Tribute To Maurice Whitman

maurice early years

The final Fiction House cover artist to work on Jumbo Comics before the title eventually went out of production was Maurice Whitman (right) . Whitman was born in Catskill NY in June 1922. He had no formal artistic training and was completely self-taught. He entered the comic industry in the 1940s working for the Harry "A" Chesler shop and Funnies Inc, contributing art to Yankee Girl and Fawcett'sNyoka. He drew The Grey Mask, Golden Archer, and Red Cross for Holyoke Publications and Iron Ace for Hillman Periodicals. He joined Fiction House in the late 1940s and contributed to Kaanga, Mysta of the Moon, Star Pirate, Tabu and other titles through to the mid-1950s. He also illustrated covers for Jungle Comics, Rangers Comics, Wings Comics, and Fight Comics. After leaving Fiction House he spent the late-50s working for Charlton Comics on a wide variety of titles that included crime, science fantasy, funny animals, and historical fiction. He provided artwork for Atomic Mouse and Atomic Rabbit, Fightin' Marines, U.S. Air Force, Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshall, and numerous other comics. He spent the 1960s contributing to some of the publications of Wally Wood and also worked at Warren Publications, well-known for titles like Eeerie and Creepy, and later Vampirella. In the 1970s he began working for DC Comics, where he worked on some of their war and mystery titles. During this time he also did work for BBDO, one of the largest advertising agengies in the world. In 1977 he provided the art for a digest-sized comic adaptation, The Man of Bronze. He also maintained a small studio on City Island, the Bronx, where he worked in oils and other media. He died in May 1983, a month before his 61st birthday (Whitman & Lambiek).

Black and Feret suggest Whitman's art contained more realism than pin-up quality and point out that he transformed Sheena into a savage fighter. He is a master of shading, and as a result his Sheena is considerably more muscular than previous artists. He carries this skill through to wonderful effect on the brawny bodies of natives and the pelts of his animals. The Whitman covers are truly wonderful compositions of dynamic violence. He produced some of my favourite Jumbo Comics covers, notably issue No. 159 (bottom right on the main cover montage below); No. 155 (I used his Sheena image on the Sheena main page); No. 153; and 160 (left). These, and some of Joe Doolin's top work, especially Nos. 75; 94 (above right); 97; 98 (a popular favourite); and 99, really stand out as the best of the bunch in a fascinating run. I was entralled by Jumbo Comics as a kid, and they still manage to put a smile on my face (see Jumbo Comics cover gallery).

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"Whitman's the "real deal." Able to draw in every genre and handle aspects of design, anatomy and background scenery and machines for both stories and covers."

"Whitman had a very sophisticated and imaginative approach to composition, based on the use of diagonals to create an intensified sense of drama, coupled with use of depth of field which makes the figures leap from the page into the eye."

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