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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Comics Legend Lou Fine

(A Suspended Animation "classic" from 1998.)

His comic book career was brief and intense, but the incredible art of master cartoonist Lou Fine is still imitated today.

Very soon after the first, faltering steps of the art form, Louis Fine became an artist for the famous Eisner-Iger comic book "shop". Because comic books were new and the only artists and writers experienced in the similar field of comic strips were financially inaccessible, young artists and writers were literally hired off of the street by shops in the 1930s. They worked under the watchful eye of managers in an assembly line where one penciled, a second inked and a third lettered pages that were passed from table to table as each step was completed. Art was hurried, often crude and full of the raw energy and excitement of creation.

Lou Fine's reality-based art quickly won him recognition from readers. In a field where anatomy, perspective, visual pacing and architecture were often approximated, Fine's dynamic and more accurate art separated him from inexperienced or uninterested peers. He is best remembered for a stylistic thin, scratchy line and powerful page design. In particular, his dynamic covers are still imitated.

Fine's best known characters were all super heroes, and include the diminutive Dollman, The Flame and Uncle Sam.

Fine was possibly the best artist in the infancy of comic books.

Lou Fine's comic book work includes: Sheena (Fiction House '38 -'41); Dollman, Black Condor, Uncle Sam, Quicksilver, Hercules, Great Defender, Neon The Unknown, The Ray (Quality, '99- '43); Flame (Fox, '39-'42) and Rocketman (Dynamic '41). He also worked for Henle and Wham-O.

Fine ghosted The Spirit newspaper insert (1940--'43), worked on the comic strips Taylor Woe ('49), Adam Ames ('59) and Peter Scratch ('65). From late 1960s to 1971, he worked on Space Conquerors in Boys' Life magazine.

The art of Lou Fine is highly recommended.

Some older titles are expensive and difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are best sources.

Prices vary; shop around for the best values.

- Reviewed by Michael Vance

(Click here for a related piece on another site.)

Graphic Classics: Mark Twain/139 pgs. and $11.95, Eureka Publications

Various artists and writers - sold at book and comics shops, and at

This collection adapts several of the lesser works of American novelist, Mark Twain, and lesser is meant as a pejorative.

“Tom Sawyer Abroad” was written when Twain was in financial straits, and decided to cash in on the fame of one of his best known characters. It is the longest piece offered, features the best art, and reads almost like an Indiana Jones adventure as Sawyer sails to exotic locales in a hybrid boat/balloon. But "Abroad" lacks the deep characterization that made Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn artistically and commercially successful, and is only mildly entertaining.

“The Mysterious Stranger” was a barely disguised, controversial discussion of religion, and Twain wasn’t much of a philosopher. The art is exceptional, but the theology is silly.

This collection is recommended only for hardcore Mark Twain fans.

Michael Vance


Graphic Classics: Special Edition/61 pgs. and $6.95 from Eureka Publications. Various artists and writers/sold at book and comics shops, and at

If you’re fast, you can get this collection of adaptations of short works by Poe, Bierce, Lord Dunsany, Conan Doyle, and Mary Shelley for free! If your local comic book shop participates in Free Comic Book Day in May, this jewel is yours!

If you don’t have a local comics shop, or one that participates, Special Edition will be available at a later date from the publisher and selected outlets.

Free or not, it is worth your effort to find a copy of this “sampler” of other Graphic Classics collections. Most of the adaptations are of horror short stories, and even Mary Shelley’s gothic romance is at least historically interesting. Most of the art is reality-based and better than interesting.

This collection is recommended.

Michael Vance

Check out Dark Corridor #1 for two Michael Vance short stories here.