Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hey Girls, Comics!

sg My pal and frequent Hey Kids! contributor Russell Burbage sent me this photo, which he tells me his daughter found in an issue of In Touch Weekly.

I'm not familiar with who this guy is, but one thing I do know is, if comic stores wanted to start getting more female customers, they should hire this guy to do some Local Comic Store TV ads pronto.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

No Fun Comics

sg I'm in the middle of David Hajdu's excellent book, The Ten-Cent Plague, which documents comic books' early formative years, the people that made them, the kids that read them, and then the stunning societal movement to censor them. The book is heartily recommended to anyone who reads this blog.

I just got to a very chilling part, where the author talks about the students of St. Patrick's Catholic School, in Binghampton, NY, where the students formed their own self-censoring group, and took it upon themselves to go to any store that carried comics and demand they stop selling the ones they objected to.

That's bad enough, but then he talks about how the student body--399 of them--would stand outside these stores in protest, showing the shop owners just how many customers they were making mad by selling those evil evil comics.

Then, at one point, the one sole kid from St. Patrick's who wasn't part of the ban walked out of the store, reading a comic! Several members of the group then took it upon themselves to beat the kid up.

First off, boy, it had to have taken real guts to be the only kid in your whole school not going along with the ban, and what do you wanna bet that, of all the kids, it was Kid #400 who was the cool one to talk to, instead of the other 399 mindless little automatons?

Secondly, the book describes a comics burning party that actually got nationwide attention, the photo of which made it all over the country's newspapers. After listening to the description, I realized it was this photo:
...the very one sent to me(and posted here) a few weeks ago by my friend Tommy of The Bat-Blog.

Hearing the back story makes this photo all the more chilling to me. The country had just defended the world from a horde of goose-stepping fascists, and here was a group of American kids doing their best to imitate everything the country had just fought against.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Larry Eischen - 1950s/1960s

sgLarry Eischen - Is there a boy alive who doesn't go through a dinosaur/monster phase in life? Playing with dinosaur toys, watching monster movies, picturing himself fighting T Rex and Godzilla--all part of a boy's growing up.

Back in the fifties, I loved the comics featuring monsters. And for a monster fan, nothing beat the Atlas line of anthologies--Journey Into Mystery, Tales of Suspense, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish. Every issue was a treasure trove of science fiction, horror, and monsters.

There was a Ditko tale with mysterious drawings of swirling mists and weird angular drawings--usually accompanying a tale of science fiction or magic. Don Heck or George Tuska would illustrate a tale of strange planets, written by Larry Lieber with a twist ending.

And leading the issue, usually taking the cover spot, was a Jack Kirby monster.

Kirby could make a monster out of anything--giant trees, statues (the Easter Island statues terrorized DC and Atlas in Kirby tales), and even a living hill.

There were dragons, globs, and giants-hairy giants, bald giants, giant mummies. Droom, Goom, Fin Fang Foom, Spragg, It--names to fear. Every issue the story was the same--some lone figure wandering into the monster of the month, hearing that monster's plans for taking over the world or destroying humanity, only to be bested by the lone hero.

The army would occasionally get involved--presaging the numerous Hulk/US Army battles to come. The monster boom at Atlas lasted several years, from the imposition of the comics code to the coming of the Marvel heroes. When the heroes took over, the Kirby monsters lingered for a bit to be controlled by Mole Man or Sub-Mariner in battle against the FF (probably a reason why the Fantastic Four was my favorite Marvel comic) and finally in the person of the Hulk--the Kirby monster with the ongoing title.

Several of the monsters--notably Fin Fang Foom and the original creature named Hulk--returned to battle the heroes in later years.

DC featured science fictional monsters in their anthology titles too, but nothing as horrific as the Atlas stuff. House of Mystery, House of Secrets, My Greatest Adventure, Strange Adventures, Unexpected & Mystery in Space always had a creature or two and I would get each month's worth of them from a comics loving uncle in those days.

Unexpected and Mystery in Space frequently had monsters in the continuing features Adam Strange & Space Ranger. When Marvel started taking off, the anthology series started featuring continuing characters, Doom Patrol in My Greatest Adventure, Martian Manhunter in House of Mystery, Eclipso in House of Secrets. Lots of forgettable characters popped up quick and disappeared as quickly and the monsters were gone.

