Monsters, Rev Your Engines!

The Pre-Binder/Grandenetti Dragula Revealed

Friday followup to my four-part essay on Jerry Grandenetti‘s forgotten For Monsters Only horror comics, which were most likely written by Otto Binder (more on that next week)…

* Devlin Thompson posted in the comments to the “Vampire ’69″ strip from For Monsters Only and Patrick Ford sent me a Facebook message pointing out that the Otto Binder/Jerry Grandenetti “Dragula” character wasn’t the first 1960s comics character to wear that cape and moniker, and here’s the proof, thanks to Patrick (whole sent this image):

This scan is from the original art (from an online scan), for a story published in DRAG Cartoons #14 (1965). Thanks, Devlin & Patrick! Much much appreciated, and dig Alex Toth‘s incredible use of the CrafTint board here. Lovely stuff.

(I used to use duoshade chemical board like this whenever I could in my pro work in the late 1970s and early 1980s. CrafTint was hard to come by as a brand in the art supply stores I frequented; DuoShade was the same thing, essentially, a board with two gray patterns printed onto the board with two chemicals—one with a white lid, one with a black lid—that came with your purchase of the board. You penciled and inked your page or illustration as you would on any illustration board, but when it came time to add the gray tones, you brushed on the chemical from the white-lidded jar, and the light gray pattern would emerge. Brush on the chemical from the black-lidded jar, and the darker gray tone (usually a cross-hatch pattern) would emerge. You could also draw with pen using the chemicals; very versatile, and allowing photo-ready delicacy of tone effects that were absolutely impossible with Zipatone self-adhering patterns. I loved working with the board, but damn, those chemicals were nasty smelling and no doubt incredibly toxic to the touch. My pal Michael Zulli still uses them, though damned if I know where he gets his hands on the board or the chemicals in the 21st Century!)

FYI, DRAG Cartoons was illustrator/cartoonist/racer/car enthusiast Pete Millar‘s first solo black-and-white newsstand comics magazine for his own imprint after he left Peterson Publications.

Millar (1929-2003) split off from Peterson and his founding CARtoons partner Carl Kohler in 1963 to launch his own zine, DRAG Cartoons, which was much like CARtoons: a hot rod humor magazine mixing it up every issue with hot rod gag pages and strips riffing off pop culture references of the day.

As you can tell from the cover of first issue of CARtoons (above), from the beginning Millar and Kohler were customizing the Mad template to Kustom Kar Kulture, right down to automotive spins and parodies of then-current movies, TV shows, advertising, etc. Millar carried that over to his DRAG Cartoons competitor to CARtoons, but it took a year or two for Millar to get real traction on the newsstand.

DRAG Cartoons #1 hit the racks cover dated June-July 1963, and Millar evidently was either playing his cards close to his chest or had to satisfy backers with hard sales numbers. According to what Dick Giordano told me about newsstand sales numbers (back in 1983) taking six months or more to be delivered to publishers, it’s obvious that Millar waited for his real numbers and returns before DRAG Cartoons #2 (cover dated December 1963) was published.

You can see his relative caution relaxed the following year, which showed Millar revving up his contents and pushing DRAG Cartoons to a proper monthly schedule in time for the key summer months (#3, cover dated March 1964; #4 June 1964, #5 July 1964, #6 August 1964, #7 September 1964, etc.). By 1965, DRAG Cartoons (or, as we kids called it then, DRAGtoons) was a newsstand fixture, and Millar‘s line of comics magazines added the (brief run of) Big Daddy Roth comics zine to the roster (below: DRAG Cartoons #35, 1967 cover).

Parting asides:

*If memory serves, my Kubert School classmate Tom Foxmarnick got to work with Millar successor Dennis Ellefson in the 1980s, in the final years of CARtoons (which folded up shop in 1991).

* Alas, I held on to almost none of the issues of DRAG Cartoons I used to have as a kid. I’ve over the years snagged a few issues with Gilbert Shelton‘s Wonder Warthog stories, but—well, later, gators.

More on Otto Binder‘s association with the Cracked’s For Monster Only unholy trilogy of Jerry Grandenetti stories next week, if/as time permits…


All images ©original creators/proprietors, their original year of publication; all artwork and images are posted for archival and educational purposes only.

Discussion (4) ¬

  1. Mark Masztal

    Duo-shade has become increasingly hard to find because of the evolution of computers and Photoshop.
    I found this on-line:

  2. Devlin Thompson

    With all due respect to Mr. Ford, that was my comment, unless he made one that’s since been removed. Of course, I didn’t post a link, so who knows? It’s unimportant, anyway.

  3. srbissette

    Whooooooooops, brainfart! I backtracked, and found that you’d both alerted me to the Toth DRAGULA, so correction made in the post, and apologies! It’s important, mon. Credit(s) given where credit(s) due.

  4. Dan Kubert

    Just going through my Dad’s stuff and came across your Vermont Monster’s book. Saw your site listed in the back and thought I’d see for myself what the Vermontians have been up to. The Monster book was great! Especially that Fur Bearing Trout thing. Your illustration was terrific. Exactly how I remember your work (String Beans Are Our Friends)! Actually I found a lot of your early original work that you’ve included on your website like Sojourn, Ivan Snyder’s catalog, some of the Sgt. Rock stuff, and a few others. All of it was still in Dad’s office. He really thought the world of you guys. Having your art work still in that office after 35 years is evidence of that. (And yeah he did clean it out once in a while). Also saw your Ghosts book, but didn’t have time to read it. Is “my” ghost story in there? Anyway, just wanted to say hi. Your site looks wonderful. We’re thinking of everybody down here. Take care …with much love from Dan and the rest of O’ the Kubert Clan.

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