Jan 31, 2010

Jack’s Back! – A sign of life in a May 1949 Woozy Winks back-up story

 Plastic Man 17-01

Story presented in this posting:
Woozy Winks: “Salteen’s Art Gallery”
Story and art by Jack Cole
Plastic Man #17 (May, 1949 – Quality)


Continuing our look at Jack Cole’s development in 1949 of his dense, cartoony, pre-Mad storytelling style (see earlier post here), here is the back up story from Plastic Man 17.

Also in Plastic Man 17 was the brilliant story “Plastic Man Products,” which would surely be on most people’s lists of top Plastic Man stories. Since this story has been reprinted, I will refrain from sharing it here. However, if there are folks who haven’t seen this issue, let me know and we’ll publish here!

Starting with Plastic Man #4, Cole had given Plas’ sidekick his own story slot. Each issue that followed had a Woozy story, but sadly, many of these were not by Cole. Bart Tumey seems to have done the majority of these (no relation to me, Paul Tumey). That is, until issue 17.

Plastic Man 17-15 Plastic Man 17-16 Plastic Man 17-17 Plastic Man 17-18 Plastic Man 17-19 Plastic Man 17-20 Plastic Man 17-21

This is a clever, engaging story. About half-way through, you begin to hope that Woozy and the girl will hook up. The girl is homely in her features, and treacherous in her character, but there is still an air of innocence about her that compliments Woozy.

There are some wonderful gags sprinkled throughout, such as when the girl (who incidentally is unnamed in this story) calls Woozy a “big, strong man” squeezes his upper arms, and they deflate like balloons with a “pooooooo” sound effect. Or the two museum guards speaking and moving in tandem for no good reason.

It’s the great drawings that let you know Jack’s back, though. Such as the windmill punch at the bottom of page 3, first seen in Midnight’s 12 adventure in 1941. Or the return of the pointed-bottom exclamation mark at the end of the “KA-BLOOM!” sound effect (also at the bottom of page 3). Cole was beginning to revitalize his work by returning to some of the techniques and styles of his youth. In short order, he would round up his old bag of tricks, throw in a few new ones for good measure, and invent a new, dense style.

Jan 22, 2010

A Moment Frozen in Time - Jack Cole Begins A New Career with Stunning Playboy Magazine Art (1954)

From the renowned Heritage Auction Galleries website comes the original art for this stunning monochromatic ink and watercolor cartoon that originally appeared in Playboy Magazine, August, 1954, page 29. The art measures 15.5 inches by 13 inches.

A sexy girl and guy walk through the woods in this Playboy Magzine 1954 cartoon 

The auction for this gorgeous piece of art commences February 6, 2010 and ends February 27, 2010. If you'd like to bid on this artwork, you can visit the Heritage page here (as of Feb. 7, the bidding is up to $550.00).

Cole had become a virtuoso of technique by 1954, and this art demonstrates that without question. Look at how the people are clearly Jack Cole characters. In the early 1950's, Cole had begun to inject more realism into his comic book stories. In series like Angles O'Day and the Web of Evil stories, while still flights (or perhaps "plumments" is a more suitable word) of fancy, Cole's figures become less plastic, more solid and subject to the physical laws of a three dimensional world.

Here’s the published cartoon. The caption reads: “There’s a nice, shady spot.”

August 1954 Jack Cole Playboy cartoon

Cole left comics in 1954, never to return. The artwork we see here, with an unknown caption, is one of his earliest Playboy cartoons. His later Playboy cartoons (some of which are here) would be less tight than this, looser and impressionistic, and perhaps less personally invested.

Incidentally, Cole was also given a big plug in the opening pages of the August, 1954 issue, in which the cartoon above appeared:


Here, Jack Cole is at the start of an exciting new business relationship with the charismatic cartoon aficionado and soon-to-be magazine millionaire, Hugh Hefner. You can feel his enthusiasm and hope in how much careful detail he's invested into what is, after, supposed to be a simple gag cartoon. Click on the art and look at the folds on the woman's dress. The detailing on the man’s belt. The lace frills of the woman’s slip as it's blown up by a slight breeze. The criss-cross pattern (Cole loved patterns) on the man's tie, also caught in the breeze.

