May 28th, 2015

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Editorial Cartoons: Len Norris, Master of Just About Everything

Len Norris

After the holidays, my pal Jo-Jo Baptista showed me a paperback book of political cartoons he picked up in a junk store when he was visiting his family. It was by a cartoonist I had never heard of before… Len Norris. The second I opened the book, I started to get excited. This guy had everything- great compositions, stylish design, solidly constructed characters, flawless perspective, funny drawings, great fabric folds, expressive hand poses, wild looking kids and animals- and he seemed to be able to draw anything from any angle. He caricatured automobiles and trains as well as the insides of gothic cathedrals and department stores, and depicted fabulous mansions as easily as he drew middle class living rooms. What a talent!

Len NorrisLen NorrisI did a little Googling and discovered that Norris worked as Art Director for Macleans magazines for a few years after WWII, then began a 27 year run as editorial cartoonist for the Vancouver Sun. Norris would lampoon stories from the paper, which he would refer to in a tiny box at the top or on the headline of a paper in a character’s hand. Today, without an understanding of the topical context, some of the gags are pretty puzzling. But it doesn’t matter- Norris’ drawings are spectacular.

It’s clear that Norris was inspired by the work of Ronald Searle, as are many current day animators. But Norris takes Searle’s ornamental line and wraps it around completely solid forms. This is exactly the sort of translation that a character designer would need to do if he wanted to adapt Searle’s style to an animatable model. But Norris isn’t just a Searle imitator. His characters are keenly observed and capture the spirit of Canadian culture in the 1950s. Look at these fantastic editorial cartoons and see if you don’t agree with Walt Kelly who was quoted as saying that Len Norris was “the best in the business”.

Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resource

Editorial CartoonsEditorial Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Editorial Cartoons.

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Posted by admin @ 12:19 pm

May 27th, 2015

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Aviation Illustrators: The Unsung Heros of Commercial Art

Aviation Art

Harper Goff

Last week, I posted an article about Harper Goff, the designer of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus in Walt Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”. A couple of days later, I was going through a stack of aviation prints to see if I could find an idea for a post, and I and stumbled across these amazing WWII era pantings by Goff. It made me think about the changing role of the commercial artist in society.

Back in the postwar era, the major aircraft builders employed illustrators to conceptualize how complex engineering would transform blueprints and raw materials into real-life massive flying machines. These talented illustrators would create fine art prints for the aerospace companies to give away as gifts to their clients and suppliers. Southern California swap meets are well stocked with these prints, and I’ve picked up a nice sized pile of them myself over the years.

Today, Photoshop and computer modeling has replaced these great technical artists, and a lot of the magic of flight has been replaced by dull literalism. On first glance, these images might seem super-realistic, but a closer look reveals the amazing technique and creative virtuosity involved in making watercolors evoke speed and power. Here’s a facet of illustration history that I would like to know more about. If you have any information on these artists, please post to the comments at the end of this article.

Two more by Harper Goff…

Aviation Art
Aviation Art

CHARLES H. HUBBELL

Charles Hubbell had a lifelong love of aviation and art. As a child, his hobby was model airplane building, and by the time he was in High School, he had built himself a full scale glider. He attended the Cleveland School of Art in the early 1920s, and sold his paintings to pay for flying lessons. He became a licensed pilot and successful commercial artist. In the late 1930s, Hubbell was approached to combine his interests to illustrate a calendar depicting the winners of an annual air race. For the next three decades, Hubbell painted airplane calendars with terrific authenticity and attention to detail. In the course of his career he painted over 1000 images, which together comprise a fairly complete history of aviation.

Aviation Art
Aviation Art
Aviation Art
Aviation Art
Aviation Art

JACK LEYNNWOOD

If the art of Jack Leynnwood looks familiar, you are probably a baby boomer who had an interest in model kits growing up. Leynnwood’s distinctive paintings on the Revell model kit box covers featured antique biplanes, WWII fighters, helicopters, modern jets and even space rockets. Leynnwood’s images jumped off the shelf with their dramatic colors and lighting and dynamic momentum and motion blur. The wings of his airplanes would overlap the corners of the box, making it look like they were ready to fly away. He taught at Art Center College of Design, and passed away in 1999.

