A website devoted to the rediscovery of the works of early 20th century illustrator Henry E. Vallely (1881-1950). Perhaps best known for his chiaroscuro technique employed in Big Little Books, he also produced a large volume of work including fashion illustrations for women's magazines, spot illustrations for food periodicals, magazine covers and children's books. His art is distinctive and timeless and deserves the recognition that has until this time eluded it. Comments and contributions towards the preservation of the H. E. Vallely legacy are most welcome. All images are believed to be in the public domain unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Gang Busters! (Secret Origins of Batman Part 1)

My first encounter with the work of Henry Vallely occurred around 1986 while attending one of Bruce Schwartz’s conventions at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. My friend Dan Riba picked up one of the Big Little Books a vendor had on the table and started flipping through the pages. He pointed out one of the illustrations and asked me if it looked familiar. We were both lifelong comic book fans and were well versed in the “classics” of the golden and silver age so within a heartbeat I realized that we were looking at a swipe from Detective Comics #33 from November of 1939, specifically the panel in which Bruce Wayne contemplates the nature of criminals (“… a superstitious and cowardly lot…”). Or so we thought. As it turned out, the copyright of the book (Gang Busters In Action, BLB 1451) was 1938 and we realized that it was Bob Kane who had done the swiping! Further perusal revealed at least a half dozen other poses familiar to Batfans, some of which I plan to upload in the future. In the meantime, compare the two for yourself.
Bruce Wayne is © DC Comics.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would have been cool to see Vallely draw that batman, that illo is really nice!

6:14 PM

Blogger Phillip said...

Wow, that's really neat! (Wow, I sound like a shmuck.)

3:27 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a life-long Batman fan I found your discovery of the link between Mr. Vallely's work and the young Bob Kane to be fascinating. I am also a big fan of the art of the pulp magazines and have long been aware of the connections between the pulps and early comics. Your findings indicate that the links between the two are even closer than most people are aware of. I look forward to seeing more of your work in this area.

All the Best, HLGONZA@aol.com

5:52 AM

Blogger Anthony Adams said...

Note especially the horizontal "folds" in the body Bruce Wayne's robe at elbow-bend height. Surely those are miscolored fingers right out of the Vallely piece. I only discovered Vallely in the last six months during a library school assignment. My respect for him grows daily, and what a wonderful find you all have made.

2:41 PM

Anonymous arlen schumer said...

For more shameless kane swiping, check out my cover article in Comic Book Artist/Alter-Ego Vol.1 #5 (1999), in which I discover the swipe to the Batman pose on the cover of detective #27 to be an Alex raymond Flash Gordon pose from 1937!
--Arlen Schumer

11:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post. We've been discussing it here:

And writer Mark Evanier linked to it from his blog.


2:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent piece of reportage. A first rate scoop and a strong reveal of the meme nature of Art, ideas that succeed in stating the subject adapted and reused by succeeding generations.

8:00 PM

Blogger Mark Luebker said...

That's really a discovery! I'll be looking forward to the other examples (and wondering if Bob Kane EVER drew anything that bore his signature...)

6:02 AM

Blogger link yaco said...

Fascinating. I am surprised that there are no comments because my Yahoo group, Scanarama, is chatting away about it quite merrily. As is a Comics Journal forum. Guess they forgot to thank you. WELL...thanks! That being said, on the basis of one single measily panel, I would be very hesitant to declare this a closed case of swiping. There are so many differences between the two. The hairline is different, the head is tilted at a diff angle...on and on. I could buy it, tho. But I would have to see some context or supporting evidence. Catching my drift? If there truly are more convincing examples, then you might do your position a service by posting them.

6:31 PM

Anonymous SanctumSanctorumComix said...

It's well known that Bob Kane didn't really DO all that much on the BATMAN strip.

He farmed out work to ghost writers and artists who would have to put the "BOB KANE" stamp on them.

Hell...he even admitted that he stole the concept from several sources;

- The SHADOW (the rationale behind the cape and chiaroscuro.)

- ZORRO and DOC SAVAGE (the adventure and action came from there)

- THE BAT (old movie -Vincent Price flick, iirc- was the inspiration behind much of the look and the name)

Kane was a hack.

Uh oh...NOW I'm in trouble.


12:08 PM

Blogger DSK said...

link yaco, I can assure you that there are several more examples which I will be posting periodically. First and foremost this is a blog dedicated to the artistry of Henry Vallely so my primary focus is to re-introduce his artwork which is unknown to so many. Henry Vallely was so talented and versatile that it would be a shame if he were to be known solely as "the guy Bob Kane swiped for Batman", so rather than limit this blog to those drawings, I intend to post artwork featuring the many aspects of his work that I am aware of.

SanctumSanctorumComix, you can also add THE BAT WHISPERS and THE MAN WHO LAUGHS as movies that inspired the ceation of Batman.


7:27 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not swiping. It's Open Source Artwork. No Biggie.

7:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No offense, but how many ways are there to draw a man in a suit thinking at a desk?

7:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the valley illo is clearly the better of the two, though the caption is rather silly. shame.

1:47 AM

Blogger Nathaniel said...

I don't know how you define a "swipe" in the comic book world. Sure, the composition of the frame and the pose of the figure are the same. If you check out this animated GIF, it appears the Bruce Wayne panel was nearly drawn from scratch:

8:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out the fingers of Bruce Wayne's right hand. They are green in the panel, but should have been skin colored. on boingboing.

his fingers are curled in a fist. if that green part were pink, those would be some long-ass fingers.

6:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, anonymous, his right hand. The hand he is holding in front of his face is his left hand. :)

9:04 AM


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