Wednesday, 22 August 2012

A Man for all Seasons....

JOE KUBERT 1926-2012

Sad that we have to report on the passing of another great talent of Comic Book Art;
JOE KUBERT who died on August 12 at age 85.

Kubert was born in eastern Poland in 1926 but, the area is now part of Ukraine since
WW2. The family emigrated to the USA the same year. Kubert starting drawing and writing
comics at an early age, probably 12. His first professional employment was at about 15 when he worked on a superhero character called VOLTON:

 (Holyoke Publishing "Catman Comics" #8, March 1942).

 In 1943, he began working with a DC Comics predecessor, All-American Comics producing
a superhero story "Seven Soldiers of Victory" in the  title "Leading Comics" and began his long association with the "Hawkman" character in 1945.

In the 1950's he became managing editor of St John's Publications in association with
Norman and Leonard Maurer. This group produced the first "3-D" comic books (red-green
anaglyph style) and it was here that Kubert introduced his character of a prehistoric world

 which went on to become a regular  comic book afterwards with St John's

 and a full color version later withDC:

Kubert's drawn characters were always invested with emotion, which appealed to readers of all ages and ensured his wide popularity as an artist.

In a 2004 interview with Gary Groth (The Comics Journal), Kubert describes his experience with the 3D comics:

GROTH: You were drafted into the Army from ’50 to ’52. I assume that was a dead period for you?
KUBERT: No, not so. I was working even while I was in the Army. Both for DC and Acme Comics, and for St. John publishing. While I was taking my basic training at Fort Dix, the Army had set me up painting the emblems on helmets and helmet liners. They put me in a separate building and I had my own studio. I never went out on bivouac because they had me painting helmets. I was also able to do my cartooning. After basic I was assigned as permanent personnel in Fort Dix. A year later I was shipped overseas to Germany.

GROTH: Fort Dix is in Georgia?
KUBERT: No, Fort Dix is in New Jersey.

GROTH: How far from Manhattan was that? Could you go into the city and pick up scripts?
KUBERT: It’s about 75 miles from New York. I was married shortly after I got drafted, and my wife would do the shuffling back and forth with the work. I had a Town and Country Chrysler car while I was in service. A convertible. I commuted from an apartment we had in Princeton to Fort Dix for the year that I was stationed there. Then, all permanent personnel had to see overseas duty. Again, I was lucky. Most of my outfit went to Korea. They shipped me to Germany. While in Germany I did work. I was in Special Services and I was able to set up my own studio in Sonthofen, a beautiful place in the southern part of Germany. I was able to continue my work, mailed it into the States.

GROTH: And that would have been for DC, I presume.
KUBERT: That was for DC. For Julie Schwartz.

GROTH: When did Julie Schwartz become your editor at DC?
KUBERT: When I got out of the Army, my friend Norm and I produced the 3-D comic book Mighty Mouse. I guess that’s what drove St. John Publishing out of business: the collapse of 3-D. St. John had turned everything into 3-D and based on the huge success of the first book, he decided to convert everything into three-dimensional comic books. Each succeeding sale was less than the one before. Proving that gimmicks don’t work forever. It was at the time that I got involved with DC and doing some stuff with Harvey Kurtzman and one or two other companies. Avon Publishing was one. Then I went up to DC again and that’s when I got the job working with Bob Kanigher. That must have been about ’55.

GROTH: 3-D died pretty quickly, didn’t it?

GROTH: And that was just because the market was flooded with it?
KUBERT: The publishers thought the gimmick would last forever so everybody tried to use the gimmick on everything. St. John took every book he had and converted them to 3-D. When the market was saturated with 3-D, it was so common, readers began to ask, “Hey, what about the story? What about the content?” The lack of content is what I think really the caused of the death of the 3-D.

