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ALTER EGO #49 spotlights CARL BURGOS and his fumin’ HUMAN TORCH, plus other hot topics from the Timely/Marvel Age! Cover by MARK SPARACIO, from a never-before-seen 1941 layout by CARL BURGOS! CARL BURGOS—creator of Iron Skull, The Thunderer, White Streak, the 1966 Captain Marvel—and, oh yeah, The Human Torch—is revealed at last in the first-ever interview with his daughter SUE BURGOS—conducted by JIM AMASH, and featuring art by BURGOS—BILL EVERETT—ED ASCHE—JIMMY THOMPSON—MIKE SEKOWSKY—DICK AYERS—et al.! A dozen-plus fierily fabulous unused, previously-unpublished 1941 cover layouts almost certainly by CARL BURGOS and other Timely titans—including Human Torch and Sub-Mariner in battle! TOM LAMMERS on the 1957 Atlas Implosion—GER APELDOORN on a villainous Human Torch by artist MANNY STALLMAN—plus the one-and-only flare-up of The Blue Flame! Also, a Fawcett Collectors of America (FCA) section with MARC SWAYZE and BILL BLACK—MICHAEL T. GILBERT and MR. MONSTER—and MORE!

Text of Alter Ego #49

  • $5.95In the USA

    $5.95In the USA

    Roy ThomasRed-HotComics Fanzine

    No.49June2005

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  • Alter EgoTM is published monthly by TwoMorrows, 10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614, USA. Phone: (919) 449-0344. Roy Thomas, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Alter Ego Editorial Offices: 32 Bluebird Trail, St. Matthews, SC 29135, USA. Fax: (803) 826-6501; e-mail: [email protected] Send subscription funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial offices. Single issues: $8 ($10 Canada,$11.00 elsewhere). Twelve-issue subscriptions: $60 US, $120 Canada, $132 elsewhere. All characters are their respective companies. All material their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter Roy Thomas. Alter Ego is a TM of Roy & Dann Thomas. FCA is a TM of P.C.Hamerlinck. Printed in Canada.

    FIRST PRINTING.

    This issue is dedicated to the memory ofCarl Burgos

    ContentsWriter/Editorial: Marvel Mystery Tour . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2The Privacy Act Of Carl Burgos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3Susan Burgos talks to Jim Amash about her father, the creator of The Human Torch.

    Diamonds In The Rough(s) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21A cornucopia of never-seen cover sketches from the Golden Age of Timely/Marvel.

    Torch Types. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33Roy Thomas on Golden Age heroes who kept the home fires burning.

    Pulling A Dragoom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42A Timely/Marvel human torch of 1952, examined by Ger Apeldoorn.

    Atlas Shrugged . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45Thomas G. Lammers takes a look at the 1957 Atlas Implosion and its far-reaching effects oncomicswith a sidebar by Michael Feldman.

    Comic Crypt: Remembering Will . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69Michael T. Gilbert on his personal encounters with the late great Will Eisner.

    Fate Did Its Odd Thing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75Alex Toth on his near-brush with Milton Caniffs Steve Canyon.

    The Bill Finger Award . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76Special Announcement from Jerry Robinson.

    re: [comments, correspondence, and corrections]. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78Letters we gotand art to go with emfrom a bunch of top comics pros.

    FCA (Fawcett Collectors of America) #107 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83P.C. Hamerlinck presents Marc Swayze, C.C. Beck, and Bill Black.

    About Our Cover: As youll read in expanded form on pp. 21-32, collector Robert Wienerrecently sent us copies of nearly two dozen cover, splash, and house ad sketches done circa 1941-42 for comics starring The Human Torch and/or Sub-Mariner, almost certainly executed byartists in Lloyd Jacquets Funnies, Inc., comics shop. Ye Editor was wild to see one of thosesketches used as the basis of an Alter Ego cover. So when veteran comics artist Alex Saviuk putYe Editor in contact with his colleague Mark Sparacioand once Roy saw an unpublishedsuper-hero painting or two Mark had doneit was clear that this would be the perfect visualmarriage. This particular sketch (see p. 22), in Roys opinion, was quite probably drawn by noneother than Carl Burgos, creator of the Torchbut even if it wasnt, it captures the essence ofthe style in which Burgos drew his blazing android through early 1942, when he went into thearmed services. The Golden Age meets the 21st centuryand were just glad we were here tosee it! Bet you are, too! [Art 2005 Mark Sparacio; Human Torch & Toro TM & 2005 MarvelCharacters, Inc.]Above: This prototypical panel drawn by Carl Burgos is reproduced from photocopies of theoriginal art for The Human Torch #4 (Spring 1941). [2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    Vol. 3, No. 49 / June 2005Editor Roy Thomas

    Associate EditorsBill SchellyJim Amash

    Design & LayoutChristopher Day

    Consulting EditorJohn Morrow

    FCA EditorP.C. Hamerlinck

    Comic Crypt EditorMichael T. Gilbert

    Editors EmeritusJerry Bails (founder)Ronn Foss, Biljo White,Mike Friedrich

    Production AssistantEric Nolen-Weathington

    Cover Artist & ColoristMark Sparacio(from a sketch probably by Carl Burgos)

    And Special Thanks to:Jack AdamsHeidi AmashGer ApeldoornMike W. BarrMichael

    BaulderstoneBill BlackRay Bottorff, Jr.Susan BurgosMike BurkeyBob CherryRobert K.S. Croy,

    Sr.David DavissonDwight DeckerMichael FeldmanJim FernDanny FingerothShane FoleyKeif FrommJanet GilbertRon GoulartJennifer

    HamerlinckMark & Stephanie

    HeikeTony Isabella

    Yvette KaplanRobin KirbyPaul KupperbergThomas G.

    LammersWally LittmanJim LudwigHarry MendrykMark MillerJoe MooreRoger MortimerFrank MotlerJake OsterHerb RogoffAlex SaviukErnie SchroederEric SchumacherMark SparacioCarrie StrongMarc SwayzeGreg TheakstonDann ThomasAlex TothDr. Michael J.

    VassalloHames WareRobert Wiener

  • arl Burgos was an enigma. Few 1940sTimely Comics staffers even remem-bered him, because he worked for the

    company indirectly through Funnies, Inc.,and Im not certain he ever granted aninterview to anyone except Jim Steranko.Most fans know of Burgos either throughhis creation of the original HumanTorch or by his later, less impressive workwith Myron Fass. He also achieved comicsinfamy with the unfortunate 1960s versionof Captain Marvel. Careerwise, however,there was far more to Carl Burgos thanthat. He was a prolific staff cover artist forTimely during the 1950s, and brieflymanaged a final go at the Lee/Kirbyversion of the Torch in the 1960s. At hisbest, Burgos was a very effective artist,whose iconic, sometimes controversialHuman Torch stories stand as a testamentto good graphics and entertaining adven-tures. No one who has ever seen the Torch(in either incarnation) has forgotten him.While theres much work to be done inregard to a Carl Burgos biography, we arepleased to present an interview with hisdaughter, Susan Burgos, as a first step inthat direction. Thanks, Susan, for peelingback a few layers of the Burgos onion forusand thanks to Write Now! editorDanny Fingeroth (and, indirectly,animation director Yvette Kaplan) forputting us in touch with Susan. Jim.

    My Father Was A Very Private Man

    JIM AMASH: Where and when wasyour father born?

    SUSAN BURGOS: He was born inNew York City, April 18, 1916. Hisgiven name was Max Finkelstein, but hechanged it to Carl Burgos when he wasvery young.

    JA: What do you know about hisfamily background?

    BURGOS: Very little. My father was avery private man and didnt talk muchabout himself. It does not surprise methat there is little information abouthim out there. He did have an olderbrother, Ruby. I do not remember my

    The Privacy Act Of Carl BurgosSUSAN BURGOS Talks About Two Marvel Mysteries:

    The Human TorchAnd Her FatherInterview Conducted & Transcribed by Jim Amash

    3

    CC

    Carl Burgos, circa 1948, in a photo suppliedby his daughter Susanflanked by pages

    featuring The Human Torch, from the threeperiods when Burgos drew his adventures.

