Recently was turned on to virtually unknown comics genius Fletcher Hanks thanks to the wonderful Fantagraphics compilation, I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks. Hanks, by all accounts a vicious drunk who regularly beat his wife and son before abandoning them sometime in the ’30s, was one of the unsung pioneers of comic book art. His crude, yet fascinating panels are filled with weird, stiffly-drawn characters and an imaginative color palate. Hanks’ melodramatic story lines (which usually revolve around a group of gangsters intent on destroying New York City before being stopped by an omniscient, all-powerful superhero) are filled with nightmarish retributions visited on the perps. In one story, the villain is transmogrified into a disembodied head before being thrown into a cosmic abyss and into the arms of a headless giant whose gaping neck swallows it whole. Potent stuff. Hanks’ career was brief — beginning around 1939 before ending abruptly in 1941. Little is known about his whereabouts although his estranged son claims the old man met a raw end sometime in the early ’70s. I’ll spare you the details but you can read about them in the emotional afterword of I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets by editor Paul Karasik.
4 thoughts on “Fletcher Hanks — Unsung Early Comic Genius”
Thanks for all the kind words about my book, “I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks”.
Evidently the book also has appeal to people who don’t care about old comics. Of the book, Kurt Vonnegut said, ” The recovery from oblivion of these treasures is in itself a work of art.”
The visual impact is like being hit in the brain by a jackhammer. Once you see Hanks’ work, you are not likely to forget it.
I have been astonished by the reception. The first edition completely sold out within three weeks. Now the second edition has sold out and we are going into our third printing.
For those of you unfamiliar with Hanks’ work, I urge you to wander over to my website, go to the BONUS page, and see the slideshow of a Fantomah story that does NOT appear in the book:
(and check out the swell t-shirts!)
Wow! Thanks for writing in, Paul. One of my co-workers ordered your book after I showed him some Hanks online. If anyone’s sitting on the fence, don’t wait, pick this one up. It’s a keeper.
I read more of the book this morning. His way of drawing jungles is interesting and as you pointed out the singular repeated facial expression on one character throughtout the story is creepy… why do you think he did that? Timesaver or subtext?
… more creepy frames from an old creepy comic…
The Fantomah stories interest me in. I’m oddly fascinated by the white goddess and the jungle people concept. .. very safari; tarzan; very repressed goes wild and a little creepy racist undertones. I can’t get away from the ‘creepy’ element in any of this comic.
Thanks Trey for this too – Ive ordered it too!