Posts Tagged ‘Archie’

The Spidey/Archie connection


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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The venerable Bill Boichel has done it again. He has possibly unearthed the real secret origin of Spider-Man. Over on his Copacetic Comics site, he has posted a Harry Lucey story from Archie #126 published in March of 1962. He posits that Harry Lucey… err, wait, let me just cut and paste what Bill sez. Or just go to his site – which you gotta do anyways to read the Harry Lucey comic he’s riffing on. Please enjoy.

“Here for your consideration is the six page story, ‘Follow the Bouncing Ball’ from Archie Comics #126, with a publication date of March 1962. Produced by the peerless penciller, Harry Lucey, this story appeared on the stands five or six months before Amazing Fantasy #15 (AF15 had a cover date of August, but states September 1962 in the indicia).

“This story involves the accidental introduction of radioactivity into a high schooler’s life, with supernatural results. Not only that, but the throwaway gag panel that concludes the story introduces the concept of the so-gained supernatural power interfering with the teen’s normal romantic life, which is a central theme to Spider-Man, and critical to the long lasting success of the character. And then there’s the use of the word ‘tingling’ which came to be associated with Spider-Man’s ‘spidey-sense.’ It kinda of makes you wonder…

“Zeitgeist? Coincidence? Or, perhaps, this story was read by Stan and/or Steve during a lunchbreak, leading to the conscious or unconscious sparking of an idea. The timing is just right. We’ll never know, of course, but it’s something to ponder. Now’s your chance to read it for yourself, and see what you think.”

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Archie news


Monday, October 11, 2010

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According to Bill Boichel of Copacetic Comics, this new comic – Archie 1 The Dawn of Time – is the first time he has ever seen Harry Lucey credited by Archie Comics. I think he may be correct. Even the 60’s collection published recently did not credit Lucey (See Bill’s listing of the collection at his store’s site for details). Could Archie Comics be waking up to the fact that there has been some sort of outcry about this?

Things that make you go “hmmm”.

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Oh, Archie


Monday, January 11, 2010

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Following up on Dan’s post on the MoCCA Archie show from last week, I wanted to draw your attention to two related links.

First, Tom Spurgeon agrees with Dan, and today does a nice job of clearly presenting the issue. (Incidentally, he also put up a post collecting all of his 2009/10 “Holiday Interviews” with critics, including contributions from four of your favorite Comics Comics bloggers.)

Second, Bob Heer (whose Kirby and Ditko blogs I’ve enjoyed for years, without realizing until today that he is Jeet’s brother!) has written a long post tackling a related ethical issue: whether or not the artists who created so many recently republished classic comics are being paid royalties.

At the risk of being accused of putting my head in the sand, I’d say that’s kind of important. What would Siderman do?

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Remembering Archie


Thursday, January 7, 2010

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Art by Harry Lucey

About six weeks ago I strolled over to MoCCA here in New York to see The Art of Archie Comics, an exhibition devoted to “one of the oldest and most beloved family-friendly brands in the comic book industry.” There are some fine Harry Lucey pages. Gorgeous Dan DeCarlo examples. But something is missing on the walls: art credits. There are no attributions to be found except on a rather confusing handout available by request at the desk. What little information there is about the material on display is written in a kind of corporate press-release speak, filled with misinformation (or outright untruths, like the notion that John Goldwater was the sole creator of Archie) and nicely omitting (a) the notoriously shabby way the company treated its artists (artists who still don’t receive credit in the various reprints) and (b) the rather “interesting” fact that the company has retained all, or most, of its original art.

To me, this is dark, sad stuff. Archie Comics has a great artistic legacy—one worth examining. But it’s been over two decades since the Kirby v. Marvel fight, and over a decade since the nasty business over Dan DeCarlo came to light. We all understand (or should) the financial and moral issues at play and I’m not going to reprise them here. In the case of DeCarlo, a man who made Archie millions of dollars was fired in his twilight years and denied any share in the characters he created. It’s somewhat grotesque to use his work to “celebrate” the company without even acknowledging the issues at play. Was DeCarlo’s family invited to contribute to or comment on the show? Were any of the deceased artists’ families asked?

I was reluctant to even write this piece, since, in some ways, it’s barely worth addressing. Obviously the Archie show is not intended as history in any intellectually serious way, but it’s hosted and organized by MoCCA, which is, in fact, the only “museum” of comics on the East Coast. I happily curated a show at MoCCA and support its mission in the abstract. The medium needs institutional support. But it needs to be serious support. This startling lack of scholarship and disregard for the moral rights of artists was, I imagine and hope, unconscious and not malicious—I doubt anyone at MoCCA even knew about or researched the situation. But that’s not much of an excuse.

I wrote to MoCCA with questions about all of the above issue, but aside from an invitation to come to the museum and chat, which I couldn’t fit into my schedule, I wasn’t able to get a response via email or phone.

