December 30, 2009

Pre-Mad Sergio Aragonés?

This morning I set out to fulfill an earlier promise I had made to post some actual Al Kilgore art but was sidetracked by a bit of a mystery. You see, I was seeking verification for a Kilgore tale that appeared in Gold Key's Rocky and his Fiendish Friends #1 when I saw a credit (submitted by Karl Wilcox) attributing a Boris and Natasha 5-pager in that same issue to none other but Sergio Aragonés.

The more I pored over that tale, the more I believed it to be Sergio's work. Here is one detail that seems to bear his mark:

A passage from Sergio's official bio states:

In 1962, he decided to try his luck in America, and arrived in New York with only twenty dollars and a folder bulging with his cartoon work. At first, work was slow in coming and what he did sell didn't pay very well, forcing him to work as a singer/poet in Greenwich Village restaurants and to pick up other odd jobs.

Rocky and His Fiendish Friends #1 is cover dated October 1962, so this story could conceivably be an example of the work that was "slow in coming." If this is Sergio's art, it predates his Mad debut by quite a few months and might be one of his first efforts published in America, although he had been selling professionally to Mexican publications since around 1954.

His first Mad piece, "A MAD Look at the U.S. Space Effort", appeared in Mad #76 (January 1963). That piece and the Boris and Natasha piece both revolve around the space program. Intriguing.

It's only speculation, but perhaps Sergio chose the space program as the subject of the Mad article because he had done research on the space program for the B&N story. That's assuming Sergio DID the B&N story, and since only one person (Karl Wilcox) has made that assertation, I can only say it's a definite maybe.

Your thoughts?

UPDATE! Through direct contact with Sergio, multiple credible sources now confirm that this story was not drawn by Mad's Marginal Master after all! If you need a fix of Sergio awesomeness, I can refer you to this new 272 page book which is filled to the brim with, as is stated on the cover, "Five Decades of His Finest Works!" Viva Sergio!

December 27, 2009

William Overgard's "The Crisco Keed"

In this take-off of The Cisco Kid, our hero is foiled when Little Eddie and his gang procure all the hair oil in town, leaving our normally dapper hero afraid to leave his room. Writer and artist William Overgard began drawing the syndicated comic strip "Steve Roper" in 1954, the same year this comic was published.

From The Three Stooges #7 (Oct. 1954, St. John); story/art by William Overgard

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December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Frosty's Favorite Interjections

For those occasions when "Happy Birthday!" won't suffice, Frosty has an arsenal of other exclamations at his command.

Frosty has made the common mistake of confusing icicles with fajita platters.
More to the point...Why are you peeping in windows at little boys?
This is an illustration from David Feldman's newest Imponderables book, titled "Why Don't Snowballs Sizzle?"
When Frosty starts to melt, the hallucinations begin. Last time it was lampreys.
Okay, this is a really inappropriate gift. Shame on you, Blitzen!
I actually looked this one up. I was thinking a flapdoodle was a kind of hotcake, but apparently it means "foolish talk" or "nonsense." So..."Frozen foolish talk!" At least he's honest.
Frosty learns a painful life lesson. Stars can't hear you when your words become frozen.
Female office worker #1: "I really like Frosty, but he's got..."

Female office worker #2: "I know...flakes."

Wow! He really is the "snow" man!

December 23, 2009

Don't Be A Yule Fool!

Bob Bolling is the name that springs to mind when discussing Little Archie, but today I am shining a light on another creator who put his own stamp on the series. Dexter Taylor, a friend of Bolling, began contributing stories for Little Archie as far back as issue #4. After this holiday themed tale (written in rhyme), you can read an article about Taylor which appeared in the Palm Beach Post in 2008. It must have been quite a challenge for Taylor to emulate the style of Bob Bolling, but Taylor pulled it off very well. Kudos and wishes for a happy holiday to you, Mr. Taylor!

From The Adventures Of Little Archie #17 (Winter 1960-61): story and art by Dexter Taylor

'Little Archie' proved to be artist's big break
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, May 03, 2008 - Dexter Taylor began drawing when he was 5 years old - sketching on paper and grocery bags at every turn, using anything he could find that would hold a pencil line.

He would copy the popular comic strips of the day and make up his own cartoons.

"My family moved around a lot, so it was a good way for me to get to know other kids in new places," said the Riviera Beach resident. "I've always wanted to be a cartoonist."

It turns out, his early dream has worked out just fine. Taylor, 77, has been writing and drawing stories for Archie Comics for more than 50 years and still works for the company each month.

For almost all of his career at Archie Comics, Taylor has guided the tales of Little Archie, a preteen version of the redheaded comic-book icon. Along with friend and fellow cartoonist Bob Bolling, Taylor has been writing and drawing Little Archie stories since the late 1950s.

A second volume of stories by both Taylor and Bolling, The Adventures of Little Archie, was published recently.

