Thursday, January 15, 2015

Charles Nicholas stayed busy after Charlton, Part 1--"Lost Horizon" (1979)

Below: Hugh Conway gazes upon the not-quite-splendor of Shangri-La, as drawn by Charles Nicholas for the 1979 Pendulum Press comic book version of Lost Horizon:

"What the heck is that?"--Conway

Pendulum Press' "Contemporary Motivators" series (that's what they called it!) appears to be as generally unknown to comic collectors as the same publisher's set of twelve Classics Illustrated reissues.  Half the length of the Now Age Illustrated titles, the CM literary adaptations had to tell their stories even more quickly and simply, which made Charles Nicholas (of Charlton/Nicholas-Alascia fame) their ideal illustrator--and my Net research suggests he did them all.  No cut on Nicholas--he was a talented man, but most of his work was pretty no-frills, and that no-frills quality may have been deemed more suitable to the "contemporary" titles in this series than the comparatively flamboyant contributions of Pendulum's Filipino artists.  Maybe that's why Vincent Fago picked Nicholas.  Or maybe it was because Nicholas had suddenly become available, his time at Charlton having just ended.  I do not know.  Besides Horizon, CM's literary adaptations include Hot RodJust Dial a NumberThe Diary of Anne FrankGod Is My Co-Pilot, and The Caine Mutiny.

Here's the splash/introduction page for Horizon.  The story's narrator (not shown here) looks exactly like the characters Conway and Mallinson, making for some slightly confusing reading, even at 32 pages.  (Well, 31. We'll get to that):

Below: A typically competent Nicholas composition, complete with those gaping foreground faces we know and love from Charlton:

Below: "The most beautiful mountain on earth"?  I guess you had to be there:

Below: The reasonably cool Shangri-La in the second panel helps make up for the not-so-hot cover rendition thereof: 

Below: A cool overhead view, adequately detailed, with the ceiling lanterns helping to give this composition a sense of depth.  I was puzzling over why this panel has a stronger feeling of depth and scope than the exterior scenes, and the reason is simple: because it's wide.  

Below: Nicholas' least successful panel, besides the cover, featuring the mountain called Karakal, which looks like a pile of sand left over from a building project.  The panel shape gives a nice sense of height, if nothing else:  

Below: A much cooler composition, even if the mountain continues to look like an outsize chunk of ice cream.  Mallinson (who parts his hair differently than Conway) gets the Nicholas gaping-face treatment in panel 2.  Shangri-La, while a bit under-detailed, is still faring better than it had on the cover:

Below: Fine work from Nicholas, as Shangri-La fades into the mist.  Here the upright panel shape doesn't hinder the sense of depth and scope:

Below: The decades catch up with the previously young and beautiful Lo-Tsen following her departure from Shangri-La with Mallinson and Conway.  This could have been the occasion for some memorable comic work--instead, we get a bored-looking face and a few lightly-inked wrinkles.  Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, this is not.  The final panel is nice, though.  Like the book, this adaptation ends with the question, "Do you think he will ever find it?" ("He" being Conway, and "it" being Shangri-La.) Next page blank.  Nice effect.

Or maybe not--Just Dial a Number also sports a blank final page, so maybe I'm mistaking an ink-saving measure for an innovative touch!  

Verdict: Mediocre but fun.  Not much magic in this Lost Horizon adaptation, though I enjoyed it, anyway.  More Nicholas to come.



  1. Interesting stuff as usual, Lee. There is some nice work by Nicholas here that I've never seen before. I wonder what else he may have done after Charlton closed down. I suspect this is also inked by Nicholas, having seen some stories he inked at Charlton. BTW, I've mentioned Molno and linked to your blog in my latest Charlton related post.

  2. Nick--Thanks! I'll check out your post ASAP. And I agree on the inking, which I would also assume is Nicholas'. It has a harder edge than Alascia's, I think. I enjoyed the "Lost Horizon" art more than I let on here, though I think it needed a more exotic touch--something Classics Illustrated would have given it. Then again, Pendulum hadn't done well with its CI reissues, so maybe it didn't want a CI look! Next post, I'll be spotlighting another Pendulum Nicholas effort (I won't give the title away) featuring better & more detailed art, and a more involved adaptation. I think Nicholas was much more into it. It's fairly amazing.

    This may be old news, but Nicholas did some "Transformers" titles for Marvel, at least one which came out in book form. I've seen the cover for same, and it's very skillfully done.

  3. I didn't realize Nicholas drew Transformers. I'll have to check that out. I look forward to the next post.