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1994--2004

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In the the USA USA In

No. 37 June 2004

It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s WILL MURRAY on the Secret Origins of

KRYPTONITE AND THE

MAN OF STEEL! Art & & Artifacts Artifacts by: by: Art

NEAL ADAMS JACK BURNLEY WAYNE BORING JOHN BUSCEMA RON HARRIS MALCOLM JONES III GIL KANE MICHAEL LARK SHELLY MOLDOFF BRIAN MURRAY JOE SHUSTER JERRY SIEGEL CURT SWAN ROY THOMAS ALEX TOTH PHILIP WYLIE BILL SCHELLY ON COMICs FANDOM

JIM AMASH

PAYS TRIBUTE TO

RUDY LAPICK EXTRA!

AL FELDSTEIN TALKS TO

MICHAEL T. GILBERT ABOUT BRADBURY, BINDER, BIRO–& EC! [Art ©2004 ©2004 Estate Estate of of Wayne Wayne Boring; Boring; [Art Superman TM TM & & ©2004 ©2004 DC DC Comics.] Comics.] Superman


Vol. 3, No. 37 / June 2004

Editor

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/Colorists Wayne Boring C.C. Beck

And Special Thanks to: Neal Adams Bob Bailey Brian H. Bailie Mike W. Barr Sy Barry John Benson Luciano Bernasconi Doug Bost Chris Brown Gary Brown Garrie Burr Mike Catron Bob Cherry Leone Cimpellin Shaun Clancy Russ Cochran John L. Coker III Ray A. Cuthbert Brian Cutler Teresa R. Davidson Al Dellinges Joe Desris Wayne DeWald John Doliber Al Feldstein Shane Foley Joe Frank Keif Fromm Jean-Peal Gabilliet Janet Gilbert Dick Giordano Scott Goodell Walt Grogan Jennifer Hamerlinck David G. Hamilton Keith Hammond Wally Harrington Ron Harris Hurricane Heeran Jan Alan Henderson

Bob Hughes Alan Hutchinson Richard Kolkman David Anthony Kraft Richard Kyle Tom Lammers Bob Lane Pat Lang Michael Lark Jean-Marc Lofficier Chris Malgrain Andy McKinney Tobi L. Miley Jason Millet Sheldon Moldoff Will Murray Lee Nail Franco Oneta John G. Pierce Richard Pryor Jerry Ordway Ed Rhoades Charlie Roberts Ethan Roberts David Siegel Marc Swayze Dann Thomas Anthony Tollin Alex Toth Jaume Vaquer Jyrki Vainio Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Mark Waid Tom Watkins John Wells Marv Wolfman Glenn Wood Joanna Martine Woolfolk Michael Zeno

This issue is dedicated to the memory of

Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Philip Wylie, & Rudy LaPick

K-METAL & GLADIATOR Section

Contents Writer/Editorial: Our Cup Runneth Over––and Spilleth! . . . . . . . . 2 Gladiator of Iron, Man of Steel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Will Murray on how a 1930 novel by Philip Wylie probably influenced Superman— plus a visual synopsis by Ron Harris & Roy Thomas.

The Kryptonite Crisis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Secret origins of the 1940 “K-Metal” story that could have changed Superman forever! “It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s––Noel Sickles!”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Alex Toth tells how the genius behind Terry and the Pirates nearly drew Superman. ComicCrypt:“My World:The Al FeldsteinInterview––PartI” . 33 Michael T. Gilbert talks to the man behind Tales from the Crypt—about Ray Bradbury, et al. RudyLaPick:“RudyLovesEverybody&EverybodyLovesRudy!” . 39 A brief tribute by Jim Amash to a renowned Archie artist. Gary Brown, Comic Book Reporter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Bill Schelly converses with a major editor from the Golden Age of Comic Fandom. Sy Barry: His Life and Times Section . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover: During his retirement, Wayne Boring—either the first or second person hired by creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to help produce Superman material—began to draw and paint re-creations and new color paintings like this one featuring the Man of Steel. Thanks to Charlie Roberts for supplying, from his own collection, this 4th of July artwork drawn in 1981 by the man who became Superman’s most influential artist during the 1950s. [Art ©2004 Estate of Wayne Boring; Superman TM & ©2004 DC Comics.] Above: So-called “ashcan editions” of comic books were published quickly, often virtually overnight, by publishing companies to secure the trademark for titles of projected new magazines. The art on ashcan covers didn’t really matter—and neither did the precise contents—only the name was important. This Superman Comics ashcan from 1940, for instance, utilized (in black-&-white—no sense wasting money on color!) Joe Shuster’s cover art from Action Comics #7, and interior story and art from #8. Nowadays, however, possession of such publications is a rarity; only two copies of this particular ashcan edition are known to exist! [©2004 DC Comics.] 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: roydann@ntinet.com. 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.


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Gladiator of Iron–Man of Steel How a 1930 Science-Fiction Novel by PHILIP WYLIE Probably Influenced SUPERMAN by Will Murray

The two fathers of the super-hero! Philip Wylie (left) and Jerry Siegel—flanked by their landmark creations. The Wylie photo appeared on the dust jacket of his 1972 novel The End of the Dream, Siegel’s in Les Daniels’ exhaustive 1995 tome Superman: The Complete History—one of whose few flaws was its failure to mention either Gladiator or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars as potential influences on Superman.

Siegel, Science-Fiction, Superman— and Philip Wylie

The cover of Manor Books’ 1976 paperback reprint of Gladiator (left) seems to acknowledge the connection with the phrase “American superman”—while 1/3 of its back cover is taken up by the two words “Super Powers.” Too bad that somehow the hero’s name got rendered on the covers as “Henry Danner,” not Hugo—and that a superfluous “The” was added to the book’s title. Joe Shuster’s Superman illo at right, from an early issue of Action Comics, shows some vestigal suggestion of his original laced-up sandals; they’re certainly in evidence in Action #1. [Superman art ©2004 DC Comics; Gladiator cover ©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

On those rare occasions when he talked freely about creating Superman, Jerry Siegel was pretty consistent.

In 1941, he said, “I am lying in bed counting sheep when all of a sudden it hits me. I conceive a character like Samson, Hercules, and all the strong men I ever heard tell of rolled into one.” Years later, he put it like this: “The idea came to me in bed one night. A champion for good with the strength of Atlas, as invulnerable as a perfect Achilles, plus the morals of Galahad.” There are some who believe that Siegel should have been citing more contemporary pulp fiction characters like Zorro, John Carter of Mars, and Doc Savage. Regarding the Doc Savage influence, Siegel deflected the issue by saying, “I read enormous quantities of eerie-hero-oriented pulps like The Shadow.” That may be, but the early Superman demonstrates some very specific Doc Savage tricks, such as putting people to sleep via pressing on a neck nerve and climbing brick walls by the sheer strength of his fingertips. Several early “Superman” plots are lifted straight from the pages of Doc Savage magazine with minimal changes. In the case of Clark Savage, the Man of Bronze, vis-à-vis Clark Kent, who eventually became known as the Man of Steel, I suspect Siegel of being disingenuous, if only out of legal necessity. Then there’s Philip Wylie. As far as I know, Siegel never commented in print on the impact that reading Wylie’s 1930 novel Gladiator had on his own formative hero. It

has been rumored for years that he reviewed it glowingly in the May 1933 issue of his fanzine Science Fiction, but no one to date has ever produced the review.

That Siegel did read it, and was influenced by Wylie’s prototypal superman, Hugo Danner, seems an inescapable conclusion. If there was a seminal influence on Superman, more than any other work, Gladiator almost has to have been it. Wylie’s biographer Frederick Keefer says as much in his book: “One of the main challenges to Wylie in writing Gladiator was the need to devise spectacular feats for Hugo to perform and then to make them seem probable. Our exposure to the Superman comic strip unfortunately obscures the originality of many of these inventions, which, according to Wylie, as well as recent scholars, were ‘borrowed’ from Gladiator. Hugo hurtling across a river in a single leap, bounding fifty feet straight up on the air, holding a cannon above his head with one arm, killing a shark by ripping its jaws apart, felling a charging bull with a fist between the eyes, lifting an automobile by its bumper and turning it around in the road—all of these were, in 1930, fresh and new and very exciting to read about.”

The Coming of Hugo Danner The story behind Gladiator is intriguing. Philip Wylie wrote the book in 1927. It was his first novel. Perhaps wisely, his publisher held it back, thinking that before releasing such an improbable work, Wylie should first establish himself. When finally released by Alfred A. Knopf in 1930, Gladiator constituted Wylie’s third published opus:


How Philip Wylie's 1930 Novel Gladiator Probably Influenced Superman

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Bonomo, or Charles Atlas. Just as baby Clark Kent will do in his first published story, baby Hugo breaks his crib apart. (A cage of iron replaces it.) And, like the young Superman, he learns that he is not simply stronger than normal, but possesses unbelievable speed, endurance, and leaping abilities. Hugo is only ten when a run through the woods turns into a paroxysm of self-discovery: In those lonely, incredible moments Hugo found himself. There in the forest, beyond the eye of man, he learned that he was superhuman. It was a rapturous discovery. He knew at that hour that his strength was not a curse. He had inklings of his invulnerability. After Hugo demonstrates his powers to his father, Professor Danner tells him of his earlier experiment, and explains: (Above:) This 1934 house ad for Street & Smith’s Doc Savage Magazine suggests one place Jerry Siegel might’ve picked up the idea for a character called Superman—except that Siegel’s prose story “The Reign of the Superman” appeared in a science-fiction fanzine dated January 1933, while Doc’s pulp only started with a March ’33 cover date! Of course, the word “Superman,” a translation of the German term “Übermensch” coined by philosopher Friedrich Neitzsche, had already been around since the late 19th century. [©2004 Condé Nast Publications, Inc.]

