POP ART 1963: THE READERS OF TIME MAGAZINE RESPOND

Roy Lichtenstein based his painting I Can See the Whole Room! on a panel from the newspaper comic strip Steve Roper. It is often mentioned that William Overgard, artist on the strip, had a letter published in Time magazine (May 17th 1963) about the painting. It’s a short letter and often quoted in full.

The Legion is happy to quote it in full below, this time in the context of the whole section of the letter page devoted to the subject of Pop Art. We were unaware that the magazine had previously run a feature on Pop. (We will endeavour to find a copy!) The letters were responding to that article. We wonder if the balance in the letters Time printed reflects their correspondents’ overall balance of views, or indeed that of the US population of the time.

There were slightly more important things going on, as shown by the magazine’s cover story. Birmingham Alabama had been torn by race riots after heavy-handed police responses to peaceful demonstrations against segregation. Pop Art itself probably wasn’t saying a lot about that.

cover Time May 17,1963

Pop Art

Sir:   Pop art [May 3] is the most exciting thing that has happened in America since Little Eva tripped over the ice cubes. The Guggen­heim Museum is to be congratulated on its forward-looking policy. Fifty years from now there will be a revival of pop art that will make the recent revival of the Armory Show look pale indeed.    JASON A. SPENALZO,  Hamilton, N.Y.

Sir:   I’m not fooled. I think it stinks.    DIANE FRECHIN, Bremerton, Wash.

Sir:   As a cartoonist I was interested in Roy Lichtenstein’s comments on comic strips in your article on pop art.

Though he may not, as he says, copy them exactly, Lichtenstein in his painting currently being shown at the Guggenheim comes pretty close to the last panel of my Steve Roper Sunday page of Aug. 6, 1961. Very flattering… I think?

WILLIAM OVERGARD, Stony Point, N.Y.

illo

Illustration accompanying the Overgard letter

Sir:   Well, I’ll tell, you, it was really something ! Since we don’t allow the kids to read war comics, our first problem was to acquire suitable copies. My wife and I worked both sides of the alley for two blocks and finally came up with a couple of good ones out of a garbage can. One was Blood and Bombs and the other Guts and Glory. We started the project at 8 p.m., and by 11 we had cut out and pasted to the walls of our living room 147 panels. These ranged from a buxom nurse giving a G.I. a shot of penicillin to a Com­munist guerrilla with his intestines exposed by mortar fire.

The next day I stomped flat eleven empty cans. We stuck mostly to Campbell soup cans, but threw in a sweet potato can and a card­board chow mein container for originality. These I nailed to the walnut paneling above the fireplace. When my wife returned from her trip to a nearby drive-in, we took the hamburgers and a single hot dog and affixed them to the north wall of the dining room, then stood back and threw hot chili and beans over the entire arrangement.

No need to tell you that our new art col­lection is the rage of the community. In the past, we had envied our more financially blessed citizens for their expensive art objects. Now we not only feel their equals, but, if my civil suit for the return of two old jackets I gave to the Salvation Army is successful, I sincerely feel that we can take one giant leap up the local social ladder to a position of un­challenged eminence.   WILLIAM E. HAFFORD, Tucson, Ariz.

~~~

Oh Mr Hafford, you wag. We’ll bet you had the Time readers in stitches.

The Legion suspects Mr Hafford and Ms Frechin were more typical of the readership than Mr Spenalzo.

Mr H demonstrates the contempt with which comics were viewed by many at the time. He has failed to notice that nurses are now considerably less buxom, and Commies no longer showing their internal organs, in the comic pages, since the Comics Code Authority cleaned up their act in 1954.

The Legion says: God bless the Comics Code, china cups and virginity!

Approved_by_the_Comics_Code_Authority

Here’s a slightly better image of Roy L’s painting:

whole room

And here’s a scan of the Overgard panel from David Barsalou’s amazing web pages (the best collection of Lichtenstein’s source images bar none, at http://www.flickr.com/photos/deconstructing-roy-lichtenstein/46915622/):

Overgard panel

Posted in Gallery art, Newspaper comic strips, Pop Art, Quotations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SPECIAL GUEST STAR: JIM STERANKO (2)

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From Captain America no. 104

You will recall that in part 1 the Legion wrote about Captain America no.104 with its exciting Jim Steranko inks on one page of the beautiful  Kirby/Adkins artwork. We speculated as to how come and where Jim S had inked the page. A bit of googling was done.

It emerged that Adkins had revealed some facts in a letter to fanzine Amazing Heroes in 1989, 20+ years after the event. Having got a copy of Amazing Heroes no. 167 from They Walk Among Us (impeccably graded at Fine and reasonably priced; thanks Jon!) the Legion can now report on that Dan Adkins letter.

!SPOILER ALERT!

If you, like us, like to find these things for yourselves, here is a list of the comics concerned. Pull ‘em off the shelf, have a butcher’s, give yourself the Steranko spotter’s challenge!

Or: skip to Dan’s letter below, then have a look at some lovely pics after that.

The Legion got some of the right answers but also “spotted” a few panels which Jaunty Jim never went anywhere near with his (or Dapper Dan’s) ink pot. All comics 1968, natch.

Daredevil no. 42, 1 panel

Daredevil no. 44 (Trick question; not mentioned in the letter but listed online)

Strange Tales no. 166,  3 panels (or so Dan says… read on.)

Here’s part of Dan’s letter:

DAN ADKINS Reading, PA

Adkins With the Facts

A couple of corrections for the Paul Gulacy interview.

Quote: “AH: Didn’t Steranko ink a couple of pages of [Master of]Kung Fu? GULACY: That’s right, Steranko was visiting Dan one day, looked at this Gulacy stuff and started noodling around. Actually, he only inked one full page.”

Steranko has never inked Paul Gu­lacy. Must be wishful thinking on Paul’s part. But, Jim did ink a few panels on jobs I was working on while living in Brooklyn.

They are:

Captain America #104; Jim inked heads of Nick Fury on page 11.

Daredevil #42; Jim inked panel 5 on page 12.

Strange Tales #166; Jim inked panel 3 on page 4 and inked the heads in panels 4 and 5.

That’s it. No Gulacy.

[Dan goes on to correct another erroneous statement  made by Paul Gulacy about Frank Frazetta borrowing from Dan's swipe files. We paraphrase: "Frank Frazetta was not a swipe artist – that Roy Krenkel though...!" Well, Dan, it takes one to know one.]

~

So, the answer to our question in the previous post about how the Steranko inks came about is: he dropped round to Dan’s place in Brooklyn now and then, and just couldn’t keep his hands off.

Now, the panels in question:

DD 42:  page 12, panel 5.

DD_42 p12_Colan_Steranko_pn5_72dpi

The Legion got this one right off the bat. Once our Steranko spotter-bot was turned on it stood out like a Steranko-sized glowing thumb. An odd choice, one might think, with all those lovely Gene Colan faces and figures to be inked; but then, there is evidence elsewhere that Jim S was fond of cars.

Here’s the panel with its neighbour, so you can see some of that Colan-Adkins goodness:

DD-42 p12_Colan_Steranko

And just for fun, frantic ones, here’s the cover, which we think is a piece of sheer Colan/Adkins magic. (Check out that fabulous Popular Book Centre stamp! Sheer nostalgia for the British comics fan of a certain age. Comics are more valuable with these stamps, as you will know*.)

DD_42_cover

DD 44: Jaunty Jim allegedly inked the cover. As with Cap 104‘s Nick Fury heads, the Legion would put its money on just the DD figure being inked by Jim.

DD_44_cover

Strange Tales 166: this comic is a bit earlier, March 1968 cover date. The inking would have been done in late ’67. Here’s page 4, with very probably the only George Tuska pencils, Jim Steranko inks you are ever going to see:

ST166_Doc_p4

Panel 3: since it looks a lot like Jack Kirby, the Legion can accept that Jim S probably inked the whole panel, as Dan says.

ST166_Doc_p4pn3_small

Panel 4: Dapper Dan says Jim inked the head. The Legion can go with that.

ST166_Doc_p4pn4_small

Panel 5: did Jim also ink this Doctor Strange face? Have to say it doesn’t look like it to us. Looks like Dan A, all the way.

ST166_Doc_p4pn5_small

For your pleasure, the Legion has flipped the Jim S face and presents it below next to what we assert is a Dan A face (Twa Docs as one might put it:):

Twa Docs

Now seriously folks, did the same Jim Steranko ink those two faces on the same day in 1967? We rest our case.

And finally, just because we love Jim Steranko and we’ve had Strange Tales no.166 out of the light-proof humidity-controlled vault, here’s a page from the Nick Fury strip therein (inks pretty definitely by Joltin’ Joe Sinnott). Bona!

ST166_Nick F_smallest

Next ish: “The Awesome Answer!” (Eh? Wasn’t that it?)

* This may not be entirely true.

Posted in Comic-book art, Comics, Jim Steranko | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MAN OF STEEL: in-depth movie review

So bad.

Posted in Superhero movies | Leave a comment

Quotations Corner: (1) Roy Lichtenstein, Alan Moore, G.K. Chesterton.

Strange Suspense Stories 72_ detail

Charles Nicholas (pencils) & Dick Giordano (inks), The Painting, Strange Suspense Stories no.72, Oct 1964

In Roy Lichtenstein, the man who didn’t paint Benday dots, the Legion of Andy wrote about Roy L.’s assertion that there was perhaps some power in the hand of the artist capable of transforming an image from junk into art. The Legion heard this quoted by curator Sheena Wagstaff on the Tate exhibition app, listening to it (as instructed!) as we worshipped before Roy’s painting Masterpiece. What we didn’t know was the quote also appeared on the final wall of the show. This is because both times we visited we whizzed through the last rooms with their vapid “Chinese” stuff and horrible nudes and headed back out via War & Romance etc.!

On the app, this quote comes after we hear from widow Dorothy, making it very clear for us that Roy “was not a fan of comics and cartoons. It was the nature of the cartoon. It just seemed about as far away from an artistic image as you can get. To try to transform that into a formal painting with some minor changes really appealed to him.”

Here’s the quote from Roy (read by Sheena):

“It was very obvious to me that there was some underlying, difficult-to-grasp principle about art – that if two things can be very much alike to me, and one can be of great value, the other be aesthetically valueless, that there must be some very subtle thing that has to do with painting, and I was very much interested in finding out what that underlying principle is.”

brushstrokes

Roy Lichtenstein, Brushstroke, 1965. Still not Ben Day dots, by the way.

We also opined that Roy was possibly taking the piss. (Isn’t that the point of his “Brushstrokes” series?) Sheena and her chums obviously don’t think he was. As she puts is: “I believe that quote is key to Lichtenstein’s endeavour… Finding out what that underlying principle is is the driving force of his work.”

The Legion says: “May the Farce be with you!”

But we feel that the Lichtensteins really put their collective finger on something with these remarks about the transformative hand of the artist. The notion reminds us of the Doctrine of Transubstantiation – as in: “Roman Catholic theology… the doctrine that, in the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and the wine used in the sacrament is literally, not merely as by a sign or a figure, but in actual reality as well, changed into the substance of the Body and the Blood of Jesus.” (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

last-supper

Jesus

Here it is the power of the Lord, invoked by the priest, using holy words and gestures, which transforms mundane matter into the Divine substance. In art, we are sometimes asked to believe, it is the hand of the true artist, using his/her paints and brush (or other media where applicable).

