Artist Spotlight: George Evans


COMICS’ HIGH-FLYING AVIATION ARTIST
by Steve Stiles

In the course of an impressive career spanning half a century, George Evans has established himself as one of the comics field’s finest illustrative talents. During that time span, Evans has worked for almost every major publisher in the industry, which includes an impressive tenure at E.C. Comics. Many feel that Evans, an airplane buff, created the best aviation stories in comics, a claim amply proven by the stories and covers he provided for the last of the great aviation titles, Aces High.

George Evans was born in Harwood, Pennsylvania, on February 5, 1920. His lifelong interest in aviation began when he was nine years old and had stumbled across an issue of a pulp called Sky Birds. The magazine belonged to a friend’s uncle, who struck a bargain with the young Evans: all he had to do to get the magazine was to go out on the streets and scrounge around for discarded cigarette butts. When he had collected enough to fill a can and had stripped them for the tobacco, Sky Birds would be his (this was during the Depression). While his friend’s uncle was hooked on nicotine, Evans was now hooked on aviation pulps. When he was 15 he had his first drawing (and poem) published in another pulp, Daredevil Aces, and went on to sell more art to other pulps as well.

When World War II broke out, Evans tried to join the Air Force but was turned down due to less than 20-20 vision. He wound up as an aircraft mechanic at Shaw Field in South Carolina, where he was often able fly in those planes he had worked on (which must’ve been a terrific incentive for good work!).

After studying art at the Scranton Art School, Evans entered the Army. After the war, and with the pulp magazine field withering on the vine, Evans sought work in the comics field, landing a staff artist position at Fiction House, publisher of pulps and a comic line that included Wings Comics, Jungle Comics, Fight Comics, and -most popular of all with collectors-Planet Comics (the first issue is valued at $9,000 in the 1999 Overstreet Price Guide). Evans drew several minor features in Air Heroes, as well as writing text for filler articles. In 1949 the Fiction House job abruptly evaporated -the in-house staff had a reputation of being a zany, fun-loving bunch and evidently management felt they were too fun loving. The staff was laid off and the company then relied solely on free-lance talent.

Evans had met the teenage Frank Frazetta while at Fiction House and had become friends with another young artist, Al (Star Wars) Williamson, who advised him to look for employment at Fawcett (Captain Marvel Adventures, Whiz Comics). Evans busied himself drawing various features, including two science fiction titles, the adaptations of the film When Worlds Collide and TV’s Captain Video (the latter now worth $800.). Evans liked working at Fawcett and might’ve settled in for a long stay but was undone by external circumstances: Fawcett, dismayed by low sales and high paper costs, as well as a wearing legal battle with National over supposed copyright infringement, decided to drop its comics line and concentrate on magazines and paperbacks. By 1953 Evans was again looking for new work.

Thanks to another tip from Williamson, Evans sought work at Entertaining Comics (“They had, I guess, the best people on staff because they were paying a few dollars more per page than other companies and they had good stories to work on.”) As E.C.’s Al Feldstein liked to work for his artists’ strengths, Evans’ first assigned story, “Roped In,” (Tales from the Crypt #32) was an aviation tale of sorts: three unscrupulous businessmen, having trapped an innocent associate in a frame-up, are themselves trapped when their four-seater airplane is caught in a gigantic spider’s web.

Evans enjoyed the family atmosphere and friendly competition at E.C. and turned in outstanding work for almost all their titles, rendering his realistic art with finely detailed, crisp brushwork. Feldstein tended to give the artist stories with urban settings, tales about typical middle-class folk who happen to lapse into spousal homicide, serial killing and various ingenious and lethal double-crosses. Evans worked well in that genre, providing striking and powerful covers for Crime SuspenStories and Shock SuspenStories, covers that truly demonstrated the theme of “Jolting Tales of Tension.”

Evans also turned in some fine stories for Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales, all aviation yarns, but was unhappy with editor Harvey Kurtzman’s practice of laying out each and every panel to an exacting degree, a policy Evans found restrictive.

After the televised Kefauver hearings and Fredric Wertham’s comics-bashing book Seduction of the Innocent, horror comics continued to be under fire. E.C. publisher Bill Gaines decided to fold all of E.C.’s “New Trend” titles, with the exception of Mad, explaining at a staff meeting that “They say we’re hurting kids and I don’t want to hurt kids.”(Whether or not the demise of the horror comics affected juvenile delinquency rates in the United States is highly debatable.)

