Batty Roy T Thomas homas’ Batty Roy Comics F Fanzine anzine Comics
MARK OF (BOB) KANE! The
THE SECRET SAGA OF
LEW SAYRE SCHWARTZ BATMAN ARTIST 1946-1953!
In the the USA USA In
--PLUS-The Golden & Silver Ages of
AUSTRALIAN SUPER-HEROES! EXTRA: DAVE BERG PLUS: PLUS:
Art ©2005 Lew Sayre Schwartz; Batman & Robin TM & ©2005 DC Comics.
Vol. 3, No. 51 / August 2005
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
Writer/Editorial: The Mark of (Bob) Kane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Batman, Dr. Strangelove, And Everything In Between . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Lew Sayre Schwartz tells Jon B. Cooke (and us) about his multi-media career.
Shooting Stars. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 The life and death of the original Australian comics industry, by Michael Baulderstone.
Lew Sayre Schwartz
“He Left This Planet Too Soon To Go To Artists’ Heaven!”. . . . . . . . 53
Cover Colorist Tom Ziuko
Dave Berg talks to Jim Amash about his days at Fawcett, Timely, Quality, and Mad.
And Special Thanks to:
Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt: Remembering Will (Part Two). . . . . . . . 61
Arthur Adler Heidi Amash Manuel Auad Michael Baulderstone Alberto Becattini John Bell Dominic Bongo Roy Bottorff, Jr. Jerry K. Boyd Gary Brown Eddie Campbell Arthur Chertowsky Bob Cherry Graeme Cliffe Jon B. Cooke Howard Leroy Davis Dwight Decker Craig Delich Joe Desris Al Dellinges Jim Engel Shane Foley Ron Frantz Richard Furness Carl Gafford Janet Gilbert Tom Gill Don Glut Andreas Gottschlich
Jennifer Hamerlinck Bob Hughes Larry Ivie Peter Jones Jeffrey Kipper Henry J. Kujawa Jon Jensen Glen Johnson Stan Lee Stephen Lipson Carol Maund Brian K. Morris Kevin Patrick Robert Pincombe Dorothy Schaffenberger Lew Sayre Schwartz David Studham Marc Swayze Dann Thomas Steve Tice Alex Toth Michael Uslan Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Hames Ware Morris Weiss Paul Wheelahan Bill Wormstedt
This issue is dedicated to the memory of
Michael T. Gilbert has more to say about the late great Will Eisner.
“The Stuff Of Our Personal Nightmares”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 Master artist Alex Toth’s further word on night, shadows, and mood in comics.
Ed Furness: “A Witty, Multi-Talented Man” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 A brief tribute by Robert Pincombe to a top artist of Canada’s Golden Age of Comics.
A Talk With Writer, Educator, And Comics Fanatic Glen Johnson . . .71 Bill Schelly goes one-on-one with an All-Star from the Golden Age of Comic Fandom.
re: [correspondence, comments, & corrections]. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 Stan Lee & Michael Uslan on that fabled 1961 golf game—and that’s just for starters!
FCA (Fawcett Collectors of America) #110 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 P.C. Hamerlinck presents Jim Engel, Marc Swayze, Otto Binder, & C.C. Beck. On Our Cover: “Mea culpa!” Yeah, that’s Latin for “I’m guilty!”—and that’s what Ye Editor confesses re this issue’s cover. You may have noticed that, both in TwoMorrows titles and in other comics-related mags, A/E #51 was advertised with a cover showing Batman and Robin attacked in a bat-infested cave by (supposed) Native Americans. The source of that art was the splash of “The Origin of the Bat-Cave!” from Detective Comics #205 (March 1954), which presumably showcased the talents of this issue’s major interviewee, Lew Sayre Schwartz. Only thing is, while the ish was in the final stages of preparation, Roy was suddenly seized by a fear that, since Lew was superceded as Bob Kane’s personal Batman ghost sometime in 1953 by Sheldon Moldoff, the penciling might actually be Shelly’s, instead—as indeed was the case, he soon learned from art expert Craig Delich. Fortunately, a week or two earlier, Lew had mailed Roy a photocopy of a 1993 re-creation he’d done of the “Gorilla Boss” cover of Batman #75 (Feb.March 1953), so Roy and publisher John Morrow decided to bite the bullet and go to the extra trouble (and expense—sob!) of making it our cover, instead. You can read more about both projected A/E covers on pp. 8 & 18. [Art ©2005 Lew Schwartz; Batman TM & ©2005 DC Comics.] Above: A Lew Sayre Schwartz panel from p. 7 of our cover-featured story, “The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City!” Thanks to Bob Cherry for the scan. Inking by Charles Paris. [©2005 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: email@example.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.
The Mark Of (Bob) Kane T
his issue underscores, about as clearly as anything could, the ofttimes frustration of putting out a magazine devoted to the Golden and Silver Ages when one is determined not to slavishly pander month after month to fans of the same tiny “A-list” of artists, writers, companies, and characters whose names they’ll recognize.
