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FULL-ISSUE FOCUS ON GOLDEN AGE GREAT

JERRY ROBINSON Talks to to JERRY Talks JIM AMASH

BOB KANE MORT MESKIN GEORGE ROUSSOS FRED RAY BERNIE KLEIN SIMON & KIRBY DICK SPRANG CHARLES PARIS HAL SHERMAN CHARLIE BIRO BOB WOOD STAN LEE SIEGEL & SHUSTER SHELLY MOLDOFF IRWIN HASEN STAN GOLDBERG STEVE DITKO ERIC STANTON BOB FORGIONE BURNE HOGARTH & MORE!

PLUS:

AL FELDSTEIN FILLS IN

MICHAEL T. GILBERT ABOUT

WALLY WOOD

Batman, Robin, Joker TM & ©2004 DC Comics.

ABOUT ABOUT

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1994--2004

5.95

$$

In the the USA USA In

No. 39 August 2004


Vol. 3, No. 39 / August 2004

Editor

Roy Thomas

Associate Editors Bill Schelly Jim Amash

Design & Layout

Christopher Day

Consulting Editor

JERRY ROBINSON Part One

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

Covers Artist Jerry Robinson

Covers Color and Layout Tom Ziuko

And Special Thanks to: Ger Apeldoorn Bob Bailey Tim Barnes Allen Bellman John and Friedel Benson Bill Black Jerry K. Boyd Chris Brown Sam Burlockoff Bill Cain Mike Catron Bob Cherry Sidra Cohn Chet Cox Dwight Decker Al & Michelle Feldstein Keif Fromm Janet Gilbert Dick Giordano Stan Goldberg Scott Goodell Ron Goulart Dennis Hager Jennifer T. Hamerlinck Peter Hansen Ron Harris David Anthony Kraft Jane D. Leavey Dan Makera Joe & Nadia Mannarino

Don Mangus Herb McGrath Peter Meskin Philip Meskin Raymond Miller Jason Millet Sheldon Moldoff Matt Moring Frank Motler Jake Oster Joe Petrilak Seth Powell Jerry, Gro, Jens, & Kris Robinson Steven & Sharon Rowe Dennis Roy John Schaefer Eric Schumacher David Siegel Flo Steinberg Richard Steinberg Marc Swayze Dann Thomas DeSha Tolar Michael Uslan Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Hames Ware Ron Webber Eddy Zeno

This Issue Is Dedicated to the Memory of

GILL FOX

Contents Writer/Editorial: Jerry’s Boys–– and a Couple of Great Ladies, Too! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Building “Batman”––and Other True Legends of the Golden Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Jerry Robinson talks to Jim Amash about being Bob Kane’s Golden Age ghost.

Comic Crypt: “My World: The Al Feldstein Interview,” Part II . . 39 Michael T. Gilbert concludes his e-mail talk with the great EC editor/writer/artist.

Jerry Robinson (Part II), FCA, & “re:”. . . . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us!

About Our Cover: Several years back, Jerry Robinson did a limited-edition of this cover he had drawn, with a few minor differences, six decades ago for Detective Comics #70 (Dec. 1942). It seemed the perfect choice to front the initial half of Jim Amash’s interview with Bob Kane’s first regular “Batman” ghost. [Art ©2004 Jerry Robinson; Batman, Robin, & Joker TM & ©2004 DC Comics.] Above: Jerry R. also sent us a couple of “split” drawings of Batman and his arch-nemesis The Joker. Here’s the Dark Knight Detective—or at least half of him! [Art ©2004 Jerry Robinson; Batman TM & ©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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Building “Batman”—and Other True Legends of the Golden Age Part I of Our Gargantuan Interview with Legendary Comics Artist JERRY ROBINSON Interview Conducted & Transcribed by Jim Amash

[NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, all art and photos accompanying this interview were provided by Jerry Robinson.]

“They Tell Me I Was Drawing Pictures in Kindergarten”

[INTERVIEWER’S INTRO: Jerry JIM AMASH: When and where were Robinson stands among the top rank of you born? Golden Age comic book innovators. His contributions to the Batman legend are JERRY ROBINSON: I was born in monumental: he added a slick, illusTrenton, New Jersey, January 1, 1922, to trative style to Bob Kane’s cartoonBenjamin and Mae Robinson. I was born ishness, was key in the development of just at midnight. They told me that the Robin, Alfred the butler, and, perhaps bells of the New Year were ringing as I most importantly, originated the most made my debut. fantastic of the Batman villains: The Joker. This restless, creative force built I had three brothers, who are all on his laurels in the field of syndication deceased. My eldest brother Harold was with newspaper features like Jet Scott, a dentist; Avner was a surgeon Flubs and Fluffs, Still Life, and the chiropodist, and Maury was a lawyer. I amazing Life With Robinson. He also have an older sister Edythe, who was a wrote the hardcover book The Comics: photographer before she raised her An Illustrated History of Comic Strip family. I was the baby of the family. Art. In addition, Robinson has been a Harold was 17 years older than me. I’m champion of creators’ rights. He was very close to all my nieces and instrumental in getting Jerry Siegel and nephews—they are like my own children Joe Shuster their long-awaited due for to me. Jerry Robinson in the Times Building in Times Square, circa 1940Superman, and has worked behind the 41—and in his studio, in 2003—juxtaposed with one of his most JA: So you were the only artist in the scenes for others, as well. We don’t know famous cover drawings, for Detective Comics #71 (Jan. 1943). family. What got you interested in how many awards are left for Jerry to Reproduced from the original art. [Comic art ©2004 DC Comics.] that? win (there’s a partial list at the end of this interview on our flip side); but if ROBINSON: I had always drawn as a kid, but not seriously. I assumed there are any, we have a feeling he’ll get those before long, too. Join I’d be in some profession, but the only thing I actively wanted to be was us now for a thorough look into the astounding career of a great artist a writer and a journalist. The art, professionally, came quite accidentally. and a fascinating man: Jerry Robinson. —Jim]


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The Jerry Robinson Interview–-–Part I a rejection letter back, but I was so proud that they actually responded. I showed it to everyone! As for the comics, the newspapers I saw were the Philadelphia Record and the Inquirer. They had big comics sections and I looked forward to seeing them on Sundays, both the humor and the adventure strips. Some of my favorites were Hal Foster’s Tarzan, Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Bringing Up Father, and Mutt and Jeff. I read them all. As a kid, when I went away to camp, my parents would send me some of the reprint books... you know, the ones with the cardboard covers. In fact, I still own some of them from the early 1930s.

Jerry’s mother and father in Atlantic City, circa 1920—and Jerry playing baseball at camp, age 9, 1931.

I drew for my high school paper and was an editor. They tell me that I was drawing pictures in kindergarten; while everyone was doing lessons, I was on the floor drawing pictures. I remember drawing a picture of an elephant standing on a mountain peak...how he got there, I don’t know. [laughs] At nine or ten, I’d be sitting on the floor drawing portraits of my family while they sat around talking. I drew posters for my high school’s plays, like The Pirates of Penzance. I took all academic courses for the credits needed for college. At that point, I was thinking about journalism as a career. I applied to Penn, Syracuse, and Columbia, on the advice of my high school counselor. I was seventeen when I graduated from high school. JA: But a funny thing happened along the way to college. [laughter] ROBINSON: Right! Or a funny thing happened on my way to Syracuse. I had decided to go there. Penn was in Philadelphia (I knew the city), Columbia was in New York (which I didn’t know anything about at the time), but my vision of college came from my time spent at Princeton University, which was a few miles from Trenton. I played tennis there. It was a small college town, and that was my idea of a college. I couldn’t visualize going to one in the middle of a city, so Syracuse sounded like the most attractive place. I was accepted at all three, but had decided on Syracuse at that point.