Gaines’ next move was a new line, his “New Direction” comics. One of them, Aces High, featured stories of aerial combat in the days when men still fought in fabric and wood craft like Fokkers and Spads. Although the stories were more fiction than fact, Evans was in his element and, as might be expected, was the real star of the title that included fine work by Jack Davis, Bernie Krigstein and Wally Wood, doing the lead story and cover (which he colored himself) for each issue. The comic seemed made for a man of George Evans’ talents and interests but, unfortunately, the New Direction for Aces High and such titles as Impact, M.D., Piracy, Extra and Valor, seemed to be down, and none of them would last beyond 1956.

With E.C. gone, Evans began drawing for Classics Illustrated, which was a haven of sorts for some E.C. artists like Joe Orlando, Graham Ingels and Reed Crandall (and rather a bonus for Classics Illustrated, which usually featured pedestrian artwork). Evans illustrated comic book adaptations of Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers and other major literary works until 1962 (Classics Illustrated itself would only last until April 1971).

During the early 60s Evans found work at Gold Key Comics and later illustrated stories for Jim Warren’s magazines, Creepy, Eerie and Blazing Combat. He had attempted to find work at DC Comics but evidently editor Bob Kanigher had little love for former E.C. cartoonists; “He looked at my portfolio and said, ‘Oh, you’re one of those [expletive deleted] from E.C. who ruined the whole industry and now you think you’re going to move in here and we’re going to pay you?’ So I picked up my stuff and walked out.”

Some time later Evans got a better reception from another DC editor, Murray Boltinoff, and turned out a steady stream of stories for DC’s war and supernatural titles. In the late 60s he made his first excursion into the syndicated comics world by working as the artist for George Wundar’s Terry and the Pirates dailies (another aviation strip!). Wunder would pencil in the heads and indicate with notes as to whatever else was happening (“office,” “airport,” “riot scene”) in each panel. Eventually Evans took on the inking chores as well, working on the job until 1972. During the 70s Evans would continue working for DC, supplementing his freelancing with jobs at the high-paying National Lampoon (“and other accounts galore”). In 1980 Al Williamson had tired of working on his Secret Agent Corrigan (originally Secret Agent X-9) and asked George to step in. Evans first daily hit newspapers on February 4, 1980 and he carried on with Corrigan until choosing to retire from the strip in 1996.

George Evans’ final Secret Agent Corrigan strip – February 10, 1996

George Evans still continued to work on occasional jobs in a shrinking field now dominated by the super hero genre; despite the high caliber of his work, there seemed little call for his style – which was ultimately the comics field’s loss. In his last years Evans relaxed with his hobby, participating in The Pulp Era Amateur Press Society with “A Pulp Addict’s Ramblings”, which was devoted to (what else?) aviation pulp magazines!

After a brief illness, the artist died asleep in his home on June 22, 2001. He was 81.


The preceding article originally appeared online at ChannelSpace, a site devoted to collecting, in their Comics “MicroChannel.”

As a fan of George Evans’ work I was eventually able to send him the piece and Mr. Evans was kind enough to supply me with the corrections to some howling bloopers while mercifully refraining from cutting me off at the knees! I’m glad to have the opportunity to present the amended biography here on Jim Keefe’s site.

Steve Stiles

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For more on George Evans check out the following links.

Secret Agent Corrigan

Far Lands Other Days
Written by E. Hoffman Price – Illustrated by George Evans

Wings Comics – Jane Martin

The Artists of EC Comics
George Evans cameo.


And here’s a news segment from 1990 covering a comic book convention in Greensboro, North Carolina featuring legendary artists George Evans, Al Williamson and Dave Stevens.

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And last but not least, I’m not the only one blogging about George Evans.
Here’s just a sampling – enjoy!

smurfswacker.blogspot.com

pappysgoldenage.blogspot.com

todaysinspiration.blogspot.com

flimsyrationales.blogspot.com

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Cartoonist Jim Keefe (age 13) in the Minneapolis Tribune

Time for the Wayback Machine, Mr. Peabody, to a chilly winter’s day 34 years ago…

Back in 1978 – waaaaaaay before I had the inkling that I’d eventually have a comic strip of my own in the newspaper – the Minneapolis Tribune ran the following Spider-Man cartoon of mine.

