Friday, August 3, 2012

Smokey Stover Original Art Reveals the Slow Fanning of Bill Holman's Masterpiece

Smokey Stover Fireday!

A New Bill Holman Smokey Stover every Friday!

Continuing our Original Art Week, here's some various originals of Smokey Stover comics by Bill Holman. In studying Holman's originals, we can see that his style develops over a period of several years. We can also see, in his mature work, that his form follows his intended function. His art is as jam-packed with inking technique as his content is overstuffed with gags, wordplay, and visual puns. Holman had a steady, sure hand with a brush and pen. We forget that Holman wrote and drew a syndicated daily strip (Junior) for seven years before he started Smokey. As if that weren't enough, Holman also accomplished a successful career as a magazine gag cartoonist for another seven years between Junior and Smokey. He had plenty of time and motivation to refine his art for commercial reproduction purposes. By the time he started Smokey in 1935, Holman had a great deal of technique and expertise under his firehat. Check out this original from the 3rd month of the strip:

Smokey Stover by Bill Holman - June 2, 1935 (original art)

About eight months later, Holman has refined his style a little more. The panels are more visually dense. His lettering is exactly the same style he used in his 1924-31 daily strip, Junior.

Smokey Stover by Bill Holman - Feb. 9, 1936 (original art)

And now, here's a Smokey in full flame, from about 12 years later, from Independence Day, 1948. This is the most famous and appreciated style of the strip, a patchwork quilt of humor and surrealism. When you study the original art, you can truly appreciate the craft that Holman developed over many years to be able to create these compressed bouillon cubes of screwballism every week, and make it look easy. The "high style" of Smokey Stover represents a conscious accumulation of techniques.

Note that this 1948 comic's topper (on the bottom - the Spooky strip) has the same "BAM!" panel as the 1936 strip -- a July 4 comic would, of course, need a BAM. Also note the paste-over in the second panel of Spooky.

Smokey Stover by Bill Holman - July 4, 1948

Thanks foo reading!

Ask not what your foo can do for foo, but what foo can foo foo foo,
Paul Foomey

1 comment:

  1. Wow! what a treat to find this on the Web! As a kid I loved to read Smoky Stover in the Sunday comics, which were always the main section of the Sunday paper, wrapped around the rest of the paper on the display stands. You got to forget the bad real news and get some laughs on Sundays. Loved the surrealism of this strip even then. Works of genius really! Thanks!