All Men Are Equal Before Fish: Rick Griffin & Man vs Mad Magazine

« Last year I went fishing with Salvador Dali. He was using a dotted line. He caught every other fish. » — Steven Wright

In 1974, prodigious underground cartoonist Rick Griffin was commissioned to design a cover for Welsh rockers Man’s ninth opus… and this is what he came up with.

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The original version of Griffin’s proposal, cheekily titled « The Baptism of Alfred E. Neuman. »

While the image of the grinning fool popularly known as Alfred E. Neuman was, and remains in the public domain, Griffin was really pushing his luck, even without MAD Magazine’s distinctive typeface on bold display. Let’s just say William M. Gaines’ lawyers had far more than a leg to stand on.

Understandably reluctant to let such a lovely *and* provocative work of prime Griffin altogether go to waste, Man (and their legal counsel, presumably), engineered a clever and elegant design solution, shown below, which graces the band’s Slow Motion album, issued in late 1974, and still thumbs its nose at MAD Magazine, exceptionally cast in the thankless rôle of the fuddy-duddy villain.

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As a born-again Christian (circa 1970) *and* surfer, it follows that fish were, topic-wise, a natural fit for Griffin.

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A painting from Griffin’s foremost undertaking of the 1970s, « The Gospel of John » (available to this day!); this one illustrates John 21:6, « And he said unto them, cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They case therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. »

For the record, I prefer my fish alive and swimming free.

– RG

«Cartography of a nowhere-land»: Patrick Woodroffe at Warren

« That minuscule ogre on the throne
must be the King. What a peculiar little man. »

In 1978-79, the rightly-celebrated English fantasy artist Patrick James Woodroffe (b. Halifax, West Yorkshire, on October 27, 1940; d. May 10, 2014), fresh from his high-profile paperback (much Moorcock!) and album cover assignments (including Judas Priest’s splendid Sad Wings of Destiny), hired out his talented brush with Warren Publishing long enough to produce ten covers, a varied, eye-catching and often unusual lot. Let’s make the rounds, shall we?

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« He isn’t a *bad* sort. He just lets his temperamental gonads get the best of him! » Using a laser rifle on a dragon? Hardly seems sporting, does it?

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Here we make the acquaintance of a memorably omnidextrous lepidopteran gunner. This is Creepy no. 102 (October, 1978). Read the entire issue here: https://archive.org/stream/warrencreepy-102/Creepy_102#page/n91/mode/2up
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One of Warren’s post-Star Wars, all-reprint cash grabs of the era… but it’s got a Woodroffe cover.
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Eerie no. 98 (January, 1979) Likely the darkest of the set in terms of subject matter. Visually, it certainly brings to mind the visual vibe of John Carpenter’s They Live, still nearly a decade away.
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Interestingly, the piece has also made the rounds, in a modified version (flipped, for one thing), as a “black light” poster titled  « In the Name of the Law ». Speaking of the law, was the artist duly compensated?
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Don’t mess with the Surly Smurf! This dusky scene is dated 1975, so it’s safe to assume it wasn’t created expressly for this publication. This is Warren’s 1984 no. 5 (February, 1979.) Aside from the usual sex fantasies and space operetta from the usual suspects, the issue holds a single nonpareil gem, Nicola Cuti’s  « I Wonder Who’s Squeezing Her Now? », gorgeously brought to life by Ernie Colón and Wally Wood. Bear with me, we’ll return to it in due time.
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« You may think this all strange nonsense; it may be strange, but it is true, and the ancients knew what lifting the veil means. They called it seeing the god Pan. »  — Arthur Machen
With his second and final Creepy cover (no. 110, August, 1979), Woodroffe lifts the veil, and how, on a troubling closeup of a gleefully sinister Greek God of the Wild.
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« Well, if that ain’t about the unfriendliest thing I’ve ever heard of… » 1984 no. 7 (August, 1979.)
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Aw, missed your ride home. This is 1984 no. 9 (October, 1979.)
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As it turns out, one couldn’t have picked a better artist to depict « the cumbrous hands of a deformed, spastic little twit », though he seems like a sweetheart, really. On this whimsical note ends our survey of Mr. Woodroffe’s Warren covers. This is also the last issue of 1984 under that title; it would leap a decade ahead to “1994” and carry on for another nineteen issues.

