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In the the USA USA In

No. 19

December 2002

Art ©2002 Estate of Dick Sprang; Batman & Robin TM & ©2002 DC Comics.


Vol. 3, No. 19 / December 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

Comic Crypt Editor Michael T. Gilbert

Editors Emeritus

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

Production Assistant

Eric Nolen-Weathington

Cover Artists Dick Sprang Fred Ray

Writer/Editorial: Hope Sprangs Eternal! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Ask not what the now-monthly Alter Ego can do for you, but rather—! Dick Sprang Rides Again . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 The late Golden Age Batman illustrator, interviewed by Ike Wilson.

Cover Colorists

The “Good” Batman Artist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Road to Perdition writer Max Allan Collins extols the one and only Dick Sprang.

Tom Ziuko Fred Ray

Mailing Crew

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

And Special Thanks to:

Manuel Auad Mark Austin Bob Bailey Mike W. Barr Jack Bender Ray Bottorff, Jr. Jerry K. Boyd Alan Brennert Len Brown Jack Burnley Steven Butler Tony Cerezo Max Allan Collins Teresa R. Davidson Al Dellinges Joe Desris James Doty Don Ensign Ron Fernandez Carl Gafford Jack Gilbert Michael R. Grabois Janice Green David G. Hamilton Bill Harper Ron Harris Roger Hill Bob Koppany Mort Leav

Contents

Mitch Lee Steve Leialoha Arthur Lortie Brian Makara Dan Makara Dennis Mallonee John Moret Jim Motavalli John Province Charlie Roberts Ethan Roberts Jerry Robinson Eric Schumacher Dr. Augustus Scott Noreen Shaw Marc Simms Jeff Smith Robin Snyder Dick & Cindy Swan Marc Swayze Dann Thomas Alex Toth Michael J. Vassallo J. Villalpando Ron Webber Dylan Williams Ike Wilson Michael Zeno

—In Memoriam—

Richard “Grass” Green

The Greatest Batman Artist Who Ever Lived!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Don’t be shy, Bob Koppany! What do you really think of Richard W. Sprang? Who Cares? I Do! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Comics master Alex Toth on comic art in general—and Batman in particular! Batman during the “Sprang Era” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 We’ve also got a fondness for Kane, Robinson, Schwartz, Mooney, and Moldoff! Partners in Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Sprang and inker Charles Paris talk about their longtime Batman collaboration.

FCA [Fawcett Collectors of America] No. 78 . . . . . . . . . . . 43 P.C. Hamerlinck presents Marc Swayze, and a look at Captain Marvel Jr. Focus on Fred Ray & Mort Leav . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover: A late-1980s photo of Dick Sprang juxtaposed with a detail—just a part, mind you—of a 1986 Batman and Robin “conceptual illustration,” which was previously printed only in Ike Wilson’s contribution to the fanzine CFA-APA in ’88. For the full “double truck” drawing, see p. 11. Art and photo courtesy of Ike Wilson. [Art ©2002 Richard W. Sprang estate; Batman & Robin & other artifacts TM & ©2002 DC Comics.] Above: We like Ike! (Wilson, that is.) And not just because Ike, the agent for the Sprang estate, sent us what he calls an “unfinished illustration for [a] Gotham Graphics litho certificate” by the fabled artist. Since Dick Sprang is the focus of this half of the issue, we’ve used it as our contents page header, though without altering a single line of the art—except for putting our A/E logo inside it, of course. [Art ©2002 Richard Sprang estate; Batman & Robin TM & ©2002 DC Comics.] Alter EgoTM is published monthly 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). Twelve-issue subscriptions: $60 US, $120 Canada, $132 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

Spotlight On DICK SPRANG part one

An Interview with One of the Greatest of Golden Age “Batman” Illustrators Conducted by Ike Wilson [NOTE: This interview was conducted in the Phoenix [Arizona] area home of Dick and Marion Sprang on August 12, 1987, by Ike Wilson. It was transcribed by Barry Burris, copy-edited by David Bachman, and edited by Dick Sprang and Ike Wilson, and has previously been printed only in the limited-edition apa-zine CFA-APA #13, Sept.1988. Text ©2002 Ike Wilson.] IKE WILSON: How did you get started in comics? DICK SPRANG: I was living in New York City, illustrating for the pulp magazines—the western, detective, and adventure magazines in the era of the late 1930s. I wanted to leave New York and move west, and the only way I could see to make a living as a commercial artist in the Far West was to become a ghost artist for a major comic strip, because there were no significant commercial art outlets in Phoenix or anywhere else in the area I wanted to live, which was Arizona, Utah, or New Mexico. Perhaps there may have been in Los Angeles or San Francisco, but I didn’t want to live in or near those cities. I was able to take over a portion of “Batman” production, prove myself, and after the war I came west and did “Batman” and a share of “Superman” up until the time I retired, voluntarily, in the mid-’60s. IW: Did you have any special art training, or did you study on your own? SPRANG: A lot of studying on my own, in addition to high school art classes with a very good teacher who emphasized the fundamentals of drawing—how to draw a box, a hand, an automobile, in perspective. Then I went to work for the Scripp-Howard newspaper chain in Toledo, Ohio. I was in the art department, where we had to meet five deadlines a day. We Dick Sprang in 1991 at the AcmeCon in Greensboro, North Carolina—and a reproduction had five editions on the street that, in part, carried different from photocopies of original art from Batman #56 (Dec. ‘49-Jan. ‘50). According to advertisements for jewelry stores, furniture stores, and so on. interviewer and Sprang estate agent Ike Wilson, this splash is “one of the rare Dick Sprang We had to originals that turned up at the Kansas City Convention [in 1987].” Photocopy courtesy of Ike and of Batman collector/expert Joe Desris, from whose collection it comes; draw the photo by Teresa R. Davidson, courtesy of TRD & Jim Amash. [©2002 DC Comics.] items they sold, plus SPRANG: It was for me. Given a native sort of talent to draw and the editorial cartoons and motivation and drive to develop it is one of the best ways to train. You editorial illustrations. learned your craft by working at it, especially if you were working I had to work with under deadlines. Self-discipline is the best discipline, because it’s the engravers, and I toughest. mastered the technology of IW: Did you ever have the opportunity to work for any other comics printing. I learned the company besides DC? value of meeting a deadline. You grew SPRANG: Yeah, one I remember was Prize Comics. I think we did a up fast in that atmosfew of the “Power Nelson” stories, and perhaps a cover or two. Norman phere. That was Fallon, Ed Kressey, and I had a little studio loft on 42nd Street between better training than 5th Avenue and Grand Central Station. We did the Prize stuff and a few could be found in the sketches for the Lone Ranger comic strip, and a bit of script writing for majority of art that title’s radio show. But that’s the extent of the comic work I did schools of the day. before I joined DC. Our main thrust was advertising illustration, and I, independent of Norm and Ed, did pulp illustrations. A half-inked panel by Sprang, done for some early IW: So actually comics feature but never used; provided by Ike practice was the best IW: Were you ever influenced by any particular artist? Wilson. [©2002 the Richard Sprang estate.] method of training?


–––Rides Again

5 would never copy as well as those men did their work, which would have been a mistake anyway. But one of those studies we probably developed was a proficiency somehow that derived from their work.

SPRANG: Yes. Concerning comics, I was mainly influenced by Alex Raymond. In those years when we had full-page Sunday supplements with Terry and the Pirates, Prince Valiant, and Flash Gordon, some of us who wanted to become comic book illustrators studied those men, envied them highly, copied them, and decided we

Alex Raymond was a superb figure man. He could draw figures in any form of action. That was a great influence, and evidence of the need to draw figures well. I also studied men like Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth, the great illustrators who brought great compositions and motion to their work. Wyeth’s illustrations of pirates fighting on the deck of a ship—I mean they moved! My A triptych of Sprang art: (1) Napoleon in exile, from a student project (grade/age uncertain). Sprang’s notation indicates that other favorites he felt this previously-unpublished drawing (one of a series) among the illuswas the “Best of series - ‘gazing out upon the sad and solemn trators of my sea’”... evidently a quotation. (2) President Franklin youth were Roosevelt, drawn for the Toledo News-Bee in the late Harold Von ’30s; (3) a half-finished pulp illo, courtesy of Dr. Schmidt, Robert Augustus Scott. The latter drawing appeared in Bob Fawcett Kopanny’s fabulous 1998 coffee table book The Art of —truly a master Richard W. Sprang (more about it on pp. 20-22); the others draftsman— are courtesy of Ike Wilson. [First illo ©2002 the Richard Sprang estate; second ©2002 the respective copyright holder; third Tom Lovell, ©2002 Augustus Scott & the Richard Sprang estate.] John Gannam,

At left, an ad for the “Fallon-Sprang” studio indicates they were providing art to Prize Comics’ “Power Nelson,” Harvey’s “Shock Gibson,” and Hillman’s “Sky Wizard” (see A/E V3#2), among others. A/E’s founder Jerry Bails feels the splash at right, from Prize #8 or #9 (1941), was probably penciled by Ed Kressy and inked by Norman Fallon, rather than drawn by Sprang, who drew the stronger artwork in the ad. Anybody know where “K-7,” “The Scorpion,” and “Speed Martin” appeared—and what the heck they were? Ad provided by Ike Wilson. Thanks to Jerry Bails for the Prize page. [©2002 the respective copyright holders.]


6

Dick Sprang partially loose and be billowing in the air as the truck speeds along. That is all you need. You don’t need speed lines, the billowing tarp dramatically indicates speed. IW: When you have drawn Batman’s cape, it shows a lot of movement. SPRANG: Yes, the cape is an excellent device. Probably Kane had this in mind when he created Batman, as did the guys who created Superman. It’s a powerful instrument to show speed and action, the way it folds and billows. IW: Some of your work was inked by Charles Paris. Did you ever ink any of your own work?

Herbert Morton Stoops, Rockwell Kent, Peter Helck, and Dean Cornwell. Their work taught me many lessons, and I owe them much.

These late-’30s (?) pencil sketches show that Sprang was studying Alex Raymond’s classic Flash Gordon newspaper strip. Provided by Ike Wilson. [©2002 the Richard Sprang estate.]

SPRANG: Oh, yes. In the early years, I inked all of it. But to increase my production, the powers-that-were at DC decided to have someone else ink my work and that way I could turn out more pencils. It was a matter of expedience. Inking can be fun, and good inking is creative, but after you pencil a drawing, it can be a bore going back over every line. And my pencils were pretty exact.

IW: Did movies have an influence? SPRANG: Very much. Very much. Movies were a great influence simply because they had movement. In those years the moviemakers realized that the camera was a hell of a versatile device. There was no better means of telling a story than with a movie camera, if the camera moves and the actors move and don’t just stand around and talk. But a comic artist works in a static medium. What I tried to do was get into my work a dramatic highlight, such as you would identify in a film action sequence, in other words to isolate peak action in what moviemakers call the “frozen frame,” the equivalent of a comic book panel. There are a lot of visual tricks used in trying to create this, and it’s tough to describe them without going into great detail. One detail, for instance, is use of the follow-through that we know in golf, tennis, and baseball, where the follow-through is important to the accuracy of the driven or thrown ball. In the static medium of graphic illustration, the depiction of the follow-through establishes a flowing action. For example, when Batman would be in a fist fight with a crook and he’s striking him on the jaw, you don’t stop the fist right at the jaw. You can, and you can draw your little splash impact symbol there, and have the crook falling back. But it’s far more effective when Batman’s fist strikes the jaw and, with the arm trailing speed lines, follows through, goes beyond the jaw to one side. Leave the splash symbol indicating impact at the point where the fist struck the jaw, but have the fist follow through. This is a way of activating the frozen frame, simulating motion in a static medium. I’ve used it scores of times. Everybody has. Another method of enhancing the illusion of speed: draw a big truck going down the highway. Okay, it’s a moving vehicle and you draw a bunch of speed lines following the vehicle. You have the wheels off the ground slightly, indicating a higher speed. But a better device is to have a tarpaulin on the top of the truck blow

Dick Sprang in 1945—around the time he penciled and inked the accompanying splash for Batman #32, for the second of the stories in which Prof. Nichols sent Batman and Robin (well, actually, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson) back in time. (Dec. 1945/Jan. 1946). Photo courtesy of Ike Wilson; all rights reserved. [Batman art ©2002 DC Comics.]


–––Rides Again

7 IW: Are you familiar with any of the work of more recent “Batman” artists, such as Marshall Rogers, Neal Adams, or Frank Miller? SPRANG: Frank Miller, I am. The others I’m not. I have seen Miller only in the hardback book that Graphitti published, The Dark Knight. IW: What did you think of the book?

SPRANG: Great, marvelous. His cityscapes are magnificent. His buildings, his perspective, his figure movement, his compositions, his use of everything that would contribute to a dramatic presentation is there. And the color work by his wife [Lynn Varley] is superb. Absolutely superb. The illo above of DC’s two caped crime-crushers was penciled by Sprang and inked by Stan Kaye as the splash of World’s Finest Comics #85 (Nov.-Dec. 1956); but, for reasons unknown, editor Jack Schiff decided to make it the cover, instead—and turned Curt Swan’s cover art into the splash at right. Sprang/Kaye splash repro’d from a photostat of the original art, courtesy of Ike Wilson. [©2002 DC Comics.]

IW: Would you say the story is too harsh? SPRANG: Frankly, I must admit I haven’t read the story. I will when I get time. But this Batman is just not the old Batman. I understand that Robin is now a girl. Is that true?

IW: Were they tight pencils?

IW: That’s in Dark Knight. In the regular Batman book they have a different Robin. The old Robin has become a character called Nightwing, with a different costume. They have an entirely new Robin.

SPRANG: Yes. I used soft pencils, 2B, and applied them over a very dim sketch. My initial sketch would be laid in heavily. I would dim it with a kneadable eraser, then refine the sketch in final tight penciling.

SPRANG: Well, as I told you early in our visit, I don’t follow modern comics except those that people send or bring to me in small number. I really don’t know what’s going on in any thoroughly informed way. There was an artist [Don Newton] who lived in Phoenix for a time and died quite young. His concept of Batman I liked. He used a great deal more black shading than I was allowed to use. He created a moody, darker image of Batman, which was fine. It fit the character, and the name. He was a hell of a good artist and, I’m told, a very nice, modest guy.

IW: How long would it take you to pencil one page? SPRANG: One day, six panels. IW: And how long if you penciled and inked, both? SPRANG: Maybe a day and a half, maybe more. Inking requires a lot of precisely rendered detail. Never disparage a good inker’s technology and contribution. Charlie Paris, who inked most of my stuff, is a master craftsman.

IW: Speaking of artists, how did you like working with Bob Kane? SPRANG: I didn’t [work with him]. I met Bob Kane once in DC’s offices to say hello, and that’s all. I know nothing about working with Bob Kane.

IW: Did you ever ink any other artists? I think maybe you inked some of Curt Swan’s World’s Finest covers. SPRANG: I have no recollection of inking anyone else’s covers or other art.

IW: How did you like working with Bill Finger? Don Newton’s rendition of Batman, such as this 1983 page, was well-liked by Sprang for its “moodier, darker image.” [©2002 DC Comics.]

SPRANG: Very much. It’s a strange thing. I recently read an extensive interview I gave a


Spotlight On DICK SPRANG part three

19

The Greatest Batman Artist Who Ever Lived! A Paean of Praise—and News about a Book You Probably Never Heard Of by Bob Koppany Yes, I’m him. That guy who wrote a book about the greatest “Batman” artist who ever lived. What book, you’re wondering? Which artist, you’re asking yourself? I’m not surprised most people don’t know the book. DC Comics only allowed me to print 200 copies of the book, after I spoke with three lawyers about it for more than two hours. And I wasn’t allowed to sell them—I had to give them away! The books ended up going to libraries, collectors, and friends. That’s why the book instantly became the rarest Batman collectible ever produced. That’s why the book was bringing over $1000 less than six months after it was printed. I myself have a standing offer to buy back these books at market rate for an impromptu list of collectors (over thirty in line currently) who wanted a copy, but not one book has come my way for redistribution. Let me tell you about this book, the Holy Grail of Batmania that you’ve probably never heard about, let alone seen. Its title is The Art of Richard W. Sprang. Dick Sprang. Yes, I know, what a quirky “comic” name. You may never have heard of him, either, but I’ll get to that shortly.

Dick Sprang signs copies of The Art of Richard W. Sprang on Dec. 1, 1998, at the home of editor Bob Koppany. Bob’s lovely wife Marguerite Harning is seen at right, and Sprang’s agent Ike Wilson at left... but alas, Bob doesn’t seem to have had any photos taken of himself with the artist! “This,” Ike says with regret, “is the last time I ever saw Dick. Since [his wife] Marion was ill and Dick apparently had cancer, we never got together for another convention.” [Photo ©2002 B. Koppany III.]

200 copies plus sixteen publisher’s proofs were printed, and that’s it. That’s Dick Sprang’s legacy. That’s the notice for future generations that he walked the Earth, and what he left behind. Let me go into detail about what’s in this book. The first 38 pages cover his early years growing up in Ohio, his comic and art influences, high school, art correspondence, and work he did for newspapers. Then he went to New York and became an artist for the pulps, and even wrote some pulp stories, mainly westerns. Forty pages in the book cover these years of Sprang’s life. Then we get to his work at DC, covering twenty pages or so. Sprang talks about the people at DC, and his work, a bit. In 1948 he left New York for Arizona, and settled in Sedona.

The book was 272 pages, hardback. In its pages there are 174 illustrations, 68 He was still producing stories for DC but started his first of which cover his love, exploring. Believe it or not, that’s what he’s known for. years at DC (from He explored parts of Arizona, Utah, and Colorado that few 1941 through 1963 people had explored before. He literally carved the paths and beyond sporadithat turned into the roads that traverse that region. He cally until 1998), found Anasazi (also know as the Cliff Dwellers) Indian with 63 illustrations The “cover page” of the Sprang/Koppany tome—except that the ruins that no one knew about before. For those of you in full color. The white framing area shown here printed as black on the actual book. Its Civil War scene was one of several samples Sprang used unfamiliar with the Anasazi, they were native to the book discusses to land work in the pulp magazines in the late ’30s. No wonder he Southwest in the 1300s or so. Anasazi artifacts are Sprang’s life, his got the job! (“The sword,” he told Bob, “was authentic. It’s my considered to be national treasures and it is illegal to remove work, and everygreat-great-uncle’s.”) [©2002 Richard Sprang estate.] them from America. Vases that were sold before legislation thing in between. It to protect them brought hundreds of thousands of dollars. came out in Sprang’s name is legend among pioneers of the American Southwest. His November of 1998, with Sprang himself signing every one. Then, a year correspondence and explorations are in the Utah Historical Society. and a half later, in May of 2000, at the age of 82, Dick Sprang died. Only


22

Spotlight On DICK SPRANG (Interlude #1)

Comics Master

Alex Toth... [EDITOR’S NOTE: Beginning this issue—or maybe it actually started with his cogent remarks on Lou Fine two issues ago—we’re proud to announce that the commentary of the one and only Alex Toth will become a regular feature in Alter Ego, appearing in most issues of this mag—like, we hope, forever! Alex, who’ll probably disown this grandiose introduction, is widely acknowledged as one of the finest artists/storytellers in the history of the comics medium, from his “Green Lantern,” “Justice Society,” “Johnny Thunder,” et al., in the later 1940s, through the day after yesterday. We’ve invited him to have his say about various subjects and creators featured in A/E, or pretty much anything else—including his own work, any time he cares to—and he’s graciously consented to do so. He’s given his column the tentative/temporary title of “WHO CARES? I DO!” (I like it.) [This time around, to make up for a Tothless A/E #18, we’re presenting two of his columns in tandem—the first, general comments on comics artists and their style and on the overall comics field... and the second, starting on p. 24, pertinent to Batman, a character he’s drawn from time to time, including in the gorgeous Batman: Black and White book of a few years ago. Enjoy! —Roy.]

