web stats

CSBG Archive

Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: Underappreciated Artist Spotlight – Bob Fujitani

If you have never heard the name Bob Fujitani, you are in for a real treat. As far as Golden Age greats go, he may be the most ‘under the radar’ of them all. His work is as prolific as it is exquisite, but his name rarely seems to come up in conversations about the all-time greats.

HANGMAN#8

Born in Bob Fujitani was of Irish/Japanese descent and attended New York City’s American School of Design. He started work in comics shortly after America’s entry into World War Two, making quite a mark on the Hangman series for MLJ (future home of Archie Andrews). The Hangman strip was quite unique in its day, infusing elements of horror into a superhero book. Fujitani’s layouts are always interesting and his splash pages.

flyingdutchman

At the same time, Fujitani was working for Hillman Periodicals on the Flying Dutchman strip in Air Fighters Comics. I’ve seen conflicting credits on many of the covers from this title, so it is plausible that at least one could be credited to Fuje. This series has some pretty appalling examples of Japanese caricatures and I’ve often wondered how Fujitani felt about working on this type of comic at the time.

speed40-Shockgibson

Later in the decade, Fujitani started producing work for Harvey Comics – contributing to the Zebra strip in Green Hornet and a long run on Shock Gibson in Speed Comics. The terrific action page above is from a Shock Gibson story. Some of these stories have been reprinted in various AC Comics publications.

gleason

Fujitani worked for a handful of other publishers including Ace and even Fawcett. He was also one of the numerous artists to get a shot at Holyoke’s Cat-Man Comics. From 1948 onwards, however, Fujitani began a consistent stint at Lev Gleason, drawing stories in numerous genres from crime to romance to humour. His work can be found scattered through just about any Gleason title, which are often quite affordable in lower grades.

loverslane13

He was also a talented painter, as is evidenced by the handful of painted covers he produced for Lev Gleason’s Lovers’ Lane in the early 50s.

astonishing11

Fujitani also contributed at least a half-dozen stories to a variety of Atlas anthology titles in the horror, war and western genres including the story from Astonishing #11 featured here. As far as I can tell, he never drew a single story for DC/National.

solar1

The introduction of the Comics Code Authority saw many publisher close shop or change tactics, but Fujitani continued to get work – contributing to four Prince Valiant stories in Dell’s Four Color series (were those new or reprinted newspaper material?) and a number of issues of King of the Royal Mounted. Today’s fans may most familiar with Fujitani for his work on early issues of both Turok, Son of Stone and Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom. His work on both series was incredibly strong and both series have aged very well. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the last work did for a mainstream American comic book was the 5th issue of Doctor Solar, in which the costume is first introduced.

FG1975-small

Like many of his contemporaries, Fujitani sought work on a comic strip. He has worked on several over the years including Judge Wright, Mandrake the Magician and various stints ghosting on the Flash Gordon strip and inking Dan Barry. Prior to his retirement in the 1990s, Fujitani was assisting on the Rip Kirby strip.

As far as I can tell, Bob Fujitani is still with us at age 90. I know that I’ve seen a small piece or two on him in Alter Ego, but not much has been written about the man. Perhaps that’s because he left comics just before fandom took off. That’s too bad, as I’ll bet he has some interesting tales to tell.

For more comic book talk, stop by my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent.

14 Comments

Hugo Sleestak

July 13, 2010 at 8:37 am

Bob Fujitani was kind enough to answer some fan letters that I wrote to him back when he was working on the Flash Gordon strip. The artwork he was doing on the strip was so spontaneous looking, so unlike anything else I’d seen at the time, that I thought that he was much younger than he was. He explained to me how he worked, which was fascinating. He didn’t pencil his work – he felt as if the finished piece would just looked stiff or simply traced. Instead, he made preliminary drawings on vellum or tracing paper in pen, then he transferred the drawing to bristol board with pen, working on a light table. Dan Barry told me that he didn’t think many other artists would be capable of working like that. I have a beautiful, finished drawing of Ming the Merciless that Bob did – again, no pencil work at all. As an added note, he told me that he studied figure drawing under George Bridgman, who taught Norman Rockwell and so many others.

That’s very, very cool. Thanks for sharing!

Wow, I never would’ve guessed these were all the same artist. He seems to have moved frequently from one style to another– I guess he was just adapting himself to the house style of each series.

I really like that Doctor Solar page. I’ve always loved that 1960s-era realistic style, and he seems to be very good at it. Hard to believe he could do that in ink alone.

ArrestThisMan

July 13, 2010 at 5:54 pm

The best part of this post is Hugo’s comment.

Another great column, Scott. Despite the carnivorous Bronto (dramatic but not very life-like), Fujitani certainly produced some stunning and realistic-looking work; the splash of the “Gimpy O’Bannon” story is beautifully structured. And considering how limited the palette was in those days, it’s wonderfully coloured too. It’s a shame that colourists (and letterers) were never credited back then. Each time you do an artist spotlight like this I realise even more how much talent there was in the industry between the 1940s and 1960s, artists who produced a great body of work but are little know today.

So tell us Scott, how was France?

Thanks Scott, and Hugo, for some fascinating information on an artist I’d absolutely never heard of before. The work posted here is outstanding.

Travis Pelkie

July 15, 2010 at 1:09 am

Nicely timed on this one, because according to the review, in the new Doctor Solar book, DH reprinted the first Dr Solar story, which has Fujitani art.

And hey, isn’t that January Jones/Betty Draper that has the gun to her head in the Solar page? :)

Regarding Bob Fujitani’s work on Prince Valiant, of which one story I have is from the Australian versionmy belief up[on seeing it was that it never appeared in the newspapers especially while Hal Foster was drawing the strip at the time. In addition, it had dialogue bubbles which Foster never employed.

Stewart Patton

April 1, 2011 at 10:17 am

I just wrote Bob Fujitani a week and a half ago and he sent me the most beautiful drawing of Hangman you ever saw. He still has the touch of a master.
Fan,
Stewart Patton

Bob Fujitani did ONE story for DC: 1994′s Eclipso #17, which he inked alongside two other guys!

J.A.P.

In the summer of 1961, I believe it was, my mother took my sister and myself to visit old family friends, the Fijitanis. Little did I know who I would be meeting. And better yet, Bob Fujitani allowed us into his studio where I saw comic book drawings in action. I remember seeing Prince Valient in a drawing there. The studio was amazing, sitting on the second story of his house with big front windows overlooking a beautiful waterway. My memory is of an artist’s large drafting table with the kind of tools you would expect. It wasn’t that large of a room but very pleasantly organized and comfortable, very impressive – especially for a 13 year old who loved comics! I was so amazed to meet Bob Fujitani that the memory still stays with me to this day.

I think that Bob Fujitani drew the Flash Gordon’s daily strip from 1971 to 1986, penciling and/or inking. Prior to this, from 1963 to 1964, made four stories: “Death-Stone”, “The Hapless Alien”, “Martian Treasure” (one of my all time favourites) and “Solid-Gold Bomb”. Anyone has more information about it?

Greetings from Spain

Horror elements in superhero comic books were very common in Golden Age. Simon and Kirby did it many times in Captain America and other Timely series some years before Fujitani started to work in comic.

Thought I’d let you know that Bob is still with us. See him every Christmas as he is my brother in laws uncle. Very nice man indeed.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives