Friday, October 26, 2012

Dell Comics Cover Artist: Henry Hartman

With a career that has lasted over six decades, Henry Hartman, has made his living as an illustrator, commercial graphic designer, and fine art painter. Studying under New York artist Mortimer Wilson Jr., Hartman assisted his mentor on many illustrations for America's top magazines including The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, Red Book, and The Ladies Home Journal, just to name a few. But for original comic art fans, he is best remembered for his lush cover art for Dell Publishing Company's The Lone Ranger series and other of their Old West properties, as shown on this Zane Grey's Range War cover from Four Color #555  in 1954. Also know for his talent as a portrait artist, Hartman did hundreds of commissions in charcoal for the philanthropic organization know as Circus, Saints, and Sinners for their monthly luncheon honoring the special guests. After retiring from his commercial career, Henry pursued his fine art instincts with still-life and landscape pieces, before returning to his first love, the American West and a new selection of Lone Ranger paintings for his many dedicated fans.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Marvel Spotlight: Conan The Barbarian

With his first Marvel Comics appearance in October of 1970, Robert E. Howard's, Conan the Barbarian, hit the newsstands with a landslide success in issue sales. Roy Thomas was chosen to write the adapted short stories of Howard and though he wanted John Buscema to illustrate the feature, British newcomer Barry Smith was picked for the coveted artistic chores. Thomas was true to the source material, which had already made Conan world famous years before, but now coupled with the ornate, art deco-like illustrations of Smith it quickly won a legion of new fans and awards alike. Pleasing page composition and layout, excellent figure drawing, and a delicate use of color helped propel Conan as a best seller, before Smith had a falling out with Marvel over creative differences and left the strip in 1973. Now Buscema was available to draw the barbarian in his own distinctive style, though many morned Smith's departure from the book, dividing fans as to who drew the best version of the character. A second black-and-white dollar magazine debuted in August of 1974 under the title, the Savage Sword of Conan, which could get away with a little more sex and violence from the comic censors. Even today the wild Cimmerian continues his many adventures under different comic publishers.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Foreign Favorites: Mister No

In the spring of 1975, Italian writer Sergio Bonelli using his pseudonym Guido Nolitta, and artist Gallieno Ferri, created the regular monthly series, Mister No, which lasted  three hundred seventy five issues until December 2006, with a handful of special books ending in 2009. Our anti-hero,  Jerome Drake,  served as a soldier in the US Army before relocating to the Brazilian Amazon Forest after  World War II to forgot the horrors of war. Now working as a pilot and tour guide, he fights for peace and justice in the wild territories he calls home along with his German friend Otto Kruger, also known by the natives as Esse-Esse (S-S) from his prior Nazi days. Rounding out our hero's enduring cast of characters are  his airplane mechanic, Augustino,  bartender/owner Paulo Adolfo of the local Catina, and the lovely nightclub singer, Dana Williams. A lover of wine, women, and song,  Drake abhors violence, but  Mister No often has to resort to it to save himself and his companions on his many adventures around the world. Popular all across Europe, it was especially favored in Turkey and the countries of former Yugoslavia where it is still being published today.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Greatest Adventure: Animal-Man

Another in National's line of short-lived and unusual super heroes that debuted in one of their science fiction anthology books was Animal-Man for Strange Adventures #180 in September of 1965. Created by writer Dave Wood and artist Carmine Infantino,  movie stunt man Bernard "Buddy" Baker watched in awe as an weird alien spaceship crashed to Earth close to his home. Investigating the wreckage,  our hero was bathed in a unique radiation which quickly altered his body forever. When animals escaped from a nearby zoo, Buddy Baker discovered that whenever he is close to any animal, he somehow mysteriously absorbed their special abilities. After a few unexpected adventures, Baker decided to fashion himself a costume and called himself Animal-Man or A-man for short. Now whenever in public, Baker uses his special abilities in animal-adapting  to fight crime. Being able to fly like a bird, swim like a fish, this Animal-Man can run as fast as a cheetah or have the strength of ant. Only starring in eleven short stories over the years from his original debut, Animal-Man returned with his own popular series in the eighties to a new audience of fans, and has been reborn once again in a recent DC Comics incarnation.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Darrell McClure...In His Own Words

I was born in California when the century (the current one) was very young. I had a great deal of exposure to the kind of outdoor life available in the West at the time...including trips to the sea as a a seaman aboard the last of the old sailing ships...a vanishing era even then I received my art school training in San Francisco. My first commercial art jobs were in animated cartooning. This had no appeal for me, but it seemed to be the only art opening in my native state, so at nineteen I headed for New York City. To my astonishment, New York was not exactly panting for the superlative talents I was ready to bestow upon the public. Then with the aid of Jimmy Swinnerton, creator of the comic strip, Little Jimmy, I became an apprentice cartoonist with King Features Syndicate. That was in 1923. Jimmy Swinnerton, not the foremost desert painter of America, strongly urged and encouraged me to try my hand at painting as an antidote to constant black and white work. I have now done color work over the years, and it's a pleasant diversion. In 1930 or 1931 I took over the drawing end of the Little Annie Rooney comic strip. At that time it was written by the late Brandon Walsh. Later on, I became the writer as well as the artist, and so it remains today. At the present time, my wife and I divide our time between our home in San Francisco and our boat in Fort Lauderdale. She didn't know what she was in for when she married a rabid yachtsman. Most of her first year of marriage was spent aboard a 38-foot motor sailor, which I owned at the time. In addition to drawing Little Annie Rooney, I also do cartoons and illustrations for Yachting Magazine. The magazine recently published six of my paintings of Bahamian scenes.

I maintain a routine, businessman's five day, nine-to-five work-week...and it's often six days. My assistant backgrounds artist works on the strip two days a week. His name is James March Phillips, and he's a leading water colorist whose work appears in the best art galleries. When I am out of state, I mail the work in for Jim to finish. There is nothing unusual about the long hours required to turn out comic strips, but my habit of working afloat is unusual. Long ago I learned that I could never get far enough ahead in my work to take a decent vacation, so I simply take my work with me. Only occasionally have I found it necessary to tuck the job under my arm and seek a less lively base ashore. The toughest part of my job is when a story runs its course and it's time to come up with a new continuity. I suffer until it starts rolling properly. However, it's not bad to suffer, and I can't complain about any of it because I'm doing exactly what I've wanted to do since I was six years old.