Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stories from the Bible, 1953

(Continued from 1952)

Story by Al Stenzel  /  Art by CREIG FLESSEL
BOYS' LIFE  /  January 1953 
BOYS' LIFE  /  February 1953
BOYS' LIFE  /  March 1953
BOYS' LIFE  /  April 1953
BOYS' LIFE  /  May 1953
BOYS' LIFE  /  June 1953
BOYS' LIFE  /  July 1953
BOYS' LIFE  /  August 1953
BOYS' LIFE  /  December 1953

I somehow missed this one earlier.
I'm not sure this is Creig Flessel's art, either.  Any ideas?
(Continued in 1954)

Copyright (C) BOY'S LIFE Magazine
Restorations by Henry Kujawa

Read the Creig Flessel page at Wikipedia
Read the Bob LeRose page at Wikipedia 
Read about the history of Johnstone & Cushing at the Hogan's Alley site

Stories from the Bible, 1952

I'm beginning here a project I've been thinking about since last year, when I found the BOYS' LIFE "Wayback Machine" website, which has every page of every issue posted online. At the time, I was thirlled to be able to finally read the entire run of Al Stenzel's SPACE CONQUERORS! after more than 40 years.

I managed to figure out how to download from their site (which wasn't easy!). The next step was cleaning up the images and then re-posting them here. This not only improves the look of the images, but just as important, makes it much easier to read them!

Back when I had a one-year subscription to BOYS' LIFE, my favorite part of the magazine was, naturally, the color comics section.  And, so typical of my own personal tastes, what grabbed me the most was the future, and the past.  As for the latter, I guess growing up Catholic, going to a Catholic church for 30 years, and going to a private Catholic school for 4 years gave me an interest in Bible stories.  While I've never done much reading of the book itself, I've long been a sucker for Biblical movies-- and comics.

I just spent the last several days thumbing thru several years' worth of the magazine, to make sure I could start this project from the BEGINNING...  enjoy!

Story by Al Stenzel  /  Art by CREIG FLESSEL
BOYS' LIFE  /  September 1952
BOYS' LIFE  /  October 1952
After a rousing start, there were no installments in the November or December issues. But the series would return in January.

One thing that's immediately obvious... this series does NOT follow in any chronological sequence.  I could probably "fix" that... but this is going to take long enough without doing that!

(Continued in 1953)

Copyright (C) BOY'S LIFE Magazine
Restorations by Henry Kujawa

For more:
Read the Creig Flessel page at Wikipedia
Read the Bob LeRose page at Wikipedia 
Read about the history of Johnstone & Cushing at the Hogan's Alley site
Read "A Pound Of Flessel" at Ger Apeldoorn's The Fabulous Fifties blog
   Thanks to Luke Blanchard for pointing this out to me!

Go to Professor H Revisits The Bible to read all the stories in order!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Daredevil, Pt. 4

(Continued from Part 3)

I think by default, as soon as Daredevil returned to New York City, his natural habitat, the John Romita run improved a hundredfold.  Even so, his first story back, fighting Steve Ditko's minor baddie The Ox (previously the "muscle" of both The Enforcers and The Fellowship Of Fear) was nothing to brag about.  One wonders if things might have gotten off to a better start if Wally Wood, on his departure, hadn't gone out of his way to break up the partnership of Matt Murdock & Foggy Nelson, neccessitating Jack Kirby having to "waste" 3 whole issues getting the two of them back together?

I guess this one can be considered Romita's 1st real "solo" work on the book.
(If you don't count his editor.)

art by John Romita, Frank Giacoia & Mike Esposito   (April 1966)
Legend has it that editor Stan Lee, sensing his #2 writer Steve Ditko was about to jump ship over his deep objections to publisher Martin Goodman's dishonesty concerning the total lack of royalties for licensing connected with characters he was creating, looked around and considered John Romita an ideal candidate to take over AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, should Ditko in fact leave.  As a "try-out", Lee had Romita feature Spider-Man in a 2-part story. On the one hand, the resulting story underlined just how immature and thick-headed the teenaged hero was (compared to the more mature "Hornhead"). On the other, the story also saw the debut of The Masked Marauder, Romita's 1st major villain creation.

