Monday, February 28, 2011

Jack Davis - The Mad Cartoonists - part 1

After a week spent touting the work of Basil Wolverton and particularly his contribution to both the Mad comic book AND the magazine, I thought it would be nice to highlight the backbone of that comic book when it first hit the stands in 1952...60 years ago.

One of the most recognizable styles in cartooning is Jack Davis. His work has adorned every dang magazine out there from Time to TV Guide, he's done album art work and movie posters and who-knows-what-all, but his work will forever be indelibly associated with Mad.

He was working for EC Comics already, on titles like "Two-Fisted Tales", "Tales from the Crypt" and "The Vault of Horror" when Harvey Kurtzman tapped him for his new humor comic. Jack was a natural.

Here's the first story from the very first issue of Mad, written by Kurtzman and drawn by Davis. A spoof of their own horror comics, it let the world know that all bets were off and no one was untouchable. If they'd lampoon themselves, then nothing was ever going to be sacred. Not from this "usual band of idiots".


There's more Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman's "Mad" coming up this week.

Talk to you soon.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Basil Wolverton Goes Mad!

...or I should rather say, "Mad goes Basil Wolverton!". Mad Magazine that is...I mean...Mad, the comic book.

For those not in the know, Mad, "Humor in a Jugular Vein", that stalwart companion of all good subversive juveniles and adults for generations. "What, Me Worry?", stepping-stone to Harvard AND National Lampoon and all around funny f***ing magazine, began as a comic book. Just another book in the stable of EC Comics, famous for their lines of horror and science fiction and war comics, this was their foray into humor. Written by Harvey Kurtzman and drawn by folks like Jack Davis, Wally Wood, John Severin and Will (then just plain Bill) Elder, Mad (the comic book) debuted in 1952 and was an instant success with delinquents of all ages. After 24 issues it became the great magazine you knew as a kid and hopefully still do today, but it was a really great comic first.

Basil Wolverton only contributed to Mad about a dozen times, but his style was so recognizable and loved by the readers, he was forever linked to it. He was even once called the "Michealangelo of Mad".

His first contribution was a single panel (the last panel actually, the punchline to the whole story) in Mad #10 in an adaptation of a poem "The Face Upon the Barroom Floor" that was drawn by Jack Davis. Jack Davis is a force to be reckoned with in the cartooning world, so for Wolverton to not only add to his art, but trump it for the sake of the punch, is remarkable unto itself.

Here's the final series of panels from that story. Hurmmm. Methinks it wouldn't be a bad idea to post some of these great Mad stories in their entirety here. Huuuurrrrrrrrm.

Wolverton's big splash came with Mad #11 when he was the chosen cover artist in a parody of photo mags of the day like "Life". This is an image thats been in my head for decades and that's a tribute to basil in itself.

The parody is carried on with the inside cover, Basil once again sharing page space with the great Jack Davis.

If that didn't solidify Basil Wolverton's footprints in the firmament of Mad, he also contributed art to this Kurtzman overview of the readers of Mad, "The Mad Reader".

Wolverton is fully into his "Spaghetti & Meatballs" style here. Love it or hate it, guaranteed you have an opinion of it, and that's a good definition of art.


That orta take care of my wind-baggery. That Zippo lighter find made me realize just how much Wolverton I had laying around here. I'm far and away from the biggest fan he had or has and even farther from being an expert on his work, but wasn't all this Wolverton better than watching "Jersey Shore" of "Glee"?

I think so too.

Talk to you soon.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Li'l Abner Meets Basil Wolverton

Back to my celebration of the work of Basil Wolverton (see last weeks posts) in honor of my "Bitchin'!", "Boss!", "Cool!" acquisition of a Basil Wolverton Zippo, we come to 1946 and a storyline in Al Capp's "Li'l Abner" comic strip.

The most hideously ugly woman (person?) ever born, Lena the Hyena was bound for Dogpatch to join in the Sadie Hawins Day race and pledged to nab Abner for her very own betrothed. For those not familiar with the strips Sadie Hawkins Day other than your own Jr. High School memories of a dance where the girls ask the guys, this is where the tradition began. Annually the women of Dogpatch would chase the men of Dogpatch from sun up to sun down or until the femme's caught the mook o' their dreams to be hitched by Marryin' Sam. The men of Dogpath loathed to think of becoming husbands, not just because most of the women are as hard to look at there as the men are, but because being married meant doing chores instead of loafing all day. Now of course any one of them would have been happy to have been nabbed by Daisy Mae, but she only has eyes for our Abner...but in 1946, so did Lena.

