in the USA
A Tw o M o r r o w s P u b l i c a t i o n
No. 4, Winter 2014
Cover art & color by Kevin Nowlan
The New Voice of the Comics Medium
also inside: DAN GOLDMAN • MORT TODD • MARK WAID • DENYS COWAN • ROGER STERN
Winter 2014 • The New Voice of the Comics Medium • Number 4
t PLAYBOY W©©dy CBC mascot by J.D. King
©2014 J.D. King.
About Our Cover
TM & © DC Comics.
Art ©2014 Kevin Nowlan.
Art and colors by Kevin nowlan
One of our favorite artists in the entire field, Kevin Nowlan, contributes this evocative portrait of our headline guest, Russell Deheart Heath, Jr., appropriately placed in a Western setting. As the veteran comics artist revealed in the career-spanning interview within, Russ has always had an affinity for the frontier, though never had a true desire to become a cowpoke. When contemplating a tribute cover, Ye Ed immediately thought of Kevin because of his lush style, not too dissimilar to the Heath approach. Kevin’s career was examined by yours truly in the comprehensive and lengthy Nowlan interview, which appeared in Comic Book Artist Vol. 1, #25, now available in PDF format from TwoMorrows. Please check out the ad in this ish or visit our website at twomorrows.com to learn more!
Comic Book Creator is a proud joint production of Jon B. Cooke/TwoMorrows
Ye Ed’s Rant: Ruminations on that “artist’s artist” of comics, Russ Heath...................... 2 Comics Chatter Goldman’s Digital Ghosts: Hannah Means-Shannon reports on digital graphic novelist Dan Goldman’s leap from pixels to print with Red Light Properties..................... 3 Incoming: Is CBC really a “new voice” for the medium? Plus a few corrections............ 8 The Good Stuff: Jorge Khoury discovers that Marvel makes good with a mammoth Omnibus devoted entirely to the Amazing Roger Stern’s Spider-Man epics................... 12 REMEMBRANCE Au Revoir, Rouge Enfant and Viscardi: Lamenting the passing of two greats......... 14 Hembeck’s Dateline: The Atlas-era Russ Heath “talking head” villain, The Brain, chats us up in Our Man Fred’s latest strip...................................................... 15 Aushenkerology: Michael Aushenker learns about Mort Todd’s Ditko years!............. 16 Irving on the Inside: The concluding installment of Christopher Irving’s career retrospective of award-winning veteran comics scripter Mark Waid.................. 20 The Human Gargoyles Return: Rich Arndt talks about a Skywald revival of sorts..... 25 Cowan the Conqueror: Part one of our interview with Milestone man and multitudinously talented comics creator and “animated” guy, Denys Cowan................. 26 The Lost Father of Archie Andrews: Who was Vic Bloom, the man listed on the first story featuring “America’s Typical Teenager,”and what happened to him?....... 30 SPECIAL RUSS HEATH SECTION “That Crazy Bastard Heath”: Legendary writer and editor Archie Goodwin tells us what makes Russ Heath such a great artist in a 1973 tribute..................... 36 Beautiful, Sublime & True: The Art of Russ Heath S.C. Ringgenberg examines the artistry of a true comic book master...................... 38 Above and Beyond: The Russ Heath Interview Comic Book Creator’s extensive career-spanning Q-&-A with the superb artist...... 46 Creator’s Creators: Christopher Irving shares his storied background.......................... 79 Coming Attractions: Join us for Kitchen, Romita Jr., Cruse, Cowan, Everett & Tilley!... 79 A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words: A Brian Bolland classic — No joke!.......... 80 Right: Detail from Russ Heath’s memorable G.I. Combat #130 [June 1968] cover. We kid you not! Every issue of Comic Book Creator includes a 16-page (sometimes more!) PDF bonus section containing exclusive material not found in the printed edition. So go and get your free CBC now!
www.twomorrows.com/freestuff Comic Book Artist Vol. 1 & 2 are now available as digital downloads from twomorrows.com!
Comic Book Creator ™ is published quarterly by TwoMorrows Publishing, 10407 Bedfordtown Dr., Raleigh, NC 27614 USA. Phone: (919) 449-0344. Jon B. Cooke, editor. John Morrow, publisher. Comic Book Creator editorial offices: P.O. Box 204, West Kingston, RI 02892 USA. E-mail: email@example.com. Send subscription funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial offices. Four-issue subscriptions: $40 US, $54 Canada, $60 elsewhere. All characters are © their respective copyright owners. All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter ©2014 Jon B. Cooke/TwoMorrows. Comic Book Creator is a TM of Jon B. Cooke/TwoMorrows. Printed in China. FIRST PRINTING.
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comic book zeitgeist
Goldman’s Digital Ghosts Dan Goldman’s odyssey from pixel screen to printed page in Red Light Properties
08 and Shooting War ©2014 the respective copyright holders. Red Light Properties TM & ©2014 Dan Goldman. Portrait ©2014 Seth Kushner.
by Hannah Means-Shannon Discovering doorways into the strange and unknown in his local library made the young Dan Goldman a storyteller, picking up volume after volume in the “weirdo-occult” aisle with his new library card. Reading psychedelic and occult comics as a teen drove him to write comics, but it was only after realizing the potential behind digital composition when he took up the stylus as both writer and artist to create the reluctant exorcist Jude Tobin and the condemned, ghost-haunted Miami real estate of Red Light Properties. Now that the digital iterations of Goldman’s comic series are making their way to print, he is re-mastering and expanding the “case files” of an average guy who can talk to ghosts to turn a buck on cursed homes other agents finding just too hot to handle. Goldman has been making waves in both digital and print comics since his 2006 debut of webcomic series Kelly on the creatorowned site Act-i-vate Comix, followed by major digital first comics and graphic novels in a wide variety of genres, from 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail with Michael Crowley and Ctrl. Alt. Shift in 2009, to his Eisner Award nominated Shooting War with Anthony Lappé from 2007– 2011. Goldman has found that exploring different genres and styles has led him to more personal choices in subject matter and an opus all his own. His creative journey led him to develop his now long-running and ongoing digital series Red Light Properties in 2010, and Goldman is rapidly approaching a career milestone with the release of the first print collection of the series from IDW in January. Red Light Properties, which follows the life of beleaguered haunted house exorcist Jude Tobin, his ambitious but estranged wife Cecilia, and their young son, represents a culmination of Goldman’s personal vision in storytelling and in artwork. It’s a watershed series for the creator, and one that he intends to pursue through multiple print volumes, based on updated versions of his digital comics, into new story lines. Red Light Properties, originally published on Tor. com, and now in digital distribution through MonkeyBrain Comics (monkeybraincomics.com), is a series that Comic Book Creator • Winter 2014 • #4
has attracted attention for many reasons, from its psychedelic and occult themes to its sensitive portrayal of tense family relationships and raw, realistic exploration of the impact of economic decline. It’s a comic about relationships and their haunting legacies, whether regarding the Tobins’ lives or in the lives of ghostly murder victims making Miami properties unsellable. There’s an edginess and depth of pathos in Goldman’s storytelling that’s only matched by his ability as an artist to convey supernatural experiences in ways that are both moving and visually arresting. In many ways, Red Light Properties is a series Goldman has been building toward since his earliest creative efforts, and the most personal work he has yet produced. “I want to tell adult stories organic to where my brain and my soul are,” says Goldman, a statement that suggests a certain degree of reflection at this point in his varied career. He wants to both create and read things that make him “feel something.” Red Light Properties may be a supernatural relationship drama, but Goldman is pragmatic about its components and the ways in which they appeal to readers. He comments that in Red Light Properties the “ghost stuff on a level is incidental. It’s really about relationships. But you just do relationship comics, who’s gonna read it?” There may be some truth in the idea that readers want to be taken off the beaten path of relationship dramas into unexplored realms of narrative, but the fact remains that Goldman has long been fascinated by the horror and occult themes now found in Red Light Properties and so is particularly equipped to wrestle them into narrative format. Goldman’s childhood is a rich mine of influences and material that continue to find expression in his work and also in his approach to life. Born in Detroit, he became immersed in Background: CBC photographer extraordinaire Seth Kushner snaps cartoonist Dan Goldman in New York’s Grand Central Station. Inset upper left: Dan illustrated 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail. Inset left: The Anthony Lappé-scripted, Goldman-illustrated Shooting War was nominated for an Eisner Award. Above: Red Light Properties cover.
Photography by Seth Kushner 3
aushenkerology Mort Todd’s Monster & Metal Comics
Ditko, Me & Marvel
The cartoonist on Sturdy Steve and those Atlas reprints (and rock’n’roll funny books!)
