Longtime comic book & fantasy artist Frank Thorne passed away on the morning of March 7th at 90 years old. Marilyn Thorne, his wife of many years, later passed away that afternoon.
Thorne’s career in comic books actually began back in 1948. He was a regular contributor to Dell Comics throughout the 1950s and 60s. From 1968 to 1972 Thorne was the artist on the Western adventure series Tomahawk published by DC Comics. He drew several comics for the short-lived publisher Atlas / Seaboard in the mid 1970s.
Thorne’s career entered what could be regarded as a “second act” in late 1975. Red Sonja, the sexy female barbarian created by Roy Thomas & Barry-Windsor Smith (inspired by the Robert E. Howard character Red Sonya of Rogatino), was given her own solo series beginning with Marvel Feature volume 2 #1, cover-dated November 1975. The first issue was written by Thomas and drawn by Dick Giordano. Paired with writer Bruce Jones, Thorne took over drawing Red Sonja in Marvel Feature with issue #2 (January 1976).
Thorne remained on Marvel Feature thru #7, the final issue. It was immediately followed by an ongoing bimonthly Red Sonja series written by Roy Thomas & Clara Noto. Thorne penciled, inked, lettered and colored the first 11 issues (January 1977 to September 1978), producing stunning and exquisitely detailed work.
Due to his striking rendition of Red Sonja, Thorne became very well-regarded and much in-demand for his depictions of beautiful women. He subsequently created a number of erotic fantasy series. Thorne’s sexy stories & artwork were also published in Heavy Metal, National Lampoon and Playboy.
Thorne’s book Drawing Sexy Woman, published by Fantagraphics in 2000, was an informal autobiography of sorts, with his recollections complemented by several dozen illustrations of lovely ladies drawn specifically for the book. It’s an interesting an offbeat look back by Thorne at his life and career.
Since July of last year I’ve been posting Comic Book Cats entries on the Comic Book Historians group on Facebook. The object is to see how many different pencilers I can find artwork by featuring cats. Here are 10 more highlights, taken from entries 101 to 150.
John Paul Leon
Midnighter #8, drawn by John Paul Leon, written by Christos Gage, lettered by Phil Balsman and colored by Randy Major, published by Wildstorm / DC Comics in August 2007.
“Why the hell are cyborgs stealing cats in suburbia?” That’s the question the Authority’s resident super-viollent Batman expy finds himself asking when teammate Jack Hawksmoor convinces him to get back in touch with ordinary people by searching for a missing girl’s cat. The trail soon leads to the doorstep of the local mad scientist, with Midnighter ultimately liberating the abducted animals and finding an alternative source of test subjects for the loony doctor, namely human criminals. Yeah, Christos Gage’s story is a bizarrely effective blending of heartwarming feel-good moments and incredibly dark, twisted humor.
John Paul Leon’s art has always been impressively atmospheric. His early work on Robocop for Dark Horse and Static for Milestone demonstrated an artist who hit the ground running, and who has consistently improved since then. Leon later worked on The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, Earth X and Black Widow for Marvel, The Winter Men for Wildstorm / DC, and the much-underrated revamp of Challengers of the Unknown written by Steven Grant.
Thumbs up to Richard Guion for letting me know about this one.
Captain Marvel #8, drawn by Marcio Takara, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, lettered by Joe Caramanga and colored by Lee Loughridge, published by Marvel Comics in December 2014.
“Release the Flerken” has Carol Danvers at long last discovering that her cat Chewie is actually an alien from outer space known as a Flerken. Chewie lays a whole bunch of eggs, which soon hatch, presenting us with an army of adorable-but-dangerous tentacle-spewing space cats. Carol unfortunately has to leave Chewie’s offspring in outer space as there is no way she could possibly fit 117 more cats, as well as the necessary litter boxes, into her apartment! Fortunately she finds an outer space animal rescue center to take in the adorable kittens, um, Flerkens. Soooo, anyone here looking to adopt?
Marcio Takara has been working in comic books since 2006. His work has also appeared in numerous titles, including All-New Wolverine and Daredevil for Marvel, Green Arrow and Nightwing for DC, Dynamo 5 for Image and Incorruptible for Boom! Studios. I think he’s a great artist, especially since, as seen here, he does a great job drawing cats.
Irv Novick & Joe Giella
Batman #210, penciled by Irv Novick, inked by Joe Giella and written by Frank Robbins, published by DC Comics in March 1969.
“The Case of the Purr-loined Pearl” sees Selina Kilye recruiting eight fellow felonious females to don Catwoman costumes as part of an elaborate heist. Here we see Selina and her cat Slinky mailing out invites to the future members of her Feline Furies.
Irv Novick is probably one of the most underrated Batman artists. He turned in good, solid, professional work on numerous stories throughout the Bronze Age. Here he is paired up with inker Joe Giella, another artist who has a lengthy association with the Dark Knight, including a four year stint drawing the Batman newspaper strip during the 1960s. The combo of Novick & Giella works very well on this story.
The writer on this issue is the great Frank Robbins, another regular creative presence on Batman and Detective Comics from the late 1960s thru to the mid 1970s. Robbins wrote some very clever and imaginative Batman stories, as well as occasionally illustrating them. His artwork was spotlighted in a previous Comic Book Cats entry.
The newspaper comic strip Krazy Kat ran from 1913 to 1944. The main characters were Krazy Kat, a playful, innocent black cat, and Ignatz Mouse, a mischievous rodent who frequently throws bricks at Krazy’s head. The naïve Krazy is hopelessly in love with Ignatz and thinks that the mouse’s brick-tossing is his way of returning that love. This Krazy-centric Sunday page is a good example of Herriman’s artwork, energy, humor and narrative style.
George Herriman was born in New Orleans on August 22, 1880 to mixed-race Creole parents. He began working professionally as an artist in 1901 when his illustrations were printed by the weekly satirical magazine Judge. Herriman’s work on Krazy Kat very quickly gained appreciation among critics and intellectual, and he has been cited as a major influence by numerous other artists throughout the decades. He passed away in April 1944 at the age of 63.
Catwoman / Tweety and Sylvester, drawn by Inaki Miranda, written by Gail Simone, lettered by Taylor Esposito and colored by Eva de la Cruz, published by DC Comics in October 2018.
I don’t want to give away too much about this fun crossover between the DCU and Looney Tunes. Suffice to say the story eventually culminates in nearly every single cat and bird themed character from DC coming together in a monumental clash. Before that, though, we have Selina Kyle encountering the very animated, so to speak, Sylvester the Cat.
Inaki Miranda broke into comic books in 2003, working on the Judge Dredd feature in 2000 AD. He then drew Fables for Vertigo / DC, which led to work on a number of mainstream DC series.
Miranda did a great job on this special. The requirements of the project meant that he had to render Sylvester as much closer to a real-world cat. He did so quite successfully, managing to still retain much of the puddy tat, um, I mean pussy cat’s personality.
Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle #5, drawn by Sam Glanzman, written by Don Segall and lettered by Charlotte Jetter, published by Dell Comics in January 1963.
A denizen of one of those mysterious lost islands in the South Pacific inhabited by cavemen, dinosaurs, giant animals and other fantastical menaces, the prehistoric Kona made his debut in Four Color #1256. Following that he starred in his own series which lasted for 20 issues (confusingly numbered from #2 to #21). The highlight of the short-lived Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle was definitely the stunning, detailed artwork by Sam Glanzman.
Issue #5 featured a gigantic cat. The titanic tabby is revealed to be Amsat, a previously-ordinary cat kept as a mouser on a U.S. Navy ship. Accidentally left behind on an island where the military was testing nuclear bombs, Amsat grew to giant size, eventually tussling with the sharks in the waters around his island home.
Amsat is obviously intended to be a dangerous animal, but Glanzman draws him just so cute and adorable that when “the Monster Cat” is finally defeated and killed I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.
Sam Glanzman is best known for the numerous war comic books he drew during the Silver and Bronze Ages. Among these were a series of autobiographical war stories about his service aboard the U.S.S. Stevens during World War II. Glanzman also worked in the horror and Western genres. Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle enabled him to try his hand at “lost world” adventure-type stories, and he did some good work on the title. The entire issue is archived on the Comic Book Plus website.
Val Semeiks & Denis Rodier
The Demon volume 3 #8, penciled by Val Semeiks, inked by Denis Rodier, written by Alan Grant, lettered by Todd Klein and colored by Robbie Busch, published by DC Comics in February 1991.
Having been introduced by Jack Kirby in the original run of The Demon, the next major appearances by Klarion the Witch Boy and his cat familiar Teekl were in Alan Grant’s revival. Grant invested The Demon with a blackly humorous tone, which was certainly a good fit for the diabolically mischievous Klarion and his shape-shifting kitty. This scene, with Teekl dancing to Mussorgsky, certainly encapsulated the grim, bizarre comedy of the series.
The artwork of Val Semeiks & Denis Rodier certainly enhanced the nightmarish hilarity of Grant’s story. Their depictions of the Demon Etrigan, Klarion, Teekl, and numerous other unearthly fiends were both chilling and comical. Semeiks’ inventive storytelling also effectively created a tangibly askew mood.