Over at lowly Charlton, they picked up the licenses for a couple of monsters featured in movies from England. Often they had Ditko art. Gorgo was a Godzilla knockoff--complete with parent monster and offspring. Konga was King Kong clone. Both series lasted a couple dozen issues plus specials and return of's--making them fairly long-lasting for Charlton and the only Charlton titles I bought regularly. They also did another Euro-monster--Reptilicus, but changed it quickly to Reptisaurus--a title that lasted less than ten issues.

Dell & Gold Key tried the monster route with various titles but their big success in that territory was fan favorite Turok, Son of Stone. Trapped in a lost valley, Turok and sidekick Andar fought 'honkers' for years before finally getting cancelled. If nothing else, you could count on Turok for a regular shot of cavemen and dinosaur action.

For a boy going through his dinosaur/monster phase in the 50s/60s, comics provided quite a thrill.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hey Senators, Comics! - 1970s

This was another photo I found on the web, and it stopped me dead in my tracks when I saw it. What presentation is this guy making, that it involves Luke Cage, Warlock, Star Wars, and Woody Woodpecker, and who is he making it to?

Sadly, where I found it offers no clues, since the photo was part of an article about comics as an instructional learning tool, but the text doesn't make any reference to the photo. So its remains a wonderfully goofy mystery...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Larry Eischen - 1950s/1960s

sgLarry Eischen - I'm constantly amazed at DC's attempts to make Wonder Woman an equal partner with Batman and Superman. I've never thought of her as very popular, always way back in sales, close to cancellation several times, reworked and rebooted more often than any of the other DC stable.

But back in the late 50s, early 60s I would buy her comic regularly. By the mid-50s, Wonder Woman was well beyond her bondage stage. By the time I began reading her adventures, Ross Andru was illustrating them. I didn't know his name but his Diana was beautiful. And he would always throw in a dinosaur every few months. Andru's dinosaurs also graced another favorite--Star-Spangled War Stories' "War That Time Forgot".

Adding to the Silver Age silliness of the usual title were Wonder Baby and Wonder Girl--Diana's younger selves in their own adventures (DC figured Superbaby and Superboy caught on, so what the hell--let's try it with Wonder Woman). Now, it was clearly stated that these were the same character as Wonder Woman--just at different stages in her life.

Wonder Baby's favorite sidekick was a genie. Wonder Girl had 2 boyfriends--a merboy and a bird boy. But it got weirder. At some point, it was decided to have stories featuring all three Diana characters co-existing in a grand adventure. So there were Wonder Woman, her baby self and her teen self battling Andru dinosaurs and other threats. Kind of an Amazon Holy Trinity for this young Catholic boy.

This is the source of all of DC's problems defining Wonder Girl over the years--is she Diana? Is she her sister? Is she Donna Troy? Last I heard, they were still trying to sort it all out and make continuity sense of it.

One of the problems with Wonder Woman at the time was a lack of suitable villains. I can only remember two recurring villains--Angle Man, a cheap hood with a quick mind and Mouse Man, who was a guy who dressed just like you would think. Definitely not in the same league as Luthor or Joker. Thankfully, Ross Andru could draw a mean science fiction story, so in addition to dinosaurs you got a lot of giant aliens.

For a young boy in Chicago, Wonder Woman straddled the line between superheroes and 'girl's books'. No guy would be caught dead with a girl's book. Katy Keene, Millie the Model, Patsy & Hedy, and all of the romance books were girl's books.

Another borderline girls book was Lois Lane. I would buy it occasionally, but too often it was just a "gotta marry Superman" plot. ost of us couldn't figure out why Superman bothered with her. The most powerful man in the world and the only girl (girls if you throw in Lana) he can find has the distinguishing trait of being a monstrous pain in the ass. Yeah, there's the ingredients for the perfect romance.

But I digress--I don't remember any crossovers, but I would loved to have seen Superman joining Diana to battle some Andru dinosaurs. In the mid-sixties, Princess Diana became non-powered Diana Prince, an Emma Peel clone and I kind of lost interest. By this time, I was bummed about Batman's new look and de-powering Diana didn't help my attitude towards DC. That's when I started drifting more and more to Marvel.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Engrossed In Comics - 1939

sgI love this photo of a gang of kids engrossed in reading their comics.

The only book I can make out is the one in the middle, which is More Fun Comics #46, cover-dated August 1939.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Peter Byrne - 1950s

sgPeter Byrne In the mid-1950s, as an army draftee killing time in a motor pool near Stuttgart, I stumbled upon a relatively little known piece of cartoon art history. Left lying on a work bench was an Army publication, a digest format titled P*S The Preventive Maintenance Monthly. With a title like that, it just had to be almost as exciting as all the other mind-numbing, bureaucratic crap the Army was then producing.

Picking up the October, 1956 copy of P*S, I experienced a shock of recognition. It was unmistakably the work of the great Will Eisner. I knew the Eisner signature and style from his wonderfully drawn superhero crime-fighter strip, The Spirit, that ran in the comics section of the Sunday paper back home. Could this be, could somebody with the stature of an Eisner be illustrating a monthly Army "How-To" publication on the care and maintenance of military equipment?

Eisner, who had served in the Army during WW II as an illustrator, had been asked by the Department of Defense in 1951, the start of the Korean War, to take on the monthly publication of P*S. He did and continued to do so for two decades, right up into the Vietnam War, finally dropping out in 1971. I've learned that the magazine is still in publication.

sgThe quality of Eisner's draftsmanship and his sense of graphic style lifted the delivery of a modest "nuts and bolts" digest into a much-anticipated monthly event. "Connie Rod," the provocative babe of a mechanic was pure Eisner, worthy of the best molls and dames that filled the frames of The Spirit.

M/Sgt. Half-Mast, the old Motor Sgt. is a ringer for The Spirit's Commissioner Dolan. And Eisner's technical skills were on display in his renderings of all sorts of complicated military hardware; tanks, guns, vehicles and their component parts. I was impressed. Still am.

Over my time in Germany, I had accumulated several dozen editions of P*S, current and back issues. But like my collection of EC originals, somewhere along the way to becoming a so-called grown-up, they sort of wandered away. And as much as I read or scanned Eisner's fine work in P*S, I never felt the slightest inclination to lift the hood of my jeep or deuce-and-a-half (two-and-a-half ton, six-by-six wheel Army truck) and perform any of the much vaunted preventive maintenance so well advocated by Eisner.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

George Rears - 1974/2004

George Rears - You can go home again.

I drifted away from comics in the early nineties, and came back late in the decade. I enjoyed a lot of the new stuff: The Morrison JLA and the Waid Flash in particular. The fact that these books featured characters I loved as a kid did not escape my notice.

It didn't take long for the collecting/back issue bug to come back, and pretty soon, I decided that I'd try and focus on collecting the three core books I always enjoyed: Justice League of America, Flash, and Green Lantern. Within a few years I pretty much had a solid run from 1972 to present for each of these books, and it became apparent that each new (or should I say, old) book I bought was going to start getting more and more expensive.

I also had just started buying the DC Archives, and I was quickly able to "acquire" a lot of the older stories in that format. With two small kids around, I didn't want to start paying fifty-seventy-five dollars for comics that I had already read in a hardcover collection.

Still, the collector bug is a hard one to beat. I found myself going to the annual big comic show in Philadelphia each year and buying random stuff: just because it was cheap--or it looked interesting. I definitely had lost focus. I had heard of people buying all their comics from their birth month, and that concept seemed interesting.

One day, I came across a web site (Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics, for you googlers out there) that showed all the DC books released in a certain month. I threw in my birth month, and it confirmed what I had suspected. First, books from 1967 were still pretty expensive, yet cheaply available in reprints. Second, although these books were historically important (being the Silver Age and all that) I had no emotional connection to a lot of the books. Although it would be interesting to have a collection of these books, it didn't excite me.

For giggles sake, I looked up the cover date for The Flash 228. That book has always had a special place in my heart as the first comic I ever bought. Comic books were 20 cents back then and I have a memory (probably not a real one) of buying a dollar worth of books that fateful day, including Flash, Superboy (Featuring the Legion of Super-Hereoes), Superman, and Adventure. Please note that adds up to four books, not five. More reason to suspect an artificial memory implant. Probably a Khundish plot. Anyway..when seeing all the books available that month, memories came flooding back. It was then I knew. I HAD TO HAVE THEM ALL!

So I set out on my comic collecting quest. Thanks to ComicBase, the comic book database, I was able to quickly print out a report of all the books cover dated July 1974. Then the complications came up. What about the bi-monthlies, dated August? What about some of the other bi-monthlies from the month before that look familiar--perhaps I started buying books in the middle of a month, so the starting date was not as clean as I’d like to think...