The citizens of the world clamoured to see what Lena looked like, but that would have been too horrid for a family newspaper, said Capp, and so the cartoonist placed a cartoonist into the role of doing the dirty work. None other than Lester Gooch, Al Capp's parody of Chester Gould and artist of Li'l Abner's "ideal", Fearless Fosdick, would be Capp's way out. But even the fictional Gooch had trouble, so to build the suspense and add even more audience involvement, Capp held a contest for the readers to draw the face of Lena the Hyena.

It becomes even more convoluted (and downright fun) as Al Capp's reader contest for his strip is parodied in the strip inside the strip. Gooch has a contest as well and the judges of the most horrid Lena the Hyena picture are Capp's caricatures of Frank Sinatra, Boris Karloff and Salvidor Dali. If your mind isn't twisted enough by this point, supposedly the real Sinatra, Karloff and Dali were the actual judges for Capp!

The winner of the contest was Basil Wolverton. How's that for a roundabout story?

Ah, big time comic strip lore. Magic, I tell ya!

I was going to scan the entire storyline here, but Capp's stories are wonderfully long and rich and I'd be posting almost a years worth. Hemmm, would this be something you blog readers would like at some point? I'd love to re-read some of these and I have access to complete runs of "Li'l Abner" and "Thimble (that's Popeye to you) Theatre" as well as big chunks of "Little Orphan Annie", "Dick Tracy", "Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy", "Krazy Kat" and a slew of others. Let me know and I'll be sure and give it a shot. Hell, I might anyway.

Here's a nice article by Dave Schriener from the forward to Kitchen Sink Press' "Li'l Aber" vol. 12 that focuses of Basil Wolverton. Enjoy!

More of Wolverton in "Mad" tomorrow...back to the article...

Here's a little gallery of the some of the runner's up, also from the same source.

And finally, here's the now infamous strip with Basil's rendition of Lena the Hyena from October 21, 1946.

Talk to you soon.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blue-Tooth Johnson to Sue the Bijou and Nicer Scott to Invade!

Two of Rush's circle take the center stage in today diversionary OTR Friday. The high drama of which drives Rush in many directions. These are good examples of Paul Rhymer's genius in taking high comedy from everyday, universal experiences. True to real life, Sade expresses the every-mother's bewilderment at the goings-on in an adolescent boy's life, while Vic is the every-Dad who understands the angst of a young boy too much and gets more invested. Good stuff!

The first episode is from April 8, 1940. Rush returns from a show at The Bijou to tell how Blue-Tooth Johnson is planning to sue the establishment. To describe it would be to rob you of hearing the story give a listen!

The second in our pairing today comes from April 10, 1940. Rush's arch-nemesis Nicer Scott is goading...nay...torturing Rush with news that he will be staying with the Gook's when his parents go on vacation at the end of August and expressing his demands as a future house guest. Rush suffers intolerably as Sade poo-poo's the whole thing. Great character interplay in this one and Rhymer's use of language is funny as all get out. Listen in!

Another blast from the past media look at the little family in the small house halfway up on the next block. The June 11, 1936 issue of "Radio Guide" magazine looks at Paul Rhymer...

...a little added bonus, 1936 cheescake!

Easy on the eyes for a happy Friday to everyone.

Talk to you soon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Basil Wolverton's Meteor Martin!

Basil Wolverton was a surrealist cartoonist, on this we can agree. He also developed different styles along the way. Unlike alot of cartoonists, it wasn't just "a lot of styles until his own emerged" but rather a lot of his own emerged on the way to others emerging.

Over the last few days I've shared some "bigfoot cartoon" style that Basil used for his feature "Culture Corner" during the late 40's-early 50's. Here's some on Basil's indelibly unique dramatic science fiction and adventure style which he used when he first burst up the scene a decade earlier in work for Centaur. Here's "The Strange Adventures of Meteor Martin" from "Amazing Man Comics" #25. I love his rocket ships and aliens. Truly inspired stuff if you ask me.


Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Aaaaand Even More Basil Wolverton's "Culture Corner"

Continuing my celebrating my bitchin Basil Wolverton Zippo lighter (see here), here's the remainder of Wolverton's "Culture Corner" 1/2 pages from the pages of Fawcett's "Whiz Comics" circa late '40's and early '50s!

Great cartoony stuff!

That's all I have, but no fear, I have some more Wolverton to share.

Talk to you soon.

Search This Blog