Sunday, May 27, 2018

THE MALTESE FALCON Comic Book (1946)

Happy Birthday, Dashiell Hammett!

Last year around this time, I celebrated by posting this 1946 David McKay comic book adaptation one chapter a day, which made for a whole lot of posts. This time, I'm hitting you with the whole thing at once. If you happened to see it last year, be assured it's well worth reading again.

The stylish artwork is by Rodlow Willard, best known for his work from 1946-1954 on the Scorchy Smith comic strip.



Stephen Mertz said...

Wonderful. Missed it last time around. Nice to have it in one post. Thanks for posting

Cap'n Bob said...

Have you seen the all-avian version of this? The bird who plays Spade says, "I won't play the sapsucker for you!"

franzgeistworm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
franzgeistworm said...

No Flitcraft and no Rhea Gutman, but they're not in the 1941 film either. Am tempted to download and color print at Kinkos. It would cost more than 10¢ but might be worth it. Why is one page B&W? Thank you for posting.

Evan Lewis said...

The black and white page was on the inside back cover. The final page, in which the colors registered more solidly, was on the back cover. There was only one ad (the inside front) in the whole book.

Smurfswacker said...

I've revisited this page many times in the couple of years since I discovered it. Each time I'm prevented from commenting because I keep hearing my mother's voice: "If you can't say something nice..." Sorry, Mom, I can't hold it in any longer. The script of this adaptation is fine, but the comic is killed by Rodlow Willard's abominable artwork. Grotesque figures, no backgrounds, no atmosphere, no staging, no nothin'. Parenthetically I must add that Willard brought the same craft to the Scorchy Smith strip, where he murdered the grand tradition of Noel Sickles, Bert Christman, and Frank Robbins. Bleah!!

This started me on a what-if exercise. Which comic book artist working at the time would have done a GOOD job drawing The Maltese Falcon? I limited myself to artists who were capable of high-quality work in 1947. This eliminated some of my favorites, like Wallace Wood and John Severin, because they were just getting started and hadn't yet developed the chops.

My suggestions: (1) First and foremost, George Tuska. His work for Lev Gleason's Crime Does Not Pay would have fit Hammett perfectly. Tuska drew great tough guys and sexy women both classy and cheap. He had a knack for locale, and wasn't afraid to put in the work on backgrounds and atmosphere. A Tuska Falcon would have been a classic.

(2) Reed Crandall is a close runner-up. He'd been around longer than Tuska and was a superb figure artist who could draw macho heroes and seductive ladies. He was also good at atmospheric (and authentic) backgrounds. To this point he'd mainly drawn superheroes and Blackhawk for Quality. He'd really bust loose a few years later at EC Comics. The only reason I put him second to Tuska is that he didn't have Tuska's special flair for cops and gangsters.

(3) Like Crandall, Jack Kamen would also hit his stride later at EC. In 1947 he was still developing but already was good at two staples of detective stories, busty dames and men in suits. For Fiction House he drew jungle girls and supernatural strips. His panel layouts were somewhat chaotic, but so were all Fiction House strips. I think Kamen would have brought things under control for the Falcon and would have done a fine job.

(4) Last place goes to legendary "Good Girl" artist Matt Baker,. If the Falcon had been published 3 or 4 years later Baker would be near the top of my list. Check out his 1950 graphic novel It Rhymes with Lust for proof. Unfortunately in 1947 he was at Fiction House and Fox, honing his skills on the likes of Sky Girl and The Phantom Lady. His sexy babes were fully-developed (in both senses of the word) but his guys and backgrounds were still weak.

There, got it off my chest. I'd be curious if anyone else has a candidate.