hoods n’ hulks

Jesse Marinoff Reyes ( Jesse Marinoff Reyes Design )

most of the time I just want to showcase an old comic book, with or without commentary, and this will be the forum. I grew up with comic books in what is historically the Silver Age (1956-1970) and Bronze Age (1970-1985) of comics, and have a deep affection and professional respect for the creators of that era—fueling my own tenure in comic books as a designer/editor in the early-1990s, and shaping my tastes as an art director overall. I still collect comic books, though much of what is produced today hardly meets the standards that the over-abused and under-appreciated Masters of the past rendered so effortlessly, or should I say professionally. You will find them here, very much appreciated.

The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine! Fantastic Four
Marvel Comics, July 1971 issue, #112
Illustration: “Big” John Buscema (1927-2002), pencils, and “Joltin'” Joe Sinnott (b. 1926), inks

JMR Design

… “Big” John Buscema! As much as I kinda hated his clunky take on Conan The Barbarian (I was a Frank Frazetta/Barry Windsor Smith guy), Buscema was always, always, always one of my favorite superhero illustrators—with perhaps no one as visceral, and beautifully explosive save for Jack “King” Kirby. From The Avengers to the Silver Surfer and The Mighty Thor, Buscema was as big a part of the Marvel look as Kirby had been, and his turn on the Fantastic Four brought that series back to the solidity and excitement (at least artistically) it had enjoyed under Kirby. Many of my older colleagues are not quite as fond of FF #112 as I am (having experienced FF #12 or #25 and the first confrontations between the Thing and the Hulk—Kirby’s two most distinctive and iconic monster-heroes—done by Kirby in those issues) yet I can still remember the thrill I felt, as a nine year-old, seeing this issue at the top of the comic rack at the drugstore near my elementary school on my way home one day. Yes, Buscema was knocking off his own cover design for a 1968 issue of Sub-Mariner (issue #8, with the “avenging prince” going toe-to-toe with the Thing, isolated in silhouette on a black background) yet the promise of excitement, fantastically rendered, was brilliantly fulfilled as promised—as midtown Manhattan, Central Park, and several paddy wagons’ worth of New York’s finest were rendered asunder by this monster battle of monsters. Forty years later, as the adult art director and critical scribe, I get the same thrill.

They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Black Hood
Red Circle Comics, August 1983 issue, #2
Illustration: Alex Toth (1928-2006)

JMR Design

Red Circle was a beard, so to speak, for Archie Comics (or an imprint, in book publishing parlance) to showcase non-Archie titles, especially superhero books or horror/mystery (sorcery) titles. Little known is that “Archie” was originally MLJ Comics (for the first names of co-founders Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John L. Goldwater), and had in the 1940s published hero titles—notably, The Shield (with teenage sidekick, Dusty), a patriotic hero that had been an influence on youngsters Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s later creation, Captain America (and teenage sidekick, Bucky), The Black Hood, The Fox, and The Web (among others). The Shield had been the headliner of the title Pep Comics, until a certain non-superpowered highschooler named “Archibald ‘Chick’ Andrews” took over the title in 1941, and eventually, the comics company itself. However, MLJ/Archie would experiment off-and-on with a superhero-adventure line (including some titles that played with the idea of Archie being a superhero).

In the 1950s to early-1960s, Simon & Kirby contributed their own creation, The Double Life of Private Strong, and also The Adventures of the Fly. Writer Robert Bernstein and artist John Rosenberger added The Jaguar to the lineup. In 1965-67, influenced by the overwhelming popularity of Marvel Comics, Archie spun-off the imprint Mighty Comics (alternately Radio Comics) to showcase superhero stories with the titles Mighty Comics Presents and The Mighty Crusaders (a la DC’s Justice League or Marvel’s The Avengers) which teamed their roster of heroes together. The Mighty Crusaders comprised The Fly, The Shield, Jaguar, Steel Sterling, Captain Flag, The Comet, Fly Girl, Firefly and The Fox. Other hero books included The Inferno, The Shadow (originally based on the Radio and Pulp vigilante, but later bowdlerized into a garishly costumed crimefighter and is not considered canon), The Web (son of the original Web), Pow Girl, and others.

Red Circle was an opportunity yet again to revitalize Archie’s superhero adventure titles after having had some success with the horror title, Chilling Adventures in Sorcery in the 1970s, by launching or rebooting a number of hero titles in the 1980s, including the Black Hood (nephew of the original Black Hood) and The Fox (son of the original Fox), featured here in this issue with Black Hood stories illustrated by Dan Spiegle and The Fox as a backup feature done by the great Alex Toth. Unfortunately, as with their previous attempts, this too was short-lived (1981-85). However, since the 199

the MLJ/Archie/Red Circle hero roster has since been folded into the DC Comics universe.

This entry was posted in Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Modern Arts/Craft and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>