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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

War Comics Key Issues Part 9


Oh, boy is this going to be a fun one. Part 9 to this war comics key issues will deal with quite a few war comics that inspired Roy Lichtenstein's paintings or works of art.

I'm also going to give you my uncensored, unabashed history and view of the so called "Fine Arts" world. Brace yourself because it might be offensive.

I just want to make it clear that my ramblings have nothing to with a lack of appreciation for art. I'm quite passionate about art. It's everything to do with the art establishment and what they deem "Fine Art".

So, if you missed Part 8, that link will bring ya back troops. If you're saddled up and ready to go, let's soldier on here.



OUR ARMY AT WAR #115
1st Mlle Marie cross-over
1st Sgt. Rock Battle Family

Not sure, but I do think that issue has the story in which Mlle Marie and Sgt. Rock first meet. It also happens to be her 1st cross-over in comics.

As mentioned before Mlle Marie is Sgt. Rock's only known love interest, and after Rock saves her, she is smitten and becomes his gal. This story also has Sgt. Rock's Battle Family, or what he refers to them as family.

Rock is revealed to be an orphan in this issue, and he reflects those who have taken him in or considered him family after he realizes he has no family. This story, of course, would prove to be false as his father and brother are introduced later on.

So the first of his "Battle Family" is an elderly couple who invited him into their home when he was separated from his unit, and Sgt. Rock ended up defending the home from Nazis. The couple would adopt him as their son.

The 2nd is a woman and her son he saves in France, and she asks Rock to be the Godfather to her son. Of course, the third is Mlle Marie whom he also meets and saves in France. She ends up becoming his girl.

February, 1962 is the cover date of Our Army at War #115, and this is probably a good one to snag if you're a fan. Not an overly pricey Sgt. Rock key issue, but not cheap in high grade either.

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ALL-AMERICAN MEN OF WAR #89
Star Jockey story
Inspiration panel for Whaam!
Inspiration panel for Blam & Brattata!

This comic here would forever be connected to the Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, who was one of the few considered in the world of "fine artists" that focused many of his works on comic book style paintings or artworks. Pop artists like many art movements before challenged traditions of what is considered "fine art". Lichtenstein used comic book panels as sources for some of his most popular pieces.

On a personal side, I could always draw somewhat decent ever since I could hold a crayon, so I naturally took to art at an early age. However, I grew in a generation highly exposed to cartoons and comic books. Those were my inspirations.

Actually, it should've been the only subject I got an A in during elementary school. However, I liked comic books as well and would always draw Spidey, Batman, Wolverine and other comic characters in art class.

Art teachers then would constantly tell me that objects don't have thick black lines around them, and I'd always tell them that comic book art does. "Comic books are not art," I'd always here them say. "Be more  like Picasso or Van Gogh."

Once, I remember I heard that again for the umpteenth time by my high-school art teacher and I spouted off, "I don't wanna be like van Gogh! Crazy (insert cuss word here) cut his damn ear off!"

I'd hear that comic books weren't considered real art in elementary, junior high and all the way through high-school, and it would piss me off. They'd try to shove Pollack down my throat constantly, but I was too busy ogling Todd McFarlane's comic covers.

So, the more my various art teachers criticized comic book art, the more art pieces I did that were in comic style. I hardly got good grades in art from elementary school to high-school. Double standard there, don't ya think?

When I reached college, however, it was somewhat a different story. My junior college art history teacher was cool and had an open mind.

Once, he gave us an assignment to do a presentation speech about a certain genre of art, complete with a five page report to hand in. I choose to do it on the pulp fiction magazine artists, and he actually liked it.

Not all art history teachers were cool though. When I got to CSU, I once again was stuck with a snobby-ass art history teacher I'd rather smack in the mouth than listen to him spout off about his superior knowledge of fine art.

By this time and hearing it so much from art teachers before me, I didn't want to hear another word about da Vinci or van Gogh or Edvard Munch or Pollack or Goya and his painting about Saturn eating his own kids and supposedly how brilliant that concept was. I totally became deaf to all that noise.

Not that I didn't adhere to the basics of art that da Vinci or the great masters laid down or anything when it came to application. Of course, when it comes to the fundamentals, you gotta take those principles into account.

To tell you the truth, though, I learned human anatomy by drawing my favorite comic covers, not from fine art paintings. Did I still admire their works? Of course, but my heart was in comic book art more so and hated being ridiculed for it.

However, when we got to Andy Worhol and then Roy Lichtenstein, art history became almost bearable. I finally got to read and talk about comics in art class without the whole "Comic books aren't real art!"

It was a real brief thing though. Real brief. It's not like Roy Lichtenstein was covered in-depth, you know?

Also, at CSU, art teachers would talk about sequential art and have us do a project or two. I did a lot better in college when it came to art, but to be completely honest, I suck and still suck at sequential art. Whole different ball-game as opposed to pin ups.

I don't think people really realize just how much brilliance goes into sequential art. Let's take this approach in terms of a movie or film.

Not only is a comic penciler the director, he's also the film editor (pacing) and camera man and somewhat a director of photography (known as DP). He or she is the master of how and what you see in a comic book and how the script is translated visually on a piece of paper or even on a canvas if we're talking about Alex Ross.

A painting, to me, is basically a pin-up if we're talking comic speak here. A one-shot deal that does not have to deal with the elements of sequential art.

Hey, not to say that pin ups or comic covers cannot be brilliant just by themselves. Sure, they can as well as paintings.

However, sequential art or panel to panel art with constant framing, perspective, pacing, and movement not only in a single panel but from panel to panel and making it a coherent act is not easy at all, especially under a deadline. When to have a close up to show tension, fear, anger or whatever emotion; or a medium or long shot to show whatever is taking place around the characters, takes skill and an instinct that I feel is greatly ignored by the so called "Fine Arts" world.


So, back to the actual subject at hand concerning this comic book. All-American Men of War #89 provided quite a few panels that were used as source material for many of Lichtenstein's works. Perhaps, the most well-known and famous from this particular comic issue is the painting titled, Whaam!


The inspiration for Whaam! was adapted from a Irv Novick panel in the story Star Jockey. In the actual comic story or work of art, Johnny Flying Cloud, the Navajo Ace, is flying a North American F-86 Sabre. Roy Lichtenstein would change the type of plane for his painting to a P-51 Mustang in Whaam!


Blam! is also another painting Lichtenstein did that was inspired by a Russ Heath panel in this very issue. The actual source panel is part of the story called "Aces Wild" in All-American Men of War #89. Blam premiered in Lichtenstein's very first solo exhibition at The Leo Castelli Gallery in New York,  and according to one source, it supposedly sold for $1,000 which is around $7,823 today.

Whaam! is definitely one of Lichtensteins more recognized and popular paintings though, but this issue alone also inspired Okay, Hot Shot, Okay! and the graphite pencil sketch Jet Pilot. Needless to say, many of the comic artists weren't all that happy when Lichtenstein got famous for basically copying their art, while they (the comic artists) were pretty much snubbed by the art world and barely making ends meet.


Jet Pilot's source was the lower right panel from the cover of this issue by legendary Jerry Grandenetti (his name seems to be brought up a lot in this war comics series and for a reason), who made his mark as one of the premiere war comics artists. Grandenetti's war comics covers are highly hailed by industry and collectors alike. 

However, after meeting Lichtenstein, the comic artists did not seem to press the issue further for some reason. Try that today, though, and you can bet you'd get hit up with copyright infringement.

Yes, I know that Pop Art is a movement that challenged Fine Art traditions and that comic book art was solely produced for commercial reasons. Comic artists sole reason of producing brilliant works of art wasn't about challenging or conforming to the art establishment, but it was to get paid.

Yadedadeda! My earliest influences were still comic book artists, and, no, I still don't want to be like van Gogh. Crazy mofo cut his ear off!

All-American Men of War #89 has the cover date of February, 1962.

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OUR FIGHTING FORCES #66
Inspired panel for Grrrrrrrrrrr!

Pooch from the Gunner & Sarge stories gets a spotlight in a famous Roy Lichtenstein painting entitled Grrrrrrrrrrr!, and the story in this issue, "Trail of the Ghost Bomber", provides the very panel that inspired the painting.

To further my claim of the snobbery of the Fine Arts world,  Guggenheim Senior Curator Susan Davidson called Lichtenstein's typical source, meaning the comic book's artwork, a "low-grade comic strip". Also, Jennifer Blessing of the Guggenheim has also said, "There is also an element of humor in creating fine art out of what has customarily been considered 'low,' a playfulness that is equally evident in the onomatopoeic caption and bellicose expression of the dog in Grrrrrrrrrrr!!"

Whatever. Two middle fingers dedicated to those two. So Lichtenstein gets famous producing paintings copied from comic art panels while comic artists and their work are considered "low grade" art and not up to snuff?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Lichtenstein used Ben-Day-dots and whoopty-diddley-do. I'd still rather have my comic book art source then any painting from a Fine Artist that copied the comic book art style from it.

