Monday, December 25, 2017

"We Wish You a Maneely Christmas and a Happy New Year!"

On the occasion of this blog's 50th post anniversary (over the course of exactly 7 years, nearly to the day), I want to show an obscure little item that is near and dear to my heart.

As many know, I've been working on an art biography of Timely/Atlas/Marvel artist Joe Maneely for years now. Work has been put off several times as project after project (with deadlines) got placed in the way. First, my book with Blake Bell, "The Secret History of Marvel Comics", published by Fantagraphics completely sidetracked my work on Maneely's book. Then work on several books for Taschen Publishing, "75 Years of Marvel" and their upcoming book on Stan Lee (as well as this blog!) further took me away from the project. And of course, just "life" also tends to get involved. As a way of putting things in order and to honor the spirit of the season, I present a very short post (at least by my standards).  

By the end of 1947, Joe Maneely left the Hussian School of Art in Philadelphia and procured work from a small art service called Penn Art, an outfit that helped funnel comic story art to Street & Smith's comic book division (more backgound to be found in the book). Penn Art was run by long-time Street & Smith editor and promotions manager, William J. de Grouchy.

One of the most popular titles in the Street & Smith comic book stable was Red Dragon Comics, and in issue #7, cover dated May/49, but on the stands in time for the 1948 Christmas season, was this delightful little 10 page story written by Bruce Elliot (turning the script in on September 9, 1948 and getting paid $100 for his trouble) and illustrated by the young 22 year old neophyte to the industry, Joe Maneely. And it shows just how good Joe was at the very onset, sucking up influences from contemporaries as diverse as Bob Powell and Edd Cartier. Within a year's time Street & Smith would shut down their comic book division and Joe, after dallying elsewhere, would end up at Stan Lee's door, where he would make a very big mark for the next ten years.

So with a small taste of a book to come, from exactly 69 years ago, I give you "Mario Nette" and wish all readers a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year!












14 comments:

  1. Interesting article. Anytime I see an article on Joe Maneely, I wonder what he would have worked on at Marvel Comics in the sixties. Such a shame at what was lost.

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  2. At 22, he was already a standout! Thanks for sharing this, Michael. Looking forward to your book!

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  3. Joe Maneely was certainly a fine artist, but had he been alive to work on the Marvel heroes, could you see Stan holding up his art as an example to follow in the same way that he did Jack's? Or, indeed, Marvel having the success that it had? Nice as Joe's art is, it doesn't quite have the cinematic dynamism that Jack's art had. Not that this particular quality was needed for this strip of course, but I'm thinking of his action/adventure work. I'd be interested in your thoughts on the matter. Hope you enjoyed a Merry Christmas.

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    1. An important point to mention is we only saw Joe Maneely 1.0. There was no second act. He came of age at the same time as contemporaries like John Buscema, Gene Colan, John Romita and Steve Ditko, and was more prolific than all of them during the same period of 1948-1958. If you compare the depth of work on all 5 in that decade, Maneely was the most accomplished at the time and the one Stan went to launch most of the new character features. Yet by the silver age, all 4 were accomplished masters. So my feeling is that Maneely would have been in the mold of their work from age 32 to 42. Jack Kirby is a completely different matter. He drove the engine that was Marvel and most of the concepts originated with him. So Maneely would not have been in the mix to "create" the Marvel universe as Jack Kirby did, but he would have been a vital cog to carry it forward as the aforementioned quartet. And to answer your question, at least in the 1950's, Stan Lee did in fact offer up Joe's work as an example as to what he wanted when evaluating prospective new artists. George Ziegler showed up at Stan's door in the mid 1950's looking for work and Stan thought he wasn't ready yet. He gave George the artwork to a 5 page Maneely western story to use as a guide in learning what Stan wanted in a western story. Joe's western were some of the best of all time.

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    2. Thanks for your response, which is very interesting. I'd hazard a guess though, that if Stan had a Kirby western story to hand (had Jack been working for Atlas/Marvel at the time), he'd have shown that to George instead. Anyway, a Happy New Year to you, sir, and thanks for taking the time to reply.

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    3. I love Jack Kirby's westerns. But the scenario you posit would have only gone one way within the confines of the period we're talking about. Jack did in fact have a few westerns for Atlas in this period. But they weren't anything spectacular. Concurrently, Maneely's westerns at the time were "exactly" what Stan wanted. Maneely was Stan's top western artist of the time and if there was someone he wanted a neophyte to learn from in 1956-57, it would have been Joe.

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    4. As you say, at that time Joe was Atlas's top western artist, but as you also say, Jack had only done a few. Stan's opinion as to who was the better storyteller evolved over time as he became more familiar with Jack's work (which had also evolved since his Captain America days) - and, more importantly perhaps, how popular it was with readers. When I look at Joe Maneely's art, I see nicely rendered, but dated pages, not absolute masterpieces. A matter of opinion true enough, but I can only call it as I see it.

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    5. But that goes back to what I said earlier. You're only seeing Joe Maneely 1.0. It would be akin to only seeing Jack Kirby up to 1949 and nothing else. Joe would have further matured like all the other artists I mentioned, Ditko, Colan, Romita, Buscema.

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    6. Possibly, but comparing Jack's later work with his earlier work, you can see it was still there. Especially when it came to dynamic storytelling and characters bursting from the page. That Joe would ever have improved enough to be a match for Kirby at his best is, to me, an assumption for which I can detect no evidence in his actual work. He was a steady, competent, professional artist, and it's entirely possible that he'd achieved as high a standard as he was ever likely to. I DO like his work - it's nice, but it just doesn't overwhelm me.

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    7. Kid, we're having separate arguments here. I was comparing Maneely at his death to his contemporaries Ditko, Romita, Colan and Buscema. Kirby was already a different animal completely as far as being a storyteller and conceptualizer. But the other artists at the the time of Maneely's death were pedestrian and would not reach their peaks until the 1960's and 1970's. Maneely was already the most accomplished in the 1950's. So if he'd have lived, there's no reason to doubt he'd have been a star in the silver age, developing further into what was required of the Marvel method and action storytelling.

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    8. Well, I view it as an interesting discussion, not an argument, but I'd agree with what you say about the other artists you mention, and, apart from Ditko, they were emulating Kirby when they reached their peaks. One thing I noticed from Maneely's Black Knight strips was that his figures never seemed to have any foreshortening in action sequences - they were always drawn sort of 'flat'. I think it's possible that he peaked at a young age, so I'm not convinced he'd have developed further to be a front-runner in the Marvel Age. Would he have worked on some of the strips? Sure, but I doubt he'd have been an 'A-lister'. If only he'd lived to prove me wrong. He didn't, alas, so whether he'd have developed as you say is open to question. Curt Swan was a solid, dependable artist, and he certainly improved over the years, but it took Carmine Infantino to provide layouts for him before his strips started to look more action-packed. Maneely over Jack Kirby layouts? Yeah, that might've worked.

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  4. For me it is not hard to imagine what Maneely’s version of Iron Man or Doctor Strange would look like.

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    1. I agree, Dave! I could imagine either working.

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  5. Please take a moment to review "Emily's Virtual Rocket". (emilysvirtualrocket.blogspot.com) This has reviews of transgender life, plus a critical view of Donald Trump. Thanks.
    Sincerely,
    Emily Shorette

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