DAREDEVIL 16  /  art by John Romita & Frank Giacoia   (May 1966)
I love Stan Goldberg's subtle coloring on this. The graytones on the foreground and background buildings, combined with that moody night sky, really make for a wonderful combination. In the midst of this, by comparison, the Masked Marauder screams "cartoony", and somehow, in a BAD way. Is it the pose, or just the composition? Oh well!

DAREDEVIL 17  /  art by John Romita & Frank Giacoia   (June 1966)
John Romita has always gone on record saying he wishes he could have stuck with DAREDEVIL, rather than taking over AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. While I tend to disagree, in his 7th DD issue he created another classic villain, albeit one who was, in addition to being very dangerous, not quite right in the head.  Or, is that WHY he was so dangerous?  In any case, while the story remained generally silly & ridiculous, The Gladiator certainly wasn't! This was perhaps Romita's best DD cover!

DAREDEVIL 18  /  art by John Romita & Frank Giacoia   (July 1966)
For years I've been hearing that John Romita tried to incorporate some of Steve Ditko's style into his work when he started on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, convinced that Ditko would return any issue.  I've never noticed this myself, but check out Romita's final DD cover.  You'd almost SWEAR Ditko drew the thing!

DAREDEVIL 19  /  art by John Romita & Frank Giacoia   (August 1966)
After 8 issues, DAREDEVIL wound up losing its 4th writer-artist in only 2-1/2 years. But unlike the previous 3, John Romita's departure was on the specific instructions of his editor. After months of things building to a head, Steve Ditko LEFT Marvel, and the 2 series he had helmed from the beginning.  A rotating roster of creators took over Dr. Strange (beginning, oddly enough, with Bill Everett, on his return to the company), while AMAZING SPIDER-MAN became the series John Romita would be most associated with for the rest of his career.

And now, just for fun...

DAREDEVIL 17  /  tribute by Gene Colan & Bob McLeod (2000) 

(Continued... eventually.)

Read about the Golden Age Daredevil at Wikipedia
Read the John Romita page at Wikipedia
Visit Al Bigley's "Big Glee" blog for tons of fun stuff!

Artwork Copyright (C) Marvel Comics

Raw scan of DAREDEVIL #15, 17 & 18 from Heritage Auctions
Raw scan of DAREDEVIL #16 from John Glorioso's site
Raw scan of DAREDEVIL #17 tribute from Al Bigley's "Big Glee" blog

Restorations by Henry Kujawa

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Daredevil, Pt. 3

(Continued from Part 2)


First, Bill Everett's more-than-full-time job got in the way.  Second, Joe Orlando very quickly got sick of editor Stan Lee's twisted habit of trying to re-write other people's stories after the art had already been turned in.  Third, Wally Wood strongly objected to having Lee steal credit AND PAY for Wood's writing, and having his own writing efforts be denigrated in print on top of that. After an offer from Samm Schawartz at Tower Comics, Wood quickly followed Everett & Orlando, leaving DAREDEVIL without a writer and artist for the 3rd time in only 11 issues!  You'd think this series was cursed or something...

It's pretty obvious that Wood, like Kirby, had a TON of ideas, as seen in these concept sketches.
"The Alien" turned up years later in the Dr. Doom series in ASTONISHING TALES, while "The Destroyer" apparently evolved into "Stilt Man".
I've heard that Stilt-Man was a Jack Kirby idea, but looking at this sketch,
I kinda wonder...
Both the concept and design here look like something Jim Steranko used in his Nick Fury run in STRANGE TALES.
The preliminary for the cover of DD #7!
Side-by-side, here's Wood's preliminary and finished art for DD #7, page 4.
I note that he switched a few panels around in the finish.
Another preliminary for DD #7, this time indicating color.
Check out this preliminary splash page for DD #9.  Wood's intended title "Knightmare!" was eventually changed by his editor to "That He May See!", while this ominous page was replaced by an action scene showing DD hanging underneath one of Manhattan's various bridges.
Another preliminary page from DD #9.
This is how Wood (and some other artists) write!
Here's a pair of "model sheets" done by Wood to maintain consistency.
Here's a cute sketch Wood apparently did just for Jack Kirby, related to the way Wood inked only the DD figures in FANTASTIC FOUR #39.
Meanwhile, editor Lee must have gone into a panic. Looking around to see who was available, he recruited Dick Ayers to do some try-out pages.  Here's one of the results. I kinda LIKE it! It makes me wonder why Lee decided not to go with Ayers. Was he really unhappy with what Ayers did, or was Ayers' schedule on SGT. FURY and other books just too heavy?