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Mechanical Tentacles

Mechanical tentacles! Cephalopod monsters communicating by mental telepathy! Even Jimmy Olsen playing the part of a monster in an alien horror movie! Yes, it’s all this and more in this Tentacle Tuesday post (after which I’ll quit bugging you with various cephalopods until next Tuesday).

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There’s nothing quite as annoying as someone who wants to be your friend against your wishes. Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #43 (March 1960), pencils by Curt Swan and inks by Stan Kaye.

Head over to the Fourth Age blog for a further discussion (with pictures!) of the cover story from this issue, “Jimmy Olsen’s Private Monster!”, written by Jerry Siegel (ahem…) and illustrated by the aforementioned Curt Swan (pencils) and John Forte (inks).

The two-eyed, many-tentacled mechanized wonder appears again in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #47  (September 1960):

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It’s the same cast: pencils by Curt Swan and inks by Stan Kaye; letters by Ira Schnapp.
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Freaking cute.

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In a similar line of thought (but some 15 years later), a more steampunk relative of the creature above appears in Swamp Thing.

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Swamp Thing #17, July-August 1975. In case the credits are too small to read, script by David Michelinie, pencils and inks by Nestor Redondo, colors by Tatjana Wood, letters by Marcos Pelayos.

And here’s a peek at the glorious (I’m a fan of Redondo) inside:

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« But destroying that thing doesn’t answer the questions it brought up… like what a stainless-steel octopus is doing in the middle of a jungle… » That’s an excellent question – but destroying this mechanized, tentacled abomination was still a good idea, answers or no.

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Here’s another file for our records of Tentacular fascination: the Boy Commandos’ intrepid gang of feisty moppets, tired of fighting Nazis, switch it up by doing battle with some tentacled robots.

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Boy Commandos #17, September-October 1946. Cover by Jack Kirby.

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I couldn’t very well have a mechanically-minded Tentacle Tuesday without mentioning Dr. Octopus, one of Spider-Man’s most famous foes! Otto Gunther Octavius, a.k.a. Dr. Octopus, a.k.a. Doc Ock was created by Steve Ditko, and first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #3, 1963. Obviously I could feature a gallery of Dr. Octopus tentacles as long as your arm (pardon the confused anatomical terminology on my part), but I’ll limit myself to two.

First, an underwater scene, because what element more appropriate for tentacles? Kudos to Doc Ock for making his perfectly watertight.

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JFC, does this guy ever shut up? Especially given that Spiderman can’t even hear him? Splash (no pun intended) page from The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, September 1964 (art by Steve Ditko).

Dr. Octopus’ metallic appendages, resistant to radiation and of great strength and agility, were originally attached to a harness…. but became fused to his body after an explosion involving radioactivity (what else?) They were surgically removed, but he could now control them telepathically from a distance. Spooky.

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Poor Spider-Man is always getting attacked by tentacles, even when Doc Ock isn’t around! These belong to a robot built by a “nutty professor” to trap anything spider-related. A prize will go to the perceptive reader who can tell us how many tentacles this thing possesses – like, a million, would be my guess. The Amazing Spider-Man #25, June 1965, cover by Steve Ditko.
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Smythe’s robot in action, ensnaring Parker instead of the spider he’s holding in a globe (and nobody but us readers knows why!) J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of Daily Bugle, watches enthusiastically from the sidelines.
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Okay, maybe the robot doesn’t have as many tentacles as the cover seemed to suggest. Here’s Spidey hotly pursued by Mr. Jameson, whose maniacal glee is a little scary. (I will readily admit I partially chose this panel because of Parker’s jiggly butt).

~ ds

Beware, the Eye of Zohar Is Watching!

A 1968 ad full of spooky, green-glowy fun for the kiddies. An… interesting appropriation of Jewish mysticism. After all, Zohar and Kabbalah don’t really fall within the usual range of docile toy industry gibberish, straying closer to the realm of sideshow hucksterism, with its fortune-telling automatons.

Learn (a little) more about The Mysterious Game That Foretells the Future.

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Wikipedia tells us: « The Zohar (Hebrew: זֹהַר, lit. “Splendor” or “Radiance”) is the foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah.

There are people of religions besides Judaism, or even those without religious affiliation, who delve in the Zohar out of curiosity, or as a technology for people who are seeking meaningful and practical answers about the meaning of their lives… »

Why, hello there, Ms. Ciccone.

It’s hard not to draw a parallel between this toy’s name and eerie oculus and Charles Burns‘ Big Baby tale of a « Teen Plague » (from Raw vol. 2 no. 1, 1989). Be careful out there, kids!

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« Taste the Kiss of the Almighty Kaballa-Bonga! »
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I know, Mike. I can hardly believe it either.

-RG

Growing Old Gracelessly With Broom-Hilda

« Modern technology has tripled the life expectancy of the professional insulter »

It was forty-eight years ago today, which is to say Thursday, April the 20th, 1970, when a certain short, dumpy, cheap-cigar-chomping 1500-year-old green witch first crash-landed into the funny pages, though we wouldn’t know she was green until that Sunday.

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The cast’s principal players: Broom-Hilda, Gaylord Buzzard and Irwin Troll. Colour by Barbara Marker.

Russell Myers‘ (born October 9, 1938 in Pittsburg, Kansas, and still with us) Broom-Hilda has been easy to take for granted… it’s never been a trendy strip, but it’s always had its adherents, a somewhat enlightened, or at least less dim than average, passel of loonies, to which I proudly belong.

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One of my favourite B-H collections… an oversize one-shot issued in 1978. And don’t let the subtitle throw you: *all* Broom-Hilda books are profoundly silly.
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An undated strip from 1970.
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Grelber always gets the last laugh. August 17, 1973. Bet you never knew that Grelber shared a genteel hobby with Nero Wolfe.
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This Sunday strip comes from just about a year into the run, April 4, 1971, back when Broomie still was allowed to enjoy all of her little hobbies. A day in the life of the resilient Irwin Troll, Mother Nature’s Personal Friend.
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Low-key and surreal, the March 11, 1974 strip. Pour me a cup of that jaunty java!
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Wise words from the strip’s resident intellectual, Gaylord Buzzard (Sept. 13, 1973)

Over the long years, the changing times and the powers-that-be had Broomie clean up her act, stripping her of her beloved vices one after the other. Well, she’s held on to her gluttony and lust, but no longer indulges her passion for third-rate tobacco and beer. Still, since there was so much more in the strip’s DNA, the eschewing of Broomie’s low-down habits was not fatal.

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The author as he appeared in 1985’s Broom-Hilda Book One (and only), in the “Blackthorne’s Comic-Strip Preserves” series. « To retain this standard of madness requires a good deal of sane and sensible methods. The gags don’t just occur to Russell; he creates them. Like all humorists, he observes where others only look. Others see a man going through a revolving door, Russell sees a man stuck in a revolving door. Perverse, perhaps, but perversity is the trigger of humor. Why else do we laugh at a man stepping into a manhole? »

But how I miss that nasty no-goodnik Grebler!

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Music has its charms, even Grelber music.

Keep up with the current state of Broom-Hilda: https://www.seattlepi.com/comics-and-games/fun/Broom_Hilda/ 

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: ACG’s Adventures Into the Tentacles

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday comes courtesy of American Comics Group, which delighted its readers with horror, satire and other strange offerings between 1943 to 1967.

