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Kurtzman caricature ©2009 Harvey Kurtzman Estate; other art ©2009 the respective copyright holders.
KURTZMAN WROUGHT? Those Frantic Four-Color Mad Wannabes Of 1953-56
FRANK BOLLE & 06
Vol. 3, No. 86 / June 2009 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 Artists Harvey Kurtzman, Et. Al.
With Special Thanks to: Heidi Amash Ger Apeldoorn Bob Bailey Howard Bender John Benson Bill Black Frank Bolle Chris Brown Nick Caputo Michael Catron Anthony DeMaria Michaël Dewally Shane Foley Janet Gilbert Walt Grogan Jennifer Hamerlinck Mark & Stephanie Heike Jerry Hillegas Denis Kitchen Jay Kinney Adele Kurtzman
Stan & Joan Lee Jim Ludwig Brian K. Morris Ken Nadle Dave O’Dell Stephen Oswald Charles Pelto Ken Quattro Robert Rivard Herb Rogoff Dorothy Schaffenberger Ramon Schenk John Selegue Scott Shaw! Marc Swayze Dann Thomas Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Mark Voger Kathy Voglesong Martin Wolfson
This issue is dedicated to the memory of
Harvey Kurtzman & Kurt Schaffenberger
Contents Writer/Editorial: It Was A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Whirl!. . . . . 3 What Hath Kurtzman Wrought? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Ger Apeldoorn examines the color Mad wannabes of the mid-1950s.
“I’d Pick Up Anything That Came Along, Since I Was Anxious To Work” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 Golden Age talent Frank Bolle talks to Jim Amash about Robotman, the Heap, and Tim Holt!
re: [correspondence, comments, and corrections] . . . . . . . 70 Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt! “Lost” Kurtzman: The War Years!. . 73 Michael T. Gilbert, Ger Apeldoorn, and the Mad creator’s military cartoons of the 1940s.
FCA (Fawcett Collectors Of America) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 P.C. Hamerlinck presents Marc Swayze and a special tribute to the great Kurt Schaffenberger. On Our Cover: We’ll admit it—we’re especially wild about this montage cover, which Ye Editor conceived and layout guru Christopher Day ably executed. After a bit of correspondence between the three of us, some months back, Ger Apeldoorn sent us scans from various of Mad’s early imitators, including the art of Ross Andru & Mike Esposito (Captain Marble from Nuts! and John Wayne from Get Lost), Carl Hubbell (Mighty Moose from Whack), Joe Simon & Jack Kirby (Comet Feldmeyer from From Here to Insanity), Carl Burgos (a werewolf from Crazy), William Overgard (Prince Scallion from Whack), Bill Everett (Drag-ula from Crazy), an unidentified artist (Marilyn Monroe and a headless Joe Dimaggio from Nuts!), and L.B. Cole (King Farouk and a mermaid, from Unsane). And, for the perfect self-caricature by the founding genius, Harvey Kurtzman, as the cover’s centerpiece, we thank Denis Kitchen and Mrs. Adelen Kurtzman. Chris put the various pieces all together—and if you like the result half as much as Roy does, you’ve already gotten your money’s worth this issue. (But don’t worry—there’s plenty more to come!) [Kurtzman art ©2009 Adele Kurtzman; other art ©2009 the respective copyright holders.] Above: Alas, as explained on the next page, we could only print the first half of Ger’s study—but that didn’t stop us from yanking a panel by Andru & Esposito (and scripter Otto Binder) out of Nuts! #5 (1954) and slapping it onto the top of this page to whet your appetite for Part II! “Captain Marble Flies Again” was the best super-hero parody to come out of any of the Mad clones of the mid-’50s (not that there were many to choose from!)—and was printed in its entirely in Alter Ego #33. [©2009 the respective copyright holders.] 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: $88 US, $140 Canada, $210 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.
Article Title 3 Topline writer/editorial
It Was A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Whirl! W
ell, it finally happened. My first “computer crash.”
of well over 100 illustrations—and do the best I could, cutting a few corners as I went. Several much-appreciated readers helped supply a few last-minute bits of art—Chris Day performed even a bit more above-andbeyond than usual—and we eked it through.
I suppose the main reason I’d never had one before early April of this year is that, ever since Gerry Conway pushed me into buying my first PC back in the early ’80s while we were co-writing the first five drafts of the screenplay for what eventually became the movie Conan the Destroyer, I’ve generally used the things only for e-mail, documents, and a modicum of Internet research. As a result, I’d remained far too careless about such things as backup files, despite my wife’s regular admonishments. (Well, Gerry once referred to me as a “technological peasant,” and I in turn have often quoted Isaac Asimov’s statement that all he wanted from a PC was “a glorified typewriter.”)
For, also fortunately, by then I had realized I’d never be able to fit Ger’s entire study into the issue without severely limiting the number of illos— so I’d decided to cut the piece in two, following his overview and the listings for St. John’s Whack, Timely/Marvel/Atlas’ Crazy, Wild, and Riot, and Charlton’s Eh! and From Here to Insanity. Part II of the article, covering Get Lost, Flip, Nuts!, Madhouse, Bughouse, and Unsane (as well as compare-and-contrast examples from Mad and Panic) will have to be postponed till our January 2010 issue.
Still, I’m changing my ways—he muttered as he typed out this editorial on Dann’s PC, while awaiting the week-away day when a member of Best Buy’s Geek Squad would set up his new computer and he’d find out if they actually did manage to retrieve all his document files and e-addresses from the shell of his hard drive.
But at least that leaves ample room for the first part of Jim Amash’s long-scheduled interview with ace artist Frank Bolle (best known in comics circles for his Western titles done in the ’50s for Magazine Enterprises, and for Dr. Solar), as well as for some of our regular departments. Oh, and the final A/E installment of Bob Rozakis alternate history of AA Comics will appear next issue, along with a twice-delayed Comic Fandom Archive piece on an Oklahoma fandom reunion!
Fortunately, by the time of the cyberspace crash-and-burn, I had completed and sent off to layout man Chris Day the files and scans for this issue of Alter Ego… all but the text for captions accompanying the art for the lead article. Those I had to spend a day not just retyping but remembering. I’d look at the circled letters I’d scribbled in the margins of the first 39 pages of the edited version of Ger Apeldoorn’s study of Mad’s mid-1950s imitators—letters which ran from (A) through (LLLL2), a total
P.S.: Apologies to Samuel F.B. Morse for the title of our lead article!
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“What Hath Kurtzman Wrought?” An Issue-By-Issue Look At Those Mid-1950s Mad Comics Imitators by Ger Apeldoorn
UTHOR’s INTRODUCTION: It all started with Les Daniels’ 1971 book Comix: A History of Comic Books in America.
I had been reading Mad magazine since I was 14. I don’t know what attracted this Dutch boy to so American an institution, but I immediately fell in love with Mort Drucker, Don Martin, Jack Davis, and all the other satirical masters from that period. That in turn led to a lifelong fascination with American popular culture and to my virtually adopting English as my second language. An article about the early Mad in the Dutch fanzine Stripschrift got me interested in collecting and brought me to Amsterdam’s most famous comic store, Lambiek, where I picked up several books on comics, including Daniels’ excellent hardcover. Not only did Comix give me a crash course in the history of my new hobby—it also gave me my first glimpse of full stories, as it reprinted several of the best tales in the field to that date (albeit in black-&-white). There was a 1947 “Blackhawk” adventure, a Crime Does Not Pay potboiler drawn by George Tuska, and a Jack Cole “Plastic Man” exploit. I wouldn’t see any other samples of these series for more than ten years. The “Batman” and “Superman” stories were more familiar, having also been published in the Netherlands; there were likewise a couple of yarns from the Warren horror magazines and my first glimpse of underground stuff. And, of course, there was a whole section on EC. From Mad Daniels had chosen a seldom-reprinted story from one of the later color issues: the Wally Wood-drawn “Julius Caesar!” from #17 (Nov. 1954). In it, Wood and writer/editor/layout artist Harvey Kurtzman utilized the recent film version of Shakespeare’s tragedy to illustrate how a comic book
Mad About Comic Books (Clockwise from left:) The Mad Peck Studios’ cover of Les Daniels’ 1971 study Comix: A History of Comic Books in America, two decades before its author went on to do definitive histories of Marvel, DC, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman—a photo of Mad creator Harvey Kurtzman from TwoFisted Tales #28 (July-Aug. 1952), as reprinted in the Cochran hardcover edition—and the splash (actually p. 2) of the Kurtzman/Wood parody “Julius Caesar!” from Mad #17 (Nov. 1954), as per the Cochran Mad, Vol. 3. Oh—and unless otherwise noted, all art accompanying this article was provided either by author Ger Apeldoorn or Ye Editor, or is taken from The Photo-Journal Guide to Comic Books by Ernst & Mary Gerber. [Comix cover ©2009 the respective copyright holders; Kurtzman photo ©2009 William M. Gaines Agent, Inc.; Mad page ©2009 E.C. Publications, Inc.]
What Hath Kurtzman Wrought?