Background art on these two pages ©2002 Alex Toth


Who Cares? I Do!

23

On Comics In General... Alex Toth at an AcmeCon panel in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1985. Photo taken Teresa R. Davidson; with thanks to TRD & Jim Amash.

In A/E #19 we printed a Zorro color illo of Toth’s, though necessarily in black-&-white. We figured that, since Zorro was an acknowledged forerunner of Batman, it might be appropriate to feature a line-art version of Alex’s illo here, and to juxtapose it with a 2002 Toth sketch with the artist’s appended comment. Both courtesy of Toth fan-supreme Al Dellinges. [Art ©2002 Alex Toth; Zorro TM & ©2002 the respective copyright holder.]


24

Alex Toth

...And BATMAN In Particular!

[Text continued on p. 26] Love that “Batman” lettering! Thanks to Al Dellinges. [Art ©2002 Alex Toth; Batman TM & ©2002 DC Comics.]


28

Spotlight On DICK SPRANG (Interlude #2)

Batman During The “Sprang Era” A Quick Overview of Dick Sprang’s Contemporaries in the Bat-Arena Text by Roy Thomas While Richard W. Sprang is undeniably one of the best and most important “Batman” artists of the 1940s and 1950s, he was, of course, not the only person drawing the Caped Crusader during that period. Among his peers were the following talented stalwarts:

BOB KANE conceived the idea of Batman in 1939, even if many (including Ye Editor) feel that writer Bill Finger should be officially acknowledged as the hero’s co-creator. Kane worked on the feature either in comic books or newspaper strips through 1968... at first with the penciling assistance of Jerry Robinson and the inking of George Roussos. This 1970s “specialty piece” seems to be pure Kane, sold in a Sotheby’s auction in the ’90s. It makes everybody look like one big happy family, doesn’t it—as if the Dynamic Duo and their most famous antagonists were enemies only when the comic book “cameras” were rolling! [Art ©2002 estate of Bob Kane: Batman, Penguin, Joker, & Robin TM & ©2002 DC Comics.] This second drawing, a humorous self-portrait sold at auction in 1998, was drawn by Kane on his stationery for a fan named Margie—who clearly had never seen him. [Art ©2002 estate of Bob Kane; Batman, Robin, & Joker TM & ©2002 DC Comics.]

JERRY ROBINSON, who is interviewed on our flip side primarily about his friend and colleague Fred Ray (who also drew Batman from time to time in this era), soon branched out on his own as a fullfledged artist on “Batman” covers and stories, and is commonly considered one of the best of the brood. He worked on the hero, alone or in tandem with Kane and/or inker George Roussos, from 1939-45, before moving on to other pastures, first in comic books, then in newspaper strips; he has also written books about the history of the comics field. An interview with the artist is scheduled in an upcoming issue of this magazine. This cover for Detective Comics #68 (Oct. 1942) is one of Ye Editor’s personal favorites. [©2002 DC Comics.] LEW SAYRE SCHWARTZ drew “Batman” stories but virtually no other features for National/DC from 1946-53, and was one of Bob Kane’s most prolific ghosts. The tale whose splash is printed at left is one of his bestremembered efforts, partly because the mystery man turned out to be The Joker, in a story which revealed secrets behind the crime clown’s origin. It appeared in Detective Comics #168 (Feb. 1951), and was inked by Charles Paris. An interview with Lew Schwartz by Comic Book Artist editor Jon B. Cooke is scheduled for an early issue of Alter Ego. [©2002 DC Comics.]


30

Spotlight On DICK SPRANG part four

Partners In Time An Interview with the Classic “Batman” Team of DICK SPRANG and CHARLES PARIS Conducted by Ike Wilson

Transcribed by Jim Amash

[TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: I used to put on comic book conventions for Mark Austin’s Acme Comics in Greensboro, North Carolina—the city where Charles Paris was born. In November of 1989 I was privileged to have both Dick Sprang and Charles Paris as guests. As it turned out, this was the only comic-con where these two longtime artistic collaborators—penciler and inker of many a “Batman” tale— ever appeared together. I had so much to do during the AcmeCon that I asked Dick’s art agent and close friend, Ike Wilson, to moderate the panel with those two gentlemen. What follows is a well-rounded discussion about comics and the first Batman movie, with my personal favorite “Batman” art team. —Jim.]

(Left to right:) Inker Charles Paris, moderator Ike Wilson, and artist Dick Sprang at the AcmeCon panel, 1989. Photo by Teresa R. Davidson; courtesy of TRD & Jim Amash.

DICK SPRANG: [who was already speaking when the tape started] ...and I wasn’t getting anywhere. In 1936 I made up some samples and went to New York City. I tried to break into magazine illustration, mainly the pulp magazines... the western, detective, sports, pulp magazines. That went along pretty well for two or three years. While reading some of the scripts I was to illustrate, I decided to try my hand at writing some pulp stories, and so I did. And that worked; I sold about thirty of them. Then I could see that the pulps were going down the stream and the comic books were coming on. I could also see that New York City was not a place I wanted to live in after World War II. I figured the only thing I could do was to get a job as a ghost artist on a major comic strip. I didn’t care to create my own. I went to DC Comics [then National Periodical Publications] and I caught on. I worked in New York until 1946; then I left and moved to Arizona and have been there ever since. And up to the time I retired, I did it all by mail. I would send my pencils to New York, they would send them to Charlie in Tucson. We lived about, what, 300 miles apart? [Charles Paris agrees.] We never met during that period, but he would ink my pencils and send them to New York. So we didn’t become enemies because we never had close contact, you see. [audience laughs] But I’m telling you that if anyone would ever make an enemy out of an inker of the quality, skill, and vitality of Charley Paris, that penciler would have been crazy, because Charley is the best in the business. Absolutely! IKE WILSON: Okay, Charley, how did you get started in comics? CHARLES PARIS: I was going to the Grand Central School of Art,

The Sprang/Paris splash for the cover story in Batman #81 (Feb.March 1954), repro’d from the mostly black-&-white 1971 book Batman from the 30’s to the 70’s. [©2002 DC!Comics]

studying under Harvey Dunn, who was a very famous illustrator. Some of the fellows in that class were working for DC at that time, so I knew them there. Every year in the spring, after school was out, Dunn would have a cookout for the students and past students. It was at one of those that [comic artist] Jack Lehti asked me if I’d like to be his inker. I had to ask him what an inker was, because I was in the department store display at that time. He told me and advised me to keep my job while he taught me how to ink. I inked for him for about two or three months, when he told me I could quit my job. From then on, I was into comics; I just fell in the back door. IW: Charley, what was it like to work in the DC bullpen? Who were some of the other pencilers you inked? Did you influence each other or bounce ideas off of each other? PARIS: We discussed things. Cliff Young was in the bullpen and was doing “Green Lantern.” Alex Brodie [NOTE: Did he mean Steve Brodie? —Jim.], whom Dick knew up in Sedona... he was inking stuff.


Partners In Time

31

Some of the most dynamic pre-Sprang Batman covers were rendered by Jerry Robinson—such as Detective Comics #66 (by Robinson with George Roussos inks) and #69 (full art by Robinson). [©2002 DC Comics.]

George Roussos was doing the backgrounds on “Batman,” and Jerry Robinson was doing the figures. Raymond Perry was in charge of coloring at that time. I was there, Stan Kaye was in the next desk... Freddy Ray, Jerry Robinson. There was a change because World War II came along and a lot of guys were being drafted, so the staff changed from time to time. It was a great experience to work in the bullpen with those people. I was able to ask them how to proceed because I didn’t know anything about this business, really. When Jack Lehti was called into the service and Whit Ellsworth, who was the head editor there, put me in the bullpen... he put me to work inking Lee Harris’ strip called “Air Wave.” Then Lee was called into the service and they gave the strip to George Roussos, then put me to inking Mort Meskin’s stuff [e.g, “Vigilante”]. He was a great, great penciler, too, and was patient with me. He was one of the best in the business. You’re probably going to ask me how we got together, so go ahead right now. [audience laughter] IW: [to Sprang] Well, how did you feel about Charley inking your pencils? SPRANG: I felt wonderful. Until I saw them, well, naturally a penciler gets a little worried about what an inker will do to his all mighty creations, you know. But that turned out to work as beautifully as ever could be expected. I always did a very tight, detailed pencil job of not only the construction of objects and figures, but also the line shading and paid great attention to any background detail such as lamp posts or the mechanics of some of those huge machines that Bill Finger dreamed up. He was one of the great writers of the comics. And I provided these to my inker, and while it denied the inker some creativity in regards to putting himself into the rendition, Charley didn’t seem to mind that at all.