“That medicine changed you. It altered the structure of your bones and muscles and nerves and your blood. It made you into a different tissue from the weak fibre of ordinary people. Then—-when you were born—you were strong. Did you ever watch an ant carry many times

At the turn of the 20th century, Colorado scientist Abednego Danner is fascinated with the disproportionate strength possessed by certain insects. Ants are capable of lifting several times their weight. The grasshopper can jump the equivalent of a mile. Can these attributes be transferred to other species? Danner’s successful experiments with creating supernaturallystrong tadpoles lead him to inoculate a newborn kitten he dubs Samson. At six weeks, Samson can bring down a full-grown cow as prey. Danner finally decides to inject this serum into his unborn child. His goal? “To produce a super-child, an invulnerable man.” He succeeds beyond his wildest dreams. Later, when Hugo proves to possess astonishing power, Professor Danner tells his wife: “He’s strong. Stronger than a lion’s cub. And he’ll increase in strength as he grows until Samson and Hercules would be pygmies beside him. He’ll be the first of a new and glorious race. A race that doesn’t have to fear—because it cannot know harm.” The parallels between Professor Danner and Jerry Siegel talking about their super-offspring are striking, but possibly coincidental. It’s interesting that neither invokes folklore figures such as Paul Bunyan or John Henry, or a professional strongman like Eugene Sandow, Joe

Wylie biographer Frederick Keefer states that, in 1930, the idea of a man “killing a shark by ripping its jaws apart” was “fresh and new and very exciting to read about”—and Marvel writer/editor Roy Thomas felt that story deserved to be told in comic books, even 4 H decades later. Thus, in the black-&-white Marvel Preview #9 (Winter 1976), Roy scripted the first of his three comics-style adaptations of Gladiator—although that issue’s 53 comics pages covered only half of Wylie’s novel, and there was never a “part two.” Since Marvel’s Daredevil had a villain named Gladiator, and since there’d been Titans (of the Teen variety) at DC, it was decided to title the Marvel version “Man-God.” Cover painting by Earl Norem; interior art by John Buscema & Tony DeZuniga. Thanks for the nice scans to Garrie Burr. [©2004 Marvel Characters, Inc.]


Gladiator of Iron––Man of Steel its weight? Or see a grasshopper jump fifty times its length? The insects have better muscles and nerves than we have. And I improved your body till it was relatively that strong. Do you understand?” “Sure, I’m like a man made out of iron instead of meat.” “That’s it, Hugo. And, as you grow up, you’ve got to remember that. You’re not an ordinary human being. When people find that out, they’ll—they’ll—“ “They’ll hate me?”

Strongman Eugene Sandow, born in Germany in 1867, first gained notoriety by breaking Try-Your-Strength machines, and came to America in 1893. He died suddenly of a hemorrhage at age 58 after single-handedly lifting a car out of a ditch. Note the laced-up sandals which were carried over, along with elements from the garb of circus acrobats, into the early Superman costume.

“Because they fear you. So you see, you’ve got to be good and kind and considerate—to justify all that strength. Some day you’ll find a use for it—a big, noble use—and then you can make it work and be proud of it. Until that day, you have to be humble like all the rest of us. You mustn’t show off or do cheap tricks. Then you’d just be a clown. Wait your time, son, and you’ll be glad of it. And—another thing—train your temper. You must never lose it. You can see what would happen if you did. Understand?”

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He might have been Jonathan Kent counseling his adopted son Clark.

Men and Supermen There had been inhumanly strong characters in fiction before—those whose powers bordered on superhuman. John Carter, future Warlord of Mars, gained superior strength and the ability to leap great distances after being translocated to the weaker gravity of the red planet in the first novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. A similar idea drove John W. Campbell’s Aarn Munro, the hero of his 1934 novel The Mightiest Machine. Having been born on heavy-gravity Jupiter, Munro possessed inhuman strength on Earth. Pulp precursors like Frederic Dey’s Nightwind and Max Brand’s Whistling Dan Barry had pushed the limits of human pulp potential into tall-tale territory. Outside of the pulp magazines, an obscure turn-of-the-century newspaper strip character called Hugo Hercules could lift a fire engine and outrun a streetcar, and once kicked a house into the next block. (This particular case of parallelism would seem to be pure coincidence.

Roy T.’s second adaptation of Gladiator was a one-issue affair in The Young All-Stars #10 (March 1988), as related in a journal written by Hugo Danner—and read by his son, “Iron” Munro, of whom more on p. 6. The cover depicts Hugo in battle during the World War I; the interior panels show him revealing his powers to his father, building his own early “fortress” of solitude (see p. 12), and working briefly as both boxer and strongman. Art by Brian Murray—though the cover may have been inked by Dick Giordano. Thanks to Bob Cherry. [©2004 DC Comics.]


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The Kryptonite Crisis The Secret Origins of the 1940 “K-Metal” Story by Will Murray

[A/E EDITOR’S INTRO: Ever since The Steranko History of Comics, Vol. One (1970), featured smallish reproductions of four pages from a never-published early “Superman” tale, it’s been known that that “circa-1939” story was once intended to introduce a “fragment from Krypton” that robbed the Man of Steel of his powers, and that Clark Kent had learned of his Kryptonian origins in that never-printed adventure. Over the years since, several more pages (from what was clearly a preternaturally long comics story for that era) have surfaced, repro’d in dealers’ catalogs and elsewhere. [In an article in Alter Ego #26, comics writer Mark Waid told how he ran across a copy of the long-lost “Superman” synopsis, script, and related materials to that unpublished story— which turned out to be dated 1940—and had painstakingly retyped the script, word for word. An overview of that story and several of its pages, along with three pages not printed in the Steranko History, appeared in A/E #26. Surprisingly, the 1940 “K-Metal” tale turned out to be 26 pages long—twice the length of a normal “Superman” story at that time—and to show Superman revealing his Clark Kent identity to Lois Lane, and announcing that they would henceforth be partners. As a side effect, this early version of what later debuted as “Kryptonite” (both Will Murray and I prefer to capitalize the word) also bestowed Superman-like powers on any Earthling who came into contact with it, even as it weakened the hero himself. [As soon as Mark’s article and accompanying artwork appeared in A/E, they set noted comics

[Top center:] Superman’s co-creators Jerry Siegel (writer; standing) and Joe Shuster (artist), flanked by two rare pieces:

[Top left:] An original 28” x 21” sketch by Superman co-creator Joe Shuster done with ball-point pen and markers on July 26, 1976. According to the art catalog in which it was first printed: “This drawing was created during the San Diego Comic Book Convention and is one of the largest known Superman ‘bust portraits.’” [Page ©2004 DC Comics; sketch ©2004 Estate of Joe Shuster; Superman TM & ©2004 DC Comics.] [Above right:] How in the world did we miss this “K-Metal” page the first time around? Jim Steranko used four in his History… we printed three more in A/E #26… and here’s an eighth page of original art known to exist from that legendary 1940 story—page 9, as seen in a 1993 Sotheby’s comic art catalog, autographed by Shuster! On this one, Superman feels pain for the first time ever. Talk about a Kodak moment! [Page ©2004 DC Comics; sketch ©2004 Estate of Joe Shuster; Superman TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]


The Kryptonite Crisis

19 in 1939-40, not simply seen with the hindsight of knowing what direction the Man of Tomorrow’s four-color life has taken in the years and decades since. As such, we find this article on the first and foremost comic book super-hero fascinating—and we kinda suspect that you will, too! —Roy.]

I Love a Mystery I love a mystery. I’ll admit it. Give me the imponderable and I’ll ponder it. Riddle me a riddle and I’ll attempt to unravel it. Offer me a puzzle, and I’m taking it apart just so I can put it together correctly.

[Left:] An early ad for the Superman newspaper strip emphasizes both the hero’s alien origins and his relationship with Lois Lane—two aspects of the feature that would’ve been altered drastically, had the “K-Metal” story been printed. [Right:] A rare 1941 trade-mag ad had Batman and Robin (whose Columbia movie serial would actually debut in 1943) congratulating Superman for his theatrical cartoon series, and hinted of more multi-media DC-related events to come. Thanks to collector Richard Pryor. [©2004 DC Comics.]

