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In the the USA USA In

No. 13 March 2002

A STAR-STUDDED SPECTACULAR! STAN LEE•MURPHY ANDERSON DON HECK•GEORGE TUSKA MARIE SEVERIN•MICHAEL T. GILBERT MIKE MANLEY•MARC SWAYZE•C.C. BECK ROY THOMAS Interviews JOHN BUSCEMA

Avengers, Loki TM & © Marvel Characters, Inc.

I’ve Got This Game Rigged So That Every time Thor Makes A Move, one Of The Avengers Disappears From The Face Of The Earth!


Vol. 3, No. 13 / March 2002 Editor

Roy Thomas

Associate Editors Bill Schelly Jim Amash

Design & Layout

Christopher Day

Consulting Editors John Morrow Jon B. Cooke

FCA Editor

P.C. Hamerlinck

Comics Crypt Editor Michael T. Gilbert

Editors Emeritus

Jerry Bails (founder) Ronn Foss, Biljo White, Mike Friedrich

Cover Artists Murphy Anderson Joe Simon

Writer/Editorial: Avengers Re-Assemble! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 “Avengers Is Mine!”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Roy Thomas scans his own (and Stan Lee’s) 1960s tenure on The Avengers.

Cover Colorists Murphy Anderson III Joe Simon & Tom Ziuko

Mailing Crew

Russ Garwood, Glen Musial, Ed Stelli, Pat Varker, Loston Wallace

And Special Thanks to: Trey Alexander Murphy Anderson Murphy Anderson III Blake Bell Al Bigley Bill Black Jerry K. Boyd Tom Brevoort Frank Brunner John & Dolores Buscema William Cain James Cavenaugh Mike Costa Rich Donnelly Shelton Drum Ron Frenz Dave Gantz Grass Green George Hagenauer David G. Hamilton Mark & Stephanie Heike Roger Hill Carmine Infantino Daniel Keyes Batton Lash

Contents

Stan Lee John Paul Leon Dennis Mallonee Mike Manley Joe & Nadia Mannarino Matthew Moring Will Murray Michelle Nolan Eric NolenWeathington Don Perlin Dan Raspler Mrs. Edmee B. Reit Joe Rubinstein Marie Severin Gilbert Shelton Joe Simon J. David Spurlock Flo Steinberg Daniel Tesmoingt Dann Thomas George & Dorothy Tuska Michael J. Vassallo Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. William Woolfolk

This issue is dedicated to the memory of

John Buscema Johnny Craig Gray Morrow Seymour Reit

One Heck of a Professional . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 A verbal and visual tribute to early Marvel mainstay Don Heck.

An Avengers Interview––Sort of––with John Buscema . . . . . . . . . 16 John B. and Roy T. reminisce about their collaboration on Marvel’s greatest heroes.

Stan Lee’s Double Date! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Michael T. Gilbert re-presents an historic 1964 interview with The Man. The Eye Is Still Watching You!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 The great 1960s fandom hero is back, courtesy of Bill Schelly.

Tributes to Johnny Craig, Gray Morrow, and Seymour Reit . . . 34 Far too few words about three greats who have left us.

FCA (Fawcett Collectors of America) #72. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 P.C. Hamerlinck proudly presents Marc Swayze, Mike Manley, and C.C. Beck.

Golden Age Section (“The Titans of Timely/Marvel,” Part II). . Flip Us! About Our Cover: From the moment Roy saw Murphy Anderson's fabulous cover on the program book of the 2001 Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC, he had to have it as a cover on Alter Ego! Con host Shelton Drum suggested to Murphy the notion of inserting the original Avengers into the situation of the legendary cover Mr. A. had drawn four decades earlier for Justice League of America #1—and Murphy, aided by the coloring and technical expertise of his son Murphy III, executed it beautifully! Our sincere thanks to all three gents—and to Shel's wife Cynthia, without whom there probably wouldn't be a Heroes Con in the first place! See info on their 2002 convention on our very next page. [Art ©2002 Murphy Anderson & Murphy Anderson III; Avengers © & TM 2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] Above: John Buscema drew this exquisite pencil sketch of the then-new Black Knight and his winged steed Aragorn in 1969 for Alter Ego [Vol. 1] #10; it hangs today on a staircase in Roy & Dann Thomas’ South Carolina home. [Art ©2002 John Buscema; Black Knight © & TM 2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] Alter EgoTM is published 8 times a year by TwoMorrows, 1812 Park Drive, Raleigh, NC 27605, USA. Phone: (919) 833-8092. Roy Thomas, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Alter Ego Editorial Offices: Rt. 3, Box 468, St. Matthews, SC 29135, USA. Fax: (803) 826-6501; e-mail: roydann@ntinet.com. Send subscription funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial offices. Single issues: $8 ($10 Canada, $11 elsewhere). Eight-issue subscriptions: $40 US, $80 Canada, $88 elsewhere. All characters are © their respective companies. All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter © Roy Thomas. Alter Ego is a TM of Roy & Dann Thomas. FCA is a TM of P.C. Hamerlinck. Printed in Canada. FIRST PRINTING.


“Avengers Is Mine”

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Is Mine!”

A Personal Look Back at (Some of) the World’s Greatest Heroes by The Avengers’ Second Scripter Part I by Roy Thomas I. The Coming of The Avengers Everybody knows the (perhaps apocryphal) story: after playing a round of golf circa 1961 with DC publisher Jack Liebowitz, who bragged about sales of his new Justice League of America, Martin Goodman returned to his own little stump of the former Timely Comics and told editor Stan Lee to come up with a super-hero group of their own. The resulting Fantastic Four soon turned Goodman’s foundering company into the mighty Marvel Comics Group, restored F.F. artist/cocreator Jack Kirby to the prominence he had enjoyed during the ’40s and ’50s, and made Stan Lee the nearest thing comic books have ever had to a household word. Except for featuring a super-group, however, Fantastic Four had less in common with the JLA than one might think. The League was

composed of buddy-buddy costumed stars of seven current DC features, while the F.F. came out of nowhere (even its “Human Torch” was a new version); they didn’t even wear uniforms at first, let alone individualized costumes. They fought amongst themselves, too, something which would have been inconceivable then at DC.

Before long, Fantastic Four was giving even JLA a run for its money, probably as much on the strength of the differences between the two titles as on their similarities. And that’s when—whether he thought about it consciously or not (I suspect not)—Stan Lee decided to return to the JLA prototype, and this time to follow it a bit more closely in creating a second Marvel group. This gang’s heroes would be ones who already starred in four solo series: Thor from Journey into Mystery, Iron Man from Tales of Suspense, Ant-Man and The Wasp from Tales to Astonish, and The

This re-creation of Kirby’s cover of The Avengers #1 was done in the 1990s by Dick Ayers, original inker of the cover and issue. It and the original art to the splash of issue #8 (Sept. 1964) are repro’d from a Sotheby’s art catalog. [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


“Avengers Is Mine”

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Its name wasn’t going to be anything like Justice League of America, either, which even then to Stan would’ve had way too much of a “super-hero Rotarians” feel about it. No, he wanted something pulpy. Fantastic Four had smacked of the pulp magazine title The Secret Six... Spider-Man’s name, at least, of The Spider... so the new assemblage of heroes became—The Avengers (#1, cover date Sept. 1963). The original Avenger, of course, had been a pulp-mag hero back in the 1930s. In terms of intra-group relationships, however, The Avengers definitely owed more to F.F. than to JLA. From the very beginning, The Hulk was a lettuce-colored loose cannon, and readers wondered if he’d ever fit in with his fellow Avengers, even as well as The Thing had with the F.F. The answer was that he wouldn’t. By #3 Hulk had already forged a temporary alliance with Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, against his Avengers compatriots, and at story’s end he quit the team—for good, as it happened. And when Captain America was thawed out of the ice in #4, it looked as if, with penciler Don Heck relieving Kirby as of #9, The Avengers might settle comfortably into a JLA niche with a steady membership that could go on for years. It didn’t, of course. Because Stan found it difficult (and worse— unrealistic) to have several of Marvel’s solo stars cavorting together in Avengers while in their own titles (which he also scripted or at least plotted) they were involved in other, often cliffhanger storylines, he took the unexpected and revolutionary step in #16 (May 1965) of having every hero except Cap quit the team, in a story he brought back Jack Kirby to pencil. Their replacements were definitely a bunch of secondraters: the quasi-villainous archer Hawkeye from a few “Iron Man” tales, and Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch, two nominally “evil mutants” from The X-Men, another team comic in more of an “I Was a Teenage Fantastic Four” mold which had debuted at the same time as The Avengers, but which had thus far proved not nearly as popular. Amazingly, with this foursome—Captain America and his also-rans, as we fans thought of them at first—Avengers actually gained in sales, despite such early mediocre opponents as The Minotaur, The

Kang comes back with a bang! The Heck-Ayers splash for Avengers #24 (Oct. 1965), repro’d from the original art as seen in a Sotheby’s catalog. [©002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

Incredible Hulk from—well, actually, Ol’ Greenskin’s own mag had bit the dust after six issues a half year earlier, but Bruce Banner’s bitter half was still popping up in various Marvel mags, and it was clearly only a matter of time till he got another regular gig. (Other possible members included Spider-Man—but he was a definite loner that Stan intended to keep that way—and Sub-Mariner, who would guest-star two issues later, though still behaving more like a villain than a hero.) Once again Stan brought in his ace artist (and de facto coplotter) Jack Kirby to do the penciling honors—while Dick Ayers, who had been inking F.F., performed the same chores on the new mag.

Rascally Roy, seen here in a 1965-66 photo with Stan's gal Friday, Fabulous Flo Steinberg, made his first “creative contribution” to The Avengers in #30 (July 1966), when, in the final panel on Page 7, he penciled the palm tree seen above—just to see how it would look inked by Fearless Frank Giacoia. Rest of pencils by Don Heck. The photo, courtesy of Flo, appeared in Les Daniels' indispensable 1991 book Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. [Art ©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


(Some of) the World’s Greatest Heroes Commisar, Swordsman, and Power Man. The latter was intended to match the success of their earlier (but deceased) foe Wonder Man, but he didn’t come close, maybe partly because brown isn’t a particularly happy color for a super-baddie’s threads. And that’s where I came in.

II. Who’re You Callin’ “Rascally”? When I started working for Stan and Marvel in early July of 1965, the Power Man story (#21-22) was winding up, and in #23 Stan was finally bringing back a relative big gun—Kang the Conqueror—even if Kang had seemed a time-hopping knockoff of Dr. Doom. Next, Doc himself turned up. In #28 (May 1966) Giant-Man (nee Ant-Man) returned to the Avengers fold, his name altered to the more euphonious “Goliath.” The fact that the Biblical Goliath was a villain, not a hero, apparently never bothered Stan. And with Hank Pym, of course, came the wondrous Wasp— still as tiny and pea-brained as ever.

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Dick Ayers. A few months later, I’d been given an issue of The X-Men which had already been penciled by Werner Roth. In each case—and Avengers followed this pattern—I simply provided the dialogue for my initial outing on a series. The first issue I would plot would be the second which would list me as scripter. Still, I was overjoyed to have The Avengers lateraled over to me— more so than I had been even with Sgt. Fury or X-Men. After all, given my early-’60s enthusiasm for Justice League, and for the 1940s Justice Society which had inspired it, Avengers was a book I was eager to sink my teeth into, even if I had greatly preferred it when Thor and Iron Man had appeared in every issue. Of course, issue #35 would’ve been looked the same and told the same story whether the dialogue had been written by Stan Lee, by Roy Thomas, or by the office boy—if we’d had one (not counting me). I muddled through as best I could. And, happily, Stan didn’t rewrite anything like as much of Avengers #35 as he had of my virgin forays on Sgt. Fury #29 and X-Men #20.

Before anyone might believe The Avengers were going to maintain any kind of stability for long, however, Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch found an excuse to leave the group. Well, it kept the covers (and the stories) from getting crowded.

In #35’s final panel, Don had drawn Captain America, brooding alone in Avengers Mansion, reacting in shock to someone who’s entered off-panel, exclaiming in big open letters: “YOU!” (“Next: The QUEST!” blares the end caption.)

With #32-33, Lee and Heck introduced a Ku Klux Klannish organization, The Sons of the Serpent, in a storyline fairly radical for its day. Hawkeye’s unrequited love, The Black Widow, wandered into it, and some wondered if she, too, might become an Avenger.

Did Stan and/or Don intend all along that, on the splash of the first Avengers I would plot (#36, Jan. 1967), the “YOU!” would turn out to be The Scarlet Witch, returned to enlist help in rescuing her swift-footed sibling Pietro? I believe they did. No matter. I liked the idea of bringing back Quicksilver and Wanda, not least because they’d make the group bigger. As an earlier JSA/JLA fan, I equated the ideal super-group size with seven, not four or so.

And then Stan dumped The Avengers in my lap.

He and Don had begun a twoparter with another lackluster villain, The Living Laser. (Of course, it’s not that they planned Not that I ever mentioned my The credits of Avengers #35 (Dec. 1966) indicated that it was “scripted the Laser to be lackluster. Nobody JSA/JLA template to Stan, of (surprisingly)” by Roy T. The assignment came as a surprise to him, too. Stan ever plans such a thing. It just course. It would have been had given no indication that he was thinking of giving up the Avengers worked out that way. It does, anathema to him to think that his writing chores. Art by Don Heck. [©Marvel Characters, Inc.] sometimes.) He wasn’t much, but protégé might ape, even slightly, he did manage, by the end of #34, the DC super-hero conclaves he meant to leave in the dust. I rememto trap Cap and Hawkeye in a circle of “lethal laser rays” which were bered what Bill Cosby once said about the way African-Americans had coming closer, closer... to get into TV: “Infiltrate!” First establish your bona fides as a competent Avengers scripter, then have fun using elements of the And that’s when Stan said, in essence: “Take it, Roy!” JSA/JLA model, while still writing the book in a Marvel mode! Well, in truth, I merely inherited #35 after it had been plotted I greatly enjoyed writing The Avengers right from the get-go, even (probably as much by Don as by Stan) and even penciled by Don, who with Stan looking closely over my shoulder for the first few issues, and would be inking, as well. art-directing the early covers with little or no consultation with Roy the I was used to this kind of thing by then. After all, the morning after Boy. (I had dubbed myself that in an early credit line, as a complement the New York Power Blackout of November 1965, I had staggered into to Stan the Man—and because I was never totally wild about being the office to be told that I would henceforth be scripting Sgt. Fury and called “Rascally Roy,” an epithet which, though nicely alliterative, didn’t His Howling Commandos, starting with an issue already penciled by exactly fit my personality.)


One Heck of a Professional

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One Heck of a Professional An Appreciation of Marvel Artist DON HECK career in architectural drawing. But Don’s interests lay elsewhere. As a teenager he began a series of correspondence courses in art and cartooning at Woodrow Wilson Vocational School in Jamaica and at the Brooklyn Community College. These experiences, and an obvious display of talent, led to his first professional job in the field, repasting photostats for Harvey Comics. While Harvey didn’t exactly allow Heck to showcase his artistic skills, the job exposed him to the inner workings of the industry and allowed him to study the work of his idol, Milton Caniff, creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon, and another legendary artist then working for Harvey—Jack Kirby.

by William Cain Quickly, now—what are the names you think of when someone mentions “The Marvel Age of Comics”? Certainly Stan Lee appears at the forefront, along with mainstays like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Dick Ayers. No one could argue against any of those names. The creativity and marketing genius of Lee, the power of Kirby, the mystery of Ditko, and the efficiency of Ayers (among a handful of others) all played a tremendous role in Marvel’s rise to prominence in the early 1960s. But among those stars toiled another professional whose solid performance and remarkable dependability stamped him as one of the most reliable and well-liked artists in the history of the comic book field. This man was Don Heck. For an artist who admittedly preferred the “realistic” comics (westerns, war, mystery, and romance) to the super-hero genre, Heck is nonetheless associated with some of the most significant hero comics of the Silver Age.

In 1992 and 1993 Don Heck drew these never-before-published illustrations: a self-portrait, and a closeup of Iron Man and his alter ego of Tony Stark. They prove, if it needed proving, that, even in his mid-sixties, Don remained a consummate pro. Courtesy of William Cain. [Art © 2002 the estate of Don Heck; Iron Man & Tony Stark © & TM Marvel Characters, Inc.]

One of his best-known runs came with “Iron Man,” beginning with the character’s very first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963) and including what many consider to be the Golden Avenger’s definitive look. He also provided the art to a groundbreaking run on The Avengers, eventually penciling or inking virtually every major hero in both the Marvel and DC universes. Among longtime comics fans and professionals, his name is immediately associated with the giants of the industry. His attention to detail, coupled with his efforts to constantly improve his craft, mark him as one of the best ever to man a draftsman’s table. Just who was Don Heck, and how did he come to be such a valued and admired storyteller in the field of comics? Like most of his contemporaries, Don was attracted to drawing at an early age. Born January 2, 1929, in Jamaica, New York, his artistic talent was quickly recognized by his father. Unable to see much of a future in comic art, however, the elder Heck tried to persuade him to pursue a

Heck wanted to draw, but the Harvey editors showed little interest in his artistic capabilities. By 1950 his friend and fellow production artist, Pete Morisi, departed to begin a career as a freelance artist. Not only was Don not considered by Harvey to be an artist for their magazines; he was now expected to pick up the departing Morisi’s workload.

“I figured that was my cue to perfect my samples and get some work of my own,” Heck later explained. “The Harvey editors weren’t interested in my work. They wanted me back in the production department. So I picked a couple of comic book companies out of the phone book, visited them one day, and went home a professional comic artist.”

Those companies turned out to be Quality and Hillman, who assigned him short mystery stories. With his initial work under his belt and a fledgling portfolio to showcase, Heck soon found work with Toby Press and Media Comics. Media assigned him the lead art chores on a horror comic titled Horrific. While honing his craft working on the short-lived series, Heck drew the monster and vampire stories with shocking covers that were the vogue for the comics of the early ’50s, including shrunken heads, witches, and the obligatory Jack the Ripper. While neither the series nor the company lasted long, Heck had his foot in the door, displaying the talent and professional demeanor that would propel him for the rest of his life. He also penciled features stories for characters like “Duke Douglas,” “Torpedo Taylor,” “Cliff Mason,” and


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Don Heck

“Johnny Gallant” until, in 1954, Media folded.

upon. Following his instincts, Don Heck was his first choice.

With Heck looking for work, his friend and former Harvey production artist Pete Morisi was working for Stan Lee at Timely. As the story goes, Lee opened a book from a competitor and asked, “Can’t you draw more like this guy?”

Back with Marvel and working on a regular basis, Heck became a mainstay on the company’s revamped mystery and monster books, penciling and inking monthly assignments in the company’s prehero versions of Strange Tales, Journey into Mystery, Tales to Astonish, and Tales of Suspense. These four comics were basically interchangeable, with Kirby, Ayers, Ditko, and Heck (among a handful of others) providing short stories of monsters, aliens, and watered-down “horror” tales to meet the standards imposed by the Comics Code Authority.

Morisi says he answered, “That’s Don Heck. If you want him, I can have him come up here.” Heck later recounted his first meeting with Stan Lee: “It turned out that the very worst day and time to bring samples [to Stan] was on Wednesday afternoon. So naturally that was the precise day and time I showed up! (I could have sworn that was when my friend told me to go!) I suppose [Stan] was so amazed that anyone would dare show up then, that he actually came out to look at the samples I’d brought. He proceeded to turn a couple of pages, then said, ‘I already know what you can do. Come on in and I’ll give you a script.’” Thus began an association between Heck and Lee that would eventually see Don as one of the big stars of the “Marvel Age.”

When Stan Lee launched Fantasy Masterpieces as a nonhero reprint title cover-dated Feb. 1966, he chose this Heckdrawn story from Strange Tales #76 (1960) as the lead feature. [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

It was during this period, from 1954 through 1957, that Heck firmly established his style as one of the premier artists for the western, romance, and mystery genres of comics. That suited him just fine, as the super-hero strips appeared to be a thing of the past.

In 1954 came the well-documented hoopla over Dr. Frederic Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent and Congressional inquiries into comics and their reputed effects on juvenile delinquency in America. The negative backlash from this series of events led to the near-demise of comics as a whole, and Marvel (then under the Atlas banner) cancelled more than half its output. As Stan Lee would later say, it was one of the saddest days of his professional career, as he was forced to release much of his staff, including Don Heck.

Writing in 1965 about Heck’s work (from Strange Tales #76) in the first issue of the giant-size reprint title Fantasy Masterpieces, Lee opined that Heck “is perhaps our most sophisticated artist.” Of course, the smashing success of The Fantastic Four and of “Spider-Man” in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1961-62 led to a huge revival of the super-hero titles by Marvel. While Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko drew the debut appearances of most of the now-familiar original Marvel characters, in 1963 Lee turned to Heck for the origin and debut of “Iron Man” in Tales of Suspense #39. It was Don’s first super-hero assignment.

“Stan called me one day and said, ‘You’re going to be doing a new character called Iron Man.’ I had no idea what it was, what I was going to do,” Heck recounted. “Kirby had designed a costume and contributed some ideas. Stan and I expanded on those ideas, and then Larry Lieber wound up writing the final story.”

