Wednesday 2 November 2011

It's just comics- part 8

While looking for those colour Frazetta stories in part 5, I found, right next to the first one, this story drawn by Bill Everett. It solved its narrative problem in the exact same way as the story illustrated by Frazetta in the following issue. The protagonist sees an opportunity to humiliate her rival by causing her to nearly drown, and then decides she is not really evil and has to help rescue the girl. It's getting so that as soon as I see the swimsuits I get a bad feeling.

Personal Love #24 Nov 1953 (link)

But what held my attention long enough to get through it was the thought of Bill Everett, not only moonlighting away from Marvel (probably why he didn't sign it), but doing a love story, even if it was in his element- water. It seemed so unlikely, and yet anybody making a living in comics between 1949 and 1954 could hardly avoid it, so popular was the genre. Everett was there almost at the beginning of comic books, with his Sub-Mariner, and I'm sure he'd rather have been doing that character still. But times were changing. Sub-Mariner was cancelled in 1949 and now it was all all HORROR and CRIME short stories, and of course ROMANCE.

I wondered if he had done more, and in these days every artist has his chronicler. Everett has a whole appreciation society. With regard to our present subject there's a blogger named Doc V. In two posts (one, two) he has accounted for 36 romance stories that Everett drew for Marvel (under its Timely imprint first, then Atlas). Both of these posts are exhaustive epics that scroll down for about three weeks each. And each contains all the pages of a half dozen selected stories. it's a real reading feast, and Doc V's analytical notes are good.

The thing about Everett is that he never slacks off. If he is not enjoying the job, there is no way that you could tell. He goes at every job he has ever drawn with an equal intensity. Everything gets his full attention: foreground, background, skin, clothes, bricks, mortar, leaves, grass.

Love Diary #9- Oct 1950

Love Adventures #9 Feb 1952

Once he got his head down he didn't look up till it was finished. I think this tended to make his work look quite old-fashioned by the mid-1960s. Perhaps an artist with his head down is apt to miss the look of a changing world. But that kind of application often produced results which were grotesque, which made the artist especially right for horror stories. He drew many of these for Marvel in the early '50s. There are several complete stories at comic book attic. Some of them have the obsessive detail of a Hieronymus Bosch:

Venus #17- 1951

In these romance stories that quality is useful when a brooding intensity is required, such as in this story in which a woman ensures that her wheelchair-bound sister remains a prisoner of her disability. "The anguish meter is pushed into the red zone!" yells our host, Doc V. Sometimes with these things I imagine I'm reading a parable, a metaphor for general application in psychological matters. Interestingly, this one was scripted by Carl Wessler, whom I praised highly for a crime story in part 2 of this series of posts. Every now and then in one of these things I get a feeling that a measure of real observation and understanding has gone into it, that somebody is telling me something.

Lovers #51- Sept. 1952

Sub-Mariner #35-Aug 1954
Namor, the Sub-Mariner, was revived in his own series in April 1954, and Everett happily returned to drawing his adventures. It only lasted until October 1955.

When I was about 19 I put my favourite photos of my childhood and my family and friends in an album. I put word balloons coming out of people's mouths and captions and stuck in travel tickets and bits of maps and tv personalities and other circumstantial evidence. And for the frontispiece I cut out a panel of Namor plunging down an elevator shaft, opressive with every brick and wooden plank drawn in. In my teen-age nihilism it seemed to me to encapsulate the trajectory of life. That's it at left. On the flipside of the cutting he's back to fighting a green scaly monster, but hey, I can cut a panel out and imagine it went a different way if I like. who's going to stop me?
It's just comics

For me the sea prince never got out the elevator shaft.

I don't think Everett did either.

Last year Fantagraphics published a monograph on the artist, written by Blake Bell. There's an audio file of a presentation that Blake gave about the artist in Toronto. In it he also interviews Everett's daughter, Wendy, who was 20 when Bill died at the age of 52 in 1973.



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