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No. 36 May 2004



In the USA

Special Simon-ized Section!


Interviews 1940SS ARTIST




Art ©2004 Joe Simon; Fighting American TM & ©2004 Joe Simon & the Estate of Jack Kirby.


Vol. 3, No. 36 / May 2004


Roy Thomas

Associate Editors Bill Schelly Jim Amash

Design & Layout

Christopher Day


Consulting Editor John Morrow

FCA Editor

P.C. Hamerlinck

Comic Crypt Editor Michael T. Gilbert

Editors Emeritus


Production Assistant

Writer/Editorial: Simon Says . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 The Creator of Captain America Meets the Creator of The Human Torch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1939: Joe Simon’s first encounter with Carl Burgos—and a couple of others.

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

Cover Artists Joe Simon Michael T. Gilbert & Ronn Sutton

Cover Colorists Joe Simon Michael T. Gilbert

And Special Thanks to: Ger Apeldoorn Mike Aragona Terry Austin Bob Bailey John Balge John Bell Bill Black Mike Burkey Russ Cochran Chet Cox Janet Gilbert Darryl Gold Scott Goodell George Hagenauer Jennifer Hamerlinck Ron Harris Richard Howell Greg Huneryager Stephen Lipson Robert Macmillan Nadia Mannarino Joe Monks Will Murray Rik Offenberger John G. Pierce

Robert Pincombe Larry Ripee Ethan Roberts Mark Shainblum Dave Sim Jim Simon Joe Simon Jamie Smith Keith Sparrow Super-Hero News Ronn Sutton Greg Theakston Dann Thomas Alex Toth Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Rob von Bavel Pete Von Sholly Meerten Welleman Marv Wolfman Alan R. Woollcombe Chad Wrataric John Wright

This issue is dedicated to the memory of

Bob Deschamps, Don Lawrence, & George Woodbridge

The American Dream Come True . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 One comic book legend—Joe Simon—talks about another—Captain America. IJimRemember Weird Mysteries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Simon this time—and the secrets behind that 1959 black-&-white horror comic. “IElmerThink I Was Basically Lucky!” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Wexler talks to Jim Amash about his brief sojourn in the Golden Age of Comics. Tributes to Bob Deschamps, Don Lawrence, George Woodbridge . . 23

Fandom across the Puddle–––Part Two . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Bill Schelly interviews John Wright about South African comics fandom. re: [comments from Alex Toth, Terry Austin, and others] . . . . . . 31 FCA (Fawcett Collectors of America) #95 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 P.C. Hamerlinck spotlights Marc Swayze, John G. Pierce, and C.C. Beck. Canada’s Golden Age Section . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover: To head A/E #13’s transcribed 1974 comicon panel featuring Joe Simon and Ye Editor, among others, Joe generously allowed us to use as a cover a Captain America drawing he’d done. He sent other art for the issue, as well, including a fabulous acrylic painting of one of the greatest 1950s heroes, Simon & Kirby’s Fighting American! We asked if we could save it for a future cover, and Joe graciously agreed. The time has come. Enjoy! [Art ©2004 Joe Simon; Fighting American TM & ©2004 Joe Simon & the Estate of Jack Kirby.] Above: Captain America—Sandman—Manhunter—The Guardian—Stuntman—Captain 3-D —Fighting American—The Fly—even another Sandman! As half of the Simon & Kirby team, Joe’s taken part in the creation of numerous memorable super-heroes. One sleeper that Roy fondly remembers is the 1940s tale in which the prizefighter Kid Adonis slugged it out with a suspiciously familiar guy called Superior Male in—was it in Stuntman or Green Hornet? No matter—it was a great story, and, as we learn in Joe and son Jim’s book The Comic Book Makers, it was a Simon solo performance. Bravo! [©2004 Joe Simon.] Alter EgoTM is published monthly by TwoMorrows, 10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614, USA. Phone: (919) 449-0344. Roy Thomas, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Alter Ego Editorial Offices: 32 Bluebird Trail, St. Matthews, SC 29135, USA. Fax: (803) 826-6501; e-mail: Send subscription funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial offices. Single issues: $8 ($10 Canada, $11.00 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 Creator of Captain America Meets The Creator of The Human Torch

When JOE SIMON Encountered CARL BURGOS in 1939—and Vice Versa by Joe Simon

“When Creators Clash!” Vintage photos of Joe Simon (left) and Carl Burgos (right)—along with early pages of their greatest creations. The photo of Joe, taken around the time of the 1939 first meeting chronicled herein, appears in his and son Jim’s important history The Comic Book Makers, recently reissued in a handsome hardcover edition by Vanguard Press (see ad on p. 16)—while the self-portrait (?) of Carl Burgos first appeared in Human Torch #2 (Fall 1940), actually the first issue. As for the art: This landmark Simon & Kirby splash from Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941) can be seen in color in the gorgeous Marvel hardcover Captain America: The Classic Years (Volume 1)—if you can still find it. The “Human Torch” art, however, is some of the rarest of the species! While the origin story from Marvel Comics #1 has been reprinted a time or two, Burgos’ splash page from Marvel Mystery Comics #2 (Dec. 1939) recaps that origin, complete with typed entries from the journal of his creator, Professor Horton. Thanks for this gem to collector Greg Huneryager. [Art ©2004 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

[A/E EDITOR’S INTRO: In 1990 Marvel decided to put together a hardcover volume that would be basically a reprint of the 1939 Marvel Comics #1, the first comic book ever published by Martin Goodman. Because from 1965 till his death in 1973 I had been a friend (and even sometime roommate) of “Sub-Mariner” creator Bill Everett, Marvel editor Bobbie Chase phoned to ask me to write a reminiscence about Wild Bill for inclusion in the book. I was particularly flattered to learn that the complementary coverage of “Human Torch” creator Carl Burgos would be written by Joe Simon, Timely Comics’ first editor—the man who, with Jack Kirby, gave the world Captain America Comics and so many other wonders.

[A few weeks later, however, editor Chase asked me to write the text about Burgos, as well. I replied that I’d never met him, only talked to him twice on the phone… and besides, wasn’t Joe Simon writing about him? She replied that Marvel wasn’t using the piece by Simon, though she gave no particulars. So I wound up scribing the Burgos article, too. However, I did talk Bobbie Chase into sending me the Simon piece—“for inspiration,” as I put it—and was fascinated by Joe’s time-capsule vignette of the day two major comics creators met. Ever since, I’ve wondered why the short article wasn’t used. I’ve always suspected it was because Joe refers to himself in its title as Cap’s “creator”—nor would it have helped if he had written


Joe Simon & Carl Burgos

“co-” in front of it, since after all he had once sued Marvel over ownership of the Sentinel of Liberty—but perhaps it was simply the fact that he attached his own copyright to the piece. [Be that as it may, I thank Joe Simon for his gracious permission to print his 1990 article for the first time ever. And, yes, it is indeed copyright ©2004 Joe Simon. —Roy.] The first time I saw Carl Burgos, he was leaning over a sticky, ink-stained table at a rundown place on West Forty-Fifth Street in New York City known as Funnies, Incorporated. Carl looked to be my age—23. He stood about five feet eight, was of medium build with dark, curly hair and gray horn-rimmed glasses sliding down his nose. The shirtsleeve on his right arm was rolled to his elbow, while his left sleeve skillfully dodged the dirt and ink that surrounded the page of drawings he was working on. A gruff-looking teenager sat next to him, punching on a battered Underwood typewriter. Burgos was putting the finishing brushstrokes to a page of black-&-white cartoon figures darting about, leaping and pointing wave-like outlines that would not come to life until the red and orange colors turned them into fire. I asked him where he got the idea for “The Human Torch.” Burgos stopped his work to look me up and down, lingering for a moment on the shiny new patent leather portfolio which held my precious art samples. “What?” “Where did you get the idea for ‘The Human Torch’?” “Where did you get that suit?” he countered. The teenager at the typewriter smirked. Just then, Lloyd Jacquet walked into the room. Jacquet, a ramrod-erect former Army colonel, was sole owner and proprietor of Funnies, Inc. It was six p.m. and he had just put in a day working at his regular job as an editor of a newspaper feature syndicate. “You Simon?” Jacquet asked. “Yes, sir.” “Would you come into my office, Simon? Follow me.” Jacquet’s office was painted battleship gray. The

(Top left:) Lloyd Jacquet, founder and boss-man of Funnies, Inc.—in a detail from a 1942 newspaper photo we printed in full in A/E #22, courtesy of Russ Cochran and Comic Book Marketplace. Thanks again, Russ. (Above:) Jacquet’s most important client at the time of the events related by Joe Simon was Martin Goodman’s Timely Comics, for whom Funnies, Inc., produced the entire contents of each issue of Marvel Mystery Comics. Even more rarely seen than “Torch” art from MMC #2 is that month’s “SubMariner” story by Bill Everett, since on his first two Prince Namor tales the writer/artist used Craftint paper whose various shading tones made it difficult to wash out the color and reproduce only the black-&-white line art. In fact, we’re not certain this second “Sub-Mariner” splash page has ever been reprinted before. Ah, if only the House of Ideas would publish a third Golden Age of Marvel volume! Thanks again to Greg Huneryager—and how! [Art ©2004 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


The American Dream Come True

One Comic Book Legend–––JOE SIMON–––Talks about Another–––CAPTAIN AMERICA! [A/E INTRO: The following article appeared in Comics Feature #10 (July 1981). It was, in essence, an interview with early Marvel creator Joe Simon conducted by future Marvel executive Carol Kalish, but with her questions edited out. All art and accompanying captions have been newly added for this re-presentation in A/E, and the piece has been edited slightly… although it’s still a time capsule of a time more than two decades ago, when the question of the ownership of Captain America was still very much up in the air; it has since been settled, apparently to Joe’s and Marvel’s mutual satisfaction. The article first came to Ye Editor’s attention when it was quoted in Bradford W. Wright’s mostly excellent 2001 study Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press. Our thanks to Joe Simon and to Richard Howell for their blessing to reprint this slightly abridged article, which is ©2004 the Estate of Carol Kalish. —Roy.]

