Breaking down a 1950s Comic by Jack Cole

in COMIC BOOKS fan/prolast year (edited)

Ask any comic book illustrator who the greatest comic book illustrator of all time is, or the top three...and you'll usually get Jack Kirby in there and the rest often are chosen (sub consciously) by how close they are to that illustrators own style. We draw a certain way because that's what we find visually interesting. So it follows that our favorites draw that what, or are influenced by people who drew that way.

This isn't a hard and fast rule...some are able to be above that and choose based on merit, or the impact that person had on the industry and craft. But...most of the time we like what we like narcissisticly. We all start as wee children and you have to get your influence somewhere, and eventually you are a grown up pro,


and then...for the most part, probably subconsciously, you like stuff that looks like looks like you draw, or you draw stuff that looks like what you like.

For me...who has a cartoony yet precise and detailed style...

My top three are...


and Jack Cole

True Crime 1 p6.JPG

I don't actually give much of a damn about the collecting aspect of comics...personally I mean. I buy comics, read them, don't take very good care of them. I've been very...dispassionate about illustrating lately so I think maybe a few framed comic books on my wall might help ( couldn't hurt), maybe remind me why I ever liked doing this in the first place.

All of those guys died many decades ago, so their stuff is rare and in most cases really expensive. For instance, even a trashed copy of Weird Tales of the Future by Basil Wolverton is 2000.00. Don't expect to see that on my wall anytime soon.


BUT...if you ain't picky and keep your eyes open, you never know what you might be able to sweep up for cheaper than it should be,

As fate would have it I found a copy of Police comics featuring "Plastic Man" illustrated by Jack Cole when he was truly hitting his stride illustrating comics. It's in pretty bad shape, if you were a serious collector, you'd probably give it a pass. Or should I say a different kind of "serious" collector.


Let's start with what this is. Before Plastic man had his own cartoon, or even his own comic book series, he stared out as a side story in Police Comics.

Police Comics was an anthology, or more accurately a "grab bag" of stories...loosely having to do with Police or Law enforcement or crime. This was an era of comics where pretty much all publishers needed to do was put books on the shelves and kids would buy them. You didn't need to over think it.

Publishers would buy up 6-8-10 pages stories, throw them all in a book with a vague title and send the bastard to the stores.

Somehow out of that era of "who GAF this is for 8 yr olds" came some amazing work, amazing stories and amazing illustrators. Jack Cole was one of the greatest, he did a lot of ground breaking work, really learned how to use the format of comic book storytelling to blow kid's minds.

Like I said, he's one of my favorites...the first dilemma was which issue to search for. Since this would be hanging in my office, we'd want an cover that says it all. There are a lot to choose from. These were two that really show off his skill and character pretty well

Plas 24.jpg

But...those are just great covers, they don't really show off what Cole was best at...and that was having a lot of stuff going on in one image without it being a mess. With that in mind, I decided this one was the one.
Not as iconic...but man oh man...look at ALL that is going on at once in this thing. ALL the stuff for your imagination to soak in.

plas 95 both.jpg

On a side note...this was clearly before Disney became the all encompassing media powerhouse that it is today, because they got away with having a Micky Mouse looking image right on the cover.

Not only is the cover great, but the Plastic Man story inside is very well done and full of techniques to learn from. Here's a couple of page where you can see that Cole really knew how to draw the eye and imagination into the story and give both a lot to absorb.

p95 6.jpg

You wanna talk about a guy who was a master of page composition...just get a load of this one panel, he used a spiral as the foundation for all the visuals

plas comp3spiral.jpg

This page here, is so full of visual tricks, Imma dissect it for you

p95 3.jpg

Panel 1, we have the movement of the guy swinging the guy, leading your eye till it stops on the other guy's hear from there smoke leads the eye into the two men butted against panel 2.

Panel 2 has a old trick, the guy leaning in send your eye toward the back to the panel but his arm and hand counter that visual imbalance, by being anchored to the boarder.

p95 3 BD.jpg

Panel 3 has implied motion sending your eye into the next panel.

