Author Archive | Bruce Canwell

Ehhh—Crawford’s Up, Doc!

In case you missed Dean’s announcement in his interview at Previewsworld.com, Crawford is a one-shot due for release later in 2011, a book I’m especially thrilled to have in our lineup. If you’re asking, “What is it, a Crawford?”, a better question would be, “Whose brainchild is Crawford?” Because the answer to that is, “Chuck Jones,” and if you’re like me, that’s sure to make you smile.

Crawford1

Though in my twenties I grew to enjoy Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse and Carl Barks’sDonald Duck and Uncle $crooge, as a boy I pooh-poohed all things Disney – I was strictly aLooney Tunes kinda guy. Not for me The Wonderful World of Disney with its airings Herbie the Love Bug, Professor Ludwig von Drake, and Charlie, the Ding-a-ling Lynx. I was all about The Bugs Bunny Show and the Warner Brothers characters, led by the wascawwy wabbit himself. It was guaranteed laughs whenever Bugs appeared in shorts like “Long-Haired Hare,” “Duck! Rabbit! Duck!”, “Beanstalk Bunny,” or “Bully for Bugs.” As I grew older and began reading the material on hand in the 1970s about Warners animation, I learned all the cartoons named were directed by the same talented individual, one Charles M. “Chuck” Jones.

Crawford2

Jones’s earliest work as a director was considered “cute” and slow-moving by his peers at the studio; his pacing quickly improved, but in his artwork there was always a rounded, curvy cuteness to the line. Long before manga and anime entrenched itself on American shores, Chuck Jones was drawing big-eyed kid characters in everything from his aborted Road Runner TV pilot to Cindy Lou Who from 1966’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The trademark Jones cuteness is on display in Crawford, as well – and that’s hardly a bad thing. Jones filters his stories through a kid’s perspective, which includes flights of both whimsy and fancy while running an emotional gamut that will resonate to everyone who grew up as the neighborhood maverick, running against the herd.

Crawford780115-1

Dean’s co-editor on Crawford is Kurtis Findlay, who conceived the project and has been researching this “Unknown Chuck Jones” project for the past couple of years. We’re working with Marian Jones, Chuck’s widow, on the project, and all art is © the Chuck Jones Estate. We’ll have more on Crawford for you as its publication date draws near. In the meantime, why do I have a sudden urge to watch “The Rabbit of Seville” again … ?

Fast and FURY-ous!

I grew up in a small New England town with a five-days-a-week newspaper, meaning my first exposure to comics was surely that paper’s stable of strips: Peanuts, Juliet Jones, The Phantom,Beetle Bailey, and Red Eye. To a seven-year-old, the newspaper comics were just there, part of the fabric of daily living. What caught my youthful eye was comic books, often seen at the local barber shops, with a few of them even coming into my possession when my parents had a few extra coins to divert my way, or when a lengthy car ride was coming up and they knew a couple comics would keep me quiet for the duration, there in the back seat of the station wagon.

Two of the earliest comics to come my way were issues #163 and 165 of Marvel’s Strange Tales, containing chapters of Steranko’s high-octane “Nick Fury vs. The Yellow Claw” story-cycle. I was not exactly sure who these characters were or what was going on, but I knew it was exciting. Those two comics made me a lifelong Steranko fan, and decades later, the great Marvel Bankruptcy/Implosion of 1998 scuttled my chances of continuing in Steranko’s footprints (I still have stats of Lee Weeks’s pencils from my plot for what was supposed to be our opening NickFury salvo).

Thirteen years later, I’m resigned to the likelihood I’ll never get a shot at writing Nick Fury…but over the space of just a few months, I’ve been involved with shepherding two other Furys back into print, both of them well worth your attention.

You’ll find that rare wartime adventure comic, Jon Fury, featured in our very-soon-to-be-releasedGenius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth.

Fury11-1

Jon Fury was created especially for Toth’s camp newspaper during his military service in Tokyo, and was produced for reproduction on an Army “multigraph” machine, which was hand-cranked in order to generate press runs. Since it was designed to reproduce text, Jon Fury presented a number of production challenges for Private First Class Toth.

multigraph

Like Toth’s original run of Jon Fury, our reprinting is presented in its authentic inked version and, as with everything in Genius: Isolated, has been approved by and presented in coöperation with the Toth family. Reading Alex’s first ongoing effort at producing plot, script, and art is one of the highlights of the book.

Before Alex Toth began producing Jon Fury, New York cartoonist Tarpé Mills was telling tales of Marla Drake, the costumed adventurer known as Miss Fury.