March 1981 is the fortieth anniversary of Captain America. For many comics fans, this sentinel of liberty still remains one of the most striking and memorable characters ever to have their adventures chronicled in four colors. Originally created in 1940-41 by the now-legendary team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Captain America has always been presented more as a symbol of the American Dream and a representative of a particular ideological position than have most other comics characters. Comics Feature talked with Joe Simon at the Newcon convention held in Boston, Massachusetts, last November, and recorded his reminiscences about how Captain America came to be, the way Joe remembers developing the character, and what he believes Captain America holds for today’s readers. —Carol Kalish.

Joe Simon and friend at the 1998 San Diego Comic-Con (photo courtesy of Joe)—plus the legendary Simon & Kirby cover of Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941). That issue would have gone on sale in late 1940 or the turn of ’41, but all stories therein would’ve been written and drawn in 1940—which means Joe and Jack had Cap slugging Adolf Hitler well over a year before Der Führer declared war on the United States in December of ’41. All ten Simon & Kirby issues have been beautifully reprinted in the hardcover two-volume set Captain America: The Classic Years. [Marvel art ©2004 Marvel Characters, Inc.; Alfred E. Newman is TM & ©2004 EC Publications, Inc.]


Joe Simon & Captain America

Talk about speedy merchandising! The very first appearance of Simon & Kirby’s Captain America was in the above-left ad from Human Torch #3 (Winter 1940)— and, with a cover date only one month later than Captain America Comics #1, this tie-in ad utilizing Cap and Bucky ran in Daring Mystery Comics, Vol. 2, #1 (April 1941). Thanks to Ronn Sutton for the Comicscope ad. [Captain America TM & ©2004 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

Let me tell you first about how we created Captain America… This country was not at war. Yes, there was a war over in Europe, but there was a lot of controversy in this country about whether we should get involved. There was a lot of opposition… lots of demonstrations and lots of marches and rallies by the America First Group, the American Nazi Party, the Nazi Bund. The opponents to [American entrance into] the war were all quite well organized. We wanted to have our say, too. We didn’t want to go to war, but we felt very intense about what was going on over in Europe. So we had this new character, Captain America, reflect our attitudes about the war. He didn’t want to fight, but he knew that the Nazis had to be stopped and he was prepared to do his best to stop them. When the first issue came out, we got a lot of bad mail, a lot of threatening letters and hate mail. Some people really opposed what Cap stood for. I could never understand that, because he stood for America— freedom and justice. How can anybody be against that? But anyway, after the first issue we got so many threats that for a while we had a policeman in the office watching over us. It was kind-of funny. There we were, working on a comic book, and there was this guard making sure that we weren’t attacked or something. I guess we did quite a bit to promote patriotism in this country. We felt very good about making a political statement through [Cap] and taking a stand. It was a bit frightening, though, with all the reaction we got. The book sold well; it was a tremendous success, so that proved we

had more friends than enemies. We often used Adolf Hitler as our prime villain. Now, other companies had been doing very well with colorful villains—The Batman in particular had The Penguin and The Joker—but we wanted to use a real-life villain. Cap might have been only a symbol, but we wanted him to fight a real menace, something that was a real threat to our country. So we used Adolf Hitler. We had him on the first couple of covers. Captain America was always crashing through windows and beating him up. Captain America was very much a reflection of his times. He was patriotic when the country was patriotic. He was willing to fight for his country when his country was getting ready to get into a horrible war. We saw him as a political statement fleshed out to be an active force. We would have him go through an exaggerated adventure and his actions, and the story would all be making a political statement. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to do him today. I’ve lost touch with the book. I haven’t read it for a long time. I’ve worked with other patriotic characters. Jack and I did The Boy Commandos for DC, and we later did Fighting American, which was a takeoff of Captain America. The kid gang book did very well. It was a tremendous success, but it didn’t have the ingredients to last through the ages the way Captain America does. It might be because he has the uniform and is the patriotic symbol, but one can’t ever really be sure. I


I Remember Weird Mysteries by Jim Simon [EDITOR’S NOTE: In Alter Ego #31-32, Michael T. Gilbert, in his “Comic Crypt” feature, examined the obscure 1959 black-&-white horror comics, Weird Mysteries and Eerie Tales. Michael and his correspondent Michael Feldman felt they were probably published or at least co-published by Robert Sproul, the man behind Cracked magazine, the longest-running Mad competitor. Soon after the second part of MTG’s series appeared, I received an e-mail from Jim Simon, son of comics legend Joe Simon and himself the co-author with Joe of the excellent history/memoir The Comic Book Makers, mentioned in conjunction with the two preceding articles. Jim had some additional (and conflicting) information, so Michael and I invited him to “put it in writing” for this issue of A/E. And it turns out that, apparently, it wasn’t Robert Sproul at all! —Roy.]

Jim Simon (in a photo from his and Joe’s The Comic Book Makers) and George Tuska’s cover painting for Weird Mysteries #1-and-only, as it appeared in Alter Ego #31. [Art ©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

I remember Weird Mysteries. Pastime Publications published Weird Mysteries. The mystery men behind Pastime Publications were Joe Simon, who started up the imprint with his friend and newspaper colleague, Martin (Marty) A. Bursten. In addition to Weird Mysteries, they published other magazines together, such as Campus Howl, a black-&-white humor magazine. Pastime Publications was based in the New York area, though the indicium indicates it was published out of Holyoke, Massachusetts, which was the address of their printer, Holyoke Printing. I hung around the office on a couple of occasions (though most of the work was done off-site), and I assure you it wasn’t in Holyoke. Often publishers listed the printer’s address for second-class mailing privileges. Joe and Marty had known each other before Joe’s involvement in comic books, having met in Syracuse, New York, when Joe was cartooning for the Syracuse Journal-American and Marty was a rookie reporter/photographer working the police beat. After each found his way to New York City, they hooked up again and Marty worked on scripts for several of Joe’s projects, including Captain America. Marty later owned an advertising company. Joe handled the art department. Republican Party politicians such as Nelson Rockefeller, Kenneth B.

Keating, and Jacob K. Javits, even Richard Nixon, constituted some of his clients. For those readers interested in the rest of the back-story, you can look it up in the The Comic Book Makers. It is not a major part of the book, but it is important to the little revelations that become known herein. Weird Mysteries came out in 1959—the same year Joe was creating Sick magazine and a couple of new super-hero comics: Adventures of The Fly and The Double Life of Private Strong. Sick magazine was similar to Weird Mysteries in that both were black-&-white publications, magazine rather than comic book size. Joe’s usual suspects—George Tuska, Gray Morrow, Carl Burgos, Bob Powell, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, among others—contributed to Sick, Adventures of The Fly, and/or The Double Life of Private Strong. The artists provided their talents on Weird Mysteries, as well. And what of Eerie Tales? According to Joe, Eerie Tales most likely evolved out of the second issue of Weird Mysteries. Intended as a follow-up to the first issue of Weird Mysteries, it was about to go to press when, at the last minute, Joe and Marty changed plans and agreed to sell the unpublished pages to


“I Think I Was Basically Lucky!” ELMER WEXLER Talks about His Time in Comic Books Interview Conducted & Transcribed by Jim Amash Elmer “Red” Wexler, circa 1960s— and two samples of his comic art work. Wexler is credited with drawing this cover for Exciting Comics #9 (May 1941), which featured the debut of The Black Terror—while the panel from the Vic Jordan newspaper strip was also printed in 1941. [Black Terror & Vic Jordan ©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

[INTERVIEWER’S INTRO: Elmer “Red” Wexler had an artistic talent that was the envy of his peers. Though he made his mark in comic strips and the advertising world, Wexler spent some time in the comic book field, as well. His brief stay therein was fruitful, so I couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk with him about it. The fact that his comic book work is fondly remembered by so many who have seen it (more so than by Red himself) leaves me wondering what Wexler might have accomplished in comic books had he remained in it. In the meantime, here’s a glance at the man and his work. —Jim.] ELMER WEXLER: How are we going to do this interview?

