Synopses & Reviews
A dizzying collection from the Ed Wood of comics.
Welcome to the bizarre world of Fletcher Hanks, Super Wizard of the Inkwell. Fletcher Hanks worked for only a few years in the earliest days of the comic book industry (1939-1941). Because he worked in a gutter medium for second-rate publishers on third-rate characters, his work has been largely forgotten. But among aficionados he is legendary.
At the time, comic books were in their infancy. The rules governing their form and content had not been established. In this "Anything Goes" era, Hanks' work stands out for its thrilling experimentation. At once both crude and visionary, cold and hot as hell, Hanks' work is hard to pigeon hole. One thing is for certain: the stuff is bent.
Hanks drew in a variety of genres depicting science-fiction saviors, white women of the jungle, and he-man loggers. Whether he signed these various stories "Henry Fletcher" or "Hank Christy" or "Barclay Flagg" there is no mistaking the unique outsider style of Fletcher Hanks.
Cartoonist Paul Karasik (co-adapter of Paul Auster's City of Glass, and co-author of The Ride Together: A Memoir of Autism in the Family) has spent years tracking down these obscure and hard to find stories buried in the back of long-forgotten comic book titles. Karasik has also uncovered a dark secret: why Hanks disappeared from the comics scene.
This book collects 15 of his best stories in one volume followed by an afterword which solves the mystery of "Whatever Happened to Fletcher Hanks," the mysterious cartoonist who created a hailstorm of tales of brutal retribution...and then mysteriously vanished.
"'One of the strangest cartoonists of American comics' Golden Age, Hanks had a short career the 15 stories collected here were all published between 1939 and 1941 but the deranged, nightmarish vigor of his work has made it something of a cult item. Hanks created pulpy characters like Stardust the Super Wizard, 'the scientific marvel whose vast knowledge of all planets has made him the most remarkable person ever known,' and the jungle heroine Fantomah, whose face becomes a snarling skull when she uses her magic powers. The artist's manic obsessions turn up again and again: global-scale atrocities, miraculous rays and, most of all, poetically apt punishments. In a typical story, 'Master-Mind' De Structo tries to suffocate America's heads of state with an oxygen-destroying ray, so Stardust turns him into a giant head, then hurls him into a 'space pocket of living death' occupied by a 'headless headhunter.' Hanks's artwork is crude and technically limited (each of his characters has exactly one, wildly caricatured, facial expression), but nearly every page has some image that sings out with deep, primal power. In an afterword, editor Paul Karasik explains how he tracked down Hanks's son and learned a bit more about the artist's sad life and death. (July)' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Fletcher Hanks was this old guy back in the old days who made magic jellybeans. The magic jellybeans looked like comics, but they were magic jellybeans." Gary Panter
"There is something cracked here. The feeling is that of a third grader in the back row drawing unbelievably complex destructo-machines while inside of him a grown man boils with hate and rage: Kill them all! And where did those jaws come from?" Greil Marcus
"Hanks is a wild-card original who very nearly slipped through the cracks of art history. To those among us who spend years sifting through the cultural chaff looking for those tiny flecks of art gold, this book is truly a miraculous dream come true." Kim Deitch
"Fletcher Hanks couldn't draw much or write hardly at all. So he turned his crude and primitive quasi-gifts into a comic-art style that made a strong impression on kids like me back in the 1940s. It's a pleasure to see this first published edition of his puzzlingly effective work doing what early comic books were supposed to do: making up a new set of rules for a new kind of art form and almost getting away with it." Jules Feiffer
Welcome to the bizarre world of Fletcher Hanks, the mysterious cartoonist who created a hailstorm of tales of brutal retribution from 1939-1941...and then mysteriously vanished. His obscure and hard to find stories are finally collected here.
About the Author
Paul Karasik was Associate Editor of Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly's avant garde international comics and graphics review "Raw" and the editor of his own magazine, Bad News. In collaboration with artist David Mazzucchelli, he adapted Paul Auster's novel City of Glass as a graphic novel. He lives in West Tisbury, MA.