    [Counterclockwise from above left:] splashesfrom Marvel Mystery Comics #20 (June 1941)

    and Young Men #26 (March 1954)andpanels from Strange Tales #123 (Aug. 1964),

    his lone effort at drawing the hero asrevamped by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for

    Fantastic Four, with inking by Dick Ayers.Thanks to Jerry K. Boyd for the 1941 splash.

    [Art 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    Incidentally, the box on the 1941 splashreads: WARNING! Marvel Comics well-

    known characters, THE HUMAN TORCH, SUB-MARINER, THE ANGEL, and KA-ZAR, have

    been registered in the United States PatentOffice, and are further protected by UnitedStates Copyright with every issue, as are thefull contents of the magazine. This is notice

    that infringers of the characters, in whateverform or manner, will be prosecuted by the

    publisher to the full extent of the law.Publisher, Marvel Comics. In other words,

    as supplier Jerry K. Boyd quips, we canassume that messing with Marty Goodmanmeans you will get burned! Unhappily,Torch creator Carl Burgos eventually felt

    burned, as well.

  • uncle or other family members after my teen years; whateverhappened between the brothers, I do not know. Their parentsimmigrated from Russia and were of Russian-Jewish descent.

    I remember my uncle and his family as a child. He wore this ruby

    ring thatsomehowalwaysamused me. Ido notremember mydad wearingany jewelrynot even awatch. In thelater years, hediscovered theart of jewelrymaking andproudly wore aring he crafted.He producedsome verycreative pieces:rings, pins,pendants, etc.

    One jewelrydesigner thatinspired him wasa man by thename of HenrySteig. Dad alwaysset the bar highand wascompletely self-

    taught, wanting to experiment and challenge himself. For instance, therewas the lamp period where he crafted some interesting lightingfixtures for our home.

    My mothers name was Doris. After my dad returned from militaryservice, he was introduced to my mom by friends. Six months later, theywere married, in 1947. They went on to raise two daughtersmy sisterLinda, and, of course, me.

    Because of The Privacy Act of Carl Burgos, I was confused abouthis comic book career. I always avoided talking about it because he hatedit so much. It was only after his death that I started to visit book storesin search of articles and information. This was the first time I learnedabout his comic book career in detail. For many years, I actually thoughthis timeline was World War II, comics, and family. I never had a senseabout the 1930s, before the war, when it all started.

    From my perspective as a child, you werent supposed to ask parentsquestions. It was the parents who asked the questions. Whatever he feltwasnt important to him was not discussed.

    JA: As the son of immigrants, did your father learn to speak a foreignlanguage?

    BURGOS: If he learned anything, it would have been Yiddish orRussian. Im not sure. My grandfather died before I was born. Mygrandmother... well, I never understood her too well, because she spokebroken English/Yiddish/Russian. I do not remember an instance wherewe communicated, and I recall her as always being elderly. I was 16when she died; she was in her 80s.

    This Burgos page from Marvel Mystery Comics #2 (Dec. 1939) is reprod fromphotocopies of the original comic, courtesy of Robert Wiener. Reproduction of the

    first four issues of Timelys flagship title in the recent hardcover MarvelMasterworks: Golden Age Marvel Comics, Vol. 1, wasnt all one could have hopedbut even at $50 the book is still worth picking up. Like, youre gonna get a better

    deal on Marvel Mystery #1-4 anytime soon? [2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    (Above:) The Human Torch by Carl Burgos debuted in MarvelComics #1 (Oct. 1939) to the tune of 80,000 or so copies. According

    to comics researcher Keif Fromm, a quick second printing with a November cover date sold around ten times that many. This

    page is from the 1991 hardcover quasi-reprint.

    (Right:) This primo Burgos page appeared in The Human Torch #2(Aug. 1940really the first issue), and is reproduced here from a

    photocopy of the original art. [2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    4 Susan Burgos Talks About Two Marvel Mysteries

  • JA: Then your fatherwas multi-lingual?

    BURGOS: No, notreally, although Iremember moreYiddish phrases wereused while my grand-mother was alive. Asthe years went by, hisYiddish disappearedfrom his vocabulary,and from those of hisbrother and otherfamily members.

    JA: Was he a strictparent?

    BURGOS: Very. Wecouldnt stay out toolate at nighttypically teenagestuff. I always had acurfew. I thought itwas unreasonable, butlike true teenagers, Iwould ask permissionto sleep over at afriends houseafriend who could stayout a little later thanmyself. That wouldbe every friend I had.[laughter]

    JA: Was he the kindof father that youcould go to with aproblem?

    BURGOS: I cannot remember any instances when I went to my dad tosolve any problems. The only time I approached my dad for help waswhen I had an art problem. He spent a lot of time in his basement studioand so I looked at my dad as the go-to art expert for school projectsor independent projects at home.

    I Was Very Integrated Into The StudioJA: Were you allowed to disturb him when he was working?

    BURGOS: I did. I was very integrated into the studio. I was an artstudent, so we shared a desk. He had a potters wheel and a kiln downthere, so we made pottery together. If we needed a table, he built one.He made lamps, some dishware, and vases, too. There was always aproject going on.

    He was a heavy smoker, so I made a lot of ashtrays in my youth.[laughs] We always made gifts for Christmas and Hanukkah. I dontknow if it was because... well, we certainly werent rich and I dont thinkart was a great success for him, monetarily. I dont know if thats whywe made things, but I still do that today. I write poetry and makeChristmas cards. I had a lot of private art lessons from my father. Myearliest memories of my father are of making things.

    JA: Did your parents entertain much?

    BURGOS: I do not think of my parents as entertainers. Of course, werotated family entertaining during the holidays. I do not equate parties

    and such with my family. Yes, family and friends were invited over tothe house. I remember Stan Starkman, George Kapitan, and HerbieCooper from Timely Comics coming to visit.

    My father was the type of man that his work was his work when hegot home. Id get out of school in the afternoon, my mom would comehome and make dinner, and pick him up at the train station, in time forus to eat at seven oclock. Then, hed go down to the basement andwork.

    JA: Did he read very much?

    BURGOS: He loved history. He loved to read about American Indiansand World War II. He was always reading about the war, and talkedabout it all the time. He didnt discuss his personal experiences, whichwas why I didnt know he was in Europe and spent a year in Germanyduring the Occupation. I learned about that when I found his journala couple of weeks before September 11.

    I was reading that journal over and over again when September 11happenedthings like Germany stinks of decay. It was kind ofoverwhelming to me, considering what had just happened in New Yorkand to our country. [Quoting from her fathers journal:] When thesmoke cleared, the corpse began to stink. Germany was like a child,wrinkled and decaying. The bewildered eyes asked, Where now? Thestench is unbearable, as decaying political theories roamed over the land.Will we be merely content to let it roam until another seed is planted? Iread, and then September 11 happened, leaving me to think that seed hasgrown into a forest. They say you accept things when you can, and here

    Two Views Of A Burgos-Everett BlarneyAt left, from the 2004 reprint of the Human Torch vs. Sub-Mariner battle from Marvel Mystery Comics #9 (July 1940), is the

    splash of that slugfest that began in #8 and even spilled over into one page of #10. John Compton apparently wrote the story;Burgos drew the Torch therein, and Bill Everett the Sub-Mariner character he had created.

    At right is the splash from Brand Echh #1 (Aug. 1967). Although Bill Everett withdrew from the art chores after drawing very little of it and it was finished by Ross Andru (penciler) and Mike Esposito (inker), scripter Roy Thomas is 90% certain that

    this page was at least partly penciled by Wild Bill. [Both art pages 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    The Privacy Act Of Carl Burgos 5

  • Diamonds In The Rough(s)A Cornucopia Of Never-Seen Cover Sketches From The Golden Age of Timely/Marvelby Roy Thomas

    21

    n Alter Ego #46, in conjunction with my 1969-70 interview withSub-Mariner creator Bill Everett, we printed four unusedcover sketches done (twould seem) by him and perhaps others

    circa 1941 for Noveltys Target Comics, at a time when he served asan artist, writer, and art director for Lloyd Jacquets early comicsshop, Funnies, Inc., which produced comics material for Novelty,Timely, and other comics companies. Those photocopies were gener-ously supplied by longtime comics fan/collector Robert Wiener, vicepresident of Donald M. Grant Books, who owns the originals.

