Monday, December 5, 2011

Paul Gustavson Stamps from Finland

Paul Gustavson was a prolific contributor to the Quality Comics legacy. His artwork is often dismissed or overlooked in favor of the "greats" like Fine, Cole and Crandall. But I love his work.  The artist was honored by his homeland, Åland, Finland, in 2011 with a series of stamps that feature three of his super-hero creations!

Gustavson created the first two when he worked for the Harry "A" Chesler Shop. At that time, Chesler was enmeshed with Ultem (the publisher that would become Centaur), and the Arrow first appeared in Funny Pages v.2 #10 (Sept. 1939). By the time he created the Fantom of the Fair (who was later renamed Fantoman), Ultem had become Centaur and the hero debuted in its Amazing Mystery Funnies v.2 #7 (July 1939). And of course, there's the Spider, his second archer who debuted in Quality Comics' Crack Comics #1 (May 1940).

This page of original art from “The Jester,” (Smash Comics #27, Oct. 1941) contains all the hallmarks of Gustavson's early Quality work. His art is easily recognizable by the facial features, and heroes were often drawn in similar poses. The page belongs to Murphy Anderson, to whom it was given by Busy Arnold in 1941.

Paul also created the Angel for Timely (now Marvel). Perhaps they didn't secure the rights for a stamp for that character. The Angel appeared in Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939).

If you'd like to buy copies of these stamps, visit You'll want to switch to English by  clicking the British flag in the upper right. Then you can navigate if you like to Stamps > Stamp Issues to buy the stamps themselves.

Gustavson passed away in 1977 so details about his life and career had remained largely a mystery until last year, when his son, Terry P. Gustafson surfaced online. (Note: Paul's given name was spelled with an "f" but his work was always signed spelled with a "v.") Naturally I jumped at the chance to learn what I could about this underrated talent, and Terry was kind enough to answer some questions for the book. Many of those same details appear in the promotional literature that accompanies the stamps. This is free to download as well (and by navigating to the Magazines section).

If you'd like to start reading some of his work, here's a list of his most prominent runs at Quality. You can find the comics at the Digital Comics Museum. If you use this site, please consider donating to them!

Selected Comicography:

  • Smash Comics #4–12 (Flash Fulton, Nov. 1939–July 1940)
  • Crack Comics #1–27 (Alias the Spider, May 1940–Jan. 1943)
  • Feature Comics #32–135 (Rusty Ryan, May 1940–June 1949)
  • Smash Comics #14–21 (Magno, Sept. 1940–April 1941)
  • Smash Comics #22–46 (The Jester, May 1941–Sept. 1943)
  • Police Comics #1–22, 37–58 (Human Bomb, Aug. 1941–Sept. 1943, Dec. 1944–Sept. 1946)
  • National Comics #21–26 (Quicksilver, March 1942–Nov. 1942)
  • Hit Comics #26–29 (Bill the Magnificent, Feb. 1943–Sept. 1943)
  • Smash Comics #39–67 (Midnight, Jan. 1943–Oct. 1946)
  • Modern Comics #47–98 (Will Bragg, March 1946–June 1950)
  • Police Comics #59–88 (Honeybun, Oct. 1946–March 1949), then in National Comics #71–75 (April 1949–Dec. 1949)
  • The Spirit #11–14 (Jonesy, Spring 1948–Winter 1948)
  • Kid Eternity #9–14 (Spring 1948–March 1949)
  • Blackhawk #37–95 (Chop Chop, Feb. 1951–Dec. 1955)

© 2011 Mike Kooiman

1 comment:

  1. I got a kick out of this article. Very interesting.