This is a moment frozen in time. The couple is happy, going on a picnic in the woods on a spring day. Jack Cole has left the grind of the declining comics industry and has a promising new life as the premier cartoonist of a very promising new magazine. This cartoon captures both the couple and Cole at a peak moment.

Did you notice, though, he has put a gnarled, ancient root across the happy couple's path? The phallic symbolism aside, it’s an obstacle. Tragically, in a few short years, Cole would trip up on the gnarled roots of his own life.

Jan 18, 2010

Jack Cole Rediscovers His Muse – The Beginning of the Last “Cartoony” Period of His Comic Book Work


Story this post:
”A Hard Guy Called Concrete”
Story and pencils by Jack Cole
Inks/Finishes by Alex Kotzky
Plastic Man #14 (Nov. 1948 – Quality)


May 1948 saw a big shift in Jack Cole’s involvement with his premier character, Plastic Man. About a year later, something happened, and Jack Cole rediscovered his muse.

After creating the breakthrough PLASTIC MAN comic book story “The Dictator of Dreams” (see here to read) for Police Comics #78 (May 1948), Jack Cole left the title to focus on creating four PLASTIC MAN stories every other month for the Plastic Man comic book. It was a period of lackluster, watered-down work.


Cole returned to Police Comics about a year and a half later, with a darker sensibility. We’ve presented two of these stories in this blog here (“Plastic Man Goes to the Gas Chamber”), and here (“Plastic Man Wanted: Dead or Alive”).

When Cole made the move over to Plastic Man (which had mostly been the work of others from issue 3 on), the title shifted from a quarterly (four issues per year) to a bi-monthly schedule (6 issues per year).

For about a year, Cole wrote and penciled most of the stories published in Plastic Man #12 -17 while others inked them. Starting with issue 17, Cole began to ink some of his own stories and there followed a golden period in which he reached new heights, working in an over-the-top dense cartoony style that pre-figured the classic MAD stories that would be created in a few years by Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder and Wally Wood.

After studying the “cartoony” Plastic Man comic book stories of 1949-51, I have come to feel more strongly than ever that the influence of Jack Cole on the look of the MAD comic book stories was much greater than has previously been understood or acknowledged. If nothing else, he was the first to pave the way for hip satire in comic books. As further posts will show, there is a direct genetic link between the styles of the works.

In 1951, Jack Cole’s comic book stories shifted from the wild cartoony style to a darker, more realistic phase, and then finally a strange, shadowy last period. For now, here’s an early sign of Cole’s re-emergence, from Plastic Man #14.

With finishing inks by the great Alex Kotzky, this story shows signs of Jack Cole re-discovering some of the inspirations of the early, enthusiastic, no-holds-barred work of his early years as a comic book storyteller.  Just the splash page alone shows that Cole has decided to try harder.

Although he never really left his theme of crazy inventions, Cole breathes new life into it in this story. He’s combined the crazy invention theme with his other recurring theme, shapeshifting, or face and identity change. With a simple hypodermic injection a man becomes as hard as concrete, a perfect foil for the rubbery PLASTIC MAN. But, as Cole so often shows us, it is far better to be able to change and adapt than to be strong but inflexible.

Featuring wonderful art and some stand-out sequences, such as when Plas uncoils in a dark room to locate a hiding killer, here is “A Hard Guy Called Concrete,” from Plastic Man #14 (Nov. 1948):


Plastic_Man_014_15 Plastic_Man_014_16 Plastic_Man_014_17 Plastic_Man_014_18 Plastic_Man_014_19 Plastic_Man_014_20 Plastic_Man_014_21 Plastic_Man_014_22 Plastic_Man_014_23 Plastic_Man_014_24 Plastic_Man_014_25

Announcement: There is a secure PayPal Donations button at the top right corner of this and every blog posting. So far, with donation and ad revenue, only $30 has come in to this blog in 10 months of work. I don’t do this for the money, but I am asking for your support since, in all humble honesty, my PowerPoint presentation design business (www.presentationtree.com) has severely dropped off, and I am struggling financially. Your donations, big or small, in 2010 will help me serve you better.  Thank you for your kind consideration.

