Friday, September 30, 2011

Beautifully Staged

Those of you who are following modern comic books know that the DC Universe has been rebooting, starting storylines from scratch.

I have not been following it at all. First, I have no time to get up to the comic store. Second, I have no desire to even browse the selections. My experience with modern comics presents no charm for me. Nothing against the creators' skills, but rather the editorial dictates.

You don't have to go all the way back to the ancient ages of comics to find some appealing DC books. Below, from 1992, this cover by Matt Wagner is one of my top ten favorite Batman covers of all time, very iconic, beautifully staged and drawn. I bought the comic just for its cover.

If modern DC comics would apply this level of quality to their editorial concepts throughout their books, well, I might just make time to get up to the comic store.

Matt Wagner — Detective Comics # 649 — 1992

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Critics

A follow-up to last post to show some of those Barsotti pups in action, not as a cartoon per se, but as a header for The New Yorker critics column. A simple, perfect header.

Charles Barsotti — The New Yorker — 2000

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Snail Jokes

Charles Barsotti's cartoons are deceptively simple. They are cute and clever. Check out his website here.

Some people have stale jokes, Barsotti has snail jokes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Here's Johnny!

A long time ago in a land far away, I, as an 8 year old kid, watched one daytime show regularly (after school? In the summertime? I don't know). It was called Who Do You Trust?. It was a game show hosted by none other than Johnny Carson.

I watched and enjoyed it enough that I can still recall to this day, Mr. Carson announcing that he and his sidecar Ed would be leaving the show to sign up for a new night time gig. I remember actually feeling sad that I would miss Mr. Carson's daytime antics. But, as a 10 year old, I somehow wangled to watch Johnny Carson's premier as host of the Tonight Show, and somehow wangled to watch many of those shows over the next few years. I even saw that famous Ed Ames tomahawk routine when it first aired, long before it was a 'best of' clip.

Finally, my admiration for Johnny (may I call you Johnny, Mr. Carson?) got the best of me and I fired off a fan letter to his office in New York City in 1966 (BookSteve's favorite year, yay). I didn't ask for, nor expect, anything, but shortly after the 4th anniversary of his hosting the Tonight Show, I received a picture postcard from the man himself.

It arrived a bit scuffed and water damaged, and I'm guessing now that it was probably signed by an assistant (or maybe it really was Johnny—I'll never know), but it was a nifty prize for a 14 year old fan of the man.

I just found the postcard again in another old box of my mother's papers that I'm going through. I just never know what I'll find next.

Johnny Carson —1966

flip side
(my mailman used to be pret-ty impressed with my mail back in those halcyon days)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

PHASES—The Pictorial Arts Journal

Well, it's taken longer than I had planned, but I'm finally ready to start up a new blog that will be publishing an on-line journal, titled PHASES—The Pictorial Arts Journal, dedicated to the love of images. It will supplement this blog, running pictorial essays and interviews—the magazine that I've always wanted to design.

It will also be a portfolio of sorts, for my work and for showcasing favorite artists and photographers and cartoonists and all manner of image makers. It's a labor of love that I will have to fit between deadlines and commitments, of which there are so many.

Come over and take a look, by clicking here, knowing that this first number is just a gentle introduction to exciting material coming up soon. The first three numbers will publish about a week apart, and after that we'll see.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011


Harold Speed — Autumn

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Vain and Shallow Creature

This is a print I've had for a long time, but had no identifying information. I surmised that this is Helen, she of Troy, based on the hub-bub outside the window. And sure enough, 'tis so. Finding her in a book that I've since lost track of, as well as the author (maybe Bettany Hughes?), this is the caption:

This image, painted in 1914, is what Helen has become: not a part of the Eastern Mediterranean but distinct from it, a white woman attended to by an oriental slave. A vain and shallow creature, lost in her own image while behind her Troy burns.

I still can't identify the artist for now.

Back Then

A loose page from a pulp with art by Virgil Finlay, the pulp artists' pulp artist, back then— portraying a character that looks somewhat like Buster Crabbe, the serial hero's serial hero, back then.

Virgil Finlay — Thrilling Wonder — December, 1951

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Night of the Snow Leopard

Milton Glaser, all-time great (and my all-time favorite) graphic designer, doesn't really consider himself an illustrator, but of course he is—his work sometimes strange and powerful.

Milton Glaser — Night of the Snow Leopard — 1983

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crumbling the Barrier

I so love the medium of drawing, as demonstrated here with a lovely print by the late Jeffrey Catherine Jones, one of the great artists to crumble the barrier between 'illustration' and 'fine art':

© Jeffrey Catherine Jones Estate

Monday, September 19, 2011

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Is inither wun of dem daze weer s'poset ta TAWK like a py-rit. Oi sez ye shood awso LOOK like a pyrit, Oi sez.

When yer dun wit yer gawkin', ye best git on wit yer tawkin'!

Oi awso sez dis is WAWK like a py-rit day, Oi sez. So by buggers, DO it! Ir so hep me, oi'll ha' ye wawkin' de plenk, Oi swears.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Saga

Oh, hey! Happy birthday to Joe Kubert, whose gold, silver and bronze age work brought so much enjoyment to so many people!

I bought ANYthing with a Kubert cover!

Joe Kubert — Showcase #82 — May, 1969

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wood Work

Wally Wood, from the cover of "WoodWork":

Friday, September 16, 2011

One Person Out of Billions

The best cartoon ideas are so obvious, yet only one person out of billions thinks of it.

Charles Addams —New Yorker — 1986

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nembo Kid

Super stuff from 1962 . . .

