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Manning Marvel...

 Russ Manning is not a name you hear very much of today, but he is associated with quite a famous character - Tarzan.

From 1965 to 1972 Manning was the daily and Sunday newspaper strip artist for Tarzan. Leaving the daily strip in 1972, he continued to work on the Tarzan Sunday Pages and Tarzan stories for the European market. In both can be found some of his greatest work. He also worked for Dell, producing Tarzan comics and it was there, through Western - Gold Key, that his own creation was born.

Magnus Robot Fighter! Magnus was a hero in the mold of Doc Savage - intelligent, tough, and direct, even "savage" in his own right. Many have very accurately described Magnus as Manning's technological Tarzan - their character was very much alike.

Manning also produced work on a wide variety of stories at Dell, which is some of his earliest work.

However, his excellent draftsmanship was all in place. The later work merely shows a greater confidence in figure poses - learned no doubt by his work on the Tarzan dailies. Practice makes perfect.

Magnus came to greater fame, to an all new generation thanks to Valiant Comics. Later, Manning's work was reprinted as was his rare Johner and the Aliens. Today, Dark Horse releases impressive hard covers of Magnus, with Manning's great art on display.

Considering the period in which he worked, it is not difficult to think of Manning at DC or Marvel. While his art better suited the DC house style, what about Marvel? Easily able to delineate any of DC's sci-fi books of the time, or contribute to Showcase or Brave and the Bold, on titles like The Metal Men, what about Manning at Marvel? On what character?

Marvel in the 1960s, was just being created - or at least all of the characters we associate with Marvel, and a few key artists were responsible. Considering the content of Magnus Robot Fighter, the obvious hero for Russ Manning, would have been Iron Man. Artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby established Shell Head in Tales of Suspense. Heck drew through issue 72 of 1965, with Steve Ditko penning the intro of the red and gold armor. Gene Colan followed Heck, penciling a memorable run, one that many consider as defining the character for the so-called Bronze Age. What if Colan had remained on Daredevil? Or Daredevil and Captain America, and Manning had illustrated Iron Man? What if?

Of course, we could consider the limitless possibilities of Manning at DC. Myster in Space, Strange Adventures? Maybe the Legion (although he never drew anything approaching a team book), and of course, the Metal Men, because of his work on Magnus. He 'did' come to DC, when DC took over the Tarzan license and reprinted Manning's work, but he never penned any of the DC characters he could have drawn so well.

Whatever the case, the goal of many a cartoonist was to draw for the newspapers, and Manning did this with great skill on Tarzan. He worked on his own creation in comics and perhaps his work was stronger for having done both.

Sadly, Manning died in 1981, and he did not come to prominence as perhaps he would, as comic fandom continued to mature. Today, we see an often heavy-handed and very detailed comic page. Yet Manning, through all his work detailed more with less and with clean, crisp line-work, told stories with great economy of art. His jungles abounded and still, when studying the images, much was done through silhouette - often outline with fill-color and shadow. A few well-placed and simply rendered leaves and or branches and vines held it all together. All in service of the characters and plot. Usually framing the key characters and providing a beautiful 'stage' upon which grand stories were told.



Weekend earthquake hits Chile - the latest in an alarming number of natural disasters.

Tsunami warnings sounded in Hawaii, alerting thousands, and resulting in a large-scale evacuation.

While Hawaii came out unscathed, the people of Chile have not, as strong aftershocks continue. The Ring of Fire has been very active, and all would do well to take note; Haiti won't be the last, and Haitians still need help.


Contract Cast

The World of Contract is populated by a cool cast of  mercs. From Panzer to Jessie Garrett. Over the years of Contract's production, a number of artists have contributed to the cast of characters and every so often, a number will be posted here at Blog Salvo.

As always - CLICK EM, they get larger.

Happy Valentine's Day


Have a great Valentine's!


Alex Toth

So little is said about Toth today, and yet so much in terms of the amount of his art, has become available. Though rare in that they are limited in number and produced by smaller publishers, the variety of books with his art is a pleasant surprise to this admirer of his work. DC Comics is really "missing the boat" in regards to their full library of Toth material - from his first through to the 1950s and then spatters through the 60s and 80s. Great stuff - particularly his Black Canary tale.

His influence is widespread among artists, within the industry - both comics and animation - but not among the reading public. His simplicity of line is something artists appreciate, but many a 'layman' don't agree that "less is more". Any heavily delineated, even "over-worked" piece of art is given more value, attributed more required skill to render. That is by no means true, yet there are clear examples where the details are truly penned by masters of great skill...

Bernie Wrightson, Mark Shultz, and Al Williamson readily come to mind. These three gents use great detail with incredible skill, yet, like Toth, understand what it takes to "build" an image from scratch. Each works differently and yet each of them see the mastery in Toth's economy of line. They add great detail, as this piece by Wrightson clearly shows.

These details are by definition, "rendering". Toth's art has very little rendering or modeling of form. The art of Schultz and Williamson evoke fantasy and sci-fi and particularly in Wrightson's work - horror. And that is true also of Toth - more horror than fantasy or adventurous sci-fi like Williamson or Shultz, yet he's been there too - he's done it all. Toth's best know yet rarely seen - DELL Four Color #845, The Land Unknown is a great 1950s adventure romp in the Antarctic.

And here we see his great use of design and economy. The angular, simple, yet defining imagery of the sea ice and its environment - the vast sense of space. Of the men and equipment, and later the jungle and all therein.

Toth's work abounds in several Dell comics - from his work on Disney's Zorro, to a number of other titles, usually adaptations of television and movies.

We'll comment often about Toth here - as an influence upon A First Salvo. But how does his style relate to Contract? Quite simply, Crime comics - noir - black and white, or more to the point, heavy shadows. While Contract is known for its humor and sci-fi elements, it also has its crime comic ties, and that too will be presented as further story shorts and volumes of Contract are presented on the web, through our digital distribution partners and of course in print.

Toth drew hot ladies and knew how to successfully place blacks. How cool to have seen a pugnacious Panzer by Toth? A hot vixen with a gun - Jessie of course! Or the layabout Tsumi, with an Errol Flynn glint in his eye?


Brian Hitch: Reborn

Brian Hitch has, since his early, Alan Davis-inspired work, developed into an amazing artist. What an artist to be inspired by, ablely aided by one of Alan's earliest inkers, Paul Neary.

An inker is the main subject of this post, and not Brian's work on the Ultimates, but instead, Captain America: Reborn.

Jackson Guice is known for his own realistic and detailed pencils. But what his inks bring to Reborn, is a classic approach to comics. Rich blacks, full lines, even some sketchiness in places - but not rushed. Hitch's hyper-realism is still there, but tempered by Butch's pen and brush work. The large-as-life visuals are all modern, but also show how much inks bring to a page. It has always been said that the best inkers knew how to draw, and that is certainly the case here.

Paul Neary is another brilliant inker and he has brought much to Brian's work. However, with Reborn showcasing so much of Cap's history, Guice's style works very well with Brian's, bringing a new yet familiar look to the work.

The work evokes the likes of - at least in appearance of line - the work of Neal Adams, Stan Drake and the newspaper work of Lou Fine. Reminiscent of Dick Giordano's inks and refined.

Pencillers often find they aren't free to try their hand at traditional inking - to test and refine the skill. Guice shows how good it can be.