In comic history circles, no two men are more respected than Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. and Hames Ware. Hames, a talented artist himself, pioneered the identification of comic art identification and was co-founder, with Jerry Bails, of the WHO'S WHO OF AMERICAN COMIC BOOKS project. Jim V. was also a major contributor to the WHO'S WHO, author of many articles and books, and publisher of IMAGES MAGAZINE, a beautiful publication devoted to classic illustration art. Jim also has one of the keenest eyes of all comic art identifiers.
But these two Art Identification Gods have a problem.
For years they have debating the uncanny similarity between the artwork of the great Bob Fujitani and that of the lesser known George Gregg.
(I could devote the rest of this post just listing Fujitani's comic book credits, but that's not the topic at hand. At some point we will discuss Fuje in greater detail, I promise.)
What Hames and Jim saw was an artist (Gregg) who was either a close associate of Fujitani or a devotee of his work. The closeness of the styles was so similar, Jim wrote, that he found, "...signed George Gregg stories that I would swear were Fujitani's."
Case in point. While I have been a recent participant in their search, I found two panels in issues of CATMAN for comparison:
The left panel is from a signed Fujitani Catman story in #29 (Aug. 1945). The right panel is from a signed Gregg story in #31 (June 1946) of that title. Obviously, Gregg copied Fuje's art. This is far more than a coincidence.
So who was this George Gregg? Fujitani had to know.
Recently Michael T. Gilbert, artist and comic historian, had told me, "I also asked him if he worked on a couple of strips signed by George Gregg, or if that was one of his pseudonyms. Bob said he didn't know Gregg and it wasn't him under an assumed name."
Hames and Jim speculated that Gregg may also be a pseudonym of an artist--perhaps the first and middle names. I pursued that hunch and found on the online WHO'S WHO, a reference that Gregg's real name was "George Machubi". A subsequent conversation with Jim Amash, ALTER EGO associate editor and interviewer extraordinaire, revealed that it was in his interview with Bill Fraccio (in AE #29) that this information appeared. Furthermore, George/Machubi, attended the American School of Design with Fraccio and like Fuje, was also Japanese-American, even having been born in that country.
With that in hand and at the urging of Hames, I wrote Mr. Fujitani. His reply to me was that same as his to Michael T.: "I'm sorry but I have no recollection of George Gregg or Machubi."
When I relayed this disappointing response to Hames, Jim V. and Jim A., Amash emailed me back that the spelling of the last name should have been "Mabutchi", not "Machubi". In any case, Fujitani seems unaware of his existence.
Now I come to you, dear readers. Is there anyone out there who can help with this mystery? Does anyone have any information about the mysterious Mr. George Mabutchi and/or what was his fascination with the artwork of Bob Fujitani?
Inquiring minds want to know.