Lew Sayre Schwartz, this issue’s major interviewee, is hardly a household name—even in those rather atypical households made up of readers of comic books. The reason is simple, yet paradoxical: Although he drew hundreds of pages of stories starring Batman and Robin between 1946 and 1953, a span of seven key years in the early life of one of the most famous fictional heroes of all time, he would never have been allowed to sign a single story, even if he’d wanted to. Instead, each splash page sported the name “Bob Kane”—and, while Kane apparently did contribute to many of these tales, it was Schwartz who was their principal artist, as the following interview will detail. (Schwartz went on to do a lot of good non-comics work in TV and film and advertising, but though we’re pleased to cover it herein, that won’t draw readers to Alter Ego #51.) So I hope TwoMorrows and I can be forgiven—by the readers and by Lew—for adding Kane’s name to this issue’s cover, since that name is well-known to comics readers and even, to a certain extent, to the general public. Yet, another irony of the situation is that, according to our publisher, John Morrow, even Kane’s name may not necessarily be a ™
big draw for today’s comic fans or even to the nostalgically- or historically-inclined, because, after all, in artistic stature he isn’t generally considered to be in the same league with Will Eisner and John Buscema and Jack Kirby and such. Well, the hell with it. From the moment Comic Book Artist editor Jon B. Cooke offered me the opportunity to run his interview with Lew Schwartz in A/E, I was sold on the idea. After all, A/E’s franchise is primarily the hero-oriented comics of the 1940s through the mid-1970s. My mission, if you want to call it that, is to put out a certain kind of magazine, not to try to figure out how to make that magazine sell the maximum number of copies. I already did that for years, at places with names like Marvel and DC. Lew Schwartz—and, yes, Bob Kane—and, for that matter, the preMad Dave Berg and Australian super-hero comics of the past and Otto Binder and Marc Swayze and Canadian artist Ed Furness—all these people and things deserve your attention, and mine. Frankly, if and when the day comes that not enough readers are interested in this type of material, then ’twill be time to fold A/E’s four-color tents and move on to other endeavors. Thankfully, that day is not yet… and I hope it will never come…but I felt I needed to get the above feelings off my chest. Thanks for indulging me. And now, enjoy the interview with Lew—and all that follows! Bestest,
COMING IN SEPTEMBER
A TERRIFIC TRIO: GIELLA, PIKE, & THALL! A Triptych Of Titanically Talented Golden/Silver Age Artists! • Brand-new color cover by JOE GIELLA, done especially for A/E! • JOE GIELLA—legendary inker of 1960s Flash, Green Lantern, & “New Look” Batman— and artist on the Batman, Phantom, Flash Gordon, & Mary Worth comic strips—talks about the Silver Age at DC, the Golden Age at Marvel, JULIE SCHWARTZ, & lots more good stuff in a great JIM AMASH interview! Featuring rare & lavish art by CARMINE INFANTINO, GIL KANE, MIKE SEKOWSKY, CURT SWAN, DICK DILLIN, SHELLY MOLDOFF, FRANK GIACOIA, DAN & SY BARRY, KURT SCHAFFENBERGER, et al.! • Artist JAY SCOTT PIKE on STAN LEE & the Timely/Marvel years (Jann of the Jungle, Black Rider, Lorna the Jungle Girl, Kid Colt, & Cold War spy comics)—on Dolphin at DC—and on CHARLIE BIRO’s Crimebuster! • MARTIN THALL on drawing comics with ROSS ANDRU & MIKE ESPOSITO (Get Lost!), GEORGE EVANS (Captain Video), WALLY WOOD, SIMON & KIRBY, AL WILLIAMSON, CHARLES SULTAN, MAURICE WHITMAN, etc.! • FCA with MARC SWAYZE & the Fawcett/Charlton Connection—MICHAEL T. GILBERT on WILL EISNER (Part 3)—BILL SCHELLY with GLEN JOHNSON (Part 2)—& MORE!! acters TM [Art ©2005 Joe Giella; char
& ©2005 DC Comics.]
Edited by ROY THOMAS
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Batman, Dr. Strangelove, And Everything In Between A Talk With LEW SAYRE SCHWARTZ Interview Conducted by Jon B. Cooke
OTE: From 1946 to 1953, Lew Sayre Schwartz worked for Bob Kane, as his ghost on the art to “Batman” stories for DC Comics. But that was only one phase of a career in the arts that has spanned half a century. We’ll let Jon plunge right into the interview, which was conducted more than two years ago, with Lew’s wife Barbara present and occasionally adding her own perspective —-and we’ll learn about that eventful life at the same time you do. Oh, and unless otherwise noted, all art and photos were supplied either by Lew, Jon, or —Roy.
From “Batman” To “Sherlock” A recent photo of Lew Sayre Schwartz in his studio— above two quite variant examples of his artwork. (Left:) His pencil roughs for the action-packed splash of “The Penguin’s Fabulous Fowls!” in Batman #76 (April-May 1953). (Right:) Lew writes: “I did this series of ads [for Blue Streak products] for years.” This one appeared in the Jan. 1960 issue of Motor magazine. [Batman art ©2005 DC Comics; Blue Streak art ©2005 the respective copyright holders.]
Transcribed by Steve Tice “We Piled Into Mauldin’s Jeep” JON B. COOKE: It’s the 18th of March, 2003. Saddam Hussein has 24 hours to get out of town. LEW SAYRE SCHWARTZ: [laughs] And I wish we could turn around and say the same thing to George Bush: give him 24 hours to get out of the White House. JBC: We’ll see. Where were you born? SCHWARTZ: I was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on July 24, 1926, close to 77 years ago. I had one older sister, but she passed away a few years ago. Other than that, I have very little in the way of family. My mother and father got divorced when I was
A Talk With Lew Sayre Schwartz
ten or 11 years old, and I grew up in not a great neighborhood in New Bedford. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good. Then I went to art school in New Bedford. I’m not sure they’re still in operation; it was called the Swain School. There I met a very interesting young man by the name of Rodney Dutcher, whose father had been an extremely well-known columnist for NEA. He was a Washington reporter, I guess. Anyway, Rod was enormously talented. This was a kid who was reading Nietzsche when he was 12. When I thought Chic Young was a fantastic artist—I still do, by the way, in his own way—Rod was already looking at Terry and the Pirates, and he really got me into Milt Caniff and, subsequently, Noel Sickles and David Stone Martin (who was a spin-off of Ben Shahn). Really, the relationship fed itself, because we loved the same things. He certainly helped me develop an appreciation for things I might not have gotten to for another four or five years. I was 13, he was 12, at that time. Anyway, he was the guy who went to New York with me—in fall of 1946, or something like that—when Caniff invited me to come to the National Cartoonists Society dinner. That was the eventful night where we wound up shooting pool with [editorial cartoonist] Bill Mauldin until 2:00 in the morning. Mauldin offered us a ride home in his jeep. We were grateful, because it was late, thus hard to get a cab, so we piled in. None of us are feeling any pain, and Mauldin takes off down 5th Avenue, against the traffic, and there was enough traffic to make it quite an exciting ride. He went from the Illustrators Club on 63rd Street all the way down to 34th Street, to the old Prince George Hotel. Mauldin goes down to 34th Street, hangs a right at the hotel, and drives the jeep up onto the sidewalk, up the steps to the hotel, and tries to get the jeep in the revolving door. That’s when we got out. [laughter] JBC: Did you know Bill Mauldin well? SCHWARTZ: Not at all. Just from that one night. It was the last time I ever saw him, as a matter of fact. That afternoon, he told us, he had ripped out something like 15,000 dedication pages inscribed to his wife—printed pages in his latest book—because he found out she had cheated on him while he was overseas. So that was the Mauldin story. They had a dinner out in California for Mauldin some years ago, and I had told this story to Ed McGeehan, the editor of CAPS magazine. So Ed approached Mauldin, related my tale, and Mauldin said, “Well, I don’t really remember it, but it sure as hell sounds like me.”
“When I Met Bob Kane…” SCHWARTZ: [cont’d] In 1946, when I met Bob Kane, who hired me, at the time he said he and Will Eisner were doing this little baseball comic book project. Bob paid for it. I never saw a check from Eisner, and I just assumed what Bob said was accurate. It was called Dusty Diamond. But the strip didn’t sell. We did both a strip and a comic book. However, two or three years later, Eisner came out with his own baseball comic, with a character named Rube Rookie, quite similar to Dusty Diamond, without a doubt. So that reaffirmed what Kane had said to me, at least in my own mind. 2H years ago, Will Murray queried Eisner, who said, “I would remember very clearly: I never did a damned thing with Bob Kane.” Now, at that point, I hadn’t met Eisner. My first meeting with him was about two years ago, when he was a guest speaker in Connecticut, at an NCS dinner. JBC: You were there? I was there, too! SCHWARTZ: Were you really? In fact, I have a little videotape I shot. But at any event, I was so thrilled, I acted like a jerk with Eisner. [laughs] It’s funny, but even when you get as old as I am, you can meet someone from your past whom you’ve always looked to as a hero, and it becomes such a dumb, “gee-whiz” conversation. I had a much more comfortable dialogue with him at the comic con, where I could settle in and talk to him like a human being. But Eisner, right or wrong, does not remember any project, though there certainly are great similarities. I go back to the business with Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane about the origin of The Joker. I love Jerry. I think I once owned a page of the first Joker story. Of a certainty, Jerry lettered it—it looks like his work—and maybe he even inked it. But the drawing was pure Kane. Kane drew arms coming out of the hip half the time, and there it was. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that Jerry, being a very bright guy, could have contributed or solidified the whole idea of The Joker. He tells the story about bringing in the playing cards, etc., but we also have Bill Finger to consider in that character’s creation. [NOTE: See Jerry Robinson interview in A/E #39.] Anyway, Kane gave so damn little credit to Bill Finger over the years, and only reneged and confessed that he should have done more for Bill than he did not long before he [Kane] died. The more I think about Bob, it saddens me. Because he became successful as a kid. He was ten years older than I, but the facts are that, in spite of the fame and the money
“Tinkers To Evers To Chance” (Er, We Mean “Kane To Schwartz To Eisner”!) Lew tells of working on a baseball feature called Dusty Diamond with Bob Kane, who told him that Will Eisner was also involved—though Eisner later insisted he “never did a damned thing with Bob Kane.” In his magazine Egomania, comics artist Eddie Campbell (From Hell, etc.) reprinted this strip which he says “was produced for Eisner’s Tab – The Comic Weekly, of which only one issue was ever published, in 1947. Dusty Diamond presumably evolved into Rube Rookie by way of Fireball Bambino. I asked Will about this but remain none the wiser.” Neither are we—but note that the strip is signed at right by both Bob Kane—and “Lew Sayre.” [©2005 the respective copyright holders.]
Batman, Dr. Strangelove, And Everything In Between
SCHWARTZ: Yes. I was being transferred to a battleship from the aircraft carrier I had landed on, and we went into the Dominican Republic, allegedly to rescue some Americans, because there were a whole bunch of dissenting Dominicans who had trained in Cuba. Maybe a hundred of them. I hitched a ride on one of the planes. I watched this little, unbelievable thing: one hundred guys coming out of these LCIs [Landing Craft Infantry] running up on the shore; half of them are only carrying machetes. I’d say maybe 20 of them got shot down, the rest disappeared into the jungle. [laughs] That was the end of the invasion of the Dominican Republic. I’ve never read anything about it, but I was on a Naval Reserve cruise here, which is what this is all about.
The Joker Is Wild Lew Sayre Schwartz’s (officially Bob Kane’s) splashes for two famous Joker stories. On the left, from Batman #53 (June-July 1949)—on the right, from the tale in Detective Comics #168 (Feb. 1951) that belatedly turned out to be The Joker’s long-delayed origin. The latter art was also used as the issue’s cover—one of the relatively few Schwartz covers. Almost all covers featuring Lew’s work were splashes which were pressed into double duty. Inks by Charles Paris & George Roussos, respectively, and the writer of Detective #168 was Batman’s (and The Joker’s) co-creator, Bill Finger—with thanks to Craig Delich & Joe Desris for numerous IDs in this piece. The writer of the “Hairpin” story is unknown. [©2005 DC Comics.]
and everything else, it only made him more and more insecure, because he couldn’t give credit to anybody. I remember in 1992 or ’93, the last time I spoke to him, he’d finally got a publisher for Batman & Me, and I said, “Bob, sign a copy and send it to me.” Then dead silence. I said, “Don’t you want to send me a copy?” He said, “Well, I’ll send you a copy, but… you’re not in the book.” I said, “Look, Bob—I only worked for you for seven years, so it’s perfectly understandable you could forget seven years. Besides that, I had another career and it doesn’t matter to me. But I wonder who else you forgot in the book.” But credit doesn’t mean anything to me, to be quite honest with you. I mean, I’ve gone on to another life, another existence.
“You’ll Be On The Flagship” SCHWARTZ: [cont’d, pointing to photo] This is me in 1947. I’m in “The Chair.” [NOTE: See next page.] JBC: Wow! Is that a destroyer?
I was working for Rod Willard on Scorchy Smith and came home for the weekend. I got off the bus and was walking home. A buddy of mine picked me up, said, “Do you want me to take you home?” I said, “Yeah, that’d be great. Where are we going, Bernie?” He said, “Well, I’m going down to the Naval Reserve office to look into this cruise they’ve got to Scandinavia.” So by a strange twist of fate, when my friend and I walked into the recruiting office, there were two guys: a boatswain’s mate with all the hash marks, who was running the place, and there was a full Navy commander. Well, my friend Bernie had been an aerial photographer, and he flew over Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, all those places. I had a much more reserved kind of career in the Navy, although I spent 90 days flying in the belly of a TPF, which is not the best duty in the world. But I had a specialist X rating, which is a journalist. Bernie had a photographer’s rating.
So the commander is standing there listening to us, comes over and says, “Listen, we could use you guys on the admiral’s staff.” Bernie was an expert on color photography; this is 1947. The fact I was a cartoonist, they all loved that. So he said, “Sign on, I’ll make all the arrangements for you, and you’ll be on the flagship, on the admiral’s staff.” Well, that turned into a Bmovie I won’t bless you with here. [laughs] But if you can imagine, the following week, all our friends threw a big farewell party, gave us some luggage, etc. “Batman & Me—And Several Other People I Don’t Mention”
Bob Kane’s 1989 autobiography Batman & Me is, in many ways, a dishonest book, starting with the fact that there’s probably as much Jerry Robinson and even George Roussos in the Batman figure on the cover as there is of Kane. Any claims made in the book by Kane (through his surprisingly-acknowledged co-writer Tom Andrae) must be taken with a ton of salt. Maybe it’s just as well that there’s no index, since names like “Schwartz, Lew” and “Moldoff, Sheldon” wouldn’t show up in it. Even so, the book is worth having for the combination of a few unalloyed facts and its monumental chutzpah. [Batman ©& TM 2005 DC Comics.]
