"He ain't visually heavy; he's my brother," commented
comics artist Fred Sled.
Okay, there is no Fred Sled, and the quote is an invented pun. But
it would have been true if said about the polished style of comics pioneer
and artist, Kenneth Bald.
Born in 1920, Bald began his career designing or "laying-out"
comic book pages at the Binder Shop (1941-'43) where he was promoted to
Art Director. He also worked at the Sangor Shop, and on Capt. Marvel
superhero titles in the mid-1950s at the Beck-Costanza Shop. Bald also
drew the comic strips Judd Saxon (1957-'62), and Dark Shadows (1971-'72).
As comics art aficionados know, not only the visual elements in
each panel on a comics page, but the arrangement of the panels on the page
carries the illusion of weight.
A black blob seems of more substance than an equal area of white.
Among the most accomplished practitioners of realistic art, Bald's style
is best described as beautifully balanced. The "weight" of his
panels and pages seemed perfectly placed. Esthetically pleasing.
Those thinking the word "commercial" insulting should rethink.
The broad sweep of his rare talent made Bald equally at home drawing a
romance, horror or superhero title with the style needed for each genre.
Bald was also as adept at delineating buildings as babes, muscles as
monsters, and stories as covers, a versatility badly missing in many
comics artists today.
Bald's comics work included: Capt. Marvel, Mr. Scarlet,
Bullet-man,(1942-'45, Fawcett); Fighting Yank, Doc Strange (1942, Pines);
Blackstone, Doc Savage (1942-'43, St. & Smith); Black Owl (1942,
Prize); Capt. Battle (1942, Gleason), Millie, Willie, Cindy (1946-50,
Marvel), covers, love war and western titles (1948-'52, ACG). A collection
of his Dark Shadows strips is available from Ken Pierce Books. The work of
Kenneth Bald is highly recommended.
Some older comics are expensive or difficult to locate.
Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions,
mail order companies and trade journals are good sources. Prices vary;
Review by Michael Vance
D.C. Comics' new limited series, War Story, is off to a pretty good start.
The first issue features a World War II story entitled "Johann's
Tiger." In it, a German
tank commander named Johann
Kleist becomes guilt-ridden over the atrocities he has committed for the
Nazis. As a result, he
formulates a plan to desert, seeking to deliver his tank
crew to the mercies of American forces, and then to die in battle.
The best-laid plans...
Writer Garth Ennis seldom disappoints when it comes to characterization.
Most of his work, however, tends to be of the "mature"
variety, with plenty of profanity, as well as other objectionable
material. While this tale over indulges in "reality" language,
the story doesn't suffer too greatly for it.
Actually, it smacks of the realities of war; watching as fellow
soldiers meet their ends, (each onlooker wondering if he will be next), as
well as the horror of coming to grips with past sins. The later is where
Ennis soars in this story.
He does an admirable job of portraying the suffering German officer,
tormented by memories of various forms of abuse delivered to others by his
own hand, all for the sake of Hitler's Reich.
Now, seeking to deliver his fellow deserters from Nazi retribution,
Kleist is a strange protagonist, indeed.
The art, courtesy of penciler Chris Weston, is extremely enjoyable, with
the real payoff being in the strong facial expressions.
Kleist is a deeply burdened and tortured individual, and it shows. Without even one written word, this character's pain would be
obvious to any who happened to thumb throughthe book.
Though certainly not recommended for children, War Story is a very
interesting look at a couple of things that really makes us human; the
ability to repent, and to change.
War Story can be found at comic shops and some book retailer chains.
Locate your local comic book store by dialing 1-888-comicbook.
War Story is published by D.C. Comics, 64 pages, $4.95.
Review by Mark Allen
Never miss an issue of Suspended Animation!
Worry not, we won't trade or abuse you with ads, we'll just notify you when a new column arrives.
Questions? Comments? A comic you wish reviewed?