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In the the USA USA In

No. 23

Wonder Woman TM & ©2003 DC Comics

April 2003

LOST GOLDEN AGE ART OF THE AMAZING AMAZON!


Vol. 3, No. 23 / April 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 Bob Fujitani H.G. Peter

Cover Colorist Tom Ziuko

And Special Thanks to: Bob Bailey Dennis Beaulieu Jack Bender Jon Berk Bill Black J.R. Cochran Bill Cooke Teresa R. Davidson Al Dellinges Roger Dicken & Wendy Hunt Rich Donnelly Stephen Donnelly Gill Fox Bob Fujitani Glen David Gold Stan Goldberg Victor Gorelick George Hagenauer Ron Harris Mark & Stephanie Heike Roger Hill Tom Horvitz

Bill Howard Richard Howell Ed Jaster Steve Korté Richard Kyle Sheldon Moldoff Scotty Moore James Plunkett Ethan Roberts Carole Seuling David Siegel Joe Simon Robin Snyder Marc Swayze Greg Theakston Joel Thingvall Dann Thomas Alex Toth Michael J. Vassallo Hames Ware Robert K. Wiener Marv Wolfman

This issue is dedicated to the memory of

Jack Keller

& Friends Section

Contents

Writer/Editorial: The Wonder Years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Queen Hepzibah, Genghis Khan, & the “Nuclear” Wars . . . . . 4 Three “lost” Wonder Woman adventures— with unseen art by H.G. Peter! Comic Crypt: Flying Discs and Floating Chairs. . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Michael T. Gilbert presents rare art by Simon & Kirby. Alex Toth on Noel Sickles & Fred Ray. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 From Scorchy Smith to Terry and the Pirates to Tomahawk! Claude Held, Pioneer Comic Book Dealer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Bill Schelly interviews one of the first comics dealers—and gets some great stories. Jack Keller (1922-2003) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Dr. Michael Vassallo on an artist who drew men on horseback—and in hot rods. re: [comments & corrections] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 FCA [Fawcett Collectors of America] #82 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 P.C. Hamerlinck presents Marc Swayze, Sheldon Moldoff, and Bill Parker. All the Way with MLJ Section . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover: Merciful Minerva! Recently, Carole Seuling, the wife and partner of comics dealer/conventioneer Phil Seuling back in the ’60s and early ’70s, let slip that she owned a never-published piece of original 1940s Wonder Woman art by H.G. Peter. It’s beautiful as Aphrodite— and once we’d seen it, we were wise as Athena to use it, with Carole’s blessing, as a cover for Alter Ego! Thanks, old friend! [Wonder Woman TM & ©2003 DC Comics.] Above: By 1958, his last year as Wonder Woman artist, H.G. Peter’s quirky, individualistic art wasn’t all it had been. But he still had a couple of good moves left—one of which was this splash from Wonder Woman #97, the art for which was offered in a 1993 art catalog. Thanks to Glen David Gold for reminding us about it! Whether Diana’s barebacking a stallion or a carnosaur, she always comes out on top! [©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.


4

Queen Hepzibah, Genghis Khan, & The “Nuclear” Wars!

Queen Hepzibah, Genghis Khan, & The “Nuclear” Wars! Three “Lost” WONDER WOMAN Adventures –––with Never-before-seen Art by H.G. PETER & Scripts by DR. WILLIAM MOULTON MARSTON

by Roy Thomas Cancelled Comics Cavalcade —1940s Style So near, and yet so far...! Naturally, most comic book stories which get as far as being scripted, penciled, inked, and even lettered wind up being published. After all, by that time, a reasonable amount of money has usually been paid to the writers, artists, and letterers of the material—and if it isn’t used, that expenditure is a dead loss... or at best becomes a tax writeoff, like DC Comics’ infamous one of Sept. 30, 1949, touched on in several issues of Alter Ego. Of course, if a comics title is cancelled with scant advance notice, there’s likely to be a bit of spare art and story lying around in some stage of completion; but the publisher has decided, rightly or wrongly, that he/she is better off swallowing the loss of a story (or even a whole issue) or more, and moving on. That’s probably what happened in the case of much of the “Written Off - 9-30-49” material we’ve seen over the past years, such as “Green Lantern,” “Flash,” “Dr. Mid-Nite,” “Ghost Patrol,” “Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys,” and other 1940s series. These partly-surviving but never-published stories were most likely produced not too long before either (a) a particular feature was dropped from an ongoing title, as per the latter two, or (b) entire mags were cancelled or altered in format, as in the case of the trio of Justice Society members mentioned above. In 1948 All-American Comics became All-American Western, leaving no berth for Doc’s exploits—and in ’49 both Green Lantern and Flash Comics were cancelled outright, leaving no place for unprinted tales of the titular heroes (not to mention Black Canary, The Atom, and

A vintage “Wonder Woman” splash page, with writer William M. Marston (top) and artist Harry G. Peter (middle). As mentioned below, the entire 13-page story that goes with this 1940s splash was finally printed in black-&-white in 1974’s The Amazing World of DC Comics #12. The photo of Dr. Marston is from the Oct. 25, 1940, issue of The Family Circle magazine, while the circa-1910 portrait of HGP by his friend, illustrator Louis Arata, was sent by Scotty Moore. [Wonder Woman art ©2003 DC Comics.]

Hawkman) to roost. Some of the “Flash” and “GL” stories orphaned by these cancellations seem to have been prepared even earlier, intended for All-Flash or Comic Cavalcade, two super-hero mags which had been deep-sixed in ’48 (the former discontinued, the latter transformed into a funny-animal


Three “Lost” Wonder Woman Adventures

5

This piece of art, recently acquired from the estate of H.G. Peter and offered for auction at an estimate of “$20,000 and up” via Heritage Comics’ Oct. 2002 catalog, is indeed just what it claims: “an incredible piece of comics history.” These would seem to be the artist’s very first sketches of Wonder Woman, doubtless done in 1941, with the figures roughly 8" tall. The catalog also says his real name was H.G. Roth. Special thanks to Ed Jaster. [Art ©2003 estate of H.G. Peter; Wonder Woman TM & ©2003 DC Comics.]

comic). These tales would have sat on the shelf for a year, awaiting an open slot that never came. DC’s Sheldon Mayer, who edited all comics which starred Flash and/or Green Lantern, was by all accounts usually three issues ahead on every mag he handled, so it was inevitable there’d be a few leftover stories. DC had to simply swallow the loss. Okay—but how about when a comics title isn’t cancelled—and doesn’t change format or genre? Like Wonder Woman. From her debut in late 1941 through his own return to writing and drawing in 1948, Shelly Mayer was the editor of all comics in which the Amazon appeared, as well: Wonder Woman, Sensation Comics, Comic Cavalcade, and All-Star Comics. Even excluding the latter, in which the original Princess Diana had little to do prior to 1948, that’s six circa-12page stories every two months once wartime restrictions were lifted: three in her own bimonthly title, one each in two of the monthly Sensation, and one in the bimonthly CC. Those 72 pages came under the joint jurisdiction of editor Mayer and Dr. William Marston, the psychologist who had been Wonder Woman’s major creator (under the pseudonym “Charles Moulton,” utilizing the middle names of publisher M.C. Gaines and himself). Even the artwork, produced via a shop system with veteran artist Harry G. Peter as the primary artist, was done under Marston’s supervision, contrary to DC’s usual practice. Many details about the way Marston worked (and about his

unorthodox private life) were brought to light by Les Daniels in his deservedly award-winning 2000 volume Wonder Woman: The Complete History from Chronicle Books. And I’m glad they were, ’cause that frees us, for the most part, from having to surmise about the conditions under which the unpublished stories were produced. Instead, we can simply examine the stories and art themselves. There were several 1940s “Wonder Woman” stories which were completed but not published at the time, three of which were first printed in DC mags decades after they’d been prepared: The 13-page “The Cheetah’s Thought Prisoners,” belatedly saw the light of day in DC Special #3 (April-June 1969). An 11-pager, “The Stormy Menace of Goblin Head Rock!”—likewise featuring the villainous Cheetah—finally surfaced in Wonder Woman #196 (Sept.-Oct. 1971). A third left-over “Wonder Woman” exploit, “Racketeer’s Bait,” was first seen (in black-&-white) in DC’s own house-published fanzine, The Amazing World of DC Comics #12 (Sept.-Oct.1974) But there were others... A couple of years back, longtime collector and Wonder Woman enthusiast Joel Thingvall generously mailed me photocopies of several DC scripts that had come into his possession. Two of these were full scripts for never-printed “Wonder Woman” tales. Also in the package


6

Queen Hepzibah, Genghis Khan, & The “Nuclear” Wars!

was a lengthy “WW” synopsis titled “The Sword of Genghis Khan,” which, so far as I can ascertain, was never used for a published “episode,” as Marston referred to them. Both scripts and synopsis seem to have been photocopied years later from the good doctor’s carbon copies (remember carbon copies? hope so, ‘cause no room to explain ’em here!). This means that any changes made to the script by an editor are lost to us and can only be surmised. Let’s go over these three items one at a time, starting with....

“Queen Hepzibah’s Revenge!” This one was marked (see below) as “Extra Episode for Quarterly #2”—by which is probably meant Wonder Woman #2 (Fall 1942). I recognized the title at once, for Alter Ego had already printed the original splash-page art from this “lost” tale in Vol. 3, #2—and had displayed 1/3 of a climactic page in V3#5. It was now apparent that this story had been prepared no later than very early 1942, for a summer onsale. (Incidentally, the word partly scribbled over the word “Quarterly” looks like “Joy.” If so, it’s tempting to believe it refers to Joy Murchison, who wrote a number of “Wonder Woman” stories for and with Dr. Marston. However, she apparently did not come to work for him till 1945.) Now let’s look at the story itself, beginning with that splash page again—or rather, what Marston’s scripts refer to as the “display panel”:

Page 1 of both script and finished product. You can see the splash bigger in A/E V3#2. Thanks to Jerry G. Bails.[Wonder Woman TM & ©2003 DC Comics.]

being dragged through the air upside-down. Well, I guess that counts as “fighting.” The splash caption has been rewritten slightly in the finished version, so that it now begins with a question that rewords Marston’s original declarative sentence, to good effect. His second sentence, “Other terrifying bird-mammals snatch at you,” has been dropped as superfluous. Decent-enough editing. The single story-panel which Marston wrote in the early days for the bottom right corner of the splash page—and which he described on the second page of the script—shows Hepzibah, a ringer for the evil Queen in Snow White, sending her unshown “slaves” to “capture my granddaughter who left me to die years ago.” She wants revenge on the ingrate. Mayer or his script-editor altered no words in this panel, except to correct an error common among comics writers, then and now. The slaves address their mistress as “O’ Queen Hepzibah.” The apostrophe is incorrect (as is the common use of the word “Oh” in this context); the phrase appears correctly as “O Queen Hepzibah.” Hardly an earth-shattering change, but it’s interesting that someone noticed the minor mistake and corrected it. It’s always fascinating to go through a story and see how the script was changed (either by an editor, or by the writer at an editor’s direction—it isn’t always possible to tell which), or to observe how an artist may have interpreted aspects of a script differently from the precise way it was written. For example, the script for this splash calls for Wonder Woman to be “sitting on the back of vulture-woodpecker, squeezing its neck with one hand as she fights a flying rhinocerous [sic] with the other.” Artist H.G. Peter instead shows her gripping the winged rhino by its horn so that it’s

The story is a charming one—assuming you have a high tolerance for whimsy. Diana Prince is interrupted in her secretarial tasks at Military Intelligence HQ in Washington, D.C., by a creature described on p. 2 of the script as “a large wild tough looking rabbit. The rabbit is not an ordinary looking rabbit—use imagination in drawing him. Butch the rabbit has wings. It is sitting on hind legs, front paws leaning against the desk. It is behind Diana. The rabbit looks amazed at the rapidity with which Di is typing. Papers are flying in air.” Turns out that, being alone in her office, Di decided to type more than 400 words a minute, which she finds “much too slow.” When Butch


19

Simon & Kirby: Flying Discs and Floating Chairs! Simon & Kirby were arguably the greatest comic book combo of the Golden Age. Joe Simon focused primarily on writing and inking, while Jack Kirby concentrated on penciling. Together they produced comic book magic. Captain America, The Boy Commandos, Black Magic, and Young Romance were just a few of their top-selling creations. This issue, we’ve uncovered three previously unpublished pages from this “team supreme.” Two are from the very beginning of their partnership, and one is from near its end. Let’s start with...

The Black Cat Mystery! Or, if you prefer, the strange case of “The Comic That Never Was!” But before we tell you about Simon & Kirby’s connection to that caper, we need to talk about Black Cat Comics. Few comic book series ever had a more schizophrenic history than Harvey Comics’ Black Cat. Harvey’s sexy super-heroine of that name debuted in the first issue of Pocket Comics in 1941. She switched to Speed Comics in 1942 before winning her own title in 1946. By 1949 super-heroes were dying out, so Black Cat Comics became Black Cat Western with issue #16. Luckily, The Black Cat and Linda Turner (her movie star alter ego) looked as sexy on horseback as she had on a motorcycle, but the experiment lasted only four issues. By #20 the title reverted to Black Cat (minus the “Comics,” but with the unofficial title “The Darling of Comics”)—then changed to Black Cat Mystery Comics nine issues later. The masked super-heroine apparently vanished from the interiors after #29,

The first “Black Cat” splash—story credited to Alfred Harvey, art to Al Gabriele—from Pocket Comics #1 (Aug. 1941), as reprinted in The Original Black Cat #6 (Aug. ’91). [©2003 Lorne-Harvey Publications, Inc.]


20

Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt

All Cats Are Black In The Dark! A Gallery of Fabulous Black Cat Firsts. All art featuring The Black Cat is by Lee Elias. [Art ©2003 Lorne-Harvey Publications, Inc.]

Black Cat Comics #1 (June-July 1946).

Black Cat Western #16 (March 1949) —the new title.

Black Cat #20 (Nov. 1949)—the final cover with a western theme.

Black Cat Mystery Comics #30 (Aug. 1951)—the last cover featuring the heroine; apparently her final interior stories had appeared in #29.

Black Cat Mystery #33 (Feb. ’52). A typical cover from the horror period. By now, the word “Comics” has been dropped, and with #44 (June ’53) even the word “Mystery” is greatly reduced in size. Maybe the publisher thought someone would confuse his comics with Agatha Christie?

Black Cat Comics #12 (July 1948); our red-haired heroine took to horseback and cowboy-movie themes four issues before the title was officially changed.

Black Cat Mystic #58 (Sept. 1956). Yeah, we didn’t show the cover of Black Cat Mystery #57. So sue us! A typically well-drawn Lee Elias splash page from the Golden Age comic, as seen in the black-&-white reprint The Original Black Cat #4 (June ’91).

Black Cat #63 (Oct. ’62). A brief Silver Age revival—with reprints! Black Cat Western Mystery #54 (Feb. ’55). The Cat came back!


