Tagged: Hal Foster

Mike Gold: Jack Kirby’s Moxie

Next Monday marks the 100th anniversary of Jack Kirby’s birth. For one horrible moment, let us consider the following question: what if that birth never happened?

No Captain America. No Fourth World. Probably no romance comics. No Challengers of the Unknown. No Kamandi. No “Marvel Age of Comics.”

Think about that last one for a moment. The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Hulk, Nick Fury, Thor, Silver Surfer, Black Panther… most likely, they would not have existed; certainly not as the astonishing successes they were.

I will avoid suggesting the American comic book medium would have disappeared decades ago if not for Jack Kirby, although a case could be made for that argument. If Marvel Comics didn’t happen the way it happened, it’s possible that direct sales to comic book stores would not have happened, and that little phenomenon certainly has kept this racket alive.

Nobody put more power, more energy, more excitement onto a single page. Even when he dialogued his own work when he created the Fourth World for DC Comics – and, to be fair, his dialogue was damn close to self-parody – his story, his concepts and his ability to deliver sheer entertainment were so strong the reader would forgive his few shortcomings. In fact, after a couple panels, we usually didn’t notice.

From time to time, artists of subsequent generations would be accused of being too “Kirby-esque.” Well, all artists (including writers, musicians, filmmakers, etc.) tend to reveal their influences, particularly in their early stuff. In comics, there always has been a fine line between influence and imitation. And that applies to Jack himself: the visage of Etrigan the Demon, first published in 1972, bears very close resemblance to a mask worn by Prince Valiant on Christmas Day 1937, drawn by the great Hal Foster. And Jack always was upfront about the source material.

I look at this “influence” thing a bit differently. Instead of accusing an artist of being Kirby-esque, I wonder why some of the others are not. In the early days of their careers, a little Jack Kirby moxie would have helped guide them to their own distinctive abilities.

Sometimes I wonder if some later generation of comics talent will not know of Jack Kirby’s work. I have met many a young’un who was sadly unfamiliar with the work of Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Wally Wood, Jack Cole… to name but a few.

I need not worry. If there is one person who has an indelible legacy in the comic art medium, it is Jack Kirby.

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Plug number one: I will be at Wizard World Chicago starting tomorrow, and I will be on two panels: one discussing the bombastic Doctor Who convention of 1982, the first major big-time Who show in the States. For three hot, sweaty days Chicago’s Congress Hotel looked like the San Diego Convention Center on steroids. The other panel will be a tribute to legendary artist Jerry Robinson, on occasion of the publishing of Jerry’s last memoir, Jerry and The Joker. Both panels are on Saturday.

 •     •     •     •     • 

Plug number two: Martha Thomases said it best last Friday, and since I’m about to drive off to the above-mentioned convention I shall re-appropriate her words:

Just a reminder: If you haven’t already, get thee to this Kickstarter page and pledge some money for Mine! the anthology book ComicMix is producing to benefit Planned Parenthood. You might not know it from the Fake News Media, but Planned Parenthood provides necessary health care to millions of people of all ages and genders. In some communities, it is the only place where women can receive pre-natal and post-natal care. In some communities, it is the only place where poor women can get vital cancer screenings. In some communities, it is the only health clinic available, for women and men.

You might also want to pledge so you can get a cool book, with stories by Neil Gaiman, Trina Robbins, Rachel Pollack, Becky Cloonan, Stuart Moore, Mark Said, Amber Benson, Louise Simonson, Jody Houser… and Mike Gold… and Martha Thomases!

Ed Catto’s Mitzi McCoy Summer Fling!

MM 110748 300 debut episode

mm-promo3-ccWhat’s more delightful than a summer fling? You meet someone new, get fascinated and before long you’re spending every moment under the hot summer sun together. This summer’s almost over, but there’s still time for one last fling. Get ready to meet Mitzi McCoy…and her creator’s grandson, Brian Collins.

Mitzi McCoy was a lovely strip that debuted in the late forties. Created by illustrator Kreigh Collins, the series opens in the small midwestern town of Freedom, where readers meet the strong willed heiress Mitzi McCoy.