Minneapolis Tribune – December 3, 1978

This being my first experience with newspaper reproduction, I was amazed at how the lines I had carefully rendered on Spider-Man’s costume came out as just one big black blob. Bleaahhhh…


Some backstory…

I had been clipping the Spider-Man newspaper religiously for two years – artwork by none other than the incredible John Romita!

Spider-Man newspaper strip by John Romita – 12/12/1977

Then suddenly – out of NOWHERE – the Tribune decides to drop it and replace it with…
(Wait for it.)

Encyclopedia Brown.

(I repeat) ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN!!!

Spidey_Lame

From Dick Cunningham’s editorial:

Wright (managing editor) and Wallace Allen, associate editor of the Tribune, think they have found a suitable replacement in “Encyclopedia Brown,” who appears for the first time in the Tribune today.

Brown is a boy detective confronted with a new crime each Sunday. He solves it by Saturday. Readers are given the same clues that Brown has and are invited to see if they reach the same solution.

“It’s kind of fun,” says Wright.

It’ll have to be to satisfy Keefe. “Woe be it to you,” he wrote. “May Dr. Doom trample your upholstery, may the Rattler bite your dog and may Mysterio make mincemeat of your hamburger.”


I must say, I was quite the master of hyperbole at age 13 – but to no avail. They ended up dropping Encyclopedia Brown years later as well, but Spider-Man was never to return.

The story does have a happy ending though. My Aunt Pat who lived in Boston got wind of this and sent me the Spider-Man strip out of her newspaper for the next two years (pretty much the rest of Romita’s run). My Aunt Pat was pretty great that way.

An added bonus was that the Boston paper printed their comic strips much bigger than the Tribune – so take THAT Mr. Wright and Allen!!!

And I still have those scrapbooks. 4 years of stellar Romita art and lots of fond memories.

My three scrapbooks – the first one signed years ago by John Romita himself!


For those of you who DIDN’T psychotically and laboriously collect the strip as a kid, and still would like to have a collection of them, check out IDW’s Spider-Man Comic Strip  collections.

Image from tapatalk.com

They did a beautiful job on them and I can’t recommend them highly enough.


Last but not least, I later paid homage to my Aunt Pat by giving her a cameo in Flash Gordon (she’s the one next to the pumpkin in the third panel).

10_31

Proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished.
For more backstory on my Aunt Pat’s page, go to Uncle Whit and Aunt Pat.

-Jim Keefe

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Thomas Fluharty – As I Was Going Along…

Thomas Fluharty

I just got back from the opening reception of Thomas Fluharty’s gallery exhibition at the Inez Greenberg Gallery in Bloomington, Minnesota (a quick word of thanks to writer/cartoonist Craig MacIntosh for tipping me off to it).

Fluharty is a prolific artist who’s work has appeared in Mad Magazine, Der Spiegel, People Magazine, Entertainment weekly, Sports Illustrated and the New York Times among others. A cover done for Time Magazine resides in the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.

Here’s just a few pics from the opening reception.
Click on images to see larger.

Inez Greenberg Gallery

 

Detail of Stan Lee caricature.


Thomas Fluharty’s work is awesome, so the opportunity to see his originals shouldn’t be missed. The exhibit runs from July 20 – August 24, 2018.
There will also be an Artist Talk on Tuesday, August 14 at 7 p.m.

For more info on the gallery exhibition and the Artist Talk just go to
Thomas Fluharty – As I Was Going Along…

To learn more about Thomas Fluharty and see lots more art, just check out his website at ThomasFluharty.com – I recommend it HIGHLY!

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Networking and the High Cost of Comic Conventions

Artist Alley at C2E2 in Chicago.

It’s been my experience that networking is the key in getting work in the art field. I know it seems basic but it bears repeating that if an employer is not familiar with you and your work then they won’t hire you. And this is not a matter of “it’s not what you know but who you know.”

The following is from The Essential Principles Of Graphic Design by Debbie Millman.

“The most delusional graphic design belief system is this: becoming a successful graphic designer is all about being an extraordinarily talented designer. It is not. Talent is only one part of the equation for a successful career in graphic design. In fact, in the field of professional graphic design, talent is simply what is considered “operational excellence” in business school. Talent is essentially a given, a point of entry. A career in graphic design brings with it the assumption that you have talent, and in isolation, talent will not guarantee success for any designer or design program.”

For more from Debbie Millman, check out her podcast at Design Matters Media.


One great way to network is comic conventions – but it can get costly. I was a guest at Dragon Con awhile back and had a complimentary table that otherwise would have cost $500 (at that time). I sold more stuff than at any other convention I’ve been at – but still couldn’t break-even after I added up the cost of airfare, hotel and meals.

What balanced it out for me and made it worthwhile was the networking. Along with the standard touching base with fans and other professionals in the business, I was interviewed for two podcasts – Sidebar and Comics Coast-to-Coast– which was great publicity.

Doing some commission sketches at Dragon-Con.

The following is some hands-on experience from artists/cartoonists from the trenches.


Tyler Page back in 2010 did a great post where he broke down the cost of self-publishing and promotion for his book Stylish Vittles. In part 2 of the post he cited convention costs over a seven year span.

“…the grand total of all my business expenses from 2002 through the printing of Nothing Better Vol 2 in late 2009 is $46,918.60. Yes, that is a lot of money. It is. But it’s important to realize that was spent over the course of 7 years – it’s not like I dropped it all at once. I also tried to be as thrifty as possible in my spending when I could, especially when traveling.”

“In the end it wasn’t the cost of printing books that really rang up the bills – it was the traveling and conventions.”

Excerpt from Publishing Pt. 2 – How Much is This Going to Cost Me?

– Click on image to go to Tyler’s Tumblr –


Daniel Davis of Steam Crow LLC had an informative blog post where he related his experience exhibiting at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con in regards to what works and what doesn’t. In summation he noted;

“It’s getting more difficult to profit at comic conventions, but I’ve seen it done, and know that it’s possible. It’s no longer a space where one can simply show up, and expect to profit. But, with ample year-long preparation, and strategy, it is doable.”

Daniel and Dawna Davis


Steve Bissette (Swamp Thing, Tyrant, Taboo, and current instructor at The Center for Cartoon Studies) has years of experience as an artist and publisher.

Godzilla sketch – Steve Bissette

The following is an excerpt from a Facebook post of his where he did a comic con post-mortem.

“Professionally, it ratified all the reasons I stopped investing in conventions…

In short, while I met some great people, signed a ton of SWAMP THINGs, and had fun with my cronies, I didn’t get to see/shop/experience the con outside of my table space; my being there didn’t sell even ONE World of Strange Bissette t-shirt (and we were just an aisle apart, right NEXT to each other!); I didn’t make a dime on sales (lost $$ after shipping costs); and my add’t commitment to a three-lecture/workshop day following was a wash, at best (again, personally, great to do; didn’t earn me a dime).

Had I paid for travel/table, I’d have busted my entire fall budget at home to do the one convention. Whatever I made at the table, I spent eating during my stay (and spent more). If I’m going to travel, it’s going to be TRAVEL, with Marge, to see friends/family, not to do cons.

Just being pragmatic. I mean, look. I’m thankful I went, and thankful Rick, Tom, John, and I have so many folks who came out to see us! Folks & our fans are great—kind, generous in their comments, and all want their SWAMP THINGs signed, but most of ’em sample nothing else, by and large. Money’s tight everywhere, particularly these days, and SWAMP THING is still all folks want from us, and those they’ve got. Whatever else I have, I’m better off selling via online sales. In fact, only ONE person bought one of everything new from the table.”


I’m often asked from readers/fans which upcoming comic conventions I’ll be at. In general, not too many, as I’ve cut down on going to cons. If I do attend a con it’s likely because it’s close to home (because of cost), and if I do a show out of town it’s usually because I have family living in the area that I can visit and save money on hotels by crashing at their homes.

My daughter Tessa and I at the MCBA’s ComiCon here in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Another big deterrent is the time involved, which if it coincides with a tight deadline can be MURDER. I’ve tabled at way too many cons where I’ve had to bring work, which just ends up being a disservice to fans looking to say hello and should be avoided at all cost. Add to that the time it takes to recover from that kind of scheduling and it’s lose-lose situation all the way around.

