Apr 19, 2018

It's All Jake With Me: New original Jack Cole art surfaces at auction!

Lot #93073 in Heritage Auction's 2018 May 10 - 12 Comic Art Signature Auction, featured a stunning example of Jack Cole's post-Plastic Man girlie magazine art.

Signed under the pen name of "Jake," this 13 inches high bristol board beauty bulges with a barely-bound bosomy blast to the bean (and beyond).

But this cartoon is more than just a pretty face. Check out the demented, reptilian leer of the bow-tied squeezer. I detect a palpable note of disapproval in Cole's portrayal. In his girlie cartoons, Cole either drew men as sad, impotent wrecks, or self-assured jerks. The latter is in play, here.

A fairly large digital image, courtesy of Heritage Auctions, allows us to study and appreciate Cole's polished mastery of ink and brush. His composition is designed to draw the eye exactly to where the action will transpire in about one second. And take note Cole was, by this time, displaying skill as a fashion artist. The sleek dinner jackets of the men and especially the incredible meringue of a dress adorning the central figure are superbly realized.

Famous for his Playboy magazine cartoons, Cole sold lots of work to the Martin Goodman line of digest-sized men's mags called the Humorama line. This cartoon, according to the auction notes, appeared on the cover of a steamy little item named Joker. I don't have the issue information or an image of the cover, but here are two other Joker covers with Jack Cole art, to give you an idea of how it might have been used.

And here is the original art up for auction. The piece sold for $2,629.00. That's a lot of toothpaste to squeeze out of one cartoon! Or, to put it another way: that's a lotta jack, Jack!

Courtesy Heritage Auctions

All text (c) 2018 Paul C. Tumey

Mar 5, 2014

Jack Cole's Higrass Twins 1940: Money Madness!

It's been far too long since I've posted anything new here at Cole's Comics. Most of my comics scholarship and writing energy has been directed towards books and magazines. As some of you may know, I am now a regular columnist and reviewer for The Comics Journal. I also recently co-edited and wrote essays for The Art of Rube Goldberg (Abrams ComicArts, 2013). Just recently, I completed an introduction to the upcoming book, The Bungle Family 1930 (IDW Library of American Comics Essentials). Doing this work gets me a broad readership -- but mostly it pays money, hoo hah!

Speaking of money, here's a great example of Jack Cole's screwball comics that revolves around the theme of money. As a near-starving artist in New York City at the time he created this story, Cole no doubt had his money on his mind, and his mind on his money, as the song goes.

These scans are generously provided to us by the gifted artist and Jack Cole fan Ryan Heshka, who scanned them from his own very rare copy of Target Comics #3. Be sure to check out Ryan's super cool art at his website (and I'm not just saying that because Ryan was nice enuff to supply scans -- I really DO love his art).

Cole did four of the curiously named Higrass Twins stories. He drew these while he was working at the Harry "A" Chesler shop, and they were sold to Novelty Press, who published them in issues one through four of their new title, Target Comics. For the other three Higrass Twins stories, see this earlier post.

Here, now, are three pages of insane comics from the early years of comics master  Jack Cole, originally published in Target Comics #3 (Novelty Press - April, 1940).

That is All,
Screwball Paul

Oct 31, 2013

Dark Plas Halloween 2013: Plastic Man Stakes Out A Vampire!


For the last 3 Halloweens, I've posted about the strange, dark last comic book stories of Jack Cole's career as a comic book artist.

This year, I present to you "The Evil Terror?" from Plastic Man #43 (November, 1953). This 10-page saga fluttering around a bat-winged vampire in the best Universal-Studios-Bela-Lugosi tradition is one of the last Plastic Man stories -- perhaps the very last one -- that Jack Cole appears to have created.

As I've written about earlier, the comic book stories Jack Cole wrote and drew in the early 1950s embraced the horror genre with the same verve and intensity that his 1940s comics embraced screwball humor. A strong argument can be made that Cole's 1950s horror stories reflect the undercurrent of anxiety and terror present in Cold War America. These stories are filled with images of people cowering in shadows, frozen with terror.

At some point in the late 1940's, Cole sat down at his drawing table and drew a three panel sequence (one of the many delights that will be found in The Blighted Eye, the upcoming volume by the legendary comics historian, archivist, and collector Glenn Bray) that represented a startling departure from his popular bigfoot-superhero style employed to great success in his Plastic Man stories. The drawings were realistic, not rubbery. In the sequence, a man and a woman embrace in a passionate kiss. The scene is set in a luxuriant, modern city apartment. The panels are filled with delicious black shadows that define the many objects in the room, the drapery of the character's clothes, and even the strands of their hair. On the extreme right side of the sequence, Cole drew a small caricature of himself and penned a note to his Quality Comics publisher, "Busy" Arnold: "Romantical stuff, huh, Busy? Just wondering if you'd like to give me a trial on a serious strip, for a change? Yes? No? I await! Jack"

Cole, an indefatigable innovator, had become interested in creating a new style of comics, with a more realistic feel. Arnold and his editors did give Cole more serious strips -- but instead of romance, they made Cole the signature artist of their new horror title, Web of Evil, where Cole wrote and drew one or two stories for the first dozen or so issues.Some of those stories are reprinted and discussed on this blog. A new volume collecting some of these stories has just been released from IDW, edited by Craig Yoe.

Cole also transformed his Plastic Man stories from baroque screwball comic operas to nightmarish, anxiety-ridden dramas of dread. It was as if Plas and Woozy suddenly began to know the future held nothing but horror -- and they dreaded it with existential despair. Many readers, including me, have missed that these last Plastic Man stories are sometimes (not always) by Jack Cole (often with others finishing the art and inking). In earlier posts, I have explained why I think that certain of these stories, including the Plastic Man horror stories, which I call "Dark Plas" are indeed the work of Jack Cole.

In "The Evil Terror?" Cole once again invests his masterpiece comics creation with some of his trademark screwball humor. It's as if, for this last effort, he had come full circle from goofy humor comics, to dark parables of horror and dread, and then back to humor. As a creator of sequential graphic narratives, Jack Cole was something akin to a roller coaster speeding across the tracks, veering from side to side from light to dark, humor to horror -- and we see that happening in the span of this story.

As a result, "The Evil Terror?" reads overall like an episode of Scooby Doo. As with the popular animated series, it turns out there is a mundane explanation for the seemingly supernatural element in the adventure. The scene on page 8, where Woozy Winks raids the fridge is a parallel to the pothead Shaggy who is eternally cursed with the munchies.

Nonetheless, the story is filled with potent, masterful images of existential terror that are worth your time to peruse, especially on Halloween!

"The Evil Terror?" by Jack Cole - Plastic Man #43 (November, 1953)

More Dark Plas!

All text copyright 2013 by Paul Tumey.
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