One had the work of Rube Goldberg, with whom I became friends much later, when I was President of the National Cartoonists Society. Rube was a founder of the NCS and Honorary President and sat in on my board meetings

“I’m Bob Kane and I Just Started a New Feature Called ‘Batman’” JA: Now, you didn’t go to Syracuse. What happened? ROBINSON: Well, a funny thing happened on the way there, as you suggested. The summer after graduation, I sold ice cream from a cart on the back of my bicycle. We didn’t have motorized carts at that time. Being the newest member of the ice cream firm, I was given the worst territory, which was on the outskirts of town. I had to pedal all the way out there before I could start to sell. I was very thin in those days—a 98pounder. After pedaling back and forth, by the end of the summer, I was down to about 78 pounds. [laughs] I was putting away $25 a week, which was good money considering my percentage was 1H¢ a cone. That money was for college. By the end of the summer, my mother was worried about my surviving the first semester of college. She insisted that I take $25—which I was loathe to do—and go away to the country for a week to fatten up. $25 was all it took in those days. I was on the tennis team, since tennis was my passion. Tennis was our family sport: all my brothers played, and several of them (and my nephews) were Trenton, New Jersey, champions. My first day there, I rushed out to the tennis court, wearing a painter’s jacket. Those jackets were a fad at that time in college and were decorated with drawings. I had done the same, using it for a tennis jacket.

Rube Goldberg, one of the most famous cartoonists of the early 20th century, gave his name to the language via his uselessly over-complicated “Rube Goldberg machines,” as per this sample which Jerry Robinson included in his 1974 volume The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art. The photo of Rube in his later years with Jerry’s son Jens, at age five, was taken at popular chorusmeister Fred Waring’s Shawnee-on-the-Delaware annual bash for the National Cartoonists Society. [Strip ©2004 King Features Syndicate.]

JA: Tell me about your early writing and artistic influences. ROBINSON: I was a writer for my school newspaper, and liked to write short stories. I was influenced by Guy DeMaupassant, Mark Twain, O. Henry... all the great short story writers. In junior high school, I submitted a story to Collier’s magazine which, of course, must have been very amateurish, but I wish I had a copy of it now. I got

I was looking for a player, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. A guy said, “Who did those drawings?” I thought I was being arrested or something. I turned


Building “Batman”–-–and Other True Legends of the Golden Age

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names yet. Jan Pierce, a top Metropolitan Opera star, was there that week. I found out he was driving back to New York and was encouraged to ask him for a ride. He said it was okay, so I got to New York in Jan Pierce’s limousine! I started assisting Bob while I was going to Columbia, working mostly at night on the art and going to classes in the daytime. I was already down to skin and bones, but this was a very exciting time for me. I was interested in writing, and comics was a medium that combined writing and drawing. I had no idea that this would ultimately be my profession. I just thought that it’d be a great way to earn my way through college. JA: When you started with Kane, how did he pay you? Were you getting a salary or paid by the page?

(Left:) Bob Kane and his immortal (co-)creation on the cover of his 1989 autobiography, co-written by Tom Andrae. Batman figure by Kane and Robinson. (Right:) Afraid we don’t have any photos from the day Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson met on a tennis court. But tennis remains Jerry’s passion, as shown by this photo of Jerry and Mad associate editor Nick Meglin as “NCS tennis champions, Asheville [NC]” in the 1990s. [Batman TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]

[laughter]

ROBINSON: He paid by the page. I‘d ink and letter a page for $3, if I’m not mistaken. I know that by the end of the week, I didn’t end up with any more money than when I was selling ice cream. Before long, I was able to get a 50% raise, which brought me up to a magnificent $50 a week.

“The Three of Us Would Kick Around Ideas” JA: What were Kane’s pencils like at the beginning?

around and admitted, “I did.” The guy said, “They’re very good. I’m Bob Kane and I just started a new comic feature called ‘Batman.’” I had never heard of Batman, and I think the first story in Detective Comics was on the stands at that point. Bob was about six years older than me, but was young enough to knock around with. He invited me to go down to the village to find a copy of Detective Comics, which we did. Frankly, I wasn’t very impressed. I was used to the more polished newspaper strip art. Later on, I told Bob I was going to Syracuse. He said, “Gee, I wish you were going to New York. I need someone to help me on ‘Batman.’” I don’t remember how much money he offered. I know it was very little, but I figured I could make some money while I went to school. I said, “Hold everything. I was accepted at Columbia and maybe I could switch schools.” It was the end of the summer, so I didn’t really know if I could. From the resort, I called Columbia to see if my application was still good, and luckily it was. So I told them I was coming and immediately called Syracuse to tell them I wasn’t coming. I called my folks at home to tell them about the switch and that I wasn’t coming home; I was going straight to New York. That’s how it started. Another funny thing happened when I was looking for a way to go from the resort to New York. Now, these resorts had entertainers like Danny Kaye and Sid Caesar entertaining; they weren’t big

ROBINSON: In the beginning, they were fairly tight. They had to be, because I had absolutely no experience at all. I was working day and night, really sweating it out, to learn the techniques and so forth. I could copy anything I saw, but I didn’t think that was really being an artist. I think that was the thing that Bob was first impressed with. I could look at strips and immediately imitate the style. I didn’t even know what equipment to use—what kind of brushes or pen points. I really had to work hard to learn to do comic art and take care of my classes at Columbia at the same time. But it became exciting as I got into it. “Batman” wasn’t an instantaneous success, but it almost was. Later on, as I got into the swing of things, Bob’s pencils weren’t so tight. JA: You once told me that Kane got to the point where he’d draw a box and write “door” in the middle of it. And you had to draw the door. ROBINSON: [laughs] Or car speeding over a bridge... but that was much later. I knew what he wanted and he knew what I could do.

The early work of Bob Kane and his various associates is on view in full-color luscious hardcover volumes of DC’s Batman Archives, The Dark Knight Archives, and Batman: The World’s Finest Comics Archives—so here’s a circa-1960 (?) line drawing that Kane did which was sold via Joe and Nadia Mannarino’s All Star Auctions in 2002; thanks to Jerry K. Boyd for reminding us about it. [Art ©2004 Estate of Bob Kane; Batman TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]

At this time, Bob was living in an apartment on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. I rented a room within walking distance from Bob. I worked in my own room. We’d get together at some point during the day. Bob was living with his folks and had one room as a studio. Bill Finger would meet us there, and the three of us would kick around ideas.


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The Jerry Robinson Interview–-–Part I the negatives, they destroyed the art. JA: I always thought they refused to return any art. ROBINSON: No, not at that stage. The only thing I had to make sure to do was to call the engraver to send the work back before it was destroyed. Many times, I did a cover that I liked and didn’t call in time, or I’d forget and they’d tell me, “It’s gone.” JA: So the engraver was destroying the pages and not DC themselves? Sheldon Moldoff in 1938, with his art for the inside back cover of Action Comics #1—plus page 1 of the second “Batman” story, from Detective Comics #28 (June 1939), which Jim Amash and others feel is at least partly drawn by Moldoff. If so, Bob Kane sure started having his new super-hero ghosted early! For interviews with Shelly on his “Batman,” “Hawkman,” and other art, see Alter Ego V3#4 and Alter Ego: The Comic Book Artist Collection, both still available from TwoMorrows. The latter, however, is nearly sold out! [Comic art ©2004 DC Comics.]

