Saturday, June 23, 2018

Adventures in Comic-Boxing: Drawing a "Blanc"!

A less familiar offshoot of Western Publishing's (Dell and Gold Key Comics) comic book product was "March of Comics".

"March of Comics" was designed to be a giveaway premium, and was used for promotional purposes by major retailers such as Sears, and by others you probably never heard of.

This line, while completely separate from Western's "standard or traditional" comics, featured the same characters and properties Western produced for its Dell and Gold Key Comics series – Disney, Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera, Walter Lantz, MGM, and many more - and were written, drawn, and edited by the same talented individuals that produced the standard line.   

Tony Strobl.

Bud Sagendorf. 

Harvey Eisenberg.

Even Carl Barks produced three notable Donald Duck efforts for March of Comics, with dealer prices so high I could never consider owning any of them!  Thank goodness for reprints... 

  Cover art by Don Rosa. 

Earlier issues of March of Comics were full comic book size, with later versions produced in this oblong 7 ½” x 5 1/8” size...

...Finally settling into a more book-like rectangular 5” by 7”, with issues such as seen below.  You can read more about this JETSONS issue of March of Comics WITHIN THIS POST! 

Note the LIGHT GREEN BLANK SPACE at the bottom, where your very own business's logo could be inserted! 

March of Comics began in 1946 and ran until 1982!  But, today's "Comic-Boxing Adventure", concerns MARCH OF COMICS # 75 BUGS BUNNY, from 1951.  

Bugs also seems to be... er, "comic-boxing" below!  (Pardon!) 

The stories, as noted, were typical Western Publishing fare.  And, when published in the early "comic-book-size" format, appeared virtually identical to their concurrent Dell counterparts.

Honestly, if not for the indicia, could you tell if this was a standard Dell "Bugs Bunny", or a March of Comics?  ...I couldn't!

At this particular time, the interior page count was 22 pages, vs. a standard comic book's 32 or more.  A story such as this would run 18 pages, with the remaining four pages used for puzzles, games, and other activities that (SHUDDER!) most often required a pencil, pen, crayon... or even (GASP!) scissors!

"The Mysterious Ocean Cruise" ran for the aforementioned 18 pages, with "writer unknown" and art by Ken Champin.

And, our usual comic-book-history-lesson aside, it is the ART by Ken Champin - and ONE PANEL IN PARTICULAR - that makes this an "Adventure in Comic-Boxing"!

One might consider this something of an "Ironic Cameo", considering its insertion into the silent medium of the comic book...

...But, isn't that a nice caricature of MEL BLANC, the VOICE of Bugs Bunny, and virtually every other Warner Bros. cartoon character, save (ironically, again) Elmer Fudd, whose pocket he's seen picking!

...Or would that be a "carrot-ature"?  (...Sorry again, I can't help myself!)  

At least I got through that "Ironic Cameo" part without a gag...
Oh, no... wait!  Sorry x Three! 

Okay, at least I won't repeat the pun about Ken Champin... "Drawing a Blanc"?  

...EEP!  I just DID THAT, TOO!  I'd better end this post now!  

Ken Champin is one of those unheralded artists from a time when ALL of them were great, and virtually all of them working for Western Publishing came directly from the major animation studios of the day - bringing ALL of that superb craftsmanship with them.  

He deserves more notoriety than he's gotten, alas!  Special thanks to our friend and extraordinary comics historian Alberto Becattini for his assistance in my recognition of Ken Champin's work.  

And, finally, back to March of Comics... As store giveaways, and perhaps more likely a "disposable throwaway" than even "regular pre-1970s comics" would have been, amassing a collection of MOC is truly an impossible dream.  Even one as dedicated as I have only a handful of them - and mostly from the less-pricey later smaller-sized years.  
...Like this one, Doc! 

But, if you are a fan of ANY era of Western Publishing's output, from the late 1940s onward, March of Comics can open up an entirely new "collecting vista"!  And, unlike many of the Dell-era stories like these, and their corresponding reprint versions...

...Stories appearing in March of Comics were almost NEVER reprinted...

...Save for very infrequent occasions in GOLDEN COMICS DIGEST, a series nearly as difficult to amass as MARCH OF COMICS itself...  

...Or, in some of the extreme later issues of MARCH OF COMICS, before the series finally came to an end.  

So, enjoy 'em... nay, TREASURE 'em, if you find 'em!  ...And happy hunting!  

...That includes "Wabbit Hunting!" 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Review: Disney Masters Mickey Mouse "The Delta Dimension" Romano Scarpa

In a word... yes!  

In two words... Yes! Yes!

In three words... YES!  YES!  YES!  

Do I make myself clear?  

Fantagraphics kicks-off its new Disney Masters line of hardcover collections with a true winner!

But, what is "Disney Masters"?  Allow me to quote from the back cover of the book...

"Fantagraphics' unprecedented new series, Disney Masters, brings you the work of the best Disney cartoonists from around the world - many in English for the first time."

Previously, Fantagraphics has brought us "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson", a heretofore "impossible dream" collecting all the years of Mickey Mouse newspaper strip continuities by the great Floyd Gottfredson - from 1930-1955!

This incredible effort was followed-up by similar collections of the comic book work of Carl Barks...

...And Don Rosa!

Not to mention E.C. Segar's POPEYE!

That is A LOT OF GREAT STUFF, folks! 

With the "Big Disney Three" of Gottfredson, Barks, and Rosa either under their belt, or otherwise ongoing, it is only natural that this extraordinary publisher turn its attentions to those other talents that have made the Disney comic the stuff of legends...

And, who better to feature in the inaugural effort than "The Maestro" himself - Romano Scarpa!  