I was very lucky in that I was knowledgeable about drawing, and I was offered a free night class. The art director was the head of Street & Smith magazines, which were popular at that time. They published The Shadow, Black Mask... you name it. The only students who were allowed to take this class were those the director thought would make it. I started illustrating for Street & Smith even before I graduated. Every year, the school had an art exhibit and my stuff won, so I got a scholarship. On top of that, I was earning money from Street & Smith. JA: Who did you go to school with that we would know today? Was Bob Powell there?

JIM AMASH: Well, you say the secret word and the duck will give you $50. [laughs] But we can start with where and when were you born.

WEXLER: Yeah. How’d you know about Bob Powell? He came out of Buffalo.

WEXLER: [laughs] Okay. I was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, August 14, 1918. I went to Pratt Institute and graduated in 1938. It was a three-year course. The first year was general courses: we studied illustration, advertising layout, copywriting, and architecture. We also got some engineering, although we were in the school of illustration. The second year, we had to make a decision about what we were going to specialize in. I was interested in illustration.

WEXLER: Chuck and I were in the same rooming house. He was across the hall from me. Chuck was a nice guy and we went out to eat a few times, along with my roommate. The guy who roomed with me was studying decorating and became one of the world’s greatest decorators. His name was originally Goldenberg, and he changed his name to Yale Borge [pronounced “Burg”]. He chose Yale because he came from New

JA: Chuck Cuidera told me that Powell went there when he did.

“I Think I Was Basically Lucky!”


The Vic Jordan strip for Dec. 1, 1941, less than a week before Pearl Harbor would bring America into World War II. Thanks to Elmer Wexler. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

Haven, and Borge because it was short for Goldenberg. We had a good group of artists there. JA: Was Bob Powell going under that name then, or was he using his real name? WEXLER: Bob Powell was not his real name. His name was Stanley Pulowski, but as soon as he got to Pratt, he changed his name. A lot of

immigrants’ children went to the school. My father came from Lithuania and my mother came from Poland. They got married when they met in the United States. That was another case of when immigrants merged. [laughs] JA: How did you manage to develop so quickly as an artist? WEXLER: I think I was basically lucky! I was a pretty damn good artist

Two 1940 MLJ pages with (signed) art by Wexler. “Hercules” appeared in Blue Ribbon Comics #4-8 (June 1940 to January 1941); “Zambini the Miracle Man” ran in Zip Comics #1-35 and lasted from February 1940 through March 1943. [©2004 Archie Comic Publications.]

Title Comic Fandom Archive


Fandom Across The Puddle A/E Interviews South African Comics Fan JOHN WRIGHT

Part II by Bill Schelly [NOTE: Last issue we met John Wright— “the only active comics fan in the 1960s who lived in South Africa.” John explained how he had become interested in the American comics that made their way to his homeland during and after World War II, plus a few South African reprints, then skipped briefly ahead to touch on the writing and selling of his first novel, Suddenly You’re Dead. At the end of Part One, we returned to the early 1960s, as John related that two of the first and most important connections he made in fandom were Jerry G. Bails (founder of Alter Ego in 1961 and of other fandom magazines and traditions) and Australian fellow fan John Ryan. At this point, we take up discussion of Wright’s fanzine, The Komix.]

John Wright (left) in the early 1960s, about the time of publishing the first issue of his fanzine The Komix—and his cover for #1, which introduced his hero The White Dragon. [Art ©2004 John Wright.]

BILL SCHELLY: How did your fanzine The Komix come about, and how did you sell it in America, from a practical standpoint? JOHN WRIGHT: Without a doubt, right after seeing that first issue of Alter-Ego and discovering by what means it had been printed. At the organization where I was employed, there was a Ditto duplicator to which I’d given scant attention. It was simply a machine used for printing inter-office memos. But now I took a closer look, learned how it worked, and in the stationery room found not only the box of masters and purple carbons, but also two sample sheets of red carbons, and one of green. A night or so later, I drew the cover of The Komix #1, purely as an experiment to see how it would print. The following Saturday morning, after the rest of the skeleton crew had gone home, I cranked out the first copy. Apparently I liked the result, because I must have run off about 150 or 200 copies. Now I had a cover that seemed to ask for a story. From then on it just grew, item by item, until finally a back page was printed. The Komix #2 boasted a cover by American fan (and one-time Alter Ego editor/publisher) Ronn Foss, based on a sketch by John. It also introduced John’s heroes Union Jack and The Black Panther. Despite there being an earlier British general-comics magazine titled Union Jack, A/E’s editor freely admits it was John’s use of that name for a character that led him, in 1976, to design a quite different Union Jack for his Invaders comic at Marvel. John’s Black Panther predates Marvel’s by a few years, too, though it’s not likely Jack Kirby or Stan Lee ever saw or heard of the South African’s creation. Hmmm… come to think of it, John may have put an “x” at the end of his “Komix” before anybody in the US underground coined the word “comix,” as well! [©2004 John Wright.]


John Wright carried contributions from a number of US fans. Who were some of your original international correspondents? WRIGHT: The first issue contains a few different names, but they’re all pseudonyms. For the second issue, Ronn Foss provided a cover based upon a rough sketch I’d sent him, and a few other illos came from Mike Vosburg, Rick Durell, Larry Kopf, and Biljo White. Once again, out of necessity, I used a bunch of pen names. Ronn, by the way, was also kind enough to point out that one of my illos in the second issue featured a very crosseyed character. And he was right.

Ronn Foss sent this illustrated letter to John Wright on July 22, 1962. It features Ronn’s trademark self-portraitwith-pipe and his take on John’s White Dragon, as well as Foss’ own still-earlier Black Panther. Ronn mentions that Mike Vosburg, now a veteran comics pro, had created his Black Panther in 1961. There must’ve been something in the air! Incidentally, Ronn’s White Dragon was mostly in red and white, while his “Black” Panther wore blue and red. [©2004 the Estate of Ronn Foss.]

In between, I met the sales representative of the company supplying stationary for the Ditto machine. Would you believe, an American? He gave me a batch of sample carbons, colors that never sold—blue, black, green, and yellow. Copies of The Komix were sent to a few fanzine editors—dear Biljo White, Parley Holman, and possibly one or three others. They were good enough to review and advertise it in their publications. The revenue derived from sales was used to buy new comics, and an occasional item from the Golden Age. Very soon afterward, Jerry Bails offered his much-appreciated services. BS: What were the issues that you as a fan editor faced, from a geographical stand point? WRIGHT: The biggest problem was access to research material. The hundreds of Golden Age issues I’d once owned were history. I didn’t know anyone else with a large collection of old comics. To a large extent I had to rely upon memory. Which explains the fiction content in The Komix. I needed something to fill the pages. Postage wasn’t a major problem, though an airmail letter took about two weeks to reach the US, and surface mail four to five weeks. Which, believe it or not, is much faster than today’s surface mail, which can take anything from eight to twelve weeks. BS: I notice that The Komix

BS: Your original super-hero The White Dragon eventually appeared in StarStudded Comics around 1965. Was this a character you invented totally on your own, or did the input from Ronn Foss help shape him?

WRIGHT: I’m afraid I have to take the rap for everything, including all the characters. As mentioned earlier, The White Dragon was created for no other reason than to have something by which to test the office duplicator. The colors and design of his outfit were determined only by the fact that I had a couple of sheets of red carbon. Ronn did provide me with an illustration, but by then the first story had been run through the old Ditto machine. I believe I still have his illo somewhere. And I did use it—by tracing the basic lines and fitting it into Union Jack’s uniform.

BS: Could you give me a description of The White Dragon, and a rundown of the character’s publishing history? WRIGHT: I no longer have a copy of Komix #1, but as I recall, he was a character stranded in China during WWII... helped by priests who regarded him as part of a prophecy being fulfilled... presented him with the outfit, the cape of Con-Dor which gave him the power of flight... taught him Mind Fire. He appeared only twice, in The Komix, and in the story I wrote for Howard Keltner, and for which Buddy Saunders provided the type of illustration I can but wish I were capable of producing. I saw ads announcing the reprinting of the origin story in a zine called Bat-Wing, but was never sent a copy. I believe “Union Jack” was also to be reprinted in a zine called Royal, for which Ronn Foss had illoed a cover. But it was the same story there.