Though Sturdy Steve’s appearance in the Marvel comics of the ’90s wasn’t unusual, the playful, self-effacing pin-ups are a throwback to better times at the House of Ideas, back in the early to mid-’60s, before the artist/plotter’s rift with Stan “The Man” Lee that led to his quitting Spider-Man and “Doctor Strange.” Who would bring the artist into such a comfort zone? Could it have been… a Todd called Mort???
TM & ©2014 Marvel Characters, Inc.
Above: No, Doc. V., that’s not a ’50s Atlas comic you’re missing! Rather it’s the Zeus Comics title you’ve never seen! Oh, go to http://morttodd.com/ zeus.html and learn all about a line of delightful “lost” funnybooks! That Mort Todd, he’s a card, he is! Below: Mort’s the one sporting the Mr. A T-shirt; cartoonist Rick Parker is pointing the finger, in this photo of the chums courtesy of Jen Vaughn who took the shot in 2011.
Mort Todd: was he monster? Menace? Or both?!? Such was the type of hyperbole found in the monster and horror comics Steve Ditko produced back in the 1950s and early ’60s published by the pre-Marvel imprint, Atlas Comics. And the answer to those questions? Check number three: Definitely both! And we’re all the richer for having the monstrously talented cartoonist and creative menace of an editor! Back in the late ’80s–early ’90s, writer-artist Mort Todd (still an extraordinarily prolific and ambitious creator today) occupied a unique position at Marvel. As a free-floating editor, Todd was given an office on an under-utilized floor inside the building, where he was put under contract to deliver a slate of products that would give the industry’s leading comic-book company some hip cache. So what did the ardent Ditko fan do? He indulges in his greatest passions, of course: horror comics and hardcore music… employing alternative comics chums along the way. Todd was no stranger to the world of wacky, independent cartoonists. Previous to this House of Ideas gig, he had inked the Dan Clowes Lloyd Llwellyn comics and, as editor of Cracked, the most formidable and respected of the MAD knock-offs, he hired Clowes to create some comics for the humor mag. Now at Marvel, Todd was given access to the publisher’s vaults of Atlas-era stories, so he creates a handful of titles that would serve as vehicles to reprint treasured pre-Marvel works by Ditko, Bill Everett, Basil Wolverton, Russ Heath, Joe Kubert, and various other masters who had, before the arrival of Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man, spread their horror spore like an insidious virus throughout the company’s publications. To bring this all full-circle, Todd capitalizes on a professional friendship with Ditko — established when Todd ran Cracked — by assigning the Spider-Man co-creator to contribute to the reprint books Monster Menace, Curse of the Weird, and Book of the Dead. (Todd also conjured up the Ross Andru/ Don Heck extravaganza Silver Surfer vs. Dracula during this time.) The books would be short-lived, and beyond the expert selection of topnotch stories reprinted, of note was the new material by the ever-reclusive and always elusive Steve Ditko, one of the founders of the Marvel Age of Comics. Interestingly, a Monster Menace peripheral item includes a new Ditko pin-up featuring a frightening,
font-festering creature leaping off of Ditko’s drawn page toward the artist himself. Meanwhile, in an editorial, Todd writes, “I asked Ditko if he’d like to comment on his early monster work… I’m expecting something soon…” Ditko responds with an illustration: We see an airborne bottle of ink, thrown by the out-of-frame artist, pinging around with a Ditko-drawn chem trail, bouncing off of Todd’s ajar office door.
Weird Menace ©2014 Mort Todd.
by Michael Aushenker CBC Associate Editor
When Todd joins Marvel in the early ’90s, he capitalizes on a professional relationship with Ditko, a friendship that has already been established back when Todd was editor of Cracked (MAD’s arch-rival in the humor magazine field) — by assigning the Spider-Man co-creator to contribute nifty new cover art and peppy pin-ups to Todd’s line of the aforementioned reprint books. #4 • Winter 2014 • Comic Book Creator
irving on the inside
Mark Waid & the Future of Comics
The conclusion of Christopher Irving’s interview with the celebrated scribe Inset right: Last issue, Ye ed was late in asking Mark Waid, who was on the road for a good chunk of the summer, for personal memorabilia, but our interview pulled through with flying colors. Here is “William” Mark Waid’s DC Comics employee identification card. Below: Also courtesy of Mark, a photo of the writer (at right) and the late artist Mike Wieringo.
by CHRISTOPHER IRVING CBC Contributing Editor [Previously, Mark Waid described his early years in the comics industry, as an in-house staffer and subsequent freelance writer, as well as early success as the scripter of memorable runs on Flash and Captain America, as well as collaboration with Alex Ross on Kingdom Come. Last time, it was the early part of the last decade, as Marvel was going through some major leadership changes and the new regime looked to writer Waid to invigorate their flagship title, Fantastic Four.] “[Marvel] Editor Tom Brevoort called when he found out I was leaving Cross Gen, pitched it to me, and I wasn’t interested,” Mark Waid revealed in 2002. “I was aware of The Fantastic Four growing up, and had read it throughout the ’70s, but I was never a huge fan of the material. I had respect for the characters, and for
#4 • Winter 2014 • Comic Book Creator
Photo ©2014 Seth Kushner.
Portrait by Seth Kushner
what [FF creators and longtime respective writer and artist] Stan [Lee] and Jack [Kirby] had done, but I had never really connected to it. “My interest in the assignment wasn’t piqued until two things happened: One was that Tom mentioned that Ringo [artist Mike Wieringo] would be drawing it, and that immediately got my interest; two was that Tom and I started talking about Reed Richards, who was a character with a vast, untapped potential to be likable, but no one under the age of 40 thought was even remotely interesting. That right there seemed to be a worthwhile challenge to me. We started talking about him, then Sue and Johnny and, before I realized it, I was wrapped up in the characters and had more to say about them than I ever dreamed.” Fantastic Four reunited him with the late, great Mike “Ringo” Wieringo, and the results were comics magic. Publisher Bill Jemas, however, had other ideas towards what the book should be, and Waid found himself thrown off the title. Wieringo, out of loyalty to his friend, jumped ship as well. The backlash against losing the Waid and Ringo team was great enough, however, that they were back on the title within issues. Something potentially big was in Mark Waid’s future, and was both a dream come true, and the biggest disappointment of his career. “I know that, say, when it comes to Superman, it’s hard for me to find a unique perspective because Superman’s been in my thoughts pretty much every day since I was six,” Waid had said around 2002. Just as things had changed at Marvel, so had they at DC Comics. Dan Didio came in as Vice President of Editorial, and things were on the cusp of changing. One of Dan’s goals was to put a new polish on their oldest character, and the result was Superman: Birthright, a reboot of the Man of Steel’s origin by Waid and artist Leinil Francis Yu. “I think Birthright is the best long-form thing I’ve ever written in my entire life. I’m as proud of Birthright as I am of anything I’ve ever done. There was one creative misstep, and there were a bunch of marketing missteps, and a bunch of timing things that went kerflooey,” Mark observes. “First off, when we started the process, it was sold to me by Dan Didio and DC as ‘We really want this to be The Man of Steel for the 21st century, and the definitive new origin.’ We unfortunately got lost in a morass of legal stuff (this was when the Siegel and DC lawsuit was going, and there were questions over what characters and elements we could use) that was creatively stifling, but I managed to navigate that pretty well.” At the same time as Birthright’s release, DC also put writer Brian Azzarello and artist Jim Lee on the main Superman comic for a year—a move that stole the marketing muscle
an artist unchained
Cowan the Conqueror From edgy animation to Django Unchained, the artist has been there and done it all! Denys Cowan never left us. The once-prolific, two-time award nominee for the Will Eisner Comics Industry “Best Artist” category (1989-90), the penciler and inker has never really abandoned his career in comics. It just kinda… well, morphed. These days, the wiry, gregarious, East Coast-bred, West Coast-based creator of comics and cartoon shows is a devoted family man who doles out his energetic, quick-witted presence on Facebook or at the occasional comic book convention in smaller doses these days. He recently made a splashy return to comics when he created covers and penciled fill-in issues on DC Comics’ smash adaption of auteur filmmaker Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained movie (the first issue of which sold out quickly and warranted reprints). If Cowan has been more scarce in recent years within the pages of
#4 • Winter 2014 • Comic Book Creator
TM & © DC Comics.