JA: I’ve heard that Bob Kane’s father was a lawyer. Is that correct? ROBINSON: No, I don’t think he was a lawyer, though I can’t recall what he did for a living. Bob had a younger sister who lived there, too. JA: You were Kane’s only assistant then. But didn’t Shelly Moldoff help him before you did? ROBINSON: That’s correct. JA: I’m sure Moldoff drew the second “Batman” story (Detective #28), because it looks like his early work. The art in that one is different from the first and third stories, which look more like the early Bob Kane work. ROBINSON: I’d have to see the stories again to compare. But I’d be surprised if Moldoff drew the whole story. I can’t really say, because I didn’t meet Shelly until years later, when I was told he had worked on “Batman” before I did. I think Shelly left to do his own features, though he later returned to work for Bob. JA: That’s right. Now, Kane was still doing other features besides “Batman,” like “Ginger Snap” and “Rusty and His Pals.” ROBINSON: That’s right. He started those before I joined him, and I worked on them, as well as “Clip Carson.” I worked on all of Bob’s features when I started, until “Batman” took over. I think I still have the art to a complete four-page “Rusty and His Pals,” but it’d take an archaeologist to find the pages right now. JA: How did you manage to get the entire story? They weren’t letting the artists keep the work, were they? ROBINSON: They’d let you have it. They didn’t care; they were destroying it all. That’s how I got the Batman covers and a complete “Batman” Joker story I did. After the art went to the engraver, unless some editor wanted a page back for some other purpose, after they shot

ROBINSON: Right. They had no further use for the art, and the publisher saw no value in storing them. Neither did the artists, actually. I just wanted some back if I was satisfied with that particular cover or story. Fred Ray did the same thing. We’d occasionally exchange art—like, if Fred did a Superman cover that I liked, then I’d trade him a Detective cover. We occasionally worked together on some on the World’s Finest covers. He did the Superman figure and I did the Batman and Robin figures. Later, we lined the walls of our studio with them. Fred was a wonderful guy and a great talent. His great Superman covers are classics; his “Congo Bill” was beautifully drawn.

“I Was Living, Sleeping, and Eating ‘Batman’” JA: So you met Bill Finger pretty early on. What were your early impressions of both Kane and Finger? ROBINSON: You must remember that I was only seventeen, and a whole new world was opening up for me. I was like a blotter, soaking up every new thing. Kane seemed to be a rather glamorous figure—had his own studio (in his family’s apartment, but it was a studio), and was a nice-looking guy. He was about 5’ 10’’, and slim. He was a ladies’ man. He aspired to a life of glamour. We had a very good relationship. We’d go out for lunch or dinner together and spend the whole time talking about “Batman.” I was living, sleeping, and eating “Batman,” except for when I was in class at Columbia. Of course, I met Bill almost as soon as I started. Bill was a very genial guy, very dedicated, with a great sense of humor. He was a real craftsman who conscientiously worked on new plots and characters. He was a great writer and creator, but writing didn’t come easy for him. Some writers just dash off a story. Bill was too much of a craftsman to do that. It just didn’t flow that easily for him, so he had to work very hard on his stories. That often caused him to be late on deadlines, which was the big bone of contention with the editors. They really put him through a lot of needless agony over that. It was terrible. Bill wasn’t that assertive or that secure. His name wasn’t on the feature and he didn’t have any ownership rights. It was a shame, because Bill was the writer. He developed the concept and visual of Batman with Bob. He created all the major characters, except for The Joker. Bill should have been credited as the co-creator of “Batman,” just as Siegel and Shuster were on “Superman.”


Building “Batman”–-–and Other True Legends of the Golden Age

7

JA: Why do you think that didn’t happen? ROBINSON: Bob had sold work to DC before, doing mostly humor cartoons. He wasn’t doing any adventure work early on. That was a big transition for him, by the way; it wasn’t easy. Actually, I think that’s why he wound up with the style he used on “Batman,” because his experience wasn’t as an adventure artist. So Bob knew the people at DC, and he was the one who took the feature to them and sold it under his name. I don’t think DC even knew of Bill’s existence then. Bill didn’t go to the offices. Bob delivered the work, or else his father would. I didn’t go down there, either, so they didn’t know about me, until the time Bill and I decided to leave Bob Kane.

Bob—who was under contract to DC—so they went after us. Fred Ray times four! (Left:) In Batman: The World’s Finest Comics Archives, Vol. 1, Fred Ray is credited with this cover for World’s Finest #4 (Winter 1941), though Jerry says he was sometimes asked to work on the Batman and Robin figures on those classic compositions. (Center:) Ray himself preferred drawing the longrunning “Tomahawk” feature, as per this page from Star Spangled Comics #90 (March 1949); this tale’s splash was seen in A/E #19, which also sported a Fred Ray proto-Tomahawk cover and a short talk with Jerry about Ray. (Right-center:) Photo of Fred Ray, courtesy of Ron Webber &!Dan Makara. (Right:) Fred Ray’s favorite work was the historical booklets he researched, wrote, and drew, often for sale at national landmarks, such as one about Valley Forge. With thanks to Don Mangus. [DC art ©2004 DC Comics; Valley Forge art ©2004 Estate of Fred Ray.]

Bill and I asked Bob for a suitable raise, after about a year or so, when the feature had proven successful, and Bob was making a lot more money. We didn’t get it, so Bill and I decided to go to DC... well, we had a lot of offers by this time. Everybody wanted to get their hands on anybody who had anything to do with the success of Batman. And there were only the three of us at that time, and they weren’t going to get

I remember meeting with Busy Arnold, who was the publisher of Quality Comics. He’d take me to lunch every couple of weeks, trying to persuade me to join him. One time, he wanted to make me the editor, offering me carte blanche on any feature I wanted to draw or anything I cared to create. I’d have been an editor at 18 or 19, running the whole thing, so this was a very attractive offer. It was also a little bit scary. When DC heard about this, they got on their horses and hired both Bill and myself. From then on, I worked directly for DC and was paid by them, not by Bob.

JA: So, because Bob Kane went to DC with “Batman” without Finger, he was able to insure that his name was the only one to appear on the feature. ROBINSON: That’s the way it worked.

We ran this photo of Bill Finger in A/E #19—but how could we not show the unacknowledged co-creator of “Batman”? Bill’s byline, of course, should’ve been up there with that of “Rob’t Kane” on the intro panel in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939), à la Siegel & Shuster on “Superman.” [Comic art ©2004 DC Comics.]


[EC!art on this page Š2004 William M. Gaines Agent.]

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My World: The AL FELDSTEIN Interview Part II Conducted & Transcribed by Michael T. Gilbert Wood’s art. However, this was the first time I heard it suggested that you’d considered placing yourself in the last panel. Presumably the punchline would have been changed to: “My world is the world of science-fiction... for I am a science-fiction writer. My name is FELDSTEIN.” On the surface, it certainly makes just as much sense for you to spotlight the writer as the artist—inasmuch as you created the words that inspired Wood’s pictures. Can you tell us a little more about that decision?

Al Feldstein (left) and Wally Wood in the early-1950s heyday of EC, as seen in the pages of its comics. [©2004 William M. Gaines Agent.]

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 group (EC), where his abilities as a writer and editor helped turn a failing company into one of the great success stories of the ’50s.

AL FELDSTEIN: “My World” was a spontaneous story, written on a day when Bill Gaines was not feeling well and we hadn’t plotted anything for that day’s assignment. So I went off to improvise something. Since Wally Wood was “up” (the artist due for the next story I’d write, as per our schedule), I got the idea of just doing a showcase script

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. Two issues ago, Al discussed his early career and his emotional meeting with Ray Bradbury at the 2002 San Diego Comic-Con. In this concluding chapter, Feldstein talks about EC artist Wally Wood and “My World,” their most famous story together. We’ll also learn what Al’s been up to recently. The following e-mail interview took place between August 7 and October 18, 2002.

Whose World? MICHAEL T. GILBERT: A couple of years ago, I wrote an overview of Wally Wood’s career for Alter Ego, Vol. 3, #8. At one point I referred to your “My World” script as “Feldstein’s ... love letter to Wood.” One reader wrote and suggested that wasn’t quite accurate and sent me a scan of the printed comic, autographed by you to him. On the “My World” splash page you inscribed: “With deference to the artist, actually this is MY compilation of ‘MY WORLD.’ —Al Feldstein.” For those unfamiliar with the story, “My World” featured a number of seemingly unrelated sci-fi images, leading to the punchline wherein the story’s artist, Wally Wood, tells the reader: “My world is the world of science-fiction... for I am a science-fiction artist. My name is WOOD.” It’s commonly believed that you wrote this story to showcase Wally

The splash page of “My World” from Weird Science #22 (Nov.-Dec. 1953): script by Al Feldstein, art by Wally Wood. Repro’d from those fabulous hardcover reprint volumes published by Russ Cochran. [©2004 William M. Gaines Agent.]


My World: The Al Feldstein Interview–-–Part II of sci-fi scenes and story highlights. It was unplanned and unplotted, and I intended it to be a flowery homage to sci-fi. When I got to the end of the story, I was faced with a dilemma. Do I write: “This is my world...for I am a science-fiction—- writer”???—and take the credit for painting all those word-pictures and scene-situations I’d just written about for Wally to illustrate? Or do I write: “This is my world... for I am a science-fiction artist”?—thereby acknowledging Wally as the illustrator... and giving up my claim to the entire concept, the loving descriptions, etc., etc.? I had never originally planned that the story focus on me in particular. It was a calculated decision, arrived at when I reached that last panel. Of course, I chose the latter alternative...having never before taken written credit for any other stories that I’d written for the line of EC titles under my editorship… ...a policy I have come to regret over the years, because I have never really received the full and proper credit due me for authoring them all. Such is life. MTG: It’s unfortunate that your claim to the story has been overlooked— though it’s understandable. You designed the story so Wood had a large signature in the final panel, but you didn’t give yourself a writing credit. FELDSTEIN: It was only in later years that I regretted it... because “My World” came to be known as Wally Wood’s tribute to sci-fi/fantasy...and I was somehow left out of the loop. MTG: It showed remarkable creative generosity. Somehow I can’t imagine Stan Lee doing a similar story with Jack Kirby in the ’60s–– and Stan writing himself out of the final panel.

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watched as my important contribution to the success of EC was severely downplayed. Until, I felt, it had become intolerable... and I decided to do something about it. So...yes, my feelings about proper credit have changed over the decades. Mainly, it’s time I claimed what is rightfully mine!

Wood’s World! MTG: While I’m on the subject, have you ever read “My Word,” the 3-page story Woody did for Big Apple Comix in 1973? Wood wrote it as a rather bitter parody of “My World,” and I was wondering what you thought of it. Were you at all offended by this version of your story? FELDSTEIN: In 1973, I was totally involved in Mad magazine and my editorship of that publication... and I was no longer following what was being done in the comic book industry... either by other publishers... or by other artists not associated with Mad. As far as I was concerned, the industry… operating under the Code... was dead! I believe that Wally was no longer working for me (for a variety of reasons) when he did the piece and, without seeing it... if, as you say, it was a “bitter parody”... I would have to chalk it up to deep-seated anger or resentment or revenge. Or a combination of all three. If you would care to send me a copy of “My Word,” I’d be happy to give you my thoughts on it. [NOTE: After Feldstein was sent a copy of Wood’s story from Big Apple Comix, he responded as follows:]

FELDSTEIN: I have no comment about the piece. It was written and drawn by a very angry, frustrated, and disillusioned fading talent. And I really We printed the final panels of both “My World” and “My Word” don’t think that it could properly be FELDSTEIN: No comment. back in our Wally Wood issue, Alter Ego V3#8—but here’s the called a “version” of “My World.” It latter again, courtesy of Big Apple Comix publisher Flo Steinberg, bore no resemblance to it, even as a MTG: I think you were right to use the and still with Wally’s scatological reference blacked out. “parody”! It severely lacked the love artist in the final panel, since comics [©2004 Estate of Wally Wood.] and the reverence of the sci-fi/fantasy are such a visual medium. But it must genre that I injected into the original piece. be frustrating to see it become someone else’s signature piece. I think it says a lot about your relative lack of ego. MTG: There has been some discussion about Wood’s abrupt departure from Mad in 1964, after appearing in every issue since the first in FELDSTEIN: On the contrary, it says a lot about my relatively suffi1952. A number of people have voiced conflicting opinions about the cient ego... and the fact that I wasn’t in dire need of inflating it. breakup. I’d like to get your side of the split. My attitude at the time was: I am a professional. I am doing this for a The story has it that you rejected a comic-strip parody that Wood living to feed my family and pay my bills. So compensate me accordillustrated—and when you requested changes, he blew up and quit. ingly. And the hell with any accolades! Some have suggested that Wood’s art on that final rejected job was MTG: And yet that “hell with any accolades” attitude doesn’t quite simply substandard. Interestingly, years later, Wood himself looked at jibe with your more recent comments about “My World”—and your his art again and came to the same conclusion. He felt it was terrible understandable disappointment that it’s generally considered a “Wood work. story.” Have your views concerning the importance of getting credit FELDSTEIN: He was right. But that wasn’t the one and only reason. changed over the decades? I also apply this question to your long and successful career editing Mad, which many have taken for granted. I had finally had enough of Wally’s growing alcohol problems, his repeated failures to meet his deadlines, and the deteriorating quality of FELDSTEIN: I really think that I have answered your question previhis artwork... not to mention his aggressive and hostile attitude. ously, Michael. Over the years after my retirement, for a while I stood silently by as I was deliberately written out of the history of Mad, and I


All characters and art TM & ©2004 the respective owners • Panel cartoons ©2004 Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate

PLUS: PLUS:

JERRY ROBINSON

STRIKES AGAIN!

1 1994--2004

$

In the USA

5.95

No. 39 August 2004


Vol. 3, No. 39 / August 2004

Editor

Roy Thomas

Associate Editors Bill Schelly Jim Amash

Design & Layout

Christopher Day

Consulting Editor

JERRY ROBINSON Part Two

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

Covers Artist Jerry Robinson

Covers Color and Layout Tom Ziuko

And Special Thanks to: Ger Apeldoorn Bob Bailey Tim Barnes Allen Bellman John and Friedel Benson Bill Black Jerry K. Boyd Chris Brown Sam Burlockoff Bill Cain Mike Catron Bob Cherry Sidra Cohn Chet Cox Dwight Decker Al & Michelle Feldstein Keif Fromm Janet Gilbert Dick Giordano Stan Goldberg Scott Goodell Ron Goulart Dennis Hager Jennifer T. Hamerlinck Peter Hansen Ron Harris David Anthony Kraft Jane D. Leavey Dan Makera Joe & Nadia Mannarino

Don Mangus Herb McGrath Peter Meskin Philip Meskin Raymond Miller Jason Millet Sheldon Moldoff Matt Moring Frank Motler Jake Oster Joe Petrilak Seth Powell Jerry, Gro, Jens, & Kris Robinson Steven & Sharon Rowe Dennis Roy John Schaefer Eric Schumacher David Siegel Flo Steinberg Richard Steinberg Marc Swayze Dann Thomas DeSha Tolar Michael Uslan Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Hames Ware Ron Webber Eddy Zeno

This Issue Is Dedicated to the Memory of

GILL FOX

Contents “You Don’t Know If You Can Do Something Unless You Try It!”. . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Jerry Robinson talks with Jim Amash about his creative life after Batman.

Gill Fox––“A Cartoonist to the Very End” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Jim Amash on a comic book pioneer—who was also a friend.

re: [correspondence, comments, & corrections] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 FCA (Fawcett Collectors of America) #72 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 P.C. Hamerlinck presents Marc Swayze & the Fawcett/Charlton/Toby Connection.

Jerry Robinson (Part I) & Comic Crypt. . . . . . . . . . . . Flip Us! About Our Cover: Our own peerless colorist Tom Ziuko assembled this magnificent montage of Jerry Robinson and some of his greatest post-“Batman” work. (Clockwise, from top left:) Green Hornet—Black Terror (done with Mort Meskin)—Atoman—Still Life—Life with Robinson—and advertising art with a space theme. Actually, Green Hornet and Atoman were covered near the end of Part I on the other side—but what’s a few pages among friends? [Comic book & advertising art ©2004 the respective copyright holders; Still Life & Life with Robinson ©2004 Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate.] Above: Don’t bother looking for the other half of this splendidly-rendered Joker head by Jerry R. It doesn’t exist—any more than the other half of the Batman face does on our flip-side contents page. Or maybe we should put the two together—and wind up with a comic book character even weirder than Two-Face! [Art ©2004 Jerry Robinson; The Joker TM & ©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.


2

“You Don’t Know If You Can Do Something Unless You Try It!” The JERRY ROBINSON Interview – Part Two Interview Conducted & Transcribed by Jim Amash [continued from flip side—without further ado]

“[Mort Meskin] Was a Tremendous Artist” JA: Getting back to Meskin—what were your early impressions of Mort Meskin personally and professionally?

anything. I’d sit there for an hour, trying to get it right. Mort said, “Once you get it right, you’ll know it.” That was his philosophy. I learned a lot by watching him work. Mort knew how to draw and compose drapery, perspective—he knew everything. He was very influential to all of us, but particularly to me.

ROBINSON: He was a tremendous artist even when he was at MLJ. I got JA: There were times when to know him, and brought him up to others, like Charlie Paris, Joe DC, because they paid better and had Kubert, and Cliff Young, inked more important features. Whit his pencils. Do you remember Ellsworth immediately put him to how complete Mort’s penciling work on “Johnny Quick” and was when someone else did the Mort Meskin (left) and Jerry Robinson (right), shown in photos closer to “Vigilante,” both of which, I believe, inking? I imagine his pencils were the era they were co-producing beautiful super-hero pages like the above were created by Mort Weisinger. one from a late-1940s issue of Standard/Nedor’s Black Terror. The Meskin somewhat sketchier when he did Meskin was the first artist on these photo is courtesy of his sons Peter & Philip Meskin; Jerry’s photo was his own inking. features. [NOTE: Actually, Chad taken “by noted photographer Rudy de Harak, 1950s.” Jerry says this was Grothkopf drew the “Johnny Quick” ROBINSON: Yes, they were. his “first and last modeling job (probably illustrating effects of heavy origin in More Fun Comics #71 smoking).” We’ve no idea why the logo and some of the lettering are Mort did a lot of the drawing when (Sept. 1941), but Meskin soon took missing from the Terror page—but you’re just interested in the artwork he inked—we both did. Sometimes, over DC’s second speedster—and here, right? [Comic page ©2004 the respective copyright holders.] when we worked as a team, we’d was indeed the original artist of experiment. We’d do a story with “Vigilante,” which was launched in Action Comics #42 pencils so tight, they almost looked like they were inked. Other times, (Nov. ’41). —Roy.] we literally tried to do a story without any pencils. We’d have to clearly Mort was about six years older, very quiet, reserved, and bright—very progressive in his politics. We saw eye-to-eye on most issues. He was the only one in our circle at the time who had studied art. He went to Pratt Institute, one of the best art schools in New York. If I had any trouble with a figure, I’d ask Mort for help. But he wouldn’t tell me anything! He said, “Work it out.” It was frustrating, but it was best thing he could do. If he’d showed me how to fix it, then I wouldn’t have learned

visualize the scene before drawing it with the brush. Sometimes we actually pulled it off.

We occasionally made copies of the pencils because we liked the certain quality in the pencils that changes when you ink them. I always found it a challenge to make the inks look as good as the pencils. I used to hate it when I saw a job I’d done a few months earlier, because I’d see all the things I could have done differently—better. Improvement in


“You Don’t Know If You Can Do Something Unless You Try It!”

3

ROBINSON: We had a lot of fun together and had a lot in common. We talked about comics, social issues, and politics. We went to movie theatres—a lot of foreign films, which influenced our storytelling. We went to museums—took some classes together in Greenwich Village. It was a great time to be young in New York. We had enough money to do what we wanted. And there were plenty of girls who fortunately loved cartoonists. I remember he bought one of the early recording machines. Mort loved to record his singing, as did I. We liked to sing the popular songs—and some Spanish numbers. Mort also loved to dance, and we occasionally went to village dances. JA: Mort’s son Peter told me that Mort didn’t stutter when he sang. ROBINSON: That’s true. His stuttering wasn’t constant. It didn’t prevent him from communicating. Maybe he stuttered more when he became nervous. I don’t know what would trigger it. I was happily surprised when Peter told me that Mort didn’t stutter in his last years. JA: Both you and Mort left your DC staff jobs around 1946. Do you know why he quit DC for a while? I heard it was because certain editors were giving him a hard time. ROBINSON: That could be part of it. Mort liked to work on his own. He wasn’t much of a mixer and most of his friends, including me, had left. I don’t think he was that close to anyone else there, and so he

Here’s a real oddity, courtesy of Jerry: a Meskin splash page from a 1942 issue of Lev Gleason Publications’ Boy Comics. “Bombshell, Son of War” appeared in Boy #3-7, and was apparently scripted by Dick Wood—but we’ve no idea who “Michael” is, unless it was an attempt by Meskin at a “secret identity” of his own. Jerry owns the original art of this page, which has been hand-colored. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

your drawing comes from an awareness of your work—from taking a dispassionate look at it, which you can do months later. You’re too close to the work while doing it. JA: I know Mort was a stutterer, which was probably one of the reasons he was shy. ROBINSON: I’d agree with that, because it can be inhibiting. But it was a symptom of other problems. JA: Before we get into that, I’d like you to describe what he was like before his nervous breakdowns. ROBINSON: We used to go bowling together, as I told you earlier. When he worked, he was very intent, concentrating and focused on the page. Mort was losing his hair, and there were some long strands on top, and when he was deep in thought, he’d have a brush in one hand and twirl the hair on top on his head with the other. [laughter] We all do things like that. For instance, often I’d be using a pen, and then need a brush, so instead of putting the pen down—a Gillotte 290—I’d put it between my teeth. Then I’d forget about the pen and it would fall and stab me on the hand. I still have a couple of those tattoo marks on my hand. JA: What kind of roommate was he?

In our extended coverage of Mort Meskin in A/E #24, we ran the splash and other panels of his “Johnny Quick” story “Mayhem in the Meal-O-Mat!” Here’s page 7 of that tale from Adventure Comics #127 (April 1948). The story is unsigned, but may have been done before he and Jerry joined forces on both “JQ” and “Vigilante” at DC. Or did they prefer not to co-sign the “Johnny Quick” stories, although Mort had often signed them previously? [©2004 DC Comics.]


“You Don’t Know If You Can Do Something Unless You Try It!”

5

A Black Terror splash by “Robinson/Meskin,” minus lettering. So masterfully beshadowed were the pages of this Standard/Nedor series done by the team that even one of their more audacious concepts—splitting the Terrors’ domino masks in two so they become in effect merely spectral shadows around each individual eye— contributes to the grim effect. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

decided to get his own place to work. I was in Florida at the time, and joined him before long. In 1949, Mort began teaching at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School, which later became the School of Visual Arts. That’s where I met and became close friends with one of the founders, Burne Hogarth, of Tarzan fame. One day, Mort asked me to talk to one of his classes. I did that a few times. Mort began having problems at that time and didn’t want to teach anymore. Mort was a wonderful teacher, but it was hard on him. So, in effect, I took over Mort’s class, which is how I got into teaching. I taught there for ten years.

“We Decided to Do All Four Features as a Team” JA: What gave you the idea to share a studio together? ROBINSON: I had just come back from Florida and was starting to look for new accounts. That’s what led me to The Black Terror and Fighting Yank. Mort was doing “Johnny Quick” and “Vigilante,” and we decided to do all four features as a team. We did other freelance jobs for Simon & Kirby and a few other places. We felt it was easier to work together as partners, rather than just studio mates. If I felt like inking, I’d just ink. Other times, I just wanted to pencil. Mort was the same way. It worked because the different challenges enhanced our work and kept our interests high. JA: You did The Black Terror and Fighting Yank for Standard Publications. Do you remember who wrote them or who your editor was? ROBINSON: No. We had very little contact with them. Most of the time, the scripts were delivered to us, and we had someone else deliver the finished work. We often did the same with our DC work. JA: You didn’t have much contact with Joe Simon and Jack Kirby then, did you? ROBINSON: There were a few times when I went to see them to pick up a script and touch bases with them. We dealt with both Simon and Kirby, though I believe Joe was the one who handled the scripts.

JA: Why do you think the DC editors gave Mort such a hard time? Was it just because they could? ROBINSON: Well, they’d dominate anyone they could, Bill Finger being an example. Vulnerable people make easy targets. Mort’s stuttering and quiet reserve made him a target. Most of them knew little about art, but they had valid judgments about writing and storytelling, so anytime they saw something that didn’t match their interpretation of the script, they’d critique it. What we, the artists, did instead—and we never told them—was to change their scripts if something wasn’t workable.

The domino mask of Standard/Nedor’s Fighting Yank, on the other hand, vanished completely, as per these panels. Robinson/ Meskin work appeared in Fighting Yank #25-29, the series’ last five issues, behind Alex Schomburg covers. Repro’d from David Anthony Kraft’s Comics Interview magazine. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

JA: Mort’s emotional problems seem to have started in the late ’40s, early ’50s. You have any idea what caused those problems? ROBINSON: No... he just suffered from depression. It was difficult for him. Sometimes he’d try to work through it and


44

By

[Art & logo ©2004 Marc Swayze; Captain Marvel © & TM 2004 DC Comics]

(c) mds

[FCA EDITOR’S NOTE: From 1941-53, Marcus D. Swayze was a top artist for Fawcett Comics. The very first Mary Marvel character sketches came from Marc’s drawing table, and he illustrated her earliest adventures, including the classic 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. Upon leaving the service in 1944, and after drawing tales of Mr. Scarlet and Ibis the Invincible, 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 the Bell Syndicate (created by his friend and mentor Russell Keaton). After the cancellation of Wow, Swayze produced artwork for Fawcett’s top-selling line of romance comics, including Sweethearts and Life Story. After the company ceased publishing comics, Marc moved over to Charlton Publications, where he ended his comics career in the mid-’50s. Marc’s ongoing professional memoirs have been FCA’s most popular feature since his first column appeared in FCA #54, 1996. Last time, Marc spoke of his

Annoyance… puzzlement…. whatever the expression, Captain Marvel had worn it long before the original version of this story was published in True Confidences #3 (April 1950). [New art ©2004 Marc Swayze; other art ©2004 the respective copyright holders; Captain Marvel TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]

admiration of the determination and hard work of artists C.C. Beck and Mac Raboy, and singer Bing Crosby. In this issue, Marc gives us a glimpse of what would’ve happened if Captain Marvel had appeared in Fawcett’s romance comics! —P.C. Hamerlinck.] Thought provoking ... a most moving account recently seen about the fall, then rise again, of the fabulous comic book super-heroes of the 1940s. I wasn’t still around when the “rise again” period began, but it’s easy to remember the “fall.” It wasn’t nice. Very likely caused many a lovable hero to be abandoned along the wayside. Also some artists, some writers, some editors ... probably a few publishers ... and many, many faithful young readers. It wouldn’t be quite fair to lay the blame on the super-heroes. They wouldn’t have left their readers. The readers left them. The vast, fickle segment of humankind that had kept them aloft and financially handsome issue after issue, year after year, had weakened ... faltered ... withered ... meaning they were reading something else! It was those comic book romances ... that’s what they were reading, according to sales reports. Makes a person wonder why the super-heroes didn’t stand their ground and face the music. Or gone with the tide ... joined up with the romances. Think of it! All those mystic forces busy patching up broken hearts and drawing lonely lovers closer! It wouldn’t have been easy. The grim face of that favorite from the pages had changed very little throughout an entire career of overpowering evil. Any attempt to change it to one of arduous compassion ... might break something. Captain Marvel in Fawcett’s popular romance comics? He could have played the part well, Marc Swayze suggests. Here, Marc has shoehorned him into the male lead in Sweethearts #108 (Feb. 1952). Maybe a super-hero who possessed the wisdom of Solomon could’ve been a bit more tactful? Special thanks to Marc’s granddaughter DeSha Tolar. [New art ©2004 Marc Swayze; other art ©2004 the respective copyright holders; Captain Marvel TM & ©2004 DC Comics.]


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…And Then There Were None! Charlton and the Remnants of the Fawcett Comics Empire–-–Part I by Frank “Derby” Motler

Couch Potatoes In late 1953, Fawcett left the comic book business. The protracted lawsuit initiated by National/DC over the alleged copyright infringement by Captain Marvel in relation to Superman had swung against them, so they quit and deceased.

Evolution of a hero! The covers of both ashcan editions and the published version of what became the premier issue of Whiz Comics. Fawcett might’ve been better advised to use the dungeon scene on Whiz, too, rather than waving a red flag (complete with lightning bolt) in the DC bull’s face by having Captain Marvel tossing around a flivver, much as Superman had on the cover of Action Comics #1 a year and a half earlier. [©2004 DC Comics.]

