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HUMBUG 3/7/09 part five
Written by Jason Miles | Filed under Humbug 5 Mar 2009 5:00 PM

Your prayers have been answered!

More photos of original HUMBUG art by the likes of Will Elder (gush! gush!), Al Jaffee (get laughy with Jaffee!) and Arnold Roth (makes a mean chicken fat broth!).

The work pictured below will be on display at the Fantagraphics Books this Saturday March 7th to celebrate the release of HUMBUG.

 

The original for Will Elder's "Fake Santa Clauses" from HUMBUG #6, including tissue overlay indicating where to place the spot color.

 

The same without overlay. What you can't see in the photo are the several different pieces of paper glued together making the drawing complete. It wouldn't be altogether inappropriate to call this piece a collage. If I remember right, there's 6 to 8 different pieces of paper fixed together for the drawing alone, not including the lettering and type. 

Note the white paint. I seem to hear a lot of talk about how much or how little a cartoonist uses white paint... implying the less white paint the better... This has always struck me as comics-jock bullshit...  I've even read cartoonists advertise the sale of their original art with sheepish addendum's shamefully stating the use of white paint (and by "white paint" of course I mean white-out or correction fluid, etc.). I'm here to tell you (or you could see the show yourself) that for HUMBUG, Elder & Jaffee (Roth's a different story) used A LOT of white paint and A LOT of different pieces of paper... some of their originals look like they committed cartoon surgery! AND the printed work is neither better nor worse for it! The printed work is fucking awesome! These guys were/are super human talents and it's pretty cool to peak behind the printed process (circa 1955 to 2009) to catch a glimpse of how they made their masterpieces.

 

Here's a detail. Notice the cut line around "Fake Santa Clauses" head...

I had the good fortune to go through A LOT of original art for HUMBUG. Primarily I went through originals for the three aforementioned cartoonists. The most common reoccurring tendency for all three cartoonists, the one thing that unified their craft, was the numerous times they re-drew and pasted on a characters head or face.

 

Here's a detail from a piece by Arnold Roth. Roth's originals are quite a bit different than Elder's and Jaffee's. There's hardly any white paint used for correction. When Roth uses white paint he uses it for effect. Spy the white paint in the hatching surrounding the characters above. But! Time and time again, exhibited in Roth's originals, there are many heads re-drawn and pasted overtop pre-existing work.

 

Detail of Old Blue Eyes by God - Whoops! I mean Will Elder! Check out the new cranium Elder fashioned for Sinatra... Now, I have my theories about all this. It's no secret Harvey Kurtzman was a perfectionist and it's not hard to imagine him asking a cartoonist to change a characters facial expression...

 

... but I had my doubts, simply from the sheer amount of correction and collage found in Elder and Jaffee's work, it's equally not hard to imagine them turning in their pages with re-drawn heads. Going through Arnold Roth's originals however has reaffirmed my hunch that Kurtzman was directing the facial character or "acting" of his fellow cartoonists' work. The only "correction" a Roth HUMBUG original ever exhibits is when he's redrawn a characters head or face, as is the case above with his pin-up of Dave Beck from HUMBUG #1.

 

Tangent Time: Seattleites and Teamsters take note! I can't express how happy I am to have Roth's original, satirical pin-up of Seattle's own Dave Beck hanging in our gallery/bookstore. My Mother's side of the family hails from this neck of the woods and it just so happens they were neighbors of Beck's back in the 50's... right around the time Roth penned this piece. My Mother and Aunt played with Beck's kids as he was being interrogated by Robert F. Kennedy and when he was succeeded as the President of the Teamsters Union by...

 

... Jimmy Hoffa by Arnold Roth with redrawn head from HUMBUG #7.

Parting Note: Astute readers and happy owners of our HUMBUG collection can flip open the first volume to the title page and peep examples where Jack Davis re-drew Karl Malden's face !