FORGOTTEN COMIC BOOK ARTISTS, PART 3: PAT BOYETTE
The American comic book has produced a massive mountain of brightly hued pop culture since the 1930s, and the peak moments of the medium have been appropriately celebrated — but what about the pulpy landscape’s strange caves and broken trails that are now forgotten? It’s those curious and esoteric places that author and art director Dan Nadel surveys with his new book “Art in Time: Unknown Comic Book Adventures, 1940-1980,” which is a strong companion to his acclaimed 2006 book “Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969.” Here at Hero Complex we’ve been running excerpts from the Abrams ComicArts book leading up to Nadel’s appearance on May 30 at the Cinefamily.
Pat Boyette took his time getting into comics, but when he finally entered the medium, he produced a remarkable body of work.
Born and raised in San Antonio, Boyette spent the first part of his adult life as a radio and then television broadcaster in the San Antonio area.
He began his career in cartooning fitfully, with a brief stint assisting Charlie Plumb on his comic strip “Ella Cinders,” and with a strip of his own called “Captain Flame” in 1954 and 1955.
In the early 1960s Boyette began yet another career as a low-budget film auteur. He wrote, directed and art directed at least one film himself, “Dungeon of Harrow“ (1962), and scripted another two: “The Weird Ones” (1962) and “The Girls from Thunder Strip” (1966).
These super-low-budget movies were made for television broadcast, and are firmly in the sub–Roger Corman school of genre exploitation. Yet despite his dedication and evident enjoyment, the business of film wasn’t working for Boyette and in the mid-1960s he decided to return to comics.
Boyette matter-of-factly submitted some samples to Charlton Comics and a year later received his first comic book assignment, which was published in 1966 when he was 43 years old. Boyette’s approach to making comics was as close to being in complete control as possible: “I’d take a script, block out the pencils, doing all the lettering, then I would pencil it and I would ink it.”
As a result, all of his stories bear his complete visual sensibility, making it easy to pick them out from the stacks of other stories from that period. Boyette’s artwork was influenced by the great science fiction illustrators of his youth: Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bok among them, as well as by his colleagues Alex Toth and Wally Wood.
Focused on solid, realistic figuration, Boyette illustrated his work with an emphasis on clear, uncluttered panels and he excelled at the difficult task of bringing texture and mood onto the comics pages. Always adventurous in whatever medium he employed, Boyette’s comics were some of the very first to actively experiment with color.
One of the stories for which he is best known, “Children of Doom” (1967), was completed in just a handful of days under a very tight deadline from Charlton Comics. Written by Denny O’Neil under the name “Sergius O’Shaughnessy,” it’s a classic 1960s apocalyptic science fiction story of survival and rebirth.
Boyette, emboldened by the experimentation of Alex Toth and Jim Steranko (Nick Fury), told the story in a series of fractured panels taking whatever shape best served both the image and the overall page design.
Making liberal use of Zip-a-Tone, he colored the book in gray tones and added the little splashes of color only at Charlton’s insistence. In 25 pages Boyette takes readers across multiple visual landscapes and pictorial ideas. It’s a genuinely beguiling story — purposefully disorienting in some parts, stunning in its visual daring, and, at the same time, true to his homegrown films.
Boyette did quite a lot of work for Charlton Comics, enjoying the creative freedom the company gave him; he even stepped in to draw Pete Morisi’s “Thunderbolt” for a few issues. Boyette drew for Warren, DC Comics, and numerous other publishing companies throughout the 1970s and 1980s before his retirement in the late 1990s.
– Dan Nadel
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