    At the same time,Robert also mailed mecopies of no less than 23cover, splash page, andhouse ad sketches fromthe same periodfeaturing Sub-Marinerand/or The HumanTorch, all doubtlessproduced by Funnies,Inc., for Timely Comics(now Marvel). Many ofthe sketches hadvintage typewrittennotes attached thatdescribed the scene,perhaps for the benefitof publisher MartinGoodman and a veryyoung Stan Lee, whodrecently becomeTimelys editor uponthe departure of JoeSimon and his partnerJack Kirby.

    In this instance, weknew the precise comicbook issues for whichsome of these sketcheswere intended, sincethey illustrated real orsymbolic scenes relatingto The Human Torch#8 (Summer 1942)one of the famed Torch-Namor crossoversorto other named-and-numbered comics. HT#8, on sale in spring of42, wouldve beenprepared no later thanthe winter of 1941-42i.e., shortly before orafter Americas entryinto World War II as aresult of the ImperialJapanese miscalculation

    which lives in infamy under the name Pearl Harbor.

    The identities of the artists of this material, however, are difficultto pin down, since we know Sub-Mariner creator Bill Everett enteredthe Army shortly after Dec. 7, 1941 with Torch creator CarlBurgos doing so not long afterward. We cant be certain if Everettand/or Burgos had a personal hand in any of these drawings (eitheras artists, or at least as overseers), since neither mans signature adornseven the 52-page story in Human Torch #8. Perhaps they were both

    just out the door, andtheir immediatesuccessors drew thesketches in a similarstyle. Comics historian(as well as science-fiction and mysteryauthor) Ron Goulartfeels some of theNamor art, at least,may be by CarlPfeufer, Everetts firstand most importantsuccessor drawingSub-Marinerandthat some of the Torchart may have beendone by Harry Sahleor another Burgosassistant but the juryis still out on thematter.

    My own feelingbased largely on gutinstinctis that Burgosdid at least some of theTorch work thatfollows, since the Torchfigures closely resemblehis 1941 version.(Besides, Burgos wasdestined to become avirtual cover editorat Timely/Atlas duringthe 1950s, so he clearlyhad some skill in thatarea.) Im a bit lessinclined, alas, to findany Everett in theSubby art, whichmakes me lean towardPfeufer in that case. Ormaybe theres anotherartist whom someeagle-eyed reader willchampion. Though itseems unlikely thatmany if any of the

    II

    Some of the sketches on the pages that follow were definitely intended as potential layouts forTimely house ads such as this one from circa 1940-41. Ye Editor strongly suspects that, at the very

    least, Carl Burgos had a hand in the above art. [2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

  • sketches are by humor cartoonist Vince Fago, Stan Leeswartime editorial stand-in maintained in his interview in A/EV3#11 that war-era covermeister Alex Schomburg was alwaysgiven a sketch to follow, drawn either by Vince himself or byanother staffer, rather than doing the cover roughs himself.

    Be that as it may, these sketches/roughs are rare andimportant artifactsthe diamonds alluded to in the title ofthis pieceof the early days of the Golden Age of Comics, ofTimely/Marvel Comics, and of the seminal shop Funnies, Inc.So Im delighted, with Robert Wieners blessing, to showcasethem here, with a few words of added commentary. Lets getcracking!

    (Left:) Another variation on the sametheme, which if anything looks even

    more like the handiwork of CarlBurgos himself. [Human Torch & ToroTM & 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    (Above:) This, of course, is the rough on which artist MarkSparacio based his stunning cover painting for this issue of A/E

    though we cant be sure if the original was intended for a cover or(more likely) a house ad. Was the concept that Adolf Hitler and a

    German soldier were hawking copies of something called BlitzComics and that the Torch and Toro busted up their sales pitch? In

    the absence of written copy, we cant be sure.

    During 1940-41 the British used the German word Blitz(Lightning) to refer to the Luftwaffes bomber raids on theircities. That term, in turn, was short for Blitzkrieg (Lightning

    War), the Nazis name for their combined air-tank-and-infantryattacks of 1939-41 on Poland, Western Europe, and eventually the

    Soviet Union. Again, if this sketch isnt by Burgos, it may wellhave been prepared under his direction before he went into the

    service. [Human Torch & Toro TM & 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    22 A Cornucopia Of Never-Seen Cover Sketches From The Golden Age Of Timely/Marvel

  • (Above:) Weve tried for a year to locate an actual copy of The HumanTorch #8 (Fall 1942) so we could show you at least one lousy page

    showing The Python, the villain of the 52-page crossover (and thatdoesnt count a two-page connected text story in the middle) butnobody ever surfaced who owned one. So were running this blotchyprint-out of the issues splash page from microfiche, just to give youa notion of what the Funnies, Inc., artists had to work with and what

    the villainous Python looked like in the comic itself. The red on theTorchs figure caused it to print totally black, but you get the general

    idea. The fact that the page isnt signed by either Burgos or Everettmay mean they had already departed for the Army by this time.

    Thanks to Roger Mortimer. [2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    (Above:) Interestingly, this may be a potential sketchy layout for page 1of the story rather than the cover, if we can believe the typed text

    (minus the crossed-out words): Suggested page one HT VS SM H.T.#8 Summer 1942 issue. SUBTERRANEAN dungeon; Python foreground

    Horton chained and badly mangled on wall in background. Torchcharging at Sm [sic], who is coming at torch [sic]. Winding staircase,snakes on beams, moldy-looking walls for backgroundToro diving

    from chamber entrance and tossing fireball at Python.

    In the published splash, Toro is bound and helpless while on most ofthe sketches that follow, hes attacking The Python while the Torch and

    Namor seem content to have at each other and let the kid do all theheavy lifting! Dr. Horton was the man who created the android Torch inMarvel Comics #1; he was thought dead at the start of Marvel Mystery

    Comics #2, but was brought back for this story, with The Python forcinghim to turn the Torch into a fiery monster working for the Nazis.

    Interestingly, The Python seems to have made his debut in Sub-Mariner#2 (Fall 1941)in a story starring The Angel! Catch it in the upcomingMarvel Masterworks volume reprinting Sub-Mariner #1-4! [Human

    Torch, Toro, Sub-Mariner, & Python TM & 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    (Left:) Another version of that scenethough whetherintended for page one of the issue or as a cover sketchisnt clear. The typed copy, similar to that previouslyquoted, should be readable here. [Human Torch, Toro,

    Sub-Mariner, & Python TM & 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    Diamonds In The Rough(s) 23

  • hen it rains, it poursand when it rains fire, there canreally be a deluge of brimstone!

    While Jim Amash and I were discussing this issues contentsa few weeks ago, and kicking around ideas for possible pieces that mightcomplement his interview with Susan Burgos, Jim mentioned he had acopy of a Golden Age comic book containing a Human Torch clone fromthe 1940sa hero whose only visual difference from the Timely/Marvelhero was that his flaming aura was blue rather than red. His name: TheBlue Flame! I recalled seeing that puzzling story as a kid.

    Since I also had Ger Apeldoorns article and scans re a 1952 Timelystory whose evil protagonist seemed to be a direct descendant of CarlBurgos Torch, I thought it might be interesting to feature the olderBlue Flame version, as well.

    But, since I was aware there were also other Torch types in theGolden Agenot counting my retro addition of the female Firebrand inthe 1980s All-Star SquadronI thought Id ask around on a couple ofInternet lists to see if anyone could send copies of other characters influ-enced by the 1939 creation.

    Turns out I had literally opened the fiery floodgatesbecause severalenthusiastic collectors soon inundated me with art and info re everyTorch wannabe Id previously known about, and added several that werenew to me! So, what the heyI decided to add this several-pagepictorial on the heroes inspired by the original Human Torch. And ifyou think we still missed a fewlet us knowbut dont get burned upabout it!

