Our Very Own Super-Duper Man!

Everyone knows that Clark Kent is Superman’s alter ego, but around here we have another fine fellow who fits that bill — Super-Duper artist Pete Poplaski, who creates the amazing covers for all of our Superman newspaper strip collections (and the Batman and Wonder Woman collections to boot)!

While everyone who has these books knows what the final colored versions look like when printed, very few people see the various stages Pete goes through to create these masterworks.

For the upcoming Superman Golden Age Dailies 1944-1947 back cover, here are an interim penciled and partially inked version, the final inked rendition, and the color guide Pete submits for LOAC’s digital colorists.

We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

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JUST ANNOUNCED: The Silence of Malka

07_2018_Silence_of_MalkaComing July, 2018, LOAC’s sister imprint EuroComics will publish—for the first time in English—the winner of the Angoulême Festival award for Best Foreign Graphic Album, THE SILENCE OF MALKA, by Jorge Zentner and Rubén Pellejero

Reviews:

“A very original re-reading of the legend of Golem.”—The New Observer

“A sumptuous story of exile.”—The World of Books

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Boys & Their Toys

So I’m busily working away on the text feature for Steve Canyon Volume 8 (a juicy assemblage of material that includes Milton Caniff turning real-life incidents into story fodder!) and I get this e-mail from my dear, long-time friend Doug Thornsjo. If you read the Definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim you got a taste of Doug’s writing (and his voluminous knowledge of movie serials) in Volume 2, in which he produced an article about Buster Crabbe’s three chapterplay turns as Flash.

Doug knew that in Canyon we had provided some coverage of the Ideal toy line based on Milton Caniff’s high-flying colonel, items like the Jet Helmet …

Canyon Jet Helmet Continue Reading →

Great Things Come to Those Who Wait

It was a gala day in LOAC-land when we announced that our eleventh LOAC Essentials volume would reprint a mid-1940s selection of Edwina’s terrific Cap Stubbs & Tippie. This book represents the culmination of about a decade of planning. Let me explain that perhaps-startling statement …

I was first introduced to Edwina’s delightful view of small-town life in 1987, when I bought my copy of the twenty-fifth issue of Nemo magazine.

NEMO 25_1987 Continue Reading →

FINAL UPDATE (09/16/17) to Holding Our Collective Breath …

ON SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 16TH: Dean reports that he’s back home, with full services restored. Now, if only Hurricane Maria doesn’t follow Irma’s path …

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ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13TH: Still no electricity at Dean and Lorraine’s home, but they’ve “packed up the computers” and relocated to a hotel with full services. So LOAC is back up and running — in fact, Dean sent me Rich Handley’s text feature for Star Wars Volume 2 so I can edit it. In a word: Hoo-hah! (Or is that two words?)

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ON MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11TH: A fast update from Dean that was as brief as it was welcome: “No power, but AOK.”  More updates as I receive them!

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… As Hurricane Irma bears down on the state of Florida.

Here in New England my wife Krista and I are following storm coverage with fingers crossed, since we both have family members in The Sunshine State. Krista’s mother and step-father have buttoned up their home and driven north, crossing the border to escape Irma’s fury, while my sister, her family, and my mother are going to ride it out in a sturdy hotel (concrete construction). The hotel has its own generators, so they’re hopeful they’ll retain power and air conditioning under even the worst conditions.

LOAC’s Creative and Art Directors, Dean Mullaney and Lorraine Turner, are also Florida residents; they’re preparing to weather the blow in their home. Along with their neighbors, they realized the best place for patio furniture was submerged in the swimming pool, so on Friday, September 8th, Dean sent me these pictures of his handiwork:

Irma Prep_1

Irma Prep_2

A situation like this gives one pause to think of not only those in Florida who’ll be touched by the passage of Hurricane Irma, but also those in the Caribbean islands who have already suffered her wrath and are in dire need, as well as those in Texas and Louisiana who are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey. If you have the means to contribute to the relief effort, you may want to consider a donation to The American Red Cross.

Whether or not you can help aid the hurricane victims, I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Dean, Lorraine, and all the persons in Florida as much luck as they can get, and share Krista’s and my hopes that they’ll get through this major storm with as little damage and disruption as possible. I’ll post an update in the days ahead as I get new information …

A True Rarity from the Hand of Gene the Dean

Among that circle of long-time friends I’ve referenced in this space on several occasions is Tom Field, perhaps best known in comics circles as the biographer of “Gentleman” Gene Colan (1926-2011). Tom and I both cut our comics teeth on late Silver Age Marvel Super-Heroes — thanks to Stan Lee’s inspired marketing and promotions, we grew up thinking of the talents behind those books by their first names. To us they were Jack and John (Buscema and Romita), Neal and Barry and, yes, Gene. I was introduced to Colan’s work with Daredevil # 33 (a one-off purchase during a visit to a small store that carried comics during a summertime family vacation), but returned to it as a regular reader with DD # 42, a perfect jumping-on point, since contrived fictional “brother” Mike Murdock had been “killed off,” an ambitious four-part story featuring new villain The Jester was just beginning, and it was easy for me to dive into the world of the Sightless Swashbuckler. Tom’s first issue was somewhat later than mine, but his reactions to Gene’s rendering of Daredevil’s hyper-kinetic acrobatic style of crime-fighting mirrored my own.

Our appreciation for Gene’s work grew as we did — his two stints on Doctor Strange still strike me as high watermarks for that series. His ability to deliver absurdist humor was on display when he paired with Steve Gerber for a memorable run on Howard the Duck, and the Wolfman/Colon/Palmer Tomb of Dracula delivered a powerfully moody, atmospheric dash of macabre adventure throughout the 1970s. We followed Gene to DC in the 1980s, where he was a natural to depict the saga of Batman, while also teaming with Don McGregor on two hard-boiled detective miniseries featuring Nathaniel Dusk (Colan and McGregor re-teamed at Eclipse Comics on a still-much-beloved series of Ragamuffins tales).

Tom and I met Gene Colan during an appearance he made at the huge Worcester, Massachusetts comics shop, That’s Entertainment. Tom and Gene struck up a years-long friendship as a result of that meeting, and in 2005 Tom published a fine retrospective of Gene’s career in TwoMorrow Publishing’s Secrets in the Shadows: The Art and Life of Gene Colan. Filled with artwork (the hardcover edition includes a portfolio section in full color) and featuring interviews with and quotes from several of Gene’s major collaborators (Stan Lee, Tom Palmer, Gerber, Wolfman, Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart), the book is a labor of love I have returned to many times over the past dozen years.

And what’s the point of this trip down memory lane, you ask? Why, just yesterday (August 26, 2017, for you calendar buffs) Tom and I got together for the first time in several months. We spent an afternoon catching up and talking about the important things in life — you know, families, friends, comics, and Boston professional sports — and as we prepared to part ways, Tom said, “I have something for you.” And he gave me this:

Gene_WWII Journal

“This” is a page from Colan’s visual record of his World War II-era experiences in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Gene captured impressions of military life in a journal and sent illustrations along with his letters home to family while he was stationed in the Philippines in 1945. As Tom describes it (with a bit of help from Gene himself) on pages 25-26 of Secrets in the Shadows:

“A little bit Bill Mauldin, a touch of Milton Caniff, Colan’s service diary eased his transition into life overseas, and it gave him a bit of notoriety on base in Manila. By day, Colan was a truck driver in the motor pool; by night, he was an in-demand sketch artist.

“‘I would draw guys going overseas, draw the natives around our base,’ Colan says. ‘I remember drawing a Philippine girl by candlelight — I wanted to do it that way. And I also drew a picture of our tent boy. The major loved that drawing so much he said, “I’ll give you my jeep for the day if you’ll give me that picture!“‘”

This particular page, as you can see, was capturing activity just before Gene’s unit was called to duty in the Pacific — also before Gene came down with a powerful case of pneumonia that put him in a field hospital, delaying his own ship-out to Manila. You can also tell it’s seen hard use over the seventy-two years since it was created, but it’s nevertheless  a precious artifact, one I’m proud to currently steward and pleased to share with you here.

And if you think there’s no connection between Gene Colan and LOAC, well, here’s Tom again, from page 15 of Secrets:

“There are three prominent comic strips Colan recalls from the 1930s:

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner: The Dogpatch hillbillies were a source of amusement and inspiration for young Colan. ‘I had a hard time at school with some of the bullies, so Li’l Abner and Mammy Yokum kind of helped me through it. She was very tough!’

Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates: The greatest adventure strip of its day was at its artistic height during Colan’s teens, and he was totally entranced by the growth of Terry Lee, Pat Ryan, and crew. ‘I can even remember the smell of the newsprint. I’d put the paper right up to my face …’ and get lost in Caniff’s stylish rendering of action, adventure, and adult romance.

Coulton Waugh’s Dickie Dare: A boy, his dog, and their adventures ’round the world. Those are the elements that appealed most to Colan, who recalls this strip as his favorite among favorites. ‘Every day I couldn’t wait to see what would happen to that poor kid. The strip appeared in the New York Sun, and my father would always come out of the subway with a copy, on his way home from work. I would wait for him topside and I’d grab the paper just to see the next installment.'”

It’s no surprise a talent as singular as Gene Colan would have such good taste in comic strips, is it?

Gene has been gone more than five years now, but his work continues to be reprinted (Marvel has announced new softcovered Tomb of Dracula reprints, for example) — and Secrets in the Shadows is still in print and definitely comes recommended. At the TwoMorrows website you can use their search feature to find the book’s listing, view a preview on-screen (or download a PDF preview for later viewing), and place an order. After you’ve enjoyed Secrets, you’ll join Tom and me (if you haven’t already) as a lifelong fan of the one and only Gentleman Gene Colan.

 

Quick (But Sincere) Notes of Thanks

Events of recent days leave me with a handful of folks to whom I owe thanks, and I might as well do it publicly (though I think I’ve already done it privately, as well — better too much thanks than not enough!) …

… I’ve previously written in this space about a group I’ve been lucky enough to count as friends for more than thirty-five years (click here). One of those friends, who has been a premier comic book artist for just about thirty of those thirty-five years, is Lee Weeks. On Thursday, August 10th Lee pointed our little band (including yr hmbl svnt) to an absolutely wonderful Vanity Fair piece: When Fairfield County Was the Comic-Strip Capital of the World. The writer, Cullen Murphy, has done us a true service in this outstanding work, which captures a place, time, and assemblage of talent and personalities that should be near and dear to our hearts. I don’t throw around phrases like “a must-read” very often, but in this case I believe it’s not hyperbole to label “When Fairfield County …” a must-read for LOACers everywhere. And after you’ve checked out what Mr. Murphy has to tell us, I think you’ll join me in thanking Lee for directing us to it.

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… I’ve done a clutch of interviews this month, and so let me thank Howard Chaykin for taking time from his busy schedule to speak with me about his contributions to Star Hawks, and his mentor, the strip’s visual architect, Gil Kane. In our upcoming Star Hawks Volume 2 you’ll see more Kane, as well as sequences illustrated by both artist Ernie Colon and Chaykin himself, as this sample from January, 1979 shows. That action sequence in panels two and three is pure Chaykin:

STAR HAWKS 19790106

Additionally, through circumstances that had a long gestation period and an unlikely chain of events, I’ve interviewed Lani Kida (granddaughter of Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip artist Fred Kida) and her father, Paul. Both these wonderful persons were generous with stories and memories of their talented relative, and while I’m still putting together all the pieces, I’m confident that in the near future you’ll be learning more about Fred Kida than you’ve found at any other source (and seeing rare artwork the family has shared, too!). Be watching for the fifth volume of our Amazing Spider-Man series, and keep watching this space, as well. Meanwhile, here’s a second look at a 1982 Kida Sunday featuring the wondrous wall-crawler and the malevolent monarch of Latveria, Doctor Doom —

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… Thanks are hereby extended to the handful of faithful visitors to this space who wrote to tell me they’ve bought copies of John Sayles’s mammoth novel, A Moment in the Sun. (Here’s my original review.) My fingers are crossed you enjoy this sprawling epic as much as I did!

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… Finally, a thanks we never lose sight of and one we can never offer enough: a big T*H*A*N*K   Y*O*U to everyone who supports our efforts and buys our books. With all the options available to you and all the competition for your hard-earned entertainment dollar, it is humbling to know you choose to invest time and money in LOAC. We hope you’ll continue to enjoy the extensive reprints and associated rarities as much as we enjoy putting them together for you!

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