Thursday, December 27, 2018

Faithfully Yours, 1983, by Steve Ditko, Rich Buckler, Timmons, Kupperberg, Yoshida and Wilcox

Here is an exciting comic published in The Fly #3, part of Archie's short lived revival of their Superhero comics and published under the Red Circle Comics Group imprint.  These were all edited by longtime Steve Ditko confidant Robyn Snyder.  This issue features two short stories featuring a female version of the title character appropriately named "Fly Girl".  Both these stories are collaborations between several artists and writers.  Therefore the art alternates between very identifiable Ditko work and another artist's work altogether.  It's always a pleasure to see Ditko drawing female characters as it is almost undeniable that his rendering of this form was largely influenced by Eric Stanton.  Both of these shorts are more humorous type of stories that are dealing with contemporary themes.  The first story deals with a woman who is being abused by her husband.  The second story is about a celebrity stalker.  To me, Ditko's best work like Spider-Man and Speedball always balanced humor, action and some hot topic issues that were pertinent at the time.

Faithfully Yours, the second story, is the one I've scanned.  It looks like the layouts were done by Ditko and it was inked by another artist.  Even though this story features "Fly Girl", it is not really so much a superhero story.  That's probably why I enjoyed it so much.  Page 5 and 8 have some unusual layouts that work really well.  Again, I'm not sure if Ditko was totally responsible for these as they are not typical of his style overall.  The very last page of this story is probably the most Ditko-esque.  Enjoy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Attilio Micheluzzi

Story: Buzz Dixon
Art: Attilio Micheluzzi
Colors: Ron Courtney
Lettering: Wayne Truman

It's a Wonderful Day In Our Neighborhood!
from Alien Encounters #8
August 1986
Eclipse Comics

I thought this was a pretty weird suburban absurdist play in miniature. I think Micheluzzi was more comfortable with his usual World War I era subject matter...but it's rare to find his work in English. I especially love the last panel. BOOM!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Angel Trinidad (part 2)

A Bend In the Road
Artist: Angel Trinidad Jr.
Writers: Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin
from DC Comics
House of Mystery No. 314, 1983
(story not shown in full/ sample pages only)

I wrote about Angel Trinidad Jr. in a previous post. Since then I have found more of his work, mostly in issues of G.I. Combat from the mid 1980's. Trinidad illustrated the Boltinoff and Kanigher created Vietnam series entitled the Bravos of Vietnam. His work is far more dense than the other war artists and is easy to pick out. As discussed in my previous posts, Trinidad's trademark montage scenes can be found there. His art is detailed & realistic but still weird...which is probably why I like it so much. The following story from House of Mystery is of even more interest to me. While I do enjoy a good war story, especially if drawn by Joe Kubert, the genre can get a bit tiresome/repetitive for me. And while this mystery story is also a bit run-of-the-mill, the art is anything but ordinary.

The splash on page 1 is incredibly effective. Love that truck just smashing through the road barrier! Later in the story (page 7) this effect is mimicked to greater intensity, actually breaking the barrier of the panels themselves. Most impressive though is page number three. What other artist who draws in such a detailed manner can create this sense of fluidity? Sure, artists like Neal Adams can draw realistically and create great action scenes (fighting flying, etc.). Where Trinidad is different is that he portrays somewhat static and non-action oriented sequences with a dramatic energy. Notice how the lines in the sky reflect a certain tension and anxiety within the mood of the characters themselves. And the somewhat psychedelic images of page 1 and 7 (entering and exiting the tunnel) are also a very nice touch. Now if only I can find some sort of checklist of work Trinidad did outside of the United States. If anyone has any info, please let me know. I am also looking for original art for another Trinidad story entitled The Frogman and the Mermaid.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Alfredo Alcala - Hulxploitation!

A Very Personal Hell written by James Shooter with art by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala from The Hulk magazine, 1980.

