John Prentice (1920-1999) was born on October 17 in Whitney, Texas. From 1940-1946 he served in the Navy. Having survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he went on to serve on two destroyers through eight major military campaigns.
Having briefly attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, he moved to New York in 1947 where he worked on everything from comic books to magazine covers. Following Alex Raymond’s death in 1956 Prentice was chosen to carry on the strip and did so for 43 years.
His work on Kirby was awarded the National Cartoonists Society’s silver plaque for best story strip three times and Rip Kirby is an honorary member of the honor legion of the New York City police department.
Rip Kirby celebrates his fiftieth anniversary as a syndicated comic strip in 1996, due in no small part to the excellent work done by John Prentice, who has done the strip for forty years.
John Prentice’s work remains on a level above many other story strips. The point-of-view angles move constantly; characters make eye contact with the reader; the Raymond technique of the establishing landscape continues; and creative and unique crosshatching is used.
Rip Kirby is a mature story strip with a bright future. Many hope that King Features will realize this and give Rip Kirby the promotional and sales push it seems to have lacked from the syndicate for many years.
Back in 1999 when John Prentice passed away I contacted some of his colleagues in the industry. They were kind enough to share the following reminiscences.
An immense talent. A consummate craftsman with a rock-solid work ethic. A man generous with his talents, gracious to his fans and a devout family man. John’s wonderful sense of humor was capable of taking twists and turns before hitting you on the funny-bone. Being with John was knowing you were at the best party in town… and knowing John was one of life’s little perks.
Dick Hodgins Hagar – Henry
I first heard of John on the occasion of Alex Raymond’s untimely death in an automobile accident. The question on everyone’s lips was, “Who is capable of carrying on Rip Kirby?” George Raymond, Alex’s younger brother (and my assistant at the time) told me that John Prentice had been selected as Alex’s successor. The rest is history.
John had a wonderful sense of humor and was always a very gracious and generous person. Everyone liked and admired him and his work. He liked to tell stories of his naval career and always had an appreciative audience. In his later years he was fortunate to marry Antonia who proved to be an excellent helpmate. We will all miss John.
John Cullen Murphy Prince Valiant – Big Ben Bolt
I first met John in January of 1960. He was looking for an assistant to go down to Mexico with him to help him out on “Rip Kirby”. I learned a lot from John Prentice. It was great working with him. It was fun. We were good friends – I’ll miss him.
Al Williamson Star Wars – Secret Agent Corrigan
John Prentice was a close and admired friend. One of the foremost black and white illustrators in the United States. He was an extremely brave man. How else can you describe a young sailor who in the middle of all the strafing and bombing at Pearl Harbor commandeered an admiral’s tender and went out into the harbor looking for a gun to fire at the attacking Japanese? From then on he was on a destroyer involved in almost every big Pacific island battle.
He approached his “Rip Kirby” strip like an illustrator. After reading a new sequence script, he researched every detail. Using his vast personal morgue, he checked costume, architecture, geography, everything. It slowed him down, but oh, it was beautiful… and it made him one of the top adventure strip cartoonists. John was a sincere, decent man. We all loved him.
Gill Fox Side Glances – Golden Age Comics
I’ve known John Prentice for 45 years. We’ve shared a studio. I assisted him for years since he started “Rip Kirby”. We’ve been close friends all those years. I enjoyed John’s good sense of humor and knowing him was to know someone who was always kind, honest, fair and always a true gentleman.
Frank Bolle Heart of Juliet Jones – Winnie Winkle
After John Prentice died the decision was made by King Features to discontinue the Rip Kirby comic strip. Here is the final week of Rip Kirby dailies ghosted by Frank Bolle that wrapped up the last storyline.
Examples of John Prentice’s work on Rip Kirby.
To see more of John Prentice’s exceptional work on Rip Kirby, check out Rip Kirby Volumes 5-11 from IDW Publishing – Highly recommended!
In remembrance of Steve Ditko. November 2, 1927 – June 29, 2018
Here’s one of the most flawless and iconic pieces of sequential art ever produced – Spider-Man’s origin from Amazing Fantasy #15. These are the originals currently residing at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
One of the exercises he would have us do every week was draw horses. The following are a few examples I kept (circa 1987). Jose’s corrections are in pen over my pencils.
Jose Delbo was a great teacher because he wouldn’t let an inferior drawing slide. When you got a compliment or a good grade from him you knew it was well deserved.
I got the chance to catch up with Jose Delbo at SpringCon 2012 in Minneapolis and I had him sign the drawings shown above. I showed him some of my more recent work and he made a point of telling me I was really doing some good work – so good in fact that he would pass on a script he had just received.
A cowboy strip – lots of horses…
A quick remembrance of a cartooning class taught by Jose.
A student was getting critiqued – during the critique Jose stated that the student needed to spend more time on his work. The student responded that he had already worked on the page for two weeks. Jose replied, “How much of that time was actually pen to paper.”
I never forgot that insight. It doesn’t matter how much time you have to work on something if you’re not putting pen to paper.
Jose Delbo – a fantastic artist and teacher. For more, check out JoseDelbo.org
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 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.
Bud Grace:‘The reason is because we tried a promotion here in the States, and we thought that by changing name we might pick up some papers. That didn’t work, so now I’m going to change my name to Bill Watterson.”
From that same Q&A, when asked if there was any Robert Crumb influence in his drawing style, Bud responded,
“I started drawing in an underground style, originally. While I can’t draw nearly as well as Robert Crumb, I’m not surprised you can see the influence. I was also influenced by underground cartoonist Kim Deitch.”
In 1989 Bud Grace received the the Adamson Award presented by the Swedish Academy of Comic Art as Best International Comic-Strip Cartoonist – and in 1993 he won the National Cartoonist Society’s Reuben Award for Best Newspaper Strip.
Bud Grace Fun Fact:
•Born in 1944, Bud Grace received a doctorate in physics from Florida State University before turning to cartooning.
From the National Cartoonist Society member album.
I was lucky enough to meet Bud Grace when I worked at King Features on staff as the colorist in the Comic Art Department. Cartoonists that didn’t come in regularly to drop stuff off because they didn’t live near New York (we’re talkin’ pre-internet here) we’d get the chance to see if they stopped in before the annual King Features Christmas party.
Bud always reminded me of Groucho Marx when I’d see him at King. If you ever saw a Marx Brothers film, the energy would always pick up a notch when Groucho entered a scene. It was the same with Bud.
Here’s Bud Grace and fellow Comic Art department veteran, Jerry Craft, from December of 1992.
When you worked in the Comic Art department at King you got to see the originals before they saw print. Here’s an example of an Ernie strip circa 1995 pre-edit.
Bud of course knew that the above strip wouldn’t make it through editorial without a change to the language in the last panel. That he sent it in anyway was what made him a favorite in the Comic Art Department up at King.
Here’s another example from 1995 where editorial actually made Bud change the drawing.
And so with the final strip on February 3, 2018, we bid adieu to the Piranha Club.
Fortunately we don’t have to say adieu to Bud Grace. You can still check in on Bud at BudGrace.com. And I’d make sure to check if I were you as info on upcoming book collections will be forthcoming.
From Bud’s blog – February 3, 2018…
“Speaking of books, the publisher has been screwing around like crazy. The only book available right now is my Guess who Got Lucky collection of magazine cartoons. I’ll try to get things straightened out this week. Sorry.
Whatever you do, don’t buy any books from scalpers. A reader said he saw one for sale on Amazon for 90 bucks. Geeze!”