Week 5: Freestyling

No theme this week, I’m free styling and I like the result.

Darwyn Cooke was a breath of fresh air, his New Frontier art knocked everybody’s socks off but I’ve always liked his work on The Spirit, a beautiful homage to Will Eisner. From The Spirit #2, March 2007.

George Perez is a giant of the Copper Age, I love this page 2/3 spread from New Teen Titans #39, February 1984.

I love trippy Steve Ditko art, he was at his most trippy doing Doctor Strange. Have a look at this Ditko splash from Strange Tales #133, June 1965.

Lou Fine is one of those pearls you find well into your collecting: he did some amazing covers but his inside work was amazing too. Have a look at the splash for National Comics #16, October 1941.

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

Articles: 1713


  1. Fun work, love it all. Darwyn was such a wonderful artist, but I missed his earlier work. I like his Spirit too, Walter. When that was collected as a GN, I handled it in my business, since I try and handle anything to do with Eisner or The Spirit that’s collected, just not the comic books. The modern homages have mostly been very good. The most recent, “Corpse-Makers” by Francesco Francavilla, wasn’t Darwyn, but is worth checking out.

    After discovering fandom in 1965, in addition to collecting “artists” comics like vintage Frazetta, Wood and Crandall, I locked in on the Quality group. They offered Eisner, Crandall, Lou Fine, Jack Cole…but were much easier to find and cheaper to collect than DC or Timely. Still are today!

    And honestly, I still feel, on average, art in the early days, say 1940-42, was better from Quality than a lot we see from the same years from DC and Timely. Once the war took so many artists with enlistment and the draft, every company’s artwork suffered, plus Quality went to runiing many lightweight humor back-up strips.

    So I heartily applaud your Lou Fine choice here. Uncle Sam has always been under-rated in my eyes. In National Comics, and his own title, Uncle sam particularly the first three issues.

    Uncle Sam #1 is nearly all Eisner, often inked by none other than Lou Fine. Eisner is at his most creative period (with one great Dave Berg story there, too). This is the Autumn 1941 issue. Eisner’s first Spirit section was just a year prior, June 2, 1940. How did he do all this plus a weekly Spirit section? Young and ambitious!

    #2 has a Lou Fine cover and a 14-pager by him, then a bunch of great Dave Berg work (he was a career Mad magazine artist later on, but his early comics work, such as Death Patrol in Military Comics before #10 or #12, was brilliant—obviously influence by Eisner but going his own way).

    Uncle Sam #3, Summer 1942, is still being written by Eisner, but now you get George Tuska doing the cover and most inside work, with one very good story by none other than Al McWilliams, who was brilliant on “technical” accuracy with planes and warships, so he often got these stories. Tuska was no Lou Fine, but he was a solidly good artist in those days, and did outstanding work for many early companies, including Fox, Fiction House, etc.

    From the first issue, National Comics also boasted highly creative Eisner work, then Lou Fine doing covers and the lead Uncle Sam story, then Reed Crandall moves in until around #32 or so. Brilliant wartime, patriotic covers by Crandall in the #20s to #32. I’ve carefully upgraded my copies on all these books, some of the best of their day and still ti be found at less than crazy prices.

    George Perez doesn’t seem to be the fan favorite he once was, but this is an example why he once was a big deal, on the par with John Byrne.

    And who can’t love Ditko doing his “other dimensions” thing in Doctor Strange?

  2. Great column Walt! Not only do I love the splashes and the verbal color you add, we have the addition of Buds historic commentary following up!

  3. You guys are so nice, thanks! Sometimes I do have to look something up to make sure I’m not winging things with bad info. It was a surprise that Eisner had already been doing The Spirit for a year when he did Uncle Sam #1 in 1942. I would have thought he’d stopped contributing to Quality once he started the weekly gig. Maybe he had staffers helping, most likely on the Spirit sections. I bet someone knows more.