Semeiks’ first work in the comic book field was on Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan for Marvel between 1986 and 1989. Moving to DC, Semeiks had a three year run on The Demon, and following that penciled Lobo, which was also written by Alan Grant. Since then Semeik has worked on a variety of projects for the Big Two and several issues of Forgotten Realms for Devil’s Due Publishing.
The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves #4, drawn by Jim Aparo and written by Steve Skeates, published by Charlton Comics in November 1967.
Housewife Ruth Roland is an anal-retentive neat freak (seriously, she should have married Felix Unger; they would have made a perfect match) is more than a bit perturbed when her husband’s two friends from college drop off their cat uninvited en route to a two year stint in the Peace Corps. Ruth’s worst fears are soon confirmed, as the cat begins to run amok, destroying her domestic bliss. And, of course, since this IS a horror comic book, things soon take an even more bizarre turn.
Jim Aparo got his start at Charlton Comics during the second half of the 1960s. Aparo drew a variety of material for Charlton: The Phantom, romance, sci-fi, Westerns and, of course, stories for their horror anthologies.
Even here, at the start of his career, we see that Aparo was doing solid work. I definitely love the very effective “My cat is an asshole” montage in the bottom panel. I can so totally relate! Aparo’s editor at Charlton was Dick Giordano, who in the late 1960s went to work for DC Comics. Giordano was soon giving Aparo work at DC. Aparo was a prolific artist for the publisher over the next quarter century. He became one of the definitive Batman artists of the Bronze Age. Semi-retired by the mid 1990s, Aparo continued doing occasional work for DC up until 2001. He passed away in July 2005 at the age of 72.
It’s a political cartoon featuring a cat and a dog. I’m not going to say anything else, other than I found this one really funny. The angry expression on the cat’s face is hysterical.
Christopher Weyant is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He has also illustrated several children’s books that were written by his wife Anna King.
Garfield by Jim Davis, published on June 19 and July 15, 1978
Here are two early Garfield comic strips, the very first one which introduced fat, lazy cat Garfield and his long-suffering human Jon Arbuckle, and the one that revealed Garfield’s love of lasagna for the first time. (Our late, much-missed cat Squaky, who was on the chubby side herself, attempted to snatch lasagna off our stove on at least a couple of occasions.)
Garfield initially started out looking very different from the form that we are all familiar with today, but his slothful, greedy behavior has basically been the same since day one.
Jim Davis has used several uncredited assistants for most of the history of the Garfield comic strip. So I figured I’d go right back to the very beginning, which is likely pure Davis, or close to it. Davis has been up front about the fact that one of his main reasons for creating Garfield was to “come up with a good, marketable character” so I suppose he can’t really be criticized for relying on assistants in order to focus on the licensing end of things. Whatever his specific level of involvement in the day-to-day work of drawing the Garfield comic strip, it’s undeniable that he created a genuinely iconic character.
Thanks for stopping by. Please check out First Comics News to see all of the Comic Book Cats entries, as well as for the Comic Book Coffee archives. Although I’m no longer doing these on a daily basis, I am posting new entries whenever I happen to come across something by an artist I haven’t previously spotlighted.
Sal Buscema, one of my favorite comic book artists, celebrates his 85th birthday on January 26th. I’m going to take a look back at how I discovered Buscema’s work as a young comic book fan. (Part of this retrospective is based on a couple of posts I did several years ago. I guess you can consider this a “director’s cut” or something like that.)
Appropriately enough, I first saw Sal Buscema’s artwork in two issues of The Incredible Hulk, one of the series with which he is most closely associated.
On several occasions Sal Buscema has stated that the Hulk was his favorite character to draw. As he related to Jim Amash in the book Sal Buscema: Comics’ Fast & Furious Artist, published by TwoMorrows in 2010:
“I identified with [the Hulk]. Do you know what I liked about the Hulk? … He’s totally unique. He’s monstrous, lumbering, huge, unbelievably strong, and he gets even stronger when he gets angry. He has the mentality of a child. It’s so completely different from anything that you’ve drawn before. Is there another character as unique? … He’s an anti-hero, and yet because of his unbelievable power… look at all the fantastic things he’s capable of doing and usually does. That’s the fun and the constant stimulation that I had with this character.”
Buscema was the penciler on The Incredible Hulk from issue #194 (Dec 1975) to #309 (July 1985), an astonishing nine and a half year run. During that time Buscema missed only seven issues. I believe his 109 issue run on the series has never been surpassed by any other artist.
The very first issue of The Incredible Hulk that I ever read was #285, cover-dated July 1983. It would have been on sale in early April 1983. I was six and a half years old and my parents bought it for me.
The Incredible Hulk #285 was topped off by a fantastic cover drawn by artists Ron Wilson & Joe Sinnott. As a kid, I thought it was an amazing image. The Hulk was fighting this giant orange figure seemingly made out of flames. I hadn’t seen anything like that before. And, oddly, instead of striding around in his usual torn-up pants, on this cover the Hulk was wearing a shirt, tie, jacket and shoes. That said, his pants were still purple, so not everything about him had changed!
Flipping open the comic, I came to the first page of “Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life.” The creative team was writer Bill Mantlo, penciler Sal Buscema, inker Chic Stone, lettered Jim Novak, colorist Bob Sharen and editor Al Milgrom. This splash page once had the Hulk wearing a jacket & tie, his hair neatly combed. Rather than running around on a destructive rampage, he is seated at a desk, narrating his memoirs into a Dictaphone.
Over the course of the next several pages the Hulk recounts how Dr. Bruce Banner created the Gamma Bomb. While attempting to save the life of teenager Rock Jones, who had wandered onto the test site, Banner was caught in the explosion of the weapon he created. The radiation now caused Banner to transform into a savage monster whenever overwhelmed by stress or anger. I distinctly recall that my seven year old self was surprised that in this flashback Banner’s assistant Igor, who set off the Gamma Bomb in an attempt to kill the scientist, was a Soviet spy, rather than an alien robotic infiltrator as he had been depicted in the animated episode “Origin of the Hulk” the year before.
Buscema drew an absolutely savage depiction of the Hulk in this flashback, as Banner transformed into the jade giant for the very first time, on the striking splash page seen at the top of this blog post.
Following this was an amazing two page spread by Buscema & Stone that illustrated the chaotic life of the Hulk over the next several years, the long and winding road taken by a green goliath who was more often than not hunted by humanity. Among the numerous characters glimpsed in this flashback montage, my seven year old self recognized from the animated series the villainous Leader and his pink artificial servants, Betty Ross, her father the militant General Ross, and the equally belligerent Major Talbot. Of course I also knew who Captain America was.
I was surprised to find out that Bruce Banner’s identity as the Hulk was public knowledge, since in the cartoons it had only been known to Rick Jones. Years later I learned that the Hulk was probably the earliest major super-powered protagonist to have his secret identity revealed, way back in Tales to Astonish #77, which was cover-dated May 1966.
At the end of this montage, we come to the Hulk’s current status: At long last, after all this time, Bruce Banner has managed to gain control, to retain his human intelligence when transforming into the Hulk.
While the Hulk has been busy recounting his life, a crew of workers from Stark Industries headed up by Scott Lang, the new Ant-Man, has been constructing Northwind Observatory, a laboratory where Banner can resume his scientific studies. Turning back into his human form, Banner joins Lang to supervise the installation of the laboratory’s power core. At the last minute, Banner discovers that the power core was not designed by Stark Industries, but acquired from a company called Soulstar. Banner immediately recognizes the name, but before he can prevent it, the power core is hooked up, there is “a massive electromagnetic discharge,” and a strange being emerges.
This creature, we are informed, is Zzzax the Living Dynamo (aka the guy guaranteed to always get the very last entry in the Handbook of the Marvel Universe). Looking something like a humanoid lightning bolt, Zzzax is a creature that feeds on the human life force. Before the monster can consume the stunned construction crew, Banner transforms back into the Hulk and tackles this old enemy.
Unfortunately the Hulk comes to a realization: In his old savage, child-like persona, the angrier he got, the stronger he became, but now, guided by Banner’s rational intellect, the Hulk cannot easily become angry, meaning his strength is limited. And so the gamma-spawned giant realizes that, instead of relying on brute force to defeat Zzzax, he must now find a way to out-think his fiery foe.
As a kid, I thought The Incredible Hulk #285 was a fantastic issue with an amazing bad guy. Yep, the idea of an intelligent Hulk was unexpected, but I just shrugged and read on. Mantlo’s script was a really good introduction to the character of the Hulk, neatly surmised through the plot device of Bruce Banner penning his autobiography. The second half, with the Hulk fighting Zzzax, was really exciting.
On the art side of things, the work by Sal Buscema was high quality. To the best of my knowledge, this was the very first comic book I ever read that was penciled by him. As I mentioned above, Buscema would eventually become one of my all time favorite comic book artists. A number of years ago when Our Pal Sal appeared at a NYC comic book show I had him autograph this issue. It was actually my second copy, since I read the original one so many times as a kid that the cover eventually fell off.
In regards to Stone’s inking, it is pretty good. Having subsequently seen a great deal more of Buscema’s work, I have to admit that there were others who did a better job finishing his pencils, among them Joe Sinnott, Gerry Talaoc, and Buscema himself. In the aforementioned Sal Buscema: Comics’ Fast & Furious Artist he admits that he wasn’t overly enthusiastic about Stone’s inking. Looking back at it as an adult fan, yes, I tend to agree with him. That said, back when I was a little kid completely lacking in any knowledge of the subtleties of inking, I thought the artwork by Sal & Chic looked just fine. I guess that’s probably the more important thing.
Even though I really did enjoy The Incredible Hulk #285, because I was just a few months shy of seven years old I very seldom had a chance to go buy comic books on my own, so I ended up not reading another issue of the series for a couple of years. When I finally did, it was issue #309. And if I thought #285 was a bit odd, well, that next one was downright bizarre!
The Incredible Hulk #309 was cover-dated July 1985, exactly two years since the last issue I had read. And it was quickly obvious that a heck of a lot had changed in those two years!
The cover to issue #309 was by Mike Mignola. It’s a pretty early piece of work by the future creator of Hellboy. But you can certainly see his potential as an artist in this unusual cover image. This had to be the first time that I saw Mignola’s art. It certainly leaped out at me as a distinctive piece.
“The Triad” is written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Sal Buscema, inked by Gerry Talaoc, lettered by John Workman, colored by Bob Sharon and edited by Carl Potts. The last time I had seen Bruce Banner he was in full control of his bestial alter-ego and had been accepted as a hero by the people of Earth. Now, though, the Hulk appears to be somewhere far, far from home, struggling to string together a simple coherent thought.
Within a few pages, Mantlo quickly brought readers up to speed. Buscema renders another of his dramatic flashback montages. I learned that the now-intelligent Hulk was haunted by Doctor Strange’s arch enemy Nightmare, who twisted Banner’s dreams to re-awaken the green goliath’s bestial alter ego. Nightmare hoped to use the Hulk as weapon against the Sorcerer Supreme. However, Strange was able to help the remaining spark of Banner’s consciousness strike back at the demon. Unfortunately the Hulk was left with no mitigating human influence, and became an uncontrollable monster. Rather than have to destroy his old friend, Strange exiled the Hulk to the extra-dimensional Crossroads, which linked up to a myriad of other realities.
And, wow, poor John Workman, a highly skilled letterer, had to try to squeeze all of this information onto a single page! I recall my eight year old self squinting as I read this recap, trying to make out all that tiny lettering.
Now, in the present, after some time wandering the Crossroads, traveling from one strange world to another, the Hulk’s sentience is very gradually awakening. And with this renewed awareness, the Hulk discovers he is now accompanied by a trio of unusual figures. The Triad is made up of a blue-skinned demon Goblin, a young orange-skinned girl Guardian, and a shining magenta star Glow. These mysterious figures were somehow linked to the Hulk, their purpose to help restore the Hulk’s psyche.
Walking through one of the Crossroads portals, the Hulk and the Triad are transported into the middle of a vast alien desert. Although the desolate sands stretch as far as the eye can see, and the harsh sun beats endlessly down, the Hulk refuses to activate the “fail-safe spell” cast by Doctor Strange that would return him to the Crossroads when he feels discontented. As a massive sandstorm sweeps in, the Triad attempt in vain to convince the Hulk to wish himself off this planet before they all perish.
Finally, having survived the brutal elements, the Hulk at last finds that which his inhuman senses had detected from far off: a lush oasis. The Triad realizes that the Hulk was not on a mission of suicide, but was driven by the will to find this oasis, meaning his mind is continuing to heal and come back together.
This was a really odd story to read as a kid. The Hulk was stranded on the other side of reality, fighting not some supervillain or the military, but the very elements, accompanied by an incredibly odd threesome. Mantlo really crafted an unusual story, having the Hulk’s struggle against nature juxtaposed against the Triad’s examination of and insights into his mental state. It is a very introspective tale.
At the time, I had no clue who the Triad was supposed to be. Within the next few issues, Mantlo would reveal that they were the splintered aspects of Bruce Banner’s subconscious mind given form and independent thought. Certainly this was a clever, innovative idea. Reading issue #309 with the benefit of hindsight, I can now see that Mantlo sprinkled the dialogue with a number of hints as to the true identity of the Triad.
Mantlo really broke a lot of ground with his run on Incredible Hulk. Having already given us an intelligent Hulk, he has now exiled the jade giant from Earth and begun to embark on an examination of Bruce Banner’s psychological background. A cursory glance at the Hulk stories that have been written in the decades since readily demonstrates just how much this influenced subsequent writers.
This issue’s artwork was absolutely incredible. The thing that really struck me was the depiction of the Hulk by Buscema & Talaoc. Obviously in other comic books and in cartoons the Hulk had always been a big, strong creature. But this was the first time I had ever seen him drawn as such a huge, bestial, imposing figure.
The depictions of the Crossroads and the desert planet that the Hulk and his strange companions visited were very vivid and detailed. Buscema did a great job on the pencils, crafting these alien environments. And the inking by Talaoc was absolutely superb. He created a tangible atmosphere of oddness for the Crossroads. On the desolate world, his embellishments bring to life a harsh landscape that alternates between cutting winds and a brutal sun.
Buscema stated in the Fast & Furious book that Gerry Talaoc was one of his favorite inkers to work with…
“Gerry Talaoc was a terrific draughtsman and… he drew better than I did. He probably still does. [laughs] And the look of the book was great. I loved what he did. To me the final product was what counted.”
I agree that Buscema and Talaoc went together exceptionally well. Talaoc really enhanced Buscema’s penciling without overpowering it.
Eight years ago I found out that Gerry Talaoc was retired and living in Alaska. I was able to mail a few comic books to him to get signed, and I made certain that The Incredible Hulk #309 was one of them.
On the letters page of The Incredible Hulk #309 editor Carl Potts revealed that this was Sal Buscema’s final regular issue penciling the series, ending his nearly decade-long run. I don’t recall if this meant anything to me back then, since I was just a kid and really wasn’t paying attention to the credits.
Years later, though, I would learn about the behind the scenes circumstances that led to Sal Buscema’s departure from The Incredible Hulk. Buscema and Bill Mantlo, who came on as writer with issue #245, had initially gotten along very well. Regrettably though, as Buscema recounted in Fast & Furious, after several years Mantlo started becoming much more hands-on and demanding in regards to the artwork & storytelling, requesting that Buscema draw pages in certain ways…
“What [Mantlo] was asking for was not good. I didn’t care for it at all, and I have to trust my judgment, because I’m the artist and he’s not. I hate to be this blunt about it, but the fact of the matter is that in many cases where Bill described what he wanted he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was not an artist, because he had no concept – and I do not mean that derogatorily, but simply as a statement of fact – of the relationship of one object to another in a given space. He would ask me to draw things that were impossible to draw.”
Buscema reluctantly asked Marvel Comics to take him off The Incredible Hulk. It’s an unfortunate end to his historic run. Nevertheless, looking at his penciling for issue #309, it is apparent, to me at least, that Buscema was doing high-quality work on the series right up until his departure.
By 1985 it had become a bit easier for me to buy comic books. So fortunately I was able to pick up most the next several issues of the series.
Mike Mignola came onboard as the new penciler. A few issues later the entire team of Mantlo, Mignola & Talaoc relocated to the pages of Alpha Flight. After brief stints by John Byrne and Al Milgrom, The Incredible Hulk gained a new writer, Peter David, who had a lengthy, brilliant run that has some of its roots in Mantlo’s work.
Looking back on Mantlo’s run on The Incredible Hulk, it was innovative and exciting. Despite the difficulties he had working with Mantlo towards the end, the artwork by Buscema was superb. In 2012 a good portion of the Mantlo & Buscema run, issues #269 to #313, was collected in, appropriately enough, a triad of trade paperbacks: Pardoned, Regression and Crossroads.
From my recollection, the point at which Sal Buscema’s artwork really began to stand out in my mind was when he became the regular artist on Spectacular Spider-Man in 1988. His work on that series was outstanding. And so, when I later ended up looking back at those two issues of The Incredible Hulk that I had picked up as a kid, I now realized they had been penciled by Our Pal Sal, which only increased my appreciation for them. It’s great to re-examine them and really absorb the incredible skill Buscema displays with his dynamic layouts & storytelling. Just check out the action, energy and drama on display above, on page 20 of The Incredible Hulk #285.
I definitely recommend purchasing Sal Buscema: Comics’ Fast & Furious Artist. It is still available from TwoMorrows Publishing.
Credit where credit is due: The format of this piece was partly inspired by Alan Stewart’s entertaining and informative blog Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books. Hey, as the saying goes, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best! You can read Alan’s entries on Sal Buscema, which so far look back at some of his work from the late 1960s and early 70s. And if Alan keeps blogging (and I certainly hope he does) perhaps in another six or so years he’ll be discussing Our Pal Sal’s work on The Incredible Hulk.
