Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Gift of the Golden Age

As busy as my schedule has been, the time has come to write about something really special.

Last Christmas season, a gift of sorts fell into my lap—in the form of a (big) sheaf of tearsheets of Golden Age comics. This was a comic stash saved through the years by a friend of mine who, now in his eighties, lived through the golden age of comics, forever enamored with graphic storytelling.

At a time when comics seemed (and were) worthless, his technique for archiving was to literally tear out the stories and covers that caught his fancy and trim them to fit into binder sleeves. Unfortunately, the way to make them fit was to, many times, trim them up to and into the inked border lines! But yet, all the art was there, and most all the stories that he has held onto, lo these 70ish years. It was actually refreshing and fun that these stories weren't in slabs, hiding away, trying to protect their value. The value was evident—these pages were loved!

Even at his age now, he talks about this stuff with a twinkle, evoking fan boy talk, about this artist or that character. There’s a pretty wide range of material, but the pages that caught my eye the most were those by Simon and Kirby.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were the golden age dream team, and their work from that era is the defining gold in our notion of the term ‘golden age’. Wild action, bold colors, in-your-face characters—each page is a gem, with facets that dazzle and charm.

Well, I had to archive them, there was no doubt. But with so many pages trimmed so tightly, I wasn’t sure of the best method. Finally, only recently, I decided that since very little art was affected—only the borders, that I would digitally restore the margins, so as to give the pages the honor they deserved—rather like giving pristine matting to great masters’ old drawings (which is just what they are).

So there are some Superman and Batman, some Planet Comics stuff, some Jungle comix, some Barks Duck comix, etc. But most of all there are the Simon and Kirby stories—Manhunter, Sandman, even a couple of Captain America . . . and a really nice stash of Boy Commandos. I didn’t think I’d like the Boy Commandos stories, but I was so wrong. They are, well, commanding! I already shared one story at Christmas time, and I don’t think I got any comments on that. I’ve got, I think, 15 more of their adventures.

BUT, it’s a lot of work getting them in shape archivally, and I need to know if it’s worth it to any of you to do so. Over time, I will be doing it for myself, but I’d like to know specifically if any of you would enjoy seeing, not only the S&K Boy Commandos, but also Manhunter, Sandman, as well as other artists’ isolated stories from Planet, or Jungle, or Superman or Batman and others.

Above and below are a few images isolated out to give you a taste of the overall spectrum.

The very next post will introduce the Boys, and the following post will show the opening salvo of the Commandos, and by the end of that story, I need you to tell me yes or no, would you like to see more. Not just, ‘sure if you want to’, but ‘YES I’m a fan of golden age Simon & Kirby and others’ or ‘NO, I’m not into comix that much, I want to see only illustrations’. Please, I need to hear from a bunch of you (c'mon, take the time) for me to afford the time it takes to make it happen regularly. I won’t be able to do the stories back to back. Between them would be lots of the regular posts of favorite images, but there are lots of stories in the ‘to be scanned’ bin. This blog doesn’t tend to get a lot of comments , but this site has had over half a million hits in the last 9 months, so I know you’re out there — I can hear you breathing.

Above, Judy of the Jungle

Above is a splash page only, but there are a couple of full Cap stories

Above is an example of how old, and what kind of shape some of these pages are in

Above, some really interesting stand-alone pages

Above and below, some really nice panels hiding in the pages

There are some nice old, old ads.
And below an ad for the story's book that will come up in the post after next.

The Commandos are Coming! and please leave a comment when that story posts.


E.G.Palmer said...

Well, hell yeah, I'd like to see this stuff Thom!
The Kirby stuff certainly, and the Planet,Batman,Captain America art as well.
I mean, don't let it cut into your money making time, but good scans of golden age comics are hard to find. I visit Mr Door Tree's blog every day and I love the wide variety of images he puts up. I'm no illustration snob.

Steve Scott said...


You definitely DID get at least one comment on the original Boy Commandos posting, because I left one. This is *wonderful* stuff and there is no other place to find it. Your blog is the greatest. Please... post away!


Thomas Haller Buchanan said...

Oh, hey Steve, I'm sorry. You sure did comment and I even responded to it. Life is a blur and I need to be more careful in my assumptions. Glad you're paying attention. Somebody has to.

E.G.—thanks for your vote. And hey all this blogging IS cutting into my money making time, but-but I don't know how to break the habit. I just have to get up earlier and stay up later.

Ian said...

This isn't a 'NO' - I like comics, but I think what makes The Pictorial Arts is the variety of illustrative work that gets posted, while there are a lot of other blogs wholey devoted to Golden Age goodness. Of course, I don't imagine you'd just all of a sudden stop posting the kind of quality illustrative work that you normaly do, so I don't really think that it would be a problem, but I'd be sad if the whole blog became nothing but Golden age comics. And since you say in your post that in-between you would stil continue to share the illustrative work that you are so generous with, I'd say go for it - 'YES... (but please don't totally abandon what has made this such a unique and interesting blog so far)'.

Paul Allan Ballard said...

Well as a recent discoverer of your blog, I don't know how much weight my opinion is, but those single pages; Life on Other Worlds and The Federal Men are gorgeous!

What an amazing collection.

As a lover of the illustration work and comics I would love a healthy dose of both. And from what I've seen so far you have quite an eye for picking out the best.

joe ackerman said...

definately. go for it.

Anonymous said...

I hope you'll do more Simon and Kirby; also Planet. You do an excellent job of scanning. Most old comic scans I find are garish and with a white point which eats into the lines.

Angus McPherson

Thomas Haller Buchanan said...

Thanks Angus. Indeed I will do more Simon and Kirby and such. And thanks about the scans. I work really hard to get em to look as natural as I can. I abhor pure white in old comics, the off-white newsprint paper is perfect for the medium.