Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dell Mystery Artist

Bachelor Father 1332 inside front cover
Here are the inside front cover pages from two Dell comics of 1962: the first issue of Bachelor Father (Four-Color 1332) and Barbie and Ken 1. That would be New Dell, by the way; these were not produced by Western Publishing. The rest of the issues' art is in the same style as these pages.

This artist's individual issues at Dell have gone unidentified—the Who's Who credits him there with "various features," 1961-62. Gerald McCann did the second issue of Bachelor Father; John Tartaglione and other pencillers (perhaps including Hy Eisman, Vince Colletta's 1960-64 ghost penciller), with Colletta inking, took over Barbie and Ken for #3-5.

I must admit that it took me a while to place the artist, but take a good look (click to enlarge). There's more to go by than his style. I name him in the first comment. This isn't his only work for Dell; I'll get to more in another post.

Barbie and Ken 1 inside front coverBarbie and Ken is an interesting concept: I take it as all imaginary stories. The fan club girls relate their meetings with Barbie and Ken, but the evidence is that they've made up the stories for entertainment; this way the couple can start over in a new job in each story (for the sake of wearing the different doll outfits). At the end of the first issue, they even get married, but the unknown comic book writer's not stuck with that; no deal with Mephisto is needed to retcon it away. Or are all the stories made up? After one in which, according to its narrator, Barbie and Ken promised to visit the fan club, the couple arrives in the flesh.

This is certainly Mad Men-era; in the first issue, Barbie is an airline stewardess, but Ken is the pilot; Barbie is a nurse, Ken a doctor. From the perspective of fifty years later, it's obvious that Barbie would have made a fine pilot or doctor herself, because the five issues portray her as super-competent at each new job. No "Math is hard" from this Barbie!


  1. The artist is Norman Nodel. He initialed the Bachelor Father page "N" in the lower right corner, the Barbie and Ken page "NN" in its final panel--and I'll admit, the latter lay unnoticed under my nose for quite some time. He was one of the few artists signing his stuff over at Gilberton at this time, as it happens.

  2. I saw the N and the NN and still didn't make the connection. Good going! and when did his old bass at Gilberton, L.B.Cole, become art director at the new Dell?
    Another Dell "various features" guy is Joe Dawley. While the who's who says "inks" - I have him as both pencils and inks. Do you know what he did? :-)

  3. No, I draw a blank on Dawley.

    L.B. Cole came in when the new Dell started up, or soon after, so that would be 1961 or '62; I heard that he brought George Evans over from Gilberton. He only lasted a year or two, until D.J. Arneson took over as Dell editor.

  4. Joe Dawley was the artist on Calvin and the Colonel - and the other Dell books in that style. He did a comic strip, Chief, around this time, and afterwards moved into Renaissance style paintings.

  5. In case this isn't common knowledge: Don Segall told me he wrote the KEN & BARBIE comic for Dell. He thought but wasn't sure he'd written every issue...but he definitely wrote some.

  6. SangorShop, do you know of any particular issues of ALVIN that Dawley might have done? There are more than one artist working on the feature, I'd say, but I can't recognize any of them.

    Mark, I'll have to look again at the writing on BARBIE AND KEN. Some years ago, I mistook a number of D.J. Arneson's Dell scripts for Don Segall's (on the monster superheroes, for some), so now I've had to start from scratch on IDing their styles.

  7. Martin - I confess that I haven't had the time to find my
    Alvin's to see if I can compare them.* I would agree that several artists were drawing it (and I see that the Who's Who says Segall and Paul Newman wrote some).
    * one has too much stuff when one needs time to find something.

  8. SangorShop, I have found a couple of Segall Alvins in the later part of the run, where they go to full-length stories. "T.H.E.M." is one; from memory, the issue before that as well; and I still have issues to look at, before and after.

    I have to wonder if the Newman credit refers only to the Three Chipmunks Four-Color, which he certainly did write for Western Publishing and so for pre-New Dell. I've seen a few mix-ups like that. Wish all the Newman credits that got him into Guinness were online!

  9. I confess that when Paul Newman was getting a list of his comics, that I was one of the people he called. I read comic books to him over the phone, and he's thumbs up or down if he wrote that particular story. ("I would never say that". It was fun.
    Check with Robin Snyder about a list of Newman (he's certainly the most likely person to have one).

  10. Oh. I thought Newman still had his original sales records, like Woolfolk's, but he was recreating them after the fact--like Otto Binder did, with Jerry Bails showing him the old comics?

    I was happy to see those Binder records and compare them with Jerry Siegel's, but the number of stories on both lists--"Superman's Return to Krypton," anyone?--made them both suspect. (For those coming in late: Siegel wrote the full-lengther with that title, the Lyla Lerrol story; Binder the chapter called that in a different three-parter, the three super-wishes story. But for decades folks thought Binder may have done the Lyla one, because the title sounded familiar when Bails asked him.)

    So those Newman records look less useful than I'd thought. A good start at finding his stories, but if I were with Guinness, I wouldn't have taken them as any sort of primary evidence. Joe Gill could very well be the world's most prolific comic book scripter!

  11. as for as Newman goes, he had a lot of records, but not all - it was the stories without records he was looking for.
    And I confess that I had not heard the Binder story in that way. Interesting.