ACG’s Adventures into the Unknown is now recognized as comics’ first continuing horror title. A good variety of horror tropes (though I imagine that back then, the clichés we’re painfully familiar with today weren’t quite as clichéd) , from the amusingly bizarre to the genuinely scary, could be found within its pages: killer puppets, homicidal ghosts, murderous mummies, vicious dinosaur relics, spooky skeletons… and tentacles, of course. Unlike many of its brethren, the series survived the fall-out of the 1954 comic book hearings that were started by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, but the title did drop its creepier storylines in favour of goofiness. Not a bad way to go, really, as long as the result is entertaining!

I’d like to welcome you to Tentacle Tuesday by kicking things off with this unnecessarily graphic cover in which somebody’s tentacle is getting lopped off. Note that the she-octopus also has vampire fangs. Beautiful? I wouldn’t go that far… or anywhere near it.

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…A monster which exists! I know — for I have met her face to face! Picture a face gigantic, beautiful — on a huge and monstrous body which reeks of evil — and death!Adventures into the Unknown no. 49 (November 1953), cover by Ken Bald.
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A panel from « The Kraken », drawn by Jon Blummer. Geez, poor kraken. Later on, she (?) gets attacked with a “corrosive acid – with a nozzle activated from within “… Mona can’t bear to watch, and I agree.

There are five Adventures in the Unknown covers that feature octopuses (or someone’s nightmarish and anatomically ridiculous idea of an octopus, at any rate). We’ve already featured no. 157 (revisit the past here – Nemesis is waiting for you!); the remaining four were published between August and November of 1953 and illustrated by Ken Bald (who drew the covers for issues 21 through to 50). Didn’t he get tired of drawing tentacles? Was it his idea? Did he have nightmares afterwards?

(A little aside: speaking of Mr. Bald, he’s been in the Guinness book of records for a couple of years now, for being the “oldest artist to illustrate a comic book cover”. The comic in question is Contest of Champions no. 2 (2015, Marvel Comics), which he drew at the age of 95.)

I’ll skip no. 48 for now, as its tentacles are plant-like in nature, but onward with the other two!

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« Tale of Terror » from Adventures into the Unknown no. 46 (January 1953). Illustrated by Lin Streeter. It’s a well known fact that monsters on a diet are very irritable (and he’s still got a long way to go, judging by his chubby midsection).

“Breakthrough!”, the title story, is beautifully illustrated by Harry Lazarus and brimming over with tentacles. Take a peek:

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The main tenta-gonist of “Breakthrough!”, drawn by Harry Lazarus.
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In “Breakthrough!”, even cables have tentacles!

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It’s no use strugglin’ — not when ye’ll be the sea hag’s slaves forever!” Adventures into the Unknown no. 47 (September, 1953). Cover by Ken Bald.
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Ruthless pirates! A sea hag! Tentacles and “evil specters of the past!” All can be found in “The Derelict Fleet!”, illustrated by Jon Blummer in an interestingly fluid style.

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Naturally, there is some tentacle goodness *inside* some issues of Adventures into the Unknown, despite an utter lack of cephalopods on the cover. I’ll give two examples (gracefully scanned by co-admin RG from the collected Adventures into the Unknown: Volume 8, published by PS Artbooks in 2014).

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A panel from « Tale of Terror », published in Adventures into the Unknown no. 39 (January 1953) and Illustrated by Lin Streeter. This panel was wisely used for the PS reprint tome’s front endpapers, to great effect.
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Page from « Mystery of the Marie Celeste », published in Adventures into the Unknown no. 41 (March 1953), pencilled by Al Camy and inked by Edvard Moritz. How (and why) did the octopus manage to climb atop a ship?