Is tabling at a convention worth the time and effort? If you go in ill-prepared you’ll probably just end up pissing money down the drain, with no benefit other than the same enjoyment any random attendee walking through the door could have had.

If you attack a convention in a business sense where you’re budgeting cost and working your butt off (commission sketches/networking/research trends) then yes they are. If you want to work in this business, I’d advise treating it as such.


I’ll end with some stellar advice from Colleen Doran (A Distant Soil, Amazing Fantastic Incredible Stan Lee, Troll Bridge). This is related to networking and making the effort to get your work out there…

Colleen Doran at Wizard World 2017 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“Lots of people assume that the reason they can’t get hired is because publishing is some kind of closed circle. It’s really not. Clients are always looking for new talent. REALLY. They are DYING to hire the next JK Rowling, the next Jim Lee, the next James Patterson. Who doesn’t want another money-maker?

The truth is, almost everything that comes over the transom is not very good. When I write this, aspiring creators cringe thinking “Oh, she means me.” No, I don’t. If you have any idea of the level of just how bad submissions are, you would be appalled. It is rare to see anything of quality. I don’t know anyone in publishing who enjoys going over submissions, because it’s depressing. If you are good and if you’ve got something to show, DON’T GIVE UP. Trust me, clients are DYING to find you.

SECOND THING: a major reason clients don’t like to hire new people is they have a tendency to screw the pooch at an alarmingly high rate. The joy of creating for fun evaporates when you HAVE to create. Creating all the time: not so simple. And, especially in comics, the workload is awesome. Almost everyone in graphic arts will try to steer you away from comics and toward advertising because comics pay is usually terrible and advertising is less work. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve tried to hire up from fandom who have completely vapor-locked, including people I’ve tried to hire from other areas of publishing…

Everything in comics is labor intensive and often techy and boring these days, since artists have to do their own production work. You have to really know what you are doing. So, next time you think that publisher isn’t going to give you a chance, think of it from the publisher’s point of view. If your portfolio is good, and you show a real, steely willingness to produce there’s a publisher looking for you.

Really. Don’t give up.”

For more on Colleen Doran, go to ColleenDoran.com
or check out her Patreon at patreon.com/ColleenDoran

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Flash Gordon Year One – Learning Curve


In 1995 I was hired as the writer and artist of the Flash Gordon comic strip (my first Sunday page appeared January 21, 1996). It was my first big freelance gig, and as with all freelance work, you have whatever skills you’ve attained up to that point and then you learn on the job. My first year doing Flash Gordon it was very much about getting a feel for the characters and getting the look right.

Nightfall on Mongo was my second story that first year and I opted for werewolves as being the antagonists. I mean, who doesn’t like werewolves, right?

Drop panel from 5/26/1996

Flash comes upon Thorne, the wounded survivor of a downed craft.

Click on image to see larger.

I based Thorne’s look off of Kurt Russell.

One thing in this story that sticks out like a sore thumb to me now is the environment and wardrobe. Instead of an alien world Flash might as well be in upstate Minnesota. Also, I modified a helicopter by taking off the propellers so that it would look like a small spacecraft  – instead it just ended up looking like a helicopter without propellers…

Original art – Click on image to see larger.

Realizing I needed some strong feedback to strengthen my work, I sent pages to a couple of syndicated artists I was corresponding with at the time – George Evans and Bud Blake. Shown below are the critiques I got.

George Evans (1920-2001)

Bud Blake (1918-2005)

As far as critiques go, friends and family tend to pull punches – professionals get the job done. I had the basics down storytelling-wise, but both George and Bud showed me that I needed to amp things up. I can’t stress enough how invaluable their input was.

I’d like to add that for George and Bud to take the time to sketch up short tutorials and mail them out to me was beyond generous – especially with the ever present syndicate deadlines they were under.

As far as my learning curve went, the next story I did I purposely retold Flash Gordon’s origin in order to give myself a refresher course on all things Mongo-esque.


More Flash Gordon Flashbacks to follow…

And if you’d like to see more of my work on Flash Gordon,
King Features is currently re-releasing the strips at FlashGordon.com.
Hope you check them out!

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