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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Comics Legend Mort Walker - From 2001

Few cartoonists have enjoyed the world-wide success of comics legend Mort Walker. Nor has any cartoonist done more to promote the world’s most popular artform during his long and illustrious career.

Born in 1923 in Kansas, Walker began his career as a single-panel cartoonist in magazines like The Saturday Evening Post. His masterpiece, private Beetle Bailey, made his first appearance in that magazine as a character named "Spider".

Beetle Bailey was the first, but not the last or least, of Mort Walker’s strips. Begun in 1950, the strip is a character-driven narrative of life gone nuts on a military facility. Among its most memorable characters is the strip’s namesake, Beetle, who has become an icon of the military goof, incapable, devious, but somehow not unpatriotic. No less popular is his immediate superior, blusterous Sarge Snorkel.

Walker’s art is firmly entrenched in the traditional cartoonish style of most newspaper comic strips. His minimalistic style includes only the details needed in each panel to define his cast and set up his punchline, whether visual or verbal.

He also scripted Dik Browne’s Hi and Lois strip (1954--); Mrs. Fitz’s Flats, Sam’s Strip (1961-’63), and Boner’s Ark (1968--).

Walker’s comic books included: Beetle Bailey (1953-1990s, Dell, Gold Key, Charlton, Whitman, Harvey); Comics Reading Library(R-02, R-13: Beetle; R-11: Hi & Lois, King); Giant Comic Album (1972, King); Sarge Snorkel (1973-76, Charlton).

A large number of anthologies of Beetle, Sam’s Strip and Hi & Lois have been published. Walker also produced greeting cards for Hallmark, edited comic books for Dell, and produced advertising art for GE, Coca Cola and other companies. He won a Reuben (1953), a Silver T-Square (1961), Best Humor strip (1966, ‘69), and founded the Museum of Comic Art in Greenwich, Conneticutt (1974).

The work of Mort Walker is highly recommended.

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

Review by Michael Vance

Comics Legend Graham Ingels - From 2001

His was a different world.

His time was different. Born in 1915, Graham Ingels became a comic book artist in 1942 during their first surge in popularity. At sixteen, Ingels had already painted theatrical displays. At twenty, he was active as a freelance artist. After a discharge from the Navy, Ingels produced illustrations for pulp magazines for a year before becoming a comics editor.

His talent was different. It was EC publisher William Gaines and EC artist, writer and editor Al Feldstein who would bring Ingels fame as “Ghastly”. That was his trademark signature on covers and interior stories in EC’s Crime SuspenStories, The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror and Tales from the Crypt. It was his incredible, unique talent that earned Ingels a fame that remains undiminished by time or his death.

Graham Ingels became the greatest horror artist in comic book history. His scratchy, fine lines draped everything he drew in cobwebs, shadows and decadence. A subtle, physical deformity in almost every character, many of who were barely more than parchment flesh stretched over arthritic bone, made his readers’ skin crawl. His Victorian houses tottered on the verge of collapse, and even animals and vegetation smelled of Gothic decay.

He was the master of atmosphere, his settings alone producing more shudders than any gory movie.

Ingles work included: “Lost World”, “Sea Devil”, “Commando Ranger”, “Clipper Kirk”, “Suicide Smith”, Auro, Lord of Jupiter (Fiction House, 1942-’49); Heroic #39 (Eastern Color, 1946); covers,, Startling, “Lance Lewis”, “Tygra” (Pines, 1947); covers, “The Duke”, Trail Colt, U.S. Marshall (ME, 1048-’49); western, crime, love, horror, sf, New Directions titles (EC, 1948-’56); “Outlaws” (DS, 1948); Waterloo, Classics Illustrated Special Issues (Gilberton); Treasure Chest, western (Pflaum, 1957) and work at Fox Comics (1948).

The work of Graham Ingels is highly recommended.

Some older comics are expensive or difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are good sources. Prices vary; shop around.

Review by Michael Vance