In conclusion, I want to wish a very happy 85th birthday to Sal Buscema, and thank him for the many great, enjoyable comic books he’s worked on over the decades.
Yesterday I wrote a short retrospective on comic book creator Steve Lightle, who passed away at 61 years old on January 8th. Lightle was a very talented artist who worked on numerous series during a career that lasted three and a half decades. I am going to spotlight some more examples of his artwork. Here are ten of my favorite Steve Lightle covers and pin-ups.
1) Bolt Special (Spring 1984) – Steve Lightle’s earliest published work was for Bill Black and AC Comics. He drew several covers for AC, including this one. In addition to the title character, this features Tara the Jungle Girl, who would soon co-star in AC’s flagship title Femforce. This cover really shows that Steve hit the ground running.
2) Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #342 (Dec 1986) – This is definitely a fantastic showcase of Lightle’s work on the Legion, fitting the entire mid-1980s lineup onto a single cover. He really captured the individual personalities of the various characters. The coloring is by Anthony Tollin.
3) Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #23 (Jan 1987) – Lightle co-created Legion member Tellus with writer Paul Levitz. Lightle revealed in interviews that in designing Tellus he wanted to come up with a completely alien, non-humanoid being, and he put a lot of thought into developing the character. This pin-up really illustrates what a unique character Tellus is.
4) Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #1 (Apr 1988) – Lightle contributed wrap-around covers to the first two issues of this seven part spin-off from the main Who’s Who project. On this first one Lightle draws several members of the then-current line-up alongside a flashback to the team’s first tragic battle with Computo, a story originally recounted during the Silver Age.
5) Classic X-Men #36 (Aug 1989) – Lightle drew a number of incredible covers during his three year run as cover artist on Classic X-Men. The assignment gave him the opportunity to revisit, and reexamine, many of the already-iconic moments from the classic Claremont & Byrne run. Lightle seemed to be especially inspired on his covers for the reprints of “The Darth Phoenix Saga,” with this image of the X-Men and Phoenix being especially stunning.
6) Who’s Who in the DC Universe #14 (Nov 1991) – Lady Quark is a somewhat atypical female superhero, possessing a more athletic physique, harder features and short cropped hair (apparently her look was based on Scottish singer Annie Lennox). Lightle does a fine job illustrating Lady Quark in this profile pic, showcasing her as a powerful, formidable being. The coloring is by Tom McCraw.
7) Marvel Comics Presents #127 (Apr 1993) – This cover with Ghost Rider and Typhoid Mary works well to visualize the duality of the later character, with the Spirit of Vengeance caught between her two personalities . The coloring on this is also very effective, and is probably by Steve himself or his wife Marianne.
8) Wonder Woman Gallery (Sept 1996) – Lightle certainly did a very beautiful pin-up of Princess Diana for this special. It’s unfortunate that he did not have too many opportunities to draw Wonder Woman. The coloring is by Tom McCraw.
9) The Flash #161 (June 2000) – Lightle drew a lot of great pieces during his three year run as cover artist on The Flash, but many people (myself included) nevertheless consider this to be one of the best. This issue features a flashback to the honeymoon of the first Flash, Jay Garrick, and his wife Joan in Las Vegas in 1947, with Jay’s teammates in the Justice Society crashing the party. Lightle successfully evokes the feel of the Golden Age art styles from the original JSA stories. The lettering is by Todd Klein.
10) The Mighty Titan #3 (October 2014) – When writer Joe Martino was running the Kickstarter campaigns to fund The Mighty Titan he asked several established artists to contribute covers. Among them was Lightle, who drew the cover for issue #3. Lightle was a good person, and it was just like him to help an up-and-coming creator. I think it was Lightle posting this cover on social media that made me aware of The Mighty Titan in the first place, which led me to back the Kickstarter. The coloring is by Ross Hughes.
This list could easily have been twice as long. Steve Lightle drew so many amazing pieces of artwork during his lifetime. He will certainly be missed.
I was very sorry to hear that comic book artist Steve Lightle had passed away on January 8th. I have been a fan of his work for many years.
Steve Lightle was born on November 19, 1959 in the state of Kansas. Growing up he was a huge fan of DC Comics, especially Legion of Super-Heroes. As he recounted in a 2003 interview published in the excellent book The Legion Companion by Glen Cadigan from TwoMorrows Publishing:
“One of the oldest drawings that I’ve got was done in second grade, and it was a massive Legion fight scene that I probably did sitting at my desk when I should’ve been doing my work.”
In the early 1980s Lightle was in DC’s new talent program. His first published work was actually for Bill Black’s Americomics / AC Comics line in 1984, where he drew a handful of covers. Right from the start on these early pieces Lightle was already doing impressive work.
Lightle’s work soon after appeared in DC’s New Talent Showcase anthology, and in fill-in issues of Batman and the Outsiders and World’s Finest.
Less than a year into his professional career Lightle was asked by editor Karen Berger to take over as penciler on Legion of Super-Heroes from the outgoing co-plotter & penciler Keith Giffen, who after a stellar run felt burned out drawing the title, with its cast of thousands and myriad futuristic alien worlds. A surprised Lightle was happy to accept the assignment. His first issue was Legion of Super-Heroes volume 3 #3, cover-dated October 1984, which was co-plotted by Paul Levitz & Keith Giffen and scripted by Levitz. Lightle was inked by Larry Mahlstedt, who he would be paired with on most of his mid-1980s run.
In only his second issue Lightle has to draw the death of Karate Kid, one of his favorite members of the team. He did a superb job rendering this tragic event, as well as in the next issue where Princess Projecta executed Nemesis Kid for the murder of her husband. The storytelling on these sequences was stunning, really bringing to life the tragedy of Levitz & Giffen’s plots.
Lightle only penciled Legion for about a year, from #3 to #16, with a couple of other artists providing fill-ins during that time. Lightle, with his highly-detailed art style, was not an especially fast penciler, and that played a role in his departure.
As he explained in The Legion Companion:
“[T]he fact is, I took myself off the Legion… I had convinced myself that my inability to do everything I wanted in every issue was somehow meaning that I was delivering less than a hundred percent, and therefore I shouldn’t be on the book…. So the funny thing is, looking back, I can’t even understand my thinking on this.”
Although his run on Legion was relatively short, Lightle nevertheless had a huge influence on the series. He created the Legion’s first two totally non-humanoid members, Tellus and Quislet, and designed new costumes for several established characters.
Lightle also remained on as the cover-artist for Legion, drawing nearly every cover for volume 3 until it ended in 1989 with issue #63, as well as several covers of the reprint series Tales of the Legion and for the four issue Legion spin-off Cosmic Boy. Lightle also co-plotted and penciled “Back Home in Hell” in issue #23, a story which saw a traumatized Mon-El forced to return to the Phantom Zone when the serum that protects his Daxamite physiology from lead poisoning wears off.
Lightle is regarded by many Legion fans, myself included as one of the series’ definitive artists.
Following his departure from Legion of Super-Heroes, Lightle penciled the first five issues of the Doom Patrol reboot in 1987 and covers for various DC titles, plus several entries in their Who’s Who series.
In 1988 Lightle also began working for Marvel Comics, drawing a fill-in issue of X-Factor and becoming the cover artist for the reprint series Classic X-Men, an assignment that lasted from #30 (Feb 1989) to #56 (Feb 1991).
Yesterday I was attempting to recall when I first saw Steve’s work. I *think* it was when I bought Classic X-Men #39 in the Fall of 1989. Classic X-Men was in the middle of reprinting the epic “The Dark Phoenix Saga” by Claremont, Byrne & Austin from a decade earlier. I was 13 years old, and the dynamic Wolverine cover by Lightle immediately grabbed me. I missed the next issue, but a couple months later my parents got me #41, which had another amazing Lightle cover. I immediately became a fan of his work.
Soon after I saw Lightle’s cover artwork on Avengers Spotlight and Excalibur. He also drew a number of Marvel Universe trading cards.
In the early 1990s I was beginning to get into DC Comics, and one of the invaluable sources of information on the oft-confusing post-Crisis universe was the 16 issue loose leaf edition of Who’s Who in the DC Universe edited by Michael Eury.
Lightle illustrated several profile pics for Who’s Who, including a dramatic rendition of Ayla Ranzz, the former Lightning Lass, in the “Five Years Later” era of the Legion. I don’t know if Lightle ever drew any other Legion-related artwork set during this period, but now I wish he had. It’s a very striking image. He rendered Ayla as a beautiful, athletic figure in dynamic motion.
In 1992 Lightle’s work began appearing regularly in the bi-weekly anthology series Marvel Comics Presents. He drew an eight part Wolverine and Typhoid Mary serial written by Ann Nocenti, which was followed by a Ghost Rider and Typhoid Mary serial by the same team. The storyline culminated in the intriguing and thought-provoking “Bloody Mary: A Battle of the Sexes” by Nocenti, Lightle and co-artist Fred Harper in MCP #150-151 (March 1994).
Lightle’s artwork, with his innovative and unconventional layouts, and its sense of atmosphere, was incredibly well suited to depicting the ongoing story of Typhoid Mary and her fractured psyche. On several chapters coloring was provided by Steve’s wife Marianne Lightle.
Lightle was also the regular cover artist on Flash for DC between 1997 and 2000. He produced a series of very dramatic images during that three year run.
In the late 1990s I *finally* discovered, via back issues, Lightle’s work on Legion of Super-Heroes from the mid 1980s. I immediately recognized he was one of the all-time great artists on that series. Around this time I was fortunate enough to get to know both Steve and Marianne on social media.
I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes looks the Lightles gave of their incredible work for the all too short-lived Cross Plains Comics, which adapted and was inspired by the works of writer Robert E. Howard.
Among the projects Steve and Marianne worked on for Cross Plains was Red Sonja: A Death in Scarlet. Steve co-wrote the story with veteran Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja writer Roy Thomas, and penciled & inked the issue. Marianne Lightle colored it under the pen name Tayreza.
Red Sonja: A Death In Scarlet was intended to be a three issue miniseries, but unfortunately only the first issue ever came out. Nevertheless, it worked well as a stand-alone story. The artwork by Lightle was magnificent. I definitely wish he had been given more opportunities to draw Red Sonja.
It’s been observed by Legion of Super-Heroes fans that a number of the creators associated with the series have found themselves repeatedly drawn back to working on it throughout the years. At one point someone might have even jokingly referred to it as “Legionnaire’s Disease.”
Whatever the case, Lightle was one of those creators who found himself often returning to the teen heroes from 1000 years in the future. He drew the covers for the four issue miniseries Legends of the Legion in 1998, an Umbra solo story in The Legion #24 (Nov 2003), a cover for the Star Trek / Legion crossover (Nov 2011) and several covers for the New 52 reboot of Legion of Super-Heroes, along with an Invisible Kid solo story in issue #8 (June 2012), plus a few other Legion-related items.
Over the last two decades Lightle was working on several creator-owned web comic book series, issued under the umbrella of Lunatik Press. Among the series Lightle created was the space opera Justin Zane, the martial arts adventure Peking Tom, and the sexy funny animal series Catrina Fellina.
Steve and Marianne Lightle lived in the Kansas City region most of their lives, where they raised their children, and where their grandchildren now live. Throughout my interactions with Steve and Marianna on various social media platforms over the past two decades they always impressed me as genuinely good people. Steve’s death at the age of 61 from cardiac arrest brought on by Covid-19 is a tragedy. My thoughts go out to Marianne and her family in this difficult time.
There is currently a fundraiser on Go Fund Me to help the Lightle family with Steve’s medical bills and other expenses. If you are able, please contribute. Thank you.
Longtime illustrator and comic book artist Richard Corben passed away on December 2, 2020. He was 80 years old. While I cannot say that I was a huge fan of Corben, I was certainly aware of his work, and I enjoyed it whenever I saw it.
I believe the very first time I saw Corben’s art was on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #33, published in June 1990 by Mirage Studios. In the early 1990s the TMNT series had a number of independent / non-mainstream creators doing story arcs or one-off tales. With hindsight, these probably offered me my first major exposure to creators outside of the Marvel and DC superhero ghetto. “Turtles Take Time” was a wild, entertaining time travel story written by Jan Strnad which Corben did a brilliantly hilarious job illustrating.
By the late 1990s I must have become much more aware of Corben and his work, and I picked up the Heavy Metal Fall Special 1998. Topped by a beautiful yet macabre cover painted by Corben, this special reprinted a number of the stories which he drew for the Creepy and Eerie horror anthologies from Warren Publishing between 1974 and 1977.
The selection of stories collected in the Heavy Metal Fall Special 1998 definitely presented the various aspects of Corben’s work. For example, “You’re A Big Girl Now” from Eerie #81 (February 1977) written by Bruce Jones demonstrated Corben’s aptitude for drawing beautiful women. In this case, to be specific, a very beautiful giant woman.
“Within You… Without You” from Eerie #77 (September 1976), also written by Bruce Jones, showcased Corben’s skill at rendering dinosaurs, fantastical prehistoric landscapes, and high tech sci-fi elements.
Another series that Corben worked on was the five issue Cage miniseries published by Marvel Comics in 2002 under their Marvel Max imprint. It was written by Brian Azzarello, lettered by Wes Abbott and colored by José Villarrubia. I wasn’t all that into the story, but I nevertheless enjoyed Corben’s artwork. Again he demonstrated his versatility by drawing an urban crime / “blaxploitation” type of adventure.
Although Cage was a”mature readers” miniseries apparently set outside regular Marvel continuity, Corben’s redesign of Luke Cage very soon became the default version of the character, and was seen when he appeared soon afterwards in Alias and New Avengers.
All of this is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. Corben was a prolific artist whose career stretched across half a century.
Richard Corben was a longtime contributor to Heavy Metal, and the magazine featured an obituary on its website. There is also an insightful 1981 interview with Corben archived there.
Since July I have been posting Comic Book Cats entries daily on the Comic Book Historians group on Facebook. The object is to see how many different pencilers I can find artwork by featuring cats. These posts are being archived on First Comics News. Here are 10 more highlights, taken from entries 51 to 100.
House of Mystery #241, drawn by Frank Robbins, written by Jack Oleck and lettered by Ben Oda, published by DC Comics in May 1976.
“Paid in Full” is described by House of Mystery host Cain as an “eerie black cat tale.” Hold-up man Cass, wounded in a shoot-out with the police, hops a freight train out of town. Coming to in Kentucky, he is nursed back to health by elderly Martha Wright, who lives in a cabin with her cat Lucifer. Unfortunately for Martha, Cass realizes she is a witch and threatens to shoot Lucifer if she does not use her magic to conjure up money for him.
Cass then orders Martha to give him “a new face, a new body” so that he can evade the police. She creates a formula that will do this, and the criminal thanks the old lady by murdering her. Burying her in the woods, Cass downs the formula. It does indeed give him a “new” body, one that is only six inches tall. And waiting for the now mouse-sized Cass is a very angry Lucifer, ready to enact revenge.
I know that my experience with Frank Robbins’ work parallels a number of other readers, in that initially I disliked it, over time I gradually learned to appreciate it, and now I now really enjoy his art. I feel Robbins’ work was more suited to war, adventure, mystery and horror stories than superheroes. DC’s horror anthologies were the perfect venue for Robbins’ talents. He definitely drew the heck out of “Paid in Full,” rendering an atmospheric little tale that is capped off with a strikingly ferocious black cat on the prowl.
Tania Del Rio & Jim Amash
Sabrina the Teenage Witch volume 2 #58, written & penciled by Tania Del Rio, inked by Jim Amash, and colored by Jason Jensen, published by Archie Comics in August 2004.
Archie Comics decided in 2004 to take Sabrina the Teenage Witch in a manga-inspired direction, with stories & artwork by newcomer Talia Del Rio. This direction lasted for 42 issues, with Del Rio working on the entire run. She was paired up with frequent Archie inker Jim Amash.
In this scene from Del Rio’s first full issue, Sabrina is bummed at having been chewed out by her aunts for coming home late from a date with her boyfriend Harvey. Unfortunately for Sabrina, matters soon become even worse, as her cat Salem reminds her that she has a report due at school tomorrow. As a despondent Sabrina conjures up a can of Zap cola and sets to work on her report, a less than sympathetic Salem observes “It’s going to be a LONG night…”
The various enemies of Faith Herbert, aka Zephyr, join forces to gain revenge on the telekinetic superhero. Among the members of the nefarious Faithless is Dark Star, “a parasitic psiot entity currently trapped in a cat.” Dark Star may look cute and cuddly, but trust me, he’s a major @$$hole. Just don’t give him any champagne. He gets drunk REALLY easily.
Faith was a really good comic book series. Jody Hauser’s stories were both poignant and humorous. She did a great job developing Faith Herbert’s character. The artists who worked with Hauser on the miniseries and ongoing all did high quality work.
Joe Eisma has also drawn Morning Glories for Image Comics and several titles for Archie Comics. He is definitely very adept at drawing teenage characters.
Vampirella #32, drawn by Auraleon and written by Steve Skeates, published by Warren in April 1974.
This back-up story features an early appearance by Pantha, the lovely feline shape-shifter who would go on to become Vampirella’s close friend. This beautifully illustrated page sees Pantha transforming from her panther form back into her human self. Pacing along beside her in the final panel is a black cat, who perhaps recognizes her as a kindred spirit. After all, black cats have often been described as “mini panthers.”
Auraleon, full name Rafael Aura León, was another of the incredibly talented Spanish artists who worked for Warren throughout the 1970s. He was one of the most prolific artists at Warren, rendering stunning, atmospheric work.
Auraleon also illustrated stories in various genres for Spanish and British publishers. Tragically, Auraleon suffered from depression, and he committed suicide in 1993.
Superboy #131, drawn by George Papp, published by DC Comics in July 1966.