Fast forward to last year: I was traveling for work, and I happened to be in Atlanta the weekend of their ComicCon. Having plenty of time to go through bask issue boxes, I got into my quest. I wasn't quite sure what Dagar the Invincible was, but the book had the right date stamp on it, so I bought it.

Then there was Baby Snoots. Never heard of it. Apparently it was a bi-monthly, with a cover date of August, it would have come out with the July books. Ouch. Another must buy. I got some really weird looks from some dealers. One guy was trying to sell me a copy of Amazing Spider-Man 134--hyping the first appearance of the Tarantula. I told him I really didn't care about that--I was only interested in the book because of the cover date.

I then bought the Spider-Man issue along with a copy of Huey, Dewey, and Louie, Junior Woodchucks. I must have made an impression on him...the next day he picked me out of a crowd, and showed me the other books he found in his collection with a July 1974 cover date.

Reality has set in now. According to ComicBase, there are 153 comics with a July, 1974 cover date. Throw in half of August's 158 as bi-monthlies, and I have about 225 books to get before the quest is over. So I have set goals.

This year: finish DC. By end of 2010, finish Marvel. Then Archie. The others, including Charlton, Harvey, and Gold Key will have their day, too. Just not yet.

I am only a few books way from finishing DC. I set my target for any bi-monthly published after March 21, 1974 but prior to May 23, 1974, and any monthly with a July cover date (i.e. published after April 2, 1974 but before May 2, 1974). That is a total of 39 books, of which I now have 33.

sgThis has been a lot of fun so far. When I told Bloggin’ Rob Kelly about this quest, he handed me a copy of Dracula Lives!--cover dated July 1974. The other day, I noticed I already had one of the tabloid sized Limited Collector Editions that DC had put out that month. I had it stored somewhere else because of the odd size, and had never cataloged it.

Sometimes I find myself rediscovering stories I haven't read in over thirty years, but often I find I'm enjoying stories from that I would never have read as a six year old.

Young Romance 200- Where are you?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Larry Eischen - 1961

sgLarry Eischen - Sometime in spring/summer 1961, house ads began appearing in DC comics for an upcoming special issue. Secret Origins would have the origin story for several of DC's superheroes--Flash, Green Lantern, Challengers of the Unknown and the Superman-Batman team among others.

It was a comic I had to have. Back then, there was no internet or Previews to let us know 3-4 months ahead of time what was coming out when. Most of the time, you went to the store with no idea what would be there and saw what they had. House ads in DC were the only way to tell what was coming from them in a month or two.

I think a date must have shown up in one of the ads because when the day came, I became a nuisance at the soda shop. Comics and other magazines were delivered in a large bundle banded together with wire. The soda shop opened at about nine. I was there waiting for him to open. I went to the spin rack and the issue wasn't there. I looked behind the counter and there was no bundle yet.

"Can I help you?"

"No, just looking."

I went home only to return an hour later--nothing on the rack but the bundle was behind the counter. Again I explained I was just looking, but it was there I was sure, in the bundle. Again I went home, this time I waited a half hour and went back. I looked and the bundle was still there so I turned around and left.

Another half hour and I was back, the bundle was still there and I just turned and went out the door. I must have gone back five or six times and that bundle was still sitting there. He wasn't busy (except for me running in and out) so why weren't they out? Finally, on a later trip, another employee/helper had arrived and the proprietor stopped me.

"Are you looking for something in particular?"

"New comics!" I replied, "When do you put them out?"

"When I get the chance to go through things."

It continued like that into late afternoon. Me running in, seeing the bundle still there, and running right back out. Finally, I arrived right in the middle of him going through the bundle.

"Ok, which one do you want?"

"Secret Organs!" (I had no idea what an origin was or how to pronounce it) He went through the bundle.

"No, nothing like that this week."

I was crestfallen, a whole day wasted for a comic that never showed up.

It finally came out a week or two later and the guy went the extra mile and set one aside for me.

"Are you still looking for this?" he asked and held it up.

Luckily I had money that day. I gave him my quarter and headed home trying to read it, walk, and see where I was going at the same time. I was not disappointed--the book was comics heaven!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Larry Eischen - 1950s/1960s

sgLarry Eischen - My favorite hero of the 50s was unceremoniously cancelled in the spring of 1964. I bought every one of the three titles he appeared in. He was one of those non-powered grim avengers. His parents had been killed when he was young and with steely-eyed determination, he trained himself to fight crime. And they cancelled him. No relegation to Earth-2, no nostalgic reprints today, just flat out gone.

My favorite hero of my youth--Bruce Wayne aka Batman.

But, I can hear you say, Batman was never cancelled. He's still going, more popular than ever. A Batman is still being published, but not mine. For a kid in the late 50s, Batman was an adventurer who took on a wide assortment of foes. He fought gimmick villains-losers and bums who took names like Signalman to use the knowledge of signals and signs to commit crimes. Mostly they were one and done, but one guy kept coming back-the Joker. He was there bedeviling Batman at every opportunity with thefts that usually centered around a them of some sort or another lastest gimmick of his own. Never lethal, he was a trickster who worked more to embarass Batman than kill him.

My Batman fought aliens, usually an interplanetary villain who saw easy pickings on Earth. Green, blue, red, Batman fought them all (along with the earth gang they recruited)...sometimes Batman would actually travel to another word to fight crime among the ET's. He was a symbol of justice for all, even those on far off worlds.

And the changes-my Batman became a giant, a baby, a, creature. a water breather, a duplicate of himself, a negative photoimage of himself and, my favorite, the zebra Batman-a weird elctromagnetic creature (the zebra stripes were patterns of force) who inadvertently rained destruction everywhere.

And the hangers-on, Bathound, Batwoman, Batgirl. I loved them all. I hated Bat-Mite though. When he showed up the stories just got silly. I bought every issue of Batman, Detective and World's Finest. To this day, I can't describe any of the Roy Raymond or J'onn J'onnz stories from Detective, but loved those Batman stories.

The highpoint was issue 156 of Batman. It featured a booklength epic. Today's version of a booklength story is a twelve-part mini with crossovers. That's how exciting it was back then. The story "Robin Dies At Dawn" featured Batman and Robin, Batwoman and Batgirl in a science fiction adventure on alien worlds. The cover showed a grim Batman carrying Robin's body through an alien landscape. I loved that story, cover dated June 1963. In my memory, it was always the last gasp before disaster. My Batman hung around for another year but in my memory, that has always been the last Batman book.

In June 1964, issue 164 featured the "New Look" Batman. He fought common criminals and sometimes Joker and Penguin and the like. I stopped buying Batman and Detective. I'd check every once in a while to see if my old friend was back, but he'd disappeared. When I finally saw a Ras al Ghul story, he'd been around a few years already. Joker turned lethal. Catman was replaced by the old standby Catwoman. I bought the titles here and there but three issues in a row would be a long run of the title for me. I bought Brave and Bold if I liked the team-up partner, not for Batman.

Latter, I found a run I liked. Batman and Catwoman were an item. She'd renounced crime and was joining him on adventures. The Joker caught wind of this and turned her evil again. Oh boy, this was going to be good. Then came one of the "Events", Crisis or Legends and the storyline was dropped and Batman re-booted. Damn, they got him again.

My Batman is gone. The Showcase reprints start Superman in 1958, Jimmy Olsen in 1954. The Batman Showcases start with the new look issues. I hear rumors that the current Batman author is slipping the stories back into continuity. I miss my Batman.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Larry Eischen - 1950s

Larry Eischen - I was born in 1952 and I think my first comics must have come when I was about 5 or so. I remember picture stories about various bunnies, mice and ghosts. I've gone back on the Grand Comics Database trying to identify what must have been my first comic but the Dell & Harvey covers are so generic, it's impossible to tell.

On the South Side of Chicago, you bought your comics at either the local candy store or soda shop. The shops were known by the name of the owner. Around the corner from our house off 35th Street was Karen's, a candy store. There comics were hung from a wire with clamps on it to hold them. You had no access to them. Choice was made by favorite character or appealing cover. After telling the proprietor what you wanted, he (I never recall an actual female named Karen there) would get it off the wire with a long handled 'grasper'. You would get a quick opportunity to check it out and maybe one chance to decide you didn't like it and ask for another.
sgIn addition, different stores would carry different titles and Karen's was the choice for those Timely/Atlas monster titles. When the Marvel superheroes began appearing, I remember getting my first Fantastic Four (#5) there.

About a block & a half away was "George & Lou's". Now that's how I always knew it, but the owner was a man named Orin and the sign over the door said Orin's. He had bought it years before from George & Lou, whoever they were, and it was still George & Lou's to my family.

He had the spinner rack and along with the DC stuff and Marvels after the superheroes arrived, he kept a supply of Classics Illustrated, Junior Classics, and Dennis the Menace (the sole remnant of the once mighty Fawcett comics empire at the time). I would get an allowance from my grandmother for running her grocery and butcher orders 3 blocks to the stores where they would gather the merchandise and deliver to her house. As soon as that fifty cents was in my hand, I was off to George & Lou's to spend it on comics, candy, & Green River.

My first comics I can identify on the Database are Batman 118 and the Superboy or Adventure Comics with the 1st Bizarro story. I loved the old sci-fi Batman stories with aliens and strange physical changes. Hard to believe he was near cancellation at the time. I also remember purchasing the first JLA story with Starro and innumerable Atlas monsters like Goom, Xoom, Fin Fang Foom and others. I didn't know artists names, but each of those monster books had a monster story by the man I would soon know as the King and a weird story with all kinds of swirly, strange drawings by Ditko.

Man that was living!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Peter Byrne - 1940s/1950s

sgPeter Byrne I was thinking of doing a nostalgia piece on "trading comic books." In truth I don't have a nostalgic bone in my head, believing that the only element that makes the past seem attractive to older people is that back then, they were young.

When comics were a dime in the late forties/early fifties, kids in row-house, city neighborhoods would become aware of other kids who were into comics, even if they didn't personally know those kids. Early on a week-night, there might be a knock on your door and a kid you might only by sight would be standing there with a stack of comic books. A simple "wanna trade?" was enough.

The kid would come into your living room and lay his pile down. You would get your pile, and each of you would go through the other guy's pile, picking out the ones you wanted. Each would then count the ones he wanted and whoever had picked out more would discard the least desirable. With that the transaction would be over, often without another word exchanged. Other nights you would be the one walking in the dark to a house on another street to initiate the trades.

Your own "keepers" would always be kept separate and not even put out on display, unless the other kid had something you had to have and that trumped your own "never trades." It was a way to maximize your comic book experiences while not having to plunk down any additional hard-earned dimes.

I mentioned that Wings was favorite of mine as was everything in the EC line, but I also like a couple called Jumbo, Jungle, and a spin off of those called Sheena of the Jungle that featured a shapely, long-tressed blond in leopard skins doing the Tarzan vine thing. Another that came back to me was called Tomahawk, a square-jawed Daniel Boone hero with the expected kid side-kick.

The whole homo-erotic aspects of the sidekick business never entered our minds. But if you look at Red Ryder, he does bear a striking resemblance to Randolph Scott who was outed after his movie career ended. You have to wonder what role Little Beaver really played in that scenario. Coincidentally, the diminutive Mother Superior of our parish school picked up the Little Beaver tag, and among alumni half a century later it still sticks.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Peter Byrne - 1940s/1950s

sgPeter Byrne One of those things I obsessed about as a kid was a comic book called Wings. It was during the war and I guess for about three or four years I bought a copy every month. I think it was the cover art that got to me more than the stories or even the strip art.

When I discovered comic books, the war filled my consciousness. Two other comic books were favorites; Blackhawk, and one titled The Boy Commandos. The pilots in Blackhawk, an international mix of course, fought the evil fascists while wearing flashy Prisoner of Zenda, Hapsburg uniforms, and they flew stubby, little two-engine Grumman naval fighters that in reality never saw action during the war.

The Boy Commandos were a comic book version of the Dead End or East Side movie gang who also fought the evil Nazis and Japs. I though they were great.

Now here's a strange one. I rarely read a comic book. I looked at the pictures. If the artwork got my attention, I bought the book and looked at the pictures. The stories hardly interested me at all.

sgWhen the Korean War started in 1950, I was twelve and already into the whole EC comic line. I had every on of their two war war comics, mostly for the Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman work, particularly the Kurtzman covers.

I bought a couple of reprints back in the late eighties or early nineties and what surprised me was just how well the artwork, the Kurtzman covers specifically, have held up. After more than fifty years, I believe that in terms of graphic art, subject matter aside, it would be difficult to date them. They are wonderful.

To me, Kurtzman had a genius in being able to convey a wealth information with a minimum of detail. I just pulled out one of the reprints, a 1951 Korean War piece titled "Contact" (ok I am a nut case). I think the title panel is a masterpiece. The rendering of the winter tree holding a Chinese sniper is almost van Gogh-like. And the drawing of the rifle, absolutely minimalist, is still recognizably, a Mauser.