Monday, July 26, 2010

Comic Art Legend: Frank Thorne

Born in Rahway, New Jersey on June 16, 1930, Frank Thorne broke into comics at eighteen drawing romance stories at Standard Comics while studying at the Art Students League in New York. After his graduation, Thorne illustrated Perry Mason for two years at King Features Syndicate, before returning to Dell Comics to work on Jungle Jim, Flash Gordon, The Green Hornet and other adventure related titles. From 1957 to 1964 Frank drew a very well received medical strip called Dr. Guy Bennett for the Arthur Lafave Syndicate before revisiting comics once again. Switching to Gold Key, he worked mainly on Twilight Zone and Mighty Samson and a handful for of other books, before going to DC to draw Tomahawk, Korak, and various war and horror stories. Fans are also quite fond of his few excellent works at Atlas/Seaboard Publications in their black and white and color creations on Son of Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and Lawrence of Arabia, before next landing at Marvel Comics.

Thorne is best known for his 1975 rendition of Marvel's "She-Devil with a sword", Robert E. Howard's, fiery female Red Sonja. The artist's perfect mixture of sword and sorcery fantasy and the sexy red-haired Amazon made his the definitive image for the character, with a tremendous success that few could follow. Though After three years, Thorne decided to leave Marvel to create his own blond warrior woman, Ghita of Alizzar and began his long career drawing bawdy characters for various publishers such as Playboy (Moonshine McJuggs), Heavy Metal (Lann), and Comico (Ribit!), just to name a few. Besides doing comics, Frank Thorne has done numerous gag cartoons, and the Illustrated History of Union County, for the New Jersey area where he was born.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Make Mine Marvel: Luke Cage

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire was first introduced by Marvel at the height of the blaxploitation films that hit the silver screens in 1972, when Richard Roundtree starred as Detective John Shaft. Archie Goodwin was chosen to produce the snappy "hip" scripts as George Tuska did the art chores. One of the rare black cartoonist in the field, Billy Graham, was inker for their new sly African-American private eye/superhero series. Sent to a maximum security prison for a crime he didn't commit, Carl Lucas volunteered for a scientific experiment in order to be paroled early, and find the real crook who framed him. Like other supermen before him, the experiment Lucas was involved in went terribly wrong, turning him into a "bulletproof brother" who busted out of prison to seek his revenge. Wanting to profit from his new found skills, he changed his name to Luke Cage and set up an office on West Forty-Second Street to charge high-dollar clients for his new superhuman assistance. So was the story of Luke Cage for many years until the sales on the series finally dropped. Marvel then started calling him the Powerman and teamed Cage up with the martial artist Iron Fist to capture a whole new audience. Recently the popular character has been revived once again in a solo title with adult edgier story lines for the ultimate tough guy title simply called Cage.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sensational Strips: Lance

After leaving Casey Ruggles in 1954, Warren Tufts created the ultimate Western comic strip, Lance, that debuted with a full page Sunday on June 5, 1955. Styled after Hal Foster's Prince Valiant, Tufts originally did not use dialogue balloons, but bottom captions, to better display his lavish scenes of the American West, but eventually changed back to the standard format at the end of its run. To have complete control over his new feature, this rare self syndicated strip was published from contributions by Tuft's family. Lance St. Lorne was a Second Lieutenant for the U.S. First Dragoons stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in the 1840s, who patrolled the territories west of Missouri. Tufts ultra realistic illustrations and historically based story lines stressed the use of violence and sexual relationships that was uncommon for the late 1950s comic strips.

Warren Tufts crafted exciting stories of good and evil that were equally distributed between the changing points of view of soldiers and Native Americans in these gripping morality tales. Graphic scenes of torture, massacres, and plunder of the white settlers and Indian villages were all done in Tufts' dramatic and grand style. However, the artist could also provide entertaining peaceful moments, such as the formal military dances, and Lance's much celebrated wedding in 1957. Lance's numbers started off very strong, in about one hundred of the larger metropolitan cities newspapers. But after a few years, and newer strips hitting the market, Lance's audience started to lose readers over time, so the size was reduced from a full Sunday to a half-page and eventually a third-page size, until Tufts decided to end his beloved strip on May 29, 1960.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Will Eisner

Born March 3, 1917 in New York City. Grew up in all the various boroughs. Starting producing comic books in 1937. Sheena, Hawk of the Seas, etc. Started The Spirit for Sunday news papers between 1940-1952. Introduced comics for training manuals while in army (World War II). Published educational comics for schools and industry from 1952-72, including maintenance manuals in comics format. President Bell-McClure Syndicate 1965. Taught sequential art at SVA from 1974-93. Books: Comics & Sequential Art, Graphic Novels: Contract with God, Life Force, Heart of the Storm, Dropsie Avenue, and others. Helping on Board of International Museum of Cartoon Art. I'm proudest of my National Cartoonist Society 1995 Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award. Live in Florida, travel, tennis and work.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tales of the Bizarro World!

It all started with the "Bizarro Code"... Us do opposites of all earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is a big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World! So was the beginning of one of the wackiest characters to grace the comics, the original "Idiot of Steel". Created by writer Alvin Schwartz and artist Curt Swan for the Superman newspaper strip in the late 1950s, its publication was delayed, so Bizarro eventually made his first appearance in Superboy #68 by creators Otto Binder and George Papp. This "first" Bizarro was created as an "imperfect duplicate" of Superboy by a machine invented by a Dr. Dalton that unfortunately immediately exploded. This replica fought Superboy for a few issues before "disintegrating into the lifeless molecules from which it was formed."

But most readers fondly remember the adult Bizarro Superman that appeared in Action Comics #244-245 written by Otto Binder with Al Plastino doing the art chores. This time, Lex Luthor creates another duplication machine that he turns on the "Man of Steel", as well as making him a Bizarro Lois to be his bride. At the end of the storyline, the Bizarro's leave earth to find happiness on a new planet, where they create more duplicates of themselves and others in the Superman Family on their strange cube-shaped world. Bizarro, who was never a true villain, but more a lovable nuisance, made other "guest" appearance in the Superman features before being awarded his own back-up stories, starting with Adventure Comics #285, June 1961. The Tales of the Bizarro World ran for fifteen wacky episodes over the next two years, producing some of the craziest stories to ever hit the comics, played strictly for laughs!