“The Dog from S.C.P.A.” sees Krypto the Superdog joining several other super-powered canines as a member of the Space Canine Patrol Agents. Krypto must rescue the other members of the S.P.C.A. from the clutches of the Canine Caper Gang. The two sides fight to a draw, at which point the Gang agree to leave if Krypto promises to take them “to a new world, where there aren’t any canine agents.” Krypto agrees, and the desperado dogs are elated at the thought of being able to carry on their larcenous activities unhindered… until they discover that Krypto has taken them to a planet with a different sort of S.P.C.A., specifically the Space Cat Patrol Agents!
What a great twist ending! I’m just a bit disappointed that we never got to see Atomic Tom, Crab-Tabby and Power Puss team up with Streaky!
George Papp was one of the regular artists on Superboy from 1958 to 1968. Among his other credits, Papp drew some of the early Legion of Super-Heroes stories and co-created Green Arrow with Mort Weisinger. Unfortunately he was one of several older creators who were fired by DC Comics in the late 1960s when they requested health & retirement benefits. Papp then went into advertising. He passed away in 1989 at the age of 73.
The Complete Omaha the Cat Dancer Volume 4, cover artwork by Reed Waller, published by Amerotica / NBM in 2006, reprinting Omaha the Cat Dancer #10-13, written by Kate Worley and drawn by Reed Waller, published by Kitchen Sink Press in 1988 and 1989.
My girlfriend Michele Witchipoo is a huge fan of Omaha the Cat Dancer. She recommended that I spotlight Omaha in Comic Book Cats.
Omaha the Cat Dancer was created by Reed Waller in 1978. Omaha initially appeared in several anthologies throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. An ongoing series began in 1984, and with the second issue Kate Worley became the writer. Waller and Worley collaborated on Omaha for the next two decades. Worley unfortunately passed away in 2004. Subsequently her husband James Vance worked with Waller to complete the series. Omaha was ultimately collected in eight volumes by Amerotica / NBM Publishing.
Omaha the Cat Dancer is set in a universe populated by anthropomorphic “funny animal” characters and is set in Mipple City, Minnesota, a fictionalized version of Minneapolis. It stars Susan “Susie” Jensen, a feline who under the name Omaha works as a stripper and pin-up model, and her boyfriend Charles “Chuck” Tabey, Jr. aka Chuck Katt. Initially conceived by Waller to protest against censorship and St. Paul’s blue laws, the series evolved into a soap opera.
As you can no doubt tell from the premise, as well as from Waller’s artwork, there is a great deal of sex and nudity in Omaha the Cat Dancer. Although explicit, these elements are often utilized in the service of telling the story and developing the relationships between the characters.
Cats by B. Kliban, written & drawn by Bernard Kliban, published by Workman Publishing Company in September 1975.
Bernard Kliban’s 1975 collection of cat cartoons has been referred to as “the mother of all cat books.” The book was a massive bestseller, and today Kliban’s iconic depictions of felines are recognized the world over. This cartoon from that book all-too-accurately captures the experience of becoming a “cat person.” You start off with just one, and the next thing you know…
Kliban’s cartoons also appeared regularly in the pages of Playboy for throughout the 1970s and 80s. He passed away in August 1990 at the age of 55.
Journey Into Mystery #62, drawn by Don Heck, published by Atlas / Marvel Comics in November 1960.
“There Is a Brain Behind the Fangs” is such an odd little tale. I’m just going to use the Grand Comics Database’s description:
“A man is convinced that dogs are secretly planning to take over the world. His friend hypnotizes a dog and proves that it cannot understand complex questions. Neither suspects that the dog has been hypnotized by the cat.”
Yes, that’s correct, dogs are planning to take over the world, but the actual masterminds behind the scheme are cats! That sounds about right.
Say, the cat in this story sort of resembles my own cat Nettie. You don’t think…? Naah, it couldn’t be!
Seriously, this story features some nice art by the often-underrated Don Heck. As has often been observed, Heck’s strengths lay outside of superheroes, and as that genre came to dominate comic books he was unfortunately asked to work within it more and more often. Heck’s work in mystery, horror, war, romance and Westerns was always very effective. As seen on this page, he was certainly adept at illustrating animals such as dogs and cats.
Kelley Jones & Malcolm Jones III
Sandman #18, penciled by Kelley Jones, inked by Malcolm Jones III, written by Neil Gaiman, lettered by Todd Klein and colored by Robbie Busch, published by DC Comics in November 1991.
It’s been quite a few years since I’ve read Sandman. I had the first few trade paperbacks, but I lent them to someone over a decade ago, never got them back, and haven’t seen them since. So I had to be reminded of “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” from issue #18, which several people suggested I showcase. Here is a page of that story, taken from the digital edition. One of these days I should replace my copies of the physical books. Fortunately the trade paperbacks are easy to find.
Kelley Jones is yet another of those artists who when I first saw his work I was not especially fond of it, finding his figures to be grotesque and distorted. However, I very quickly came to appreciate Jones’ art. He excels at creating moody, atmospheric scenes. As seen here, he also draws some wonderfully detailed, expressive cats. Inking is by Malcolm Jones III, who was also paired with Jones on the Batman & Dracula: Red Rain graphic novel.
Comic book creator and fellow cat-lover Richard Howell introduced me to Gordo, the newspaper comic strip created by Gustavo “Gus” Arriola that ran from 1941 to 1985. The series chronicled the life of Mexican bean farmer, and later tour guide, Perfecto Salazar “Gordo” Lopez. There were a number of animals that appeared regularly in Gordo, including three cats: an orange tabby named Poosy Gato, a black cat named PM, and PM’s kitten Bête Noire.
In this Sunday strip, we see Poosy trying to figure out a new place to take a nap, since he’s bored with all of the usual locations. Arriola definitely draws a cut cat and invests him with personality.
Arriola passed away on February 2008 at the age of 90.
Thanks for stopping by. Once again, please remember to check out First Comics News for the rest of the Comic Book Cats entries, as well as for the Daily Comic Book Coffee archives.
I did 100 entries of The Daily Comic Book Coffee on the Comic Book Historians group at Facebook. I decided to switch things up after that, and began posting Comic Book Cats. Each day I post cat-centric comic book artwork by a different artist.
Ghostly Tales #85, drawn by Steve Ditko and written by Joe Gill, published by Charlton Comics in April 1971, and Speedball #10, plotted & penciled by Steve Ditko, inked by Dan Day, scripted by Jo Duffy, lettered by Jack Morelli and colored by Tom Vincent, published by Marvel Comics in June 1989.
Steve Ditko drew a number of stories with cats throughout his lengthy career. Here is artwork from couple of them.
The first page is from “The 9th Life,” one of the best stories that Joe Gill wrote for Charlton’s horror anthologies. Ditko did really good work illustrating Gill’s story.
Michael Holt rescues a stray black cat and takes it back to his apartment in the slums. Michael is depressed about the state of the modern-day world. The black cat is apparently a shape-shifting witch named Felicia, and she offers to transport Michael back to the past. Michael agrees, but soon discovers the “good old days” were not so good, with tyranny and disease. Returning to the present day, Michael realizes that he needs to actively work to make the world he lives in a better place. He is reunited with Felicia, who joins him on his path of fighting for a better world.
The second page is from the last issue of the short-lived Speedball series. The laboratory accident that endowed Robbie Baldwin with his kinetic energy powers also gave those same powers to Niels, a cat who belonged to one of the scientists at the lab.
A subplot running through the Speedball series was Robbie’s repeatedly-unsuccessful efforts to capture Niels. Getting a hold of a normal feline who doesn’t want to be caught is difficult enough as it is; give a cat bouncing superpowers and the task becomes nigh-impossible!
Dwayne Turner & Chris Ivy
Sovereign Seven #7, penciled by Dwayne Turner, inked by Chris Ivy, written by Chris Claremont, letter by Tom Orzechowski and colored by Gloria Vasquez & Rob Schwager published by DC Comics in January 1996.
I spotlighted Chris Claremont’s Sovereign Seven in a couple of Comic Book Coffee entries. It was a fun series, so I’m happy to take another look at it.
In this issue Finale of the Sovereigns is caught in the middle of a struggle between international mercenary Marcello Veronese and his fugitive quarry. Pursuing the sword-wielding fugitive, Finale enters a doorway, only to find herself in the Crossroads Coffee Bar & Inn on the opposite side of town. Crossroads once again lives up to its name, serving as a portal to different places, dimensions & times. Greeting the stunned Finale is Lucy the cat, who is apparently dressing as Supercat for Halloween.
Batman #406, drawn by David Mazzucchelli, written by Frank Miller, lettered by Todd Klein and colored by Richmond Lewis, published by DC Comics in April 1987.
I must have read the Batman: Year One trade paperback a dozen times in high school. To this day, it remains one of my all-time favorite Batman stories. Many of the images from this story have burned themselves into my consciousness. So as soon as I decided to do Comic Book Cats, I just knew I was going to spotlight this page.
A pre-Catwoman Selina Kyle, her roommate Holly, and their menagerie of cats being awoken at 5 AM by the GCPD’s corrupt, trigger-happy swat team attempting to kill Batman by dropping bombs on him. Of course the cats now want to be fed, even though it’s much too early! I’ve always thought David Mazzucchelli did an especially good job on this page.
