Thursday, March 28, 2013

"The Ogre of Merryville" by Marv Levy

Marv Levy did not play baseball after school. In the early 1940s, this high school kid, this golden age comics artist, was going to Manhattan, getting work at Centaur, Timely and Harvey. After a brief interruption to enlist in the infantry (he was part of the invasion of Normandy in 1944), he got formal training at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. By 1950, Marv had set up his own advertising studio.

I knew Marv and his wife Barbara from many Berndt Toast Gang get togethers. Marv was a soft spoken fellow and he would not talk about himself unless prodded. I remember a young man sought him out one time and showed Marv his portfolio. The young man was seriously frustrated: he had been to Marvel and DC and they did not hire him. Marv said his art was fine, and it was just a matter of timing and persistence. "Keep showing up," he told the fellow. Very, very, true.

But, back to young Marv: here's a story from Alfred Harvey Comics titled "The Ogre of Merryville." Art is by Marv Levy, no writer credited. It was reprinted in the comic book reprint THE ORIGINAL BLACK CAT #7, November 1991. Since Black Cat was only around for ten years (1941-51), it's fair to guess that this is a sample of very early Marv Levy artwork.

It's a sweet, offbeat fairy tale filler story. It's the kind of assignment a young comic artist might get. He wouldn't start with the Harvey flagship character! Some of the inking is terrific, some of it is a little dubious. But look at some of the angles here. The point of view, with high angles, looking up at the ogre. You can see some offbeat panel arrangement, perhaps inspired by his mentor, Bernard Baily.

I was reading this reprint for the first time last week. (The original printing date of the story is not cited, which unfortunately is the norm with this series of books.) I read the whole thing and did not know it was Marv's until I saw his name at the end. It was terrific to see this seminal work by a true gentleman of comics.


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