Suspended Animation
Suspended Animation
by Michael Vance & Jon Suter

Check-out Michael Vance Comic books for sale


September 18, 1998

Reviews in this issue:

Comics Legend - Lou Fine
Helsing
House of Java


Comics Legend - Lou Fine

    His comic book career was brief and intense, but the incredible art of master cartoonist Lou Fine is still imitated today.

    Very soon after the first, faltering steps of the art form, Louis Fine became an artist for the famous Eisner-Iger comic book "shop".

    Because comic books were new and the only artists and writers experienced in the similar field of comic strips were financially inaccessible, young artists and writers were literally hired off of the street by shops in the 1930s.

    They worked under the watchful eye of managers in an assembly line where one penciled, a second inked and a third lettered pages that were passed from table to table as each step was completed.

    Art was hurried, often crude and full of the raw energy and excitement of creation.

    Lou Fine's reality-based art quickly won him recognition from readers. In a field where anatomy, perspective, visual pacing and architecture were often approximated, Fine's dynamic and more accurate art separated him from inexperienced or uninterested peers. He is best remembered for a stylistic thin, scratchy line and powerful page design. In particular, his dynamic covers are still imitated.

    Fine's best known characters were all superheroes, and include the diminutive Dollman, The Flame and Uncle Sam.

    Fine was possibly the best artist in the infancy of comic books.

    Lou Fine's comic book work includes: Sheena (Fiction House '38 -'41); Dollman, Black Condor, Uncle Sam, Quicksilver, Hercules, Defender, Neon, Ray (Quality, '99- '43); Flame (Fox, '39-'42) and Rocketman (Dynamic '41). He also worked for Henle and Wham-O.

    Fine ghosted The Spirit newspaper insert (1940--'43), worked on the comic strips Taylor Woe ('49), Adam Ames ('59) and Peter Scratch ('65). From late 1960s to 1971, he worked on Space Conquerors in Boys' Life magazine.

    The art of Lou Fine is highly recommended.

    Some older titles are expensive and difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are best sources.

    Prices vary; shop around for the best values.

- Reviewed by Michael Vance


Helsing

980922a.jpg (17861 bytes)    Save the blood and guts for hockey; horror is about anticipated and realized fear.

    The new comic book, Helsing, is about a beautiful young woman who has mysterious and deep ties to a relative of Abraham Van Helsing, the man who killed Dracula.

    Helsing is also about her search for a mysterious and sinister organization called "The Tophet."

    But this new horror comic is ultimately about fear, anticipated and realized.

    As should be, there are more intriguing questions than answers in the premier issue. Subplots and characterization are introduced that hint at subtle relationships both on this earth and in other realms. Dialog and pacing are crisp, although captions seem underwritten and occasionally even clumsy: "Relics of yesteryears continued forth with their true beginnings obscured."

    That's clumsy.

    The art is full of somber grays and threatening blacks, although it does not reach the classic macabre visual atmosphere of a Graham Ingels, Berni Wrightson or Frank Frazetta. The visual pacing is excellent and storytelling clear, and the artist's characters are each physically distinctive people.

980922b.jpg (18510 bytes)    It is a hair's-breadth away from excellence and only needs an ominous and additional layer of shadow.

    The first issue of Helsing is like a first date, more titillation than promise, offering no guarantees. But, as first dates go, this new series holds real promise.

    It could be a marriage made in Hell, which is the proper setting for horror.

    Particularly noteworthy is the restrained use of profanity, sex, nudity and excessive violence that have befouled the genre of horror in the last three decades.

    Recommended.

    Helsing #1/$2.95, 33 pgs. from Caliber Core/Writer: Gary Reed; artists: John Lowe and friends/sold in comics shops and by mail.

    - Reviewed by Michael Vance


House of Java

980922c.jpg (25309 bytes)     MINIVIEW: House of Java [NBM]. Mundane subject and only serviceable art do little to recommend the wit and wisdom natural to coffee houses.

    - Michael Vance


    Questions? Comments? A comic you wish reviewed? Write: 1427 S. Delaware Ave., Tulsa, OK, 74104. Or email c/o starland@starland.com.

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