All Men Are Brothers: Henri Dunant’s Croix-Rouge and the Geneva Convention

« When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn’t out collecting for the Red Cross. » — Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry (1971)

As is often the case, I had something else in the pipeline for this week… but then I came across a beautiful biography of a wise man whose birthday was just around the corner. Now if the other guy (he’s 88) can just hold on and stay alive another week, things’ll be just fine.

In these riotous days when acts and thoughts of kindness and compassion are being denounced as political and partisan, we would do well to remember the life and example of International Red Cross founder, Henri Dunant ( Jean-Henri Dunant, May 8, 1828 in Geneva, Switzerland). Read on…

To Treasure Chest’s credit, they’re not being tribal or sectarian at all: Dunant wasn’t even Catholic, but rather Calvinist.

As you can bear witness, Reed Crandall (1917-1982) was not the type of artist to cut corners. Unlike some of his peers who could not be bothered to properly draw, say, details of background, period or costume, Crandall lavished attention and care to each and every element, yet without overpowering the narrative. His pages aren’t mere sequences of panels: they’re smartly composed for smoothness of flow and tonal balance.

Though nowadays his fame rests largely upon his brief but fruitful association with EC Comics (1953-56) and its echo at Warren Magazines (1964-1973), the greater bulk of his work was produced for Quality Comics (1941-1956) and for the catholic comics anthology Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact (1960-1972). All Men Are Brothers was, as it happens, his first work to be published in Treasure Chest.

Here’s a tongue-in-cheek but revealing snippet from a profile of Crandall that appeared in Creepy no. 10 (Aug. 1966, Warren):

« Combined with Reed’s fantastic drawing ability and mastery of rendering technique, is the rare ability to take any subject or setting and impart to it a complete sense of realism and authenticity. This, along with the fact that he is one of the most genial and unassuming men in the comics field, has earned him the high regard of his fellow artists, in addition to a growing circle of reader-admirers.

Asked about his ambitions, Reed replied: “To live in an ivory tower and to try to learn to draw and paint, also to pursue unendurable pleasure indefinitely prolonged.” It looks to us as though the drawing and painting are pretty far along already, so surely the ivory tower and prolonged pleasure can’t be too far behind… and in our opinion, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy! »

As for writer John Randolph, who knows? He scripted twenty or so non-fiction pieces for TC between 1955 and 1962, then appears to have moved on. It must be noted that he understood the comics medium, as his work (often with Crandall) was well-paced and not overwritten, the words and visual in steady harmony. Many a writer, lacking the restraint and finesse required for the collaborative pas de deux of comics, tends to crowd out the illustrator, box him in (j’accuse, Al Feldstein!) or pointlessly restate what’s right there in the visuals (Et tu, True Believer?). Add to that the difficulty of elegantly condensing a life or career in six pages… as in this case. Take a bow, Mr. Randolph, whoever you are.

All Men Are Brothers originally appeared in Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact vol. 16 no. 7 (Dec. 8, 1960, Geo. A. Pflaum); cover by Crandall.
Crandall is most closely associated with the long-running Quality (and DC thereafter) character of Blackhawk (a Will Eisner co-creation). This is Modern Comics no. 78 (Oct. 1948, Quality). Between the operas, musicals, and films, John Luther Long’s Madame Butterfly sure gets around! Read the issue here!
More orientalism, but what a cover! This is Police Comics no. 105 (Apr. 1951, Quality). This title was the former and first home of longtime headliner Plastic Man, who bowed out with issue 102. Superheroes, you’ll recall, suffered fading popularity by the early 1950s. Read the issue here!
While Crandall arrived a bit late to the EC party, he made his lasting mark. Versatile as he was, I’d argue he was most in his element on this swashbuckling title, one of EC’s last-ditch, doomed attempts to placate the censors. Wally Wood drew the ship on the left, a recurring element of the cover layout. EC colourist Marie Severin (1929-2018) truly deserves a long round of applause for the sublime job she performed here. This is Piracy no. 3 (Feb.-Mar. 1955, EC).

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: Octopus Cameo*

*No, I am not referring to the popular company that lets customers hire favourite ‘stars’ to record personalized videos; a month ago, I didn’t even know this existed, and my life has not been improved by this knowledge.

Sometimes an octopus stays politely in the background, waving hello shyly from behind a rock, or waiting for a dance invitation like a bashful kid at a high-school dance (do they still have these?) I never know where to use these covers; their tentacled nature is undeniable, but their octopuses are so peripheral to the main story that they tend to be overlooked when I am in search of a unifying theme for a post.

cam·e·o/ˈkamēˌō/

a small character part in a play or movie, played by a distinguished actor or a celebrity.

a piece of jewellery, typically oval in shape, consisting of a portrait in profile carved in relief on a background of a different colour.

I’m not sure this counts as a “portrait in profile”, but I will happily accept it as a cameo.

All right, on to the comics…

Mutt & Jeff no. 18 (Summer 1945, All-American). Cover is by Sheldon Mayer. So the octopus has only four tentacles, but he’s a cutie!

Mutt & Jeff have already been part of a Tentacle Tuesday line-up, but the main interest here is Sheldon Mayer, a big favourite at WOT. Don’t believe me? Set your orbs on Yesterday’s Tomorrow’s Teenagers: Sheldon Mayer’s Sugar and Spike.

Life with Archie. no 41 (September 1965, Archie). Cover by Bob White.

Co-admin RG rounded up quite a few of his favourite Bob White covers in Bob White, Forgotten Archie Artist and More Bob White, Lost Archie Artist – I highly recommend to have a look at both posts!

Treasure Chest vol. 22 no. 9 (December 1966, George A. Pflaum). Cover by Reed Crandall. This cover is of course dedicated to Jules Verne.

Treasure Chest, a long-running catholic publication we mention routinely though not too often (for details, see co-admin RG’s Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 24), runs the gamut from informative to fun, sometimes both at the same time. There are occasional clunkers (like the admittedly rather entertaining multi-part story I am currently reading about Godless Communism), but overall it’s well worth picking up, should some issue catch your eye.

Can you spot the octopus, right there in the window? He’s all set to escape, I think. Bonus: bats! As the top says, this is a strip from June 1970, scripted by Brant Parker and Johnny Hart, with art by Parker. These two have created The Wizard of Id in 1964, so this strip has been around for quite a while…

I originally had in mind happy, frolicking octopuses for this post, so here is one instance of just that. As a matter of fact, his smile is somewhat unnatural and more of a rictus, but I don’t want to be picky…

Bunny no. 14 (March 1970, Harvey). Cover by Hy Eisman. More (dubious) puns than one can shake a stick at… it’s almost like reading a Piers Anthony novel.

I’ll quote from Don Markstein’s excellent summary of this hare-brained comic series: « Bunny was aggressively, even obsessively trendy. Even at the time, it seemed to lay on the love beads and “psychedelic” display lettering a bit thick. […] But she owed her painfully discordant Sixties-ness to nobody. […] It’s as if her entire raison d’être was to parody the decade of student activism and radical youth fashions, even while living it. To make matters worse, this teenage girl comic was edited, written and drawn by middle-aged men who were probably, like most middle-aged men, unable to communicate with their own daughters. To vary the dialogue, in which everything that wasn’t “groovy” was “outasight”, they made up their own slang. Things could also be “zoovy” or “zoovers” or even, in extreme cases, “yvoorg” — which was obviously “groovy” spelled backward, but no hint was ever given as to how it might be pronounced. »

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Educational Cephalopods

Today we bring you a selection of edifying cartons that will (hopefully) teach you something about our friends the cephalopods. Like how to check that you really are looking at an octopus, for instance: like with most things in life, just ask!

Cartoon published in Mad Magazine no. 486 (February 2008) The author, in all senses of the word, is our beloved Al Jaffee.

