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Mort Todd Biographical Interview by Alex Grand

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.

In the meantime enjoy the show:

A sit down chat between Alex Grand and Mort Todd, on various key aspects of his life and career including his childhood in comics, teenage fanzines, Underground Psycho Comics in New York City, writing Superman for DC Comics, becoming the youngest Editor-In-Chief at Cracked Magazine in 1985, spearheading the Marvel Music brand, Charlton Arrow and beyond. Mort also discusses his interactions, anecdotes, and relationships with comic greats like Steve Ditko, John Severin, Bill Ward, Myron Fass, Carl Burgos, Dan Clowes, and Peter Bagge. Mort Todd is an American writer and media entrepreneur, best known as the editor-in-chief of Cracked magazine, and later, Marvel Music. He is the owner of Comicfix, a media company that has developed licensed properties.

🎬 Edited & Produced by Alex Grand, ©2021 Comic Book Historians

Sound FX – Standard License. Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders. Images used for academic purposes only.

Who is Mort Todd? or When Punk Rock “CRACKED” Comics with Mort Todd & Alex
Grand

📜 Video Chapters
00:00:00 Intro to Mort Todd
00:00:55 Childhood
00:01:53 H.P. Lovecraft & Stephen King
00:02:27 Dad loved Plastic Man
00:03:50 Early NY Comic Con, Comics, TV
00:07:01 Discovered MAD with Playboy
00:07:35 Exposed to Bill Ward when 8
00:09:41 Childhood Comics
00:10:58 High School Publishing
00:14:26 Radioactive Sex & Punk Rock
00:15:37 Dr. Death & Mort’s
00:17:57 Underground Comics
00:19:19 Harvey Kurtzman
00:20:08 Moved to New York 1979 – SVA
00:21:49 Psycho Comics w/ Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge
00:22:30 Phil Seuling – Famous Monsters Filmland
00:24:02 1973 Jim Steranko sighting
00:25:40 Art for Record Covers
00:26:25 Sold Screenplay to TV w/ Dan Clowes 1981
00:29:14 Myron Fass – Warren Mags
00:31:28 Meeting Carl Burgos & Jerry Grandinetti
00:32:20 Noticing Credits & Styles
00:33:17 Writing Superman for Julius Schwartz 1984/5
00:34:33 Vince Colletta 1974
00:35:31 Henry Boltinoff, Dick Ayers 1985
00:36:17 Hired at CRACKED magazine 1985
00:37:47 Former EIC Paul Laikin – Humorist
00:41:42 Became EIC at CRACKED
00:42:56 Steve Ditko at CRACKED
00:43:37 Steve Ditko’s Favorite Films / Anecdotes
00:47:12 Frank McLaughlin – Charlton
00:48:23 Steve Ditko Practical Joke – Politics
00:49:54 John Severin Anecdotes – Politics
00:50:47 Gene Colan & Gray Morrow & Don Martin
00:54:37 Dan Clowes & Peter Bagge at CRACKED
00:55:34 CRACKED Monster Party
00:57:40 Fantagraphics / Independents – Dan Clowes
00:59:48 CRACKED Diverse Style
01:00:40 Trolling Bill Gaines & MAD 1987
01:06:53 Joker’s Joke Book & Batman Film
01:10:29 Leonard Part 6 – Cosby
01:12:06 Skyman with Ditko 1987
01:13:45 Why Leave CRACKED 1990? – Digest
01:15:47 World of Bill Ward 1990
01:16:24 Al Hartley – Spire Comics
01:18:31 Worked with Globe Tabloid – Batboy
01:19:22 Bill Ward – Russ Meyer
01:19:54 Steve Ditko – Color Mr. A Never was
01:21:36 Start MARVEL Music 1994 – EIC
01:24:24 Also Atlas Reprints w/ Tom DeFalco
01:26:12 Marvel Music Covers & Band Parties
01:28:33 Alice Cooper & Neil Gaiman
01:30:58 End of Marvel Music – Regrets
01:32:41 Other Weird Marvel Projects
01:35:55 Marvel Music’s Legacy
01:36:10 Mort’s Religious Background
01:36:58 Animation & Advertising Career
01:38:31 Sebastian Bach Comic
01:39:00 Marvel Comic with John K from Ren & Stimpy
01:42:22 Vex Magazine 2012
01:42:53 Storyboarding Career & Animation Software
01:45:39 1960s Marvel Cartoons
01:47:14 Christopher Walken Cartoon
01:47:35 ComicFix for NY Post with John Severin 2000
01:50:59 Return to CRACKED in 2005
01:52:31 Sadistik Photo-Comic Rights
01:55:06 Co-Founding Station A 2011 – Advertising
01:56:47 Zeus Comics – Practical Joke 2013
01:59:27 Charlton Arrow – Charlton Neo 2014 – Present
02:03:05 Future – Power Comics
02:04:48 Rise Like a Phoenix

#MortTodd #SteveDitko #Cracked #ComicBookHistorians #MarvelComics
#DCComics #Batman #Joker #CharltonArrow #MarvelMusic #ComicHistorian
#CBHInterviews #CBHPodcast #CBH

Transcript (editing in progress):

Alex Grand:
Welcome back to the Comic Book Historians YouTube channel. I’m Alex Grand, interviewing Mort Todd, who’s had such an interesting and varied career in the industry. Almost coming out of left and right field, you never see him coming, but when the product’s there, we all love it. Mort, thank you so much for joining us today.