GROTH: You created Tor at this time. And you retained your copyright. Now that suggests to me a certain amount of savvy on your part.
KUBERT: Luck, again, Gary. Pure, unadulterated luck. And nice guys that I dealt with. When I went to St. John with Tor, it was copyrighted under his name. It’s true we had the same financial arrangement, royalties and so forth, but it was still under the St. John banner. When the book went under because of the fiasco of 3-D, St. John died, literally. His son took over the publishing. They were putting out limited titles, none of which dealt with the comic books. I contacted the son and said, “Look, I’d appreciate it, since St. John is no longer publishing comic books, and since this was my creation and of no value to you now, I’d appreciate it if you’d turn the copyright back to me.” And he did.

GROTH: Simple as that.
KUBERT: Just like that. I still retain the letter I got from him, returning the copyright to me.

GROTH: Can I ask you what your arrangement with St. John was like — did they pay you per page or was there a royalty involved as well?
KUBERT: There was a budget and a royalty. As a matter of fact, the 3-D earnings enabled me to purchase my first house. I’ll never forget Norm and I leaving the office one day when we started to receive our first monies. And there was a lot of money coming in. On the way home — you have to understand. Norm lived just a little further west than where I lived — on our way home we stopped at a Buick place and each of us bought a brand new car! Never said anything to our wives. Just brought the cars home with us.

GROTH: How did the royalty work?
KUBERT: Based on the number of books that would sell, based on a percentage of the profits. Norm was really the business head. When I was doing books before the war, it was on a very informal basis. Especially because there was not a great deal of money involved, it really didn’t make a big difference. The only time one gets into trouble not planning properly is when you’re a success. But when things don’t go well, nobody cares. However, if money starts rolling in, everybody is looking for their little piece. Norm really had an excellent business head. He would analyze the contracts and would set things up on a much healthier business basis than we had ever done before.

GROTH: Do you have any idea whether royalties were routinely given out at that time? That doesn’t sound like a standard arrangement.
KUBERT: It was exceptional that a publisher would share royalties … except in very specific instances. After the figures came out on the book and they could make a determination of how many books sold, payments to us would be made. The first 3-D books sold a million and a quarter copies at 25 cents a shot, which was unheard of at that time, especially at that price. They had to go back to print again.

(more to follow).

Earth, 23.08.2012

Saturday, 16 June 2012

I am the boy that can enjoy..................


Today, June 16th, in Dublin, is "Bloomsday", the literary event of the year when tribute 
is paid to James Joyce and his most famous novel "Ulysses". Hundreds dress up as 
characters from Joyce's novel and traipse across the city following the journey of 
Leopold Bloom, the central character, mainly from pub to pub in various stages of 

 The artwork in this post is from a unique effort by artist Robert Berry to produce a graphic
novel from the text of Ulysses and make the original book accessible to a wider audience.
The artwork is high quality,  scripted from the original text, cinematic in many respects and
draws the readers imagination into the story with its evocative visuals of the Dublin of Joyce's
era while retaining the direction of Joyce's characters attention to the minutiae of everyday
life at the time and the world of their inner consciousness as well. Finely done.

I think he has succeeded very well. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Berry today in
"The Bailey" one of Dublin's noted pubs where his original artwork was on Exhibition
and it is with his kind permission that these pages from his graphic novel are reproduced 

As with the original novel, it's quite a substantial read and we can only show a small
part of the work here. For more details check out Robert Berry's blog (link on sidebar).

But, what about the "Invisibility" ?

Well, "see" for yourself:

Planetronix, Earth, 16th June 2012.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Not Frank merely...........

....but Quitely as well:

 Looking at those great Moebius pics I was reminded of  Scottish artist Frank Quietly ( pseudenom of Vincent Deighan) who sometimes displayed a similar style. Winner of several Eisner awards and best known for "All-Star Superman", "Flex Mentallo", "New X-men" and many others..

