Jack Keller (comics)


Jack Keller (comics)

Jack R. Keller (born June 16, 1922, Reading, Pennsylvania, United States; died January 2, 2003, St. Joe's Hospital, Reading, Pa.) was an American comic book artist best known for his 1950s and '60s work on the Marvel Comics Western character Kid Colt, and for his later hot rod and racecar series at Charlton Comics.

Biography

Early life and career

The self-taught Keller broke into comics in 1941, following his graduation the year before from West Reading High School, creating a feature called "The Whistler" (no relation to the radio-show character) for Dell Comics' "War Stories" #5. This led to work the following year with Quality Comics, where he worked in lesser or greater capacities on such comic-book series as "Blackhawk" and such features as "Man Hunter" and "Spin Shaw". As well, Keller drew backgrounds for Will Eisner's acclaimed, eight-page newspaper Sunday-supplement comic "The Spirit", working with serviceman Eisner's World War II fill-in artist, Lou Fine, and such Fiction House features as "Suicide Smith" in the aviation-themed "Wings Comics".

In 1950, Keller became a staff artist at Atlas, publisher Martin Goodman's '50s predecessor to Marvel Comics. The dependable, unflashy Keller drew Western, horror and, working with writer Carl Wessler, crime stories.

Kid Colt and hot rods

Keller began his long association with Kid Colt in "Kid Colt, Outlaw" #25 (March 1953). He stayed with the character for at least a dozen years in that signature title, as well as in such anthology series as "All Western Winners", "Two-Gun Western" and "Gunsmoke Western". In 1955, Keller also began freelancing for the low-budget Charlton Comics, based in Derby, Connecticut, drawing Western and war stories for titles including "Billy the Kid", "Cheyenne Kid", "Battlefield Action", "Fightin' Air Force", "Fightin' Army", "Fightin' Marines" and "Submarine Attack".

Following the near-demise of Atlas' comic-book line in 1957, and the accompanying cutbacks and firings, Keller supplemented his income by returning to his home town and working in a car dealership. Within two years, he would be back freelancing for Atlas / Marvel. By this time, Keller was also indulging his love of race cars and model cars by writing and drawing such Charlton comics as "Grand Prix", "Hot Rod Racers", "Hot Rods and Racing Cars", "Teenage Hotrodders", "Drag 'n' Wheels", "Surf 'n' Wheels" and "World of Wheels". He stopped drawing for Marvel Comics by 1967, when "Kid Colt, Outlaw" had become mostly reprints, and for Charlton in 1973. Keller had also drawn a small number of stories for DC Comics from 1968-71, including for the licensed toy-car comic "Hot Wheels".

Later career

Keller returned to selling cars at Marshall Chevrolet in Reading, Pennsylvania, and later was a part-time salesperson for Fun Stuff Hobbies and for Kiddie Kar Kollectibles. He also appeared as a guest at Pennsylvania comic-book shows as late as 2003. He had two sons: Richard, who helped letter his father's Charlton work, and Robert.

Keller is not the same-name poker player Jack Keller or songwriter Jack Keller.

Quotes

Tony Isabella: "Jack Keller...drew more Kid Colt stories than any other artist and may hold the record for drawing the most stories of any Marvel character. Keller also drew (and sometimes wrote) hot-rod comics for Charlton. ... Keller was never the most exciting of comics artists, but he was a first-rate storyteller whose people moved naturally and whose backgrounds centered them in reality. He never distracted readers from the story; he pulled them into it". [ [http://www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony/?20030329 Tony's Online Tips (March 29, 2003)] ]

Fred Hembeck: "Jack's art had a pleasing crispness to it, and sorta reminded me of a stripped down John Severin. It was a tiny talent pool at the Goodman ranch back in 1961 — Kirby, Ditko, Heck, Ayers, and maybe Reinman seemed to produce all the art, along with Jack Keller. And yet, while the others may've taken on all sorts of assignments — horror, war, western, superhero — I never saw Jack anywhere but within the pages of the Kid's comic, certainly not cavorting in the nascent Marvel Universe of gods and godlike characters. But every month, there was Jack Keller, bringing the Wild West to life one more time". [ [http://www.hembeck.com/FredSez/FredSezJanuary2003.htm Fred Hembeck official site: "Fred Sez" (Jan. 2003)] ]

John Romita on being asked to draw a highly detailed historical scene for Stan Lee in the 1950s: "It took me forever; it took me two days just to get reference. I should have used the Jack Keller system — have a lot of smoke obscuring things". [ [http://www.twomorrows.com/alterego/articles/09romita.html "Alter Ego" Vol. 3, #9 (July 2001): John Romita interview] ]

Footnotes

References

* Jack Keller inteview, "Comic Book Artist" #12 (Mar. 2001), pp. 78-83
* [http://www.comicartville.com/jackkeller.htm Jack Keller Remembered]
* [http://www.lambiek.net/keller_jack.htm Lambiek Comiclopedia: Jack Keller]
* [http://www.toonopedia.com/kidcolt.htm Toonepedia Entry on Kid Colt]
* [http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/k/kidcolt.htm International Catalogue of Superheroes: Kid Colt]
* [http://www.povonline.com/2003/News010103.htm#010303b Mark Evanier on Keller's passing]
* [http://www.racingweb.com/doclehman.html Racingweb: "Summer, Racecars & Comic Books"]
* "Charlton Spotlight #3" (Winter/Spring 2004), p. 61: "Jack Keller Flags Home"


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