Alfredo Alcala is another one of those extremely prolific Filipino artists with a uniquely detailed style. You can always pick out Alcala’s work by noticing his use of shading that includes intense cross hatching combined with some charcoal looking tones. Some of his more unusual works include a graphic novel adaption of the adults only blaxploitation novel Daddy Cool by Donald Goines. He was also the illustrator of the short lived series Voltar, a lushly detailed fantasy epic. Marvel’s magazine version of Nightmare on Elmstreet from the 1980’s was also drawn by Alcala, making it even more enjoyable and surreal than the actual films.

One of my favorite pieces by him was a collaboration with John Buscema on a Jim Shooter scripted piece for Hulk Magazine. From the looks of it, it seems to me that the first half of the story was roughed out by Buscema, while the latter half was completed drawn by Alcala. This is because the second half has less of the staged , typical Marvel look and more of an underground feel to it. I’ve posted a few of these pages here, but not the whole story (it’s 33 pages long).

While I’ve never been much of a fan of mainstream superhero comics, I think I can say with confidence that this might be one of the all time strangest contributions to the genre. The Marvel black and white magazines of the time, in competition with Warren’s line, attempted to appeal to a more adult audience. This was also true for HULK magazine, resulting in a different look and writing style than the actual standard comic book at the time.

In …A Very Personal Hell, writer James Shooter has created a story that looks more like Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver than it does the Typical Marvel Universe. Set in a seedy version of New York City, the comic actually has the feel of a campy exploitation movie along the lines of Basket Case.

Typically, Marvel shies away from any discrete sexual overtones. Not so, in this case. Hulk’s alter ego, Bruce Banner is staying at a YMCA. Here is the basic plot:

While taking a shower, two homosexuals attempt to rape him. A nude Banner is able to resist his anger and escape into a back alley. There, he breaks down and cries against a brick wall. Soon, aggression takes hold and Banner is transformed into the rampaging green beast. After falling down some steps, the Hulk finds himself in the basement apartment of an emaciated drug addict who is stoned on acid. She immediately takes a liking to the Hulk, who she calls Sam. When her abusive boyfriend returns, the Hulk socks him in the face. The woman then offers herself sexually to the Hulk, but ends up passing out. The Hulk turns back into Banner and leaves the apartment in search of a job.

Roaming the streets of NY, he ends up entering a brothel where a half nude woman offers him the opportunity to hand out fliers on 44th and 7th. He turns down the position quickly! Back on the streets, he ends up being picked up by a pretty business woman. It soon becomes clear that this woman has some damaging psychological issues with her mother and is desperate for a man in her life. She helps Bruce find a job as a dishwasher and soon after lures him up to her apartment. They make love.

Meanwhile, the Hulk returns to save the drug addicted woman from her sadistic boyfriend. After busting down a burning building, Hulk turns back into Banner and returns to the apartment of his newly found love interest. It’s too late. The tormented woman has committed suicide! She does leave a note though and $1,000 dollars for Banner. Anonymously, he leaves the money for the burnt and bruised drug addict lady who is now bandaged up in the hospital.

The whole thing is outrageous, and James Shooter’s attempt at “reality” here is laughable. Still, the artwork by Alcala fits the story perfectly, adding just the right of melodrama and mood. For Marvel, this is escapist entertainment of a different type, most likely not to be repeated too many times over. But sometimes bad writing and good art can click in just the right way! Case in point.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

Angel Trinidad Jr.

The Samurai Condemned to Live
From Elvira’s House of Mystery #2
DC Comics, 1985
Script: Robert Kanigher
Art: Angel Trinidad Jr.

Angel Trinidad Jr., is one of those cartoonists you may have never heard of . He created artwork for approximately ten short stories for DC Comics between 1981 and 1986.* According to Jerry Bails’ Who’s Who of American Comic Books, the only other artwork he is credited for are three “classics illustrated” type adaptations for Pendulum Press from 1974-76. Most likely though, Trinidad created a broader body of work in the Philippines.

