Thursday, December 8, 2011

Comics and Crosleys

Sometimes the world gets awfully small.

Such was the case today when Georgia Crosley nut Pete Berard posted a page of a comic strip about a Crosley convertible that looked just like mine, asking if anyone knew the source.  I didn't know where it came from, but I recognized the artist instantly: underground comix legend Justin Green.

Justin Green started doing comics around 1970 and is credited with creating the first autobiographical comic book: Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary.  He used to live not far from me in Winters, California, which was then also the home of underground cartoon legends Robert Crumb (Mr. Natural) and Robert Armstrong* (Mickey Rat). Green had a regular strip in Pulse! Magazine and also did a comic for the signpainter industry magazine - signpainting was his dayjob. 
I googled 'Justin Green Crosley' and quickly found the original source of the page: the June 2006 issue of Cincinnati Magazine.  A little more sleuthing and I managed to get a copy of the two page strip (click on the images for bigger versions):
Finding Green's comic strip reminded me that I'd actually put a Crosley in my own comic strip!  I snuck a CC sedan into the comic strip I did for my college paper around 2001:
This Crosley/comics overlap is probably not that amazing to most of you, but for me, it was all kinds of worlds colliding.  I have been a comics obsessive for 35 years - more than 75% of my lifetime.  I've drawn comics since I was about ten years old, and even worked as a professional comic artist for a while.   While other kids looked up to sports and movie stars, my heroes were cartoonists like Will Eisner,  Alex Raymond and Wally Wood.  Comics have probably shaped my life more than any single thing outside my family, so stumbling into a Crosley comic strip by a respected cartoonist - who used to live practically in my backyard no less - was pretty amazing.

Perhaps more amazing is that this isn't the first time the two worlds have collided.  An ultra rare Crosley-powered Bandini racecar popped up for sale about a decade ago.  The ad said it needed a total restoration (there was a tree growing through it) and didn't have a price, so I called, thinking that maybe I could swing it.  I was a little surprised at the price ($75K).  I was a lot surprised by the provenance: it had been Alex Raymond's car
If you don't know the name Alex Raymond, you know his work: Alex Raymond created Flash Gordon.  Raymond's sci-fi comic strip debuted in 1934 and promptly set the comics world on its ear.  An immediate success, Flash made Raymond a star.  His stories were imaginative and his draftsmanship was nothing short of incredible.  Raymond's art set a standard for adventure comics, and his style is emulated even today.
Raymond himself was a bit of an adventurer, and he began racing sports cars after World War II. He acquired a Bandini in the early fifties and liked it so much that he ordered a new Crosley-engined Bandini Barchetta from Italy in 1956.  Soon after ordering the Bandini, Raymond took his friend's new Corvette out for a spin.  Losing control on a rain-slicked Connecticut road, Raymond shot off the pavement, hitting a stand of trees 60 feet off the road.  He was killed instantly.  The Barchetta arrived months later, only to be sold as part of Raymond's estate.
Alex Raymond's Bandini sold quickly - even with the high price tag.  The owner completed an immaculate restoration and I found the pictures you see here on the Hemmings blog.  I wish I still had the 'pre-restoration' pics... that was some project.

When I learned of the Bandini's Raymond connection, I couldn't believe it.  I'd known that Raymond had been killed in an auto accident, but not much more than that.  Discovering that one of my heroes (I'd actually done a tribute comic strip called Alex Raymond in Junior High) had actually owned a Crosley-powered sports car was an incredibly exciting revelation - I'd found a connection to one of the best cartoonists who ever lived.   Not much, maybe, but I'll take it!

*To get really incestuous: Robert Armstrong provided the cover art for the Sol Hoopii LP which features 'I Like You' - the soundtrack to the Crosleykook movie.


STEVE said...

I dun the same thing Tim. "the fab furry freak bros" "Wonder Warthog" etc. I still have them somewhere. Cutworm

Ol' Man Foster said...

Cut- that's great stuff! Ah, Gilbert Shelton... I was just re-reading some Freak Bros comics a couple of months ago.