Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cranky Hanky

:It will not be a happy trip.:

Monday's Benjamen Walker program on WFMU features an interview concerning Golden Age comic book artist Fletcher Hanks, no relation to Tom as far as I know. He is an interesting character to study, for a couple of reasons.

For one thing, he was born in 1879. If you do the math, that means that when he was writing and drawing the adventures of Stardust and Phantoma--among others--he was around the start of his sixties. Now there is an honored class of oldster comic book artists: John Byrne, Frank Miller, and Richard Corben, in the mainstream comics. In the late thirties/early forties, comics were a young man's game. A game for young men who could live on almost no money. This was because it was a brand new medium. The only other comics artist of note who was in late middle age was Wonder Woman co-creator Harry G. Peter, who had considerably more history as an illustrator than did Hanks.

Hanks is also fascinating in the crossed frameworks of art and pathology. To put it plainly he was a nasty piece of work. In his private life, we know that he committed some vicious acts of child abuse against son Fletcher Jr., and his wife probably got the same or worse. In his stories, villains are established as evil so that the hero can spend a goodly amount of time killing and torturing them. It's ctuel and crude. What it isn't is calculated. While he was a fairly rough artist, you see occasional flashes of visual brilliance. You also see the id at work on the page, unconscious of how it looks.

Then you'll probably need a stiff drink.


susan said...

Definitely a strange man with a decidedly perverse pov but interesting in retrospect.

Ben said...

Yeah. I wonder if Crumb knew of him. I can see him in the early days going, "Okay, these sexual fantasy confessions might be a little out there, but I'm a little more together than this guy."