Saturday, July 24, 2010

Photoshop fun with Frazetta

Here's another recent restoration job -- of a different sort -- but still using Photoshop. I found this Canaveral Press edition of Tarzan at the Earth's Core at a local Half Price Books for just a couple bucks. It's an ex-library copy, in dust jacket -- a little rough in spots, but in fairly good shape over all -- except for the front endpapers.

As you can see, this remarkable Frank Frazetta illustration of a saber-toothed tiger has has a library card pocket glued over it. Try as I might, there was no removing the pocket without damaging the illustration underneath. No glue remover or technique that I know of would lift the damned thing off. Now, as I said, I only paid a couple bucks for the book -- I could live with this one negative aspect -- except, I figured a fairly simple way to fix the problem.

Years ago, I scraped up the dough to purchase a copy of the three volume, slipcased Edgar Rice Burroughs Library of Illustration from Russ Cochran. In one of those books is that same saber-toothed tiger illo, shot from the original art. So, with the help of my scanner and Photoshop, I copied the illo, changed the black ink line to a brown that matched the inks used on the endpapers, and printed it on a similar weight paper. I then used an ink wash to tint the paper to match the Canaveral Press book's endpapers.
The next step was to remove the unfixable endpapers -- and replace them with my newly created version. So there you have it -- the book is still not the greatest condition copy ever -- but now when I open it up, I see a gorgeous Frank Frazetta drawing unmarred by a Hennepin County Library card pocket. This isn't exactly a museum quality restoration -- but heck, it's a whole lot better than it was -- and it makes me happy. Not bad for two bucks and a little scanner/Photoshop time.

And it's a darn good book, too.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Famous Fantastic Photoshop Fun!

One of my favorite blogs is Mr. Door Tree's Golden Age Comic Book Stories. While the site often does post some great vintage comic art, it's actually more likely to sport a great selection of vintage illustration. A recent post included this wonderful pulp cover -- in not so wonderful condition. Because I was so taken with it, I decided it would be a good candidate for a little Photoshop clean up. Since it's not a high resolution scan, I only went so far with the piece -- but I think I came up with something that allows you to appreciate the incredible image without the distraction of the damage and wear of the original cover. Anyhow -- just a little time spent with Photoshop when I needed a break from my real work -- and something old is new again.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Art sale, Perdition pencilling -- and living in a digital world

Just a quick note here today to alert my fans to the fact that I'm having a 1/2 price art sale over on my website. Details can be found on the NEWS PAGE. The deal runs through Sunday, and I'm already having quite a response. Have a look if you're so inclined.

I'm currently trying to get ahead a bit on my Return to Perdition work. I've finished 55 pages of the eventual 180 -- and am now pencilling the next section. It's a sign of changing times, I guess, that with the current batch, I'm drawing digitally in Manga Studio. The pencil work just goes faster that way. I'm still printing the pencils as blue lines and am inking by hand -- so I haven't totally given in to the digital revolution. I'm not sure when I'll get the OK to give you a preview -- but I will say that if you've liked the previous Collins/Beatty projects, this one should not disappoint.

That said -- I need to get back to the drawing board - err, I mean the Wacom tablet and laptop. But, wait a minute -- I'm already on the laptop! Aw, this modern world is too darned wacky!

I'll be back soon -- with more stuff!

Monday, July 12, 2010


I recently finished inking a large portion of the pages for an upcoming book project called The Adventures of Unemployed Man. The book is written by Gan Golan and Erich Origen -- and has sections pencilled by Rick Veitch, Mike Netzer -- and a long-time favorite of mine, Ramona Fradon.

Ramona began her comic career in 1950 (eight years before I was born). Early work includes Shining Knight and Aquaman. But it was with DC's Metamorpho in the 1960s that I was introduced to her work. I loved this series as a kid -- and still do as an adult. There's a quality to Ramona's drawing that just clicked with me. It reminded me a bit of the Golden Age Batman art I was seeing reprinted in DC's "80 Page Giants." At the time, I didn't know the name of the penciller of those stories (Dick Sprang) -- or the inker (Charles Paris) -- or that Ramona's Metamorpho pencils were being inked by the same hand! Somehow, though, my little kid brain caught the visual connection between the work.

As the years rolled on, I followed Ramona's work -- Super Friends, Plastic Man -- and a long run on the Brenda Starr comic strip. When she retired from drawing Brenda she still kept producing commissioned pieces for fans -- but actual comic book work by her became a rare treat -- a short story or cover once in a while.

Once when attending the San Diego Con, Ramona got news that a week's worth of Brenda strips had gone missing and would need to be redrawn. She enlisted the aid of several artists at the show to ink the quickly redrawn panels. I was jealous of those artists for a long time -- and then Unemployed Man came along.

I was contacted by Gan and Erich, who were looking for someone who could do comicbook inking in a "Silver Age" style. That's certainly something I can do -- but with 180 pages of Return to Perdition to draw, should I be taking on other work? When they told me who I'd be inking, there was no question I'd say yes to signing on to the project.

At 83 (yes, 83!), Ramona still draws as well (or better!) than ever -- and though there are some editorial/art direction changes that were made along the way, that's no reflection on Ramona's exceptional cartooning talents. As an inker, I've mostly worked with my contemporaries -- rarely getting to ink any artists whose work inspired me when I was younger -- so getting to ink Ramona's pencils (something I thought would never happen) was one heck of a thrill. I didn't need to be jealous of those San Diego Con artists anymore -- at long last, I go to ink one of my favorite cartoonists, Ramona Fradon.

And on top of that, she told me she liked my inks more than her own pencils. Even if she was just being nice, I'm going to run with that for a while.

Metamorpho covers

Unemployed Man art by Fradon/Beatty (with Gan Golan)

As we get closer to the October publication date for Unemployed Man, I hope to share more art previews here -- including, perhaps, some of Lee Loughridge's color work for the book. Stay tuned for more...!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cool Comic Cover: Russ Heath UNCANNY TALES #48

From Atlas Comics in 1956 comes this surprisingly different comic book cover by Russ Heath. This is unlike any other comic cover from the period. Most are overloaded with detail and copy. This simple, strong graphic is a knockout!

For more on Atlas Comics, check the Atlas Tales website.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

STRANGE WORLDS! Wally Wood, Ray Kinstler, Joe Kubert and more.

The Digital Comic Museum is a treasure trove of public domain comics. Hundreds of pre-1959 comics have been scanned and are available there for free downloads. One gem in the bunch is the full run of Avon's Strange Worlds. Like most anthology comics of the period, some of the contents are not worth your time or trouble -- but the good stuff? Well, the scans below pretty much speak for themselves.

Highlights of the run include multiple stories by Wally Wood, Everett Raymond Kinstler and Joe Kubert. You'll also find Wood collaborating with Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta and Roy Krenkel in Invasion from the Abyss in #3.

Many of the scans posted at the DCM are unedited -- and as such, the blacks are washed out, the colors muted -- the tanning paper of the vintage comics making the pages too dark. I'm grateful for the work done by the original scanners, but I can't help but mess with the images a bit in Photoshop to make them more pleasing to look at. The cover of #4 is presented here as a "before and after." You might prefer the unaltered scan (shown first) -- but I like 'em cleaned up a bit. In either case, it's a great Wally Wood image. Most of the scans posted here have been reworked by me. You can get the original versions at the DCM.

More Wood covers!

Issue #9 sports a nifty cover, credited to Syd Shores by the DCM, though the Grand Comics Database has no credit listed.

Strangely enough, the title morphed into a war comic with issue #22! It sports a handsome Ray Kinstler cover, though!
The Flame Goddess from #3 has a particularly attractive splash page -- art by Sid Greene.
A selection of Wally Wood pages -- especially sweet are the black and white inside covers.

Wood's drawing here is still in the formative stage. It has all the "Wood-isms" one has come to expect, but he's not quite the mature artist he'd be just a few years later at EC.

Early Joe Kubert! Wood and Kinstler also drew Kenton of the Star Patrol stories.
Some examples of Everett Raymond Kinstler's contributions to Strange Worlds are shown below. Serious film fans ought to recognize the movie stills Ray used as reference for some of these images. Ray leans a little on Alex Raymond in his Kenton stories -- and dig that Hal Foster swipe in the bottom right corner of the first page shown here! No offense meant to Ray -- one of my favorite artists ever to draw comics. "Swiping" was a common thing in the early days of comics, and most artists had a file of movie stills as well as Raymond, Foster and Caniff strips to be used as "reference."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Comics in the movies: Crime in the Streets

Just had another comic book sighting in a feature film -- this time its Don Siegel's Crime in the Streets from 1956. In the first picture we have what looks like an issue of Red Ryder, a Modern Romances magazine, a Dell Roy Rogers comic and an issue of Straight Arrow.

Later in the film, this shot of James Whitmore at the newsstand gives us another look at the Straight Arrow comic, a sports magazine and another comic book that I can't identify. If anyone can make a positive ID on that one, please post a comment here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fiction House's GHOST Comics -- and Dr. Drew!

I'm taking a break from ACG's Forbidden Worlds to check out the eleven issue run of Fiction House's Ghost Comics. Downloads of this title, as well as many other public domain comics can be found at the Digital Comics Museum website.

It's no surprise to me that, like most Fiction House titles, the insides rarely live up to the promise of the covers. Now there are some good contents here -- there are a few Jack Kamen entries and one by George Evans -- but most of the interior art is just passable. Jack Abel, Bill Discount (yes, his name is Bill Discount!) and Johnny Bell (Belcastro) will sometimes surprise with a stylish splash page design -- but for the most part, the interiors fail to thrill. The best thing to be found inside any of these issues are the two Dr. Drew stories by Jerry Grandenetti in issue #10 and 11 -- and they are reprints from other titles! I've posted the story from #10 (cleaned up a bit) here. When I first saw Grandenetti's Dr. Drew comics some years back, I was quite surprised by them. I was used to the odd personal style he developed in the 1960's -- and had no idea he'd spent part of his career doing this rather astounding Will Eisner imitation.

But never mind the contents -- look at these covers! Maurice Whitman grabs your eye and won't let go, with a mix of sex and horror as lurid as the pulp magazine covers that these emulate. These definitely fall into the category of "headlight covers," with their well-endowed frightened females fleeing from phantoms. Had I been around in the early '50s, these covers would have certainly grabbed my attention -- and I can say with some certainty that Fiction House would have gotten my dime over any funny animal comic or super hero adventure title. So what if the insides didn't live up to the covers? The covers are worth the price of admission alone! Enjoy.

(Original scans by "The Cimmerian" -- from the Digital Comics Museum -- see link in first paragraph of this post)