Although the story in DD #12 does have Matt Murdock taking a sea voyage, the story does not feature a fight in the ship's engine rom as seen here.
Lee must have felt luck shined on him when 1950's CAPTAIN AMERICA alumni and then-recent DC romance artist John Romita came around looking for work.   Romita, feeling burnt out by too many years doing dull, tepid love stories over at DC, really wanted only to ink, as he did on AVENGERS #23 (Dec'65), interestingly enough, taking over from Wally Wood, who'd inked the 3 previous issues of that book.  But Lee wanted a writer, though he never seemed to openly admit that in print, for professional and monetary reasons. Apparently, Lee showed him Ayers' sample pages and asked, "What would YOU do with a character like this?"  Here's Romita's 1st DD sketch, presumably from sometime in late 1965. 
To get Romita into the swing of things, Lee dragged Jack Kirby back in, Kirby only having designed the costume initially.  Perhaps over a weekend, Kirby did 2 entire issues worth of rough layouts (that means he he WROTE 2 full issues, uncredited and unpaid!).  Here's some samples of his work on DD #13.

While DD #13 does include a scene of Zabu, the sable-tooth tiger getting trapped in a pit, the published version does not show Ka-Zar getting him out of the pit, as seen here.
Foggy Nelson & Karen Page do travel by plane to England-- in DD #14-- but in the published story, only after being contacted by the previously-missing, thought-dead Matt. In Kirby's version, they still believed he was dead when they boarded the plane.
A scene similar to this does turn up in Romita's version of DD #13, but without Ka-Zar at the dining hall table.  Instead, he's kept in a dungeon as his brother continues to scheme.
Finally, here's Jack Kirby's original design for The Plunderer.  Romita totally ignored this, making him a far more "generic"-looking pirate at first, and later, an even more "generic"-looking super-villain!  It makes almost me wish Kirby had done the entire book himself.  Almost.
I've been a fan of John Romita's art since I first encountered it in late 1967, never dreaming for decades after that HE was the one writing all those issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN he worked on, rather than his editor, who was only responsible for the dialogue and what might be deemed after-the-fact "course corrections".

But when, in 2001, after loving both Everett's & Wood's DAREDEVIL, I finally got my first glimpse of Romita's version, I was horrified.  The art was 3rd-rate, but the stories were 5th-rate, if that.  His initial story, the 3-parter with Ka-Zar, that introduced his brother "Lord Parnival Plunder" and revealed the utterly convoluted "origin" of Marvel's answetr to TARZAN, was one of the WORST stories I'd ever read in all of 60's Marvel... down there with those 3 Joe Orlando issues that Stan Lee butchered.

What had happened?  How did work THAT BAD come from people I knew had so much talent?

The answer came to me-- in a FLASH-- when I saw the following at Steve Thompson's "HORRAY FOR WALLY WOOD" blog...
I'd heard for ages that Wally Wood was tentatively scheduled to do the revival of SUB-MARINER scheduled for TALES TO ASTONISH.  It should have been no surprise to anyone who read DD #7.  But instead, Wood had his falling-out with Lee over pay & credit, and wound up going to Tower where he got both.

