Holt And Catch Fire

Tim Holt

So by theme “week” you didn’t expect five consecutive days of posts, did you?

Heh. Well… errr…ummm

Sadly Time Bulleteers, my best-laid plans were waylaid by a now-dead Toshiba laptop.  Guess those “Imminent hard drive failure” notifications weren’t just a bunch of gobbledygook after all!

Like the Wild West heroes of old, however, the Time Bullet is back in the saddle and ready to proceed with the six-gun action and tumbleweed terrors promised earlier this week.

Today we have the comic book adventures of Tim Holt, a star of the classic Western film era who appeared in such notable works as Stagecoach, The Girl and The Gambler, My Darling Clementine,  and – perhaps most famously – The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre.

Comics based upon the fictionalized adventures of Holt and other film stars (including such A-Listers as John Wayne) were the Star Wars titles of their day, and publisher Magazine Enterprises upped the ante by giving Holt a Lone Ranger-esque alter-ego known as the “Red Mask.”

Many of the Red Mask’s adventures showed the same pulpish flair as Magazine Enterprises’ premier Western star, The Ghost Rider, probably because the great Gardner Fox worked on both characters.

“The Death Wheel!” features the menace of the wonderfully named “Lady Doom” and originally appeared in Tim Holt #30 (Magazine Enterprises, June-July 1952). The art is by Frank Bolle and is thought to be scripted by Fox.

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Golden Age justice!

Coming Monday (I’m almost totally sure … ): The Crimson Rider! She’s not what you expect!

Clan Of The Cave Girl

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Cave Girl was Magazine Enterprises’ entry in the Golden Age’s ever-popular “Jungle Girl” genre, albeit one that borrowed elements from Edgar Rice Burroughs’  Lost World novels as well as Fiction House’s iconic Sheena, Jungle Queen.

Despite the character’s lack of originality, however, Cave Girl did benefit from the talents of her co-creators: the legendary Gardner Fox and Bob Powell.

Powell, of course, was one of the field’s greatest “good girl” artists – which, to be honest, was the entire point of the genre –  while Fox could always be counted on to provide solid stories that added a twist or two to the formula.

(For example, fearsome city that provides the title for today’s tale is a reference to modern civilization rather than a lost, prehistoric land.)

From Cave Girl #11 (Magazine Enterprises, 1953), here’s “The City Of Terror” by Fox and Powell.

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Remembering Joe Kubert

Like many comic-book fans, I was greatly saddened to hear that Joe Kubert passed away today at the age of 85. He was truly one of the medium’s greatest talents, easily standing alongside the likes of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett, Jack Cole and any other legend one would care to mention.

I first encountered his work through DC’s Bronze Age war titles like Sgt. Rock and Blitzkrieg, but soon discovered his equally revelatory stints on the Golden- and Silver-Age Hawkman via reprints. Every so often, I’d run across a Viking Prince back-up or a Ragman cover and further marvel at the man’s ability to draw a striking and exciting comic.

Those traits would even translate to his earliest, more primitive Golden-Age efforts.

I’ll leave the biographical details and emotional tributes to those who had the pleasure to know and work with Kubert. For now, let’s just remember the man through his astounding body of work.

From Cat-Man Comics #10 (Holyoke, May 1942), here’s an example of early Kubert art starring the electrical super-hero known as Volton!

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By the time a few years had passed, Kubert’s style progressed considerably. The difference can readily be seen in this Hawkman feature that was first printed in a “Wheaties Miniature Edition” of Flash Comics (DC Comics, April 1946). “The Scavenger Of The Skies” was written by Gardner Fox.

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In the 1950s, Joe Kubert became managing editor of the small St. John imprint, which had already published some of the better comics of the era despite its relative obscurity to such titans as DC.

Kubert created one of his most enduring characters at St. John: Tor. As it was obviously a labor of love, the artist would revive the character several times in subsequent years for a variety of publishers.

Here is Tor’s first appearance in One Million Years Ago #1 (St. John, September 1953). The story is written and drawn by Joe Kubert. Note how his art has essentially evolved to what we recognize today as the classic Kubert style.

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My sincerest condolences to Joe Kubert’s family, friends and fans. He will definitely be missed.

King Of The Lost Lands

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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.

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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.