Kenneth Bald

     "He ain't visually heavy; he's my brother," commented comics artist Fred Sled.

Dark Shadows     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).

Dark Shadows     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. Commercial.

     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; shop around. 

     Review by Michael Vance

War Story

War Story     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. 

War 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

 

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