I like the idea of learning from comics, but stories written specially to teach children (or the occasional adult) moral lessons or scientific facts often end up incredibly boring, insultingly condescending, or painfully obvious. However, (gently) throw an octopus into the mix, and I’ll be willing to consider it!

Of course sometimes the octopus is the student, albeit an undressed one.

Treasure Chest Vol. 21 no. 4 (October 21st, 1965). The cover is by Pete Hironaka, born in California to Japanese parents. Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact was a comic book series that was Catholic-oriented and featured inspirational Christian stories and such, but also ran stories about science, history, and just plain adventure, emphasizing values like teamwork, honesty, etc. throughout. No, it’s not as boring as it sounds! Most of the stories weren’t at all preachy, just kind to their characters, which is something I really appreciate. The title was distributed throughout parochial schools from 1946 to 1972.

Are there tentacles inside? Well, yes!

I am slightly disturbed by how angry Murphy is at the octopus’ supposed ignorance (especially since he’s so blatantly wrong). Art by Pete Hironaka.
I wish octopus lobotomy wasn’t on the menu, but what can you do…

On the topic of classrooms – octopuses have to write essays, too, just like any old student Joe. It’s a bit hard to hold a pencil with a tentacle, though.

An illustration by Lynda Barry, 2018.

I’ve never watched SpongeBob SquarePants, because the idea of a protagonist who’s some sort of dumb-looking kitchen sponge (I’m sorry, “sea sponge”) has never appealed to me. It may be brilliant, for all I know. However, whenever I encounter a SpongeBob comic, I’m always surprised at how good the stories are. Given that the calibre of some contributing artists and writers (Ramona Fradon, Tentacle Tuesday Master Hilary Barta, WOT favourite Stephen R. Bissette, Tony Millionaire of Many Tentacles, the aforementioned Al Jaffee, Michael T. Gilbert… come on, it’s like a who’s who of comics talent), this is actually less astonishing than one might expect – and the fact that Stephen Hillenburg, the creator, managed to attract such talent speaks well of him. Another fact, namely that that he worked as a teacher of marine science at the Ocean Institute of Dana Point (California) and decided to create an educational comic book depicting the life of anthropomorphic sea creatures, confirms that he’s one cool (sea) cucumber.

A cephalopod installment of Flotsam & Jetsam, scripted by Maric Wicks and illustrated by Nate Neal. This page was published in SpongeBob Comics no. 9 (June 2012, United Plankton Pictures)

A final educational strip, although to be perfectly honest with you, a tad on the boring side. Mark Trail was created by Ed Dodd an eternity ago (which is to say, April 1946). Dodd was a national parks guide and (quite naturally, one would hope) an environmentalist, so his syndicated newspaper strip featured a lot of environmental disasters, mostly orchestrated by human hands (but the evil guys often received a satisfying punch in the mouth from Trail, a nature writer-cum-photographer – if only it were this easy in real life!)

This strip is from August 16th, 2020.

After passing through a few pairs of hands, the strip landed at the doorstep or artist James Allen, who began by assisting on the Sunday page in 2010, and formally took over in 2014, to continue until 2020, at which juncture he left his position by mutual agreement with the syndicate. After some years of reruns, Mark Trail is now continuing once again, this time with artist Jules Rivera at the helm.

I admire Dodd’s art and plotting, and in my opinion the others who have continued the strip in recent years (from 1978 and onwards) lack his doigté and his talent to various degrees. For example, take a look at the original art for the Sunday strip of September 25, 1955:

Clearly drawn by someone who loved and understood animals. Art by Ed Dodd.

Of course it doesn’t help that the recent Sundays had garish (by my assessment) colours. For a more detailed story of Mark Trail, head over to this Daily Cartoonist article.

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 24

« Catholicism is not a soothing religion. It’s a painful religion. We’re all gluttons for punishment. » — Madonna Ciccone

Here’s a seasonal goodie from gag cartoonist Marvin Townsend (1915–1999) and his adorable “Ali” pantomime strip, which appeared, beginning in 1962 in, of all places, the Catholic comic book anthology Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact (Geo. A. Pflaum Publisher), distributed to parochial school students between 1946 and 1972.