    Well start off with Jims initial contribution and go on from there

    Torch TypesOther Golden Age Heroes Who Kept The

    Home Fires Burningby Roy Thomas

    33

    WWThe primo flame-keepers during the Golden Age of Comics, of

    course, were Carl Burgos Human Torch and his young allyToroseen here in a panel drawn by their creator for The HumanTorch #2 (Fall 1940), actually that titles first issue. But you knowhow hard it is to stop a fire once it gets started so the Torches

    had plenty of guys trying to hop on their blazingbandwagon! [2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    The Blue FlameThis hot-shot hero appeared in Four Star Comics Captain Flight #11 (Feb.-March 1947), and is

    a dead-ringer for The Human Torchexcept that, when ablaze, he was colored bright blue(with white highlights). Actually, since blue flame is hotter than red, that should make himeven hotter than the Torchalthough, since red is the color universally associated with heat,the Timely/Marvel colorists probably made the right choice when their boy was rendered inscarlet. The bare-chested Blue Flames trunks and boots were blue, as well, and his hair was

    brown. (Times like these, we wish Alter Ego had a budget for color!)

    The artist of this one-shot (?) feature, according to researchers Hames Ware and JimVadeboncoeur, Jr., is Zoltan (Zully) Szenics (yep, thats a real name!). According to Hames

    and Jerry Bails 1970s Whos Who in American Comic Books, Szenics worked for the Harry AChesler shop and Quality Comics during the pre-World War II years, drew for Timelys KrazyKomics #1 in 1942 and for MLJ in 1943-44 but the Whos Who missed The Blue Flame thefirst time around. Incidentally, the artist was married to one Terry Szenics, a comic book

    letterer. [Art 2005 the respective copyright holders.]

  • Ajax The Sun ManEd Love sent the page at left from Street & Smiths Doc Savage Comics, Vol. 1, #11 (Jan.1943). Ajax, he says, is a native of the core of the Sun but was drawn to Earth by the

    crime and evil here. He uses his sun-powers to fight evil: the ability to generate greatheat, invulnerability to heat, flight, and super-strength. In this tale, Ajax faces off

    against a gang thats employed a fire-eater lookalike to pretend to be Ajax, though theyhave to fake most of his incredible powers. Said powers, though, clearly didnt includeflaming on, since the real and bogus Ajaxes on this splash page are wielding duelingacetylene torches! Oh, and fellow collector Joe Moore mentions that in one Jack Binder-

    illustrated story, Ajax burns up a Nazi concentration camp commander (who isbegging for his life) while saying to him: Fires of Hell I order you to consume this

    black-souled rat! You gotta love im! [2005 the respective copyright holders.]

    The FlameThis Fox Comics hero was the first and best-known of the other costumed cut-ups with a fiery theme. But, since he burst on the scene in Wonderworld Comics #3 (July 1939),three months before Marvel Comics #1, hes hardly an imitator of The Human Torchor

    vice versa, except perhaps in respect to the notion of fire. Even if Burgos saw that issueright before he wrote and drew his heros origin, he certainly went far beyond it.

    (Hmmm wonder if Victor Fox ever claimed Martin Goodman and Carl Burgos werecopying his character!) The Flame generally fought crime using a flame gun, though onthis cover for The Flame #6 (Aug. 1941), hes definitely tossing a fireball la the Torch!Later he teamed up with a Flame Girl. Some of the series early art was by the great Lou

    Fine, though apparently not this cover. [2005 the respective copyright holders.]

    34 Other Golden Age Heroes Who Kept The Home Fires Burning

    The Fire-ManThis generically-named stalwart (seen above and below) appeared in CentaursLiberty Scouts #2-3 (June 1941-Aug. 1941) and in Man of War #1-2 (Nov. 1941-Jan.

    1942). According to Harry Mendryk, the collector who sent us the accompanying artscans, Fire-Man was not an obvious takeoff [on The Human Torch]. He is made from

    flame-proof glass and is lighter than air but he does not produce fire. Fellowcollector Jim Ludwig adds that the heros alter ego, Jim Reuben, gained his ability to

    fly, to control fire, and to resist heat damage during a mad scientists derangedexperiment. He used those abilities to fight crime as head of the Fire-Man Association,a small private-investigation agency he ran. [2005 the respective copyright notice.]

  • by Ger Apeldoornack in Alter Ego #29 & 31, Thomas C. Lammers wrote anexhaustive study of the so-called Marvel prototypesstories which the Overstreet Comics Price Guide has listed

    over the years as being prototypes, stalking horses, trial balloons, orwhatever one wishes to call them, for the Marvel super-heroes thatLee, Kirby, Ditko, et al., began to churn out starting in 1961. Tomsviewpoint was that few if any of the stories should actually be calledprototypes by the dictionary definition of the term. Recently, DutchTV-sitcom writer Ger Apeldoorn,already a frequent contributor tothese pages, sent Ye Editor scansof a story which some might callyet another prototype for therevived Human Torch whowould (admittedly 9 years later)co-star in Fantastic Four #1, andwe were so intrigued by the storyand art that we invited him towrite about it in depth.... Roy.

    In early 1952 the company thatwould eventually evolve intoMarvel but was then still known asAtlasor as Timely, by those whoworked for itpublished a storyabout a burning man, who couldmelt his way through steel doors.The story is called Escape FromDeath, and it deals with a flamingeight-foot giant, red all over with a bald head and naked body apartfrom a tastefully drawn pair of underpants. His opponents call him amurdering torch and even a human torch!

    But he is not an early revival of Carl Burgos famous super-hero fromthe 1940s. That wouldnt happen until 1953. Super-heroes had left thenewsstand and had no more relevance for their time. Romance, war,Western, and horror were the genres of the day. The six-page story inSuspense #18 (cover-dated May 1952) was in fact nothing more than ananomaly. In more ways than one.

    First, lets tell you the story. Its all about a criminal named ElkDiamond who is put to death in the electric chair in 1941. On thenight of his death, his body is lying in a New York mortuarywhen, at the stroke of midnight, a strange glow surrounds hiscorpse. Something stirs in the coffinand the criminal is resur-rected as an eight-foot flaming monster!

    It turns out that he was given a magnetic pill by a mysteriousDr. Orgesky, who is also some sort of gangster. The magnetic pillabsorbs the electric charge of the electric chair and gives him hispowers. Although the story has all the hallmarks of a super-heroorigin, neither the words super-hero nor powers is used. Buthe is powerful enough to open any safe in the world and had madea deal with the gang leader to work for him for a month. Afterthat, the gangster will return him to his natural stateas a living,

    Pulling A DragoomA Human Torch PrototypeOr A Fast-Fading Echo?

    BB

    The execution of Elk Diamond. Wonder where the writer dug that name up!?[2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    Joe Maneelys cover for Suspense #18 gives no hint that, inside, a Golden Agesuper-hero has been used as the basis of a new and frightening monsterbut any reader old enough to remember Marvel Mystery Comics and The

    Human Torch from 1949 or before, upon beholding Manny Stallmanspowerful splash page, was liable to catch on fast! Hes even called a

    murdering torch in the splash panel. Butdoes anybody have any ideawhy his execution was backdated to Oct. 12, 1941, a decade earlier, instead of

    having it be contemporary, since the entire story occurs over a period ofonly three weeks? [2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    42

  • n Alter Ego #29 & #31, Tom Lammers, who in whats known asreal life teaches biology (esp. botany) at a college in Wisconsin,took a skeptical look at the so-called Marvel prototypes of the

    late 1950s and early 1960s, which are purported to have been trialballoons for the Marvel heroes which sprang up from 1961 on. Whenhe and others on the online Timely-Atlas List began exchanging e-mails about another reported phenomenonthe Atlas Implosion(which takes its name retroactively from the late-1970s DCImplosion, so called because it followed on the heels of a company-heralded DC Explosion)we invited Tom to outline that epoch-marking event for A/Es readers. Roy.

    IntroductionWhen I was a kid back in the 1960s, I was quite a fan of the Marvel

    Comics Group; a big chunk of myweekly allowance went towardsfollowing the exploits of myfavorite comic book heroes. Atthat time, I had the impression thatthe company was rather a youngconcern. After all, the mainstreampress1 heralded their super-heroesas the latest fad. Everything aboutthe books seemed to screamNew! New! New! Furthermore,issue numbers on most titles werequite low; my fifth-grade mathskills were more than adequate tofigure out that in most cases, onlya few years had elapsed since thosemagical #1s.

    But some facts didnt jibe withthis impression. Journey intoMystery and Strange Tales hadissue numbers well over 100. Straycomments in the letters pages2alluded to comics Marvel hadpublished years earlier. The debut

    stories of the Sub-Mariner (Fantastic Four #4, May 1962),Captain America (Strange Tales #114, Nov. 1963, and Avengers#4, March 1964), and the original Human Torch (Fantastic FourSpecial #4, Nov. 1966) intimated that this was not the first timethese characters had been in comics. The clincher came whenMarvel began to reprint material. At first, the stories reprintedwere no older than the late 1950s and early 1960s; soon, however,stories from the early 1940s began to appear.3 Clearly, there wasmuch more to Marvels corporate history than I had realized!

    When I began to collect vintage comic books three decadeslater, I discovered that the Marvel Comics Group of my misspent

    youth indeed had a history that could be traced back under variousnames to the years preceding World War II. I learned that they hadpublished over 5800 issues through the 1950s, not just super-hero andfantasy titles but humor, romance, Westerns, war, horror, crime, andadventure books as well. Before Amazing Spider-Man and TheIncredible Hulk, there were Devil-Dog Dugan and BattleshipBurke, Kent Blake of the Secret Service and Jann of the Jungle,Sherry the Showgirl and Homer the Happy Ghost.

    I wondered how this diverse array of characters, titles, and genres hadbeen whittled down to the handful of super-hero books I knew from mychildhood. What had decimated the ranks so profoundly? What terriblebottleneck had the company passed through?

    As I got more involved with comics scholarship, I began to hearstories about a phenomenon some collectors referred to as The AtlasImplosion, a late-1950s business catastrophe of seemingly Biblicalproportions. Dozens of titles had been canceled overnight, and scores ofartists thrown out of work. Only after some period of inactivity did the

    Atlas ShruggedA Detailed Look At The 1957 Atlas Implosion

    And Its Effect On Comicsby Thomas G. Lammers

    45

    Fantasy Masterpieces #1 (Feb. 1966) reprinted fantasy/science-fiction features from late 50s/early-60s Goodmancomics. With #3 (June 66) the title became a big 25-center, showcasing poorly-restored 1941 Simon & Kirby CaptainAmerica tales behind a new Kirby-penciled coverand by #7 (Feb. 67) FM had added Golden Age Human Torch

    and Sub-Mariner reprints, with a new Gil Kane cover. Clearly, young Tom Lammers realized, Marvel Comics historywent back a wee bit further than he had imagined! [2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    The Timely/Atlas super-hero revivalof 1953-55 occurred during the Atlas

    periodso what could be morefitting as a title image for this articlethan to picture the fabled Atlas globe

    of 1951-57 held aloft Atlas-like byCaptain America (from a smallish

    John Romita panel in Young Men #26,March 1954)? Thanks to A/Es liltinlayout man Chris Day for putting

    these two icons together.[2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    [All art, unless otherwise noted, provided by the author.]

    II

  • 46 The 1957 Atlas Implosion And Its Effect On Comics

    Before Amazing Spider-Man and The IncredibleHulk, there were Devil-Dog Dugan and

    Battleship Burke, Kent Blake of the SecretService and Jann of the Jungle, Sherry the

    Showgirl and Homer the Happy Ghost. And ifthat aint a cue for a Marvel-and-Atlas

    montage, we dont know what is! Above,Spidey and Ol Greenskin eye a sextet of pre-1961 Timely/Marvel goodies: a Jim McLaughlinsplash from Devil-Dog Dugan #1 (July 1956)a

    Joe Maneely Battleship Burke splash fromNavy Action #1 (Aug. 55)the covers of KentBlake of the Secret Service #2 (July 51artistunknown) and Jann of the Jungle #13 (Sept.

    56art by Maneely)and Dan DeCarlos coversfor Sherry the Showgirl #1 (July 56) and Homer

    the Happy Ghost #2 (May 55). Thanks to Dr.Michael J. Vassallo for the splashes, and to MikeBurkey for the Spidey/Hulk illo by John Romita,

    which was printed in full back in A/E V3#9.[2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    Martin Goodman in 1941, holding a color proof of the cover of CaptainAmerica Comics #11 (Feb. 1942). This photo originally appeared in LesDaniels first-rate 1991 history Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of theWorlds Greatest Comics. [2005 the respective copyright holders.]

  • company regroup and resume publicationon a far more modest scale. Clearly it wasthis event that had transformed an all-encompassing comics empire into theseeming upstart of my youth.

    Details regarding this critical episode inMarvels history were frustratingly scarce.Standard comic book histories4 brieflymentioned the Atlas Implosion from abusiness perspective; artist biographies5spoke of the personal toll. However, Icould find virtually nothing about effectson the books themselves. For the titles thatsurvived, it was all but impossible to learnhow long publication had been suspended;I had no idea which issue was the lastbefore the Implosion or the first after, northe length of the hiatus separating them.Similarly, it was said that when publicationresumed, editor Stan Lee relied for sometime on a huge backlog of material createdby the numerous cancellations. But howlong did this inventory last? When werenew stories finally commissioned?

    I soon realized that the only way I couldanswer these questions was to obtain thebooks and discover the answers for myself.It took nearly eight years, but I am finallyable to answer my many questions. In thisarticle, I would like to share with you whatI have learned from the books themselvesabout this fascinating period in theevolution of the Marvel Comics Group.

    Taking Care Of BusinessMartin Goodman became a publisher of cheap popular periodicals

    (so-called pulp magazines) circa 1932-33.6 A few years later, he releasedhis first comic book: the legendary Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939), filledwith material produced by the Funnies, Inc., studio, including BillEveretts Sub-Mariner and Carl Burgos Human Torch. Sales weresufficient that Goodman expanded his comics line and soon hired hisown staff of writers and artists. Both the number of titles and thenumber of issues increased steadily through the 1940s. After a briefretrenchment in 19507, the line continued to expand.

    Goodman has been aptly described as a binge-and-purge publisher.8His primary business strategy was to determine what sorts of bookswere selling well (either for himself or for competitors) and then toflood the market with books like it. This trend-chasing strategy meantthat if Love Romances did well, it would soon be joined on thenewsstand by Love Adventures, Love Classics, Love Dramas, LoveSecrets, Love Tales, and Lovers. If competitor DC Comics had A Datewith Judy, Goodman had A Date with Millie and A Date with Patsy.His empire was built on selling paper, not innovation.9

    Today, Marvel Comics is a brand name nearly as widely recognizedas Coca-Cola or Chevrolet. However, for many years, Goodman did notseem overly concerned with establishing a distinctive product identityfor his comic book line.10 He set up over 50 different corporate entities(e.g., Canam Publishing Sales Corp.; Chipiden Publishing Corp., LionBooks, Inc.; Male Publishing Corp.; Manvis Publications, Inc.; VistaPublications, Inc.) to serve as publisher-of-record for his comics. All ofthese were wholly owned by Goodman and appear to have beensubsidiaries of his main corporation, Magazine Management Co., a name

    unknown to most comics readers.

    On a few occasions in the 1940s, wesee half-hearted attempts at establishing aunified identity for the comics producedby this plethora of corporate entities.11Although fans often refer to Goodmans1940s output as Timely Comics, thatimprint only appeared on the covers ofcertain titles and issues with July toSeptember 1942 cover dates. An Atlasemblem was used on a few books withlate 1943 and early 1944 cover dates.Some books dated Dec. 1946 to May 1947were identified as A Marvel Magazinevia a cover logo that looked like a turned-down corner. Books dated Feb. 1949 toJune 1950 rather consistently bore aMarvel Comic red circle logo, althoughstarting in December 1949 this wasreplaced on the romance titles with aheart-shaped logo that read, A LoversMagazine. Other than these briefperiods, Goodmans 1940s comics werenot marked with any sort of corporateimprint.10

    Throughout the 1940s, Goodmandepended on an independent firm, KableNews Co., to get his products from theprinting plant to wholesalers, and fromthere to retailers and the reading public.This relationship was denoted by thepresence of Kable News K logo on the

    cover, along with the North American map that symbolized theIndependent Distributors group to which Kable belonged.10

    The Atlas Age Of ComicsIn the early 1950s, Goodman decided to maximize profits by cutting

    out this middleman and establishing his own distributor.9 Atlas NewsCo., Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary, was paid a fee to distribute theproducts of Chipiden, Manvis, and the rest. Because Goodman ownedthem all, he was essentially taking money out of one pocket and puttingit in the other.

