September 19th, 2007

The Zombie

The Crusty Bunkers Cometh

September 18 -  Within months after his first official comic creator credits, the secret behind Crusty Bunker was already exposed.  "Born" in 1972, inker "Crusty Bunker" had morphed, replaced by the more inclusive inking team of "The Crusty Bunkers."  By the October, 1973, third issue of Marvel's magazine-style comic Dracula Lives, all pretense that Crusty was some mysterious, previously unknown artist was out the window as The Crusty Bunkers got the inking by-line on an awesome Roy Thomas/Alan Weiss story entitled Castle of The Undead.  Reading that story today, I can see that gone, too, was the endearing, yet somewhat herky-jerky, jumble of styles that marked those early Bunker jobs.  Within about a year, The Crusty Bunkers had developed a true House Style.  Only here and there can I see what appear to be hints of the individual styles that I would come to know (Klaus Janson on the wolves, maybe? Alan Weiss on his own pencils of the attackers on pages 36 and 37, perhaps?).  Already, the focus on "who was Crusty Bunker" was shifting to emphasis on how homogeneously The Crusty Bunkers worked.  Of course, this makes sense.  Editors want a known commodity when hiring out for art work.  It's all well and good for a group of eager young artists to challenge each other and have fun with a collaboration, but the bottom line for Crusty Bunker was consistency.  I would also like to dispel the notion that The Crusty Bunkers' House Style was a clone of Neal Adams' style.  While the influences are obvious, especially when Mr. Adams himself was actively involved, The Crusty Bunkers' Style is unique.  While I don't mean to say that it was unprofessional in any way, it was, nonetheless, more rough-hewn than similar work by Adams.  The lines themselves are more dynamic, and the consistency of invention and experimentation within any particular Bunkers story was more pronounced than in just about any other inker's work of the period.  Here, in that one short, 1973 story, I can see flashes of the comics which I then enjoyed as a young man a few years later.  I can see the beginnings of Terry Austin's Uncanny X-Men inks, as well as Bob McLeod's New Mutants.  There are the Alan Weiss Flash rogues, and the Mike Nasser/Michael Netzer Kobra characters.  I don't know exactly who did what back then, nor do I have any idea whether these particular artists even were contributors to the inks on Castle of The Undead, but it's pretty obvious that the bits and pieces that were first tried as members of The Crusty Bunkers found their way to the subsequent repertoire of each artist involved.  The trouble was, then, that once everyone was on the same page, literally and figuratively, they all began to grow in different, personal directions.  The next stage for Crusty, then?  Shedding the old skin, exposing the replacement skin beneath.  Tomorrow, more about how the first wave of Crusties moved on, and how the next wave picked up right where they left off.  Here's your "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Josef Rubinstein!