I’ve long been aware of the inexplicable “Superman” story scripted and drawn back in 1940, but never published—even though it was the work of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster—which introduced Kryptonite (there called simply “K-Metal”), which was destined over time to become a crucial component of the Superman mythos. But why was that story suppressed? It made no sense. True, in the climax Superman revealed his true identity to Lois Lane; but, if the editors or publisher changed their mind about that aspect of the story, there are a million ways around that— including simply redrawing the ending or stringing out the continuity over several issues until Superman discovered a clever but decisive way to disabuse Lois of the truth. That, too, later became a Superman staple. Nor is it

historian Will Murray to re-thinking certain longaccepted aspects of Superman’s long career… especially its relationship to the Adventures of Superman radio program that began in early 1940 and to published “Superman” stories of that period. After several e-mails back and forth, Will agreed that he would write an article detailing his speculations “when I have the time”—but he soon found the subject so obsessing him that he wrote the piece only a few weeks later. He’s been revising it piecemeal ever since—and we’re proud and happy to finally get it into print. [Much of what Will has to say, naturally, cannot be proven. Some of it is pure blue-sky speculation, and he has labeled it as such— yet always proceeding from a careful, logical examination of the situation re “Superman”

[Above:] Model sheets prepared in June 1941 by and for Fleischer Studio animators for the Superman theatrical cartoon features. The one for Supes was pictured back in A/E #11. But even this one for Lois shows Shuster’s influence; and indeed, he spent some time in Florida with the animators. Note the Superman block figure, to show his height compared to Lois. [Right:] In the 1980s the late Gil Kane was one of various artists involved in the TV animated series of that era, as well as drawing some great “Superman” stories working with writers Marv Wolfman and (once) Ye Editor. We’ve shown other samples of his style sheets in previous issues; this one is composed of head shots of Clark and Superman. [©2004 DC Comics.]


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The Secret Origins of the 1940 "K-Metal" Story

The published cover of Superman #1 (1939) has been reprinted a zillion times, so here is Joe Shuster’s recreation of his art for that issue, done in the 1970s for an art house auction. [Art ©2004 Estate of Joe Shuster; Superman TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]

likely the story was shelved because, in it, Superman, after learning that a fragment of the planet Krypton was headed toward Earth, showed that he knew he was from another planet— knowledge that, in published comics, he didn’t acquire until the Nov.-Dec. 1949 issue of Superman. If that had been a major issue in Superman’s life, his creators would have shown him wondering about his true origins. They never did.

title. That changed with issue #4 (Spring 1940), when it went all-new. A quarterly, Superman #5, was dated Summer 1940. But so great was the demand for new “Superman” material that, with #6 (Sept-Oct. 1940), the magazine became a bi-monthly.

“Three Months Ahead” We know that Jerry Siegel worked “three months ahead.” He says so in the 1940 radio interview also published in Alter Ego #26. Superman #6 was already on the racks. So that’s out. Cover-dated “Nov.-Dec.,” Superman #7 had a release date of September. Thus, if the “K-Metal” story was a rush job, it might just possibly have gone into that issue. But Superman #8 would have hit the stands in November, which better fits the three-month lead time. One clue to its placement is that Siegel’s script describes a full-page splash. The first “Superman” splash appeared in #6, but only a single story therein sports one. The tale in Action #29 (Oct.) also features a full-page splash—the only one in Action that year. In Superman #7, all four stories have full-page splashes. With #8, for some reason, again only one story was splashed large. After that, the stories revert to the old half-splash format. So “K-Metal” belonged to a brief format experiment, quickly abandoned, circa Superman #7 and #8. Starting in the summer of 1940, in addition to writing “The Spectre,”

What was known of this strange story was limited to a handful of surviving unpublished pages that had been penciled, inked, and lettered, four of which were published only in The Steranko History of Comics. So it remained a mystery. Not until the entire script was outlined in Alter Ego #26 did sufficient pieces of the puzzle become available for unpuzzling. Figuring out the mystery behind the “K-Metal” story is not a question of what scenario might explain it, but which of several equally plausible scenarios best fits the facts.

Superman at the Crossroads First, let’s date this event: Jerry Siegel’s cover letter for the script (see A/E #26) bears the notation “8/7/40.” So we know with some certainty the date it was produced. (The “10/1/40” notation on the synopsis (also printed in #26) might have been Siegel’s memorandum of when the finished art was due at DC. Siegel claimed he always wrote a synopsis first, then executed the script; and this synopsis is marked by handwritten editorial suggestions later incorporated into the script.) In the summer of 1940, Superman had turned a corner. He was now a national phenomenon. Prior to that, he had been strictly a magazine marvel, a publishing freak, and a potential fad, perhaps soon to burn out. That all began to change with the launch of the Superman newspaper comic strip at the beginning of 1939, followed by the syndicated Adventures of Superman radio show in February 1940. Down in Florida, the Fleischer Brothers were gearing up to produce a series of Superman animated cartoons which would debut in 1941. Licensing deals were gearing up through Robert Maxwell’s in-house Superman, Inc., operation. In 1940, Superman continued to be the lead feature in Action Comics. Launched the previous year, Superman had been started as a reprint

The Shuster shop may have been producing more and more “Superman” stories in the early to mid-1940s, but that doesn’t mean all of them got printed! Here, from a 1990s art catalog, is a page from the never-published “Riddle of the Iron Zoo.” [©2004 DC Comics.]


[Crypt-Keeper, Vault-Keeper, & Old Witch & EC title logos TM & Š2004 E.C. Publications, Inc.]

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Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt!

Al Feldstein is truly an original in the comic field. He started out illustrating stories for Fiction House and other comic publishers in the ’40s. In 1948 he began working for Bill Gaines’ Entertaining Comics (EC) group, where his abilities as a writer and editor soon turned a failing company into one of the great success stories of the ’50s.

sci-fi fan! I’d never read many sci-fi stories. After the success of the EC horror titles, Bill Gaines and I were brainstorming ideas for innovative additions to our “New Trend” title line to replace the tired old imitations he’d inherited from his father. Bill confessed to his addiction to John Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction magazine and to sci-fi in general. I confessed that I’d never read sci-fi, so he gave me a few copies of the magazine to read. I brought them back in, after reading just a few stories... and stated that I could write that stuff... and that sci-fi, as I saw it, might be a successful topic for comic books.

Feldstein repeated his success when Mad founder Harvey Kurtzman quit Mad magazine in 1956. Gaines briefly considered canceling the magazine, then asked Feldstein to take over as Mad’s new editor. Gaines’ decision proved to be a wise one. Under Feldstein’s 29-year editorial reign, Mad became a sales phenomenon and a beloved cultural icon.

And so our two sci-fi titles were started: Weird Science and Weird Fantasy. Everybody, of course, knows how Bill and I worked. He would read voraciously for more than half the night (being wired from taking diet pills that contained Dexedrine!) and he’d come in each morning with “springboards”... the simplified basic plots of the stories he’d read... and we’d proceed to use them as inspirations for what we felt were new and original “variations,” “permutations,” and “combinations” of them.

Al Feldstein in the 1950s, as seen in the 1996 Tales from the Crypt: The Official Archives by Digby Diehl. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

This issue’s Al Feldstein interview is the first presented in the “Comic Crypt.” We’d like to thank Mr. Feldstein for generously taking time from his hectic schedule to answer our questions. The following e-mail interview took place between August 7 and October 18, 2002, and was instigated by John Benson, editor of Squa Tront magazine.

My World: The Al Feldstein Interview Part 1

Mainly, we’d steal the ideas... but change them.

by Michael T. Gilbert Ray Bradbury and the EC Writers MICHAEL T. GILBERT: You adapted over 24 Ray Bradbury stories for EC. Ballantine reprinted many of these in their Autumn People and Tomorrow Midnight paperbacks in the mid-’60s. I was very impressed with your versions when I read them as a teenager. When I finally saw the original Bradbury stories years later, I was amazed at how successfully you had transferred the poetry of Bradbury’s tales, while cutting little of the original story. Considering how seamless these adaptations were, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume that you and Bradbury had worked closely together on those EC tales. However, I was surprised to discover that the two of you met for the first time only a few days ago, during a panel discussion at the 2002 San Diego Comic-Con. Those who saw that meeting said it was a very emotional experience. While it’s still fresh in your mind, could you tell us what Ray Bradbury meant to you as a writer when you were working at EC––and what you were thinking when you two finally met after 50 years? Did the two of you have a chance to talk after[Left:] Ray Bradbury in the 1950s, as seen in the hardcover EC Tales of Terror! by Fred von Bernewitz and Grant wards? If so, do you recall what Geissman, from Fantagraphics Books. [Right:] “In the living room the voice-clock sang…” was the first line in Ray you discussed? Bradbury’s short story “There Will Come Soft Rains.” However, when Feldstein adapted the tale for Weird Fantasy #17 AL FELDSTEIN: First of all, you have to understand that I was never a

(Jan.-Feb. 1953), he created a striking splash-page image by pulling a description from a later paragraph. The result? The beautiful Wally Wood splash above! All EC art in this “Crypt” repro’d from Russ Cochran’s beautiful hardcover reprints of the EC line. [©2004 EC Publications, Inc.; original story ©1950, 2004 Ray Bradbury.]


