Not Another Teen Comic

scan12

After a month of horror comics lightened only by the darkest of humor, I thought it was high time to change it up a bit and present the entirely gore-free adventures of Standard Comics’ “Kathy,” an adorably average teenager who made Patsy Walker look like a high school Hellcat.

Of course, Kathy did possess a certain attribute Archie, Betty and their Golden Age imitators could not match – the artistic talents of a young buck by the name of Frank Frazetta!

Like his contemporaries, Frazetta did a little bit of everything as he rose up the ranks: funny animals, romance, space opera, hillbilly humor and … yes … Archie rip-offs. As always, his talent elevates the work in question.

(Although the script, by a sadly uncredited writer, is agreeably wacky.)

From Thrilling Comics #69 (Standard, December 1948), here’s “Cake Fake” as pencilled and inked by Frazetta.

scan13

scan14

scan15

scan16

scan17

scan18

scan19

scan20

Catch Of The Day

002 Exciting 59 Page 0

After super-heroes like Doc Strange, The Liberator and American Crusader lost their popularity in the late ’40s, the publishing house known at various times as “Better,” “Standard” and “Nedor” decided to sex up their product a bit by casting their lot with the always-popular Jungle Girl genre. Super-heroine Miss Masque was subsequently tossed from her berth at Exciting Comics in favor of the more scantily clad Judy Of The Jungle, a character created and drawn by Ralph Mayo.

The plan must have worked, because Judy soon took over the cover slot and received the benefit of Alex Schomburg’s typically attractive – and provocative – “good girl art.”

Aside from featuring Mayo’s attractive art, one of Judy’s adventures was illustrated by a young gun named Frank Frazetta. If you ever thought Frazetta would be the perfect artist to helm a jungle girl comic … well, let’s just say other people obviously found the idea equally appealing.

From Exciting Comics #59 (Better Publications, January 1948), here’s “The Deadly Quest” as pencilled and inked by Frank Frazetta.

003 Exciting 59 Page 1

004 Exciting 59 Page 2

005 Exciting 59 Page 3

006 Exciting 59 Page 4

007 Exciting 59 Page 5

008 Exciting 59 Page 6

009 Exciting 59 Page 7

010 Exciting 59 Page8

011 Exciting 59 Page 9

Celluloid Hero

bc_05_pg01

Buster Crabbe was the Brad Pitt or George Clooney of the ‘30s and ‘40s movie serials: the go-to actor whenever a studio wanted a suitably square-jawed heroic type to portray a space ranger or jungle lord.

(In fact, Crabbe was the only actor to ever play Tarzan, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon…)

Crabbe – an accomplished athlete who won a Bronze Medal at the 1928 Olympics for swimming the 1500-metre freestyle and a Gold medal at the 1932 Olympics for swimming the 400-metre freestyle – leveraged his fame on the silver screen to appear on television, launch successful businesses and even headline two comic-book series.

Publishers Eastern Color and Lev Gleason printed a total of 16 Buster Crabbe comics between 1951 and 1954. Although many of the issues were filled with standard western, crime or space opera tales, both series benefitted from the work of such future legends as Alex Toth, Frank Frazetta  and – in today’s tale – Al Williamson, who would later leave his own mark on the character that is arguably Crabbe’s most famous role – Flash Gordon.

From Buster Crabbe #5 (Eastern Color, July 1952), here’s “Buster Crabbe And The Maid Of Mars.” The story was drawn by Al Williamson and Roy Krenkel.

bc_05_pg02

bc_05_pg03

bc_05_pg04

bc_05_pg05

bc_05_pg06

bc_05_pg07

bc_05_pg08

bc_05_pg09

bc_05_pg10

bc_05_pg11

bc_05_pg12

As a special bonus, here’s the cover of Buster Crabbe #5 drawn by the one and only Frank Frazetta!

bc_05_pg00_fc

Pirates In Spaaaaace

Captain-Comet 0

Although “Captain Comet, Space Pilot” appeared a few years after DC’s hero of the same name debuted, the obscure star jockey could at least say his stories boasted some of the most beautiful art in the Golden Age courtesy of Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta.

(Not to slight Carmine Infantino’s work over at the House That Superman built …)

With pencils by Williamson and inks by Frazetta, here’s “The Vicious Space Pirates” from Danger Is Our Business #1, Toby/Minoan (December, 1953).

Captain-Comet-01

Captain-Comet-02

Captain-Comet-03

Captain-Comet-04

Captain-Comet-05

Captain-Comet-06

King Of The Lost Lands

Thun'da 001

I spent a good portion of my childhood poring over the unforgettable covers Frank Frazetta created for the paperback editions of countless Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs classics.

(And some non-classics as well. More than once, I found the legendary artist’s illustrations to be superior to the text contained within.)

Each and every one of his paintings transported me to a world much more exciting and exotic than my own humdrum suburban existence. I often wondered how Frazetta created such scenarios and if he were as colorful an individual as I imagined.

Reading though the obituaries written after Frazetta’s death earlier this week, it became apparent he was nothing like I imagined as a star-struck preteen. Although his otherworldly paintings led me to cast Frazetta as a crazy hybrid of Vincent Van Gogh and Gandalf, it turns out he was a robust, confident man who was skilled enough at baseball to seriously consider a career with the New York Giants.

Frazetta showed an early aptitude toward art and was enrolled in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 8. By the time he was a teen, Frazetta was earning a living as a comic-book artist. He signed on as an assistant for Al Capp’s Lil’ Abner in the 1950s and by the decade Frazetta discovered the more lucrative field of movie posters and paperback cover illustrations.

The rest, I suppose, is legend.

Coupled with the fact that much of his comic-book work has long been out of print, Frazetta’s notoriety as an illustrator has led many to overlook the artist’s early accomplishments. One of his more notable contributions is Thun’da, Magazine Enterprises’ answer to Tarzan.

Thun’da was adventurer Roger Drum, who found himself stranded in a “lost world of prehistoric beasts” deep in the heart of Africa. The setting gave Frazetta – who modeled Drum after himself (!) – ample opportunity to draw dinosaurs, giant snakes and other types of strange creatures that would find greater exposure in the illustrator’s later work.

(The direction, however, must not have met publisher expectations because later stories took place in a more conventional jungle setting …)

With the aid of writer Gardner Fox, Frazetta completed the entire first issue and subsequently left the character in the Bob Powell’s more than capable hands. Frazetta severed all ties with Magazine Enterprises after Thun’da was adapted into a Columbia Pictures serial without any credit – or money – given to the character’s creator.

Legal and creative issues aside, however, Frazetta’s issue of Thun’da remains one of the better examples of the “jungle man” genre. The art alone is good enough to separate Mr. Drum from his would-be peers.

From Thun’da, King Of The Congo #1, here’s “King Of Lost Lands” by Frazetta and Fox.

Thun'da 002Thun'da 003

Thun'da 004Thun'da 005

Thun'da 006Thun'da 007

Thun'da 008Thun'da 009

Thun'da 010Thun'da 011

If you’re interested in reading more of Frank Frazetta’s Golden Age work, pick up a copy of Underwood Books Telling Stories: The Classic Comic Art Of Frank Frazetta. Although editor Edward Mason adopts an annoyingly patronizing attitude toward Golden Age storytelling, the high-quality reprints of Frazetta’s art are more than worth the price of admission.