His association with American comics began through the Redondo studio’s connection with Vince Fago in the 1970’S. Fago, an American cartoonist, known for his funny animal comics and editorial position at Marvel (proceeding Stan Lee) was impressed by the work of Nestor Redondo. Intent on compiling comics adaptations for adaptations of literary classics, he employed artists such as Alex Nino and Angel Trinidad Jr. For Pendulum, Trinidad illustrated The House of Seven Gables, Great Expectations and The Sea Wolf.

About five years later, Trinidad’s work began appearing in the DC war titles. He executed these tales (usually written by the prolific Robert Kanigher) with equal skill to a John Severin or Russ Heath. Still, there is a lush, decorative element to Trinidad’s work that makes it distinct from his American counterparts. Trinidad’s background details, cross-hatching techniques, well rounded and thoroughly rendered figures are more akin to Filipinos Alfredo Alcala and Nestor Redondo.
Of the three, I tend to like Trinidad’s work the best.

Trinidad’s page design is always interesting. He often makes use of a wide panel accompanied by three long panels on a single page. This structure brings to mind Japanese folding screens, which (perhaps just by coincidence) seems to work really well in telling this particular story of ancient Japan. Another way to identify Trinidad’s art is that he often rounds out the corners of his panels. His most exciting technique is his use of montage. In The Samurai Condemned to Live, he uses this technique numerous times (bottom of page 2, bottom of page 4, bottom of page 5, top of page 6).

The montage on the bottom of page three demonstrates Trinidad’s ability to show a variety of actions in a single panel. This might also be one of the most graphic depictions of violence in a DC comic up to this point. That’s five heads being chopped off! As complicated a scene as this might be to draw, Trinidad carries it off with ease. His almost humorous sound effects that are deftly incorporated into the scene, lend it an air of whimsy, so that we are not completely grossed out.

Trinidad always penciled, inked and lettered his pages himself. In compared to many other similar DC stories, these appear more labored over and in that sense, have more personality to them. There is a tremendous amount of variation in Trinidad’s line and this combination of heavy brushstrokes with scratchy crosshatching adds a heavy depth to his work. He packs a tremendous amount of detail into each panel. At the same time, the work is never extraneous. I particularly like his lettering technique with the use of a ragged scroll to incorporate the narration into the panel.

Page 8 shows Trinidad at his fantastic best. A dragon has never appeared so tremendous in such tiny panels. The whole composition of this thing really blows me away. Just take a close look at that third panel; there is so much going on. The horse is flying through the air, the samurai is stabbing the dragon in the eye with his sword, while the dragon is attempting to grab the horse and toss the dragon out of the air. Add to this the glorious, nonsensical sound effect of TZUUUNG, and the dragon’s tongue hanging out. What we have here is a totally confusing display of fantasy brought to life in the clearest sense. Most artists would attempt to show this in a minimum of five panels and not be nearly as successful.

Illustration technique aside, Trinidad is also able to tell this story with a stunning sense of drama. And there has never been a story quite as dramatic as this one in comics. It is basically a tale where every character involved dies. For DC, this was quite unusual. Fortunately, they chose the correct artist to illustrate it! As “Myobo left a trail of corpses bhind him like shattered fish tossed aside by the shore”, Trinidad has left behind a bloody good body of work that lends a great deal of mystery about this talented, though virtually unknown, creator.

*Comic Book Artist Magazine Volume 2, issue 4 lists Trinidad Jr. as having drawn 27 strips for DC, but I have yet to find this many.

Bruce Jones: The Secret Place

The Secret Place
Written and Illustrated by Bruce Jones
From Bruce Jones’ Outer Edge
Published by Innovation, 1992.
Originally published in 1982

Today, the talented Bruce Jones is mainly known as a comics writer (for Marvel and DC). In reality, he has done a little of everything, including novels, screenplays and television. His artwork is rarely commented upon. In the seventies and eighties he both wrote and illustrated a number of short stories for the Warren Magazines and later his own line of comics published by Pacific (later Bruce Jones Associates). The titles included Bruce Jones Twisted Tales and Alien Worlds. These were horror and science-fiction anthologies in the EC vein, with an even more adult slant to them.

