Friday, May 18, 2018

I’m Not an Artist, But… Lost in (ALL THAT EMPTY) Space!

The success of my two recent regular features "Adventures in Comic-Boxing" and "Separated at Mirth", has prompted me to add a THIRD such feature, which I call "I’m Not an Artist, But…". 

While "Adventures in Comic-Boxing" deals with my journeys through my comics long-boxes and the delightful oddities found within - such as THIS...

...And "Separated at Mirth" is a celebration of the many similar gags and other concepts found on comic book covers and their interiors, as presented by different artists and characters - as seen HERE...

"I’m Not an Artist, But…" calls deserved attention to things that... shall we say... could have been executed better!  Or, perhaps never attempted at all.  

But, being a WRITER, I've always been reluctant to criticize the work of artists... if only because I feel they have a far more difficult job than does the writer - and he or she is FAR MORE OUT FRONT in the comic book medium than is the writer!  

Oh, it's not as if I haven't taken certain things to task, such as this absolutely dreadful four-panel sequence by artist Kay Wright from the Now-Infamous-Because-I've-Made-It-So "Bird Bothered Hero" from DONALD DUCK # 127 (1969)...

...But now such items of infamy will have their own subset feature at TIAH Blog!  As is our way around here, we will not be needlessly critical, but will "give credit - or whatever serves as its polar opposite" - as circumstances dictate.   

Let's begin, shall we... 

WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES # 574 (1992), published during (what our friend Elaine has contributed to our lexicon as) "The Disney Interregnum" between the superior issues published during what we denote as "Gladstone Series One", and the lesser issues of "Gladstone Series Two"!

Even if the figure of Donald Duck was intentionally drawn maybe a tad "small" - to indicate the vastness of the mountaintops - why is he so noticeably to the right of center?  No political jokes, please!  ...And there's far too much empty space between the figure and the title-logo as well! 

My only guess is that, while the cover is already overburdened with clutter of a non-illustrative, non-title-logo nature, there may have been still more annoying promotional hype-copy intended for the center-left (...again, no political jokes) of the cover image!  

Whatever the reason, I’m Not an Artist, But… this cover simply could have been executed better!   

As an INAUGURAL BONUS for the "I’m Not an Artist, But…" feature, here's out First Runner-Up in the category of "Poor Space Management" - IDW's UNCLE SCROOGE # 8 (2015).

Just one of the many things IDW has done right with these comics is that, aside from a roll call of us creators, there is never any CLUTTER on their Disney comic covers!  

So, why not just ENLARGE the central image of Scrooge and the Jack-in-the-Box Treasure Chest, and REDUCE that needless empty space of SAND at the cover's bottom?  I’m Not an Artist, But… such a modification seems logical - and more aesthetically pleasing to boot! 

And it's not as if the great Carl Barks didn't already "show 'em how", back in 1953! 

Not a drop of wasted space ANYWHERE!  Way to go, Unca Carl! 

Indeed, as "I’m Not an Artist, But…" progresses, I'm certain we'll see little or nothing from the likes of Carl Barks, Harvey Eisenberg, Neal Adams, or Curt Swan.  The rest of you are FAIR GAME... especially YOU, Charlton!  

WOW! Speaking of CLUTTER! 


Achille Talon said...

You're looking at the clutters, but all I can see on that Flintstones cover is oh my ROCK, why on Earth is Fred's suit blue? What animal do you suppose he even got that from? Did he skin a prehistoric smurf? Mr Peyo's rightholders would respectfully disagree.

Elaine said...

The Disney Interregnum (so labeled because it came between Gladstone I and Gladstone II, which we write as if they were kings!) was a real mixed bag as far as covers went. It produced some of my favorite covers: several by Van Horn or by Rosa, Franzen’s cover for Barks’ “Island in the Sky” (U$ 268). Sometimes the covers where Bob Foster is listed as idea-man are great: Stephen DeStefano’s truant nephews on WDCS 577, Neal Sternecky’s three caballeros on WDCS 583. But then there are a bunch of bombs, including some where Foster was involved. For instance, I think the Mickey cover on WDCS 578 also has a bit of an empty-space problem. Gladstone and Gemstone seemed to me to be more consistent in the quality of their covers. Even so, the Disney Interregnum contributed more covers to my favorites list than Gladstone I; I’m not a fan of Jippes’ covers generally—only one of the ones he did for Gladstone I makes my favorites list. IDW Disney, on the other hand, has probably the best ratio of great covers to number of issues so far. Of course, it helps their ratio that they can have three covers per issue! Still, the overall very high quality has been impressive. And as you point out, the IDW covers have been blessedly clutter-free. In contrast with many European Disney comics covers, way more cluttered than anything we've seen here in the States!

