Fletcher Hanks is a cult cartoonist whose carer spanned only a few years – 1939 to 1941 –  but in that time he produced a body of work as startling as it was shortlived. His superhero tales depicted a gonzo world of fantasy and violence with a primitive yet mesmerizing art style and a personal mythology of characters such as superhero Stardust and evil queen Fantomah. Long before comics went “underground” Hanks was proof that even a pulp medium could be the vehicle for deeply personal and weird work.

His stories were previously collected in two volumes from Fantagraphics, but they’ve been omnibused into one majestic book, Turn Loose Our Death Rays and Kill Them All: The Complete Works of Fletcher Hanks, edited by Paul Karasik, who worked with Hanks’s family to reconstruct a portrait of the mysterious figure.

And now Karasik has written with exciting news: the only known painting by Hanks has been recovered from collecting dust in the dilapidated barn of his late son.

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The large painting on board depicts a grim, long-haired man, perhaps a Native American, clutching a blanket around his shoulders under a star dappled sky. We may never know the circumstances of the work’s creation or whom the figure represents but, as it is signed in the lower corner, there is no doubt that it was painted by the man whom R. Crumb called, “A twisted genius”.
hanks_lg.jpgI’m guessing that this was not the only painting that Hanks made in his lifetime – at one point he painted murals for a living – but also guessing that this is the only one that has come down to posterity. But at least it was found! 
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The Hanks collection would make a fine gift for aficionados of outsider art – and by ordering direct from Fantagraphics you will received a FREE Fletcher Hanks mini comic, “Color Me or Die.” with a handsome Charles Burns cover. Good deal!
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1 COMMENT

  1. I don’t believe that Fantomah is intended to be taken as evil, skull face not withstanding. The morality of Hanks’ world is problematic, but Fantomah is a nemesis to characters whom most readers would take to be wrong-doers. Beyond this pursuit, it isn’t clearvthat she does much of anything.

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