Roy Thomas’ Mutated Comics Fanzine
DAVE COCKRUM6.95 $
USA 78 THE MAN WHO LOVED In theNo. June COMICS (AND MUTANTS!) 2008
X-Men ©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.
MARION SITTON & HAROLD LeDOUX
Vol. 3, No. 78 / June 2008 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
Editorial Honor Roll Jerry G. Bails (founder) Ronn Foss, Biljo White Mike Friedrich
Circulation Director Bob Brodsky, Cookiesoup Productions
Cover Artist Dave Cockrum
Cover Colorist Tom Ziuko
With Special Thanks to: Heidi Amash Miki Annamanthadoo Ger Apeldoorn Manuel Auad Bob Bailey Alberto Becattini Glen Cadigan Mike Chen Paty Cockrum Comics Buyer’s Guide
Teresa R. Davidson Michaël Dewally Richard Donnelly Gary Dunaier Ruben Espinosa Mark Evanier Lance Falk Shane Foley Carl Gafford Wendy Gaines Janet Gilbert Jennifer Hamerlinck Fred Hembeck Heritage Comics Archives Richard Howell Tony Isabella David Karlen Jay Kinney Joseph Kramar Henry Kujawa Ted Latner Harold LeDoux Mark Lewis Richard Lieberson
David E. Martin Kevin McConnell Doug McCratic Clifford Meth Carrie Morash Brian K. Morris P.D. Prince Gene Reed Roland Reedy Bob Rozakis Joe Rubinstein Steven Schend Howard Siegel Keif Simon Marion Sitton Ted Skimmer Marc Swayze Anthony Taylor Dann Thomas Jerry Thompson Mark Trost Jim Van Dore Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Mike Vosburg Alfred M. Walker Stephen V. Walker Hames Ware Geoff Wilmetts Monte Wolverton John Workman Alex Wright John Wright Andy Yanchus Hass Yusuf
This issue is dedicated to the memory of
Contents writer/editorial: Dave’s Not Here—But We Wish He Was!. . . 2 The Man Who Loved Comics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 The life and legacy of Dave Cockrum, explored by Glen Cadigan.
“I Thoroughly Enjoyed My Days At Timely” . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Golden Age artist Marion Sitton reminisces to Dr. Michael J. Vassallo about his comics career.
“I Was Always Shooting For The Stars” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Harold LeDoux talks to Jim Amash about his years in comic books & comic strips.
The Secret History of All-American Comics, Inc.— Book One, Chapter 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 “The Bill Gaines Years,” courtesy of Bob Rozakis & Ted Skimmer.
Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt! – Alfred J. Walker, Part 3 . . . . . 69 Steven V. Walker tells Michael T. Gilbert about his artist-father’s post-WWII career.
re: comments, correspondence, & corrections. . . . . . . . . . . 76 FCA (Fawcett Collectors Of America) #137 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 P.C. Hamerlinck showcases Marc Swayze and the Fawcett forays of Basil Wolverton. On Our Cover: This re-creation of the powerful splash page he’d penciled for The X-Men #107 (Oct. 1977) was both penciled and inked by Dave Cockrum circa the early ’90s. Prints of it were sold at various conventions. Thanks to Glen Cadigan and Paty Cockrum. [X-Men TM & ©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.] Above: This Wildfire illo, writes Glen C., “was inked by Joe Rubinstein on blueline from a penciled piece by Dave. It comes from the collection of Roland Reedy, and I wouldn’t hold my breath on anything else like this turning up!” Glen’s comment was in response to Ye Editor’s query concerning the likelihood of finding rare, previously unpublished Cockrum “Legion of Super-Heroes” art for this issue. But—see p. 9! [Wildfire TM & ©2008 DC Comics.] Alter EgoTM is published 8 times a year 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send subscription funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial offices. Single issues: $9 US ($11.00 Canada, $16 elsewhere). Twelve-issue subscriptions: $78 US, $132 Canada, $180 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. ISSN: 1932-6890 FIRST PRINTING.
The Man Who Loved Comics The Life And Legacy Of DAVE COCKRUM by Glen Cadigan
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dave Cockrum was a talented comic book artist and (a non-identical skill) designer from the early 1970s until his untimely passing in 2006. From both personal and published interviews, as well as from other sources, Glen Cadigan tells us about the artist who gave both The Legion of Super-Heroes and The X-Men some of their very best years… and about the man behind the art. All art and photos not otherwise credited are courtesy of Glen.
Early Years On November 11, 1943, David Emmett Cockrum was born to Emmett Ernst and Fern Council Cockrum in Pendleton, Oregon, a mid-sized town located in the northeastern part of the state. According to his brother Doug, “[Our] dad was in the Army. He was commissioned into the Field Artillery in 1935, but he was in the reserves, so he wasn’t called to active duty until the beginning of World War II. Illinois was his longtime home, which was also my mother’s home. When he was called to active duty, they were assigned to Pendleton, Oregon, for a while. They were also in Madison, Wisconsin, for a while. Anyhow, that’s how Dave came to be born in Pendleton, because of my dad’s military assignment there.”
“X” Marks The Man—And His Legion Of Fans Dave Cockrum, flanked by images from his two signature mainstream series. The cover of The Legion of Super-Heroes #275 (May 1981) is reproduced from a scan of the original art, with thanks to Hass Yusuf. The X-Men illo appeared on an ad for a personal appearance by autographers Dave and X-Men scribe Chris Claremont some years back at El Dorado Comics in Pennsauken, NJ; it was sent to us by Keif Simon. Photo courtesy of the April 2007 Comics Buyer’s Guide. [Legion page ©2008 DC Comics; X-Men TM & ©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
The Life And Legacy Of Dave Cockrum
Raboy, whose work inspired and thrilled me with its skillful and beautiful line work. Joe Maneely’s work on Atlas’ (later Marvel’s) Black Knight remains a vivid memory of my early comic reading. Later on, the Silver Age work of Joe Kubert, Gil Kane, Murphy Anderson, Carmine Infantino, and Jack Kirby gave me very strong and positive influences.”2 In 1959, the family moved to Colorado when Lt. Col. Cockrum was assigned to Lowry Air Force Base in Denver. While in high school there, Cockrum became friends with Jerry Thompson, who works as a graphic designer today. “I met him in the band, actually,” Thompson recalled. “We both played trombone, and [when we were in ‘ancient history’ class together] we started doing cartoons about history. The teacher would take the cartoons that we would make, and hang them up on the wall. He would use them [as] illustrations of pieces of ancient history. It was fun.” The two artists participated in what Thompson has labeled “cartoon wars.” “We both had a good, mutual friend… George Young, [whose] dad worked on the base. They lived right next to the base, and both Dave and I would go over to his house a lot and just fool around. That’s kinda where we started having our cartoon wars. We’d sit down for hours, just sitting there, drinking Coke, and he’d initiate some kind of a cartoon, and then I would reply to that cartoon, and we’d go back and forth. George was our audience. The three of us would just hang out together. We’d draw up a situation, usually putting one or the other in jeopardy, and then that person would have to reply to that jeopardy. And it would just develop one thing after another, and we’d sometimes incorporate, let’s say, a superhero-type situation, or something like that, but other times we would just draw each other. They would get a little more absurd as we’d keep going, and some of the cartoons toward the end were really, really strange.”
“Over Land, Over Sea, We Fight To Keep Men Free…” Dave considered Blackhawk his favorite character to draw. This beautiful, if unsigned sketch by him was supplied by Bob Bailey. [Blackhawk TM & ©2008 DC Comics.]
Eventually the family moved back to Illinois, where, at an early age, Cockrum’s artistic inclinations became apparent. “For as long as I can remember, he sketched and drew,” Doug Cockrum recalled, “and when he was young, my mom and dad thought that that was a good thing, and they enjoyed watching him draw. But they had different things in mind for him, in terms of making a living. I guess when we were very young, the grand plan was that Dave was supposed to go to West Point, and I was supposed to be a doctor. And as things worked out, Dave became a cartoonist and I went to the Air Force Academy. I became the professional military guy, and Dave pursued his own interests.” Comic books became a fixture in Cockrum’s life early on. In 2001, he told Jay Mckiernan, “I first started reading comics when I was seven or eight years old, back in the early ’50s. My folks were both teachers and they got me reading early. The first comic I remember was an issue of Boy Crimefighter that my dad had confiscated from one of his students. Later, my folks subscribed to Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, figuring it was a useful way to encourage my reading skills. Little did they know what they were starting.”1 [NOTE: By “Boy Crimefighter,” Dave meant Boy Comics, starring “Crimebuster.” —GC.] As Cockrum grew older, his tastes also matured. “I guess Wally Wood was one of my earliest influences, and his work remains some of my favorite to this very day,” he told Mckiernan. “Dick Dillin’s work on Blackhawk stood out as well, kindling in me a lifelong love for the Black Knights. I caught the tail end of the Fawcett era, too, and loved C.C. Beck’s work on Captain Marvel (back when he was allowed to use his name as the title of his book) and Kurt Schaffenberger on Captain Marvel Jr. Much later, I searched out back issues of Junior’s book by Mac
While still in Denver, Cockrum was also a member of his father’s Air Explorer group. [NOTE: Air Explorers were an advanced branch of Scouts. —GC.] Fellow member Tom Hoffman recalled, “He designed a patch for our uniforms, and it was of an osprey... he called it ‘Oscar the Osprey.’ I think his dad had it sent to China, or Taiwan, or someplace, and had it all embroidered. So we had this beautiful color patch that we had on our left shoulder of our uniform which was completely unique. No other group around had anything like that.” Hoffman also remembered, “I used to see his sketchpad. He’d show these fantastical drawings… and I remember, when he got ready to graduate from high school, he was all distraught because he was going to be leaving the love of his life. I don’t think that she reciprocated, but that’s what he thought, anyway…. I knew that he went off to New York, but I don’t know at what age he probably ever reached New York. I just knew that that was his end goal… to go there and to illustrate.” Thompson also confirmed Cockrum’s career ambitions: “He always expressed a desire to be a comic book artist... and I thought he was crazy. And that continued when we both graduated high school. Then he went off to college, and then after about two years, he came back from college, and then he went off to the Navy in early ’64.... We both liked comic books, but he always talked about being a comic book illustrator.” Cockrum’s brother remembered, “He answered an ad—and I’m thinking this was when he was in high school—one of those ‘Draw Me’ picture ads for an art school, and he won some sort of a prize through [it], and I think that was the first time that my parents really realized that, ‘Well, maybe he really does have a future in art.’ And my dad sat him down and said, ‘Well, okay, but commercial art is the only place where you can make a decent living.’ And so he was dead set that if Dave was gonna go into art, he was gonna be a commercial artist, which, obviously, was not Dave’s interest. One of the highest compliments that he was ever paid, at least in his estimation, was when one of his commercial art instructors told him, ‘Cockrum, one day you’ll make a fantastic comic book artist.’ To him, that was high praise.” In 1963, Cockrum left college in Illinois and returned home to
The Life And Legacy Of Dave Cockrum
A.k.a. “Blacky” Lagoon Dave loved the Universal monster who starred in three 1950s movies, starting with the 3-D Creature from the Black Lagoon. (Above:) A 1974 Cockrum sketch of same, done for an Aurora model kit, sent by Anthony Taylor. (Right:) “Manphibian” splash from Marvel’s black-&-white mag The Legion of Monsters #1 (Sept. 1975). Dave conceived and named the character, whose concept sketch was seen in A/E #24—and, more recently, with other Cockrum art in Bob McLeod & TwoMorrows’ Rough Stuff #6. [Creature art ©2008 Universal Pictures; Manphibian art ©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
figures. I did a Phantom kit... and Dick Giordano designed a Flash Gordon and Ming kit.... I did the box art for the Superboy model, and instructions for five or six of the kits. In a way, I was involved in all of the kits.”36
About the venture, the artist told Taylor, “We hired Dick Giordano, Neal Adams, Gil Kane, and others to illustrate the boxes and instructions. Unfortunately, we couldn’t agree on projects and the company folded.”
The instructions mentioned by the artist consisted of two pages at the back of a comic book which was unique to each kit. The comic book itself featured a story based upon the design of the model to be built, and when completed, the model was supposed to be displayed in front of the center spread of the comic book, which featured a scene that did not include the character featured in the model kit itself. The end result of placing the model in front of the comic book was supposed to produce “an outstanding 3-D effect!”
Before the demise of the venture, a lasting impression was made upon at least one model recipient. “I remember a Christmas present that he gave me one year,” recalled Ivan Cockrum in 2007. “I would’ve been five or six, I suppose. He used to design model kits for the Aurora model company, and he did a Superboy kit, and for Christmas one year he gave me one that he had built already and painted.... [He] just left [it] unwrapped under the Christmas tree. I still think of that fondly.”
Enter The X-Men
Superboy and Krypto in space never looked better than in this Cockrum art done for an Aurora model kit from the mid-1970s. From a scan of the original art in the Heritage Comics Archives, trolled for us by Glen Cadigan. [©2008 DC Comics.]
In 1974, Cockrum became involved with a project which proved to have longlasting effects on both his own career and on the entire comic book industry. It was during a meeting of Marvel Comics editor-
mean, nobody seriously thought the Soviet Union would be importing Marvel Comics any time soon, and Kenya seemed unlikely, too (and besides, Ororo was really a displaced American citizen). Germany (Nightcrawler) and Ireland (Banshee) might have bought the book—and maybe Japan, if we hadn’t sent Sunfire packing—but on the whole, the international export idea was a total bust. It’s just as well, don’t you think?” In 2004, Wein wrote in The Uncanny Dave Cockrum... a Tribute: “All these long years later, I no longer really recall how Dave and I came to be assigned to the title, but when it came time to put the team together, we were already well ahead of the game. I knew exactly what sort of mix of powers and personalities I was looking for to create a well-rounded group with an inner dynamic that could generate stories for
X = The Unknown (Above:) As he’s oft related, Marvel editor-in-chief Roy Thomas came up with the “mutant Blackhawks” notion in the same mid1974 meeting with publisher Stan Lee and president Al Landau that he suggested an X-Men revival, utilizing several new foreign-born heroes to appeal to non-American markets. Since the cover of Giant-Size X-Men #1 by Dave Cockrum & Gil Kane has been reprinted a zillion times, here’s Dave’s original art for XMen Special Edition, which reprinted that landmark issue. Thanks to Glen Cadigan for the scan. (Right:) As Glen writes: “This is an unbelievable find! Giant-Size X-Men #2 was scrapped in favor of X-Men #94-95… [so] Chris [Claremont] and Dave had to sit down and restructure Len [Wein]’s plot to fit it over two issues, plus add some extra pages. Dave had gotten as far as the page which you see here, but as part of the rescripting, this page was dropped and expanded instead of cramming it all on one page. I don’t think that anyone knows that it exists outside of a handful of people. Plus, we get to read Dave’s margin notes!” Well, people sure know about it now, Glen—thanks to you and to Richard Donnelly, who provided a scan of the pencils. [©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
in-chief Roy Thomas, publisher Stan Lee, and president Al Landau, who represented Cadence Industries, which then owned Marvel, that the idea to bring back The X-Men began. According to Cockrum, “Basically, some bright wit in Management decided Marvel needed an export book. It was decided that X-Men would be a great export title, if recast with international stars. The idea was that the book could be sold internationally to the countries represented by the group. “When I got involved, along with writer Mike Friedrich, editor Roy Thomas had come up with a ‘Mutant Blackhawks’ concept, an international group operating from a secret island base somewhere. By the time things actually got down to the planning stage, Mike had gone on to another assignment and Len Wein replaced him. “We worked up an international group, all right, but with no thought of reaching an international market. I