Title Comic Fandom Archive

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GARY BROWN, Comic Book Reporter The Editor of Comic Comments, et al., Talks about Fanzine-publishing, C. C. Beck, and the “Lost” 4th Issue of FATMAN! by Bill Schelly Introduction To state the obvious, we wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the fans who stepped into the breach when Jerry Bails, Ronn Foss, Biljo White, and other early pioneers lowered their fannish profiles. In the mid-1960s, a new generation of enthusiasts rose to the fore, thus ensuring that comics fandom would become an ongoing, selfsustaining movement. A large influx of such individuals—dealers, fanzine editors, writers, artists, convention organizers, and collectors—bid fair to propel fandom’s Golden Age toward the decade’s end. The Comic Fandom Archive would be neglectful indeed if it didn’t plumb the memories of this group of torch-carriers, and chronicle their indelible contributions to fandom and comics alike. One such second-generation fan was Gary Brown, whose name will be familiar to fanzine fanatics of the late ’60s and early ’70s, including Rocket’s Blast-Comicollector, where he was a regular columnist for several years. Although I’ve known Gary for decades through the mails, it was a great pleasure to finally meet him at the 2002 San Diego Comic-Con and to interview him at length a year later. So multi-faceted was Gary’s fan “career” that Roy and I decided to split this chat into two halves. The interview was conducted by telephone on October 2nd, 2003, and was transcribed by Brian K. Morris. BILL SCHELLY: Let’s start with when you were born and related details. BROWN: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, February, 1947. My mom was a housewife for a while; then she worked for as a secretary for Goodyear

Alan Hutchinson’s intricate illo for Gary Brown & Wayne DeWald’s Gremlin #2 fanzine was a parody of the cover of the Beatles’ legendary 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. [©2004 Alan Hutchinson; characters TM!&!©2004 the respective trademark and copyright holders.]

in Miami for a year when we moved there. My dad was a carpenter and worked for several places in Cleveland. After we came down to Miami in 1956, he worked for Eastern Airlines until he retired. I have one sister, two years younger than I am. BS: Why the move to Miami? BROWN: One branch of the family moved down there, and really liked it. We came down to visit with them, and my mom and dad said, “Hey, let’s do this. We’re tired of shoveling the snow, and ice, and sleet.” So we did. We moved, and I grew up not in Miami, but in Hialeah, which is sort of a suburb in Dade County. BS: I have a lot of friends who were born in 1950, ’51, ’52 … so our pasts of the comics, the distance we reached back in the ’50s with our memories, were about the same. But you remember buying earlier comics off the stands than I did, because you’re a bit older. When did you first discover comics, and what were they? BROWN: My parents always bought comics for me to read. They were never against them. My dad read them in World War II, and occasionally picked up some throughout the other years. We had sort of a ritual. Every Saturday night, we’d go down to the corner Both Gary and his dad loved Blackhawk, but Gary really started collecting comics after he picked up Action Comics #256 (Sept. 1959). The circa-1960 Blackhawk cover is by Dick Dillin & Chuck Cuidera; “Superman” pencils by Wayne Boring. [©2004 DC Comics.]


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Comic Fandom Archive

drugstore, or one of the drugstores, and I’d get a comic book or two, and my parents would get something. We’d get what we called “The Little Funnies,” which was the daily news. It’d come out early, so my parents would go through that, and I could read the comics there, too. My dad loved Blackhawk, so I remember that from early on. They bought some Superman for me because I liked the TV show. I’d also get Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, some Archie stuff, Looney Tunes, and things like that. It was a wide variety. I don’t ever remember getting any ECs, unfortunately.

I could lean back on, “Oh, this guy does this, too!” BS: In this period before you heard about fandom, did you write any letters to comics? BROWN: Oh, yes—especially when more and more comics had letters pages. I wrote stupid letters like, “Gee, I’d like to see Lois Lane and the Blackhawks team up,” which has some interesting implications, I would guess. [laughs] That one never saw print, but I did have a couple published in either Adventure or Superboy, and a few other places. When Julie Schwartz started to give away scripts and art in the Flash letter columns, and his other titles, I thought, “What can I do to make my letter stand out?” So I wrote a poem about Flash’s powers, and sent it in… and I won the cover of The Flash #119. BS: It was so embarrassing, and so difficult, to go in and buy comics when you were in high school, and supposed to be past the “comic book” age. You found that stigma, too? BROWN: Oh, yeah. I felt it. Maybe much of it was my own perception, because I later found out that other guys in high school collected. For example, I played football in high school, and basketball, and was on the track team. When I would go to buy comics, I’d look around to make sure nobody was in the store that I knew, because I was a little afraid they were going to go, “Hey, guess what Gary Brown does!”

BS: You would have been about eight when EC comics were gasping their last breath. BROWN: Right. Still, I knew they were horror, because I’d visit my cousins and they’d have all these really great horror comics in their bedroom, and I thought “Oh, I never saw those.” BS: So you had a ringside seat for the onset of the Silver Age, for the return of The Flash, and so forth. BROWN: Yeah. Actually, it’s funny. I remember when I started collecting. It was when I bought the Action Comics with “The Invulnerable Enemy.” I rode my bike back to my place, sat on the stoop and read it. I went, “Wow, this is great!” Then I got drawn to indicia somehow, where it said this was #226, published monthly, and I thought, “Wow, I wonder if anybody has all 226 issues of this comic book.” That’s when I thought, “Well, I’ve got to start looking around.” So I began to go up there once a week and buy comics on my own and keep them, not toss them out or give them to friends. This is 1957, after we moved to Hialeah. BS: Were you one of those collectors who read and appreciated comics on his own? BROWN: Yes, thinking I was the only one who did this. It was a very interesting time. I sometimes wonder if there were other kids on the block and around the neighborhood then who collected comic books like I did. Some kids had a few, but they weren’t really into them. They’d say, “Oh, yeah. I’ve just got a pile of them. I didn’t collect Blackhawk.” But then I did find a guy, who became a good friend of mine, who collected Blackhawk and Batman. We started feeding off of each other. Up till then, I never bought Batman a lot. He never bought Superman, but he started to buy it, too, after we got together. After that,

The covers of Comic Comments #6, 7, & 16. [Human Torch TM & ©2004 Marvel Characters, Inc.; Cliff Steele/Robotman TM & ©2004 DC Comics; art ©2004 the respective artists.]

BS: What about Marvel? Did you jump whole-hog onto the Marvel bandwagon?

BROWN: Right at the beginning, yeah, I was there. I wasn’t buying those monster titles, “Fin Fang Foom” and all that. I was into DC. Amazing Adult Fantasy was the first thing from Marvel that really caught my eye. And then “Spider-Man” was in the last issue, and I was introduced to him that way. We were on a vacation to California, at the Farmer’s Market, right across from CBS, which had this enormous newsstand with all these comic books. They had a stack of maybe 200 copies of Fantastic Four #1 sitting there, and I bought one. I wish I would’ve had ten bucks on me then….

BS: And the foresight to see what a landmark comic that was. Let’s jump ahead. You graduated from high school in 1965, right? Where did you go to college? BROWN: University of South Florida, in Tampa. BS: Was this when you met Wayne DeWald? BROWN: No, we’d become good friends in high school, working on the school newspaper, but I didn’t know he’d collected comics at the time. Wayne is a very knowledgeable, outgoing person—much more outgoing than I was. For example, when we later met C.C. Beck, he’d get on the phone and call Beck. I was a little more reticent. Later on, I became better at it when I became a reporter. But he was very outgoing and willing to get into just about anything. BS: How did you finally tell him that you collected comics?


PLUS:

1

BECK•SWAN•SWAYZE•RABOY NEWTON•WEISS & More! SPECIAL FEATURE! JIM AMASH INTERVIEWS

1994--2004

5.95

$

In the USA

No. 37 June 2004

GOLDEN AGE & PHANTOM ARTIST

[Art ©2004 Estate of C.C. Beck; Captain Marvel TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]

SY BARRY!


Vol. 3, No. 37 / June 2004 Editor

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/Colorists C.C. Beck Wayne Boring

And Special Thanks to: Neal Adams Bob Bailey Brian H. Bailie Mike W. Barr Sy Barry John Benson Luciano Bernasconi Doug Bost Chris Brown Gary Brown Garrie Burr Mike Catron Bob Cherry Leone Cimpellin Shaun Clancy Russ Cochran John L. Coker III Ray A. Cuthbert Brian Cutler Teresa R. Davidson Al Dellinges Joe Desris Wayne DeWald John Doliber Al Feldstein Shane Foley Joe Frank Keif Fromm Jean-Peal Gabilliet Janet Gilbert Dick Giordano Scott Goodell Walt Grogan Jennifer Hamerlinck David G. Hamilton Keith Hammond Wally Harrington Ron Harris Hurricane Heeran Jan Alan Henderson

Bob Hughes Alan Hutchinson Richard Kolkman David Anthony Kraft Richard Kyle Tom Lammers Bob Lane Pat Lang Michael Lark Jean-Marc Lofficier Chris Malgrain Andy McKinney Tobi L. Miley Jason Millet Sheldon Moldoff Will Murray Lee Nail Franco Oneta John G. Pierce Richard Pryor Jerry Ordway Ed Rhoades Charlie Roberts Ethan Roberts David Siegel Marc Swayze Dann Thomas Anthony Tollin Alex Toth Jaume Vaquer Jyrki Vainio Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Mark Waid Tom Watkins John Wells Marv Wolfman Glenn Wood Joanna Martine Woolfolk Michael Zeno

This issue is dedicated to the memory of

Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Philip Wylie, & Rudy LaPick

SY BARRY: HIS LIFE AND TIMES Section (plus FCA!)

Contents re: [correspondence & corrections]. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 “ISy Barry, Gotlegendary to Realize My Dream!” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 artist of The Phantom—and many a comic book—talks to Jim Amash.

FCA (Fawcett Collectors of America) #96 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 P.C. Hamerlinck’s Marvel-ous mix of Curt Swan, C.C. Beck, Marc Swayze, and more. K-Metal & Gladiator Section . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover: A 1980s re-creation by C.C. Beck, the original artist and thus co-creator (whether he called himself that or not) of Captain Marvel, of the cover of Captain Marvel Adventures #16 (Oct. 1942). P.C. Hamerlinck, who owns the original, had to take the painting down off his wall to photograph it. But what more fitting subject could there be for an issue that heralds the 4th of July—even if it goes on sale in June so as not to come out after Independence Day—than this one of the Big Red Cheese and his Uncle Sam, getting set to knock Hitler and Tojo back on their Axis? [Art ©2004 Estate of C.C. Beck; Captain Marvel TM & ©2004 DC Comics.] Above: This dramatic illo by Sy Barry of The Phantom, the masked comic strip hero he drew so ably for many years, shows the artist hasn’t lost his touch. Its dramatic lighting from below does indeed give a foreboding spectral appearance to “The Ghost Who Walks.” With thanks to Sy and to Ed Rhoades. [Post-1995 art ©2004 Sy Barry; The Phantom TM & ©2004 King Features Syndicate.] 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: roydann@ntinet.com. 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.


4

“I Got To Realize My Dream!” SY BARRY on His Career in Comic Books— The Phantom—and His Big Brother DAN Interview Conducted & Transcribed by Jim Amash [INTERVIEWER’S INTRO: Sy Barry was known as one of the best inkers in comic books, lending his unique talents to heavyweight pencilers such as Alex Toth, Gene Colan, and his own brother, Dan Barry. Sy’s work, from Lev Gleason to Timely to DC Comics and other publishers, was imbued with a lushness that few could equal. And let’s not forget that Sy often penciled, as well, providing top-notch work for a host of comics well-remembered to this day. But Sy had other ambitions. The dream of most comic book artists of his time was to draw a newspaper strip. Though he had assisted his brother Dan on Flash Gordon, it was The Phantom with which Sy was to make his mark in syndication. For over thirty years, Sy gave life to “The Ghost Who Walks,” keeping the adventure strip a vital commodity in newspapers. In this interview, Sy gives life to the days in which most of the men who created comics now seem just as ethereal as The Phantom. —Jim.]

JA: You were born in 1928, so you were the right age to discover comic books when they started. BARRY: I sure was. I remember when “Superman” first appeared in Action Comics in 1938. Before that, I had seen other adventure features, like Flash Gordon and Hal Foster’s Tarzan, which they put into Big Little Books, too. I was very torn, because I did want to be an illustrator, but I just had the drive to do comics. It was my second year in high school when I decided to go in that direction and study cartooning. Of course, cartooning took in the illustrative style as well as the humorous stuff. When my anatomy teacher saw that I was switching to this, he was furious with me; he felt I would make it as an illustrator. But I stuck it out and got to meet people like Al Scaduto, who did They’ll Do It Every Time. Al was in my class at the time, as were Joe Giella and Emelio Squeglio, who liked being called Mel. He looked like New York’s Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia... he absolutely did not look like a “Mel” to me. He still calls me “Seymour” and I still call him Emelio; I

“I Can Do That Stuff” JIM AMASH: What got you interested in becoming a cartoonist? SY BARRY: I originally wanted to be an illustrator in high school and attended the School of Industrial Arts, which is now the School of Art and Design. I took an illustration course and my anatomy teacher liked my work very much. I discovered that artists I had known were making money in cartooning, doing adventure work. It looked very illustrative to me and I thought, “I can do that stuff, so why not get into it and make some money a little quicker?” It also had a certain excitement to me, because I felt that comics had more flair to them than illustration did. There were more themes to explore and lots of action, as opposed to illustration, which I felt was a little too quiet for me.

(Top left:) Sy Barry hard at work circa 1990, in a photo by Ed Rhoades—and primo specimens of his comic book and comic strip art. (Above left:) Sy’s splash from Strange Adventures #22 (Oct.-Nov. 1954), for what editor Julius Schwartz called in A/E #26 one of his science-fiction titles’ “Earth-in-a-strange-position” stories. With thanks to Chris Brown. (Above right:) This 2001 drawing of The Phantom and Devil was used as the cover of the 23rd issue of Friends of The Phantom magazine (Fall 2002), published by his friend Ed Rhoades. Thanks to Sy, and to Ed Rhoades for his assistance with scanning, for all photos of Sy which appear with this interview, unless otherwise noted. [Strange Adventures art ©2004 DC comics; Phantom art ©2004 Sy Barry; The Phantom TM & ©2004 King Features Syndicate.]


“I Got To Realize My Dream!”

5

can’t bring myself to call him “Mel.” [NOTE: Emelio Squeglio will be interviewed in A/E #41.] JA: You’re unusual in the sense that your older brother Dan was also a cartoonist. How much older than you was Dan? BARRY: Five years. That’s a big difference when you’re young, because he was hanging out with an older crowd. There was another brother in between us. My parents had eight children—five boys and three girls. The only ones left now are my youngest sister and me. Dan and I were the only artists in the family. My younger brother Ray went to the School of Industrial Arts, but he didn’t like it and went to another school. He became a plumber and was more successful than Dan and I put together. [laughs]

“I Pounded the Pavement” JA: I never asked Dan this, but I always assumed he wanted to be a cartoonist at an early age, too. Did he influence you at all?

Smilin’ Ed’s Gang was a popular kids’ radio show in the 1940s-50s, hosted by “Smilin’ Ed” McConnell, with, er, help from Froggy the Gremlin. It also featured short radio melodramas starring heroes such as Ghanga and his elephant Teela (inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s “Toomai of the Elephants” and other stories from his Jungle Books and the pre-Disney films of same), little Kulah and his Jinni, and other rotating concepts. The sponsor was Buster Brown Shoes. Here are a pair of covers drawn by Dan & Sy Barry for giveaway issues of Buster Brown Comics. Thanks to Sy & Ed Rhoades. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

BARRY: Yes, he did. First, let’s go back to when Dan was in high school at Straubenueller Tech, in Brooklyn. He left there while in the twelfth grade to draw comics. But I mainly looked at pulp illustrations and full-color ones in magazines. I read books and wasn’t an avid comic book fan.

probably bit all his nails off, always worried about pleasing his boss. A couple of times, around Christmas, we’d play tricks on him, making him think his boss was on the verge of firing him. It was very zany stuff and we’d tell his boss, so he wouldn’t fire him.

Dan got out of the service around 1946, before I graduated from high school that year. He was already married and had a child while in the service. They were living in Brooklyn then. I was doing spot black-&white illos for a furniture company. I also started doing little fillers for Quality Comics, Standard Publications, and I think for DC, too; they were called National back then. Actually, I started doing this work in 1945, when I was seventeen.

We’d put work on his desk that we did for other companies, to make it look like Ed was moonlighting in his own office. [laughter] To Ed, it was like the roof had fallen in; he was afraid of what his boss would say if he saw it.

For Quality I was doing full-page fillers. Some were ads that advertised future books. I’d draw a couple of name characters in the ads, like the Blackhawks, and I’d leave room for dialogue.

JA: What were the Hillman offices like, and who was Cronin’s boss?

George Brenner was the one who hired me to do this, but my memory of him is very vague. I was only working there intermittently, because I was doing work for other places, too. I’d call him up and get work when I could. There wasn’t any steady work there, so I pounded the pavement and did those fillers when they became available.

“Ed [Cronin] Did Have Something Going On…” BARRY: I can’t remember his name. The offices were just a little bit smaller than DC’s. In those days, DC’s offices at 480 Lexington Avenue were small… just a few editorial offices and one reasonably-sized art room where art production was done. Cronin had a secretary. He did have help, but whether it was an actual assistant editor, I can’t say. I did crime comics for him.

JA: In 1946, you did a feature called “Treasure Keeper” for Crestwood Publications.

Actually, Ed did have something going on that his boss didn’t know about. Ed was an agent for Buster Brown comic books. Buster Brown was a shoe chain, and with every pair of shoes that were sold to a child, they’d give out a Buster Brown comic book with three 8- to 10pagers in each one. Dan and I did some stories for those books, around 1948. Ed would line up the printer and a couple of people to letter and do production. Dan and I made the color work-ups, and the printer followed them.

