Category Archives: 2012/06

Doug Wildey’s Masterpiece

Doug Wildey was one of the often forgotten comic book artists. I am mostly familiar with the work he did for Harvey comics with Joe Simon as editor but he did more work for other outfits like Atlas (Marvel). He obviously used photographs as reference in his work. Now I have no problem with an artist using photographs, many comic book artists did at least occasionally. However it is not without its problems. One is that the difference between sections based on photographs and those not can be jarring and negative to the work as a whole. Further poses can be stiff and unnatural. So while theoretically I do not care if a comic book artist works from photographs, too much dependency on photos is detrimental to an artist’s work. Apparently Wildey never got the memo. Yes he used photographs but it is hard to tell how he did it because his work consistently attractive and there is nothing stiff about his figures.

It is clear that Doug care deeply about the quality of the work he created. The original art for comics that he did show that he provided a lot of detail and special effects. It is surprising that he would do this because he must certainly have known that much of this careful work would be lost in the printing. Not only was fine details often a waste of time it too could have a bad impact on the work. There are those fans who admire finely worked pencils and inking but I could generally describe such art as dry. There is probably nothing worse for comic book art than being dry. Doug Wildey did not get that memo either. One description I would never use in describing Wildey’s work was dry.

Unfortunately a comic book artist’s reputation generally depends on whether he ever had the chance to work on a popular feature. Do nice work on a popular feature and fans will even pay attention to the rest of a comic book artist’s work. Unfortunately most comic book artists do not get a chance to work on something really popular and I believe Doug Wildey was no exception. That is not the same thing as Doug never working on something really good. Wildey did have a masterpiece, it just did not draw as much attention as it deserved. Doug’s masterpiece was a western which has recently been reprinted in “Doug Wildey’s Rio”. Rio was Wildey’s creation and not only did he do the pencils and inking but the writing, lettering and coloring as well. This book presents this work largely from the original art so this really is Wildey’s creation. As good as Wildey was in the 50’s and 60’s, he out did himself for this work. Rio truly was Doug Wildey’s masterwork.

Doug Wildey’s Rio is presented in a truly nicely packaged volume that is large enough to properly present the work. As I mentioned the book mostly uses the original art therefore there is some variation in the coloring and some of the work is uncolored. Further Doug was still working on one story when he passed away. While this story is unfinished it is effectively complete, that is while the art might be sketchy in some parts the story is all there. There is also a nice introduction by Mark Evanier who obviously is very knowledgeable about artists other than Jack Kirby. This is a book that I highly recommend. Many thanks to IDW for really doing this reprint right.

Harvey Horror: Alarming Tales #3


Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958), pencils and inks by Joe Simon

For a long time this cover was considered the work of Jack Kirby but it was actually created by Joe Simon. This confusion is understandable because it is a swipe from an unpublished cover that Jack did (for a more complete discussion see Alternate Versions of the Alarming Tales #3 Cover, although I no longer believe Kirby was the inker on the unused cover).


Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) content page, pencils and inks by Joe Simon

The contents page was used is an house advertisement in Black Cat Mystic #61.


Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) “This World Is Ours”, pencils by Jack Kirby

The inking of this story has in the past been attributed to Steve Ditko but I think we can confidently reject that claim. The figure in the lower right corner of the splash does look a little like Ditko’s work, however the blunt brushwork is nothing like Ditko’s inking at the time. One explanation could be that the inking of the splash was done by Mort Meskin whose work greatly influenced Ditko. Beyond the figure’s appearance, nothing in the brushwork suggests Meskin’s inking. Still I find it hard to believe that Kirby inked the splash either. The rest of the story does look very much like the inking of Kirby himself.


Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) “They Walked On Water”, pencils and inks by Doug Wildey

There is a lot of work by Doug Wildey in AT #3 and in fact he would be frequently used in later issues of Alarming Tales and Black Cat Mystic. Wildey was an accomplished artist but unfortunately sometimes worked in greater detail than the crude printing of Harvey comics could handle properly.


Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) “Get Lost”, pencils and inks by Ernest Schroeder?

I am really not that familiar with the artists from Harvey at this time and this attribution is from GCD. Ernest Schroeder is said to have worked for Simon and Kirby around 1954 (Who’s Who). I do not find him in my database but that just means that I have not identified his work not that he did not work for them. If he did work for Simon and Kirby he did not sign his efforts. “Get Lost” has some interesting art, particularly the way Schroeder uses lighting to provide dramatic effects.


Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) house advertisement, pencils and inks by Joe Simon?

The art for this house ad was used as the contents page for Black Cat Mystic #61. Someone commented in my post of that issue that Nostrand was no longer working for Harvey at that time. IF that is true it may be that this content page/ad was done by Joe Simon swiping from an earlier Nostrand piece.


Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) “The Strange One”, pencils and inks by Doug Wildey

I have to admit I am not a great fan of all the Harvey stories particularly those from after the Comic Code came into effect. While I like the Wildey’s art work for “The Strange One” the story is a bit contrived for my tastes.


Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) “The Man Who Never Lived”, pencils and inks by Doug Wildey

It appears to me that Wildey often worked from photographs. That is not to say that all his drawings were done based on photos but that some were. “The Man Who Never Lived” seems to have a larger than normal amount of drawing from photographs.

Harvey Horror: Black Cat Mystic #61


Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958), pencils by an unidentified artist?

A dramatic change in the Black Cat Mystic title has come with issue #61, there is no Kirby. Issues 58 to 60 of Black Cat Mystic as well as Alarming Tales #1 and #2 were essentially all Kirby comics (with the exception of a two pages story drawn by Marvin Stein in AT #2). We shall see later that Kirby would continue to appear in Alarming Tales but even that would be a limited contribution in both quantity and duration. Jack had begun doing freelance work for DC which paid more than Harvey. However that does not seem like a likely explanation because he did not get as much work from DC as he would have liked. So Kirby sudden absence from Black Cat Mystic must remain a minor mystery.

The cover is an adaptation of the splash page for “Colorama”. Bob Powell drew the interior story and but I am not completely convince he drew the cover. Joe Simon once told me that he did the cover but to be honest I cannot detect his hand in it. The flying figure and his mount do not appear in the story but oddly show up in the contents page. The flying figures is surrounded by something very much like Kirby Krackle. It is an odd but very effective cover.


Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) contents page, pencils by Howard Nostrand

The contents page for Harvey comics were sometimes used as a sort of prequel to one of the book’s stories. It is possible that this was an innovation introduced to Harvey by Joe Simon. While both Kirby and Simon did some of this content pages for the Harvey romance titles, this particular one appears to have been executed by Howard Nostrand, an artist commonly used by Harvey at this time. It is here that the flying figure from the cover appears and not the actual story.


Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Colorama”, pencils by Bob Powell

Bob Powell was another regularly featured artist in Harvey titles. Powell was a great artist, at least before he was instructed at Marvel to work like Kirby. His style was particularly well suited for the horror genre and this story is a minor masterpiece. The entire story is based on what the narrator sees.


Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Unknown Worlds”, art by unidentified artist

It is hard to believe anyone would present a feature that seriously suggests that there were worlds to be found at the center of the earth. Such an idea may have been the inspiration for fictions writes such as Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs, but by the 50’s science had already known that the earth had a molten core incapable of supporting life.


Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Line-Up”, pencils by Howard Nostrand

Besides doing the contents page, Nostrand was responsible for “Line-Up”. This is another odd story and like much of the book rather different than Simon and Kirby pieces. If Joe was still the book’s editor, he was using Harvey writers and artists.


Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) advertisement, pencils and inks by Joe Simon

That Joe was still working for Harvey is apparent with this in house advertisement for Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958). Both the pencils and inks for this ad appear to have been done by Joe, and judging from the humor I suspect the writing as well. I remember from my days in art classes that artists often unconsciously draw people that resemble themselves. I detect something like that in the panel introducing “The Man Who Never Lived”.


Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Knockout”, pencils by Joe Certa

I have to admit that I cannot get very excited about the work by Joe Certa, but he was another one of Harvey’s regular artists.


Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Strange Superstitions”, art by unidentified artist

Single page works such as this one, called fillers, were often used and were generally done by lesser talents.


Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Cancelled”

I have only a passing knowledge of the various artists found in Harvey comics and no idea who this one was. Unfortunately Harvey seemed to have a policy prohibiting artists from signing their works (with the occasional exception of Lee Elias).

Harvey Horror: Alarming Tales #2


Alarming Tales #2 (November 1957), pencils by Joe Simon

I have discussed this cover on at least three prior occasions. I still feel that my last assessment of the cover art is correct, that is it was drawn by Joe Simon. The large figure looks as though it was done by Mort Meskin but this is easily explained as Joe swiped it from a story that Meskin drew.

While there is a lot of Jack Kirby in this issue, it is technically not an all Kirby comic book as it includes one two page story by Marvin Stein. But the main reason that AT #2 is not as desirable a comic as Alarming Tales #1 or Black Cat Mystic #58 or #59 is the inking which is just not quite as good as those other issues.


Alarming Tales #2 (November 1957) “Hole In The Wall”, pencils by Jack Kirby

This is another story of dimensional travel (Jack Kirby’s Trips to the Fourth Dimension). Only this time there is no explanation of how the “hole in the wall” came to be. Further the other dimension turns out to be a rather nice place to live.


Alarming Tales #2 (November 1957) “The Hero”, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

Marvin Stein entered the advertisement field sometime inĀ  1958 (Commercial Work by Marvin Stein) so this work from AT #2 is from near the end of his comic book career. Actually that is not completely accurate because Stein continued to provides some comic book art up to June 1959. Stein’s late style was simple but done with great assurance. I am not sure how he went about creating his story art but his covers were first very roughly drawn with a blue pencil, really nothing more than quick layouts. Marvin would then add details and finish the drawing not in pencil but directly in ink. It is a procedure that very few comic book artists adopted. Stein inked his own art with a very blunt brush but this was by choice. Marvin did some inking for DC on Superboy adhering to the house style with a finer brush. His ability to do quality inking with fine detail can be seen in the inking he did for Jack Kirby in syndication proposal called Space Busters (Bleeding Cool or What If Kirby).

This very short (two pages) story is about the exciting adventurous life of a spaceman. But not everyone could be a spaceman, you had to be very special. Special in this case is of a very small stature. Jack Kirby would take this same theme for one of the story lines he used in Sky Masters (a syndication strip that debuted on September 8, 1958).


Alarming Tales #2 (November 1957) “The Big Hunt”, pencils by Jack Kirby

Another story of dimensional travel, in this case to dimension five. I find it humorous that a scientist would hire a big game hunter to test his device. Or that the hunter would return without anything from the new dimension. Big game hunters was imposing figures in the culture of the time. A lone individual faced against dangerous prey exemplified bravery. But with today’s the threat of mass extinction, big game hunting seems out of place. Most people would prefer to see a wildlife documentary than some trophy hanging on a wall.


Alarming Tales #2 (November 1957) “The Fireballs” page 2, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by George Roussos with some touchups by Kirby

“The Fireballs” is the story featured on the cover although in the story there is no monster like figure associated with the fireballs. Such deviations of the cover from the story are not that unusual for Simon and Kirby, or comics books in general at that time.

Previously I had considered this story as inked by Kirby as well. That was based on the inking found in certain sections. Notice the inking on the elderly man’s sleeve in panel 4 of page 2. This type of inking I refer to as picket fence inking (Inking Glossary). The manner that its done, drop strings with penned pickets is typical of Kirby’s inking at this time. I am still very much convinced that Kirby inked this particular piece and some other found in this story.

However inking done on Kirby pencils was often done by more than one individual. At one time inking was often done like an assembly line with different inkers working on different aspects of the same pages. With the end of the Simon and Kirby studio such assembly line inking was no longer used but it was still very common for someone to ink Kirby’s pencils and then Jack would go over it providing touch-ups. That is what happened in the inking of “The Fireballs”. The more simplified eyebrows, use of crosshatching by pen, the rather rush looking to the work, and the common use of lighting directed up from below all remind me of the work of George Roussos to whom I now credit with the majority of the inking of this story.


Alarming Tales #2 (November 1957) “I Want To Be a Man”, pencils by Jack Kirby

Robots appeared relatively frequently in Kirby stories during this period (Year of the Robots). I have no good explanation for this. Yes robots appeared in various science fiction movies but none quite like the type of robots that Kirby created. His as large and distinctly mechanical. The one in “I Want to be a Man” is filled with mechanical forms. Throughout his career Kirby had a love of what I call Techno Art (Some Early Jack Kirby Techno Art). Such art would include a multitude of shapes and devices that serve no purpose other than to suggest advanced technology.