Monday, March 12, 2007

My Favourite Cartoonists Part 1: Roy Crane


Whenever people ask me about my influences as a cartoonist, Roy Crane is always near the top of the list. I first encounted his work almost a decade ago, and its been a source of great inspiration ever since. I know there's been a resurgence of interest in the work of early comic strip artists lately, and great cartoonists like Noel Sickles, Frank Robbins and Alex Raymond are being re-discovered by a whole new generation, but sometimes it seems to me that Roy Crane is still being neglected and not being afforded the respect he's due.

As a pioneer of the adventure strip form during the 1930's, Crane was very popular and influential with the first generation of comic book creators and well known in his day. Even the late great Alex Toth often mentioned how much he respected Crane's elegant and refined cartooning. However, many people today seem unaware of his art and writing and just how beautiful and humane it was.


Personally, I learned a lot from studying Roy Crane's comic strips. His strip Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy is a wonderful blend of humour and light hearted, all-ages adventure -- the kind that doesn't seem to exist any more. But his follow-up strip, Buz Sawyer, is even better, in my opinion. Like Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes, when I read Buz Sawyer, I get a real sense of the warmth and humanity of the artist's personality. And Crane was an absolute master of adventure continuity writing. If you read a handful of strips, you'll be hooked on the story line and characters for good.

As for his artwork, its a joy to behold. The Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy artwork is a big-foot cartooning treat, but man, that Buz Sawyer stuff is absolute heaven! If you want to know where I get my two-tone sensibility from, the secret is that a good part of it comes from Crane and Buz Sawyer. He drew that strip on duo-tone board, so it was illustrated in black, white and a couple of grey tones -- all of which he handled masterfully. There's some panels I saw early in my career that just completely floored me, and they convinced me to stop working in just black and white and start adding a half-tone or second colour. The illusion of light and atmosphere he created with his duo-tone artwork was incomparable and when it was coupled with his cartooning, which stressed clarity and stripped compositions down to their essential elements, the result was magic.

I can see the influence of Roy Crane in many other cartoonists that I admire like John Severin, Joe Shuster, C.C. Beck and Jaime Hernandez, and I hope that more and more people will discover his art, and the wonderful body of work he left behind.

13 comments:

da janx said...

Mr. Crane hails from my home town, which, I know, is of no consequence to anyone but me. It's good to see a hometown boy make good. He is great. Thanks for giving us insight into your work.

Honolulu Dogfight said...

I saw this on the Comics Reporter website...

http://evandorkin.livejournal.com/107284.html

Roy Crane is the best

Drazen said...

Hurray For Roy Crane!

Dominic Bugatto said...

One of my all-time faves too.

Michael Cho said...

Da janx: thanks for the comments. Crane's a Texan, right?

Honolulu dogfight: thanks for the link. Evan Dorkin is hilarious -- what a talented guy!

Drazen: I couldn't have said it better. Great new stuff on your blog too, buddy.

Dominic: another thing we have in common, then!

Paul Conrad said...

I used to read Captain Easy daily in my hometown newspaper. One of my favorites!

Michael Cho said...

Wow, Paul! I wished my newspaper carried Capt. Easy back in the day -- though, I did hear that it had some pretty spotty distribution. Incidentally, I know Crane left Capt. Easy in the 40's to work on Buz Sawyer, but the artist who carried it on, Leslie Turner, was also truely awesome as well. I think he was Crane's assistant before taking it over, and man, he truely knew how to work the duotone. I loved his backgrounds as well!

Calavera Kid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Calavera Kid said...

why is it that roy crane resembles you in a strraaaange way?

Michael Cho said...

yeah...ok ok ok...I noticed that too! Its weird, cause we only vaguely look alike, but in my drawing, somehow, it ended up looking more like me.

I think it's more acurate to say that my drawing of Roy Crane looks like my drawings of me...

...hence why I don't draw many portraits! :)

WCG Comics said...

I stumbled across your blog on Roy Crane and wanted to let you now how much I enjoyed it. I'm a big Crane fan as well, and actually blogged about him myself here (which links to a longer article about him by me). I agree that in addition to the elegance of his art, his stories and characters are full of a lot of humanity--I touch upon that as well in my comments!

I was esp. impressed to hear you say you prefer Buz Sawyer slightly more--that's generally a minority opinion, but I agree with that as well!

I enjoyed exploring your blog and will bookmark it. I actually do my own self-published adventure comic--it's old school in spirit but set in the modern day--called Rob Hanes Adventures. See my website if you're curious! People like Crane, Caniff and Toth (and Will Eisner) are my heroes.

Owlfarmer said...

I started googling Roy Crane after I read this morning's "Pickles" strip by Brian Crane (no relation, apparently) which featured a "character" who looked a lot like Buz Sawyer. I met Roy Crane at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Taipei, probably in 1959, when I was about 12 years old. My mother was a reporter for a couple of agencies, and used to take us to lunch there. Anyway, Crane drew me a picture of Buz on a note pad, saying "Hi, Cutie" and signed it Roy Crane. I still have it, and was glad to see that folks are still around who appreciate him.

Michael Cho said...

WGC Comics: I'm actually very familiar with your comic, having picked up several issues over the years -- some directly from you at cons. Great work on that series -- I love the connection to Terry and the Pirates too!

Owlfarmer: what a great story - thanks for sharing that.