When I started collecting original comic art on a more active basis a few years ago, there were a number of “categories” I was keen to include in my collection: team-up title art, Amalgam comics and journalism-related subject matter, among others. I’ve also always wanted to acquire pages from Action Comics Weekly. Don’t ask me why; I just have an affection for that limited run of the title from the 1980s as a serial anthology. I recently found just such a page on eBay and struck a deal with the seller — for what turned out unexpectedly to be a lot of two consecutive pages from the same issue of Action Weekly.
Now, these pages weren’t clearly labelled as being from Action. Instead, they’re marked as the first and second pages from “Secret 6 #14,” with 1988 copyright stamps on the reverse sides. Obviously, there was no such Secret Six series at that time, but there was the Secret Six serial from ACW. Some online research suggested these were pages from the 14th chapter of the “Secret Six” serial, which ran in Action #620 in the late 1980s. I went through my comic collection and found the issue, and confirmed these are indeed the first two pages from the Secret Six segment (which are pages 16 and 17 of the comic, which explains the numbers in the upper-right corners of the boards). Honestly, confirming these as ACW pages and deducing the issue in which they appeared was a surprising bit of fun.
This is a nice two-page action sequence, and looking these pages up in the original comic revealed an interesting trait: they look infinitely better in black and white than in color, as the limited color palette of the time made for a garish tone that conflicted with the espionage/heist genre. Just check out that oddly bright and bold blue color for the van and the guy’s pants in the comparison below.
Frank Springer and Frank McLaughlin’s collaboration here put me in mind of the styles of two other Bronze Age talents: Dick Giordano and Joe Staton. Springer’s style seems a little overpowered by McLaughlin’s recognizing style in his inking. Interesting fact: Springer was the artist on the first two issues of Secret Six series from the Silver Age that preceded the ACW serial, making the latter a return to a property he’d helped to establish.
One of the reasons I appreciate the first of the two pages is the inclusion of three logo pasteups at the top of the page. Of note is the fact that the center logo is crisper than the left and right ones, which have been printed off in a dot-matrix pattern. It seems to be an intended effect, as the left and right logos appear hazier on the final printed product. It actually doesn’t make the most sense from a design perspective, to be honest, but I appreciate the differences in the production details and the mystery of the choice.
While the first page in this chapter of the Secret Six story features a little more in the way of storytelling/plot, this second page is all about the action. This work precedes the “widescreen” approach to comics storytelling by a number of years, but the artists nevertheless capture a cinematic sense of energy and action here. One can easily picture the dark-haired hero in this sequence as James Bond or John McClane. Also of interest on this page is the gunshot sound effect in the upper tier. While the thick letters are a bit rough, I like how the effect links panels two and three, showing that the bullet has pierced the frame of the driver without actually showing the bullet piercing the frame of the driver.
I picked these pages up for a rock-bottom price, but that will come as no surprise to original art collectors. There are no characters of any real note here, and of all of the serials that ran in Action Comics Weekly, Secret Six was probably the least known property of all those that ran in those pages (DC has since retooled the Secret Six brand as a team of super-villains/anti-heroes, with some noted success). As such, these pages ought to be cheaply priced, perfect for buyers of budget art such as myself.
In addition to being pages from my beloved Action Weekly series, another reason I enjoy these pieces of what could be argued are not-all-that-collectible art is the fact they’re vintage. And by that, I mean these are pencilled, inked and lettered boards, complete with editing marks in blue pencil. I love the copyright stamp on the back of a pre-digital-age page. I love the actual page number scrawled in marker outside the margins. I love the whiteout and corrections and the faint remnants of loose pencils amid the inked art.
I see that Page 18 of this comic would complete the three-page action scene, so if anyone out there has it and is willing to part with it, drop me a line. Hell, maybe if I’m really lucky, I can track down all of the remaining six pages from this chapter of the Secret Six serial.
To view larger scans of my Action Comics Weekly pages or to view the rest of my collection, check out my gallery at Comic Art Fans.
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