After all, if comic art is considered a low form of art to the Fine Arts world, then why would any painting that basically and directly copied from it be considered  a work of Fine Art? Sounds like a double standard, piece of turd mentality to me.

I don't buy into the mentality, and don't really care what so called Fine Artist drew inspiration from the actual masterpieces that these comic artists produced. February, 1962 is the cover date for Our Fighting Forces #66.

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BATTLEFIELD ACTION #40
Inspiration panel for Takka Takka!

Another panel from this very comic book published by Charlton inspired another painting by Roy Lichtenstein. What pisses me off is that all the sources who mention Takka Takka! only mention the comic title and issue number but never the actual comic artist that drew the story and thus the panel that gave inspiration to Lichtenstein


So, because it vexes me that much, I'm going to. The story that has the panel that inspired the Lichtenstein painting is titled "Hirohito's Brigade" and the amazing artist that drew that story is Bill Molno with inks by Vince Alascia.

Now, not to say that Roy Licthenstein wasn't ever criticized for many of his paintings depicting war comics or violent imagery, because he was indeed. Roy responded to the critics by saying, "The heroes depicted in comic books are fascist types, but I don't take them seriously in these paintings— maybe there is a point in not taking them seriously, a political point. I use them for purely formal reasons."

So Roy Lichtenstein pretty much thought the comic heroes we love are a bunch of fascists. Battlefield Action #40 has the cover date of February, 1962.

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STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES #101
1st appearance of G.I. Robot
1st appearance of Corporal Mac 

The original G.I. Robot makes his first appearance in this issue as well as Corporal Mac. Mac and G.I. Robot's 1st cover appearance is on this issue also.

G.I. Robot was created by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru, and the characters of G.I. Robot and Mac were part of the War That Time Forgot comic feature. In the story, the original G.I. Robot, nicknamed Joe, was created in World War II to reduce the amount of human casualties.

In command of the robot and to test his effectiveness is Mac, and the pair end up fighting on Dinosaur Island. Joe may be the 1st G.I. Robot, but there are multiple versions of this character. The 2nd incarnation of G.I. Robot would be named Mac.

Mac would be part a military group known as the Suicide Squadron. The Suicide Squadron would be retconned later as being connected to the Suicide Squad.

Actually, Mac and Joe would also be retconned as part of the squadron as well, but missing in action. Star-Spangled War Stories #101 has the cover date of March, 1962.

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STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #102

2nd appearance of G.I. Robot & Mac
2nd G.I. Robot comic cover
Inspiration panel for Roy Lichtenstein Crak! 

More than meets the eye concerning this comic. This issue holds the 2nd appearance of the original G.I. Robot as well as the character's 2nd comic cover appearance.

G.I. Robot and Mac's 2nd appearance is in the story "Punchboard War!" and it is a continuation of The War the Time Forgot feature written by Robert Kanigher with art by Ross Andru. Cover is by Andru as well, and yes there are dinosaurs in this war comic.


Another militaristic painting inspired from a war comic that Roy Lichtenstein used for one of his works. This is called Crak!, and it is an offset lithograph on lightweight, white wove paper.

It was a marketing poster that was published to announce Lichtenstein's exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery, which showcased his works Whaam!, Drowning Girl, Torpedo...Los!, Baseball Manager, In the Car, and Conversation. That exhibition was to be his 2nd solo exhibition.


Jack Abel is the artist that drew the story that had this panel in it, and that story is "The Town That Wouldn't Die!" It tells the story of a French grandfather and his grandchildren fending off Nazis to protect their town.

Not quite sure if the character in the panel is Mlle Marie or not. She is wearing the trade mark beret, but it's not the trademark color of red.

Don't know about you, but I like the actual comic panel better than Lichtenstein's work. He cut out the foreground and the back ground, and while this does add a bit more tension with a close up, the art loses its sense of perspective and depth that the original has. Lichtenstein's work also looks more flat and one dimensional because of this choice. 
Star Spangled War Stories #102 has the cover date of May, 1962.

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G.I. COMBAT #94
Inspirational panel for Okay, Hot-Shot, Okay!

I talked a little bit about this one already in the All-American Men of War #89 listing. So, it seems we have another Roy Lichtenstein work that's derived from comic books that featured "fascist" heroes. This issue of G.I. Combat is just one of the many that Roy Lichtenstein copied from as you'll see. First lets take a look at the piece rendered by the famous artist.

The Lichtenstein painting is titled Okay, Hot-Shot, Okay! Although several panels and sources were used, the main forground image used for the painting is featured in this issue. Like most of paintings, you can blatantly tell from which comic books and panels he used as sources in this composite piece. 

