The Comic Art of Rocky Hartberg
The Comic Art of Rocky Hartberg

Cole Black - Detective

Have you ever heard of Cole Black? I probably wouldn't have if my parents had not retired to South Dakota in 1983. I was in college at the time but I took a semester off to help them fix up an old house in Aberdeen. At that time, there was a comic shop in Aberdeen operated by Rocky Hartberg. Rock and I became fast friends, with our interest in comics (Will Eisner in particular) in common.

Well, Rocky created a detective, a kind of Sam Spade character, Cole Black. Cole appeared in some really strangely formatted comics (they were newspaper strip size) and later in regular comic book sized comic books. I liked the character, and even though I had not seen or talked to Rock in years, thought he deserved a web page.

Then came our family summer vacation, 2006. Imagine my surprise when, while visiting my mother, the Aberdeen American News ran an extensive article on my old pal, Rocky. The article is reproduced below. Anyhow, we got back together, briefly, and decided that I'd try to market some of his material on eBay!

Watch this space, late-summer 2006!

Publications by Rocky Hartberg:

  • White Knight Comics #1
  • Cole Black #1 Moorlock's Doom (Strip format) vol. 1
  • Cole Black #2 Days of Wine and Rodents (Strip format) vol. 1
  • Cole Black #3 The Big Squeeze (Strip format) vol. 1
  • Cole Black #4 Three Clicks of the Heel (Strip format) vol. 1
  • Cole Black #5 (Strip format) vol. 1
  • Cole Black #1-3 (Standard format) vol. 2

Inspired Langford artist aims for accuracy

Paintings cover wide range; on display until Aug. 23 (2006)

From staff reports
Aberdeen American News, July 20, 2006
When you first glance at Rocky Hartberg's paintings you can't help but notice an uncanny resemblance between the artist and some of his subjects. Hartberg does not deny the similarity.

Hartberg's shoulder-length salt and pepper hair, beard and mustache are reflected on the faces of soldiers, pirates, villains and heroes.

The Langford resident's art show, "The Art of Adventure" consisting of 25 acrylic paintings, will be on display through Aug. 23. The colorful paintings hang along the second-floor hall (President's Gallery) In Spafford Hall at Northern State University.

With titles such as "Pharaoh's Pleasure," "Robin Hood," "Jungle Jeopardy" and "Sword in Stonehenge," it's obvious his artwork covers a large range of topics. His ideas were gleaned from children's books, Bible stories, American history and ancient Egypt, the Revolutionary War, a Western series and the Last of the Mohicans. "I've always been a reader," said Hartberg. "Whatever I'm reading about at the time transfers onto the canvas." The pieces are also historically accurate. "I research each detail," he said, pointing out a scarab on the armband of an Egyptian woman.

His visit to the Renaissance Festival in Minnesota resulted in two vivid elaborately detailed paintings, "Flight of the Nimble Dancers" and "Celebration of Life."

Imagination plays a large role in how Hartberg depicts his subjects. At one point he'd read that a game had been found in King Tutankhamun's tomb. The resulting canvas "Ancient Games," portrays two Egyptian women playing a board game. Pointing to a painting of Alice in Wonderland, "Queens Court," he said, "I think the king was probably a drinker, so I painted him with ruddy cheeks."

Hartberg completes about a dozen paintings per year, each taking several weeks. "I paint with brushes that have six to 10 hairs per brush," he said. "I spent eight hours on Alice's face alone," in the "Alice in Wonderland" painting, "Question for the Caterpillar."

Hartberg tries to appeal to the average collector. His pieces are all about 18-by-24 inches "... so they'd be convenient for framing." He considers himself "approachable and affordable."

Hartberg, 52, graduated from Northern State University in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in science and arts. He returned to NSU and graduated again in 2003 from a two-year art program. In 1980 he created a self-published comic book series called "Cole Black," about a private detective in WWII. "Painting was a whole new discipline for me," said Hartberg. "It's so different from line art and inking."

Right now he's working on a Wild West painting about a bank robbery.

Hartberg's next show will be in the Dacotah Prairie Museum in October and November 2006.

Rocky Hartberg Painting Thumbnails
A selection of Hartberg's paintings. See my eBay store for items for sale.
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