Thursday, January 9, 2014


The moment I saw the Jekyll-and-Hyde panels below, my artistic vision was forever altered.

Carl O. Wessler's (1913-1989) name is usually associated with his writing for EC horror comics. In fact, he had a colorful career that went back to a job at the Fleischers in the mid 1930s, which continued in Miami after the strike disputes (he had been a union organizer) and later back to New York. Throughout the early 1940s he freelanced humor comics work (even “teenage” comics!). He had affinities for war and horror scripts as well, beginning in the 1950s. Into the 1970s, he scripted for Harvey, DC and Marvel.

Collecting in the late 1970s, I was familiar with Carl Wessler's earliest wartime funny animal (called then "animation comics") work for the publisher Pines. Much of it was substandard. After the war, it became polished; it had a slapdash, improvised look that thrilled me as a kid. It suggested a "camp", perverse DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES. The dialogue could be wry and a little bitter ("I've tasted worse, but I've forgotten where!") Both characters and settings were playfully pliant and soft. You got the feeling he never used a ruler. He used decorative motifs for their own sake.

He worked for the major publishers as well as a galaxy of dinky ones. People often wonder why cartoonists would move between large studio “prestige” and comic book “slumming”. Wessler himself recalled that in 1946, he could do three covers in a day for $50 each and take off for the rest of the week. The fact that an artist's work could shine on its own must have been an additional pleasure.

The “Jekyll-and-Hyde” panels are from a Timely-Atlas comic, ALL SURPRISE, 1946. The rest are from TOYTOWN, from the same period.

Riotously Yours, MK


1 comment:

jeffrey reynolds said...

These are gorgeous panels! No wonder they left a mark. Wild and alive cartooning!