Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Spectre Fill-in Pencillers

Recent discussion of Aparo on the Classic Comics Forum at www.comicbookresources.com reflects a reasonably popular opinion that Jim Aparo's work on The Spectre (in Adventure Comics #431-440) was his best work. The opinion certainly has its merits, but one should note that this run of issues is not actually pure Aparo art. In two episodes, a couple of unexpected fill-in artists provide pencil art which Aparo inked (but did not letter). I've never been fully happy with either of these installments; while Aparo's finishes do provide a consistency with the other issues, the page design is strikingly unlike Jim's usual work, with detrimental effects.
First up, veteran artist Frank Thorne contributes the pencils for issue 434, "The Nightmare Dummies and...The Spectre!". Let's have a quick look:

Well, this page doesn't look too bad, but I don't like the framing in that top tier. The visual flow in the entire issue is awkward, although Thorne's actual renderings are, typically, just fine.

Interestingly, Thorne gets to illustrate the apartment of Spectre's alter ego Jim Corrigan in this issue. When Aparo returns to the set a few issues later, in a solo-drawn installment, he faithfully recreates the furnishings and decor that Thorne established in 434. Very nice bit of set continuity, and quite unexpected.

Note also that Thorne essentially co-pencilled the cover, which faithfully recreates a scene from the interior. Sharp eyes will discern the Thorne-like qualities of the almost-headless animated dummy.

Now let's have a look at issue 438, "The Spectre Haunts the Museum of Fear". Editor Joe Orlando tasked DC's Bronze Age mainstay Ernie Chua (a.k.a. Ernie Chan) with the pencils for this installment.
Um...to put it tactfully, I was never a big fan of Chan's work. It had many of the characteristic techniques common to the many artists recruited from the Phillipines in the 1970's, without the flair that I admired in artists like Nestor Redondo, Alfredo Alcala, or Tony deZuniga, nor the quirks of guys like Gerry Talaoc or Rico Rival. Chan's work usually struck me as stiff and posed and unauthentic. His rendering of clothing is unconvincing here, and his expressions of action are, here at least, undynamic.

All in all, both jobs are perfectly adequate for the standards of the time, but for me, they somewhat spoil a memorable run.

1 comment:

  1. When I was an apprentice for JOE ORLANDO years ago, & go up to the DC offices, he told me he was very proud of the "SPECTRE" stories he edited in ADVENTURE. JOE would giggle with glee about how he was able to get away, with letting Fleisher & Aparo depict such gruesome ends to the "baddies"...
    My mom was very friendly with ERNIE CHAN(Chua)back in the 70's, & yes,...his style did not go with everything, but he was a humble & very generous person. I have a gorgeous CATWOMAN illo he did, which bypasses his comic work.
    INFANTINO brought in the fillapino artists, as they worked harder for less...This does not mean their styles worked for certain titles, though they always gave it their all...REDONDO, being among the finest, & was the popular 60'S/70'S artist on the most famous & still-running Phillipino Comic Book/Film Super-Heroine, "DARNA"...