Some are just certain elements taken like wording, text sound effects and actual objects and imagery. I'll go through them, so you can see for yourself.


Once again, one of the stories in which Lichtenstein garnered inspiration for this piece of work is from the Johnny Cloud feature in All-American Men of War #89. He used the bubble words of "Okay, Hot-Shot, Okay! I'm pouring!" from the first panel shown and a plane in a different panel from the same story.

The plane is clearly seen in the back ground of his painting. Irv Novick is the artist of the story, "The Star Jockey".

Actually, inspiration for the composition of Okay, Hot-Shot, Okay! was taken from several different comic book sources. The main foreground image of the pilot's face in this Lichtenstein work was taken from a panel in this very issue of G.I. Combat #94.


Roy just cut out the other background character from the G.I. Combat #94 panel in his own artwork. You can clearly see what he used and didn't use from the existing source materials. Also, he added the pilot's helmet, which looks more like a space helmet.

G.I. Combat #94 also holds a Haunted Tank story, and the panel that Roy Lichtenstein used in his work is from the Haunted Tank story in this comic. Russ Heath is the artist and the story is called "The Haunted Tank vs. The Killer Tank!" The face that Roy Lichtenstein used in his work of art is actually of Tank Commander, Jeb Stuart.

Last and not least is the comic book sound effect "Voomp", and it was taken from panels in All-American Men of War #90. At the time, Roy said, "I was very excited about, and very interested in, the highly emotional content yet detached impersonal handling of love, hate, war, etc., in these cartoon images."

Uh, yeah, okay, Hot-shot! G.I. Combat #94 has the cover date of July, 1962, and the cover is pretty awesome.

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OUR FIGHTING FORCES #71
Classic grey-tone cover
Inspiration panel for Torpedo..Los!
Pooch fires machine gun

Another grey-tone cover here by none other than Jerry Grandenetti, and I think this is absolutely a classic war comic cover. Gunner, Sarge and Pooch are once again featured on this cover.

In the story, "End of the Marines", Pooch actually fires a machine gun. This issue also has a panel that inspired a Roy Lichtenstein work of copied art.

This copied art is called "Torpedo...Los!", and is from the story "Battle of the Ghost Ships!" The original art is once again by Jack Abel. The original panel by Jack Abel and Lichtenstein's work is seen below.
At least Lichtenstein changed the bubble words. October, 1962 is the cover date for Our Fighting Forces #71, and I'd much rather get this comic for the cover by Jerry Grandenetti than its connection to Roy Lichtenstein.

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When it comes to Roy Lichtenstein's comic style artwork and their connections to these comic book issues, I have a less popular view point. To me, his works are darn right pretty close to plagiarism and copyright infringement according to today's standards. I wouldn't be able to get away with what he did in graphic design for sure.

The fact that the dude never once gave the actual comic artists or the works derived from the actual comic issues credit doesn't sit well with me. They were sourced and noted much later by others.

The fact that he basically made money off copying these comic artists, who were and still are basically shunned by the uptight, snotty, numb nuts who bought Lichtenstein's artwork, reminds me of those teachers who scoffed at comic book art and tried to shove down my throat that comic art wasn't real art.

The fact that he was never sued by any of the publishers or artists baffles me. Great pieces of art? Worth millions of dollars? Gimmie a break. Where's the creativity in basically copying the artwork of someone else?

In my opinion, the real great pieces of art are from the comic artists who produced the original source materials for the works that Lichtenstein basically plagiarized. I'd much rather have their original comic art pages. That's the real art that should be selling for millions.

The fact that the "Fine Arts" world considers comic book art "low grade" and then calls the artwork of someone who directly copied from it "brilliant", displays all kinds of shades of idiocy, especially when Lichtenstein's work pales in comparison to the visually richer source art.


10 comments:

  1. Thanks a lot! I was hoping for that piece for a long time. However, I think your criticism towards Lichtenstein is not fair. You forget that he actually blew these very small panels into big painted canvas pictures - the result was completly different, at least as far as the perception of these pictures is concerned. Plus, I think the appreciation which comes from the choice of the drawings was still something new in those days. It speaks for these artists that they did Lichtenstein do his thing.

    Ace

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    1. Ace, in just graphic design alone, there are copyright rules. You cannot take a copyrighted photo, manipulate it slightly (which is what Lichtenstein did) and not be sued for copyright infringement from the copyright holder. You would have to manipulate the image to an extreme degree to where the work is is barely recognizable to the original source.