Marvel and DC Comics, it’s only because this nagging little side-career kind of intruded and took over his hemisphere. You know, Hollywood? Developing animated series and online content for Black Entertainment Television…? Working as a producer and supervising director for Sony Television Animation on the Boondocks series for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup…? Stuff like that. Breaking into the industry at an early age as a comic book penciler, the African-American New Yorker quickly landed the dream-making opportunity to draw some of Marvel’s most popular super-heroes of color, making waves via his collaboration with writer Jo Duffy on Power Man and Iron Fist, and by 1990, on the mini-series (and subsequent regular title) Deathlok — which ran four times longer than the classic original feature in Astonishing Tales! — the latter written by good friend and subsequent business partner, Dwayne McDuffie, who stunned the comics world in 2011 when he died at 49. It was only fitting that Cowan worked on 34 issues and the pair of annuals of Deathlok in the early 1990s. That was a full-circle moment for the artist, who had entered the comics industry at the ridiculously young age of 14 to work an assistant to the legendary Rich Buckler, creator and penciler of Marvel’s that most revered futuristic feature of dystopian demolition and destruction. The youngster had met Buckler through artist Armando Gill. “I was hanging out with Armando,” Cowan explained, “and he said, ‘I’m going to meet someone, you wanna come along?’” I didn’t know we were going to meet Rich Buckler.” Thanks to Gill, Cowan landed the gig to assist the Detroit-born artist at Buckler’s Upper West Side studio. Cowan drew backgrounds, cut out reference photos, and ran on errands for the Fantastic Four and Mighty Thor artist. “He literally taught me about doing comics,” Cowan recalled. “You have to do a lot of stuff you may not want to do, but it was invaluable experience. He put me in touch with other comics people to teach me things. But who was I? I was lucky to be there. He took a little colored kid from Queens [and created a professional artist].” The one-time protégé has nothing but praise for his mentor. “He’s one of the best drawers I’ve ever met,” Cowan said. “He was the Frank Miller of his day. He came out of Detroit with Jim Starlin. He is a very smart man. A smart, smart man. I tend to focus more on the art and that’s it.” (Years later, Cowan repaid the favor and hired Buckler to do some assignments after he had launched the Milestone Comics imprint.) Attending a vocational high school focused on art and design, “I started working in high school,” Cowan said, making his official start penciling a 1979 “Firestorm” back-up series in The Flash. At 17, Cowan became tight with one of his contemporaries, Trevor Von Eden, who had his own book, Black Lightning. At one point, Cowan, who had moved away from home in his late teens to live in Manhattan, shared a Queens apartment with Von Eden. As possibly the only two African-American teens working in mainstream comics, they had much in common. They had even more in common when Marvel editor-in-chief Jim
©2014 the respective copyright holder.
by Michael Aushenker CBC Associate Editor
TM & ©2014 Marvel Characters, Inc.
revival of Steve Ditko’s Charlton Comics vigilante, when Marvel had him finish the last issue of the Panther mini-series… four years after doing the third issue! In some circles, Shooter has proven a polarizing figure, but not in Cowan’s sphere. “I never had any problems with Shooter,” he said, adding, “I didn’t draw the Marvel style. I was already a storyteller. He was just aiming for clarity. If you could tell a story clearly, you never had any problems.” Over at DC, Cowan had been drawing the last two issues of Vigilante and working on V, the science-fiction television adaptation, when The Question beckoned in 1987 after a veteran artist turned down the book. “The art was originally going to be done by Ernie Colón,” Cowan remembered. “Ernie couldn’t do it. [DC Executive Editor] Dick Giordano literally called me into the office with the finger wave. ‘Come see me!’ Like something out of a movie. He told me, ‘We’ve always liked your art. How would you like to do The Question?” It gets better. Giordano informed Cowan that Dennis O’Neil, one of the best writers in the medium, one who had tackled controversial social issues in Green Lantern/Green Arrow drawn by Neal Adams in the 1970s and who, as editor, helped guide Frank Miller on his legendary 1980s Daredevil run, would be scripting this reboot of The Question. Cowan’s art on Vigilante had become a back-door audition for this series. Ironically, The Question offer triggered a quizzical response by the artist capped off with a big question mark.
Opposite page upper left: Skybox produced a Milestone Media series of trading cards in 1993, which included this Denys Cowan self-portrait. Lower left: Collaboration with his oft-artistic partner of the day, Bill Sienkiewicz, on a print featuring DC characters (courtesy of Heritage). Inset: Denys Cowan in 2010. Photo courtesy of Ely Liu. This page top left: Cowan made an impact on his Deathlok series for Marvel. Cover of #1 [July 1991], with his pencils and inks. Above: Luke Cage carries the black man’s burden in this cover detail from Power Man and Iron Fist #83 [July ’82], pencils by Cowan and inks by Joe Rubinstein. Left: Courtesy of Ivan Velez Jr., a 1990s convention photo of [from left] the late Dwayne McDuffie, Icon cosplayer, and Denys Cowan. Special photographic effects by Ye Crusading Editor.
Les portrait ©2014 Beth Gwinn. IconDaniels TM & © DC Comics.
Shooter gave an 18-year-old Cowan the opportunity to draw Marvel’s Black Lightning doppelgänger: urban crimefighter Luke Cage, Power Man. “That was my first super-hero shot,” Cowan said of his work on the early 1980s series. Power Man and Iron Fist had become Marvel’s last-ditch effort to perpetuate two characters whose individual titles suffered from sagging sales. Cowan was paired with writer Mary Jo Duffy, who infused much verve and wit into her under-the-radar series, taking out the stuffiness. “I struggled with it because Mary [was] writing [Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s] The Road to… type scripts. She was doing comedy. I was drawing directly opposite.” [May ’82’s PM&IF #81’s story was actually titled “The Road To Halwan” — Y.E.] But the pairing worked, and readers and critics took note of the Duffy/Cowan issues. “I can’t look at it anymore,” Cowan said, laughing of his early work, which has nevertheless become a treasured run of Power Man and Iron Fist. During this period, Cowan moved around Manhattan. “Back in the Marvel days, working for Shooter, my roommate was Bob Layton,” Cowan said and adding, “We never worked together.” Shooter next assigned Cowan a Black Panther miniseries  in which T’Challa goes to South Africa. “It was intense!” Cowan said. “We did three issues [of the four-issue series]. They shelved it for four years. Just shut it down.” Over at DC, he had already been drawing The Question, a
Comic Book Creator • Winter 2014 • #4
creator secret origins
Archie’s Lost Father
Uncovering the mystery of Boni Victor Bloom, author of the first ‘Archie’ stories
Left: Detail from Pep Comics #22 [Dec. 1941] splash page of the very first “Archie” story (seen inset right) featuring the name of the character’s co-creator, writer Vic Bloom. Below: Detail from Archie Fan Club pin-up. Bottom right inset: Cover of the 1980 trade paperback The Best of Archie featuring John Goldwater’s prominent credit as Archie’s sole creator.
The matter of who was the main creator of Archie and the gang has been the subject of rancorous dispute. After Bob Montana died, in 1975, his heirs objected to [Archie publisher John L.] Goldwater’s taking so much of the credit. In 1996 they filed a lawsuit against Archie Comics in the hopes that a judge would rule Bob Montana the real Archie-daddy. Led by Goldwater, who would die in 1999, the company fought back. “There was a settlement,” says Steven Grill, the lawyer for 30
Montana’s heirs. “The terms are confidential.” Since the settlement, every Archie product has listed John Goldwater as “creator.” The name Bob Montana falls under a separate credit line that defines him as the “creator” of “the original characters’ likenesses.”
John Goldwater, the “J” of the founding company MLJ (which would become Archie Publications), long declared that he was the sole creator of the iconic character, most expressively on the credit emblazoned across the cover of The Best of Archie, the 1980 trade paperback collection, released after Montana’s death and in the wake of revised copyright laws. (Curiously, the copyright page of editors Michael Uslan and Jeffrey Mendel’s book contains the oddly placed declaration, “In the World encyl. Of comics, 1976, credit for the comic strip erroneously ascribed to Bob Montana, one of many illustrators of Archie, the actual creator of which is John Goldwater. Cf. Info. From J. Goldwater & Putnam, New York.”) In his unpublished autobiography, cited at length in Craig Yoe’s Archie: A Celebration of America’s Favorite Teenagers #4 • Winter 2014 • Comic Book Creator
TM & ©2014 Archie Comic Publications, Inc.