Announcement Too! To raise much-needed rent and grocery money, I am selling off some items from my personal comic book collection on eBay over the next few weeks. Here’s the link: http://shop.ebay.com/sushisobe/m.html?_dmd=1&_in_kw=1&_ipg=50&_sop=12&_rdc=1

Jan 15, 2010

Is This Cole? – Will Bragg (1949) – A Rare Portrayal of A Woman Pilot in Early Comic Books

Modern 101-01-covStory this post:
”Will Bragg – Air Circus”
Story – unknown
Pencils (and inks?) – Jack Cole
Modern Comics #101 (Sept. 1950-Quality)


Here’s a neat find by comic book artist, writer, and fellow comic book archeologist Frank Young. Unlike the character featured in this article, WILL BRAGG, Frank WON’T brag, so pardon me if I do a little braggin’ on him, here.

Frank just caused a splash in the comic book world with his discovery of two heretofore unknown Fletcher Hanks stories. Frank also is creating with the talented and inspired David Lasky one of the richest, most entertaining historical graphic novels I have ever seen, Carter Family Comics: Don’t Forget This Song. As if this weren’t enough, Frank is THE scholar on Little Lulu writer/artist John Stanley, with an extensive blog called Stanley Stories. Thanks for this gem, Frank (and the unknown scanner)!

Jack Cole had trouble single-handedly keeping up with the demand for PLASTIC MAN stories and was forced to work with assistants. It’s interesting, and even a bit of a paradox, that he also created a fair number of comic book stories that appeared in the back pages of various Quality Comics titles. I see this as the result of his restless nature and up-and-down energy. I think new projects held a great deal of appeal to this inventive, ever-growing artist.

Take a look at the following story and see if you agree with Frank Young and myself that Jack Cole drew it. Just look at the curl of smoke in the last panel on page one… nice, huh?

 Modern 101-22-WB Modern 101-23 Modern 101-24 Modern 101-25 Modern 101-26

WILL BRAGG began as a back-up feature in Modern Comics #47 (March, 1946). Quality staffer Paul Gustavson created the series, writing and drawing most of the stories.

However, it appears to be none other than Jack Cole who delivered pencils and inks on the Will Bragg stories in the last four issues of Modern Comics, issues 99 to 102.

In the story above, from Modern #101, the most obvious Jack Cole touch is the woman pilot. In fact, she stands as one of the more appealing of women in Cole’s stories, being a very upbeat tomboy who is generous of heart and easy on the eyes. It’s easy to see why Will Bragg makes a fool of himself over her!

The “regulars” character design in this series (not the woman pilot) is very UN-like Jack Cole, but he was forced to work with the cartoony, almost ugly figures as originally designed by Gustavson, for continuity. It’s too bad he couldn’t have known in advance the series was ending with these stories and really cut loose. Even so, there are moments which are satisfying, and it’s cool to see Jack Cole’s graceful drawings of a cool old biplane in flight.

Perhaps Cole got this series because of his years one-page stories that featured another boastful blowhard, WINDY BREEZE. (To read the WINDY BREEZE stories, click here). In any case, the stories do not seem to be written by Cole, as they lack his breakneck pacing, satire, and darkness. However, the artwork – to my eye – certainly does look like his work, and there are some nice examples in the WILL BRAGG stories.

This was some of Cole’s last cartoony work. In short order, he would shift his style into a more sober, realistic, and shadowy world, as seen in the Angles O’Day  and Web of Evil stories.

What do you think, dear readers… IS THIS COLE? Your comments are welcome and add much to this blog.

To help you decide for yourself, here are the other Cole-ish WILL BRAGG comic book stories, from Modern Comics 99, 100, and 102. Alas, these available only in microfiche scans which, at their best, are pretty muddy and washed out. Even so, it is possible (and fascinating) to see the hand of Jack Cole all over these pages.

 Modern99_22 Modern99_23 Modern99_24 Modern99_25 Modern99_26 Modern100_22 Modern100_23 Modern100_24 Modern100_25 Modern100_26 Modern102_37 Modern102_38 Modern102_39 Modern102_40 Modern102_41 Modern102_42

Jan 7, 2010

WINDY BREEZE 4 – 1946-49

This is the fourth and final segment of my chronological publishing of Jack Cole’s one-pager series, WINDY BREEZE. To read earlier installments, click here.