The Hawks Weren’t All That Were Blue! (Left & below:) Harvey Kurtzman must’ve had a copy of Military Comics #12 (Oct. 1942) at hand when he wrote and laid out “The Black and Blue Hawks!” for Mad #5 (June-July 1953). The script for the former is credited to Dick French, and it sported the first “Blackhawk” art by Reed Crandall, the series’ definitive artist, as reproduced from DC’s hardcover Blackhawk Archives, Vol. 1. The finishing artist on the Mad entry, of course, was the wonderful Wally Wood; repro’d from the Cochran hardcover reprint. [Tiers ©2009 DC Comics & E.C. Publications, Inc., respectively.]
parody should be done. In its full-page prologue (repro’d elsewhere on this page), the narrator (i.e., Kurtzman) tells the reader he’s going crazy because there are so many “lampoon type comic books” on the newsstands that it’s getting hard to find new material to lampoon—so this story will be a lampoon of lampoon comics. Each of the dozen panels on the page boasts a caption that culminates in the title (and logo) of one of Mad’s imitators. Kurtzman’s parodies were always based on the real world, and Mad itself is one of the twelve titles mentioned, so I never doubted for a moment that the others were also real titles of real magazines. Bughouse, Crazy, Eh!, Flip, Get Lost, Madhouse, Nuts!, Panic, Riot, Wild, and Whack... in my feverous brain those eleven names conjured up visions of stacks and stacks of newsstand comics in the Mad style and manner. Once I learned Mad had been a color comic book before it was a black-&-white magazine, I quickly bought up all the reprint paperbacks containing early material. Jack Davis and Will Elder were and are my favorite artists, though I now feel that Davis’ later work for Kurtzman’s own Mad “imitation” Humbug is unsurpassed. (It astonishes me to this day that back issues of some Mad imitations will cost you more than most issues of Humbug!) In this piece I won’t be covering in detail Mad, or Panic—EC’s own Mad imitator, though edited by Al Feldstein rather than Kurtzman—or Humbug, because the former two are readily available in the Russ Cochran EC reprint hardcovers, while Fantagraphics has recently reprinted the latter in a handsome two-volume set. Humbug, in any event, was a later black-&-white magazine, and only the mid’50s color comics fall within the scope of this study. The imitators mentioned in Mad #17 remained out of my reach for a long time. I could pick up most comics I wanted to collect here in Holland from other collectors, but the imitations rarely turned up. It seemed I would have to go to America or else mail-order them from ads, both quite expensive options. When eBay burst onto the scene, it turned out to be just what I was looking for. Within a year, I had acquired most of the Mad wannabes at reasonable prices. Some pleasantly surprised me, others disappointed. But in almost all cases, accounts of them I’d read in magazine articles and guides was insufficient. Artists mentioned in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide as being in a particular issue might have only a one-page story there— [Continued on p. 8]
Cheaper By The Dozen? (Right:) The marvelous intro page to the “Julius Caesar!” how-toparody tale in Mad #17, by Kurtzman & Wood. Note all the potential Mad-wannabe titles on the newsstands—including Sick, which would later be a black-&-white magazine from Joe Simon. [©2009 E.C. Publications, Inc.]
An Issue-By-Issue Look At Those Mid-1950s Mad Comics Imitators
Before We Went Mad Lampoons That Might Have Influenced Harvey Kurtzman
(On this page:) Heads of Dick Tracy (by creator Chester Gould) and Al Capp’s parody Fearless Fosdick (by “Lester Gooch”)—and an actual 1950s Fearless Fosdick commercial ad shilling for Wildroot Cream-Oil Hair Tonic, complete with a caricature of Capp at bottom left. Fosdick, who first appeared in the Li’l Abner newspaper strip in 1947, is considered by some to have been an important influence on Kurtzman’s Mad, as witness the ineffectual bullet holes. All repro’d from the two Fearless Fosdick trade paperbacks published in 1990 and 1992 by Kitchen Sink Press. [Dick Tracy art ©2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.; Fearless Fosdick art ©2009 Capp Enterprises, Inc.] (On facing page:) The Record Comics one-shot published with a Feb. 1947 cover date, as witness its cover takeoffs on Dick Tracy, Superman, Dagwood, and Daisie Mae Yokum. The mag contained such parodies as “Supergoon,” “Terrence [and the Pirates]” by “Milton Catnip,” “Moe Bohunka” [a parody of Joe Palooka], as well as lampoons of strips Smilin’ Jack, Blondie, Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, Tarzan (“Jocko of the Jungle”), Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, and Li’l Abner (“Li’l Andover,” who manages to graduate from Yale). Its dimensions were 8 7/8" by 11 5/8". [Parody art ©2009 the respective copyright holders.] The Pogo parody at page center appeared in a 1952 issue of Wampus, the humor magazine of the University of Southern California. Another issue that year contained a takeoff on Milt Caniff’s Steve Canyon. [Pogo TM & ©2009 Estate of Walt Kelly.] A short time after Mad #1 went on sale, but months before its first comic strip parody, Walt Kelly poked fun at Little Orphan Annie, including the characters’ trademark “blank glassy eye balls,” in the Sept. 11, 1952, strip printed at bottom right, and for the next week or two. And was there ever a better parodic name for Harold Gray’s brainchild than “Li’l Arf an’ Nonny”? [©2009 Estate of Walt Kelly.]
What Hath Kurtzman Wrought?
An Issue-By-Issue Look At Those Mid-1950s Mad Comics Imitators
Start-Up Data For Mad’s Imitators by John Benson The sudden influx of Mad imitations was obviously due to Mad’s phenomenal success. But when did that success occur? In the Feb. 1954 issue of Writer’s Digest, EC publisher Bill Gaines reports (in his article “Madman Gaines Pleads for Plots”) that the first four issues of Mad lost money. He goes on to say: “[W]hen the sales reports began to come in on Mad No. 5, with a bang we had done it! Today the print order on Mad is 750,000 and on its way to a million.” (Four months later the June 1954 Pageant still reported a circulation of 750,000, so Mad may never have reached a million as a color comic book—though, of course, it still had a year to go as a color comic.) This raises some questions as to how soon Mad’s success was noticed by EC’s competitors. First, one has to wonder how dramatically Mad #5’s sales increased over those of #4, considering that the independent wholesalers were so incensed by #5’s contents that they nearly decided to put EC out of business by refusing to handle its comics. In May 1952, Gaines told Ray Bradbury that EC print runs ranged from 350,000 to 500,000. (This is higher than the industry average, but possibly he was exaggerating a bit.) An untested new title would have been at the low end, 350,000 or maybe even 300,000, and wouldn’t have been upped while it was losing money. Which issue was in print at the time the Writer’s Digest article was written? Possibly Mad #8, cover-dated Dec. 1953-Jan. 1954, or more likely #9 (Feb.-March 1954). That means that in four (or possibly three) issues Mad more than doubled its circulation. It’s unlikely that the print run increased significantly with #6, which would have gone to press before sales returns for #5 were fully in, so the press-run increase must have been steep on each of the next three issues. In that same article, Gaines says that “already there are 11 imitations on the newsstand.” He could have been making that number up (he once said that Atlas published 70 horror titles), but it’s an odd number to pick out of the air—and it happens to be correct (discounting the one-issue
late-bloomer Unsane and the mixed-bag Super Funnies). The problem is that the first issues of two of those imitators had a March 1954 cover date, three others an April 1954 cover date, while that of another was Feb. ’54. Yet the Writer’s Digest had time to produce its article and go to press with its February issue that quotes Gaines as saying that these were all “on the newsstand.” One factor at work here is the matter of newsstand display life, roughly calculated as the length of time from a magazine’s appearance on the stands to the month on the cover. It seems that comics had a much longer display life than magazines. Thus it’s entirely possible that those March and April issues appeared on the stands well before the February Writer’s Digest. Display life also complicates the issue of how fast other publishers caught on to Mad’s success. Data available suggests the display life of comic titles could vary from more than 120 days down to 30. Mad came out about 50 days before the first day of the month on the cover. If some other publishers had a longer display life than Mad, then, in real time, they followed Mad even more quickly than it appears. There’s also the question of how long it would take from the time a publisher decided to bring out a new title to the appearance of that title on the stands. Roy Thomas, based on his experience in the industry a decade later, has suggested that the absolute minimum would be four to five months. Given a month or so’s delay for full sales returns to come in, it seems Atlas and Charlton acted with top speed, which suggests that the data on Mad’s sales must have been spectacular. It’s also possible that preliminary data and/or anecdotal evidence from wholesalers was dramatic enough to spur action even before complete returns were in. But how is it that Whack beat other publishers by a full two months, apparently hitting the stands only a little over three months after Mad #5? My theory is this: in addition to the sales returns, Mad created a creative buzz among comics professionals from its very first issue. Kubert and Maurer were able to choose which comics they wished to produce for St. John, and their theory was that comics that interested them would interest their readers. Thus, when they saw Mad and were turned on by it, they started up their own version after seeing only the first three or four issues, considerably before sales reports pointed the way. I recently sent Joe Kubert a copy of a draft of this article, and he replied: “Your surmise [is] pretty much on the mark.”
