Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Golden Age of Comics you’ve never seen

On 3/31/10, I spoke at the Newport Public Library in Newport, Rhode Island.

It wasn’t my talk that merits a post but rather what happened afterward.

A man named Joseph Alaino came up to me and politely showed me superhero drawings he’d made as a kid. That alone was not remarkable. Many kids draw superheroes and some still have them as adults.

What was remarkable with respect to Joseph is that he is 79 years old. That means his drawings—made at least as early as 1943, when he was 12—are from the Golden Age of Comics.

Comics from the Golden Age of Comics are the most valuable comics in history.

Original, professional comic art from the Golden Age of Comics is also highly valuable.

But what about fan art from the Golden Age of Comics?

Though not valuable in the financial sense, it’s probably nearly as rare. And what makes it rarer in this case is not only that Joseph kept it all these decades but bothered to bring it to an event like mine and show it to someone.

Joseph’s art is a vivid window on the superhero culture in its earliest years. Kids these days have more than a half a century’s worth of characters to draw upon when creating new ones. Joseph had about five years’ worth. And granted those were five colorful and crowded years for capes, it’s still interesting to see what character names and designs Joseph used.

Before Joseph, I’d never wondered what kid-made superheroes of the Golden Age might’ve looked like. With his permission, here are but a few of his many drawings:

I suspect this was influenced by the Green Lantern oath, though Joseph didn't remember:

This last one caught my eye because I could instantly tell the cover he swiped the pose from:

Joseph also has a scrapbook of images he cut out from Golden Age comics when he was a kid:

Of course I had to say "You know how much these would've been worth if you'd kept them intact?" And his unsurprising answer was "Don't remind me."

Joseph was more than kind to allow me to post these images. So please show him the respect he deserves by not reposting without asking first.

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