(Left:) John once received a birthday card from Mart Bailey, the artist of “The Face” from Columbia’s Big Shot Comics. Inside, the card was signed by various names, including “Tony Trent”— The Face’s secret identity. (Above:) A 1943 “Face” panel, as reprinted in Jerry Bails & Hames Ware’s 1970s Who’s Who of American Comic Books. [The Face TM & ©2004 the respective trademark & copyright holders.]

At one stage I was working on a project that would have used The White Dragon and The Black Panther in booklets to be given away by an ice cream company. But I was then often working eleven hours a day, traveling all over the country on business trips, often away from home from Monday to

No. 95 May 2004

MARC SWAYZE’s “We Didn’t Know... It Was The Golden Age!” JOHN G. PIERCE’s “Levity, Learning, & Lightning Bolts” Part 3 C.C. BECK’s “The Decline And Fall Of The Hero”

Mr. Mind by Terry Austin [] [Art ©2004 Terry Austin; Mr. Mind TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]


Marc Swayze


[Art & logo ©2004 Marc Swayze; Captain Marvel © & TM 2004 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 origin story, “Captain Marvel Introduces Mary Marvel (CMA #18, Dec. ’42); but he was primarily hired by Fawcett Publications to illustrate Captain Marvel stories and covers for Whiz Comics and Captain Marvel Adventures. He also wrote many Captain Marvel scripts, and continued to do so while in the military. After leaving the service in 1944, he made an arrangement with Fawcett to produce art and stories for them on a freelance basis out of his Louisiana home. There he created both art

and story for The Phantom Eagle in Wow 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 produced artwork for Fawcett’s top-selling line of romance comics. After the company ceased publishing comics, Marc moved over to Charlton Publications, where he ended his comics career in the mid-’50s. Marc’s ongoing professional memoirs have been FCA’s most popular feature since his first column appeared in FCA #54, 1996. Last issue, Marc discussed his affiliation with the Flyin’ Jenny newspaper strip. This time, he touches upon his layouts, his years in obscurity, and his original goals as a cartoonist. —P.C. Hamerlinck.] Telegraphy was a major means of communication in those pre-World War II days. Today, there are probably many adults who never laid eyes on a telegram and think “Western Union” was a wedding that took place on a cattle ranch. It was a telegram from Eddie Herron in New York City that requested me to come for an interview: “But be prepared to stay!” I stayed, of course, affiliated with Fawcett Publications most of the rest of my career in comics.

(This page and the next:) Marc insists that his layouts were “messy affairs,” cluttered with scribbled notes and reminders—but the finished product was what counted, of course, as per these splash pages of The Phantom Eagle (from Wow Comics). Note that he even receives a byline at the bottom of two of them. [Phantom Eagle TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]

The Serious Side of a Smiling Super-Hero


Levity, Learning, and Lightning Bolts Part III: The Serious Side of a Smiling Super-Hero by John G. Pierce

Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck

Post-War Peak In the first part of this series of articles, I discussed the Golden Age “Captain Marvel” stories which presented moral values to the readers. The second chapter concerned itself with humorous adventures, as well as with stories which had humorous or whimsical touches within them. (By the way, I didn’t mean to imply that these categories were mutually exclusive. Most of the “Mr. Tawny” tales, for instance, would fit comfortably into both of these areas.) For this third installment, I take up Captain Marvel’s more serious, straightforward tales— “serious” always being a relative term when dealing with Captain Marvel, or for that matter any superhero—but especially Captain Marvel. As with the other categories, there is no way that this will be or can be an exhaustive treatment. Rather, these are selected adventures. I have chosen to concentrate on stories from the late 1940s, as I

C.C. Beck and Pete Costanza drew “The Men of Destiny” in Captain Marvel Adventures #86 (July 1948). The script for this and most stories covered in this article was most likely by Otto O. Binder. [©2004 DC Comics.]

feel the “Captain Marvel” tales reached their peak during that era. The post-war era of the World’s Mightiest Mortal’s adventures easily offered the greatest quality and variety of stories within the red-suited hero’s colorful career.

Weird Science Science-fiction has always been a staple of the superhero genre, and even though Captain Marvel’s origins were magical/mystical/mythical in nature, he was not exempted from having this type of story. In fact, given that his number-one writer was Otto Binder, who had already made his mark as a science-fiction and pulp scribe, it would be surprising if he had avoided such stories. I will list just a few examples.

More Beck/Costanza art from that same 86th issue. [©2004 DC Comics.]

In Captain Marvel Adventures #86 (July 1948), our hero meets “The Men of Destiny,” men who can disperse their atoms so as to pass through solid matter, as well as teleport. They lose their power, however, when cut off from the sight of the “morning star,” i.e., Venus, leading


Levity, Learning, & Lightning Bolts Captain Marvel to deduce that they are descendants of Venusians, but who have grown up not knowing their true origin. In the end, Cap dispatches them safely back home. That same issue also contained “Captain Marvel Unites a Split Personality.” Due to a great deal of pressure and strain of an overworked banker named Walker, he becomes a criminal named Reklaw. Captain Marvel uses shock therapy to cure Reklaw. Literally. He captures him, puts him into a rigged electric chair, and gives him a mild shock, thereby tricking him into thinking that he has died. When he awakens, he is once again Walker. (Whether he could be so easily released to resume his normal life is another matter, of course, but most readers back then probably didn’t give that a thought.) CMA #75 (Aug. 1947) contained “The Yeast Menace,” about a blob of yeast which almost inundates the city. CMA #114 (Nov. 1950) had two such tales, “The Magnetic Menace” and “The Apes Who Could Make Fire,” both stories in the science-fiction genre. Also in the science-fiction field were the three classic stories featuring Mr. Atom, the atomic-powered robot who declares he will never submit to being man’s tool. “I was not meant for inglorious serfdom,” says this robot who was perhaps a symbolic reminder of the atomic threat hanging over mankind’s head. He battles Captain Marvel in CMA #78 (Nov. 1947) and #81 (Feb. 1948), before finally meeting

The splash page from “The Hand of Captain Marvel” from CMA #90 (Nov. ’48)—and the splash of “Mr. Atom and the Comet Men,” CMA #81 (Feb. 1948). Bill Woolfolk seems to have written the first Mr. Atom story, so perhaps he wrote this second one, as well. Art in both cases seems to be by \C.C. Beck on his own. [©2004 DC Comics.]

The Decline and Fall of the Hero


The Decline and Fall of the Hero A Previously Unpublished Essay by C.C. BECK, the Original Artist of “Captain Marvel” Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck I never cease being amazed by the way people misunderstand and misinterpret pictures and words. The word “hero,’ for example, is defined by the dictionary as “a man of extraordinary courage, one who performs great deeds, the principal figure in a story or play.” Very few people ever consult a dictionary, however, so there are almost as many different understandings of the word “hero” as there are people in the world. A C.C. Beck self-caricature, done in 1980 in the style of Mad artist Don Martin for the magazine’s longtime associate editor Jerry de Fuccio—and a Sept. 2, 1969, Captain Marvel sketch he did for fan and future pro Marv Wolfman. Below the date on the latter a line was accidentally cut off by Marv’s copier which said: “(30 years from the time I first drew him in 1939)”! Thanks, Marv. [Art ©2004 Estate of C.C. Beck; Captain Marvel TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]

The word “hero” is masculine, its feminine form being “heroine.” An article about heroes, or magazines with titles such as Amazing Heroes, should therefore only contain material about males, not about females. Strident feminists would raise such a hullabaloo over the rank discrimination thus displayed (in which they would be joined by hordes of gay rights advocates, civil libertarians, and various peaceniks, pro-lifers, and “professional protestors”) that no editor would dare to publish such material without throwing in a few female heroes, also. He would be careful not to call them heroines, of course, as doing so would arouse an even greater hullabaloo. The editor may know that he’s mis-using the word “heroes,” but his readers will not. When a drawing is made of a hero there is even more misunderstanding of the term. The third definition of the word hero is “the principal figure in a story or play.” The principal figure in a story or play may be male or female, old or young, black or white, human or animal, or even a force of nature such as a flood, an earthquake, or fate itself. In ancient Greek plays, “Fate” was always the principal figure; the men, women, children, and animals in Greek plays were no more than the helpless victims of this superhuman agency. It’s impossible to make a picture of a superhuman agency, so writers and artists created the super-hero. The original super-hero in the world of comic books was a large male figure dressed in a distinctive costume with an identifying label on his shirt front, or a mask, a cape, boots, or gloves to indicate that he was not just your ordinary man-in-the-street. This super-hero ran around displaying his extraordinary courage, performing great deeds, and being the principal figure in his stories, thus conforming to all three definitions of the term as given by the dictionary. He was a great success—for a while. Then misinterpretation of his role started to creep in.

“We’ve got a lot of readers,” the publishers of super-hero comic books told their editors, “but they’re all young boys. Let’s put some girls in our comics, too, and while we’re at it let’s add some elderly characters, a few animals, some ethnics, handicapped people, and people with problems and hang-ups like drug addicts, sex deviates, and perverts of one kind or another. That way everybody will buy our comics, not just young boys!” As soon as this was done, sales fell off disastrously. Young boy readers didn’t like to see the girls and different kinds of un-heroic characters in their super-hero comics; and the various kinds of perverts didn’t like to see themselves caricatured in comic books, where they thought they were being misinterpreted and held up to ridicule.

To counter this reaction, the “anti-hero” was invented. This character was cowardly, weak, and very ordinary looking. He would put on a ridiculous costume—a caricature of a super-hero’s costume—and run around falling over his own feet, performing great deeds by accident. Sometimes he was not the principal character in a story, thus not fulfilling his third role at all. The villain became the hero, and what few readers there were left began to emulate the villains instead of the heroes. The Equalizer- and the Rambo-type of sneering, shirtless characters began to appear in reality instead of staying in films and the pages of a comic book. Terrorists today wear masks and hoods and carry machine guns and grenades. And not only old men and old ladies but young children now blast each other with shotguns, carve each other with knives, and run around in silly costumes and freakish hair styles and

Art ©2004 Michael T. Gilbert & Ronn Sutton; Nelvana TM & ©2004 Nelvana, Ltd. Other heroes TM & ©2004 the respective copyright holders.




In the USA


No. 36 May 2004

Vol. 3, No. 36 / May 2004


Roy Thomas

Associate Editors Bill Schelly Jim Amash

Design & Layout

Christopher Day

Consulting Editor John Morrow

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


Cover Colorists

Writer/Editorial: Canadian Sunset–––in Four Colors. . . . . . . . . . 2 The Golden Age of Canadian Comic Books and Its Aftermath . 3 John Bell on super-heroes and others north of the 49th parallel, 1941–1966.

Michael T. Gilbert & Ronn Sutton Joe Simon

Michael T. Gilbert Joe Simon

And Special Thanks to: Ger Apeldoorn Mike Aragona Terry Austin Bob Bailey John Balge John Bell Bill Black Mike Burkey Russ Cochran Chet Cox Janet Gilbert Darryl Gold Scott Goodell George Hagenauer Jennifer Hamerlinck Ron Harris Richard Howell Greg Huneryager Stephen Lipson Robert Macmillan Nadia Mannarino Joe Monks Will Murray Rik Offenberger John G. Pierce

Robert Pincombe Larry Ripee Ethan Roberts Mark Shainblum Dave Sim Jim Simon Joe Simon Jamie Smith Keith Sparrow Super-Hero News Ronn Sutton Greg Theakston Dann Thomas Alex Toth Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Rob von Bavel Pete Von Sholly Meerten Welleman Marv Wolfman Alan R. Woollcombe Chad Wrataric John Wright

This issue is dedicated to the memory of

Bob Deschamps, Don Lawrence, & George Woodbridge

“Living in a World of Fantasy” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Dave Sim talks with Canadian comics pioneers Adrian & Pat Dingle and Bill Thomas. “My Teacher Was Just Alex Raymond Strips”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 A conversation with Canadian artist/writer Jerry Lazare. Comic Crypt: Fred Kelly–––An Appreciation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Michael T. Gilbert relates the secret (and not-so-secret) origin of Mr. Monster. Les Barker, a.k.a. Leo Bachle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Robert Pincombe’s fast take on the creator of Canada’s iconic Johnny Canuck. Joe Simon & Friends Section. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover: What a dilemma! As soon the decision was made to spotlight Canada’s heroic comics of the 1940s, Ye Editor asked Michael T. Gilbert to draw the cover. After all, Michael developed his own Mr. Monster from a barely-seen Canadian hero of that name, as he revealed years ago. But both Roy and Michael (and feature-article writer John Bell) felt a Canadian should be involved with the cover art, as well. Enter artist Ronn Sutton, penciler of Claypool’s Elvira (and many other comics over the years). Michael designed the cover and did a rough draft of it, with Ronn doing finished pencils; Michael then inked and even colored it. Hey, that’s what a Good Neighbor Policy is all about! [Art ©2004 Michael T. Gilbert & Ronn Sutton; Mr. Monster TM & ©2004 Michael T. Gilbert; Nelvana TM & ©2004 Nelvana, Ltd.; Commander Steel, Active Jim, The Dreamer, Thunderfist, The Brain, The Polka-Dot Pirate, & The Penguin TM & ©2004 the respective trademark & copyright holders.] Above: Murray Karn’s “Thunderfist” splash from Active Comics #3. The most amazing discovery made by Ye Ed this issue is that an overwhelming majority of the Canadian comics stories sported artist (and often writer) credits—nor were most mere house names! If only US publishers and creators had been as progressive during America’s Golden Age of Comics! Thanks to Robert Pincombe for the photocopy. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.] Alter EgoTM is published monthly by TwoMorrows, 10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614, USA. Phone: (919) 449-0344. Roy Thomas, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Alter Ego Editorial Offices: 32 Bluebird Trail, St. Matthews, SC 29135, USA. Fax: (803) 826-6501; e-mail: Send subscription funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial offices. Single issues: $8 ($10 Canada, $11.00 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.

Canada’s Golden Age

part one

The Golden Age of Canadian Comic Books and Its Aftermath


Super-Heroes & Others In English Canada, 1941–1966

by John Bell Prelude 1934–1940 Canadians have been involved with comic books almost from the very beginning.

During the early 1930s, as various entrepreneurs in the US experimented with the new periodicals, Windsor, Ontario, businessman Jake Geller decided to try his hand at the fledgling business. Inspired by the success of the British comics papers then available on some Canadian newsstands, Geller acquired the rights to several UK strips, opened an office in New York, and began publishing a comics weekly entitled Comic Cuts (named after one of Britain’s most famous comics periodicals). Launched in May 1934, the tabloid lasted only nine issues; today, it counts among the rarest comics publications ever issued in North America. Discouraged by Comic Cuts’ poor reception, Geller returned

John Bell’s 1986 book Canuck Comics, from Matrix Press, featured this great wraparound Ken Steacy cover illustration. From left to right, with their creators and/or copyright holders after their names, are: Stig (Ty Templeton)… Mister X (Vortex Comics)… Samurai (Barry Blair)… The Electric Warrior (Ken Steacy)…Onésime (Albert Chartier)… Le Sombre Vilain (Jacques Hurtubise)… Ududu (Bernard E. Mireault)… Capitaine Kébec (Pierre Fournier)… Nelvana of the Northern Lights (Adrian Dingle)… Red Ketchup (Réal Godbout & Pierre Fournier)… Kelvin Mace (Klaus Schoenfeld Estate)… Cerebus (Dave Sim)… Northguard (Mark Shainblum & Gabriel Morrissette)… Doc Stearne, a.k.a. Mr. Monster (Fred Kelly)… Brok Windsor (Maple Leaf Publishing, Ltd.)… and Neil the Horse (Arn Saba). Quite a collection of Canadian content! Thanks to publisher Mark Shainblum for his blessing to reprint this artwork. If you wanna see it in color, and learn even more about Canadian comics of all kinds, copies of the Canuck Comics trade paperback are still available from Matrix Press; see display ad on page 35. [Illustration ©2004 Ken Steacy; characters TM & ©2004 their respective trademark and copyright holders.]


Super-Heroes & Others In English Canada, 1941–1966

The comic book fortunes of the USA and Canada were linked from the get-go. Here, Joe Shuster, Canadian-born artist/co-creator of Superman, is juxtaposed with his hero on a Canadian poster advertising the hero’s popular radio series. We hardly need point out that his trademark “S” has here been replaced by his entire name! The photo appeared in Les Daniels’ 1998 volume Superman: The Complete History. [Art ©2004 DC Comics.]

became active in the US comic-book field. Among them were the Quebec artist Albert Chartier, who contributed to various Columbia Comics titles, and Charles Spain Verral, a pulp-magazine writer who also wrote for Street & Smith’s Bill Barnes Comics.

