Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Here's a great example of some beautiful artwork getting appropriated, altered and re-utilized in a similar but different fashion. Sam Savitt painted a dynamic image of the Lone Ranger and Silver here, and while the Earth tones are not bad, the original still has an excitement from the more vivid colors the revision lacks.
Since the Redmask was a rip-off of the Ranger to start with, it seems natural enough that Bill Black and his crew would make use of Ranger artwork, but it seems a tad cheesy.
Here's a treat. This is apparently Savitt's brother Al posing for the original Lone Ranger cover art. Here is where I stumbled across that photo with a lot more on Savitt along with lots of his great cover artwork and more behind-the-scenes stuff.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Frank Frazetta's first Lancer cover was not for Robert E. Howard's Conan, but for Reign of Wizardry a book written by the great Jack Williamson. This is a pretty powerful Frazetta image. Below are some studies he did in preparation for it.
Lancer reprinted the volume a few times, once under their "Magnum Eye" logo.
This is pretty powerful Frazetta. I've not seen the original print anywhere on the multitude of sites which feature Frazetta's work, so I'm assuming this painting has been lost somehow, but I'd be curious if anyone knows.
And was this an inspiration for Frazetta. I wonder.
I've been doing some research lately regarding Lancer paperbacks in general and specifically Frank Frazetta's contribution to this defunct but important publisher. Frazetta put the little paperback company on the map with his defining images for Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian, but those iconic covers were not the only images Frazetta produced for the company. He did several.
And then there is "The Man from S.T.U.D." (Special Territories and Unique Developments - Huh?). Sometimes when you discover something, you cannot "unsee" it. That is the case with these two Lancer paperback covers featuring Frank Frazetta. For as you can readily see, these don't feature the lush artwork we associate with the name, no these are photographic covers and the contribution the great Fritz made was to be the model. Yep, that's Frank canoodling with those lovely dames.
Frazetta covers indeed!
Monday, February 27, 2012
This lovely and graceful painting by John Schoenherr for the cover of the first ACE paperback edition of Frank Herbert's Dune is awesome, in every sense of that word. The scene goes right to the core theme of the novel, about the puny nature of man in a powerful rugged and truly awe-inspiring ecology.
The original Dune is a powerful moving novel with a true epic sweep. I can't say I care for the many sequels, but the first novel is a stunner, as is this cover art I found here.
Schoenherr was the original artist on the series as his art graced the cover of the story's debut in Analog in 1963. He defined Dune as much as Herbert in many ways.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Here's a volume I found at my new-favorite shop, Half-Price Books. It's a huge compendium of Harvey Kurtzman work, offering up countless sketches and reams of original artwork tracing Kurtman's career from the military to Mad, and beyond to Annie Fanny and more. For the record the complete Mad parody "Superduperman" is included, but that's just a small part of what's in this volume.
The material that made this a must have for me were some clear plastic sheets which function as overlays and allow the reader to visualize the process Kurtzman and Will Elder used to create the Annie Fanny comic strip for Playboy. It's an amazing insight into how comics were created. This is a real behind-the-scenes nuts and bolts book, not just a hagiography for a great talent.
I give this my highest recommendation and at Half-Price I found it quite cheap. Here's a great little video which shows some of what you'll find in this book.
If ever a movie qualified as a "time waster" then this charming and harmless bit of 1966 Japanese sci-fi fluff is it. Terror Beneath the Sea stars Sonny Chiba and a curvaceous American blonde as a duo of reporters who uncover an underwater kingdom ruled by a mad scientist and his minions and the mutant/cyborg fish-men he's created to eventually take over the world.
There's precious little mystery here as the reporters investigate a failed missle test and are quickly captured by the fish-men and begin to unlock the secrets of the underwater base which seems to be located almost adjacent to an island and presumably would be relatively easy to locate for the military who nonetheless seem at a loss.
This movie is overacted with a tenacity and consistency that almost results in an actual style for the whole shebang. The action sequences are extremely long and seem keyed to rhythms of suspense I'm not immediately familiar with. The final battle beneath the waves is a heady affair with a great deal of exotic pistol shooting as well as some pretty potent spear-gun action.
This movie has the veneer of hip 60's super-spy genre all over it, with a number of scenes triggering memories of James Bond sequences, but without actually being rip offs of same. Sonny Chiba is intense in the lead and while not always believable is relentlessly earnest. The lead actress Peggy Neal is a specimen for sure and seems to have nearly zero actual acting ability, but she sure is dandy to look at. Also of note is Franz Gruber who plays a well-meaning Navy man who gets more and more worked up as the movie unfolds until you actually begin to worry about his health.