This set covers the last appearances of the series in National Comics 51-60. Some of these were written and drawn by Bart Tumey. Tumey (no relation to me, Paul Tumey, that I know of) was the first of the half-dozen or so assistants and ghosts brought on to help keep up the rate of production of PLASTIC MAN stories to meet the demand. Tumey, a decent cartoonist, wrote and drew many comics for Quality during the 1940’s. It’s my guess that these few WINDY BREEZES were a try-out to see if he could measure up to the Jack Cole magic.

As a special bonus, my adventures as a comic book archeologist recently took me down the slick, dangerous curves of Quality’s sexy title CANDY, where I found a couple of wonderful last WINDY BREEZES by Jack Cole.

It’s a shame that Cole didn’t continue the series and keep creating these one=page wonders. As you’ll see, he just got better and better… and also funnier.

National Comics #51 (Dec. 1945)

Great opening panel, huh?



National Comics #52 (Feb. 1946)

Cole didn’t commemorate Christmas in any of his stories, but he often marked Valentine’s Day, usually with a comedy of unrequited love, as in this story. The drawings of the lovely Zinnia are classic Cole and prefigure his work in PLAYBOY 10 years later.



National Comics #53 (April 1946)
Cole may have roughed this out, the figures and staging
are all Bart Tumey.



National Comics #54 (June, 1946)

Another one-pager by Bart Tumey. Note how different the figures feel. Where Cole’s figures have a subtle angularity, Tumey’s figures are round and lumpy. Also note how he stages the strip so the funny part of the corset being drawn to the car is not shown… something Cole would have relished drawing.



National Comics #55 (August, 1946)

Cole’s back! Perhaps inspired by sharing his turf with Tumey, Cole clearly puts more effort into this dense one-pager, which contains one of his classic crowd-going-crazy scenes. 



National Comics #56 (October, 1946)

Another one-pager by Bart Tumey. This one appears to be exclusively by him, script, pencils, and inks.  Note how different his females are from Coles. Where Cole’s women are sexy, dangerous… Tumey’s women tend to be wholesome, bossy, and matronly.



National Comics #57 (Dec. 1946)

One of the best in the series! Lovely artwork, funny writing. Notice how there is MOVEMENT in this story, as opposed to Tumey’s versions. Cole has put a bit more elbow grease into this one, perhaps spurred by Tumey’s presence. His panels have a level of detail and density that is simply insane for a throw-away one-pager. Great, forgotten comics!



National Comics #58 (Feb. 1947)

Another classic by Cole. That middle tier is a lovely way to show a flashback sequence that also suggest pages from the book Windy is “borrowing” from.  nat58


National Comics #59 (April 1947) 

Wow. This is genius at work. This one never fails to make me laugh out loud. And then I admire the mastery of the layout, the drawing, and the beautiful sound effects. I love the first panel, where Windy’s sour notes are all falling from his mouth and crashing to the floor like lead weights. The idyllic country setting Windy and Stinky stroll through reminds me of some of Frank King’s Gasoline Alley sequences. But the pastoral beauty is merely a set up for the porcine stampede climax!



National Comics #60 (June 1947)

It’s the pose in panel two that makes me say that Jack Cole penciled this page. It’s the lumpy, round-jawed figure in panel three that makes me say Bart Tumey inked the page. Overall, the page ought to feel as dense and compositionally tight as the previous two entries, but it doesn’t. It’s still quite funny, though. This was the last WINDY BREEZE to appear in National Comics. With issue #61, the book reduced in size from 64 to 52 pages.  Cole did publish a a great BURP THE TWERP one-pager in National #65. You can read that here.



Candy #7 (Dec. 1948)

In 1948 and 49, as Quality juggled it’s titles to accommodate the changing market, Jack Cole’s one-pagers were shoehorned into unlikely titles. These last two WINDY BREEZES may have been left over from the National run, created for issues that never appeared. However, Stinky’s name has now changed to “Pee Wee,” so perhaps Cole did these fresh. This is another truly funny one-pager, dense with great ideas and art. Panel four made me laugh out loud.


Candy #8 (Feb. 1949)

This is the last published Windy Breeze, as far as I know. There may be a few others to be found. I hope so. I love how Windy is unimpressed by television in this story. This was a pretty early mention of TV. Cole was very interested in technology and inventions. The last panel is priceless. A great way to end this wonderful series!


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