After high school and a short stint at a Boston art college, Taylor landed an entry-level job at Archie Comics in 1954, doing production work on Archie's Mechanics. The comic book, which featured the Archie characters working on cars and other Popular Science-type projects, lasted only three issues and commands collector prices topping $1,000 these days.

At Archie, Taylor met Bolling, who'd also just started at the company, and they became roommates and friends. Taylor's break came in 1956, when Bolling was picked to write and draw the Little Archie comic book.

The company then took what was then considered a gamble on introducing another Archie comic into the marketplace turned out to be a huge success. The first issues sold millions of copies, and readers demanded more stories about the young Riverdale gang.

With Issue No. 3, Archie Comics made a bold move and changed Little Archie from a regular 10-cent comic book to a larger 25-cent quarterly with more than 80 pages.

Bolling couldn't write and draw all the stories, so the company recruited other house artists to pitch in. Taylor was one of them.

His first Little Archie story appeared in Issue No. 4, and he hasn't let up since.

"But I needed a lot of help at first in getting the drawing right and the stories to fit the formula," he said. "Bob Bolling was a great help, and an artist by the name of Bob White constantly helped me correct problems."

Taylor kept doing the stories, sometimes to the tune of three or four an issue. He and Bolling not only did the typical Archie Comics gag stories but also filled the book with tales of adventure and mystery. Little Archie solved crimes, fought bullies at school, made friends with a pair of misguided Martians and fought his arch-enemy, Mad Doctor Doom and his sidekick, Chester.

Bolling soon went on to draw "big Archie" stories, and Taylor took over the entire book - doing the covers, and both writing and penciling the stories. Often, someone else would ink Taylor's work to give him time to do the main chores. "I got better at doing Little Archie, and I think the people at Archie thought I could handle it," he said.

Cartoonist Scott Shaw of San Diego, Calif., lauds the smooth transition from the Bolling stories to Taylor's handling of the character. "The posing, expressions and especially Dexter's writing made you believe that these really were the familiar teenage characters in their childhood," Shaw said.

Little Archie survived in his own comic book until 1983. But he has been featured in the various Archie Comics digests, which Taylor continues to work on.

Longtime Archie collector Jack Copley of Orlando thinks the stories with a lesson were one of the reasons Little Archie was so popular.

"Little Archie was the Leave it to Beaver of comic books: wholesome stories the whole family could enjoy, often with lessons to be learned - and Dexter often had a clever ending," Copley said.

Illinois comic-book store owner John Robinson believes Taylor had an under-appreciated staying power.

"Dexter's ability to consistently draw the same core characters month in and month out for over 20 years, maintaining quality and ingenuity, should not be overlooked," he added. "It's difficult for (artists) to keep themselves interested in their work when they have to stare at the dreaded 'blank page' each morning."

When asked which is more difficult, writing or drawing a comic-book story, Taylor said: "Sometimes, the writing comes really easy, and sometimes, the art comes easy. There isn't a set answer to that."

In 2005, Taylor and Bolling were guests of the Comic-Con International at San Diego, where they were wined and dined by fans and awarded the prestigious Ink Pot award for their contributions to the art form.

"That was really special," Taylor said.

Taylor and his wife, Jackie, came down to Florida to live in 1994, choosing their Riviera Beach home so they could be near one of their daughters, who had previous moved to Jupiter. Their second daughter soon followed and lives in Palm Beach Gardens. Their son still works in New Jersey. They have 10 grandchildren.

One reason Florida weather suits the Taylor family is their love of swimming. All three of their children swam competitively when they were younger, achieving All-America status. Taylor helped coach them and still gets in his regular laps at the community pool. Naturally, the swimming bug has been passed on to their grandchildren, as well.

The Taylors recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, but Dexter's first love remains cartooning.

"Oh, I still love to sit down and write and draw Little Archie stories," he said. "I'll keep doing them for as long as they want me to."

December 20, 2009

The Jerry Lewis/Batman Christmas Special

If you thought David Bowie meeting Bing Crosby for a Christmas duet was weirdly wonderful, you might get a kick out of this tribute. The perpetrators of this act of senseless comedy are Jeff Hoover (Jerry) and Mike Toomey (Batman).

Frosty The Terrorist

Say, remember that Christmas when Frosty The Snowman magically came to life and, with the aid of his Anti-Establishment pals, tried to blow up Vice President Rockafella's mansion with bombs disguised as snowballs? Robert Crumb does.

Arcade, The Comics Revue #4 (October 1975); story and art by Robert Crumb

December 18, 2009

Walt Scott's "The Music Box Trio"

And now, a Christmas story by Walt Scott , creator of The Little People. According to Alberto Beccatini, this story was originally presented as a NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association) Christmas newspaper strip in 1957.

From Four Color #1062 (December 1959); GCBD credits Walt Scott with script, pencils, and inks.