Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Stony Craig by Bill Draut

As some of you guessed (or saw) the sample panels I posted two days ago were drawn by Bill Draut (1921-1993).
The strip was named Stony Craig and was credited to Frank H Rentfrow and Don Dixon, although all the strips I have from March 1945 to June 1946 are signed by Rentfrow and Draut. Anyone who knows when Draut started doing the artwork?

Looking at the early strips in my run you can see a young artist (ca 25) who struggles hard to imitate the style of what must have been his heroes: Caniff, Sickles and Robbins. Not too bad but not that good either. Just like Bert Christman when he took over Scorchy Smith from Noel Sickles.
If you look at these samples from March 1945 you see that he fills the panels with heavy shadows and light. Just like his heroes did. (And I think the pose of Stony in the second panel is "loaned" from another strip. I reall it, but can be either a Steve Canyon or a Johnny Hazard pose. Or a Scorchy...)

Jump to June 1946 and we see a much more confident Draut with thick and elegant brushstrokes. He don't try to hide as much with black shadows anymore. Hey, even some beautiful profile shots of girls are thrown in to the strip. (These are the only ones I've seen in the whole run.) Who knows how good it would have looked if he had continued yet another year.
My sources says that Lin Streeter took over the strip after Draut and that it folded the same year. No surprise to me. Even if the art was interesting the script was really, really bad. No wonder Draut artwork seemed uninspired at times.
But every now and then there would be a panel or two that would have fit nicely in any Caniff or Robbins daily. Like this one for example.

When his last strip appeard he was already working for a coulpe of guys called Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (What ever happened to them...) and their new title Stuntman, were he did "The furnished room".
He stayed with comic books and worked for Harvey, Warren, DC and Marvel etc.

Stony Craig is one of the many forgotten strips that never made it big time. However, for me my set of Stony Craig dailies is more than just a set of tearsheets. It's a document of a struggling artist taking his first step in a career that he would stay with a long, long time. By the years the Caniff/Sickles influence faded away more and more but every now and then you could see bits and pieces of the style he learned in the mid 40's.
I hope you enjoyed these samples.

Now, I'd better do some drawing myself before leaving the studio. (I bet the artists got more WORK done in their studios before the days of internet...)

6 comments:

Germund said...

The pose can't be a "borrowed" Steve Canyon pose, since SC began in Jan-1947. There is some Johnny Hazard to it, but it's hard to tell ...

George Freeman said...

According to "The Comic Strip Project"
SGT. STONY CRAIG
art
Don Dickson 37-40
Gerald Boucher 40-44
Bill Draut 44-45
Lin Streeter 45-46

wr
Frank Rentfrow (37-40)

http://hometown.aol.com/comicsproj/creditsSZ.html

Joakim Gunnarsson said...

Ah, slip of my mind, Pat Ryan natch.
Right creator wrong strip.
What was I thinking of?
(Steve Canyon beeing the obvious answer...)

Anonymous said...

I did not realize my father did comic work for newspapers. Will you be posting any more "Stony Craig" strips. Nina Draut at drautski@aol.com

Joakim Gunnarsson said...

Nina:
Stony Craig is the only strip I'm aware of by his hand. Maybe I should put up some more samples here.
I also got two original pages from Stuntman comics by him.
Anyway, I'll get in touch with you via mail.

/Joakim.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Looking forward to hearing from you. Nina.