To the naked eye, the evidence couldn’t be more apparent. There it is, in the splash panel’s upper right hand corner of the character’s very first story, a tale reprinted ad infinitum since its initial appearance. The box, peeking out from the cartoon foliage, reads plain as day: “by Bob Montana and Vic Bloom.” Just as we know Archibald “Archie” Andrews’ comic-book parents are Mary and Fred Andrews, upon looking over the credit notice, we’d consider the case closed on the identity of the character’s real-world creators. Alas, the old adage, “success has many fathers,” is never more true than in the case of Riverdale High’s most famous pupil, the four-color adolescent foul-up described by author Craig Yoe as, “a certain freckle-faced, gap-toothed, plaid-pantsed, saddle-shoed, carrot-topped teenager.” Archie is among the most recognizable and successful comic book characters in the history of the form, and the plethora of titles sporting his unmistakable likeness are probably the most widely distributed comics line currently in these here United States of America. Any comics aficionado worth his or her salt knows it is in the pages of Pep Comics, the MLJ title then headlined by a stable of stalwart super-heroes, where the red-headed youngster first appears. In the 22nd issue, cover-dated Dec. 1941, regulated to the sixth spot in the anthology title, sandwiched between a Jolly Roger and his Sky Pirates war story and an exploit of Eddie, a pro boxer known as “Kayo” Ward, Archibald Andrews quietly debuts in an untitled tale. The opening page depicts the freckle-face youth “risking life and limb to impress his new neighbor — Betty Cooper,” the start of a charming, silly ditty that not only introduces the “good gal,” but contains the first appearance of Archie’s perennially famished pal, Jughead. Yet, as good-natured and goofy as it is, there’s little indication that this six-pager will kick off a comics phenomenon, launch a lucrative trend of teenage humor comics, and establish a publishing powerhouse, besides spawning many dozens of titles and characters. Archie’s fame has continued unabated for three-quarters of a century, overall a span that has made him — and all of his pals ’n’ gals — a very valuable property indeed. But the creative pedigree of the character, unsurprising perhaps for such a profitable franchise, has been a source of bitter contention time and again. And though, because of the agreement mentioned below, there’s not much in the way of a legal paper-trail, Jim Windolf’s article on Archie Comics, “American Idol,” in the December 2006 issue of Vanity Fair, gives a glimpse of some acrimony behind the scenes:
TM & ©2014 Archie Comic Publications, Inc.
by SHAUN CLANCY with Jon B. Cooke
TM & ©2014 Archie Comic Publications, Inc. Andy Hardy ©2014 Warner Brothers. Pep Comics, Archie, Veronica, and Betty TM & ©2014 Archie Comic Publications, Inc.
[Yoe Books/IDW, 2011], publisher Goldwater writes, “One day, while I was sketching, a face stared back at me. ‘Why are you so special?’ I asked the penciled drawing on my table in front of me. He reminded me of someone else, an old school friend named Archie. As soon as I remembered my high school friend’s name, some things went ‘click.’” Goldwater, never known as an artist and notorious in some circles as a founder and director of the Comics Code Authority, claims to have established the classic love triangle at the heart of Archie’s appeal — “Instead of ‘boy chasing girl,’ I would have the girl chasing the boy — and usually not getting him. ‘Eureka!’ I cried out.” The publisher asserts his own romantic misadventures as a young man were behind the “Archie” series, and that he locates Riverdale in Kansas: “‘Of course,’ I said, almost slapping myself. ‘They will come from America’s heartland.’” But Montana, cartoonist of the early stories and, after World War II, the artist and writer of the popular Archie newspaper comic strip, is absolute when he tells editor Jud Hurd of Cartoonist PROfiles [#6, May 1970], “John Goldwater came to me and said they’d like me to try and create a teenage strip. John thought of the name ‘Archie’ and together we worked it out. I created the characters and developed it.” In his online Comics Journal article “John Goldwater, the Comics Code, and Archie,” comics historian R.C. Harvey notes, “This [PROfiles] interview undoubtedly took place well before the official version of Archie’s conception was formally adopted as a compromise between the Goldwaters and the Montanas (with Goldwater inventing the characters and Montana visualizing them), and while it fits, albeit somewhat awkwardly into that formulation, Montana says quite unequivocally, ‘I created the characters.’ At the time of this interview, Montana was producing the Archie newspaper strip, but he was still working for Goldwater, and presumably anything he said had to conform, more-or-less, with whatever notions Goldwater was nurturing — hence, Goldwater names the character and ‘together we worked it out.’”
Comic Book Creator • Winter 2014 • #4
Another twist is found in an unpublished 1999 interview with Joe Edwards, conducted by Richard Rubenfeld. The longtime Archie Publications cartoonist — and notably the creator of L’il Jinx — reveals that in 1941, “I worked with Bob Montana on ‘Archie.’ One day, John Goldwater called me and Bob in, and said, ‘We’re a little troubled. Everything out there is Superman and there is a lot of competition. I know you two guys just got out of school. Write whatever you know. So Bob and I sat down and worked it out. ‘Well, how about a teenage boy?’ It was as simple as that because we knew it. So we wrote stories about a guy going out to get girls and dating, and how to get a job to make it, which was a simple formula, adding a blond and brunette. If you recall, everybody used to have a buddy. That’s where Jughead came in. If you look at Jughead, very clearly Jughead was really [early film comedian] Stan Laurel. And we took [Dead End Kid/Bowery Boy] Leo Gorcey’s hat, the little hat he had, and we gave him a little hair. Pop Tate was [Laurel’s performing partner Oliver] Hardy. And Betty was [longtime MLJ/Archie artist] Harry Lucey’s wife’s sister, Betty. We picked Betty. We needed a common name. And Veronica was around — Veronica Lake — so we said that would be good. And it worked.” Okay. No argument about Bob Montana rightfully deserving credit, whether just the “original characters’ ‘likenesses,’” or the whole enchilada.
Above: Panel from the story “A Share of Happening,” Everything’s Archie #29 [Oct. ’73], which a Grand Comics Database indexer informs us: “This story was made to coincide with Archie [Publications] becoming a public company: it’s an attempt to give readers ‘a chance to get in on the world of Archie’ by telling them about the Archie merchandising push and encouraging them to invest in the company.” Pencils by Harry Lucey and inks by Chic Stone. That’s publisher John L. Goldwater making an appearance. Inset left: From top, Bob Montana, the artist-father of Archie Andrews; the creation himself in a cover detail from Jackpot Comics #4 [Winter ’41]; George Frese caricature of Archie publisher and professed creator, John L. Goldwater. Bottom inset left: Bob Montana’s art graces the cover of Pep Comics #36 [Feb. ’43], with The Shield and Hangman triumphantly carrying the MLJ comic line’s new star, Archie Andrews, whose strip was barely a year old. Bottom inset center: The strip’s eternal love triangle is expertly portrayed by artist Bob Montana in this Archie Annual #4  cover detail. Below: Publicity photo from the MGM movie Love Finds Andy Hardy , starring Mickey Rooney [left] and Judy Garland. It’s commonly believed that the popular franchise served as an inspiration for Archie and the whole Riverdale gang.
by S.C. RinGgenberg Contributing Writer
#4 • Winter 2014 • Comic Book Creator
Portrait ©2014 Russ Heath. Covers TM & ©2014 Marvel Characters, Inc.
Above: Self-portrait by the artist in question. Coloring by the Masked Morrow. Below: Heath cover art, Outlaw Fighters #5 [Apr. 1955]. Is that Anthony Quinn?