to Canada. He would soon regret his departure from the New York comic book milieu, which was about to be rocked by the improbable, heroic visions of a young Canadian artist. The early comics magazines had, for the most part, reprinted US newspaper strips, but increasingly, through 1936-37, more non-reprint titles appeared. At the outset, the new comic books were only moderately successful, but their popularity increased dramatically following the release, with a June 1938 cover date, of Action Comics #1, which featured the adventures of Superman, the first significant comic book super-hero, co-created by two young science-fiction fans, Jerry Siegel and Toronto-born Joe Shuster (the cousin of noted Canadian comedian Frank Shuster of the “Wayne and Shuster” team). Although it is now obvious that Superman and comic books were made for each other, the potential of the character was not immediately recognized. In fact, starting in 1934, the strip was rejected by numerous publishers, due to its unrealistic nature. According to some accounts, even its eventual publisher, Harry Donenfeld of National Periodicals (now DC), was nervous about the outrageous cover of the debut issue of Action, which depicted Superman holding a car above his head! To say the least, Donenfeld’s doubts (if any) proved to be unfounded, and Action was soon followed by a flood of American super-hero comics, which found a huge audience not only in the United States, but also in Canada. One of the young Canadians who eagerly devoured the thrilling new publications was Mordecai Richler, who would later become one of Canada’s most distinguished writers. For Richler, the primal appeal of the early super-heroes was obvious: “Superman, The Flash, The Human Torch, even Captain Marvel, were our golems,” he later observed. “They were invulnerable, all-conquering, whereas we were puny, miserable, and defeated.” As tens of thousands of kids north of the 49th Parallel embraced America’s most colorful and fantastic export, more Canadians creators

With the advent of war for Canada in September 1939, the popularity of American comics continued to grow. However, as Canadian government officials responded to the overwhelming demands of the war economy, emergency measures were being formulated that would abruptly deprive kids in Canada of the breath-taking adventures of Superman, Captain Marvel, and the multitude of other American superheroes. From the beginning of its development in the 1890s, comic art in Anglophone North America had been largely American. In English Canada, that was finally about to change. While US strips would still dominate in the newspaper funnies sections, strange new comic books would soon offer Canadian kids their very own heroes.

The Canadian Golden Age of Comics 1941–1946 On September 15, 1939, shortly after Canada’s declaration of war on Germany, the Foreign Exchange Control Board was established to oversee the rationing of foreign currency, something it would do with varying severity until 1951. In December 1940, as Canada’s trade deficit with the US grew, and British gold shipments were curtailed, government intervention in the economy broadened with the introduction of the War Exchange Conservation Act. Aimed at countries outside the sterling bloc, it was primarily designed to conserve American dollars by restricting the importation of non-essential goods from Canada’s largest trading partner. Among the items banned were fiction periodicals, a category that encompassed pulps and some other newsstand magazines, including comic books. As a result, the government inadvertently laid the groundwork for an indigenous comics industry. (This period also saw the publication of Canadian pulps such as Uncanny Tales and Eerie Tales.) As long as American comic books had flowed freely into Canada, none of the nation’s publishers could afford to compete. Printing costs, market size, distribution obstacles, and various other factors all militated against the possibility of a Canadian firm wresting any appreciable portion of the market from major US publishers like Fawcett and

The Golden Age of Canadian Comic Books and Its Aftermath


National Periodicals. Nevertheless, this did not mean that publishers in Canada had been unaware of the phenomenal popularity that the new medium enjoyed. In fact, several entrepreneurs in various centers across the country were more than a little envious of the obvious success of US comics. However, it was not until the American periodicals were abruptly excluded at the end of 1940 that would-be comics publishers in Canada could seriously contemplate the creation of a national comic book publishing industry. Working independently of each other, four publishers rushed to take advantage of the vacuum created by the sweeping economic legislation. One of these, Maple Leaf Publishing, was located in Vancouver, British Columbia; the other three—Anglo-American Publishing, Hillborough Studio, and Commercial Signs of Canada—were all based in Toronto, Ontario. Both Maple Leaf and Anglo-American managed to hit the newsstands with comics by March 1941, while Hillborough and Commercial made their debuts in August and September, respectively. The voracious appetite that Canadian kids had developed for funny books was about to be assuaged by new heroes.

Maple Leaf’s Better Comics #1 (March 1941, with cover probably by Vernon Miller) and Anglo-American’s Robin Hood and Company were released in the same month. The issue of Robin Hood depicted above is Vol. 1, #6 (Dec. 1941-Jan. 1942), with art probably by Ed Furness; the “and Company” had been dropped by this time. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

Although Maple Leaf’s first title, Better Comics, was released the same month as the inaugural issue of Anglo-American’s Robin Hood and Company, it was distinguished by its content and format. Unlike its rival, which initially appeared as a tabloid-size collection of reprint strips, Better consisted entirely of original material and was published in

a regular comic book format. Consequently, Maple Leaf should probably be viewed as the publisher of the first true Canadian comic book. Whatever the case, Better also had the distinction of introducing the first Canadian super-hero, Vernon Miller’s The Iron Man. Miller, who had returned to BC following a stint with the Walt Disney studio in California, apparently played an instrumental role in launching Maple Leaf, convincing the Vancouver magazine vendor Harry Smith to invest in the promising new comics industry. Smith and his associates were obviously encouraged by the response to Better, as the title was soon followed by three more comic books: Bing Bang Comics, Lucky Comics, and Rocket Comics (initially entitled Name-it Comics). Like the majority of pre-1945 comics produced during Canada’s Golden Age of Comics (the period from 1941 to 1946), all four titles had color covers and black-&-white interiors, thus giving rise, among young fans, to the term “whites” (actually, the first few issues of Better featured some color). As well, they often relied on serial stories to induce kids to fork out their hard-earned dimes, issue after issue.

Two of Maple Leaf’s early titles were Lucky Comics (this is the June-July 1942 issue) and Name-it Comics (#1 was cover-dated Nov.-Dec. 1941). As for Name-it, the publisher later re-named it Rocket Comics. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

In addition to Vernon Miller, Maple Leaf employed several other notable artists, including Bert Bushell, Ernie Walker, Ley Fortune, and Jon St. Ables. The latter, whose best work surpassed that of most of his North American comic art contemporaries, was responsible for an elegantly rendered Burroughsian-fantasy strip, “Brok Windsor.” Set in the Canadian north, in the “land beyond the mists,” it debuted in the April–May 1944 issue of Better. On the


Super-Heroes & Others In English Canada, 1941–1966 No one, however, had reckoned with the audacity of Superior Publishers. In 1949, the company launched Bruce Gentry, Ellery Queen, and My Secret, three comics that were not only often racy, but not always devoid of depictions of crime. Although Superior did not inaugurate any new titles the following year, the firm did acquire the rights to William Gaines’ line of New Trend EC comics, a clear indication that Zimmerman was not particularly intimidated by the Fulton Bill. He did, however, make one small concession to his opponents: in Canada, EC’s Crime SuspenStories was retitled Weird Suspense Stories. While Zimmerman defied the ban by shifting his purview to love and horror comics, most other Canadian companies acted swiftly to reassure parents and legislators that the comics industry could behave in a responsible manner. In much the same way that their American counterparts would band together four years later, Canadian comics firms formed the Comic Magazine Industry Association of Canada (CMIAC), which promised to review all US comic book printing mats shipped into Canada to ensure that offensive material would not find its way onto the nation’s newsstands.

A splash page from Superior’s Journey into Fear #5 (Jan. 1952), repro’d from the original art, done by Jerry Iger’s ubiquitous studio. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

endeavored to defend the crime comics, pointing to their role as a welcome outlet for children’s natural impulses. Zimmerman made the fatal mistake, though, of circulating samples of what he represented as harmless entertainment for kids. As long as the debate centered on intangibles like freedom of speech and child psychology, many senators had shown some sympathy for the businessman’s position. However, once they saw what was actually being peddled to impressionable children, the passage of the Fulton Bill was guaranteed. Sent back to the Senate without amendment, the bill passed by a vote of 92 to 4. As a result, on December 10, 1949, Bill 10 became law, and everyone, from the PTA to the Communist Party of Canada, breathed a collective sigh of relief. The nation’s young people had seemingly been rescued from the nefarious influence of foreign cultural trash. It wasn’t all crime and horror from Superior in the early 1950s, as per this cover for Super Western Funnies #3 (June 1954), produced by the Iger Studios. A/E editor Roy Thomas recalls seeing various Superior Comics at the time, and wondering why they chose a leaf as their company symbol! [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

Canada’s Golden Age

part two


“Living In A World of Fantasy!” CEREBUS Creator DAVE SIM Talks with Canadian Comic Book Pioneers ADRIAN & PAT DINGLE and BILL THOMAS

[NOTE: This interview originally appeared in the Now and Then Times, Vol. 1, #2 (Oct. 1973), a fanzine published in Canada. Thanks to John Bell for sending the material to us. Adrian Dingle died in 1974, and John says, “My guess is that his wife Pat has also passed away.” But we wanted to present this interview with them and Adrian’s fellow artist Bill Thomas in conjunction with John’s coverage of the Canadian comic book industry. —Roy.]