With the future of the industry uncertain at best, Heck drifted in and out of freelance work, focusing primarily on projects outside the comics arena. But a tragic accident initiated a turn of events that brought him back into the Marvel fold. Joe Maneely, one of the company’s star artists, was killed in a train accident in 1958. The sad news of his unexpected death greatly pained Stan. But, from a professional viewpoint, he had to replace Maneely with someone he could immediately trust and depend

Iron Man fights the Commies in his origin story in Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963). For some three dozen Don Heck (and occasionally Jack Kirby) action epics starring Ol’ Shellhead, grab a copy of The Essential Iron Man at your local comics shop or even bookstore! [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

Iron Man became one of the giants of the Marvel Universe, and Heck was the perfect choice to depict the exploits of millionaire industrialist Tony Stark and his colorful supporting cast. “A writer can only go so far in conceptualizing, and then he needs his creation to take form within the story’s panels,” Stan has said. “Luckily, we had the perfect artist available at the time—Dazzlin’ Donnie Heck, whose style had both a crispness and sophistication that would be perfect for the strip I had in mind. Don had been with us for years, doing virtually every type of feature imaginable: mystery tales, romance stories, fantasy yarns, monster epics; you name it, he’s done it. All I had to do was describe the project and Don was all for it.” When Joe Simon and Jack Kirby introduced Captain America to the world in 1941, the character


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John Buscema

An Avengers Interview--Sort Of-with John Buscema A Conversation between Two Longtime Collaborators about a Half-remembered Sojourn Conducted by Roy Thomas

[NOTE: Even as I was in the final stages of proofreading this issue of A/E, I learned the sad news of John Buscema’s passing. As you might expect, it still seems unreal to me as I write these words, only an hour or so later, for last-minute inclusion. I’ll have far more to say about John two issues from now, in A/E #15, much of which will be devoted to this Titan among comic book artists; but I preferred to let the following short interview stand. From 1967-72 I scripted for Stan Lee a 70-issue run of The Avengers, quite a few of them penciled by John Buscema, who was one of Marvel’s major artists from 1966-67 through the 1990s... and he was my major collaborator, as well, on both Conan the Barbarian and The Savage Sword of Conan in the 1970s—and on the latter, again, in the ’90s. In November of last year I began working with the semi-retired “Big John” on a new five-issue series for DC Comics, and he graciously agreed to speak with me about our Avengers work. It was unspokenly agreed between us that there would be no mention of his recent diagnosis of stomach cancer, or of the chemotherapy he was undergoing at the time, though we did speak briefly of it between ourselves. Of course, during the recorded interview, we detoured off onto such subjects as Conan and the 1940s Timely, as well... and we made tentative plans to return to both topics in near-future issues. But this plan, like the one I’d forged with Gil Kane a couple of years earlier, was not destined to be realized. To jog John’s memory in preparation for our talk by phone, I mailed him photocopies from many of our Avengers issues. When I phoned him, he expressed half-serious amazement that I had bothered to save all those comics, let alone (as I informed him) had them professionally bound so they could sit proudly on bookcases. At this point I turned on the tape recorder:] ROY THOMAS: You wonder why I saved the stuff? BUSCEMA: Well, Roy, I’m not a fan of comics.

Transcribed by Brian K. Morris

Juxtaposed with perhaps his most famous Avengers cover, which heralded the coming of The Vision (#57, Oct. 1968), John and Dolores Buscema smile for Dann Thomas’ camera at Joe Petrilak’s All Time Classic New York Comic Book Convention held in White Plains, NY, in June of 2000. They’re looking pretty cheerful, considering that the chauffeur hired to drive them from Long Island to White Plains got lost and took several hours to get them there! John said he went to this con and one in San Diego because “my grandkids made me!” [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

RT: No kidding. [laughs] BUSCEMA: As far as I’m concerned, if I never saw another comic—! The only thing I’ve saved is a couple of Conan books we worked on, and that’s it. I got rid of everything. One of the reasons, which upset me


An Avengers Interview––Sort Of

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(At left:) Buscema’s splash from Avengers #44 (Sept. 1967), inked by Vinnie Colletta. John sort-of recalls The Red Guardian, but had more enthusiasm for Hercules (below) facing the Psychotron’s manifestation of the mythological Hydra in #43, inked by George Roussos. Taken from the b-&-w images of Marvel’s Essential Avengers, Vol. 2. [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

remember being put on The Avengers? I think that was the first fullbook assignment you had when you returned to Marvel. BUSCEMA: Yeah, because I started back in ’66, and it must have been right after that. RT: You’d done “S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Hulk” over Kirby breakdowns. Then Stan had you do a fill-in issue or two of Avengers with me while Don Heck was busy elsewhere... and I kept you on for another year or so. Had you ever done a super-hero group book before? BUSCEMA: No, that was the first. RT: [chuckles] And, hopefully, the last, huh? BUSCEMA: Well, you know, if you know how to pace it so that you don’t have seventeen guys in each panel... [laughs] RT: You did that well. At one point, we had Hercules shave off the beard he had in Thor. Do you remember, is that something you and I both wanted? I can’t remember. BUSCEMA: I don’t, either. You know, all these Xeroxes of pages you sent me, they don’t even ring a bell. [laughs] I completely forgot all about this stuff. RT: Not even in #43-44—where you designed The Red Guardian, in his Russian Communist outfit? BUSCEMA: I sort of vaguely remember that one.

over the years, is that other people were inking my stuff, and that is not my work. I can’t look at it. The ones I inked, yes, I keep. Anything with super-heroes, I’m not interested. Only the Conans. RT: You inked the last Conans we did together—that three-issue series two or three years ago. And that graphic novel you plotted, penciled, inked, and even colored in the ’90s, then asked me to dialogue—Conan the Rogue—was some of your best work ever! Of course, you always had the option of inking Conan. You just didn’t want to, generally. BUSCEMA: No, it was a matter of trying to keep up with the schedules, because at one time, if you remember, Roy, I was doing the black-&-white and the color book. RT: [laughs] And, of course, Stan wouldn’t have really wanted you inking all that work, because he’d rather get more penciling out of you. Me, too. So, obviously, very few of your Avengers stories were inked by you. Taking a brief look at our Avengers work together: the first one you penciled, back in 1967, was #41. Do you

RT: You always seemed to come to life when we’d be doing the mythological stuff, like Hercules fighting some of these gods or monsters. BUSCEMA: That I enjoyed— because I don’t have the restrictions of the goddam automobiles and skyscrapers. I can create anything that comes into my imagination. That’s why Conan appealed to me. I had a lot of freedom in those books. I could do anything with the buildings and create costumes. Again, I don’t like drawing mechanical things. I just don’t enjoy it. I like animated stuff, you know. RT: Every artist has different things they enjoy drawing. BUSCEMA: Well, Herb Trimpe used to draw the most beautiful airplanes. He loved doing airplanes. And I hate drawing them. [laughs] RT: There were fans who wrote to me when I started doing Conan and doing less super-hero work: “Why don’t you quit that stupid Conan and go back to the super-heroes?” But what I enjoyed most was doing a little bit of everything.


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Avengers #52 (May 1968) introduced The Grim Reaper. Pencils by John Buscema. [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

John Buscema BUSCEMA: First of all, Conan was something that hadn’t been done before and I loved the Howard books. I fell in love with them as soon as I read them and I was chomping at the bit and I wanted to do them so badly. [NOTE: John is referring to 1970, when he was the first artist offered the assignment of drawing Conan the Barbarian.]

RT: And the next year they laid everybody off staff and turned them into freelancers.

RT: Well, all you’d have had to do was cut your rate in half, and they’d have let you do it. [laughs] Martin Goodman [Marvel’s thenpublisher] wanted to get back that tiny bit of money he was paying out for the rights—$150 an issue—in some way.

RT: Back in the ’60s and ’70s, we almost never wasted a page, once it was drawn and paid for. If we wanted to pay for a new page, we’d better have a damn good reason!

BUSCEMA: Oh, God. [laughs]

RT: That was his edict. Do you remember drawing, in Avengers #46, Giant-Man running around inside an anthill, fighting ants? BUSCEMA: Again, it’s so foreign to me, really.

RT: #49-50 are two of the only Avengers issues you inked. They have all the mythological stuff again, which had the feeling of the Thor strip you’d draw later. BUSCEMA: Yeah, that’s my inking, right. Again, I don’t remember the book. RT: When you were doing the John Buscema Sketchbook recently with David Spurlock, you didn’t recall designing any characters; but here’s a villain you designed—The Grim Reaper in #52. Do you remember him? I know it was my idea to have him carry a scythe, but I have this feeling it was your idea to make the scythe part of his actual arm. BUSCEMA: No, I don’t remember that at all, Roy. If I could help it, I didn’t want to create anything. [laughs]

Klein was there before me. I was one of the last guys to get in. I was probably the youngest guy in the place at the time, and I remember another guy named Joe Something, a young kid about my age. And Gene Colan was working there about a month or two before I did.

BUSCEMA: They had a closet full of artwork that was partially finished. Apparently, if the editors weren’t happy with some work, they’d throw it in a closet—and when Goodman saw it, he went bananas. And I’ll never forget, it was one of the saddest times that I experienced. One of the guys that just got married came back from his honeymoon and he was out of a job.

BUSCEMA: What the hell, there’s a lot of money involved. But they weren’t on top of it in ’49. There was Al Jaffee, he was one of the editors. There was—Jesus, what the hell are their names? I see their faces but I can’t remember. There was a whole raft of these guys. These guys would just throw this stuff in the closet. I really can’t blame Goodman. You know, one of the things that was different in those days—we didn’t get paid by the page. We were paid a weekly salary. We were on staff, the whole Bullpen. We were about twenty guys in one room. There was Danny DeCarlo, Syd Shores, Carl Burgos, a whole raft of people in that room. The Masters of Evil, from Avengers #55, the first inked by George Klein on his return to Marvel after 2H decades. [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

RT: Burgos laid out a bunch of covers, didn’t he?

BUSCEMA: He did. The production people were in a different part of the office. I very seldom walked out of the bullpen. That was in the Empire State Building. I was there for about a year and a half, and that’s when things hit the fan with Goodman.

RT: You penciled The Black Panther in that issue with the full-face mask, but Stan decided we should make certain readers could see he was black. So we had to redraw the whole book to show his face. Vinnie Colletta inked.

RT: You were in the famous Room 1404. I wonder—is there a 13th floor in the Empire State? Because if not, that means the 14th floor was really the 13th floor! Which would explain a lot!

In #55, George Klein became the inker, with more of a Joe Sinnott kind of style. Had you known Klein from the old days when you were both at Marvel or Timely?

BUSCEMA: Could be. [laughs] But I do remember the 14th floor for the simple reason that, on the same floor, there was an outfit whose name was something with “gold.” They’d buy it and sell gold jewelry. And they used to advertise on radio and they would say, “The 14th floor of the Empire State Building.” That’s why it stuck in my mind.

BUSCEMA: Yeah, at Timely. I started there in ’48. George

RT: So how did you feel about George Klein’s inking compared to some of the others?

This panel in #54 introduced the “robot” who turned out to be Ultron-5. More about Ultron’s origins in a near-future issue. [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


25


26

Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt

Stan Lee’s Double Date!! by Michael T. Gilbert I was 14 years old in 1965, and a huge Marvel fan. Which also meant I was a rabid Stan Lee fan. In those days, Marvel produced a mere handful of comics, all pretty much edited and scripted by Stan. I loved them all, and “Smilin’ Stan’s” friendly, wise-cracking editorials just added to the fun. Naturally, I was dying to learn any small tidbits about Marvel Comics.

pencils. Editor David Castronuovo wrote this in Crusader’s original editorial: “Vince Colletta, inking artist from Marvel Comics, who is Frank’s father, has also helped us a great deal. Not only did he set up the interviews with Mr. Lee, but also gave us some pro art to use in our zine.” The “pro art” consisted of a quickly-drawn Spider-Man cover by Vince Colletta, and a cute Spider-Man pin-up credited to him but clearly based on a Steve Ditko drawing. Stan probably wrote the gag, as his signature was pasted onto the Spidey pin-up. As David tells it, when they found out that Frank’s parents were planning a double date with Stan and his wife Joan, the boys arranged a one-hour interview with their idol. The scheduled one-hour interview eventually grew into a fivehour session!

So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled onto the Stan Lee interview you’re about to read. During a comics trading session, I snagged a copy of the first issue of a fanzine called Crusader (not to be confused with any super-hero of the same name, or with Marty Greim’s Comic Crusader fanzine of years back). This Crusader was a big honking thing—46 single-sided pages, with a cover date of “Winter 1964-65” plastered on the cover. The mag sported a crude picture of Spider-Man, and was filled with typical fanzine fare: comic book news, pin-ups, ads, and an Avengers parody, “The Dentures.” There was also a short history of Dr. Doom, and some panels reprinting the origin of the Golden Age Aquaman. But the “jewel in the crown” was an honest-to-gosh-wow Stan Lee interview.

No, your eyes aren’t going bad on you like Stan Lee says (in the interview) that his are! This grainy photo is taken directly from Crusader #1, so what we see is what you get, alas. But we wanted to print it anyway, in the spirit of the times. From left to right: Vinnie Colletta’s son Frank, Stan, and David Castronuovo. The photo was probably taken by fellow editor Pete Ricciardi, or else he’d have squeezed into the pic himself!

We’re reprinting Stan’s Crusader interview here, with minor editing. Don’t expect an in-depth “think piece”—or a “take-no-prisoners” Comics Journal-style conversation. The Crusader interview took place during fandom’s brief, beloved “age of innocence,” and was conducted by three awestruck kids. Still, it’s interesting and valuable on a number of different levels. First, it’s a rare glimpse of Stan Lee at the very beginning of his growing popularity—and the emergence of Marvel Comics as the fourcolor powerhouse it soon became. Stan clearly got a kick out of talking to these enthusiastic fans, and it shows. Beyond that, the interview was done in 1964, making it one of the earliest Stan Lee interviews. As such, it’s an incredibly rare interview, made more so by Crusader’s limited press run. Most fanzines in the early ’60s had very small circulations. A popular offset-printed title like the original Alter Ego series might have a circulation in the hundreds, maybe as much as a thousand in rare cases. Your typical zine printed via spirit-duplicator machine (such as Crusader) generally had a print run of less than a hundred. Of these, only a handful of copies are likely to have survived after nearly four decades. It’s a real treat for me to be able to reprint this for a much wider audience. Those “old-timers” among us who were young Marvel fans in the early ’60s will find this interview particularly interesting. Equally interesting are the circumstances behind the interview. The Q&A was conducted in two sessions by three young fans—David Castronuovo, Pete Ricciardi, and Frank Colletta. If that last name sounds familiar, it’s because Frank’s dad was famed Marvel inker Vince Colletta, who arranged the interview. Mr. Colletta was most famous for his long run on Journey into Mystery/Thor, over Jack “King” Kirby’s

I have to chuckle, thinking about Stan’s wife and Mr. and Mrs. Colletta twiddling their thumbs for five hours (!) as Stan and the kids gassed on about comics! I think it shows the level of enthusiasm Stan had for the comics and for his fans. I also like to imagine the moment when these two 11- or 12-yearold Marvel fanatics heard their buddy Frank mention that his dad’s pal STAN LEE!!!! was going to stop by. I was roughly their age at the time, and I know I would have freaked! But, enough talk! David’s 1964 interview will fill you in on any additional background. Then it’s on to our main course: Stan “The Man” Lee!

At last! The interview that you’ve been waiting for!

In-Person Interview with STAN LEE As you would naturally expect, we were greatly enthused and excited over the fact that the three of us, David Castronuovo, Peter Ricciardi, and Frank Colletta, were really going to meet STAN LEE! When we found out that Vince Colletta was having Mr. Lee over to his house, we immediately started to prepare for the meeting that Mr. Colletta had set up. Aside from preparing a number of questions for this interview, we also saw to it that cameras and tape recorders were in top condition! (See pictures reprinted in this zine. Much to our surprise, we learned that Mr. Lee had the same type of camera that I was using!) Waiting for Stan Lee to arrive, we became greatly impatient, which was naturally expected. (After all, how many times does one meet Stan Lee so informally?) We were under the impression that Mr. Lee was only going to be able to talk with us for about an hour (before going out to dinner with his wife and Mr. and Mrs. Colletta). But the way it turned out, poor Stan never left the house until 5 hours after he arrived. After meeting Mr. and Mrs. Lee, and talking a little while, I got my camera out, and ended up taking several great candid shots of “the old master.” Right before we started the real interview, we showed Stan the lineup of Marvel first issues that we had set up, and also some older mags like those printed by Atlas (including All Winners #15).


Title Comic Fandom Archive

31

The Eye Is Still Watching You! by Bill Schelly [On the occasion of the 47th anniversary of “The Eye, Underworld Executioner,” Alter Ego takes a look back at the bizarre hero who dazzled comics fandom in the 1960s... and gives you the lowdown on his return in a new millennium!] Imagine for a moment: You’re one of that superstitious, cowardly lot known in pulp stories and comic books as a “cheap hoodlum.” You’ve just committed a robbery and now you’re desperately running from the police sirens through the darkened alleys of an eastern metropolis. Finally, the sirens fade and you slow down to catch your breath. “Lousy coppers,” you gasp, “they’re not quick enough to get me!” Then you hear it—the sound of footsteps coming closer in the shadows. “Who’s there?” your voice rasps. “Better back off or you’ll eat lead!” Suddenly, a weird shape emerges into the moonlight. It’s a man clad in colorful garb. But what’s wrong with his head? Then you realize… the red and blue figure has a giant, naked eyeball where his head should be! He seems to tower above you, maybe because you’re cowering with fear. You want to run but there’s something about that weird figure that leaves you spellbound. You manage to stammer, “W-who are you?” An eerie voice emanates from the giant eyeball: “I am The Eye who sees all. Your days of preying on society are over.” “Oh yeah?” You try to raise the gun in your quivering hand, but a stabbing beam of light leaps from the eyeball into your brain, and suddenly you can’t move a muscle. Your limbs are frozen. Then—a sudden flash of blinding light, and everything goes dark. For a guilty party, The Eye is the thing most to be feared. Discovery! Exposure! Apprehension!

For us comics fans, however, the appearance of The Eye in Star-Studded Comics #3 in 1964 heralded the beginning of an exciting new comics hero, who offered a twist from the squeaky-clean heroes of the day: a hero whom everyone thought was a In 1997 Biljo White presented this color sketch of The Eye villain. While Marvel to another longtime fan—Roy Thomas—as a gift. [©2002 Comics had experiBill J. White; The Eye © & TM 2002 Bill Schelly.] mented with the hero who wasn’t always appreciated by society, few (with perhaps the exception of The Hulk) were truly thought to be “bad guys” at that time. As with The Eye’s victims, there was something that held me spellbound at the sight of a costumed hero with a giant eyeball for a head. There was something disturbing about it, especially if one thought it was an actual flesh-and-blood eyeball—slimy, pulsing, ribbed with tiny veins. He looked like a mutant of some kind—maybe a refugee from one of those cheesy low-budget science-fiction movies of the 1950s. But what of that costume: red tunic, blue pants, and white cape, gloves, and boots? Why was this bizarre character garbed in the primary hues of Captain America and the other patriotic heroes so common during World War II? Why not a more somber fashion palette? First, a little background: I was thirteen years old when I first encountered The Eye’s early adventures in the pages of Star-Studded #3 and Fighting Hero Comics #10 in 1964. Both were printed in the sometimes crude—but always charming—spirit duplicator process. More than any other original character of the fanzines of the era, and the majority of the heroes in professional comics, too, The Eye grabbed my attention. A brilliant character design will do that. Just one look should be enough to captivate the potential reader. This one sure does. Then I found out more about his genesis, and my fascination increased. I’d assumed The Eye was wholly the brainchild of the very talented

Panels by Biljo White from “Introducing the Eye” in The Eye #1. [©2002 Bill J. White; The Eye © & TM 2002 Bill Shelly.]


No. 72

[Art ©2002 Mike Manley; Characters © & TM 2002 DC Comics.]


40

Marc Swayze I had definite convictions about the romances. The scripts were not always what you’d want to call literary jewels. Ponderous dialogue and unwieldy panel descriptions occasionally suggested that some of the old pros might have fled the scene. But to my way of thinking, regardless of what came off the typewriter, the picture romance story was told on the drawing board... through the expressions and emotions of the characters. The readers of romance wanted... probably always had and always will... pure, simple, sincere realism. From our house they got it. By

mds& (c) [Art

logo ©2002 Marc Swayze; Captain Marvel © & TM 2002 DC Comics]

[FCA EDITOR’S NOTE: From 1941 to 1953, Marcus D. Swayze was a top artist for Fawcett Comics. The very first Mary Marvel drawings came from his drawing table, and he illustrated her earliest adventures, including her origin story; but he was primarily hired to illustrate “Captain Marvel” stories and covers for Whiz Comics and Captain Marvel Adventures. He also wrote many “Captain Marvel” scripts, and continued to do so while in the military. Soon after World War II, he made an arrangement with Fawcett to produce art and stories for them on a freelance basis out of his home in Louisiana. There he both wrote and drew stories for “The Phantom Eagle” in Wow Comics, in addition to drawing the Flyin’ Jenny newspaper strip created by his friend and mentor Russell Keaton. After Wow’s cancellation, he did artwork for Fawcett’s romance comics. Marc Swayze’s ongoing professional memoirs have been FCA’s most popular feature since they began to appear in issue #54, 1996. Last time, Marc further analyzed his romance work. In this issue he returns to the subject, regarding his several “syndicate tries” while at Fawcett, which included collaborations with Rod Reed and Glenn Chaffin. —P.C. Hamerlinck.] In preceding installments I mentioned ten Fawcett romance comics. I have since learned of two more: Love Memories and Romantic Western. There may have been others. A more notable discovery was that Sweethearts passed the two million sales mark. Enough cause for a pause: it stands to reason that many of those copies were read by more than just the individual

I was just as serious about the syndicate tries. “Syndicate Tries” is the title I gave to a thick file of sketches, idea notes, typed scripts, finished art, photostats, and correspondence, accumulated in fourteen years of effort to achieve a goal. The goal was a syndicate contract to write and draw a newspaper feature of my own conception. It is difficult to tell about those endeavors without feeling somewhat apologetic. That’s because they are so unrelated to Fawcett Publications and the Golden Age of Comics, compared to other subjects we attempt to cover. I proceed, however, on the strength of their having been created by one who was there, at that time, affiliated with that company, and who participated... and how! It wasn’t really a secret, my doing much of the work after hours, often in cramped quarters... with never a word to friends or affiliates. It was simply a matter I considered to be my own private business. Judi was the start of it–Judi the Jungle Girl, who, tucked away in a homemade portfolio, called on the syndicates of New York City with me, only to return without a contract. The next try featured Judi’s canine companion. The art for Jango had something of a Captain Marvel flavor... probably because I was now on the Fawcett payroll. After about four daily strips had been completed, and a full week laid out, we entered World War II and the feature was shelved in favor of something more timely. The original text for Jango, fourteen weeks of typed script with a synopsis of the story continuation, bears a date of 6-1-44, suggesting I

purchasers. It would also be very likely that the sales of Life Story had exceeded the previously reported 700,000 per issue. Surely those figures, with a modestly estimated total for the eight sister romances would amount to... Do you see what I’m getting at? Could a fellow be forgiven for allaying moments of despair over an obscure career, with the thought that 3,000,000 people—some lonely, some ill—were made happy every month because he left his milk route and took to the comics?

“That’s my sis!” Rare Captain Marvel pencil sketch by Swayze—and two nice panels from Mary Marvel’s origin in Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (Dec. 1942). [Art ©2002 Marc Swayze; Capt. Marvel © & TM 2002 DC Comics.]


We Didn’t Know...