Situations like this are complicated. MoCCA is cash-strapped and I would imagine (well, I hope) that MoCCA received some kind of donation for hosting the show. Museums are hardly temples of virtue and must work with corporate sponsors to survive. The problem here, though, is that the museum is actually furthering a historically and morally dubious agenda. But look, what am I going to do about it? As a publisher, I plan to exhibit at the MoCCA Festival because it’s part of my business, despite, in some ways, my reluctance to support the program anymore. So I don’t exactly have much moral ground.

Giving MoCCA the benefit of the doubt, I’ll assume The Art of Archie Comics is part of a steep learning curve, and that the museum and its board will, in the future, look more closely at the issues at play around historical work and try a bit harder to remember men like Dan DeCarlo.

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Frank’s soapbox #1 (he’s lost it this time)


Friday, August 14, 2009

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The new Archie sucks. And the people who publish Archie have got to be mentally challenged. I mean, c’mon, Archie married Veronica? Archie would never marry Veronica! He’d, of course, marry Betty. And, of course, Veronica would marry Reggie. (Archie’s own creator, John L. Goldwater, said as much, and if I can find the quote, I’ll add it here later.) And now, Archie and Veronica are having twins? What?

And I haven’t even mentioned the “dynamic new look” drawing style it’s all drawn in. Archie Comics has one of the most recognizable house styles in existence and they choose to go “realistic?” That’s just retarded. I’m sure they sold a few extra thousand copies and they are a happy little corporation because of it, but to fans of the franchise this is just the last straw.

With all the reprints being issued in recent years, one would think the geniuses over at Archie would publish The Collected Archie Comics of Harry Lucey or collect all of Dan DeCarlo’s Archie comics, but no, the closest thing we get is Best of the Sixties, which has at least some classics. (And yet they still do not credit the artists, can you believe it?!) The publishers are sitting on a goldmine and they don’t even know it. There are literally hundreds of Archie issues with awesome art by the likes of Lucey and DeCarlo, but unless you’re willing to track down the original issues, or dig through the reprints, you are shit out of luck.

UPDATE 8/15: I must’ve been on a particular wavelength because a story about Archie appeared over the AP wire this morning. It makes me think that the whole story arc about the marriage will turn out to be a dream sequence. The article notes that after the six issue arc “the gang returns to high school.” Oy vey.

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notebook reviews #1


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

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I wrote these notes while traveling this weekend. They’re sort of reviews, but really just riffing on color and composition. I’m obsessed with HOW color comics used to be made and want to write about it here for fun.
“The Inheritors”, by Bruce Jones and Scott Hampton
Alien Worlds no. 3
Pacific Comics, 1983
full color

Looks like Kaluta, Wrightson. Reads like an old Unknown Worlds ACG comic but is beautifully painted. Each panel like a small Frazetta fantasy world. And that’s sort of the problem. I like the story, but it’s so serious and heavy and important. No Twilight Zone economy, no pacing, just a slow, laborious plodding. “We were aliens; creatures from another world come to the salvation, not of humankind, but of the planet itself.” A story of immigration, essentially, hacked out by Jones. Tolerable stuff, not great. The art saves it but really it’s just a fairly authentic blend of Frazetta, Wrightson, Kaluta, Vess. Nothing special really but beautiful.

I love the way these old Pacific Comics look. The colors on all the stories are great. All the Pacific Comics back then were done with that crazy process that was called “Greyline”. Steve Oliff actually colored a story in the back, but the Hampton story in the front is colored by Hampton I believe. Anyways, it looks fantastic like some comic straight out of “The Studio.” Plus, I bought it for a quarter. Whatever.

Oh, yes, back to the story. Well, I never finished reading it. I do love this passage (above, bottom panel) however, where a landscape panel has no black-line “overlay.” The landscape is not delineated by black marks, lines that are colored, filled in with paint. The landscape is just pastel colors that recede and allow the inserted black ink’d shadowed image — and the panel itself — to “float” above the color plane. That’s why I bought this one.
Special Forces no.2, by Kyle Baker
DC, 2007
full color

I don’t really want to review this comic, I just want to write about the color and how fresh it looks. Plus, I’m such a Baker fan it’s hard for me to review anything of his fairly. I mean, I could give a shit about a war comic but Baker’s approach, his humor and his vantage point (read: not white) on the subject makes it, um, enjoyable. Remember this is the comic whose opening volley was a (black) guy getting his head blown off.