  4. Freewheeling is great Walt, covers the decades and worthy brilliance. Like all of these and I’m measuring my space to see where I can place another bookcase, darn ya’ll. I need to replenish Eisner in some manner and I don’t have any Lou Fine, Crandall, Mac Raboy or the other classic guys in any form. It’ll have to be books. Picked up the Doctor Strange Omnibus a while back for a Ditko fix.

    Keep ’em coming!

  5. The Cooke blew me away. I’ve been meaning to read _The New Frontier_ for years – that might give me the needed push.

    That Perez is absolutely unbelievable. I thought “Walt should credit the inker as well” so I went looking and of course the inker is Perez. Extraordinary. That said – and I bought both this run and his Avengers run back in the day – something about his work just didn’t grab me the way Byrne’s work did.

    The Ditko is what I would call a “Walt choice”. I just can’t get too excited by these geometric designs. This one rates higher because it is signature Ditko style, but I wouldn’t put it in this company.

    You saved the best for last with that Fine. Sadly because it is inside National #16, almost nobody is going to see it in the wild these days – you would have to be well fixed to crack a copy of that book open. If you know where this was reprinted do tell. It might be heresy to go against a giant green skeleton, but I think I like this splash more than the cover. The rendition of the battleship is madness.

    As much as I loved Covered 365, I think you are adding more value with this exercise, imparting your knowledge of what is inside the books. Great stuff.

  6. Okay hold the presses. I kept looking at that Perez and I kept thinking, “how did he manage to pencil and ink that and get it out the door on time?” So I poked around some more and some sources have Romeo Tanghal as inker. GCD is particularly confusing – it has Perez credited as the inker for the original comic, but Tanghal as the inker for reprints (e.g Omnibus Vol. 2).

    What adds to the confusion is that Tanghal was clearly the inker for New Teen Titans Vol. 2 #39 (Barreto pencils), so I can’t tell whether him being credited for Vol. 1 #39 is crosstalk.

    Behind me sit many boxes, one of which contains the book according to my database. Which box? I don’t think I will find out. If anybody knows whether it was really Perez or really Tanghal, please give evidence.

  7. You can read any if the National-issues at : Readcomiconline. I looked for the Titans but it appears to be scans of the trade.

  8. Chris, come by my place sometime and you can open any book you want. I have pretty much a complete Quality collection, just lacking Feature #1, and just a couple in slabs which I will eventually bust open.

    Ok, please forgive me my egoboo guys. Could not resist. But seriously, I love sharing my collection with friends. We have a local comics group in nearby Sacramento and we do show-and-tell there. Only one member brings anything still slabbed, but his are Centaur titles. Another buddy has HiS own Centaur collection, and runs of pre-Action #1 DCs, like oversize More Funs, New Adventure, and we can carefully page through them with his approval.

    Tim, did you get a copy of Roger Hill’s recently published Mac Raboy: Master of the Comics? Its absolutely top notch. I learned a lot and I have collected Raboy for decades. I featured it on my catalog cover last fall, which I only do for the very best, i.e. my favorite new books, since we only do six catalogs a year. The catalog is free, if any of you guys want one. Just ask. The new one has a Roy Krenkel cover for his new “Art of” book. I am [email protected] or download it from my website, budplant.com

    Tim, I’ll send you a copy at my “friends” discount of $10 off and bill you, and that goes for any of you guys if you’d like one. Just send me an address.

    Roger Hill brought a stack to the OAF-Con in Oklahoma City last October and sold them all the first day. After that, disappointed people kept coming by my table, but Roger had air-shipped in advance copies…I didn’t have mine yet. OAF-Con only has about 600 attendees, but its far and away my favorite comics show. Buddy Saunders is another of the good old boys there, mycomicshop to you guys.

    Here is a look at the Raboy book. https://www.budsartbooks.com/mac-raboy-master-of-the-comics.html

  9. Sorry fellas, was at a Library Conference last 3 days and missed a bit. Thanks Chris, the open concept is nice too, I have almost limitless quality choices each week. I’m enjoying the freedom.

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