31) February 24, 2016
I’m taking a few days off from my serialized posting of the original art pages to my uncollected 1994 graphic novel, “The Mark In America” to post and blog about one of the highlights of my collection, the complete set of all 9 pages of original artwork, by Lee Elias, to “Banker’s Holiday”, starring the Black Cat. The story was first printed in “Black Cat” #2, published by Harvey Comics in August/September 1946, reprinted in “Black Cat” #10 (1948), and still later in “The Original Black Cat” #5, published by Lorne-Harvey in 1991. This is page #1.
I bought all 9 pages at Comic-Con International 2002 (I think) for a mere $700. The dealer had a lot of different examples of Elias as I recall, but none as good as this. By this time in the late afternoon (on Friday?) I had already surpassed my budgeted limit but this was too good to pass up, so I made a quick beeline to the nearest ATM and returned with the cash in a flash. After I had the pages securely in my sweaty hands I asked the dealer why he was selling so cheap. “It’s on consignment”, he shrugged. Whatever. I could have seen paying more than $700 for this single page (much MUCH more than that, now). Actually, I paid another $250 for it, to Gordon G. Christman, renowned original comic art restorer, to imitate and place the original logo. Perfectionist that he was (in March 2012), he managed to simulated the tanning of the rest of the piece. I’m posting the before and after versions for your delectation.
The splash panel…Talk about iconographic, frightening, appealing, appalling, beautifully inked, and staged. My jaws hung open when I first saw it. I imagine Dr. Fredrick Werthram seeing it as well, filing it along with his other examples of pornographic filth perverting the minds of young Caucasian Americans. I’m surprised EC didn’t swipe this image for Shock Suspense Stories. And I love the grace note of the lynch mob’s calves, horse’s legs, clumps of grass, the shadows on tree along the bottom edge of the panel.
THEN there’s the first story panel taking up the bottom 3rd of the page: more sedate but still awesome in its simplicity, terseness and almost casual skill. I LOVE how he spots the blacks on the foreground figures versus the middle ground moviemaking hardware versus the background small town building facades. It tells you everything you need to know about the setting and characters, all in one concise image. It pleases me to imagine that Mr. Elias was almost shaking with the knowledge that he was on fire as he completed this page. And it gets better from here. (To Be Continued)
This is page #1 of “Banker’s Holiday”, starring Black Cat, from Black Cat #2, published by Harvey Comics in 1946.