Comic Artist Jack Cole’s Suicide Note to Hugh Hefner 1958

Read Alex Grand’s Understanding Superhero Comic Books published by McFarland Books in 2023 with Foreword by Jim Steranko with editorial reviews by comic book professionals, Jim Shooter, Tom Palmer, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Alex Segura, Carl Potts, Guy Dorian Sr. and more.

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On 5/25/2019, CBH’s Alex Grand spent the day with  Bud Plant, and Jeff Kepley scanning Golden Age books from the Mike Sanchez collection.  Bud Plant is a well known Comic Book retailer, comic archaeologist and co-founder of the Comics and Comix franchise.  Jeff worked at Comics and Comix and left to pursue Civil Engineering, working on several projects including one with Steve Ditko’s nephew, Mark.  Mike Sanchez has one of the most extensive collections of New Fun, More Fun and Pre-Batman Detective Comics amongst other miscellaneous books like Centaur, Comics Magazine co, etc.  A previous day of scanning such gems went into the DC Comics Before Superman History book written by The Major’s granddaughter, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson.  There was a great deal of fun conversation that day, and Jack Cole came up as one of several topics.  Mike said that back in 1992, a friend, and collector mailed him Jack Cole’s suicide note that he wrote his old boss, Hugh Hefner.  His collector friend was closer to Hefner’s side of the situation.  One thing led to another, Mike went and dug up the old envelope it originally came in and this item was also scanned with some of the other books in the room.


Who is Jack Cole?  Well that was discussed in the Golden Age greats episode.  So for convenience lets sum that up here.  Jack Cole started in drawing for the Harry Chesler studio, the same one that Mac Raboy started in, drawing various comic books.

He came into his own at MLJ comics where Cole created the Comet, the golden age precursor to X-Men’s Cyclops mentioned in a previous episode, and is also responsible for turning the Lev Gleason yellow golden age Daredevil, red.



Besides these Silver Age Marvel precursors came his crowning Golden Age Comic Book character achievement when he left Lev Gleason for Quality Comics, and created and continued the adventures of Plastic Man from Police Comics 1, 1941 which he worked on until the early 1950s.



His images here are staggeringly entertaining utilizing a cartoon approach and mixing it with both the crime and superhero genre making an incredibly entertaining and visually stunning series of comic books.  For the modern reader, Plastic Man was Deadpool, before there was a Deadpool.

He worked on Plastic Man through part of the atomic age or as some may call it the later golden age, also worked on some disturbing Crime Comics as well until he jumped ship, leaving the comic book industry and finally landed a girly cartooning gig for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Magazine in 1954.

When he left, it was one of many signifiers that the industry would not be the same.  On August 13, 1958 he got into his Chevy Station Wagon and committed suicide from a self inflicted gun shot wound..  He was known to have written a letter to Hugh Hefner before his death, and here is that note.



Fascinating here is the lack of anger, and wanting to reassure Hef that he had ultimate respect for him.  There is mention that he didn’t want to go on hurting anyone, was that domestic in nature?  He mentions owing money to Hef which would get settled after his death.  He brings up names of the Playboy bullpen so his later career there seems filled with a glowing fondness.  It’s sad that this couldn’t have been prevented but one thing seems certain, is that when he wrote this letter, his decision was made.  Needless to say, his suicide is tragic and we have many examples of his art to examine and remember.



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Photos and images ©Their Respective Copyright holders, Plastic Man ©DC Comics, Playboy ©Playboy

Use of images are not intended to infringe on copyright, but merely used for academic purpose.


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