~ ds

 

“Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one”*

« Once there was a fellow and his name was Buzz
He was just a rookie cop, just a baby Fuzz
He patrolled the Sunset Strip
in the land of the free
and the home of the hip
He protected you and me
until he met a girl called Alice D

Alice was the girl that all the hippies dread
And they called her Sweet Alice the Head
Alice it was plain to see was full of pot and STD
She’d attract a great big crowd
because her inner peace was much too loud »
Biff Rose, “Buzz the Fuzz” (1968)

This day in history: On April 16, 1943, the hallucinogenic effects of LSD were discovered.

Here’s an account of the event, from the folks at History.com:

In Basel, Switzerland, Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist working at the Sandoz pharmaceutical research laboratory, accidentally consumes LSD-25, a synthetic drug he had created in 1938 as part of his research into the medicinal value of lysergic acid compounds. After taking the drug, formally known as lysergic acid diethylamide, Dr. Hofmann was disturbed by unusual sensations and hallucinations. In his notes, he related the experience:

« Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colours. After some two hours this condition faded away. »

After intentionally taking the drug again to confirm that it had caused this strange physical and mental state, Dr. Hofmann published a report announcing his discovery, and so LSD made its entry into the world as a hallucinogenic drug. Widespread use of the so-called « mind-expanding » drug did not begin until the 1960s, when counterculture figures such as Albert M. Hubbard, Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey publicly expounded on the benefits of using LSD as a recreational drug. The manufacture, sale, possession, and use of LSD, known to cause negative reactions in some of those who take it, were made illegal in the United States in 1965.

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The genial Dr. Hofmann.

As a little digestif for the history lesson, here’s a poisoned bonbon from Thomas Ott (b. 1966, Zurich… a mere 76 km from Basel!), a proven meister of both comics storytelling and of the singularly exacting technique of scratchboard. This is Ott’s highly condensed and updated version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “Alice”, from 1992. I wouldn’t advise its use in preparing a book report.

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Just this once, inquisitive English-speakers won’t be left out in the cold or reaching for their translation dictionaries, as Ott’s work is mostly mute, the only text appearing incidentally on newspapers, signs and assorted objects, and in English at that.

Ott’s chosen milieu is the perpetual nighttime of American film noir (which in turn comes from the French roman noir, a term first used in the 1700s to describe British gothics, becoming synonymous, in the 20th century, with bleak crime novels), so the headlines and billboards are in Inglés. In addition to the classic noir recipe, the Swiss artisan injects a discreet but usually lethal dose of his quite sardonic wit.

– RG

*another fine quip from Albert Einstein.

Jonah Hex’s bumpy Friday the thirteenth

« Whut in the ding-dong? »

Jonah Hex originators John Albano (1922-2205) and Tony DeZuniga (1941-2012) take the piss out of their boy in a little tale that was, according to Paul Levitz, intended for a (self) parody title provisionally titled Zany (having cycled through the tentative monikers Black Humor and Weird Humor), and that never saw the light of day… This feature was the only one completed for the abortive endeavour, and it saw print in the Plop!-themed issue of The Amazing World of DC Comics (October, 1976), its thirteenth, of course. Incidentally, Plop’s own cancellation was announced in that very issue of AWODCC. Bummer.

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Why, yes… now that you mention it, an ice-cold root beer *would* be nice.
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« Lying out in the ‘dessert’ », Jonah? That was either a root-beer float mirage or a careless letterer’s oversight.

I would be earning myself a sound flogging if I didn’t share Sergio Aragonés‘ adroitly-done cover, so here it is.

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-RG

Golly, a pop quiz?

« Have a nice nap, young man? »

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The punchline to the EC story “Pleasant Screams!”, written by the usual Bill Gaines / Al Feldstein combo, with art by Joe Orlando. From Tales From the Crypt #37 (August, 1953) Can anyone in the class tell me where this panel was swiped and quoted (to hilarious effect) in the eighties? The answer follows…

 

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Here it comes… pencils down, everyone!

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Poor Fifi. He hardly seems to be the right breed of pooch for the Canadian Arctic, not to mention its special precipitations. Reprinted several times since, this edifying tale of poetic justice first saw print in the final issue of the Yummy Fur mini-comic (#7, Sept. 1985, Tortured Canoe).
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Chester’s closing argument in the case.

Ah, for a return to the days when we didn’t know way too much about Chester Brown, when he was a mysterious, self-published cartooning genius and Châteauguay‘s finest son. I remember how awestruck I was upon encountering his brilliant Yummy Fur minis, available at Toronto’s gone-but-not-forgotten Dragon Lady comic book store in the early-to-mid 1980s. What a surreal breath of fresh air they were!

A cat’s meow and a cow’s moo to you know I, I could recite them all
Just tell me where it hurts you, honey, and I’ll tell you who to call
Nobody can get asleep, you know there’s someone on everybody’s toes
When Quinn the Eskimo gets here, everybody’s gonna wanna doze.

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The source of Bobby Zimmerman‘s inspiration: Anthony Quinn as “Inuk” in The Savage Innocents (1960). Back then, people dressed like this where and when it was actually cold; nowadays, it may be sunny and well above freezing, but those fierce, dauntless Polar explorers roam the streets in great numbers, clad in their fashionable down-filled, fur-lined hooded coats…  

-RG

Treasured Stories: “The Organist and the SS” (1972)

« They were bitter, war-weary men and the old woman’s music was comforting — perhaps too comforting… »

Writer and occasional penciller William ‘Willi’ Franz (born 1950) broke into the comics industry at the tender age of 15, selling his first script to Charlton editor Dick Giordano in 1966.

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Will Franz, September 1971. A photo « …taken at the Manhattan insurance company where I worked as an accounting technician. My wall is covered with cartoons I made of various office friends and personnel. » Source: Will Franz and Charlton Spotlight.

While best known for his fruitful collaborations with his mentor, the great Sam Glanzman (1924-2017), namely The Iron Corporal, The Devil’s Brigade and most enduringly The Lonely War of Willy Schultz, Franz also scattered a few gems that the light has mostly missed.

My favourite among these has to be his final story for Charlton, The Organist and the SS, published in Attack #8 (Nov. 1972). Franz’s bleak, nuanced and markedly pacifist tales had drawn the military’s ire, back in the late ’60s, and this somber little piece of doom might have, too, if anyone had been attention.

As Franz recalls in a 2015 interview with Richard Arndt, published in Charlton Spotlight #9 (Winter-Spring 2015-2016):

« I was told that a lot of Charlton sales were on military bases. They were a staple on Army bases. I, and my stories, were dropped in 1969, out of the blue. Things were heating up in Vietnam.

I was blacklisted at Charlton because a guy had put my name and stories down as one of the reasons he registered as a conscientious objector. I found out other people were throwing my name around. Someone in the army apparently said that my stuff, maybe like [Archie] Goodwin’s stuff, was too blood and guts. It was going to make soldiers *not* want to kill the gooks. The army can’t have that! »

Well, evidently Charlton (presumably managing editor George Wildman, bless his heart) let Will sneak back into the fold, if briefly, after the heat was off, otherwise I’d be writing about some other topic entirely.

Without further preamble, please savour this pitch-black, existentialist play of war and death, but mind the thorns.

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Will’s layout for the opening splash of our story. It’s always a treat to see what liberties the illustrator takes… or doesn’t.

This issue is chock-full of arrivals and departures: it opens with a story from new recruit Warren Sattler, trying his hand at a few short mystery and war stories before he found his niche in excellent collaborations with Joe Gill on Billy the Kid and Yang; next up is Jack Keller, who was winding up his comics career, what with Charlton’s remaining pair of hot rod books, Drag ‘n’ Wheels and Hot Rods and Racing Cars, soon to be scrapped. He would move, appropriately enough, to making a living selling cars. Finally, Argentine ace Leo Duranoña (b. 1938) was just passing through Charlton, crafting a handful of finely-hewn tales before moving on to DC and Warren… among others.

-RG