If artistic talent were currency in the comics field, then Russell Deheart Heath, Jr., would undoubtedly be one of the richest men in the world. Heath, a veteran toiling in the field since the mid-1940s, has long been one of the most talented draftsmen in the business, but has become less a “fan favorite,” because he was usually working in genres other than costumed super-heroes, the industry’s dominant paradigm for the last four decades. Indeed, despite a comics career that has lasted more than six decades, he remains something of an enigma to mainstream comics fans. His work is, of course, well-known to fans of war, Western, adventure, romance, and humor comics because he has focused on those genres with only occasional forays into the realm of the “long underwear” characters like Batman or The Punisher. He is assuredly, as Archie Goodwin said, an “artist’s artist,” and among those who enjoy a story brilliantly rendered, his fans are legion. In addition to his peerless draftsmanship and slick inking, Heath’s work has always been characterized by intense realism, excellent use of lighting effects, and expert attention to historically accurate detail, whether costuming, vehicles, and other technology. This penchant for authenticity stems from his earliest childhood. Watching Western movies with his dad (who, in his day, had been a working cowboy), and listening to his father pick apart the clothing, horsemanship, and faulty depictions of the Old West gave Heath an early, and long-lasting respect for the value of authenticity. As Heath recalled in a 2002 interview for Comic Book Marketplace, “My father…had been a cowboy, and when we’d go these Saturday afternoon movies… at the movies they had these continuous things, like Tom Mix or the Lone Ranger — serials, I guess it was — and he’d say, ‘Oh, no self-respecting cowboy would wear that fancy thingamabob there… Anybody that was really in there, that was a cowboy, would know that, you know, that fancy hopped-up costume.’ And that, I guess, got me on the trail to be authentic so that the people, your audience, might believe
that you might have some knowledge or what the heck you’re drawing.” Given Heath’s preference for war comics and Westerns, it’s a little surprising that we can find only one story that mixed the genres: “Four Legged Tank,” which appeared in Star Spangled War Stories #36 [Aug. 1955], telling the story of a World War II cavalryman who mounts a stray farm horse while on a scouting foray, and takes on Wehrmacht soldiers and a German tank from horseback. After being released by the U.S. Army Air Corps at the end of the Second World War, Heath began his professional art career in earnest, first working as a gofer at an ad agency. During his lunch hour he would make the rounds, portfolio in hand, and wound up getting some work drawing Westerns for Atlas in 1947, at the time when the publisher was just starting to release a profuse number of shoot-’emups; editor Stan Lee recognized that Heath’s determinedly realistic style was perfect for the genre. As Heath’s later editor and scripter Goodwin noted in the 1973 Comic Art Convention souvenir book in his tribute to his friend, “While other artists of the period seemed mired in the fancy-dress look of Hollywood’s singing cowboys, his Westerns were always filled with convincing grit and realism.” Although Heath’s style was firmly rooted in reality, he was not quite as obsessive as was his friend John Severin, an avowed history fanatic. Since the ’50s, Heath did only a few Westerns, instead concentrating on war and adventure comics. However, whenever he does revisit the genre, he always invests his Wild West sagas with the same authenticity that got his work noticed in the ‘50s. While working for Atlas throughout the ‘50s, at a time when Westerns were one of the dominant cultural tropes in film, television, toys, and comics, Heath did a staggering number of covers and stories for titles like Frontier Western, All-Western Winners, Outlaw Fighters, Tex Taylor, Westerns Outlaws, Western Thrillers, Quick Trigger Western, Wild Western, Reno Browne Hollywood’s Greatest Cowgirl, Black Rider, and Wyatt Earp, as well as chronicling the adventures of a small army of Atlas’s “Kid” characters, the Two-Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid, Apache Kid, Arizona Kid, The Western Kid, and last but not least, Kid Colt Outlaw. His first earliest job for Timely/Atlas is not definitively established, but most Heath
All covers TM & ©2014 Marvel Characters, Inc.
scholars believe his first work for the company was a trio of short Western tales, including a “Kid Colt” story in Wild Western #4 [Nov. ’48], the second “Two-Gun Kid” story in Two-Gun Kid #5 [Dec. ’48), and another “Two-Gun Kid” story in Wild Western #5 [Dec. ’48]. After the ’50s, Heath focused more on war comics than Westerns, though he did contribute one strikingly composed cover of a DC Western reprint collection for Showcase #72 [Jan.–Feb. ’68]. When Heath drew the syndicated comic strip The Lone Ranger (with scripts by Cary Bates), which was carried by a handful of regional newspapers in the mid-’80s, the American adventure strip was all but defunct. Still, Heath gave the strip his artistic all from 1981 through ’84, and produced a beautifully drawn, exciting Western that deserves to be reprinted. [In 2011, Dynamic Forces had announced an impending hardcover release collecting 500 strips, but that has apparently yet to see print. — Y.E.] In 1981, Heath also lent his historical expertise and inking skills to Stan Lynde’s Latigo, the Western strip Lynde did after leaving Rick O’Shay in 1977 following a syndicate dispute. The word legend often gets bandied about when referring to many of the oldest, most venerable comics artists, some of whom are frankly unworthy of the appellation. However, Russ Heath, the comics artist, really is a talent of almost mythical proportions, though he was always less of a cartoonist and more the realistic illustrator in the mold of artists like his inspiration Hal Foster and Alex Raymond than a cartoonist in the style of a Sheldon Moldoff or Red Ryder artist Fred Harmon, also an early influence. As he said in the 2002 CBM interview, “I wouldn’t even use the word cartoonist. I don’t even like it for myself.” You see, Heath had originally intended to crack the slick magazines like Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post as an illustrator, but when he tried to break into that market in the late ’40s, those magazines were either on a slow spiral to extinction, or changing from painted and drawn illustrations to photography, so that career was not be. “I didn’t start to look for comics, really. Of course, I looked at anything and everybody. It was a whole different setup in those days. You could look up some of the great illustrators in The Saturday Evening Post. A lot of them were in New York. And I’d just look them up in the phonebook and call them Comic Book Creator • Winter 2014 • #4
up and they’d answer. And I’d say, ‘I’d like to show you my portfolio.’ And they’d say, ‘Come on over this afternoon, after lunch.’ Which is, you know, unheard of today. They’ve got a barrier of secretaries to keep people out.” Despite his being an unknown quantity in the late ’40s, older established artists did allow Heath to visit and show his work. Among the famous illustrators he met this way was Albert Dorne, later one of the founders of the Famous Artists School. Heath even trekked to Philadelphia to show his portfolio to the Post, which at the time was still the Holy Grail for American illustrators. Unfortunately, none of Heath’s work ever appeared in that popular magazine. As disappointing as it might have been to the artist to miss out on the heyday of magazine illustration, we comic book fans are all the richer for it. Heath’s first professional work came in the mid-’40s when he was still in high school, penciling and inking a “Hammerhead Hawley” story for Captain Aero Comics [V3, #11, Jan. ’44] that he did over summer vacation from school after meeting Quinlan. Then after serving in the Air Force through the end of World War II, and from the late 1940s on, year after year, he quietly produced hundreds and hundreds of pages of gorgeous artwork, many of them for DC, but also for Warren, Timely/Atlas/Marvel, and the abortive 1970s Atlas/Seaboard imprint edited by Stan Lee’s brother, Larry Lieber. Although there isn’t much of it, his work for Seaboard is some of his best from the ’70s, especially a violent, hard-edged crime story entitled, “Tough Cop” executed in beautiful ink washes that appeared in Thrilling Adventure Stories #2 [Aug. ’75]. Heath also contributed a WWII P.O.W. tale to the first issue of Thrilling, [“Escape From Nine By One,” Feb. ’75, scripted by Heath] also executed in wash. Interestingly, Heath’s work here was accompanied by stories from some of his old E.C. Comics 39
#4 • Winter 2014 • Comic Book Creator
DC Special panel & Showcase TM & © DC Comics.
colleagues, including Alex Toth and John Severin, as well as nice work by younger artists like Ernie Colón and Walter Simonson. Sadly, despite the excellence of both issues under the editorship of Jeff Rovin, the Thrilling Adventure Stories anthology was dragged down by the total collapse of the Seaboard line in 1975. He also contributed a beautiful cover and interior art to one of the best Seaboard color comics, the evocatively titled Planet of Vampires [#3, July ’75], the story of a group of astronauts trapped on a planet that is quite literally overrun with bloodsuckers (a concept that screams to be revived, by the way.) Rounding out his contributions to the Seaboard line was his work in the black-&-white horror magazine Devilina, whose title character was the sexy sister of Satan, and was presumably intended to cash in on the popularity of Warren’s Vampirella. Aside from his realistic war, Western, crime, mystery, romance, and super-hero art, Heath demonstrated his versatility with numerous (and largely unknown) contributions to humor magazines like MAD (both in its comic-book and magazine incarnations. His art chores on the parody “Plastic Sam,” in MAD #14 [Aug. ’54] is a bona-fide classic, both in the way he referenced Jack Cole’s style, and the hilarious ways he and editor/writer/breakdown artist Harvey Kurtzman skewered the absurdity of the concept). Although Heath only contributed a single story to Kurtzman’s seminal war comic
TM & ©2014 Marvel Characters, Inc.
Previous page: Russ Heath covers for Atlas 1950s Western comics. Bottom left is Kid Colt Outlaw #39 [July 1954]. Upper right is Kid Colt Outlaw #34 [Feb. ’54], and bottom right is Western Thrillers #3 [Jan. ’55]. Above: Hyper-realistic Heath cover for Western Outlaws #3 [June ’54]. Inset right: Nice Heath cover for Showcase #72 [Jan.–Feb. 1968], which featured assorted reprints. Below: Joe Kubert busts Russ’ balls. DC Special #5 [Oct.–Dec. ’69].
Frontline Combat, he continued working with Kurtzman on other magazines, including Trump, Humbug, and Help!, through the mid-’60s. He also contributed to the Atlas MAD rip-off, Wild (sometimes using a surprisingly Kurtzman-esque style), and other ’50s clones such as Lunatickle, Frantic, Riot, Loco, and the original Crazy. Later he contributed some realistic humor strips and illustrations for National Lampoon, as well as the ’70s Lampoon knock-offs Harpoon and Apple Pie, and Cracked, the most successful MAD imitator. His humor work, it should be noted, also includes a long stint working with Kurtzman and Will Elder on the “Little Annie Fanny” strip for Playboy from 1962 through ’68. Heath did not work on every strip, mind you, but enough that he was one of Kurtzman and Elder’s most prolific ghosts, alongside such greats as Arnold Roth, Frank Frazetta, and Jack Davis. In all, Heath contributed to 16 “Annie Fanny” strips during that time. As Heath recalled in his Alter Ego #40 [Sept. 2004] interview with Jim Amash, “I ended up staying in Chicago, doing changes, just waiting for Hefner’s okay. He might not be able to see me for two weeks, and I’d sit there twiddling my thumbs, chasing girls, whatever. It was flying back and forth from New York that prompted my staying in Chicago.” So, while assisting Kurtzman in the early ’60s, Heath actually took up residence for several months in the Playboy mansion after traveling there to assist Kurtzman and Elder on yet one more tight deadline, and then simply didn’t leave. As Mark Evanier recounted the story in “Honoring Russ,” a 2010 column: “One time when deadlines were nearing meltdown, Harvey Kurtzman called Heath in to assist in a marathon work session at the Playboy mansion in Chicago. Russ flew in and was given a room there, and spent many days aiding Kurtzman and artist Will Elder in getting one installment done of the strip. When it was completed, Kurtzman and Elder left… but Heath just stayed. And stayed. And stayed some more. He had a free room as well as free meals whenever he wanted them from Hef’s 24-hour kitchen. He also had access to whatever young ladies were lounging about… so he thought, ‘Why leave?’ He decided to live there until someone told him to get out… and for months, no one did. Everyone just kind of assumed he belonged there. It took quite a while before someone realized he didn’t and threw him and his drawing table out.” Despite eventually being evicted from the Playboy mansion, Heath bore Hugh Hefner no ill will; he had too many fond memories. “When I was living in his house, [Hefner] might be sitting in the living room one evening with ten different people and they’d be comedians that were playing in town or something. Shel Silverstein was a sort of semi-permanent guest. We’d be sitting there talking until eight in the morning, but Hef wasn’t there the entire time. He was always locked up in a room doing his ‘Forum’ articles and such.” Heath even gives the publisher credit for his cartooning acumen, saying of his critiques of “Annie Fanny,” “They were very reasonable. In fact, we saw eye-toeye on a lot of things. Harvey used to use me as a sounding board to figure out what Hef was going to say about things. And it’d usually
Greg Preston 46
“Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass.”
JON B. Cooke
— Walter Pater
Beyond Russ Heath on giving his all to comic book art Sgt. Rock and the Haunted Tank TM & © DC Comics. The Baroness TM & ©2014 Hasbro, Inc. Portrait ©2014 Greg Preston.
Back in the day, filled with an insatiable desire for more comics stuff, in an age when four-color funnybooks were suddenly hip, my brother and I would tread far afield of the exploits of super-heroes in search of Good Art. And it was in the pages of Warren’s black-&-white horror magazines and gracing the parodies of National Lampoon, as well as within comics as diverse as “Sgt. Rock” and Son of Satan, we’d find it, gorgeous and sublime, inscribed with the distinct signature of Russ Heath. Whether depicting the absurdity of an interstellar Amish family cavorting with aliens, a stroll through a Hieronymus Bosch-inspired Hades with the offspring of Lucifer himself, or a seemingly rational man inexplicably executing his wife and children on a perfectly lovely summer’s eve, Heath would draw the story with a panache and sensuality that was simply heart-stopping. I search now for comparisons to describe the magic of stumbling upon, often unexpectedly, a work by R.H.: the first time one tastes orange sherbet mixed with vanilla ice cream; seeing Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot; reading for pleasure The Catcher in the Rye as a teenager; encountering Billie Holiday’s voice on a scratchy old record; suddenly looking at the girl next door in an entirely new light. Distilled to a word: Satisfaction. Few put in the effort as has Russell Deheart Heath, Jr. This tribute is a long time in coming. I have been friends with Russ since first we met in San Diego, enough so I was invited to stay at his Van Nuys bungalow, where the following interview took place ten years ago, on Jan. 20, 2004. It’s is our sincere hope that this issue serves as proper kudos to that tremendously gifted artist and delightfully wry, witty rapscallion for a lifetime of outstanding achievement. Thank you, Mr. Heath. Transcribed by
Steven E. Tice 47
Battlefield TM & ©2014 Marvel Characters, Inc.
Clockwise from top left: Smilin’ Russ in a 1945 pic from his nine-month U.S. Air Force stint; the young artist finishes up his assignment, the cover of Battlefield #6 [Dec. ’52], shown inset; studio portrait from, it appears to us, about the same time; and Russ’ senior pic from the 1945 Montclair High School yearbook. Below: Russ’ cowboy dad, Russell, Sr.
Comic Book Creator: Where’s your family from, Russ? Russ Heath: My father’s from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. My mother is from Pittsburgh. CBC: What’s your father’s ethnic background? Russ: My great-grandfather, James Heath, came over from England back in God only knows when. There’s other relative lines up there that go way back. CBC: England? Russ: I’m not sure. It keeps dividing, each of these comes from somewhere else. Alan Barnard knows where in England my great-grandfather came from. I didn’t even know my great-grandfather’s first name until Alan, who lives in Hamilton, Ontario, did some research. Alan became an artist partially because of my comic books when he was reading as a kid. He’s now a pretty well-known illustrator. He researched my family history, sent me pictures of gravestones, of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather’s. My grandmother on my father’s side was from Whitby, Ontario, a local town near Hamilton, where my grandfather met her. If you go way back one line, great-great-great — I don’t know how many greats — grandfather, Balthizer DeHart, married Mary Stuyvesant, sister of Governor Peter Stuyvesant, with the wooden leg. CBC: What did your father do before settling down?
Russ: He did a number of things before he was married. He was a cowboy in Arizona, punching cows. He worked in the Arizona copper mines, and then he worked in power plants in Arizona, and I guess that led to connections to Westinghouse, and he came to Pittsburgh and met my mother. CBC: Your mother is from Pennsylvania? Russ: Yes. Then they came east to New York for his work, but then I was born and they moved to New Jersey. CBC: Was your dad a rugged guy? Russ: Yeah, I got pictures of him looking pretty rugged. CBC: Did he have any education? Russ: He attended a couple different colleges. In Arizona and one was here in California. CBC: What was he taking? Russ: Engineering. He became an engineer and worked for Westinghouse for over 20 years, commuting back and forth from New Jersey to New York. It’s probably about 16 miles directly west of Montclair. CBC: So he went from cowpoke to white-collar worker? #4 • Winter 2014 • Comic Book Creator
Captain Aero Comics and Hammerhead Hawley TM & ©2014 the respective copyright holder.
Russ: Well, no. As I say, he worked in a power plant. Engineering led to his connection with Westinghouse. He became the president of Westinghouse International. When I was a kid, they’d send him down to Venezuela, or somewhere when they’d opened up a new power plant or whatever — refineries and stuff. CBC: So he became quite successful? Russ: Yeah. He was an executive. CBC: How old was your father when he met your mother? Russ: I was born when he was about 29, give or take. It’s hard for me to remember that far back. [Jon laughs] CBC: What was your mother’s background? Russ: She was an only child. I guess it’s possible that my grandfather worked for Westinghouse as well, that might have been the connection there as to how he met her. Everybody in the family, including my ex-wife’s father, worked for Westinghouse. CBC: So they got married in their twenties? Russ: She was quite a bit younger. CBC: What was her name? Russ: Margaret. CBC: And his name? Russ: Russell. CBC: Are you a junior? Russ: Yes. CBC: What’s your middle name? Russ: Deheart. [Points to wall plaque] There’s a coat of arms for the Dehearts. CBC: French? Russ: I guess it’s French, but I don’t know. My father was also in the Canadian Highlanders, with the kilts and all that. CBC: In what year were you born? Russ: 1926. CBC: What was your mother’s maiden name? Russ: Longnaker. CBC: What was her background? Russ: Pennsylvania Dutch, I’m guessing. CBC: Any creative types on either side of the family? Russ: Somebody — I think it was my grandmother — did some drawing. She did a copy of a painting. My father
This page: Russ Heath’s first professional comics work was the feature “Hammerhead Hawley” in Captain Aero Comics, which he drew during summer vacation in high school. Above: Last page panel in #8’s installment [Sept. ’42], featuring a tell-tale “R/H.” Top: #8 splash. Far left: Splash, #13. Left: Splash #14. All courtesy of Brian House and Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr. Comic Book Creator • Winter 2014 • #4
TM & ©2014 Marvel Entertainment, Inc.
Top, this page and next: Panels from the “Return of the Brain” story, illustrated by Russ Heath, from Adventures Into Terror #6 [Oct. ’51] (and reprinted in the Mort Todd-edited Curse of the Weird #3 [Feb. ’94]). Below: Detail from Russ’ marvelous Marvel Tales #130 [Jan. ’55] cover. Inset right: Professional dancer blithely reacts to an admirer’s suicide in this page from Menace #2 [Apr. ’53], drawn by R.H. and courtesy of Cory Sedlmeier and Marvel.
you!” So, being smart, she screamed — he ran. Before my father met her, she was walking home from high school with some girlfriends and a car jumped the curb and hit them all up against the building. People rescued three girls away, and then somebody said, “There’s a girl’s shoe under the car.” After further investigation, it turned out to be my mother. So she was in a bad way. CBC: Did the other three die? Russ: No, they were pretty much okay. When the court case came up, my mother in fact felt pretty good, she put on makeup and went in looking nice, and the others came in all bandaged, one in a wheelchair, so they got most of the money.
CBC: Did she have education? Russ: Not as many people went to college in those days. No, I think she met my father after high school. Dad didn’t have any hobbies like fishing or getting together with the boys to play cards. He just came home to us every day of his life. Any arguments they might have had, I never heard. They just did not let that happen in my presence. It was a very tranquil, happy home. There were two incidents: Once they had an argument, he packed his bags and says, “I’m going to Hamilton,” he marched up to the corner, she ran after him, and they came back arm-in-arm. The other time, he #4 • Winter 2014 • Comic Book Creator
TM & ©2014 Marvel Entertainment, Inc.
might have done it when he was younger, I don’t know. CBC: But no professional artists? Russ: No professional talent, no. Somebody recently said I have a God-given talent, and I said, “Oh, I always thought I was self-taught.” CBC: [Laughs] Where were you born? Russ: I was actually born in New York City, but we were living in New Jersey. I guess Jersey didn’t have a good enough hospital yet. CBC: They had to go across the Hudson to get you born’d? Russ: Well, I don’t know, there’s nobody left to ask. CBC: Did you know your grandparents at all? Russ: Yes, but I knew them only as old people. I was two years old when my mother’s father died. In fact, I was one of the last persons to speak to him, and that was the only time I ever saw him. He looked like John L. Lewis. Then I knew my grandparents in Hamilton, because we’d take trips up every few years and go up there, and they had a huge cherry tree in the back and I’d fill up on cherries. And my grandmother would make cherry-topped cookies. CBC: Do you recall these visits fondly? Russ: It’s very strange. I knew my grandfather and grandmother only as old, white-haired people. Then I found a love letter he wrote to her a week before they were married. Reading it was like meeting him when he was a young man. CBC: It opened your eyes? Russ: Yeah. CBC: Are you an only child? Russ: Yes. And of an only-child mother. The only thing they ever let my mother do was roller-skate. She was robbed once, when she was living at home. She had just said goodbye to my dad. She said to my father, “Do you want a umbrella? It’s raining.” He says, “No, I don’t need one,” and he left. Then the bell rings a minute or two later, and she goes thinking he’s coming back for the umbrella, and this guy with a handkerchief over his face and a knife. He says, “Scream and I’ll kill
Art ©2014 Alex Ross. Characters TM & ©2014 Marvel Characters, Inc. Comics.
Next page: Spread from Russ’ pencils and inks on “The Blood Plague,” in Planet of Vampires #3 [July ’75], also from Atlas/Seaboard. Words by John Albano. 70
over there, it’s one of the only times your wife has to do stuff she wants to do or go on a date or whatever, and the kids are scattered. This one’s over at so-and-so’s house, this one’s over there. So I’m sitting there, cleaning the gutters in the house, and I thought, “This isn’t seeing the kids.” When you did see them, they were on their best behavior, all dressed up for a special occasion, and that’s not normal. CBC: So when did you get married? Russ: In 1946 or ’47. CBC: When were you working at the advertising agency? During the same time you were doing work for DC Comics, ’64, ’65? Russ: Yeah, I started at DC in 1950, and the advertising period was in the early ’60s, but I was doing comics at the same time. CBC: Does any of that advertising work survive? Russ: I might find two or three sheets of it. CBC: Was it good stuff? Russ: Yeah, it was good stuff. I did comps. CBC: Did you always want to do illustration work? Russ: Well, illustration, to me, was much better, because
#4 • Winter 2014 • Comic Book Creator
TM & ©2014 the respective copyright holder.
Above: We think it’s fair to say that Russ Heath reached his artistic apex in the 1970s, particularly on “Sgt. Rock” for DC Comics. But he was also all over the place during that decade, freelancing for virtually everyone and producing exemplary work… including work for Martin Goodman’s short-lived venture to compete with Marvel Comics, Atlas/Seaboard. Here’s a nice page from his “Tough Cop,” appearing in their black-&-white comics magazine, Thrilling Adventure Stories, #2 [Aug. ’75], courtesy of Heritage Auctions.
you could take maybe three days on a job, maybe a week, depending on what the circumstance, you could do one thing and get it absolutely perfect. Comics, you couldn’t do that, do one panel. One advertising agency wanted just three panels, with characters like Tarzan and Flash Gordon. They paid $600 a panel! So that’s the difference between advertising and comic book rates. I knew several illustrators through the years who would get a couple grand for whatever they were doing. CBC: After you separated, you lived with your parents for a time? You go to New York? Russ: Well, I lived in the city first and then my mother died, so I stayed at my dad’s place. A year went by, I’m working off the dining room table. It’s 12:30 and my father is not home yet, and I’m worried. But I suddenly realized who the hell was I to be waiting up for my father? He doesn’t need my help. He’s out on a date! So I moved. I had kept my apartment, but I moved back after a year with him. I realized I wasn’t helping any by staying there, because he was okay. CBC: Where did you live in the city? Russ: On 91st in New York, near the mayor’s mansion. CBC: Gracie Mansion? Russ: It was on the East River. The buses from 86th Street stopped at my building. I got the apartment from a model I was dating. She wanted to go on the road with a dance troupe. Her mother was staying there, but she couldn’t afford the rent, so she had to go somewhere else. So I got the apartment. CBC: Did you have fun in New York, being a bachelor? This was the late ’50s and early ’60s? Russ: Yes! CBC: You had always been in touch with Harvey Kurtzman, right? He used you as a model in his Help! fumetti, and had you do some artwork as well, right? Russ: Oh, when he started to do Little Annie Fanny, he asked me if I wanted to work on it, and I said, “Sure.” So a bunch of us flew to Chicago, worked out of the attic of the Playboy mansion, there were a couple of apartments where we worked for two weeks until we had that issue to bed. Then they went home, except for Harvey, Willie, and myself. Then I went home. Then there was another issue, and we flew back again. Eventually it was just me going back and forth. Rarely did Harvey go. Then I kept asking Harvey for a raise. It was already one of the most expensive feature in the magazine. Production cost about $4,000 a page. But for the time it took, and there was a bunch of us on it and never enough money. I says, “I got kids and a house.” (We sold the original house because she couldn’t afford to keep it, and bought a smaller house.) So I kept asking Harvey for more money. I had been up all night working on the thing. We cut the page apart so Will could work one half of it while I’m working on the other. I mean Harvey would physically cut the page in half. It’s a mess… the tissues, the Scotch tape… everything sticking to everything else. Picture this: I’m in my apartment in New York. Harvey calls me up, seven in the morning. I tell him I’m finished. He says he’ll drive down and pick it up, only he doesn’t mention he’s bringing his daughters, and I open the door in my underwear. And they all come running in! Unbeknown to anybody, as Harvey’s looking at my stuff, one of the kids grabs my telescope, takes it into the bathroom, and flushes all the lenses down the toilet! I was dumbfounded. If one of my kids had done such a thing… So he’s showing me what needs to be done on the job, I’ve been up all night and I’m sitting there, and he’s suddenly gone with his kids. I sat there for about a half-an-hour, looking at it. So I gave him enough time to get home, and I call him up and says, “Harvey, turn around and come down and pick up all this. I’m done, I’m out of here.” Come back and get the job. I quit.” So Harvey comes down and he’s panic-stricken. I said, “No, I’ve had it.” Pieces of tissue and Scotch tape are all over the place. So by five o’clock that afternoon, Hefner is on the phone. Harvey
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had never asked him about increasing my salary. So he says, “I tell you what I’ll do. I know you like living in Chicago and you’re getting paranoid about New York. I will move you physically to Chicago. I’ll give you my old office to work on them and I’ll double your salary.” Then I began to get pissed off. If he’d double my salary, that meant I could have been having more money for quite some time, right? But I couldn’t bring that up at that point. So I said, “You’re on!” That’s how I got to Chicago. CBC: Did that Playboy lifestyle appeal to you? Russ: The Playboy lifestyle? Well, you know, it’s funny. When Harvey was enticing me to work on Annie, he’d say, “It’s the Playboy Mansion, Russ! Look at all this stuff, and all these girls!” I said, “Harvey, the life I’m living in New York isn’t very far from this.” I didn’t find it that unique because I was already living a pretty swinging lifestyle. I learned how to live in New York, to go everywhere and do everything, on very little money. I’ll give you an example. I’m walking down the street. I look up and see a party going on at the seventh floor of this apartment building. I see a hotel on my right, I walk into the hotel and check my bag and my coat, and went into the bar, and I said, “Can you give me an empty glass?” I put it in my breast pocket, I go across the street to the apartment building. The doorman says, “Who do you wish to see?” I run my finger down and “Oh, there it is!” I take the elevator to the seventh floor. I walk down the hall listening for the noise of the party. I hear it and I rap on the door. So when the door opens, I don’t look at whoever opened it, I just charge into the crowd holding my glass in front of me, like I’d been somebody who went out in the hall and his glass is empty. And chances are the guy who opened the door doesn’t know everybody at the party. I remember there was this one night, I’m dancing with this girl, and I thought, “Well, I might as well strike out and get it over with.” So I cut in on a girl dancing with another guy. He didn’t like that at all, but I started dancing with her anyway. All my pick-up routine was gone, because I was too drunk. I says, “Do you want to leave?” She says, “Sir, I’m here with my boyfriend.” I said, “Yes or no will do.” So she says, “Okay.” She gets her coat and her date Comic Book Creator • Winter 2014 • #4
is holding the door open for us to go out. So we go over to her place. She sits down on the corner of the couch, and I gave her a big kiss. I thought, “Boy, am I making out like a bandit!” But then she says, “You don’t remember me, do you?” CBC: Busted! [laughter] Russ: I had gone out with her four months ago! Here I thought I was so cool, and I had forgotten I had dated her! CBC: Well, it certainly was a sign that you were partying pretty hard! Russ: Well, I always partied hard. It was a different era. Everybody wore suits in those days. CBC: Did you party with Gil Kane at all? Russ: Not much. I had him over a couple times at parties in my apartment. CBC: Looking back on your life, do you think you partied too much? Or was it just the times you lived in? Russ: I thought everybody was doing the same thing. Evidently I was doing more. Drinking too much and not remembering the next day what the hell you did. CBC: You were in Chicago for seven years? Russ: Yeah. CBC: How long were you living in Hefner’s apartment? Russ: In the mansion? CBC: Yes. Russ: Hef had given up going to the office. His old office was in a threefloor office building before they got the big one downtown. Everyone was beautiful. There were just piles of girls. The refrigerator was in my office, so these girls would bring their lunches in brown bags and put them in the refrigerator. I shared the office with a guy, he sat at Hefner’s old desk. So Friday after he left, I took all the bags of forgotten lunches and open them up. You couldn’t imagine the mold! Every color in the world… Fantasia! Then I put them all in the wastebasket under the center of his desk. So he comes in Monday morning, after the heat of the weekend. This stuff by then had to be 71
Above: Some animation character work by Russ Heath during his stint at Marvel Productions in the ’80s.
Below: Bruce Timm shared this caricature of Russ and added, “A familiar sight at the Marvel Productions offices in ’84… comics legend Russ Heath at his drawing board, sittin’ up straight, pencil in hand… and sound asleep!” Courtesy of Bruce.
s 7INTER s COMIC BOOK CREATOR
©2014 Bruce Timm.
TM & ©2014 Marvel Characters, Inc.
Next page top: Before working on the syndicated comic strip, Russ delineated a certain masked man and his faithful companion for the Creepy #105 [Feb. ’79] story “The Dime Novel Hero,” written by Nicola Cuti. The tale cleverly explains why there are no werewolves in Texas Ranger territory… Next page middle: Courtesy of Steve Kriozere, world’s greatest Heath fan, a promotional piece by Russ Heath announcing the release of the comic strip. Next page bottom: The Sunday Lone Ranger strip of Oct. 25, 1981.
Over the years, there would be strange policies: “Hey, a new edict from Timely! All the G.I.’s have stubble beards!” I’d say, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” Two weeks later: “A new edict from Timely! No more stubble beards!” [laughs] Who was minding the ship? I just ignored it and went ahead and did whatever I wanted. CBC: Was your experience as a scuba diver at all influential on the development of Sea Devils? Did Kanigher just come up with the idea and give it to you as an assignment, or was there any back-and-forth discussion? Russ: That’s one of the things about my career. All these people talk about how they sit down and shoot ideas and put this together with the editor. There was no interplay between almost CBC: How did you know how to do it? all of my editors and myself. I mean, almost zero, or one-half of Russ: I’m an artist. It’s like that work I did for Jim Warren, one percent, with Stan Lee all those years. Talking about what “Give and Take,” where I figured, “Okay, the uniforms are we were going to do? We didn’t do that. I wasn’t in the office. going to deep color, so I’ll just paint them dark.” And the skin I just picked up scripts and delivered print-ready stuff. will be lighter tones, and so on. It’s a way to shade without CBC: But with certain writers you did collaborate, right? hatching. Didn’t you and Doug Moench click? Some of my stuff is over-hatched. I’m trying to keep away Russ: Well, I helped talk Doug into coming to New York. I from that because color on hatching just doesn’t work. It said, “I’ll help you pack, because you need to go there, they works on the black-&-white, all those Big Book of were blackinsist upon you living in the area.” At that time, everybody &-white. I got into hatching heavily doing that stuff. But it was had to live in New York to work there. So I helped him pack nine panelsTHIS a page for much less per page than I was getting IF YOU ENJOYED PREVIEW, and saw them off together, he and his girlfriend. for six panels page. I kept CLICK THE LINK TO aORDER THIStelling the editor, Andy Helfer. So CBC: What did you think of those strange covers that DC I stopped it. I saw him at one of the cons, where we sat ISSUE IN PRINT OR doing DIGITAL FORMAT! did on many of your comics? outside and had sandwiches together under the umbrella, and Russ: The gray tones? Well, they wanted to get closer I said, “All right, I’ll do another one.” But why the hell should I to photographic covers, but a real photograph was too do nine panels, which is twice the work as normal, for a third expensive to reproduce from, a finished painting was too less money? Going the wrong way on both counts! And the expensive, so this was their attempt to get more towards rest of the book was filled with such crap that I thought, “Who illustration or realism and so on. I thought it was a dumb will buy it?” But their idea behind it — they told me what it was idea, although people seem to love it. Maybe because it was — is they figured everybody’s span of attention today is four the only stuff being done like that. But gray and any color or five minutes. I wanted to expand some of the stories, to give makes mud, so them enough room to breathe and pace properly… because why put gray in size has a lot to do with it. I want to know how something there? Then there looks, the bigger it is, the nicer it is, and the more you can put was a rumor that into it. But they said, “No, we just want something that you go somebody in the down in the subway or on the toilet and take a few minutes to office was doing look at it. We don’t want something you have to get into too the grays, and not deeply.” I just think it was a dumb thing. The thing should be as the artist. But that COMIC BOOK CREATOR long as it takes to tell it#4 as it should be told. I says, “You could RUSS HEATH career-spanning interview, essay on Heath’s work wasn’t so. Each do a(and story about a housefly, if it’s well-written and well-illusby S.C. RINGGENBERG Heath art gallery), MORT TODD artist didonthe working with STEVE DITKO, profile of alt DAN trated, it’lla be just ascartoonist good as any other thing. It’s not what it is; GOLDMAN, part two of our MARK WAID interview, DENYS grays himself. it’s how well done.” COWAN on his DJANGO series, VIC it’s BLOOM and THE SECRET CBC: Was it OF ARCHIE ANDREWS, It’s amazing. Here was, trying to be an illustrator in the ORIGIN HEMBECK, new IKEVIN NOWLAN cover! comic book field, trying to paint comics and paint covers, Jack Adler or Sol FULL-COLOR Harrison who (84-page and nobody magazine) wanted$8.95 anything to do with fully-painted stuff. (Digital Edition) $3.95 came up with Then Alex Ross comes along and fully paints everything, and http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1133 this? Did they ex- it just blows my mind. Here I’ve been sitting all the time, why pect you to know didn’t they ask me to paint? how to do it? I worked my ass off, but for many reasons. It wasn’t just Russ: Well, I the artwork; it was all the research I did to put it together, just knew how and the lighting and taking the photos and all that stuff. to do it. [pointing at a piece] See, what’s happening here? The light’s
COMIC BOOK CREATOR #4 gets rambunctiously rustic with rowdy RUSS HEATH in a wide-ranging, comprehensive interview with the superb comic book...
Published on Jan 16, 2014
COMIC BOOK CREATOR #4 gets rambunctiously rustic with rowdy RUSS HEATH in a wide-ranging, comprehensive interview with the superb comic book...