Monday, March 29, 2010


This is a big, happy post for the Big Blog. This is the post in which I unveil my new banner done by cartoonist, Jim Engel! I am very grateful to Jim. I have always thought his work wonderful and am proud to have his original art as the banner for this blog. It’s just so darn perfect! Thank you, Jim.

Let’s call this Jim Engel Day! The following is a Dick Duck, Duck Dick story that originally ran in EB’NN No. 6, January 1987. But the pages that follow are not taken from the comic – not by a long shot! These are the page stats with the original zip-a-toning (the grey tones) from which the comic was printed. Jim scanned them in and sent them to me for this post.

This is the cover for the issue of EB’NN that Jim’s story appeared. Jim wasn’t entirely happy with it, but I’ll let him tell you about that . .

When discussion the posting of the Dick Duck, Duck Dick (jeez, that is so clever) story, Jim and I exchanged emails. What follows is an email I received from Jim explaining the history of the story and its publication and is posted here with Jim’s permission. It is posted here verbatim save my bold highlights:

"Hi, Mykal---

Since our earlier email exchange, I was thinking about that Dick Duck "No Sweat" story, and trying to recall why I did it in the first place... it wasn't INTENDED for Now Comics in the first place.

While "Dick Duck, Duck Dick" was running in THE COMIC READER, I was contacted by a guy (who I later met at the Chicago Con), who was interested in a long (well, longer than the 1-page TCR installments) self-contained DD story for a very slick 'zine he was putting out... I'd be in good company---I can't remember who all he said he'd lined up, but I know Alex Toth was to be in it, and that alone made me say yes (interestingly, when TCR started Dick Duck & Chuck Fiala's "Bullet Crow--Fowl of Fortune", Alex Toth was the guy who wrote in saying he enjoyed our strips after a disgruntled reader suggested we be dumped in favor of more pages of Superman newspaper strip reprints)...

In an effort to get it done in a reasonable time, I turned to DC inker Dennis Jensen. I have never been inked by anybody else (besides myself) and been happy with the results, but Dennis was doing phenomenal things with my late friend Alan Jim Hanley, so I asked, & he said yes. I wasn't thrilled with the results, not because Dennis isn't a GREAT inker (he is), but just because I've come to realize nobody else is YOU...

Anyway, that original book never came out, so I offered the story to Dean Mullaney at Eclipse (Who declined. "Too convoluted.", he said. I hadda look that up. It WAS, and "convoluted" is now a regular part of my vocabulary). Next up was Denis Kitchen, who slated it for an issue of SNARF that also never came out. Eventually, friend Chris Ecker asked if he could re-print the TCR duck pages (in B&W---they were color originally). I said yes, and when he found out there was a longer story, he asked about that & I said okay.

The cover drawing on that book wasn't intended as a cover... it was just s'posed to be used as a B&W inside cover spot illo. Dick Duck was originally saying "Jump back, Mark Eden--I got a return engagement here!". "Mark Eden" was a reference to the Mark Eden Bust Development ads (for women) that appeared in old magazines (and me mocking Ebb'n's gargantuan pecs). Unbeknownst to me, the drawing was (badly & incorrectly--DD is white) colored, and re-lettered to NOT make fun of Eb'nn (or anything ELSE, cuz now there was no JOKE), and turned into a very lame looking cover. If I'd been asked to do a cover, I'd have done a proportionately sized action scene, and colored it myself.

I know there are some "inside jokes" & references in the story, but I haven't looked at it in a long time...a couple I DO recall (without looking) are establishing the police chief in Dick's world as "Michael O'Mouse". Hence, as an Irish cop, he'd be MICKEY O'Mouse. Also, my older brother Rick was a cop back then, so "Officer Rick Eagle" was a reference to him. Most obscure, but highly amusing to ME, was the sort-of pun in the villain's name--"The Ghoulish Archie Pelican", which I came up with while running the title of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO" through my head... I'd never used the character before, but wanted to suggest Dick Duck had encountered him BEFORE, and make him DD's Red Skull or Moriarty.

At that late point in time, I was just somewhat happy the story was seeing print at all... I've always held full-time illustration and/or design jobs, and my comics output (miniscule as it is) was always more a hobby than anything, but when I finally DID do something, I hated to see the effort wasted...

Best, jim"

Again. Thanks, Jim. – Mykal Banta

Saturday, March 27, 2010

FOUR COLOR No. 239, August 1949;
Adventure Bound, Part II

Let us continue the adventures of brothers Nat and Paul Clark who, with the beautiful Maria Rosaria De Aranda Y Cascabel, brave sea and pirates in the second half of Adventure Bound.

There is much to love in this comic with excellent writing, stunning art, and meticulous attention to historic detail topping the list. Panel composition throughout has such a refined balance. Looking at a full page is like looking at the inside of a Swiss timepiece. That’s the way it was done back when men held nibs of steel and brushes of sable!

This gorgeous piece was the back over of the issue. Damn, did Dell give you a dime's worth. This is also by Bill Ely. Shades of Wyeth and Pyle, naturally.

Friday, March 26, 2010

FOUR COLOR No. 239, August 1949

Recently when reading Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine I saw featured an artist whose work I didn’t know – but clearly should have (not an uncommon experience for me at Pappy’s). The artist was Bill Ely. The hunt was on!

Bill Ely is best remembered (I have learned) for his intense work on crime and suspense anthology titles (House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Tales of the Unexpected, etc.) through the 1950s and 60s. His rich, classical style lends itself perfectly to traditional boy’s adventure as well. Case in point:

Next Post: The conclusion of Adventure Bound!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

ATOMIC MOUSE No. 22, June 1957

Al Fago’s funny animal comic, Frisky Fables, was very popular during the late 1940’s. In the 1950’s, he became managing editor of Charlton, and in 1953 he created his most famous character, Atomic Mouse. Later came Timmy the Timid Ghost. All in all, Fago wrote, drew, and sold comics to kids who loved them for thirty years - a legacy well worth remembering. All stories in this post are Al Fago, as is the bold cover.

Atomic Mouse got his superpowers from eating irriadiated pills of U-235 (an isotope of Uranium), which were made for him by his pal, Professor Invento. This by itself puts our hero in the atomic age hall of fame. Plus, he always wore spats. In this first story, we see Fago’s fluid, well-composed style, reminiscent of Milt Stein. I particularly like panel 5 of the 4th page. Nice character action lines, and what a pretty little castle fantasy town.

The following two stories are happily more of the same. Atomic Mouse had a nice cast of characters, particular the evil team of Count Gatto and his henchman, Shadow. The writing is solid and clean throughout. “I gotta shield my eyes, Count,” says Shadow in Genie. “That’s how brilliant you are!” I can hear the kids saying that one out loud.

Timmy the Timid Ghost was clearly a Casper knockoff, but nonetheless was a solid comic for Charlton. It’s easy to see why from this next story. Fago’s brush work and character design is just so smooth. The reoccurring plot hook of Timmy was that he always performed bravely because he was too frightened to do otherwise (a theme that re-occurs also in the memoirs of many war heroes). The majority of Fago’s legacy is funny animals, but his rendering of the sub crew in this story makes me want to see more Fago funny humans.

This neat page is from the back cover.

Finally, this ad is from the same issue. This certainly looks to me like the work of Bazooka Joe artist, Wesley Morse, but I am unable to confirm it for certain.

Update: A member of Wesley Morse's family has contacted me and verified that this is not his work. Nancy has left her comments on the Chip-n-Dale post of just previous.

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