You might want to check out Lou Brooks’s art work at www.loubrooks.com before reading this interview.
A lot of his art work has a 1950s influence, as well as from other eras. “A pretty suppressed decade, but suppression causes the best art to happen, and in the case of the ‘50s, it did,” he said. “We seemed to have an endless supply of it, as inane as some of it was.”
He said that the apparent innocence and enjoyment of life in ‘50s art and advertising “was mostly a post-war promise that Madison Avenue convinced us was happening, but was instead pretty much a nightmare by the end of the decade.”
This part of the interview starts with Lou Brooks’s favorite comics artists.
READERSVOICE.COM: You’ve written and drawn for Blab, and I was wondering what kinds of comics you liked, or comics creators?
LOU BROOKS: As far as comic books, I grew up during the the naive ‘50s period of Superman and Batman. The Bob Kane and Kurt Schaffenberger years. Batman and Robin were often in some warehouse of giant typewriters and sewing spools. Superman seemed to always be up in the sky, with a wonderful “announcement” speech balloon over his head, like: “I’ll just fly down there and use my super breath to blow that ocean liner back to Greenland!” or some such thing.
I felt at the time that it just seemed so right, and I still feel that if I ever become a super hero, I’ll always incorporate an announcement like that into my presentation, prior to any daring exploit.
I’m still under the spell of Al (“Stiff Figure”) Feldstein’s EC stuff. Of course, when Harvey Kurtzman and Mad came along, it warped me badly and permanently. Just like my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Vossbein, warned me would happen (one lunch recess, the bastard confiscated my Mad Magazine No. 1).
Will Elder formed my sense of humor more than anybody else in the world did, I think. Okay, along with some help from Jay Ward, Tex Avery, Spike Jones, and the Stooges. I’m also a big fan of the quirkier lesser known comic book artists from late ‘40s-early ‘50s, like L.B. Cole, Bill Ward, Al Fago. Basil Wolverton, he had his own category all to himself.
As far as newspaper strips, I don’t think there was one I wasn’t crazy about. But I was really off my rocker about Winnie Winkle, The Phantom, Buzz Sawyer, Brenda Starr, Peanuts, Gasoline Alley, Steve Roper, Dick Tracy, Smokey Stover, Terry and the Pirates (the later strangely-drawn George Wunder version), Li’l Abner (especially when Frazetta was drawing the women!), and a little-known sci-fi strip called Twin Earths, by Al McWilliams.
By sheer luck, I was once given the original art of the best Sunday page he ever did… a space ship fighting pterodactyls during an ocean storm. It’s hanging right here on my wall, and ain’t goin’ anywhere.
RV: What was your first advertising client and can you recall a few clients that followed on from this one, and what sort of jobs you did for them?
LB: My first advertising client was Love Cosmetics. It was an extremely popular line at the time made by a drug company in Philadelphia. In cosmetics, it’s all in the packaging… period. The Love bottle was tall and slender with a round plastic chrome top on it. Right… exactly like a dildo.
Its market was the young woman of the Peter Max era. Actually it was a very sleek and lovely line of packaging for its day, and I did all of their black and white ad slicks. It was pretty steady, and kept me going on an early freelance career, even though I still didn’t know a lot about what I was doing.
But I got to bring home cartons of the stuff. They were big on lemon fragrance. Very “back-to-nature-hippie,” although the pearlescent gloss, we found out, was made from pulverized fish scales.
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