And yes, in terms of my personal favorites list, IDW Disney even out-does Dell. That’s mostly because I rarely fall in love with a gag cover. If Barks had drawn more story-related covers, and if when he drew story-related covers he hadn’t often been hogtied by silly editorial demands (e.g. that he put ALL THE DUCKS ON THE COVER), I’m sure more Barks covers would be on my favorites list.

Comicbookrehab said...

Viewing that cover of Uncle Scrooge online makes the flaw noticeable, but I don't really see that flaw when I'm holding the physical copy of the book. It's like that expression when they say the camera adds/takes away five pounds on an actor or actress...I think it's doing that here.

I wonder if the whole point of giving Fred Flintstone a blue toga in place of his familiar orange toga was to promote the novelty of the comic having coloring pages..That is a nice-looking Wilma, though.

Comicbookrehab said...

I just noticed that the ubiquitous "Ray Dirgo" couldn't be bothered to design a trailer with a prehistoric "Flintstone" look and just drew a generic 20th century trailer, instead. The cover is completed, time to finish that bottle.

Joe Torcivia said...


While we MAY have dropped below the “Horrifically Busy Line” just a tad, we are still far busier than we’d like to be, so please forgive the delay in Comment Review and Response of late!

…Perhaps “we’d” be less busier still if I used “I” instead of “we”, maybe?

…At least there’d be fewer letters to type! Anyway, onward…

Joe Torcivia said...


You write: “You're looking at the clutters, but all I can see on that Flintstones cover is oh my ROCK, why on Earth is Fred's suit blue?”

While there is a virtually endless litany of atrocities committed by Charlton against the Hanna-Barbera characters in those horrible comics of the seventies, Fred’s suit being blue is not one of them!

There was a point, around that general time, where Fred’s suit becoming blue may have been dictated by Hanna-Barbera itself! Perhaps Gene Hazelton, who was the driving force in the comics department of H-B, decided this. You can see a very typical example of it at THIS LINK!

That may have also necessitated the color change of Fred’s TIE from BLUE to BLACK, something that was reflected in the Gold Key comic books of the later sixties. You can also see THAT at the link, with Yogi Bear’s tie “fading to black”, as well!

Oh, and if Fred HAD to skin a Smurf in pursuit of a new fashion sense, let us hope it was a “Hanna-Barbera Smurf”, and not a “Peyo Smurf”!

Joe Torcivia said...


A very interesting collection of comments! Let's address 'em!

As I said back in 1991, and can still be quoted from COMICS’ BUYERS’ GUIDE if anyone has the old back issues, Bob Foster was “The Heart and Soul” of Disney (Interregnum) Comics, and was the single individual there with ANY respect for traditionalism, and the things that made the Disney comic book great in the first place! Everything he touched “turned to gold”, at least in my opinion.

Daan Jippes, when providing all those great covers for Gladstone Series I, went for a lively look that told the readers of 1986 (both new and especially those returning) that THESE COMICS are very different from the Whitman ones you’ve been getting for years! Jippes’ work, regardless of the occasionally variable interior material – that was STILL mostly good to great, was the perfect “opening shot across the bow” toward restoring the Disney comic book to something resembling its former greatness, having been left to atrophy and die of neglect!

And, my favorite covers, be they for Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse, or Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Woody Woodpecker, Popeye, or sometimes even The Flintstones, are the ones that illustrate the lead adventure story – assuming there is one! One of the greatest things Gold Key did when they started, was to restore this 1940s-early ‘50s Dell tradition that had fallen by the wayside.

It actually hurts that, while Don Rosa and even Tony Strobl drew cover illustrations for “The Twenty-Four Carat Moon” (still one of my most favorite Uncle Scrooge stories – note my avatar), Carl Barks never did so!

Same (both Rosa and Strobl) for "Secret of Hondorica"!

Joe Torcivia said...


“The ubiquitous Ray Dirgo”, and many of his other Charlton Charlatans will be featured in future installments of “I’m Not an Artist, But…”! Fear not!

In fact, that particular FLINTSTONES cover is scheduled to be a subject. Then again, there are SOOO MANY to choose from, over the Charlton Hanna-Barbera catalogue, aren’t there?

I don’t mind at all your “stealing my thunder” in your observations on this cover. Indeed, they give me added verve to press on!

I, too, was going to (and still will) note that the TRAILER does not look at all pre-historic, in that “Flintstones-design” sort of way! Why isn’t it “a big rock with windows and wheels” for instance?