Apartment 3-D Caricatures of (l. to r.) Kubert, Archer St. John, and Maurer in the “3-D-T’s” story from Whack #2. Thanks to Ken Quattro. [©2009 Joe Kubert & Estate of Norman Maurer.]
An Issue-By-Issue Look At Those Mid-1950s Mad Comics Imitators
The Three Stoges Topline: “America’s Favorite Funny Men” Publisher: St. John Publishing Co., 545 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
#6 (Aug 1954) “Banned in Boston” was a common expression at the time, because that city’s censors did prevent some magazines, films, etc., from being seen there. The Stooges’ line probably refers to the fact that EC’s Panic #1 (Feb.-March ’54) had been prohibited from distribution in the entire state of Massachusetts, presumably because of its “indecent” cover and contents. Apparently, the ripples of this were felt not only within the walls of EC’s offices. “Bringin’ Up Mama, Starring Saggie and Figgs.” Art by Norman Maurer [©2009 the respective copyright holders.] (signed “Beo McMaurer” in the style of George McManus). 5 pp. Comic strip parody of McManus’ comic strip Bringing Up Father. The absolute highpoint of all of Norman Maurer’s parodies is this stylisticly superb imitation of the newspaper perennial. Here “Jiggs” is thin and “Maggie” is fat, making it a bit more mean-spirited than the original. But that’s what parodies are all about.
The Jiggs Is Up! (Above & below:) Norman Maurer’s bang-up job parodying Bringing Up Father—including a panel set at the opera that tossed in a dig at Prince Valiant for good measure. For Harvey Kurtzman & Bernard Krigstein’s almost creepy lampoon of that once-popular comic strip in Mad #17, see the Cochran volumes of the complete Mad. [©2009 Joe Kubert & Estate of Norman Maurer.]
#7 (Oct. 1954) “The Crisco Keed.” Art by William Overgard. 9 pp. Comic strip parody of The Cisco Kid. The Cisco Kid was a film, radio, TV, comic strip, and Dell comic book series based on the fictional Western character created by O. Henry in his 1907 short story “The Caballero’s Way.” Jose Louis Salinas drew the well-respected newspaper strip version from 1951 to 1967, which was probably the major inspiration for this parody about “O. Hank’s Robin Hood of the Old West.” [©2009 the respective copyright holders.]
What Hath Kurtzman Wrought?
Ali Babble (Clockwise from above left:) The house ad from The Three Stooges #7 for its non-existent next issue—a piece of unpublished original art probably from that “Ali Baba” takeoff—and a (poorlyreproduced, alas) photo of Carl and Virginia Hubbell and their son from a 1949 newspaper that mentioned Hubbell’s upcoming Merrie Chase strip. Thanks to John Benson for the “Ali Bab-O” scans. [©2009 the respective copyright holders.]
Cooking With Cisco Another fine Overgard effort, from Three Stooges #7. The Cisco Kid radio show—but not, at least in any episode Ye Editor has been able to view recently, on the TV series—utilized, at the outset of each episodes, the exchange being parodied here: “Ceesko—the sheriff, he is getting closer!” “This way, Pancho—follow!” Crisco was then such a popular cooking ingredient that its ad tagline “Cooking with Crisco” was often used to refer to anybody who was really on the ball. [©2009 Joe Kubert & Estate of Norman Maurer.]
An Issue-By-Issue Look At Those Mid-1950s Mad Comics Imitators
CRAZY, WILD, & RIOT The World On Their Shoulders Next up is the trio of magazines from Martin Goodman. In 1954 the comics company that was known to most of its contributors as Timely (but to its readers as Atlas, after its self-owned distribution arm, symbolized by the tiny globe on its covers) was trying to reinvent itself for the umpteenth time. The horror craze was fading, just as crime and romance had. Westerns were still going strong, but Goodman was on the look-out for the next big thing. He was even trying to relaunch his three most successful super-heroes from the 1940s—Captain America, The Human Torch, and Sub-Mariner. When Mad came along, he jumped on the satire bandwagon as if he had never done anything else.
Stan Lee Or Not Stan Lee—That Is The Question In my opinion, many of these stories may have been written by editor Stan Lee; they have his gag-oriented flavor. Later, when Riot was revived in 1956, Lee signed a number of the stories, and they read much like the 1954 ones. Goodman and Lee launched Crazy with a December ’53 cover date—Wild joined it with a February ’54 date, and Riot #1 appeared two months after that. All were monthlies—and all were gone by August ’54. Riot stands out among the trio of Timely four-color parody titles because, as noted, it had two runs—one in 1954 and one (starting with #4) dated February 1956. Interestingly, the second run appears to have been produced after the three issues of Atlas’ black-&-white Mad magazine imitation Snafu, which was published during 1955-56. John Severin, who had contributed heavily to Snafu (as well as the early Mad), took Howard Post’s place as Riot’s #2 artist after Joe Maneely. Russ Heath, and Al Hartley had also departed, but Dan DeCarlo joined the group to create a nice roster. Knowing Goodman, the reason for Timely’s abandoning Snafu and going back to the comic book format must have been sales- or distribution- related. If they had stuck with Snafu and kept Severin working for them, that magazine might have taken the place of the later success Cracked. For some reason, the first two issues of the second run of Riot are among the hardest to find of any Mad wannabes. It took me more than four years to get both #4 and #5; this may be because #4 has an infinity cover and #5 features Marilyn Monroe, factors which make them of interest to more than one type of collector. One major question regarding this material is: did Stan Lee write any, many, or all of these stories as well as edit them? While working on a separate article for A/E, I developed a good feel for Lee’s work in the ’40s and ’50s. Generally, we can say that he signed all the stories he wrote between late 1951 and early 1954 and didn’t write any he didn’t sign (except for two, as I explain in an article Roy Thomas promises to run one very soon). If you total up all the signed stories, you find he wrote about ten stories a month during those years, after which the number of signed stories drops off sharply. This makes it entirely possible that Lee wrote all (or at least many) of the stories for the parody titles, but decided against signing them. [ED. NOTE: And see RT's personal comments on p. 39.] Or did he? When Riot restarted for its three-issue 1956 run, Lee
When Marvel Comics Were A Riot Stan Lee, early to mid-1950s, typing standing up on his patio, as was his wont (presumably during the warmer months only)—and his and Bill Everett’s splash page for their Lorna the Jungle Girl parody in Riot #6 in 1956. “Loona” is so close to the real thing, at least in terms of art, that some of its panels could virtually have been sneaked into an actual “Lorna” story without any changes! [Photo ©2009 Stan & Joan Lee; Riot page ©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
suddenly signed half the stories. Since Stan had proudly announced, in an introduction to Snafu #1 the year before, that he had written all 64 of its pages, perhaps he just didn’t feel like going back to not taking a byline. Which leaves us only with circumstantial evidence. I tried to identify some textual and contextual qualifiers of Lee’s style, but didn’t come up with many. I did find a disqualifier: all through his career Stan Lee wrote “thru” instead of “through.” That makes any story that contains the more common latter spelling less likely to have been written by him. Looking through these books, I found some stories of each type, as well as some that didn’t use the word at all. Finally, there are the so-called “job numbers.” Each Atlas story was assigned a job number when the script was ordered or paid out, which often gives us an insight into the order in which stories were drawn as well as written. Sometimes they can tell us which were left on the shelf or re-assigned after a title went under. From the job titles for the company’s Mad imitations, we can infer several things. Most of the stories were written close together in time. All the stories for Crazy #1-4 and Wild #1-3 were written before Riot #1 appears. It may well be that the contents of Riot #1 were intended for Crazy #5, most of
What Hath Kurtzman Wrought?
which was scripted later. Lee liked writing in spurts. If you go to the Atlas Tales website and click on his credits, you’ll see he rarely wrote just one story at a time during this period; he usually managed four to six in a row. Some of the yarns in these titles fit right into a sequence of signed stories for Millie the Model or My Friend Irma. So at least some of the parody tales could’ve been written by Lee and left unsigned. Some artists may have written their own stories, such as Bill Everett, who delivers a satirical horror story for most issues of Crazy, or Howie Post, who seems to have scripted his entries, since some of his contributions are intricately connected.