Alan Moore and David Lloyd used the idea of transubstantiation rather nicely in V for Vendetta, when the corrupt Bishop is made to swallow a poisoned wafer. The sound of the incident has been captured on tape and is being reviewed by two policemen. We quote:

V01

V02

This notion reminded the Legion how much people in an increasingly secular western society (let’s say at least through the twentieth century ’til now, though probably further back too) have been investing quasi-religious faith into non-religious or even anti-religious concepts. An obvious example is Spiritualism in the Victorian and Edwardian era, which sucked in the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle and H. Rider Haggard among countless other  adherents.

There is an argument that the loss of religious faith (at an individual or societal level) leave a mental vacuum which attracts other beliefs, in which a similar kind of faith gets placed.

ss

Leon Trotsky, some time ago

Here’s another favourite example of ours. Sitting in a pub in Penarth many years ago, we witnessed this exchange between friend A (a graphic /comics artist & guitarist) and friend B, the Trotskyist manager of A’s band. (Hardcore socialists must of course deny any belief in God.) The conversation had turned to B’s strongly-held political beliefs. Quoted from memory:

A (casually): The thing is, it’s become sort of a religion for you.

B (in an explosion of righteous anger): How dare you say that! You know very well I’m a dialectical materialist!

LOL, eh?  Oh well. Perhaps you had to be there.

Finally we are led, of course, to G.K. Chesterton. As Wheldrake wrote: “All the branching roads in the Multiverse, as is well known, lead eventually to G.K. Chesterton. For is he not, among the literary world, the veriest Kevin Bacon thereof?”

GKC

The Sandman no. 10, 1990, by Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg & Malcolm Jones III. Gilbert K. Chesterton makes his entrance (sort of).

And was it not Chesterton who said: “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything”?

Well, almost. More closely, it was Émile Cammaerts in his book The Laughing Prophet : The Seven Virtues and G. K. Chesterton (1937), and what Cammaerts actually said was: “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.” He was summing up a lengthier quote from Chesterton’s Father Brown story, The Oracle of the Dog (1923). An even fuller version of the actual Chesterton passage is quoted (slightly selectively) below by your helpful Legion. Father Brown, the priest-detective, has been told by a visitor of a dog who may have barked, by some doggy instinct, at a murderer. Father Brown is upset by this faith in the power of Dog. He says:

“It’s part of something I’ve noticed more and more in the modern world… something that’s arbitrary without being authoritative. People readily swallow the untested claims of this, that, or the other. It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition.” He stood up abruptly, his face heavy with a sort of frown, and went on talking almost as if he were alone. “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can’t see things as they are. Anything that anybody talks about, and says there’s a good deal in it, extends itself indefinitely like a vista in a nightmare. And a dog is an omen and a cat is a mystery and a pig is a mascot and a beetle is a scarab, calling up all the menagerie of polytheism from Egypt and old India; Dog Anubis and great green-eyed Pasht and all the holy howling Bulls of Bashan; reeling back to the bestial gods of the beginning, escaping into elephants and snakes and crocodiles; and all because you are frightened of four words: `He was made Man.'”

We are indebted to Radio 4’s Nigel Rees for the corrected attribution of this most favoured among quotations.

anubis

A God. Or possibly a Dog. Yesterday.

It is generally stated that GKC was setting his own religious faith against what he saw as the dangers of atheism. Cammaerts’s cut-down version, or an expanded “quotation” usually given as “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything” is heard all over the shop these days. Sometimes it is still a warning against the dangers of atheism, sometimes more of a wry observation of the state of things.  The Legion has often used it ourselves (prefaced by “I can’t remember who said it”) but in our case as a warning against the dangers of anti-rationalism, when confronted by another claim for homeopathy, the realignment of Chakras, or whatever. It really is amazing what people will put their faith in these days.