In her first adventure, she summons her resolve to tell her obnoxious fiancée to “get lost.” Mitzi had discovered her fiancée was burdened with debt, and to make matters worse, he had bragged to a gossip columnist that he was “marrying money.” On top of all that, the scoundrel also included a photo of Mitzi in a bikini to accompany the story. Having learned a tough lesson, Mitzi throws herself, and her local newspaper chums, into a series of small town adventures.

The strip is visually stunning. Through the lens of 2016, Kreigh Collin’s artwork is like a lovechild of early Frank Frazetta mixed with a whimsical dash of Dave Stevens. Mitzi McCoy reminds me a lot of Frazetta’s comic strip Johnny Comet, recently collected and published by Vanguard. Each panel is solid, tight and imaginative with expressive figures, gorgeous design and engaging settings.

Kreigh Collns at EaselMitzi and her pals would face off against counterfeiters, art forgers and blackmailers amongst the rolling hills of small town America. As the quintessential “girl next door”, Mitzi offered many opportunities for Kreigh Collins to show off his art skills with demure glamour shots.

But as just as quickly as she came onto the scene, Mitzi was whisked away.

After only two years, artist Kreigh Collins shifted gears. He ended Mitzi McCoy and started an historical adventure strip called Kevin the Bold.

It would be fair to assume Hal Foster’s classic Prince Valiant inspired this new strip. In fact, Kreigh complained to his editor at the NEA syndicate how unfair it was that Foster was able to run Prince Valiant as a full-page strip, when Kevin the Bold was cut to a half page. He compared his concern to boxing with Hal Foster, but with Foster secretly punching with an iron bar in his boxing glove.

In the last years of his career Kreigh would change the strip once more. It became Up Anchor, a nautical strip about a family on a boat. It mirrored his own time living on a schooner with his wife and two youngest children.

Mitzi on a Swing panelKreigh’s family took his illustration work in stride. It seems that the family didn’t consider his newspaper strips that big a deal, although Kreigh did enjoy a certain amount of local celebrity. After his passing, Kreigh’s studio had drifted into a state of disrepair. Kreigh’s widow donated many of the strips, proofs and original artwork to others.

But one day graphic designer Brian Collins, Kreigh’s grandson, fell hard for Mitzi McCoy. He didn’t know much about his grandfather’s career or the comic strips he created but he was intrigued when he starting seeing a few of the strips.

It turns out Brian’s father and grandfather weren’t very close. So growing up there wasn’t that much interaction. But Brian had caught the bug and wanted to learn more. As a self-confessed collector, he worked hard to acquire the old strips. He hunted down several old strip clippings from collectors and his uncle would also supply him with surviving treasures whenever they were found.

Perhaps, as a graphic designer, he shares a bit of his grandfather’s talent and appreciation for illustration and narrative adventure.

Mitzi McCoy Sailing PanelBrian has, in essence, become the champion of this grandfather’s work and legacy. He maintains the blog, Kreigh’s Comics with an outstanding collection of strip samples and commentary.

Brian’s now exploring several options to produce a collection of his grandfather’s work. Fans of Geek Culture know that there are so many wonderful and innovative new comics produced each month, but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying the incredible reprints of classic material offered by publishers like IDW, Hermes, Vanguard, Fantagraphics and Canton Street. It’s become a new Golden Age for enjoying Golden Age work.

It’s surprising Kreigh Collin’s work isn’t better known. Maybe the syndicate didn’t support it enough. Maybe the circulation wasn’t strong enough. Regardless, in these fleeting days of summer, there’s still time for you to fall in love with Mitzi McCoy.

 

Ed Catto: Strip Tease – Thomas Yeates, Prince Valiant & Co.

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Yeates Prince ValiantA few years ago when I had the honor to moderate the Joe Kubert panel at New York Comic Con, I was pleasantly surprised by how many great stories one of the panelists shared.

These tales were spun by Thomas Yeates, one of the first graduates of the Kubert School. Yeates has enjoyed an extraordinary career, drawing iconic characters iconic from Tarzan to Swamp Thing, Conan to Captain Action and even Dracula. And there are so many more.

I still enjoy his brilliant work each weekend when I pick up the Sunday paper and read Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant.

Recently, I caught up with Thomas Yeates and chatted about his recent efforts.

Ed Catto: You’ve been illustrating the Prince Valiant weekly comic strip for some time now. How’s it all going?