But his great creativity was the vigor of his inked lines. He had a masterful control of the most difficult inking instrument there is, which is a sable brush. It comes to a fine point and you use a number three or a number two or sometimes even a number one brush. That’s awfully hard to master. Charley is the ultimate master of that particular brush [Note: Dick is talking about a Winsor-Newton sable brush. —Jim.] and his work just made my pencils sing, and I’m eternally grateful to Charley for the fine job he did. I felt absolutely no regrets once I saw that this man, whom I met only once in the hallway at DC or in Whit’s office, just long enough to say hello to, that he was doing my work. I paid him great silent respect. Today, I’m paying him verbal respect at long last. IW: Didn’t Charley once say that the job of an inker was to follow the penciler’s intentions? SPRANG: That’s an astute statement. IW: What was it like inking Dick’s pencils as opposed to some of the other artists’ you were inking? PARIS: It was very great to work on his stuff, because I never had any doubt as to what he wanted me to do with his pencils. I certainly couldn’t say that about some of the other pencilers I inked. I don’t think there was ever any criticism from the office when I turned the stuff in. Nothing ever had to be changed. Some of these other guys’ stuff would come in and I’d wonder, “What is that supposed to be? What am I supposed to do with it?” Sometimes I didn’t know, but that wasn’t the case with Dick’s stuff. He laid it out beautifully and I’d simply try to do the best job that I could on his pencils. It was a great pleasure to be able work with him, and to say this because after 40 years, we didn’t see each other. He lived in


32

Sprang & Paris

Prescott and I lived in Tucson. We hadn’t seen each other until about two years ago. That lady back there... would you stand up please, Marion? That’s Mrs. Sprang and she’s a tennis buff. She had Dick bring her down to watch a few tennis matches that were a few miles from where I lived and they stopped in to see me. Since then, we’ve seen quite a bit of each other, though most of our contact is through the telephone. [Sprang laughs] Now don’t get me started because I’ll go on and you never know where it’ll end. IW: Dick, how difficult was it to make the transition from pulps to comics? SPRANG: It was very drastic, because in the pulps we were using a highly shaded style that we called dry brush. Or we’d use a lithographic crayon on pebbled illustration board that’d give a half-tone effect. It was fun because it was very loose and slashing. In comics, we had to limit ourselves to a hard line. It was a great change but it wasn’t too difficult. It was really simpler, because I wasn’t confronted with the problems of deciding the direction of light with the intensity that you had to do when you’re shading a bunch of gunfighters in a saloon, with one overhead lamp lighting them all with eighteen different shadows moving around. Comics were more simple. Today in comics, we’re seeing a lot of very intricate shading, which is a very good advance for the medium.

Dick & Marion Sprang with Acme Comics owner Mark Austin in the latter’s home in 1989. The lad behind Mark is Robert Millikin. Photo taken by Pocho Morrow; courtesy of Jim Amash & Teresa R. Davidson.

IW: I know that you put a lot of accuracy in your work. Exactly what kind of research did you do to make that work more authentic? SPRANG: Well, I had extensive piles of newspapers and had a great file which we called a “morgue,” that we’d go to for almost any use. It was all indexed under almost every conceivable subject. I created my own file by clipping magazines and photos. If you want to draw a certain airplane, you have to make it correct. If you’re drawing the great temples of Egypt, you must make it correct. Our great editorial director, Whitney Ellsworth, insisted on this in a very quiet way. He said, “Look. When a kid reads this comic and you go back in time (like some of the stories with Batman and Robin), they are looking at the architecture and the chariots or the Knights of the Round Table, we want it to be authentic. In that kid’s mind, there’s a authentic depiction of what’s being depicted, not some faked-out thing. Never fake it, Dick.” I said, “That’s right up my alley because I love research, especially historical research.” I attempted to do that. As for some of the big machines that Bill Finger and Don Cameron dreamed up... my father was an electrical and mechanical engineer and I grew up in his factory shop where he was redesigning machinery all the time. Huge lathes, punch presses, drill presses, and so on. I became familiar with the principles of mechanical movement. So when Bill Finger would give me some godawful machine coming down the street with arms out in all different directions, I knew how to articulate those metal arms. There’s a certain mechanical joint that’s universally used for that purpose. I don’t think anybody, except for some engineer, would realize that the drawings were halfway authentic, because I couldn’t truly make it authentic. But research was fun and I got a kick out of it. In all of my work, about 75 or 80% of it was about as authentic as you could get... battleships, racing cars, airplanes, architecture... it was fun. IW: Did Don Cameron come up with those timeperiod stories?

The Riddler first appeared in Detective Comics #140 (Oct. 1948), with art by Sprang & Paris. Repro’d from Batman from the 30’s to the 70’s. [© 2002 DC Comics.]

SPRANG: Yes, he did. I don’t know how many he wrote and I wish I’d kept notes of that. He was very creative, and I want to tell you something else. We sit

An early-’40s photo of Charles Paris and his wife Phoebe, as seen in the book Batman: The Sunday Classics, 1943-46, of which more below. [©2002 the respective copyright holder.]


CAPTAIN MARVEL JR.

The Post-War Years

Plus:

MARC SWAYZE’s “We Didn’t Know... It Was the Golden Age”

[Captain Marvel Jr. panels by Kurt Schaffenberger from Master Comics #107, Sept., 1949. ©2002 DC Comics.]

No. 78


44

We Didn’t Know... yours or mine?” We were comparing the covers of various issues of Whiz Comics and Captain Marvel Adventures… magazines published when we had worked side by side as members of the art staff thirty years earlier. We were having trouble distinguishing our work, one from the other.

By

mds& (c) [Art

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

[FCA EDITOR’S NOTE: From 1941-53, Marcus D. Swayze was a top artist for Fawcett Comics. The very first Mary Marvel character sketches came from Marc’s drawing table, and he illustrated her earliest adventures, including the classic Mary Marvel origin story, “Captain Marvel Introduces Mary Marvel (CMA #18, Dec. ’42); but he was primarily hired by Fawcett Publications 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. World War II ended, and after drawing Ibis the Invincible and Mr. Scarlet stories, he made an arrangement with Fawcett to produce art and stories for them on a freelance basis out of his Louisiana home. There he created both art and story for The Phantom Eagle in Wow Marc Swayze (printed) cover for Comics, in addition to drawing Captain Marvel Adventures #19 (Jan. 1943) the Flyin’ Jenny newspaper [©2002 DC Comics]... strip for Bell Syndicate (created by his friend and mentor Russell Keaton). After the cancellation of Wow, Swayze produced artwork for Fawcett’s top-selling line of romance comics, including Sweethearts and Life Story. After the company ceased publishing comics, Marc moved over to Charlton Publications, where he ended his comics career in the mid-’50s. Marc’s ongoing professional memoirs have been FCA’s most popular feature since his first column appeared in FCA #54, 1996. Last issue, Marc discussed his friendship with C.C. Beck. In this installment, Marc recalls a summit visit by the Becks, when he and his erstwhile colleague leafed through old Fawcett comics, trying to determine who had drawn what. Through some handy detective work, Marc points out key artistic characteristics of the World’s Mightiest Mortal to help solve the mystery. —P.C. Hamerlinck.]

Fawcett comic book covers were assigned as personal art projects… rarely as collaborations… other than the plugs and blurbs that were added prior to printing. With a few exceptions the covers of the two regularlypublished books that featured Captain Marvel had been prepared by C.C. Beck, beginning with their first issues. By the time I entered the fray, the super-hero had filled out a bit physically and achieved the image that comics editor Ed Herron and art director Al Allard—and others—wanted. It was the Captain Marvel I was there to draw. It was also the Captain Marvel that Beck and I were puzzling over that evening at my house. “Your work… or mine?” There must have been some satisfaction, at least on my part, at the difficulty we were having, after so many years, in determining who did what. After all, maintaining the similarity had been my purpose. At the time, though, it didn’t make much difference. We were enjoying a vacation visit and not interested in comic book history. A call to dinner may have been enough for us to lay aside the old magazines with no intention to pursue the matter further. Since then, though, I have become less patient about leaving such questions dangling. When I decided to do a little snooping on my own, it was like examining Captain Marvel for fleas! In a close study of the super-hero as he appeared on the covers, I kept returning to the same three areas most likely to reveal a clue to the artist… his yoke, his ears, and the cuffs on his wrists!

As C.C. Beck and I thumbed through some old Fawcett comic books on one of their visits to our home in the 1970s, the conversation, as I recall, went: ...and C.C. Beck’s 1977 re-creation of the Cap and Santa Claus figures from that “Did you do that one… or did I? Is this one cover. [Art ©2002 estate of C.C. Beck; Captain Marvel TM & ©2002 DC Comics.]


The Post–War Years

47

Captain Marvel Jr. The Post-War Years by Don Ensign Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck Part I [NOTE: Over the next few issues of Alter Ego, FCA will serialize this study of Captain Marvel Jr.—his artists, stories, and themes—in the years after World War II.]

included “Junior” stories from 1942-53; the issues sampled are from the post-war and post-Mac Raboy era, Raboy being the artist most associated with the character). The stories reviewed for this article were from Capt. Marvel Jr. #35-40, 62, 63, 65, 67, 69-71, 93-94, 96, 98-99, 108, 110, 117 and Master Comics #65, 68, 83, 93, 95, 111, 117. This is a total of 86 stories out of the more than 580 “Captain Marvel Jr.” stories produced between 1942 and 1953. But first, an overview of...

Introduction Who were the most popular super-heroes during the Golden Age of Comics? Superman? Batman? Captain America? Captain Marvel? Plastic Man? If one were to look at the total number of stories published during what is sometimes called the First Heroic Age, the breakdown is (1) Captain Marvel (over 730 stories from 1940-53); (2) Captain Marvel Jr. (over 580 stories from 1942-1953); (3) Batman (over 525 stories from 1939-1953); (4) Superman (over 465 stories from 1938-53); and (5) Captain America (over 250 stories from 1941-49). While magazines featuring Batman and Superman had total circulations higher than Capt. Marvel Jr. (if not Cap himself, at least for a few years during the mid-’40s), why did the World’s Mightiest Boy achieve such heights of popularity? While Junior was created as a spin-off of the amazingly popular Captain Marvel, he sustained a significant measure of popularity until the end of Fawcett’s comic book publishing dynasty in 1953.

