Friday, December 31, 2010

Marion Sitton : The Commissions

Over the years, Marion had done a handful of art commissions for me. It began back in 1998 when I initially sent him a photocopy collection of every comic book story he had ever done that I could locate. Marion had lost most of his existing copies of his work in a fire long ago, and during the discussions we had about his crime comics, I mentioned that it was a shame that the originals for his work didn't exist any longer, as I'd love to be able to see and own one myself. Marion wondered if Marvel, the company that Timely and Atlas eventually became, would have any of it and I explained that among the perhaps untold tens of thousands of pages produced for the company in the 1940's and 1950's, 99.5% of it was long ago destroyed, with a tiny handful surviving by virtue of accident or foresight on the part of an artist or worker. 

In a moment of inspiration, Marion told me he could re-do something for me easily. I immediately knew which it would be, choosing a splash page that had a great image in the first panel. This was the result. My apologies for any warpage or bright areas as they were taken with a digital camera:

#8085 Crime Exposed #4 p.1

Following the publication of Marion's interview in 2008, he again felt like doing some work and looking over his stories thought this would make a great page, and it did!

#7922 Amazing Detective Cases #5 (Mar51)

Followed by this:

#9920 Western Outlaws and Sheriffs #73

Then in early 2009 Michael Finn, a fan who had read Marion's interview in Alter Ego, contacted me and asked whether I thought Marion would do a "themed" commission for an idea he had in mind. This fan had a collection of artist commissions based on the idea that the image would be "one minute later" than the image on the original comic cover. Michael asked whether Marion could do one based on the Jack Kirby cover to RAWHIDE KID #20. Marion spent about 3 weeks mulling it over and came up with this, which actually takes place 5 seconds after the original cover scene:

RAWHIDE KID #20 (one minute later) [From the collection of Michael Finn]

Here are the two side by side for comparison:

On left: RAWHIDE KID #20 by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers; On right, "one minute later" by Marion Sitton

Seeing how well that turned out gave me an idea. Marion was still eager to work and I had run out of good splash images of his stories to recreate. I asked whether he'd consider recreating some other covers for me, in the manner of the Rawhide Kid cover, although they would be "straight" recreations.  Marion thought this fine and we decided the manner of the recreation would be not trying to exactly copy the original artist in question line for line, but instead treat it as if Marion was "inking" the work in his own style over the other artist's pencils.  With this idea set, Marion set out to work. I chose some of my favorite cover images and at the age of 89, Marion produced these:

HORRIFIC #3 (after Don Heck)

MISTER MYSTERY #12 (after Bernard Baily)

After completing those two above I then considered three of my favorite covers by my favorite Atlas artist:

UNCANNY TALES #26 (after Joe Maneely)

SIX-GUN WESTERN #2 (after Joe Maneely)

And one of my favorite covers of all time:

ASTONISHING #30 (after Joe Maneely)

And just for good measure, this eerie favorite:


To be continued.........

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Marion Sitton : The World's Greatest Crayon Artist

After a bet at a bridge party that he could create art using any medium, Marion began to explore the possibilities of the crayon and created a technique that pushed its boundaries beyond what anyone would expect. Paintings, Christmas cards, a crayon art instructional book and local acclaim all followed, giving Marion the moniker...



New Crayon Art Book (back cover)

Joyce's Jars

John Denver

Businessman and luxury retailer Stanley Marcus of (Neiman Marcus)

Shirley Jones


Foggy Liftoff

In the 1970's, Marion wrote and laid out an instructional "how-to" book on crayon art titled THE NEW CRAYON ART BOOK. A natural for art supply stores, libraries, hospitals and schools, the book is currently looking for a publisher.

In 1975, Marion's crayon work was highlighted in a 3-page article published in Southwest Airlines Magazine. Unfortunately the magazine didn't utilize color printing throughout the issue and Marion was shortchanged in black and white, which is kind of silly as the main focus of his crayon art is in the wonderful color palette. 

Southwest Airlines Magazine (May 1975)

And my favorite of all:

Hummingbird and Sunflower

Marion Sitton : The Atlas Years

In January of 1950 Marion was let go by Timely when they shut down their staff operation. He quickly found freelance work at Avon, Close-Up, Fawcett, Fox, Hillman and Quality, on romance, crime and western stories. Some of these can be seen on a different blog post.

By mid to late1950 he was back freelancing for Stan Lee at Timely, though now called Atlas Comics, their covers possessing an Atlas "globe" logo. The globe originally stood for the name of Goodman's distribution company but would come to be a name for the line through the 1950's.

Marion would continue freelancing for Atlas throughout 1951, 1952 & 1953 (?), primarily on crime comic stories and doing complete pencils and inks. By 1953 (?) Marion and his wife Helen would return to Texas and his last few stories were done long distance before petering out completely, as a career in commercial art beckoned.

Here is a list of all the titles and issues that feature Atlas stories by Marion. The list of 28 stories is still possibly incomplete as there may be a handful of additional western stories lurking in issues I've still not located, but for the most part is 97% complete.