I have always admired Bruce’s storytelling as well as his artwork. His stories work amazingly well when illustrated by some of the most skilled draftsmen in the field. Most notably, this includes his collaborations with Al Williamson and Richard Corben. Still, I find that my favorite Bruce Jones stories are the ones that were uniquely created by him. His own artwork is somewhat of a mix between Al Williamson and Jeff Jones. It’s filled with details and realism often missing from most genre strips. His characters look as if they were photo-referenced, but at the same time, they never appear stiff or staged. This adds to the psychological horror that Bruce is the master of.

This particular story originally appeared in full color in Twisted tales #4 (1982) but was later reprinted in black & white. It is taken here from Innovation’s excellent collection of Bruce Jones’ stories entitled OUTER SPACE. This was published in 1992, along with a companion volume entitled RAZOR”S EDGE. In both of these books, you’ll find a good dose of psychological horror, dinosaurs and half-naked women (some of Jones’ favorite subject matter).

The Secret Place was a real standout for me. While it tends to be more wordy than the usual Jones piece, the narration really draws you in similarly to a classic Al Feldstein story. The big difference here though is the subject matter. The idea of a youth as an outsider who may be prone to violence is a topic more relevant now than ever. I love the twist at the end that appears so unexpectedly.

If you enjoyed this story, be sure to search for some of those PC gems from the 80’s. You won’t be disappointed. And more recently, is Bruce’s collaboration with Berni Wrightson: Freak Show, published by Image comics. All of these stories maintain a heightened level of suspense. Other graphic novels include Somerset Holmes (Eclipse) and ARENA (Marvel). Bruce also wrote several episodes of the Hitchhiker (a horror anthology for HBO, that are now on DVD. Check those out too…you’ll enjoy seeing how well Jones’ writing translates to film.

I wish Bruce still drew comics (well maybe he still does, but in secret!). I don’t blame him if he’s not though, he certainly seems to have his hands full with writing projects recently. Still, for the record, as an artist Bruce is tops in my book. It’s rare that such a skilled artist had this much technical ability that amounted to, in my opinion, a true elevation of the horror comic into something worthy of respect for a more mature audience than just children. I don’t think I’m alone in these thoughts. In the 80’s several of these stories were reprinted in hardcover volumes and translated into French. Here’s hoping that at least he still has a cult following there!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Henry Scarpelli and Glenn in Hollywood

Glenn Scarpelli in Hollywood “Get the Picture”
Written and Drawn by Henry Scarpelli
From Laugh #387, 1985 Archie Comics.

One of the more oddball items in Archie’s history. The story behind this is that Henry Scarpelli’s son was a minor teen idol at the time. He had appeared in episodes of One Day At A Time, The Love Boat and Amazing Stories. Scarpelli, an experienced cartoonist who was drawing more typical Archie pages, came up with the idea of doing a feature based on his son’s celebrity status. He did three of these stories (that I know of) which appeared in the following issues from 1985: Archie’s TV Laugh Out #100, Laugh Comics #386 & 387. This one is from issue #387. Notice that the art style fits in with the Archie oeuvre, but there are definite distinctions that make it a stand-out. First off is the large, bulbous noses and the sometimes more realistic features (the blonde guy on page 1 and the celebrity caricatures on page 4). Second, is the fact that while this strip proposes to star Glenn, it really features the photographer character as the protagonist. What I find so amusing about this is, when do you see a comic in Archie that focuses on a bald, overweight guy? I love the way this character appears to move. Check him out with his leg jutting up into the air on page two and three…it’s a real hoot. But what made me laugh the most was the caricature at the bottom of page 4. Is that supposed to be Brook Shields (in her one and only comic book appearance)? Even Mr. Weatherby never got this type of attention!

Scarpelli was later assigned to work on the Archie newspaper strip, where he has cranked out little jokes in strip form for years. But why not a revival of Glenn Scarpelli in Hollywood? What, you’ve never heard of him either? Oh, well…