In the case of “High Art” it seems to the Legion that just such a species of faith was at work, certainly up to the 1950s, in a middle class who took it as “Gospel” that proper art could be firmly divided from junk culture. Where the dividing line was drawn varied according to which cult one belonged to, of course. For example, anything up to a certain point in the development of Modern painting might be dismissed and abhorred as valueless rubbish – “Impressionism and Post-impressionism, oh yes, that’s proper art. But as for that Pablo Picasso… dear me no. Beyond the pale!”

convergence 1952

Jackson Pollock, Convergence, 1952

By the end of the 1950s there was clearly a critical consensus, shared by the hipper end of the public (and probably nurtured by the CIA in their quest to sell the world American cultural power, as well as political) which invested a good deal of faith in the New York-based movement of Abstract Expressionism. Were not the likes of Pollock and Rothko channelling their artistic emotions and subconscious thingummybobs straight onto the canvas? Was this not the very essence of art, a pure distillation of the power of painting in some existentially basic form? Colour and shape freed from the tyranny of mere representation, mediated only by the transformative power of the artist himself?

This faith seems to the Legion to go hand-in-hand with belief in the Flag, Mom’s Apple Pie, Ernest Hemingway and American machismo (and quite probably the nuclear deterrent).

Brushstroke 1965 by Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997

Another Brushstroke by Roy L.

Warhol, Lichtenstein and the US Pop movement surely challenged this whole gestalt. Is it really credible that Roy simultaneously held a belief in the transubstantiative power of the artist’s brush?

Posted in Comics, Gallery art, Quotations, Roy Lichtenstein | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Superman at 50 in Radio Times

p1_small_120dpi

The Legion found this 3-page nostalgia-fest while clearing out some junk yesterday. The sharp-eyed might notice that it has not been kept in our usual degree of mylar snugness. Alas the Legion didn’t have such archival facilities in 1988, and these 3 pages had to take their chances in an ordinary cardboard box along with a huge quantity of Morrissey cuttings.

We thought we’d put it online at some point just for fun, apropos of nothing, but then remembered that Man of Steel is in the cinemas in a few days. So we can pretend it’s a movie tie-in.

The 2 pages of comic strip led into a radio drama, still available as  BBC audio CD, with Superman on trial. Sounds eccentric. In the witness box, comic-book characters and real life comics creators & actors are heard from, apparently. Adam West appears as Batman and as himself! There are two 5-star reviews on Amazon UK but the US reviews are much more critical.

Colours are by John Higgins, lacking his Watchmen-style restraint, deliberately no doubt as he takes on the more traditional 4-colour world of the Metropolis Marvel. The end result is somewhat garish, reminding the Legion of how difficult it was, back then, adapting comics colouring to the world of brighter whiter paper and more dots per inch.

p2_small_120dpi

p3

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Roy Lichtenstein’s Schooldays

Viz May2013 cover

David Barsalou’s comment on our Roy Lichtenstein post reminded the Legion of Andy of last month’s Viz comic, cover shown above.

Inside is a superb little strip about Roy L’s schooldays. I won’t give away the punchline (though you can read it on Bleeding Cool). Suffice to say that young Andy Warhol is in the same class as Roy, and hilarity ensues. Cartoonist Lew Stringer writes about the creation of the strip and the cover here: http://lewstringercomics.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/roy-lichtensteins-schooldays.html

Roy in Viz detail_smaller

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Melnibonéans’ ears

Cawthorn 1961:

Sci_Fan_55_detail

Cawthorn 1976:

cawthearCawthorn 1978:

Something_Else_01b_centre_spread

Cawthorn 1992:

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Looks as if the ears got pointier over time.

Here are Elric and his father from the new BD Le Trône de Rubis:

elricear

sadric

The Legion is in favour of pointy ears. Reminds us Melnibonéans are not human.

Posted in Bandes dessinées, Fantasy, Michael Moorcock, Sword and Sorcery | Tagged , , | 1 Comment