But before he left, he does this sketch of SUB-MARINER in some "lost world", fighting dinosaurs.  Wood quits the company, John Romita arrives, suddenly, DAREDEVIL finds himself in "The Savage Land". HOW can this be a COINCIDENCE? The timing is too close.

They all say Lee got Kirby to "lay out" the first 2 issues because Lee thought Romita's work "wasn't exciting enough". Could this possibly be true, or could it be Lee didn't like the STORY Romita was trying to tell?

I can NOW picture this scenario. Wood tells Lee he's gonna start the SUB-MARINER strip off with an adventure in the Savage Land, featuring Ka-Zar.  (Perhaps Kirby suggested it, since Ka-Zar was his character?) Lee calls Kirby in, tells him what he needs, and mentions Wood's "Savage Land" idea. Kirby whips out 2 issues worth of layouts over a weekend. Lee gives them to Romita, who says, "Oh-- I GET it!!!" Romita then TOTALLY IGNORES everything Kirby did except for the Savage Land angle.

So what we have is a story several times removed from its original source of inspiration. (Or, "creation by committee".) And once Lee writes the dialogue, add another step away (as always).  It's like THUNDERBALL-- or HALLOWEEN 6.  Too many script drafts, each one worse than the one before.

And if anyone wants any further "proof" that this is exactly what happened, compare Wood's sketch against Romita's initial D.D. cover.  Namor's pose is ALMOST identical to Ka-Zar's!  (I didn't even notice that until last night.)
My God, that is one TERRIBLE cover!

art by JOHN ROMITA (touch-ups by Vince Colletta)   (January 1966)
DAREDEVIL 13  /  art by Jack Kirby & John Romita   (February 1966)
DAREDEVIL 14  /  art by John Romita & Frank Giacoia   (March 1966)

Sadly, it has since occured to me that had Wood done SUB-MARINER meeting KA-ZAR, it would have worked "thematically". Namor, who had recently assumed the throne of Atlantis, KNEW what it was like to be disenfranchised from his own origins for many years. He could relate to Ka-Zar's not knowing if he had any family or not.

But sticking a BLIND MAN in a dinosaur-infested jungle just DOESN'T MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE.

No wonder Romita's later D.D. episodes were-- if not actually "good" (I certainly don't think so), at least, nowhere near as bad.

Took me a long time to figure this one out. I ask again (and this never crossed my mind until recently)... considering Hollywood "dumbed down" Frankenstein (THE HULK) and Tarzan (KA-ZAR), is it even possible that Kirby ever meant for KA-ZAR to be so mind-numbingly mentally retarded? It's not just that he speaks like a 3-year-old-- he acts like one, too.

Sure, maybe Kirby was doing a Johnny Weismuller tribute... but more likely, judging from evidence seen with THE HULK-- Kirby meant for KA-ZAR to be intelligent, and Lee was the one who "dumbed him down".

He stayed that way until Bruce Jones came along. Jones said he made a conscious effort to "ignore" every previous KA-ZAR appearance and treat the guy he was writing as if he was a completely different character. (There were fleeting references to his having "pretended" to talk dumb all those years... but none of this was ever obvious, or even hinted at, UNTIL Jones' stories.)

Finally, here's a SUB-MARINER parody by Roy Thomas & Wally Wood, showing what might have been if Wood had been treated with more honesty and integrity by his editor.
(Continued in Part 4)

Read about the Golden Age Daredevil at Wikipedia
Read the Wally Wood page at Wikipedia
Visit Booksteve's Horray For Wally Wood blog!
  (But beware-- it goes on forever! You may never wanna leave.)
Read the Dick Ayers page at Wikipedia
See Dick Ayers' Ghost Rider covers from the early 1950's!
Read the John Romita page at Wikipedia

Artwork Copyright (C) Marvel Comics

Wally Wood sketches & Sub-Marine Man parody
     from Horray For Wally Wood blog
John Romita sketch & Jack Kirby layouts from Daredevil Masterworks Vol.2
Raw scans of DAREDEVIL #12-13 from Heritage Auctions
Raw scan of DAREDEVIL #14 from

Restorations by Henry Kujawa