BARRY: I think they were called Feature at that time, but I don’t remember anything about it. By 1947, I was working for Charlie Biro and Bob Wood at Lev Gleason Publications, as well as for [editor] Ed Cronin at Hillman Publications. Ed was a wonderful guy, but uptight and extremely anxious about his job. He was the kind of guy who

There are two more funny stories about Ed. Whenever I brought work in, it had to be at the exact proper moment, because his staff couldn’t be around. Ed didn’t want them to know about the outside work he was agenting out. He had to be totally by himself. On one occasion, I was actually in the supply closet, can you believe it? He had

JA: Did you happen to meet Jack Cole? BARRY: No, but I did ink a couple of “Plastic Mans,” and they asked me to imitate his style. I got to be known as an inker, but I also penciled. I never worked steadily for Quality. I’d just do a couple of stories a year, but this was later, in the early 1950s.


6 the light on in the closet. I couldn’t even go into his office! The most important thing was that you had the right number of pages. I’m standing in the supply closet and the stuff is leaning on the shelf, along with other stacks of paper. Ed said, “Don’t mix your pages up with the other pages. Don’t mix them up now.” I said, “Oh no, I wouldn’t dare.” Ed starts counting, and here’s how he counted: “One, one, one, two, two, two”... he went through every one of the 12 pages, counting them three times. Then he went backwards, starting at page 12 and counting back to page 1, making sure all 12 pages were there. He did not want to lose one page! He must have lost something in his childhood and he never found it. [mutual laughter] Maybe it was a couple of marbles? I don’t know! He was an obsessive, compulsive type of person. Unbelievable!

Sy Barry my inks. You have to apply drawing, sensitivity, and form to the pencils. You can’t just trace them, or everything looks dead.

“Murphy Anderson… a Wonderful, Wonderful Sweet Guy” JA: Very true. Dan already had a studio by this time and he helped you. Did you work in his studio? BARRY: At the very beginning, in 1946, when I started working for Dan, we worked out of his home in Brooklyn. Then he took a space in New York City with a couple of other artists, and I worked there, too. But there wasn’t much room for me, so I rented a space with a couple of nonartists for a couple of months. It was in a printing place, and I had a little space of my own to work in. In 1947 Dan and I rented a large loft at 31st Street, between Fifth and Broadway.

Another incident happened the first time I delivered something to him. Dan and I were still living Sy and his wife Simmy in 1949. in Brooklyn; that’s how early it was in my career. Now, Dan didn’t tell me what to do if Ed wasn’t there. I had my work Murphy Anderson shared the loft with us. He was always a in a portfolio and asked if Ed was in. Someone said, “Gee, he was here a wonderful, wonderful, sweet guy. We were great friends for a long time. moment ago. Maybe he went to the bathroom.” So, I waited and waited I even knew him before he got married. He was from Greensboro, and waited until it got kind-of late, and I had to get back to the studio. North Carolina. Someone came in, saw me, and said, “You’re still here? Well, maybe Ed’s not in the bathroom. He must have gone out for a while.” JA: Actually, he was born in Asheville, NC, but grew up in Greensboro, which is where I live. Murphy’s dad owned a cab I went into his office and laid a 15-page story on his desk, and papercompany here. clipped a note on it. I wrote, “Here’s the 15 pages from Dan. He asked that you call him once you’ve looked at the story,” and signed my name BARRY: I remember that! to it and left. I went back, and Dan’s waiting at his house with a sour JA: Murphy’s sister used to own a car shop that fixed Mazdas. I used look on his face, so I knew something was wrong. Dan said, “Are you to own a Mazda, and Murphy’s nephew used to work on my car. His crazy?” I said, “What are you talking about?” Dan said, “How can you nephew would ask me, “Have you talked to Uncle ‘C’ lately?” leave a whole story on his desk like that? It’s supposed to be a secret. Ed Murphy’s middle name is Clyde. called me up and he’s hysterical. He was crying on the phone. He said, ‘How could Sy leave that story on my desk?’” BARRY: Murphy and I used to have the nicest, intimate conversations. He was such a wonderful guy to reach out to. These lofts had been I said, “You never told me that this was a secret and nobody was converted from factories, and if they’re still there, they’re probably supposed to know about it! How was I supposed to know?” Dan said beautiful apartments by now. We had a second room in that loft, and that, fortunately, nobody had come into Ed’s office. Ed was so worried Murphy worked in there, but we could still see each other. These rooms about his job that he bit his nails and stammered for months, because he had windows, probably so the factory managers could look through was worried someone had found out what he was doing on Hillman’s them to see who was working and who wasn’t. time. We were able to laugh about it for months, and Dan got hysterical about it because of the impact it had on Cronin’s nerves. Any time Ed got Now, Murphy was a big comic book collector. Murphy kept buying on the phone with Dan, he’d start stammering! [mutual laughter] He more and more books, and eventually set up a wall of books around was so afraid Dan would pull another stunt like that and send his silly him. This wall went up to his shoulders, all around his desk. [laughter] brother over with another story. That’s the kind of worry wart he was. All you’d see is his eyes and part of his face. Then the stacks got still higher and all you’d see were his eyes. He never let the books pile up I must say that Ed greatly respected Dan’s work. He never criticized any further than his eye level, because he’d look over the books and talk it. Many times, Dan wrote the stories as well as drawing them. And to us over them. Dan would lose patience and be whispering, “My God! there was never any kind of editorial criticism. He’s got those damn books everywhere! If he gets any more books, I JA: He was too busy worrying to bother! Were you inking Dan’s wouldn’t be able to see him. How does he breathe behind those books?” work on those Buster Brown stories? I said, “Dan, relax. He’s got his toys; leave him alone. What do you BARRY: I inked Dan’s work and also did layouts on a couple of stories. want?” I loved Murphy! He was working on Buck Rogers for the The work I did for Hillman was all ink work, though I did pencil and Chicago Tribune at the time. He hadn’t even done Lars of Mars yet. ink a couple of stories on my own. When I started with Dan, I was only Murphy was a real hometown boy, and I loved his conversations. He inking backgrounds. As I told you, I had already started getting jobs on loved his hometown, but also loved New York and said he’d never move my own, so it didn’t take long before I was doing full inks for Dan. out of here. Now he lives in New Jersey, but he lived in Queens for many years. Dan always did full pencils for me or anyone else who helped him. When he inked it, he didn’t put quite as much into the penciling. I was JA: Murphy told me the story of what happened when Bobby the same way when I inked my own pencils. I left things like shading Thomson hit that dramatic home run in October 1951, and the and blacks for the ink stage. That’s where I would correct anything I saw Giants beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the playoffs. that needed correcting. Working this way added the necessary vitality to


No. 96 June 2004

SWAN • SWAYZE RABOY • NEWTON PIERCE • WEISS BUCKLER • KANE ORDWAY CUTLER VOSBURG • BECK FAWCETT AFICIONADOS ALL!

Sketch by Curt Swan; courtesy of Walt Grogan

[Art ©2004 Estate of Curt Swan; Captain Marvel TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]


34

Marc Swayze obscurity, and his original goals as a cartoonist. This month, Marc reflects upon the talent– with names like Keaton, Raboy, and Beck—that surrounded him during the Golden Age of Comics. —P.C. Hamerlinck.]

By

[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 exploits, including the classic origin story, “Captain Marvel Introduces Mary Marvel (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 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 layouts, his years in

It is probably heard of most often in the artistic creative fields... and generally accepted as a natural endowment... a gift from above. Occasionally, it has been given special names... like in music, an “ear”... in sports, an “arm” or a “leg.” We’re talking about “talent.” In many cases, perhaps too many, it has been mistakenly identified. Take when a kid, for example, can draw a pumpkin that, according to Mom, looks exactly like Peanuts. Even Prince Valiant, to some Moms! That kid has ample talent to go straight up the ladder to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and improve on the work of Michelangelo. “My baby is so talented!” Ever hear it? It’s found everywhere, and is not confined to the arts. My brother got a kick out of solving difficult mathematical problems that I wouldn’t go near. A grocery clerk in our town amused customers with immediate oral answers to baffling columns of digits. The college president, impressed with the performance, offered to collaborate with him on a book if he could explain how it was accomplished. He couldn’t. “I guess it’s just a gift, doctor” was the shy reply. Mystic gift? Talent? Regardless of what might have been said or written to the contrary, talent existed among the artists and writers of the Golden Age of Comics. So we claimed. I once heard an art instructor say that there was no such thing as natural talent. Had she sat in my chair in 1941 and looked to right and left, over the Fawcett art department, she would have seen living

“Pure Beck!” C.C.’s cover and a panel detail from Whiz Comics #22 (Oct. 1941). [©2004 DC Comics.]


