Thursday, May 16, 2013

More Fred Guardineer

I've mentioned before I'm a big fan of Fred Guardineer. His strong, deliberate line, his use of parallel lines to define shapes, mass, and patterns and juxtapose them against other lines. And, knowing when to leave space open to define shape and dimension. With Zatara, he'd become famous for magician characters, especially the backwards speaking variety. There couldn't be too many companies for which he didn't do a magician hero or two.

Yet before that, he worked at the short-lived Centaur comics where he seemed to be their go-to artist. He did illustrations for various text stories, most notably Dan Hastings, but also other he-man adventurer types. He did sci-fi comics in the Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers type. While he didn't have quite the natural feel of Alex Raymond, he was quite a bit slicker than the art found in the daily Bucks. He also did illustrations for advertising, and slice of life pieces. In this day and age where the time period seems to be one of black and white, his pieces were full of vibrant color.

During this time, his weaknesses came from his strengths. That deliberate line lent a certain artificiality to the world. He was great on patterns, but rarely captured textures and atmosphere as things were often a little too pristine, too ordered and organized. He was Art Deco when he could stand to be a little Art Nouveau, to let a little wildness and seeming arbitrariness in. Figures were often stiff and posed, as life-like as store mannequins. In ten years, he'd show that he conquered some of these shortcomings when working on Durango.

Still, looking at his artwork in the context of what would come after, what would make up the great variety of 1940s comicbook art, and his technical skill and mastery is undeniable. Admittedly, during the later years, many of the more technically proficient artists would be at War as well as being influenced by the bombastic styles of Lou Fine and Simon & Kirby. And, Guardineer was here a bit before them, showing the level of detail and clarity that was obtainable. When looking at his backgrounds and scenes, it's not hard to see echoes of it in Simon & Kirby's depictions of city life or Fine's fantastic buildings, weapons and explosions, the clarity in C.C. Beck's Captain Marvel story-telling, and Mort Meskin's own atmospheric use of lines, patterns and shapes.

These few illos are from 1938 issues of Star Comics and can be found on With that one Dan Hastings pic from below, he came close to doing the first patriotic themed hero!