Simon & Kirby: Flying Discs and Floating Chars!

21

collection. The cover logo indicated it was originally intended for the 59th issue of Harvey’s Black Cat Mystery. But there was no such issue! As mentioned above, the titled changed to Black Cat Mystic with issue #58. Harvey did publish #59, but with a different cover—and with the latter name. It was a perplexing mystery, partly solved by Bill Howard, who was kind enough to share some background on the page, as related by the collector who sold it to him: “In the late ’50s Harvey needed to make the transition away from horror into more sci-fi, western, and adventure. They brought in Simon & Kirby. Black Cat had already been transformed into a ‘horror’ book and the name was changed to Black Cat Mystery. The cover you own was originally intended for issue #59, the final Black Cat Mystery. Alfred Harvey and Simon put their heads together and surmised that an entirely new title would be better. They launched Alarming Tales #1 and used the story of the man in the flying chair in this book. Joe Simon thought that Kirby’s man in the chair was too large and did not look like an ordinary person, so he redrew the cover himself. If you look at the cover of Alarming Tales #1, Kirby is credited with the cover, but it is all Joe Simon. “The Black Cat Mystery cover I own is ALL Kirby and infinitely better, IMHO, than the published cover to Alarming Tales #1. In fact, Joe Simon himself admitted that Kirby’s rendition, in the end,

Joe Simon’s version of the flying chair—from the published cover of Alarming Tales #1 (Sept. ’57). [©2003 the respective copyright holder.]

though she still appeared on the cover of #30. From #30-53 Black Cat Mystery was a straight horror comic. By the end of that time, the crusade against horror comics was making Harvey a bit nervous, so in February 1955 they changed it into Black Cat Western Mystery, starring our horse-riding heroine again. Go figure! That lasted precisely one issue; then the comic reverted yet again to the more streamlined Black Cat Western for the next two. But wait! We’re not done yet! For some reason, the title changed back to Black Cat Mystery for one lone issue (#57), before morphing into Black Cat Mystic for #58-62. These six Comics Code-approved books featured G-rated science-fiction and supernatural stories by Simon & Kirby, and others. S&K also spearheaded a similar mystery title for Harvey, Alarming Tales. More on that later. Black Cat Comics/Mystery/Western/Mystic was finally cancelled in 1958, but returned in 1962 for three more issues. These were giant 25¢ comics containing reprints of Linda Turner, the original Black Cat. The title? Why, Black Cat Comics, of course! As I said at the beginning: schizophrenic! All of which leads to the mystery of...

The Comic That Never Was! Last year, I spotted a very exciting item while surfing the web. Bill Howard had posted an unpublished Simon & Kirby cover from his

Simon & Kirby’s cover for Black Cat Mystic #59 (Sept. 1956).


Alex Toth

27

ALEX TOTH on NOEL SICKLES & FRED RAY [ALTER EGO INTRODUCTION: In issue #19 we spotlighted considerable coverage of Fred Ray, artist of some of the most memorable Superman covers ever, as well as the major artist of the “Tomahawk” series. We’ll have commentary on that issue, for the most part, in A/E #24, but here are veteran artist Alex Toth’s hand-lettered remarks on Ray, and on his ‘Sickles Connection,’ received soon after publication of issue #19, precisely as they filled both sides of a postcard. —Roy.]

A Toth art composition—one of many he does for pleasure, which we’re happy that he shares with us. See another one on p. 29. [©2003 Alex Toth.]


Title Comic Fandom Archive

31

Claude Held,

Pioneer Comic Book Dealer

by Bill Schelly

Claude Held (at left) with an unknown fan, 1964— flanked by the covers of vintage issues of two pulp magazines he mentions: Weird Tales (May 1934) cover-featuring Conan, and Amazing Stories (Feb. 1940) spotlighting an Eando (Otto) Binder tale of Adam Link, Robot. Both Conan and Adam Link —as well as Binder—would make their mark in comic books between the early 1940s and the 1970s. [©2003 the respective copyright holders.]

[Introduction: Although comic fandom emerged as a recognizable entity in the early 1960s, there were people who collected comic books from the very beginning of the medium. And where there were collectors, eventually there would be comic book dealers to supply the demand for back issues. As far as I know, the earliest known comic book dealer was Claude Held of Buffalo, New York, who began amassing comics for re-sale in the mid-1940s. While researching fandom’s “pre-history” for the second edition of my Hamster Press book The Golden Age of Comic Fandom, I had the opportunity to chat with Claude about those early days. In the relatively brief time we talked, he related some wonderful stories about some of the early deals he made, and I had the feeling we had only scratched the surface. But, as I was unable to fit most of the information in my book, for space considerations, I’m pleased to be able to print the full transcript of our talk now. Our conversation took place by telephone on February 19, 1998; the tape was transcribed by Brian K. Morris.] BILL SCHELLY: Let’s start with finding out a little about you. You were a science-fiction fan as a kid, weren’t you? CLAUDE HELD: Right. I lived upstairs and Kenny Krueger lived downstairs. We lived on Fountain Street in Buffalo, New York. Around 1937 and 1938, we both became interested in the science-fiction pulp magazines. I think the first one we ever had was a Thrilling Wonder Stories. A few months after we got interested in that, a used-book store was opening in the next block on Carlton Street, and Kenny’s father had contracted to do the interior painting. Ken and I got in there the day before they opened, and found they had racks and racks of used pulps— Weird Tales, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Amazing, many others—all selling for three cents apiece. But none of us had any money in those days. I managed to scrounge up fifteen cents. I even knew which ones I was going to pick out—nice big early Wonder Stories. I went in the next day after school and they were all cleaned out already. Somebody beat

me to them. [laughs] That was my first real disappointment. Anyway, from then on, both of us collected science-fiction, bought and sold, and I think right away I got the idea that maybe I could pick up magazines and sell them through the mail. This was around 1939, 1940.

SCHELLY: You were about what grade in school at the time? HELD: Eighth grade. But I didn’t come out with my first real list until around ’42 or ’43. I’d like to buy some of that stuff back today. [laughs] SCHELLY: At those prices. HELD: You’re not kidding. Well, anyway, after high school, I was in the Navy a couple of years. I was discharged in ’46. I went to the University of Buffalo. All my classes were in the morning between eight and eleven or twelve o’clock. That gave me plenty of time for a part-time job, and I got the idea of opening up a bookstore. So I went to school in the morning, opened up the bookstore from noon until about nine. SCHELLY: A storefront. HELD: Right, and the comics started from that. The store was on a busy corner, on Utica near Jefferson in Buffalo. One day this guy who’d just gotten out of the Army pulled up his car outside my store. I happened to be standing in the doorway at the time. He jumped out of the car and he said to me, “Do you buy comics?” I said, “Yeah.” At the time, I was selling old comics for three cents apiece, just like those pulps I mentioned before. Well, he said, “Okay, I’ve got some. What do you pay?” And I said, “A dollar a hundred.” He says, “Okay,” and he went and parked the car a block or so down the street. When he came back, he had these two stacks. He had tied them up in stacks of a hundred. He brought them in the store, and then he turned around and started out. I asked him, “Where are you going?” He said, “To get some more.” By the time he was done, he’d brought in some 1700 comics. [laughs] Remember, I had just started this store, and I didn’t have a hell of a lot


32

Comic Fandom Archive of dough. I said to him, “Jeez, I didn’t think you had that many!” I wound up getting the 1700 comics for $15. SCHELLY: Wow. HELD: Now, just stop and think. This was 1946. How would you like to have those today? SCHELLY: I’m sure that it’s just an incredible bunch of comics. How could it not be?

