Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Supergirl by Robert Oksner

Robert 'Bob' Oksner

Indelibly linked to the "funny papers" by long stretches of time working on syndicated newspaper strips, Bob Oksner was a New York University undergraduate who held a MA from Columbia.

His initial academic interest was law, but a stint editing a campus humor magazine switched his focus to art. Upon graduation, he became an art and history high school teacher for a few years, before finding employment with Funnies, Inc.

That company produced comic work later sold to publishers like Timely.

In 1942, he was hired away from Funnies to work directly (if non-exclusively) for Timely on some of their earlier titles, like Marvel Boy.

By the end of World War II, however, he switched his focus to drawing newspaper strips. It would be the first of many times he would hop back and forth between comics and cartoons.

In 1945, he began a two-year stint on the strip, Miss Cairo Jones, where his strong presentation of the female form (both attitudinally and physically) attracted the attention of DC chief, Sheldon Mayer. After the strip was cancelled in 1947, Mayer lured Oksner back to comics with an invitation to draw the late Golden Age appearances of the Black Canary.

As super-heroes (or, really, in Oksner's case, super-heroines) faded from newsstands, Oksner switched to humor and licensed adaptation books. He enjoyed long runs as the principal artist on The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and the later Jerry Lewis solo title. He also found his way into the pages of Pat Boone, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Adventures of Bob Hope and others.

During the 1950s he continued his lifelong association with newspaper strips by drawing the I Love Lucy adaptation.

By the late 1950s, DC was beginning to shift away from humor magazines and licensed adaptations. For a time he dabbled in the romance genre, like Girl's Love Stories.

However, it became apparent that Oksner was going to have to return to the super-hero genre that had brought him to DC in the first place. Unsurprisingly, he was heavily involved with many of DC's more prominent female characters, like Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Lois Lane.

Eventually, he formed a partnership with Curt Swan, happily taking the "second chair" as Swan's principal inker during Swan's Superman heyday. It was one of the few times he worked in the adventure genre on a title headlined by a male character.

In 1968, he again moonlit as a newspaper strip man with Soozie — unsurprisingly starring a female titular character. This short run was quickly followed by his biggest syndicated success, Dondi. Collaborating with friend Irwin Hasen, he added writing to his catalogue of skills by being the series' chief plotter. The strip continued until 1986.

By that time he had retired his pens for around two years. When the last Dondi strip appeared, Oksner himself entered a deep and long retirement from drawing that lasted until his death, almost a quarter of a century later.

Nevertheless, he maintained enough affection for the comics industry that he could occasionally be found at comics conventions into the early 21st century.




Notes:
Despite a long and varied career in sequential art, he wasn't really responsible for creating many long-running characters, aside from Dondi. HIs creations tend to fade quite quickly, like Miss Cairo Jones, Angel and Ape and Miss Beverly Hills.

Of all the DC women he drew, he is perhaps most associated with whom we would today call "Supergirl of Earth-1" and "Lois Lane of Earth-1". He enjoyed a long run on for Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane Likewise, he was involved of every phase of Supergirl's solo life, not only drawing for her time as the Adventure headliner, but also both her pre-Crisis solo titles. It would be fair to call him the "Curt Swan of Supergirl".

His association with Supergirl was so complete, that one wonders about the effect of his retirement upon her death less than a year later. Indeed, it can be said that his work for Lois Lane may have even had an effect upon the particular way in which Supergirl's death was portrayed. Examination of his cover to Lois Lane #128 


reveals a striking — if perhaps coincidental — similarity to the iconic 
depiction of Supergirl's death on the cover to CoIE#7.


















Penciller: Adventure Comics (1938) #410,411,414,415,417
Inker: Adventure Comics (1938) #411-415,417-424
Cover Artist:  Supergirl (1972) #1-10

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1 comment:

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