The focus of this series will be on the post-war years of Captain Marvel Jr. What made readers come back again and again to buy and read his adventures? We’ll explore the characters of Cap Jr., Freddy Freeman, and the strip’s supporting characters, and what kind of stories made “Captain Marvel Jr.” the popular comic book strip it was. Also, we will take a glimpse at the “CMJ” artwork produced during the post-World War II era, as well as analyzing the worldview that was conveyed through Junior’s stories. In preparing for this article, I read and analyzed a sampling of stories from issues of Capt. Marvel Jr. and Master Comics (which

Cap Jr. was forged in the fiery cataclysm of World War II. This dramatic splash page by Mac Raboy from Master Comics #27 (June 1942) features both Junior and his ultimate foe, Captain Nazi—the super-fascist whose violent arrogance led both to Freddy Freeman’s crippling and to the origins of Cap Jr.! Repro’d from a photocopy of the original art, courtesy of Jack Bender, the current (and only the third) artist of the Alley Oop comic strip—but Jack tells us that, true to Raboy form, the looming Captain Nazi figure and all art in the panel at bottom right is pasted-on photocopies; only the lettering is new! Much of the breathtaking rendering of London in the Blitz is probably by Raboy’s background ace, Rubin Zubofsky (now Bob Rogers). All the same, Mac Raboy’s masterful style had an enduring influence even in the post-WWII years. [©2002 DC Comics.]


48

Captain Marvel Jr. Topsy-Turvy Table” (CMJ #70), “The Singing Donkey” (CMJ #71), and “The Ark from Space” (CMJ #98) minor whimsical classics of the Golden Age years. Thompson seems to have left comics entirely with the demise of the Fawcett line in 1953.

Bud Thompson drew the “Cap Jr.” chapter in the full-length story in Marvel Family #10 (April 1947), as well as many of the young hero’s solo adventures in his own mag. Incidentally, though we’ve sometimes seen this artist’s name rendered as “Thomson”—and thus spelled it that way ourselves a few issues back—’twould seem the usual spelling was indeed the more common “Thompson,” after all. [©2002 DC Comics.]

The Artists The post-WWII “CMJ” artwork is characterized by two major factors. The first was the continuing influence of original series artist Mac Raboy. Even today, when many collectors and comic book historians consider “Captain Marvel Jr.,” Raboy’s artwork comes foremost to mind. While he drew the strip for a comparatively short time, his stamp was to remain on it through the Fawcett years. The legacy of Raboy’s unique version of Junior would cast a long shadow over the immediate post-war period. During the first few of those years, one can see stories containing many swipes/tracings/copies or photostats of Raboy’s work pasted over the work of other artists. The other factor that stemmed out of this dominant artistic influence was a hodgepodge of different styles. Some of these artists were not very skilled storytellers, and some stories look as though they were rushed and thrown together by several artists. However, by the late ’40s and early ’50s the art styles finally settled down and the Raboy influence— while not completely gone—had diminished significantly. The artists who produced the bulk of Junior’s art in the post-war years were Bud Thompson, Joe Certa, and Kurt Schaffenberger. Thompson did perhaps some of the best post-war “CMJ” art. He worked out of his own unique style to produce some of Junior’s finest stories. His work is characterized by loose and graceful figure work and mood-setting backgrounds. In an interview in Alter Ego V3#7, artist Bob Rogers (then known as Rubin Zubofsky) stated that he did background work for both Raboy and Thompson on “CMJ” stories. Exactly how long Rogers worked on the feature is not known, but he certainly deserves credit for the visual success of both artists’ versions of the World’s Mightiest Boy. Bernard “Bud” Thompson’s best work is on stories where fantasy/folklore elements prevail. His art makes such stories as “The Witch of Winter” (CMJ #63), “The Greeting Cards of Hate” (CMJ #67), “The Terrible

If Thompson’s art was exemplified by graceful figure drawing, Joe Certa’s work was characterized by stiff figure-drawing with repetitive, serviceable, and unimaginative A nice 1977 drawing of Freddy and Junior by layouts. Still, Certa Kurt Schaffenberger, courtesy of Jerry K. Boyd. was a competent [Art ©2002 estate of Kurt Schaffenberger; storyteller and was heroes TM & ©2002 DC Comics.] able to produce volumes of work for Fawcett and other publishers for decades. Kurt Schaffenberger was one of comics’ greatest storytellers. Besides “Captain Marvel Jr.,” his outstanding artwork also graced many “Captain Marvel,” “Marvel Family,” and “Ibis the Invincible” tales. Perhaps because of Schaffenberger’s slightly more cartoon-like aspect to his art style, his work seemed better fitted to the Big Red Cheese than to the World’s Mightiest Boy. Nevertheless, he produced very likable and appealing work on the “Junior” strip. Comics historian John G. Pierce aptly describes Schaffenberger’s work as “clean, clear, sparkling artwork, of a bright, cheerful world with clearly-defined heroes and villains. Kurt’s work stands as the epitome of much that has been great about comics over the years.” Like Certa, Schaffenberger was highly productive during his post-Fawcett years. Generally remembered as one of the top “Good Girl” artists of that era, Bill Ward, whose work also embodied the clean, cartoon-like aspect of Schaffenberger’s work, produced several of Captain Marvel Jr.’s (and Bulletman’s) post-war stories. As the ’40s turned into the ’50s, Bud Thompson’s and Joe Certa’s work on the “CMJ” strip matured. One can note the improvement in the art of both men as they gained confidence in their own styles and were

Joe Certa art from Captain Marvel Jr. #99 (July 1951). [©2002 DC Comics.]


Roy T Thomas homas’ St Star-Spangled ar-Spangled Roy Comics F F anzine Comics anzine

5.95

$

In the USA

No. 19

December 2002

Extra:

A WHOLE HEAP OF

MORT LEAV NOT TO MENTION

WALLY WOOD MICHAEL T. GILBERT GRASS GREEN BILL SCHELLY STEVE BUTLER JIM AMASH FRANK BRUNNER & JOE SIMON

FOCUS ON TOMAHAWK ARTIST

FRED RAY WITH ART & ARTIFACTS BY JERRY ROBINSON & JACK BURNLEY

Art ©2002 Estate of Fred Ray; Tomahawk TM & ©2002 DC Comics.


Vol. 3, No. 19 / December 2002 ™

Editor Roy Thomas

Associate Editors Bill Schelly Jim Amash

Design & Layout

Christopher Day

Consulting Editors John Morrow Jon B. Cooke

FCA Editor

Contents

P.C. Hamerlinck

Comic Crypt Editor Editors Emeritus

Writer/Editorial: A Ray of Hope. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Jerry Robinson on Fred Ray, the Harrisburg Patriot . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 A great “Batman” artist talks about his friend and colleague—and about those covers!

Production Assistant

A Fred Ray Interview–––Sort-of. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Charlie Roberts got the reclusive Mr. Ray to jot down a few short answers, anyway.

Cover Artists

Fred Ray–––Artist-Chronicler of American Landmarks . . . . . . . . . 11 A brief Ray bio—or is it an auto-bio?

Cover Colorists

A Tribute to Fred Ray . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Golden Age illustrator Jack Burnley on the 1940s work of a DC cover star.

Mailing Crew

Fortune. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 A memoir by Golden Age artist Mort Leav, co-creator of The Heap—and Mr. Whipple.

Michael T. Gilbert Jerry Bails (founder) Ronn Foss, Biljo White, Mike Friedrich Eric Nolen-Weathington

Fred Ray Dick Sprang Fred Ray Tom Ziuko

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

And Special Thanks to:

Manuel Auad Mark Austin Bob Bailey Mike W. Barr Jack Bender Ray Bottorff, Jr. Jerry K. Boyd Alan Brennert Len Brown Jack Burnley Steven Butler Tony Cerezo Max Allan Collins Teresa R. Davidson Al Dellinges Joe Desris James Doty Don Ensign Ron Fernandez Carl Gafford Jack Gilbert Michael R. Grabois Janice Green David G. Hamilton Bill Harper Ron Harris Roger Hill Bob Koppany Mort Leav

Mitch Lee Steve Leialoha Arthur Lortie Brian Makara Dan Makara Dennis Mallonee John Moret Jim Motavalli John Province Charlie Roberts Ethan Roberts Jerry Robinson Eric Schumacher Dr. Augustus Scott Noreen Shaw Marc Simms Jeff Smith Robin Snyder Dick & Cindy Swan Marc Swayze Dann Thomas Alex Toth Michael J. Vassallo J. Villalpando Ron Webber Dylan Williams Ike Wilson Michael Zeno

—In Memoriam—

Richard “Grass” Green

Richard “Grass” Green . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Bill Schelly remembers one who left his mark on comics fandom—and on comics. Comic Crypt: Wally Wood’s Flash Gordon, Continued. . . . . 35 More about the non-EC work of one of EC’s greatest artists! re: [comments and corrections] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Spotlight on Dick Sprang . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover: If the main figure in this painting by Fred Ray isn’t Tomahawk, the comic book hero he drew from 1947-68, he’s a dead ringer for him—though a bit more of the original raccoon remains in his coonskin cap! Dan Makara, the collector who generously provided the art, says he understands that Ray “did numerous paintings for his own pleasure which at times he would sell through the Howard Gallery in California. This particular painting he kept for himself. I understand that it hung in his living room over the mantel for over 30 years. In fact, I had to have the picture cleaned, as it smelled heavily of smoke!” As for the frontiersman depicted: “He may or may not be Tomahawk, but he’s certainly the spirit of the time.” Dan’s friend Jim Motavalli, editor of the environmental magazine E, scanned the painting for him, and for us. [Art ©2002 the respective copyright holder.] Above: These panels from Tomahawk #89 (Nov.-Dec. 1963) are repro’d from a photocopy of the original art, courtesy of collector Bob Bailey, who writes that they’re from “the period where, every issue, Tomahawk was either transformed (à la red kryptonite) into some kind of creature or fought some odd creature out of the Fortean Times!” Hey, look at the bright side, Bob: at least there’s no lady reporter hanging around trying to learn his secret identity—if only because he didn’t have one! [©2002 DC Comics; Tomahawk TM & ©2002 DC Comics.] Alter EgoTM is published monthly 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). Twelve-issue subscriptions: $60 US, $120 Canada, $132 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.


Focus On Fred Ray part one

3

JERRY ROBINSON On FRED RAY The Harrisburg Patriot One of the Great Early “Batman” Artists Talks about His Friend— the Illustrator of “Batman and Robin in Buckskin”!

“Superman” story, collaborating with Mort Weisinger. After the war he traveled throughout Europe, South America, and the American West. He studied art at the Pennsylvania School of Fine Art. In 1947 [INTERVIEWER’S INTROhe took over the feature “Tomahawk” for DUCTION: By all accounts, Fred Ray Star Spangled Comics. A strip with a was a private person, respected by his novel setting in Colonial times whose peers and by the many comic book fans coonskin-capped hero anticipated the who knew and loved his work. The 1955 success of Davy Crockett, history of early DC Comics was made “Tomahawk” began in SSC #69 (June richer by Fred’s engaging cover artwork. 1947) with art by Edmond Good and an He both wrote and drew features and uncredited writer; Ray took over with rarely received a byline. Fans knew him #72 and became the artist most identified by his fresh, clean drawing style, Photos of a young Fred Ray in uniform during World War II... with the strip, though Sy Barry, Bob sometimes signed with a small “F.R.,” and of his colleague Jerry Robinson today... flanking one Brown, Leonard Starr, and Frank “FRAY,” or “F.RAY.” of their collaborative efforts, the cover of World’s Finest #3 Frazetta also drew it in later years. DC (Fall 1941). Jerry told Alter Ego that, though the cover [His work first appeared in late 1940. As a originally promoted “Tomahawk” as “the was basically Ray’s, he [Jerry] was asked by DC to ink the DC bullpen artist, he is sometimes Buckskin Batman.” In 1950 DC added a Batman and Robin figures, to keep the official “Bob Kane” credited with contributing to the 1940 Tomahawk title, which Ray wrote and look. Photos courtesy of Ron Webber, Dan Makara, Superman Gum Card series; some of the drew for 22 years; “Tomahawk” also and Jerry Robinson. [Art ©2002 DC Comics.] early advertisements for “Superman appeared in various issues of Adventure Bread” bear a resemblance to his style. His first cover credit is the Comics and World’s Finest Comics. In Les Daniels’ history of DC 1940 Macy’s Christmas giveaway. He was then assigned to produce Comics, editor Jack Schiff credited the success of the Tomahawk comic covers for Superman comics, beginning with issue #8, Jan. 1941. For entirely to Fred Ray: “He was magnificent.” the next two years Ray also produced many of the covers to Action [In 1960 Ray became art director for The Civil War Times, American Comics, featuring Superman, and World’s Finest Comics, History Illustrated, and British Heritage, based in Harrisburg, spotlighting both Superman and Batman, as well as an occasional Pennsylvania. In the 1970s he painted full-color re-creations of his cover for Detective Comics and Leading Comics. His early interior early comic book covers, which sold at the time for $250 each. In 1997 work was on “Radio Squad,” “Sgt. O’Malley,” and “Congo Bill.” At Sotheby’s sold his original cover art to Superman #17 for $37,000. It times he wrote, penciled, inked, and colored the features. You can also was sold privately by a dealer; Ray himself saw none of the profit. find spot illustrations by Fred on many of the two-page text stories.

Interview and Transcription by Dan Makara

[He joined the Army Air Forces in 1942, and I’ve found at least one of Fred’s editorial cartoons in Yank magazine. While in the service, he continued to illustrate “Congo Bill” and did his first and only

[It was a surprise to see Fred Ray’s personal effects for sale on the Internet auction site eBay in July 2001. Not many had even heard that he had passed away. While alive, he rarely conducted interviews,


4

Jerry Robinson

The cover of a small 1983 book called Antietam and an interior illustration of General McClellan directing the Union forces at that battle fought in Maryland on September 17, 1862. Roy purchased the proofs of this book for his personal collection from Ron Webber. [©2002 estate of Frederic Ray.]

While one classic late-’40s house ad for Star Spangled Comics referred to Tomahawk and Dan Hunter as “Batman and Robin in buckskin,” by the time of Tomahawk #1 (Sept.-Oct. 1950) DC figured they didn’t need that kind of boost any longer. [©2002 DC Comics.]

and when he did, his answers were generally short. Now his personal life was on exhibit. Page after page of never-seen sketchbooks predating his DC work were shown. Studies of hobos, views along train tracks, abandoned buildings, bag ladies. Drawings of Tarzan, Robin Hood, a magician. Notebooks from the war years. Fred in uniform going to war. Watercolors of Mexico, oil paintings of nudes. A photo of Fred dressed as a pirate. [The obituary in the Harrisburg Patriot said that he died at home on Jan. 23, 2001. 79 years old. No immediate family.

JERRY ROBINSON: Fred had a crisp, clean style, very fluid and very nicely composed. His style was not so personal, so that it could be adapted to many characters. It wasn’t jarring when he would move from “Superman” to “Batman” to “Congo Bill.” He had a cartoony look that was at the same time quite stylish. DM: He would work at the DC office? ROBINSON: Oh yes. I had begun in comics shortly before him, working directly for Bob Kane on “Batman.” Later that year I was hired directly by DC to work in their bullpen on “Batman.” Fred had his table next to mine. That would have been in 1940. DM: What was it like at the office?

ROBINSON: I think we had a pretty unique [I spoke with Jerry Robinson, the bullpen, those first years at DC. Joe Shuster Both the above photos were sent by Ron Webber, via Dan would work there. Jack Kirby... Mort Meskin, real-life “Boy Wonder,” about his Makara. The inscription on the “pirate” gag photo, presumably whom I brought up from MLJ... George friend and collaborator. Jerry, of by Fred Ray, says, “A rich gal from Phila—EI LEOU!” Was that Roussos. DC was the elite publisher of that course, began working with Bob her name? The dates of the photos are unknown. time. Kane on the “Batman” feature in 1939, and became the second artist really to work on the strip, DM: So to be given the cover assignment to Superman, the top feature supplying many beautiful covers, penciling over Kane’s breakdowns, of that time, you had to be considered pretty good. and even drawing entire stories from 1939-45, as well as working on such Golden Age features such as “Vigilante,” “Johnny Quick,” ROBINSON: Everyone thought Fred’s work was marvelous! “Daredevil,” “Green Hornet,” “Atoman,” “Black Terror,” “Fighting Yank,” and others. But he’ll be featured, hopefully, in an upcoming DM: Did the editor provide the cover artist with cover concepts? Alter Ego interview all his own, so here we decided to concentrate on ROBINSON: Perhaps in latter years. Early on, though, Fred would do his friendship and professional relationship with fellow artist Fred a small rough sketch and get it OK’d. He’d then pencil it full-size. We all Ray:] worked on the same size illustration board, about 14" x 18". DAN MAKARA: What most impressed you about Fred’s work? DM: [showing Jerry a copy of World’s Finest Comics #3, the baseball cover] What can you tell me about this cover?


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Focus On Fred Ray part two

A Fred Ray Interview ---Sort--Of by Charlie Roberts [NOTE: Fred Ray was apparently loath to talk about his comics work. However, a few years back, Charlie Roberts, who has been researching (and often photographing) comics creators for a long while, managed to convinced the reticent artist to agree to at least a by-mail interview—which was forwarded to us by the good offices of Dan Makara. Getting answers to his questions, Charlie says, was “like pulling teeth,” and the responses are generally brief, sometimes almost maddeningly vague. Still, this is Fred Ray, talking about himself and his work. —Roy.] CHARLIE ROBERTS: Mr. Ray, I’ve tried to make this chronological, and anything you can answer will help educate those of us interested in comic book history. You were there early on and can impart a lot of things which would otherwise be lost. Thank you again for your time. Where and when were you born? FRED RAY: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. CR: Did you read comic strips as a child? (If so, what were your favorites? Children’s books, et cetera?) RAY: Yes. Favorites: Highlights of History by J. Carroll Mansfield, Young Buffalo Bill (later Broncho Bill) by Harry F. O’Neil, Tarzan and Prince Valiant by Hal Foster. Books: “Scribner’s” illustrated classics by N.C. Wyeth.

A photo of Fred Ray... alongside a self-portrait drawn for a bio in Tomahawk #82 (Sept.-Oct. 1962). Thanks to Dylan Williams and Roger Hill, respectively. The DC piece didn’t even mention his fabulous Superman, Action, and World’s Finest covers! Photo courtesy of Ron Webber and Dan Makara. [Art ©2002 DC Comics.]

[NOTE: Hope Charlie Robert doesn’t mind my breaking into his interview to mention that, in a few paragraphs he once wrote about Hal Foster, he said that in December of 1945 he “went to the suburbs of Chicago to see Foster. My first sight of the great one was a man shoveling show from the sidewalk in front of a rather modest house.... Much of our conversation was about hunting, as I recall.... He did mention that any cats who invaded his grounds were in mortal danger of being shot—to prevent the killing of small wildlife.” Thanks to Al Dellinges. —Roy.] CR: What sparked your interest in drawing? RAY: Always drawing as far back as I can remember. CR: What was your first published art? RAY: An historical strip in The Evening News on the history of Harrisburg. Still in high school when I started it. CR: When did you begin working for DC Comics? RAY: 1940. CR: Did you pencil and ink the work you “ghosted” for Joe Shuster and Bob Kane? RAY: Yes, usually. Some of the Batman covers were inked by Jerry Robinson, an expert inker! CR: Please tell us what it was like working in a comic shop in those days. (Talk about Shuster and Kane?) RAY: A room full of cartoonists. Siegel and Shuster were on the premises, Kane brought his work from home. CR: Who were the other ghost artists working with you? RAY: None.

This illustration from Ray’s Gettysburg Sketches appeared in Robin Snyder’s The Comics! [©2002 estate of Frederic Ray.]

CR: Did you do any interior story art, or just covers?


Focus On Fred Ray part three

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Artist--Chronicler of American Landmarks [NOTE: Our thanks to Dan Makara and Ron Webber for this piece, which was apparently written to appear in a publication which featured some of Ray’s historical artwork. It contains, of course, no mention that he ever drew comic books of any kind. Though no author is named, Ron believes Fred Ray wrote this third-person bio himself, “to be used as an intro to some published Civil War material used at some state parks in Pennsylvania.” —Roy.] Frederic Ray is the sole author, artist, and publisher of a series of little booklets vividly portraying the history of famous American landmarks. An illustrator of adventure series, Ray’s second love to art has always been American history. His motor trips about the country are always planned to include an historical landmark. The idea of producing a Fred Ray in front of some ancient landmark or other—flanked by a pair of Ray art pieces with series of booklets on historical related themes from the 1949-50 period: a page from his booklet Fort Ticonderoga, and his spots had simmered for a long “Tomahawk” splash from Star Spangled Comics #90 (March ‘49). Dan Makara says he’s not certain if time before it was triggered six Ray inked the latter as well as penciling it, but that the story “reminds me of the research Ray did for years ago when, returning from his historical booklets on forts. This is more than likely a nice example of his writing as well as a trip to old Quebec, Ray drawing!” [Fort Ticonderoga art ©2002 estate of Frederic Ray; “Tomahawk” art ©2002 DC Comics.] stopped off at historic Fort Ticonderoga. Recognizing the adopted by other publications at the park. A trip with sketchpad to St. need for an attractive, easy-to-read picture history of the fort, Ray Augustine, Florida, and the old Spanish Castillo de San Marcos resulted returned to his drawing board in Philadelphia, where he was attending in book no. 3, St. Augustine. Ray personally visits the locale for all his art school on the G.I. Bill, and there designed a 16-page booklet. Each drawings to insure accuracy in background portrayal. When his fourth page graphically depicted in word and picture a highlight of the history book, Lake George, was conceived, he journeyed in early March to of the fort. The trustees of Fort Ticonderoga saw the first roughs and Lake George, New York. Says Ray, “Arriving late, I spent the night in a were enthusiastic. Every spare minute that winter went into the booklet, tourist house, rising early in the morning to make my sketches and and it appeared on the counter at the fort the following summer. reconnoiter the site of Fort William Henry (this fort has since been Each year since then, Ray has produced a different booklet for some history-minded tourist like himself who loves exploring the walls of an old fort, inspecting an ancient muzzle-loading cannon, and conjuring up the ghosts of the past. But Ray is also directing his particular approach to American history to the small fry... the youth of America... to whom the picture technique of storytelling is most attractive. His drawings bring it all back to stirring life, being both educational and entertaining at the same time. Fort Ticonderoga was followed by Valley Forge. His picture map of Valley Forge Park, which appeared in this booklet, has since been

reconstructed). The temperature was 5 below zero, the lake frozen solid. I can assure you that it was a double-time reconnaissance I made that morning.”

An exploratory trip to Old Fort Niagara on Lake Ontario was followed by a booklet on that famous landmark. The center spread, in which Ray usually depicts a bird’s-eye view of the fort in question or a map of the area, was here elaborated upon to illustrate Fort Niagara in the 1770s. An aerial view of the present structures supplemented by an 18th-century plan made by the French commander of the fort, Captain Pouchot, made this reconstructed view possible.


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Focus On Fred Ray part four

A Tribute to Fred Ray by Jack Burnley [EDITOR’S NOTE: The following piece appeared in Robin Snyder’s monthly journal The Comics! Vol. 11, #6 (June 2000), and is noteworthy in part because it is written by another master Superman artist (and cover illustrator), Jack Burnley, whose comics career drawing Superman, Batman, and especially Starman was the subject of an extensive interview in Alter Ego V3#2 a couple of years back. In a recent phone conversation in which Ye Editor was apologizing for accidentally rendering his wife’s name as Dorothy rather than Dolores in A/E #14, Jack mentioned that, while he and Fred Ray didn’t know each other well in the old days, they almost wound up as neighbors. One day at the DC offices in the 1940s, when he was feeling a bit under the weather, Jack bumped into artist Steve Brodie, who suggested he move to Arizona. “You’ll jump out of bed every morning, eager to greet the day,” Brodie promised him. So Jack made a trip west to investigate, and Fred Ray, who was living in Arizona at the time, got in touch with him and they spent some time together. But Jack says that a couple of days of Arizona heat put the kibosh on his passing thoughts of moving there. In the last few years of Ray’s life, the two had resumed their acquaintance via mail, which led Jack to send Robin Snyder the following letter/article in 2000. Thanks to both Jack and Robin for permission to reprint it here. —Roy.] Robin, your feature on Fred Ray will give this fine artist some of the recognition he deserves. Although he turned out excellent work for DC for more than thirty years, he is almost completely ignored in DC’s books on comics and is barely mentioned in Steranko’s History of Comics. Only Ron Goulart has praised Fred’s art. In The Great Comic Book Artists, Vol. 2, there is a piece on Ray which gives high marks to his work on “Congo Bill” and “Tomahawk,” as well as his “Superman” ghost art. Goulart wrote that Ray “did some of the best straight

This photo of Jack Burnley (also printed with his interview in Alter Ego V3#2 three years ago) shows the artist with one of his most famous covers—New York World’s Fair Comics–1940 Issue—the first drawing of Superman and Batman together... and a black-&-white version of one of his later drawings of the pair. [Art ©2002 Jack Burnley; Superman & Batman TM & © 2002 DC Comics.]

adventure stuff in comic books” and “also did a very impressive job ghosting Superman.” In Les Daniels’ “official” 60-year anniversary book DC Comics there is only one reference to Ray, but that one is worth much: “Tomahawk” began as a back-up and graduated to a book in 1950 “and lasted for an impressive twenty-two years. Jack Schiff, who edited the feature, credits its success to artist Fred Ray. ‘He was just magnificent,’ Schiff says.” Fred’s cover to World’s Finest Comics #3 is included in this big book, but is credited to Jerry Robinson (p. 57)! Also, his great shot of Superman riding a bomb (Superman #18) appears without credit (p. 64). When I came to DC in late 1939, I was an established professional with ten years’ experience as a King Features Syndicate sports cartoonist. Fred Ray was a seventeen-year-old beginner. His first Superman covers were drawn in the simple style of, and better than, the Shuster studio. In a Marc Simms of Big B Books e-mailed us a scan of this intriguing “Tomahawk” splash from Star Spangled Comics #94 (July 1949), which evidently was set partly in the 18th century, and partly in the 20th. Readers can contact Marc at <mailbox@bigbcomics.com>. [©2002 DC Comics.]


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Mort Leav

Fortune A Reminiscence by Golden Age Artist MORT LEAV Co-Creator of The Heap —and Mr. Whipple!

[INTRODUCTION: Mort Leav (b. 1916) is a true comics pioneers, with a career that spans the late 1930s through the mid-’50s in comic books before he left to pursue other artistic interests. This too-brief memoir was edited together by Robin Snyder from several of Mort’s letters to him over the past few years (hence the occasional address to an offstage “you”), and initially saw print in Robin’s monthly “positive, working oral history of the past, present, and future” of the field, The Comics! (Vol. 12, #2, Feb. 2001), information about which can be found elsewhere in this issue. Several additions have been made based on letters and phone calls exchanged between Mort and Ye Editor, since then... as well as the integration of an earlier letter of Mort’s that had appeared in The Comics! exactly one year before the comments collected as “Fortune.” Our thanks to both Mort Leav and Robin Snyder for their blessing to reprint and expand this piece. —Roy.]

The Illustrating Men Your kind words and Jerry de Fuccio’s Broadway-style column of facts, queries, and musings have bestirred this usually reticent ol’ penand-inker to dust off his memories and write of old friends, past and present. Sitting here in my recliner for most of the 24/7 with my fair share of aches, I, as an old journeyman illustrator, do truly feel flattered that anyone would wish to share in my reminiscences.

A self-portrait of Mort Leav (at left) facing two of his most famous cocreations—Mr. Whipple (he of Charmin Bathroom Tissue fame a few decades back) and The Heap, forerunner of various other Heaps, not to mention the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing, The Incredible Hulk, Man-Thing, Swamp Thing, and other monstrous heroes of the 1960s and since! [Art ©2002 Mort Leav; Mr. Whipple is TM & ©2002 Procter & Gamble; The Heap is TM & ©2002 by the respective trademark and copyright holders. So there!]

Another great pen virtuoso was Joseph Clement Coll. Charles A. Voight. Then there was Howard Pyle and all his famous students such as N.C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn, Frank Schoonover. They were all the fabulous “glazed paper” magazine illustrators, going right up to the end of the 1940s. I’ll never forget the boost I got from just studying the work of John LaGatta or Wallace Morgan or Henry Raleigh or dozens of others. I was both amused and saddened when a student of mine at the School of Visual Arts asked if I had learned to draw from comic books. Among comics strips, Milt Caniff’s art, exentensive research, and sophisticated writing style [on Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon] is in a class never to be equaled. Among other sequential art masters to whom I doff my cap is Alex Raymond [of Flash Gordon and later Rip Kirby].

I had always believed that the really great artist and/or illustrator must have a solid grounding in studies of the old masters, and one who is his inspiration and whom he seeks to emulate. As a teenager I spent my Saturdays in the museums and with art books. Sundays were spent outdoors drawing or painting scenery and sketching animals in the zoo. But as for illustrating: in the early ’30s we were still at the tail end of the exquisite pen-and-ink era. I considered my guru, without peer, Charles Dana Gibson. Gibson’s leading disciple and ten years his junior was John Montgomery Flagg.

