Thursday, June 5, 2014

The unknown art of Carl Hubbell

For many the name Carl Hubbell brings to mind the famous New York Giants pitcher of the 1930's and 1940's; for those of us who specialize in the study of comic books, Carl Hubbell's name may also be familiar. As a child of the 1960's, I knew his name primarily as an inker over Dick Ayers pencils on Sgt. Fury. It wasn't until many years later that I discovered Hubbell had been a writer, artist and inker dating back to the 1940's, working for outfits including MLJ (Archie, Steel Sterling, Scarlet Avenger and Sgt. Boyle - whose name lacks just a little bit of grit when compared to four-color compatriots such as Sgt. ROCK, Sgt. FURY, Capt. STORM or Capt. SAVAGE, to name a few); St. John, working for Norman Mauer and Joe Kubert on the humor title Whack; and a prolific run at Lev Gleason on Crime Does Not Pay and features "Sniffer and Iron Jaw" and "the Little Wise Guys" in Boy Comics and the original Daredevil. Hubbell also worked on syndicated strips, including Merrie Chase in 1949-1950. Not much has been written about Hubbell, although in searching for biographical info I turned up an excellent, informative piece by Allan Holtz on his Strippers Guide blog:

I learned quite a bit about Hubbell on Holtz's blog, not only his accomplishments as an artist, but I discovered he was also a musician and occasional stage actor (there is a photo of Hubbell on stage from a newspaper clipping, although Roy Thomas thinks the person pictured looks a little too young to be Hubbell. Roy mentioned he had a picture or two of Hubbell in an issue of Alter Ego. Does anyone out there recall which issue?). Holtz's bio also gives the date of Hubbell's death as January 28, 1992. 

There is always much to learn about the unsung and often forgotten creators of the past, and this time out I'm going to take a look at Hubbell's brief turn at Marvel in 1965-66.

Hubbell's association with Marvel actually dates back to the 1950's when it was known as Atlas. From 1952-1954 Hubbell drew various genre stories for Stan Lee in Strange Tales, Suspense, Journey into Mystery, Journey into Unknown Worlds, Spellbound and Crazy, and did the feature "Bob Brant and his Troubleshooters" a team of teenagers similar to his concurrent Little Wise Guys, which ran in three issues of Man Comics, #'s 26-28, before the title was cancelled.

A distinctive splash page from "Condemned!", Writer unknown, Carl Hubbell art (signed "C.H." in panel one near the con's left knee). Journey into Mystery # 5, February 1953.  

 Carl Hubbell cover art to the short lived Bob Brant and the Trouble-Shooters, "America's Most Exciting Kids,"  from Man Comics # 26, May 1953. Apparently they weren't exciting enough to continue publication! Image from the GCD.

From 1957-1964 there are no known comic book credits for Hubbell. Did he go into advertising? Was he employed as a musician or stage actor? Whatever the case, Hubbell turned up at Marvel and assisted Production man Sol Brodsky. According to Roy Thomas Hubbell may not have been on staff but possibly worked freelance and was called in regularly, perhaps a few times a week when needed, starting in late 1964 or early 1965. The earliest sign of possible Hubbell art I've found is in May 1965 dated Marvel comics.     

MMMS House Ad from Journey into Mystery # 116, May 1965. Carl Hubbell Thor figure? 

Hubbell often made corrections to interior stories, much like Kirby did earlier and John Romita, Marie Severin, Herb Trimpe and Bill Everett did later, as can be seen in a May, 1965 dated titles.  

From the same issue of Journey into Mystery, to my eye it appears that the figure of the Executioner and to a lesser degree the Enchantress, was altered throughout the issue. Jack Kirby, who was known to have forgotten details of characters costumes or appearances, may have drawn the Executioners face and part of his costume incorrectly. Also the one panel Daredevil cameo on page 13 was likely touched up by Hubbell, perhaps because Kirby drew DD in the original yellow/red costume. The remainder of the page is by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta.

I've always found Avengers #16 (May 1965) to be particularly interesting, artwise. Jack Kirby is credited as providing layouts, with Dick Ayers doing the finished art, but some pages/panels are clearly Kirby pencils and Ayers inks. That, however, is a blog post for another day. Mixed in throughout are corrections that I believe are by Carl Hubbell, changing figures at the request of Stan Lee. In panel 2 of page 5 the Captain America figure looks like it was redrawn.  

  On page 10, panel 3, the X-Men, and perhaps the Quicksilver figure, appear to be touched-up by Hubbell.

On page 17, panel 3 the figures of Giant-Man and Captain America are altered. 

Page 20, panel 2 has a clearly redrawn Giant-Man face. Giant-Man's figure. helmet and face were touched up often throughout the issue, likely because the helmet was a new addition, which debuted just two months earlier in Tales to Astonish # 65, and Kirby and/or Ayers forgot to draw the helmet consistently throughout the story. Hey, they had a lot of characters and costumes to remember, so go easy on them!

There are a few other pages/panels that may have been touched up, including the Giant-Man figure on the splash page, and the Melter looks a little odd on pages 2-4, but I wanted to concentrate on the drawings I felt "certain" were tampered with. 

And, finally the MMMS ad featuring Cap in Avengers # 16 may also be the work of Mr. Hubbell.

It looks like Carl Hubbell's hand was involved in Sgt. Fury # 18, May 1965. Page 4, panels 2 and 3 feature Fury's nemesis, "Bull" McGiveney. I'm very familiar with the work of Chic Stone, who inked Ayers pencils in this issue, and that face in not inked by Stone. Hubbell may have completely redrawn McGiveney's face to make him look more ape-like.     

 Most of the last page of the story in Sgt. Fury # 18, with the possible exception of the final panel, was drawn by Jack Kirby, replacing Dick Ayers original page. Stan Lee wanted a stronger emotional punch, and Kirby delivered, as seen in the middle tier three panel sequence. Fury's shock and devastation over the death of Pamela Hawley captures a moment of tragedy. Hubbell may have inked this page, although the last panel appears to have been retained from Ayers original, with inking by Chic Stone.

The very next month features possible cover inks by Carl Hubbell over Jack Kirby. I'm not entirely sure that Hubbell is the inker, although the broad brush strokes are close to Kirby's own inking, but not exactly a match. Some of the lines echo examples of Hubble's inked work. From Sgt. Fury # 19, June, 1965.   

After looking this page over recently I noticed that the inking on page 4 was NOT that of Frank Giacoia, who inked the issue, and certainly not Wally Wood, who inked the Daredevil/Matt Murdock figures throughout the story. It occurred to me that since this page had a photo background it may have needed more production time, and looking closely, I suspect the inking of the Kirby figures is none other than Carl Hubbell. From Fantastic Four # 39, June 1965.

 Here is an example of a complete panel redrawn. My guess is that Jack Kirby drew Don Blake mistakenly striking the cane with his hand instead of tied behind his back as the previous panel illustrated; either that or Stan Lee didn't think Jack's panel looked dramatic enough and had Hubbell redraw it . From Journey into Mystery # 117, June 1965, page 13, panel 2.     

                 Hawkeye is featured in the MMMS ad from Avengers # 17, June 1965. Hubbell art?

MMMS House ad, Carl Hubbell Rawhide Kid? From RK # 46, June 1965.  

Another possible Hubbell MMMS house ad, this one featuring J. Jonah Jameson, from Amazing Spider-Man # 26, July 1965. Along with Carl Hubbell, Marie Severin also drew several house ads and filler artwork in this period. While both have a similar cartoony style, Marie's art is more distinctive. 

The cover to Tales of Suspense # 67, July 1965, penciled by (who else?) Jack Kirby. The inking has several earmarks that make me suspect Hubbell inks. The slashing lines on Iron-Man's armor and Cap's costume follows Kirby's line but has a sharper feel. It looks like Hubbell  closely duplicated Kirby's pencils, but his inking is cruder than other candidates such as Sol Brodsky. 

Kid Colt Outlaw # 123, July 1965. Jack Kirby pencils. I'm "convinced" that Hubbell inked this Kid Colt cover. The use of "hay" on shadows, including the man running along the right side and the folds in people's clothes and sharp lines on the ground link this with Hubbell.  

A nice splash page from Sgt. Fury # 21, the first issue inked by Carl Hubbell. Dick Ayers pencils, August 1965.

Hubbell splash page inks over Dick Ayers, from Two-Gun Kid # 77, September 1965. Almost a year before the Black Panther appeared, a costumed criminal called the Panther fought against the Two-Gin Kid.   

Carl Hubbell adds nice detail work to a Sol Brodsky written and drawn genre story in Rawhide Kid # 48, October 1965. Hubbell's inks have a Chris Rule/Marie Severin-esque look.

Carl Hubbell was assigned the inking over Larry Lieber's Rawhide Kid from issues #'s 49-53. Above is the splash page to RK # 49, December 1965.

This is another comic where the printed credits don't tell the entire story. The splash page has Jack Kirby listed on layouts and George Tuska on finished art. It's clear, though, that Wally Wood inked the first four pages, followed perhaps, by Tuska inking on pages 5-7. Pages 8-10 look like the work of Carl Hubbell;the figure of Cap on page 8, panel 5 may be all Hubbell. Note also the chunky ink line on Cap's legs on page 10, panel 1. It's likely that Tuska was originally scheduled to ink the story himself (credits were lettered before the comic was inked) and then became too busy to complete the job. From Tales of Suspense # 72, December 1965.

