60s Comics: A Brief History – By Max Galli, (Part 3)
At the end of 1967, psychedelia was spreading everywhere. It began with the introduction of mind-expanding drugs, and went on to influence music and most visual arts, including – of course – comics.
A couple of young French artists called Jean Rollin and Nicolas Devil (being the first one a script writer and the second an underground painter) created the first psychedelic comic book ever: Saga De Xam. It’s the story of planet Xam, a peaceful world populated only by women, invaded by aliens who know the art of war. Beautiful Saga, the girl with the blue skin, begins her journey through various ages, looking for a way to save her planet. Magnificently drawn, with plenty of psychedelic graphics and details, Saga De Xam was way ahead of most of late 60s comic art. The book, published by Eric Losfeld (yeah, the same publisher of Barbarella, Jodelle and Pravda), was printed on heavy paper (300+ grams) and sold as a luxury edition. Nowadays, only few copies survive, as the book itself has become a most treasured possession for a very small group of discerning collectors.
In the UK, brilliant SF writer Jo Addams, one of the very few females writing in the medium, and Barcelona-born illustrator Luis M. Roca, created a space heroine who – because of a car accident –dies and becomes the guinea pig for a scientific experiment that reincarnates her with a new life and a new identity. The plot is quite interesting, as Scarth (our eponymous heroine) finds herself in an unfamiliar world, where she can’t remember anything from her previous life and has to rebuild everything from scratch. The year is 1969. The place is London, where pop culture is still producing new concepts. The comic strip, published in The Sun for a few years, proved to be an instant success, as Scarth was the first British comic character to appear completely naked in a newspaper, and one of very few spacewomen. Roca’s drawings are extremely suggestive and take inspiration from pop-psychedelic graphics as well as Art Nouveau decorative art, and the story is just irresistible, as it never runs out of new ideas. Space journeys, fashion, adventures in strange worlds … Scarth’s new life is full of interesting stories and catchy graphic solutions.
Back in the US, 1966 and 1967 were the years of a revolutionary American comic: Phoebe Zeit-Geist. The dynamic duo, Springer-O’Donoghue, created a bizarre adventure with – maybe – a bit too much emphasis upon necrophilia and sado-masochism, as 24 year-old Phoebe is submitted to various tortures and dies many times in many ways. Graphically speaking, Phoebe Zeit-Geist looks like a bizarre mixture of early 1940s comics and Liechtenstein’s pop-comic-art, as the authors didn’t introduce many significant new elements to it. The plot of this comic book intended to satirize violence in contemporary living. This, I believe, is only partially achieved.
In the US mainstream, Jim Steranko added precious and innovative op-art graphic details to the American comic industry, making his ‘Nick Fury, Agent of the S.H.I.E.L.D.’ one of the finest Marvel comics ever. His influence led to a sort of ‘new wave’ of US comic art.
In 1965, Madrid-born Esteban Maroto created one of the best SF comics ever. Cinco por Infinito, published in the US as Zero Patrol. This series was far ahead of its time, introducing interesting psychedelic graphic elements ahead of the breaking wave. The comic was slaughtered by Warren Publishing editor Neal Adams, who applied heavy ‘corrections’ to it, despite Maroto’s growing popularity in the US. The original version only survives in Spanish.
In the second half of the 1960s, eroticism replaced action as the main subject for comic strips. Georges Pichard, a former art teacher from France, started to draw adventure comics as early as 1963, but switched to erotica in 1967, creating Blanche Epiphanie, the saga of a chaste girl who is continuously abused by ruthless men. Blanche is a girl who expects life to be better than what it is. Very different is the other famous character from Pichard, Paulette. Created in 1969/70, Paulette is a spoiled rich girl who spends money to offset boredom, always looking for new kicks. Drawn in a rich black and white style, Paulette has beautiful Art Nouveau frames and psychedelic graphics.
There is much more to be said about 1960s comics. Take this as it is: a sort of ‘taster’ of the whole phenomenon. Hope you readers liked it and – maybe – would like to know a bit more.
Here’s a string of names and books for you. The rest is action.
Originally posted 2011-05-25 13:51:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter