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Okay, Axis— Here We Come!

No. 20 January 2003

Still More

TITANS of

TIMELY/ MARVEL! Featuring

AVISON • BERG • BURGOS • the BROTHERS BUSCEMA COCKRUM • DESCHAMPS • EVANS • EVERETT • GANTZ HOOVER • KANE • KEEFE • KIRBY • KLEIN • KUPPERBERG MILGROM • RAYMOND • ROBBINS • RYAN • SAHLE • SEKOWSKY SHORES • SIMON • STREETER • VOSBURG • WILLIAMSON & OTHERS

in new & vintage artwork as annotated by AMASH • GILBERT • THOMAS • TOTH

[Art ©2003 Al Milgrom; Heroes TM & ©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


Vol. 3, No. 20 / January 2003 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 Bill Schelly & Friends Al Milgrom

Covers Colorist Tom Ziuko

And Special Thanks to: Bob Almond Murphy Anderson Sergio Aragonés David Armstrong Brian Ashmore Mark Austin Joe Azzato Mike W. Barr Terry Beatty Blake Bell Al Bigley Al Bradford Mike Burkey Mike Costa Craig Delich David Delich Bob Deschamps Daren Dillinger Shel Dorf Shelton Drum Jean-Jacques Dzialowski Tim Easterday Don Ensign Tom Fagan Ron Flick Ron Frantz Keif Fromm Mark Gamble David G. Hamilton Eric Wolfe Hanson Bill Harris Dave Hoover Tom Horvitz Steve Hurley Bob Justice Dave Kaler Jim Keefe Knut R. Knutsen Alan Kupperberg Harry Lampert

Dan Makara Scott M. Martin Dave Medinnus Al Milgrom The Guys at The Mint Sheldon Moldoff Fred Mommsen Brian K. Morris Mart & Carrie Nodell Tiffany Nodell Michelle Nolan Kevin O’Neill Jerry Ordway Bill Pearson John G. Pierce Rich Rubenfeld Paul Ryan Fred Schneider Carole Seuling Joe Simon Joe Sinnott Rick Stasi Carrie Strong Marc Swayze Daniel Tesmoingt Joel Thingvall Dann Thomas Alex Toth Jim Vadeboncoeur Ellen Vartanoff Irene Vartanoff Michael J. Vassallo James Warren Len Wein Rick Weingroff Stephen Wheeler Marv Wolfman Andy Yanchus Pat Yanchus

Contents Writer/Editorial: Invaders of the Lost Art! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 World War II Forever (But Only in Comic Books)!. . . . . . . . . . 3 Roy Thomas’ skeleton key to The Invaders—its origins and homage heroes & villains. Who Is Bob Deschamps...? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Jim Amash interviews a little-known but fascinating staff artist about Marvel’s Golden Age. “A Great Mix of Unique Cartoonists...” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 The legendary Alex Toth on a few other comics legends and non-legends you should know about. Flash Gordon Relaunched . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Michael T. Gilbert on Flash Gordon by Jim Keefe, Al Williamson, George Evans—and himself! re: [comments & corrections] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Spotlight On The 1965 New York Comicon . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover: Al Milgrom has long been one of Marvel's bright lights as artist and even editor (remember Marvel Fanfare?)—so we invited him to draw this issue's Timely/Marvel cover, as a combination homage/parody of a fairly familiar 1940 non-Timely/Marvel image. By the way, art collectors—Al is currently selling the original artwork (as well as a few other choice vintage and commission pieces) and can be reached at <EditoriAl4@aol.com> or via a letter (with other stamped envelopes enclosed) sent to Roy, which he'll forward. [Art ©2003 Al Milgrom; Angel, Blazing Skull, Vision, Whizzer, Sub-Mariner, Captain America, Human Torch, & Miss America TM & ©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.] Above: By coincidence, at the very same time, Scott M. Martin had commissioned longtime Marvel artist Paul Ryan (Fantastic Four, Avengers West Coast, et al.) and inker Bob Almond to draw a distinctly similar piece for his collection, only featuring a straight “Invaders” cast (minus Toro). Thanks to all three for letting us print it. Oh, and you can visit The Bob Almond Inkwell for news, original art, inking commissions, and more at <www.almondink.com>. [Art ©2003 Paul Ryan & Bob Almond; Invaders TM & ©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.] 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.


The Invaders

3

A Skeleton Key to the Roots of the 1970s Invaders—and Its Heroes and Villains by Roy Thomas [PREFACE: In Alter Ego, Vol. 2, #2 (Summer 1999), I wrote about The Invaders, which I developed for Marvel in the mid-1970s as what some (not I) would call the first fullout “retro” comic book—if only because the Lee-Kirby retellings of Golden Age Captain America tales in the 1960s never took up more than half of Tales of Suspense. However, because in ’99 A/E was only an addendum to Jon B. Cooke’s fledgling Comic Book Artist, I squeezed all I had to say about my WWII super-group into three pages—clearly inadequate to do justice to either the concept, the artists involved, or the book’s 1940s roots, let alone all three! [Though CBA #2 itself is long since out of print, that article is currently available in the TwoMorrows trade paperback Alter Ego: The Comic Book Artist Collection (see ad elsewhere in this issue), with six pages of additional material, including penciled versions of covers and art by Frank Robbins, Jack Kirby, and Dave Hoover. That relieves me of having to repeat here much of the info (or any of the art) that was in the earlier piece. Still, more backstory on The Invaders may be of interest to Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age enthusiasts alike, so here goes—this time with a concentration on the heroes and villains of the series, and their sources—often the comics characters of another company or era! —Roy.]

Okay, Axis... The Invaders started out as something of a lark... in an Avengers storyline to which they were only incidental. At this late stage, I’ve no idea which came first: the idea of Kang the Conqueror playing “cosmic chess” against a new creation I christened The Grand-Master, or the notion of parodying DC’s Justice League. I do recall quite clearly the related occasion that led to Marvel’s Squadron Sinister, and thereby the better-known Squadron Supreme... and, by a slightly less direct route, to The Invaders. At a 1969 party in Manhattan hosted by my first wife Jean

and myself, then-comics writer Mike Friedrich suggested to colleagues Dennis O’Neil and me that, since Denny was currently scripting Justice League of America and I was writing The Avengers for Marvel—two books with distinctly similar franchises—we ought to find a way to do a crossover between the two. Since a “real” meeting of the two groups was out of the question at that time, with Superman vs. Spider-Man still half a decade in the future, Mike’s idea was for the two of us to do it surreptitiously, with each creating a super-villain team which would be the rough equivalent of the hero group the other was writing. With a pair of stiff drinks in hand, Denny and I enthusiastically agreed, and a scheme was hatched. It would have to be kept under the table, of course, because neither DC’s powers-that-be nor Stan Lee was likely The first hundred issues or so of The Avengers were reprinted a few years back in handsome 8 1/2" x 6" b&w volumes by Planeta/Forum in Spain, seven issues to a book. The 1969 clash between the Avengers and the proto-Invaders made the cover of Los Vengadores, Vol. 12. Script by Roy Thomas, art by Sal Buscema & Sam Grainger. [©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


4

World War II Forever the Nazi-occupied Paris of 1941. For purposes of differentiation, I had Namor drawn in his old lackluster black-with-yellow-stripes swim trunks, which couldn’t hold a candle to the scaly pair he’d sported since the mid-’50s... and had Cap wielding his original shield, previously seen only once, in ’41’s Captain America Comics #1. It was just a throwaway issue, a fun thing to do. Little did I realize what would come from it, half a decade down the line. But that’s more of that Nimzovich connection again. That chess grandmaster and the late Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, have probably influenced my professional life more than any other non-comics artisans.

...Here We Come! In the piece reprinted in Alter Ego: The Comic Book Artist Collection I told how, in 1974-75, soon after stepping down as Marvel’s editor-in-chief in favor of a writer/editor contract, I talked Stan Lee into letting me develop a new mag called The Invaders, to co-star Timely/Marvel’s “Big Three” 1940s super-heroes and their kid sidekicks during World War II, with the action beginning a few weeks after Pearl Harbor. Frank Robbins was suggested as penciler, which was fine by me, though I signed on Vince Colletta as the original inker to bring Frank’s work a wee bit closer to the kind of artwork Marvel’s readers expected.

Al Avision’s cover for All Winners Comics #4 (Spring 1942) was the inspiration for the Frank Robbins/John Romita cover for Giant-size Invaders #1-andonly, which can be seen in various stages in Alter Ego: The CBA Collection. According to The Mint’s 2002 Millennium Catalog, Avison did the above re-creation of the 1942 scene circa 1980, and it is “the sole re-creation by Avison known to exist at this time.” To find out more about The Mint’s auctions, phone toll-free at (866) 355-4591 or e-mail <JayParrino.com>. [Art ©2003 estate of Al Avison; heroes TM & ©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

to sympathize with our fannish scheme, any more than they’d have felt it worthwhile at that stage to discuss economic terms for having an actual JLA-Avengers crossover like the one that is finally happening now, twenty years after I was involved with the original one that got torpedoed in the 1980s. Out of the aforementioned party confab, I suspect, was born the Kang/Grand-Master chess match, which ran from The Avengers #69-71 (Oct.-Dec. 1969). After all, I needed a venue for the battle, and as a chessplayer since the eighth grade, I often tend to think in terms of the Royal Game. (In fact, I’ve often stated that much of my career in comics was based on principles I gleaned from grandmaster Aron Nimzovich’s 1930 chess classic My System, but that’s another article.) This isn’t the place to go into the creation of the Squadron Sinister. Suffice it to say that I drew costumed sketches of the four original members (Hyperion, Nighthawk, Dr. Spectrum, and a latter-day Whizzer) as a guide for penciler Sal Buscema, and that things went so well I followed up later with the Squadron Supreme. Denny, alas, never figured out a way to get around JLA editor Julius Schwartz with a fullscale homage/parody, so he settled for having Batman hit a crook with a C.A.-shield-like trashcan lid, plus a few other such physical bits, in a JLA fight scene... and few contemporary readers were ever aware of our cunning plan. Pity. Since a chess match consists of more than one game, though, I needed another opponent for The Avengers to face in a subsequent issue, so for Avengers #71 I dredged up the Golden Age incarnations of The Human Torch, Captain America, and Sub-Mariner and plopped them down in

Among vintage b&w photostats available to Marvel by the mid-’70s was this splash page from Marvel Mystery Comics #8 (June 1940), which showcased the first clash between Sub-Mariner and The Human Torch—with Bill Everett and Carl Burgos each drawing his own hero in the other’s story. The “Torch” side of the battle was reprinted in the 1997 trade paperback The Golden Age of Marvel (Vol. 1). A page or two is missing from the “Namor” stats, alas, so it hasn’t yet been reprinted from them. [©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


(But Only in Comic Books!)

5

Atlantean Emperor appears to die in this story but was alive in comics published in the 1950s and since. But hey, we all know how ephemeral death is in comic books. To paraphrase a possum named Pogo: “It ain’t nohow permanent.” I’d doubtless have had to split some stories over two issues, to fill precisely twenty pages of future editions with old tales. But, as it turned out, that first issue (cover-dated June 1975) wasn’t even on the stands yet when, for reasons likewise unknown to me, the decision was made to convert the comic to the 25¢ size and price, with the very next ish. Naturally, it wouldn’t make sense to have a 32-pager called Giant-size Invaders, would it? I could roll with the punches, and besides, I got a second #1 out of the deal! But, sadly, I lost the chance to re-present the 1940s stories, except occasionally when the Dreaded Deadline Doom loomed. Fortunately, the photostats we’d found stuck around, partly in my hands, partly in Marvel’s, and became the basis of the two 1990s Golden Age of Marvel trade paperbacks and that nifty at-long-last Marvel Mystery Comics #1 which editor Tom Brevoort put together in 1999. (And if you haven’t picked up all three of these publications from Bud Plant or elsewhere, you’re no Golden Age fan by my reckoning!) But onward....

Yes, Master...

Ah, if only we’d had original-art photocopies like the one above to reprint from back in the late ’60s, sez Roy! The actual art to this Simon & Kirby splash from Captain America #6 (Sept. 1941) is, according to The Mint’s 2002 catalog, “one of only two known in existence at this time.” When this tale was reprinted in Fantasy Masterpieces #6 (Dec. 1966) from poorly-retouched art photostatted from the actual mags, the Comics Code forced Marvel to totally eliminate Fang’s gigantic head out of whose gaping, sharp-toothed maw Cap and Bucky were emerging, substituting the de-fanged circle art below it. They had to lose the strapped-down gal, too! Praise be to Uncle Sam that Marvel gorgeously reprinted all ten S&K issues in more recent years! How about more collections of Golden Age Timely material, guys? [©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

(Frank Springer would ably assume the inking chores with the eighth issue.) For reasons unknown to me, then or now, it was decided the comic would debut as Giant-size Invaders #1, a 64-page bimonthly (instead of a 32-pager) selling for the hefty sum of 50¢, instead of the current 25¢. I was not unhappy about this pre-publication mutation, since it enabled me to showcase stories from ’40s Timely Comics as backups. On earlier trips to the Marvel warehouse, production manager John Verpoorten and I had unearthed photostats of a number of complete and semi-complete Golden Age tales, which I was eager to see back in print... the more so since the restoration work on old stories we had reprinted a few years earlier in Fantasy Masterpieces/Marvel Superheroes had been mediocre at best. I chose a dilly to shoehorn into that first issue: a 20-page Bill Everett saga from Sub-Mariner #1 (Spring 1941). I simply added an identifying intro on the splash—and a footnote to cover the fact that the proto-

In my earlier article, after covering the birth of The Invaders, I skipped to simply touching on a few “bullet highlights” in the series. This time around, I’d like to concentrate on one particular angle in some detail. One of the aspects of Invaders I most enjoyed was co-creating new villains and heroes, and egging on penciler Frank Robbins—a true talent who came in trailing clouds of glory from his years drawing the Johnny Hazard newspaper strip, topped off by excellent recent “Batman” work for the Distinguished Competition—to design them. Only occasionally (e.g., Union Jack) did I set pen to paper myself to design a character. With others, I just gave a vague general description or merely described what the hero/villain could do and left the rest to Frank. He invariably came through like a champ. Besides, he was even more of a World War II buff than I was, and he reveled in throwing in authentic background details which would have caused most artists (especially the younger ones, who often blanched at the mere thought of having to do actual R*E*S*E*A*R*C*H) to freeze up or try to fake it. Just paging through my bound volumes of The Invaders reminds me of the circumstances under which some of the villains and heroes were either revived or created, or at least recalls a relevant anecdote or two. First off, I believe that, pretty much from the get-go, I planned to have The Invaders encounter Axis super-types who were equivalents of either Marvel or DC heroes. I never even tried hard to hide what I was doing.


Bob Deschamps

15

An Interview with a Little-known but Fascinating Staff Artist of Marvel’s Golden Age! Interview Conducted & Transcribed by Jim Amash

“I Started as an Office Boy”

[INTERVIEWER’S NOTE: JIM AMASH: There’s precious What? You say you never little information around heard of Bob Deschamps? regarding your comic book Don’t be ashamed. Neither had career, which is why I was I—nor had I seen any biograsurprised when Dave Gantz phical information listed for told me about you. You must him anywhere, not even in not have signed your comic Jerry Bails’ indispensable book work. Who’s Who in American BOB DESCHAMPS: Well, I Comic Books! I didn’t even started at Timely Comics as a know he’d worked in comics, messenger/office boy. Gary till former Timely staffer Dave Keller lived on my block in Gantz (whom I interviewed Forest Hills and I showed him for A/E #13—thanks, Dave!) A rousing photo of some of the Berndt Toast Gang, 1994! (L. to r.:) Al Jaffee, some of my work. He said then and now a top cartoonist for Mad magazine (and a longtime Timely staffer told me about him. One reason there was an opening for an himself!)... Bob Deschamps, in his advertising days... and Art Cummings, he’s so unknown is that he cartoonist for Penthouse. Photo courtesy of Bob Deschamps. office boy at Timely Comics. I never signed his name to any of said I’d be interested in that, the many comics stories he and that’s how I got started at Timely. inked. It’s too bad we can’t distribute audio copies of our interview. If we did, Robert Gabriel Deschamps would have you crying as well Every night I would go home and practice penciling and inking, then as laughing at his stories (as I did several times in the course of intertake the work to the office for criticism from people who worked there. viewing him). Nobody has ever made me laugh more than Bob did as Eventually, I took some stuff in to Stan Lee, who liked it and said, he regaled me with great personal yarns about working at Timely in “Okay. Monday morning you start here as a staff inker.” I jumped up the 1940s. Thanks to him, we can give you a sense of what it was like and down and started running out of the office, and Stan yelled, “Wait! to do so; and we can all learn more about some of these people who Come back here. Where are you going?” I was just so damn happy, and fashioned dreams for millions of children—and maybe a few adults, too. Pardon me while I go get another hanky. —Jim.]

If the Mike Sekowsky-penciled page at left from Cowboy Romances #3 (March 1950) was inked by Bob Deschamps, even he couldn’t identify it at this late date— but Bob did sign some of his later advertising work, which was agented by Gerald & Culen Rapp, Inc., of New York. Timely expert Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, who provided copies of most of the comic art attributed to Deschamps for this article, believes that artist did indeed ink the page. [Cowboy Romances art ©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.; advertising art ©2003 the respective copyright holder.]


16 Stan asked, “How much are you making now?” I said I was making $24 a week and he said, “Starting Monday, it’ll be $48 a week.” So I jumped up and down some more. [laughs] This was shortly after World War II, in 1945. After a while, I got a raise to $55 a week. Everybody had to produce two pages a day, but since I was so new in the business, Stan said I only had to do one page or a page and a half. If I could do two pages, fine. Stan never jumped on me. I was new at the game, but the stuff I was doing was professional quality. I learned to do thick and thin lines with a brush. People like Al Sulman and Gary Keller helped teach me. Eventually, I got to a page and half a day, but years later, when I was working for Dell Publishing, I was whipping stuff out like crazy. People there would say, “How do you do it so fast?” JA: Was Vince Fago still editing when you started? DESCHAMPS: Vince Fago was leaving his editorial position because Stan was coming back. [NOTE: Fago held down Stan Lee’s job while Lee was in the service from 1942-45. See A/E #11.]

Who Is Bob Deschamps... hair a little and she giggled and walked down the hall. This guy across the hall was working in the stock room and he invited me in, and this was the very teacher I had looked forward to seeing. He said, “Put up your fists. You put up your fists and mess my hair up and I’ll knock you into the ground!” I said, “Jesus! I don’t want to study with this guy.” So finally, I left Grover Cleveland, bent to my father’s wishes, and went to a vocational school. I was there for some time and nothing was working out at all. It was a place where the police came in every day and locked somebody up for burglary or some other thing. So I quit school altogether. Years later, I was in the Navy and someone suggested that I take my high school equivalency exam, which I did. The man said I did great on the exam and told me to take the college equivalency tests. I took a bunch of those tests and got two years’ college equivalency credit.

While I was there, I was doing training aids and was sent to C.I.C. [Combat Intelligence Center] School out in Glenview, Illinois. I was getting familiar with the place and noticed that the school had all their officers JA: So you got the job as an there and was only working with office boy hoping to break in as lecturers, and I’m thinking they an artist? Mike Sekowsky, who’d be noted in the 1960s as the original artist on should have training aides for Justice League of America, was a Timely mainstay on virtually all genres this stuff. I went to see the man DESCHAMPS: Yeah. I never in the 1940s. This splash is from Human Torch #32 (Sept. 1948), by which time who was running the school and went to art school, though I Sun Girl had replaced Toro as the Torch’s sidekick. Inker unknown. Thanks to Mike asked him why he didn’t have Costa & Blake Bell. [©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.] wanted to, because my parents training aides for these people. were very much against it. My He said, “It’s all classified and father was a licensed plumber and he wanted me to take over his secret.” I told him I could do it. He said, “Really?” and gave me a business. I didn’t have much interest in that, because we didn’t get along problem dealing with radar vectors and so on, and I illustrated radar too well on the job. Father and son routines don’t always work out. signals. JA: I’ve seen instances of that. By the way, when and where were you The head of the school said they were great and asked me who I was born? working for. I told him and he said, “Okay. Now you’re working for me.” From then on, I was up in the drafting room, doing visual aids. DESCHAMPS: November 26, 1928, in New York City. I had a sister Flop charts and things like that. who was five years older than me, but she passed away about seven years ago. In grade school, I asked my art teacher about an art school This was during the Korean War. When Harry Truman brought about that I could go to. She recommended Washington Irving High School the draft, I didn’t want to get drafted into the Navy, so I joined the and I applied there. I was rejected because it was an all-girls school. Naval Reserve at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. I got into a P.B.Y. squadron, which I loved very much, and became a plane captain on JA: [laughs] So much the better! P.B.Y.s. P.B.Y. 5-A is a consolidated flying boat—an amphibious flying DESCHAMPS: It would have been. My father didn’t look into it boat with twin engines. It was used for search-and-rescue and some whatsoever, and I switched and went to Grover Cleveland for a couple bombings and things like that. It was designed in the 1930s and was still of years. They were supposed to have a decent teacher there. I was in the being used. I had tried to enlist in World War II but was too young. A hall one day as a monitor when one of the girls I knew walked down the few of us went to Grand Central Station to sign up and the man there hall and we chatted for a moment or two. When she left, I fluffed up her said, “Kid, bring your mother back here.” So that didn’t work out.


32

Alex Toth

The Legendary ALEX TOTH on a Few Other Comics Legends—and Non-Legends [NOTE: Just a short note this time from Alex Toth, who has been in and around the comics industry since 1945, drawing (and occasionally writing) some of the field’s most memorable stories. —Roy.]

Two artists Toth mentions—Paul Reinman (middle left) and Irwin Hasen (above)—drew Green Lantern’s encounters with Solomon Grundy in Comic Cavalcade #13 (Winter ’45) and #24 (Dec. ’47-Jan. ’48), respectively... and Alex Toth himself drew the accompanying model sheet of the monster for Hanna-Barbera in 1978. Thanks to Al Dellinges for the latter. [Comic art ©2003 DC Comics; model sheet ©2003 Hanna-Barbera.]


Comic Crypt

[Flash Gordon TM!& Š2003 King Features Syndicate.]

35


36

Comic Crypt

EC Confidential, Part 5

Flash Gordon Relaunched by Michael T. Gilbert Drawing a newspaper adventure strip isn’t the cushy job it used to be. Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, top creators like Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, and Hal Foster were comicstrip kings—with huge readerships and salaries to match. Not any more! Nowadays, the funny guys generally get the gold and the glory. Sadly, many of the legendary classic adventure strips are long gone—victims of shrinking size, changing tastes, and syndicate apathy. Terry and The Pirates, Smilin’ Jack, and Secret Agent Corrigan have vanished from the “funny pages,” and the few remaining action strips are not in the best of health. How many fans are even aware that comic strip classics such as Tarzan, Dick Tracy, and The Phantom are still being published? Too few!

Bookends: At bottom of page, Alex Raymond’s very first Flash Gordon panels from Jan. 1934. Above, the last panel of Raymond’s final Flash strip from 3/12/44. Quite a change! [ ©2003 King Features Syndicate.]

No one knows this better than Jim Keefe. On January 21, 1996, Jim took over the Flash Gordon Sunday page for the King Features Syndicate—treading in the huge artistic footsteps of Flash Gordon creator Alex Raymond, Austin Briggs, Mac Raboy, and Dan Barry, among others. Over the decades, succeeding artists had strayed from Raymond’s original vision, but Jim decided to return Flash to his roots. “Raymond’s the high water mark,” he asserts. “He’s what you always aspire to.” Since then, the 38-year-old father of four has been drawing Flash in a detailed, illustrative style reminiscent of the early Alex Raymond strips. His scripts also owe much to those classic Flash stories. Jim officially began his professional comic career in 1989, shortly after graduating from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. Kubert recommended Jim for a job at King Features, where he started doing color guides for such high-profile strips as Blondie, Beetle Bailey, and Hagar the Horrible. Jim also began illustrating King’s weekly fashion column, Sew Simple—and even briefly ghosted Secret Agent Corrigan for George Evans before landing Flash. Jim (who credits John Romita, George Evans, Al Williamson, and Alex Raymond as his strongest influences) is something of an anomaly in his field. He writes, draws, colors, and even letters the Flash Gordon page without the legions of assistants most cartoonists rely on. (The Flash dailies were discontinued in 1983.)

[©2003 King Features Syndicate.]

Drawing an adventure strip is a lot of work for a fraction of the money commanded by less demanding humor strips like Beetle Bailey or Garfield. Still, there are perks. First, Jim gets paid to create new Flash Gordon strips. How cool is that? And, as one of the few remaining adventure artists, he’s part of a very select group that includes John Cullen Murphy (Big Ben Bolt, Prince Valiant), Al Williamson (Secret Agent Corrigan, Star Wars), and the late George Evans (Terry and the Pirates, Secret Agent Corrigan). Matter of fact, Jim even convinced two of these legends to lend a hand on Flash! Many comics fans are familiar with the classic artwork Al Williamson and George Evans produced for the EC comics group in the ’50s. However, few know about the Flash Gordon Sundays they ghosted for Jim decades later. More specifically, Evans illustrated a single page on 1/21/01, while Williamson drew the 11/7/99 and 7/8/01 episodes. Al Williamson, a lifelong Alex Raymond fan, has the unique distinction of having ghosted three different Raymond strips! At various times in his career he’s illustrated Rip Kirby, Flash Gordon, and Secret Agent Corrigan (originally titled Secret Agent X-9). However, Williamson’s fame as a Flash artist largely rests on a handful of superb mid-’60s stories he drew for King’s Flash Gordon comic books—stories many collectors consider to be the finest ever done in the medium.


PLUS: PLUS:

5.95

$

In the USA

No. 20 January 2003

with MARC SWAYZE • C.C. BECK

MAC RABOY • BRIAN ASHMORE

[Caricatures ©2003 Bill Schelly.]

[Heroes TM & ©2003 DC Comics.]

WELCOME TO THE

4 GREAT GOLDEN/SILVER AGE WRITERS– TOGETHER FOR THE FIRST (AND ONLY) TIME!

Plus: MURPHY ANDERSON • JAMES WARREN • WILL ELDER • ROY THOMAS • GIL KANE E. NELSON BRIDWELL • BILL HARRIS • DAVE KALER • TOM FAGAN • BILL SCHELLY & MORE!!!


Vol. 3, No. 20 / January 2003 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 Bill Schelly & Friends Al Milgrom

Covers Colorist Tom Ziuko

And Special Thanks to: Bob Almond Murphy Anderson Sergio Aragonés David Armstrong Brian Ashmore Mark Austin Joe Azzato Mike W. Barr Terry Beatty Blake Bell Al Bigley Al Bradford Mike Burkey Mike Costa Craig Delich David Delich Bob Deschamps Daren Dillinger Shel Dorf Shelton Drum Jean-Jacques Dzialowski Tim Easterday Don Ensign Tom Fagan Ron Flick Ron Frantz Keif Fromm Mark Gamble David G. Hamilton Eric Wolfe Hanson Bill Harris Dave Hoover Tom Horvitz Steve Hurley Bob Justice Dave Kaler Jim Keefe Knut R. Knutsen Alan Kupperberg Harry Lampert

Dan Makara Scott M. Martin Dave Medinnus Al Milgrom The Guys at The Mint Sheldon Moldoff Fred Mommsen Brian K. Morris Mart & Carrie Nodell Tiffany Nodell Michelle Nolan Kevin O’Neill Jerry Ordway Bill Pearson John G. Pierce Rich Rubenfeld Paul Ryan Fred Schneider Carole Seuling Joe Simon Joe Sinnott Rick Stasi Carrie Strong Marc Swayze Daniel Tesmoingt Joel Thingvall Dann Thomas Alex Toth Jim Vadeboncoeur Ellen Vartanoff Irene Vartanoff Michael J. Vassallo James Warren Len Wein Rick Weingroff Stephen Wheeler Marv Wolfman Andy Yanchus Pat Yanchus

Contents Writer/Editorial: It Was aVery Good Year. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 A Personal Reminiscence of Dave Kaler’s 1965 Comics Convention. A Full-service New York Comics Convention–––Hurrah! . . . . . . 5 Bill Schelly on the first “complete” comicon. Ghost Writers in the Sky . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 The first-ever comicon “creators panel”: Otto Binder, Gardner Fox, Bill Finger, & Mort Weisinger. Comics & Fandom: Where Do We Go from Here?. . . . . . . . 30 1965 panel with Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Jim Warren, Bill Harris, Roy Thomas, et al. Con-Cave Coming?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Tom Fagan on the Batmanians and others at the KalerCon. Chatting with Dave Kaler . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 The comicon-organizer talks about his three conventions and his comics career.

FCA (Fawcett Collectors of America) #79 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Marc Swayze on Captain Marvel & C.C. Beck... plus the post-WWII Captain Marvel Jr. Still More Titans of Timely/Marvel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover: Bill Schelly’s always wanted to do an Alter Ego cover, and we think our associate editor—who’s also an artist of no inconsiderable talent—captured the spirit of Golden Age writers Otto Binder, Gardner Fox, Bill Finger, and Mort Weisinger (yep, Mort was a writer back then). As for the framing heroes: the C.C. Beck Captain Marvel was seen in A/E #18 (courtesy of Keif Fromm); Joe Kubert’s Hawkman is from the program book of the 1976 Boston Newcon (thanks to Fred Mommsen); the Wayne Boring Superman is from a 1950s tale reprinted in Superman from the 30’s to the 70’s; and Green Lantern is from a color illo courtesy of Mart Nodell. Thanks one and all! [Art ©2003 Bill Schelly; heroes TM & ©2003 DC Comics.] Above: The art for Neal Adams’ gorgeous wraparound cover for the DC 100-page SuperSpectacular #6 (1971), as reprinted in the program book for Phil Seuling's 1971 New York comics convention, seemed like the ideal header for this section, since, due to circumstances, the 1965 New York Comicon was way heavier on folks who’d drawn, written, and edited for DC Comics (not to mention companies whose heroes DC would later buy) than on guys from Marvel (Flo Steinberg and Roy Thomas to the contrary notwithstanding). [©2003 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.


5

Alter Ego Revisits the First “Complete” Comicon!

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Comic Fandom Archive Extra!

by Bill Schelly

Hail, hail, the gang was all there—at the Broadway Central Hotel, pictured here from a newspaper photo supplied by Bill Schelly. [Superman, Lois Lane, Supergirl, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman TM & ©2003 DC Comics; Thing, Captain America, & Spider-Man TM & ©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.; Fly-Man TM & ©2003 Archie Publications, Inc.; Magnus TM & ©2003 the respective copyright holder.]

With the natural focus on “firsts” that we have as collectors, I’ve always felt (and I think most fans, though not all, will agree) that the 1964 New York Comics Convention must be considered the first real comic book convention. I vote for New York over a similar gathering in Detroit that same year, because comics professionals were in attendance at the four-hour gathering in Manhattan, and not in Michigan.

But if you want to know what I really think, it’s this: everything that came before was merely a dry run for the first complete comicon (that is, what we would recognize as a true comics convention), which occurred in New York City on July 31-August 1 in 1965. Not that I plan to revise my book The Golden Age of Comic Fandom to reflect this, because it’s a decision more of the heart than the head.


6

A Full-Service New York Comics Convention––Hurrah!

The ’65 New York Comicon (to use a common abbreviation for a comics convention; another is “comic-con”) was the first to be officially sponsored by the grandly-titled Academy of Comic-Book Fans and Collectors. What did this mean in practical terms? Aside from the imprimatur of being given the Academy’s “seal of approval,” it brought with it the very tangible presence of one of fandom’s founders, Jerry G. Bails, Ph.D., as a panel moderator... the standing to hand out the 1964 Alley Awards as part of the program... but most important of all, it meant that the Academy’s current executive secretary, David Kaler, would organize the thing. The latter fact turned out to be quite significant, because Kaler proved to be an extremely hard-working, conscientious fellow.

room with a private bath cost $6, a double was $8. What, no air-conditioning? Much could be endured in the cause of thrift! Attendee Tom Fagan recently recalled how the hotel’s stairways looked like something right out of The Spirit, spiderwebs and all, and “the place had a real cockroach problem. Once Jim Steranko saw his room, he immediately decided to check out. When the guy at the front desk asked why, Steranko said, “I can’t stand the vermin!” Fagan felt the same way: “It was so bad, I begged Phil Seuling to let me stay with him... which I did!” Still, the infestation didn’t put a damper on Fagan’s enthusiasm. “It was so fantastic,” he said. “When I saw the big room full of comics fans, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”

The list of pros at the 1965 comicon was—in a word—fantastic, interestingly weighted more toward writers, editors, and publishers than artists. Maybe the fact that Registration took place on Saturday Dave Kaler was in the process of becoming morning at 9:30 a.m. in the 4th floor A convention handout/program, with art probably by a comics writer himself (for Charlton) had lobby. In all, there would be nearly 200 Dave Kaler. [Flash & Batman TM & ©2003 DC Comics.] something to do with this. Marvel Family attendees, which seemed an awful lot of scribe Otto Binder... Batman’s co-creator comics fans at the time. Margaret Gemignani, one of the few women in Bill Finger... JSA/JLA writer Gardner Fox... Superman line editor Mort fandom, was there... as were Larry Raybourne, Tom Fagan, Michael Weisinger... Jim Warren, publisher of Creepy... recent Gold Key editor Uslan, Jerry Bails, Phil Seuling, Rick Weingroff, Bill Thailing, Jim Bill Harris... artists Gil Kane, Steranko (then known as a Murphy Anderson, and Will dealer), and a trio of fans who had Elder... fresh-faced Marvel writer helped Kaler organize the event: Roy Thomas. What a line-up! Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, and

Day One: Saturday July 31st

Mark Hanerfeld. So was Roy Thomas, who for the past few weeks had been staying at Kaler’s apartment in the East Village; he escorted Stan Lee’s “gal Friday” Flo Steinberg.

Pro attendance was stellar. The choice of hotel, considerably less so. Back in its heyday—before 1900!—the Hotel Broadway Central had housed Diamond Jim Brady. By 1965 the place was a run-down, dusty shadow of its former self—a residence for winos, prostitutes, and impoverished senior citizens. Every time the subway passed, the building shook, and the cracks in the walls widened imperceptibly. In fact, the hotel would collapse, for no apparent reason, only a few years later. In its pre-collapse days, though, the hotel had one virtue: it was cheap. This was deemed of paramount importance by Kaler, whose ears had been assailed by dire warnings of low attendance if the rates weren’t rock-bottom. Comics fans then—many of them teenagers and/or college students—were always low on cash. If they had been fortunate enough to accumulate some lucre, they wanted to spend it on comics... not room rent. A single

A page from the Comicon hand-out. The dealers’ room in San Diego nowadays is a bit bigger, they tell us. [©2003 the respective copyright holder.]

The first item on the program was a panel on Golden Age comics, with Otto Binder, Gardner Fox, and Bill Finger, which commenced at 11:00 a.m.— or so the program booklet says. The dealers room wouldn’t be open until later, so everyone crowded into the ballroom to hear what the pros had to say. It proved to be an informative, lively, if somewhat meandering program. Partway through, before Finger showed up, Mort Weisinger was recognized in the audience and was invited to join in with his thoughts on the way writers and editors worked together at DC. Weisinger (who was widely considered to be the most difficult editor in comics) seemed somewhat fixated on the issue of “who steals from whom”... DC or Marvel? He certainly made a convincing case


Creators Panel

OTTO BINDER, GARDNER FOX, BILL FINGER, & MORT WEISINGER Tape Furnished by Jerry G. Bails Transcribed by Tim Easterday Edited by Roy Thomas

[©2003 DC!Comics.]

Otto Binder supplied this circa1942 photo to Alter Ego (first series) #7 in 1964. [©2003 the respective copyright holder.]

Gardner Fox in a photo taken six years after this groundbreaking panel, at Phil Seuling’s 1971 New York Comic Art Convention. [©2003 the respective copyright holder.]

Mort Weisinger, from The Amazing World of DC Comics #3, 1974. [©2003 the respective copyright holder.]

icon om rk C Yo ew wo 5 N rt T 196 Pa The

The First-ever “Creators Panel” at a Comics Convention–––Featuring

9

The Golden Age origins of Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and Green Arrow, and the Silver Age origin of The Atom—all heroes co-created or (in the case of Supes and Cap) developed in a major way by the four 1965 panelists—were reprinted in the 1976 hardcover Secret Origins of the Super DC Heroes. The origins of the Silver Age versions of the 1940s heroes, which were depicted on the cover along with Wonder Woman and Plastic Man, were included, as well. Art by Neal Adams. [©2003 DC Comics.]

[INTRODUCTION: Since the closest thing to a discussion panel at the groundbreaking 1964 New York Comicon had been a chalk talk by veteran artist Tom Gill, and a few words by a non-pro Marvel “intern,” the transcript you are about to read is a noteworthy comicshistorical document. It represents probably the first “creators panel” at a comics convention—which makes it all the more remarkable that all those scheduled to appear on it were not artists, but writers. [This panel, moderated by A/E’s founder, Dr. Jerry Bails, was to feature three of the earliest and most influential comics writers—Otto Binder, major scripter of “Captain Marvel,” “Marvel Family,” and various features for Fawcett and other companies since the 1940s, and a pulp science-fiction author before that; Bill Finger, long credited as co-creator of the original “Green Lantern” and “Wildcat” and soon to be widely acknowledged as the co-creator of “Batman,” as well;

Bill Finger in the ’40s (or ’50s?), as per photo used in Eclipse’s Famous Comic Book Creators Trading Cards, 1992. [©2003 the respective copyright holder.]

and Gardner F. Fox, co-creator of the original “Flash, “Hawkman,” “Dr. Fate,” “Justice Society of America,” “The Face,” “Skyman,” and other Golden Age features. All were still active in the field—Binder writing Mighty Samson for Western/Gold Key as well as stories for DC’s “Superman” line; Finger scribing “mystery” tales, Challengers of the Unknown, and the occasional “Batman” for DC; and Fox in demand on Justice League of America, The Atom, Hawkman, the imminent Spectre revival, et al. No gathering of more important Golden Age writers (or just comics writers, period) could have been imagined—then or now! [Unfortunately, like many of the best-laid plans of mice and supermen, this one went slightly awry. Bill Finger, notable for being perennially late on deadlines, failed to show up by the panel’s starting time. While it was in progress, “Superman” group editor


10

Ghost Writers In The Sky Mr. Binder how it was that he broke into the comics field. OTTO BINDER: Why don’t you call me Otto, Jerry? JB: All right. BINDER: Otherwise, I’ll call you Mr.—eh, Dr. Bails. JB: Now don’t do that! All right—Otto. Now, how was it that you broke into the comics field?

By 1973 moderator Jerry Bails, besides having launched Alter-Ego, would initiate the landmark four-volume printed edition of The Who’s Who of American Comic Books, co-edited by Hames Ware. At right is future Disney comics artist Don Rosa’s cover for 1975’s Volume 3. This photo of Bails at the 1964 “Alley Talley” fan confab, holding a copy of his Alter-Ego #4, is courtesy of Bill Schelly. [Art ©2003 Don Rosa.]

BINDER: It was along in 1939 that Harry Chesler was one of the early publishers, who had books with quite a few reprints, and he decided to have some original stories, and I started writing for him. I have no copies of those, although I understand that somebody has them around here for sale. [At this point Jerry Bails asks if people in the back of the room can hear well. Told that they cannot, he passes his mike to the soft-spoken Otto Binder and continues:]

Mort Weisinger wandered in and was invited to join the panel. Actually, he, too, had been an early comics scripter, having written the first tales of “Johnny Quick,” “Aquaman,” and “Green Arrow”— the latter pair destined to become two of the longest continuallypublished comics heroes ever—but alas, this aspect of his career was not explored, as he turned the discussion in other directions. [Happily, Bill Finger did arrive in time to participate in the latter part of the panel, even if for that reason he got less “mike time” than the others. Even so, this panel remains historic for all the above reasons— plus the fact that it is the only time these early, quintessential comic book writers appeared together! We have Jerry Bails to thank for preserving the 7-inch reel-to-reel tape of this panel over the decades, and Mark Gamble of the South Carolina Arts Commission in Columbia, SC, for transferring those tapes to audiocassettes so they could be transcribed. [I titled this piece after an old favorite song, because so much of these scripters’ major 1940s work—Finger’s “Batman,” Fox’s “Hawkman,” “JSA,” etc., and all of Binder’s and Weisinger’s comics writing—was done with no credit accompanying the stories, even in cases where the artist signed the feature. They were indeed “Ghost Writers in the Sky” of a sort—but, for this brief shining moment, they came down to Earth, to tell us what it was like, warts and all. —Roy.] JERRY BAILS: We’re very honored today to have with us two gentlemen whose work spans the entire history of the comics magazine field. Mr. Otto Binder, who, most of you are aware, was the man behind The Marvel Family—Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and Captain Marvel Jr.—who’s now working on the “Superman” family of books and a new book by Gold Key—Mighty Samson. We also have with us this morning Mr. Gardner Fox, with whom you are familiar as the author of The Atom, Hawkman—and who scripted the original “Flash” and “Hawkman,” the “Justice Society,” “The Face,” “The Skyman.” So both of these gentlemen can tell us this morning something about these many strips that they’ve created, and the characters, their inspirations. I’d like to begin by asking them questions, and later we’ll throw the questions open to the floor. Let me begin by asking

Otto Binder probably scripted this tale for Street & Smith’s Army & Navy Comics #2 (Aug. 1941). Though subtitled “The Astounding Man,” this Iron Munro had little in common besides his name with the science-fictional super-hero of John W. Campbell’s novel The Mightiest Machine, which had been serialized in 1935 in that same company’s Astounding sf pulp magazine. In the mid-’80s DC comic The Young All-Stars, Roy Thomas would use that name for the son of Hugo Danner, seminal super-hero of Philip Wylie’s 1930 novel Gladiator. Artist unknown; any info out there? [©2003 the respective copyright holder.]


Creators Panel

11

JB: What were some of the very first scripts that you wrote for Harry Chesler publications?

JB: Where did you draw your influence? What inspired you, what sort of writing did you do?

BINDER: [checking a list he has brought] The very first one I wrote was called “Dan Hastings,” in October 1939. Then there was “Scott Rand, Astounding Man,” another “Scott Rand,” and “Iron Munro.” Iron Munro was a space character. This was all in ’39. Then, through ’40, I didn’t write any more. I didn’t think the comics would last. [audience laughter]

FOX: Well, before I wrote comics, I was a lawyer, so I did draw on my legal knowledge to a certain extent, if you want to look at it that way. I always liked to write, and Vin Sullivan, who was editor of “Superman”—it was actually before “Superman” began when I started— he and I had gone to grammar school together and I had known him—I still know him—and he knew I always liked to write, so when he became editor of Detective Comics, he asked me if I’d do some writing, and this is where it’s led.

I became convinced by January of ’41, and the first story for the regular publishers, those that had all originals, was “Power Nelson” for— it was called Feature Publications then. The second one was “Vulcan” for Eastern Publications... the third, “Captain America” for Timely, and then “Captain Venture” for Fawcett, and so on and so on…

BINDER: Just out of curiosity, Gardner—in the beginning, let’s say the first year or two or three, were you on the verge of quitting constantly and then they’d raise the rates and that way we got trapped in what we’d call the “Golden Rut”? Did that happen?

JB: When was that first “Captain America” script appearing? Was it in the first issue?

FOX: Well, the first two years that I wrote comics, I also practiced law. So this was an avocation with me. I used to do it at night and on holidays, until it got to such a point when Mr. [M.C.] Gaines started his Flash Comics, that he asked me to write for him, but I felt I couldn’t carry both jobs, so I gave up the law.

BINDER: Well, it was March—it was written, these are the records— March ’41. I have copies at home, and I… JB: And each issue would appear about six months later, would it? BINDER: Yeah. Uh, do you remember when the first issue was?

JB: Was The Flash the first costumed character? No, Zatara was, was it not?

JB: [to audience] When was the first issue of Captain America? In ’41? This wouldn’t have been the very first of… BINDER: No, probably not. JB: You wrote for quite a variety of different publishers. BINDER: Yes, I’m even surprised myself how many I wrote. Gardner and I were sitting before, and we compared our—looked over our old listings—and our eyes opened up: “What, we wrote that?” You know, we’d forgotten… JB: How many strips did you both have in common, that you both wrote? None at all?

During the 1960s and early ’70s Otto Binder used his records to inform researchers like Jerry Bails of particular comics and issues he had scripted. This lead story is one of two he wrote for Captain America #15 (June 1942), five issues after originators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby split for DC. Pencils by Al Avison, inks by Syd Shores. Thanks to Mike Costa. [©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

FOX: If you consider that a costume—I mean, the high hat and tails and all that sort of thing. If that’s a costume, that would be the first costumed character. Most of the ones at that time were either detectives or an adventurer. I see “Cotton Carver” down here. He was an adventurer who went all over the world and had various exciting, I hope, adventures. BINDER: Yeah, the magicians were among the early characters. FOX: Magicians, yeah, that’s right.

JB: Otto, what are some of the first of the costumed characters that you actually originated?

GARDNER FOX: I don’t think so.

BINDER: Um, let’s see, I’ll have to go down the line here until I find one.

BINDER: No characters…

JB: How about “The Black Owl”? Was that something you originated?

JB: What were some of the strips that you first started on, Gardner? Before “The Flash,” for example. FOX: Well, I go back to March of 1938 with “Steve Malone,” who was a district attorney. That was the first story I sold DC—it wasn’t DC then—yes, it was—and that appeared in Detective Comics. This was before “Batman.” My next one, which appeared in the #2 of Action Comics, was “Zatara.” Then there was “Speed Saunders.” He was a detective character; he appeared in Detective, obviously.

BINDER: No, no, I didn’t originate that. “Mr. Scarlet” I didn’t originate, but I wrote from #2 on, and most of them from there on in. JB: I notice this is not uncommon, the fact that writers are often called in on the second story, for some reason. Is this because the artist has something to do with the writing of the first story? FOX: I think that, in those very early days, lots of times an artist like, say, Freddy Guardineer, would come in with an idea on “Zatara,” for


Comics & Fandom

The 196 5N Par ew Y t T ork hree C om icon

30

[©2003 Sergio Aragonés.]

A Panel Moderated by David A. Kaler

Transcribed by Brian K. Morris Edited by Roy Thomas

and the Frog” for DC; Gelman’s young Topps associate Len Brown, who had scripted the first two “Dynamo” stories for the then-imminent first issue of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents; attorney Leonard Darvin, administrator of the Comics Code Authority; E. Nelson Bridwell, assistant editor on DC’s “Superman” line; and Will Elder, former EC/Mad artist then working with Harvey Kurtzman on “Little Annie Fanny” for Playboy. Various fans who would ere long be pros themselves were also in attendance, including Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Mark Hanerfeld, Andy Yanchus, Larry Ivie, and possibly others.

[INTRODUCTION: On the afternoon of Sunday, August 1, 1965, the second and final day of what Bill Schelly’s book The Golden Age of Comic Fandom refers to as “Comicon II”— convention organizer Dave Kaler moderated a panel discussion on the relationship between the comics industry and comics fandom. Quoting GACF: “The fans and pros on the panel sparked fireworks with their candor and occasionally opposing views.” [The transcript that follows has been considerably abridged, with excised portions represented by ellipses (...). But this was perhaps the first comicon panel in which professional artists took part—three of the best, as it happened—and that fact, added to the presence of writers, editors, even publishers, not to mention the balance of fans and pros, makes it of some historic interest. This panel was recently discovered by Jerry Bails on the reverse side of the same ancient reel-to-reel tape which contained the preceding writers’ panel; it was transferred to cassettes for A/E by Mark Gamble of the South Carolina Arts Commission.

[Switching now to the present tense to increase the sense of immediacy: Kaler begins by inviting Bill Harris, who has just resigned from his post as editor of Western’s Gold Key comics line, to join the panel. He notes that Bill told him the day before that he has left comics “because he thought there was no future in them,” and he invites Harris to elaborate on that statement:]

Compared to the Broadway Central, even the old El Cortez in San Diego looked good! Gold Key stars Tarzan and Magnus, Robot Fighter, watch Red Sonja and others file into a 1977 convention, in this program-book piece by Russ Manning, who drew both heroes— and,in a photo taken at the 1965 Kalercon, Gold Key ex-editor Bill Harris (center, with pipe) chats with Creepy publisher Jim Warren (l.) and onetime DC writer/artist Woody Gelman. With thanks to Shel Dorf & (for the photo) Bill Schelly. [Art ©estate of Russ Manning; Magnus TM & ©2003 the respective copyright holder; Tarzan TM & ©2003 Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.; Red Sonja TM & ©2003 Red Sonja Properties, Inc.]

[Fanzine writers/editors/ publishers Rick Weingroff (Slam-Bang) and Roy Thomas (of Alter Ego, “Vol. 1”), the latter with only a few weeks under his belt as a pro writer and editorial assistant, were to present the fans’ point of view; while Creepy/Famous Monsters of Filmland publisher James Warren and veteran artist Murphy Anderson (“Adam Strange,” Hawkman, et al.) would voice the pros’ viewpoint. [Numerous professionals were in the audience: Otto Binder, longtime comics scripter for Fawcett, DC, etc. (see preceding panel); Gil Kane, artist/co-creator of the Silver Age Green Lantern and Atom; Woody Gelman of Topps Chewing Gum, soon-to-be publisher of Nostalgia Press and once a writer/artist of “Nutsy Squirrel” and “The Dodo

BILL HARRIS: Nobody here is really interested in what’s being done today. Everybody cares about the old stuff, which is not as good, I don’t think.... People should be more interested in what’s being done now and what’s going to be done than what has been done. Look in the back of the room and you won’t see anything newer than 1941 back there. [laughs] You won’t see anything that costs 12¢ back there.... If you kids would spend that money on the new stuff, you’d get better stuff and the future would be brighter.... And that’s why I left comics, because I don’t feel there’s enough enthusiasm for what we’re doing now.

[Kaler asks Rick Weingroff to comment on Harris’ statements.] RICK WEINGROFF: Well, I think that there is a lot of interest in the current comics, as the Alley Awards prove. There’s no category in the Alley poll for the old comics.... I think that in fanzines, there’s always an interest in the old comics, because those are the ones that most of the people weren’t born with.... I think the comic fans who are here, who are paying these prices for the old comics, don’t really represent the people like the seven-year-old who doesn’t know about comic fandom. He would not pay $12 for some of these comics, and is mainly interested


Where Do We Go From Here? in the new stuff.... HARRIS: I’ve heard a lot of kids complain that when they go over to National [DC], for instance, Mort Weisinger will tell them that they represent a thousand kids against the quarter of a million, and what good are they?.... You kids have a voice, and you don’t use it the way you should.... You’re the only people we ever hear from, and we don’t hear the right things. We don’t hear, really, what we should hear. That’s my point.

Rick Weingroff (no photo available at presstime, alas) was generally considered one of the best fan-writers of the 1960s. The fourth issue of his fanzine, from July 1965, around the time of Kaler’s con, spotlighted Dr. Fate; Slam-Bang tended to cover subjects in more depth than did most zines. [Dr. Fate TM & ©2003 DC Comics.]

DAVE KALER: Roy, would you like to say something about this?

ROY THOMAS: Yes, I definitely would.... In the very first issue of Alter-Ego... Jerry Bails wrote that AlterEgo would be dedicated to the revival of the costumed hero in comics.... The mere fact that issues only a few years old, like Fantastic Four [#1], are selling here for as much as $5 proves that there are people who are interested in the new comics, as well.... But why should someone pay 50 or 60¢ for a fanzine that discusses what happened last week in Spider-Man?....

[Thomas, Kaler, and Harris discuss distribution problems. Harris

maintains fans can be most useful by asking dealers to carry certain comics—“making a pest of yourself.” Weingroff counters by saying Marvel has doubled its sales and DC is also doing well with super-heroes, but that funny-animal readers are less likely to complain. Kaler invites Murphy Anderson to join in.]

31

Though evidently few photos were taken at the 1965 Comicon, here’s one of Murphy Anderson from

MURPHY a follow-up con that Dave Kaler hosted in either ’66 ANDERSON: I, or ’67. It and others from those cons used in this myself, was a fan in the issue were loaned to Roy by super-fan Mark beginning. And I still Hanerfeld not long before his untimely passing. have a big collection of books and magazines that I’ve collected as a kid. I think that fandom is of great value to the publishing field just for that reason, if no other. I certainly think that a lot of attention is paid to what the fans say.... But of course, the thing that speaks loudest to a publisher is sales. You may like a certain feature or a certain artist, and his work doesn’t sell, so what is the answer?.... Of course, as I think Mr. Harris pointed out, you can have the world’s best book, but if it doesn’t get on the stands, that it doesn’t prove a thing. [Kaler asks about the possibility of Anderson and Joe Kubert splitting the art chores on DC’s Hawkman bimonthly, with each doing some of the stories.] ANDERSON: We work for different editors, and Joe was on loan from Bob Kanigher when he did “Hawkman” the first go-round. Then, when they decided to put out Hawkman [as a regular title], he simply wasn’t available. And I mean, he’s got such a schedule that if you count the pages he does for Bob Kanigher, it’s enough to make your head swim. If he had more hands, perhaps he could do more books. [Weingroff muses on the inherent conflict between businessmen, artists, and fans, and mentions reports that Kubert’s “Hawkman” issues of The Brave and the Bold were poor sellers.]

Murphy Anderson has always been a good friend to fandom and to comics conventions, as witness these illos for a pair of 1972 cons: San Diego (John Carter of Mars) and Phil Seuling’s New York affair (Adam Strange). The former is repro’d from a photocopy of the original art courtesy of Steve Hurley; the latter from a program book provided by Fred Mommsen (with thanks to Carole Seuling). [Art ©2003 Murphy Anderson; John Carter TM &©2003 Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.; Adam Strange TM & ©2003 DC Comics.]

ANDERSON: That wouldn’t be quite fair to say that, because the sales weren’t that bad on the “Hawkman” tryouts. Otherwise, they never would have brought the book back as a regular book. But if Joe had been available, I’m sure he’d be doing Hawkman today.... And the same thing would hold true if they had something in another department that they wanted me to do. On occasion, I’ll do a cover for Jack Schiff or Murray Boltinoff. But that’s strictly why I’m on loan, and the editors are quite jealous of their artists and writers, and you


Con-Cave Coming?

icon om rk C Yo our ew rt F 5 N Pa 196 The

A Look at the First KalerCon

39

[Batman TM!& ©2003 DC!Comics.]

by Tom Fagan [NOTE: Most of the following article is reprinted from the fanzine Batmania #7, 1966, provided by Bill Schelly. However, various phrases, sentences, and paragraphs have been interpolated from a second piece Tom wrote— this one for the program book of Dave Kaler’s 1966 convention; this article, which dealt with the non-Batman aspects of the convention, was provided by Andy Yanchus. Text ©2003 Tom Fagan.]

strip, would be one of the panelists present when the Con got underway a few hours hence.

The Batmanians were there! And friendships were cemented; alliances formed; nostalgic memories exchanged; plans formulated; and an idea born—The Con-Cave. It all happened at ComiCon ’65. Gotham was the place. July 31st and August 1st—the dates. Two of the hottest days of the year.

Vintage photos of writer Tom Fagan in mufti are hard to come by; but since for many years he dressed as Batman for Halloween parades in his native Rutland, Vermont, it was no problem to find a pic of him as the Dark Knight at a late-’60s party held in conjunction with one of them. For more about these parades, and about the Marvel and DC stories they spawned for years, see Alter Ego: The Comic Book Artist Collection. The cover of Batmania #7 (Nov. 1965), wherein this piece first appeared, is by its editor/publisher, Biljo White. Photo courtesy of the late Mark Hanerfeld. [Art ©2003 Biljo White; Batman & Robin TM & ©2003 DC Comics.]

Little sleep; hasty waking, hastier packing, and the group replete with Roy Thomas attired in his Fantastic Four t-shirt set off for the Con site—Hotel Broadway Central—a setting appropriate for the story of Batman’s epic battle against the Red Monk.

If it had been a movie setting, the opening musical theme could easily have been, “Here They Come!” Comicon Chairman Dave Kaler had sent the word. “The ‘beastry’s’ open. Stay if you like; there’s not much room but we’ll make a place for you.”

Well over a hundred fans signed up in the Con guestbook. Bill Thailing, Ed Aprill, and Phil Seuling, along with Berman, were among dealers arriving to set up exhibit sales tables resplendent with Golden Age issues including Batman #1, Detective #27, and World’s Best #1.

Jerry Bails was already there. Larry Raybourne was heading up from Cleveland. Roy Thomas was to be co-host. Rick Weingroff would be on the turf. Phil Seuling and Doug Berman, cooling it in Brooklyn, would make the convention scene on the morrow.

For the man with the pocketbook, it was a dream come true. Others merely looked on wistfully. Raybourne, who in physical appearance resembles Namor somewhat, joined this writer to listen to Bill Finger as the panel got underway.

Who passes up a chance to be where the action is, pussycat? Nobody, and this writer, forsaking Batmobile (or, as it is called less respectfully by some, ‘The Bash-Mobile’), caught the Greyhound to wing out of Rutland, Vermont, and headed for the promised land of comicdom.

Finger’s comments filled in the history of Batman’s success as a continually popular comic book character. Finger related how he had scripted the first “Batman” story, working in close conjunction with Bob Kane.

To “just a country boy,” 2nd Street in Greenwich Village [actually the Lower East Side, part of which was just beginning to be called the “East Village” —Roy] is a bewildering place with its cryptic streets and shadowy alleyways—especially after midnight. But by virtue of sign language and rudimentary Puerto Rican—“Kaler’s Kave” was reached. Greetings exchanged, mead hoisted—talk of the ComiCon begun with Raybourne elsewhere. “Biljo’s sorry he’s not coming,” Roy commented, “but his vacation schedule didn’t fit in.” Others in the room agreed they wished Biljo, editor of Batmania, could be on hand. Word was that Bill Finger, a key man in the success of the “Batman”

A break for luncheon. Slow service, but a chance to talk with Finger and Otto Binder, key man in the “Marvel Family” stories. Binder recognized this writer as “the one who does articles for Batmania.” Raybourne, a master of makeup, in the meantime was conversing with Finger, showing him photos of his various makeup portrayals of Batman, Two-Face, Joker, Penguin, Robin, and others. Finger remarked on the quality of the characterizations. Back to an afternoon of dealers hawking their wares, with Batman #1 going at $60. Television crews from the Walter Cronkite CBS news show edged through the throng to record auctions and in general make the genuine fan feel less at home. They were interviewing here and there and barking orders at fans to “get out of the way of the camera, sonny!” or “Hey, bud, watch out for that cord!” A mock auction was conducted for


Chatting with Dave Kaler

41

[INTRODUCTION: This interview was conducted in 1995 in conjunction with Bill Schelly’s acclaimed book The Golden Age of Comic Fandom, but has never before been printed in full.] BILL SCHELLY: How did you get involved in comic fandom? DAVE KALER: When I came to New York City from Florida, I got sick and I was so weak that I couldn’t read anything, so people brought me comic books. They happened to be the revival of the DC characters, and they looked so different from what I remembered as a kid... ’cause I remembered The Flash with the helmet with the wings, and this Flash had the full red suit... and I was confused about what had happened.

icon om rk C Yo ew ive 5 N rt F 196 Pa The

BILL SCHELLY Talks with the Man behind the 1965 New York Comics Convention

[©2003 DC!Comics.]

was happening. But none of us accomplished much with the Academy. It finally just drifted and died. SCHELLY: You must have believed in the idea of the Academy, to be willing to take over the top role in it. KALER: I think it was worthwhile. I think it was worth having... but you just couldn’t find enough people to agree about anything, like with the politics and everything else. You had the younger people coming up, and their big thing was Marvel-Marvel-Marvel. It seemed like they weren’t interested in the field of comics per se; they seemed only interested in Stan Lee and the Marvel line of comics. By that point, I was getting very tired and very aggravated about it, because I knew comics consisted of something more than Stan Lee and Marvel Comics.

So I was lucky enough to find the At Dave Kaler’s second or third con—most likely the Showcase issues, with the beginnings of the second, in 1966—Stan Lee (left) gets ready to speak, as new Flash, and the revival of the old Flash in Dave beams. As a favor to his erstwhile roomie, Roy the new Flash. And, as a result, I got... all Thomas talked Stan into showing up... though it was touch-and-go till the last second. these letters were being written [to these I left it, and Mark Hanerfeld took over comics], and they were sending out artwork with the magazines [The Comic Reader] and to people, and there was Jerry Bails’ name and everything else. He managed to cope with it. I gave him some news there was Roy Thomas’ name, and I started writing to them to get these whenever I had it, and that was it. Then the fanzine went from there to fanzines, because they started to say you could get these fanzines and Paul Levitz and some other folks. stuff. Somebody said they were going to have a meeting on the East Side one day [in 1964], and I went to that meeting, and there were like thirty or forty people, and Marvel sent some people, but DC didn’t. Flo Steinberg was there, and I knew Flo.... SCHELLY: How did you do the first comicon? KALER: They wanted someone to take over for it, ’cause the other guy didn’t want to do it again. And I took it over, and I got people like Jim Steranko... and there was a whole group of people that I knew from DC and Marvel and so forth, and I got cooperation from most of a local group... Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, all those people I knew and I hung around with. We had become friends, and we used to have meetings at Marv Wolfman’s house. In fact, Marv published a fanzine that had a story by me in it, and a story by Stephen King. The crowd all helped me put on the two or three conventions that I did. I sold tables, so I got to meet Phil Seuling and be good friends with him, and, as a result, he took it over.

With the Academy, you had just too many splinter groups, and everybody wanted to do different things. You can only take so much of that before you have to get out of it. SCHELLY: How did you start working for Charlton Comics? KALER: They asked Roy [Thomas] to come and work with them, but at that time Stan Lee had found out about Roy because he had been doing some work with Mort Weisinger, and he hired him. But once Roy was at Marvel, he could only work at Marvel. He was nice enough to

SCHELLY: Were you tired of it at that point? KALER: Yeah, I guess at that point I was just not into it. I had another life and I had other things to do. I was involved with selling books, and I was going as a dealer at that point, so I was out of it as a convention organizer. It got too expensive and too time-consuming for me. Phil had all the people to help him produce it. SCHELLY: How did you become executive secretary of the Academy of Comic Book Fans and Collectors? KALER: I wanted to help out and keep it going, because I liked what

At the ’67 Kalercon—a panel featuring Dave’s New York & Long Island “support group,” his fellow members of the recently-formed fan-group called TISOS (“The Illegitimate Sons of Superman”). Left to right: Mike Friedrich (in from California—the only person in the photo not a member), Irene Vartanoff, Mark Hanerfeld, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein... and, kneeling, Eliot Wagner. Over the next few years, all the guys behind the table would work for DC, Marvel, or both. Thanks to Len and fellow TISOS members Rich Rubenfeld & Andy Yanchus for help with an ID or two. Photo by Pat Yanchus, also of TISOS.


No. 79

Painting by Brian Ashmore <www.brianashmore.com> Captain Marvel TM & Š2003 DC Comics.


We Didn’t Know...

45 You see, we didn’t prepare for it. It is doubtful that anyone kept a diary, or even rough notes, about what was going on. When the query began to bob up in later years, it was necessary to turn to the old comic books… which, providing you could lay your hands on any, frequently had much to say.

By

[Art & logo ©2003 Marc Swayze; Captain Marvel © & TM 2003 DC Comics]

I was sorting out some ancient issues recently and ran across a story, “Captain Marvel Gets the Heir.” The art was unquestionably my own. It was a fanciful ten-pager wherein Captain Marvel found himself substituting as the butler in the mansion of wealthy old Ira Van Prooble. As one would expect, the super-hero played the role like a Broadway pro, though his dialogue was often no more than a dignified “Yes, Mawster!”

[FCA EDITORS NOTE: From 1941-53, Marcus D. Swayze was a top artist for Fawcett Comics. He designed Mary Marvel and illustrated her earliest adventures; 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 uniform during World War II. After being discharged, he made an arrangement with Fawcett to produce material for them on a freelance basis from his Louisiana home. There he wrote and drew The Phantom Eagle for Wow Comics, and also drew the Flyin’ Jenny newspaper strip created by his friend and mentor Russell Keaton. After Wow’s cancellation, Swayze produced artwork for Fawcett’s popular romance comics, including Sweethearts and Life Story. After the company dropped its comics line, he joined 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 recalled a visit by the C.C. Becks to the Swayzes’ home, when the two old colleagues leafed through ancient Fawcett comics in an attempt to determine who had drawn what. This issue Marc pores over more of his Captain Marvel work—and discovers something that will surprise longtime CM fans as much as it did Marc himself! —P.C. Hamerlinck.] “What precisely did you do in the comic books… what characters… what features… and so on?” The question, in one form or another, has for years been a standard item on the interview agenda. And it hasn’t been an easy one to answer. I wonder if all Golden Age comic-bookers had trouble with it.

The splash of a Swayze-drawn tale from Captain Marvel Adventures #40 (Oct. 1944). [©2003 DC Comics.]

It was the lead story in Captain Marvel Adventures #40. The issue was not a reprint, and its date was a surprise…October 1944. It had been my recollection that I had done no Captain Marvel work after returning from the Army, but here was evidence to the contrary. In efforts to piece together careers that began so long ago, there is always fear of unintentionally claiming the work of others. The result: a tendency to sell ourselves short. My usual answer to the what-did-you-do question concerning that period has always been “an ‘Ibis,’ a ‘Mr. Scarlet,’ and a few others.” Henceforth, it will have to include Captain Marvel. I did my first Captain Marvel story art in the Fawcett art department almost before my chair was warm… my first cover shortly thereafter. That was about mid-’41. My first writing was a need-it-tomorrow thing, and I have no idea what it was about. That’s the way it has been with writing... almost impossible to recall.

An early-1940s party at the home of Fawcett Comics editor and writer Rod Reed and his wife Tucky. That’s Reed on the left, Marc Swayze (center, on guitar), and an unknown big-band vocalist of the era. Reed’s wife titled this photo “A Lark and Two Wolves.” Photo provided by P.C. Hamerlinck.

…Unless, that is, you recognized a familiar name… or place… or phrase. There’s a copy of Captain Marvel Adventures here, #19, saved since its publication for January 1943. I like the cover, not just because I did it, but because it features three of my favorite people: Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and Santa Claus. [See last issue.]


48

Captain Marvel Jr.

by Don Ensign Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck

Comics (wherein Junior starred in one story per month) had supervillain stories, straight crime stories, crime stories featuring lawful businessmen, juvenile crime, murder mysteries, and fantastic crime tales.

Part II

Sagas And Super-Villains [NOTE: Last issue Don discussed the artists of the post-World War II career of Captain Marvel Jr., who lasted (with the rest of The Marvel Family) until late 1953, when Fawcett Publications ceased production of comic books. He also discussed Junior’s origin in Whiz Comics #25 in 1941, and the personality and super-powers of the young hero, with his alter ego of Freddy Freeman, the “crippled newsboy,” and with the feature’s supporting characters. This time he deals with many of the stories and super-villains of the second half of Cap Junior’s Shazam-powered career in Master Comics and Captain Marvel Jr., though not with material that appeared in The Marvel Family. —PCH.]

Genres for Junior The post-World War II stories of Captain Marvel Jr. followed the popular genres of the period. Perhaps this is one reason Junior endured, while many other superheroes were relegated to literary limbo by their publishers. By 1949-50, instead of replacing the CMJ comic (as All-Star Comics became All-Star Western, and Captain America metamorphosed briefly into Captain America’s Weird Tales) with other genres, Fawcett adapted many of the young superhero’s stories to reflect what was currently popular. The late ’40s and early ’50s saw a surge in crime comics that depicted the world of urban crime and law enforcement. Both Captain Marvel Jr. and Master

During this same period, supernatural horror comics were having their heyday, so CMJ and Master also made forays into that field. Straight science-fiction gained some popularity, with Fawcett writers creating “Junior” stories with sci-fi themes. CMJ boasted funny (and not-so-funny) animal stories. There were split-genre stories that combined western locales with supernatural themes... and stories with themes of romance and teen humor. Some story themes in the “Captain Marvel Jr.” corpus didn’t reflect outside genres so much as they did internal company policy directives and the inclination of the editors and writers. According to the official guidelines (Fawcett Companion, p. 25), Junior’s stories “should have strong human interest plots” and stories centering on Captain Marvel Jr. himself. Also, “Fantasy lends itself to Junior stories, but it should be more serious type of fantasy than the light whimsy found in Captain Marvel.” Both humaninterest tales and fantasy (and light whimsy) were found in the post-war “CMJ” tales. And there is one last genre I’d call “inventions gone awry.” These featured tales of inventions made for benevolent purposes but which were used for malevolent schemes. While the 1942 Fawcett Comics Writer’s Guidelines suggested using Nazis and other war-related foes, it also emphasized thematic variety in the “Junior” stories. It is remarkable, by 1946, how little the greatest war in history is mentioned. The war was over—it was time to move on.

