Saturday, September 30, 2006

Maurice Bramley, Part II

You may remember a while ago I posted, with scans, a short entry on Australian artist, Maurice Bramley. Since that post I've come across some more books that feature his art, mainly cover art, and I thought I'd keep sharing.

Kevin Patrick and myself had an email exchange about Bramley and in the process more information has come to light. Thus we can now add this into the mix. According to Kevin;

"Local comic artist/collector, Daniel McKeown, wrote an insightful article about Bramley's work for Horwitz, and made a compelling argument that Bramley was a prolific 'swiper' of plots/page & panel layouts from the Timely/Atlas stories that appeared in Horwitz's line of war comics.

"Bramley, to my knowledge, was born in 1910 and was a prolific illustrator/commercial artist throughout the 1930s & 40s, working on weekly magazines, newspapers, pulp novelettes, etc.
He even did some propaganda posters for Australia's war effort during the 1940s - and his association with Horwitz Publications seems to have begun in the mid/late 1940s.

"Bramley did virtually all of the covers for Horwitz's line of US (mainly Timely/Atlas) reprint comics, which included war (Combat Kelly, Sgt Fury & Howling Commandos), Westerns (Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid) and early Marvel superheroes (I just picked up the 1st issue of Horwitz's 'Daredevil' reprint, which has a 'cover' version of Bill Everett's original cover for Marvel.)

"After Horwitz ceased publishing comics around 1965-66, Bramley seems to have dropped off the radar - though I do have select issues of a Western comic he wrote & drew for Page Publications (Yaffa), titled 'Fastest Gun', which (judging by the 15 cent cover price), probably date from around 1970-71.

"But after that - who knows? If MB was born in 1910, then chances are he could've died anywhere between the 1980s or 1990s."

It appears that Bramley doesn't get some of the respect that he clearly deserves. Bramley was a damn fine illustrator, his advertising work is as good as anyone elses from the era (you can find an example here, dating from 1943) and his cover art is as good as any other Australian artist, including Chatto and Dixon. It's true that some of Bramley's interiors do let him down, yet at times there'll be a splash page that, again, is as good as anyone else.

Kevin and myself discussed how we believe that Bramley is an Australian equal (respect wise) of an American such as Don Heck or Werner Roth. Both Heck and Roth were more than capable draftsmen, both have a volume of work that stands out. However both men were put down during their life times (Heck was given the ultimate insult of being called the worst artist ever by Gary Groth) yet both are now getting their due respect. Bramley is in that boat. He might have swiped - name me an artist who didn't, or doesn't - and his work might have lacked the consistency of a John Dixon but then not many were able to match Dixon, and that includes any artist anywhere. What Bramley did have, same as Heck, was a style that's not been duplicated since. Now that might mean that his style was bad and not worth it, but I tend to believe the opposite is the truth - it's a unique, distinctive style (another artist in this category is the under-appreciated Don Newton) and difficult to duplicate. Time to give Bramley his due methinks.

In the meantime, some more Bramley for your eyes to feast upon, and more to come.

PHANTOM COMMANDO #16

Written and drawn by Bramley. Now this is odd. Everything I've seen indicate that this title ceased in 1965, yet this issue was released in 1970. However as it's a Page/Yaffa publication it's more than possible that this is a reprint, but the numbering, #16, picks up from the Horwitz run (ended with #15).

THE OUTLAW KID #3

I'm not exactly sure if this cover is by Bramley. Certainly it has some of his trademarks, yet it's not signed, and Bramley almost always signed his covers, even if he did hide the signatures in the backgrounds. It is a Horwitz book, and it does have Timely/Atlas reprints of both The Outlaw Kid and the Black Rider, so it's very possible.

On closer inspection I'm kinda leaning towards it being either a splash, cover or panel drawn by American artist Doug Wildey. Wildey drew a heap of this kind of material for Timely, so it's more than possible that it's his, or someone swiping him style (which is why I can't rule out Bramley just yet, or at least until I get concrete proof).

THE OUTLAW KID #29

Definitely a Bramley - it's signed. More Timely/Atlas reprints, this time all Outlaw Kid. That's a cover that, if it'd appeared on an American comic at the time, would still be talked about. Check out the detail and the line-work.

THE WESTERN KID #27

The Bramley signature is hidden in the dirt on the lower left hand side. Dated 1971, this is a Page book with yet more Timely/Atlas era westerns.

