Monday, July 12, 2010

Hawkman Swipes Revisited

About a year ago, we reported this instance——of Golden Age comics swipes from National’s HAWKMAN. Seems the character’s helmet varied from issue to issue in the early days, often in direct proportion to how many swipes from earlier issues the current artist was using that month.

Recently I received a letter from reader Bruce Haley who notes an even bigger oddity in the images we chose at the time. Here’s what Bruce had to say:

For quite some time I've own

ed the original art to a "Tailspin Tommy" strip dated 3-6-40, and in the final panel is - you guessed it...! - that exact same panel of "Hawkman".. only in this case it is "The Black Hawk"... I've attached the two panels from your blog, along with an additional panel that shows another version of the swipe, and two scans from the Tommy daily (the entire strip and a detail shot)... now if the "queer blue light" panel that you posted is indeed from Flash Comics #1, that is cover dated January 1940 - which makes the Tailspin Tommy appearance a swipe, apparently... but this surprises me, because the artist at the time was Reynold Brown, who was extremely accomplished and would soon go on to a fabulous career doing movie posters... and as you can see, his version is by far superior to the others - it looks as if they were all swiped from Brown's panel in the Tommy daily... yet the dates seem to dictate otherwise......

It was, of course, not at all uncommon for the comic book artists of the day to lift from their comic strip “betters.” Many a whole comic book story had been paneled with tracings of FLASH GORDON characters (including the earliest BATMAN stories and even some HAWKMAN tales). The thing is…that panel really IS from FLASH # 1 which would have been on the stands late in 1939.Here’s Bruce again with what that means:

Dennis Neville did the first four Hawkman stories, followed by Shelly after that... If that "queer blue light" panel that you posted on your blog did indeed come from the second page of the debut story, then that would cover-date it at January 1940.. and if the cover dates were one month ahead back then, perhaps this had an actual street date of December 1939...??

Which leaves a gap of a few months before the appearance of the Tailspin Tommy in early March 1940... I'm not sure of the lag time on those daily strips, but I can't imagine that it was more than a month or so...? That would have given the artist plenty of time to have seen, and copied, the Neville panel from Flash Comics #1......

I realize that many artists worked together behind the scenes, knew each other, were friendly, etc. etc., so there could be some behind-the-scenes cross-pollination even before actual publication... I don't think this was the case here... Dennis Neville was a Shuster assistant, was doing work for DC, so (despite the lack of biographical info) I have to assume that he was in the metro NYC area... in the case of Tailspin Tommy, by 1940 its creator, Hal Forrest, was to my knowledge being completely ghosted - I don't think he was even doing layouts by then... Reynold Brown was doing the strip, and as I already said, Brown was an extremely accomplished artist and would soon leave the strip and go on to a great career in the movie industry... Hal Forrest was based in Los Angeles, and so was Reynold Brown - so the chances of any behind-the-scenes contact between Neville and Brown are almost nonexistent...

So, logic leads me to conclude that Brown swiped the Neville panel for Tailspin Tommy - which rather baffles me, given Brown's abilities (and the fact that his version of the panel blows the others away, andlooks as if it should be the original).... but based solely upon publication dates, and given that the "queer blue light" panel is indeed from Flash Comics #1, I don't see how it can be otherwise...

And it's funny that so many versions of that panel - by at least three artists (Neville, Brown, and Moldoff) - have appeared... it would be fun to see just how many there were...!

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