Bound and Gagged

In 1980 C.C. Beck did this preliminary sketch for a re-creation of the cover of Master Comics #23 (Feb. 1942), Cap Jr.’s first real solo story. In #22 he had helped Bulletman defeat Captain Nazi. But Junior would keep going way beyond the war’s end. [Art ©2003 estate of C.C. Beck; Cap, Cap Jr., & Shazam TM & ©2003 DC Comics.]

While there is a surprising amount of variety in themes in the “Captain Marvel Jr.” stories, there are also reoccurring formulistic “situations.” Beyond the obligatory shouting out of “Captain Marvel!” to transform Freddy into the


Sagas And Super-Villains

49

World’s Mightiest Boy (as he was often called—his equivalent of Cap Sr.’s “The World’s Mightiest Mortal”), there was the “bound and gagged” motif. Once Freddy summoned Junior, he usually dealt with the evildoers in the matter of a few panels. Of the 86 stories sampled, twenty use the bound-and-gagged motif. Of course, there are many riffs on this motif. A number of the bound-and-gagged stories also had Freddy being hit over the head and rendered unconscious, but others did not. Several had Freddy being knocked on the head and bound but not gagged (CMJ #65, CMJ #67). The bound-and-gagged motif was devised to lend some suspense to the stories. How would Freddy loosen his gag in time to prevent his own (and sometimes others’) imminent death by summoning his alter ego? Were these escapes credible? One problem is that the way Freddy loosens his gag sometimes seems certain to cause injury to his face and/or other body parts. In one story he is dragged face-down behind a speeding car. This loosens the gag, but amazingly the newsboy suffers no injury (CMJ #39). In several instances, fire or molten metal (CMJ #40, #94) burns his gag away, but Freddy’s face is somehow unscathed. Occasionally the un-gagging does have some plausibility. When Freddy is in danger of being run over by a train, he notices a nearby railroad spike onto which he can snag the gag (CMJ #63). Also, as he is being shoved into a giant wind machine, the terrific air currents it generates blows his gag loose just in time for him to call on Junior (CMJ #96). However, some of his gag escapes aren’t particularly likely—like hooking his gag on a sharp rock after being pushed into a pitch-black mine shaft (CMJ #38). Sometimes the writers would come up with a creative way to have Freddy bound but not gagged. In one story he develops a case of uncontrollable hiccups (CMJ #65) and is unable to call on Junior till the villain threatens to pour boiling hot water down his throat to render the newsboy mute. This literally scares the hiccups out of Freddy, and only then is he able to become Cap Junior.

Super-villains—Starting with Still Another Sivana As might be supposed, Junior Sivana, the miscreant son of the World’s Wickedest Scientist, Dr. Thaddeus Budog Sivana, was Captain Marvel Jr.’s most frequently-reoccurring super-villain. Sivana Jr. was a young, highly intelligent, but thoroughly mean-spirited geek. With the exception of his Danny Kaye-like features and wavy brown hair, he was a younger clone of his father. His defining features were his obsession to become “the Prince of the Universe” and his intense jealousy of Cap Jr.

Even when Brazilian comics continued Cap Jr.’s adventures with new stories ~o~ Marvel Magazine for several years after Fawcett had folded and art in Capita~ its comic-book tents, Freddy was still being bound and gagged when Junior found some lame (writer’s) excuse to change back into the newsboy. In this tale created by tracing the art of Bud Thompson, the crooks are smart enough to gag Freddy to keep him mum—then stupid enough to take off his gag to ask him a question. Note that, in Brazil, Freddy’s magic word was “Shazam!” just like Billy and Mary Batson’s—though the lightning bolt is pretty ragged! Art provided by John G. Pierce. [Captain Marvel Jr. is TM & ©2003 DC Comics.]

elder Sivana. Junior nabs the father-and-son duo and returns them to prison.

Sivana Jr. was presented as a sort of demented master chemist and inventor who could formulate sinister potions and construct destructive machines to plague mankind in general and the World’s Mightiest Boy in particular. In possibly his first appearance, in CMJ (#36), he provides “Jitterbug Pills” to teenagers, which greatly boosts their energy for dancing. The problem: they can’t stop dancing! He sends one of the parents a note saying he will provide an antidote for $50,000. During this story Sivana Jr. knocks Freddy unconscious, then binds and gags him. He forces Freddy to swallow a Jitterbug Pill, causing the lame newsboy to start dancing. The dance gyrations shake Freddy’s gag loose, and he calls for Junior, who saves the day by getting the antidote for the dance-exhausted teenagers and hauling Sivana Jr. off to reform school. Sivana Jr. vows he will escape: “You’ll hear from me again, Captain Marvel Jr.!”

When Sivana Jr. becomes frustrated by his skinny, weakling physique in Master Comics #93, he concocts a chemical formula which transforms him into a towering Goliath, dwarfing houses and trees. He goes on a thieving rampage, but soon becomes aware of a drawback caused by his huge stature: an all-consuming hunger. Marvel Jr. assists a chemist friend in making an antidote for the ravenous Sivana Jr.—then takes his normal, skinny, weakling self back to reform school.

He does, of course. In CMJ #39, envious of Cap Jr.’s well-publicized triumphs, Junior Sivana comes up with a scheme to steal the headlines from the World’s Mightiest Boy. He claims he is reforming and “proves” it—by betraying his father, Dr. Sivana! Sivana Jr. grabs the headlines, but later springs his father from jail and plans to kill Freddy Freeman in ambush. Freddy calls Junior in time to stop a bullet aimed at him by the

In CMJ #98 Sivana Jr. injects apples with an “intense hunger formula” that causes both Freddy and his alter ego to go on an uncontrollable eating binge.

The World’s Wickedest Boy steals entire railroad trains and converts them into machine guns and cannons in another power bid before he is stopped by Cap Jr. (CMJ #63). He uses a robot to try to kill Freddy, but because of the newsboy’s kindness to the mechanical man, the latter goes against his master’s wishes (CMJ #93). The robot, Mr. Tinny, was clearly patterned after the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz movie.

In “The Ghost of Sivana Jr.” (CMJ #99) he projects gigantic phantom images of himself, and indeed takes on an almost anti-Christ aura. When he is first thought dead, Cap Jr. thinks, “I haven’t caught anything but


50

Captain Marvel Jr. In another story, Sivana Jr. invents a Sound Scrambler that turns normal languages into unintelligible garble (CMJ #108). Once he schemes up a series of contrived public relations snafus to make the Blue Boy very unpopular, by forcing an opinion-polling agency to rig questions about Cap Junior (CMJ #110). The outcome: Junior flies into a self-imposed exile on a tropical island. But when he hears on the radio that Sivana Jr. is going to run for President, he returns and again foils the World’s Wickedest Boy’s scheme to become the Prince of the Universe.

Science Says You’re Wrong If You Believe That... Sivana Jr. wasn’t the only evil scientist to plague the World’s Mightiest Boy. A mad man of science named Professor Ernest Vorst (calling himself the Animal Master) uses a machine called the “telepathy translator” to command animals to take over the Earth (CMJ #71). When inventor Joel Potter perfects amazing devices he feels are too dangerous to let loose on the world (CMJ #62), the evil Mr. Hydro, who can turn himself into water, attempts to steal these inventions. Turns out that one of Potter’s discoveries, the “fluidizer,” a chemical which can turn body cells into fluid at will, was stolen by his assistant, who has become Hydro. After Junior defeats him, Potter smashes all his inventions to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands ever again. When a young couple is kidnapped by a man in a carriage drawn by a flying horse, who steals their valuables in CMJ #62, Cap Jr. tracks down an ex-jockey named Sneaker and his flying horse, delivering both to Officer Bellows. In “Capt. Marvel Jr. Battles the Human Dynamo” (CMJ #69), murderer Shocking McGoon survives his own electrocutions and goes on a murder spree, killing three people in cold blood with electrical discharges before the World’s Mightiest Boy short-circuits him. This was an unusually violent story for the post-war Cap Jr. Several previous super-heroes had used electricity (i.e., Shock Gibson, Pyroman), but were already in comic book limbo by the time this story was published, while Spider-Man’s foe Electro was still years in the future. Three of Junior Sivana’s most dastardly plots! The cover for the “Ghost of Sivana Jr.” in Captain Marvel Jr. #99 (July ’51) was drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger—while the cover to “The World of Babel” in CMJ #108 (April ’52) and the story art for “The World’s Most Unpopular Boy” in CMJ #110 (June ’52) are both by Bud Thompson. [©2003 DC Comics.]

petty crooks ever since Sivana Jr. disappeared! Was he the evil genius behind most of the world’s great crime rings? The nations of the world seem to be getting along better these days! Was Sivana Jr. the one who kept stirring up trouble? The world is a happier place without Sivana Jr. around! People don’t seem as worried and nervous as they used to be!”

Greybeard, the ancient crime lord, is a special case—he appears in three consecutive issues! The first story tells of a man who in 1846 is given a 99-year prison sentence (CMJ #37). He swears he will be back, even if it takes him 99 years. His hatred and bitterness keep him alive for his entire sentence, after which he—now Greybeard—takes over a gang and starts a crime spree. At the climax, he escapes Capt. Marvel Jr. by crashing through a window. In the CMJ #38 Greybeard reads about a strange case of amnesia suffered by the wife of the wealthy Otto Van Dorn. Junior ultimately


Alter Ego #20