In the pantheon of Disney comic creators, Italy's Romano Scarpa would rank third overall, directly behind the aforementioned Gottfredson and Barks - and his work was unquestionably influenced by both!

Indeed, while most creators would seem to have had a preference for "The Mickey Mouse Group of Characters" (as did Gottfredson, Paul Murry, Casty, etc.), or "The Donald Duck Group of Characters" (as did Barks, Rosa, William Van Horn, etc.) Romano Scarpa was an extraordinary creative force with both!

Mickey Mouse by Scarpa.

Donald Duck by Scarpa. 

Uncle Scrooge by Scarpa.

While I love 'em all, I feel Scarpa's best work was on Mickey Mouse... and three of Scarpa's very best Mickey Mouse adventures, from what the book notes as his "Golden Age" of 1953-1963, are found in this volume!  

True to the words of the back cover, two of these stories have never before been printed in American English... but, in order to include them, Fantagraphics MUST include our first tale - which HAS been printed in the USA... but only in DIGEST FORM, so it's still a great delight to read it in full size!

Without further ado, we open with "Mickey Mouse in the Delta Dimension" - Story and pencils by Romano Scarpa. Inks by Rodolfo Cimino.  72 Pages. Translation and dialogue by David Gerstein.  Reprinted from Italy's TOPOLINO # 206-207 (1959).

Freakish weather phenomena, like cotton candy snow and a precipitation of glowing lights, lead Mickey and the Mouseton Police to a mysterious blackmailer, who threatens that the next storm will be one of acid!  

The trail leads to a strange place called "The Delta Dimension" and to Mickey's old pal Dr. Einmug, from this ultra-classic Gottfredson tale - and his newest "discovery", the sentient atom-child known as "Atomo Bleep-Bleep"! 

The incredible places to which this tale takes us is proof-positive of the extraordinary imagination of Romano Scarpa.  Sorry... No Spoilers!  ...Awright... mebbe just this li'l one, eh?  

As a sequel to this unforgettable adventure, Scarpa gives us "Mickey Mouse and the Bleep-Bleep 15" - Story and pencils by Romano Scarpa. Inks by Rodolfo Cimino.  63 Pages. Translation and dialogue by Jonathan H. Gray.  Reprinted from Italy's TOPOLINO # 257-258 (1960).

Time has passed and the incredible little genius atom-boy "Atomo Bleep-Bleep" has not only adapted to life outside the Delta Dimension, but is visiting Mickey, and has become a playmate to Mick's nephew Morty.  
Like his mentor, Dr. Einmug, Atomo speaks with a German accent!

An accidental sneeze releases the force of Atomo's "Mesons" (a liquid force that he expels from his mouth - seen here from a different story)...

...And turns a toy rocket into a device that can travel at light-speed and "...steal the gravity and momentum away from any object it touches" - suspending said object (or person) in mid-air, mid-run, or mid-anything!  

Hey, I TOLD YA Scarpa had a great imagination!  

Needless to say, this device gets into the wrong hands, as so many super-scientific marvels are wont to do, and adventure ensues!    Again... No Spoilers!  Except the one I just showed ya below! 

By this time, you may be thinking that Atomo Bleep-Bleep is Romano Scarpa's own version of  "Eega Beeva", Floyd Gottfredson and Bill Walsh's eccentric source of miracles from the year 2447... and you'd be RIGHT!  

In our final story, lest you begin suffering from "Bleep-Bleep Fatigue", Atomo abruptly goes home to the Delta Dimension - not unlike the way Eega abruptly returned to 2477 in the original Gottfredson strip...

...Leaving Mickey to get on with our final adventure: "Mickey Mouse and the Fabulous City of Shan-Grilla" - Story and pencils by Romano Scarpa. Inks by Rodolfo Cimino.  65 Pages. Translation and dialogue by Dwight Decker.  Reprinted from Italy's TOPOLINO # 288-289 (1961).

Mickey's "Bleep-Bleep-less" adventure takes him on a treacherous journey to the supposedly-fictional-but-actually-real lost city of "Shan-Grilla"...
  ...Where he finds an "Old Friend" as the "New Guy in Charge"! 
  No more spoilers... except maybe this! 

So, join Mickey, Minnie, and Peg Leg Pete...

...And Atomo Bleep-Bleep and Dr. Einmug...

...Oh, and did we mention Peg Leg Pete?  
...For the adventures of a lifetime, courtesy of the genius of Maestro Romano Scarpa... Fantagraphics' Disney Masters Mickey Mouse "The Delta Dimension" Romano Scarpa!
As the back cover says: 
"It's Mickey Mouse at his crime-fighting and swashbuckling best!"

...And ain't that the ever-lovin' truth! 
While all roads may have led to Romano Scarpa in this perfect "first-of-series", Fantagraphics has some real treats up their "Disney Masters" sleeve!  If you can believe it, the NEXT VOLUME even TOPS THIS ONE!   
If you thought Romano Scarpa was something, wait until you get a dose of Luciano Bottaro!  

Contained herein is some of the WILDEST STUFF you've ever seen in a Disney comic!  And, if you've read as many of 'em as I have, you know that's quite a statement coming from me!  

I translated and dialogued the titular lead story, so I KNOW what's coming - and IT IS INCREDIBLE!  

The second and third stories in this volume are translated and dialogued by Jonathan Gray and Thad Komorowski.  So, if you like what we do at IDW, you'll love it here - combined, as it is, with the incredible creative energy of Luciano Bottaro!  

And, if you don't know the name of Luciano Bottaro BEFORE reading this book, you'll NEVER FORGET IT afterward!   
Indeed, following Bottaro, you'll need a full volume of "The Relative Sanity of Paul Murry's Mickey Mouse Serials of the 1950s", just to restore your equilibrium!