January 26, 2012
Remembering Rudy Palais by Mark Heike
Another one of my favorite-but-unheralded artists from the Golden Age of comics is the ubiquitous Rudy Palais. Extremely prolific from the early 1940’s through the mid- 1950’s Rudy’s artwork appeared within the pages of almost every publisher’s offerings at one point or another, in a wide variety of genre’s, from adventure to humor, funny animal, teenage, horror and war. ( Rudy also had a brother, Walter by name, who also worked in the comics field in the 1940s; for Fiction House and a few other publishers.) At his best, Rudy’s work was distinctively evocative, filled with slit-eyed heroes, leggy, wide-eyed women, all displaying exaggerated facial expressions and body language. He could spot his blacks generously, used silouette judiciously, and always inked with a bold and snappy thick brush line. The most distinctive feature of his work is that, when things got intense, his characters would SWEAT. Not a lot of Golden Age artists would bother with depicting persperation, but Rudy did. Never a “star” illustrator, he did have some memorable runs drawing costumed characters of the 1940’s; usually finishing up after bigger-name artists left back-up features for the big companies, or drawing the adventures of the marquee stars for the smaller companies. Characters that bore the Palais touch included The BLACK ANGEL, STORMY FOSTER, The BLACK CONDOR, The BOY KING, MAGNO and DAVEY, CAPTAIN COURAGEOUS, Cat-Man and KITTEN, LITTLE LEADERS, The RECKONER, The DEACON and MICKEY, The CLAW, Mr. RISK, Dr. MID-NITE, DOLLMAN, HUNT BOWMAN, MANHUNTER, PHANTOM LADY, The RAY, The RED COMET, The SPIDER WIDOW, The UNKNOWN, and The UNKNOWN SOLDIER are just a few of the heroes and heroines he drew. His work seemed highly affected by the time he spent early in his career working in Will Eisner’s Tudor City studios, with stylistic influences ranging from Reed Crandall to Lou Fine- all filtered through his own, somewhat wacky approach. Comics historians who only know Rudy from his later work on the ACG and Charlton books (into the 1960s ) usually discount him. In addition, he had an almost 20-year association with Gilberton Publishing working on the CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED line of comics, before he retired in 1969. To be honest, I am NOT familiar with his work during that period, so I cannot give an informed opinion on how much his work might have deteriorated by then. Even in his early days, one can occasionally see the effects of having to complete a rush job, but when he could take his time, his work could be highly effective. Excellent examples of Rudy’s art have been reprinted in AC books like Good Girl Art Quarterly #15 (on BLACK VENUS) ; Golden Age Greats Spotlight Special Volume 6 (on CAPTAIN COURAGEOUS); Men of Mystery #47 (on MAGNO and DAVEY); and Men of Mystery #20 (on The SPIDER WIDOW). Hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity to present more great Rudy Palais art in future. I encourage discriminating panelologists to check out the work of this interesting stylist; you too might find it worth a read.