The Life And Legacy Of Dave Cockrum
years to come. And Dave had that blessed sketchbook.” The sketchbook to which Wein referred was one of many which Cockrum had used throughout the years to store characters of his own creation. In 1999, the artist told Jon B. Cooke, “It’s a story that Len Wein loves to tell about the creation of the New X-Men; I had this huge sketchbook filled with characters I had come up with. Len keeps remembering that I took the X-Men drawings out of that book, but that’s not actually true. I made them up separately, but I did have that book of characters. That’s one of the things I loved to do: invent characters.”37
A Trio Of “Mutant Blackhawks” (Above:) Wolverine by Cockrum, 1983. As Roy T. has often stated, he could’ve easily wound up being called The Badger, instead! (Right:) A pencil sketch of Phoenix and Storm. The 1975 model sheet of Storm’s predecessor, Black Cat, was seen in A/E #24. Both these sketches were retrieved by Glen C. from the Heritage Comics Archives. [Wolverine, Phoenix, & Storm TM & ©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
With the creative team in place, the next step was for the pair to select the individual members of the group. While the exact order in which members of The X-Men were chosen is unknown, Cockrum did tell J.R. Riley in 1982, “Cyclops was the first choice, then Wolverine was number two.”38 As the artist of the new X-Men series, Cockrum “resented [Wolverine’s] existence for a long time, because I had come up with a Wolverine and shown it to Roy before this Wolverine.”39 In 2003, the artist wrote online, “Len Wein created Wolvie at Roy’s suggestion. Roy freely admits he had the idea for a Canadian character named Wolverine after seeing my group of proposed Legion villains [The [Devastators] which included a brother and sister team, Wolverine and Belladonna.” In 2004’s The Uncanny Dave Cockrum... a Tribute, Thomas wrote about the matter, “I accept [as] fact that he probably once showed me a design for a character called Wolverine—and he takes my word for it that I have no conscious memory of that, and that in any event it was a virtual toss-up in 1974 as to whether that new
Buckling A Few Swashes (Left:) Dave liked drawing Kurt Wagner in pirate/swordsman garb, as per his 1985-86 Nightcrawler limited series. We used one such illo back in A/E #24— and here’s another commission drawing, done for collector Lance Falk. Also, see p. 21. [Nightcrawler TM & ©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.] (Right:) A self-sketch by Dave, courtesy of P.D. Prince, with special thanks to Mark Trost. [©2008 Estate of Dave Cockrum.]
The Man Who Loved Comics
By The Time I Get To Phoenix Dave’s original drawing of what’s been called Marvel Girl’s “go-go costume,” which even suggested her name be changed, was seen in A/E #24. This later sketch of that outfit was done for a fan; with thanks to Richard Donnelly. [Marvel Girl TM & ©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
Canadian guy who was going to battle the Hulk would be called Wolverine or Badger.” Visually, Marvel’s Wolverine had little in common with Dave’s earlier concept. Another X-Men character in whose creation Thomas played a role was the African weather ‘goddess,’ Storm. Originally, Cockrum had intended for her to be a shape-shifter called The Black Cat, who “could transform into a humanoid cat, a cougar or similar large cat, or a tabby housecat.” Unfortunately, “[b]efore we could use her, two or three other female ‘cat’ characters popped up,” and a change in strategy was necessary. The decision to give her weather powers actually came from Thomas, via an off-hand comment which changed the character substantially. Originally, Wein and Cockrum had intended to use one of the artist’s preexisting creations, Typhoon, who was originally intended for “The Legion of Super-Heroes,” in the X-Men grouping. Thomas suggested, “Why don’t you make the Typhoon guy the girl?”40—and thus Storm was born. The X-Men also gave the artist an opportunity to finally publish a character he had carried with him since his days in the Navy. “I first thought up Nightcrawler while stationed on Guam,” he wrote online in 2006. “My notion then was that he was a demon who had screwed up on a mission from Hell, and rather than go back and face punishment, he hung around on the mortal plane as a sidekick to a guy I called ‘The Intruder.’
When Jack Kirby first created his Demon [in 1972], I decided to drop the demon origin—but I still pictured him as very animalistic, running up and down buildings on all fours, howling at the moon, etc..” About his favorite character, he wrote in 2006, “When I got the opportunity to work on X-Men, I brought Nightcrawler with me. Writer Len Wein gave him the German persona, and there you have it.” Another X-Man that dated back to Cockrum’s pre-professional days was the Russian mutant Colossus. “Colossus was loosely based on a character I had come up with in college, named ‘Mr. Steel,’” he told his online fans in 2003. In 2002, he said about the hero, “I think we just tended to think ‘Strong Guy.’ And that’s what he was. I started wanting to know more about him when I did a back-up story in one of the endless reprints of Giant-Size X-Men #1... When it came to Peter’s [room], I suddenly realized I didn’t know enough about him to furnish [it]. I thought about it for a long while... then it hit me how incongruously appropriate it might be if Peter had the soul of an artist and poet. And I added the easel with an unfinished painting, and the art supplies and all. After that, I think Chris did begin to see more in Peter than just ‘Strong Guy,’ and he did do more development.” Thunderbird is another X-Man that dated back to Cockrum’s pre-pro days, potentially as far back as 1966. In 2002, the artist rediscovered a sketchbook with two fully colored pictures of the character, although, he stated, “This isn’t John Proudstar, but the costume is pretty close to the one Marvel rejected.” With the X-Men revival underway, Cockrum returned to the Thunderbird design which he had drawn almost a decade earlier and modified it slightly. It was ultimately rejected, and about it, he wrote in 2002, “The first Thunderbird design went for a sort of Kirbyesque look, but the editorial people felt that the metal helmet I had him wearing was too ‘Steve Canyon.’ I redesigned him to the version we used.” In 2006, the artist would write, “I do agree it was a bad move to kill Thunderbird off—he was a great-looking character with a lot of potential
The First Hundred Covers Are The Hardest Glen Cadigan sent the scan of original, signed art at left with a note identifying it as “The X-Men (Vol. 2) #100 variant cover (unused—sorta. Marvel had someone else lightbox and reink it. Dave’s penciled and inked version was never published).” Retrieved from the Heritage Comics Archives. [©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
“I Thoroughly Enjoyed My Days At Timely” Golden Age Artist MARION SITTON Reminisces About His Comic Book Career Interview Conducted & Transcribed by Dr. Michael J. Vassallo
arion Who?” you may ask. Why, Marion Sitton, of course. Aficionados of Timely’s early-1950s crime books will immediately recognize the last name “Sitton,” if only because it was one of the relatively rare signatures seen in the earliest period of Timely freelancing, following the closing of the bullpen in early 1950. The story behind how I found Marion after all these years is another reason why I cherish all my friends in fandom. For years, I’d seen the
Time And Punishment Marion Sitton in a recent photo, with two examples of his art. In the photo is a duck painting done with crayons—the artist’s medium of choice, as you’ll see on pp. 48—while at left is his 1999 re-creation of a splash page originally done for Timely’s Crime Exposed #4 (June 1951). Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, who sent virtually all art and photos that accompany this interview (some provided to him by Marion, of course), owns the original of this version, which was photographed at a slight angle. [Art ©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
tiny signature “Sitton” on a score of Timely crime stories. The artwork was very identifiable—clean, and lending itself readily to depicting the gritty crime dramas of the pre-Comic Code period. I always wondered exactly who this artist was, but for years I came up with no other information. I failed even to come up with a first name for this artist who had seemingly vanished for good from the comic book scene around 1953, and I pretty much chalked the Sitton case up to one of many still unsolvable mysteries of the 1940s and ’50s comic book industry, and a person probably lost to the field’s history. Then, one day in 1996, my pal Don Mangus rang me up. Don is a well-known collector, writer, and enthusiast in comic fandom circles. Completely out of the blue, he asked me if I’d ever heard of a Timely artist who went by the name of “Marion Sitton.” I almost fell out of my seat! Not only did he mention an artist I didn’t think anyone but a handful of people were even aware of—he actually gave me a first name! I told him I knew a “Sitton” who drew for Timely but had never had a first name for the artist. Well, it turns out that an older gentleman had recently walked into a Dallas comics store looking for copies of his old comic book work. His business card bore the name Marion Sitton. The fellow said he had worked for Timely; but, for obvious reasons, no one there had ever heard of him and passed over the info to Don, who then contacted me about it.
Golden Age Artist Marion Sitton Reminisces About His Comic Book Career
Now I had a name and a telephone number. Excitedly, I called Marion up, identifying myself as a Timely historian who’d been searching for him for ten years. He laughed and told me that if he’d known I was searching that long, he’d have contacted me sooner! I’ve become close friends with Marion over the last 8 years, learning all about his history in the comic book business and in the art world, and I recently decided to make his tale a formal one for others to read. Marion has a wonderful story to tell about his Timely staff years of 1947-1950 and about his years as a freelancer up through 1953, at which time he got out of the business and picked up his art career. The story was a revelation, as it allowed me to assign a name to Timely romance stories he penciled, stories that might have gone forever unidentified. Following his years as a comic book artist, Marion went on to do syndicated and commercial work, as well as becoming “the world’s greatest crayon artist,” whose portraits in crayon adorn the mantelpieces of many a celebrity. While many comic book artists went on to other artistic venues, never looking back with nostalgia on their days of toiling, often in obscurity, Marion reflects on his time at Timely with much fondness, recalling it as one of the happiest times of his life. —Michael.
“Former Newsboy Now In New York” MICHAEL VASSALLO: Let’s start at the very beginning. When and where were you born? MARION SITTON: I was born near Hale Center, Texas, in a farmhouse. The date was April 1, 1920. MV: April Fool’s Day! SITTON: Yes, sir. I think my parents were expecting something unusual! [laughs] I have two brothers. I was the youngest boy in the family. My father was a farmer by trade. He had lived in another part of Texas before he moved to what they call the Panhandle. He was a dyed-in-the-wool farmer and did well at it. Like all farmers, it was a family affair. It was very hard work. We were reasonably poor, but we never thought so or even realized it, because all you did was work! It was also fun in many ways, as I think back on it. I went to a small brick country school. Not a log cabin like Lincoln may have gone to, but a brick one. We had to walk about two miles to get there. MV: Barefooted in the snow? SITTON: No, we at least had shoes! [mutual laughter] MV: What was the earliest inclination you had towards art? SITTON: I recall that I was very interested in art because I would watch my two older brothers draw cars, horses, etc. That fascinated me a great deal. I wanted to be able to do that also. We had a living room with a wood- and coal-burning fireplace in the middle of the room. We would sit around on the floor and draw and read. I recall drawing right there on the floor. I would take my little tablet and drew everything I could see. The mailman would bring newspapers, and I remember the comic strips: Maggie and Jiggs [i.e., Bringing Up Father], Wash Tubbs [and Captain Easy], Moon Mullins, all the early ones. I also remember a very early Milton Caniff panel strip for NEA Services. They were securing newspapers then for features. The feature was called Mr. Horsefeathers. MV: I’m not familiar with that feature. SITTON: I haven’t heard about it since then, either, nor do I have a clue where he came up with that name. But it was funny and comical, and I’ve never read about it in any references I’ve seen about Milton Caniff. This is the late 1920s, early 1930s. It was the favorite part of the newspaper!
Horsefeathers, Gilfeather… What’s The Difference? Marion mentions an early Milt Caniff feature called “Mr. Horsefeathers.” Actually, its title was Mr. Gilfeather. Begun by a young, pre-Li’l Abner Al Capp, the daily panel was inherited by an even younger Caniff, as of the above gag for Sept. 12, 1932. Caniff soon left the feature. For the full life story of the creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon, read Robert C. Harvey’s Meanwhile: A Biography of Milton Caniff (2007) from Fantagraphics Books. [©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
MV: It certainly was. As a youngster, did you read the fantastic literature of the time, for example, in pulps like Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, or the mystery pulps? SITTON: Oh, yes. My parents would buy some of those pulp magazines. I remember the detective magazines, True Detective and similar titles. Back then we didn’t even have a radio in the house. Sometimes we would go to a neighbor’s house to listen to the radio on the weekends. That rather dates me! [laughs] You tried to entertain yourself with anything you could get your hands on. But back to comic strips—I loved them from the very beginning. I remember reading them in 1927, 1928, and 1929 when I was 7, 8, and 9 years old. I was already drawing and admiring those strips and looking forward to seeing any new edition of whatever came out. Later we moved from near Plainview to Longview, Texas. That’s where I started junior high school. I was already drawing and was very adept in biology class drawing frogs, etc. I could draw the human heart better than anyone else in the class. I prided myself in that. We moved from what was the “country” into what was the “city.” It was a step up. I remember being apprehensive in a new school, but was surprised I could draw better than all the others. This encouraged me to keep at it. Next I remember I got a part-time job as a paperboy. I began drawing some things for a local newspaper, the Longview Morning News, and entering county fair art contests. After high school, junior college, being in the service, and going on to New York and finally getting syndicated, my little Nature Was First! series that I was penciling and inking in New York came out in the Longview News. I remember the paper had an article that said “Former newsboy now in New York.” [laughs]
“‘Superman’ Was Very Different” MV: You told me that you did something for the post office in Longview…. SITTON: In 1940 they had built a new post office. On the inaugural day
Golden Age Artist Marion Sitton Reminisces About His Comic Book Career
On The Shores Of Your Imagination Here’s a real find! Since 1948, Marion’s held on to these three pages of model sheets depicting selected poses of men and woman—two of them inked, the third only penciled—which Stan Lee had the legendary Syd Shores, one of Timely’s most important and skilled staffers, draw as a guide to other artists. The caricature of Syd above was done by Dave Berg for Secrets behind the Comics. [Model sheets ©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.; Shores caricature ©2008 Stan Lee.]
“I Thoroughly Enjoyed My Days At Timely”
for me. I remember that story as if I drew it yesterday. MV: As soon as you told me the title, I immediately remembered coming across it as I made my way through indexing the Timely romance line. Then, once I found it, I instantly saw your pencils under whoever inked it. Your work had a particular style and flair. I’ve become very familiar with it by looking at stories where you inked yourself. That Sitton trademark style still shows through under the inks by other hands, particularly in the faces. I would guess you were used primarily on romance stories because Timely, in early 1949, had just flooded the market with romance titles, though many only lasted one or two issues before being canceled. The fad soon passed, and most titles were gone. Let’s talk about some Timely staff contemporaries. Do you remember Mike Sekowsky? SITTON: Oh sure. Mike was a bit of a character. None of the newer artists, like I was, wanted to go near him. I always wanted to look at his work on his desk and marveled at his pencils. They were fantastic. He was so fast and so fluid. Nobody there could turn it out like he could. Not even Syd Shores, who was a fabulous artist. Mike was in a league of his own. MV: What about Gene Colan? He was there about a year before you were. SITTON: When I started, Gene Colan was there, and John Buscema, also. I spoke to Gene the first day or two I started working. He told me that he had talked with Stan Lee about working for him and they didn’t quite get together and had a “little misunderstanding.” He ended up going to DC and was working over there until Stan asked him to come back. Gene Colan had been in the business about 7 or 8 months before I got in, and he was back when I arrived. MV: Colan and Buscema started at about the same time in 1948. Colan’s work from the very beginning was beautiful. His figure work was very
strong, and this showed no matter who ended up inking him, and he was saddled with some poor inkers in these days. Buscema’s penciling in those days wasn’t as strong as Colan’s. SITTON: Well, many of the inkers were not as good artists as the pencilers. There were exceptions like Vince Alascia and George Klein. MV: Yes. Many inkers did nothing but ink. SITTON: That’s because they weren’t very good! [laughs] Not everyone matures at the same rate as an artist. John Buscema became an incredible artist. I always thought he was pretty good even back then, though. He was a young, good-looking kid, who kept about 6 or 7 pencils in his hand all the time, [laughs] and the girls just loved to talk to him, I remember. A nice, friendly fellow. Gene was just as friendly and could clown around. He was always smiling and always had something funny to say. And he could draw like a demon! [laughs] But you are correct in saying that Buscema’s work at this time wasn’t the caliber of Colan’s. In this business, first of all you’d be interested in is getting in and getting a paying job. After that, you’d want to get to a point where they’d let you do some penciling or signing your name. I think they kept me penciling for at least 8 or 9 months. MV: At that time nobody was signing their work at Timely. I think maybe this was because they weren’t doing the complete job themselves. You’d have more of a tendency to sign your name if you penciled and inked it. SITTON: That’s true, but some guys did get to sign, I recall. MV: I’ve seen Carl Burgos crime stories in 1948 signed by both Lee and Burgos. There were signatures occasionally in the humor books, also. SITTON: I don’t remember Burgos being on staff, but he certainly had some kind of seniority there, so I could see him signing his work. He drew “The Human Torch,” didn’t he? I remember the Torch, but by the time I got there those hero books were just about gone. MV: Who else sticks out in your memory? SITTON: I remember two letterers, Artie Simek and Mario Acquaviva. MV: I believe they were Timely’s main letterers at that time. SITTON: I remember George Klein. MV: He was primarily an inker but did pencil, also. SITTON: He was a bit of an exception. Most guys did one or the other. MV: Both Klein and Christopher Rule did both. Do you recall an inker named Violet Barclay? SITTON: Yeah. She was Mike Sekowsky’s girlfriend. She was very goodlooking. MV: That’s what everyone says! A real knockout. I met her in person a few years ago, and she’s still very attractive. She didn’t really want to talk about her work at Timely, preferring to gossip about the artists instead! But she was very nice and gave me another take on the Timely bullpen. SITTON: I’m sure she did. I also recall names like Dick Ayers, John Romita, and Tom Gill. Gill I knew from school, as I mentioned. The others I may be confusing as later freelancers.
“My Heart Was A Football For Too Many Men!” You gotta love that title! From Love Romances #9 (Dec. 1949). Pencils by Marion Sitton; inker unknown. [©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
MV: Romita and Ayers were later freelancers. Gill did freelance work, also. Joe Sinnott’s earliest work was working for Tom Gill on stories Gill was freelancing for Timely. What about Christopher Rule? SITTON: I remember that he worked in the same room as I did. He kinda looked like Santa Claus.
Golden Age Artist Marion Sitton Reminisces About His Comic Book Career
You Can’t Love ’Em All But, at times in 1949, it must’ve seemed as if Marion Sitton could at least pencil a goodly percentage of Timely’s romance comics—in a day when editor Stan Lee and/or publisher Martin Goodman didn’t believe is taking up room with a big splash panel! (Lef to right, above:) Actual Romances #1 (Oct. ’49)… Romance Tales #7 (Oct. ’49)… Love Secrets #2 (Jan. 1950). Inkers unknown. [©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
The (Gun-Toting) Ghosts Of Christmas Past The photo above was taken at Christmas-time during the period when the artist was drawing for Timely Comics. In 1952 that consisted mostly of full-art chores on crime comics… like the period piece (left) for Justice Comics #27 (May 1952), or the great “line-up” splash for a story in All-True Crime #49 (March 1952). We wish we had space to show you examples of what the other artists Marion and Doc V. discuss were doing during this era—or even their mug shots— but for that, you’ll have to latch onto various back issues of Alter Ego, as seen in the TwoMorrows ad bloc at the end of this mag! [Pages ©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
“I Was Always Shooting For The Stars” Golden Age Artist HAROLD LeDOUX On His Life In Comic Books And Strips
Interview Conducted by Jim Amash
arold LeDoux spent 52 years as the artist on the Judge Parker newspaper strip. His work was meticulously detailed, and as clean as any whistle I ever saw. His use of black, white and gray areas was graphically potent,and he never let the art overwhelm the stories. Before all of that, though, Harold spent a few years drawing comic book stories for Famous Funnies and its editor, Steve Douglas. Harold’s recounting of his time in comics is crucial in the sense that he’s given us the fullest picture to date in regard to Douglas, who was one of the early, important comic book editors. And while he was at it, Harold told us about a few artistic stalwarts like Morris Weiss, Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, Alex Toth, and Harry G. Peter, too. Harold retired from Judge Parker shortly after we did this interview and is happily enjoying retirement. It’s a much deserved retirement, but Harold, I sure miss seeing your work everyday! By the way, special thanks to Dave Karlen for the contact info. Please visit Dave’s website if you’re interested in purchasing original art by Harold LeDoux as well as Dan Spiegle, Butch Guice, Sparky Moore, and others, at www.davekarlenoriginalart.com. —Jim.
Transcribed by Brian K. Morris
LeDoux Times Two Harold LeDoux—and examples of his comic book and comic strip art. Thanks to Harold for the photo, taken by his daughter with her cell phone in 2006 and sent to us via Jim Amash & Teresa R. Davidson. (Left:) A page he drew for the adaptation of the swashbuckling film Prince of Pirates for Famous Funnies’ Movie Love #19 (1953). Thanks to Harold for the page—and to the Grand Comic-Book Database for having all the covers of this series on file so we could track down the other above information. Ray Bottorff, Jr., and his hardworking “staff” of volunteers deserve the plaudits of comics fans for their work on the GCD; see ad on p. 78. (Below:) The Judge Parker strip for Sunday, Nov. 28, 1968. Thanks to Ger Apeldoorn. [Movie Love page ©2008 the respective copyright holders; Judge Parker strip ©2008 Publishers Newspaper Syndicate or successors in interest.]
“I Was Always Shooting For The Stars”
“I Drew In [My Schoolbooks]” JIM AMASH: This will be the hardest question that anyone’s ever asked you in your whole life: when and where were you born? HAROLD LeDOUX: Oh, in a city, believe it or not, of about 70,000, and it’s where the oil business began for all of you bozos around the world. [Jim laughs] You’ve heard of Spindletop? That’s where the entire petroleum business began. Spindletop is between Port Arthur and Bouma, Texas, and really, it was the first major deep well discovery of oil. Port Arthur, Texas, was built to refine the oil found. It’s since gone down the skids for various reasons. The whole damn downtown has been sold for the bricks. Ten-story hotels are gone, but there I go. I’m reminiscing about my home town because I just celebrated, a month or two ago, the 60th anniversary of our high school graduating class. So boy, you set it off. [mutual laughter] JA: So when were you born? LeDOUX: November the 7th, 1926. I’m a Scorpio. Everybody thinks we’re secretive and mysterious. I walked into a room at a party one time and there was an old woman. I’d never seen her before. She took one look at
me—I hadn’t said a thing, I’d just walked in the room—she said, “You’re a Scorpio.” I thought, “Oh, hell! Does it show?” I mean, am I going to engineer a plot or something? [mutual laughter] JA: It takes one to know one. So what got you interested in being an artist? LeDOUX: I think, when I was still in my mother’s womb, I was being influenced, and I’m dead serious. I’ve been joking, but I’m dead serious now. My mother told me that when she was pregnant with me... she was a new bride and Daddy would work, of course... he worked at the refinery, and she had all day to do nothing but clean house and make sure that her husband would have a nice dinner when he came home, so she had time in the afternoon. She’d go to the movies and her favorite thing— something I saw a little bit of later on when I was born—was a picture of how a cartoonist works. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those very, very old things, but it would show a cartoonist, and then it would flash onto his hand. And of course, he had already penciled something with a blue pencil, but he was going to ink and his hand would just flash across the screen, and he’d draw these interesting characters. My mother said, “Harold, I thought that was the most interesting thing in the world. I just loved it.” It sounds silly when you say it, but I have some kind of memory... I think I was in there watching with her. I don’t know how I saw out, [mutual chuckling] but I’ve got a memory of it, and I just started drawing as soon as I could. She sent me to the local Catholic school, and I never thought about it, but she saved all my books. You had to buy your books back then, and you could resell them if you kept them in good condition to the next class that came along. The first thing they did was to teach us was how to make book covers, to preserve them. But that didn’t do any good because I screwed mine up. I drew in them, so Mother had my books, and for a long time afterwards, I could look at what I’d drawn when I was five, six, seven years old and I didn’t know why I was drawing it. And then one day, I found out. She said, “Harold, you know your daddy’s an old man.” He was like 14 years older than her, so for her, he was an old man. She said, “And he works in a refinery, but he’s not an executive. He won’t be able to give you a job.” This was during the Great Depression. “You’re going to have to learn a trade because your daddy won’t be able to give you a job, and we can’t send you to college.” I read a report one time that, back then, only one out of seven Americans went to college, so I knew I wasn’t going to college. I just knew it. Mother told me and Mother never lied. [mutual laughter] I thought, “I’ve got to find a trade, and I wish my daddy was a plumber or something, so he could teach me a trade, but he couldn’t. How do you teach a guy to get up and go to work in a refinery?” That’s not a trade, so I began drawing. I thought, “Well, a pencil doesn’t cost much and paper is pretty cheap,” and I never did stop drawing. I think that kind-of pushed me into it: the fear of not having a trade. Then World War II came along, and I joined the Merchant Marines, and I saved enough money to go to art school, too. I went straight from the Merchant Marines to art school in Chicago and from there, to New York and comic books and Judge Parker.
“I Wanted To Be A Strip Cartoonist” JA: You were in the service for what years?
That’s My Artwork! Harold talks about his own father—and, as it happens, one of the comic book samples he sent us was the 1951 adaptation he illustrated of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis’ first solo flick, That’s My Boy, in which Jerry’s character had problems with his own father, played by Eddie Mayehoff. It appeared in Movie Love #12. Thanks to HL for the art photocopy. [©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
LeDOUX: I graduated in the Spring of 1944. The war was pretty well determined by then, but I joined the Merchant Marines before I graduated. They didn’t call me until after I graduated, but I joined them when I was 17½. I stayed in until the end of 1948. That way, I managed to save money and see the world at the same time. I even got a tattoo! But I was kind-of a coward. I got it up on my shoulder. You can’t see it if I don’t take my shirt off. Anyway, I went to the library to find info on an art school where they’d teach cartooning. Most of them taught only commercial art. Well, this one
hat if… instead of selling his share of All-American Publications to Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz in 1945, Max Charles Gaines had purchased National/DC Comics from them? That’s the premise of this fantasy series begun in A/E #76 and set on an “Earth-22” where things in the comics industry happened rather differently from the way they did in the world we know. The author, Bob Rozakis, was a longtime writer, editor, and production director for DC… and, unless noted, all comics images on the next six pages are copyright ©2008 DC Comics.
Just imagine… a comic book industry in which Green Lantern, The Flash, and Wonder Woman are the premier heroes, stars of comic books, radios, movies, and television, rather than Superman and Batman? Not a dream, not a hoax… just an imaginary story of an alternate universe and…
The Secret History of All-American Comics, Inc. Book One - Chapter 2 : The Bill Gaines Years by Bob Rozakis
Weird Fantasies Theodore Paul (“Ted”) Skimmer worked in the editorial and production departments of All-American Comics from 1944 through 1997. During his 53-year career, he had a front-row seat for the history of the company, a history he has agreed to share with me… and you. BOB ROZAKIS: Let’s talk a bit about Bill Gaines. TED SKIMMER: Well, Billy, of course, was Charlie’s son. But, unlike his father, Billy was not interested in the publishing business. In fact, after serving during World War II, Billy went to college, New York University, and majored in chemistry. He graduated in 1948 and got a job as a science teacher at Theodore Roosevelt High School in New York City.
But Charlie always wanted to get Billy involved in the business. He was in his mid-50s by then and wanted to make sure that the company would continue long past his ability to run it. They had a few arguments about it, and one of the loudest took place in the fall of Bill’s senior year. I don’t know all the details, but there had been some kind of boating accident upstate when they were on vacation. I remember Charlie yelling at Billy, “You know, if I had drowned, you would have had to take over!” And Billy yelled right back at him, “Yeah, but you didn’t and so I don’t!” BR: Did everybody call him Billy? SKIMMER: Not everybody. Charlie did, of course, and a couple of the editors. I guess I picked it up from them. It’s funny, Billy always used to call me “the Old Man,” especially in the days after he took over. He’d be
Dramatis Personae – Our Stars Three of the featured players in this issue’s tale. (Left:) Ted Skimmer with one of his nieces, circa 1948. Photo courtesy of Ted Skimmer & Bob Rozakis. (Center:) M.C. “Charlie” Gaines in 1940. (Right:) Bill Gaines as a young comic book editor; photo courtesy of his daughter Wendy.
The Bill Gaines Years
Action Is As Action Does With Action Comics #123 (Aug. 1948), Superman was suddenly relegated to a small circle in the upper left corner of the covers—and new star Johnny Thunder became the mag’s main feature, as drawn by Alex Toth. Ignominiously, just three issues later, the Man of Tomorrow was dropped entirely (though surviving for a bit longer in his solo title)—and the name of the comic was changed to Action Western. This experiment was not a long-term success, however, and it soon became a bimonthly. With the Aug.-Sept. 1952 issue, it metamorphosed yet again—this time into Action Men of War, with an Andru & Esposito cover. Special thanks to our ever-lovin’ layout guru Chris Day for these scans.
telling somebody, “Go talk to the Old Man.” BR: But you were younger than he was…. SKIMMER: Yes, and whenever I would point that out to him, he’d say, “You got here before me, so you’re older!” Anyway, it wasn’t long after that argument that Charlie struck a deal with Billy that had him coming to work at AA during the summers and school vacations. Billy got some title like “consulting editor,” and he would spend his time with the editorial staff, coming up with ideas to pump new life into the business. Keep in mind that, by the summer of ’49, the superheroes era was pretty much over. The “Superman” and “Batman” books were cancelled. The competition from SSK with Man of Steel and Gotham Guardian had put the nails in their coffins pretty quickly. Action Comics was revamped into Action Western and later into Action Men of War. Detective Comics had a brief run with spies and Mickey Spillane-type tough-guy private eyes and then was cancelled.
[©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
Four Poses With Four Roses “Al Walker stars in these gag photos attached to Xmas bottle of whiskey for his brother Daniel, circa 1954,” says Steve Walker. “P.S.: My dad was a caretaker of a ‘Taylor’s’ estate.”
Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt!
Introduction by Michael T. Gilbert I first discovered Al Walker’s art over thirty years ago in Movie Comics, a short-lived Fiction House title from the late ’40s. Hidden inside was “Flicker Funnies,” a funny-animal feature boasting some of the most amazingly detailed art I’d ever seen. The artist had signed the splash inside with a tiny crest below the logo. “Al Walker”? Who was this guy? I saw the name again a few years later, inside an old issue of Wings Comics. A striking “Greasemonkey Griffin” splash page featured a pair of eerie eyes peering from a Frankenstein-like face. The logo, forged from chains and smoke, resembled a Will Eisner Spirit splash, while the interior art was crammed with puns and sight gags. This, too, was signed “Al Walker.” Who was this guy? I looked in all the standard comic reference books, but no one seemed to know. And that’s how things stood for decades until February 2007, when I posted some of Al’s work on my new website. Days later, to my great delight, I received separate e-mails from Alfred M. Walker and Stephen V. Walker, respectively the artist’s son and nephew. So began a lively exchange that led eventually to this three-part article, the very first biography of this remarkable cartoonist. Installments in the two preceding issues of Alter Ego focused on Al Walker’s childhood, his Fiction House work, and his war experiences. This time we conclude our biography with Alfred John Walker’s post-comics career. Take it away, Steve!
The Biography Of Alfred J. Walker by Stephen V. Walker (with—oh, yes—Michael T. Gilbert)
Part 3: Back Home! After World War II ended, Al returned to Fiction House. His old company was happy to have him back, but many of the strips he’d drawn in the early ’40s had vanished by 1945. “Norge Benson”had rocketed away to parts unknown, having flown his last mission in Planet Comics #32 (Sept. 1944). I wouldn’t be surprised if his pals Frosting the Polar Bear and Slug the Penguin were stowaways on that final trip!
A Grease(monkey)d Pole Slug the Penguin from Planet Comics poses for Al, while Hatrack the Reindeer and Frosting the Polar Bear look on. This illustration, drawn in the 1960s for a feature on Al appearing in Chemical Bank’s in-house magazine, shows how Slug became the 66th Pursuit Squadron’s mascot during World War II. Steve added the Greasemonkey Griffin sketch in 1999 (taking it from Al’s hand-drawn postcards seen on the opposite page) for a show at the Oyster Bay Historical Society. [Characters TM & ©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
“Elmer Pippin” was gone, too, having taken a furlough from Rangers Comics in August 1944 with #18. Poor ol’ “Jeep Milarkey” went AWOL even earlier, disappearing from Rangers Comics after issue #4 (April 1942). “Simba, King of the Beasts” still roamed through Jungle Comics, but Al had left the strip in the early ’40s, never to return. His last “Simba” appeared in issue #35 (Nov. 1942). Luckily, good ol’ “Greasemonkey Griffin” was waiting in the wings for his favorite artist’s return. With Al back at the helm, the high-flying goofball flew to even greater heights. Al Walker was flying high, too. Earlier in 1945, his brother Dan had married Mary Moore of Millbrook, New York. Then Al met Katherine Moore, Mary’s sister—and it was love at first sight! They were married on January 25, 1947, and soon began raising three sons—Alfred, Perry, and Paul—at their home in Huntington Station, NY.
Shielding Art From Commerce
Alfred And His Art Alfred J. Walker, November 1956.
“Al Walker set up his own art studio business in the 1950s, but never made much money at it,” says Steve of this 1956 pic. “He wasn’t much of a businessman, and gave so much beautiful artwork to friends and civic groups for free.” I love Al’s coat of arms, Steve! [©2008 Estate of Alfred J. Walker.]
Alfred J. Walker—Part 3
My cousin Al and I own another edition, however—one that Fiction House researcher Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr., believes is one of only a handful that were produced, possibly for office use. It has the same cover as issue #1, but collects all three Toyland Comics in a single 152-page comic book. This edition features six Al Walker stories— more than he’d ever drawn for a single comic! The triple-sized issue includes three “Wizard of the Moon” tales, plus three stories featuring “Buddy Bruin and (oh, yes) Stu Rabbit!” A special “Buddy Bruin” story in the issue even had a secret message. Al had married Katherine Moore in January 1947, the same month Toyland #1 came out. In the issue, Buddy and Stu climb a stack of children’s blocks that spell out the words “Al and Kack,” his new bride’s nickname. Quite a wedding surprise! Al left comics to work as a commercial artist for New York Trust Bank, which later merged with Chemical Bank. He enjoyed his job, staying until his retirement in 1972. In his spare time, Al also used his talents to help the Oyster Bay community.
Greasemonkey Congrats Steve writes: “Another treasured family gem is this postcard that Al sent to his new sister-in-law (soon to become his double sister-in-law!) in May 1946, when my brother Dan was born. My mother Mary’s nickname was ‘Tumpy.’ Al, Perry, and Paul always called her Aunt Tumpy.” [Greasemonkey Griffin TM & ©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
Al Walker finally left Fiction House in 1948. His last comic book story appeared in Wings Comics #96 that August. Al’s production level was never that high, due to his highly-detailed style. Now that he had a family, he needed a more secure income than comics could provide. But before he said good-bye to the funny pages, Al produced some of his finest work. “Flicker Funnies” in Fiction House’s Movie Comics was a charming series featuring animal actors and directors. Al told these stories in a unique style, using up-and-down panels that resembled strips of film. The comic lasted only four issues, but each six-page story was packed with detail—even for Al! The series ran from December 1946 to August 1947. Al’s art for Toyland Comics was equally impressive. This shortlived series aimed at young children lasted three issues, from January to July 1947. Each book included two stories by Al.
“My father often talked about Fiction House and how he enjoyed working there,” says Al’s son. “I never heard anything negative about the company. He always saw the glass as half full, as opposed to half empty.” Al’s positive attitude shines through in this December 1946 “Flicker Funnies” page from Movie Comics #1! [©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
[Captain Marvel art by C.C. Beck ÂŠ2008 DC Comics; Wolverton art ÂŠ2008 the respective copyright holder.]
By [Art & logo ©2008 Marc Swayze; Captain Marvel © & TM 2008 DC Comics]
[FCA EDITORS NOTE: From Hey Kids! Win $1500! 1941-53, Marcus D. Swayze was a “When I finally found a copy of Captain Marvel top artist for Fawcett Publications. Adventures #15,” Marc writes, “it was recognized as The very first Mary Marvel one of my own. I was pleased to see the message character sketches came from across the bottom that addressed the readers as ‘Hey Marc’s drawing table, and he illusKids!’ I believe all of us at Fawcett considered our trated her earliest adventures, comic book readers as youngsters.” This cover was including the classic origin story, scanned from P.C. Hamerlinck’s collection—“a copy,” “Captain Marvel Introduces Mary the FCA editor says, which is “even more tattered than Marc Swayze’s,” and signed by the artist (“Paul—May Marvel (Captain Marvel you win all your races!” in reference to P.C.’s Adventures #18, Dec. ’42); but he marathon running. [©2008 DC Comics.] 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 stories 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 a vital part of FCA since his first column appeared in FCA #54, 1996. Last issue Marc remembered his fellow Fawcett friends Mac Raboy and Rod Reed. In this installment he analyzes two of his classic Fawcett stories. —P.C. Hamerlinck.]
he La Fourche Swamp is remembered as a place near here where my cousin and I once got lost on a hunting trip … and came out in swamp water up to our chins. It was remembered also in 1946, as the locale for a story I wrote and drew: “The Horror of the Swamp” (Wow Comics #64, March 1948). The story begins at “Lafoosheville,” and Mickey Malone, the Phantom Eagle, has fun with it. By page 4 he has already had a run-in with an old enemy, the Black Flamingo, and in six short pages he rescues a trio of adventurers and solves the mystery of …the “Horror.” I’ve never liked that story. Too much was tried and said in too few pages. The “monster” of course was a fraud, a secret shared more or less with the reader from the start. But the solution … all about a pirates’ map, and stuff like that … would have been better accorded several pages … rather than crowded into one brief panel late in the story. And the “horror” wasn’t all that terrifying, either. But I never had a doubt, in those days, that our comic book readers were young people. I believe everyone at Fawcett felt that way. Our objective, as we understood it,
Swamp Fling Marc says of this splash page from 1948’s Wow Comics #64: “The Swamp Horror was about as mean as I could make a monster look. But we all knew he was solid wood!” Art & script by Marc Swayze—who was credited in the comic itself! [©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
How To Crack Open A Soft-Boiled Egg – Part I Basil Wolverton’s Son Monte Talks About His Father’s Fawcett “Culture Corner”
Interview Conducted by P.C. Hamerlinck
ave you ever wondered how to eat beans without soiling your jeans … or how to grope for bathtub soap … or how to crack open a soft-boiled egg? Cartoonist Basil Wolverton (1909-78) knew the answers to these and other of life’s mysteries presented in “The Culture Corner,” his groundbreaking, laugh-inducing, and highly idiosyncratic half-page humor filler strip produced for Fawcett Publications from 1945-52 and innocently sandwiched in between Captain Marvel and the other stalwart heroes of Whiz Comics. I recently caught up with Basil’s son, Monte Wolverton, for an inside glimpse behind his father’s Fawcett filler features (which also included the Ibis the Invincible parody “Mystic Moot and his Magic Snoot”), as well as other fantastic facets behind the ingenuity and madness of Basil Wolverton … a man who cared enough to show us how to eat spaghetti without getting wetty. —P.C. Hamerlinck.
Basil Wolverton Was One Smart Egg! Basil Wolverton working on a “Culture Corner” strip for Fawcett’s Whiz Comics in the mid-1940s— juxtaposed with his “Culture Corner” installment, from Marvel Family #39 (Sept. 1949). Photo courtesy of Monte Wolverton. [Art ©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
P.C. Hamerlinck: How did your father obtain his comic book assignments from Fawcett Publications? Monte Wolverton: Will Lieberson was my father’s editor at Fawcett beginning in 1944, although he worked primarily with [editor] Virginia Provisiero from 1945 through the early ’50s. I have quite a bit of the correspondence from those years. In early 1944 my dad sent them a query letter and samples of his work. Lieberson replied that, because of the paper shortage, they weren’t accepting any new features. After a couple more inquiries from my dad, Lieberson decided to commission him to do some work, the paper shortage notwithstanding. PCH: Your father’s longest-running feature for Fawcett was “The Culture Corner,” appearing in 64 installments from May 1945 to June 1952 in Whiz Comics, with a one-time appearance in Marvel Family. What do you know about the development of the feature?
MW: My dad submitted “Culture Corner” roughs to Lieberson, perhaps with his initial query letter. So the concept seems to have been developed by my dad as a half-page feature—and was pretty much the way it was finally published. Lieberson agreed to pay him $20 per strip—twice their standard half-page rate of $10. Lieberson preferred the strip’s host [name as] “Croucher K. Conk” to my dad’s alternative “Crawler Q. Collar.” My father would send him roughs and Lieberson would send them back— approved or rejected. The roughs still exist—and my dad seemed to put a
How To Crack Open A Soft-Boiled Egg—Part I
How Culture Got Cornered (Left:) Will Lieberson, Fawcett’s executive comics editor—and the Nov. 8, 1944, letter he sent Basil Wolverton re the artist’s expressed interest in working for the company. Lieberson’s letter doesn’t make it clear whether Wolverton made up both names suggested for the “conductor” whose image hosted each installment; probably he sent in two monickers for Lieberson to choose between? Photo courtesy of Richard Lieberson, who was interviewed about his own father in Alter Ego #21.
At His Wits’ End—And Beginning A real find, courtesy of Monte Wolverton! (Right:) Basil’s pencil roughs for a “Culture Corner” episode—and (below) the finished product as it appeared in Whiz Comics #104 (Nov. 1946)! That strip is one of son Monte’s favorites. [©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
lot more detail into these roughs than the roughs for most of his other comic features. (His “Powerhouse Pepper” roughs, by contrast, were either summaries or empty panels with dialog.) “The Culture Corner” roughs are great comic art all by themselves—with an energy and spontaneity not always conveyed in the finals. This is not to say that they were better or worse than the final art—just different. PCH: As you mentioned, “The Culture Corner” was conducted by a character named Croucher K. Conk, Q.O.C. (Queer Old Coot), who hosted every single installment of the feature. Was he based on any real person(s)? Did your father ever extract from real life or people and then exaggerate them in his own unique way into “Culture Corner” or any of his other comic creations? MW: I doubt if my dad had anyone specific in mind—but he liked to poke fun at the erudite and scholarly—people with letters after their names—so Croucher is probably a composite of such people. My dad was constantly amused by real people; I
Basil Wolverton’s “Culture Corner”
think more than a few of my mother’s relatives may have appeared as his characters. PCH: Did “The Culture Corner” reflect your father’s own humor and personality? MW: My dad was constantly cracking jokes … making up little verses … entertaining me, my friends, my mom, the dog—whoever happened to be around. I think he became so accustomed to working at coming up with funny stuff all the time that it sort of overflowed into his personality. He was generally fun to be around. He could also be deadly serious about some issues, such as the neighborhood kids being out of control or neighborhood dogs peeing on flower beds or vegetable gardens. And he was serious about his faith. In his capacity as a minister, he would spend hours talking to people, helping them with their problems. PCH: Did your father always have a penchant for word-play, rhymes, and puns? Was his talent for funny word manipulation and tongue-twisters nurtured long before his work in comics? MW: Hard to say which came first; he was an aspiring performer, cartoonist, and writer as he was growing up, so his rhymes/puns/word-play may have grown out of all those things. Or, maybe all these things grew out of his personality. In any case, his first jobs after high school were in vaudeville on the Pacific Northwest circuit, and as a movie critic, humor writer, and general cartoonist for The Portland News, which meant that he had to produce the rhymes/puns/word-play professionally. After that it just kept happening. PCH: Did you ever watch your father draw “The Culture Corner”? Do you know if he enjoyed doing the feature for Fawcett? MW: I came on the scene in 1948, so as a toddler I probably witnessed him drawing several “Culture Corner” strips in his basement studio in the very late ’40s and early ’50s. The basement was kind of spooky, as I recall—him at his drawing board, side cabinet, and lamp amidst the shadowy, dank corners at the bottom of the stairs—working away on bizarre and grotesque faces. That was before we moved to a newer home in the So Why Wasn’t This Guy One Of The Avengers? country and he used one of the bedrooms for a much As Monte states, “Powerhouse Pepper,” the feature he created for Timely/Marvel in the 1940s, brighter and far more cheerful studio. But I digress. was Basil W.’s most popular character, and had his own comic book at one time. This story was “Culture Corner” was providing steady income at a time printed in black-&-white in the 1994 Fantagraphics volume Basil Wolverton’s Powerhouse when other sources were shaky. Fawcett work was Pepper. It’s well known (as well as obvious) that Wolverton’s work had a powerful influence on steady, while Marvel/Timely was on and off over the underground cartoonist R. Crumb. [©2008 The Wolverton Estate.] years (even though his biggest feature—“Powerhouse Pepper”—was for Marvel). I think he liked “Culture PCH: Reproduced in the impressive new book The Original Art of Basil Corner” because it involved a simple idea with which he could be clever Wolverton. featuring pieces from the BW collection of Glen Bray, is a and inventive with no big story or plot that had to be worked out. “Culture Corner” thumbnail strip from 1948 (“How to Heat Frigid Feet”) which appears to have been re-developed into a 1-page “Culture PCH: How do you think “The Culture Corner” stands amongst your Quickie” strip—conducted by a Clyde K.K. (Kennel Keeper)—which is father’s other comic book work? Do you have an all-time favorite “CC” also reproduced in the book. Why do you think your father re-developed strip? it, and was a “Culture Quickie” feature ever published? In addition, the MW: I have always liked “Culture Corner.” I would rate it on a par with book reproduces two “Bedtime Banter” strips from 1950, obviously re“Powerhouse Pepper.” “The Culture Corner” is all of Basil Wolverton’s developed from two (also-reproduced in the book) “Culture Corner” unique comic abilities concentrated into a half-page. I believe, because of thumbnail sketches (“How to Brace a Weak Beak” and “How To Trim the creative freedom he had with this feature, he was able to pack more Your Eyebrows”). Do you know the story behind these strips? We’re they detail into it. And there was nothing else like it being published at the attempts to pitch different-named strips with the “Culture Corner” time. It’s hard for me decide on a favorite “Culture Corner” strip, but I like concept to other publishers? “How to Sharpen Your Wits” from Whiz Comics #104 (Oct. 1948) a lot.