Recently I have been enjoying Fantagraphics’ second volume of comics by Fletcher Hanks, the mysterious man who wrote and drew an impressive number of comics all by himself from 1939-41, then abruptly quit. Hanks’ own son never even knew that he had been a cartoonist. If you’re not familiar with these reissues, they’re irresistible reading. Hanks’ wrote primitive sci-fi stories with some kind of impending armageddon in every panel. His wild and imaginative characters speak in hilariously stiff dialogue, and his powerful compositions and amped-up color schemes showcase “action” figures that are drawn in the most awkward and artificial poses. It’s a fascinating combination.
One of the things that’s making me chuckle is his obvious use of repetition. When Hanks had a face or a pose that he liked, he would seemingly cut corners by tracing it and using it over and over again. Now, I’m a big fan of cutting corners, and like most cartoonists, I basically draw the same nondescript face in every cartoon, because that’s part of what helps the gags to work. But Hanks uses the same face for all of his protagonists: Big Red McLane, the hero of one comic, basically changes his clothes to become Stardust, the hero of the next. Still, it’s great fun. Here is a gallery of his main character (notice how I did not make that word plural):
But wait – how do you draw a bad guy? Wait for it…. wait for it….