MissFury_med-1

Mills’s series debuted in 1941 and struck a unique chord, especially compared to the testosterone-filled adventure strips created by Tarpé’s male peers. Miss Fury is a mix of action and romance, Nazis and science fiction, fashion and gangsters.

MF287_461110

Trina Robbins, the acknowledged authority on all things Miss Fury, is your guide to this, the most extensive collection of this strip ever assembled, including the only surviving pages of Tarpé Mills’s final comics work—a 1980s graphic novel!

Things eventually work out for the best. Though my Nick Fury work never got published, it’s been fun and informative to be involved with the production of both Jon Fury and Miss Fury…and hey, two out of three ain’t bad.

 

 

 

 

Caniff Rarities

As we’re organizing material for the forthcoming visual biography entitled CANIFF, we’d like to share some choice items that reside in Milton Caniff’s personal collection at The Ohio State University.

Talk about historical artifcats, here the proud cartoonist telegrams his wife: he’s got a strip of his own!

DickieDare_telegram

In addition to the weekly Male Cale strip that Caniff created for the military newspapers during the Second World War, he also provided insignias for dozens upon dozens of American fighting forces units. Here’s one of his comps, circa 1944:

Boxing

Never one to miss out on an opportunity for publicity, here we see Caniff drawing the va-va-voom girl, Jayne Mansfield, who was then starring in the film “The Girl Can’t Help It.” Mansfield’s co-star was the nebbishy Tom Ewell, who, the year before, had co-starred in “The Seven-Year Itch” with Marilyn Monroe.

Jayne_Mansfield

More Caniff rarities to come, so stay tuned…

The Flowering of Talent

I’ve been spending time of late in Dogpatch, preparing material for Li’l Abner Volume 3, where 1939 and 1940 bring us what I consider to be the first truly great storylines of Al Capp’s comedic masterwork. Does that mean the stories that came before, say, The Grapes of Wrath parody are somehow second-stringers?

Hardly. That first Gat Garson continuity in April ’36 or the Sunday trip into Africa two years later, with Sir Cecil Cesspool leading an expedition to the land of the Mukoy (“eht dnal fo eht Mukoy,” in their primitive tongue) can provide a lift on almost any down day. Funny is funny, after all.

A cartoonist’s earliest efforts are seeds planted in the fertile soil of the nation’s newspapers, sprouting into more daring and audacious future material, and ultimately being harvested into collected editions. Part of the fun of working on (and reading) Library of American Comics material is watching Al Capp’s talent and confidence grow from the straightforward “City Mouse/Country Mouse” content of Abner’s earliest visit to New York to Fearless Fosdick’s increasingly-sophisticated strip-within-a-strip or the layered spoofery of Abner’s first trip to Lower Slobbovia in 1946. Long before superhero “universes” were de rigueur, creators like Al Capp were building complex, self-contained worlds of their own, four panels at a time, day by day by day.

Abner400822

Al Capp loved to introduce catchphrases into Li’l Abner. Here he uses the return of that Dogpatch Don Juan,
Adam Lazonga, to try out “Yo’ big fat sloppy beast!!”

Nor, of course, is Capp the only talent we’ve seen bloom as we look across LOAC’s editions. Neither Poppy Joe nor The Skull cracks anyone’s top ten list of great Terry and the Pirates villains but they serve an important purpose, allowing the youthful Caniff to determine what worked and what didn’t, to refine his level of melodrama, to fine-tune the mixture of comedy to adventure. By the end of his first year on the job Caniff has Pat Ryan embroiled in his romance with Normandie Drake in the dailies, while introducing the wonderful Captain Blaze to give the increasingly-sophisticated Dragon Lady a run for her money in his Sunday sequences. The rest, to borrow the cliché, is history.

Terry360324

And later this year, when our first Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim volume debuts, it will be great fun to contrast the efforts of the fledgling Alex Raymond to the work of the fully-polished professional who launched Rip Kirby in 1946.

Jim340520

RK560224

Compare the composition and figure work on display in these two examples
from Alex Raymond’s
Jungle Jim and Rip Kirby.

It can be argued that the explosion of modern media and the intense competition for the public’s entertainment dollar has raised the median talent line in the marketplace and lifted the overall level of craftsmanship on display. Yet reading series like Li’l Abner, Terry, Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, and Rip Kirby in collected editions shows us that we lost something when the heyday of comic strips disappeared, while reminding us that the material being plucked from that long ago garden of newspapers stands the test of time and repays reading, so many decades after its initial publication.

 

Talkin’ Toth: Part Four

Alex Toth was the master craftsman of comics. He was outspoken, gifted, studious, prolific, and uncompromising. He drew a lot and he said a lot—more than we can comfortably fit into our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist. But we can share some of that additional material with you in this space, so—here is our latest in a series of Talkin’ Toth:
ALEX ON SWORDFIGHTING ON THE ZORRO TV SHOW from a 1958 letter –
This week’s TV Guide—Guy Williams Catalano tells of his dad teaching him the art of foil and saber from Guy’s seventh summer. What hokey tripe…he’s a clumsy ox afoot…and admitted to our editor that he’d fenced not a stroke prior to Freddie Cavens’ first lesson at the Disney lot gym… [Fred Cavens was Errol Flynn’s old fencing master at Warner Brothers.]

Britt Lomond (Monastario) was always the better blade…

The above, Guy and Britt, costumed, will fence in person at Disneyland this weekend…restaging their TV duels for the hot dog crowd.

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth will be on sale in early April.

SecretPassage11

A page from “Zorro’s Secret Passage” (© 2011 Zorro Productions Inc.)

 

Sunday Funnies Are Like a Box of Chocolates…

…At least, they are on February 14th. To mark Valentine’s Day, 2011, The Library of American Comics offers you this Whitman’s Sampler of classic comics from Sunday, February 14th, 1937:

Val_Flash

 

Val_Terry

 

Val_LOA

Val_Tracy

Val_Abner

 

Is it possible Sunday funnies are better than a box of chocolates? Just as sweet – with zero calories!

Harrowing Heroines

I’ve put a lot of Alex Toth talk into this space recently—and there’ll be more of that chatter to come, you can be sure. Many have told us they’re eager to see Genius, Isolated, and I like to think their patience will be rewarded. Meanwhile, we have two other books featuring two very different female lead characters that will repay your time and attention.

The year got off to a fine start with the release of Little Orphan Annie Volume 6. One of our staunch supporters works as the Trade Book Coordinator for Maine’s Colby College Bookstore (Sopranos fans might remember the first season episode in which Tony and his daughter Meadow visited the Colby campus). In his blog, our friend described Annie as, “a sprawling Depression-era fable about a kid with nothing but spunk, grit, determination, and a great dog. These beautiful volumes belong on the shelves of anyone who takes ‘graphic novels’ (I still call ’em comics) seriously.” Who am I to argue with an assessment like that?

LOA6_med-2

Our sixth volume features the quasi-mystical Punjab and the story of Eli Eon and the miracle substance Eonite, a story treasured by Annie fans everywhere. My sentimental favorite in this book, however, is the “Annie in Hollywood” segment featuring the return of Pee Wee the Elephant. Some complain that Harold Gray didn’t draw convincing dogs, but he sure knew how to depict an elephant! I am utterly charmed and utterly convinced every time Pee Wee steps into a scene.

Little Orphan Annie is unique in the LOAC stable: we started with the rarely-seen original strips from the 1924 debut of the series, then moved in chronological order through the early 1930s strips that were collected by other publishers in decades past. Now we once again move into largely-unreprinted territory, so those Annieologists who have been feeling déjà vu should enjoy the fresh material at the end of Volume 6, and will want to join us again later this year for the debut of The Asp in Volume 7!

• • • • •

While Orphan Annie is arguable comics’ premier kid headliner, there’s no doubt the star of our coming springtime release is all grown up…

MissFury_med-2

We’re pleased to add Miss Fury to the Library of American Comics lineup—her provocative exploits were released by the Bell Syndicate and carried by newspapers nationwide for a dozen years during the 1940s and ’50s. Miss Fury‘s unique place in comics history was cemented by her creator, Tarpé Mills. There were other women cartoonists, but only Mills was interested in mixing it up with the boys in the realm of costumed adventure. Her work blended derring-do with a dash of fashion, and melodrama with a modicum of romance. Oh yes, there’s a certain kink factor as well—Miss Fury’s world comes complete with its share of whips, lingerie, bondage (of a sort), and spike heels.

420719-1

The book has turned out to be an all-woman project. It’s being assembled by the one and only Trina Robbins, who is of course a cartoonist, a comics historian, and an expert on the subject of Mills and her panther-suited star. The Sunday restoration and overall design is handled by LOAC’s own, two-time Emmy winner  Lorraine Turner. Similar to our 2009 Bringing Up Fatherrelease, Trina is selecting prime cuts from the Miss Fury archives for your reading pleasure.

490703

Meanwhile, over at comicsbeat.com, Heidi MacDonald gave Miss Fury a shout-out the other day, and printed four other Sundays you won’t want to miss.