HELD: It was fantastic because all of the early DCs, the More Funs, all that type of stuff was in there. So I put them in “All of the early DCs, the More Funs, all that the back room. The stuff type of stuff” was in boxes in a car that from the last few years, pulled up in front of Claude’s first store in 1946. like 1943 to 1946, I put Like maybe a copy of More Fun Comics #62 out at three cents apiece. (Dec. 1940), with Spectre cover probably by The older ones I liked, so Bernard Baily? Today’s Overstreet Guide price in I kept them for myself. near mint: $3200. Sigh.... [©2003 DC Comics.] Now, going forward a couple of years, say to ’49 or ’50. Are you familiar with Bill Thailing? SCHELLY: Yes, I’ve spoken to him a couple of times. He was also an early dealer, who was very important in the early 1960s, getting back issues to the folks like Raymond Miller who were writing articles for Alter Ego and other early fanzines. HELD: Okay. Did you also talk to Mickey Sullivan? SCHELLY: That name doesn’t ring a bell. HELD: Here’s the story on those two people. I don’t know which one came in first. I think it was Bill. There was another book dealer down on Genesee Street named Keel Book Store. When people would ask for old magazines, he would send them up to my place. So one day Bill Thailing, who lived in Cleveland, Ohio, was referred to me. Bill came in my store and asked if I had any old comic books.

SCHELLY: What about Mickey Sullivan? HELD: Mickey lived down in Erie, Pennsylvania. He was just a kid then. He used to come up with his mother. This was when I was at the quarter-apiece stage. He thought I was a highway robber for asking that much. I didn’t even want to sell them at that price… but he would almost cry, and his mother would break down and say, “We came all this way, so we’ll get these, this, or that….” Or whatever. And I had now come to the point where I really wanted to save what old comics I still had from that original deal. SCHELLY: You must have had other sources for comics, besides that original bunch. HELD: Yes! Sometime around 1953 or 1954, there were big police raids on the book stores in Buffalo. Some of them were selling what they called “striptease pictures.” Well, Old Man Keel of Keel’s Bookstore on Genesee Street, by this time, had sold out to a fellow who was arrested for that very reason, and he needed money for a lawyer. And this fellow had been putting comic books aside back in the ’40s. After talking on the phone, I realized he had a lot of really good ones. He asked me if I wanted to buy them. We finally agreed on a price of a nickel apiece. There were a thousand or 1200 comics in this deal. When I went home that night, he had stacked up the side porch of my house with cartons of comics. That was one of the best sights of my life. I remember specifically that he had at least ten, twelve of Superman #2 and Superman #3 in Near Mint condition. Another big one that he had was Planet #1. He had a handful of those. Now, I’m not kidding you. This happened. SCHELLY: Was this when you started putting out a list of comic books for sale? HELD: Not yet. I was still at the point of putting them aside. But I had been putting out a list of fantasy books and magazines for sale all through the ’40s and ’50s. It wasn’t until sometime in the late 1950s that I started to put some comic books on those lists. Again I was treated like a highway robber. A lot of people were infuriated that I was charging 50¢ or a dollar for a 1930-something comic book. They grumbled… but they bought them anyway. Then gradually I started putting out lists of mostly comic books, in the early 1960s. Phil Seuling and Howard Rogofsky didn’t come in until a couple of years later. SCHELLY: Right, ’62, ’63. What about Bill Thailing? HELD: He had been selling comics to other collectors through the mail, but not putting out lists until about this same time. Also, Malcolm

SCHELLY: He came all the way up to Buffalo, huh? HELD: Yeah. This is around 1950 or ’51. Well, I was thinking of the ones I had in the back that I had been reluctant to sell—so I pulled out some and sold them to him for, I think, a dime apiece. He bought some, and then he came back a few months later and bought some more. But I didn’t feel too happy about selling these things, because I actually wanted to keep them longer. So the price went up to a quarter, and I think he squawked. [laughs] But he bought a bunch more.

“I remember specifically that [Old Man Keel] had at least ten, twelve of Superman #2 and Superman #3 in Near Mint condition. Another big one that he had was Planet #1. He had a handful of those.” Now you’re making us cry, Claude! [Superman covers ©2003 DC Comics; Planet #1 cover ©2003 the respective copyright holder.]


36

Jack Keller

Jack Keller (1922-2003)

by Dr. Michael J. Vassallo The comic book world lost one of its most durable mainstays of the 1950s and 1960s when Atlas/Marvel and Charlton artist Jack Keller passed away on January 2nd at the age of 80, after a short illness. Keller had a long and distinguished career spanning the years 19411973 on a score of features for numerous comics companies, but is best known for long runs on two in particular: Kid Colt Outlaw at Atlas/Marvel, and the entire genre of hot rod and racing cars titles at Charlton. Jack Keller was born on June 16, 1922, in Reading, Pennsylvania. Except for a short period early in his career, he would spend his entire life there. As was the case of almost every comic book artist from his generation, his earliest artistic idols were Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, and Hal Foster, and as a child he devoured their newspaper strips, especially Terry and the Pirates. In 1941, fresh out of high school and with no formal art education, Keller created, wrote, and drew a comic book feature called “The Whistler,” which was accepted for publication by Dell Comics and appeared in the title War Stories, issue #5. By his own admission it was extremely crude, but it somehow opened the door to a job in 1942-43 with Busy Arnold at Quality Comics. Among a handful of different features, including inking “Blackhawk” and doing artwork for features like “Manhunter” and “Spin Shaw,” Keller also did backgrounds for Lou Fine on The Spirit while Will Eisner was in the service during World War II. Keller was now living in New York City fulltime at the 34th Street YMCA, and his quarters were cramped and tiny. Making the rounds over the next few years, he had stops at Fawcett drawing “Johnny Blair,” at Fiction House drawing series such as marine pilot “Clipper Kirk,” “Flint Baker,” and “Suicide Smith,” and at Hillman on “The Boy King,” “The Rosebud Sisters,” and various crime features. As the decade closed, Keller did work for Charles Biro and Bob Wood at Lev Gleason on Crime Does Not Pay, Crime and Punishment, and various western features in roughly 1949-50. Jack Keller’s last two major accounts in his comic book career would be the ones on which he would leave his lasting mark. In 1950 Keller showed up on editor Stan Lee’s Timely Comics doorstep and would begin an association that would last the entire decade and beyond. At this point, publisher Martin Goodman had just dissolved the longstanding Timely bullpen. Known as the “cataclysmic closet catastrophe” (a phrase coined by Stan Lee in his recent “bio-autobiography”), the story goes that Goodman opened a closet to find a six-foot stack of bought but never-printed artwork. Going ballistic, he instructed Lee to fire the staff, and everyone suddenly went freelance. Jack Keller shows up right at this moment and is immediately given work on stories for western titles, early pre-Code horror, and even the rare romance story. His most prolific “early” Marvel work, though, was in the dizzying array of redundant Timely crime titles. This work is severely overlooked and under-appreciated by many who consider Keller’s career. Never a spectacular or flashy artist, Keller’s crime stories nevertheless had an urban grittiness perfectly suited to the subject matter, with a style similar to that of crime-comic colleague Vern Henkel, and two steps above the Timely crime-comic bullpen fare of

Sorry we don’t have a photo of Jack Keller, but here’s a splash page featuring the continuing hero with which he’s most associated, from Kid Colt Outlaw #80 (Sept. 1958). Thanks to Doc Vassallo. [©2003 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

1948-49. At least 75% of Keller’s crime stories were scripted by Carl Wessler, who wrote more crime stories than any other Timely scribe during this period. Often entire issues in 1950-51 were Wessler-scripted. Look for these stories in titles like Amazing Detective Cases, Kent Blake, All-True Crime, Justice Comics, Crime Exposed, Crime Can’t Win, and Crime Must Lose. As 1953 rolled in, Keller added more horror and war stories to his credits, but a western feature he had drawn since 1951, Kid Colt Outlaw, began to take prominence. When Stan Lee gave Keller Kid Colt in 1951, it was nothing more than another assignment, but while other artists came and went on various features (Joe Maneely on Black Rider, Wyatt Earp, Ringo Kid, Whip Wilson, The Gunhawk... Syd Shores on Two-Gun Kid... John Romita on Western Kid... Werner Roth on Apache Kid... Doug Wildey on Outlaw Kid, etc.), Keller never really left Kid Colt and drew his adventures, both in his own long-running title and also in the anthology title Gunsmoke Western, right up to 1957. Throughout this long run, he would continue to do western fillers, but his non-western work practically vanished by 1955 as his entire output was dedicated to the western genre. In the spring of 1957 the infamous “Atlas Implosion” left Keller and scores of artists without their main source of freelance income. Goodman and Lee pared down the bloated line from a high of about seventy titles to a paltry sixteen, frantically securing distribution for the books from National/DC’s distributor, Independent News, and Stan Lee began to use backlogged inventory for the remaining eight books per month.


[Art Š2003 Sheldon Moldoff &!P.C. Hamerlinck; Captain Midnight TM!&!Š2003 the respective TM!& copyright holder.]


44

Marc Swayze

By

mds& (c) [Art

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

[FCA EDITORS 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 in Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (Dec. ’42); but he was primarily hired by Fawcett Publications to illustrate Captain Marvel stories and covers for Whiz Comics and CMA. He also wrote many Captain Marvel scripts, and continued to do so while in the military. After World War II he made an arrangement with Fawcett to produce art and stories on a freelance basis out of his Louisiana home. There he created both art and story for The Phantom Eagle in Wow Comics, in addition to drawing the Flyin’ Jenny newspaper strip for Bell Syndicate (created by his friend and mentor Russell Keaton). After the cancellation of Wow, Swayze drew for Fawcett’s top-selling line of romance comics, including Sweethearts and Life Story. After that 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 and in this installment, Marc shifts into reverse, reflecting upon his preFawcett Publications period. —P.C. Hamerlinck.]

Marc’s “first shot at the world ahead.... submit[ting] samples to Walt Disney in 1940.” [Art ©2003 Marc Swayze; Donald Duck & Goofy are registered TM of Walt Disney Productions.]

IT WAS FUN. A bit bewildering at first, but very pleasant, the way things were turning out. One week a milk deliveryman, the next, the assistant to a real professional artist, creator of a real syndicated comic strip. It was fun… my first job as a salaried artist, but in no time at all I was bugged by the urge to reach out for higher things… to move on up. My employer knew it. It was he who said after a week or so, “You’re a natural.” I took that to mean I was slated for the big time, whatever and whenever the “big time” was. We were in a small community of about 12,000. I had arranged to take my meals at a boarding-house where many of the high school teachers dined… and they became my friends. Russell Keaton was a sincere, personable, experienced professional whose comic strip had made its debut only a few months before my arrival. It was 1939. My first shot at the world ahead was to submit samples to Walt Disney in 1940. I’m not sure what I had in mind. A better job? A move up? I should have known that finished art, in full color, was not the way to show a prospective employer what you could do. Better to have sent the discarded sketches of the work in progress. However, the animated films were not hiring at the time, they said, so it didn’t matter. An action sequence from “Captain Marvel Introduces Mary Marvel” in CMA #19, 1942. Art by Marc Swayze. [©2003 DC Comics.]

I took a stab at the gag cartoon game. Gags were the going thing as the ’30s came to a close. Major publishers were


The Life of Bill Parker

Major Parker

47

The Life of BILL PARKER... and His Mightiest Creation by P.C. Hamerlinck He came up with a little six-letter word that has become a part of the English language. While the genesis of the World’s Mightiest Mortal has been told in various versions in a variety of places, what do we really know about Bill Parker, the often-overlooked writer/editor who combined elements of old literature, the Bible, mythology… and that little six-letter word... to produce a truly classics-derived modern-day folk tale all of its own— a tale which captivated readers in the 1940s and has withstood the test of time all the way to slick 2003. Parker far exceeded his job duties when he was asked by his publisher to “come up with a character like Superman.” Parker was the catalyst of the world known as Captain Marvel, whose occupants included, amongst many wonderful inhabitants, his alter ego Billy Batson, a mysterious stranger in an old abandoned subway, an ancient Egyptian wizard who gave Billy his powers, a scheming proverbial “mad scientist” named Dr. Sivana, and his stunning daughter Beautia.

The World’s Mightiest Collaboration Bill Parker’s artistic collaborator, Charles Clarence Beck, was always adamantly clear to point out to the present author—and to the entire world—that he had very little, if anything, to do with the success of Captain Marvel, one of the top selling characters during the Golden Age of Comics. While Beck modestly felt that any and all credit regarding the creation and popularity of the Big Red Cheese should go to Parker, the other writers, and Fawcett’s editorial staff—and that the stories, not the artwork, were always first and foremost of greatest importance—it is quite clear that Beck contributed more to the success and readerpopularity of Captain Marvel than any other of the individuals at Fawcett Publications who participated in the birth and development of

the character over its 13-year lifespan. In 1939, at the age of 29, Beck’s professional experience and skill as a cartoonist was a vital factor as he fleshed out the first Captain [Thunder] Marvel drawings. Beck’s visual delineation of the hero and his continuous enthusiasm for the character, plus his supervision of many Fawcett artists who eventually contributed to the expanding Marvel Family of titles, made Fawcett comic books superior in quality to most of the field. Beck’s contribution did not stop with the artwork. He also made very valuable contributions to the storylines, the stories themselves, and the shaping of the personalities of characters such as Mr. Mind, Sterling Morris, Ibac, Mr. Tawny, and the rest of the cast that really distinguished the stories in the Captain Marvel canon. It was Beck—along with prolific Captain Marvel writer Otto Binder—who over the course of time developed the unique, whimsical, tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek, kid-and-adult-pleasing humor that was lightly inserted into the stories, setting Cap apart from the other super-characters that were appearing virtually overnight. According to Fawcett’s long-time editorial director Ralph Daigh, Beck had complete authority to change, edit, and adapt any of the purchased scripts. It was these additional skills that helped develop the consistency of the storylines and characterizations, as Beck transferred the typewritten scripts to drawings. Obviously, without Beck’s talent, skill, and countless contributions to Captain Marvel, something far different would have developed from the early suggestions and concepts—or, as Daigh himself once concluded, perhaps nothing at all. That said, there still seems to be a general consensus agreeing with Beck’s assertion that Bill Parker should be the one given top billing for creating the world accepted as Captain Marvel. Parker produced the first typed manuscript that marked the birth of the character, including a summary description and the very first script. He also created and wrote all of Fawcett’s first comic features in Whiz Comics, including Spy Smasher, Ibis The Invincible, Golden Arrow, Lance O’Casey, Dan Dare, and Scoop Smith. Shortly thereafter, he created Bulletman, the cover star of Nickel Comics.

A Hero Is Born Captain Billy Fawcett and his company Fawcett Publications had already established themselves as a leading force in the publishing field, beginning first with their saucy humor magazines (such as Captain Billy’s WhizBang) and, upon relocating from Minnesota to offices in New York City and Greenwhich, Connecticut, various movie magazines. The decision to develop and produce a new super-hero type of character in the stillCharacters co-created by Bill Parker for the first issue of Whiz Comics (Feb. 1940) included Captain Marvel, Ibis the Invincible, infant comic book field was Dan Dare, Lance O’Casey, Golden Arrow, Scoop Smith, and the still-shadowy Spy Smasher. Cap, Ibis, & Spy Smasher were made at one of Fawcett’s drawn by C.C. Beck, Golden Arrow by future CM artist Pete Costanza, Lance by Bob Kingett; artists of Dan Dare and Scoop monthly meetings of Smith unknown. [©2003 DC Comics.]


50

Sheldon Moldoff

“Fawcett Was The Best!” Golden Age of Comics Great SHELDON “SHELLY” MOLDOFF on His Years with Fawcett Publications

Recent Captain Marvel commission art by Moldoff—and a 1999 photo of Shelly and his late wife Shirley (the pair on the left) at WonderCon, with two other of the earliest artists to work for DC Comics: cover illustrator Creig Flessel (standing) and Zatara creator Fred Guardineer. Photo courtesy of David Siegel. [Art ©2003 Sheldon Moldoff; Captain Marvel & logos TM & c DC Comics.]

by J.R. Cochran Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck Looking back on his Golden Age comics career, a career that included everything from Hawkman to Captain Midnight to This Magazine Is Haunted, Sheldon Moldoff says that Fawcett was his favorite shop: “Of all the companies I worked for, Fawcett was the best.” Moldoff began working for Fawcett Publications in 1945. If the pay rates were pretty much the same across the board, Fawcett’s editorial staff was a lot more outgoing than other shops, he says. “The editors were much friendlier at Fawcett. Stan Lee ran Marvel with an iron fist, and DC had a flock of editors driven by rivalry of each other.” Will Lieberson, who was executive editor at Fawcett, was also Moldoff’s favorite comics editor. “He was the only editor I ever became friends with. We hit it off right from the beginning. We socialized and remained friends until he passed away five or six years ago. I believe he had a heart attack.” Moldoff, who makes his home in Florida, also has fond memories of Lieberson’s editorial team, including Wendell Crowley, Dick Kraus, Roy Ald, and Virginia (Ginny) Provisiero.

Shelly worked on the licensed aviator/super-hero Captain Midnight for several years. This art is from Captain Midnight #54 (Aug. 1947). Hope you caught Alter Ego’s extended coverage of this radio-born super-star, last issue. [©2003 the respective copyright holder.]


SPECIAL SECTION

ALLTHE WAY WITH

MLJ!

5.95

$

In the USA

No. 23 April 2003

Plus Rare Art & Artifacts By:

H.G. PETER “CHARLES MOULTON” JOE SIMON JACK KIRBY ALEX TOTH FRED RAY NOEL SICKLES DAN BARRY LEE ELIAS NEAL ADAMS CARMINE INFANTINO LOU FINE JACK KELLER MARC SWAYZE C.C. BECK BILL PARKER SHELLY MOLDOFF MICHAEL T. GILBERT ROGER HILL BILL SCHELLY JIM AMASH P.C. HAMERLINCK & MORE!

Hangman TM & ©2003 Archie Comic Publications, Inc.

BOB FUJITANI JOHN ROSENBERGER VICTOR GORELICK

[Art ©2003 Bob Fujitani; Hangman TM & © Archie Comic Publications, Inc.]

Spotlight on Golden & Silver Age Masters


Vol. 3, No. 23 / April 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

All The Way With MLJ! Section

Cover Artists Bob Fujitani H.G. Peter

Cover Colorist Tom Ziuko

And Special Thanks to: Bob Bailey Dennis Beaulieu Jack Bender Jon Berk Bill Black J.R. Cochran Bill Cooke Teresa R. Davidson Al Dellinges Roger Dicken & Wendy Hunt Rich Donnelly Stephen Donnelly Gill Fox Bob Fujitani Glen David Gold Stan Goldberg Victor Gorelick George Hagenauer Ron Harris Mark & Stephanie Heike Roger Hill Tom Horvitz

Bill Howard Richard Howell Ed Jaster Steve Korté Richard Kyle Sheldon Moldoff Scotty Moore James Plunkett Ethan Roberts Carole Seuling David Siegel Joe Simon Robin Snyder Marc Swayze Greg Theakston Joel Thingvall Dann Thomas Alex Toth Michael J. Vassallo Hames Ware Robert K. Wiener Marv Wolfman

This issue is dedicated to the memory of

Jack Keller

Contents Writer/Editorial: All the Way with MLJ!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Call it MLJ—Archie—the Mighty Comics Group—it’s definitely had its moments! “Fuje” for Thought! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Golden Age artist Bob Fujitani talks with Jim Amash about The Hangman, Crime Does Not Pay,

Flash Gordon, and lots of other neat stuff!

John Rosenberger... the Jaguar of the Comics!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Roger Hill’s fly-on-the-wall look at the artist of The Fly, The Jaguar—and Lois Lane! “The Hangman” Cometh! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Archie editor Victor Gorelick on his four decades with Riverdale and super-heroes. For Wonder Woman, Mr. Monster, & FCA . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover : What can we say? Though it’s been years—pushing sixty, in fact—since he last did a Hangman comic, master artist Bob Fujitani drew this powerful, moody illustration for interviewer Jim Amash, and allowed us to use it as our cover. But Roy can’t complain—’cause Fuje gifted him with the layout! Black-&-white versions of both can be viewed on page 3—so what’re you waitin’ for? [Art ©2003 Bob Fujitani; Hangman TM & © Archie Comic Publications, Inc.] Above: Here’s another Hangman-and-noose shot drawn by Bob Fujitani, as restored (with grey tones added) for Bill Black’s Golden-Age Men of Mystery #9 (1998). Thanks to Mark and Stephanie Heike, as well. See ads for Bill’s AC Comics elsewhere in this issue—and do yourself a favor by ordering a few. [Hangman TM & ©2003 Archie Comic Publications, Inc.; restored art ©2003 Bill Black.] 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.


Bob Fujitani

3

“Fuje” For Thought! A Candid Conversation with Golden Age and Flash Gordon Artist BOB FUJITANI

JA: What led you to become an artist?

by Jim Amash [INTERVIEWER’S NOTE: Bob Fujitani, who often signed his name “Fuje,” has lived the freelancer’s life as much as anyone has. He spent many years as an assistant/ghost artist for legendary artist Dan Barry on the Flash Gordon newspaper comic strip. Bob’s adaptability served him well for every task demanded of him, from Quality Comics to Flash Gordon to Prince Valiant, and with many other companies in between. His career serves as a witness to the trials of a comics artist, and of the people he worked with. And he sounds just like Bill Goodwin, old-time radio announcer for Burns and Allen. —Jim.] JIM AMASH: I usually start off with this basic question. Where and when were you born?

FUJITANI: I was always artistically inclined. When I was in grade school, I became fascinated with drawing. I read the Journal-American and they had great Sunday strips. I remember at the age of twelve being fascinated with Flash Gordon, and Jungle Jim, which was the strip above Flash. I copied that strip for the school newspaper, in Alex Raymond’s style. I loved the jungle stuff: lions, tigers, foliage. It’s funny that, years later, I’d be connected with Alex Raymond because of the Flash Gordon strip. A lot of guys made a living off Alex Raymond. JA: Those who didn’t make a living off Milton Caniff. FUJITANI: Exactly! Newspaper strips got me interested in drawing. Prince Valiant came out later and I loved it, too. That strip took up an entire page and it was gorgeous. Foster also got special coloring because the strip was so important to the paper. But I always thought Alex Raymond, in some respects, was a better artist than Foster. Raymond drew better figures, but they were both the best.

