My One Sketch Card
Now, normally, my preferences in original art center on the production end of things. That is, I prefer comic art that was actually used in the production of a comic. I like seeing how the page was built, and how various effects were achieved. I like to see non-repro blue pencil underlays, and peeling zip-a-tone, and pen lines that have faded to more of a sepia brown, and margin notes to the production manager, and globs of white paint to correct errant lines. There's nothing wrong with commissioned art that is done as a pin-up type piece, but I'm just more personally interested in the practical commercial aspect of comic art. How does an artist create a beautiful piece of art under the constraints of a monthly production schedule?
I therefore don't generally pay for commissions (at least, not ones featuring characters owned by third parties -- e.g. Marvel and DC) and I don't bother much with sketches. I've got a few of those, but most were freely offered by the artist as I purchased something from him. So why did I go ahead and get this particular sketch card?
Well, first off, I thought Don Martin's Captain Klutz was a great character. A great deal of that came from Martin himself, obviously. His gags in Mad were often comic genius, and that translated almost surprisingly well to the more long-form nature of his Captain Klutz stories. The character was pretty much the exclusive domain of Martin, and the character is uniquely tied to Martin's humor and illustration style. I seem to recall hearing at one point that there were some copyright issues regarding the character, and that's why he's never really shown up anywhere outside a handful of Mad's book series.
Fred Hembeck was essentially the first fan I was aware of that was "living the dream" as it were. He got to draw comic strips ABOUT all the great superheroes that I knew and loved back in the day. Drawing himself as a character in his own strips, he'd interview everyone from Superman and Spider-Man to Brother Power and Brother Voodoo. He had a very different style than Martin, more cerebral (i.e. geeky) and less slapstick, but distinctive. He seemed as much of a fanboy as the rest of us, and he was getting DC and Marvel to pay him for it! He even got a chance to destroy the Marvel Universe!
So, yeah, there's something of a nostalgia factor in picking up a sketch card of Captain Klutz by Fred Hembeck. But the big reason is for the illustration factor. Both Martin's and Hembeck's styles were extremely distinctive and, seemingly, incompatible. Martin's figures tended to be tall and lean, with this weird extra hinge joint in their feet. They always seemed to embody energetic movement, even when they were standing still. Hembeck's figures tended to be stockier and bulkier. Their movement was not typically very dramatic, and many of the strips he drew were just the two figures sitting or standing next to each other talking. Also, they all had weird swirlies on their knees.
Even looking at the scan Hembeck posted on the eBay auction, it was hard for me to reconcile the two art styles in a single image. This wasn't like a Hembeck-drawn Batman -- we've seen so many iterations of the character that any version is pretty acceptable. But for Hembeck to draw a character so completely tied to the style of another artist? Even seeing it, I couldn't quite process it.
Hembeck sent the card promptly, and well-packaged in case anyone's interested. But as I sit here typing this, I'm still finding it difficult to pick through what is Martin's and what is Hembeck's. I mean, logically, I can pick out which details stem from which artist, but that's not making it any easier on my lizard brain to sort it all out!