Thursday, October 23, 2008

National Cartoonist Society Profile: George Evans

By the wee hours of the 5th of February 1920 a blizzard had buried tiny Harwood Mines, Pennsylvania up to the clothesline. It stopped the doctor, but with an assist from a midwife, I got through. Harwood's only "literature" was the newspaper, and by the age of four, driven to know what those wonderful cartoon character's were up to, I learned to read -- and have been hooked on comics ever since. A depression kid, I worked any/every kind of job I could find to buy an art correspondence school course. I began (modestly!) sending stuff to the "pulp" mags, and my first sale was at age fourteen. After three WWII years in the Air Force, I got staff job at "Fiction House" in New York. Took courses at Art Student's League but stupidly quit for work offers. I did nearly every kind of illustration work, and much comics. Ghosted bits for many "name" strips, including the "Terry and the Pirates" dailies for George Wunder that lasted thirteen years. Past fourteen years writing/drawing "Secret Agent Corrigan" for King Features Syndicate, plus commissioned paintings (especially aviation).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

National Cartonist Society Profile: Frank Kelly Freas

Well, its been a year of posts on my original comic art blog, and I hope you've all enjoyed some of the articles about my favorite hobby. Here is another in a series of profiles on the NCS artists from a few years ago, written by the creators themselves. Featured today is one of the most prolific and loved of science fiction illustrators, Frank Kelly Freas... Cartoonist, illustrator, cover artist, pin-up painter, caricaturist, educator. Kelly Freas is universally recognized as one of the most prolific and popular sci-fi and fantasy artists in the world. His work has graced the covers of hundreds of books and magazines, and illustrated stories of hundreds of authors, all of whom agree on his ability to express the inner meaning that makes a story something special. "I illustrate for readers - and for writers" says Kelly, "no story is so good that it can't be made better with good illustration."

Freas was born in Hornell, New York on August 27,1922. He was one of MAD'S premier cover artists for nearly seven years, doing most of the covers: front, inside-front, and (his favorite) the back cover with it's fake and satirical ads. His more serious work has earned him numerous awards in many areas, such as the a NATTIS Hall of Fame; Starlog's List of the 200 Most Important People in Science Fiction; and ten HUGO Awards for Best Professional Artist of the Year. Freas is the author of three published volumes of his collected works: The Astounded Fifties, The Art of Science Fiction, and A Separate Star. He resides in the Los Angeles area with his illustrator and radio host wife, Laura Brodian Freas.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Those Fantastic Filipinos!

Those fantastic Filipino artists never cease to amaze me with their phenomenal detailed work they did for DC, Marvel and Warren in the seventies and eighties. Not to mention all the pages produced in the Philippines by these comic masters way before they ever hit the American shores. I’m impressed with any Filipino work, but especially the artistry of Tony DeZuniga, Rudy Florese, Rafael Kayannan, Jess Jodloman, Rudy Nebres, Alex Nino, Jesse Santos, Alfredo Alcala, and Nestor Infante. Out of these creators, I've only been able to meet DeZuniga a couple of months ago at a local show. He was quite a reserved gentleman with an enormous talent, (his pencil work has to be seen in the originals to be believed) and has a delightfully charming wife. It was a real treat to finally meet one of my most prized comic creators who is still going strong in the business today.

Recently I ran across some Arthur Geroche factoid pages that were planned for DC’s Bible book(s), that were never published up for auction. Unfinished only at the logo, they were beautiful vivid scenes that displayed different trades, carpentry, weaving, and other professions in biblical times. I was lucky enough to purchase some Geroche’s King Arthur factoid pages about armor, warfare, and castle siege engines back in 2001 in San Diego. At that time, a friend saw, but did not purchase the Bible pages, since they were bought up before he could grab them! So finally after seven long years of waiting, here was my chance to own these beauties I’ve heard about, but never seen until now. Unfortunately, one bidder wanted these precious gems even more than I did, as I was greatly outbid at the last second. But at least I have one example of his lush delicate work. Not much more was produced by Geroche, being late to arrive to DC when the Filipino’s contributions were just about ending. The artist did only six brilliant stories for the mystery/horror anthology books that I know of, and these few unpublished factoid pieces mentioned, before drifting off with his peers to find work elsewhere in the industry.

Nestor Redondo, on the other hand was one of the earliest illustrators to sign with National in the seventies (after Tony DeZuniga) and helped bring many of his fellow countrymen to work for DC in his eleven years with the company. Best know for his beautiful run on Swamp Thing and all-time fan favorite, Rima, the Jungle Girl, Nestor ended up doing around fifty horror stories for DC. But surely one of his greatest achievements was his spectacular work on the oversized Limited Collector’s Edition of The Bible. Redondo was the perfect choice to illustrate the special project (over Joe Kubert layouts), since he was a deeply religious man who had already done a biblical adaptation in his home country in one of his comic creations. Nestor also served as art director for Pendulum Press’ Classic series of paperbacks which had many of his friends produce some real stunning little stories. Too bad you lose so much detail when printed in an average size paperback book. When the work at DC was dying out in early eighties, Redondo did a few assorted covers for Marvel and some other publishers before going into animation like many of his peers.

Another one of my beloved Filipino artists is the talented E.R. Cruz, who drew close to an astounding two hundred stories for National’s war, Western, and horror books. But the artists moody noir look was best displayed I believe in the marvelous short-lived issues of DC’s Sherlock Holmes and pulp icon, The Shadow. His extremely detailed inking style with a strange oriental feel was well displayed in those titles and the Pendulum Press issues he illustrated for Redondo, not to mention his work for Warren, Marvel, and Dark Horse. Finally, I wanted to show a page from Rudy Florese who was a solid illustrator with a beautiful graceful line as shown in this wonderful Korak page. He drew many Edgar Rice Burrughs features for DC , mainly over Joe Kubert layouts, and also a handful of chilling horror stories.