August 15, 2010

Unusual Tales - Starlight, Starbright


"Unusual Tales", a series presenting Steve Ditko's comics from 1957 to 1959 that are in the public domain.

"Starlight, Starbright" is a 3-page story from Charlton's FROM HERE TO INSANITY #1 [1957].

Charlton's response to Harvey Kurtzman's success with MAD over at EC began as a full colour comic, EH!, which ran for seven issues from 1953 to 1954, with the tagline "Dig This Crazy Comic".  In 1955 they decided to make the mental health reference more explicit with a title change to FROM HERE TO INSANITY.  There was even a Ditko story and cover in one issue (his only work published in 1955). Shortly after EC made the switch from colour comic to black and white magazine with MAD, Charlton did the same thing, first publishing FROM HERE TO INSANITY #12, with the prominent sub-title "Crazy, Man, Crazy" on the cover, and then restarting the numbering with CRAZY, MAN, CRAZY #1.  They evidently didn't share the success MAD had with the switch, and only two issues of CRAZY, MAN, CRAZY came out.  Almost a year after the last one, there was this new first issue of FROM HERE TO INSANITY (with the title "Crazy, Man, Crazy" more prominent on the cover), officially "Volume 3, Number 1".  The title was then changed to THIS MAGAZINE IS CRAZY for the next issue, but there's no further Ditko in there, so let us not dwell on the further permutations of the title.  Anyway, this is a mostly black and white magazine, with the occasional dose of either blue or red (usually used for full illustrations or text, not as colouring), except for the covers and two full colour interior pages.

Anyway, the story is one of Ditko's rare early forays into humour, doing a parody of short magazine biographies of celebrities with some text about a musical theater star contrasted with the actual truth about her abilities and rise to stardom.  Goofy, but entertaining.  This also seems to be Ditko's first comic book work published in black and white.  He uses a few different techniques to add tones to the art, effects he also occasionally used in his colour work of the period.  Anyway, an interesting curiosity.  Also, see if you can spot where Ditko put his name in there.

Most scans in this series adapted to my personal tastes from those found, and available for free download with registration, at the Golden Age Comics Download site. To buy some Ditko comics go over here for ordering info on his available creator owned material co-published with Robin Snyder (new book coming soon) and head over here for info on all recent and upcoming books with Ditko from all publishers. And be sure to check out DITKOMANIA, the Ditko fanzine, currently running bi-monthly and with some great art and articles.

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