Original 1973 Introduction On January 28, Sunday, the third day of York University’s 1973 Comic Convention, Adrian and Pat Dingle, and Bill Thomas, met with Dave Sim and John Balge to talk about their involvement with the Canadian comic books published during the Second World War. Adrian Dingle started his own Triumph Comics in mid-1941, but was forced to sell out to Bell Features because of financial troubles early the next year. He was editor and art director at Bell until 1946, when the company closed. “I’ve never regretted those exciting days of fantasy. The experience has been most beneficial to me as a painter. We had to draw fast and produce for a tight schedule. While I was endeavoring to pull my weight as art director for Bell, I was still writing and drawing four or five strips till the wee small hours. We all had dreams, although shortlived!” Bill Thomas first worked for Bell Features in 1944. After Bell folded, he did a number of strips for another Toronto comic book company, Superior Publishing. “But they seemed to publish only under American story titles. One of these was allotted to me and was called ‘Punch and Cutey.’ I both wrote the story and drew the strips for only a few months, until this operation also folded. I did not see any of the printed material and was never sure whether these books were distributed in Canada or only in the US. I still have a couple of the original strips which were returned to me as unpublished.” One of these unpublished strips was “Jungletown Showboat,” which preceded this article [in Now and Then Times]. Mr. Thomas brought the strip to Comicon and, as the conversation opens, Adrian Dingle is paging through it… ADRIAN DINGLE: Well, it’s very nostalgic, Bill, to see this style of yours again after all these years. It was a very fresh style that you had. It was very individual. And you’re very fortunate to have it. BILL THOMAS: I believe this was an American strip, actually, and Superior had a franchise or something to do it here in Canada. So I sort-of took over the name and developed my own style. DINGLE: Developed your own style, obviously. It was very fresh, and it always reproduced well, Bill. You had nicely distributed solids, which for black-&-white is very essential. You did your own lettering, too, didn’t you, Bill? THOMAS: Oh, yes. (Above:) Adrian Dingle. (Top right:) The “Nelvana of the Northern Lights” splash page from Triumph Comics #8 (circa 1942). Thanks to Darryl Gold for the early-1950s photo of Dingle, from a prospectus for the Doon School of Fine Arts in Doon, Ontario—and to Robert Pincombe for the comics page. [Nelvana TM & ©2004 Nelvana, Ltd.]

DINGLE: That was rather fun in a way, you know. DAVE SIM: Mrs. Dingle, I’d like to know exactly what you thought when Mr. Dingle said that he was coming out with


Adrian & Pat Dingle and Bill Thomas

Triumph Comics with some of his friends, the first time that he told you.

DINGLE: He spoke seven languages, so that qualified him to turn a turnstile?

PAT DINGLE: I thought, “Isn’t this great, now maybe we’ll be able to get married!” I thought it was a marvelous idea.

THOMAS: He was a White Russian, I believe.

DINGLE: It looked like a way of getting some financial backing so that we could get hooked at that time. PAT DINGLE: You know, an unknown portrait painter rather starves, and that’s what he was when I met him. DINGLE: There were two or three other lads and myself who had got together—René and André Kulbach. And we had a backer who was a worry wart and used to come in every morning and say, “Well, now, fellows, what worries me is this.” And that would really start the day off at a low ebb. PAT DINGLE: Particularly as he usually paused for about five minutes to think up something to worry about. DINGLE: So we operated Triumph on a shoestring basis. I’ve forgotten how many issues we actually got out before we collapsed.

DINGLE: He was, yes. They got out here by the skin of their teeth and loss of all their health, actually. But it was an exciting time and, again as Bill remembers, we sort-of lived the world that we were working in. We got our heroes and heroines into terrible scrapes and had to get them out before the next issue. It would quite often take a lot of hashing back and forth among a lot of the lads to find out what we were doing, so we wouldn’t be stepping on the toes of somebody else’s script. So it was quite a hectic thing— working right through the night. PAT DINGLE: Well, the deadlines were very hectic. Adrian took his script along on our honeymoon and worked on the drawings. That was before Bell. DINGLE: That was with Triumph Comics, quite right; no Bell at that time. So finally we got up to the point of almost verging on full color. We were going for full color. And the contract with Fawcett Publications…

DS: When you were art director Bill Thomas’ unpublished 1940s story “Jungletown Showboat” was printed in for Bell Features, we know the the 1973 fanzine in which this interview first appeared. Thanks to John Bell. artists came in on Monday [©2004 the respective copyright holders.] afternoon and handed in all DS: What was the contract their material. You went over it, but did you ever reject any? with Fawcett Publications? DINGLE: Oh, yes. Yes, we did. I can’t remember what the occasions DINGLE: I don’t know the details of it, Dave. You see, there was an were, because I’m thinking back thirty years or so. It’s not too easy to interchange by that time. think of any one incident, but there were several times when some of the lads would bring something in that just didn’t have enough work on it, DS: So you were gong to sell their books up here. either in script or in drawing. And of course we were all doing our own DINGLE: Right, in full color. And that would, of course, vastly increase thing right from the start, scripts and drawings as well. We were night our circulation. So we had all sorts of ideas of solid gold Cadillacs. and day at it. THOMAS: Actually, there were a couple of issues in color, weren’t there?

But you were talking about the Triumph Comics start. We carried on for a few issues, then the partnership broke up—there was no more backing. And I was left with a good bundle of debts. I remember taking all the debts and the broken partnership down to Cy Bell. To my surprise, I found that the masthead for Triumph Comics was already made up and ready to roll. He was anticipating me. So he took over all the debts. And I was on salary then. And that’s how I really got started for those few years. And we met Bill and [Leo] Bachle and [Ross] Saakel. Of course, the Kulbacks were with us, too. André was doing lettering. René was extremely good with drawing animals—do you remember that, Bill? He was fantastic. [NOTE: See p. 12. —Roy.]

THOMAS: He was, yes. And very active, always active, always going.

PAT DINGLE: And then the Air Force nabbed him and had him turning a turnstile, despite the fact that he spoke seven languages.

DINGLE: And we always seemed to manage to get paid, didn’t we? That’s quite astounding when you look back.

DINGLE: Yes, there were. Although I don’t think I saw more than one, before it fell apart. Bell had this gigantic rotary press on Jarvis Street which cost, I believe, $250,000 to bring up, and he had to fly the men up from Cleveland who were putting it all together and erecting it, and fly them back on Friday night. Poor guy was an absolute dynamo. I don’t know how he survived through that ordeal. He was a wonderful guy to work with. He was also so enthusiastic.

“Living In A World of Fantasy!” DS: How did it eventually end? It was obvious that somebody had to tell you that the color comics weren’t going to come out. Did you tell the artists, or did Cy Bell himself tell the artists when they came in? DINGLE: We were all pretty well in on it, we knew how it was going. I don’t think there were any secrets being held back from the artists at all. We knew that it was pretty close. And suddenly he came in and said, “No good, the bottom has dropped out of the American market, and Fawcett has broken the contract.” THOMAS: Of course, this happened all over Canada. Not just here in Toronto. There was a publisher in Vancouver…. DINGLE: Oh, sure. Same thing right across the board. Everyone lost their shirts, and their pants, and everything under the sun. So that was the end of it. PAT DINGLE: The reason why Adrian and his friends started Triumph Comics in the first place was because of the war. And because of the war, there was the restriction on American publications coming up to Canada. So no comic books came up to Canada at all, which left a void. That’s how they first started putting this together. I think it was about six or seven issues that you put out of Triumph. DINGLE: There were three or four of us who couldn’t get into the Army. My case was my ears. So we were all pretty well unemployed.


Nobody wanted an art battalion. We hoped. THOMAS: There was really nothing to advertise in those days, was there? DINGLE: No, but actually we thought we could be war artists or something like that, Bill. We got a large petition signed by a number of Toronto artists, and the result was just the usual “When we want lemon juice, we’ll ask for it.” So we didn’t have any luck there at all. So in desperation we all got together and started Triumph Comics on about a $400 budget, which was wrangled by the one and only backer. It was pretty tight. But it really began to blossom with Bell, anyway. I felt that Triumph Comics hadn’t died when Bell took it over. It had an extended lease of life, while the others didn’t. Of course, there were six or seven different books that we were working for [at Bell]. I was doing strips for each one of them. DS: Mr. Thomas, do you remember the first time you came into the Bell offices? THOMAS: Yes, I think I do. I came in with the first strip I’d ever tried to do in my life. And I brought it in and showed it to Adrian, and he accepted it right off the bat.

In Dingle’s “Nelvana” feature in Triumph-Adventure Comics #3, the heroine’s brother Tanero undergoes a weird transformation. Like, if she needed aerial transportation, there weren’t more likely choices than a flying Great Dane? John Bell’s Canuck Comics lists the original Hillborough Studios comic as publishing issues #1, 2, and 5, and there being no #3, 4, 6, or 7—with Bell Features assuming publication with #8 and shortening the title to simply Triumph Comics. Apparently the 3rd and 6th issues, at least, have surfaced since Canuck Comics was published in 1986. Thanks to Robert Pincombe. [Nelvana TM & ©2004 Nelvana, Ltd.]