Aviation Art
Aviation Art
Aviation Art
Aviation Art

MORE AVIATION ARTISTS

Aviation Art

George Akimoto

Aviation Art

C.F. Coppock

Aviation Art

Crundall?

Aviation Art
Aviation Art

MR?

Aviation Art

Alexander Leydenfrost

Let me know in the comments if you have any information on these great artists, or if you’d like to see more aviation illustration.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

IllustrationIllustration

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.

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May 26th, 2015

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Comic Books: Crime Does Not Pay / Boy Comics

Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro

Yesterday, Animation Resources supporter Marc Schirmeister stopped by with a little bit of comic book history. A copy of Crime Does Not Pay from June of 1947. This particular comic book is not for the faint of heart. It’s grusome and extreme. In fact, it marks the absolute peak of comic book sadism that led to the Publishers’ Code of 1948 and the condemning of crime and horror comics by psychiatrist, Frederic Wertham in the book, Seduction of the Innocent a few years later.

Soon after this comic was published, publisher Lev Gleason decided to shift gears away from the grusome subjects and focus on a new angle in Crime Does Not Pay comics. Artist/writer Pete Morisi quoted a conversation he had with editor Charles Biro about the change in direction…

Listen, Pete, we’ve got a good thing going here, and we don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to see any blood and guts. I don’t want any violence. Just give me detail, lots of detail!

Detail of what? What am I supposed to show?

Tits!

Some things never change.

This first story by Fred Guardineer does a great job of translating the crime/noir film style to the comic medium with the maximum amount of action per page… and the maximum amount of gunplay. It also features a cameo by a cartoon version of J. Edgar Hoover!

Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro

What’s with that jarring comic relief strip at the end?!

This second story is over-the-line ugly in just about every way imaginable…

Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro

Boy Comics Norman Maurer

Here’s another treasure from the collection of Animation Resources supporter, Marc Schirmeister- the oddly titled Boy Comics Number 39 from April, 1942. This comic book isn’t as interesting for its art, (check out the wonky perspective on that cover!) but rather for its subject matter…

Boy Comics Norman Maurer

Yes, this noir style comic written by cartoonist Charles Biro and drawn by Norman Maurer deals with the animation business! And check out the names of the incidental characters…

Boy Comics Norman Maurer

Sound familiar? And the design of "B.S.", the head of NDN Studios, it a pretty clear caricature of Walt Disney!

Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman MaurerIt seems that Biro had some sort of connection to the East coast animation scene. Does anyone out there reading have more info on this unique comic book? If so, please let us know in the comments.

UPDATE: Mark Mayerson points out the Charles Biro was an animator and director at the Fleischer Studios from 1930-1936. Thanks, Mark!

Boy Comics Norman Maurer

Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Mauer

Thanks to Marc Schirmeister for bringing these rare and historically important comic books to our attention! Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see more like this.

Animation Resources is looking for collectors of gold and silver age comic books, 50s and 60s Mad magazines, 50s Playboys, National Lampoon, etc. who would be willing to lend us their books to digitize. If you’d like to help out, contact me at… sworth@animationresources.org.

Crime Does Not PayCrime Does Not PayIf you are interested in pre-code crime comics, you’ll want to check out Fantagraphics’ new book, Blackjacked and Pistol-Whipped: A Crime Does Not Pay Primer. It includes 24 stories culled from issues of “Crime Does Not Pay” between 1942 and 1946. You won’t believe your eyes… but make sure you hide these comics under your bed so your mom doesn’t find them!

If too much is never enough, also check out The Simon and Kirby Library: Crime, a collection of impeccably drawn crime comics by the master of the comic book, Jack Kirby.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Comic BooksComic Books

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Comic Books.

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