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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

A Dan Spiegle sampler

Here's a selection of some comics pages by Dan Spiegle. In random order.

First up is a page from SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON, one of Spiegle's longest running gigs, drawing over 50 issues from 1962 to 1978.  This is an original comics creation, predating the LOST IN SPACE TV show with a similar premise, which led to the comic picking up the LOST IN SPACE subtitle starting in 1966, although keeping its own characters and designs.

Spiegle did quite a bit of Tarzan related work (mostly on Korak, Tarzan's son) for Western starting in 1968, and later for foreign publishers.  This specific page was done for a 1983 adaptation of the original novel written by Mark Evanier and Sharman DiVono.

"Nemesis" was a serialized spy-thriller that ran in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD from 1980 to 1982, with Dan Spiegle drawing Cary Burkett's back-up stories for 25 issues and Jim Aparo handling the art in two full-issue Batman team-ups (including the finale). This was my first regular exposure to Spiegle's work, and combined with the great Aparo art on the lead stories to make B&B among my favourite books when I was 10 years old. Burkett & Spiegle did a great job working with the 8-page chunks they were given to build the story.

Spiegle did the art on three issues of the JONNY QUEST series written by William Messner-Loebs in the mid-1980s.  The first, featuring a mistaken identity story around the social services worker sent in to check on Jonny and Hadji's care, is probably my favourite of that run.

Oddly Spiegle was never called in to draw STAR TREK while Western held the licence, which is probably why those comics have such a reputation for being off-model.  It was only when DC got the rights that Trek got the Spiegle treatment, with an issue written by Walter Koenig which, surprisingly, features Chekov.

While he didn't draw a lot of super-hero stuff, it was kind of interesting when he did, like this 1988 story of the original Teen Titans, written by Evanier and DiVono, which has a strong feeling of the classic 1960s Titans stories by Nick Cardy.

Spiegle drew three issues of SGT. ROCK with Robert Kanigher in the early 1980s, including two long annuals, and they're among my favourite issues from that era,

HOLLYWOOD SUPERSTARS was a five issue series by Spiegle and Evanier for Marvel's Epic imprint in 1991, which apparently Marvel had little interest in publishing by the time it was ready, and that showed in the production and promotion end, but was still entertaining reading. There's a pretty decent and inexpensive black&white reprint of the five issues available.

Around 1990 Spiegle drew an adaptation of Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo" for a short-lived revival of CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED. I think he was announced as doing another one before the line folded, but don't think it ever came out.

Another place where I saw Spiegle early on was a short run Zatanna series that ran in WORLD'S FINEST in 1982.

SCOOBY-DOO was a book that Spiegle would return to a few times, usually with Mark Evanier along writing, first for Western in the early 1970s, Marvel in the late 1970s and this example from Archie in the mid 1990s. I've found those I've read a lot more entertaining than I do any version of the cartoon I've watched in years.

So, a werewolf, a vampire and Frankenstein get together in WWII to fight Nazis. Wait, I'm not done yet, later they're joined by a gorgon and a robot.  Yeah, the Creature Commandos was an odd concept, but sometimes pretty entertaining, including the four issue fun Spiegle drew in 1982.

CROSSFIRE is one of Spiegle's best known works. A spin-off of Mark Evanier and Will Meugniot's DNAGENTS, it ran from 1984 to 1988, plus a few later short stories, telling stories about an LA bail bondsman named Jay Endicott who inherited the costume and gadgets of an industrial spy named Crossfire. The series started strong and got better as it went along, as the superhero trappings became less central to the stories (by the end he's pretty much just wearing the mask a few pages in each issue) and becomes a straight action-adventure in and around Hollywood series and played to all of Spiegle's strengths as an artist.

Spiegle did the first dozen chapters of the "Secret Six" story in a weekly run of ACTION COMICS in 1988. While not quite as memorable as "Nemesis", it did have some entertaining espionage adventures.

A page from the weird DC CHALLENGE series in 1986 has the pretty unusual sight of Spiegle drawing Superman.  Also Batman, but he got a more substantial chance to draw Batman in a nice chapter of a 1991 story.

The Shadow is another character that fits Spiegle's style, as he got to show off a few times like this 1992 story for DC which features the shadow fighting Nazis on an exploding dirigible with a bi-plane.

More Nazi fighting in every issue of BLACKHAWK, which Spiegle and Evanier did for a 23 issue run from 1982 to 1984. I think I read a few of these early on, and later picked up the full run in back issue bins a few years later. Highly entertaining run, with a lot of different styles of war stories, some interesting continuing plotlines and of course great art throughout.

A page from one of the "Tales of Gotham" stories of Batman's city without Batman that Spiegle drew in the early 1980s, this one written by Jack C. Harris is one of my favourites (and even made DC's "Year's Best" compilation digest).

And finally, a nice little oddity from late in Spiegle's career, in 1999 (at almost 80 years old) he did a few pages in the FANBOY series with Sergio Aragones working together on the art for Evanier's story.

And of course there was a lot more, especially for Dell/Western from the 1950s to the 1970s and some comic strip work.  Pick up a copy of this biography for an overview.

Mark Evanier has information on where you can donate in his memory.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dan Spiegle, R.I.P.

Sad to hear of the passing of artist Dan Spiegle. His long-time friend and frequent collaborator Mark Evanier has a nice tribute here.

I probably saw some of Spiegle's work for Gold Key or other publishers in the 1970s, but I really noticed it when he started to do work for DC around 1980. I think the first bit I remember seeing was one of the "Tales of Gotham" shorts he did in DETECTIVE.  Then I really noticed the two-year stint he did on the "Nemesis" back-up feature with writer Cary Burkett in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, which combined with the Jim Aparo art on the lead in most issues made that one of my favourite books of that era. He did a lot of other memorable stuff for DC in that era, including some "Creature Commando" stories and some short stories for the mystery/sci-fi books.

Later on, after a few years away from buying comics, my memory of those stories from 1980-1982 got me digging through the back issue bins to get what became my favourites to his work, two of his collaborations with Mark Evanier in long runs of BLACKHAWK and CROSSFIRE. I've picked up a lot of his other stuff that I missed in the years since, although of course it's only a fraction of the work that he's done.

I'll try to update this with a few choice scans of his artwork in the next few days (I decided to give it its own post).  Until then, I'll repeat a strong recommendation for John Coates' book DAN SPIEGLE - A LIFE IN COMIC ART that I reviewed here.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

MASCOTS (2016)

MASCOTS (2016)
Director: Christopher Guest
Writers: Christopher Guest and Jim Piddock

MASCOTS is the latest film from Christopher Guest. In the style of his previous films WAITING FOR GUFFMAN (1997), BEST IN SHOW (2000), A MIGHTY WIND (2003) and FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION (2006), it's a semi-improvised comedy look at a variety of odd individuals brought together for a niche activity, this time a competition for the World Mascot Association. Unlike those previous films, this one was released direct to streaming video site Netflix, rather than widely released theatrically.

I really liked Guest's previous efforts in this field (as well as of course THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984), which was directed by Rob Reiner but co-written and starring Guest and defining a lot of this mocking documentary, mockumentary if you will, style). This new one has a lot of what I liked in those movies, but based on the first viewing it seems to be missing something. I'm not sure of the details of Guest's working style, if he has an overall through-line and emotional heart of the story going into filming, or if he finds it in the editing of the largely improvised dialogue, but this movie doesn't seem to have that. As a collection of wacky antics of some oddballs who are totally oblivious to their own insanity, which is also a major aspect of the earlier films, it's very successful (and the cast, with most of Guest's regulars and some talented new faces, was top notch). It was the funniest new movie I'd seen in a long while, maybe even since FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. But I'm not sure it holds together as a movie, as opposed to a very good collection of inter-related sketches.

I'd also have to go back and check, but there were a handful of scenes in here that I didn't really buy as "documentary footage". There's always some leeway on that in these kinds of movies (you sometimes have to accept that there are apparently several dozen camera crews following each cast member for a supposedly low-budget shoot), but this one seemed to violate the format in ways that the others didn't.

I'll probably watch it again in a year or two, to see if it had something I just missed. Guest's more than earned that benefit of the doubt. And I have no hesitation in recommending anyone else watch it.
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