Originally published in Treasure Chest vol. 21, no. 4 (Oct. 21, 1965). For more Townsend in a spooky vein, look no further than this post from our previous countdown.

Denominational and religious concerns aside, Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, a publication generally avoided like any of the Ten Plagues of Egypt by your average comic book fan, was, wouldn’t you know it, chock full of excellent work by the likes of Bernard Baily, Fran Matera, Bob Powell, Reed Crandall, Joe Sinnott, Graham Ingels, Joe Orlando, Murphy Anderson, Jim Mooney, Paul Eismann… and these are some of the artists. The material was also engagingly written and often truly captivating. And they weren’t above paying a bit of lip service to that ol’ Pagan Holiday, Hallowe’en.

This was one in a highly-entertaining series of studies of classroom “types” by Frank Huffman. It appeared in Treasure Chest vol. 22, no. 12 (Feb. 9, 1967).
A piece by E. B. Wagner, this one saw print in Treasure Chest vol. 23, no. 4 (Oct. 19, 1967). Note the Leroy Lettering!
The back cover of Treasure Chest vol. 22, no. 4 (Oct. 20, 1966, Geo. A. Pflaum). Artist unknown, regrettably. Love that stylish auto-gyro witch!

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: C’est du méli-mélo

Tentacle Tuesdays have been a fixture of this blog since the very beginning (which is to say September, 2017). I am not about to run out of material, but over the years I do tend to accumulate odd and ends that don’t neatly fit into a theme. Though I know of at least one faithful reader of this blog who doesn’t like it much when a TT entry is all over the place, hopefully there’s something in here for everyone. Just consider it the equivalent of spring cleaning in my archives!

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Panel from Treasure Chest Vol. 19 no. 6 (Nov. 21, 1963). Written by Dave Hill and illustrated by Fran Matera. Everybody in this panel is adorable, but the octopus is especially fetching, I think.

TentacleMischief
A cartoon by Rowland Wilson, from Playboy‘s June, 1980 issue. Several tons of meat are going to need a lot of butter. It would be much more economical for the creature to eat the astronaut!

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The author of this charming cartoon is Marvin Townsend, the subject of a whole Halloween Countdown post by co-admin RG. That’s a bigger honour in this parts than being a Tentacle Tueday master, as TTs come around once a week, and the Halloween count-down takes place once a year (to be more precise, for 31 consecutive days and not one day more).

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This tentacled-monster-pothole was dreamed up by Richard Thompson and appeared in his Poor Richard’s Almanac. It would make being stuck in traffic jams a lot more entertaining, don’t you think?

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Customer Service Wolf is a hilarious comic strip by Australian illustrator Anne Barnetson, who has worked in a bookstore for long enough for have encountered all kinds of annoying customers. Anyone who has toiled in retail will know that most people are insane, but a bookstore is a backdrop for a very special kind of lunacy.

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Ruben Bollings Tom the Dancing Bug can be pleasantly surreal. If there are tentacles involved, so much the better!

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I’ve been following British sculptress Caroline McFarlane-Watts and her company Tall Tales Productions for a while. She makes incredibly detailed sculptures of all sorts of things, most notably of witches and their ménage (take a discreet peek at their activities on her website, but  be careful, they’re cantankerous old bats). McFarlane-Watts also draws, sometimes comics. This pink (take my word for it) octopus is a witch’s best pal!

Thanks for sticking around while I got things off my chest!

∼ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 27

« Trent’s home under th’bed! »

Marvel’s Dynamite Magazine ersatz, Pizzazz (15 issues, 1977-79), despite ratcheting its model’s celebrity coverage by several notches, while providing the House of Ideas’ usual rabid circle-jerking… wasn’t all bad. For one thing, there was its inspired recycling of Harvey Kurtzman’s splendid Hey Look! one-pagers from the 1940s, lovingly recoloured and presented with painstaking attribution. Fan on board!

And when Pizzazz reached beyond the Bullpen for ink slingers, it often struck paydirt, landing a heady mix of established and burgeoning talent, such as Jon Buller, John Holstrom, Bobby London, Ken Weiner (aka Ken Avidor), Rick Meyerowitz… and Graham Hunter.

PizzazzHalloweenA
The original caption: « Have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN! PIZZAZZ SAYS THANKS… Look at this picture. If you’ve ever written us, you may find your name in it. If not, take a look next month, or a few months after.PIZZAZZ says a big, warm THANK YOU to everybody who’s written us. And KEEP THE MAIL COMING – some month maybe your name will be in the picture! » The feature ran for the final seven issues of the magazine (including a gorgeous Xmas double spread.) This was Pizzazz no. 13 (October, 1978, Marvel). Say, is that your name in there?

Hunter was a bafflingly brilliant pick: his career in comics, as far as I know, consists in the main of a string (1946-47) of one-pagers featuring early soft drink product placement shill/mascot, the prosaically-named Pepsi, the Pepsi-Cola Cop. Guess what he was pushing!

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This is Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact vol. 17 no. 4 [310] (October 26, 1961). The issue features TC’s strident screed This Godless Communism, illustrated by EC veteran Reed Crandall. It still sucks. I said they were entertaining, but I draw the line at reactionary politics. Read it for yourselfright here, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Of greater interest is the handful of covers Hunter created for the surprisingly entertaining Catholic comic book Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, and this is what must have landed him the Pizzazz gig, a couple decades down the pike.

Nailing this sort of humorous bird’s-eye-view crowd action scene requires some rather astonishing artistic chops. Perspective, proportions, movement, comic exaggeration… and that’s just the basics. This sort of thing was popularized by Dudley Fisher’s Right Around Home strip, which débuted in 1938.

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A Right Around Home Sunday from 8-20-39 (King Features Syndicate). Here’s a fine, informative article about the strip, from the indispensable comics mag Hogan’s Alley.

– RG

“Take that, you ugly cow!” – Tentacle Tuesday takes a stroll through the animal kingdom

Before midnight strikes and this Tentacle Tuesday waves us a teary goodbye, I shall endeavour to demonstrate that octopuses are vicious, grabby little miscreants who, in their quest for food and fun, don’t discriminate between species!

Oh, what the hell, I’ll just give three examples.

Here’s an octopus attacking a duck (to be more precise, a super duck, which is nevertheless gastronomically similar to its plainer cousin):

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Super Duck Comics no. 5, Fall 1945, published by Archie Comics back when they were MLJ. Cover by Al Fagaly.

And here’s one attacking a gorilla… err, sorry, ape.

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This is Planet of the Apes no. 15 (December 1975). Art by Bob Larkin.

It’s perhaps worth mentioning that French auteur Pierre Boulle wrote “La planète des singes” in 1963; the latter was translated as “Monkey Planet” in the UK and as “Planet of the Apes” in the US. (For once I’m with the Americans; “ape” sounds considerably more threatening than the childish “monkey”.) Marvel put out both a magazine (29 issues) and a comic book (12 issues) in the 70s – though frankly, there are so many comic tie-ins for this franchise, that I have nor the knowledge nor the desire to figure out what’s what or when or by who it was published. I’ll stick with the “tentacles, girl in bikini, pretty art” bit, though.

And here’s our last scene for today, an octopus attacking a bear. Actually, on the cover it’s unclear whether it’s attacking or protecting the bear, but having read the story, I can assure you that the pink cephalopod has bear meat on its mind.

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Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact, vol. 10, no. 14 (March 19, 1955). The cover story, Pearl Divers, is scripted by Eric St. Clair and illustrated by Paul Eismann.

Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact was a Catholic comic book series distributed in parochial schools from 1946 to 1972… surprisingly, it’s often lots of fun, and occasionally within its pages one stumbles onto the work of a well-known artist like Murphy Anderson.

So whatever anthropomorphic species you may be, remember, don’t get your tuchus too close to the grabby tentacle of a hungry cephalopod!

~ ds