Monday, October 31, 2011

From the Haunted to the Horrible

I am amazed at how our traditions of Halloween have morphed from being 'spooky' to being an extravaganza of 'blood and gore'. We've gone from the haunted to the horrible.

At a time when we are assailed by terrorism, unrestrained violence and sudden horrible deaths, I am buffaloed by displays of bloody skulls, dismemberment, and rotting bodies—and that's just in the aisles of Walgreen's . With innumerable Halloween stores catering to the bloody extremes of the trend, I prefer the supernatural thrill of moonlit cemeteries and icy fingers on the back of my neck, rather than celebrating horrible people doing horrible things.

Below, in the midst of World War II, when the outcome of the war was in question and even when most people knew nothing of the holocaust—people didn't need to make up scary stories, they read them in the daily paper. Different faces and crimes, it's really no different now.

Rea Irvin — The New Yorker — October 31, 1942


Eric Kincaid — Hallowe'en

This is the night when witches fly
On their whizzing broomsticks through the wintry sky;
Steering up the pathway where the stars are strewn,
They stretch skinny fingers to the waking moon.

This is the night when old wives tell
Strange and creepy stories, tales of charm and spell;
Peering at the pictures flaming in the fire
They wait for whispers from a ghostly choir.

This is the night when angels go
In and out of houses, winging o'er the snow;
Clearing out the demons from the countryside
They make it new and ready for Christmastide.

—Leonard Clark

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Dark Dark House

Of course you know how to tell this old standby to kids who are in the right spooky mood gathered round you in the darkness with a flashlight under your chin—slowly and ominously until you suddenly shriek out the last two words . . .

Eric Kincaid — The Dark Dark House

In a dark, dark wood, there was a dark, dark house,
In that dark, dark house, there was a dark, dark room,
And in that dark, dark room, there was a dark, dark cupboard,
And in that dark, dark cupboard, there was a dark, dark shelf,
And in that dark, dark shelf, there was a dark, dark box,
And in that dark, dark box, there was a GHOST!

Chamber of Horrors

This is one of those kinds of graphics where the imagination supplies more detail than the eyes, especially when you know the title.

František Bilek — Chamber of Horrors — 1912

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Our Lady of the Broom

We can't leave out J.C. Leyendecker's vision of our lady of the broom.

J.C. Leyendecker — Saturday Evening Post — October 27, 1923

Grand Tradition

The grand tradition of Trick-or-Treating is given a grand treatment here in a set of promotional graphics for Cricket Magazine, way back in the '80s. Fritz Wenner, working in a style that is reminiscent of Ronald Searle and/or Sergio Aragonés, brings superb detail to his art.

Above and the two below, Fritz Wenner — 1984

All above, copyright ©1984 Cricket Magazine

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lighten the Mood

I know this image is not unique to the internet, but I felt that, keeping to the seasonal theme, we had to lighten the mood SOMEwhat from rotting corpses, skulls and v-v-vampires.

George Petty — Halloween — 1947

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Triggering of the Mind's Eye

In the last post, Larry made a comment that is pertinent to the degree of enjoyment one can have from excellent images: the triggering of the mind's eye in wanting to explore beyond the two dimensional surface of a picture — to awaken curiosity so as to imagine what the environment is like beyond the walls, through the gates and doors and windows of a magnificent structure — to imagine who might live here and what their lives might be like.

To imagine the unfolding of human drama to explain how and why a person hangs from a gibbet, the rotting corpse attracting carrion, punishing beyond death an enemy of the people.

detail of a late 1800s magazine halftone of a German knight's castle

Witch Hut

Gustave Doré — Witch Hut

Haunted Castle

In a wild and craggy chasm
Deep with shadows in the night,
The Moon slips up above the rocks
And casts an eerie light.

The stones seem to slide and melt
As they suddenly swell and grow,
To rise up as a haunted castle
With its windows all aglow.

Ghostly figures leave their dungeons,
Vampires leave their coffin lair,
To fly among the bats,
With cobwebs in their hair.

Clouds twist into misty faces,
As spectres swirl their capes;
Now the night is filled with fear,
And haunting shadowy shapes.