This is actually scanned from the trade paperback, which was re-colored by Richmond Lewis. As has been astutely observed by colorist Jose Villarubia, newsprint has a different texture from the paper used in TPBs, and the result is that coloring done for the former will not reproduce accurately in the later.
Batman: Year One is apparently one of the very few times when the original colorist was asked to do new coloring for a collected edition. Lewis’ work for the Year One collection is outstanding, and I’m grateful that for once DC Comics actually went the extra mile.
Frankie Comics #3, written & drawn by Rachel Dukes, published by Mix Tape Comics in November 2014
Rachel Dukes’ mini comic Frankie Comics is absolutely adorable, a really cute look at quirky cat behavior. I met Dukes a couple of times at Mocca Fest, where I picked up copies of the first and third issues. I still need the second one.
In this two page sequence Dukes demonstrates that Frankie has a very cat-like approach to “helping” out his humans.
Dukes showed me a photo of the real-life Frankie, who looks very much like one of my two cats, Nettie Netzach. Judging by the antics Dukes portrays in her comic, they also act alike. Michele suggested they could be long lost sisters. You never know.
Bob Brown & Don Heck
Daredevil #109, penciled by Bob Brown, inked by Don Heck, written by Steve Gerber, lettered by Artie Simek and colored by Petra Goldberg, published by Marvel Comics in May 1974.
This is not technically a cat page as it does not feature any examples of Felis catus, aka the domestic cat, but I am showcasing it anyway. Because, honestly, the dramatic arrival of the stunning Shannah the She-Devil accompanied by her pet leopard and panther is a pretty damn impressive cat-related image.
Bob Brown is one of those good, solid artists from the Silver and Bronze Ages whose work often flew under the radar, but who you could always count on to turn in a professional job. Over the years I’ve developed more of an appreciation for Brown’s work. He is effectively inked here by Don Heck, another talented, underrated artist.
Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #13, written & drawn by Rachael Smith, published by Titan Comics in August 2015.
I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since I was eight years old. Over the decades a few different cat-like aliens have shown up on the British sci-fi series, as well as in the various comic book spin-offs.
Several issues of The Tenth Doctor comic book series contained a humorous back-up strip featuring the Doctor and his cat Rose by Rachael Smith. Yes, the Doctor named his cat Rose; he really was hung up on Billie Piper, wasn’t he? In this installment Rose convinces the Doctor to try speed dating. Of course, this being Doctor Who, things go horribly, hysterically wrong.
British artist Rachael Smith has also written & drawn several creator-owned graphic novels.
Joe Staton & Freddy Lopez Jr.
Back Issue #40 cover drawn by Joe Staton and colored by Freddy Lopez Jr, published by TwoMorrows Publishing in April 2010.
Back Issue is a magazine edited by Michael Eury that takes an in-depth look back comic book from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Each issue has a theme, and BI #40 spotlighted “Cat People,” i.e. cat-themed characters of the Bronze Age. One of the characters examined in this issue was, of course, Catwoman.
The cover illustration of Catwoman and her black cat prowling the alleys of Gotham City is by one of my favorite artists, the incredible Joe Staton, who had previously penciled two key Catwoman stories, DC Super Stars #17, the origin of the Huntress, the daughter of Batman and Catwoman on Earth 2, and The Brave and the Bold #197, which revealed how Bruce Wayne and Seline Kyle fell in love and married.
Staton has drawn a few cats in various stories throughout the years. I’ve always liked how he rendered them, with his cartoony style always giving them genuine personality. That’s certainly the case here with Selina’s feline companion. Freddy Lopez Jr’s coloring is very effective, as well.
Josie and the Pussycats #54, drawn by Dan DeCarlo and written by Frank Doyle, published by Archie Comics in April 1971.
“The Cat Woman” is drawn by Josie and the Pussycats co-creator and longtime Archie Comics artist Dan DeCarlo. This story sees the scheming Alexandra becoming convinced that her cat Sebastian is being taken by Josie as “bait” to lure in handsome Alan M. After all, Alexandra deduces, that is exactly what she would do if the tables were turned. Tsk tsk, jealous people are always projecting like that!
It turns out that the real reason why Sebastian keeps wandering over to Josie’s house is because she has a wall calendar with a photograph of a beautiful female cat!
DeCarlo always drew cute gals, and as seen here he also did a good job with cats (the actual four-legged furry kind, as opposed to the kind who play musical instruments) investing Sebastian with a lot of personality.
Max Meow: Cat Crusader, written & drawn by John Gallagher, published by Penguin Random House in 2020.
In the great city of Kittyopolis, aspiring feline journalist Max Meow takes a bite out of a giant meatball from outer space and gains super powers. Donning a costume, Max becomes the heroic Cat Crusader, who protects Kittyopolis from menaces such as giant killer cheeseburgers. However, being a hero is not as easy as it might appear, something that Max must learn the hard way. Will Max save the day, or will the Cat Crusader be defeated by that rotten rodent, the despicable Agent M?
Max Meow: Cat Crusader is a funny, adorable graphic novel for younger readers by John Gallagher, who previously worked on Buzzboy and Roboy Red. He is also he is art director for Ranger Rick magazine, published by the National Wildlife Federation. As explained on the Max Meow website:
“John learned to read with comics, so he is more than excited to share the magic of reading, fun, and imagination with the young readers of the world.”
Curt Swan & Stan Kaye
Action Comics #266 cover penciled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye, published by DC Comics in July 1960.
Curt Swan was the primary artist on the various Superman titles from the mid 1950s to the mid 1980s. It’s inevitable that at some point or another during that lengthy period Swan would be called upon to draw Streaky the Supercat. Here is Swan’s cute rendition of Streaky zipping through the sky, along with Superman, Supergirl and Krypto the Superdog.
The inks are by Stan Kaye, who had previously been the regular inker over Wayne Boring’s pencils on Superman for a decade and a half. Swan and Kaye were often paired up in the late 1950s and early 60s, drawing numerous covers for Action Comics, Adventure Comics, Superman and World’s Finest.
The identity of the colorist for this cover is probably lost to time, which is too bad, because whoever it was did a really nice job.
I hope you found these interesting and informative. Please remember to check out First Comics News for the rest of the Comic Book Cats entries, as well as for the Daily Comic Book Coffee archives.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic all of the major comic book conventions are cancelled. It’s unfortunate, but certainly understandable. “Con crud” is a real thing at the best of times, and any huge comic con would be a major health hazard.
I enjoy going to comic cons for the opportunity to meet creators and get their autographs on books that they worked on. Obviously that is NOT happening this year. So this summer I contacted a few creators via social media and asked if I could mail them books to get signed.
One of these creators was longtime artist Joe Giella. I reached out to him via his son Frank Giella, who I’ve known for a couple of decades. I’ve gotten a couple of things signed by Joe in the past, but I had a few others I was hoping to have him autograph, so I asked Frank if I could mail them to him to pass along to his father, and he very kindly agreed.
I sent Joe Giella a few Bronze Age comic books. I don’t have any of the really classic issues he worked on for DC Comics in the 1950s and 60s since the majority of those are out of my budget. Whatever the case, I’m happy I had the opportunity to get these books signed.
All-Star Comics #73 (July 1978) has Giella inking the pencils of Joe Staton, another artist whose work I love. The writing is by Paul Levitz. I only got into the 1970s revival of the Justice Society of America in recent years when I picked up the trade paperbacks, but I immediately became a fan. I guess I’ve always liked the JSA a bit more than the Justice League because the JSA members don’t have their own solo titles, which enables more character development to take place in their series. Also, the Earth-2 setting allowed the original JSA members to age, and to mentor a new generation of heroes, which I enjoyed.
Joe Giella began working for DC Comics in 1949, and some of the earliest characters he ever drew for them were the members of the JSA. Then in the early 1960s Giella was one of the artists on the stories that introduced the Earth-2 concept and which brought the JSA back into print for the first time in a decade. Given his historic connection to these characters, I was glad to have him autograph All-Star Comics #73.
Captain America #182 (Feb 1975) was a rare Marvel Comics job by Giella. He inked a few odd issues for Marvel during the 1970s, as well as doing full artwork on various one-off projects such as a few t-shirts and The Mighty Marvel Superheroes’ Cookbook, which was an actual thing. Here Giella is inking Frank Robbins. This was during the period following the classic “Secret Empire” storyline by Steve Englehart when a disillusioned Steve Rogers abandoned the Cap identity and became Nomad.
I know that my experience with Robbins’ work parallels a number of other readers, in that initially I disliked it, over time I gradually learned to appreciate it, and now I now really enjoy his art. I feel Robbins’ work was more suited to war and mystery and horror stories than superheroes, but even on the later genre I find there’s quite a bit to appreciate. I think Giella did a very nice job inking Robbins on this issue, and I wish they had worked together more often.
Superman Family #200 (March 1980) was a really fun “imaginary story” written by Gerry Conway. Set 20 years in the future (late 1999 to be specific) it featured Clark Kent and Lois Lane married with a teenage daughter named Laura.
There were several art teams on Superman Family #200. The portions of this issue that Giella inked were penciled by Bob Oksner, another great artist whose work I have grown to appreciate in recent years. Oksner & Giella made an effective art team. That’s another collaboration I wish we had seen occur more frequently.