We go down to Norfolk to sign up to go on the carrier, and they signed us onto the wrong ship. So they put us on a battlewagon. I can’t even remember the name of it now, but to make a long story short,
A Talk With Lew Sayre Schw
we come aboard wearing civvies. Everybody else was in uniform because they had signed up for this thing earlier. In those days, I was wearing brown-&-white saddle shoes. Well, the next morning, they line up 2,000 guys at 5:30, 6:30 in the morning, for inspection… and there’s one pair of brown-&white saddle shoes. We were on the wrong damn ship. [Jon laughs] They wanted to get at us because they claimed we were impersonating officers to begin with. It was hell.
Lew In “The Chair”—& Batman On A Rope Ladder! Sailor Lew being transferred from one ship to another on a Midshipmen’s Cruise, 1947—plus his semi-finished pencils for a nicely-designed “Batman” splash. [Art ©2005 DC Comics.]
By the way, this was 1947, when the Russians were beginning to crack knuckles. This was a “goodwill” mission with two Essex-class carriers, four battlewagons, and eight destroyers. It looked like an armada from World War III, you know? And away we went. Well, when we got to Annapolis to pick up the midshipmen, Bernie and I managed to get ashore. I called the commander, and he said, “You guys are on the wrong ship!” So he called the PR guy at the Naval Academy and got us transferred just in the nick of time. They’d have killed us. [Jon laughs] They hated the Reservists to begin with. There was always a breach between regular Army and the Army Reserve, regular Navy and Reserve. They didn’t look at you as being “real Navy” guys or “real Army” guys. I’m sure that condition exists right to now. By the way, speaking about the Armed Forces, I have a clipping I came upon from a 1964 or ’65 write-up that Milton Caniff did. It will surprise you, because you’re well aware that Caniff became a hawk during Vietnam—he was always supporting the military, but he was wrong and we lost that war. I was with Milton very often in those last years, and it was painful to see. Anyway, he hurt bad. He thought
Cronkite & Caniff (Above:) Lew with CBS newsman/anchor Walter Cronkite. In the magazine VideoPro, this photo is captioned: “Video Information Applications president Lew Schwartz directing Cronkite’s introduction of a video profile on Milton Caniff.” Lew stated in a recent fax to Ye Editor: “Cronkite was notorious for editing everyone and didn’t change one word of his intro (or end) of the Caniff profile. I was very flattered.” (Right:) The cover and spine of the Milton Caniff: A 75th Birthday Tribute video filmed and produced by Schwartz. [Art ©2005 the respective copyright holders.]
he was a patriot. But what is very, very interesting is the fact that, when you read this piece, it’s Caniff’s overview of any war. And it’s completely perpendicular to everything you may have thought about Caniff.
“Comic Books Were Comic Books” JBC: I was very impressed with the documentaries you produced on Norman Rockwell and Caniff. SCHWARTZ: Well, they were labors of love. I paid for the Caniff film with my own money. [laughs] I owed him, because Milt taught me so much, and basically was a good guy. I can only think of one instance in the whole relationship that shocked me a little bit. It had to do with the fact that I could have gotten Canyon back on television very easily. You know how popular [the military TV drama] JAG is today? Well, I had the right people in California who wanted to do Steve Canyon. Good old Toni Mendez, Caniff’s agent, was not part of the deal. I got Cliff Robertson and Milton together. At that time, Robertson would have made a great Steve Canyon. Mendez screwed the whole deal. The Mirish Brothers had an option, and she immediately called them and killed the whole thing. [shuffling through papers] Does that look familiar to you? JBC: That’s it! “Gorilla”! [laughs] [NOTE: Lew and Jon are referring to the much-remembered story “The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City!” in Batman #75 (Feb.-March 1953). See pp. 8-9. —Roy.] SCHWARTZ: This is one of my favorite splashes. I love that one. JBC: When you were a kid, did you read
Shooting Stars The Birth, Life, And Death Of The Original Australian Comics Industry by Michael Baulderstone In With The Old—In With The New!
A Local Vacuum (1900-1940)
magine if the government banned all of your favorite comic books and they disappeared off the shelves. Imagine what might spring up in their place! Imagine you are a publisher and all of the competition suddenly disappears … imagine the possibilities.
(Left:) As Michael Baulderstone relates, Australian comics in post-World War II days were divided between U.S. reprints and down-under originals. Like many of the former, Century – the 100 Page Comic Monthly #8 boasted a new, home-grown cover—and looked like a meeting of the All-Star Squadron! Here, DC heroes Superman, Batman, Robin, Green Arrow, Speedy, and Johnny Quick hail the reader. One problem with assigning dates to these Australian comics is that they often contain no year-dates whatever, though this one was probably published during the mid-1950s, since Johnny Q.’s last Golden Age US appearance occurred in 1954. Thanks to David Studham. [Art ©2005 the respective copyright holders; heroes TM & ©2005 DC Comics.]
of the local publishing industry, but this did not really include comics, as there was very little local product at the time. The act was also designed to conserve the country’s stocks of US currency, which were needed for other wartime purchases and to protect the scarce supply of paper available for printing.
By July 1940 all American magazines had disappeared from the shelves, leaving a (Right:) The Panther, one of the best of the all-original This was no totalitarian censorship heartbroken nation of comic readers. Local efforts, was written and drawn by Paul Wheelahan. But fantasy, but the birth, boom, and bust of the publishers of newspapers, books, and again—no precise dates! From Ye Editor’s personal Australian comics industry. magazines suddenly recognized the opporcollection. [©2005 the respective copyright holders.] tunity and responded with a flurry of Comics first appeared in Australia in the activity. A sudden deluge of locally-created early part of the 20th century, at a time when the country still felt a comics filled the newsstands. The new Australian publications were strong attachment to the mother land of England. Thus the early immediately noticeably different from their American predecessors Australian comics appeared in boys’ papers in the tradition of their particularly in their lack of internal color. All but a very few of the established English counterparts. The small tabloid-sized papers books of the period would be published in black-&-white. contained text stories, jokes, and competitions as well as comics. The short-lived Vumps (1908) may qualify as the first original Australian comic. At this time there were no restrictions on the importation of US comic books, and all of the major titles from the burgeoning US industry were highly popular in Australia. By the late 1930s a few local publishers had tried to produce original Australian comics but could not compete with the volume and comparatively slick production of the US product. The relatively small population of Australia could not provide the print run necessary to sustain such competition. Aside from compilation annuals of popular newspaper strips like Ginger Meggs and Fatty Finn , in essence there was no Australian comics industry in existence at the time. For local artists and writers, this was a vacuum waiting to be filled.
A Captive Market (1940-1945) The situation changed with the advent of World War II, when comics in Australia were given an unexpected boost due to the homeland politics of war. In 1940 the government evoked the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which banned the importation of all US publications. This law, a major act of tariff protectionism, was prompted by several perceived necessities. Predominantly it was intended for the preservation
What now seems a multitude of publishers entered the comic field; Frank Johnston Publications, Offset Printing Co., Larry S. Cleland, NSW Bookstall, and Henry Hoffman all experienced periods of intensive productivity. Others such as Invincible Press, KG Murray, and Atlas Publications jumped in after the war. The boom time was a bonus for creators, too. At one time Henry Hoffman of Adelaide was paying its key artist Doug Maxted a rate of 4 pounds 10 shillings a page—then the equivalent of the weekly wage. Unlike the US with its production shops such as Lloyd Jacquet, Harry “A” Chesler, or the Iger-Eisner studio, Australia had no established tradition of comic creation. Lacking this existing structure, the new Australian industry took on a very different approach. A few creative teams were formed, but in many cases one person had responsibility for all aspects of a given book: creation, story, art, and lettering. This led to distinctive products from each of the different companies, with certain individuals responsible for the look of a particular publisher. In some ways this resembles today’s small creator-controlled lines. As production boomed, titles multiplied, and schedules tightened, the necessary innovations began to develop. Alf Headley of Frank Johnston Publications favored a system where the artist would come directly to his office delivering the current issue’s pages. Alf would read through
The Birth, Life, And Death Of The Original Australian Comics Industry The Doctor Is Out—Way Out! “Dr. Mensana… has a worthy claim as Australia’s first super-powered hero.” This cover of an issue of Dr Mensana, with art by “Hub,” was featured in both the standard books about Oz comics: John Ryan’s 1979 Panel by Panel: A History of Australian Comics and Bonzer: Australian Comics 1900s-1990s, edited by Anette Shiell for the National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University. (Minor grammatical point: like the British, the Australians generally do not put a period after abbreviations such as “Dr” and “Mr” when placed before proper names.) [©2005 the respective copyright holders.]
Diamonds Are Forever! If the hero Spy Breaker looks familiar on the cover of Koala Komics #6—ever hear of Spy Smasher? Wonder if Fawcett Publications knew about this…!? [©2005 the respective copyright holders.]
these and confer with the artist, then immediately type up a synopsis for next issue. The artist would then take it off to break down and provide dialogue. This approach is very reminiscent of the “Marvel method” developed 20 years later by Stan Lee.
living through chemistry, Mensana would swallow an S+ pill when he needed extra strength, causing his body to swell up to Herculean proportions. Similarly, a M+ pill caused the Doc`s head to swell up ridiculously, giving him telepathic powers. Clearly, Hubble’s tongue was firmly in his cheek when he wrote Dr. Mensana: he even provided his hero with elastic-sided underwear to accommodate his growth spurts. It must be noted that the early creators had no background or tradition in the use of sequential comic art. Many came from a cartooning background and were more comfortable with a humorous depiction than a realistic one. Hubble is typical of this grouping, and Dr. Mensana is notable for its somewhat awkward wordiness and cartoonesque approach. Still, it has a worthy claim as Australia’s first super-powered hero. Typical of the early cartoon style was Kokey Coala and His Magic Button by Noel Cook. A mighty, magical marsupial, Kokey must count as Australia’s most indigenous hero. The little Koala possessed a magic
Without any competition in the market place, the previously low print runs of Australian publications boomed into high numbers. Another wartime restriction shaped the nature of the early comics: the restrictions on paper use meant that no continuing titles were allowed to be published. Thus, the Australian comics of the early1940s were all one-shots with exclamatory titles like Amazing, Slick, Victory, Champion, Triumph, Real, Zip, and Zoom. In these ostensible one-shots, stories would still carry over from issue to issue, despite the change of cover title. This made following stories difficult for readers of the day and a major headache for the modern collector. The early comics featured very few of the super-heroes so popular in the United States at the time. Instead, they tended to focus on real-life heroes, outback adventurers such as “Trent of the Territory,” reporters like “The Strata Rocketeers,” bushrangers like “Ben Barbary,” or detectives like “Dick Weston.” Although most of the comics had a truelife background, a few early super-types did appear—such as Dr. Mensana by Tom Hubble (1941). A fine example of better
It Goes With The Territory Trent of the Territory Australian Adventure Comics had a true national flavor, compared to many later comic books. “Trent” also appeared in the intriguingly-named Cooee Comics. This image, like numerous others in this article, was reprinted in Bonzer, the comics-history book named after an early Australian comic strip. [©2005 the respective copyright holders.]
“He Left This Planet Too Soon To Go To Artists’ Heaven!” Quality/Fawcett/Timely/Mad Writer/Artist DAVE BERG In His Own Words Interview Conducted, Transcribed, and Edited by Jim Amash
ave Berg spoke the words of the main title above about the great Lou Fine, but they could just as truly be said about Dave himself, who passed away in 2002. He was one of a handful of comic book artists who parlayed his talent into a recognizable style that made him famous. His views of the irony of life and of the “Lighter Side” of things entertained Mad magazine readers for generations. Since his comic book career is less well-known, Dave focused in this interview on that, and on his military career. This interview was conducted by mail because of Dave’s ill health at the time, but was followed up by a brief phone interview. In order to keep the style consistent, I’ve combined both the written and spoken material and eliminated my own questions, keeping the spotlight on a man whose work never failed to please. Dave, the floor is yours—just like it was in Mad for nearly half a century! —Jim.
“Will Eisner [Finding] Out I Could Write… Changed My Life” While still in art school, in 1941, I got a job with Will Eisner, doing backgrounds. Other artists there were Bob Powell, Tex Blaisdell, Chop Mazzus [Chuck Mazoujian], Al Jaffee, and Chuck Cuidera, among others. Working for Eisner was an inspiration. He was more like a teacher. It would surprise you to know that I was paid about $25 or $30 a week. It was the end of the Depression. My job before that only paid $15 a week; I also went to art school at night. A year later, at Fawcett (I did “Captain Marvel” for them), I was earning over $100 a week. My original assignment involved doing backgrounds for the Spirit feature. Will accidentally found out I could write, which changed my life. He gave me a story to illustrate and I told him it wasn’t very good. Will asked me if I could re-write it. I said I’d try. When Eisner read what I had written, he said, “You’re a writer!” I wrote and drew “Death Patrol” [in Quality’s Military Comics], and later wrote and penciled the first issue of Uncle Sam. That made me feel so proud; the rest of the staff cheered me on. On my first publication, I received fan mail. The Eisner studio at Tudor City was overcrowded, so Will rented another space and sent me there. I didn’t like it, and that’s when I transferred to Fawcett Comics. I met Jack Cole one time when he came to tell Eisner that he was going into a new line of art, and leaving comic books. He had been doing Plastic Man. Lou Fine had a studio in the same building as Eisner. Lou was one of the best artists I ever knew, and a kind gentleman. He left this planet too soon to go to artists’ heaven.
Dave Berg And His Uncle Sam Dave Berg in his later years—and a primo page from Quality’s Uncle Sam #1 (Fall 1941), on which Dave says he did most of the artwork for and with Will Eisner. Thanks to Al Dellinges for finding the Berg photo in an old issue of the magazine Reminisce. [Uncle Sam comic hero TM & ©2005 DC Comics.]
For a little while, I worked for Ed Cronin at Hillman. He was a gentleman.
“I Volunteered… But Was Still Drafted” I volunteered for the service, but was still drafted by my draft board. In the [Army] Air Force, I was sent for special education to Edgewood Arsenal (Chemical Warfare). I was given a studio where I turned out pamphlets and posters. One very special assignment sticks out in my mind... a new radio was invented for shot-down pilots. It was my job to choose the color. I got a block of wood, penciled the shape (which was an hourglass), then brought it to the camp woodworking shop, where a German P.O.W. cut it out for me. Did you know the U.S. paid these P.O.W.s who did a job? I painted it a bright yellow. They threw it into the Chesapeake Bay. An airplane flew overhead and spotted it; so the correct color was chosen. It was manufactured and distributed to all airplanes. It was called the Gibson Girl, after the artist who drew hour-glass figures on beautiful women.
Dave Berg In His Own Words I also made a comic book to teach chemical warfare, but I was sent overseas and a civilian outfit took it over. I have a dark secret and confession to make. In my Mad cartoons, I often satirize gun nuts. Yet, while in the Air Force, I was the champion marksman of Charleston Army Air Base. I had competed with thousands of other airmen. I did it using a carbine, but when I went overseas, they handed me a submachine gun—a weapon you can’t aim. You point it in a general direction, pull the trigger, and it sprays a wide area. In the Pacific, a Japanese sub attacked our troop ship. There was a powerful battle; we finally sank the sub. On Iwo Jima, we landed under sniper fire. Air raids were our biggest danger. Our P-47 pilots found take-off and landing their biggest problem. I painted various insignias on the cowlings of the fighter planes. When the war ended, I was sent as a war correspondent to Japan. That was the most exciting thing that happened to me in the war. As a section chief, I was in charge of 15 or 100 men, depending upon the situation. My biggest job was supplying water for 500 men; there was no water on Iwo Jima. The Japanese lost 21,000 soldiers on this ugly little
From Fists To Fraternization (Below:) Sgt. Berg (as artist) and Pfc. Adler (as writer) produced the mimeographed military publication Fighter Post as “a joint venture” during the early days of the Occupation of Japan, according to Arthur Adler. A bio in that issue said that, “Sgt. Berg, incidentally, in civil life was the creator of several comic strips.” Though this isn’t quite accurate, it probably referred to Berg’s pre-Army art for Fawcett, so below left, repeated from A/E V3#6, is the cover attributed to him for Captain Marvel Adventures #14 (Aug. 1942).
When The Shooting Stops The above pencil drawing was also done by Dave for Reminisce a few years ago, and reflects Berg’s days in uniform in World War II, which were also covered in Alter Ego #7. The “Private Adler” mentioned is the same Arthur Adler whose interview about his postwar comic book writing career appeared in A/E #44. Thanks to Al Dellinges. [Art & text ©2005 Estate of Dave Berg.]
There’s a startling contrast between the post-Pearl Harbor jingoism of 194142 and art drawn only a week or so after the Japanese signed the surrender document aboard the US battleship Missouri in Tokyo Harbor. When Dave drew and labeled his sketches of life in Japan, of course, the unfortunate nigh-universal epithet “Jap” was still in use, alas—but things would soon get much friendlier, and the Fighter Post cover illustrates the swift change in attitudes. Special thanks to Arthur Adler. [Capt. Marvel art ©2005 DC Comics; 1945 art ©2005 Estate of Dave Berg.]
Dreams Of Milk And Honey…
began corresponding with Will Eisner in 1978. I was living in the Bay Area and drawing comics for underground and groundlevel titles like Slow Death, Star*Reach, and Quack!, which featured my first series “The Wraith,” a funny animal Spirit parody. Quack! lasted six issues. Afterwards, I mailed copies to Will, who sent me a very encouraging letter in return. Will’s approval meant a lot to me as I struggled to build a comic book career.
Michael T. Gilbert (left) and Will Eisner at Will’s Florida studio in 2001.
As it turned out, I’d contacted him at a turning point in his own career. After retiring the Spirit newspaper strip in 1952, Eisner had enjoyed great success producing educational comics for the military and other clients. But the urge to tell more personal stories again had been bubbling for years. In 1978 the pot finally boiled over, and in October he produced A Contract With God, sometimes called the first modern graphic novel. The book actually consisted of four separate stories exploring Judaism and the meaning of life. By coincidence I’d also been working on a story with a Jewish theme for Imagine, another Star*Reach title. At 32 densely-packed pages, “A Dream of Milk and Honey” was my most ambitious story to date. It described a group of Jewish settlers in the future, searching for a new homeland in space after Israel is destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. The first part of my story came out a month after Will’s book. I sent him a copy, along with my comments on his own project. To my delight, I got another note from Will, which said in part… “Congratulations! Your story ‘A Dream of Milk and Honey’ is most
of all an example of the kind of innovation and striving that is moving sequential art … out of the primordial swamp in which comic books have so long wallowed.” Whew! High praise, indeed! I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d accidentally hit upon a theme near and dear to him. Ever the teacher, Will added some constructive criticism to his note: “I have but one major critique: In future efforts I hope you will attempt a more disciplined ratio between art and text. I feel that the text in some areas overwhelms the art and in some areas the art obscures the text. There should be, I believe, a very carefully orchestrated balance between the two.” Solid advice. I may have missed taking Will’s cartooning class in the early ’70s, but his comments were a pretty nice consolation prize. And if praise from Will Eisner wasn’t enough, another dream of mine was fulfilled two years later when I finally got to draw The Spirit!
Comic Fandom Archive
A Talk With Writer, Educator, & Comics Fanatic
GLEN JOHNSON by Bill Schelly Glen Johnson—Comic Reader! This photo of Glen Johnson, looking urbane with his pipe, appeared in Alter Ego [Vol. 1] #8 in 1965. At around the same time, Glen was editing and publishing the newszine The Comic Reader—for which fandom artist Biljo White did the drawing at right of Pete Morisi’s Charlton hero, Judo Master. [Art ©2005 Estate of Biljo White; Judo Master TM & ©2005 DC Comics.]
ntroduction: In the fanzine scene in the early 1960s, there were a number of talented artists who added the visual components to break up the text—but what about the text itself? This interview with article-writer par excellence Glen D. Johnson signals an attempt to provide some parity to those selfless scribes whose words filled the pages. I had been in touch with Glen when I was researching fandom history in the early 1990s, and always wanted to talk to him at greater length. So I was delighted to be able to chat with him by phone on January 16, 2005. This long-overdue interview was transcribed by Brian K. Morris, and edited to final form by my friend and colleague Jeffrey Kipper. BILL SCHELLY: I was reading some of your past letters and pieces in some old fanzines, and noticed you referred to yourself once as “one of the older fans in the ’60s,” as opposed to the younger fans. But you were only 27 in 1964. When and where were you born? GLEN JOHNSON: I was born in Mackintosh, Minnesota, March 20, 1937. I’m the oldest of nine, quite a clan. My dad was a construction worker. He died when I was in my late teens. I grew up in Superior, Wisconsin, and went to college at University of Wisconsin there. When I went to college, [chuckles] I had no idea what I was going to do or be. I ended up with a major in Education and a minor in P.E. I played football in high school and starred on the team my senior year. I was somewhat athletic. BS: What were the first comics that you were aware of?
JOHNSON: Never. I was a terrible writer. In fact, I would say that wanting to write about comic books really inspired me to become a somewhat better writer. Until I became interested in comics, I never had much interest in reading. For example, I had never read an Edgar Rice Burroughs book until I became interested in comics. Once I became interested in comics, I got the complete Burroughs series and read those. But that was much later, I think, than most people read those. I was probably between 24 and 27. BS: It seems that you’re a little different than most, in that your real fire for comics came after you became an adult. JOHNSON: Right. When I was working on the railroad in ’56, I was a relief clerk. This was around the time Showcase #4 with The Flash came out. I would be working away from home, and I’d go to the dime store to buy the current Showcase, for example. After I would read it, I would leave it in a park on a bench so some little kid could come along and get some benefit from it. I enjoyed it, but I never even thought about collecting until later. That began to change after I discovered comics fandom in the early ’60s. Jerry Bails had a letter printed in an early Brave and the Bold [“Justice League of America”] comic, and he stated he had a complete collection of All-Star Comics. I wrote him and asked if he could send me his complete All-Star collection so I could read it and I’d return it to him. [laughs] I was a bit naïve.
JOHNSON: I vividly remember buying All-Star Comics #36, the issue that guest-starred Superman and Batman with the Justice Society. I had bought comics before that, but I don’t remember any as distinctly as I remember buying that one, bringing it home, and reading it. So, I started following All-Star. Since this started when I was very young, it went deeply with me.
BS: How did he respond?
BS: How did your comics interests develop over time? Were you buying them for yourself or were your parents buying them for you?
BS: I see this connects up, because I have in front of me a letter that you wrote to Jerry on Sept. 19, 1961. He sent it to me some time ago. Were you working for the railroad at that time?
JOHNSON: I bought them for myself and, in my neighborhood, we traded a lot. We kids would try to get the most out of our dime. When I was a kid, I was just a casual collector. I only became heavily involved in collecting and fandom as an adult. I started out mainly as a super-hero fan, and of cowboys to a lesser degree. Westerns were a big trend in the late 1940s. But I was always more interested in Western movies than the Western comics. BS: Did you write much when you were a kid?
JOHNSON: He sent me a copy of Alter-Ego #2.
JOHNSON: Yes, and going to college. So, my correspondence with Jerry started after Alter-Ego #2. When he sent it to me, it came with a letter. When I received that Alter-Ego, I saw The Spectre on the cover and I just flipped out. I was able to remember him from my childhood. Soon after that I ordered All-Star Comics #15 and 18 from Bill Thailing. I didn’t order a lot of old comics because I couldn’t afford them, but those were the first two. “JSA” has always been my main interest. It branched out from there. BS: That certainly explains your writing for Alter Ego when Roy was
No. 110 August 2005
The Monster Society of Evil by Jim Engel [Art ©2005 Jim Engel; characters TM & ©2005 DC Comics.]
84 I don’t know where Ed Robbins was staying at the time, but I must have been at the Dixie Hotel … because it was in that vicinity that I was later stopped by a couple of M.P.s … Military Police. There followed a series of stupid, I thought, questions during which I made the mistake of smarting off. I don’t know why I did things like that! “How long you been in the Service?” I was asked. “How long you been?” I countered. I felt I had the right. He had asked me that!
“Five years,” he answered, squaring his shoulders proudly. mds& (c) [Art
logo ©2005 Marc Swayze; Captain Marvel ©& © &TM TM2005 2005DC DCComics] Comics]
[FCA EDITORS NOTE: From 1941-53, Marcus D. Swayze was a top artist for Fawcett Publications. 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 (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 Captain Marvel Adventures. He also wrote many Captain Marvel scripts, and continued to do so while in the military. After leaving the service in 1944, he made an arrangement with Fawcett to produce art and stories for them on a freelance basis out of his Louisiana home. There he created both art and story for The Phantom Eagle in Wow Comics, in addition to drawing the Flyin’ Jenny newspaper strip for Bell Syndicate (created by his friend and mentor Russell Keaton). After the cancellation of Wow, Swayze produced artwork for Fawcett’s top-selling line of romance comics, 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 issue Marc recalled some of the art techniques he used while working on Flyin’ Jenny with Russell Keaton. In this issue, he tells of a time when Captain Marvel got him out of a jam! —P.C. Hamerlinck.] A Fawcett decision in 1941 that all Captain Marvel art be prepared “in house” led to the employment of Chic Stone, Ray Harford, and Bob Boyajian. They were followed by Al Fagaly and Ed Robbins. Both Fagaly and Robbins can be remembered as having gone on to greater fame with syndicated newspaper features … Al with writer Harry Shorten on There Ought to be a Law! and Ed with Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer.
“Five years!” I responded. “And still only a Corporal?” That didn’t help matters a bit. Details of the discharge process were such that the official document accompanied the application for military pay due the serviceman. It meant that for several weeks following discharge, the individual carried at best only a photostatic copy of the original. To minimize the text here, I was standing before the M.P. on 42nd Street at some weird A.M. hour, in uniform, with no pass, no furlough, and no official discharge papers. Not good. “Hey, look at this!” the M.P. called to his companion. “A phony discharge! We’ve got one here!” With that we began our march up the street. On the way to wherever we were going, we were joined by another pair of M.P.s with several more innocent fun-lovers in uniform. When we reached our destination … that place! I’ll never forget that place! Something like an oversized second floor Manhattan apartment … done over in contemporary hoosegow! At one end were two cluttered tables behind which sat a couple of weary-looking lieutenants … busy questioning a long line of unkempt G.I.s, one by one. At the other end … hold on for this … chain link fencing stretched from wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Behind it … oh, those poor, dismal guys! I did not want to be in that cage … ever! From my place in the line I began a mental list of those who could be called to identify me. But I didn’t know where the people with whom I worked lived! The “list” rapidly dwindled to my father back home … 1500 miles away! And what could Papa tell them … that I had been a good little boy? I had to face it … there wasn’t a soul I could call to get me out of this!
I don’t recall seeing Al Fagaly much after that period … but I do remember Ed Robbins … and one particular evening in 1944! It couldn’t have been more than a week or so after my discharge. I was still in uniform. So was Ed. We were on our way to visit an artist friend, Al McLean, over on the eastern side of Manhattan. On the route we stopped at a couple of places, a bottle shop and a deli. McLean was doing a newspaper strip featuring a little girl character called Patsy. When we arrived he put it aside as we unloaded our goodies. In a short time some cordial neighbors showed up, a guitar was brought in … and we had a grand old evening.
Captain Marvel saves the day, in a Swayze-drawn panel from “Capt. Marvel Gets The Heir,” in Captain Marvel Adventures #40 (Oct. 1944)…the same year Cap got Marc Swayze himself out of a mess! [©2005 DC Comics.]
From Fiction To Factual Fantasy by Otto O. Binder Edited for FCA by P.C. Hamerlinck
he following essay—written by chief Golden Age Captain Marvel/Marvel Family scribe Otto Binder—gives an overview of Otto’s staggering output during his comic book career. The piece was originally published in Don Glut’s 1963 Shazam Annual fanzine. Don himself went on to become a prolific comics and television writer; he even wrote for the 1970s live-action Shazam! TV series, and in recent years has written, produced, and directed instant cult films such as Dinosaur Valley Girls, et al. Thanks to Don for granting us permission to reprint Otto’s informative article. —P.C. Hamerlinck.
Comics Cyclone In the spring of 1941, I yelled “SHAZAM!” and changed from a normal pulp author into the Writing Fiend. Unlike the costumed characters I wrote about, I did not return to my human form for some twenty years.
Otto Binder wrote 144 “Marvel Family” stories (as well as many backup solo stories that appeared in the pages of The Marvel Family), and created Uncle Marvel. This is the C.C.Beck/Pete Costanza cover for Marvel Family #8 (Feb. 1947). The photo of Otto at right first appeared in Alter Ego [Vol. 1] #9 in 1965. [©2005 DC Comics.]
During that incredible (even to me) time from 1941 to 1960, no less than 2,465 comics scripts spewed from four worn-out typewriters. An average of about 125 stories per year, ranging from 6 to 18 pages each (18-page stories were not uncommon in the early days when the 64-page comic books flourished). “Fantastic” is perhaps the word for the total number of pages written, with 5 to 8 panels each—32,000 pages all told, equal to 1,000 full 32-page magazines of recent years. My greatest productive year was 1944 (under a 1-B plus 3-A draft classification including OWI deferment), in which 228 tales were churned out on a smoking machine that I last remember melting away completely. As to the total number of words banged down on paper—not only the visible few lettered in as captions and dialog but all the unseen-byreader descriptions to the artist—I cannot guess. Nobody would believe it—including myself. I woke out of a daze around 1960, realizing I had in effect been a one-man assembly line for stories. A Shazamivac, so to speak, more closely related to the computer than to flesh-and-blood people. I sometimes think the 7090 data processor might have broken down under the workload. Why didn’t I? I did, for a period of some eight months around 1950. I had a bad and confused time reorienting my bruised psyche. But then my rested brain circuits got to clacking again and it was back to the old grind. We consoled ourselves, whenever hurried scripters met, by calling it the “Golden Rut.” Name credit, no. Fame, no. Satisfaction, no. Pride, Otto Binder’s famous creation, the world’s most human-like talking tiger, Mr. Tawny, needs the help of his old friend Captain Marvel again. C.C. Beck once said that Otto had “the soul of Mr. Tawny.” Cover of Captain Marvel Adventures #86 (July 1948) drawn by Beck. [©2005 DC Comics.]
Fiction by C.C. Beck Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck [Originally presented in FCA #23/FCA/SOB #12, Feb./Mar. 1982] Fiction is not life. Fiction shows things the way they ought to be, not the way they are.
ccording to the dictionary, fiction is the creation of imagination and does not imply an intent to deceive. Fabrication, the dictionary says, is definitely meant to deceive. In both cases lies are being told, but the creator of fiction does not want anyone to believe him, while the inventor of fabrication does. Fairy tales are fiction, but many advertising claims, political speeches, and some religions are fabrications. Stories about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny are not meant to be believed. Those who tell them with perfectly straight faces to little children are malicious, evil people. They do not believe the stories themselves, but they expect their listeners to believe them. Stories about the bogeyman, the devil, guardian angels, ghosts, and such are often believed by the storytellers themselves. Such storytellers are dangerous; they sometimes become the leaders of strange cults and destructive movements. There are always far more people ready to believe any kind of outrageous fabrication than there are people ready to accept the truth about anything.
Quoth Beck: “In Otto’s stories the characters were not realistic…. They lived only in the fictional world of the comics.” A scene from the Mr. Mind serial by Fawcett’s Golden pair. [©2005 DC Comics.]
In comics, as long as the art remains unrealistic, nobody will take the stories seriously. Even little children know that real people do not have
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ALTER EGO #51 Golden Age Batman artist/BOB KANE ghost LEW SAYRE SCHWARTZ interviewed, Batman art by JERRY ROBINSON, DICK SPRANG, SHELDON MOLDOFF, WIN MORTIMER, JIM MOONEY, and others, the Golden and Silver Ages of AUSTRALIAN SUPER-HEROES, Mad artist DAVE BERG interviewed, FCA, MR. MONSTER on WILL EISNER, BILL SCHELLY, and more! Ironically, Mr. Tawny, the Talking Tiger, was Otto Binder’s most human-like character. A panel from Binder and Beck’s Mr. Tawny syndicated comic strip samples. They were told it was too “comic” to be in a newspaper strip. [©2005 Estates of Otto Binder & C.C. Beck.]
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Published on Dec 28, 2010
In ALTER EGO #51, LEW SAYRE SCHWARTZ—the artist who was BOB KANE’s ghost from 1946-1953—is interviewed about his Batman and other stellar wo...