      The fact that he did not give credit to the comic artists is still the definition of plagiarism. Just because an artist blows up an image doesn't mean he tweaked it enough to call it his own. Also, saying that comic art is low grade and then calling an artist who basically reproduces that comic art with minor differences "brilliant", is rubbish and a "double standard".

      Lichtenstein work is like how Rap started out. He sampled off of others to create a different but highly recognizable composite. Vanilla Ice had to pay Queen & Bowie for using the bass line to "Under Pressure".

      Lichtenstein made off like a bandit. The result of his work was not "completely different".

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    2. TCM has a point here. Under copyright law, the standard for infringement is “substantial similarity.” Substantial similarity means an average observer would recognize that the second work takes copyrightable authorship from the first one. I can really tell the similarities when looking at both the paintings and source panels.

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    3. Hey, this is actually a very interesting discussion. Let me bring on a few more arguments. If I would be the lawyer of Lichtenstein I could possibly show you 10 other similar pictures from war comics. Flying Planes, talking pilots etc. Now, if you look at "Torpedo los", Lichtenstein did a few interesting things: 1. He left out lots of text, 2. He used brighter coloring and 3. he changed the design of the sub-equipment. So basically the focus slipped from telling a story to designing one panel. Lichtenstein did a very simple thing, true, but so did Marcel Duchamp by putting everyday stuff in a museum.

      Ace

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    4. Ace, I see your points but if we are talking about today's standards, would Lichtenstein been able to get away with it? I doubt it.

      On a more in-depth note, you're missing the point - painting a toilet the color gold doesn't make it gold. Like Lichtenstien or many of the Pop Artists of the Pop culture era works of art, what defines "Fine Art"?

      They have a double standard when it comes to that. So what if I reproduce a painting of Campbell's soup cans? Is that art or what's deemed Fine Art. More so, if the original source isn't considered "Fine Art", then why would any reproduction of it be considered so?

      The establishment was more than willing to accept the work of Lichtenstein but completely snub the work of comic artists, even though Lichtenstein copied from these works of art that would be considered copyright infringement today.

      It's no different than if the classical composers reproduced the songs of the Sex Pistols with minor embellishments, and the establishment accepting the work as genius but completely disregarding the original Sex Pistols songs that the classical composers ripped off as junk or slop music.

      Once again, you change the colors, the sub-equipment, the size or whatever but if the expression is virtually the same and the composition of the over-all artwork is too similar, it is theft according to the law.

      Lichtenstein is not a Fine Arts genius. He is a copier plain and simple. Tell you what? Spend the time to write an original song and make next to nothing off it, and then have some Rap guy basically steal your guitar riff or bass line and make millions off your work and see if you don't get pissed off and sue him or her for compensation.

      You're still missing the point of distinguishable art considered by law as copyright infringement.

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  2. Okay Hot-Shot, okay! Looks like you have some prominent people to back you up, like Tom Wolfe. Hope you don' t mind me sharing the link:

    www.studiointernational.com/index.php/roy-lichtenstein

    Ace

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    1. Haha! Now it boils down to prominent people? Taking the art establishment's mentality is about as good as taking the advice of my art teachers about how my artwork should be more like van Gogh or Pollack.

      Do you not see a movie just because an established critic says it sucks or change your opinion of a movie you think that sucks just because a critic says it's good? So a person should change their mind and like Abstract Art just because a famous person likes it?

      Once again, the challenge of Pop Art was asking the question of what is art? If comic art is considered "low" or "low grade" art or basically sub par art then why is Lichtenstein so popular in that little bubble of the art world to where they totally dismiss the comic art source as anything significant but make up all sorts of "genius" contributions of Lichtenstein and his works?

      That's the main discussion these artists brought to the table. It has little to do with what any "prominent person" says but the opposite. I could paint a picture of a piece of shit and someone going in to take a bite of it and have it interpreted in about a hundred different ways.

      Also, I bring up the point if Lichtenstein or someone like him did the same today and got busted with copyright infringement, would he or she and the work be considered or viewed as genius or just theft?

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    2. discussion is stupid. if Lichtenstein did that today, he would've gotten sued and his career would of ended before it started.

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    3. Isn't that what Marvel and DC did to some guy for using the word superhero in his comic.

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    4. Some people just like to understand things the wrong way. Refering to Wolfe didn' t mean he convinced me because he is famous, but because he brought up some other arguments which you didn' t mention. Like for instance, that the comic artists used angles and perspectives which weren' t used before. Perhaps I have a different understanding of copy right things because I am European. I think we have other standards here than in the US. Even Disney didn' t sue Lichtenstein for using Mickey Mouse. And they did good in doing so because now they themselfes use Lichtenstein as advertisement.

      Ace

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