Canada’s Golden Age

part three


“My Teacher Was Just Alex Raymond Strips” A Conversation with Canadian Comic Artist/Writer JERRY LAZARE

[A/E NOTE: This interview, too, appeared in Now and Then Times, Vol. 1, #2 (Oct. 1973), and was in all probability conducted by editor Dave Sim, with whose gracious permission it is reprinted. It has been slightly abridged. ©1973 Dave Sim. —Roy.] 1973 INTERVIEWER’S INTRO: The following interview was held at Jerry Lazare’s studio on Prince Arthur in Toronto in April of this year. Since his early years with Bell Features, Jerry has become a topnotch illustrator and a fine painter. At the time of this interview, he was preparing to embark on one of the most important projects of his career—an enormous mural in the National Art Gallery depicting the rise of civilization. After its completion, he wishes to spend one whole year just painting and then, hopefully, stage a one-man show at a Toronto gallery. —Dave Sim.

NOW AND THEN TIMES: When and where were you born, and do you recall your first inclination to being an artist? JERRY LAZARE: I was born in Toronto in 1927. The earliest recollection I have is that I had a half-brother, and he stayed with the family every once in a while. He wanted to draw just for fun from the big Saturday comic strip pages. I guess I was about four or five, and I remember lying on the floor when he was drawing and watching him. And then I started to fiddle around. That’s my first recollection of holding a pencil. When I got into high school, I read comics and was fascinated with the work of Alex Raymond [Flash Gordon], primarily because I thought he was such a great draftsman. The comics that were funny or

As shown on p. 12, Jerry Lazare’s creations Nitro and The Wing co-starred in at least one story… but they were basically solo features. This “Nitro” splash is from Dime Comics #25, and “The Wing” from Joke Comics #18. Provider Robert Pincombe writes re the former: “As you can see from the children’s illustrations [see p. 42], this is Lazare’s own style without so much swiping.” [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]


Jerry Lazare into the illustration field with people like Albert Dorne—artists that weren’t into comics at all, but who were all great draftsmen and illustrators. There was another guy who influenced me tremendously and used to do a strip called The Spirit—Will Eisner. I think Lou Fine was involved with that strip. I went to New York after Dell folded to try and work down there. But when I went down, I found that I would have been drafted. I didn’t want to go into the Army, so I came back. One of the things that surprised me was that Will Eisner just penciled the pages and another guy did the inking. They showed me his penciled strips, which were just fantastic. The guy who inked them couldn’t do wrong, because they were so good. I had never heard of that before. I knew that one guy wrote them and another guy did the drawing, but I hadn’t realized that they had refined it to the point where one guy did the penciling and another did the inking. And this is the way Eisner did all of them—so they told me, anyway.

But strips like “Superman” and “Batman” I thought were poorly drawn. Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday newspaper comic strip, which began on January 7, 1934, Compared to guys like Raymond or was a huge influence on early comic book artists—and most especially on Jerry Lazare. This sterling Eisner, those guys were nowhere, I sample appeared on June 7, 1936. [©2004 King Features Syndicate.] thought. I was just interested in the people who drew well. [Harold] Foster was one the people who didn’t draw well—and a lot of them didn’t—didn’t of them and [Burne] Hogarth was another, but Raymond beat them all, I interest me. thought. I wasn’t alone. A lot of other people did, too. Raymond’s Flash Gordon was by far the most copied strip, and I guess Caniff’s strips N&TT: You became interested in art, then, as a result of comic strips? would be next. LAZARE: Yes, and primarily Raymond, just because he made things N&TT: What did you think of the style of work in New York? looks so real. And he was, I think, a great artist. But as I went on, I discovered that he was influenced by Matt and Benton Clark and the LAZARE: The atmosphere looked pretty hack when I went down there. whole field of illustration. Stan Drake, for instance, was an illustrator, The artists were all lined up in one big room like a bullpen. I had been and I saw his work long before he did Heart of Juliet Jones. Noel used to working on my own—writing it and drawing it, doing the whole Sickles, who was really the guy whose style Milt Caniff aped, is a bit myself. There I would have just been doing penciling or inking. It tremendous illustrator today. He’s illustrated for The Saturday Evening just didn’t look that thrilling to me, and I was worried about the draft Post and all the major magazines. there. Now, it would be just the last thing in the world I’d want to do. I would spend, between the ages of nine and ten until I entered high N&TT: How did you first come in contact with Bell Features? school at thirteen, a lot of time in the evenings, because I was the only child in the family and, I guess, to a certain extent a loner, sitting and LAZARE: I was in third form [equivalent of a US high school junior]. I sketching while I listened to radio programs. A lot of the inspiration I don’t know why I did it, but, for some reason I saw the Bell Features as got was from radio shows—something that wasn’t visual, things like The the Canadian comics were coming out. So I sent in some pencil Shadow and Sam Spade and I Love a Mystery. I used to sit, and things drawings, and about a week later I got a phone call from Cy [Bell] I heard on the radio I would try and draw. Or I would just copy saying, “Do you want to do a strip?” I didn’t expect anything. I was still Raymond’s style. going to high school and I just wanted criticism—what they thought of N&TT: Besides Raymond, who influenced your art? LAZARE: My influences were almost exclusively Raymond, because I never liked Caniff’s style that much. My partner Lew [Parker] knew Caniff, and he also did cartoons for Stars and Stripes [U.S. servicemen’s newspaper] during the war. He never got into the comic strips in the Bell Features area at all, though. I liked Frank Robbins, the guy who is very much like Caniff. After about the third or fourth year, I began to look at magazines and became interested in illustrators, and I realized where Alex Raymond stemmed from, and I saw Noel Sickles’ work. My influence then went

the drawing. Around that time, I started to think seriously about an art career in comic strips. I spoke to my parents about leaving school and going to an art school, but they didn’t like the idea at all.

When I went down to see Cy, Murray Karn, I think it was, had just been drafted. Cy said, “Would you like to take over ‘Jeff Waring’?” and I said, “Sure. Great.” So I tried to do the strip in the evenings and on weekends, and my marks just went whump! So it was either quit school and do comic strips or go to art school. My parents realized how serious I was, so they talked to the principal, and he said, “Look, I think he should go to a technical school.” I didn’t really last that long at the “tech,” because the whole cult that has grown up around comics was

Canada’s Golden Age

part four



Comic Crypt

FRED KELLY: An Appreciation by Michael T. Gilbert Even after 30 years as a cartoonist, the legends of yesteryear still inspire me. I can’t imagine how many hours I’ve spent poring over the works of Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Steve Ditko, and other comic book giants. But few cartoonists have had a greater impact on me than Fred Kelly. Kelly was one of many young cartoonists during Canada’s brief but wonderful Golden Age of the 1940s. He drew a variety of oddball features including “Active Jim,” “Steve Storms,” “Betty Burd,” and “Clip Curtis.” But most important, Fred Kelly created the Golden Age “Mr. Monster.” We’ll get back to that monster-hunting hero in a minute. But first, some background on my “Mr. Monster,” and the debt I owe Fred Kelly. Back in 1983, I was busy working on the Elric of Melniboné comic for Pacific Comics. Paul Craig Russell and I split the art chores, while Roy Thomas adapted Michael Moorcock’s sword-and-sorcery stories and novels. During some downtime between issues, Pacific Comics editor Dave Scroggy invited me to create a new character for Vanguard Illustrated, their new anthology title. With a short deadline looming, I searched through my collection, hoping to find something to spark my imagination. That something turned out to be “Mr. Monster.”

Fred Kelly’s first “Doc Stearne” strip appeared in Wow #26 (at left). Its ongoing storyline featured ancient Vikings helping Doc battle evil brain-men, prehistoric cave-giants, and bloodthirsty Japanese kamikazes. The story began in Wow #26 and continued through #30, the final issue of that title. However, after Wow’s demise, Kelly’s Viking storyline concluded in Commando Comics #21. From there, Doc skipped to Triumph Comics. Triumph #31, the final issue, featured a new storyline in which Jim Stearne became Mr. Monster. The black-&-white story concluded in full color in Super Duper Comics #3. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

This cover to Wow #30 may be the only one featuring Doc Stearne. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

Another two-fisted “Doc Stearne” splash from Wo w Comics #28. [©2004 the respective cop yright holders.\

I’ve told this story before, so I’ll keep it short. Twelve years earlier, I had found an old coverless comic while rummaging through a bin of battered Golden Age titles at a New York comic con. Fred Kelly’s “Mr. Monster” was the lead feature, followed by “Nelvana of the North,” “Tang the Wonder Horse,” and a politicallyincorrect black kid named “Java Bean.” Years later, I learned my coverless gem was the Canadian Super Duper Comics, but at the time I was clueless.

Alter Ego #36  
Alter Ego #36  

ALTER EGO #36 has twin spotlights on JOE SIMON—and CANADA'S GOLDEN AGE SUPER-HEROES, with previously-unpublished, full-cover covers by JOE S...