    An Atlas globe logo was added to the covers of all Goodmans comicsbeginning with the Nov. 1951 issues. Many comics scholars maintainthat this was the imprint of the new distribution firm, not anotherattempt at a unified corporate identity. However, the logos of KableNews remained on the covers through the Aug. 1952 issues.10 This 10-month overlap of the Atlas and Kable symbols supports the view thatAtlas was intended as a product imprint, not a distributors mark. Andit definitely was used to encourage brand loyalty and to promote sales.Interior pages frequently carried on their bottom margin the exhor-tation: For the best in [name of genre] tales, look for the Atlas seal onthe cover!

    In 1956, Goodman decided to give up on self-distribution and onceagain entrust his product to an outside distributor. American News Co.(ANC)12 had been the nations largest distributor of periodicals for overfour decades. Major magazines such as Time, Look, Life, Fortune,Newsweek, The New Yorker, Glamour, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, andPopular Mechanics were placed on Americas newsstands by ANC. Thecompany was financially quite sound, reporting a net income for 1956 ofnearly $2.4 million on net sales of $172 million; this was an increase of40% over the previous years profits.

    The copy at the bottom of this house ad from Astonishing #19(Nov. 1952) bolsters Toms thesis that the name Atlas wasmeant to identify Goodmans comics company, not just the

    distributor. [2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

    Atlas Shrugged 47

  • hen Will Eisner passed away on January 3, 2005, thecomics world lost a true friend. I lost a friend, too. Withyour indulgence, Id like to share a few of my memories of Will Eisner.

    I first encountered Will when I was about 12 or so, in the pages of anunauthorized Spirit comic book, published around 1963 by SuperComics (also known as IW). The experience was confusing, to say theleast!

    The issues lead story introduced me to The Spirit, the character mostassociated with Will Eisner. The Man Who Killed The Spirit! toldthe tale of a crooked accountant traveling by trolley through an eeriemarshland outside Central City. The story itself was prime Eisner, ifsomething of an atypical Spirit tale.

    A passenger steps into the trolley, calmly carrying what appears to beThe Spirits corpse. The accountant, a guy named Crauley, does adouble-take when he sees it. Things get worse when he looks aroundand finds himself surrounded by his former partners in crime, KillerConch and Bottles McTopp. Crauley made the fatal mistake ofdouble-crossing them, and now theyve tracked him down. In the finalminutes of his life, he tells them (and us!) the sordid tale of how heratted them out to The Spirit, and stole their money. In a final double-cross, Crauley shot The Spirit in the back.

    In the end, we discover the seated crooks are actually dead, killedearlier in a battle with the cops, and placed there by The Spirit to elicit aconfession. The Spirits corpse (seen throughout the story) turns out tobe a dummy that only resembles the blue-suited Spirit. And where isThe Spirit when all this is going on? Why, hes been sitting up front,disguised as the conductor. Whew! That was one complicated ploteven for Eisner!

    Since I had never even seen The Spirit before, I was baffled. Was TheSpirit a hero (as he seemed), a villain, or a ghost? The flashback impliedhe was some sort of cop, but who knew? The story, drawn in 1946, was

    unlike any Id ever seen. Pages oozed atmosphere. Dead bodies litteredthe trolley, their demented eyes frozen in death mask. I wasnt surewhat I was seeing, but I was sure of one thing.

    I loved it!

    Two other stories in the issue featured Carrion, another Eisnervillain, and his beloved vulture Julia. A fight between The Spirits kidsidekick and Julia was as brutal as any Id seen in all my 12 years. Thestorytelling was brilliant, and Eisners art was the perfect mixture ofillustration and classic cartooning. In short, it was everything I waslooking for in a comic.

    Will Eisner had me hooked. I was desperate for another shot ofSpirit, but in the early 60s Spirit stories were nearly impossible to find.After all, Eisner had pulled the plug on his newspaper strip and comicbooks in the early 50s. I did stumble onto a second Super ComicsSpirit reprint, but the art wasnt nearly as exciting. No wonder. Yearslater, I discovered the issue had been ghosted by Lou Fine.

    Former Spirit-scripter Jules Feiffer provided my next encounter withWill Eisner. In 1965 Feiffer came out with The Great Comic BookHeroes, a fascinating book devoted to early heroes and their creators.Feiffer spoke of his former boss in glowing tones, at one point statingthat: Alone among comic book men, Eisner was a cartoonist other

    WW

    69

  • cartoonists swiped from. To prove his point, he reprinted an earlySpirit story. Good as it was, it wasnt nearly enough.

    In 1966 I finally got my first major dose of the real thing.

    During the Batman TV craze, comic books started selling again, andalmost every publisher tried to cash in on the gold rush. Harvey Comicswas no exception. When they hired Golden Age great Joe Simon to edita line of adventure comics, Joe invited Will to put together a Spiritcomic. Joe was familiar with The Spirit, having drawn the cover of thebootleg Super Comics reprint mentioned earlier.

    A few months later, on the way home from Hebrew school, my dadand I stopped by a drug store to pick up a few comics. Lucky me! Ifound two new titles, giant 25 comics filled with pre-Code reprints.One of these was Joes own Fighting American comic book, done in the50s with Jack Kirby. A new Kirby super-hero? Cool!

    But even cooler was the first issue of Harveys Spirit comic. My heartdid a triple-gainer when I saw it! The Harvey Spirits were truly crack-cocaine for Spirit fans. In addition to reprinting seven of the very bestSpirit stories from the late 40s, Eisner (and assistant Chuck Kramer)drew a new origin tale, plus a cover and two-page filler story. The comicwas so good I bought two copies, an almost unheard-of extravagance forthis cash-strapped 15-year-old!

    Each story was a classic, with breathtaking art. I read and reread thecomic dozens of times, carefully studying how Eisner manipulated thesize and shape of his panels to control the pace and the emotionalimpact. Even today, 40 years later, I cant imagine a more effective Howto Draw Comics primer. Charged up by Eisners work, I begandrawing my own comic book pages.

    A few months later, a second giant Spirit comic came out, every bit asbreathtaking as the first. Previews for issue #3 promised more great stuff.Sadly, the Harvey line never really took off, and the 25 Spirit comicwas cancelled after two issues. Would I ever see The Spirit again?

    Well, of course!

    My next Spirit encounter occurred at Len Weins house a few monthslater, shortly before Swamp Things co-creator went pro. We both livedin Levittown, so a few fanboys had dropped by to see Lens legendarycollection. In a pile of old comics I found a slick pro-zine published thatyear by Ed Aprill, Jr., that reprinted some of Eisners rare Spirit dailycomic strips. Though Eisner claimed to dislike the daily comic stripformat, he seemed to have effortlessly mastered it. I desperately wantedto own that beautiful book. Years later, I finally did. Patience rewarded!

    Then, in 1969, I learned even more about Will Eisnercourtesy ofWill Eisner!

    Issue #6 of witzend, a prozine founded three years earlier by WallyWood, another former Eisner assistant, featured John Bensons seminalinterview with Eisner. It was the first time I could peek behind thepanels and hear the person behind one of my favorite characters. Eisner

    The Man Who Killed The Spirit (a.k.a. The Last Trolley) originallyappeared in the Spirit newspaper section of March 24, 1946. It was later

    reprinted in Super Comics The Spirit #11 in 1963. [2005 Estate of Will Eisner.]

    Joe Simons, er, striking cover to the bootleg Super reprint. Three years later, Joebecame editor at Harvey Comics, and got Will to produce two fully-authorized

    Spirit issues for that company. [Spirit TM & 2005 Estate of Will Eisner.]

    70 Mr. Monsters Comic Crypt

  • [Art

    20

    05 A

    lex

    Toth

    .]

    Visit the official Alex Toth website at: www.tothfans.com.

    ack in issue #37, Alex related how artistic fellow-legend Noel Sickles told him of beingasked by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to become a prime artist of Superman. Here, on hismonthly postcard from the edge of Southern California, Alex tells of his own dealings

    with Sickles friend and colleague Milt Caniff, who in the late 1940s moved from one super-popularnewspaper strip (Terry and the Pirates) to start another (Steve Canyon), and of his own near-connection with the latter. Roy.