ALL TRUE CRIME #46,47,49,51
CRIME CAN'T WIN #5,9,11,12

In addition, there are 4 instances of panels taken out of Marion's Atlas stories and used to illustrate text stories. They are found in ALL-TRUE CRIME #37, ARIZONA KID #4, JUSTICE COMICS #29 and BLACK RIDER #16. I'll include them at the end.

Marion's first freelance story for Stan Lee was in the title SPORTS ACTION, a 14 issue title running from cover date Nov/49 through Sept/52. Issue #1 was titled SPORTS STARS and perhaps Goodman's title changed due to the fact that there was an earlier SPORTS STARS by Parents' Magazine in 1946 and Goodman already had a long-running sports pulp called SPORTS ACTION that had ended its second run cover date Mar/48. This story was scripted by voluminous Atlas writer Hank Chapman, who wrote about 240 stories that he signed. Though he wrote in all genres, he became best known for his pre-code, Korean War era Atlas war stories, where among all the genre war stories he also gave life to Battle Brady, Combat Casey and Combat Kelly.

#7882 SPORTS ACTION #6 (Mar/51) 5 pages

The next story is Marion's first of many crime stories for Atlas, in the title AMAZING DETECTIVE CASES. AMAZING DETECTIVE CASES began life as Martin Goodman's second true-crime magazine, Vol 1, #1(June/40), running to Vol 10, #2 (July/50). The magazine then went on hiatus, returning as a crime comic book continuing as #3 (Nov/50) and running until #14 (Sept/52). The last 4 issues of the comic book were pre-code horror in content. The title then re-appeared as a true-crime magazine picking up right where it left off with Vol 10, #3 (Winter/53) and lasted into the early 1960's. This story's splash has a particularly violent panel!

#7922 AMAZING DETECTIVE CASES #5 (Mar/51) 4 pages

The third story is from SPY CASES #4 (Mar/51), a title that ran 19 issues starting with #26 (Sept/50, continuing the numbering from THE KELLYS #25) 27,28 and 4-19 (Oct/53). Begun as a spy comic book, after the Korean War started is began to feature occasional war stories and covers before converting completely to war content with #11 (June/52) through #15 (Feb/53), whereby it went back to a spy comic for its last 4 issues.

#7925 SPY CASES #4 (Apr/51) 5 pages

Marion's first Atlas western is next in ARIZONA KID #2 (May/51), a title that ran a short 6 issues. Once again, an extremely violent splash image.

#8026 ARIZONA KID #2 (May/51) 4 pages

One of my favorite crime splashes in CRIME EXPOSED #4 (June/51).

#8085 CRIME EXPOSED #4 (June/51) 6 pages

Another western, this time BLACK RIDER #14 (May/51).

#8095 BLACK RIDER #14 (May/51) 4 pages

#8177 CRIME CAN'T WIN #5 (June/51) 7 pages

#8197 THE GUNHAWK #15 (June/51) 3 pages

Pete Tumlinson cover
#8283 KID COLT OUTLAW #15 (July/51) 4 pages

Now comes the start of a long string of crime stories. The first comes by way of CRIME MUST LOSE #8 (Aug/51). This also happens to be the last Atlas crime comic issue I needed. It took me years to find a copy! The script here is by Carl Wessler who also wrote one other story in this issue, "Flaming Vengeance!". Wessler was the most prolific Crime writer in the Atlas titles. By my count, he wrote a complete total of 147 stories. These identifications are based on Wessler's own notes and records of story titles.

#8354 CRIME MUST LOSE #8 (Aug/51) 5 pages

#8668 ALL-TRUE CRIME #46 (Sept/51) 5 pages

#8751 CRIME MUST LOSE #9 (Oct/51) 6 pages

#8835 CRIME CASES COMICS #8 (Nov/51) 6 pages

The story below was scripted by Carl Wessler, who wrote 2 others this issue, "The Decoy" and "Terrance Craig - The Gangster from the Gutter!".

#8917 ALL-TRUE CRIME #47 (Nov/51) 5 pages

Another story by Carl Wessler, who wrote 3 of the 4 stories this issue, "The Racketeer", The Man Who Squealed" and the Sitton one below.

#8981 CRIME MUST LOSE #10 (Dec/51) 5 pages

Bingo!!  A Carl Wessler jackpot! All 4 stories this issue were written by Wessler, stories by Tony DiPreta, George Tuska, Marion Sitton and Cal Massey.

#9009 AMAZING DETECTIVE CASES #10 (Jan/52) 5 pages

#9248 CRIME EXPOSED #9 (Feb/52) 5 pages

Another Carl Wessler bonanza! All 4 stories scripted, stories by Jerry Robinson, Dan LoPrino, Marion Sitton and Paul Cooper.

#9255 CRIME CAN'T WIN #9 (Feb/52) 6 pages

Carl Wessler in two stories this issue, Marion Sitton and a story by Jack Keller.

#9446 ALL-TRUE CRIME #49 (Mar/52) 6 pages

Two Carl Wessler stories, Marion Sitton and Sol Brodsky.