Finally, here is the variant cover that Giella drew for the sixth issue of the Archie Meets Batman ‘66 miniseries published by DC and Archie Comics (March 2019). Giella is apparently the oldest living Batman artist, so I really wanted to have him sign something featuring the Dark Knight of Gotham City. This cover is a nice piece which demonstrates that Giella, now in his early 90s, is still going strong as an artist.
Thanks again to Joe Giella for autographing these books, and to his son Frank for arranging everything.
Welcome to the 13th edition of Comic Book Coffee. I previously posted these daily in the Comic Book Historians group on Facebook. The challenge was to see how many different pencilers I could find artwork by featuring coffee.
(I has nasal surgery a couple of days ago, so if any typos creep into this I apologize. My head is pretty stuffed up right now!)
61) Gene Colan & Tom Palmer
Daredevil #90, penciled by Gene Colan, inked by Tom Palmer, written by Gerry Conway and lettered by Sam Rosen, published by Marvel Comics with an August 1972 cover date.
It’s not all that surprising that during his career Daredevil has encountered four different criminals who assumed the costumed identity of Mister Fear. What would be more natural that for the self-proclaimed “Man Without Fear” to cross swords with a villain whose modus operandi was the creation of fear?
Here we see Daredevil, hit by Mister Fear’s powers, has crashed through the window of an office building, and is now cowering in terror at the little old lady who cleans the building. The next panel finds DD a guest of the local precinct, with the cops offering the still-unsteady crimefighter a cup of coffee.
Gene Colan had a style that was generally not an especially good fit for superheroes, yet he is regarded as one of the all-time great Daredevil artists. Perhaps that is because DD is a non-powered acrobatic character, as well as the fact that, no matter how weird and jokey the series sometimes got, it usually still had one foot planted in gritty noir. Both these elements made Daredevil an ideal fit for Colan’s unconventional layouts and shadowy penciling.
Colan was reportedly a somewhat-challenging artist to ink. Tom Palmer is usually classed as one of the best inkers of Colan’s pencils. They definitely worked extremely well together on Daredevil, Doctor Strange and Tomb of Dracula.
62) John Rosenberger
“What’s Ambition, Anyway?” drawn by John Rosenberger, written by Richard Hughes, and lettered by Ed Hamilton, from Confessions of the Lovelorn #81, published by ACG in May 1957.
Beautiful, talented Jill Sanders dreams of becoming an actress. She auditions with famed producer-director Carl Rogers, who agrees to see how she works out in rehearsals for his upcoming musical. While having coffee with Rogers and the rest of the cast, Jill thinks to herself “He’s a real professional — and a swell guy!” Unfortunately for Jill, her high school rival Marion Major has also joined the cast, and pretty soon the ambitious, arrogant blonde is sinking her claws into Rogers himself. Due to budget cuts Jill is squeezed out of the chorus and finds herself back waiting tables, and the despairing young woman believes she has lost out on both show business and Carl Rogers. However, when Carl’s investors back out on him, Jill convinces her restaurateur boss to help finance the show. It’s a success, and Carl has fallen in love with Jill.
Artist John Rosenberger’s career stretched over 30 years, from 1946 to 1975. He worked for several different companies, drawing stories in various genres. His style was definitely well-suited for romance, as he had an aptitude for rendering beautiful, fashionable women. Towards the end of his career he penciled Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane for DC Comics, where once again his knack for drawing lovely ladies was a definite asset. Rosenberger became the regular artist on Wonder Woman in 1975, but sadly only completed two issues before taking ill. He passed away in January 1977 at the age of 58.
The entire story “What’s Ambition, Anyway?” can be read on the Comic Book Plus website.
63) Ron Lim & Chris Ivy
Sovereign Seven #36, penciled by Ron Lim, inked by Chris Ivy, and written by Chris Claremont, published by DC Comics with a July 1998 cover date.
As the final issue of Chris Claremont’s Sovereign Seven comes to a close, the Sovereigns, after a long, hard-fought conflict, have finally emerged triumphant against the insidious Rapture.
And then we see that, apparently, the entire story of S7 has been nothing more than a comic book series created by Casey and Morgan, two young women who are customers at the Crossroads Coffee Bar that appeared so often throughout the series.
Sovereign Seven was a creator-owned series that nevertheless took place in the DC universe, with appearances by Darkseid, Superman, Power Girl and other mainstays. Presumably this ending was conceived by Claremont to allow the series to end with a clean break, so that in the future he could have his characters return in an entirely different venue. It’s certainly a metatextual scene, with Casey and Morgan standing in for Claremont himself to reflect on the series’ cancellation.
Of course, as Alan Moore once famously observed, “This is an Imaginary Story… Aren’t they all?” And so I like to think that in some corner or another of the multiverse the events of Sovereign Seven “really” did happen. Ah, well, real or not, it was a fun series.
Ron Lim was the second regular penciler on S7. I have been a fan of Lim since he drew Captain America way back in the early 1990s. I definitely regard him as underrated. On most of his S7 issues Lim was inked by Chris Ivy. They made a great art team, wonderfully illustrating Claremont’s stories.
So, anyone know where I can snag one of those big S7 coffee cups?
64) Frank Bolle
Golden and Silver Age artist Frank Bolle passed away on May 12th at the age of 95. “Outlaw Gold” was penciled & inked by Bolle. It appeared in Tim Holt #29, published by Magazine Enterprises with an April-May 1952 cover date.
Tim Holt was a Western movie star during the 1940s and early 50s. The comic book Tim Holt featured a fictionalized version of the actor who assumes the guise of the costumed vigilante Red Mask in the post-Civil War “Old West.” Tim Holt ran for 54 issues, being re-titled Red Mask with issue #42. Frank Bolle’s artwork appeared in every single issue of Tim Holt / Red Mask. Bolle really excelled at drawing Westerns, and his work on this series was definitely impressive.
“Outlaw Gold” sees beautiful dancehall girl Della Martin enlisting the help of Red Mask to locate a treasure which she says her father hid out in the desert, west of Bald Rock. Pursuing Della are members of Butch Cassidy’s “Wild Bunch” gang, who are all too ready to murder the lovely singer so that they may claim the buried fortune.
On this page, en route to Bald Rock, Red Mask and Della are pursued by a trio of Wild Bunch thugs. Red Mask makes short work of them, knocking all three out. He and Della then bunk down for the night, brewing up some hot coffee to keep warm.
Bolle does nice work on this page. The action flows well. I like how Bolle has Red Mask’s fist swinging out of that third panel, really highlighting the punch. Della is beautifully drawn. And since this is a Western, of course we have horses. I guess this is another crossover with Jim Thompson’s 1000 Horses series!
Here is a double dose of Da Ordster! First up is Adventures of Superman #428, penciled & inked by Jerry Ordway, written by Marv Wolfman, lettered by John Costanza, and colored by Tom Ziuko, published by DC Comics in May 1987.
Here we see Clark Kent and Cat Grant at the offices of the Daily Planet, discussing Perry White’s ongoing investigation of organized crime in Metropolis. Clark is having his morning coffee, and as we can see from his choice of mug he’s a fan of The Far Side.
This page is a good example of both Ordway’s storytelling and inking. He does a good job laying out the conversation between Clark and Cat, presenting it from different angles, making it interesting. I like how Ordway inks Cat on this page. Panel four is especially beautiful.
I know that it’s undoubtedly a function of my having gotten into DC Comics in the late 1980s, but I definitely regard Ordway as one of the definitive Superman artists.
Jumping forward a dozen years we have Avengers volume 3 #18, written & penciled by Jerry Ordway, inked by George Perez, lettered by Richard Starkings, and colored by Tom Smith, published by Marvel Comics in July 1999.
Ordway wrote & drew a really fun three issue story arc on Avengers to give Kurt Busiek & George Perez a chance to catch their breaths. This is the final page of Ordway’s last issue.
Hank Pym is in his lab late at night, studying the technology of the cyborg Doomsday Man, one of the threats the Avengers faced during Ordway’s storyline. Hank has obviously been working for a while, because he disgustedly thinks to himself “*GAH* Coffee’s bitter! ‘Course that pot’s only been on all night…”
Before Hank has a chance to brew some fresh java he is interrupted by the violent arrival of several leering metal monstrosities, servants of his mechanical “son” Ultron. And so Ordway segues back into Busiek & Perez’s own ongoing storylines, with Perez himself inking this last page as part of the transition. Ordway must have been working closely with Busiek, Perez and editor Tom Brevoort to get everything to line up so smoothly.
Jerry Ordway is one of my favorite comic book creators, and I enjoyed his short stint on Avengers. As much as I liked Busiek & Perez, I really wish Ordway could have done more work on this title. He latter penciled the Domination Factor: Avengers and Maximum Security miniseries, on both of these once again doing excellent jobs depicting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
I don’t think Ordway’s had any ongoing assignments in the last two decades, instead bouncing around between various short guest runs, fill-ins, miniseries and specials. That’s a shame, because he’s a very talented artist.