Friday, April 15, 2005


Could write a whole book about Charlton Comics, but I'll settle for this wonderfully overwrought cover by artist Dick Giordano.

Giordano was a freelancer who initially specialised in War and Crime comics (but is probably best known for inking Neal Adams' classic run on Batman in the early seventies); eventually, almost by default, he ended up as chief editor at Charlton in 1966...years later, when he became Editor-in-chief at DC, and Charlton had finally gone bust, he pursuaded DC to buy up the rights to the Charlton chracters that he had a strong sentimental attachment to, such as Steve Ditko's Blue Beetle , Captain Atom, The Question, etc. These characters were then shoe-horned into DC continuality and dumped onto the Pre-Crisis Earth-4...

In the 1980's, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons came up with the proposal that would eventually mutate into Watchmen, but, since it ended with a number of the Charlton chracters being killed off, Giordano nixed the original idea, and Moore eventually ended up using analogues of the Charlton characters: Captain Atom became Doc Manhattan, The Question (who was a prototype for Ditko's Right-Wing avenger Mr. A) mutated into the trenchcoated Rorschach, etc...

I remember seeing copies of Charlton's Judo-Master for sale at the Yeovil Bus Station kiosk, but sneeringly threw them to one side in favour of Carmine Infantino Era DC stuff like Kirby's Fourth World books, House of Mystery (with Neal Adams covers), The Phantom Stranger, The Spectre, etc. (Who was drawing The Flash at that point? Irv Novick, maybe...I bought a few of them too...) I was a fully-paid-up Marvel Zombie at that point, but The Bus station only sold DCs and Charltons...

As I limp into (pseudo-)intellectual Old Age, I suddenly find I'm horribly nostalgic for the Charlton stuff, with its poor-quality paper and its printing-presses that were once used to produce corn-flake packets. The artists and writers were poorly paid and were on tight deadlines, yet Old Pros like Ditko, and newbies like Aparo and Skeates and Staton and Nick Cuti somehow still managed to shine, but some of the War Comics resemble artistic battle-fields where the rushed linework, the disjointed, half-baked dialogue and low-quality colour-seps conspire to create a new form of beauty that borders on Outsider Art or Art Brut:


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