In Memoriam: Creig Flessel

July 18, 2008

Creig Valentine Flessel (February 2, 1912 July 17, 2008) was an American comic book artist active from some of the earliest days of the medium, and an illustrator and cartoonist for magazines ranging from Boys' Life to Playboy.

Flessel was a 2006 nominee for induction into the comic-book industry's Will Eisner Hall of Fame.

Flessel was born in Huntington, Long Island, New York. The son of a blacksmith, Flessel attended the Grand Central Art School in Manhattan, then Alfred University in Alfred, New York, where he and future wife Marie Marino graduated in 1936.[2] One of his classmates at Alfred was cartoonist Charles Addams.

Flessel broke into comics as an assistant on cartoonist John H. Striebel's newspaper comic strip Dixie Dugan. Flessel additionally assisted Streibel with advertising art featuring the humorous radio program characters "Vic and Sade", who appeared in Farina Wheat cereal print ads. The following year, Flessel found work with the major advertising agency Johnstone and Cushing, illustrating ads for Nestle Toll House cookies, General Foods, Raisin Bran, Eveready batteries, the Nehi Beverage Company's R.C. Cola (with the characters R.C. and Quickie), and other brands and products.

Shifting his attention to the fledgling comics medium, Flessel drew the covers of many of the first American comic books, including the pre-Batman Detective Comics #2-17 (April 1937 - July 1938). He had debuted in comics the year before with stories in the seminal More Fun Comics #10 (May 1936), penciling and inking the two-page sword-and-sorcery feature "Don Drake" and the two-page humor strip "Fishy Frolics".

Flessel both wrote and drew the two-page "Steve Conrad, Adventurer", premiering in New Comics #5 (June 1936); the two-page sports feature "Pep Morgan", premiering More Fun #12 (Aug. 1936); "Bret Lawton" and "Speed Saunders" (the latter with writer E.C. Stoner and later Gardner Fox), both premiering Detective #1; "Bradley Boys", premiering More Fun #13; "Hanko the Cowhand", premiering "More Fun" #25, Oct. 1937; "Buzz Brown", premiering More Fun #30, March 1938; and at least drew and possibly wrote "Red Coat Patrol" also known as "Sgt. O'Malley", premiering "More Fun" #39, Jan. 1939. As writer-artist, Flessel created the DC character the Shining Knight, in Adventure Comics #66 (Sept. 1941).

Flessel, who drew many early adventures of the Golden Age Sandman and is closely associated with that character, has sometimes been credited as the character's co-creator. While Flessel drew the Sandman cover of Adventure Comics #40, generally considered the character's first appearance,[4] the character was created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Bert Christman.

When DC Comics editor Vin Sullivan left the company in 1940 to work for Columbia Comics, Flessel, Fox, and others freelanced for his Big Shot Comics. In 1943, when Sullivan formed his own comic book publishing company, Magazine Enterprises, Flessel signed on as associate editor. Among its other publications, the firm produced at least three issues of the highly violent, wartime propaganda comic The United States Marines, which presented "Authentic U.S. Marine Corps Picture Stories" as well as graphic government photographs of such subjects as burned and bayoneted Japanese soldiers.

Flessel drew illustrations for several issues of the pulp magazine Clues Detective Stories in 1939 and 1940. During the late 1950s he also provided uncredited artwork for Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip.

Flessel continued to draw comics, often uncredited, through the 1950s, including Superboy stories in both that character's namesake title and in Adventure Comics; and anthological mystery and suspense tales in American Comics Group (AGC's) Adventures into the Unknown. Flessel's final regular comic-book work was penciling and inking the 6 2/3-page story "The Flying Girl of Smallville" in Superboy #72 (April 1959). He would return in the 1970s to do occasional inking for writer-penciler Joe Simon, most notably on Prez.

David Crane by Flessel (June 10, 1961). The titular minister is not depicted in this particular slice of small-town life.From 1960 until its demise in 1971, Flessel drew a Publishers-Hall Syndicate comic strip about a young minister, David Crane, created by Ed Dodd in 1956 and originally produced by artist Win Mortimer and writer Hart Spence.[7] In 1993, Flessel donated the original art for 2,677 strips to the Ohio State University Cartoon, Graphic and Photographic Arts Research Library. After David Crane ceased publication, Flessel unsuccessfully attempted several other strips, including Cy Poppins, about the owner of a country store; Willie Wildwood, an environmentally aware strip; and The Other Foot.

Like his friend Jack Cole, creator of Plastic Man, Flessel also regularly contributed cartoons to Playboy magazine, including a series titled "The Adventures of Baron Furstinbed. Many of these cartoons were reprinted in the one-shot Playboy Presents Sex and Other Late Night Laughs (1990).

In 2000, Flessel and his wife Marie moved from the East Coast to Mill Valley, California, where he continued to create art for local events and talent shows. The couple's son Peter is an environmental engineer, and daughter Eugnenie a book illustrator and author.

In his final years Flessel was rediscovered by comic fandom, and was the recipient of many honors. He was a guest of honor at the fan convention Wondercon in San Francisco, California, in February 2005, speaking on the Golden/Silver Age Panel. Flessel is also mentioned in Michael Chabon's 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (though his name is misspelled "Craig" in early editions).

Flessel suffered a stroke on July 11, 2008 that left him paralyzed on his right side. He died at his home in Mill Valley, California on July 17, 2008.[9][5]

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