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The World’s Finest Big Red Cheese Captain Marvel’s “New Look” by John G. Pierce Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck New Looks for Old The mid-1980s saw unprecedented changes in longstanding comics characters, as the old gave way to the new. This was particularly true at DC, where new versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and others were brought in to replace the previous ones. The idea of injecting a fresh spark of life into old characters by revamping them is nothing particularly “new.” However, what was different was the method DC chose to accomplish the task: either killing off a character, or completely ignoring his/her previous existence, in order to introduce the new version. It was sometimes specifically stated that “the previous stories never happened,” or “haven’t happened yet.” Basically, stories previously done were mainly just ignored. This wasn’t always the case. Beginning with Batman in 1964, a “New Look” philosophy implemented by the company took existing features and revised them by introducing a new artistic style, usually in concert with a different

[Left:] Don Newton, drawn by C.C. Beck, 1980. [Above:] Newton artwork from the 1970 Rocket’s Blast-Comicollector “Captain Marvel Special,” combining realistic and traditional styles in drawing the World’s Mightiest Mortal. [Art ©2004 Estate of Don Newton; Captain Marvel TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]

writer (and often editor), and perhaps some costume changes, in an attempt to boost sales. With Batman, this surely succeeded, and for a number of years the sleeker Infantino-illustrated figure became the standard. With the Blackhawks, a few years later, an attempt to transform this long-standing para-military team into costumed heroes can only be deemed ill-advised, and doomed—deservedly so, many would say—to an early death. But with the original Captain Marvel (the term “original” might have been called into question by DC at the time), his saga is well-known: one of the most popular comic book characters of the 1940s, as published by Fawcett Publications, he eventually fell prey to the public’s changing

[Left:] In 1972 editor Julius Schwartz hired original “Captain Marvel” artist/cocreator C.C. Beck to draw Shazam!—but it wasn’t Beck’s best work any more than it was Julie’s or writer Denny O’Neil’s. Sometimes, even with an assemblage of such talent, things just don’t work out. We’ll have more to say about the DC Shazam! series next issue. This is the final newly-produced page for issue #1 (Feb. 1973). [Above:] Golden Age aficionados generally concur that the stories written by E. Nelson Bridwell under editor Joe Orlando came closest to catching the spirit of the 1940s/early ’50s “Captain Marvel” stories, as in Shazam! #28 (March-April 1977). Art by Kurt Schaffenberger. [©2004 DC Comics.]


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John G. Pierce

[Left:] This splash page by Alan Weiss and Joe Rubinstein from Shazam! #34 (MarchApril 1978) heralded what John G. Pierce retroactively calls the “new look” for the former Fawcett heroes. Script by E. Nelson Bridwell. [Right:] This Weiss-penciledand-inked cover for issue #16 (April ’78) of the DC “house fanzine” Amazing World of DC Comics caught the spirit of what DC and editor Jack C. Harris were now looking for. [©2004 DC Comics.]

tastes and frivolous lawsuits brought on by DC. By January 1954, Cap and his family had flown away, until their erstwhile persecutors leased the rights to him and his junior counterparts, and resurrected them in Shazam! #1, 1973.

However, change was in the wind, as Jack Harris became editor of the book. Harris decided to eliminate the light-hearted treatment which had traditionally been associated with the feature, and go instead for serious, straight stories.

It is to DC’s credit that they made an effort—misguided though it may have been—to keep something of Cap’s original story style intact in Shazam! (not to mention wisely choosing to include Golden Age reprints in the back of the book). Unfortunately, the DC writers limited themselves in the storytelling aspect, choosing to play Cap strictly for laughs. “Captain Marvel” stories from the Golden Age contained varied styles, written with consistent high quality, and seasoned with just the right amount of a special brand of whimsy. As for the artistic side, DC logically hired Cap’s co-creator, C.C. Beck (of course making sure Cap’s artistic originator submitted art samples first!). Beck left the book after ten issues due to philosophical differences (a fancy way of saying Beck thought the writers’ stories were generally stupid and childish) and because of the unrelenting tug-of-war he had with editor Julie Schwartz over control and handling of the book (see “Can Lightning Strike Twice?” in Comic Book Artist Collection, Vol. 1—still available from TwoMorrows).

“I’d like to get some dramatic impact into the next story!” Harris reportedly told Bridwell.

But “Captain Marvel” would continue in Shazam! with other artists (Bob Oksner and Kurt Schaffenberger, the latter having previously drawn “The Marvel Family” back in the ’40s and ’50s for Fawcett), though for a while the book’s frequency went quarterly and reprints replaced new stories. Finally, under the editorship of Joe Orlando, Shazam! at last seemed to settle into a pattern. Having previously been written mainly by Denny O’Neil and Elliott Maggin, the stories became the exclusive province of E. Nelson Bridwell, a DC staffer and associate editor to Julie Schwartz, who had been a fan of the Fawcett stories in his youth. Bridwell fought hard to keep DC from trying to modernize Shazam! Teamed with artist Kurt Schaffenberger, he produced a series of stories loosely based on the then-current Saturday morning Shazam! live-action TV version, as well as on certain Golden Age stories wherein Cap traveled to a different city in each tale. It was an inspired pairing, and it seemed to work.

“Did you read the script I just turned in for #34?” Bridwell responded. “That has it!” So Harris read the script... a tale of Captain Marvel and more specifically of Captain Marvel Jr., as the latter came to grips with his ancient foe Captain Nazi, and with his own latent hostility for Nazi’s having killed his grandfather back in 1941 (in Junior’s origin story). It was a decidedly serious story, grimmer in tone than the tales which had preceded it, and seemed to demand a heavier style of art than that of regular artist Kurt Schaffenberger or fill-in artist Tenny Henson. So Harris turned to Alan Weiss and Joe Rubinstein, and thus was born the Big Red Cheese’s “new look” in Shazam! #34 (April 1978). R.C. Harvey, writing in Rocket’s Blast-Comicollector #141 (Feb. 1978), probably spoke for many when he penned the following requiem: “We regret to announce the death of one of the Golden Age’s greatest comic book heroes. Death was not instantaneous: he lingered for almost five years before finally succumbing. During that entire period, those who ministered to him demonstrated repeatedly that, despite their affection for him, they never understood him. The coup de grace was administered by Alan Weiss and Joe Rubinstein, who made the disastrous mistake of trying to render the Red Cheese realistically. While many fan artists had done the same over the years, no pro had—until Shazam! #34. It was too much for Cap; it did him in. He died, sorry to say, not with a bang, not even a whimper—but with grotesquely bulging muscles, misshapen body, and a hideous, toothy grimace. RIP” Not everyone, not even among long-time Captain Marvel fans, were so negative. Some would even commend Weiss for at least attempting to


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hew to Captain Marvel’s and Billy Batson’s traditional facial features— although, combined with the heavy, exaggerated musculature and so forth, the results appeared more like satirical caricatures of the original characters. The late Rich Morrissey commented that the pseudo-realistic approach combined with Cap’s traditional slit eyes made him look as if he were staring into the sun. But this was to be the only work on the character done by Weiss, apart from his cover for the “Shazam!” spotlight issue of Amazing World of DC Comics, that company’s house-produced quasi-fanzine of the 1970s. The penciling on Shazam! was put into the hands of Don Newton, an intriguing choice.

Newton Looks for Old Don had been a Captain Marvel fan in his youth in the ’40s, and had retained his great love for the character over the years. He had done several illustrations of the Captain for various fanzines, including the 1970 RBCC “Captain Marvel Special” and Martin Greim’s Comic Crusader #15, 1973. His illustrations were done both in a realistic as well as the traditional vein—sometimes a combination of both styles— displaying his versatility. C.C. Beck, when working for DC on early issues of Shazam! and after experiencing displeasure with DC’s handling of the book, suggested hiring Newton as an artistic collaborator (and bringing on some of the old Fawcett writers such as Rod Reed and William Woolfolk). But the only time Beck and Newton would actually collaborate would be on an unpublished strip for The National Splash art from the first “Shazam!” tale in the giant-size World’s Finest Comics (#253, Nov. 1978). While seemingly ill-matched, the art team of Don Newton and Fawcett Marvel Family veteran Kurt Schaffenberger proved to be a pleasant surprise, with Kurt’s inks tending to “pull [the art] back closer to what it had been.” [©2004 DC Comics.]

Lampoon, written by Denny O’Neil and entitled “The Silencing of the Shazam-Sayer” (finally published in Alter Ego V3#11/FCA #70). Beck once commented to P.C. Hamerlinck that he was not proud of the 2page strip. It is interesting to speculate on what might have developed had DC allowed Beck the privilege of hiring Newton, both in terms of Newton’s later development as an artist, and with regard to the acceptance the artwork might have received, as contrasted to Beck’s solo work. Certainly it would have meant an easier and quicker entry for Newton into professional comics work. As it turned out, he began at Charlton, doing ghost stories and subsequently The Phantom, before being brought over to DC by Neal Adams to draw Aquaman. In hindsight, however, a Beck-Newton collaboration, with the deterioration of Beck’s relationship with DC after 1973, might have meant that Newton would have been denied the opportunity to work on “Shazam!” stories thereafter.

In this partial-page scene from Don Newton’s artistic debut in, ironically, the final issue of Shazam! (#35, May-June 1978), The Marvel Family goes to hell—something that diehard fans of the classic Beck/Binder Captain Marvel were doubtless already saying. But Don and DC had their own ideas about the direction the series should take in the modern era. [©2004 DC Comics.]