Baker has been creating his comics on computer for over ten years now. They “worked” for me back in the ’90s; I always thought he struck a balance between the generic Photoshop look of all computer “constructed” comics (meaning: no inked panel borders, floating computer fonts and text all arranged in Photoshop). It’s an interesting mix of approaches that Baker has developed. He seems to be using all the same filters and settings that everyone else is in Photoshop, but since he can draw better than just about anyone (uses no photo references for the figures as far as I can tell, has mastered a sort of Aragones-inspired comical realism, plus he has a real eye for movement, no staged “realistic” photo ref’d scenes that jar the narrative flow to a halt, no spending days playing photo-shoot director, dressing up as the characters for “believability.” Nah … none of these games for Baker, who’s got the time? He’s got kids, man. Plus he can draw. Did I mention that?), and since his use of color is so inventive and comic-booky and fresh — it all simply overrides the sensors in my brain that normally dismiss such “computerized” comics. In fact I actually like the economy of the easy-to-read simplistic layouts. I think they allow his drawings & sequences to breathe. There’s a real organic feel to his customized approach that carries the narrative along quite beautifully.

I really just want to write about the color tho’, so here goes: in many sequences, Baker will switch from the “realistic” color of the Iraqi landscape and replace it with “knockout” color in the action sequences. Meaning Baker will reduce entire backgrounds to a single color like blue while figures in said background are, say, red. This was very common in the four-color era of comics, but it’s rather uncommon these days to switch from “realism” to “symbolism” on the same page.

Baker’s “realistic” color is, I think, a perfect example of using the contemporary approach to color (Hyper-realism: everything molded and highlighted, shiny and video game-like), but using it with restraint so that the drawings are not overpowered by the colors. His “realism” is also served by alternating back to knockouts and the use of pure flat color. This approach develops a rhythm that allows Baker to use the symbolic and “the real” within the same sequence to great effect.
Archie no.170, by Harry Lucey

This is an all Harry Lucey issue. You don’t know who Harry Lucey is? He was the best Archie artist. That’s all you need to know. The whole issue is an amazing display of composition, pure drawing, and gag humor cartooning. It’s a fucking clinic, actually. I’ve been doing these warm-up exercises everyday where I just draw from Lucey. I just look and learn.

Anyway, check out the color in this splash page. Stare at it and break it down. Remember this is four-color process, so its simplicity may fool you. For me, it’s the super simple use of the black and green of the girl’s dress in the foreground, which is a darker green and blue, playing off the wall behind her which is a lighter, 50% green and blue behind her. Big deal, you say? Well, look how the shapes unite and allow the central figures to remain on the left of the composition. The lines of the the wall AND the united color shapes create a plane and piece the wall and the foreground girl together in a really pleasing way. It’s a minor thing, really, but these masterful touches throughout each of the 4 stories in this comic all add up to one remarkable reading experience. (For 3 bux.)

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What Harry Lucey Knew


Monday, June 5, 2006

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Not to go on too much about my book, Art Out of Time, but while getting this blog up and running it seems a good source of material. Anyhow, a few major artists were left out of my book because their work was mostly anonymous and for licensed characters. They just didn’t fit. Perhaps my biggest regret is cutting Harry Lucey (1930-1980?), who, like so many of the other men who entertained generations of children, remains as anonymous in death as he did in life. His career in comics began in the late 1930s and he bounced around various companies in the 1940s, drawing such features as Madam Satan, Magno, and Crime Does Not Pay. In the early 1950s he helmed Sam Hill, creating some wonderful stories in the Roy Crane/Milt Caniff/Alex Toth tradition of lush brushwork and cinematic compositions.

He spent most of his life, however, drawing for MLJ, which published Archie, among other characters, and later simply became Archie Publications. Lucey became one of the lead Archie artists, drawing the freckle-faced teenager and his pals throughout the ’50s and ’60s. He took some breaks from the business to work for an advertising agency in St. Louis, but otherwise was dedicated to comics.

Like Ogden Whitney, at first glance Lucey’s work on appears to be generic and undistinguished, but a closer look reveals the artist to be a master of body language, or, in more concrete terms, acting. Every aspect of a Lucey figure is drawn to express what that character is feeling at that moment. Posture, position, and facial expression are all geared towards maximizing that moment in the story. Take a look at this Sam Hill page by Lucey, and note the precision of his character’s movements, particularly Sam Hill’s relaxed smoke rings panel. Lucey was certainly influenced by film, but brings a cartoon economy to the proceedings that can only be accomplished in, well, comics. And, take away the words (as Lucey did in a remarkable Archie story, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words”,) from a Lucey story and readers still know precisely how each character feels and what that means for the plot. In that sense, Lucey’s cartoon characters seem alive on the page like few others.

The only real inheritors of this tradition are Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, whose Love and Rockets stories continue to be among the most eloquent and passionate comics drawn in the world. They, like Lucey, tell their stories through their character’s precise actions on the page, a topic addressed very nicely by Frank Santoro and Bill Boichtel in the debut issue of Comics Comics.

Anyhow, in most years Lucey penciled and inked a page a day, drawing the complete contents of the Archie comic book every month. Towards the’60s, Lucey developed an allergy to graphite, and reportedly wore white gloves while drawing. In the 1970s he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and, sometime later, cancer. He refused treatment for the latter and died in Arizona in the late 1970s or perhaps 1980.

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