Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Owen Fitzgerald and His Descendants


You know, a funny thing about DC comics. Their "cartoony" artists are generally much better draftsmen than their "realistic" superhero artists.
Owen Fitzgerald is kind of the father of the DC "funny human" comic lines. Owen was an animator and layout artist for many classic cartoons and drew comics on the side. He drew a beautiful comic series in the 40s called "Starlet O'Hara in Hollywood"
Starlet O'Hara in Hollywood (1948) 1

and a few others before he started doing Hollywood star comics for DC. His Bob Hope comics started a style that was adopted by other top cartoonists at DC who all developed their own takes on what was basically Owen's style.

Owen is a master of pretty girl art, in fact, in my opinion, far superior to any of the Archie artists, even though I like some of them very much. Owen is a much more observant artist than the average comic artist. While most comic artists imitate other comic artists, Owen actually draws his style from life. His poses are very natural, his anatomy (esp. the girls) very studied and yet he brings an elegant animated cartoony flair to his work.He is great at composing crowds of girls, and manages to give each one her own distinct pose, while at the same time making all their poses flow together into a complete design.

He also gives each girl her own hair style, so I imagine he must have collected fashion magazines and copied real hair styles to get his ideas from. He does the same thing with their clothing. He doesn't use stock skimpy outfits that most men draw on their sexy girls.

Owen doesn't use a lot of detail within his scenes. His poses and compositions are so strong they carry the work. He is working on the top levels of the drawings. Many lesser artists try to clutter up their lack of knowledge with lots of details, hoping to hide the fact that the underlying drawings are weak.

Owen's style evolves constantly. If you collect his comics you can see him trying endless variations of his basic style.

Not sure who this is, maybe it's early Oksner, but it looks like it's imitating Owen's style pretty closely...

A lot of people mistake Owen's books for Bob Oksner, another skilled cartoonist. Oksner had a different style before he started doing celebrity humor comics for DC, and it looks to me that he was influenced by Owen's work.
Oksner is more detailed and less cartoony and less fluid than Owen, but he has a solid knowledge of real anatomy, great compoistion and perspective. I loved his comics when I was a kid.

I'm not sure if this one is Oksner. It could be Adams or maybe Ross Andru, but it's all part of the DC funny human school of drawing, which is much more natural and less stiff than their typical superhero books.

Here's Oksner's early style, obviously influenced by Milton Caniff. It's funny that Owen's background is animated cartoon style and Oksner's is comic strips, but the two later converged into similar styles coming from such different directions.

Here's Oksner's hippie style, still amazingly solid and composed.

Oksner or Adams??

I remember Shane Glines telling me that Mort Drucker spoke highly of Owen Fitzgerald's work and said that he was partly mentored by him. (Shane tell me if I got that wrong!)

Mort is a giant in his own right for his work at Mad, but I also love his DC work. He, like Owen is a real admirer of female charms.

I don't know if Neal had any contact with Owen, but he certainly spoke highly of Mort, and Adams' own cartoon style is very reminiscent of Drucker's.

Oksner or Adams? I've seen them credited to both.

All 4 of these artists' styles overlap and sometimes it's hard to tell who did what. Here are a few that I'm not sure of, but they are all great.
The girl in this one sure looks like Owen, but the rest seems like someone else.

I don't know how they grew artists like this in the old days, but I sure wish there was a way to do it today!