In 1950 Sweethearts passed the 2,000,000 mark in sales. Fawcett romance page layout by Swayze. [©2002 Marc Swayze.]

41

Lucky Bill. [©2002 Marc Swayze.]

had later intentions to pursue the project. I must assume it was interrupted that time by my agreements with Daigh of Fawcett and Agnelli of Bell, and heading south. Jango’s place on the small drawing stand at West 113th Street was taken by Bill O’Brien, America flyer. Work on Lucky Bill was held to a slow pace by the daytime demands of Captain Marvel and Mary, and brought to an abrupt halt by my own entry into the service. A week of strips with near-finished penciling, some partly inked, all lettered, were stored away when I departed. Strip number 6 left Bill stranded on a mountain in enemy territory. But Bill had tenacity. Recently I was looking at the old drawings, and there was Bill, still clinging to the mountainside, after 58 years!

Judi the Jungle Girl by Swayze—with Jango already waiting in the wings for his own big chance at stardom. [©2002 Marc Swayze.]

Although I scripted a number of Captain Marvel stories when in the military, I don’t recall ever having one thought about the syndicate tries. Then, several months on a hospital bed, an injured leg stretched out before me, I drew Trudy, a girl private detective. One Sunday page, lettered and inked, was completed when the work began to reveal a serious lack of what Russell Keaton and I had often discussed... spontaneity. Another idea, begun under the same circumstances and continued later, was Little Ug-Li, a youngster dwelling in a mythical bygone age. It wasn’t a bother when I realized later that the idea might be taken as a

“The art for Jango had something of a Captain Marvel flavor....” [©2002 Marc Swayze.]


44

Mike Manley

“ Its Really Hard To Be Simple! ” An Interview with Power of Shazam! Artist MIKE MANLEY Conducted by P.C. Hamerlinck [As related below, Mike Manley was the inker and/or penciler on much of the nearly 50-issue Shazam! series developed and written by Jerry Ordway during the 1990s.] FCA: Mike, tell me a little bit about your background… where you grew up, and if you have any early memories of comic books you may have read as a youngster. MIKE MANLEY: I was born and grew up in Michigan. I was reading comics at a very early age. My dad used to buy them for me, or let me have the change in his pocket to buy them when we went to the store. I was fascinated when he would tell me about the comics he used to read when he was a kid, such as Captain Midnight, Captain Marvel Adventures, and The Spirit. I remember making a trip with my family to Lansing, Michigan, and stopping along the way at a store, where I saw some T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comics by Wally Wood that really captivated me. My favorite hero as a kid was Superman. Space Ghost became my second favorite hero when his cartoon appeared on television. Later, my favorite comics to read were Magnus, Robot Fighter and Jack Kirby’s Kamandi. I wasn’t into Marvel Comics too much because they were not readily available at my neighborhood stores for some reason… but I loved the Spider-Man TV show and the old stiffly-animated Marvel super-hero cartoons. FCA: Did you have an early interest in art and drawing? MANLEY: When we moved in 1975, I found a comic shop that stocked all the Marvel titles, and I really got into them. My only previous exposure to

“We’re looking for people who like to Draw!” And Mike Manley, selfcaricatured above, loved to draw Power of Shazam!—as in the pencil breakdowns below before they were inked by Dick Giordano. [Caricature ©2002 Mike Manley; Shazam! art ©2002 DC Comics.]

the Marvel characters was the ones I saw on TV and a few comics I had got down at the local deli that were resold with the covers torn off. I’d go to the comic shop several times a week after school, sometimes with my brother Dave, who was a fan of The Human Torch and Spider-Man. It was during this time of my life that I became really hooked on comics, became aware of comic fandom and conventions, and decided I wanted to be a comic book artist or animator. I began drawing from a very early age and was encouraged by both my parents and my grandma who used to bring me extra drawing supplies from Chrysler, where she worked. My grandpa, my mom’s dad, was a commercial artist and could do masterful calligraphy. FCA: How did you break into the comic book business? MANLEY: I started networking at comic conventions in the late ’70s and early ’80s and finally got my big break, assisting on Robotech for DC Comics. That led to additional freelance work from DC and later at Marvel Comics. In the meantime, I started doing some work for Western Publishing, illustrating many activity and children’s books. By 1987 I was sharing Al Williamson’s studio with Al and Bret Blevins, whom I became best pals with after having a chance meeting when he came through Michigan on his way to New York. Bret had landed a job with Marvel, and Al had just received a very loosely penciled Daredevil story from Steve Ditko. Al was going to


Why Things Never Get Better

47

Why Things Never Get Better by C.C. Beck

Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck

As far back as records go, there were people who bemoaned the fact that everything was getting worse instead of better. It all started with Adam and Eve, mankind’s first male and female, who quickly fell into sin and were punished by God for their dereliction and had their progeny cursed forever. Whether an individual grows up in pleasant or unpleasant conditions, as soon as he reaches the age of reason he or she finds that there is definitely something rotten not only in the state of Denmark but in the condition of his own government, education, art, and literature. Only rarely, and very briefly, are there periods when things get better temporarily and so unexpectedly that these periods are recognized only after they have disappeared and everything has gone back to what during World War II was known as S.N.A.F.U (“Situation Normal, All Fouled Up”).

Such a group of artists appeared without warning in the late ’30s and early ’40s in, of all places, the field of trashy pulp publishing. It almost seems that any change for the better in human affairs can be made only when everything can’t possibly get any worse, and that state had been reached in the publishing field when, in 1938, a comic strip character named Superman burst upon the public’s consciousness with a bang… which is still echoing a half century later. As with the appearance of the telephone, the electric light, the sewing machine, and many other discoveries and inventions, Superman was almost immediately surrounded by many other similar character creations which flourished not in the syndicated newspaper comic pages but in the pages of the pulp magazines…otherwise known as comic books. (Superman had first been rejected by the newspaper comic syndicates.) Human beings are social animals. Although not one in millions ever does anything out of the ordinary, as soon as anyone does, either by accident or by design, the rest of mankind hastens to follow suit. Within practically no time at all, almost the whole field of publishing had been taken over by the publishing of comic books, which at their peak outsold all the old, established publications put together.

The reason that changes for the better occur so seldom is that the individuals who can change things are so rare. Most members of the human race are no more intelligent than were their ancestors of a couple of million years ago. The average citizen, contrary to popular belief, is not blessed with common sense and an inborn intelligence which only needs bringing out. Most people have less sense than animals and would not last more than a few days—or hours—if turned loose in a desert or in a jungle without a supply of food and water and the means of making fire, of defending one’s self, and of killing other life forms if necessary.

Charles Clarence Beck, original artist and co-creator of Captain Marvel, drew, wrote, and lettered this great illo for the late collector/fan G.B. Love in 1970—two years before DC made arrangements to bring back the Big Red Cheese in Shazam! [Art ©2002 estate of C.C. Beck; Captain Marvel © &!TM 2002 DC Comics.]

The ability to make pictures and carvings was developed so far back in history that no one knows when it first appeared, but a talent for art is as rare among members of the human race as is talent for music, mathematics, acting, or governing. Today there are schools which profess to teach such things, but most humans have an innate distrust of anyone who is “too smart” and thus different from the average citizen. Most humans actually have so thin a veneer of civilized behavior that at the slightest relaxation of whatever law and order may prevail at the moment they will revert to savagery. Although a talent for art is so rare that many generations of humans may be born and die without a single creative artist’s appearing among the inhabitants of any particular country, for some reason small groups of creative artists may suddenly appear spontaneously and for brief periods light up the world of art like flaring torches in the darkness (or sometimes more like glowing sparks, instead).

As soon as Superman appeared, his publisher was overwhelmed by the demand of the public for more of the same, and production was expanded to enormous proportions. People who knew nothing about writing or art were put in charge of the workers who flocked to the typewriters and drawing boards now being set up not only by Superman’s publisher but by others.

Each of Superman’s rival comic book characters had a talented writer or artist (or both) present at his or her birth, but these individuals were quickly shouldered aside by the people in control of the various publishing firms now in the comic book business. The creators were “too eccentric,” “too hard to get along with,” thought the publishers. The creators wanted name credit, a share in the profits, and—what no person in control of anything will ever voluntarily give up—control of their creations. It is perhaps just as well that most of the creative people in the comic book field did not gain control of their creations, for most creative people are by their very natures impractical and unable to fit into society well enough to even support themselves. The history of inventions and discoveries is strewn with the corpses of the unfortunate individuals who


Roy Roy T Thomas homas’ T Timely imely Comics anzine Comics F F anzine

5.95

$$

THE

In the the USA USA In

Titans

No. 13 March 2002

OF

Timely Marvel! PART II

AMAZING ART & ARTIFACTS BY GOLDEN AGE GREATS! JOE SIMON• JACK KIRBY • STAN LEE• FRANK ROBBINS DAVE GANTZ• DANIEL KEYES• SYD SHORES MIKE SEKOWSKY• CARL BURGOS• BILL EVERETT CARL PFEUFER• BASIL WOLVERTON & MORE!!! Captain America TM & © Marvel Characters, Inc.


Vol. 3, No. 13 / March 2002

Editor

Roy Thomas

Associate Editors Bill Schelly Jim Amash

Design & Layout

Christopher Day

Consulting Editors John Morrow Jon B. Cooke

FCA Editor

P.C. Hamerlinck

Comics Crypt Editor Michael T. Gilbert

Editors Emeritus

Jerry Bails (founder) Ronn Foss, Biljo White, Mike Friedrich

Cover Artists Joe Simon Murphy Anderson

Cover Colorists Joe Simon & Tom Ziuko Murphy Anderson III

Mailing Crew

Russ Garwood, Glen Musial, Ed Stelli, Pat Varker, Loston Wallace

And Special Thanks to: Trey Alexander Murphy Anderson Murphy Anderson III Blake Bell Al Bigley Bill Black Jerry K. Boyd Tom Brevoort Frank Brunner John & Dolores Buscema William Cain James Cavenaugh Mike Costa Rich Donnelly Shelton Drum Ron Frenz Dave Gantz Grass Green George Hagenauer David G. Hamilton Mark & Stephanie Heike Roger Hill Carmine Infantino Daniel Keyes Batton Lash

Stan Lee John Paul Leon Dennis Mallonee Mike Manley Joe & Nadia Mannarino Matthew Moring Will Murray Michelle Nolan Eric NolenWeathington Don Perlin Dan Raspler Mrs. Edmee B. Reit Joe Rubinstein Marie Severin Gilbert Shelton Joe Simon J. David Spurlock Flo Steinberg Daniel Tesmoingt Dann Thomas George & Dorothy Tuska Michael J. Vassallo Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. William Woolfolk

This issue is dedicated to the memory of

John Buscema Johnny Craig Gray Morrow Seymour Reit

Contents Writer/Editorial: O.K., Axis, Here We Come––Yet Again! . . . . 2 Power Luncheon––1974 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 A convention confab with Joe Simon, Stan Lee, Frank Robbins, and Roy & Jean Thomas.

A Long Glance at David Gantz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 First interview ever with a 1940s Timely Bullpen mainstay, conducted by Jim Amash.

A Close-up Look at Timely Komics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 The Fago Age of Marvel, scrutinized by Michael J. Vassallo and Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr.

A Timely Talk with Daniel Keyes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 A noted writer speaks with Will Murray about writing comics in the 1950s. re: [correspondence & corrections] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Even the letters are all about Timely/Atlas/Marvel!

Silver Age/FCA Section . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover: Joe Simon’s full-color Captain America figure—based on one he and Jack Kirby generated back in the early 1940s—came about because of a meeting a few years back with Marvel executive Joe Calamari, who was trying to initiate a series of coffee-table books which would be comics histories with illos. Alas, the project never came to fruition. We added a bit of Simon & Kirby C.A. art as background. For more about Joe’s drawing, see “Power Luncheon.” [Art ©2002 Joe Simon; Captain America © & TM 2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] Above: A star-spangled Pauline Loth splash page from Miss America Comics #1 (1944), courtesy of Dennis Mallonee. [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] Alter EgoTM is published 8 times a year by TwoMorrows, 1812 Park Drive, Raleigh, NC 27605, USA. Phone: (919) 833-8092. Roy Thomas, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Alter Ego Editorial Offices: Rt. 3, Box 468, St. Matthews, SC 29135, USA. Fax: (803) 826-6501; e-mail: roydann@ntinet.com. Send subscription funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial offices. Single issues: $8 ($10 Canada, $11 elsewhere). Eight-issue subscriptions: $40 US, $80 Canada, $88 elsewhere. All characters are © their respective companies. All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter © Roy Thomas. Alter Ego is a TM of Roy & Dann Thomas. FCA is a TM of P.C. Hamerlinck. Printed in Canada. FIRST PRINTING.


4

Power Luncheon—1974

Power Luncheon-Joe Simon, Stan Lee, Frank Robbins, & Roy Thomas at a Mid-’70s Seulingcon [NOTE: From the late 1960s through the 1970s, comics entrepreneur Phil Seuling was host to a series of major New York City Comics Conventions, which, until they were eventually eclipsed by those in San Diego, were the biggest in the world. Four of the major guests at the 1974 “Seulingcon,” as they were colloquially known, were the four gents listed above. By sheer coincidence they included three of the first four editors-in-chief of Timely/Marvel Comics: Joe, Stan, and then ed-in-chief Roy. (Only 1942-45 head honcho Vince Fago was missing to make it a full house!) Seuling gathered Stan, Joe, and Roy (with his first wife Jean, also a writer for Marvel), plus artist/writer Frank Robbins, together at a luncheon in a packed meeting-room at the Hotel Commodore, after which he initiated a question-and-answer session. The following transcription was printed in Seuling’s 1975 convention program booklet, along with photos. Alas, we’re not sure who originally sent us photocopies of various Seulingcon materials, but our hat’s off to him—and to A/E consulting editor (and Comic Book Artist editor) Jon B. Cooke for helping us get the best possible reproduction of the photos. Since many of the panel’s comments were of mostly transitory interest (queries asked of Stan, or of Roy because he had been Marvel’s main editor for two years), Phil’s interview has been considerably edited to emphasize the more pertinent remarks. —RT.] PHIL SEULING: Joe Simon, you were the editor at Marvel Comics when the 17year-old Stan Lee came to work there, which means that between you two and Roy Thomas we have three generations of Marvel editors on this panel. That’s quite true, isn’t it, Joe? What was it like then?

From left to right: Frank Robbins, Joe Simon, Phil Seuling, Roy Thomas, Jean Thomas. Stan Lee got crowded out at far left, but see later pics—and besides, you’ll see a photo of The Man in the “Comic Crypt” in our flip section! [©2002 the respective copyright holder.]

STAN LEE: I’d just graduated. SIMON: Just graduated? Well, we gave him the text page to do because nobody ever read the text page, even the editors! And Stan wrote his text, signed his name to it, and we printed his name. He made it very important and he made everything important after that. And that’s why he’s where he’s at, I guess. LEE: At the end of the table. SIMON: At the end of the table. [laughter] SEULING: Roy, you’ve seen a heck of a lot of writers and artists go through Marvel Comics. Who are the people who are not with Marvel any longer that you still feel some vibrations from? ROY THOMAS: Good or bad? SEULING: Either. It’s an open luncheon.

THOMAS: I’ve been working for Marvel for about nine years. And the people who have worked for Marvel that I think contributed the most, and who aren’t there any longer, are the same ones the readers would like to see—since I was a reader of Marvel Comics. JOE SIMON: Well, Stan was Jack Kirby, certainly. Stan Lee—he’s sort of not there any more as just telling me that the last far as writing goes! I wish he were... I keep asking him to do The time he left me, 1939, I was Silver Surfer, but he doesn’t have time right now. Obviously, a guy like eating then, and nothing’s Steve Ditko, who sort of wandered out the door and never came back— changed. When Stan came guys like Jim Steranko and Barry Smith. Some people that I admire have to us, he was very eager, he gone on to other places, like Bernie Wrightson, who did his first covers wanted to do some writing, for Marvel, and a couple of stories.... It would be the same people, and I think he was still in probably, that you would want working for Marvel. In other words, high school, weren’t you, Stan? everybody in the business who’s any good! We have a goodly percentage of them now. I wish we had those Joe Simon contributed this drawing of Captain America to the program book of Shelton and people and a few more. Cynthia Drum’s 1998 Heroes Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina... which was held on the 4th of July. Incidentally, don’t miss the ad in this very issue for Vanguard Press’ re-issue, with new material, of Joe’s biography The Comic Book Makers, written with his son Jim. [Art ©2002 Joe Simon; Captain America © & TM 2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


Joe Simon, Stan Lee, Frank Robbins, & Roy Thomas

5

of gives you a visual challenge and you try to dramatize and imagine what the dialogue might or might not be. You get a pretty good picture of what you’re doing as you go along, and it’s very freewheeling, you know. I like it. It’s a different way of handling things. THOMAS: I’d just like to mention that we may be the first people— Marv Wolfman, Tony Isabella, and I—ever to ask Frank Robbins if he can draw any faster. [laughter] SIMON: I have something to say about that. I just met Frank last night for the first time, but I remember his work from when Kirby and I first started, and Jack used to have Frank Robbins’ work in front of him. He was influenced by this man here. SEULING: There are so many ties in this business from one person to another, from one company to another. I think these luncheons have brought out many of these interwoven threads. Stan, I’d like to ask you a question, since you have a few of the people that you’ve worked with through the years here. When Roy first came to New York, and we met each other for the first time, he said he would favor working with Marvel because of a flavor, or spirit, some certain characteristic about Marvel that at that time the fans really admired. Now, the question would be this: Of the people that you like to call the “Marvel people” through the years, what would you say are the characteristics that they have in common? LEE: The one common denominator is you have to be a little bit insane... and enthusiastic. I think maybe, if nothing else, the people at Marvel, at our batty bullpen, as I cordially call it, are pretty enthusiastic.

(Above:) In the mid-’50s Joe Simon and Jack Kirby co-created Fighting American near the end of their days as a team; this splash from issue #1 (April-May 1954) is repro’d from the original art as printed in a Christie’s auction catalog. (Right:) In the 1970s they teamed up one last time, at the urging of DC head Carmine Infantino in 1973-74: this version of the original art for the cover of The Sandman #1 (Jack penciled and Joe scripted—presumably the inks are by Mike Royer) was provided by Joe & Nadia Mannarino. Visit their All Star Auctions website at <allstarauc.com> or contact them at <allstarauc@aol.com>, and tell ‘em Alter Ego sent you! [Fighting American © & TM 2002 Joe Simon & the estate of Jack Kirby; Stuntman © & TM 2002 DC Comics.]

SEULING: I want to ask this question of Joe Simon. How much are you a fan of comic books? SIMON: I’m afraid I haven’t read a comic book in many years, but I do look at the pictures. The graphics are considerably improved over the early years and what they called the Golden Age. At that time we had less than a handful of really good artists—Lou Fine, of course Jack, and there were maybe three or four others, but today almost every artist is superb. I couldn’t keep up with them today. SEULING: Speaking about writing—Roy said that some of the finest artists and writers are working for Marvel Comics right now. That’s hard to contradict when you’ve just added to your work force a man who’s written and drawn, oh, 10,000 pages or so. Frank Robbins, how do you like the Marvel style as you’ve found it so far? FRANK ROBBINS: The Marvel method of working? Well, they have a different approach than I’ve been used to, in terms of the way they lay out the script in synopsis form and then you work the pictures and then add the words later. But it’s very intriguing. I like it very much. It sort


6

Power Luncheon—1974

In summer of 1974 Frank Robbins, renowned for his Johnny Hazard newspaper comic strip (this one’s from 10/11/47), had recently moved from DC, where he’d been writing and drawing such fare as “Man-Bat Madness” (Detective Comics #416, Oct. 1971), to Marvel, for whom he penciled Captain America and, later, The Invaders. The splash for Invaders #11 (Dec. 1976), splendidly inked by Frank Springer, is repro’d from a photocopy of the original art, courtesy of Daniel Tesmoingt of Belgium. Robbins’ self-caricature is courtesy of Robin Snyder. [Johnny Hazard ©2002 King Features Syndicate; Batman art ©2002 DC Comics; Invaders art ©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.; caricature ©2002 estate of Frank Robbins.]

Almost every time that we sit and talk about something, Roy’ll say, “Hey, how about doing a magazine of this sort or that sort?” and I never can say no to him. His ideas are usually great, and we’re always turning out more magazines than we really have enough artists and writers to produce. It’s hard for us to turn any idea down, if we think it’ll be good, and we love our ideas, so what usually happens is—our biggest problem is always trying to go out and get better and better artists and writers. When a guy like Frank Robbins falls into our lap after, lo, these many years, this is a great thing. Just like when Roy Thomas fell into our lap—how many years ago was it, Roy? It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, ’cause I

had been doing most of the writing and editing myself and I kept thinking, “Gee, if I could only find somebody who’d be dumb enough to do all this work and let me have some time off and also be good enough.” I didn’t know he’d end up being better, but that’s okay.


12

Dave Gantz

A Long Glance at Dave Gantz A Conversation with One of Comics’ Top Golden Age Humor Artists— about the Timely/Marvel Bullpen and Other Oddities! Interview Conducted & Transcribed by Jim Amash [INTRODUCTION: Dave Gantz is a Renaissance man in Modern Art clothes. To call him anything but the “compleat artist” would be shortsheeting his long, varied career. From humor and horror at Timely to Mad magazine and advertising art to newspaper strips and editorial musings from his pen and brush, Dave has always managed to make art where it’s needed. After I was given his number by our mutual friend, artist Stan Goldberg (whose own Alter Ego interview will be coming up in an issue or two), Dave spent many telephone hours letting me bend his ear— so please forgive him if he’s starting to resemble Vincent van Gogh. But I’ll pay the doctor bills for you, Dave! —Jim.]

JIM AMASH: When did you start drawing, Dave? DAVE GANTZ: I was born in the Bronx, December 6, 1922, and I started drawing when I was six. I’ve never stopped. I always knew I was going to be an artist. I loved the newspaper strips—Gasoline Alley, Dick Tracy, Smilin’ Jack, Abie Kabibble, Happy Hooligan, among others. I was in love with Smitty, which was done by Walter Berndt. I’m a member of the Berndt Toast Gang. The group started when a few of us cartoonists started getting together for lunch on a regular basis more than thirty years ago: Creig Flessel, Frank Springer, Lee Ames, Al Jaffee, and a few others. We’d go to the Northport Veterans Center in Long Island, New York, to entertain the mental patients. When Berndt died, we drank a toast in his honor and named the group after him. JA: You were born around the same time commercial radio came into being. Did radio shows influence you? GANTZ: We didn’t get a radio until I was eight. We were the first family to have one in our tenement. People used to drop by and listen. We’d all sit and stare at the radio while we listened. I translated what I heard into pictures in my mind. JA: Did movies influence you? GANTZ: Oh, sure. The Chaplin films. Skippy, which was a movie version of Percy Crosby’s newspaper strip. Those silent films with Douglas Fairbanks were great. On hot, humid days, they’d take the projector outside where they had a screen and benches set up. JA: Did you go home and draw what you had seen on the screen? GANTZ: Sometimes. I remember drawing a pirate scene when I was about twelve and put that in my portfolio when I applied to the School of Music and Art. But I was drawing mostly from life. I’d draw my parents and go out sketching. JA: Comic books came into being in 1933. Did you read them? GANTZ: I saw Famous Funnies, which was all newspaper reprints, but I was mostly interested in the fine arts. I copied Rembrandt and the old masters. My father bought me a book on El Greco when I was eleven and it really blew me away. I often visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum was my best teacher. (Above:) Dave Gantz as caricatured (probably by Ed Winiarski) in Krazy Komics #5 (Jan. 1943). While he and the other bullpeners were both having fun and blazing trails in humor comics, the long-underwear boys were still flying high. The splash at left (by Syd Shores and Vince Alascia?) is from Captain America Comics #22 (also Jan. ’43). Caricature courtesy of Jim Vadeboncoeur; see his article later this issue. [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


Dave Gantz

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But Martin Goodman’s kookie krew would soon find success mixing super-heroes and funny animals, as Super Rabbit became one of Timely’s biggest stars. Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, a.k.a. Doc, who covers the “Fago Age” in an article later this issue, identifies this undated cover as Dave Gantz’ work. Incidentally, Supe’s shirt was light blue; his pants sky-blue; his gloves, cape, and boots red. Remind you of any Men of Steel we know? Oh yeah—and his face was pink and his tail white! [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

I started at Music and Art when I was 12H. I got out when I was 16H; they had rapid advancement classes in junior high school. It was a wonderful learning experience. In high school we concentrated on the fine arts, as there were no commercial art classes taught there. I also went to the YMCA on 92nd Street for life drawing classes, because they wouldn’t allow nude models in high school. Our teacher was Zero Mostel, before he became an entertainer. Art was his first love, and he maintained a studio on 28th Street throughout his career. Mostel was paid by an offshoot of the WPA [Works Progress Administration] called the FAP [ Federal Arts Project]. They paid artists $23 a week, but you had to teach an art class. Don Rico was a member of the FAP before he got into comics. I remember seeing his lithographs. JA: Where did you go after you graduated from high school? GANTZ: I got a scholarship to attend the National Academy of Design, but only stayed there for six months. I didn’t like the way they taught. They had us drawing from dead white plaster casts. I decided to go to Iowa University in Iowa City, and I was there for a year when my father suffered a heart attack. I returned home because I had to assume responsibility for the family and I didn’t know what to do for work. I had worked since I was eight years old, but this was different. One day in 1940 I was walking down the street and bumped into Al Jaffee, whom I’d known since I was thirteen. I told him I was looking for a job and Al asked if I’d help him do comic books. That’s how I became a cartoonist.

Talk about finds! This shadowed photo provided by Dave Gantz is one of the only ones known of the 1940s Timely bullpen—and it’s from the early ’40s, to boot! He suspects it was taken when they were in the McGraw-Hill Building, but says it might be the Empire State Building, to which they moved in 1942. Left to right: Chris Rule, Barbara Clark Vogel, David Gantz, Marcia Snyder, Mike Sekowsky, & Ed Winiarski.


14

Artist Chris Rule, one of the two main candidates for mystery inker of Fantastic Four #1-2 in 1961 (the other is fellow 1940s bullpenner George Klein), stuck around long enough to do full art chores for the cover of Wendy Parker #1 (July 1953), a light comedy title. Get a magnifying glass and you’ll see his initials at lower right. Thanks to Doc Vassallo. [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

A Long Glance at–– JA: Was Jaffee working for Timely yet?

and he was there, too. Stan Lee had his own office, but it was nothing elaborate.

GANTZ: No. He was freelancing for several places. Before I went to Iowa, we had collaborated on a children’s book which was never published. That was my first attempt at one. Over the years, I’ve done about a hundred children’s books.

JA: Was Chris Rule there then?

We worked at Al’s house because he had a studio there. Al got the art assignments and we did them together. This only lasted a few months, as Al was drafted. Then I went to Timely for work, since I had published material to show. I got a staff job right away. They were in the McGraw-Hill Building on West 42nd Street.

I don’t remember who hired me. It must have been [publisher] Martin Goodman. He was very accessible in those days, because we were in close quarters. I think we were on the 14th floor, but we didn’t have the whole floor. There was a very small reception room. Goodman had a large office up front, and his secretary was in there with him. His brother Artie was there, too, and so was his cousin Robert Solomon, who went around making sure we were working. He was always peering over our shoulders. JA: I have the impression that Solomon wasn’t well liked.

GANTZ: He came along when we moved to the Empire State Building. Besides inking, he penciled stuff like Millie the Model. His work was so distinctive that he established the style for the Millie comic. He looked like Santa Claus. I did a caricature of him once. He was an interesting, wonderful guy whose first wife was from the Steinway Piano family. She had a lot of dough, but he frittered his away. His second wife was a prominent socialite from Connecticut. He married into money and didn’t have to work in comics any more. Rule was in World War I as an ambulance driver before America even got into the war. He came from aristocracy; his grandmother had owned a plantation in Texas and they had owned slaves. Chris had been around in Europe and knew New York like the back of his hand. He was a great raconteur with a marvelous sense of humor. He was from Texas but was a true New Yorker. Chris had known good times and bad times. When he got into comics, it was the bad times. [laughs] He had worked as a fashion illustrator for the Hearst newspapers for a great many years. He was a “man about town.” He knew all the nightclubs and all the people who were in the limelight. Frank Giacoia worked on staff at McGraw-Hill, too, and was very good. He was a nice Italian fellow, a good-looking guy. Frank kept to himself a lot, and I think he got Joe Giella into Timely when we moved to the Empire State Building. JA: Where were the pulp and magazine offices? Same floor? GANTZ: No. They were on a lower floor, either the ninth or the tenth. I did some drawings and wrote some stories for the magazines. Mel Blum was in charge of those books. His office was on the same floor as the comics section. We called him “Bum Blum.” He was an exercise freak and his shoulders couldn’t fit through the doors. He wore a hearing aid and could shut it off at any time. JA: Very convenient. Was that section called Magazine Management during this time? GANTZ: Yes. And the movie magazines were on the lower floor. JA: What did you start out drawing for Timely? Humor comics?

GANTZ: It wasn’t that Robbie was a bad guy. It’s just that he was always watching us, and that rubbed some people the wrong way. I don’t even think he wanted to do that job. But he was related to Goodman, so he was going to have a job. Goodman was a rather shy person who blushed very easily. You could tell what he was thinking by the color of his face. The comic book business has gone through many ups and downs, and there was a time when Goodman had trouble relaxing. So we made up a bunch of posters that said “Relax!!!” in comic book lettering with lots of exclamation points and put them up in his office. You could do anything but relax with those posters! [laughs] We were in the Empire State Building when this happened. JA: Was Goodman a nervous person? GANTZ: Not when we were in the McGraw-Hill Building. That came later, when the Kefauver hearings were investigating comic books. Everybody started getting jittery about things. JA: What else do you remember about the layout of the offices? GANTZ: We had a room with one window. It was maybe 18' x 10'. I was in there with George Klein, Ed Winiarski, writer Jack Grogan, Mike Sekowsky, and Marcia Snyder. Gary Keller was like a traffic manager,

Mike Sekowsky would later be best-known for penciling Justice League of America in the 1960s, but in the ’40s he was an ace humor penciler at Timely. This splash from Comedy Comics #12 (Dec. ’42), inked by George Klein, features a gnome that looks amazingly like Mad’s later Alfred E. Newman! Thanks again to Doc V. [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


31

A Pair of Pieces on Timely/Marvel’s Humor Mags of the 1940s [EDITOR’S NOTE: Alter Ego V3#11 showcased Jim Amash’s in-depth interview with Vince Fago, who was Timely’s editor-in-chief from 1942-45, while Stan Lee was in the service during World War II. At the eleventh hour, Timely collector Michael J. Vassallo submitted an article on the Fago era of funny animal comics which, alas, we couldn’t quite squeeze in. Later, we asked yet another knowledgeable Timely aficionado, Jim Vadeboncoeur, to write a few words about all those caricatures of artists and writers that popped up in the Timely humor comics of that epoch—many of which were printed two issues ago. So we’re running these twin articles back-to-back. —Roy.]

Jim V. customized the title logo from the cover of Krazy Komics #3 (Nov. 1942) for a Marvel-ous notebook of Timely caricatures which he kindly loaned to Ye Editor, and we couldn’t resist using it for our umbrella title! Unfortunately, neither he nor Doc Vassallo can positively ID the artist of this issue, though they suspect Chad Grothkopf had at least a hand in it... since Vince Fago usually signed covers he drew on his own. [Art ©2001 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

Part I

Vince Fago & The Timely/Marvel Funny Animal Dept. (1942-1945) by Dr. Michael J. Vassallo In the winter of 1941-42 former assistant animator Vince Fago left the Fleischer/Paramount stable of artists and returned to New York looking for work in the comic book business. As it turned out, his timing couldn’t have been better. Just six months earlier, publisher Martin Goodman had expanded Timely’s nascent super-hero lineup of titles. From 1939 to mid-’42 Timely had launched (in order) Marvel Mystery Comics, Daring Mystery Comics, Mystic Comics, Red Raven, Human Torch, Captain America, Sub-Mariner, All Winners, Young Allies, U.S.A. Comics, and Tough Kid Squad Comics.

Daring Mystery, after eight issues, would change its name to Comedy Comics (with #9, April 1942); simultaneously another new title, Joker Comics, would debut. These two bimonthlies would launch a genre (humor) that would, by the postwar period, eclipse the super-hero titles in sales... and Vince Fago, taking over from Stan Lee, who spent much of 1942-45 in the Army, would spearhead much of this expansion as Timely’s chief editor. Comedy Comics #9 continued the numbering of the aforementioned Daring Mystery and is actually a dual-genre book. Part of its contents, and that of #10 (June ’42), consisted of super-hero The team of Sekowsky (penciler) and Klein (inker) is most likely responsible for this first cover after Daring Mystery had metamorphosed into Comedy Comics—in the usual attempt to make an end-run around Post Office regulations concerning second-class mailing privileges. Note the “Riot of Fun” lettering over the big Timely symbol at the bottom of #10. Thanks to Dr. Michael J. Vassallo. [©2001 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


32

A Close-Up Look at Timely Komics

features continuing from Daring: Ben Thompson’s “Citizen V” and Bill Everett’s “The Fin.” (Both stories are reprinted in the 1999 trade paperback The Golden Age of Marvel Comics, Vol. Two, which see.) To this were added humor features like Basil Wolverton’s “Splash Morgan,” Ray Houlihan’s “Tubby an’ Tack,” and Clyde Don’s “Trinket.” The cover would sport a wacky humor motif and blare “A Riot of Fun!” under the title lettering. Comedy #10 (June ’42) would be similarly split between hero and humor, with Don Rico’s “The Fourth Musketeer,” Al Alvison’s “Kid Columbus,” and Ernie Hart’s “Victory Boys” accompanying Art Helfant’s “Educatin’ Otto,” Art Gates’ “Cannon Ball Brown,” and Reney’s “Wheezy.” The cover again sports a “Riot of Fun” blurb, this time in the familiar Timely Comics shield at the lower right hand corner. Both these covers (#9-10) are unsigned, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d vote that Mike Sekowsky penciled them. I’m discovering more and more that Sekowsky was an unheralded workhorse of this period. He never signed his name, and during my recent visit with Vince Fago, Timely’s third editor-in-chief suggested to me that Sekowsky was a good bet to have drawn them.

Joker Comics #1 (April 1942) consisted of all humor features by creators like Ernie Hart, Art Gates, Ed Winiarski, Al Fagaly, and Red Holmdale. It also saw the debut of Basil Wolverton’s “Powerhouse Pepper” and the start of features like “Snoopy and Dr. Nutzy,” “Trinket,” “Tommy Gunz,” “Eustice Hayseed,” and “Stuporman” (which would shortly move over to Comedy Comics). Many of these features would continue to run through Joker for most of its run. Early issues also saw the introduction of “Tessie the Typist,” as well as “Squat Car Squad,” “Scottie,” “Dippy Diplomat,” and the peculiar yet longrunning “E. Radicate de Bugs,” a series that for part of its run sported art by Dennis Neville, who had been the Golden Age Hawkman’s first artist over at DC/AA. Finally, by the cover date of July ’42 we see the debut of Timely’s funny animals, with the publication of Krazy Komics #1. What was unique about Krazy was that actual credits were printed on the inside front cover, usually with the creators being given joke titles or designations! These credits continue through issue #13 (Jan. ’44) and, added to similar credits in Terry-Toons and in Comedy #13-14, give us a valuable insight into the Timely humor bullpen of 1942-43.

Two left-over adventure features that popped up in Comedy #10 were “Victory Boys,” drawn by Ernie Hart, who would specialize in humor during the ’40s, then script a few early-’60s Marvel super-hero tales as “E.E. Huntley”—and “Kid Columbus,” by Al Avison (pencils) and Al Gabrielle (inks), who would briefly succeed Simon & Kirby as the Captain America art team. Oh, and #11’s “Maisie Martin in Hollywood” was drawn by Chuck Winter, who for DC drew “Liberty Belle” and “Shining Knight,” and who sometimes signed his first name “Chick” or even “C.A.” [©2001 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

Sept. ’42’s Comedy #11 sports (finally!) an almost-all-humor lineup, with Chick Winter’s “Maise Martin in Hollywood” the sole “serious” strip accompanying humor features like Lou Paige’s “Otto Bragg & Snippy,” Ed Winiarski’s “The Vagabond” (inked seemingly by George Klein), Harry Fisk and Doug Grant’s “Stuporman,” Louis Ferstadt’s “Casey McKann,” Red Holmdale’s “Snigger,” Sekowsky’s “Percy” (inked by Klein), and what looks to be a very early George Tuska freelance effort called “Maymee Hazzit.” Tuska took a look at “Maymee” last year and vaguely recalled drawing it. He suggested it “may” have been inventory from one of the comics shops he worked for, though, and this thought immediately makes some sense—in fact, it makes me consider that many of the strange “one-shot” humor features peppering these earliest Timely humor issues were possibly bought by Martin Goodman from a source outside his early bullpen staff. More research is pending into this scenario.

Krazy Komics #1 lists Stan Lee as “managing editor” behind a cover by Chad Grothkopf (noted for his work on DC’s “Sandman” and on Fawcett’s “Hoppy the Marvel Bunny”). “Silly Seal” and “Ziggy Pig,” later an inseparable team, make their debuts separately, done by Al Jaffee... much as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy did solo work before Hal Roach decided to team them up. Other features include Dave Berg’s “Baldy” and two features by Ernie Hart, “Pookey the Poetical Pup” and “Ding-a-Ling the Little Bellboy.” “Chad” seems to draw “Snappy,” and Moss Worth is the likely artist on “Chester Chipmunk and Toughy Tomcat,” while Ed Winiarski and inker George Klein are the team on “Little Pan.” The debut of “Posty the Pelican Postman,” a long-running Vince Fago feature, is a bit of a tough guess. While his name is not on the credit page, the art has enough Fago elements to lead me to believe that it’s his work. Factor into this, as well, the distinctive lettering by Vince’s


Daniel Keyes

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A Timely Talk With Daniel Keyes Charly, Stan, and Psychoanalysis Conducted & Transcribed by Will Murray If the name “Daniel Keyes” rings a bell, it’s probably because you’ve read his classic novel Flowers for Algernon. Or perhaps seen one of the various TV, film, or stage productions based on the bittersweet story first published in 1959 as a Nebula-winning novelette in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Among the most famous adaptations are the 1968 film Charly (named after the tale’s hero, a retarded man who is chemically transformed into a mental genius, only to retrogress later), starring Cliff Robertson. A few years ago, a TV movie version (with the title Flowers for Algernon restored) featured Matthew Modine. Recently, Keyes penned an autobiographical book, Algernon, Charlie and I, in which he recounts the genesis of his best-known work—and reveals his brief career in comic books. Keyes may be the most famous person ever to work for Marvel Comics, outside of Stan Lee himself and Mike Hammer creator Mickey Spillane. Early in his career, Keyes landed a job as associate editor of Marvel Science Fiction and assorted western pulps for Martin Goodman’s Stadium Publications, working under editor Robert O. Erisman, who himself had scripted for Marvel Mystery Comics, among others. This led to a stint of writing and editing for Timely Comics, as Marvel was then called. Between 1952 and 1955 Keyes was a prolific contributor to Stan Lee’s fantasy/horror line, although one wouldn’t know it. He seems to have signed only two Timely stories—both of which had the distinction of being drawn by the unique Basil Wolverton.

In between scripting comic book horror stories and penning his autobiography, Daniel Keyes—seen above in a recent photo—found time to write a classic modern novel, Flowers for Algernon. The earlier of two Timely tales signed by “Dan Keyes” is from Journey into Unknown Worlds #14 (Dec. 1952) and is titled “One of Our Graveyards Is Missing!” (Don’t you just hate it when that happens?) Photocopy courtesy of Dr. Michael J. Vassallo. [Timely art ©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.; photo & dust jacket ©2002 the respective copyright holders.]

While at Timely, Keyes also plotted a suspense story he called “Brainstorm.” It was probably one of the most significant comic book concepts that never appeared in comics—because it became the inspiration for Flowers for Algernon. But, let Dan Keyes tell his own story: WILL MURRAY: What was it like to work for Martin Goodman as a pulp editor? DANIEL KEYES: I didn’t work for Martin Goodman. I worked for Bob Erisman. I had met Martin Goodman a few times. He hired me. He was a shadowy figure at the top. Bob Erisman was a wonderful guy. I think, between the two of us, we were together responsible for putting out half of the western magazines, under different pen names. WM: Whatever happened to Erisman? KEYES: I believe he died recently. I had been in touch with him for a

while. I used to visit him at his home in Mystic, Connecticut. Then he moved to North Stonington. He had a charming wife. Last I heard of him, he was studying Russian. Writing in Russian. And he was saying he had problems. The postmaster was delivering the Russian newspaper there—Pravda. Everybody was getting very nervous about him. [laughs] But I believe he died. But he was wonderful to work with. WM: What kind of writers were you working with? KEYES: Well, Luke Short. Max Brand. A lot of writers came through agents. If they weren’t well-known writers, you’d look at the story. You’d say, this is a good story. And I would edit the story. So I don’t remember their names. WM: Were you involved in the art direction? KEYES: No. That was one of the things Bob did. I would buy the stories. I would edit them. On Friday he would come and pick them up. He would take them to Mystic. And he would do the blurbs. The titles. And the description of the artwork. He in a sense directed the artwork


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A Timely Talk With glass. Because I’d published a few stories outside, in Other Worlds and Fantastic [pulp magazines], he sort of let me take control of the science-fiction/fantasy/ horror comics. WM: Things like Strange Tales? KEYES: Exactly. Strange Tales, yes. WM: I think their big magazines were Journey into Mystery, Mystic, Spellbound, Marvel Tales. KEYES: Yes. I wrote all those. [laughs] I want to write that down, because I had forgotten the titles. At first I just edited them. Writers would come in. I would bring the synopses in to Stan. He would choose a number of them, but I was the front man. I would sit up front. I would deal with the script writers, the artists. They would bring the stuff to me. I would bring them back to Stan. I was a go-between. Eventually, I started writing them. And I was pretty good at it. WM: Who were writers?

Daniel Keyes is listed as associate editor in these (and other) issues of Martin Goodman’s pulp magazine Marvel Science Fiction, with cover dates of August and November 1951. Covers by the great Hannes Bok; provided by Doc Vassallo. [©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

KEYES: Oh, those are not names I remember. You’re talking about fifty years ago. You name it, and you’d probably be right.

he wanted for the artist. That was his job.

WM: Don Rico.

WM: There was a third person who worked in that office. The name “Arthur Lane” is on the contents page.

KEYES: Sounds familiar. WM: How about Carl Wessler?

KEYES: No, sir. Arthur Lane didn’t exist. He was a house name to make it look like there was more than one editor at the house. Actually, Arthur Lane was really—I forget the last name. There was another relative of Martin Goodman, who supervised Erisman. He wasn’t an editor. But he became Arthur Lane.

KEYES: I don’t remember him. WM: Hank Chapman? KEYES: Yes, he sounds familiar. Oh—Chapman! He was one of the other editors. He was like me. The other front man. He pretty much handled the westerns and the sports. Between the two of us, we handled all of the writers.

WM: How did you switch from pulps to comics editing? KEYES: The pulps were about to fold, and I was getting laid off from Stadium Publications. I was transferred over to Timely to work for Martin Goodman’s [nephew by marriage] Stan Lee. Goodman had to cut back on the pulps because they were dying. And he didn’t want to let me go. He felt I was a good editor. And Erisman put in a good word for me. So he gave me an opportunity to work for Stan Lee. On the same floor. It was just through another door. It was this big place. The letterers were there. And Stan had an office in the back.

WM: Did you work on the western comics?

WM: Tell me about Stan Lee. KEYES: Well, Stan was tall, skinny. And the shyest person I had ever met up until that time. He would not talk to anyone. He’d hole up in his back office. My memory of him is that he’s got a glass on the floor, and a putter, and he’s putting golf balls, practicing his putting into the

Keyes’ prose tale in Marvel Science Fiction, Vol. 3, #6 (May 1952), rated a title page illustration by none other than the legendary Roy G. Krenkel. Courtesy of Doc Vassallo. [Art ©2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

KEYES: I worked across the board. I think Hank Chapman was mostly with westerns. They had westerns. They had war. I think Timely had about fifty titles. It was like we had an assembly line going. We worked our asses off. I’d get the synopses. I’d read them, and select a number, bring them to Stan. He would then weed them out again. He had a regular stable, so we gave preference to those. Usually, they were all written by the same writers. As I submitted more and more synopses, he liked my stuff. Over a weekend I might write three or four scripts. I was earning between three and four hundred


Alter Ego #13