Illustrations: Eric Kincaid
Verse: Gil Davies

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Enchanted Ring

Rendered by the great illustrator of Edgar Rice Burroughs tales:

J. Allen St. John — A Tale of Halloween — The Delineator — 1900

Annnd the tale goes on, by Edith M. Thomas. It's way too long to post it here, but if you google it, it will come up for your reading.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Anatomic Study

A chilling anatomic study double exposure from early 2oth century.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Yes, more Lugosi. It just seems right this time of year. A number of actors have played and will play Dracula, but Lugosi will always BE Dracula.

Above, this picture should be next to the word malevolence in the dictionary. Below, it's nice to see that SOMEthing makes him happy.

Above and below, Helen Chandler's date is turning out so well.

Magical Mystery Tour

Magicians were huge in the 1930s and 40s, with cult followings (usually other magicians), and are regarded even now as legendary showmen, having cultivated an aura of ancient dark wisdom.

As we are reminded in the last post's comments by Britt Reid (I was getting to it, Britt ; ) ) , Dr. Neff was a real-life magician with a real-life magical mystery tour. Bill Neff (1905-1967) was famous for his Madhouse of Mystery show—a 2 ton stage extravaganza, requiring 13 assistants!

Besides his comic book adventures (in his own title and also featured in the 1940s Red Dragon series) there is an interesting book about him, as Mr. Reid points out, called Pleasant Nightmares—Dr. Neff and His Madhouse of Mystery by William Rauscher.

You can see that Dr. Neff had legendary help in his stage shows.

Bela Lugosi with Bill Neff, 1947

Interested in pop culture? While you're online, check out some of Mr. Reid's blogs here, here and here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dr. Neff — Ghost Breaker

Before there were Ghost Busters, there were the 1948 Ghost Breakers, featuring Dr. Neff. This is a sliced off cover that's been rattling around in my morgue, and every time I see it, I think of the actor John Noble, who portrays our beloved Walter on Fringe.

Bob Powell — Ghost Breakers #1 — 1948

Personally I think the resemblance is spooky. What's even spookier: John Noble was BORN in 1948! Coincidence? You decide . . .

John Noble


I love this time of year.

Donn P. Crane — Spooky House — 1930s

Hobble Them Goblins Dept.

With only a week 'til Halloween, you better brush up on tactics:

"There are three methods of taking care of trick-or-treat pranksters on Halloween. The first method is to give them what they want, which is cowardly. The second method is to go to a movie and leave the house dark, which is even more cowardly. The third method is to refuse to answer the doorbell, which is downright stupid because they'll wreck the place.

Here, MAD proposes a fourth method, a new way of dealing with Halloween pranksters. Instead of falling for the old trick-or-treat bit, you surprise them with . . ."

Mort Drucker — Mad Magazine —mid 1960s

An 1899 Vampire

This is a design for a clasp, titled The Vampire, from 1899—a time when we imagine vampires to be ravaging Victoria's London.

You probably have time before the Halloween party to run this design up to the tatt shop.

P. Wolfers — The Vampire — 1899

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Purity's Don Juan

Halloweenish hijinx from Norman Lindsay.

Norman Lindsay — Purity's Don Juan — prelim sketch

Norman Lindsay — Purity's Don Juan

Sesquipedalia Verba

This is a slightly disturbing image from Weird Tales by Virgil Finlay in an early phase of his style, a loose page in my image morgue.

The prose is interesting to glance at, what with words like 'stertorously' and 'horripilation'. I bet the rest of the story is filled with sesquipedalianism as well, not to mention phrases like, "stripping off her flaring-skirted frock of white organza and the clinging slip of primavera printed satin as one might turn a glove."

Whew, is it just me or is it hot in here?

Virgil Finlay — Living Buddhess — November 1937

Friday, October 21, 2011

Demon of Gothos Mansion

In 1970 I was ready to give up on comics, and I might have but for the comic book stylings of Neal Adams. I always bought multiples of Neal Adams covers and stories—not for speculation— but because, well, because, well I dunno, just because. Neal Adams revitalized the Batman character, and in my mind his version remains the best.

The Halloweenish cover below is so iconic, and was a tribute to the iconic Bob Kane cover from Batman's first year. Both are my favorite Batman covers, and might be some of yours as well.