KID COLT OUTLAW #88

This cover always makes me smile. Dated 1969, this book was released by Page and again features Timely/Atlas reprints. The entire book was reprinted - cover and all - two years later. That's right, issue #92 in the series just features a new price and issue number, otherwise it's the same comic. This happened quite a lot with the Australian reprints, Page/Yaffa were just as notorious for repackaging their reprint material as what Newton were. In some cases it was even more so and I can't help but wonder if the thought process was if it was reprinted then no-one would have noticed, two years means a new audience (at least it did back in the late '60s/early '70s) and the money is there. I'm sure Bramley wasn't paid twice for his cover art though.

I'll say right here, right now, that I'm in the market for Bramley comics. If anyone has any, or knows who does, then point them my way. I guess the real goal would be to own the original art to some of Bramleys comic book work, but that just ain't gonna happen.

7 comments:

Kevin Patrick said...

Hi Daniel - Good posting about Maurice Bramley, glad to see other Aussie comic fans rediscovering his work & sharing it online.

All those covers are defintiely by Bramley - with the possible exception of Outlaw Kid No.3

I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's something about the line work which tells me it isn't MB's handiwork.

I can't be 100% certain about this, but Bramley's art looked as if it was almost always done with pen, as opposed to brushwork, which explains the scratchy, John Severin-styled look to his artwork.

This Outlaw Kid cover looks like its been done with more fluid brushwork, as the lines have a real smooth, flowing quality to them.

Also, the facial expressions don't suggest Bramley - most of his charatcers' faces were pretty stoic/expressionless, and rarely had the violent/aggressive expressions seen on these two cowboys.

Having that said that, I can't nominate another candidate for this cover - not even sure if it's by a local (AU) artist, or if its a blown-up reprint of a panel from an American story.

My two cents worth, anyway!

- Kevin

Danny said...

I fully agree. I don't think it's Bramley for those reasons and more. The line work is too busy and too detailed to be Bramley for my liking, however as I can't recognise the artist I thought I'd throw it up there and see if anyone can do the art ID. I am convinced that it's not a Bramley.

Daniel McKeown said...

The Outlaw Kid doesn't smell like Bramley to me either but the faces are awesome!

In regards to the swiping, who knows if Bramley was given an old issue (of Frogman) and told to redraw it for some arcane Australian content reasons. He certainly was a master of reworking his own work into new compositions or bunging a mask on a leading frogman to make him the Phantom Commando.

Kevin Patrick said...

Hi Daniel - and Daniel!

Fellas, perhaps we can find the solution to the Outlaw Kid #3 cover artist puzzle.

Came across this reference to the original character/series on Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outlaw_Kid

Daniel (as in 'Daniel Best'), it seems you may be on the mark when you claim it could be a Doug Wildey pic (as you intimated in your recent email to me)

I'd not even heard of this series until you posted the cover on your blog site - but the Wikipedia entry suggests that Wildey is the most likely candidate for the cover illo.

All of which whets my curiousity for yet another unknown US 1950s Western comic - I just can't pass up these old 'Aussie Westerns', so The Outlaw Kid may be another one to add to my future shopping list.

Cheers

- Kevin Patrick

Kevin Patrick said...

Gentlemen!

OK, here's the original/source cover for the Outlaw Kid reprint!

http://www.atlastales.com/index.zdz?_g=1&_sT=202

It looks like a slightly cropped/direct reprint of the original Atlas cover.

I think we can safely say "case closed"!

(And guess who's got too much time on his hands at his part-time bookstore job, right?)

Cheers

- Kevin

Danny said...

Check out the censorship - the knives are gone and what was a fight to the death is a simple punch up. I thought it was Wildey when I looked at it more closely.

Poor reproduction though, but isn't it amazing how the removal of two items completely changes the cover in both feel and drama?

Kevin Patrick said...

Hi Danny - Actually, I didn't even pick that up at first, but the censorship is perfectly in keeping with Horwitz's self-imposed code of 'Approved Teenage Reading'.

Aussie publishers & magazine distributors (such as Gordon & Gotch) did censor the art for locally-drawn and reprinted (US) comics during the 1950s.

And knives seem to have been a real hot-button item!

I've got a John Dixon 'Crimson Comet' cover which clearly shows a knife has been inked out of the villain's hand.

And I reckon one of my mid-1950s edition of Monty Wedd's 'Captain Justice' has either a rifle, or a gun blast being 'whited out' from the artwork.

Well-spotted, champ!

- Kevin