Since early pronouncements in 1948, the anticomics campaign had been gaining momentum. Its finest hour would be televised, with the US Senate Subcommittee on the Judiciary to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, held at Foley Square, New York, on April 21-22, with a reprise on June 4, 1954. Dr. Fredric Wertham, M.D., became the Subcommittee’s star witness, and his scathing anti-comics tirade Seduction of the Innocent (1954) was a “Book Of The Month Club” best-seller. Comics were in for a difficult time.

Under interrogation from the committee, William M. Gaines, publisher and owner of EC (Entertaining Comics), would shock the nation in a discussion of taste and a severed head on the cover of a comic book. Censorship was just around the corner, in the form of the “Comics Code Authority” (CCA), 1955. Television, a relatively new contraption, with its ability to capture nationally-broadcast shows in sight and sound and beam them right into your living room, was rapidly gaining popularity. It would turn the nation’s children from delinquent readers of four-color comics, into couch potatoes, almost overnight!

“S-H-A-Z-A-M!” Ironically, the seeds of Fawcett’s destruction had been sown when its very first newsstand comic appeared, featuring a superman hurling an automobile. It was Whiz Comics #2, dated February 1940. Its predecessor and “#1” issue was a pair of proof (“ashcan”) first editions, named Flash Comics and Thrill Comics. Both featured story and art of the same costumed hero, Captain Thunder. However, rival publishers DC and Better (a.k.a. Standard/Thrilling) were already in the process of

launching their own Flash Comics and Thrilling Comics, respectively, so the title was changed to Whiz at the last moment. History also decreed that the new Fawcett character be hastily renamed Captain Marvel, for reasons still not 100% clear, when he debuted in Whiz. Other super-hero titles from Fawcett soon followed, including Master Comics, Nickel Comics, Slam Bang Comics, Wow Comics, America’s Greatest Comics, Bulletman, Captain Marvel Jr., Spy Smasher, et al. By 1942, America was at war, and super-hero books were popular, with the hated Axis leaders, Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, providing suitable opposition for these colorful fictional heroes and heroines.

Post-war, Fawcett expanded and diversified with titles such as Comic Comics, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, George Pal’s Puppetoons, Lance O’Casey, Mary Marvel, and Nyoka the Jungle Girl. During 1946 Captain Marvel Adventures reached the unique position of being published every two weeks. By 1953, Fawcett had a large stable of comic books, which were published in four main areas: super-hero, western, romance, and—well, “miscellaneous,” for want of a better word. But the demise of its extremely popular and profitable super-hero line, centered around several comics starring Captain Marvel and his spinoffs, came with the settlement of the lawsuit in 1953, and one of the most successful publishers of comic books elected not to carry on. As Roscoe Fawcett, one of the owners, was quoted as saying in P.C. Hamerlinck’s Fawcett Companion: “Losing Captain Marvel kind-of took the heart out of the whole thing.” Marvel Family #89 (Jan. 1954), with its “And Then There Were None!” cover teaser, would prove the last Fawcett super-hero title, and soon the entire comics line was no more.

Under the Western Stars In the latter 1940s, Fawcett had begun producing a host of western comics, most of whose titles ended officially with the word “Western.” These featured the fictional exploits of several real-life movie stars who thrived in the 1940s (or, in a couple of instances, in the 1930s!). The most


...And Then There Were None!

47

(Left and center:) A relatively late bloomer at Fawcett was Nyoka the Jungle Girl, inspired by a movie serial and launched in her own ongoing comic in 1945 after a 1942 Jungle Girl one-shot. After an experimental photo cover on Nyoka #25, that of #30 (April 1949), seen here, launched a tradition which lasted till the title’s Fawcett finale with #77 (June 1953). The artist of the interior page from #30 is uncertain, but researcher Hames Ware thinks it may be Art Pinajian. At right is the gorgeous cover of CDC’s Nyoka #16 (April 1954), which continued the numbering of that company’s previously humorous Zoo Funnies. Art is by Maurice Whitman, who drew many a lushly-illustrated “Kaänga” adventure for Fiction House’s Jungle Comics. [Nyoka TM & ©2004 AC Comics.]

famous comic book starring a “movie cowboy” was probably rival Dell’s Roy Rogers; but Fawcett managed to corral such iconic western-movie stars as Tom Mix (who had actually died in 1940, but lived on via radio, where he was portrayed by a voice actor) and Hopalong Cassidy. Actor William Boyd had played Cassidy in a series of low-budget films between 1934 and 1948. These had become an early TV phenomenon, due to the actor’s ownership and clever marketing of his old movies on the new medium. Under his own name, he would also star in his own Fawcett title, Bill Boyd Western, with no connection to the Hoppy character. The Fawcett formula required a fullcolor, close-up photo of the star as the comic’s front cover, often with an action scene on the back cover. The interiors supplied three or more shoot-’emup stories, with one or two comedic shorts. Fawcett also had a couple of more light-hearted western comics, starring sidekicks Gabby Hayes and Smiley Burnette; the former had a lengthy run. In all, Fawcett published over twenty different western titles,

which also included at various times Lash LaRue, Monte Hale, Rocky Lane, Tex Ritter, Six-Gun Heroes, Young Eagle, et al. The first four of the preceding list spotlighted individual film stars—Six-Gun Heroes was an anthology featuring movie cowboys who also had their own titles— and only Young Eagle, about a Native American, was a total “original.” Charlton generally continued the pre-existing numbering of those series it picked up from Fawcett. The last Fawcett comics hit the newsstands in late 1953—and the first Charlton editions appeared with January 1954 cover dates, using up several photo covers from Fawcett’s inventory. The new stories and later covers were often drawn by Stan Campbell or Dick Giordano, both of whom achieved a pleasing style, with good likenesses.

(Left:) When it came to those Saturday-afternoon cowboy movies, singer/actor Tex Ritter wasn’t in a league with Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, or even Rocky Lane— though his warbling of “High Noon” in that 1952 film made a strong impact. Even so, his comics title lasted a healthy 46 issues at two companies between 1950-59! Seen here is the Fawcett cover of Tex Ritter Western #1 (Oct. 1950). The Charlton run began with #21 (March 1954). (Center & right:) CDC’s covers for Lash LaRue, Monte Hale, and other westerns soon ceased using photos à la Fawcett. Monte Hale #87 (Oct. 1955) features a small snapshot, but Lash LaRue #51 (Nov. 1954) is a pure line-drawing by Stan Campbell. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]

Of the Fawcett western titles named in the above four paragraphs, all but Hopalong Cassidy, Tom Mix, and the already-canceled Smiley Burnette became Charlton titles. At least one lone “Hoppy” story appeared in the now-Charlton anthology comic Six-Gun Heroes. After that, however, DC rather than CDC


48

Charlton and the Remnants of the Fawcett Comics Empire–-– Part I singers Tommy Sands, Ricky Nelson, Pat Boone, and Jimmie Rodgers, in Sweethearts #39, 40, 42, 44, and 46. Young Lovers #18 (May 1957), one of Charlton’s original titles, featured the indemand Elvis Presley special issue.

Other examples of this curious mix of photos and art can be found in Charlton’s My Little Margie #116 and Funny Animals #88-89. The latter bore the (very large!) (Left:) With its fifth Fawcett issue (March 1947), Hopalong Cassidy sported a photo cover, as did most covers thereafter. subtitle “The Merry Hoppy had begun as a one-shot in 1943 and commenced regular publication in 1946. (Center:) A single “Hopalong Cassidy” Mailman,” and story popped up in the CDC-continued Six-Gun Heroes #24 (Jan. 1954), the first Charlton issue. (Right:) The DC cover for issue #88 “starred” actor Ray (April 1954) uses the same photo—and even yellow background—as had Fawcett’s #11 in 1947, though with two added line drawings. Heatherton, whilst [©2004 the respective copyright holders.] actress Gale Storm was wound up with Hopalong Cassidy (then the most popular cowboy hero featured as the adventuresome Margie, with Charles Farrell as her after Roy Rogers and maybe Gene Autry). Cassidy #86 (Feb. 1954) was irascible father. Both were popular TV shows of the time; Margie had the first from DC; Gene Colan and later Gil Kane were two of the new been big on radio, as well. CDC otherwise abandoned the photo covers artists. Fawcett’s few remaining western series (e.g., Tom Mix and Rod of the Fawcett era, in favor of line-drawn ones. Cameron, both of which had lasted into 1953) were not picked up by Charlton—or anyone else—though a “Cameron” story or two did wind up in the CDC version of Six-Gun Heroes. (In a bizarre twist, in the early 1970s DC would also acquire the rights to the much-loved Big Red Some of Fawcett’s most intriguing titles had been in the “miscellaCheese and relaunch him and the rest of the Marvel Family in a comic neous” group: a ménage of adventure, crime, horror, movie and TV titled Shazam!—though the series floundered after an indifferent run.) adaptations, sports, and humor.

Funny Peculiar!

Romance in Four Colors Romance comics represented another major genre published by Fawcett. One of the company’s innovations had been Negro Romance, which complemented its several earlier sports titles which had given prominence to major African-American athletes of the day. Fawcett’s proficient romance titles contained occasional stories by Bob Powell, George Evans, Marc Swayze, Mike Sekowsky, Shelly Moldoff, and Bob McCarty to enliven interest. Sweethearts #120 (March 1953) featured the cult classic “I Lived in an Atom Blast Town,” whilst the preceding issue had sported a Marilyn Monroe photo cover. Fawcett’s other long-running titles were Romantic Secrets, Romantic Story, and Sweetheart Diary. These four, plus Negro Romance and the western/romance hybrid title Cowboy Love, were transferred to the ownership of Charlton/CDC (Capital Distributing Co.). As with the westerns, formerly-Fawcett romance material appeared in comics bearing the CDC symbol beginning in early 1954, with a few initial issues using photo covers. It proved an erratic start. Romantic Story was suspended for eight months after just five issues—Romantic Secrets started with “Vol. 2, #5,” ignoring its original Fawcett numbering— while Charlton’s Sweethearts premiered logically with #122, before an inexplicable switch to “Vol. 2, #23,” for the second. In 1957-58, Sweethearts spotlighted brief biographies of several popular stars, whose black-&-white photos were featured on those issues’ covers, surrounded by conventionally-drawn female admirers. Young heartthrob celebrities utilized in this way included actor Sal Mineo and

Pinhead and Foodini #1-4 (1951-2) had featured the adventures of two mischief making-puppets, adapted from an early TV series with hostess Doris Brown and puppeteer Morey Bunin. The puppet pair had appeared in an earlier series from Continental, and in Stanhall’s Jingle Dingle Christmas Stocking (1951).

All three issues of Fawcett’s Negro Romance had photo covers, as per #2 (Aug. 1950), seen here. CDC’s issue #4 (May 1955) was a reprint of Fawcett’s second issue, with a line-drawing cover; there was no fifth issue. [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]


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Charlton and the Remnants of the Fawcett Comics Empire–-– Part I Another Fawcett TV spin-off had been Captain Video, with gorgeous art by George Evans, sometimes assisted by a youthful Al Williamson; this was based on the popular live-action show on the DuMont network.

Since the mid-1940s, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny had been the longeared hero of both Fawcett’s Funny Animals and his own title. He can be considered the non-human member of The Marvel Family, though he seldom actually appeared with Cap, Mary, and/or Junior. Some time before the slightly-renamed Funny Animals had been acquired by Charlton, Hoppy had been altered into a standard non-super-powered rabbit. Thanks to collector George Ramsey’s detective work (see Alter

There had also been Fawcett Movie Comics and Motion Picture Comics, which had adapted more than thirty popular films of the time, including now-collectible science-fiction adaptations of Destination Moon, The Man from Planet X, Fawcett’s Funny Animals had relied upon and When Worlds original characters like Hoppy the Marvel Collide. The first-named Bunny, Sherlock Monk, et al.—but CDC soon movie rendition would be veered off with a licensed TV property, as reprinted by Charlton, per the cover of its issue #88 (Jan. 1955). The interior art is by Fred Ottenheimer. utilizing the original splash [©2004 the respective copyright holders.] page as the front cover, in Space Adventures #20 (March 1956). It would be recycled yet again in May 1958. Sports comics had likewise been a staple at Fawcett, highlighting such stars as Don Newcombe, Larry Doby, Ralph Kiner, Roy Campanella, Joe Louis, Yogi Berra, and especially Jackie Robinson, the African-American who had broken the “color barrier” in baseball in 1947. The company also had published an anthology title, Thrilling Stories of Baseball. There had been a good half dozen horror and crime titles from Fawcett, as well, including This Magazine Is Haunted and Strange Suspense Stories. Other esoteric titles had included Bob Swift, Boy Sportsman and Hot Rod Comics. From this enterprising assortment (in addition to the later Destination Moon reprintings), Charlton elected to continue Don Winslow, Funny Animals, Nyoka, Ozzie and Babs, This Magazine Is Haunted, and Strange Suspense Stories. In later years, Charlton obtained the rights to Beetle Bailey, Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Jungle Jim, The Phantom, Popeye, Quick Draw McGraw, Top Cat, and Yogi Bear from Gold Key and King, among other companies. The humorous Ozzie and Babs (an “Archie” wannabe) was retitled TV Teens but continued the original Fawcett numbering. After two issues, the numbering was changed, perhaps a reflection of US Post Office requirements to retain mailing privileges. TV Teens #6 (Jan. 1955) witnessed the introduction of Fawcett’s naval hero “Don Winslow,” before that title switched to its final feature, “Mopsy.” After his Charlton debut in TV Teens, Don Winslow of the Navy, once a popular fictitious hero on radio and TV and even in two movie serials, appeared as a three-issue series, preserving the Fawcett numbering. Mopsy, star of a newspaper comic strip, was a dark-haired flapper, ignorant of the effect she had on men and prone to risqué situations. As drawn by her creator, Gladys Parker, the effect is quite addictive. Although her comic book appearances ceased at Charlton in July 1956, her comic strip continued until just before Parker’s death in 1966.

A montage of Fawcett titles that weren’t continued by Charlton: Pinhead and Foodini (#2, Sept. 1951)… Captain Video (#1, Feb. 1950)… Fawcett Movie Comic (though its Destination Moon adaptation from #2 in 1950 was reprinted by Charlton—twice!)… Jackie Robinson (#1, no date, but late 1949/early 1950)… and Strange Suspense Stories #3 (Oct. 1952, with splash by George Evans). [©2004 the respective copyright holders.]


Alter Ego #39