#9522 CRIME EXPOSED #10 (Mar/52) 6 pages

Three stories by Carl Wessler this issue. Tony DiPreta, unknown and Marion Sitton. Look for Marion's tiny signature in the lower right hand corner of the second panel at the edge of the table.

#9530 CRIME CASES COMICS #10 (Mar/52) 5 pages

Horrendously muddy coloring on the next story. 

#9533 JUSTICE COMICS #27 (May/52) 6 pages

Trifecta! A third all-Carl Wessler issue! Wessler story art by Jerry Robinson, Marion Sitton, Jack Keller and Tony DiPreta. The Sitton story was written on October 5, 1951, showing that there was a 7 month lag between script and cover date, and a 4 month lag between script and publication date.

#9836 CRIME CASES COMICS #11 (May/52) 5 pages

Ask an Atlas collector who was the first artist to draw The Ringo Kid and 10 times out of 10 you'll get the same answer, Joe Maneely. But while Maneely did co-create the beloved Atlas western hero in 1954, draw the first 5 issues, the last 6 issues, and 19 of the 21 covers, he was not the first Atlas artist to draw the "Ringo Kid". That privilege belongs to Marion Sitton, who drew this story in WESTERN OUTLAWS AND SHERIFFS #73 (June/52). Ok, it's not the same Ringo Kid, in fact, this one is a villain, but it's "a" Ringo Kid! I'll post the entire story below.

Bill Everett cover!

#9920 WESTERN OUTLAWS and  SHERIFFS #73 (June/52) p.1


 A fourth all Carl Wessler issue. Wessler scripts for Jerry Robinson, Tony DiPreta, Jack Keller and Marion Sitton.

#9957 CRIME CAN'T WIN #11 (June/52)

#9972 JUSTICE COMICS #28 (July/52) 5 pages

#A-48 ALL TRUE CRIME #51 (July/52) 6 pages

#A-136 CRIME CAN'T WIN #12 (Sept/52) 6 pages

Three more Carl Wessler stories this issue. George Tuska, Marion Sitton and Marty Elkin. Great splash panel of a very realistic subway train bearing down on the man!

#A-212 CRIME CASES COMICS #12 (July/52) 5 pages

Switching gears now we have Marion's one and only war story for the long-running Atlas title BATTLE, a title that ran 70 issues from 1951 to 1960. When interviewed, Marion said he went back to Texas in early 1953 but it's not impossible he was off by one year and it possibly was 1952. That would explain the fact that this story looks like it had an inker who also added backgrounds. I'd go so far as to suggest the inker was George Klein. If Marion was back home and sent in the penciled pages, it would have been more efficient to just let someone in New York ink the story and Klein was always available, having been on the Timely staff and was currently freelancing for them also.It also explains why I've found no work by Marion drawn in 1953. I'll post the entire story below.

#A-485 BATTLE #11 (Aug52) 5 pages


And finally...

This could possibly be the very last comic book story Marion drew. Two Carl Wessler stories below, Marion Sitton and Gene Colan.  The cover date of Apr/53 throws you. This may be inventory. The crime books of this period are a mish-mash of jumbled job #'s. In this very same issue is an Ed Winiarski story with a B-860 number, which is a correct concurrent number for the cover date. If it was inventory, the story below probably was drawn in the spring of 1952. Another consideration is that this is an older unused inventory "script" left undrawn. If that were the case then this is a script that Marion may have done long distance after returning to Texas. He recalls drawing one or two in that manner before the scripts stopped coming altogether.  Another great "oncoming train" splash!

#A-469 JUSTICE COMICS #36 (Apr/53) 6 pages

 In 4 instances panels from Marion's stories were used as illustrations to accompany a book's 2-page text stories.

First we have a large, nearly half-page text illustration found in BLACK RIDER #15 (July/51). Placing the image is easy as it is the splash panel to the "Cash Devlin" story seen above in this post from THE GUNHAWK #15 (June/51).

Next is the text illustration found in ARIZONA KID #4 (Sept/51). This panel is easily found as page 4, panel 1 from the "Hank Roebuck" story in KID COLT OUTLAW #15 (July/51).

Lastly, I've found what appears to be a Marion Sitton panel in a text story used twice in two different books, the text story "Midnight Blasters" used in ALL-TRUE CRIME #37 (Feb/50)  and JUSTICE COMICS #29 (Sept/52).  The only problem I have is I cannot locate the source of the panel and the Feb/50 cover date of ALL-TRUE CRIME #37 places it in the Timely bullpen. Could I have missed the Sitton-pencilled crime story from the Timely era? It's possible. I'm going to have to go back and page through a whole bunch of 1949-era Timely crime issues now.  It's also possible I'm mistaken that's it's Sitton after all. I'll leave the jury out and welcome feedback for the moment.

Sitton-esque text illo. from ALL-TRUE CRIME #37 (Feb/50)

Sitton-esque text illo. from JUSTICE COMICS #29 (Sept/52)