Saturday, December 27, 2008
  Edd Cartier (1914-2008)
Art ©2009 Edd Cartier Estate 

The imaginative illustrator Edd Cartier, 94, died Christmas Day. Everything about the gifted Cartier was unusual. He did serious illustration but also whimsical drawings, and he sometimes managed to incorporate both into a single picture. He was a pack leader in science fiction illustration, but his work vanished from magazines when he was at his peak. Even his name was unique; "Edd Cartier" evoked artwork with the precision of cut jewelry. The odd "Edd" signature seemed to herald the approach of alien beings, yet it was simply an askew display of his middle initial.

Here is his superb cover for the October 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. I started reading Astounding that year and marveled at Cartier's tightly rendered, sometimes humorous b/w interior illustrations. But looking at this cover's beautiful color design and perfectly balanced layout, bringing de Camp's characters to life, one has to wonder why Cartier didn't get dozens of Astounding cover assignments through the 1940s and 1950s. Did John W. Campbell think it did not have the proper "look" for his magazine? Or was he misled by letters praising Cartier's b/w interiors? Whatever the reason, this was his only cover for Astounding.

Cartier grew up in North Bergen, New Jersey, where his father ran Cartier's Saloon. While in grade school, he was allowed to paint Christmas pictures on the tavern's large plate glass windows. Since many of his childhood drawings were humorous, his friends and family suggested to him that he should plan a career as a cartoonist, and years later Cartier commented, "In fact, I have been accused of putting too much humor in my illustrations." In his teens, he designed costumes for school plays and illustrated his 1933 high school yearbook. Listening to cowboy music, he practiced lasso tricks. Fascinated by the paintings of Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, the young Cartier decided to become an illustrator specializing in Western art.

In 1933, he began attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he became close friends with a fellow student, future pulp illustrator Earl Mayan. Cartier majored in illustration, studying with Western pulp illustrator Harold Winfield Scott (1898-1977) and Maitland Graves, author of The Art of Color and Design (1941). In his essay, "The Shadows of My Past" (a foreword to Volume 16 of Anthony Tollin's Shadow trade paperbacks), Cartier wrote, "Graves taught figure drawing and was instrumental in my ability to depict anatomy, both human—and not so human. Scott taught pictorial illustration, and through him I feel privileged to trace an unbroken chain of art instruction back to Howard Pyle, the father of American illustration. The links are fairly close: Scott had studied under Dean Cornwell, a student of Harvey Dunn, who in turn studied with Pyle. Harold Scott became my mentor and advisor."

Pratt instructor William James was a Street & Smith art director, and he opened the door that enabled Cartier to begin his professional career: "I began by doing a single illustration per week for Street & Smith pulps like Wild West Weekly, Movie Action and Detective Story Magazine while still attending Pratt, and was paid eight dollars for each drawing. But they soon began giving me more assignments. When I graduated in 1936, James offered me a steady assignment illustrating The Shadow’s adventures. The regular artist, Tom Lovell, was moving on to pursue a painting career, so I alternated with him illustrating the twice-monthly novels."

Graduating from Pratt, Cartier and Earl Mayan leased a Manhattan studio on the fourth floor of an Upper West Side brownstone, but a lack of assignments prompted Mayan to move out within a year. Six months later, Cartier moved back to North Bergen where he set up his studio on the floor above Cartier’s Saloon, collecting scrap lumber to construct a drawing table which he used the rest of his life.

As an advisor, Scott may not have always given the best advice. Norman Rockwell liked what he saw in Cartier's Shadow illustrations and wrote a letter offering him a job as an assistant. Cartier recalled, "I went to Harold and asked his opinion. 'If you study with Norman Rockwell, you’re just going to become another Norman Rockwell,' Scott advised. 'You’ll be influenced entirely by him. You should remain on your own.' So I turned down Rockwell’s job offer, though I have regretted doing so ever since." The regret, one can speculate, is that contact with Rockwell could have catapulted Cartier into the pages of The Saturday Evening Post and Collier's. The notion that Cartier could have become some kind of Rockwell clone doesn't wash, if that is indeed what Scott was suggesting.

He continued to illustrate for Street & Smith pulps, mainly focusing on The Shadow. As he recalled, "My illustrations evolved with each new issue. I abandoned pen-and-ink, preferring to use a combination of brush, ink, tempera and lithographic pencil. I worked almost exclusively on the lightly-textured surface of illustration board, usually Bainbridge #80, roughing in my Shadow drawings on the board with a pencil, then outlining the illustration with brush and ink. Next came brush and tempera, combined with ink for the darker areas. Finally, I would erase my original penciling and finish up by adding shading with a lithographic pencil. Sometimes I added a bit of red ink to my originals, usually in the eyes or as dripping blood, the red ink reproducing as black on the printed page. A typical drawing was usually one by one-and-a-half feet in size, or one-and-a-half by two feet, or sometimes larger, even though it might be reduced in the pulps to as small as a quarter of a page—or smaller still, as a spot illustration." 

He illustrated for other Street & Smith mystery magazines, including The Whisperer, The Wizard and Detective Story Magazine, and then expanded into fantasy and science fiction, as he recalled: "In 1939, the editor of Street & Smith’s Astounding Science-Fiction offered me the opportunity to illustrate an extraordinary new magazine he was launching to be titled Unknown. John W. Campbell, Jr., thought I would be ideally suited to illustrating fantasy. I always enjoyed drawing the weird and fantastic nature of The Shadow’s adventures. And John said he had often admired that quality in my illustrations before he asked me to illustrate Unknown. After I illustrated the lead story in the first issue of Unknown—with my former instructor Harold Scott providing the cover painting—William James asked me if I would mind having someone else take over The Shadow so I could concentrate on science fiction and fantasy. I said it was okay with me, since I also liked science fiction.

"When I was a kid, my brothers Alfred and Vincent read as much science fiction as they could get their hands on. They had Hugo Gernsback’s magazines, and shared them with me. At first, I thought the stories were too fantastic. But I was soon hooked on the genre. After I became an illustrator, I knew it would be fascinating to do science fiction art, and I was pleased to move on to Unknown and also Astounding Science Fiction. I gave up illustrating The Shadow’s adventures in 1940, and the work was turned over to my former roommate Earl Mayan." For those two magazines Cartier did many interior illustrations. However, he only did four covers for Unknown, a magazine which sent him into strange new realms, as noted by Robert Weinberg (The Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists), “That's where he really shined. He had a deft caricature style, and he was able to draw not just very expressive people but expressive creatures like fairies, gnomes and gods... He really excelled at monsters. There was one, a puddle of slime that could assume different forms, and he showed it as an icky, drippy humanoid rising from the ooze. It was fantastic.”

Cartier married his wife Georgina in 1943. During World War II, he enlisted in the Army in 1941 and, after drawing maps in Britain, he fought as an infantryman and a machine gunner with a tank battalion located in France and Germany. After he was severely wounded in Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge and his hospital train was blown apart, he received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

Returning to the United States, he illustrated the final year of The Shadow as a digest magazine, continued with Astounding and entered the field of comic books with both covers and stories for Street & Smith's Red Dragon. While creating attractive book jackets for Gnome Press and Fantasy Press, he also produced the memorable 1949-50 Gnome Press Calendars, drawing gnomes, fantasy and science fiction into strange seasonal situations. Also in 1949 he did a series of illustrations for King Features Syndicate newspaper serials.

Dave Kyle recalled launching Gnome Press with Marty Greenberg and working with Cartier on the 1951 book,
Travelers of Space: "When the first books were printed in my family printing shop in Monticello, I had little practical experience but a lot of enthusiasm and energy. Courses at Columbia University helped immensely in steering me along the way. Using my artistic talent and training, I designed the original colophon or special identifying design for Gnome Press -- a gnome sitting under a toadstool reading a book, inspired by the design used by my father for Merriewold, a mountain residential park. The early books were designed by me and the quality was kept very high. I believe that the little touches which cost a bit more, such as my little symbol embossed in the cover of Asimov's I, Robot, the chain design for the title page of Heinlein's Sixth Column, and the split binding and special embossed rocketship on anthologies, made Gnome books distinctive. 

"I designed and wrote all the copy for the early books, drawing designs when appropriate. Professional book printers were used, especially Colonial Press in Massachusetts which had an office on 42nd Street opposite the New York Public Library. I collaborated with Edd Cartier in several ways, the best being the illustrations for my story of the "Interplanetary Zoo"; this was an interesting project because the full color signature or folio in the anthology
Travelers of Space was actually done from black-and-white drawings. All color was laid in by a talented printing plant technician who worked with me for the final results. He had done similar work for Lloyd A. Eshbach in the production of some of Lloyd's Fantasy Press books."

Cartier attended Pratt again on the G.I. Bill, receiving a fine arts degree in 1953. Supporting a family on the low pay of freelance science fiction art (at a time pulp magazines were coming to an end) prompted Cartier to seek employment in a different field, and he found a position as a draftsman for an engineering firm during the 1950s. Living in Ramsey, New Jersey, Cartier worked for more than 25 years as an art director with Mosstype, a Waldwick, New Jersey, manufacturer specializing in printing machinery. In Ramsey, he joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 682 in 1960 and became captain of the VFW Color Guard, leading parades for 26 years and organizing Veterans Day ceremonies. He was a member of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and the Ramsey Historical Association.

In 1992 he was given the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1996 and 2001 he was nominated for Retro Hugo Awards for artwork published in 1945 and 1951. His work was collected in
Edd Cartier: The Known and the Unknown, published in a 2000-copy limited edition hardcover by Gerry de la Ree in 1977, and his illustrations of L. Ron Hubbard's fiction were reprinted in Master Storyteller: An Illustrated Tour of the Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard by William J. Widder (Galaxy Press, 2003.).

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Sunday, December 21, 2008
  EC Comics: From Here to Nudity #2

The story "A Rottin' Trick!", illustrated by Joe Orlando, was published in EC's  Tales from the Crypt 29 (April-May 1952). When the story was reprinted in hardcover in 1979, the larger page size and b/w reproduction on quality paper revealed the artwork in greater detail than was evident in the original comic books on newsprint.
©2008 WMG 

Some noticed unusual human figures cavorting in the fabric design on the drapery in the background of page three. Covered by murky. dark purple ink in the original comic book, these drawings went unseen by both editors and readers in 1952. Given the censorship climate of the 1950s, the discovery then of this single panel could have been devastating for EC publisher Bill Gaines.

Eventually, during the 1980s, someone brought the page to the attention of Gaines, who sent a photocopy to Orlando and demanded an explanation. Orlando responded by writing a letter to Gaines about the artwork on February 29, 1988. The closing sentence about "your brother Rex" is a joke, a reference to a funny hoax Gaines pulled in the 1950s, when he had the Mad office boy convinced that he had an identical twin brother, the evil Rex Gaines, who sometimes visited the Mad office.

This was not the only time a prank was slipped into an EC story. In Frontline Combat 4, the story "Bomb Run," illustrated by John Severin and Bill Elder, has an unusual last panel. It shows a copy of Homer's Odyssey, but the drama of the story is diminished because words from the familiar Ajax Cleanser singing commercial were lettered onto the page of the open book by prankster Elder: "Ajax the foaming cleanser Buh Buh Buh Buh Buh Soaps the dirt right down the drain". Perhaps he assumed that the lettering would reduce and become illegible or that it would be deleted before publication. (The full lyrics went something like this: "Use Ajax (boom boom), the foaming cleanser... (boom bub boom buh boom boom boom) soaps the dirt right down the drain... you'll stop paying the elbow tax when you start cleaning with Ajax! So remember... use Ajax, the foaming cleanser, soaps the dirt right down the drain. bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-boom!") In this case, after EC received a stack of letters from puzzled readers, they apologized in Frontline Combat 6 for their "clumsy oversight".

For the earlier installment on this subject, describing some of the EC art pranks which did not get published, click here.

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Friday, December 19, 2008
  Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist (2007)
Trailer: Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist from Montilla Pictures

Bob Andelman interviews Andrew D. Cooke, director of Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist.

Andrew Cooke: Okay. Well, my brother Jon is an editor and creator of Comic Book Artist magazine, and I grew up reading comic books. I would say the two obsessions I had growing up were comics and movies. Jon and I collected all sorts of comic books, but we weren’t really aware of Will’s work until the Warren reprints came out. Once the Warren reprints came out, it just really hit us like, who was this guy? It was amazing work. Jon has our collection of our comics, but the things that I still retained, that I kept with me, were pristine, mint versions of those Warren issues. I loved them.

After high school and college, I decided to go into the movie business, and I sort of went away from comic books, and Jon, obviously, stayed with comic books. Several years ago Jon called me. We have done several projects together and had talked about making a movie together, and he called me and said, “What about a documentary about Will Eisner?” I thought, Wow, what a great idea. So we talked about it, and we talked to Will about it, and Will said yes, and so that sort of started the process. It was as simple as that. Jon wanted to honor Will in a documentary, and I thought that that was such a great idea. I would have to say that we had hoped we would have finished the documentary while he was still with us, but the progress, it just has taken us so long to do it.

Click here to continue reading interview.

Jon B. Cooke, Will Eisner and Andrew D. Cooke in 2004. Dave Gibbons' tribute to Eisner on the cover of Jon B. Cooke's Comic Book Artist 6. For all six issues, go here.

©2008 Wood and Eisner Estates

Will Eisner's The Spirit ventured into science fiction in the early 1950s. Wood, working from layouts by Jules Feiffer, drew eight weeks worth of Spirit strips which ran from July 1952 to October 5, 1952. "Mission... the Moon" was published August 3.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
  Wood Chips 6
                          ©2008 Wood Estate
Here is Infinitus. Drawn by the teenage Wally Wood during the mid-1940s as samples, these are early representations of the character Wood eventually called Animan. Two decades later, he developed Animan into a story for witzend 1 and 2.  (See at bottom.)

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
  Eddie Fitzgerald visits Wally Wood's last apartment

Wally Wood's last apartment was at 15150 Parthenia in Van Nuys.

For more pix and to go inside, visit Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008
  Guy Peellaert (1934-2008)
©2008 Estate of Guy Peellaert 

The Belgian illustrator Guy Peellaert died November 17 at age 74. Rock Dreams (Popular Library, 1973), his collaboration with British rock journalist Nik Cohn, sold more than a million copies. When it was reprinted by Taschen in 2003, Peellaert commented, "Rock will always represent the extravagant, the flashy, the fantasy. These pictures are a memento to that dream." Their follow-up was 20th Century Dreams (1999).

Peellaert and Michael Herr teamed to survey Vegas as America's ''material gulag and dream terminal,'' in The Big Room (Summit, 1986) with images of FDR, Bugsy Siegel, Liberace, Joe DiMaggio, Marlene Dietrich and others. Peellaert was a pioneering graphic novelist with The Adventures of Jodelle (Grove Press, 1967) and he also did album covers and film posters.


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Thursday, December 04, 2008
  Seeds of Triffids

By the end of 1950, I was reading Astounding, F&SF, Galaxy and Groff Conklin anthologies. Just when I was thinking that wasn't enough, Collier's landed in the mailbox, and I was gone with the Wyndham, entranced by the slow dance of the killing plants.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1903-69) first appeared in Collier's (January 6, 1951) as Revolt of the Triffids, an abridged serial. Above, courtesy of Canadian-based art historian and cartoonist Leif Ping, is Fred Banbery's illustration for the serial's conclusion in Collier's (February 3, 1951). Banbery (1913-99) also created covers for Alfred Hitchcock books, including a compelling composite of Hitchcock's head with a Psycho-like house.

With an Earle Bergey cover illustration, Revolt of the Triffids was published by Popular Library in March 1952. In 1957 it was adapted for BBC Radio, followed by the disappointing 1962 movie starring Howard Keel. It was effectively dramatized by the BBC in a 1981 television mini-series of six episodes. Now the BBC has announced a TV remake scheduled to air in 2009 in two feature-length parts. This new version will be set in the year 2011. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg has acquired the film rights to another Wyndham novel, Chocky.

The startling synchronicity described below was in the Comments section beneath an article on the new remake at BBC News Archive.

My very freaky Triffids story... I first saw this when I was eight and it has haunted me ever since. Finally I found it in 2005 on DVD in a local store. I rushed home and started to watch what I'd waited so long to see. But it wasn't as scary or haunting as I remember. Then, out of nowhere, came the most frightening thing. In the scene where Bill is taken to a hotel with a group of blind people to look after, the scenery starts to look very familiar. It's my street. The minibus then pulls up to the hotel. And guess what? The hotel is my house! The shot freezes on my bedroom window - the very room where I'm watching the DVD, 24 years after it was filmed. My apartment is in an old building that used to be a hotel. So I must have seen my future home when I first saw the series back in 1982. What does it all mean? Any ideas? Is it the end of the world?
G Ben, London, UK

Below is part one of The Invisible Man of Science Fiction, a documentary about Wyndham which was telecast in 2005 on BBC Four. See YouTube for the other parts.

Discussion of triffids terror on The Colbert Report:

Junot Diaz: Cane fields are scary. Any time you drive by them, they're like triffids. They clack in the wind. I guess as a kid I was terrified of them.

Stephen Colbert: You're the very first guest to ever make a triffids reference.

Diaz: I don't know if that's the saddest thing I ever heard.

Colbert: It's a great honor. You've achieved a level of nerddom that is heretofore... We might have to check the building for structural damage. You geeked out so hard on me. People at home are rushing to Wikipedia to find out what triffids are.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008
  Alex Rivera's Sleep Dealer

Sleep Dealer clips

Sleep Dealer takes place in a near future when the minds of workers are linked into a global computer network. Despite the wall along the Mexican border, the U.S. allows the outsourcing of virtual labor through node workers operating remote-control robots. In Oaxaca, a private company hijacks the water supply of a small village, selling the water back to them at a higher price. Memo Cruz (Luis Fernando Peña) lives in that isolated village, but he dreams of working in Northern high-tech factories. He builds a transmitter that allows him to tap into international signals, but his life changes when this transmission is intercepted and the signal is traced back to him. On a bus to Tijuana, he meets freelance writer Luz (Leonor Varela), who later sells her memory of meeting Memo to an online memory-trading service. After she installs nodes in Memo's arm, he is able to get a job at the virtual labor sweatshop Cybracero, a factory where workers are plugged in to keep remote-control robots functioning throughout the world. Later, sitting at Luz' computer console, he is angered to discover she has been selling her memories of him.

Alex Rivera Q&A interview (May 14, 2008).

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Masquerade of the albino axolotls

My Photo

is the editor of Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (2003), reviewed by Paul Gravett.

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