Quitely began working with the Scottish underground comics title “Electric Soup” in 1990. He wrote and drew “The Greens”, a parody of” The Broons” strip published by D.C. Thompson, the main publisher of children’s comics in Great Britain but, based in Scotland. Thompson are known for long-running British comic magazines “The Beano” and “The Dandy”  which appeared weekly and are still being published, as well as a wide range of British comics oriented towards school students both male and female and additional magazines of practical science and engineering topics which were popular in Britain.

Working on this book, Deighan adopted the pseudonym of Frank Quitely (a twist on the common British expression of "quite frankly"), as he didn’t want his family to know it was his work because of the racy content of the underground comics.

 “Electric Soup” was only distributed locally in Glasgow,until it was picked up by John Brown Publishing for national distribution in the UK.. This brought Quitely's work to the attention of “Judge Dredd Megazine”( a spin-off of iconic British Sci-Fi magazine “2000 AD”) editor, David Bishop, fast rising to prominence and being voted among the fans' favourite five artists in an end-of-year survey. By 1994 he had started work in various stories in Paradox Press's series of The Big Book of graphic novels, as well as work for Dark Horse Presents for Dark Horse Comics.

                        (2000 AD, started publication in 1977. This cover by Brian Bolland)

His big break into American comics was “Flex Mentallo”, a Doom Patrol spin-off written by fellow Glaswegian Grant Morrison for DC Comics' Vertigo imprint, in 1996. Quitely's work proved immensly popular and this launched him into more work for Vertigo. Initially he was put to work on strips for anthology titles such as Weird War Tales, and drew three issues of Jamie Delano's 2020 Visions, as well as various covers for DC. He later drew his first full length graphic novel, “Batman: The Scottish Connection”, with writer Alan Grant (in which “The Greens” make a cameo appearance). Quitely and Grant also worked on a one-shot titled “Lobo: The Hand-to-Hand Job” (later retitled as “It's a Man's World”). Although Quitely did all the pencils, the story was not released, supposedly due to reported nakedness of Lobo for at least half the issue, as well as other scenes of a  sexual nature.

Quitely and Morrison collaborated again,in 2000, on “JLA: Earth 2”. This graphic novel was met with a largely positive critical response, and later that year Quitely took over from Bryan Hitch as artist on The Authority, with Mark Millar as writer. This run proved to be highly controversial, and Quitely's art suffered censorship by DC Comics due mainly to the violent content of Millar's stories. In addition, the title was hit  by delays, due in part to Quitely's slow drawing speed and the time he took off to draw the final issue of Morrison's “The Invisibles”. Quitely left The Authority to draw “New X-Men”. Quitely also managed to find time to illustrate a Neil Gaiman-written story for the hardcover graphic novel, “Sandman: Endless Nights”.

(more to follow)

Planetronix, Earth,

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A Tribute to.......MOEBIUS

French artist Jean Giraud who signed himself as GIR and MOEBIUS died last Saturday, March 10, 2012 aged 73. Drawing and painting since age 16, the artist left an amazing legacy of illustration and comic book art in a striking individual style unlike any other.

Born in Paris, France, in 1938. At age 16, in 1955, he began his only technical training at the Arts Appliqués art school, where he started producing Western comics. He became close friends with another comic artist Jean-Claude Mézières. In 1956 he left art school to visit his mother in Mexico and he stayed there eight months, after which he returned to work full time as an artist.

  His famous work the Lieutenant Blueberry character, whose facial features were based on those of French dramatic movie actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, was created in 1963 by Charlier (script) and Giraud (drawings) for French magazine, Pilote, which quickly became its most popular figure. His adventures as told in the spin-off Western serial Blueberry, are possibly Giraud's best known work in his native France.The early Blueberry comics used a simple line drawing style and standard Western themes and imagery, but gradually Giraud developed a darker and grittier style inspired by the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and the dark realism of Sam Peckinpah. With the fifth album, "The Trail of the Navajos", Giraud established his own style, and after censorship laws were loosened in 1968 the strip became more explicitly adult, and also adopted a wider range of thematics. "Angel Face", the first Blueberry album penciled by Giraud after he had begun publishing science fiction as Moebius, was much more experimental than his previous Western work.