Newton was possibly an illogical choice for the World’s Mightiest Mortal—depending on how one wants to approach the whole matter— due to certain beliefs he expressed, specifically in FCA (then FCA/SOB, edited by Beck), reprinted in AE V3#11/FCA 70. Newton felt the traditional version of the character had not evolved, looked silly with his “plastered-down hair,” and acted dated, and that any character that had survived for several decades had to evolve (he cited Mickey Mouse as an example). Newton’s more realistic style gave Cap’s hair “the dry look” and extensive muscular detail, as if his costume had been “painted on him.” When Newton spoke of his art as “realistic,” he was doing so with a bit more justification than many other artists. As revealed in the Dec. 1979 issue of Muscular Development magazine, Newton had been a


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Life of Brian An Interview with ISIS Co-Star BRIAN CUTLER by Andy McKinney [Interview conducted August 2001, and edited by P.C. Hamerlinck.] ANDY MCKINNEY: When did you begin your career as an actor? BRIAN CUTLER: When I was five years old. I’ve been very fortunate and very blessed. I’ve never had to do anything else but act, sing, perform, direct, and coach actors. AM: How did getting the role of teacher ‘Rick Mason’ on Isis? CUTLER: I became involved with Isis via my agent Diane Davis of 20th Century Artists. They sent me for the audition. I went back probably three or four times before I was hired. Then they had me audition with probably 20 to 30 women until we found Joanna [Cameron] for the lead role, and then we cast the rest of the show and started working. AM: What was it like working for a small studio like Filmation? CUTLER: Filmation was an “interesting” experience for all of us… some good things, some bad things. Unfortunately, one of the problems working for a small company is that you don’t make the kind of money you do with a larger company. The crew that worked on all the shows

were wonderful, and the cast were all great. Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott, the producers, sort-of kept to themselves. We put in long hours; we shot two complete episodes a week, which means we worked Monday to Saturday. When you’re doing a show that’s shot “on location,” they can work you Saturdays.

“Isis is something that will always be a part of my life.” Brian Cutler today—and with cast members from the Shazam! spinoff series in 1976. [Left to right below:] Brian Cutler (“Rick Mason”), Joanna Pang (“Cindy Lee”), and Joanna Cameron (Isis). [Isis TM & © 2004 Entertainment Rights.]

AM: Speaking of locations, where were the exteriors for the school filmed? CUTLER: I don’t remember the actual school, but it was in the Reseda area. AM: Russell Bates [writer of the first episode] has told me that the original concept of Isis was quite different than the school setting that ended up on the screen. Did your character have a detailed background, or was it pretty much left up to you? CUTLER: In the beginning, the show’s format was set up to be more of a “criminal investigation” thing. Some of the early scripts would indicate that. Perhaps the show would’ve had a little more appeal if they’d kept it in the mystery genre instead of the super-hero genre. However, the show was still successful, and people certainly loved it. There was nothing specific written for my character… just a general character breakdown, and then the rest was left to us. We just had to work as quickly as we could because, on a lower-budget project, you don’t have a lot of prep time. AM: How did you get along with your fellow cast members? CUTLER: Everyone got along extremely well. Joanna Pang (“Cindy Lee”) was a very close and dear friend. Joanna Cameron (“Andrea Thomas/Isis”) was a little more difficult to work with than everybody else in the cast; but all in all, everyone worked very well together. The production team was always able to meet with us and discuss things with us and, as I said earlier, the crew was a great bunch of guys and gals. We all spent a lot of time together, so the better you get along with everybody, the better it is for everybody. After shooting, most of us, sans Joanna Cameron, would usually go out to have a drink or go out to dinner or something before we all headed to our homes. AM: How did you feel about working on a children’s program? Do you feel it had an impact on children? CUTLER: Actually, the first eight or nine years I did theatre, the majority of the work I did was in children’s theatre, and I love


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Paul Bunyan and Other Great Blue Bores by C.C. Beck

Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck [This article was written circa the mid-1980s by Captain Marvel’s original chief artist, and was first published in FCA #59, 1998.] “Tall Tales,” stories about fantastically exaggerated heroes like Paul Bunyan and John Henry, have always bored me. Even the stories in Greek mythology have always seemed pretty overdone to me and I’m glad that hardly anyone bothers with them anymore. When the comics came along, they took the place of all the old classic children’s tales, most of which were pretty silly if not downright stupid when you think about them. Tall tales are lies. Huge, utterly unbelievable lies. There are (or used

to be) societies whose members vied with each other in contests to determine who could tell the Bunyan by Beck, 1987. most completely unbelievable lie. [Art ©2004 Estate of C.C. Beck.] In telling a tall tale, the storyteller didn’t have to be interesting to tell his story well, nor even to be in the least entertaining. All he had to do was be completely unbelievable. For that he got a prize? Even more boring are the itty-bitty-cutesie-wootsie stories about adorable little talking animals and fairies and that sort of drivel. I have never had any objection to stories about talking animals and magic; I object only to those stories whose writers seem to be saying, “You feeble-minded little readers, I’m really poking fun at you and you’re too stupid to know it!” These writers are doing the same thing as the tellers of tall tales, that is, downgrading their audience. Personally, I don’t enjoy being downgraded, do you? The kind of story I liked as a boy, and still like today, is a story in which strange, wonderful, exciting things happen to the hero. Gulliver’s Travels, The Three Musketeers, the Tarzan and Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, all kept me enthralled for years. I still have these stories, and I read them again from time to time. They’re still fine stories!

“They made an idiot out of Billy Batson.” An early-’70s Billy drawing by C.C. Beck. [©2004 DC Comics.]

Notice that I said “a story in which strange, wonderful, exciting things happen to the hero.” I didn’t say “ a strange, wonderful, exciting hero.” The heroes of my favorite stories were Gulliver, D’Artagnan, Tarzan, and John Carter. All were ordinary men who found themselves in strange situations. Gulliver found himself among people only six inches high, among people seventy feet tall, among wizards and magicians, and among talking horses. D’Artagnan found himself in a world of nasty villains and wonderful heroes quite unlike his (and my) backwoods home. Tarzan found himself among apes and savages, among men the size of ants, among beastly villains and lovely heroines and godlike men in ancient civilizations. John Carter found himself on the


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planet Mars among horrible beasts and villains and heroes of all sizes, shapes, and colors. What these heroes did in their strange situations was what made the heroes! And that made great stories! But the average comics publisher never seems to have grasped the simple truth that the readers want to find out what a hero pretty much like themselves will do when placed in a tight situation. He can have a knife, like Tarzan did, or a sword and a gun as Gulliver and D’Artagnan had, or all three, as John Carter had. He does not need to be able to fly, or to crash through steel walls and tear down mountains and all that silly Paul Bunyan stuff. On Mars, John Carter found that his earthly muscles enabled him to leap and run much better than his enemies could. This was because he was in a strange setting, not because he was strange himself. Gulliver was a huge giant in Lilliput, a tiny doll in the land of the giants. But he was always himself. Tarzan was a weakling as compared to the giant apes among whom he lived. D’Artagnan was a mere lad of eighteen when he went to Paris to face villains in their thirties and forties. Not one of these heroes had any special powers at all. They were often beaten up (D’Artagnan), sick to the stomach (Gulliver), horribly mangled (Tarzan), and even stripped down and thrown into dungeons (John Carter). “How will the hero get out of this mess?” was the reader’s question. “I know he will... but how? Wow! This is really exciting!” But in comics we start off with a hero who is impervious to everything, who has two or three dozen stupendous superhuman powers, who is made of steel, rock, fire, rubber, or who perhaps was put together by a demented scientist. Comic heroes must lead boring lives. “Ho-hum,” they must say, “not much happening today. I think I’ll go out and kill all the

“We’ll bring him back and we’ll make him even better than he used to be. Wheee, we’re in business again!” Beck art from Shazam! #1 (Feb. 1973). [©2004 DC Comics.]

crooks in town. Or maybe I can destroy some bad guy’s army. Let’s see, what bad guy’s army needs destroying today?” When Superman started, he was a being from another planet who found himself on Earth. Like Gulliver among the Lilliputians or John Carter among the Martians, he had powers that others didn’t. He was able to do strange, wonderful, exciting things... for a while. Then the publishers made a Paul Bunyan of him. Superman became so huge and so fantastic that he became a big, blue bore. He still is. When Captain Marvel started, he was a small boy, Billy Batson. He had the powers of certain ancient gods and heroes given to him by the wizard Shazam so that he could turn into a big, powerful man, “the World’s Mightiest Mortal.” Captain Marvel didn’t fly until his publisher made the writers put that and other nonsense into the scripts. As Billy Batson, he got into all sorts of scrapes and tight situations, some of them pretty fearsome. Every kid would like to have a big brother or a big father or a big uncle he could call on when the going gets rough. Captain Marvel was Billy’s big brother... in the days when big brothers were nice to have around. But they made a Paul Bunyan out of Captain Marvel, too. He had to fight Hitler’s army, Hirohito’s army, and fly and crash through steel walls and rip up fortifications and generally make a big, boring nuisance of himself. Finally everybody got sick of him and he went out of business. Twenty years went by. The comics were worse than ever. All the heroes were flying around aimlessly, trying to find something to do. People stopped buying new comic books and turned to reading old ones. “What do you know? These old comics are really great!” the readers said. “Why doesn’t some publisher bring them back?”


Alter Ego #37