You could also nit-pick about the SIGN! Maybe some detail on the wood or rope could have made IT ALSO look “more B.C.” than 1971! And Pebbles doing that jumping-jack? No baby could do that, no matter how happy or excited she was at seeing her old man “geysered”. At least in the Gold Key comic books and in the newspaper strip, she moved (more or less) as a baby actually would.

…And, Fred’s blue suit was addressed above.

I saw the UNCLE SCROOGE cover just as flawed when I picked it up at the comic shop! Indeed, I immediately remarked about it that that moment. No “camera tricks”, as I see it.

Elaine said...

True that--Jippes' covers for Gladstone I were a tremendous improvement over the schlock covers on the Whitman Disney comics. And I still get a warm feeling when seeing one of those Jippes covers, since it reminds me of my joy and gratitude at the restoration of Disney comics under Gladstone to something resembling their former glory. Nonetheless, almost none of them are personal favorites of mine. Just a matter of artistic style preferences.

And yes, it's a great pity that Barks didn't get to draw covers illustrating many of his own wonderful stories. Tralla La, The Secret of Atlantis, The Unsafe Safe, Pipeline to Danger, A Cold Bargain, The Seven Cities of Cibola...all gag covers, sigh. I even wish WDCS had let Barks draw covers illustrating his ten-pagers. I often like very much the covers that other artists have drawn for Barks' stories--Rosa's for "The Twenty-Four Carat Moon" is actually one of my favorites, enhanced greatly by the guy who redesigned the "Uncle Scrooge Adventures" logo for that particular issue to go with it (I'm too lazy to go find his name right now). But in a perfect world we'd have Rosa's cover *and* Barks' cover.

I do occasionally love a gag cover. But usually it's a gag cover that seems to tell a whole story: like Barks' cover where Donald is filling a rubber boat with hot water for the boys during a blizzard, or Mau Heymans' cover where Donald thinks an alien is one of his nephews in disguise (WDCS 737B).

Joe Torcivia said...


The credit, as it appears in Gladstone’s UNCLE SCROOGE ADVENTURES # 13 (Cover Date: June, 1989), reads as follows: “Front Cover by Don Rosa (logo by Russ Miller)”.

And HERE is that wonderful cover, illustrating Carl Barks’ “The Twenty-Four Carat Moon”, originally from Dell’s UNCLE SCROOGE # 24 (1958) – it’s “gag cover” shown HERE to illustrate the point!

But, I like the gag covers too – and there should have been a healthy mix! Or, maybe “illustrative” covers on the character-specific titles that offered adventures (like THIS amazing cover for BUGS BUNNY) and gag covers for the “studio-omnibus titles” like WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES, LOONEY TUNES AND MERRIE MELODIES, WALTER LANTZ NEW FUNNIES, etc.… like THIS ONE!

Or, how about a HYBRID combining an adventure illustration with a gag? That would have been interesting to see a bit more regularly!

Elaine said...

OK, as long as we're rewriting history to our liking, I'll give you gag covers on the studio-omnibus titles including WDCS.

That Easter Bugs cover is very cute, with the chick sawing its way out. Though Bugs doesn't quite look like Bugs to me--I'm not familiar enough with the his character design to know why. And the Haunted Mountains cover is indeed impressive!

I didn't realize that Bugs had so many different-colored pairs of gloves! Three different colors in these three covers!

Joe Torcivia said...


Like all classic characters who have been around for a long time, the look of Bugs Bunny tended to vary from artist to artist. Or even from decade to decade, if an artist or a series has been around long enough.

For instance, the “Sawing Easter Egg” cover and the “Hybrid Adventure/Gag” cover were both by esteemed Bugs Bunny comic artist Ralph Heimdahl, who drew the Bugs Bunny newspaper strip from 1948, into the 1970s. A very little more on him can be found in THIS POST!

Let alone, classic Donald Duck by Carl Barks vs. Donald by someone like Kay Wright (distorted bad) or Giorgio Cavazzano (distorted good!)

And, I suppose I’ve seen so many Bugs Bunny comics in my life – and continue to enjoy them to the present day - that I really never noticed about the different colored gloves! Great observation!

Inside the comics, his gloves were always plain-old-white, as they ought to be. Perhaps it was felt that an extra splash of color would better enhance the covers, and Bugs was happy to oblige. After all, with no other clothes (save his presumably massive disguise kit), his wardrobe could certainly accommodate multiple pairs of gloves!

Pan Miluś said...

Hiya Joe ^_^

Forgive me for the oftopic but an episode of my (Polish) comic book series got finally translated into english and published on friends webstie :

Knowing what big, BIG comic fan you are I would love to share it with you :) :) :)

It's more adultish series but I hope you like it ^_^