I don’t think this week’s review will be at center of a firestorm like last week’s review of Abraham’s Riesman’s The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee. As you may have read, the “controversial” biography is another deep dive Stan Lee biography. And in this arena with so many passionate fans, everyone has an opinion. It certainly has generated heated discussions.
On the other hand, Fantagraphic’s Comics Ad Men by Steven Brower is also the type of book that I’m eager to read, but somehow had escaped my notice. It came out in 2019, but I just learned about it and I snagged a copy last month.
Many comic professionals don’t do just one thing. In the up-and-down world of creatives, it’s generally important to be able to work on different types of assignments, sometimes in different industries. When one thing gets slow, there’s a need to work on another.
Steve Brower has assembled a top-notch showcase of comics artists that produced traditional (and some non-traditional) advertising. There’s wonderful examples of from artists like Neal Adams, C.C. Beck, Stan Drake, Creig Flessel, Noel Sickles, Basil Wolverton, and so many more.
Brower also provides some background to help readers understand those halcyon Mad Men days of advertising firms. There are fascinating stories about DDB, Young & Rubican, McCann Erickson, Leo Burnett and Johnston & Cushing. This informative look into the past is peppered by industry luminaries like Joe Kubert and one of his students-turned-pro, Thom (Love and Capes) Zahler.
In that classic age of ad agencies, Westport, Connecticut was a bedroom community for Madison Avenue . But I also learned here that there was an artist’s drop off spot in that town. Illustrators could drop off their work late at night. It would get to the agencies by 10 am., and then they’d get their next assignments later day. Who needed email, Dropbox or Slack?