Carl Hubbell inked three issues of Sgt. Fury; Issues 21, 23 and 26. This was the latter and final inked issue, with Dum Dum Dugan taking center stage, cover-dated January, 1966. 

As a freelancer Carl Hubbell was required to redraw Steve Ditko's figure of the Looter on page 13, panel 5 of Amazing Spider-Man #36, May 1966. I always had a feeling something was odd about the Spidey figure; the posture looked right but the inking was not at all like Ditko's, with sharp lines on the legs. At at convention some years ago I was talking to Roy Thomas about Ditko and he explained that it was Carl Hubbell who altered the drawing. as detailed in Alter Ego #50, July 2005:

"..the silhouette (in layouts) of the villainous Looter looked virtually identical to Spidey's, since both wore form-fitting costumes. Accordingly, when Stan scripted the final panel on pg. 13, he had to decide: did Steve mean that to be Spidey on the ledge, hunting for the fled Looter - or was it the Looter himself, hiding thereon? With no clarifying note from Steve, Stan wrote the figure as Spider-Man, and Artie Simek lettered it. When the story came back, however, Steve had inked the figure as the Looter - apparently the character he'd intended it to be."

"At this point, of course, either the balloons or the figure had to be totally changed. Thus, Roy recalls lingering at the Marvel offices well after 5:00 pm, one nigh-Christmas day in 1965 and chatting about Charlie Biro with veteran artist Carl Hubbell (then inking Rawhide Kid) while the latter painstakingly transformed Looter into Wall-Crawler in that panel."       

In a few months Carl Hubbell would be gone from Marvel, and John Romita ostensibly took over his duties. Hubbell went on to pencil/ink for the short-lived MF Enterprises on Carl Burgos' bizarre Captain Marvel, and worked for Charlton on various genre stories, but his comic book credits end by 1969. Nothing seems to be know about the 22 years spent outside of comics; apparently he was never interviewed, which is unfortunate since he was a part of comics golden age and surely had some interesting stories to tell. In email correspondence Roy Thomas had this to say:

"I recall our walking together past some small church in Manhattan, though I don't recall where it was.  We were just having a pleasant conversation, possibly at least mostly about his previous work, since I was aware of it in general, including his "Sniffer and Iron Jaw" feature and some of his work for Kubert and Maurer at St. John.  But I recall nothing else, alas.  Work kinda dried up for him at Marvel as the Westerns failed, I guess... not sure why he was never tried on other stuff.  If he'd come back in a few years later, I'm sure I'd have tried him out on some horror work, as penciler or inker...but I don't believe our paths ever crossed again.  Too bad.  I just remember him as a gentle, soft-spoken guy.."

Carl Hubbell is just one of many half-forgotten figures who produced professional work and sold thousands of comic books for several decades. While his output at Marvel is negligible, it's nevertheless fascinating to study his involvement in the early days of the Marvel Comics Group.   

With special thanks to the kindness and generosity of Roy Thomas. 


Doc V. said...


Great look at Carl Hubbell. That face of Bull McGiveney was 100% drawn by Carl Hubbell!

Kid said...

You don't do too many posts, Nick, but when you do, you put a lot of work into them. There aren't many blogs that I've seen that do the amount of research into the subject that you do, so well done on all your hard work - I'm sure it's much appreciated by everyone who visits your blog.

Barry Pearl said...

As always, brilliant stuff.

As I remember that Hubbell drew a few pages of the Sleeper Story in Tales of Suspense #72, but you’ll tell me I wrong!

Barry Pearl said...

OOPs, you put up a page of it (Dut don't mention it was TOS #72)

Nick Caputo said...

Thanks for the kind words guys. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Mike- Thanks for the conformation!

Kid - I'd love to post more but have been busy on various projects and I originally was going to make this a short post about the FF 39 page, and look what it turned into!

Barry, I beat you to it, but I'll correct the info error!

Nick Caputo said...

Okay, Pearl, not only did I add the title info on Suspense #72, I put up the other two pages! Good Grief!

Tony Isabella said...

Another terrific article, Nick. Thanks for your dedication to comics history.

Nick Caputo said...


It's the very least I could do in appreciation to these fine talents.

AirPiratePress said...

Excellent piece, Nick. I always wondered where the art on the MMMS pages came from. I could never place the art style. Now I know why ...

Nick Caputo said...


Thanks for the kind words. I hope you find future posts equally enjoyable.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Great post that I mised, Nick. Did I do my piece on Hubbels long ru late forties newspaper stripMerrie Chase after this or did you miss it? You might like what I have of this strip, especially since it was taken over by Paul Reinman in the last year.

Nick Caputo said...

Hi Ger,

I think I've seen the post but will take another look. I recall seeing the Reinman work on Merrie Chase on your blog.