Thomas Yeates: Basically it’s great; I’m very fortunate to have landed this job. Particularly working with writer Mark Schultz, who likes hearing my story ideas, which makes it a lot more fun.

EC: What are some the challenges you find as opposed to traditional comics or illustrations?

TY: The main problem is the reproduction. I’ve had to limit the line work to accommodate a weird registration problem that we see today. Comic books have much better printing. The format differs from paper to paper, but I’ve been able to deal with that.

Tarzan BeckoningEC: The longevity of Prince Valiant is astounding. Why do you think it endures?

TY: Well the main credit for that goes to Hal Foster who created, wrote and illustrated this Sunday only strip. And, of course, the hard work of those who followed Foster. He set the bar so incredibly high that all of us who’ve continued the strip have tried our best to maintain that level of quality. At least that’s what I think.

EC: Who’s your favorite character in the Prince Valiant cast?

TY: Val himself. His wife Aleta is wonderful too. It’s much better when there are women in action adventure stories. And of course Gawain is always a kick.

EC: I’ve heard rumors that your mini-series, Tarzan: The Beckoning, first published by Malibu in the 90s, is going to be reprinted. Can you tell me more about that?

TY: Yes. We just finished working on that for about nine months, Dark Horse, two assistants and myself. We fixed the coloring, I added a little new art and tweaked the story. There were production problems in the original version so the new collection will be much better, including pages put back in order that were out of order in the Malibu version. I think it will be out in the fall.

EC: One of the issues Tarzan: The Beckoning dealt with was the slaughter of elephants and the ivory trade. We see that countries and organizations are still struggling with this issue, as evidenced by the crushing and burning of ivory. Do you keep up with the issue and what insights might you have?

TY: That’s a terrible situation. “When will we ever learn?” as the song says. Yes, it’s ironic that just when The Beckoning is being reprinted with its fight against the ivory trade theme we find elephants being slaughtered for their tusks again, just like when I originally created the story some 24 years ago. Yes, I follow the issue and had input from various experts back when I wrote it. One of them, from the Environment Investigation Agency, came back and contributed an update on the situation for the new Dark Horse edition.

Prince ValiantEC: In The Beckoning, your version of Tarzan’s wife Jane was exceedingly lovely. Can you tell me a little bit about how you envision these characters?

TY: Well I was quite taken by Maureen O’Sullivan who played Jane in the Weissmuller films of the 1930s so she was my inspiration there. Plus Burroughs descriptions of Jane, and Russ Manning always gave her such beauty and dignity and I wanted to maintain that.

EC: I also seem to recall that you snuck a few of your other characters into that mini-series. Is that correct?

TY: Yes, I do that sometimes to keep myself amused. In the crowd scenes there are environmental activist friends I knew then and The Timespirits as well.

EC: Will you be at San Diego Comic-Con again this year?

TY: Yes.

EC: What keeps you coming back every year?

TY: Good question. Why the hell do I keep going? Recently because my daughter Olivia likes to go with me.

By the way I should mention there’s a new reprint of all the Zorro newspaper strips I did with Don McGregor and Tod Smith coming out from a German publisher <at that same time>, including an English language version.

EC: Yes, Uwe Weber filled me in. The German independent publisher “Classic Heroes” Is launching two exclusive Zorro-Dailies Editions in July 2016. The books will be available only thru direct orders at zorrodailies.com or classicheroes.de . He also explained that fans can find the complete information on these two beautiful books, and all the various projects on the ThomasYeates.com site.
EC: What keeps you going as an artist every day?

TY: What keeps me going as an artist every day is another good question, Ed. I have to make a living and this is what I know how to do. A great script is always inspiring too. I’m still trying to figure out how the great artists I love, like Foster, did it. Sometimes that challenge keeps me going.

EC: Ha! I think there’s a lot of us who to try figure out how you do it, Thomas! Thanks so much for your time and insights.

(Editor’s Note: Prince Valiant by Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates, is available online along with over 100 other current and vintage King Features comic strips – The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Popeye, Flash Gordon, Buz Sawyer, Johnny Hazard, Zippy The Pinhead and a slew of others at www.comicskingdom.com. Tell ‘em ComicMix sent you, and then ask yourself why you’re talking to your computer.)