    Caniffs Steve Canyon Sunday for Aug. 30, 1953definitely a ColdWar classic. Note that the art continues outside the panel borders

    to be dropped when photostats were made of the originals.[2005 Field Enterprises, Inc., or successors in interest.]

    Fate Did Its Odd Thing

    ALEX TOTH On His Near-Brush With MILTON CANIFFs Steve Canyon

    75

  • Bill Blacks cover recreation of Captain Marvel Adventures #104.[Art 2005 Bill Black; characters TM!&!2005 DC!Comics.]

  • FCA EDITORS NOTE: From 1941-53, Marcus D. Swayze was a topartist for Fawcett Publications. The very first Mary Marvel charactersketches came from Marcs drawing table, and he illustrated herearliest adventures, including the classic origin story, Captain MarvelIntroduces Mary Marvel (Captain Marvel Adventures No. 18, Dec.42); but he was primarily hired by Fawcett Publications to illustrateCaptain Marvel stories and covers for Whiz Comics and CaptainMarvel Adventures. He also wrote many Captain Marvel scripts, andcontinued to do so while in the military. After leaving the service in1944, he made an arrangement with Fawcett to produce art andstories for them on a freelance basis out of his Louisiana home. Therehe created both art and story for The Phantom Eagle in WowComics, in addition to drawing the Flyin Jenny newspaper strip forBell Syndicate (created by his friend and mentor Russell Keaton).After the cancellation of Wow, Swayze produced artwork forFawcetts top-selling line of romance comics, including Sweetheartsand Life Story. After the company ceased publishing comics, Marcmoved over to Charlton Publications, where he ended his comicscareer in the mid-50s. Marcs ongoing professional memoirs havebeen FCAs most popular feature since his first column appeared inFCA #54, 1996. Last issue, Marc recalled contemplating over hiscareer in comics in 1956 while he tested the waters of corporate work.This time, the versatile artist discusses his writing Captain Marvelscripts near the very beginning of the Golden Age, and the usage inthe stories of the Worlds Mightiest Mortals 14-year-old alter ego.

    P.C. Hamerlinck.

    t was 1938 radio sets up and down the street... and in the dormsat Louisiana Tech... were blaring startling news that we, the USAand the rest of the world I suppose, were being

    attacked by unknowns from outer space! Turned outto be a hoax, I am thankful to say today. Come tothink of it, more thankful then.

    Scared the daylights out of us but didnt hurt us.Nor did it hurt the young radio announcer, OrsonWelles, who spawned the joke. Another productionof his, Citizen Kane, hit the movie screens threeyears later with almost as great an impact. Maybegreater. If Orson was not already a star by that time,he was well on his way to becoming one.

    So was another young radio announcer, high inthe upper tiers of Manhattan... kid named Batsonwith station WHIZ. Billy is perhaps better remem-bered by the name of his alter ego, Captain Marvel.

    Billy Batson, one of a surprising number ofGolden Age good-deeders from the creative mind ofFawcett writer-editor Bill Parker, must have been hiscreators gift to comic book writers of the day. What

    better way... easier way... faster way... to introduce yoursuper-hero and promises of forthcoming action thanthrough a familiar microphone in the hands of a likeableyoungster about the age of your readers?

    It can be assumed that writers... like the incrediblyprolific Otto Binder... got around to opening someCaptain Marvel stories without the customary BillyBatson scene. Of the tales scripted for the feature byothers, however, including myself, its a safe bet that fewbegan otherwise. In the majority of cases it was Billy...setting the stage... arranging the props... providing asupporting cast... hinting at a plot... moving toward hisinitial Shazam... to return at the storys close for hisfarewell... after the magic word again, of course.

    There werent any special memos or pep talks about it, but thegeneral understanding was that Eddie Herron, Al Allard, and very likelyRalph Daigh expected to see Captain Marvel out front very early in thestories. So did the Madison Avenue suits upstairs. The name of thegame... the comic book game... at Fawcett was Captain Marvel!

    My somewhat impromptu entry into the writing arena came aboutwhen there was a spur of the moment need for a script and I volun-teered. I dont know why I did that, except that I considered myself ateam player... and Fawcett was my team. My big brothers words echoedthen and still do: Dont make your infielder have to dig the ball out ofthe dirt! Throw him a perfect strike! Not bad advice. Not easy toforget.

    They didnt know I could write. Nobody did... but me. There hadbeen no mention of writing in my rsum... how could they know? Ofcourse, in my own personal ratings of authorship I invariably foundmyself at or very near the top... up there with the literary greats. Nosense in selling oneself short... to oneself. I call it confidence... self-confidence.

    Little can be recalled about the story after it was accepted andscheduled... not even whether it was illustrated by C.C. Beck or by me. Idid a couple more scripts after that but not under similar pressurecircumstances. I have since wondered occasionally how they werehandled in the accounting department. Surely not in my name, a salariedmember of the art department. There was a strict no-no on the premisesthat purchases never be made from company employees. The benefit thatI was to enjoy from the experience was the satisfaction when I left formilitary service a year or so later that I was not the only one who knew

    (c) mds[Art & logo 2005 Marc Swayze; Captain Marvel & TM 2005 DC Comics]

    By

    II

    The kid with radio station WHIZ is perhaps better remembered by the name of his alter ego,Captain Marvel. In the majority of stories, it was Billy setting the stage. Marc Swayze panel

    from Captain Marvel Adventures #15 (Sept. 1942). [2005 DC Comics.]

    85

  • Man of MysteryBILL BLACKs AC Comicsby P.C. Hamerlinck

    87

    [Special Thanks to Robert K.S. Croy, Sr.]

    A Fan In Floridauper-heroes and cowboys influenced a boy whowould one day own his own comic book company.

    Bill Black was first exposed to comics as its GoldenAge dissipated directly following World War II. Blackwitnessed firsthand many of his favorite super-heroes falland vanish into thin air. Still, the youngster with a strongpassion for comics kept a steady vigil near the newsstands,armed with dimes and ready to grab any heroes still leftstanding. His family moved to Florida in 1951. During the1950s, he had his definite favorites: Simon and KirbysFighting American, Bullseye, and Stuntman. By sixthgrade, Black was already creating and drawing his owncomics.

    Another top pop-culture love of Blacks was films. Hetook an immediate liking to the Saturday afternoon matineeB-western movies, and was particularly awestruck with theDurango Kid films starring Charles Starrett. The combi-nation of Durangos heroics and all-black outfit filled a void

    for Black during a time when many of his favorite comic bookcostumed characters continued to shrink in numbers. (Black soondiscovered to his delight Magazine Enterprises Durango Kid comicbook and was lassoed into the thriving cowboy comics genre of theperiod.) As early as 1959 Black started to produce his own regular 8mmand super-8 horror films. He even made it as a finalist in a contestsponsored by Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. EventuallyBlack became more serious with his movie projects and began filmingin 16mm, making roughly twenty movies. (He continues film worktoday, with plans to put more time and energy into the field.)

    Black entered Florida State University in 1963, majoring inAdvertising Design while he fine-tuned his art skills. He produced hisfirst professional work with underground comix publisher Bill Killeenon The Charlatan, a humor magazine based in Tallahassee, Florida.

    After graduating from FSU in 1966, Black was drafted into theArmy and assigned to teach photography and painting at Fort Stewartin Georgia. While in the service he married his college sweetheart,Rebekah, who soon understood her husbands fascination with comicsafter she read his entire box of early Fantastic Four issues.

    During this time Black discovered comics fandom by stumblingupon an issue of G.B. Loves comic fanzine, The Rockets Blast-Comicollector. Through the RB-CCs large number of advertisers,Black began buying Golden Age comics from dealers and fans anddeveloped friendships with others in fandom. Black would soonbecome one of comic fandoms major figures.

    Paragon And ProdomIn early 1969 Black began to create small press publications under

    the banner of Paragon Publications. The previous year he had

    SS

    Marvels All!(Above:) Bill Black talks with a bearded C.C. Beck about his gun collection

    at an OrlandoCon in the early 1980s.

    (Below:) The Marvel Familypenciled by Don Newton, and inked by Bill Black.[Art 2005 Bill Black & Estate of Don Newton; characters TM & 2005 DC Comics.]

