Monday, May 14, 2018

John Forte RIP (1918-1966)

John Forte (10/06/1918~5/20/1966) was the first "permanent" artist on the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Note how each Legionnaire is sitting somewhat differently
Although they were drawn first by George Papp in the pages of Adventure Comics #247, when the Legion were finally given their own series in Adventure Comics, John Forte was the artist assigned to them. He got the assignment, it seems, because he was the artist of the previous strip in Adventure, and when that series ended, editor Mort Weisinger simply gave the new series to Forte.
That series was "Bizarro World."
the classic LSH pose from ADV #312
According to Pulp Artists dot com ( John Forte (pronounced "fort") was born John Robert Forte, Jr in Queens, New York.
Forte was good at making each Legionnaire look unique
The many faces of Lex Luthor: happy, evil, and plotting
Lightning Lad never looked so determined
Forte did looks of surprise very well  
After studying at the Career School of Art, at the bright young age of 22 he began to draw pen and ink illustrations for such pulp magazines as COMET and FUTURE FICTION. After serving gallantly in World War II, Forte returned to Queens, where he met and married Jessie Fraser. They had a daughter in 1952 and a son in 1954.
Forte had to draw modern architecture that was futuristic, but also recognizable

Forte allowed his imagination to run wild when setting stories on distant planets
This is the Time Trapper's head-quarters at the End of Time.
Of course it is! 
During this time John Forte worked in all varieties of comic-book genres: westerns, war, horror, suspense, and romance. From 1948~1959 he worked predominantly at Timely (now Marvel). In September 1958 he was involved in the kick-off of Space Ranger in the pages of Showcase. Then in May, 1959 he was given a story in Lois Lane #9. Superman-Group Editor Mort Weisinger must have liked working with him, because this story led to Forte doing a story in Jimmy Olsen, then back and forth between both Superman books. Eventually he was given actual Superman stories, and finally he was assigned Tales of the Bizarro World in Adventure Comics. 

Forte also had to draw monsters and animals as well as future people!

When Bizarro was bounced out of Adventure Comics, the artist stayed. John Forte was given first crack at the replacement series which was, of course, the Legion of Super-Heroes. Forte worked on them from Adventure Comics #300 (Sept 1962) thru Adventure Comics #339 (Dec 1965), missing only a few issues (allegedly for hospital treatments).
Notice how each Legionnaire is flying in a different pose
During John Forte's run he created the looks of Legionnaires Element Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Lightning Lass and Light Lass, and Dream Girl, as well as the Legion of Substitute Heroes. He was also the first artist for the Time Trapper, Glorith, and Starfinger (although that design is better left forgotten).
Love that expression on Brainaic 5's face...! 

The debut of the Legion of Substitute Heroes
John Forte died of cancer on May 2, 1966.

Some Legion fans have told me that they don't like John Forte's art. Others have said that his work has moments of sheer brilliance. All I know is, without John Forte as the Legion artist the series would not have been what it was. John Forte made the Substitute Heroes loveable. He made most of the Legion men handsome, and most of the Legion women beautiful. Sure, some of his figures were clunky, but mostly he imbibed the series with a unique "look." I'm sorry he died so young and missed the Legion becoming such a phenomenon.
The debut of the Heroes of Lallor
John Forte was also tasked to draw events from the past, such as the time
the Legion met Nero....

....Dillinger, and Hitler! 

Or the time the Legion met Kryptonian settlers on Earth
Sarcasm Kid: Over on Legion World someone coined the term "The Fabulous Fortes," a title for all the beautiful and gorgeous background women Forte drew for his run on Adventure Comics. Here's a compilation of all the most noticeable ones:

The Red-Headed Applicant appeared the most considering how many try outs she attended. And of course there's Glorith from Adventure Comics #338 and Queen Azura from Adventure #326.

Over the years I've tried to collect commissions based on these fabulous ladies, but it's been going a bit slowly. I hope you like the ones I do have to share.

(Kissandra by Nechama Frier)

(Sun Woman by Sean Chen)
(Character Analysis Monitor Maiden by Tyler James)
(Red Headed Applicant by Francis Portela - I know, the quality of the scan is awful. I wish Francis hadn't used such a light pencil)
(Queen Azura by Rudy Nebres)

As a bonus, here's a rare piece of fan art of Kissandra I'd requested from the long defunct LegionUnlimited over on DeviantArt.


  1. Cite on that "You are Me" pic? Would like to read that story.

    1. Unfortunately there was no credit on the piece, and now I can't find where I got it from. I think it was from an old TIMELY "Journey Into Mystery" but this was all that I could find. Sorry! It does look like an interesting little tale, doesn't it?

  2. Forte's art could definitely be clunky and stiff at times. But that Sun Woman vs. Night Girl panel shows that he was able to get fairly dynamic at times!

    Also, on an unrelated note, I finally after twenty-something years realized the connection between "Starfinger" and "Goldfinger." Because obviously.