Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 26

« Welcome to the house of horrors! Brought to you by Grippo Denture Adhesive! »

A little while back, we made a brief detour through artist Samm Schwartz’s Silver Age Archie comics covers and touched upon the time he took the last bus out of Riverdale and headed for the greener pastures of New York… and an art director gig with Tower Publications.

Robert Klein and Michael Uslan, in their foreword to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives Volume 1 (DC Comics, 2002), stated: « With Samm Schwartz not very familiar with or comfortable editing super-hero adventure books, publisher Harry Shorten cut a dream deal with Wally Wood. Samm would handle the Tippy Teen titles as well as the Undersea Agent comic book and the war comic book called Fight the Enemy. He would be the managing editor of the company and its day-to-day office executive. »

So that’s that. Schwartz’s books, Tippy Teen (27 issues), Tippy’s Friends Go-go and Animal (11 issues) and Teen-in (4 issues), Undersea Agent (6 issues) and Fight the Enemy (3 issues) actually comprise the greater part of Tower’s output, though they’ve received far less attention since, were easily of comparable quality to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and its spinoffs. Certainly, the humour titles’ wit was a passel of notches above the Archie line’s, what with such heavyweights as Jack Mendelsohn on board*.

Interestingly, Tippy Teen was the first Tower material to be reprinted: in 1975, four issues of Vicki (a renamed Tippy) were issued by the *very* short-lived Atlas/Seaboard, featuring ugly new covers by Stan Goldberg. These issues rank among the most scarce and priciest Atlas releases. Most of the line’s books can still be easily found and acquired dirt cheap… but not Vicki.

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This is Tippy’s Friends Go-Go and Animal no. 7 (Dec. 1967, Tower). Cover art by Samm Schwartz.
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This is Penny Century no. 5 (June 1999, Fantagraphics). Cover art by Jaime Hernandez, with colours by Chris Brownrigg. Now, you won’t convince me that this cover isn’t a fond homage to Schwartz’s Hallowe’en-themed Go-Go cover… hey, maybe he *thought* this was a DeCarlo.

When I hear about Dan DeCarlo‘s would-be artistic influence on Jaime Hernandez, I can’t help but wince. If I squint real tight, I can kinda-sorta-maybe see a flicker of it in the wholesome sexiness of Betty and Veronica circa 1960-63, but no more. DeCarlo was soon reduced to such a state of hackdom that I can’t fathom how Jaime would have been driven to imitate and absorb the lessons of such hastily-executed, formulaic drivel. There, I’ve said it. On the other hand, Hank Ketcham, Steve Ditko, and, dammit, Mr. Schwartz’s touches are evident all over, though perfectly amalgamated into Jaime’s own singular vision. The way Schwartz and Hernandez draw clothing folds, the beautifully expressive comedic body language… it’s unmistakable.

And as a bonus, this helpful feature from Tippy’s Friends Go-Go and Animal no. 3 (June 1966, Tower), illustrated by Samm Schwartz. And yes, the boys can also come as beautiful victims.

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-RG

*though he was recycling and updating some of his old scripts.

Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 17

« I may turn up as flies on your ceiling. »

From the earliest issues of  Love & Rockets (circa the early 1980s), it was quite evident that Jaime Hernandez was a cartoonist of the first order.

At first, he kept the tone of the proceedings fairly jovial; but gradually, a little darkness crept into the ambiance. Not systematically, mind you: it was just the natural course of things. For all that, he didn’t sacrifice one bit of his light touch; he was just expanding his range, the simple process of his artistic maturation.

The first time he fully demonstrated that he could evoke the texture and the essence of terror… was a milestone. In 1989’s Flies on the Ceiling, he stunned readers with a dizzying, yet understated tale that lifted the veil on a murky chapter of Izzy’s past. In the telling, he adroitly looses a startling panoply of techniques and ingredients that this reader wasn’t nearly prepared for. A true brain-singer.

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Roman Catholic iconography, traditional Mexican beliefs and rituals, dead-on psychology, awful things hinted at in the margins. An excerpt from Flies on the Ceiling: the Story of Isabel in Mexico (Love & Rockets no. 29,  Fantagraphics) [ Read it here. ]
Jaime occasionally returns to the realm of the uncanny (we’ve featured him in a past countdown entry), but never treads the same path twice. A few further samples, if you will:

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Poor Ray has a singularly vivid nightmare. Hopefully, that’s all it is. This ghoulish entry appeared on the back cover of Penny Century no. 3 (Sept. 1998, Fantagraphics). Story and art by Jaime Hernandez, colours by Chris Brownrigg.

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La Bianca: a True Story appeared in the Gilbert Hernandez-edited all-ages anthology Measles no. 2 (Easter 1999, Fantagraphics.)
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Jaime in a spooky-lite register, for a 1994 Rhino Records spoken-word anthology featuring such titans of the macabre as Boris Karloff, Brother Theodore and Nelson Olmsted.

– RG

Don’t Renege on the Romance!

« Comics! If you wanna read,
read a newspaper like normal people. »

In the late 1980s, Deni Loubert’s Renegade Press published two issues of this neo-romance anthology. While the results were perhaps a smidge uneven, it was a worthy enterprise, a refreshing change from the often out of touch romance titles from earlier decades… RR’s feminine perspective wasn’t a token one and the boys were, for once, in the minority. Among the contributors: Lee Binswanger, Angela Bocage, Jackie Estrada, Colleen Doran, Krystine Kryttre, Cynthia Martin, Barb Rausch, Mary Wilshire… and some guys.

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This is Renegade Romance no. 2 (1988). Cover illustration by Jaime Hernandez, with colours by Trina Robbins.

– RG

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 16

« Oh, it’s just one of those endless dark roads where ghoul men seem to lurk at night. »

Gee, thanks, Penny. At least it’s a shortcut. Jaime Hernandez makes sparing usage of the explicitly supernatural in his work, and he still likes to keep you guessing… but the goosebumps are real, all right.

In « Chiller! », Maggie lets her imagination run wild while driving home on the 696, « The Horror Highway », as Penny Century flippantly puts it.

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This is Penny Century #2 (Fantagraphics Books Inc., March, 1998.) Cover and just about everything else by Jaime Hernandez; “Computer colorist: Chris Brownrigg.
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Maggie and the Ghoul Man go way back, thanks to those spine-tinglers Izzy told her when they were lil’ kids. And hey, there’s that lady from Black Sabbath again! A taste of our cover tale, the aptly-titled « Chiller! »

– RG