As I read and compare/contrast Annie from the 1930s and Miss Fury from the 1940s, I’m reminded that, here in the 21st Century, these crackling good stories help keep us all young at heart.

 

Talkin’ Toth: Part Three

Alex Toth was the master craftsman of comics. He was outspoken, gifted, studious, prolific, and uncompromising. He drew a lot and he said a lot – more than we can comfortably fit into our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist. But we can share some of that additional material with you in this space, so – here is our latest in a series of Talkin’ Toth:
ALEX ON ANIMATION, EXCERPTED FROM A 1981 LETTER –
I wonder why it is that the best of any artform is found at its very beginnings? Before the worst of organized commercialism throttles it of its originality, joy, freshness – Disney, the Fleischers, Harman-Ising, Chuck Jones/Friz Freling/Bob Clampett’s WB Studios, Tex Avery, etc.—all refined and expanded the animation form (Hanna+Barbera at MGM, too)—true! WW II crimped most of ’em—I guess TV did the rest—the ’50s left only Disney doing features, thriving to the ’60s –

Bakshi’s outrageous excursions, rotoscopy and all—banality, sheer shock, noise, insult and injury—still manage to pump fresh blood into the medium—where he goes from here is an unknown—but he’ll always provoke interest—and box office!

I’m admiring of Winsor McCay’s solo films (Lusitania/Flying House in particular—beautiful straight-ahead animation, self-taught, original, so well-drawn)—as I am of his Nemo Sunday page artistry—

And corny or not, I get a kick out of Fleischer’s Out of the Inkwell live/cartoon combination films—as, too, Gulliver and Mr. Bugs/Hoppity Goes to Town—especially the rotoscope work! Still held charm and warmth—old-fashioned virtues, worthy…

koko_animation_guide

A Koko the Clown model sheet from the Fleischer Studios

Despite exiting animation and its care-killing TV schedules, I love its storytelling medium (as I do adventure strips)—its ability to give life to any story form (and/or personal statements)—surprisingly, during our current space-film craze, it was overlooked as an alternative to $30-$40 million dollar live-action epics – but its many forms were tapped as SP/FX inserts in those films—All I’ve heard is that Canada’s film board talents are at work on a Heavy Metal animation feature—a mix of fantasy/sci-fi, etc., and styles of art based on original strip art—Am curious to see the results…

* * * * *

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth will be on sale in March.

A new interview about the book with editor Dean Mullaney is on the Westfield Comics blog.

 

Talkin’ Toth: Part Two

Alex Toth was the master craftsman of comics. He was outspoken, gifted, studious, prolific, and uncompromising. He drew a lot and he said a lot—more than we can comfortably fit into our upcoming three books devoted to this great artist. But we can share some of that additional material with you in this space, so—here is our latest in a series of Talkin’ Toth:

 

Hohlwein4A Ludwig Hohlwein advertising poster from the 1920s for Leibniz-Keks biscuits.

FROM A 1981 LETTER – TOTH ON PAINTS AND FINISHES:

I’ve had my ups/downs, love/hate bits with acrylics—and, at present, am keen on the wonders of opaque tempera—forgiving as it is of brushes, very workable, paint-over capacity, nice texture when working, paints don’t dry out/up in cakes (always semi-moist), etc.—I find school-grade brands as acceptable as the higher-priced “Liquitex.”

Am collecting old books on the subject and re-reading my old tomes on its use by my hero illustrators/painters back in the old days of the ’40s, etc.… I’m just doing an occasional small rough, no big deal finished paintings, as it’s all I can do to meet b&w deadlines, the stuff that pays the rent! But I’m daydreaming painting, all the while—my question about tempera is, how and with what does one fix a painting – as the stuff does chip, dust, rub off, etc.—crack, too, I suppose… Do regular spray fixes, varnishes, etc. do the job? Acrylic clear varnish brushed on? I’ve got a C.C. Beck Captain Tootsie poster paint piece that I’m spooked to touch with a fix until I know I won’t screw it up using the wrong stuff!

* * * * *

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth will be on sale in March.

Thanks to our (and Alex’s) good pal Bill Peckmann for letting us scan some pages, including the above, from his rare 1920s collection of Ludvig Hohlwein’s art. Hohlwein was THE great German poster artist in the modern school and had a huge influence on Alex’s use of negative space and composition in general.

Meanwhile, over at SCOOP, Jeff Vaughn expressed his anticipation for the first book:

“With Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, IDW Publishing’s Library of American Comics imprint redefined the standards for art retrospective books. Now it looks like they’re out to do it again with Genius, Isolated: The Life And Art Of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell.”

Aw, shucks. We just love talkin’ Toth.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes