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[Superman TM & ©2008 DC Comics; Other art elements ©2008 Michael Golden.]
NOT BAD FOR A 70-YEAR-OLD MAN, HUH?
Vol. 3, No. 79 / July 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
.. ................2 writer/editorial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Superman’s 70th! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
With Special Thanks to: Heidi Amash Bob Bailey Mrs. Jill Baily Mrs. Regina Baily Mike W. Barr Tim Barnes Alberto Becattini Jack & Carole Bender Dominic Bongo Jerry K. Boyd Mark Staff Brandl Glenn Bray Chris Brown Thorstein Bruemmel Lou Cameron Bob Cherry Sean Conlon Teresa R. Davidson Dwight R. Decker Michaël Dewally Harlan Ellison Mark Evanier Thomas Eyssell Ron Fernandez Shane Foley Danny Fuchs Janet Gilbert Michael Golden George Hagenauer Jim Hambrick Jennifer Hamerlinck Harold Havas Tom Hegeman Anton Hermus Roger Hill Glen Johnson Chris Knowles Peter Koch Richard Kyle Arthur Lortie
James Ludwig Leonard Maltin Jay Mampel Jody McGhee Sean Menard Marc Miyake Linda Monaco Brian K. Morris Gabriel Morrissett Noel Neill Marc Tyler Nobleman Ken Quattro Barry Pearl Jean Shuster Peavy Al Plastino Paul Power Richard Pryor Brad Ricca Trina Robbins Charlie Roberts Bob Rozakis Eric Schumacher David Siegel Howard Siegel Robin Snyder Andy Stout Marc Swayze Ty Templeton Dann Thomas Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Hames Ware Lawrence Watt-Evans Brett Weiss Renée Witterstaetter Monte Wolverton Alex Wright John Wright Raul Wrona Eddy Zeno
This issue is dedicated to the memory of
Steve Gerber, Joe Shuster, & Jerry Siegel
Eddy Zeno salutes seven of the iconic hero’s most important artists since 1938’s Action Comics #1.
“I Was Just The Kid Sister Peeking Around The Corner” . . . 11 Jean Shuster Peavy talks about her big brother Joe—co-creator of Superman.
“K” Is For “Krypton”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Jack Bender reveals unseen art from a 1940 Superman story that could’ve changed comics history!
The Reich Strikes Back . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 A close look at Superman vs. the Nazis in the real world, by Dwight R. Decker.
A Box of Markers And Tummy Tattoos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 A brief interview with this issue’s cover artist Michael Golden, by Renée Witterstaetter.
“Maybe I’m In The Wrong End Of This Business!”. . . . . . . . 35 1950s artist Lou Cameron tells Jim Amash about drawing for Story, Ace, and Dell.
Secret History of All-American Comics, Inc.: ”1940s-50s Media Blitz”
Bob Rozakis shows us a world in which things happened—a wee bit differently.
Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt! Twice-Told Spirit! . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Michael T. Gilbert showcases the Spirit stories that did double duty for Will Eisner.
Comic Fandom Archive: Our Digger Mate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 At last! John Wright has his say about 1960s-70s Australian fan & historian John Ryan.
A Tribute to Steve Gerber (1947-2008) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 re: [comments, correspondence, & corrections] . . . . . . . . . 74 FCA (Fawcett Collectors Of America) #136 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 P.C. Hamerlinck ushers in Marc Swayze and more awesome art by Basil Wolverton. On Our Cover: The meteoric career of Michael Golden may lie a bit outside the ordinary scope of Alter Ego’s chronological franchise, but the subject matter of this gorgeous recent illustration—the world’s flagship super-hero battling tanks, in the spirit of the WWII-era cover depicted on p. 27— made it the perfect cover for this issue spotlighting Superman. Our thanks to Michael and to Renée Witterstaetter. [Superman TM & ©2008 DC Comics; other art ©2008 Michael Golden.] Above: In last month’s ad for this edition of A/E, we promised you Jerry Ordway art—and what better way to keep our word than with the cover of DC Challenge #12 (Oct. 1986), the final issue of that roisterous “round robin” series. It depicts Siegel & Shuster’s creation leading the super-hero pack— a fitting launch to this issue. Thanks to Jerry for the photocopy of the original art. [©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: email@example.com. 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.
A Superman For All Seasons
very so often, I feel the need to devote most of an issue of Alter Ego to Superman. Oddly, I never feel that same urge with regard to Batman—or Spider-Man—or even Conan the Barbarian (not that I don’t think each of those heroes also deserves being spotlighted in an issue now and then, mind!). Although not a rabid Superman fan since I left childhood, I feel this urge because the Man of Steel was the first, and to me remains the ultimate, comic book super-hero. The one who, whatever his literary or artistic forebears, launched a genre—and, in an equally true sense, an entire industry. (And besides, this time, it’s been exactly 70 years ago that Supes flung his first flivver, on the cover of Action Comics #1! Happy birthday, Kal!)
Chris Knowles couldn’t be squeezed in at the last moment, and must appear in some future issue—hopefully not having to wait for the next Superman showcase in A/E. My abject apologies to all three. One personal indulgence: because of both the Superman focus, and the parallel-world pyrotechnics of Bob Rozakis’ fantasy chapter that begins on p. 55, here’s a photo of Yers Truly with the ever-lovely, ever-gracious Noel Neill, the movies’ first and foremost Lois Lane… taken by Jody McGhee at a 2005 mini-convention (in Rock Hill, South Carolina, if memory serves). There’ve gotta be some perks to spending all this time every few weeks putting together a magazine about comic books!
So, naturally, once again, as we used to say back in Missouri, my eyes were bigger than my stomach—with the unfortunate end result that articles prepared by my honored colleagues Mike W. Barr, Alberto Becattini, and
COMING IN AUGUST
SWORD-&-SORCERY IN COMICS—PART ONE! Before Conan—After Conan—And In Between!
.] [Art ©2008 Rafael Kayanan
• Awe-inspiring new barbarian cover by Conan the Adventurer artist RAFAEL KAYANAN! • Conan was only the tip of the comic book iceberg! Learn all about Crom the Barbarian (yes!)—The Black Knight (both of them!)—Slave Girl—The Viking Prince—La Reina de la Costa Negra—Thane—Nightmaster—Red Sonja— King Kull—Solomon Kane—Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser—Clawfang the Barbarian—Ironjaw—Wulf the Barbarian—Dagar the Invincible—Beowulf— The Stalker—Warlord—Claw the Unconquered—Thongor—et al.! • Rare s&s art & artifacts by ADAMS, ANDRU, APARO, BINGHAM, BRUNNER, BUSCEMA, CHAN, CHAYKIN, DITKO, FLEISHER, FOX, FRAZETTA, GIUNTA, GLANZMAN, GLUT, GOODWIN, GRANDENETTI, GRELL, HAMA, JAKES, KANE, KANIGHER, KAYANAN, KUBERT, LEE, LEVITZ, MANEELY, MARCOS, MAROTO, MICHELINIE, O’NEIL, PLOOG, REESE, SANTOS, SCHROEDER, SEKOWSKY, the SEVERINS, SHORES, SIMONSON, SMITH, THOMAS, THORNE, VILLAMONTE, WOOD, WRIGHTSON, & many others! • LOU CAMERON at DC, Classics Illustrated, etc.—conducted by JIM AMASH! • FCA with MARC SWAYZE, OTTO BINDER, & C.C. BECK—MICHAEL T. GILBERT on the “DC Alphabet” of 1945-47—BILL SCHELLY & a 1965 fan-photo treasure trove—BOB ROZAKIS’ “Secret History of All-American Comics, Inc.— the 1950s Superman Revival”—& MORE! Edited by ROY THOMAS
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Superman’s 70th! Celebrating The Talent Of Seven Of The Man Of Steel’s Top Early Illustrators
by Eddy Zeno
EDITOR’S NOTE: Eddy Zeno, a longtime contributor to this magazine, is also the author of Curt Swan: A Life in Comics, published by Vanguard Press (2002). He prepared this salute to a septet of major “Superman” illustrators in honor of the super-hero’s 70th year in print. Regrettably, we didn’t have room to run all the art Eddy supplied, but we’ve done our best in the space available. (One Joe Shuster sketch he sent appears on p. 12, accompanying Brad Ricca’s interview with Joe’s sister Jean.) Now, onward… after we pass on Eddy grateful thanks to all those who’re acknowledged below. Most art images in this article are first- or second-generation copies of the original art. The photos of the creators have been added by Ye Editor.
Joe Shuster (July 10, 1914-July 30, 1992) In 1935, with partner Jerry Siegel, Joe first began working for the company that would eventually become DC Comics, back when it was still owned by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. He is seen above at a 1980s San Diego Comic-Con. [Photo ©2008 Charlie Roberts.] (Left:) When he was a young artist assisting Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson on “Batman” stories in the early 1940s, the late George Roussos talked various already-veteran pros into drawing sketches for him. This one by Joe Shuster is truly amazing, since it depicts not only Superman—but Batman, whom Joe virtually never drew! And Jerry Siegel signed it, as well. George's sketchbook of such drawings was recently auctioned off by Heritage Comics, but the sharp-eyed Dominic Bongo and Jerry K. Boyd each sent us a photocopy of this one for our special Superman & Shuster issue! [Superman & Batman TM & ©2008 DC Comics.]
Seven Of The Man Of Steel’s Top Early Illustrators
Wayne Boring (June 5, 1905 – Feb. 20, 1987) Answering an ad Jerry Siegel put in Writer’s Digest, Boring began working for the Shuster studio in 1938. When Siegel and Shuster sued the parent company to regain ownership of the Superman character around 1947, he was fired by them and immediately hired by DC. He became the hero's most important penciler for the next decade and more. The photo shows Wayne Boring and his wife Lois (center), their daughter on the left, and collector Charlie Roberts on the right. [Photo ©2008 Charlie Roberts.] (Above:) The right half of a Wayne Boring panel from a 1947 Superman daily was rescued from the waste bin many years ago. The strip was cut in two before being tossed out! Inker may be Stan Kaye. Thanks to Ron Fernandez. [©2008 DC Comics.] (Below:) This can be contrasted with this Boring original (no pun intended!) from 1965. [©2008 DC Comics.]
“I Was Just The Kid Sister Peeking Around The Corner” JEAN SHUSTER PEAVY Talks About Her Big Brother JOE— Co-creator Of Superman
Interview by Brad Ricca
hen we think of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, we think of them, irrevocably, as a duo. But for many of their adventures in Cleveland, Ohio, they had another accomplice: Joe’s little sister Jean. Now 85 and living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Jean Shuster Peavy is our last, best link to her brother Joe. When I first wrote Jean last spring, I wasn’t sure if I was even writing to the right person. When she did respond, in a chunky blue cursive on flowered stationery, I was very excited. Because, like any little sister, she has lots to say. In this partial transcript of our talk, Jean dispels some of the standard, seldom-questioned myths about her brother as a geeky teen afraid of girls and gives us a fuller picture of the artist who, before (and better than) anyone else, visually defined the super-hero with that jaw, that hair, and that squint. Like a few other people closely tied to the Superman mythos, Jean was taken aback by some of the material in
Gerard Jones’ Eisner Award-winning book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book (2004). Much of this is due to the unfortunate lack—and imbalance—of factual material we have on “The Boys.” For, while Siegel and Shuster are still thought of (rightly, wonderfully so) as true collaborators, we have always known more about Jerry than we do about Joe. Is it because of their differing personalities? Or because (as Jones also states) myth has become so entwined with fact when it comes to Superman? Either way, there is more we can learn, especially from Jean in this interview, conducted on June 24, 2005, over a very long phone call stretched from New Mexico to Cleveland. Plus, she sings. —Brad Ricca. BRAD RICCA: Let’s start with Gerard Jones’ book Men of Tomorrow. What did you think of it? JEAN SHUSTER PEAVY: He [Gerard Jones] never interviewed me, so he can’t get into Joe’s personal life like he did. As I read it, it sounds to me like—well, I know Joe and Jerry were nerds in high school, but they got out of that. [laughs] I mean, Jerry got married, but my brother Joe didn’t remain a nerd. As a matter of fact, when he first got out of high school, he met a girl. They were going together and were pretty serious. BR: So he wasn’t a nerd? PEAVY: No. He always drew pictures of Superman for anybody, you know, if they met him and he was asked. He was always willing to do that. Gerard Jones was only guessing. There might have been some girl… maybe he took her out for a soda. If you
Superman, Joe, And The Ladies (Above:) Jean Shuster Peavy in the 1980s, flanked by Christopher (Superman) Reeve and her brother Joe, co-creator of the Man of Steel. Thanks to Jean & Brad Ricca. (Left:) A 1980s rendering by Joe Shuster (in color, yet!) of Superman and cousin Supergirl—the latter a character he may never have drawn on any other occasion! A real collector’s item— and David Siegel (no relation to Jerry!), who for years has specialized in locating Golden Age artists on behalf of comics conventions, is the collector for whom Joe did it! Thanks for sharing it, Dave. [Superman & Superman TM & ©2008 DC Comics.]
Jean Shuster Peavy Talks About Her Big Brother Joe
Win, Place, And Show A vintage Shuster sketch (drawn circa 1960) of the type of showgirl Joe liked to date in the early years of “Superman” success. The inscription reads: “Just like Mae West.” Thanks to Eddy Zeno—and to Charlie Roberts, from whose personal collection it comes. [©2008 Estate of Joe Shuster.]
really want to know, ask me! The way [the book] made it sound, Joe couldn’t get a girl! Actually, Joe loved tall, beautiful showgirls and models and [laughter] he dated a lot of them! He was what you call a “Stagedoor Johnny.” I don’t know if you ever heard of that expression, but if he would see a girl in a show... for instance, one was in The Red Mill, a beautiful opera, and boy, he thought that girl, one of the leading ladies, was beautiful and talented! He went backstage and brought her flowers and asked her out to supper, and they began dating. He’d meet her every night and take her out, he’d bring her radios, flowers, little gifts. I went out with them on a double date… they really liked each other…but this was more of a fantasy for him; it wasn’t anything serious. He dated a lot of girls—beautiful ones—he’d just pick the most beautiful models and girls! He met a lot of them. He got around a lot in New York [laughs] when he was there… dealing with a lot of famous people, a lot of showpeople—one person knows another, etc. BR: So Superman gave him some confidence? PEAVY: Yes. He was a nerd in high school, no question about that. You know he and Jerry were just skinny kids at the drawing board all the time. Joe tried to build himself up... this was back in the ’30s. Joe tried weightlifting, and he ran in track in high school. Jesse Owens had been an Olympic champion several years before—but Joe ran track besides going to the gym a couple times a week and, you know, lifting weights. He would try to eat steak and drink a couple quarts of milk to build himself up, to gain the weight. Unfortunately, he eventually he gained too much, [laughs] but really he didn’t gain too All’s Fair… much weight until Joe in the 1940s, with an unidentified neighbor—and a after he lost DC house ad for the 1939 New York World’s Fair Comics, Superman and with an inset Superman drawing by Shuster. Most likely went into poverty. it was Photostatted from a story panel and finished off But up until 1947, when they lost the lawsuit, he was just… strong and built
by a staff artist—who, in his haste, forgot to add the trademark “S” on his chest! And of course it’s widely known nowadays that Supes’ hair was colored yellow on that actual comic book cover! Nobody would make a mistake like that just a year or two later. Thanks to Richard Pryor for the ad—and to Jean Shuster Peavy & Brad Ricca for the photo. [Art ©2008 DC Comics.]
well and looked well and aggressive enough to date these gorgeous girls! It was after they lost the lawsuit that they went into depression, both Joe and Jerry. That was a very sad story in the history of the comic book field. And I think Gerard Jones pretty well presented the comic book industry side of it, talking about Donenfeld and Leibowitz and who they were. I think he did a pretty good job. BR: So what was it like growing up in Glenville [Ohio]? PEAVY: When we lived there, everybody was poor, but I don’t think it was run down. But it was still one of the poorer neighborhoods. I remember going out and shopping with my parents every Saturday night. And Joe was always with Jerry, you know; they would just stay at home. They didn’t chase girls in those days, not at all, because they were just too busy getting ideas. It depends on what period of time we’re talking about. They had a little bit of money when they began selling their first early comics. I remember we did not have a radio until I was 12 years old, so actually we didn’t even have a radio in the house until Joe was 18 and began earning money from the comics. All we had was what you’d call a Victrola. And I remember we had records, and that was about it. I remember we had some Dinah Shore and Ella Fitzgerald; that was before Frank Sinatra came along. They had some good old music, but that’s all we ever had. Can you imagine growing up in a home: no television, no video games, not even a radio? BR: So you hung out with both of them? PEAVY: I’m six years younger than Joe. And so I’d tag along with [both of] them, they’d be my babysitter. I remember Jerry would say “Hey, look
“K” Is For “Krypton” Continuing The Saga Of The Fabled Lost “K-Metal” Story—One Of Superman’s Greatest Adventures! by Roy Thomas ecognize the splash page below, from an early “Superman” story? No, I didn’t think so. Because, to the best of our knowledge, it has never been printed anywhere before this issue of Alter Ego.
Neither have the three pages from the same “Superman” adventure which appear on pp. 22-24. Yet they are from a story which, had it been published soon after it was written and drawn—in 1940—would have changed the way that you, and I, and everyone remember the Man of Steel over all the years since.
[©2008 DC Comics.]
“K” Is For “Krypton”
Every comic book aficionado has his or her own “Holy Grail”—that elusive item he/she would most like to find and make the crowning jewel of his/her collection. For some, it’s a particular issue of a comic—for others it’s a page of original artwork from a favorite story, or even just a tantalizing tidbit of knowledge. For me, the Grail has always been to learn something new about the 1940-1951 All-Star Comics. (You didn’t know that? You’re new around here, aren’t you?) And, as a corollary to the above, I’ve kept an eye open for years for any additional art from or information concerning that mostly-lost mid-1940s “Justice Society of America” tale “The Will of William Wilson!”
Clearly, these pages were part of a ground-breaking epic… even though Steranko’s book contains no other mention of it, or anything whatever about its plotline or potential importance to “Superman” continuity, in its tabloid-sized pages. We won’t be printing any of that foursome in this issue of A/E, because Jim hasn’t given us permission to do so, and we intend to respect his wishes, even though any copyright on them clearly belongs to DC Comics. If you want to see those pages, seek out a copy of the landmark Steranko History of Comics, Vol. 1. Bring your magnifying glass. (Incidentally, the four pages reproduced in that tome are pp. 8, 15, 21, and 23 of the story.)
But there’s another comic book story— one that, I freely admit, is far more important historically than that “Will”-o-the-wisp “JSA” exploit—which is and deserves to be the Grail of a number of serious fans, collectors, and comics historians. It’s an early “Superman” adventure— starring the first and greatest comic book super-hero. Nowadays, it’s usually referred to as “The K-Metal Story.” The first thing most of us knew about that epoch-making tale didn’t involve its subject matter at all, but was simply the fact that the first volume of Jim Steranko’s The Steranko History of Comics (Supergraphics, 1970) printed four pages from it, terming it “an unpublished Superman story, circa 1939.” They were all reproduced rather small (3¼” by a little over 5½”), and unfortunately quite a few lines of both text and art either reproduced poorly or dropped out entirely. Still, the pages were intriguing for their very existence—and, even more so, for what they contained! The first depicts the Man of Tomorrow flying down to a landing—only to find that his legs buckle under him at the impact. At the bottom of the page, he’s struck by a car— and, to his great surprise, he’s bowled over! The second illustrates Clark Kent’s first exposure to what is obviously kryptonite, which causes him to collapse. The scientist who shows it to him experiences, at the same time, “a sensation of amazing well being” [sic]. The third has Clark changing to Superman in full view of Lois Lane and other “prisoners of a sealed mine,” sacrificing his secret identity in order to save their lives. (Oddly, too, given the 13-page length of the standard “Superman” outing up through the early 1940s, this page seemed to be numbered “21”!) The fourth is a more standard page than the other three. Still, as Superman flies with Lois in his arms, she says, “This is the first time I’ve seen you doubt your own ability!”
This Page Took A Slow Boat To China—60 Years And Counting! Here’s the final page by the Joe Shuster art shop from the “Superman” story “The Secret of the Chinese Dragon,” from Action Comics #54 (Sept.-Oct. 1954). With thanks to the Heritage Comics Archives, as retrieved by Dominic Bongo. [©2008 DC Comics.]
The Reich Strikes Back A Close LOOK At The Nazis Vs. Superman in 1940 by Dwight R. Decker
The Persistence Of A Legend
t’s no secret that Superman fought against the Nazis in World War II. But—did the Nazis fight against him?
A persistent rumor about Superman is that the character was denounced during the Second World War by no less a personage than Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, during a fiery speech to the Reichstag, the German parliament. The reason for the tirade, the story goes, was a comic book sequence or cover in which Superman was shown demolishing a line of German forts on the Atlantic coast. One version of
the story, as given in Time magazine (April 9, 1965) quoting an Italian Communist newspaper, even has Dr. Goebbels exclaiming that “This ‘Superman’ is a Jew!”—presumably in reference to the ethnic origin of Superman’s creators. However, the actual story isn’t quite so neatly packaged. Anton Hermus, a Dutch comics expert, was sufficiently intrigued by the rumor of Goebbels’ denunciation of Superman that in 1987 he decided to research it further, hoping to find out exactly what Goebbels said, in what context, and when. But, after reading through collections of Reichstag speeches and corresponding with various historical associations, Hermus
Superman Vs. The Master Race Over-eager writers have occasionally made much of the fact that, on the cover of the Nov.-Dec. 1941 issue of Superman, the Man of Steel is shown attacking a warboat bearing insignia that resembles a German cross—or that the Dec. 1941 issue of Action Comics featured a paratrooper emblazoned with an actual swastika. In truth, of course, these covers—repro’d here from editions of the Superman Archives and Superman: Action Comics Archives—were prepared at least in the middle of the year, and would’ve been on sale at least two or three months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, with Nazi Germany declaring war on the United States a few days later. Nor did any stories inside these issues have any relation whatever to the Second World War. But, oddly, there actually was a Superman/Nazi skirmish in print as early as 1940! [©2008 DC Comics.]
The Reich Strikes Back
came to the conclusion that the story, at least in its traditional form, is a myth. One appearance of this story in print, pointed out to me recently by comics fan and translator Marc Miyake, is the introductory essay “The Man of Tomorrow and the Boys of Yesterday,” by Dennis Dooley, for his and Gary Engle’s 1987 Octavia Press book Superman at Fifty: The Persistence of a Legend: “Indeed, the Nazis took such a whale of a beating at the hands of Siegel and Shuster’s hero, both on land and in the air, that Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels himself is said to have bounded to his feet in the middle of a Reichstag meeting waving an American comic book and furiously denouncing Superman as a Jew.” “Persistence of a Legend” is an unusually apt subtitle here. No documented source for the Goebbels story is given. It’s “said” that it happened—but who says it? The story has been picked up and passed on, some variations even replacing Goebbels with Hitler, as in Gerard Jones’ book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book (Basic Books, 2004, page 162): “Hitler had already denounced Superman as a Jew and banned him...” So far as can be determined, Superman was never denounced by Dr. Goebbels or anyone else in any Reichstag speech. This makes sense, when you think about it. With a war on in Europe by late 1939, top-ranking Nazi officials had more on their minds than some relatively minor manifestation of American popular culture. Further, if a high-placed Nazi official had made such a spectacle of himself in a public place like the Reichstag to denounce a fictional American character, it should have made international news. But no mention of such an incident has as yet been found either in contemporary press accounts or in histories of the war published since.
over the “i” in “Siegel”), which can be translated as “Jerry Siegel Steps In!,” reproduces a visual sequence in which Superman destroys a line of German forts, thus matching the legend to a considerable degree. This being 1940, however, the fortifications are the German “West Wall” that faced the infamous Maginot Line on the border with France, not the French Atlantic coast. The strip simply shows Superman demolishing the bunkers, then polishing off an attacking airplane. At the end, he delivers Hitler and Stalin to a meeting of the League of Nations, announcing: “Gentlemen, I’ve brought before you the two power-mad scoundrels responsible for Europe’s present ills. What is your judgment?” This story was clearly written and drawn during the 1939-1941 period when Hitler and Stalin had a Non-aggression Pact (signed in late August 1939) and had divided Poland between them under a secret clause in that agreement. In American popular literature of the time, Stalin was frequently lumped in with Hitler and Mussolini as one of Europe’s villainous dictators. And, in fact, the USSR was virtually an ally of Nazi Germany. Later, when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941, that perception did a sudden about-face, and Stalin found himself on the unlikely side of the angels.
“LOOK! Up In The Sky!” Hermus then wondered where the reproduced “Superman” sequence originated, as it begins almost too abruptly for a typical comic book story. Could it even be a German forgery? Since I was writing a column for the comics fan-magazine Amazing Heroes at the time and had mentioned in print that I could read both Dutch and German, Hermus got in touch with me and asked me to see what I could find out.
Das Schwarze Korps The next question Anton Hermus addressed was whether the myth had any connection at all with reality. Surely the legend had started somewhere. After further research, Hermus finally came up with the probable source of the story: an article in the April 25, 1940, issue of Das Schwarze Korps (The Black Corps), the newspaper of Hitler’s SS. (From my own reading, I’ve gathered that Das Schwarze Korps was more than just a house organ for the Schutzstaffel: it had a more freewheeling editorial policy than most of the Nazi press, covered a broad range of topics, and was widely read outside the SS.) According to Hermus, this particular article appeared on a page that the newspaper customarily reserved for amusing or lightweight pieces.
It’s the Feb. 27, 1940, issue of Look magazine, one of the popular picture magazines of the day (in the style of the even more popular Life), which sports a cover of Rita Hayworth billed as the “Best-Dressed Girl in Hollywood.” Up towards the top of the cover, beneath the logo and a blurb for an article in which bandleader Tommy Dorsey answers Artie Shaw on the subject of jitterbugs, is this caption: “‘SUPERMAN’ Captures Hitler and Stalin.” (Bear in mind the world situation in early 1940: World War II has broken out in Europe but France hasn’t fallen yet, Hitler and Stalin are still allies, and the uneasily neutral United States won’t enter the war for another year and a half.)
Reflections The article, entitled “Jerry Siegel Greift ein!“ (with a little Star of David
I knew the Superman strip wasn’t a forgery because I had seen it before, but couldn’t remember where. I recalled seeing ads in the Comics Buyer’s Guide from Danny Fuchs of Brooklyn, who bills himself “America’s Foremost Superman Collector.” I’m ready to go along with him there, because in response to my query he sent me something that turned out to be an important piece of the puzzle.
Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, seated beneath a portrait of his Führer, Adolf Hitler, his own image reflected in a shiny tabletop.
Inside, we find a 3-page feature, two pages of it given over to a Superman comic strip written and drawn
A Box of Markers and Tummy Tattoos A Brief Interview With Cover Artist MICHAEL GOLDEN by Renée Witterstaetter
rtist Michael Golden is known for his hard-hitting and dynamic art style that seems to evolve with each decade. He cuts away the excess and maintains the true essentials of a piece. These techniques, coupled with his signature storytelling construction, have garnered him a legion of devotees, that number fans of the genre, and contemporaries as well. Golden’s work has appeared in The ’Nam, Micronauts, Dr. Strange, Nightwing, Detective Comics, and upcoming runs on Heroes for Hire and Iron Man, among much more. Other milestones in his career include the co-creation of “Bucky O’Hare” and The X-Men’s Rogue, and covers featuring Batman, Captain America, Vampirella, and many others. “I’m the one they come to when they want one of those covers with a thousand characters on them,” he laughs.
Man And Superman Michael Golden and friend—the latter as seen in Superman #600 (March 2002). Thanks to the artist & Renée Witterstaetter. Repro’d from a scan of the original art. [Superman art ©2008 DC Comics.]
Current and future projects include Heroes and Villains Sketchbook from Brand Studios and Eva Ink; Modern Masters in the Studio with Michael Golden from TwoMorrows; The Creator Chronicles Interview—DVD Two Disc Set from Woodcrest Productions/EvaInk, and the topselling Excess: The Art of Michael Golden from Vanguard this summer. Since Michael’s professional career to date is basically within the time-frame franchise of our sister magazine Back Issue rather than of Alter Ego, we asked his publisher and long-time editor and collaborator Renée Witterstaetter to talk with Michael about his take on Superman, since we were pleased and proud to be featuring a cover of his on this issue. Somehow, they never quite got around to actually discussing the Man of Steel—but we did want to present these few autobiographical paragraphs. And hey, Michael’s gorgeous cover speaks for itself!
RENÉE WITTERSTAETTER: Thanks for taking time to sit down with us, Michael. I know you don’t do many interviews, but we’ve worked together a long time, and I appreciate that you sat down for Alter Ego. How did you get started in the business back in the 1970s? MICHAEL GOLDEN: Hey, anything for Roy Thomas! Where I grew up, there were not a lot of comic books; they just weren’t available. The first comic I ever saw was a Tin Tin book my mother bought for me. Later in life, I was doing commercial art, and filling up a lot of my time painting vans and murals and surfboards in Florida, and that somehow led to working in comics. There was a guy who was a friend of a friend, who saw my stuff and introduced me to a friend of his who was working for DC Comics in the ’70s. He said, “Well, you know, you do some, like, really great comic book stuff.” I’m paraphrasing, of course. [laughs] I didn’t really think of my work being transferable to comics, so that gave me pause. To me, I was just telling stories. So, anyway, this person put me into contact with his friend, who turned around and lost my portfolio at Continuity, [which is] Neal Adams’ Continuity studio. Never saw it again; no fault of Neal’s, mind you. Even so, Neal was constantly bugging me to get me to come up to New York. RW: You were an immediate hit! GOLDEN: I got a lot of work really quickly, and some of it is considered
“Maybe I’m In The Wrong End Of This Business!” LOU CAMERON Tells About Drawing Comics During The Fabulous ’50s Interview Conducted by Jim Amash
ou Cameron was a comic book artist during much of the 1950s, drawing for Ace, Story, St. John, DC, Timely, Classics Illustrated (a.k.a. Gilberton), et al. As “Tabor Evans,” Lou created the popular “Longarm“ Western paperbacks, having written nearly half of the 350 novels in that series. He has also written numerous other books in the Western and crime genres. His work in and outside of comics is
Transcribed by Brian K. Morris striking and unforgettable. The same can be said for Lou himself, who has given us a frank and revealing look into the places he worked for, the people he knew, and of his place in the four-color strata of his times. Blunt, candid, and brilliant, I think Lou is one of the most interesting interview subjects Alter Ego has presented. My only regret is that we don’t have room for our off-tape discussions on politics, religion, war, American history, and society, because Lou is as thought-provoking as anyone I know. An appreciative “thank you” goes to the co-editor of the original Who’s Who in American Comic Books, Hames Ware, for his suggestions and comments—and a special thanks to Arthur Lortie, who first put me in touch with Lou Cameron. This is the first part of a twopart Interview. —Jim.
“The Artwork Came First” JIM AMASH: When and where were you born? LOU CAMERON: June 20, 1924, San Francisco. JA: Since you were a writer and an artist, it’s almost like what came first, the chicken or the egg? CAMERON: The artwork came first. Well, first of all, I started writing to have stuff to illustrate. I was illustrating stuff for the men’s adventure books, and I thought, “Good God, I could write this”: “There I was, hanging by my fingernails on the side of Mount Everest while the Abominable Snowman spit on me.” I said to myself, “How did I ever get in this situation? Who is the guy who’s getting paid for this?” [mutual laughter] So I started writing them, and I found it was just as easy. After I had discovered that writers seemed to be getting their checks better and faster, the absolute decision came as I was working on a paperback book for Ace. Bernie Baily was packaging it, and I was illustrating. He handed me a short story and said, “We can get the rights from the estate of Theodore Sturgeon,” and he gave it to me to illustrate. I said, “I read this when I was in high school.” It was a classic science-fiction short story, so I asked, “He gets paid again?” I would do a cover and that was it. That was the end of the story behind the books. And when it’s
What A Tangled Web We Weave… (Above:) Lou Cameron, in a photo taken in April 2008—and at left one of his archetypal horror splash panels, from Ace Periodicals’ Web of Mystery #27 (Nov. 1954). A month or two more, and the Comics Code would’ve stepped in and plunged its own stake in the heart of that luscious vampire! Thanks to Lou for the photo, sent via Jim Amash & Teresa R. Davidson. [©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
gone, it’s gone. So that began to get my juices thinking: “Maybe I’m in the wrong end of this business!” I first started writing about 1958. I started drawing comics in 1950, and after six or seven years in the business, I began to write.
“Maybe I’m In The Wrong End Of This Business!”
“I Introduced You To These People, And They’re Screwing You” JA: The packager you worked for: what year are we talking about?
CAMERON: 1950. I’d just been in New York about six months. Anyhow, Marvin told me about this coloring service that he worked for on the side. They had the CAMERON: Yes. I was World War II, service where they put in the coloring. and then I stayed in the Army after The shop was run by Pat Masulli and his the war. I went in right after Pearl partner, Hubie. Marvin had me come Harbor. I left on my 18th birthday, down to see them. They wanted 1942. somebody who could do some inking. I picked up some stuff and I got paid; I JA: What branch of the service were can’t argue about that. But then, they you in? were stalling me around, and finally Billy Friedman [publisher of Story Comics] CAMERON: You name it! [chuckles] had a fight with a writer whom they That’s a long, involved story. I joined knew, but I can’t remember his name. He the Aviation Cadets. I washed out had written a script. He needed a fast and wound up at the end of the war fifty bucks, and so Pat Masulli, who was in the Second Armored Division. a schemer, said, “What we’ll do is we’ll Then I came home, bummed around send them another guy with this script, for a year, and, you know, eleven The Middle Of A Long Hitch and he’ll get the $50 for you by using his million people were all mustered out Lou in uniform, circa May 1945. He was in the armed services from name.” So they said, “Cameron, go up to at the same time. So I said to hell 1942 till not long before the Korean War started (1950). He says this Friedman’s office and deliver this script.” with it; I went back in, and I did photo was taken by someone from Yank magazine, not long after a I said, “For what?” They said, “Well, we’ll bunch of German soldiers had surrendered to his company—hence another hitch. give you a piece of the action. We’ll give the German officer's cap and P-38 pistol (so called because it was I liked the Army; I just didn’t like you five bucks, ten percent.” They originally issued in 1938). Photo courtesy of Lou. the people in it. Everything was okay, wanted me to tell Friedman that I had except for some of the officers. I got disgusted, and I got out just in time written this script. I said, “Wait a minute! You want me to go tell profesto miss Korea. At that time, I was an instructor at the Infantry School in sional Madison Avenue lawyers a big fat fraud lie? I’m supposed to go up Fort Lewis, Washington, and I was a Platoon Sergeant for the I&R— there and lie to a real honest-to-God lawyer for five bucks? I wouldn’t Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, 38th Infantry. They got wiped hold up a candy store for five bucks.” I said, “No way. I’ll tell you what I’ll out to the last man in Korea. My then-wife saved me. She said she was do. If I can sell them on my artwork, I'll sell them the script.” And they going to leave me if I re-upped. So when my hitch was up, I left, and just said, “Well, if you can sell them on your artwork, go ahead.” missed the Korean War. Billy Friedman had done a lot of work for the comic book people JA: Close call there! Before you got into comic books, had you done any during the war, getting them paper and stuff, so he knew his way around, professional work? and finally decided, “Hell, I can do this myself.” [chuckles] And so he started publishing. They weren’t a big outfit, but Billy was very fair to his CAMERON: Yes. I had done some drawing as a hobby, and I decided to freelancers. They paid, and I never had any trouble with them. So he was see what I could do. I got a job painting lamps that one bought at Macy’s, publishing, he was buying manuscripts and the artwork, which was done for the Wilmar Lamp Company. I got a quarter a lamp, and they got $7 at home, freelance. And then he would put the thing together, and I think more if it was hand-decorated, signed by the artist. We’d painted these he had Koppel Engraving do it for him. He had just this little publishing lamp bases with ceramic paint, they put them in the oven and baked house, and he had a law suite. He was a big lawyer. He was on 44th and them. I was working up in the Bronx painting lamps, and one of the kids Madison. In one of his back rooms, he had set up a little publishing house. who worked there part-time was a packer. He had another part-time job in, I guess you would call it a “sweatshop.” They did lettering, color Anyway, I went uptown on the Madison Avenue bus, and knowing I separation, and agented artwork. You name it, they did it. So this kid was going to be lying to these people, and knowing they were lawyers, named Marvin where I worked introduced me to them. They gave me having never met any of them before, I read the script. I thought, “Well, some freelance work, inking over someone else’s penciling. It was a I’ve got to know what this script is about.” I still remember it: this man schlock shop. had a cruel, mean wife. Vania was her name, and she and her lover murdered the guy, but he comes back from the grave, and he takes him in There were a lot of guys like that. There were people in very, very lowthe crematorium with her—pretty bad stuff. Tales of Terror was the comic budget publishing. There was one guy who published magazines from a book. [NOTE: Actually, the comic was Dark Mysteries. See art on next corner table in Laurant’s Restaurant. [mutual laughter] You’d go in and page.] I went up there expecting to be questioned about it and no, they see him, and you’d sit down and have a drink with him. Needless to say, I didn’t question it. They said, “Okay, we’ll look it over, and we’ll send you a didn’t work with him. He was giving me the routine, “We can’t pay very check.” I said, “Now, what about the artwork?” I had taken some samples much, but we can keep you busy.” No, no, no, no! The guy lasted for just a with me. He called his law and business partner Nat Rothstein in. very short while. He was foreign, and published a book called Bounty Friedman said, “This guy’s a triple threat. What do you think?” Rothstein Magazine for about two or three issues. looked at the sample and said, “Yeah, pretty good. If you can draw on this level, sure, go ahead.” JA: That means you were about 26 years old when you started in comic books.
hat if… instead of selling his half of All-American Publications to National/DC co-publishers Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz in 1945, Max Charles Gaines had instead purchased DC from them? That’s the premise of this inventive fantasy series previously seen in Alter Ego #76 & 78, and in our TwoMorrows sister mag Back Issue #28 and future issues—and set on an “Earth-22” where events in the comics field happened a bit differently from the way they unfolded in the world we know. Author Bob Rozakis was a longtime writer, editor, and production director for DC…
and, unless noted, all comics images on the next 6 pages are copyright ©2008 DC Comics. Just imagine… a comic book industry in which, due to the domino effect of actions related earlier, Superman and Batman had been relegated to the sidelines early, and it was instead The Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman who became the company’s big stars. Not a dream, not a hoax…but an imaginary story of an alternate universe and…
The Secret History of All-American Comics, Inc. Book One - Chapter 3: The 1940s-50s Media Blitz by Bob Rozakis
nthony (“Tony”) Allan is a noted author, whose books record the multi-media adventures of the AllAmerican Comics characters. He has written liner notes for collections of radio recordings, as well as DVD collections of the TV series. He is currently working on I Saw It on the Radio, a timeline history detailing which elements of the comic books actually came A recent photo of from the radio programs and other media, to pop-culture author Tony Allan. be published later this year by TwoMorrows. In this installment, Tony answers Bob Rozakis’ questions about the radio, comic strip, movie, and television adventures of Green Lantern, The Flash, and the rest of the AA Universe in the 1940s and ’50s.
BOB ROZAKIS: A lot of people think The Adventures of Green Lantern TV show in the ’50s was the first time an AA character appeared outside the comic books. I know that was my first impression. TONY ALLAN: Oh, there was a lot more, as you have since learned. BR: [laughs] Yes, much of it I now own, thanks to DVDs and audio CDs. So it was the Fleischer cartoons that came first? ALLAN: The first Green Lantern appearances, yes. What a lot of people don’t know is that Max and Dave Fleischer’s original
Holding Pattern Fleischer Studios’ proposed animated Superman series never made it past the stage of this test reel, prepared in 1940. It was first printed in Les Daniels’ 1995 coffee table book All-American Comics: Sixty Years of the World’s Favorite Comic Book Heroes.
intention was to do Superman cartoons. They had worked out the deal with Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz, and there was even some preliminary animation done. Because of potential legal issues, very little was done beyond the opening sequence. It is believed that the early scripts for these cartoons were rewritten to star Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. According to people I’ve interviewed, Jerry Siegel got wind of the cartoon deal and went to Donenfeld to ask what his and Joe Shuster’s cut was going to be. Whatever amount Donenfeld told him, Siegel decided it wasn’t enough and started talking about suing. BR: So that could have been the first time the idea of a lawsuit over who owned Superman might have come up? ALLAN: Probably. As the story was told to me, Siegel called Fleischer directly, but there is no one alive who can confirm that. In any case, Max Fleischer shows up at the offices and says he’s canceling the deal because DC couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be any trouble over who owned the rights.
The 1940s-50s Media Blitz
A Comic Cavalcade—At The Movies! A trio of Fleischer cartoon images from the early 1940s, starring the three cover stars of AA’s oversize title Comic Cavalcade. (Clockwise from above:) Green Lantern fights back against an early laser beam… Wonder Woman faces the robot Adam-5… and, in a cel never seen in your friendly neighborhood theatres, The Flash races through the streets carrying Joan Williams. The story is that, if not for the Fleischers’ financial problems, The Flash would’ve been the third AA hero to make it to the big screen—albeit in seven-minute segments. From the collection of Alex Wright.
Remember, M.C. Gaines was still partners with Donenfeld and Liebowitz in All-American at that point, so he’d been in on the negotiations. This was a sizable chunk of licensing money they’d be losing, along with whatever additional sales of the comics it might bring. As Fleischer is about to walk out the door, Gaines says, “We have other characters! Why not use them instead?” And he tosses some issues of Sensation and AllAmerican on the table. BR: Books containing “his” characters. ALLAN: Exactly. It’s likely that Donenfeld would have preferred to pitch Batman or Starman—characters in the DC titles—but Gaines was just faster on the uptake. Fleischer must’ve liked what he saw in Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, because they ended up doing 17 cartoons in all over the next few years. BR: Well, there was a Superman radio show, wasn’t there? ALLAN: Right. It started in 1940 and ran on the Mutual Network till the spring of 1942. They canceled it at that point, and the official story was that it was not popular. The unofficial version is that Siegel tried to get involved when the contract came up for renewal, and Mutual had the same reservations that the Fleischers had had over the cartoon deal. BR: Which better explains how The Flash went on the air instead, in August of ’42. ALLAN: Yes, with the same actors that had been on the Superman show. Bud Collyer played The Flash on radio for about eight years. Green Lantern started showing up on the radio show from time to time. Mostly, they did that to give Collyer a vacation. Lantern’s powers didn’t adapt too well to radio, though. I mean, when Flash was racing around, they could do a “whoosh” sound. But when Lantern was in action, someone would have to say, “Oh, look! Green Lantern is using his ring to melt the gun!” BR: What about comic strips?
ALLAN: Lots of them. It’s funny, Siegel and Shuster tried selling “Superman” as a comic strip for years and nobody wanted it. Then, two years after Action Comics #1, he was in the newspapers. The strip lasted until early ’43, about the time Siegel got drafted. He’d been writing it up to that point. Again, the unofficial story revolves around money. Even though he was no longer going to be writing the strip, Siegel expected to get paid for it. Donenfeld was going to have someone else write it, someone he’d have to pay, and balked at the additional expense. Green Lantern had grown in popularity thanks to the cartoons by this point, so he made a “guest appearance” and then took over the strip. Lantern ran in the papers till about 1960. BR: What other characters had strips? ALLAN: They started running a Batman strip in 1943 and it ran for three years. It ended when Bob Kane split from DC. Rather than decide who they were supposed to pay, the syndicate dropped the strip. I’ve found samples done for a Wonder Woman strip from the mid-’40s, but it never got off the ground. There was a Flash strip while the radio show was on, but it was not widely syndicated. When it was canceled, Flash started making guest appearances in the Lantern strip. You know, it’s funny. Comic book fans look at Comic Cavalcade #64 in 1954 as the first team-up of Flash and Green Lantern—outside the Justice Society, of course—when, in fact, they were palling around on radio and in the comic strip for years before that! BR: Is that your subtle way of sneaking in a plug for your next book?
The Secret History of All-American Comics, Inc.—Book One - Chapter 3
ALLAN: [chuckles] Um, I guess it is. BR: So what can you tell us about the movie serials? ALLAN: The first one was in 1948. It was just called Green Lantern and starred Kirk Alyn as Lantern. A character actor named Edward Brophy played Doiby Dickles, which was fitting since Doiby was supposedly based on Brophy! And Noel Neill played Irene Miller, who was Alan Scott’s girlfriend in the early days. As you probably know, Noel Neill came in to play Cathy Crain in the second season of the TV show, after Phyllis Coates left. There’s a cute in-joke that the writers planted in her first episode. Lantern gets whacked in the head with a bat and is unconscious. When he comes to, Cathy is there and he says, “I know you from somewhere.” She says, “I’m Cathy.” And he says, “Why did I think you had another name?” BR: [laughs] Because the last time he saw her, she was Irene Miller! I remember watching that episode and thinking at the time that it was just their way of showing GL was still confused after being knocked out.
Three To Get Ready…
ALLAN: That was the serial where Green Lantern fought the Spider Lady. There were a lot of fist fights and not too much use of the ring. Any time he used it—as well as any time he flew—they did it with animation. The second serial, Atom Man vs. Green Lantern, came out in 1950. That was the one where they actually used Vandal Savage from the comic books. It was Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill in that one too, with Lyle Talbot playing Vandal Savage.
A studio shot done for the Adventures of Green Lantern movie serial, with Noel Neill as Irene Miller, Kirk Alyn (in blond wig) as Green Lantern, and Edward Brophy as Doiby Dickles—juxtaposed with another photo of Brophy. Irwin Hasen, the second artist to regularly draw “Green Lantern” stories, visually designed Doiby and based him on that character actor, who had appeared in such films as The Champ (1931), Freaks (1932), and The Thin Man (1934)—and was the voice of Timothy Q. Mouse in Walt Disney’s 1941 animated feature Dumbo. Movie still from the collection of Alex Wright.
The Daily Show Two-thirds of a mid-1940s Green Lantern daily, drawn by the hero’s co-creator, Martin Nodell, and repro'd from a photocopy of the original art. The strip was later ghosted by Irwin Hasen, before he moved on to his 30+-year stint as the artist/co-creator of Dondi.
[©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
[©2008 Will Eisner Studios, Inc.]
Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt!
Twice-Told Spirit! by Michael T. Gilbert
Enter… The Marksman! When deadlines grew tight, Will Eisner used any trick in the book to keep The Spirit on schedule, including recycling old scripts. And when deadlines got really tight, Will occasionally cannibalized old stories from his other comics. He even re-worked art from Baseball Comics and the unpublished John Law to keep up with the punishing weekly deadline of his Spirit newspaper insert. On at least one occasion, his cannibalization actually worked in reverse. Strange, but true! A couple of years ago, I had déjà vu all over again while reading a “Marksman” tale in an old issue of Quality’s Smash Comics. I’d never read this story before, but it seemed oddly familiar! Then it hit me. Wasn’t this story in Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes? And didn’t it star The Spirit, instead of this Marksman fellow? A quick check revealed that both stories had the same basic plot, and that some captions contained almost identical text. I wasn’t the only reader who’d noticed the similarity. Michaël Dewally recently contacted me to say: “I was going through some Smash Comics and came upon issue #41 from March 1943. Fred Guardineer does the honors on The Marksman. As soon as I actually read the story (versus just looking at the art), it struck me that I’d already read that script. Immediately I pulled my Spirit Archives #3 (Above:) Page 2 of Fred Guardineer’s “Marksman story. [©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
Do You Believe In Magic? (Left:) Guardineer, who began his comic career in the 1930s, may be best known for drawing the adventures of “Zatara the Master Magician” for DC. He illustrated this page from Action Comics #2 (July 1938). [©2008 DC Comics.]
Comic Fandom Archive Bill Schelly here. John Ryan was an Australian fan who, along with his South African correspondent John Wright, helped to make the new comics fandom truly “international” during the early 1960s. Unfortunately, he passed away suddenly in 1979, just after the publication in his native country of his hardcover book Panel by Panel: An Illustrated History of Australian Comics, which was a valuable source of information and art
for Michael Baulderstone’s coverage of Oz’s colorful comic book heroes in Alter Ego #51. Three issues ago, his fan-friend Howard Siegel wrote about Ryan’s life and career, which included fanzines and the 1979 book, as well as articles written in other fields. This time, John Wright, who published fanzines in the 1960s and went on to become a successful novelist, celebrates his comrade, nearly three decades after his death….
Our Digger Mate “I
by John Wright
’ve always thought I was some sort of nut,” was the way John introduced himself in his aerogramme of August 18, 1963. “To be perfectly honest,” he went on, “I was always a little ashamed that I collected comics... for I had no idea that comics had so many devotees.” His words echoed those of so many others, including my own. At that time John had managed to get through 32 summers without losing his bachelorhood— a status that would soon change. When we ‘met,’ John was employed as a Production Planner for the Hardie Rubber Company, a position he described as:
“Pretty good—although I must admit I seem to have a built-in aversion to work. In fact, it’s only a mad desire I have to keep from starving, that I work at all.” Right then I knew we were destined to become good mates. Just as I knew that that offering was but a mix of one part truth and a heap of buffalo chips. An aversion to having to work for a salary does not necessarily imply laziness. Some 13 years later, when I’d chosen to quit the business world and risk the life of a freelance writer and consultant, he confessed: “I used to quite enjoy being unemployed—and only found myself another job because the money was running out. I used to read, write, and go to the daytime movies two or three times a week... stay up late and sleep late. I didn’t mind it one little bit. I’ve always said that I missed my vocation in life. I should have been born the lazy, shiftless son of an indulgent millionaire.” Again, this was but more of the above-mentioned mix, for by then John Ryan had proved he was never lacking in drive and enthusiasm. He was, I believe, something of a fireball. In retrospect, I often wonder if he perhaps heard the clock ticking and set himself a pace in order to achieve just a few of the things he wanted to get done.
The Walls Have—Logos! John Ryan (twice!) juxtaposed with the cover of his fanzine Boomerang #29, which shows him before a virtual wall of comic book covers, both American and (mostly) Australian, which were important to him. Courtesy of John Wright. [Art ©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
He’d been a keen sportsman, trying most sports that were available to him. By the age of 32, however, he’d wisely elected to leave participation in some of the contact games to the “younger” generation, confining himself to social tennis, ten-pin bowling, and the occasional trip to the Snowy Mountains for brief skiing holidays. He was an avid reader and already a published writer, with articles relating to boxing, football, and cricket appearing in the likes of The Australian Ring and Sports Novels. Amateur dramatics was another involvement, and there he enjoyed featured roles in such productions as Noel Coward’s Hay Fever. It was, if I correctly remember, in amateur theatre where he met his lovely Jan—a meeting which resulted in a union that would continue for 15 happy years, blessing the couple with two children, Sean and Fiona, of whom they were immensely proud. Not only was he already a serious comic book collector, but he’d actively pursued his interest, not merely to add to what was already a substantial collection, but to gain further knowledge of artists and writers.
Comic Fandom Archive
Titans Two Two group photos of 1970s gatherings at John Ryan’s home were printed in A/E #76. The pair of gents in the pic above are Australian artist Stanley Pitt (on left) and US artist Alex Toth, who must’ve made a trip “down under.” These photos were taken, we've learned recently, by Paul Power, though they were sent to us by Howard Siegel. On the right is a rejected Pitt cover for the first issue of Yarmak - Jungle King Comic, which was launched in 1949; this art appeared in Ryan’s 1979 comics history Panel by Panel. Pitt was later noted for his Alex Raymond-influenced style on such science-fiction comics projects as Gully Foyle and Silver Starr—and even briefly ghosted Secret Agent Corrigan for Al Williamson. [Yarmak TM & ©2008 the respective trademark and copyright holders.]
“Us Colonials” was one of the ways John often referred to him and me. And at that time indeed we were. Another of a number of things we quickly found out about each other was that we enjoyed the same type of music, that we spoke the same language and would never have any need to pussyfoot around each other. A spade was a spade, never a garden implement. On occasion we may unintentionally have ruffled the feathers of a few overly sensitive parties. In this regard he once wrote: “When you say that I’m ’ornery enough’ to sound off if something rubs me the wrong way, it just goes to show how well you’ve come to know me... over the years.”
Back in 1948, for instance, with the hope of filling gaps in his collection, he’d been in contact with Bob Powell in a quest to secure certain back issues of Speed Comics—particularly those in which Mr. Powell had worked on the “Shock Gibson” feature.
Uh-huh. Just as I knew the essential John Ryan to be a gentle, caring soul, possessed of a wonderful sense of humor—someone who would bend backward to help others, whose hand of friendship was ever outstretched.
This was another area in which we found ourselves on common ground. Though we liked all American comic books, even the pretty bad ones, we had a rather special fondness for the Fox and Harvey titles and a number of the second banana heroes.
When it came to expressing opinions about Golden and Silver Age comics, we were again in accord—particularly insofar as feeling the current artwork on certain well-established characters seemed a bit too effeminate for our tastes.
As for adding to his collection... During the 1958 visit to Britain, to which Howard has already referred, included in that “great stack of comics” John took home with him was a copy of Marvel Comics #1—an item he’d found in a pokey little book shop in Soho. Indeed that was a find, but back in those good old times, even after the first appearance of Alter-Ego and the birth of fandom, few of us thought too deeply about “valuable collectibles.” The Overstreet Price Guide had yet to become a reality, and eBay was not so much as a twinkle in the eye of a mother-to-be. We pursued those things in which we had genuine interest, the things—so often indefinable—that warmed the heart and brightened a day. We shared and helped. I gave John my duplicate copies of Fantastic Four #1, Amazing Fantasy #15… the books in which Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, etc., first appeared. John sent me Aussie comics I’d never before seen, Golden Age titles—and never ever was there any mention of “trade.” (It has never been clear to me why so many of my closest and most valued friends should be people I have yet to meet. So, long ago, I quit questioning it and simply continue to remain grateful.)
Soon after we became acquainted, John decided to launch his own fanzine, which he’d title Down Under. As with everything he undertook, he devoted himself fully to it, and the result was a whole lot more than just a very fine zine. But, though I have no recall of us ever discussing this, I got the feeling that Down Under had not been sufficient to satisfy his needs of expression. He had a great deal to tell and to share, and he found outlets for this in excellent articles for other fanzines, in columns and newsletters such as Bidgee, Bonzer, Boomerang, and others. Along the way he was not only making contact with many Aussie artists, often having them as guests in his home, as frequently providing both help and advice—sometimes dipping deep into his private coffer in order to finance projects in which he truly believed. It was starting to become difficult to keep up with him! By then John was a family man with increasing responsibilities. He was also in a new job, working as Sales Manager for Firestone, and had moved to Mount Gravatt, Queensland. All these changes were cutting deeply into his time, demanding necessary adjustments to his lifestyle. Eventually they would force him to withdraw from certain activities, but instead of slowing down he simply shifted his focus to other comic book-related interests.
Steve Gerber (1947-2008) “In Every Sense Of The Word, A Friend”
A Tribute by Mark Evanier
teve Gerber died in Las Vegas on Monday night, February 11, after a long, painful illness.
For the past year or so, he was in and out of hospitals there and had just become a “candidate” for a lung transplant. He had pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that literally turns the lungs to scar tissue and steadily reduces their ability to function. Steve insisted that his affliction had nothing to do with his lifelong, incessant consumption of tobacco, an addiction he only recently quit for reasons of medical necessity. None of his friends believed that, but Steve did. I mention that because, in the thirty or so years I knew him, that was the only time I ever saw Steve perhaps divorced from reality. He was a sharp, brilliant human being with a keen understanding of people. In much that he wrote, he chose to depart from reality or (more often) to warp it in those extreme ways that make us understand it even better. But he always did so from his underlying premise as a smart, decent guy. I like almost everyone I’ve ever met in the comic book industry, but I really liked Steve. Stephen Ross Gerber was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September
20, 1947. A longtime fan of comic books, he was involved in the ditto/mimeo days of fanzine publishing in the 1960s, issuing one called Headline at age 14. He had a by-mail friendship with Roy Thomas, who was partly responsible for the most noteworthy fanzine of that era, Alter Ego. Years later, when Roy was the editor at Marvel Comics, he rescued Steve from a crippling career writing advertising copy, bringing him East as a writer and assistant editor. Steve soon distinguished himself as one of the firm’s best scripters, handling many of their major titles at one time or another but especially shining on The Defenders, Man-Thing, Omega the Unknown, “Morbius the Living Vampire,” a special publication about the rock group Kiss… and, of course, Howard the Duck. Howard, born in Steve’s amazing mind and obviously autobiographical to a large degree, took the industry by storm. The creation was in many ways a mixed blessing to his creator. It led to an ugly and costly legal battle over ownership, which Steve settled out of court. It led to the occasional pains when he returned from time to time to the character and, due to reasons external and internal, found that he could not go home again. It also led to the sheer annoyance of watching the 1986 motion picture Howard the Duck (produced with minimal involvement on Steve’s part) open to withering reviews and dreadful business. Still, the comics issues he did are widely regarded as classics… and Howard is often cited as a character whom only Steve could make work. After he left Marvel under unpleasant circumstances in the mid-1970s, Steve worked for me for a time at Hanna-Barbera, writing comic books, many of which were published by Marvel. An editor at the company had loudly vowed that the work of Steve Gerber would never again appear in anything published by Marvel. Just to be ornery, we immediately had Steve write a story for one of the H-B comics I was editing, and it was
A Boy And His Duck Steve Gerber at Phil Seuling’s 1974 New York Comics Convention, as printed in FOOM #7 (Fall ’74)—and the Howard the Duck daily comic strip for Jan. 28, 1978. Artist Val Mayerik was the visual co-creator of Howard, having drawn him in his first appearance, in Fear #19 (Dec. 1973). [Art & script ©2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
[Art ÂŠ2008 the respective copyright holders.]
How To Crack Open A Soft-Boiled Egg – Part 2 Basil Wolverton’s Son Monte Talks About His Father’s Fawcett Work
Interview Conducted by P.C. Hamerlinck
artoonist Basil Wolverton (1909-78) was one of the most unique artists in the history of comics. While best known for such features as “Spacehawk” and “Powerhouse Pepper” at other companies, his half-page humor filler strip “The Culture Corner,” produced for Fawcett Publications from 1945-52 and innocently sandwiched in between Captain Marvel and the other stalwart heroes of Whiz Comics, was, as I said last month, groundbreaking, laugh-inducing, and highly idiosyncratic, as was his other Fawcett filler feature, “Mystic Moot and his Magic Snoot.” Here, continued from last issue, is my e-mail conversation with Basil’s son Monte. Thanks to Monte for the photos and other rare art accompanying this interview. —P.C. Hamerlinck.
“How To Eat Spaghetti Without Getting Wetty” Basil Wolverton (at left, seen in the late 1940s) and his son Monte (seen in the selfcaricature at right) contemplate Basil’s “Culture Corner” at bottom left from Whiz Comics #85 (May 1947). Described by someone as having a “spaghetti and meatball” graphic style, BW took the label literally in this classic installment! [©2008 the respective copyright holders.]
P.C. HAMERLINCK: In his later years, did your father ever express what he felt was his finest artistic achievement of his career?
“Mutants” illustration, originally done for The Plain Truth, but unpublished until appearing on the cover of Graphic Story Magazine #14. His favorite single comic book illustration was the cover of Weird Tales of the Future #3 (1952), with the corpse rising from the grave.
MONTE WOLVERTON: No doubt about it, he felt that The Bible Story—text and art—was his best work. His single favorite work was the
PCH: Did he have any particular preference as to which comic book company he did work for? WOLVERTON: I never heard him express any favorite publishers. He liked Timely; they gave him a lot of work. But he also said that he never understood their policies (if any) about how they chose what feature they would place in what magazine. At the time, it seemed to him that they put all their art in a barrel, and then reached in and grabbed something when they needed it. In his correspondence with Stan Lee (his editor for years at Timely), it sometimes seemed like they were changing their policies week by week, although Stan was just following orders from above. Why, for example, would they place “Powerhouse Pepper” (obviously more of a guy feature) in girl comics such as Tessie the Typist, Gay, and Millie the Model—and then say that their surveys indicated my dad’s work was getting low readership? Another example: Stan tells my dad to hold off on the funny little signs and goofy rhymes; a few weeks later they want his work saturated with the same. One week
Basil Wolverton’s Son Monte Talks About His Father’s Fawcett Work
they tell him they won’t need any more of his work; the next week they want a new feature with new characters overnight. I think they were just trying to keep up with the changing preferences of their readers—but no wonder my dad developed high blood pressure in the 1940s! PCH: Plop! was the only occasion your father had work published by DC Comics. Was he happy to still find a home in comic books in the 1970s? Were his Plop! covers existing portfolio pieces or specifically drawn for DC? WOLVERTON: They were drawn specifically for Plop!, and he enjoyed that immensely. That was at a time when he really wanted to do more of that kind of work, and he looked at it as a welcome alternative after working on Biblical stuff all day. He could do pretty much anything he wanted for DC and go completely crazy. He was also doing similar commissioned work for collector Glenn Bray during that time, as well as Topps’ various novelty items. PCH: Are you pleased with the treatment given to your father’s work in The Original Art of Basil Wolverton book? WOLVERTON: [Wolverton collector] Glenn Bray invited me to see the book and give input at every stage of production. I think it’s the best Wolverton book so far. Glenn put a huge amount of work into it, as well as designer Brigitte McDonald, who did an outstanding job, and Andrea Harris-McGee. who consulted on the design and curated the accompanying exhibit at the Grand Central Art Gallery in Santa Ana, CA. L.A. Weekly art critic Doug Harvey’s introduction was also superb and insightful. PCH: Did your mother also have a sense of humor similar to your father’s—and what did she think of his comic book creations? WOLVERTON: My mom appreciated my dad’s humor, but her sense of humor was not at all similar to his. She had a more homespun, countrystyle humor. Nor was she a fan of horror or science-fiction, but she was always amused by what my dad came up with. They kind-of complemented each other. PCH: I assume your father was much more mild-mannered than the disturbing, distorted reality of his artwork. WOLVERTON: In some ways, his personality wasn’t anything like his art—or the extreme aspect of his art. Judging from his Plop! covers, for example, one might conclude that here is a guy who should be institutionalized, lobotomized, or at least given some strong medication. But as a human being I would describe him as level-headed, socially conservative, and affable. He was a good judge of character—was a popular guy with lots of friends and acquaintances in his home town, and in his church community. He would give people the benefit of the doubt, but he would let his family know in no uncertain terms if he thought someone was arrogant or untrustworthy. PCH: The cutting edginess of “The Culture Corner” certainly put it at odds amongst more sanitized strips, including its companion Whiz Comics features. Do you feel your father’s work was somewhat of a precursor to Mad and other satirical-based humor? WOLVERTON: “Culture Corner” had a strong component of goofiness, whereas Mad was (and is) satire. My dad appreciated satire, but excelled more at outrageous goofiness—which is why Mad used his work occasionally, but not a lot. They wanted satire to predominate. I think you need to be somewhat cynical to produce good satire (including political cartoons), and my father was not a cynic. PCH: You’ve mentioned that your father felt that his Biblical illustrations were his best work. How did he first come about producing this artwork? Given his original cartooning art style, was it difficult for him to shift gears when creating his Biblical interpretations? Did he receive
All Booked Up Monte Wolverton is pardonably proud of the tome The Original Art of Basil Wolverton (from the Collection of Glenn Bray), which was released in 2007 by Last Gasp/Grand Central press. It contains an impressive array of Wolverton artifacts—from early works, to the iconic years, to later commissioned work. [Art ©2008 Estate of Basil Wolverton.]
feedback on his Bible art from people familiar with his comic book material? Will this important work be reprinted again? WOLVERTON: For the last year and a half, I’ve been working on a volume that will include all the work my dad did for Worldwide Church of God—over 300 pages and about 600 illustrations. The working title is The Wolverton Bible. The church commissioned and licensed this project, which is slated to be published by Fantagraphics Books late this year. This will include the Bible Story art, the Apocalyptic work, as well as a lot of humorous material that he did for the WCG. Some of this has never seen print, and some of the humorous material was not widely circulated. Of course, in the book I’ll provide commentary with in-depth answers to your questions (and much more!). But to tell the story here in abbreviated form: my dad (at the time an agnostic) began listening to radio evangelist Herbert Armstrong around 1939. He joined Armstrong’s church in 1941 and was ordained in 1943. Over the next decade they discussed the possibility of different projects. In the early ’50s my dad did the Apocalyptic drawings for The Plain Truth magazine. These were also used in other church publications. About that time he also started working on a series of illustrations of the book of Genesis, including Noah’s Flood. This finally evolved into a complete story of the Old Testament, which was serialized in The Plain Truth beginning in 1958. It was later published as a series of books—and revised and republished in the 1980s in six volumes. There was not a lot
Basil Wolverton’s Son Monte Talks About His Father’s Fawcett Work
The Many Moods Of Basil Wolverton (Left:) The Wolvertons’ Christmas card, 1947. (Below:) Basil in Pasadena, California, 1970… displaying a perhaps morbid sense of humor. Photo taken by BW fan Glenn Bray, and repro’d from the book The Original Art of Basil Wolverton. [Art ©2008 Estate of Basil Wolverton.]
“Take Your Pick” (Left:) After appearing in late issues of Ibis the Invincible, “Mystic Moot” moved over to Fawcett’s Comic Comics. Splash from CC #8 (Nov. ’46). [©2008 the respective copyright holders.]