JF Ptak Science Books Post 1935
[Source: J Blog, here.]
The Golden Age comic creations of Fletcher Hanks (1887-1976) have an Eraserhead, biological badness feel to them, for me. They are extraordinary and interesting without being necessarily good, or even enjoyable. They are definitely a high order of something, but what that is, exactly, I don't know. OF his many accomplishments is a comic hero named Stardust, a scary god-like superhero of brutal intent, something that appears on Earth one day to fight crimes like a very grim crime-fighting undertaker. There isn't much emotion or feeling outside of some amount of fear and loathing--even when heads are being torn off and flung deep into space, there's not much concern.
The work is disturbing and maybe brilliantly crude. The use of color is grating and has in some very bizarre way a feeling of high-contrast noir black & white quality--it is very off-putting, as in the image above, with a yellow space and oddly-colored non-spinning Earth that a criminal mastermind has masterminded in order for humans to float into space
Stardust him/it/self is also a pail of wriggling trouble--he is a living thing of some sort, a god-ish type creature, that can change matter with thought, and can fly through air and space on brain/ether waves, can manipulate shapes of any object and turn into a star, among other things. Stardust is also disproportionate to what we think of as properly proportioned, and can bloodlessly rip off a head or stuff a man-monkey into a small place with brute force when it seems a deforming ray would do. Stardust also makes a rather bizarre appearance with a duplicate/extra Earth--a sub-category for this blog and the thing which brought my attention to Stardust in the first place:
[Source: Lambiek Comiclopedia, here.]
Even the name "Stardust" just feels wrong, like the strip on the whole.
The Stardust adventure has it all so far as upset and disturbance goes--even the composition. For example, this panel showing the impending impact of explosive shells finding their mark on Earth, closely cropped in a silent stillness, making their way through yellow space to an Earth that is just barely included in the scene...and of course the one quickly drawn star. It is definitely a very distinctive mind thinking this stuff up--and as others have pointed out, that thinking was probably done on a drunken stretch of deadline.
[Source here, single panel detail from full page below.]
Here's Stardust on his "accelerated ether waves" making his way through a blue space--I'd voe to know why Hanks saw the need from the dashed line inside the ether-fire:
A portrait of Stardust--other people have mentioned Henry Darger in relation to Hanks, and its a relation that I do not see most of the time, except for images like the following, which have a very high-scented montage cleanliness to it:
Perhaps it is just the color theory aspect that puts people in mind of Darger.
The odd thing is that Stardust is mostly a mask-like character, and the villains--even when their head is detached and rocketing through space--have more approachable and believable faces:
[Source: Pop Matters, here.]
"Have Mercy" indeed. The embedded and troubled brilliance of Mr. Hanks did not. In roaming the internet for Mr. Hanks I've found some comparisons for him and William Burroughs, which is another connection I just do not see. At the base of it all Burroughs seems a comic in a very dark sense; Hanks just seems very dark, in a hurried but very different way.
Here's a very interesting read on Hanks and his publisher: Graphic NYC.
Here's the evil flying disembodied head rocketing through space and being caught by a headless giant who winds up sucking the head inside its headless body. (I don't often get to write a sentence like that very often.) And for some reason in its adventures, the bodyless hit figures out it is truly in trouble when it starts to sink into the giant...)
Pace SAmith http://www.lambiek.net/artists/h/hanks_fletcher.htm