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Secret Heart

Neysa McMein was one of the great graphic artists of the early to mid 20th century. Her specialty was portraits of pretty girls for the covers of McCall's, Ladies' Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post and Collier's, among others, and for glamorous advertising assignments.

Her social life in the 20s, 30s and 40s was fabulous—you know—with friends like Robert Benchley, Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Dorothy Parker, Bernard Baruch, Bea Lillie, etc etc. In later life, she was a portrait artist, with great people sitting for her.

Noel Coward wrote of her: "Neysa was one of the rare people in the world whose genius for friendship could pierce through all facades, surmount all defenses, and find its way immediately and unerringly to the secret heart."

She also created wonderful nude studies, not pin-ups, but beautiful women with great presence and grace.

Neysa McMein — Nude Study

Neysa McMein — Nude Study

More of her work some other day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


As indicated in the comments section of the last post, here are some Coca Cola girls that have been identified as the work of Haddon Sundblom, the painter of the iconic Coke Santa scenes.

Refreshing after all these years.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Have a Coke poster

One of my favorite Coca Cola graphics, from way back when.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Simple and Sexy

One of my favorite styles of fashion photography — naturalistic, moody, simple and sexy, by one of the super photographers of the industry:

Gilles Bensimon — Elle Magazine

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Celebrating Creativity and Talent

Normally, I don't post verbatim from other sources, at least not from emails. But this press release email that I received fits so well into this blog's mission that I just copied and pasted this text. Spread the word:

A Major New Art Convention Focusing on the Fantastic in Art

8/31/2011, Kansas City, MO: Announcing Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! — the Midwest’s first convention focusing solely on fantasy, science fiction, and all other forms of fantastic art, paintings and sculpture. From physical to digital Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! celebrates the creativity and talent of the world’s best visionaries of the fantastic.

A natural extension of the art anthology, Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! will take place on May 18-20, 2012, in the Grand Ballroom of Bartle Hall, located in Kansas City, Missouri’s historic downtown. It will feature 200+ exhibitors and is expected to attract more than 5000 attendees.

Spectrum co-founder Cathy Fenner explains, “Our mission is to create a convergence of fantastic art and shine a spotlight on the artists while providing a place for fans, artists, and collectors to gather, learn, shop and interact. There will be educational programs, art displays, portfolio reviews for aspiring artists, shopping opportunities for fans, contests, costumes and of course spectacular art.”

Special guests include fantasy art and comic luminaries Brom, Phil Hale, Andrew “Android” Jones, Iain McCaig, and Mike Mignola. Other confirmed exhibitors include, Michael Whelan, Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell.

According to fantasy artist Brom, “Arnie Fenner's decades of dedication promoting the genre and its artists comes to life in an event celebrating what we do and the artists and fans that make it happen. I am thrilled to attend, thrilled to participate, and thrilled to share such inspiring company.”

About the Fenners

Since 1993 the Arnie and Cathy Fenner have produced the art annual Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, which has become the international standard of quality for the fantastic arts community. In association with renowned painter Gregory Manchess and Tor Books Senior Art Director Irene Gallo, Cathy and Arnie served as curators of 2 Spectrumexhibitions at the Museum of American Illustration in New York City where the shows broke all the facility’s previous attendance records.

Highly respected authorities in their field, together they have written, edited, and designed art books by such well-known creators as Frank Frazetta, Michael Whelan, Robert McGinnis, Jeffrey Jones, Dave Stevens, and Jon Foster as well as aided in the realization of (and appeared in) the documentary Frazetta: Painting with Fire and are among the producers of the forthcoming film Better Things: Life and Choices of Jeffrey Jones.

The Fenners have received 10 Locus and 2 Chesley Awards and have been nominated for the Hugo and Eisner Awards. They have two adult sons and live in Overland Park, KS.

Media Contact:

Jim Fallone


Below are just a few of my favorite images from the Spectrum 17 annual from 2010 to demonstrate just a tiny fraction of the tremendous talent always associated with the Spectrum fantasy universe.

All images are copyrighted by their respective owners. Do not infringe for any commercial purpose.

Android Jones — Kuska

Android Jones — O.P.M.

Melanie Delon — Elixir Books 2: Whispers

Scott Gustafson — A Confabulation of Dragons

P.A. Lewis — Outta Da Waaaayyyy!!!

Rebecca Guay — Chanrel

William Stout — Oberon

Howard Lyon —Seldarine

Donato Giancola — Everquest-10th Anniversary

Andrew Bawidamann — Gamers Unite

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Siren of Satan

Picture, if you will, growing up in the 60s having read tons of comics that were silly, inane and pretty much cut from the same cloth. Oh, there were highlights and all of it was fun for a growing boy. But just as I was about to drop comics out of boredom and embarrassment, along came a new breed of graphic storytellers—their stories were 'daring and dynamic'. I look back on them now and see and read flaws of all kinds, but at the time they were unique enough to keep a high school teen involved in collecting.

Neal Adams was the first major artist to make a major impact on me in the late silver, early bronze age and revive my interest in collecting. I would buy multiple copies of his work, not to salt away to sell another day, but to cut-up and create advertisement-free graphic novel albums (who knew that someday all comics, good or bad, would be reprinted in handsome editions, sans advertising?).

These days, the comics market is so saturated with thousands of examples of dynamic storytelling, that some of those from the past may seem a bit lame. But back in days of yore, when something unique snuck up on me in the middle of really lame material, it was pretty electrifying. Among many such examples were the stories illustrated by Berni Wrightson.

House of Mystery #181 — July-August 1969

And hoo boy, the marketing departments spared no effort in pulling out their typography and hyping up our frenzy to seek out the 'daring and different'. They had me with the Neal Adams covers. I bought anything with Neal Adams on it or in it: