Class Meets Wednesday Nights at 630pm in the Emerson Online Classroom

Designed to introduce you to a thorough understanding and appreciation of comic book art from the Golden Age up until today's best work. We will examine a wide variety of works by the founding artists of the medium and explore the techniques used and developed to successfully tell a story in comic book form.

This blog will be the source of our online classroom discussions. We will meet for an online "Live" classroom section on Wednesday nights from 630 - 730pm BOSTON TIME. Check your time or use World Clock to ensure you are on time. Please click the link in the column to the right to get there.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


In the 1930s your choices for entertainment were limited and as you can see in this photo
radio was king.

There was no TV
Movies were black and white
No internet
No DVDs, etc
So you gathered 'round the radio and listened to adventures, thrillers, horror stories and comedies
much like we have TV today

People read a lot too
this is a newstand circa 1937
it's loaded with magazines
and more importantly for us-- PULP magazines
pulps were cheaply made
they were 10c
and they were thrill packed stories
Pulps were incredibly popular

Doc Savage and The Shadow were the two big characters
Doc Savage was a nearly invincible man named CLARK SAVAGE
who had a Fortress of Solitude and fought giant threats to mankind
The Shadow was a millionaire who dressed all in black had a secret headquarters and fought crime from the Shadows.
If you think they sound a lot like Superman and Batman
you are right.

Equally popular were comic strips
Dick Tracy slammed bad guys in the daily paper,  people couldn't get enough
Pulp publishers noticed this too
and they learned it was cheaper to keep the presses running
than it was to turn them off and start them again
so they looked for new material to publish
so their first choice were comic strip reprints

Comic strips featured "real" artists like Alex Raymond here doing Flash Gordon
Flash was a huge success

taking readers to other worlds.
War in Europe was heating upand real villains like Hitler and Mussolini were on the front pages of newspapers

Flash Gordon was so popular he got a movie serial made of his adventures in 1936
 it was a tremendous hit
 and you can watch it today on YouTube

So pulp publishers reprinted these popular comic strips

Which is where the term "Funny book" comes from
Newspaper comics were called The Funnies
So these first "comic books" reprinted old newspaper strips
These comic books sold as well as the Pulps

and in some cases, even better
trouble was they were running out of comic strips to reprint
they were selling that fast

So publishers started producing NEW material
usually by artists who couldn't get work in newspaper comics

The earliest comics-- like this one here,
featured characters very much like Doc Savage
space adventurers

An artist and writer team from Cleveland
had been selling some of these new comics to DC Comics
then called National Comics
But they had an idea for a character they'd shopped around before
no one was interested
because they felt it was a direct ripoff of Doc Savage

But eventually these two guys, both in their early 20s, sold their character to DC Comics in 1938

They sold all rights to Superman for $130
and the promise of regular work producing the book

Superman was a little different than he is today
he couldn't fly
he could only jump far
and his costume and attitude were slightly different
But these two guys, Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster
were now making about $600 a week writing and drawing Superman
pretty good money in 1938
about $3500 in today's dollars
enough that they could hire assistants to help them

Superman was a monster hit
but they didn't know right away
because it took three months to get sales figures

So they first few issues of Action Comics didn't even have Superman on the cover

but once the sales came in,
he became the cover feature

This guy
a young cartoonist named Bob Kane
was selling one page comics to DC around the same time
the editor told him how much money Seigel and Shuster were making
and suggested he try and come up with his own character
at the time, Kane was making about $60 a week
compared to what the Superman guys were makiing that was peanuts
so Kane went home over the weekend and came up with his own character to match Superman

This is the character Kane came up with
he called him Batman

ANDY FISH: (18:47) Luckily for Kane he happened to run across an old friend on his way to DC Comics
 and the friend said he needed to change this designmake him more mysterious
black and gray
get rid of the red

So thanks to Bill Finger, Batman looks like this.

Kane was a smart businessman

and had a lawyer look at his contract so that he retained some ownership of Batman
unlike the Superman guys
Kane didn't think to give anything to Bill Finger, sadly.
Who died many years later penniless.
Kane was something of a slimy character

Kane hired a team of assistants
who became known as Ghosts
Ghosts work in the field to this day.
So sometimes you see an artists name on work and he or she might have had help.
Finger did not sue
it was a different time then/
In Japan most Manga artists work like this
they get their names on the strip
but the dozens of assistants they use don't
 it's how they can produce so much work so quickly.

IF you look at these
the left is Kane by himself
the middle is Kane with Jerry Robinson
and the right is Jerry Robinson by himself
signing Kane's name
It takes a bit of training to see the differences

but the bottom line is Kane was not an artist
he was an idea man
Kind of like Stan Lee

but we'll get to Stan later.
Batman's popularity grew
rivaling Superman
the early Batman was just like The Shadow
he executed bad guys with a gun
he didn't take them to prison.
in the first Year of his publication
he kills 31 people
after a year they introduced ROBIN the boy wonder

as the first ever sidekick
and toned Batman down.
So when you hear Batman doesn't use a gun
the truth is maybe he doesn't now.
But he DID.

Batman was the first DC Character to make it to movies
in the 1943 Batman serial
starring 23 year old Lewis Wilson, a New England guy.

