Frank Springer passed away late last week.
To most fans, this may not be on the same level as the passing of Kirby, Kane or Toth, but it hits me pretty hard.
Frank Springer had a long and varied career in both funnybooks and comic strips. I consider him to be a charter member of the Criminally Underappreciated Comic Book Artists Club.
For years, I took almost no note of Springer’s work, to the point where I wouldn’t have even known his name. He was just one of the nameless artists cranking out work. This is back when I was only interested in the likes of Adams, Perez and Byrne. Over time, I matured as a comic reader and started to appreciate some of the artists I’d previously overlooked. Many of these had very distinctive styles, and might have rubbed me the wrong way at some point because they didn’t fit the ‘house style’ that was popular at either Marvel or DC.
What I very slowly learned was that so many of my favourite stories had been drawn by Frank Springer. Eventually, it got to the point where I was always delighted whenever I saw that great little ‘Frank Springer’ signature on the splash page of a story. He may not have infused the page with the same raw energy of a Kirby or with the slick realism of an Adams, but the man certainly knew how to tell a story.
I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight a few of my favourite comics drawn by the late, great Frank Springer. Many of you may be most familiar with his work at Marvel in the 70s and 80s, doing a fantastic job on Dazzler, and lending a hand where needed on titles such as Marvel Two-in-One, Spider-Woman and the Invaders. I’d like to travel a bit further back in my personal time machine to 60s, when Springer must have been one of the busiest men in comics.
Let’s start with the most obvious. I highlighted John Stanley’s Tales From the Tomb last October as one of my top 5 favourite horror books. Springer contributed much of the artwork to this legendary book, with the highlight being “Mr. Green Must Be Fed”. After reading this one, you may never look at a rug the same way. This book is a must-have for any horror comic fan.
In the late 60s, Jim Steranko was rapidly ascending to god-like status in the comic book industry. Frank Springer was given the rather daunting task of following him on Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD. Here’s the thing; those Springer-drawn issues hold up remarkably well today. Aside from some rather racy indie stuff, he’d done mainly Dell work up to this point, and when he was finally released from the rather rigid 6-8 panel pages at Dell, Springer demonstrated that he was a very innovative and imaginative artist.
Around the same time, Springer helped launch one of the more entering series produced by DC in the late 60s. Secret Six has become a real cult favourite over time, and Springer’s funky (yes, I said funky) artwork is surely a large part of the reason behind its enduring popularity.
Springer also produced very fine work for Dell in a variety of titles. Springer did much of the heavy lifting on Ghost Stories in the mid to late 60s. Many of these stories are very entertaining, and it’s still a relative bargain for a Silver Age book. A while back, I wrote about my love for Dell’s Flying Saucers series (see what I mean about Springer working on so many of my favourite?) and how it is strangely appealing. These are often very short, partly formed accounts of UFO encounters that Springer (and others) helped bring to life. It’s another series worth re-visiting.
Finally, I’d like to discuss a series that many of you may not have seen before. If I were to recommend picking up one Springer-drawn series, it would be Toka, Jungle King. Why? Well, it’s a helluva lot of fun and can be found dirt cheap. I picked up most of mine for under a buck on eBay. Toka is kind of a ‘Tarzan meets Rip Van Winkle’ character who has some pretty incredible adventures in the South American jungle. It’s a lot of Silver Age silliness, but Springer helps bring this kooky world to life. I can’t imagine this will ever be reprinted, but go get yourself a stack of reader copies and have some fun.
The comic book industry was once full of people like Frank Springer; artists that could work in any genre, went back and forth between companies and who saw a job on a newspaper strip as the key to a stable income. Although I can’t say this with 100% certainty, I’m sure Frank Springer never missed a deadline.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Springer and thank you for all of the years of entertainment.
Feel free to drop by my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent