Saturday, Mar 28th, 2015
Advance copies of April releases!
Make room on your bookshelves for these three books that will in stores soon!
Monday, Mar 23rd, 2015
Notes in Passing
posted by Bruce Canwell
The cliché says that March is the cruelest month — this year it has lived up to that billing, as we have lost a pair of fine cartoonists who leave a strong and lasting mark on the art form.
Fred Fredericks passed away on March 10th at age eighty-five. Mr. Fredericks was a consummate professional, one who worked in both comic books and comic strips, one who could write, pencil, ink, and letter — skills he employed during his forty-eight years on Mandrake the Magician, at first teaming with Mandrake's creator, Lee Falk, then taking over the writing in addition to the artistic chores following the 1999 passing of Mr. Falk. In the late 1980s and early '90s, Mr. Fredericks returned to comic books, primarily as an inker — he worked over several pages of work by my old friend, Lee Weeks, during Lee's stint on Daredevil, among several other assignments at both Marvel and DC.
You can read more about Mr. Fredericks here ...
... And here:
Only three days after Mr. Fredericks's death, Irwin Hasen passed away of heart failure, aged ninety-six. Irwin received very nice obituaries in both the Los Angeles Times and the newspaper of record. Irwin will always be remembered for his work on Dondi, which has come back into print in recent years thanks to our friend Charles Pelto at Classic Comics Press.
Dondi's 1955 launch was given a big push by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate, and by such client newspapers as the Syracuse Post Standard, which ran these ads for the new strip five days before and one and two days after its September 26 debut.
My friends Lee Weeks and Mike Dudley both studied with Irwin at the Joe Kubert School, Mike being part of the class attending the school in its second year of existence.
I interviewed Irwin in the spring of 2010, when Dean and I started preparing our Alex Toth — Genius series (although back then we hadn't yet conceived of the project as a series - we initially and mistakenly believed we could capture Alex's life and breadth of artwork in a single volume!).
In the fall of the same year, Dean and I worked the New York Comic Con and Mike Dudley made the trip to Manhattan with me. Irwin was a guest of the convention and, with Mike accompanying me, I made a point of wandering over to introduce myself person-to-person to Irwin, and to thank him for being generous with his recollections of Alex during our earlier interview. Mike had patiently waited for me to do my thing, then I pointed back at him, telling Irwin that the still-boyish-looking Dudley was a former student. I'll let Mike tell it from here, in recollections he shared with me in a March 17th e-mail:
"[Irwin] was a character, but also a good guy and a very good artist. I had him for a few classes at Kubert's and he was a versatile artist, not stuck in "Dondi-mode" drawing style. He once demonstrated a technique in sports cartooning utilizing coquille board. Very impressive. Glad I got the chance to see him again at NYC Con in 2010, even if he didn't remember me. (Why would he, 30 plus years later?)
"I did get a big kick out his response to your introduction. When you told him I had been a student of his at Kubert's, he came back with the response, 'You must have been a baby!' That still makes me chuckle when I think of it. He was still sharp, as there was no lag time in delivering the line after processing the introduction."
The comics world is lessened by the loss of both these men, and we are grateful for the rich legacy they leave behind.
Sunday, Mar 15th, 2015
Springing Into Spring — 1940-Style
It's been a cold, hard winter for many Americans -- last month the major media outlets reported that snow was on the ground in every state except Florida and Hawaii, and twenty-two states had recorded all-time low temperatures for the month of February.
Practically every day of the past seven weeks was a challenge here in the greater Boston area. After a mild and snow-free December and early New Year we took it on the chin from January 19th through the first several days of March, seeing only one day above the freezing mark and piling up over a hundred inches of snow during that time. Even without the bitterly cold temperatures, such accumulation would qualify as a harsh winter by any standard, and packed into what amounts to only half the weeks of the winter season - hoo-boy!
Since a couple pictures are worth several thousand words, here's a sign of what I'm talking about. This is a photo of Mrs. Canwell, looking far from overjoyed after we had shoveled fifteen inches of snow as a February 2nd snowstorm was exhausting itself. My wife stands almost exactly five feet tall, so you can gauge the size of the snow mound behind her on February 2nd ...
... And again, less than two weeks later ...
All this preamble is not a cry for sympathy, but I suppose it has meant I have somewhat buried the lead. Pointing out the particular meanness of this year's incarnation of Ol' Man Winter allows me to emphasize how great it is to realize that Friday, March 20th, marks the official beginning of Spring. Like the start of Grapefruit and Cactus League exhibition baseball and those still-rare 40- and 50-degree day temperatures, the calendar reporting the arrival of Spring is another milestone reached, another sign that Better Days are a'comin'.
With that in mind - while also realizing it's been far too long since we put together one of our "fantasy comics pages" for your enjoyment - I decided to step back in time seventy-five years and put together a comics page that might-have-been on the first day of Spring in 1940. Here you'll find:
- Polly and Her Pals dishing out a bit of dieting advice that never fails to work.
- A Yokum-style family reunion at Aunt Bessie's "humble" New York abode in Li'l Abner, as Al Capp follows his standard practice of beginning a new plotline in the middle of a week (March 20, 1940 fell on a Wednesday).
- Ham Fisher offering up his version of pulchritude to a "Conga-Conga" rhythm - and male reactions to same - in Joe Palooka.
- Spring is a time for romance - which seldom means good things for comic strip protagonists! There are hints of trouble amidst the hearts of flowers for Ella Cinders, Smilin' Jack, and Boots and Her Buddies.
- A taste of home-cookin' from Edwina Dumm in one of Dean's and my favorite strips - "Cap" Stubbs and Tippie!
- A girl-to-girl moment between April Kane and Raven Sherman in the latter's remote orphanage, as only Milton Caniff could portray it, from the incomparable Terry and the Pirates.
- And finally, a taste of homespun humor from the little-seen strip Mescal Ike.
If a dose of classic comics like that doesn't keep you on the sunny side, what will? Happy Springtime, one and all -