Tuesday 21 February 2012

I'm reading Comics Press's excellent trio of collections of The Heart of Juliet Jones daily strip By Elliot Caplin and Stan Drake, when suddenly I've solved a little mystery that has bugged me for years.

Sheldon Moldoff, working anonymously, took over pencilling Bob Kane's share of the Batman comic book stories circa Jan. 1954. But I always had trouble pinning down the exact moment, due to some anomalies in the images, namely that some panels were too well drawn to have been done by Moldoff. For a long time I thought there was another ghost in the mix and that one day we'd be able to put a name to this mysterious artist. Then it dawned on me that it was just a case of Moldoff copying figures from the work of assorted artists from all over the place. For example, here's a panel of Catwoman from Detective #203, Jan 1954:

which is clearly modeled on this Matt Baker Phantom lady splash page from June 1948:

This figure from Batman #92 of June 1955 is the one that has mystified me the longest, as it is clearly not a Moldoff figure in the middle of a job otherwise unquestionably by Moldoff:

Now I find that the source is this figure of Eve Jones in a Stan Drake panel from April 1954:

After a year this kind of pilfering disappeared from Moldoff's work and for the rest of his career he turned out pictures that were invariably stiff but which had a simple, if not quite naive, charm about them.

You learn something every day. Now if only I could learn something useful.


Blogger Loston said...

Pretty nice catches on the pose copies, Eddie. I can never get enough of Drake's Eve Jones! Here's an original I own by Stan Drake with background by my former teacher, "Tex" Blaisdell. Hope you enjoy it. http://www.lostonwallace.com/Drake.jpg

21 February 2012 at 06:07:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

indeed I do.

21 February 2012 at 06:28:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

there may be a problem with posting commments.

Andre Molotiu sent this directly to my email:

For some reason, I can't seem to post comments on your blog: I fill out the rubric for the word recognition, but then I don't get a button to click to go forward and post.

Anyway, I was going to say that it looks like GCD has updated the penciller on the Detective Comics 203 Catwoman story from Moldoff to Kane. I looked it up because I love Moldoff, and even the background didn't look particularly Moldoff-y to me. And the inker is Charles Paris--slowly becoming my favorite inker--who's the one who actually makes it work (because of the inking I like it better than the Baker original, despite that weirdly cropped foot).

21 February 2012 at 19:50:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Kimota94 aka Matt aka AgileMan said...

Wow, those are amazing swipes! It always boggles my mind when one professional artist has to 'steal' so directly from another one like that.

22 February 2012 at 11:02:00 GMT-5  
Blogger marco said...

Great piece of detective work!

I used to be a detective. You think it's going to be so exciting, but all you do is sit around in the car, watching, waiting, wishing you weren't a detective.

Extraordinary exuberance in the Drake panel. Sad to think of him, as you report so magnificently in your Big Numbers autopsy, sitting at his drawing board weeping.

2 March 2012 at 08:23:00 GMT-5  
Blogger jlroberson said...

That's nothing. Look at his HAWKMAN and see how many times Alex Raymond would have had the right to belt Moldoff back in the day. Many pages are virtually direct tracings from FLASH GORDON.

For the most part, Moldoff made his living from being a swiper and imitator.

2 March 2012 at 17:23:00 GMT-5  

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