  • published Paragon Golden Age Greats #1, which contained reprints ofGolden Age stories of Rocketman, The Spirit, Captain Marvel,and others. It was produced on a photocopier and was an extremelylimited edition of one copy. The next year, a week before his dischargefrom the Army, Black persuaded his supervisor to buy a used printingpress, and with it he printed Paragon Golden Age Greats # 2. The bookcontained reprints of Golden Age Captain Marvel stories, which,Black learned, could have caused him trademark problems. Thus, withthe exception of a dozen or so ultra-rare copies, the entire print run wastrashed. Noteworthy of this rarity was the inclusion of a brand newCaptain Marvel story, written and drawn (in then-current MarvelComics-style) by Black, years before DC Comics officially revived theWorlds Mightiest Mortal. Luckily, Black had saved the original artwork,which was reworked and re-lettered and subsequently published in thenext Paragon book, Paragon Publications Captain Paragon #1. (Thesecond issue was titled Paragon Presents Dark Continent #2,featuring Tara, originally drawn by Black on typewriter paper.)

    Returning to Florida after his time in the service, Black did a brieffreelance stint with Warren Publications, illustrating horror stories forCreepy and Eerie magazines. He continued to produce books under theParagon banner during evening hours. Black became heavily involvedwithin fandom and produced many covers and spot illustrations forvarious fanzines, most notably for Bill Wilsons The Collector, GaryGroths Fantastic Fanzine, Marty Greims Comic Crusader, and otherfan-related projects. By producing an entire line of different titles,Blacks own fanzines were unique from his contemporaries.

    In 1970 Black moved to Tallahassee and worked at the Florida StateUniversity Media Center as an illustrator and supervisor. During hisemployment with them, Black persuaded yet another of his employers toobtain a used printing press! In evenings down in the FSU basementBlack printed his Paragon books. (He would eventually obtain a printingpress of his own while in Tallahassee.) The Paragon books began to take

    on a new life of their own, transformingfrom fanzines into professionally-produced and -designed magazines.Various then-current and future comicsprofessionals provided art contributionsto Blacks magazines, including GilKane, Joe Staton, and Jerry Ordway.

    In 1972 Black decided to write to hischildhood idol, Charles Starrett, theactor who had portrayed The DurangoKid. One evening close to midnight, aringing phone awakened Black. Thefamiliar-sounding voice on the otherend said, This is The Durango Kid!Blacks friendship with Starrett hadbegun, lasting almost two decades untilthe actors death. Starrett had grantedBlack permission for the continued useof his name and image in Durango Kidcomics. Black promised Starrett that hewould keep him and Durango alive byalways having The Durango Kid inprint a promise that Black has keptsince 1973.

    Black became involved in FloridasOrlandoCon in the late 70s. Theconvention became well-known for itsbig-name guests, including Will Eisner,Marty Nodell, C.C. Beck, and manyothers. Blacks association withOrlandoCon lasted 17 years.

    In the mid-70s, Marvel Comics editor Roy Thomas asked Black if hewould be interested in some freelance inking work for them. Black inkedstories in What If #9 & #12 and The Invaders #31. Black then turneddown further freelance work from Marvel and relocated to Longwood,Florida, where he took an art director job with a film productioncompany. Black continued to contribute art for various comics andfanzines. In the early 80s, he illustrated several covers for Charlton,including Billy the Kid and Gunfighters. He also assisted Dan Reed onthe Blue Beetle strip and provided artwork for Charlton Bullseye.

    Turning On The ACIn 1982, Black decided to form his own independent comic book

    company: AmeriComicslater renamed AC Comics. For 13 years Blackhad run Paragon Publications out of his home, but with AC, he openedup offices in Longwood, where the business has since remained.Wisconsin artist Mark Heike, whom Black calls my first fan, relocatedto Longwood to join AC as associate editor and artist.

    AC Comics was one of the pioneering four-color comics publishersresponsible for the development of the independent direct sales market.The company grew quickly and was soon publishing several titles. 1985marked the year that Black, long inspired by Golden Age good girl art(specifically Matt Bakers Phantom Lady), began publishing comicsfeaturing what would become his most popular creation: Femforce.The successful and longest-running super-heroine group is celebrating its20-year anniversary.

    By the late 80s Black began to experiment in publishing differentgenres, reprinting Golden Age western, crime, jungle, and science-fictioncomic storiesin addition to reprinting public domain super-herostories from the 40s and 50s.

    Charlton departed from the comic book business in 1987 and began

    88 Bill Blacks AC Comics

    Bills contact with the late Charles Starrett, who had played The Durango Kid in a series of movies in the 1940sand early 50s, led to his eventually reprinting numerous Western comics stories from that periode.g., in Best of

    the West #26 (2002) and Western Movie Hero #2 (2001) with Monte Hale, Lash LaRue, Tom Mix, and Tim Holt.These and most of the rest of AC Comics product are still available; see ad on p. 86. [Covers 2005 AC Comics.]

  • [Originally presented in FCA/SOB #11 (FCA #22), 1981.]

    ot long ago a young artist asked me whether the purpose ofart was not to search for new ways to see things and then toshow the world how to view everything in new andwonderful ways.

    He seemed shocked when I said that I didnt hold much to that view.Perhaps, I said, in the long run artists manage to teach the public newways of seeing things, but only gradually and after the passage of manyyears. No individual artist can bring about any great change, I pointedout.

    In my opinion it is much more important that artists use standard,accepted methods to show things that everyone is familiar with but ofwhich most people are not aware. Art, like language, must be under-stood by ordinary humans. There is no point increating new and strange terms which nobodycan understand. Such work, in either literatureor art, is no better than gibberish.

    Political cartoonists merely exaggeratepoliticians noses, ears, teeth, jowls, and otherfeatures so that they can become instantlyrecognizable characters. Why, that looks justlike Nixon, or Reagan, or Carter, or TipONeil! the reader laughsor snortsdepending on his politics.

    Political cartoonists dont show figures as ifseen from directly overhead, or from amanhole, or leaping off the page in startlingperspective. They dont tip and distort every-thing merely to show off. They do not use anairbrush, or acrylic paint, or even, most of thetime, any color.

    Comic book cartoonists, however, seem tobe trying to impress readers with their artwork,not with their ability to depict great characters.They seem to be always experimenting, like somany students, with strange angles and weirdtechniques in hopes of finding something newand wonderful. What that something may be,nobody knows.

    After a political character has been estab-lished in cartoon form, other artists copy thecaricature mindlessly. They distort it fartherand farther away from the original form until itbecomes grotesque and meaningless. Thishappens to comic book characters, too. All thegreat Golden Age characters have been sochanged over the years that they are no longerrecognizable. They are like the great heroes andvillains and saints of ancient times whosestories and images were retold and reshaped bycopyists and scribes who hadnt the faintestidea of what they were supposed to be doing.

    But you have to change things! these copyists maintain. You haveto bring things up to date, and use modern terms that readers will under-stand. In other words, you must rewrite history. If an old story isbloodthirsty and horrible, you must clean it up and make it all prettyand nice. If an old story is simple and direct, you must clutter it all upand make it mind-boggling. Above all, you must make everythingpolished, slick, homogenized like a TV dinner or a fast-food milkshake.

    This is utter nonsense, of course. If an old story (there really arentany new ones, and havent been since prehistoric times) is still worthtelling, tell it the way it was told in the first place. Dont fruit it up withall sorts of meaningless garbage. If you have no story to tell, dont expectto get many readers to buy your work for the sake of the beautiful,mostly meaningless art you give them instead.

    To me, art is like magic. True art should make viewers say, I dontknow how he did that, but its a great job. False art makes viewers say,Now why did he do that? I cant make heads or tails of this fellowswork.

    Even other artists dont really like such false art. So many of them sitdown and produce art thats even more false. After a while, everythingbecomes so meaningless that it all falls apart and disappears, never to beseen again. The whole shebang is buried under tons of rubble and latergenerations forget all about the misguided souls who thought that theirnames would be remembered forever.

    True Artby C.C. BeckEdited by P.C. Hamerlinck

    91

    C.C. Becks cover art to the 1981 issue of FCA (during his tenure as editor) from whichthis article is reprinted. [Art 2005 Estate of Charles Clarence Beck.]

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