A 1977 Leav drawing in the style of one of his idols, Charles Dana Gibson, creator of “The Gibson Girl,” one of the mass media’s first “pinups” —in a far more discreet era, of course. Courtesy of Tony Cerezo. [©2002 Tony Cerezo.]

Douglas Fairbanks [early silent movie actor] was a favorite of mine from the time I was an impressionable child. I did a swashbuckling drawing of him for a Woody Gelman project. If I ever find the brochure in the attic, I’ll send it to you. I remember seeing a Fairbanks film that must have been earlier than the ones mentioned in your [Robin Snyder’s] listing, because he had no mustache. It was The Americano. He also had been in some tworeelers that had yellowed and faded away with age. One of them, my older brother remembers, was titled Reggie Mixes In. Human capability of such recall is remarkable. I recall C.D. Batchelor winning the Pulitzer Prize for cartooning in


Fortune 1937. I was 21 and beaming with confidence. Come July, portfolio in hand, I went up to the New York Daily News building and Editors Press Service, a South American newspaper syndicate where all our domestic news events were translated into Spanish or Portuguese and then sent to every newspaper and country in our southern hemisphere. I became the art department—drawing everything, lettering in all styles, cutting up and designing photo and copy layouts. All this for only (are you sitting down?) $78 a month. South American newspapers couldn’t possibly pay North American wages. Steranko, in his profile on me, inadvertently had me getting $78 a week. I wasn’t that lucky. Hard to believe, but that puny salary supported my parents. My father had become an invalid. My daily stipend for work expenses was 25¢. Broken down, it included a nickel each way for subway transportation, and for lunch, a lettuce-and-tomato sandwich on toast with mayo for a dime and 5¢ for a glass of milk. I would frequently go down from our 15th floor office to the 9th floor Daily News offices to pick up their comic strip pages from 4–9 weeks ahead of their publication date (depending whether they were daily or Sunday pages) and replace all English lettering with Spanish. We also received Eisner & Iger pages for the same purpose. One day we started receiving George Brenner’s “The Clock,” too. That involved me in extra work. Seems Brenner’s drawings, except for the masked hero, had neighborhoods completely devoid of any life. The streets and buildings were eerily quiet. There were long wooden fences without even posted bills. One of my jobs was to stick in background people, kids playing, a dog at a Brenner hydrant, a cat at a garbage can, automobiles parked or moving, perhaps a fluttering flag, etc.

17

to go to the Winsor-Newtons after Pearl Harbor. Although my work appeared in books of Fiction House, Hillman, MLJ, and Lev Gleason, I never worked directly for any of those outfits. My jobs went there only by way of the Iger shop. That included the creation of “The Heap” with Harry Stein. We were having a ball coming up with names before settling on “The Heap.” That was in the “Sky Wolf” strip, where I also drew a villainous character; half his head and body were made of steel. Eisner had split and left Jerry with stacks of “Hawk of the Seas” pages. Arty Saaf was assigned to write new material. He carefully cut out Eisner panels and partial panels to paste onto fresh pages and drew the rest, thereby incorporating as much original Eisner as he could. The new stories on the doctored pages would then go directly to the engraver, and—voila!—the books came out with new “Eisner” “Hawks of the Seas” stories. Some of Iger’s working conditions may seem harsh: e.g., we were allowed 35 minutes for lunch. A favorite dining haunt was a couple of blocks away. One day, Saaf shrewdly invited Iger to have lunch with us. We went to that eatery. It seemed we were hardly settled in when Saaf looked at his watch, noticed the time that had elapsed, and promptly remarked, “Take your time, Jerry. We only have 35 minutes.” We were given an hour from then on.

(Continued on p.20)

The inside offices of the News were walled all in windows, and prominently displayed Mr. Batchelor in one, working away at his drawing table, a few of his large originals having been hung behind him. I often thought of getting up the gumption to interrupt him and introduce myself as a fellow newspaper artist, albeit some rungs below (and some floors above), but I never did. Come January 1940 and German subs were sinking American freighters in the Caribbean to prevent contraband from getting to the Allies via South America. Some work I was doing for South American newspapers via Editors Press Service could have been sunk along with everything else. Hence, I, among others, was let go. I had heard that Victor Fox was hiring artists. Armed with a portfolio of my best newspaper illustrations, I hastened to my appointment. The editor was Bob Farrell, who threw a bunch of newspaper comic strip cutouts at me and told me to use them to copy from and knock out as many pages as I could, even if there were to be only two panels to a page. The rates were 5 and 6 dollars a page. I walked out, never to go back. Years later, I learned through Ray Hermann’s twin brother George that Farrell had been born Izzy Katz. He and George were in the same Army unit. The mail-call guy would announce, “Hey, Katz, you got another letter for Bob Farrell.” Rumor had it Farrell was also an attorney.

Iger Minus Eisner Coincidentally, the Iger & Eisner studio was also selling Editors Press their comic book pages for translation and shipment. Eventually I went to work for Iger. He started me at $30 a week. The very first script I was given in comic books after leaving the job with the South American newspaper syndicate was “ZX-5, Spies in Action.” Eisner had done it before their split. It was also the very first time I tried drawing with a brush. It wasn’t easy because I was using it like a pen. The brushes were Japanese bamboo with rabbit hair tips and cost 12 cents each. They were very springy, pleasant to work with once you got the hang on it. We had

Alas, it has proved impossible to identify, with certainty, any art on “Blackhawk,” “Uncle Sam,” “Doll Man,” or “Kid Eternity” stories that Mort penciled for Busy Arnold’s company from 1941-45, so here’s a “Sally O’Neill” splash from Quality’s National Comics #15 (Sept. 1941). Thanks to Eric Schumacher for the scans and info. Both Eric and Mort believe he is the actual artist of the “Sally O’Neil” splash we printed back in A/E #12, which we attributed to Al Bryant. Check it out. [©2002 the respective copyright holder.]


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Mort Leav Mort Leav was the original artist—and Harry Stein most likely the scripter— of the “Sky Wolf” feature that debuted in Air Fighters Comics, Vol. 1, #2 (Nov. 1942). This American-English-Polish grouping of aviators was probably influenced by the popular, multi-national Blackhawks over in Quality’s Military Comics, but had its own mystique going for it, as well... and indeed, when Eclipse Comics continued the adventures of the mag’s main star, Airboy, in the 1980s, it also brought back Sky Wolf. The art on these two pages, in fact, is repro’d from Eclipse’s Air Fighters Classics #1-2, which reprinted Air Fighters #2-3, the first issues which featured these continuing characters. Mort wrote, upon seeing these stories again: “Whew! Where’d you ever dig up those horrors? I drew like that when I was about 11 or 12, but in 1941 I, for one, was 25! And the script, whether by Harry Stein or someone else, was even worse. Did we bring the Frederic Werthams on ourselves?” [Art on these 2 pages ©2002 the respective copyright holder.]

The splash from the first “Sky Wolf” story. Mort writes: “I notice in the ‘Sky Wolf’ artwork I did a take-off on Hitler, Goebbels, Hermann Göring, and Heinrich Himmler. All this stuff was done in the Iger shop. The inking looks like it could all have been mine, I hesitate to say.”

The cast of “Sky Wolf” was introduced on page 3—along with the concept of “semi-planes.” And they say Blackhawk’s Grumman Skyrockets might’ve been a wee bit unstable!

Germany’s Führer meets Half-Man, the Nazi ace referred to by Mort Leav in his reminiscences.

This is actually the splash of the second “Sky Wolf” story, in Air Fighters V1#3.


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EC Confidential, Part 4

Wally Wood’s Flash Gordon, continued Introduction

Last issue, as part of our “EC Confidential” series which spotlights some of the non-EC work of some of Entertaining Comics’ finest artists, we published some examples of Wally Wood’s brief stint ghosting the syndicated Flash Gordon strip for artist Dan Barry. This time we’re examining more choice examples from the same 1957 “Cybernia” storyline. There’s some great art here, but don’t expect Flash and Dale to look like they stepped out of one of Wood’s Weird Science stories. The two main characters rarely appear in these scenes—and when they do, both have been drawn (or redrawn) by Dan or his brother Sy Barry for the sake of visual continuity. Furthermore, Wood appears to have penciled only a few weeks’ worth of the eleven-week “Cybernia” storyline, with Flash’s regular artist Dan Barry (or his other ghosts) drawing the rest. Our goal for this twopart article was to showcase all the Flash Gordon strips we believe Wood penciled.

The inking throughout was by the Barry studio, though it’s possible Wood inked a few panels here and there. Some claim that Woody penciled the entire story, but I see very little beyond these strips. Ben Oda lettered the sequence. Dan Barry or some unknown ghost wrote the first strips, with sci-fi writer Larry Shaw taking over on 9/16/57 and completing the story. And a fun story it is! The “Cybernia” storyline tells of a highly technological city on the planet Mongo whose leaders foolishly believe SCIENCE!!! can solve all mankind’s ills. An Efficiency Calculator runs the city with a minimum of wasted effort, and its citizens have been bred into a race of specialists. Everyone on Cybernia is an expert in only one specific skill—taking assembly-line efficiency to a whole new level! Naturally, these interplanetary efficiency experts decide to bestow the benefits of their scientific wisdom on some “primitive” Mongo natives. In due course, the carefree natives are transformed into efficient, soulless automatons. Flushed with success, the Administrator decides to spread the benefits of their wisdom throughout Mongo. “But we have no rockets, sir!” says one nay-sayer. No problem! A Product-Designer computer quickly comes up with a shopping list of parts needed to construct a rocket. A team of specialists set to work, with each man building one part of the ship. Unfortunately, when it’s time to build the rocket, they run into one teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy problem. You see, they… Ahh—why spoil the surprise? Read on…

ate.] s Syndic Feature g in K [©2002


Alter Ego #19