlopers like Superman's Mr. Mxyzptlk, Batman's Bat-Mite, Aquaman's Quisp and Quirk, Impy from The Fantastic Four, and Gazoo from The  Flintstones. Like these other characters, he magically appears to vex the main characters and introduce some sorcerous obstacle or faux-helpful spell. The Great Gazoo was introduced a year earlier on tv and is a likely influence on the Lepra-Duck, and ditto Lucky from the Lucky Charms cereal ads (first appearance 1963), although leprechauns are plentiful in fiction and popular culture, as is the idea of a magical token like the Wishing Stone (cf. Monkey's Paw) or the tradition of wishes that act as a form of hubris and backfire to punish greedy or prideful.

There are other magical characters in Donald Duck's world (Magicka de Spell) and the concept of luck is central to the characters of both Uncle Scrooge and Gladstone Gander, but we rarely see magic used as a form of time-travel. Rather, the characters in these stories interact with historical places and artifacts in the modern era.

As a kid I hated it when Bat-Mite would pop up in the Batman cartoon show. I wanted Batman to be a serious superhero and the existence of this magical elf from another dimension, constantly getting into bumbling slapstick adventures while trying to help his "hero" Batman, really put a damper on my suspension of disbelief, to say the very least. I was a little bit more forgiving of The Great Gazoo because the Flintstones was a comedy show and the wonderful droll voice acting of Harvey Korman really put the character over. As an adult, I love all of these magical characters and prefer the older superhero comic books with a sense of humour.

I came across this character in a really beat-up and coverless copy of a Donald Duck comic that I was actualy about to throw in the garbage. after investigating I was surprised that a) this seems to be his only appearance and b) there isn't really anything online about him, even on websites run by ultra-nerdy Dinsey comics fanatics in Europe, like the Inducks wiki. The story he appears in has been reprinted at least once, so thousands of kids and older fans have read it. Obviously, the cliche magical deus ex machina nature of the character has left a sour taste in the mouth of fans who love the mostly well-plotted, logical stories of the Barks Ducks universe. Or maybe it's just not that memorable of a story. The character really only appears in a few panels at the beginning, popping back in for a few more panels at the end to take back his wishing stone.



Monday, October 16, 2017

I Want This Old Jack Kirby Thing T-Shirt


I'm currently loving this early 60s ad for a Thing sweatshirt with a ack Kirby signature. IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU'RE TOO DARN CLOSE!