And A Cast Of Dozens But not only Stan Lee was fired up by this material. Many of the Timely/Atlas regulars took the chance to do something silly with both hands. Joe Maneely, who had already shown an aptitude for humor in some of his horror stories, filled page after page with Will Elder-style clutter (“chicken fat”), while developing a style completely his own. In Riot #6, he drew a parody of Dennis the Menace with Lee that worked out so well that Martin Goodman decided they should turn it into a regular comic book. Anybody For A Team-Up With Hopalong Mix? Together they produced seven issues of Melvin Two pages of layouts by Russ Heath for his “Rodger Autry” spoof . See next page for details. the Monster (or Dexter the Demon, as he was [©2009 Russ Heath.] rechristened in the final issue) in a cross between Maneely’s style and that of Dennis creator Hank vein for some of the 1958 Mad magazine imitations, including the early Ketcham. After that Lee & Maneely launched a newspaper strip called issues of Cracked. I believe he might have worked in this style for years, Mrs. Lyon’s Cubs in a similar style. Maneely also did more work in this had he not have died tragically in June 1958. Even in his most realistic work, Maneely had a cartoonist’s sense of design. The comics were also a chance for all the artists to draw beautiful women. This was true for Wallace Wood, Jack Davis, and Will Elder at Mad, but also for Joe Maneely and Al Hartley at Timely. Hartley had started out as a gag cartoonist with a good eye for pretty girls. After joining Timely/Atlas, he was mainly given “serious” work. His earliest work for the war books is so serious, it is hardly recognizable as his. Unlike Russ Heath, who drew good-looking females every chance he got, Hartley adjusted his style to what was needed; but when he got the opportunity, he really cut loose. The first issue of Crazy opens with “Tess Orbit, Lace Cadet” by Hartley, which seems mostly an excuse for the artist to draw a very pretty girl in a lace bodice and a tiger-skin bikini in almost every panel, reflecting someone’s analysis of the reason for Mad’s success. In the same issue is a Dave Berg story that also opens with a gorgeous girl in a bathrobe—I have to say, to much less effect. All in all, Hartley drew nine or ten stories for these books, eight of which feature these beauteous buxom ladies. Hartley may have wanted to be remembered for the religious comics he did later in life, but his main claim to fame will always be the beautiful women he drew for Atlas in the ’50s. The satirical content allowed for a degree of exaggeration that made them even more desirable. Any of these books with a Hartley story in it is worth owning. Russ Heath is another regular in these titles. In October 2006 I visited him in his home in Los Angeles and showed him a couple of his humor stories for these titles, which he hadn’t seen since they were first published. He was as surprised as I was to see how many visual references to Harvey Kurtzman were made in his stories. He knew Kurtzman then,
Wait’ll Mr. Wilson Gets A Load Of This Kid! Joe Maneely’s cover for Mevin the Monster #1 (July 1956). Thanks to Bob Bailey. [©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
An Issue-By-Issue Look At Those Mid-1950s Mad Comics Imitators
“The Mummy Walks.” Carl Burgos (unsigned). 4 pp. Horror parody. Job #E-319. Communist spies meet a giant mummy. The story reveals the Reds’ plans: (1) Blow up every country in the world. (2) Invade all those that are left. (3) Attack all the warmongers in hospitals and kindergartens. “The Men from Mars.” Howie Post (signed). 5 pp. Sci-fi parody. Job #E414.
attempt to parody the movie. The title is the same as the Bob Powell-drawn but probably Howard Nostrand-written story in Black Cat Mystery #50 (June 1954)—probably just the result of a too-obvious pun. Whether or not Post scripted this one, it’s easily his most accomplished contribution to these three series. White witch doctor Moe Gumbo goes to Africa to wipe out an epidemic of the jumpin’ gleeps and is almost eaten by the natives. When he returns to the States, having cured everyone, he is shot dead by his colleagues, who believe he himself is infected. For, you see, he glooped when he should have gleeped.
In this story about monkeys from Mars, Post proves his style is better suited to cartoon animals than to cartoon humans.
#7 (July 1954) Cover: Russ Heath (signed with initials on the cowboy’s boots). Western shoot-out.
“Tall in the Saddle.” Mort Drucker (signed). 5 pp. Western parody. Job #E-173.
“Hambo!” Carl Hubbell (signed). 5 pp. Movie parody. Job #E-621.
Not a movie spoof, though here again there’s a Gary Cooper caricature. Before landing his career-defining job as Mad magazine’s premier TV-and-movie parodist, Drucker worked as a not-so-impressive artist at Marvel and DC. His specialties were hastily drawn war and humor books. This story showcases his customary sloppiness, even though it may be categorized as his first satire work.
After Whack folded and St. John discontinued a number of titles, Carl Hubbell migrated to Timely/Atlas to draw a knockoff of “The Little Wise Guys,” a juvenile adventure series he’d drawn for Lev Gleason’s Daredevil, which was still running; “Bob Brant” ran for three issues in Man Comics before the title was discontinued. Hubbell must have picked up this job not long after that. If a caricature of John Wayne from the parodied film Hondo was intended, I don’t recognize it. Probably another case the writer taking the name, but not having seen the movie.
“Moe Gumbo.” Howie Post (unsigned). 4 pp. Movie parody. JoB #E-288. Mogambo was a successful 1953 African safari film directed by John Ford, starring Clark Gable and Grace Kelly (a remake of Gable’s 1930s hit Red Dust, which had co-starred Jean Harlow). This tale doesn’t make much of an
[©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
Bring Back Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of—Crazy In the mag’s 7th and final issue, Stan Lee and Russ Heath teamed up to go Hollywood—while Maneely went robotic. See Alter Ego #40 for a photo-studded interview with Russ Heath—and #28 for Doc V.’s extensive coverage of the life and career of Joe Maneely. [©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
What Hath Kurtzman Wrought?
“I Ain’t Mad.” 2-pp. text story. Job #E-600. Not a story about Stan Lee realizing that Atlas’ Mad imitations won’t stand up to the original, but a yarn about a man trying to prove he isn’t crazy. Again the writer spends a lot of time wondering about the origin of weird expressions like “It’s raining cats and dogs” and “kicking the bucket.” Two new unsigned illustrations by Carl Burgos. “Just Plain Harry’s Other Wife.” Al Hartley (signed). Soap opera parody. Job #E-487. A parody of the popular radio soaps Just Plain Bill and John’s Other Wife. No caricatures, just lots of beautiful buxom ladies. “Editor’s note: we are proud to announce that ‘Just Plain Harry’s Other Wife’ has just gotten an Oscar!! Yessir!! Oscar Klunk has been chosen to play the role of a lampshade in tomorrow’s episode!” “Tales from Aesop’s Stables.” Art by Howard Post. Illustrated rhyming horror story. 3 pp. Job #E-640. “As translated from the original ‘Cretin’ [a pun on ‘Latin,’ crossed with ‘Cretan’?] by Howardius Postus.” This time, the weirdly exaggerated drawings by Post actually have a function. “Hollywood Extra.” Script by Stan Lee, art by Russ Heath (both signed). 5 pp. Scandal parody. Job #E-565.
Wild Topline: “Shiver and Shake... Laugh and Quake!!!” Publisher: Interstate Publishing Company, 270 Park Avenue, New York, NY
#1 (Feb. 1954) Cover: Joe Maneely (signed). “Charlie Chin Meets Sleek Wiley.” Joe Maneely (signed). 5 pp. Charlie Chan parody. Job #D-653. Like most Atlas parodies, it is more of a general parody than specifically aimed at the novels, movies, radio-show, or comics featuring Earl Derr Biggers’ famed Oriental sleuth. At story’s end, a Dick Tracy/Fearless Fosdick type of detective comes to arrest Chan and puts him in the electric chair. “Rip van Stinkle.” Ed Winiarski (signed). 4 pp. Parody of Washington Irving’s classic story. Job #D-106. Compared to the “Charlie Chin” opener, this one is just dull... but at least there’s a story being told. The story of Rip van Stinkle, a man hated by everyone in his village. He drinks a dwarf ’s brew and sleeps for 200 years. When he returns, still no one will listen to him. “Ya expect sympathy from me? I got insomnia!”
[©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.] Stan Lee starts signing scripts for Crazy. Caspar Keyhole presents the secret story behind the glamour and the glitter of Hollywood. Caricatures of “Dr. Jackal and Mr. Hide.” Bill Everett (signed). 5 pp. Horror parody. Job Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis (as the comedy duo #D-685? Marvin & Loose), Gary Cooper, and Clark Gable stride the One of Everett funnier efforts, full of Mad-style “chicken fat”— Tinseltown streets. One of Heath’s best, in the style of his “Plastic background (and foreground) gags all over the place! In this takeoff Sam” in Mad. I don’t know if this is a parody of a particular TV on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. series or of a genre of magazines, but it works very well. Keyhole Hyde, Dr. Jackal wants to marry his dream girl, Marilyn Moneyrow. watches Jerry Loose make a print of his face in the wet cement in She doesn’t want him, so he concocts a secret formula (recipe: front of Growler’s Japanese Theatre, tries to interview Parafox onion soup, Limburger cheese, ice cream, formaldehyde, chocolate Pictures’ new star Marilyn Russell, watches swashbuckling actor sauce, gin and bitters, clam juice, stewed worms, and kerosene) to Error Flynn trying to unbuckle himself, and has an exciting turn himself into Mr. Hide—who’s such a hideous, horrible, ghastly, meeting with Darryl B. Barrel. After that he goes home and watches grisly, gruesome, fiendish fiend that she’ll be happy to marry Jackal! television. Only problem is—she likes Hide better! “Crazy’s Fun Page.” Dan DeCarlo (unsigned). One-page puzzles. Job “Don Chaotic.” New Sol Brodsky illustration (unsigned). 2-pp. text story. #E-566. Job #D-672. Will Elder didn’t do a puzzle page parody until Mad #19 in January “The Frozen North.” Brodsky (unsigned). 4-pp. Exploration parody. Job 1955, which means Atlas was first with this concept. The first gag #D-689. on this page, with the company director chasing his assistant through a maze, can only be by DeCarlo. There is also a caricature In history, Louise Arner Boyd (1887-1972), nicknamed “The Ice of Humphrey Bogart with the question: “Can you name this screen Woman,” was an American who repeatedly explored and star?” Answer: “Why should you? He’s already got a name!” photographed the Arctic Ocean. In 1928 she led an expedition to find the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who had disap“Robert the Robot!” Joe Maneely (signed on the robot’s behind). 4 pp. Scipeared while on a flying rescue mission to locate Italian explorer fi parody. Job #E-438. Umberto Nobile. Boyd traveled 10,000 miles across the Arctic Ocean, exploring from Franz Josef Land to the Greenland Sea; Maneely’s work just keeps getting better and better. How old was though she found no trace of Amundsen, she was awarded the this guy when he did this? 27? This story has everything: funny Chevalier Cross of the Order of Saint Olav by the Norwegian professors, sexy gals, silly gags, a robot with crackling energy, and a government. In 1931 she began a series of annual scientific expedicharacter taking of her mask to reveal who she really is. There is a tions to the Arctic. Her various expeditions explored Greenland’s crazy quiz at the end: “How many screen stars can you name who northeastern coast and glaciers, including the remote De Geer are robots? Here’s a hint: Robot Taylor, Robot Montgomery, and Glacier (a nearby area was later christened Louise Boyd Land). In Robot Wagner!”
What Hath Kurtzman Wrought?
EH!/ From Here To Insanity Out In The Boondocks Eh! was publisher Charlton’s entry in the Mad imitations sweepstakes. For its first ten issues (including a title change to From Here to Insanity with #8), the book was packaged for them from New York City by industry mainstay Al Fago. He probably also wrote the letters page, where his name appears. The first three issues are chockful of Dick Ayers’ always-interesting art; but with #4, suddenly there is a new artist in town, Fred Ottenheimer, who Jim Amash informs me had drawn humor for Timely in the 1940s. The quality of the art takes a huge drop. Though some of the later parodies are more on target than earlier ones, the later issues of Eh! are still a lot less interesting. Fred Ottenheimer crossed paths with Harvey Kurtzman, when he did a children’s puzzle book called Playtime Speller for the Kunen Company, at the same time Kurtzman and visiting French artist René Goscinny did a couple of children’s story books with puzzle pieces (not together, though). Later in his career Ottenheimer returned to children’s books. Most issues of Eh! have black-&-white inside covers with rather uninspired ad parodies. In 1997 America’s Comics Group of St-Laurent, Quebec, Canada, reprinted #2 (minus the insidecover ad parodies) in b&w as “Eh! #1”—though utilizing, for some reason, the cover of issue #4. The reprinting was done from the original proofs. For the fan who wants to taste rather than have it all, it is a good place to start.
The brilliant Dr. Baloney (he removes a patient’s Adam’s apple with a pool cue) has troubles everywhere. He finally resolves them by shooting everyone. At one point he listens to the radio, because radio solves everyone’s problems. But there is just one radio soap opera after another. Which is appropriate, because this is a parody of Young Dr. Malone, a long running radio soap-opera about a doctor, his wife and children, and his associates at the hospital. YDM was sponsored by Proctor and Gamble, and was the last original soap on radio, finally being cancelled on Nov. 25, 1960. Ayers shows his aptitude for this type of work. I used to think his style was a bit too over the top, but it’s grown on me. “The House of Whacks!” Art by Lou Morales (signed). 7 pp. Horror parody. Morales was a weird but capable artist who mainly worked for Charlton in the ’50s, and this is not his best work. Most of the art looks as if drawn with a pen in a kid’s school agenda. “Awakening.” 2-pp. text story. “Eh-h! A Puzzle Page!!!” Art by Dick Ayers (signed). One page. Puzzle page parody. “Name the singer and the song.” A tall man with a pipe is caricatured in the snow singing: “Bububa Boo Bububa Boooooo, nothing bothers me... nothing.” Know the answer yet? Hint: his initials are Bing Crosby. We wouldn’t have had to tell anybody that in 1953. Probably the first puzzle page in a Mad imitation.
[©2009 the respective copyright holders.]
Because it had a habit of publishing just about anything it could lay its hands on, in order to keep its printing presses running, Charlton would, a few years later, put out the best Mad magazine imitation ever—Humbug. The b&w Humbug was created by Harvey Kurtzman, Al Jaffee, and Arnold Roth after the debacle when their slick Playboy-funded full-color satire magazine Trump folded. Going with the cheapest publisher at the cheapest size, they produced some of the best-looking and most hardhitting satire of the ’50s and ’60s, before going under after 12 issues. The entire run of this wonderful magazine has just been reprinted in a musthave edition by Fantagraphics, with pages 1½ times the size of those in the original mags, in a slipcase with great new cover art by Al Jaffee and superb notes by John Benson and Gary Groth. Go to Amazon.com and order yours today! Now, on to an issue-by-issue breakdown of the contents of Eh!:
Eh! Topline: “Dig This Crazy Comic!” Publisher: Charlton Comics, Derby, Connecticut
#1 (Dec. 1953) Cover: Dick Ayers (signed). “The Shave of Champions.” Art by Dick Ayers (unsigned). B&w ad parody on inside front cover. “Young Dr. Baloney!” Art by Dick Ayers (unsigned). 6 pp. Radio show parody.
“Frontier Scout!” Art by Dick Ayers (signed “done by Dick”). 8 pp. Mounties parody.
“What Does ‘Eh’ Mean?” Fake letters page. This page identifies Al Fago as editor. Several contributors write in to ask what Eh! means, among them an art dealer, an artist called Marvin Morales, and a writer: “Where oh where did you get the various stories from your first issue? I’m going to frame my advance copy. Nothing can top it. Don’t ever change your type of humor. It’s very rare nowadays. And whatever you do—don’t imitate other magazines of the same kind. Enclosed is my dollar for twelve issues. Best of luck. Ted Sturdevans, Bronx, N.Y.” The editor answers: “Don’t worry, Ted. We are not copying ANYONE! Humor is universal, but being successful at it ISN’T! EH [sic] comics is going to be a droll collector’s item.” At least it was to be the longestrunning of all Mad’s four-color imitators. “Buck Hodges in the 26th Century!” Art by Dick Giordano (signed). 4 pp. Comic strip parody. Giordano was a staff artist at Charlton at this point. He has never mentioned working on Eh! His style looks a bit like that of Sol Brodsky, with one or two Wally Wood swipes thrown in. Some readers may like the science-fiction aspect, especially the splash panel with Buck flying through the air. But it soon turns into just another silly science-fiction story. It’s like serious actors trying their hand at comedy. Too much silliness, not enough restraint. “That’s How TV Was Born!!” Art by Dick Ayers (signed). 3 pp. Wrestling parody.
An Issue-By-Issue Look At Those Mid-1950s Mad Comics Imitators
“Eh! Look!” The cast of artists in Eh! #1 consisted of Dick Ayers, Dick Giordano, and Lou Morales. See A/E #31 & 35 for interviews with (and photos of) Ayers and Giordano, respectively. And we’d print a pic of Lou Morales if we had one! [©2009 the respective copyright holders.]
“Stop Smoking!” Art by Dick Ayers (unsigned). Black-&-white ad parody on inside back cover. “You can stop tobacco shivers, tobacco bad breath, tobacco quivers, tobacco itch, athlete’s foot, Poisonous Harold Teen and tobacco tobacco. You will lose the desire to smoke in one minute! Mail coupon now! I will pay the postman nothing for this marvelous offer: .45 Colt pistol—steelrolled—moisture packed—and my troubles will be over.” The Mafia crowd that Charlton reputedly had nothing to do with will have laughed its heads off. “Sontiac Six.” Art by Dick Ayers (unsigned). Ad parody. Black-&-white, back cover.
What Hath Kurtzman Wrought?
#2 (Feb. 1954) Cover: Dick Ayers (signed “Ayers”) The inside cover states: “Designed by Al Fago Studios.” “Paradise Gained!” Art by Dick Ayers (signed Ayers). 7 pp. Horror parody. “Little Artie’s Scouts!” Art by Dick Ayers (unsigned). 5 pp. Television parody. A takeoff on Arthur Godfrey’s popular TV talent show. (See Whack #2 entry above.) “Strikes and Eh!-rrors.” Letter page. Letters from “Ima Nut” from Greenview, NC, and “Just a plain housewife” from New York. “The News Must Go On!” Art by Dick Ayers (unsigned). 2 pp. Radio parody. “The Great Discovery.” 2-pp. text story.
“The Four Mosquitoes!” Art by Dick Ayers (signed “Ayers”). 7 pp. Genre parody. “Eh!’s Wails!” Art by Dick Ayers (signed). Puzzle page. “Squeeeezerama in 5-D!” Art by Dick Ayers (signed). 6 pp. Movie gimmick parody. In 1954 you were either doing 3-D comics or doing a parody of them. This one is different, because it doesn’t use any of the 3-D or Cinerama effects it’s supposed to be spoofing.
NOTE: The company symbol has been cut off the particular cover being repro’d.
“The Case of the Gorilla [©2009 the respective copyright holders.] Caper!” Art by Dick Ayers (signed). One page. Who-done-it. “Electro-cuter Fat Reducer.” Artist unknown. Ad parody. Inside back cover, b&w. “What Made Milwaukee Change Its Mind?” Artist unknown. Ad parody, back cover, b&w.
#3 (April 1954) Cover: Artist unknown “Sure Cure for Money Headaches.” Artist unknown. Ad parody. Inside front cover, b&w. “Mutilated Knee on the Botany!” Art by Dick Ayers (unsigned). 8 pp. Book parody. A spoof of the novel made even more famous by its 1935 movie version. The main character of Mr. Griston (“Mr. Christian” in the original) is “played” by a Clark Gable type. On the letters page they call it a “classics satire.” “Does Masey’s Tell Jimbel’s?” Art by Dick Ayers (signed “Ayers”). 7 pp.
When Buckles Got Swashed Dick Ayers’ splash page for Eh! #2. Thanks to Ramon Schenk. [©2009 the respective copyright holders.]
[©2009 the respective copyright holders.]
The department store wars, taking off on the once-common expression “Does Macy’s Tell Gimbel’s?,” based on two famous retailers located near each other in Manhattan. The latter store and its eventual chain, of course, no longer exist.
“I’d Pick Up Anything That Came Along, Since I Was Anxious To Work” Part I Of A Colorful Conversation With Golden Age Artist FRANK BOLLE Interview Conducted by Jim Amash
Transcribed by Brian K. Morris
NTRODUCTION: One thing for sure: Frank Bolle’s work sure turned up in a lot of places—some expected, some not. A real workhorse who started off working with Leonard Starr and the Funnies, Inc. shop, where he did some “Sub-Mariner,” “Captain America,” and “Human Torch” stories, Frank’s art also appeared at Crown Comics, Camera Comics, Fawcett, DC, Feature, Timely (and Marvel), Dell, and Gold Key (where he drew Dr. Solar, Man of the Atom), among other companies. His best work may have been done for Magazine Enterprises, where he drew the Tim Holt comic and its Redmask revamp. Frank’s work in newspaper syndication ranges from
Winnie Winkle to On Stage, Gil Thorpe, Encyclopedia Brown, Debbie Deere, Tarzan, Rip Kirby, The Heart of Juliet Jones, to today’s Apartment 3-G. If that’s not enough for you, there’s his Boy’s Life series, advertising work, book illustration, and fine art, much of which you can check out at www.frankbollestudio.com. Of course, Frank’s still at the drawing board on Apartment 3-G, and continues to paint in his spare time. “Spare time”? Hard to believe you have much of that, Frank—though you did manage to fit this interview into your busy schedule, for which we all thank you. —Jim.
“I’d Find [Pencils] On The Street” JIM AMASH: I’m going to ask you my standard beginning questions, like when and where were you born, and what got you interested in art? FRANK BOLLE: I was born June 23rd, 1924, in Brooklyn. As for drawing, well, I guess it just came just from being alone so much as a kid. I was so poor, I only had one parent, and I couldn’t even afford baby fat. [Jim laughs] My mother went off to work every day, and I was left with either neighbors or friends, which meant that I was left in some pretty crummy places, and was alone most of the time. And if I found a piece of paper and pencils—since I never had toys—I would just draw things that I saw. It sort-of came naturally, and that’s what kept me busy. I started drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil; I guess about fourish. The good part was that my mother never had to scold me to put my toys away. I couldn’t put them in a chest because I didn’t have any. [mutual chuckling] But I felt fortunate since I always could find pencils. In my day, you didn’t have fancy ballpoint things. Pencils were always yellow, and I’d find them on the street, in the hallway, in the school. There’d always be a pencil lying around on the floor, so I always had one to draw with. The art supplies came very easily.
Holt That Pose! Frank Bolle (seen above in a 2007 photo), and his dynamic cover for Magazine Enterprises’ Tim Holt #23 (March 1952), which also sports a photo of Western film star Tim Holt—whose father, Jack Holt, was also a mostlyWestern actor. Tim’s most celebrated film roles were in Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1944) and John Huston’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)—but his series of RKO cowboy movies in the late ’40s and early ’50s were better than the average horse operas. Thanks to Anthony DeMaria & Michaël Dewally for the photo [©2009 the respective copyright holders.]
“I’d Pick Up Anything That Came Along, Since I Was Anxious To Work”
In elementary school, we had one day a month where kids drew turkeys that we copied for Thanksgiving, or a pumpkin, or a Santa Claus face, or something like that. But when I got into junior high school, we would have one period a week for an art class. We didn’t do anything special there except copy things, and most of the kids weren’t really interested in art. It was more like “art appreciation.” The teacher took me aside one time and asked, “When you graduate from junior high, what high school are you going to?” I said, “Just the local school, Bushwick High, where everybody else goes.” She said, “You should go to the High School of Music and Art.” I guess she saw something in me. I didn’t even know where the school was. I’d never even heard of it. She got the application for me. Then, after I filled it out—I was what, thirteen, fourteen years old—she got someone to take me there. I took a test and was accepted. Within the first few months, I met Leonard Starr, and we wound up in the same art class. We had math and history classes together, too. We were very similar types of people. We both had a sense of humor, we were the best in the class, and we didn’t compete against each other. We’d kid around, and have lunch together in the lunchroom, and took the same train home. He got off at 14th Street and Union Square, and I just kept going to Brooklyn. We’d ride on the subway together. Some mornings Leonard and a couple of other guys would be on the platform, and they’d come in and we’d sit together, or mostly stand, because that was the busy hour. And when we were high school seniors, we double-dated. I drew comics, but only for myself. I wrote and drew science-fiction stories in a sketchbook over the weekend, and on Monday my art buddies in class would say, “What did you do this weekend?” You know, they were following the story I was making, so I’d have to hand my sketchbook around. I think I was first influenced by Milton Caniff ’s Terry and the Pirates. By accident, I saw some neighbor had the New York Journal-American, which had Flash Gordon in it. I couldn’t afford to buy the newspaper, so
they saved the funnies for me every week. I began reading Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, The Phantom, and Prince Valiant. After high school, I went to Pratt Institute for about six months, and was inducted into the Army Air Corps in 1943. The only flying I did was observation flying, but I didn’t fly, myself. I was a camouflage technician. I hid things. [mutual chuckling] I hid the planes, and I hid installations. I’d have to fly up with the pilot and observe whether the stuff was hidden well, or if there were objects left in places that didn’t matter, where the enemy would think there was something there and waste bombs on it. That sort of thing.
“We Went Off The Cliff” JA: Did you do any artwork in the service? BOLLE: Only for myself. For instance, we’d be on a march or something, and we’d take five and smoke if you have them. I never smoked, so I took out my little sketchpad and drew the guys. Mostly, I was camouflaging installations and things like that. The first few months after my discharge in ’46, I was recuperating because I’d been in the hospital for four months. I was in a terrible accident in Okinawa. The driver and I were on a mountain road, and he made a turn, and there was no road there. We went off the cliff. I don’t know how many hours I was unconscious, but I heard somebody moaning in pain, and that’s what woke me up. And then I realized it was me that was moaning. [mutual chuckling] JA: Did this happen at night? I know sometimes, when they were driving at night, you weren’t allowed to turn your lights on. BOLLE: No, it was in daylight, and it was right after a typhoon, so a lot of roads were in bad condition. I don’t know how long I was there, but luckily, another car came by with some guys from our outfit and they saw me down the cliff. I was all wedged between rocks, and I had a broken jaw and my whole right side was covered in blood. And one of the big guys from our outfit picked me up like a kid, [chuckles] and carried me up the hill. They took me to a MASH outfit, where they put me on a stretcher, and laid me on the floor because they had to wait for a doctor to show up. The colonel doctor looked down at me and said, “Gee, I don’t know what I can do with that.” My heart sank because I couldn’t feel anything. I thought I’d lost part of my jaw because there was no sensation. Even when I felt around with my tongue, I couldn’t feel anything. But then some doctor—I think it was a dentist—came in and looked at me. He tapped the inside of my mouth with a tongue depressor. He started making noises where I didn’t have any feelings, so then I realized I didn’t lose my whole jaw. They wired my teeth together, but without X-rays, so I never had a very straight jaw again. And the rest of the stuff, they had to—oh, they pumped me with penicillin, which was brand new in those days. My whole right side was like raw skin from going down a cliff on rocks and everything. They couldn’t really bandage it, but they kept giving me penicillin. It was so strong that it was painful; I could feel the penicillin being pumped in and could taste it in my mouth. They did that like every couple of hours, night and day. Once I started healing, they said since the war was over, they couldn’t keep me there. There was no milk—no real milk to have, which I needed because I was on a liquid diet.
No Flash In The Pan As a youth, Frank read Alex Raymond’s influential Flash Gordon comic strip. As an adult, he would draw the hero for King Features’ own line of comic books, as per this splash from King Comics’ Flash Gordon #2 (1966). Thanks to Michaël Dewally. [©2009 King Features Syndicate, Inc.]
They flew me and a bunch of other guys back to the States. I was up in Utica General Hospital for about four months. When I was finally all better, I was shipped down to Fort Dix [New Jersey], where I got my discharge. For the first couple of months, I didn’t do much of anything, and then I got in touch with Leonard, who was drawing some comics.
A Colorful Conversation With Golden Age Artist Frank Bolle
“The Paper Just Reeked Of [Kirby’s Cigar Smoke]” JA: Do you remember ever doing any work for a company called Kirby Publishing? This would have been in the late ’40s, early ’50s. There were two editors, and one of them, I know you know. One of them was a guy named John Augustin, and the other was Tex Blaisdell. Anything about this company come to mind? BOLLE: I don’t remember Kirby Publishing, but I know I did something for Simon & Kirby, briefly, because it was the only time I quit something. It was because of Kirby’s pages. I went to see Joe Simon, who liked my work and said, “We need someone to ink this Jack Kirby story,” and handed it to me. Kirby must have been smoking cigars constantly, and the paper just reeked of it. Those pages were under my nose while I inking it, and it was making me cranky. It was changing my personality, and I kept saying, “I can’t work.” So it got to be a big joke when I told people that I quit. And they said, “You quit? You just quit?” I finished the job, but I wouldn’t take any more work from them, because I said, “I’m not going to work while I’m inhaling all this smelly paper and it‘s making me cranky and everything.” [Jim laughs] That was the big joke that went around, that I would quit because I couldn’t stand the smell of the paper. But it was true! It was awful. It smelled like the penciler soaked the paper in tobacco smoke! Tex Blaisdell made a big joke out of it. He said, “This guy quit inking Jack Kirby because he couldn’t stand the smell of the paper.” You know that I never smoked. When I was in the service, I could have gotten all the cigarettes I wanted for free; they were giving them away. It just was something that didn’t appeal to me. I’m glad now, because I probably would have gotten second-hand smoke from working on those pages. [laughter] It just reeked unbelievably. I had to wash my hands after doing one or two stories for them, but then I said, “No, that’s it. I’m not doing any more.” JA: What was Tex like? I’ve heard a variety of opinions on him.
You’ve Really Got A Holt On Me Tim Holt (on the left in photo) in a publicity still done for his popular RKO Westerns—juxtaposed with a Bolle splash from Tim Holt #31 (Aug.-Sept. 1952), in the days before Holt’s comic book incarnation first donned a crimson bandanna. The Redmask persona was perhaps an unconscious nod to a fellow Magazine Enterprises cowboy-movie licensee, The Durango Kid. Thanks to James Zanotto for the “Kiowa” scan. In the films, Tim had a pal named Chito (full name: Chito Jose Gonzales Bustamonte Rafferty!), played by Richard Martin, seen on right in photo—and caricatured with Holt on the “Doom Trail!” splash. Despite his exaggerated accent, Chito, who appeared in some of the early comics stories, was less stereotyped than most Mexican sidekicks of the day. Photo and “Doom Trail!” art are repro’d from comics published by Bill Black’s AC Comics. Many “Tim Holt/Redmask” and “Durango Kid” stories originally published by Vin Sullivan’s ME have been reprinted by AC Comics, some in its revival of ME’s Best of the West title. For a list of AC’s many mags still available, check out its website at accomics.com. [“Doom Trail!” splash ©2009 AC Comics.]
BOLLE: Yes, he was. He did a lot of drinking. I never saw him without a cigarette or without a drink in his hand. JA: Around 1949, ’50, I have you as working for St. John Publications, doing adventures and romance. BOLLE: I remember working for them, but I don’t remember too much about it. I did a John Wayne comic book, for Toby Press. I got to know the editor, Mel Lazarus, then, and later on when I’d meet him at the National Cartoonists meetings. I was even at his house one time when I was doing some stuff for him when he was living in Sheepshead Bay, I think. JA: In 1954, I have you working for a company called Story Comics. You were doing covers for The Masked Ranger. [chuckles] Sounds like a version of The Lone Ranger, doesn’t he?
BOLLE: He was funny. He was very tall. I don’t remember exactly where I met him, but he was a friend of Leonard’s, and he knew so many people that I knew so I got to know him socially, too. When Leonard was doing On Stage, I was working with him and Tex. I was penciling. We used Tex as a cowboy character in the story for a while, so we took pictures of Tex for reference. I knew his wife and family, too, because he would throw a party every once in a while.
JA: Yes, I’ve got you starting there in ’48.
JA: Leonard described him as being sad towards the end.
BOLLE: That sounds right. Ray Krank, the editor, hired me. I brought in
“I Drew Tim Holt For The Next Few Years” BOLLE: You don’t have any mention of working for Magazine Enterprises? I thought I started at Magazine Enterprises earlier.
Harvey Kurtzman, Two-Fisted Tales #22, July 1951. [©2009 William M. Gaines Agent, Inc.]
Kurtzman’s cover drawing for the Guide to Camp Maxey Texas booklet, 1945 [©2009 the respective copyright holders.]
Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt!
Introduction by Michael T. Gilbert In past issues, the Dutch comics scholar Ger Apeldoorn (see pp. 4 ff. in this very issue!) has shared little-seen Harvey Kurtzman art with us, including Varsity Magazine illustrations unseen since they were originally published in the late ’40s. Now he has uncovered some exceptionally rare cartoons that Kurtzman drew in the military, long before he created Mad. Take it away, Ger…
“Lost” Kurtzman: The War Years! by Ger Apeldoorn
arvey Kurtzman was a pack rat.
For most of his life he kept the originals, rough sketches, and tear sheets for all of his published pieces. His habit of hoarding everything proved quite helpful when super-fan Glenn Bray assembled his exhaustive Illustrated Harvey Kurtzman Index in 1976. Still, even Kurtzman didn’t keep every scrap of paper, so the guide has inevitable gaps. Mr. Monster was kind enough to reprint rare examples of Kurtzman’s earliest satirical pieces for Varsity Magazine in Alter Ego #33 & #34. This time around, I’ve discovered some Kurtzman pieces so unique they’re not even mentioned in the Kurtzman index! But first, let’s backtrack a bit….
Harvey Kurtzman’s career in comics started in 1939, when he sold a gag to Tip Top Comics #36 for a dollar. By late 1942, the 18-year-old cartoonist was working as an apprentice to Louis Ferstadt, drawing strips for Prize and Ace. “Black Venus,” “Mr. Risk,” and “Lash Lightning” all feature Kurtzman’s solo art, but most fans consider these early works to be less important. When we see him next, his style seems fully developed. So where did he learn to draw like that?
(Left:) “Murphy’s Mess Boy” from Ace Periodicals’ Four Favorites #8 (Dec. 1942). Art by Harvey Kurtzman & Louis Ferstadt. (Above:) Kurtzman’s “Lash Lightning” splash from Four Favorites #9 (Feb. 1943) [©2009 the respective copyright holders.]
“Lost” Kurtzman: The War Years
(Above:) “Pvt. Brown, Knows,” drawn by Kurtzman in 1944 for The Camp Sutton Carry-All. [©2009 the respective copyright holders.] (Right:) “Yankee Ingenuity,” Maxey Times, May 25, 1945. [©2009 Maxey Times.]
In all likelihood, it was in the Army. After looking around, I’ve discovered some facts about Kurtzman’s military career. Exactly when he enlisted is unknown, but in early 1944 he was transferred to Camp Sutton in Sutton, North Carolina, a training camp for Army engineers. Kurtzman, however, stayed for more than the requisite six weeks. We know this because he drew a strip for the camp newspaper, the Camp Sutton Carry-All, titled Pvt. Brown, Knows, as in “brownnose,” slang for someone who kisses up to the boss! The single-tier strip featured gags about new recruits not unlike Kurtzman himself. I could only find ten of the seventeen or so strips, copied for me from the brittle original papers by a kind local librarian. Here he is about halfway into his later style—still funny, but his characters aren’t as lively as they would become later. In July 1945, all recruits moved elsewhere when Camp Sutton became a German Prisoner-of-War camp. Kurtzman probably went with them shortly before it closed, though I haven’t discovered where. We next see his art in spring 1945 at Camp Maxey, a training camp in Paris, Texas. I tried tracking down the camp newspaper for that period and found a bound set in the town’s junior high school. Unfortunately, the librarian claimed it was too fragile to be used for research, so I did mine from Holland through the Internet instead. Long-distance research can yield great results, but does have its limits. Thankfully, I found a microfiche run of the strip, which the Texas Historical Society mailed me on loan. Though I originally thought Kurtzman might have been the lead illustrator for the Maxey Times, only a few of his illustrations appeared, including two sports cartoons and a full-page “Victory Suggestions from Camp Maxey,” as well as an article about the Guide to Camp Maxey. The main Maxey Times artist turned out to be Lt. Frank Interlandi, brother of cartoonist Phil Interlandi (a
[Shazam! heroes, Superman, & Lois Lane TM & ©2009 DC Comics; Magicman TM & ©2009 the respective trademark & copyright holders; other art ©2009 Howard Bender. Colors by Walt Grogan.]
The Power Of Schaffenberger! Mark Voger & Howard Bender On One Of Comics’ Most Talented Gentlemen Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck [FCA EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION: A year and a half before his death in 1989, Captain Marvel artist C.C. Beck wrote, during one of our correspondences: “Kurt Schaffenberger is a very talented artist, and came closer than anyone else to drawing the Marvel Family in their original forms. Kurt has a great sense of humor, loves to tell dialect jokes, and was quite a musician on the ‘squeeze box’ (accordion) in the old days when we got together at each other’s houses.” Here, in the first of our double-feature on “Schaff,” Mark Voger, author of Hero Gets Girl! The Life and Art of Kurt Schaffenberger explores some of those Fawcett get-togethers with Dorothy Schaffenberger, wife of the revered comic book artist, as she takes us back to the couple’s newlywed years. In the second section, comics artist Howard Bender shares with FCA readers some of his favorite “Kurt Anecdotes” from his time as Schaffenberger’s friend/colleague/liaison. I was fortunate to meet the genial Schaffenberger on Memorial Day 1995 in Woodbridge, New Jersey, where the artist’s retorts to my usual numerous Fawcett-related questions yielded a polite “I don’t know, Paul—it was just a job!” response. While he passed away in early 2002, FCA continues to be home for the memory of the clean storytelling style and the warm, lighthearted, human approach which was that of one of comics’ finest and most devoted craftsmen: Kurt Schaffenberger. —P.C. Hamerlinck.]
The Invincible Schaffenbergers (Above:) Kurt and Dorothy Schaffenberger tied the knot on March 30, 1946. Their wedding was held at St. Paul’s Chapel in Englewood, NJ. Dorothy’s matron of honor was Ione Binder, wife of prolific Marvel Family writer Otto Binder. Kurt’s old boss, Jack Binder, and fellow Binder Shop artist Ken Bald, were both part of the wedding party. [Photo courtesy of Dorothy Schaffenberger; scan courtesy of Mark Voger.] (Left:) Kurt and Dorothy (or characters greatly resembling them) team up with Ibis and Taia in the “Ibis the Invincible” story from Whiz Comics #87 (July 1947). Schaffenberger occasionally drew likenesses of his wife and himself into comic book stories for Fawcett and other companies. [Ibis the Invincible TM & ©2009 DC Comics.]
Get-Togethers In Fawcett Heaven by Mark Voger
he way Dorothy Schaffenberger tells it, FCA readers could be in Fawcett Heaven by hopping a time machine to the late 1940s in northern New Jersey.
That’s when, and where, many of the movers and shakers behind Captain Marvel and company gathered for intimate little get-togethers after the work week to blow off steam—and to keep thoughts of World War II at a comfortable distance. Dorothy is the widow of the late, great Kurt Schaffenberger, who illus-
FCA [Fawcett Collectors Of America]
the oven; one would roll out the dough; one would decorate. By the end of the evening, we had all of our holiday cookies done.” Kurt and Dorothy met in 1941, shortly after Kurt entered the comics field after graduating from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Kurt had been working at the Jack Binder “shop” in Englewood, New Jersey—a studio that provided artwork to comic book publishers, including Fawcett Publications. Kurt and a fellow Pratt alum, Nat Champlin, became roommates at a boarding house in Englewood. As Dorothy recalled: “The woman who rented the room, Mrs. Bogert, was my mother’s best friend. Well, Nat wanted to meet some ‘babes.’ That was just male talk in those days—you didn’t call women babes to their
Beck’s Rookin’ New Year Captain Marvel artist C.C. Beck typed up this program for one of the Fawcett gang’s New Years’ Eve parties, which included a play written by Otto Binder and featuring Kurt Schaffenberger as “Father Time,” Beck as “the Old Year,” one-time opera singer (later comics writer) Carl Formes as “another Old Year,” and Dorothy Schaffenberger “as the New Year Babe,” (“supported” by Beck’s wife Hildur). The flipside of the program is a menu, with a “Schaffenburger” as one listed item of cuisine. This relic was dug up by P.C. Hamerlinck from among his original Beck file material.
trated the adventures of Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel, Ibis the Invincible, and their colorful cohorts. Kurt died in 2002 at age 81. Dorothy now lives in Maryland near her daughter, Susan Kelly, where she is enjoying her six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. “There’s never a dull moment around here,” Dorothy said with a laugh. She fondly recalls those days after the war when she and Kurt would get together on the weekends with other Fawcett creators and their wives: C.C. and Hilda Beck; Jack and Olga Binder; Otto and Ione Binder; Pete and Agnes Riss; Charlie and Audrey Tomsey. “Almost every Saturday night,” Dorothy said. “It was wonderful. Newly after Kurt and I were married, none of us had too much money. What we would do is, we’d go bowling and then go back to different houses; we’d take turns hosting. The guys would play cards—sometimes Hilda Beck would play with them—and the girls would do hand work.” Doing that hand work (such as crafts, clothing, even making lampshades) among friends eased the drudgery for the young women. “It was the best at Christmastime,” Dorothy said. “Each woman would make one or two batches of cookie dough. We usually met at Ione Binder’s. The boys would be off bowling; it’s a wonder they didn’t get a ticket on the way home. We all had assignments. One of us would work
Unknown But Known Artist A “Nemesis” Adventures into the Unknown cover for issue #165 (June-July 1966) by Schaffenberger (under his “Lou Wahl” non de plume). Schaff-fans can now rejoice in the release of Dark Horse’s Nemesis Archives and Magicman Archives. The artist co-created both super-heroes under the auspices of Richard E. Hughes, the American Comics Group editor who employed Schaffenberger for more than a decade, beginning in 1955. The introduction to both volumes designates Pete Costanza—not Schaffenberger—as the characters’ co-creator with Hughes—a claim for which many would be anxious to see the research. Schaffenberger biographer Mark Voger comments: “While a quibble over creator credit for these admittedly minor characters may not reach the heights of the Bob Kane/Bill Finger debate, I will say this about Schaffenberger with supreme confidence: he was never one to exaggerate his accomplishments.” [©2009 respective copyright owners.]
FCA [Fawcett Collectors Of America]
My Kurt Anecdotes by Howard Bender
MY FIRST MEETING The first time I met Kurt was autumn 1974. It was my first job interview at DC Comics, at its old Lexington Ave. offices. Jack Alder, DC Comics production manager, was showing me around the bullpen and introduced me to Kurt, who at the time was standing at a table looking over some pages of art. As I recall, he was a tall, well-groomed man with a pencil mustache and a loud green plaid sports jacket, ascot, beret, and a long ivory cigarette holder. I swear he looked just like Mr. Tawny from Shazam!—but without the tiger’s head. Years later, as I recalled our first meeting, Kurt had this take: “Bender, I may have had the plaid sports jacket, but never the ascot and beret, and never a tiger’s head.” Hmm, my mistake: it must have been the real Mr. Tawny I met that day!
LOIS LANE, NUDE REPORTER Kurt penciled or inked two pages of comic book art a day, and his schedule took him into Manhattan twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The days in New York City were spent delivering and picking up work for DC Comics in the morning, and in the afternoons, at his desk at the ACG (American Comics Group) editorial offices. It was there where he worked on covers and special Custom Comics comic book assignments. Around 1972, when the ACG/Custom Comics worked slowed down, Kurt took the extra time to sit in on some life drawing classes at the Art Students League on West 57th St. and Broadway. Using nude female models, Kurt masterfully did each beautifully drawn study on gray paper with black and white conte crayon. Amazingly enough, each bears an uncanny resemblance to Lois Lane.
Fashion Statement “…a loud green plaid sports jacket …” Schaffenberger art for the Mr. Tawny entry in Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #15 (May 1986). [©2009 DC Comics.]
written by editor Richard E. Hughes and illustrated by Kurt Schaffenberger. Talk about your oddball stories! This one has the frontier hero, almost dead from the Battle of the Alamo, drinking from a fountain of youth that allows him to live on to fight in every major American war, up to and including World War II, where he dies heroically and then decomposes into a clump of smoldering bones. This hard-to-come-by comic book took me the better part of two years to find. The funny part about the whole two-year journey was that the artist who drew this amazingly weird story was right there the whole time, and neither one of us knew it! At the time, Kurt and I did many comic book shows appearances together, where I’d search for Crockett comics for my collection.
THE DAVY CROCKETT MYSTERY SOLVED ACG’s Forbidden Worlds #39 gave us “The Davy Crockett Mystery!,”
“Could You Hand Me Your Cape, Superman?”
King of the Wild Frontier
In the early ’70s, Schaffenberger took time to sit in on life drawing classes at the Art Students League on West 57th St. and Broadway in NYC. Each piece he produced there bore an uncanny resemblance to the Man of Steel’s gal, Lois Lane. [©2009 Estate of Kurt Schaffenberger.]
Schaffenberger drew this sketch of coonskin-capped hero Davy Crockett for Howard Bender, who had searched earnestly and eventually located the “Crockett” story in ACG’s Forbidden Worlds #39 … drawn by none other than Kurt Schaffenberger. [©2009 the respective copyright holders.]