Inkie, by Al Stahl
Inkie, from Crack Comics #29 (May 1943)

Al Stahl was an American animator, who worked for Terrytoons and the Fleischer Studios in the 1930s, but established his own cartoon studio in the 1950s. Stahl's Animated Productions, Inc. specialized in animated TV commercials. In between he was active writing and drawing comics for National Periodicals/DC, Fiction House and Quality Comics, including such features as 'Oswald the Lucky Rabbit', 'Inkie', 'Flatfoot Burns, Star Detective' and 'Death Patrol'.

Animation career
Alvin "Yester" Stahl was born in 1916 in Yonkers, New York, as the child of German-Jewish immigrants. His father sold furniture. In the early 1930s Stahl applied for a job as assistant-animator at Terrytoons. According to his son, Milt Stahl, Al was confronted with a huge line of job applicants and didn't want to wait. Instead he climbed inside the studio through a window, took a seat somewhere and started making drawings. When somebody noticed him there he explained that he really wanted to be an animator. Since they liked his drawings he was allowed to work for the studio for a few weeks, but without payment. After a while Stahl was hired for real. During the same decade Stahl also worked as an animator at the Fleischer Brothers Studio.

Comics career
In addition to his work in animation, Stahl was also part of the first generation of comic book artists, working for such mid 1930s titles like New Fun, New Comics and More Fun by National Periodicals (nowadays DC Comics). Stahl's contributions were limited to humorous fillers like 'Pelion and Ossa', 'Doubtful Dave' and 'Needles'. For these same titles, he also drew a couple of one-page stories with the animated cartoon character 'Oswald the Lucky Rabbit', who was formely owned and created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, but since 1927 produced by Walter Lantz. Around the same periode, Stahl was present in The Comics Magazine, a comic book published by a predecessor of the Centaur Group, with 'Porkchops 'n' Gravy', a feature starring two stereotypical African-American characters. He also published the written course 'The American Course of Cartooning' (1934), for the American School of Cartooning in Chicago, Illinois. In 1937 he made a gag cartoon feature called 'The Happy Trailings', which was syndicated through The George Matthew Adams Service, Inc and dealt with the unlikely subject of trailer life.


The Happy Trailings, from The Star Press (Muncie, Indiana) on 22 April and 14 May 1937

Fiction House Comics
After a hiatus of a couple of years, Stahl returned to comic book work in 1940. Between 1940 and 1943 he worked for Fiction House through Jerry Iger's packaging studio. After two 'Peter Pupp' stories for Jumbo Comics, he became the regular artist of 'Captain Terry Thunder' in Jungle Comics. This feature, originally drawn by Arthur Peddy, starred a British Army captain and his heroic gang of Congo Lancers, who fought slave traders, disgruntled natives and Nazis in the African continent. Stahl ended his Fiction House tenure with the 'Bobby' feature in Jumbo Comics. During World War II Stahl served in the U.S. army Sign Corps, but managed to get out of service, by pretending to be too frightened to climb high poles.


Captain Terry Thunder, from Jungle Comics #33

Quality Comics
Stahl then began working for Quality Comics (1943-1950), initially drawing stories with 'Blimpy' (a character created by Sy Reit) and 'Inferior Man' (created by Al Jaffee) in Feature Comics. His own creation 'Inkie' ("a comic character the size of your pinky...") in Crack Comics was heavily influenced by Max Fleischer's animated series 'Out of the Inkwell'. The feature showcased some funny meta-humor, as the boy made out of ink criticizes the stories in which he appears. The feature also had guest appearances of its artists. Besides Stahl these also included fill-in artists Jack Cole and Milt Stein. Stahl remained the feature's main artist until 1949. Also in 1943, Stahl began drawing the slapstick comic strip about policeman 'Flatfood Burns' in Quality's Police Comics, which was originally created by Harvey Kurtzman. Between 6 May 1945 and 3 November 1946, the 'Flatfood Burns' feature was chosen by Will Eisner to become part of his syndicated 'The Spirit' Sunday supplement  for the Register and Tribune Syndicate, replacing 'Intellectual Amos' by Andre LeBlanc.


Flatfoot Burns (The Spirit Section, 18 November 1945)

Also for Quality, Al Stahl succeeded Gill Fox as the artist of 'Death Patrol' (1943-1946) in Military Comics, about a group of ragtag volunteer pilots. It was originally created by Jack Cole. Stahl also drew episodes of the back-up feature about 'Private Dogtag', "the world's dumbest soldier", which was also drawn by Bart Tumey and Milt Stein. Additional short-lived features drawn by Al Stahl for Quality Comics were 'Willie Worry' and 'Bozo the Hobo' in All Humor Comics (1946) and 'Snap Shotz' in Kid Eternity (1946-1947). Outside of Quality Comics, Stahl drew one story of 'Freddie Freckles' for Headline Comics by Prize Comics (1945). Al Stahl is often credited as the artist behind the pen name Bruce Baker, who drew 'Doodle Doo and Doodle Dee' for Ding Dong (Magazine Enterprises, 1946) and 'Lee O'Lion' in Frisky Fables (Novelty Comics, 1947). This claim is however nowadays disputed, as there really was a cartoonist called Bruce Baker (1916) who drew for comic books.


Death Patrol, from Military Comics #39

Return to animation, final years and death
In 1951 Stahl returned to animation and established his own studio, American Film Producers, in Broadway. He and his brother renamed it Animated Productions, Inc. in 1952.  They mainly made animated advertisements and did so until the 1990s. Among their many clients were NBC, Margo Wines, Marvel Mystery Oil, Chunkynut Candy, Rinso and the Yonkers and Roosevelt Raceways. The studio also provided animation for the documentary 'Black Fox' (1962), a short film about Hitler's rise to power, with narration by Hollywood legend Marlène Dietrich. Al Stahl died in New York in 1999. 


Inkie meets his artist in Crack Comics #30

Series and books by Al Stahl in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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