Neal Adams — Batman #227 — 1970

Bob Kane — Detective Comics #31 — 1939

Hanging Out

A Halloween mood cover, hanging out with the bats. Another favorite Batman cover by George Pratt.

George Pratt — Batman #431 — 1989

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Leaf Drift

This painting displayed pretty amazing sensuality for the transition of the Victorian era to the Edwardian period. Quite ignoring Art Nouveau, this is the romantic aesthetic that still saturated the times.

Arthur Hacker — Leaf Drift — 1903

Bela, Bela, Bela

Happy birthday, Bela Lugosi, you are 129 years old today!

Above, the beautiful portrait painting that hung for years in Bela's study. Below, Bela in his later years, looking ready for Martin Landau to play him.

Visit the official Bela Lugosi website by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I've painted quite a few murals on-site in my time, of all sorts of subjects, but I've never been commissioned to paint one quite like this. If you have a commission like this, well, gee, talk to me.

Ramon Chatov (or I've also seen it spelled Chatoff)
Plymouth Hotel (I don't know which one)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Just Say NO

I hate to mar the pictorial nature of this blog to post this, but I'm making a plea to all of you blogspot bloggers to turn off your lightbox feature. It's a pain in the @$$ and prevents all of us from totally enjoying your hard work and cool blogs. It's especially painful for Macs.

Go to 'settings' and then 'formatting', and half way down, just say "NO".

Thank you, and I'll look forward to seeing your blogs soon. This message will self-destruct after a while, cuz it just ain't pretty.

Seasonal Attempt

This engraving by Prud'hon was to illustrate the narrative poem Phrosine et Mélidore, by Gentil-Bernard, later adapted into an opera. Without going into the rest of it, this scene is where the lovers are united after she nearly drowned at sea trying to swim to his rendezvous beacon. Yada yada.

Looks a lot like a vampire, no? Yes? My lowbrow attempt at another seasonal graphic. And oh, my adoration of Prud'hon's talent.

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon — Phrosine et Mélidore

Leonardo Would Be Envious

The figure studies of Pierre-Paul Prud'hon are amazingly controlled and precise and yet, to my aesthetic, don't seem fussy. Prud'hon's studies are as rich as other's full-blown paintings. Leonardo himself would be envious.

Below, in detail, you can see the model's hair in lovely disarray, each stroke of chalk on the body lovingly and authoritatively placed, each eyelash delicately delineated.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Enchanted City

Hannes Bok was known, in a good way, for channelling Maxfield Parrish:

Hannes Bok —The Enchanted City — 1946

Hannes Bok — The Enchanted City

Sunday, October 16, 2011

De Blawd

What a great time of year to cozy up and watch the classics.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Lament

These women look really sad, so somebody came up with a good title to explain why 3 nudes are draped all around the landscape.

James Williams — The Lament — watercolor — early 20th century

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Another one of those stunning neo-surrealistic portraits by Rallé from back in the 1980s, one of the highlights of that decade.


Floating Around

This old editorial cartoon, too, has been floating around in the pictorial morgue. No idea what it's trying to say, editorially, but, by golly, I'll defend the artist's right to say it.

Leon V. Solon — Fickle Fortune Changes Clime — 1900ish

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hanging Around

This picture has been hanging around in my reference morgue for the longest time, under 'B' for, uh, bondage. But I wonder why I kept it. I don't see that I'll ever need to draw anything evenly remotely like this. Still . . . I guess ya just never know.

Disney Studio — Jessica & Roger Rabbit

Yes, What If?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Line that Shakespeare Would Have Envied

Here is an interesting theatrical character study of 'Cardinal Richelieu', from the 1839 play Richelieu: Or the Conspiracy by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

John Hassall — The Conspiracy — ca 1900

Famous lines that the Cardinal intones in Act II, scene II:

True, This!—
Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself a nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!

In 1870, literary critic Edward Sherman Gould wrote that Bulwer "had the good fortune to do, what few men can hope to do: he wrote a line that is likely to live for ages."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rare and Rarified

If you're a fan of comic art, kindly step over to Whirled of Kelly and check out another beautiful Adventures of Peter Wheat story by the one and only Walt Kelly. Rare and rarified, it's worth your time.