This is not a "good" movie, but it is a diverting entertainment of the highest order. It's sleek and delivers what it seems to promise which ain't much. But that's more than a lot of movies do.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Titan Books has got me hooked, as they are in the process of publishing again for the first time in order and completely the misadventures of Dr. Fu-Manchu. It begins as we speak with the publication of the first two novels by Sax Rohmer - The Mystery of Dr.Fu-Manchu and The Return of Dr.Fu-Manchu with The Hand of Fu-Manchu coming out later this spring.
I've read some of these here and there, but it will be thrilling to read them as they were originally meant to be read. And Titan has promised to publish them warts and all, maintaining the integrity of the questionable ethnic references, despite more enlightened notions. It's never good in my opinion to suppress these regrettable mistakes of past times, as they only confuse the issues at hand. Books and characters and writers should be judged always in the times in which they existed, and held to account for same.
As it turns out, I've only been able to get hold of the second novel so far, and I have the first on special order. I hold out hope I'll get it today, but that remains to be seen. I'm eager to begin.
It should be a fun ride. I'm looking forward to it.
Mike Vosburg is one of that generation of comic talent who were breaking in as I was becoming aware of the field. Those guys were not much older than I was myself, and it was neat to watch them grow and develop as talents as the years and projects rolled by. Vosburg is among the most proficient, a storyteller who developed a style which became increasingly distinctive and attractive in its own right, but never at the cost of the tale it told.
It seems that Mike Vosburg is leaving comics behind (or perhaps they left him). This post from his blog is most disheartening, as it means one of the finest of comic talents has hung it up. How is it editors cannot find work for a talent of this caliber? But I'm sure (at least I hope) we'll keep seeing great images form the talented Mr.Vosburg.
Here's a gallery of his work over the years. He sure can draw beautiful dames.
This dramatic but wacky cover for the fourth issue of Spacemen from Warren Magazines is clearly meant to evoke this clash between Flash and a Ming Soldier from Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars.
Actually that's Buster Crabbe of course as Flash facing off against another stalwart serial hero Kane Richmond.
But what happened that Basil Gogos, the artist of the Spacemen cover didn't gives us a magnificent illustration of Richmond as well as Crabbe. I learned the truth at BookSteve's Library.
This blurb from the Warren editors explains the downright weird situation.
"Actually the cover on our July issue was a collectors item--the first collaboration between Basil Gogos and...Jim Warren! Upon completion of the left hand portion of the painting, Gogos was suddenly stricken with Venusian Virus and ordered to bed by his physician with a 103 degree temperature. Originally Emperor Ming was to be fighting with Flash but suddenly the choice was either a half-blank cover or___? So borrowing a popping eye from Peter Lorre, a bolt from the Frankenstein monster, a swelled head from the Metaluna mutant, a horn from a triceratops and the robotic arms of a robot, your resourceful publisher himself rushed out and got a Draw It Yourself Kit and, with the printer panting down his neck, painted the "immortal kitchen sink creature" which so many of you hailed as a Monsterpuss!"
So it's the handiwork of Jim Warren himself we see and it never to be Kane Richmond on the other side. Hmm. It's a shame the great Gogos couldn't finish this image, but perhaps it wouldn't have been so memorable as what resulted. What a hodgepodge of sources. Here they are.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Frank Frazetta is one of two artists who to my mind transformed the modern pop-culture imagination in the 60's and 70's. It's always fascinating to see artists working, especially when one can identify the piece as can be done in this excellent photo of Frazetta.
Here is the artwork in all its glory.
And here it is as it was meant to be seen, part of a somewhat more complex pattern meant to quicken the imagination and sell a magazine to boot.
Jack Kirby is the other artist. And here we see the "King" in a somewhat lordly pose behind his worktable, the artwork before him.
Here is that work, a poster shot of Silver Star. This piece was not used directly in the series.
But it did serve magnificently as the cover to Twomorrows "Graphite Edition" of the last grand series from Kirby.
These two guys have had their work copied and imitated so much over such a long period of time, that likely many today don't know where the influence comes from anymore.
Two men, two masters who changed the world by changing how we see it in our imaginations. To paraphrase the wisdom of sage Nigel Tufnel, these two guys took what they had and turned it up to eleven.