Posts Tagged ‘Roy Crane’

Dear Mr. Crane…


Friday, April 9, 2010

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Jeet kindly forwarded me two letters from Pat Boyette to Roy Crane, which he came across while researching his texts for Fantagraphics’ upcoming Crane books. It sounds like these essays will do for Crane what our man Heer has already done for Frank King: completely open up a new way of thinking about his life and work. I can’t wait. Anyhow, as part of my continued and shameless shilling for Art in Time, here are the two letters. Love the humor here and Boyette’s unabashed fandom. Don’t forget to come see Frank and I at MoCCA this weekend in NYC. The password is: “Charlton.”

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Voices: Kirby and Crane and … Me?


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

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I have to admit, even I’m a little shocked by the silliness of the MoCCA statement about this whole Archie credit issue. To wit (and I promise, this is the last time I’ll mention it, since clearly it’s like talking to a brick wall): I emailed Karl at MoCCA 3 times over the course of a month before posting my thoughts on the show. Having curated a show there and done numerous events over the years, yes, that means I can expect a response back, just as I would respond to any colleague who emailed me. No, I couldn’t make it back to the museum itself, but I didn’t need to — I was asking why there were no credits and why it was OK to ignore and perpetuate a shameful legacy. How is a phone call or email not enough to explain that? The fact that I’m somehow being blamed by Ellen in her “statement” is probably self-evidently ridiculous. But just in case: Guys, the issue isn’t whether or not I could make it back over the to museum: The issue is that you don’t act anything even remotely like an educational institution. It’s not Archie (the company’s) fault that you don’t have anyone on hand who can ID the original art–there are at least a dozen historians in the NYC area who could do that; nor is it the company’s fault that you would refuse to even acknowledge the issues at play. Nor is it my fault. Get a grip, admit that you screwed up, and move on. Every commenter (myself included) basically was giving you the benefit of the doubt. By issuing a defensive statement that somehow pulls me in and (again!) ignores the real issues at play, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Anyhow, onto happier matters. Here are a couple of recordings by artists. Y’know, the people that draw comics! Both of these recordings have been linked to but I want to reiterate how wonderful they are. First is Jack Kirby in 1970, with Steranko chiming in occasionally. Kirby sounds like a forceful visionary let loose on a crowd, practically preaching.

Jeet kindly transcribed the following passage, which is one of the best ever statements on cartooning:

Drawing a good figure doesn’t make you a good artist. I can name you ten men, right off the bat, who draw better than I do. But I don’t think their work gets as much response as mine. I can’t think of a better man to draw Dick Tracy than Chester Gould, who certainly is no match for Leonardo Da Vinci. But Chester Gould told the story of Dick Tracy. He told the story of Dick Tracy the way it should have been told. No other guy could have done it. It’s not in the draftsmanship, it’s in the man.

Like I say, a tool is dead. A brush is a dead object. It’s in the man.

If you want to do, you do it. If you think a man draws the type of hands that you want to draw, steal ‘em. Take those hands.

The only thing I can say is: Caniff was my teacher, Alex Raymond was my teacher, even the guy who drew Toonerville Trolley was my teacher. Whatever he had stimulated me in some way. And I think that’s all you need. You need that stimulation. Stimulation to make you an individual. And the draftsmanship, hang it. If you can decently: learn to control what you can, learn to control what you have, learn to refine what you have. Damn perfection. You don’t have to be perfect. You are never going to do a Sistine Chapel, unless someone ties you to a ceiling. Damn perfection.

All a man has in this field is pressure. And I think the pressure supplies a stimulation. You have your own stresses, that will supply your own stimulation. If you want to do it, you’ll do it. And you’ll do it anyway you can.

The Crane interview from 1961 is notable for the heavy shoptalk, Crane’s unabashed patriotism, and his wonderfully intelligent awareness of both his own and his medium’s history. I’d never heard Crane’s voice before – his laconic twang fits perfectly with that plush cartooning of his. Cartoonist Verne Greene is a great and officious host. There is also a Chester Gould interview from the same series. Invaluable stuff.

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He Yis What He Yis


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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This first volume of E.C. Segar‘s complete Popeye comics is going to be very tough to beat for comic book of the year—and this has been an amazing year for great comic books.

I don’t know if Popeye is the best comic strip of all time—or even what that would mean, exactly—but it is without question my favorite. It’s been said before, but if you only know Popeye from the enjoyable but repetitive Fleischer cartoons, you really don’t know the character at all. (The late, lamented Robert Altman‘s flawed film version got closer to the original Segar flavor, with a large cast of eccentric characters and understated humor, but it ultimately misses the mark as well.)

The original strips are funny and fantastic (in both senses of the word). They’re the rare adventure strips that are driven as much by character as by plot. With its bizarre creatures (the Goons, the Jeeps), indelible characterizations (Wimpy, Olive Oyl), and impeccable timing (each day’s strip building beautifully on the one before), Thimble Theatre worked as only a serialized comic strip could. It’s like early Wash Tubbs mixed with Mutt and Jeff, but with monsters and witches and hamburgers—and three times as funny! I can’t imagine higher praise than that.

Read the book. And save room on your shelves for the next five volumes. They keep getting better. Which means “comic book of the year” is pretty much foreordained for a while, at least until 2011.

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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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Current Comics Reading List (From Memory)


Wednesday, May 31, 2006

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Carl Barks’s Greatest DuckTales Stories, Volume 1 (Gemstone)
Russ Manning’s Magnus, Robot Fighter, Vol. 1
Roy Crane’s Wash Tubbs

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