Friday, October 30, 2009

Stylish Flintstones Comics

Chris Lopez has done us another great turn. I don't know where he gets these old comic strips, but it's generous of him to share them with the world.
I loved these comics when I was a kid. I'm more critical of them now, but still enjoy looking at them. I wish I had them all.
Most of the drawings are probably Gene Hazelton (according to Chris they might be Dick Bickenbach) but both had very pleasing, sedate but somewhat modern styles.
Someone drew a good dead Fred.
This looks like an Ed Benedict character. He told me he ghosted for awhile in the 60s.
I love the great lettering in the comics. The title lettering was always a thrill. Unfortunately these are from truncated versions of the strips that leave out the title panels and possibly other panels. What a crime!
I have been spoiled by widened tastes and discovering many more great cartoonists over the years. Harvey Eisenberg's careful compositions and perfectly balanced poses make me think of these comics as being kind of clumsy by comparison. Milt Gross' wild layouts and funny posing makes this stuff seem really tame to me now.
I think the big difference between strips that catch on and strips that may be great, but not so popular is character. I'm of the opinion that a wide audience reacts best to cartoons about characters, rather than mere genius of execution - or even humor. They'll take mild humor with strong characters over hilarity with weak characters.

Milt Gross, Harvey Kurtzman, Geo. Herriman all did brilliant work, but never created strong characters that the public could latch on to. Segar, a lesser draftsman than all mentioned created Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Bluto and a host of interesting characters who could carry long stories and many stories. That's the key. He has drawing skill for sure, but is not as adventurous visually as the other guys.

The Flintstones were such strong and distinct characters on TV, that they didn't need to be executed brilliantly in order to last 3 decades. A mere 6 seasons were played over and over again forever because the public got the characters. They seemed like real folks and people like to hang around with characters more than with geniuses. Same thing can probably be said about Peanuts. Or the Simpsons. I've never thought much of the meandering stories and weak gags in the Simpsons, but I sort of understand how the public got used to the characters through sheer exposure. It's on 12 times a day. It eventually became like visiting your neighbors and befriending them. Even if your neighbors are boring, they are easily accessible and recognizable, so you enjoy their company through familiarity and habit.

Tex Avery on the other hand is an obvious genius, an innovator and very funny, but he never achieved the popularity of the Warner Bros. characters or even Tom and Jerry, who are barely characters at all - but at least they never go away. People got used to T&J because it's all Bill and Joe made for almost 20 years. Tex never settled on any strong characters and it robbed him of the acclaim and riches his greater talent deserved.

The Flintstones comics weren't funny and didn't match the show concept exactly, but were stylish enough to look at and our already strong familiarity of the likeable TV characters made us enjoy the strip version - at least until it got too influenced by late 60s comic strip styles and no longer had any resemblance to the Flintstones. I love silhouette panels in comics and the odd time they do it in animated cartoons. It really tests an artists' skills to make something read clearly in silhouette.
Familiar characters done reasonably well give us comfort. Genius makes us feel and think - or run away if we are kind of stupid. Some folks just want to relax and forget about the day's troubles.

I like Clampett because he gives us everything - fantastic characters and funny stories with great execution.

Hey do me a favor, willya? Type in "Clampett" in that Ligit search slot at the upper right of the blog and see what happens. I'm doing a test.