Panel 4...the cigars and smoke/puss trails make an X stopping the eye at the center, and of course the gn barrel points your eye to the next panel.

Panel 5 is rather clever. Normally the readers eye would follow the flight of the gunsmoke of a fires gun. But here he has that visual X holding the eye and several other puffs of smoke ( one towards each corner) so that the gun blast is not drawing your eye in any particular direction.

Panel 6...well, that just a cool shot ain't it?

The rest of the stories in this issue (not done by Cole) range from not great to garbage. That's what's you'd get in that bygone era. Thank goodness we live in an age where comics are consistent and in most cases you know right off that the entire issue will be garbage, hahahaha. By "most cases" in mean Marvel or DC.'s just a quick glimpse of the rest.

You got some half assed vigilant story "Manhunter". and just look at how painfully uninspired the work is on this dreck, compared to the Plastic Man story

p95 mh2.jpg

There's also some sort teen romance story, which of course has zero reason to be in a comic called "Police Comics", unless there is some date rape scenario that's implied that I just don't get because the 1950's vernacular is lost on me. There was a ton of teen goofy romance comics, most in a semi-real-ish Arche Comics type writing and drawing style. None of them were good, but none of them were bad. They were...five pages that told a story.

P95 r.jpg

and we have a story with "The Spirit" by the comic legend (to some people) Will Eisner. Get a LOAD of the Spirit's sidekick "Ebony". one in their right mind would say that I am politically correct but even I'd call that out of line LOL

p95 sp1.jpg

ffs...his lips are draw to be as large as his fist. That was probably out of line even for 1950. It had to have been..."Ebony" looks like a dead ringer for the "monkey mask" in the advertisement in the same book

p95 .jpg

Like...what the hell? Will Eisner died just before social media really took hold or they'd have cancelled that guy into the stone age, instead of naming an award after him.

hmm...I've been nominated for that award, so I should probably stfu, but come ON...and he named the character "Ebony"?! What the bloody hell?

Aside from drawing super racist cartoons, did I ever tell you about the time he took the last sandwich in the guest's lounge at a convention? Make that the last TWO. He took one...then reached down and also took the last one. I was behind him in line...I ended up with a pickle and a mini bag of Doritos. It was in Canada and there were no black people or I would have called him out right then and there and took his sandwiches after an angry crowd dragged him off.

Moving right along, there's one last story that's one page long, Which is actually interestingly illustrated...I'm not sure if the excessive use of circle panels here is brilliant or lazy.

p95 jone.jpg

Not much else worth pointing out in this one, except this advertisement for bicycle tires> I blows my mind right from the start that bicycle tires where such a hot property that they advertised at all, much less advertised directly to kids. bought their own bicycle tires? worn out bicycle tires?

And the ad itself is really something. If you wanna fight arson you'd better have the right brand of tire on your bike! Wut? LOL

p95 bike.jpg

In any case, this issue now proudly hangs on my wall...and I have a few other comics coming in that may or may not be worth hanging. Soon as they show up, we'll suss them out together.

As always, homebase is here


NFT work here-

Here are the other places to find use of them is fluid, inconstant, susceptible to the whims and shifts of the paradigm




Aaaw, I looove comics and the old ones are the best. Rehived. You are on torum too? Hahaha have to follow you there. Have a great day

Thanks! Yeah, I'm on torum, though only once in awhile

Those guys back then had to invent a lot of the tricks and it really seems some were innovators. Some of the other stuff looks like a load of clip art stuck together. Back in the 50s kids would have been hungry for any fun entertainment as they would have no internet or even TV. I have one or two comic annuals from around then. I may dig them out to see what looks inventive.


Yeah, it was the golden age of comics...and for some, the golden age of clip art lol. You should dig up those annuals, I'd be interested to see what they are and what kind of advertisements you got on your end of the ocean!

I'll do a post soon. Not sure if it has any ads. I know some comics when I was young had various novelty stuff like sea monkeys and X-ray glasses.

Sergio Aragones is one of my favorites.


Sergio is one of the great ones, for sure! Always liked his work in Mad

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