THE most popular superhero of the golden age was Captain Marvel
now known as SHAZAM his books sold in the MILLIONSoutselling Superman and Batman combined

Captain Marvel was the FIRST superhero in movies
in 1941
and in this serial
he actually machine guns a bunch of bad guys running away
and that's about the nicest thing he does
also on YouTUBE
it's a great adventure serial.
and it made him even more popular
so popular in fact, that DC Comics sued his publisher
and that lawsuit would drag on for about ten years

DC felt Captain Marvel was a ripoff of Superman
so they sued

the real reason is they couldn't beat the sales

Captain America came out in early 1941
from Timely Comics
which is now known as Marvel Comics
on his first cover
shown here
he's punching Adolf Hitler
before we were at war
Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Kirby would go on to create most of the Marvel universe
and be known as the King of Comics
but we'll get to Jack later.
A young guy named Stanely Lieber was the coffee boy at Timely Comics
and he was made editor because he was the publishers nephew
and changed his name to Stan Lee

Captain America was the first "science" hero
given a super soldier serum to gain his powers
The art was very stylized
and a big hit with readers
Important to note at this time

readers were ALL ages
Adults, kids, you name it

there was a dark and scary element to Captain America's stories
as shown here
They were different from what DC/National Comics were doing
as you'll see in the reading.

Dollman was pretty lame
his power was that he was short

Will Eisner was a new artist too
And he was to be a GIANT in graphic novels
but early on, he recognized that comics could be legitimate literature
he felt they could be respected
and he was also interested in the business aspect

Eisner's most successful creation was THE SPIRIT
which you'll be reading in a few weeks
it was film noirish
which means it had heavy shadows
and extreme camera angles
Early comics were very crude

It was guys like Kirby and Eisner who were experimenting with how you could layout the pages
Jack Cole was an assistant of Eisner
who went off on his own
but much of Eisner's style was there
Cole pushed the envelope with how to tell stories in comics too
with imaginative ideas, and sometimes crazy layouts
His biggest hit was Plastic Man
which was part comedy
part serious crime drama
but his work looked like it jumped off a Warner Bros cartoon

Alex Schomburg was a popular artist
mostly doing covers during World War II
Two of the most popluar characters at Timely (Marvel) in the 1940s were
Sub Mariner and Human Torch
who would often fight each other
destroying New York City in process
with the war
they started fighting Nazi's instead of each other

But you can imagine in an age before blockbuster movies with special effects
these types of stories were very exciting
ANDY FISH: (19:12) No relation to the Human Torch int he Fantastic Four we know today other than the name and the way he's drawn
this Human Torch was a robot
Not evey character was a big hit

BUTT Riley was pretty silly
his power was to head butt you.
while wearing no shirt
These were the days when they would just throw out ideas and hope it hit

Among the comics at the time
were some great artists
this is Lou Fine
who's draftsmanship was very much like what would appear in something like the Saturday Evening Post

National comics was the first to put some heroes together as a team
with the Justice Society of America

The book featured mostly lesser named heroes
teamed with some of the bigger named ones
if a character got popular enough
he got his own book
like Green Lantern

who is sitting on the right there with his green and purple cape
It was a way for publishers to feel out which characters were working
It took a little while

Wonder Woman eventually came along

Created by the same guy who invented the Lie Detector machine!

Which makes the lasso of truth more legit
Wonder Woman was a crazy title
one of my favorites
outlandish art and stories.

and he's yellow
He didn't last long
at least he had long pants

One of the craziest creators of the era
Fletcher Hanks
his work was so out there it inspired the underground artists in the 60s
Fletcher is a strange story
he did a tremendous amount of work from 1939 - 1941
and then he disappeared
only to be found dead
frozen to a park bench in New York in 1974!

But his stories are crazy.
As you'll see.
As the First part of the Golden Age was winding down
World War II was almost over--
so it's about 1945

At DC/National-- the creators of Superman decided to sue for ownership of Superman
saying they had signed the contracts when they were too young to know any better.

They lost and DC fired them.
So while Superman continued to be a big seller
his creators were out of work.
That's the first half
I sent out your reading
you shall read it
there are questions on the blog
which you will answer.

The Blog is located here

Class Reading Assignments

I'll be sending out the first reading assignment this afternoon,
YOU DO NOT NEED TO READ THIS BEFORE CLASS TONIGHT << this reading assignment is due by Next Tuesday at 10pm.  It's 163 pages of mostly comics.  These are all golden age comics and reproduction quality on some is less than what we expect today, that's how the old comics looked.

Each week either right after class I will send you that week's reading assignment via WETRANSFER.  I get a notification that you have downloaded the file so I know all-- you only have a few days to download that file before it expires and since each week's reading is about 200 pages I'd suggest you download it immediately. 

On the last page of the reading are a list of questions (also posted on the blog each Wednesday night), I'd suggest reading those questions first and then read the assignment over the course of a few days-- and take notes as you do so that you can answer the questions I've given you.   Some of these early comics can be boring and or slow, and if you sit and try and read all of them at one time I'm pretty certain you'll just skip over or give up.  To aide you in your hope to gain knowledge you really have to read these, so don't wait until next Tuesday to start.

Following this will make the reading assignment a lot more enjoyable and in the long run it will benefit your learning process.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

New Class Starts Sept 28th

Y'all are going to want to sign up for this one-- learn all about the history of comic books and study the evolution of the art form.
The class meets Wednesdays at 6pm Boston time in an online chat room style class-- it lasts 10 weeks and you will gain a new understanding for this amazing art form as well as enhance your own art abilities using the bones laid down by the masters of the medium who came before us.