Monday, May 11, 2009

Worst Professional Comic Art Ever??

Here we have SECRET AGENT x-9 from the King Comics FLASH GORDON series of the mid-sixties. This was a five part story that started out with a script by Archie Goodwin and art by Al Williamson. King Features apparently liked their work so much that they moved the team to the newspaper strip which, although renamed SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN, they continued to do successfully for many years.

The second chapter had art by rather pedestrian but obviously at least professional hands. Tony Tallarico? Manny Stallman?Chapter three, although uncredited, looks to me to be the work of just deceased Ric Estrada. Then we get to chapters four and five--the WORST so-called professional art that I have EVER seen in a comic book! GCD offers not even a guess as to who this artist might be and Goodwin's name seems no longer associated either. Additional searches found tons of interesting info on the character, the newspaper strip, the creators (x-9 was created by Dashiell Hammett!) but absolutely nothing on this obscure back-up series.

So who drew this? There's some obvious photo reference and some not horrible backgrounds but the figure work seems, for the most part, the work of a teenage amateur. It would be okay if this was in an early fanzine but this is the FLASH GORDON run notable for splendid art by Al Williamson, Reed Crandall and reprints by Alex Raymond and Mac Raboy! The contrast makes this look even worse! Clearly the artist has problems with humans and how to configure them as well as major issues with lighting, storytelling techniques and detail work! On the plus side, there are moments at least that show obvious effort in shading. X-9, himself, portrayed in newspapers for decades (both before and after this) as tall with hawk-like features, here seems sometimes short and built like a boxer.
Note the panel where the text says he grabs a spear and a shield. It looks more like the spear is falling on him and he's blocking it with the shield! Later when the spear is thrown at the computer, it's literally drawn as just a straight line! Oh, and don;t even get me started on the look of that "computer!"

UPDATE (6-10): My original posting of this speculated that it might be early work from Rich Buckler whose first credited work appears just a few issues later. Mr. Buckler kindly wrote to clarify that it was not him. Does anyone have any better ideas as to who drew these SECRET AGENT x-9 strips?


  1. Yeh he is pretty stinky but for my money the worst artist are Fletcher Hawks who did Stardust the Super Wizard and the first Namor, the Sub-Mariner artist Bill Everett. But that was the golden age before comic artistry was really an art. Even early Jack Kirby is not comparable to his later fantastic work. Appreciate you taking me back in time with these posts. I always learn something about the old time artists.

  2. Anonymous9:18 AM

    Fanzine art from the 1960's was of
    a more professional calibre than
    this drek! I have no idea who did
    it but can understand that no one
    would take credit for it.
    The short-lived King Comics group
    had some great talent working for
    them, as you mentioned, but with
    the publication of sub-standard
    art like this, is it wonder that
    the company was short-lived?

    Secret Agent Sam Kujava

  3. This isn't even close to being the worst art I have seen in a comic book. Check out some Charlton romance comics sometime.

    It could be by Rich Buckler or possibly Larry Ivie.

  4. Hmmmm....Larry Ivie? I dunno...Even Ivie's fanzine work around this time seemed better than this but there IS a resemblence and Ivie IS credited with writing at least one of the FLASH GORDON strips in this series! I see new quotes from him every once in awhile. Anyone know him to ask him? Or Mr. Buckler for that matter?

  5. Still better than Liefeld

  6. Anonymous8:48 AM

    I think the worst art I've seen is in some of the non-Manning Tarzans of the later period, when a guy named (I think) Paul Norris was doing it. His anatomy was bad, which just doesn't work for Tarzan...huge lumpy shoulders, arms too long. I got them for the stories and the covers.