A recent photo of Bob, his wife Ruth, and their dog Fred—flanking his BOB FUJITANI: I was born layout and finished artwork of the splendid Hangman illo he did for Oct. 15, 1921 in Kripple Creek, Jim Amash—and incidentally for our cover. [Art ©2003 Bob Fujitani; N.Y., which is a suburb of Hangman TM & ©2003 Archie Comic Publications, Inc.] Kingston. We moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, when I Al Williamson was almost a clone of Raymond. He really should was two years old and I’ve lived here ever since. I have two brothers, but have been the successor to Raymond on Flash [NOTE: Williamson did they weren’t artists.


4

“Fuje” For Thought

We’ll get back to the Dan Barry/Bob Fujitani Flash Gordon later, but here’s their strip for Dec. 27, 1980, repro’d from the original art, loaned to us by Bob. [©2003 King Features Syndicate.]

do several Flash Gordon comic books in the 1960s and in the early ‘90s. —Jim], because he had that style nailed down. I’m sure people must have told him that. The syndicate [King Features] used to get letters from readers, and they’d pass them on to Dan Barry. Every once in a while, someone would ask, “Whatever happened to the old Flash Gordon I remember?” JA: As good as Dan Barry was, I know some people hate to see a stylistic change in their newspaper strips. People don’t like change. FUJITANI: Very true. When you take over a strip, you should do it your way. But I finally realized, after all these years, if you take over a strip and want it to succeed, you have to make it look like the original artist did it. That’s what people expect.

FUJITANI: That’s possible. Gill Fox, the editor at Quality, was in Stamford. All the artists thought the world of Lou Fine. He was the greatest. When I first saw his work—Tex introduced me to him—I was astounded. I remember talking to my art teacher and I told him what a great artist Lou was. My teacher said, “You shouldn’t be doing that kind of stuff.” He thought I should be painting. JA: What do you remember about Tex Blaisdell? FUJITANI: He was a big jokester. He was a big, tall man, about six foot six. He towered over everybody and had curly blond hair and huge blue

JA: I agree. I see you went to the American School of Design. FUJITANI: Which no longer exists. This was after high school, and I was there about a year and a half, from 1939 until 1940. That’s where I met Tex Blaisdell and how I got into comics. It was a two-year course that I didn’t finish because I got into comics. Fred Kida went to the school, too. He was a great artist and a good friend. He wasn’t so great in art school, but he really developed into a top talent. Tex had been there a year ahead of me, and one day he called me, saying, “Hey. You want a job?” Jobs were scarce then because we were still coming out of the Depression. It was a dream come true. Tex told me to get some samples and rush down to Tudor City on 42nd Street, where Bill Eisner had his studio. I didn’t even take the subway. I think I ran down there from 58th Street. I showed Eisner my samples and he hired me at $5 a day, 25 bucks a week. JA: Eisner had separated from Jerry Iger by this point, right? FUJITANI: Right. Eisner had a deal with Quality Comics and publisher Busy Arnold; he was doing “Uncle Sam” and “Blackhawk.” Chuck Cuidera was there, sitting by Tex Blaisdell’s right, doing “Blackhawk” [in Military Comics]. Tex was like the boss of the shop for Eisner. Nick Viscardi [Cardy] was doing “Lady Luck” and Bob Powell was doing a feature, but I forget the name of it; it ran in the back of the Spirit section for newspapers. I sat next to Viscardi, and Tex and Chuck sat behind me. JA: Chuck Mazoujian was out of the shop by that time? FUJITANI: Yes. They used to talk about him, but I never met him. Lou Fine was upstairs in his own office. I heard Busy Arnold paid the rent on Lou’s offices. JA: This must have been before Lou Fine moved to Stamford, Conn.

“All the artists thought the world of Lou Fine.” We printed much of Fine’s stunningly-drawn “Black Condor” art from Crack Comics #17 (Oct. 1941) in Alter Ego #17, but here’s a page we couldn’t squeeze in there. Repro’d from a photocopy of the original art, courtesy of Dennis Beaulieu. [©2003 DC Comics.]


Bob Fujitani

5

FUJITANI: Yes, he was. JA: I know Chuck Cuidera was unhappy with Eisner over that. FUJITANI: I know. Chuck was a slow worker, but very thorough. I can remember him drawing a “Blackhawk” scene with the characters marching towards the reader. Chuck was a stickler for detail and getting those boots right. Boots have a certain way of making folds at the ankle. And there’s Chuck, with an Alex Raymond swipe in one hand, and drawing those boots with the other. He was sweating it out just on those boots. Eisner didn’t like that because he didn’t think it was important. But to an illustrator, it was important. Eisner wasn’t an illustrator, he was a storyteller. JA: Chuck admitted to me that he was a slow penciler. That’s why he only inked, later on. And Chuck was a tough guy. Did he have a chip on his shoulder? FUJITANI: I thought so. He had a rough vocabulary. JA: Cuidera and Eisner both claim they created “Blackhawk.” Do you have an opinion on this? FUJITANI: I don’t know for sure, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Eisner was the creator. I know Chuck was the original artist, and he probably created the visuals, but I imagine Eisner created the idea. I can’t say it for a fact, though. JA: Well, Eisner created “Doll Man,” The Spirit, and many other features for Quality Comics, so it makes sense to me.

Could this splash from Military Comics #3 (Oct. ‘41) be the page Bob Fujitani mentions wherein the Blackhawks were marching toward the reader and artist Chuck Cuidera insisted on getting the boots “right,” to boss Will Eisner’s chagrin? A/E editor Roy Thomas was surprised to discover, when poring over The Blackhawk Archives, Vol. 1, that he actually preferred Cuidera’s art on the team to that of the great Reed Crandall, who took over the drawing chores with Military #12. Do yourself a favor—pick up this astounding Archives volume! [©2003 DC Comics.]

eyes. His real name was Philip, but we called him Tex. I think he was from Texas. Bill Eisner liked him. Eisner was a stickler for storytelling. He didn’t care how fancy the artwork was. He stressed the fact that he didn’t like any design in the panel. “Don’t worry about design or whether it’s balanced or not. The important thing is to tell the story.” He was probably right. When Bill wasn’t there, Tex was in charge. You know, when I first got there, I didn’t know anything about comics. Tex did breakdowns for the shop artists. He was a good artist. JA: What were you doing when you started there? FUJITANI: I was penciling. I had to pencil three pages a day. JA: Three pages a day? For five bucks? FUJITANI: [laughs] Yeah. I may be wrong... it may have been two pages a day. I remember Bill Eisner came in one day; he was always fighting deadlines and he had his own office, adjoining ours. He was doing The Spirit and trying to oversee us, too. He said, “Things are getting out of hand here. I’m going to start making work sheets so I’ll know what’s going on.” He said we had to start doing three pages a day. JA: For $5? He was making good money off of you.

In the weekly Spirit comic supplement, Powell drew the “Mr. Mystic” feature; this 1944 page (from a 4-pager) is repro’d from a photocopy of the original art, thanks to Al Dellinges. [©2003 Will Eisner.]


42

Victor Gorelick

“The Hangman” Cometh! (But You’ll Have to Read This Whole Interview with Archie Editor VICTOR GORELICK to Find Out the Secret behind Our Title!)

Conducted & Transcribed by Jim Amash VICTOR GORELICK: October 4, 1958. I was seventeen and a half. I started out working as an art assistant, doing art corrections. One of my first jobs was to take the cleavage off the Katy Keene drawings. Bill Woggon used to draw low necklines, and the Comic Code Authority didn’t want to show any cleavage. So I had to take out navels and cleavages. That’s how things were then.

GORELICK: Yes, I was. I remember seeing them come up to the office, but the only one I really remember speaking to was Joe Simon. I was only a mere art assistant, so I had no reason to have contact with them. Richard Goldwater was the managing editor at that time.

JA: So you were there when Simon and Kirby started doing Adventures of The Fly and The Double Life of Private Strong?

JA: Who was Goldwater’s assistant?

JIM AMASH: When did you start working for Archie Comics?

You’ve gotta watch these kids today! Though Archie Andrews had been a featured character in Pep Comics since his debut in #22 (Dec. 1941), this cover for #35 (Jan. ‘43) is the first on which he appeared along with usual cover stars The Shield and The Hangman. Archie popped up again on Pep #41 and on every cover thereafter, and by #48 had taken over the covers completely, with The Shield reduced to a small inset picture in an upper corner. Pesky teenagers! [©2003 Archie Comic Publications, Inc.]

GORELICK: It was Sheldon Brodsky. He had graduated from the School of Industrial Art, which is now the School and Art and Design. I went to school there, too. Brodsky had started at Archie a year or so before I did. They were looking for someone to replace Dexter Taylor, who was leaving his art staff job to go freelance. Dexter was going to work on Little Archie, which was an 80-page book, and Bob Bolling, the regular artist, needed assistance. Dexter had done some Little Archie artwork and drew the Super Duck covers. JA: Why did Archie decide to go back into the super-hero market? GORELICK: I’m not sure, but I could venture to guess that Simon and Kirby approached the company with the idea. I’m sure that John Goldwater [one of the company founders] had a lot to do with bringing them on board at that time. I do remember Simon and Kirby coming up to Richard Goldwater’s office and having a meeting about it. After that, they started doing The Fly, and then Private Strong, which was an update of the original Shield. JA: Why did Private Strong only last two issues? Was it because DC threatened to sue Archie over the character? GORELICK: I’ve never heard that before. Why would they have tried to sue? JA: Joe Simon claimed that DC was unhappy because The Shield resembled Superman. GORELICK: Well, first of all, the original Shield didn’t fly and had been created back in the early 1940s. In fact, he predated Captain America. So if anyone would have had a gripe, it would have been Marvel because they had Captain America. Or maybe the other way around, because Captain America was a copy of The Shield. For some reason, when Archie and the Simon-&-Kirby team got together in 1959 to revive The Shield, that June 1959 first issue was titled The Double Life of Private Strong, and the hero’s everyday identity aped that of Private Steve Rogers in the WWII Captain America—a hero who had originally been partly inspired by The Shield! The Shield splash is repro’d from the 1984 reprint Blue Ribbon Comics, Vol. 2, #5. [©2003 Archie Comic Publications, Inc.]

JA: Do you know why Simon and Kirby left The Fly? After all, Joe Simon created the character. GORELICK: I couldn’t tell you for sure. Simon probably went on to other things that paid him more money. I don’t think Archie paid that much at the time. Plus the fact that the book wasn’t really doing all that well.


Victor Gorelick JA: They seemed to change the concept, because Tommy Troy was originally a kid who finds a magic ring and turns into the adult Fly. Without explanation, Troy becomes an adult. GORELICK: I’m sure that, in order to drive the sales up, the publishers made a lot of changes. But I didn’t have any input. My job was art production, tracking the artwork, preparing schedules, and working with the engraver and printer. JA: In 1961 they launched The Adventures of The Jaguar comic book, so the changes must have worked. GORELICK: Archie wanted to stay in the super-hero market and Marvel was starting to move up, so we needed more characters. JA: When did you go into the service? GORELICK: I was on active duty in Navy from 1960 to 1963. I was in boot camp the previous summer, so I was out of the office for eight weeks or so. I was supposed to go with the fleet for two years but ended up at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn because they were short-handed. I told Richard that if I was stationed in New York, I’d have to serve an extra year and would be able to do freelance work and fill in on vacations. Richard gave me the okay. For those three years, I was on active duty as a station-keeper. I was doing a lot of freelance coloring for Archie at that time and worked at the office on my days off. And all my days off were during the week. I handled production work in the office during that time. I had thirty days’ leave, so if anyone went on vacation, I’d fill in. JA: How involved was Richard Goldwater with those books? GORELICK: He worked with the writers and handed out the assignments. Jerry Siegel and Bob Bernstein were doing the writing, but Siegel was the only guy I met. Siegel worked directly with them but I only had contact with the guys doing the artwork, because that was part of my job. I think the Archie offices were still on Church Street in New York. Paul Reinman came on board and started doing super-hero work, too. John Goldwater came up with a lot of the ideas for the heroes. Marvel’s SpiderMan had gotten popular, and we changed the characters to compete with them. John Goldwater had a lot of input with how we did the covers and was particular about what he wanted to see. He wanted us to follow the Marvel style. Siegel and Bernstein were very good writers, but they came up with a lot of strange stuff. I remember one story that Jerry Siegel wrote for The Mighty Crusaders. They were trapped by the villains in a canyon or something, and there was no way out. They were about to meet their doom, and all of a sudden, the Rock People came out of the dirt and saved The Mighty Crusaders. The writers would write themselves into corners like that. A lot of

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people look back very fondly at those books, but I thought they were very wacky. JA: How did Marvel react to all this? GORELICK: I don’t think Marvel reacted to us much because we were no competition for them. We didn’t have any big names working for us (except for Jerry Siegel) like Jack Kirby. They also had Stan Lee, who was such a great promoter that we couldn’t come close to what Marvel was doing. I’ll tell you this. If Marvel went back to the way Stan did those characters, they’d be better off today. While Archie might like to publish super-heroes, we could never compete with Stan Lee. He knew how to put out super-hero books, and we knew how to put out teenage books and still do. They tried to put out humor books and never were successful. Same goes for DC. JA: When the heroes were changed to resemble the Marvel books, did that increase sales? GORELICK: I don’t think so. Not to take anything away from Paul Reinman, but everybody looked the same in his work. I think he even inked some of his own work, too. I was doing most of the coloring on the books, covers included. I did have a cover idea or two, but even that was no big deal. It was mostly just photostatting interior art and using that for a cover. The artists submitted roughs for approval first and then they drew them. It still works the same way today. JA: It sounds like you were getting more involved in the editorial end. GORELICK: You have to understand that Archie operates a lot differently than other companies. At Marvel and DC they have bunches of editorial assistants. At Archie Comics a lot of people wear a lot of different hats. Mostly, my job was in production, but I did get involved in art direction. Occasionally, I put my two-cents in on a story, but Richard Goldwater really handled that. He bought all the stories and assigned all the artists to the stories. The only time I did any of that was when he’d be away.

In Pep Comics #1 (Jan. 1940), the Irv Novick-drawn Shield had indeed looked a lot like a walking (American-flag-derived) shield. To the right is Rich Buckler’s Kirby-derived (and duly credited) cover for Blue Ribbon!Comics #5 (1984). Every Golden Age buff should pick up a copy of the 2002 trade paperback America’s 1st Patriotic Comic Book Hero—The Shield, which reprints, in full color, eight of the hero’s earliest exploits. [©2003 Archie Comic Publications, Inc.]


Alter Ego #23