Giraud left the series in 1973 leaving the artwork to Colin Wilson, Michel Rouge and later Michel Blanc-Dumont for a few books. He returned to it in the following decade, producing many more very successful Blueberry stories, further increasing its already outstanding quality.

 When Charlier, Giraud's collaborator on Blueberry died in 1989, Giraud assumed responsibility for the scripting of the series. Blueberry has been translated into 15 languages, the first English translations by Marc Lofficier being published in 1970.  The original Blueberry series has spun off a prequel series called "Young Blueberry", and a sequel called "Marshall Blueberry".

The Moebius signature, which Giraud came to use for his science fiction and fantasy work, was introduced in 1963. In a satire magazine called Hara-Kiri, Moebius did 21 strips in 1963–64 and then disappeared for almost a decade.

 In 1975 he revived the Moebius signature, and with Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Philippe Druillet, and Bernard Farkas, he became one of the founding members of the comics art group "Les Humanoides Associes". Together they started the magazine Métal Hurlant, the magazine known in the English  as Heavy Metal . Moebius' famous serial The Airtight Garage and his groundbreaking Arzach both began in Métal Hurlant. In 1976 Metal Hurlant published The Long Tomorrow written by Dan O'Bannon.

Arzach is a wordless comic, created in a deliberate attempt to breathe new life into the comic genre which at the time was dominated by American superhero comics. It tracks the journey of the title character flying on the back of his pterodactyl through a fantastic world mixing medieval fantasy with futurism. Unlike most science fiction comics it has no captions, no speech balloons and no written sound effects. The wordlessness provides the strip with a sense of timelessness, setting up Arzach's journey as a quest for eternal, universal truths.

Comics, movie concepts and storyboards, Sci-fi, Fantasy were all part of Giraud's artistic endeavours and his death is a true loss to the world of popular art;

Moebius' design for He-Man costume in "Masters of The Universe"

More Moebius:

Planetronix, Earth,
March 14, 2012.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Superman 40's revisited......

British artist, Des Taylor, has produced a nice collection of Superman images based on the
look of the famed 1940's animation series produced by the Fleischer Studio for Paramount Pictures; the artwork was presented in public at the recent London Comicon:

Des Taylor's Captain America:


Fantastic young artist, don't you think?

Below; images from the original 1940's Fleischer cartoons:



                                       Print version of Fleischer Superman (DC Comics)  


The Fleischer  Superman cartoons are a series of seventeen animated Technicolor short films released by Paramount Pictures and based upon the comic book adventures of Superman which had debuted in 1938.

The pilot and first eight shorts were produced by Fleischer Studios from 1941 to 1942, while the final eight were produced by Famous Studios, a successor company to

Fleischer Studios,  and associate of Paramount, from 1942 to 1943. Superman was the final animated series initiated under Fleischer Studios, before Famous Studios officially took over production in May 1942.

 Fleischer used rotoscoping in a number of his later cartoons. Rotoscoping is an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame, for use in animated films. Originally, recorded live-action film images were projected onto a frosted glass panel and re-drawn by an animator. This projection equipment is called a rotoscope, although this device has been mainly replaced by computers in recent years.
The Fleischer studio's most effective use of rotoscoping was in these action-oriented Superman cartoons, in which Superman and the other animated figures displayed very realistic movement. The technique was invented by Max Fleischer, who used it in his series Out of the Inkwell starting around 1915, with his brother Dave Fleischer dressed in a clown outfit as the live-film reference for the character Koko the Clown. Max Fleischer patented the method in 1917.

 Although all the cartoons  are now  in the public domain, ancillary rights such as merchandising contract rights, as well as the original 35mm master elements, are owned today by Warner Bros. Animation. 

The fantastic thing is that all these fabulous cartoons are now available on DVD at very reasonable prices.

You can also see them here on YouTubes:

Planetronix, Earth,
March 13, 2012.