Mort Todd:
Well, I’m super honored because when I saw the illustrious list of illustrators and creators that you’ve interviewed, I was like, “Why me?”

Alex Grand:
Well, no, I’ve always been interested in everything you’ve posted and I’ve actually looked up a lot of stuff that you’ve done, and it’s all stuff that I love looking at and that I love seeing.

Mort Todd:
Oh, thank you.

Alex Grand:
So I’m excited about this. So, let’s start from the beginning if that’s okay.

Mort Todd:
From birth?

Alex Grand:
Actually, yes. Actually, yes, that’s true. Basically, before you, there is darkness, then there is a crack of light, and you came through.

Mort Todd:
On the eighth day.

Alex Grand:
And that was in 1961, is that correct?

Mort Todd:
Way to date me.

Alex Grand:
You’re one of the younger people.

Mort Todd:
Yeah, I’m still in my 50s. The late 50s, very late 50s.

Alex Grand:
That’s right.

Mort Todd:
But I don’t feel it.

Alex Grand:
So yeah, so you’re actually Generation X actually.

Mort Todd:
I thought I was in the rocket age or the space age or something. Post-boomers.

Alex Grand:
Now, your name is Mort Todd, but you were born originally Michael Delle-Femine, is that right?

Mort Todd:
No. Well, everyone pronounces it differently, even in my own family. So that’s why in high school, I came up with Mort Todd.

Alex Grand:
Right, exactly.

Mort Todd:
Yeah.

Alex Grand:
And so in what city were you born, was it Maine?

Mort Todd:
I was actually lucky enough to be born in East Providence, Rhode Island, whereas, they say they’re Roode Eylandt. But I grew up in Maine.

Alex Grand:
Are you an H.P. Lovecraft fan or anything?

Mort Todd:
How could you not be? I mean, Rhode Island likes to take the claim of the horror state, but Maine’s really the horror state, because even the stuff Lovecraft wrote like Innsmuuth and all that. That’s where I grew up. I grew up in Yarmouth and it had to have been based on Innsmouth] or vice versa. And then there’s that guy named King. I don’t know, I can’t remember his name, but he does a lot of horror stuff up here.

Alex Grand:
I’ve heard of him. Yeah. He doesn’t like dogs or something, I think. So now, what type of work did your parents do while you were growing up?

Mort Todd:
First, my mom’s a stay-at-home mom and my dad started a union for aircraft mechanics that he was the union boss for his whole life it was. He got elected every time for 40, 50 years.

Alex Grand:
Oh, wow. That’s really interesting.

Mort Todd:
And he was a comic fan too. He liked Plastic Man who… Even before I knew he liked Plastic Man, I loved Plastic Man. I think Plastic Man by Jack Cole is one of the greatest comics ever created. Ooh, when I found out I was second generation Plastic Man fan.

Alex Grand:
Plastic Man, and I remember your Facebook page, your skin actually stretches actually. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You are also Plastic Man.

Mort Todd:
Something like that. When I first moved to New York at 17, I was a graffiti artist and Plazz was my tag.

Alex Grand:
Oh, that’s cool.

Mort Todd:
Short for Plastic Man. I put it everywhere.

Alex Grand:
Did your dad introduce you to comic books then?

Mort Todd:
No. No. He traveled nonstop because of his business and the parents got divorced while I was at a young age and I was irrevocably harmed. No, I’m just kidding. But what was good is I was growing up in Maine. He lived in New York. So as a youngster, I’d go to New York a lot and go to cons and stuff like that. So that was pretty damn fun.

Alex Grand:
Now, you read comics as a kid, was it mostly non-super hero things that you were reading?

Mort Todd:
Well, I’ll tell you, when I was probably three or four, I got a subscription from my grandparents to Walt Disney Comics and Stories. And like my sister… Oh, because I was rambunctious youth. And they couldn’t take me to movies because I’d run up and down aisles and just talk with everybody and stuff. So ultimately, I got the comics and even before I could read, I was just absorbed and my sister was like, “We finally found a way to shut him up.” So by the time I was four, I started kindergarten when I was young, four, and I was already reading by then, because of Carl Barks.

Alex Grand:
You also watched the Batman TV show as a kid too, right?

Mort Todd:
Did I? I was learning to read and I would read the credits and that hasn’t stopped since, right? And it was like it just all connects because I’d see the music was by Nelson Riddle and I’m like, “Riddle. Riddler? Why do they have the Riddler during the music and stuff?” And then I’d see other movies or like Frank Sinatra albums or movies with Nelson Riddle and I’m like, “Those are the horns from Batman and stuff. That’s the total composition of the Batman music.” And then sure enough, Nelson Riddle did the music, so it’s been like that with TV and movie credits ever since I was really little and stuff so…

Alex Grand:
Oh, yeah. So then it’s interesting. It’s almost like comics, TV and music.

Mort Todd:
All media.

Alex Grand:
It was like all media was hitting you kind of at the same age.

Mort Todd:
Then when I was 11, I was going to summer camp, YMCA summer camp, upstate Maine. And because of my particular skill at archery, I won a purple feather, which allowed me to go on an overnight camping trip with other kids who won the coveted purple feather. And there, I met this kid, Jay Jones, and we got to talk and yada, yada, and I think he was from California, but he was moving to my hometown in Yarmouth that fall. And it turned out and he was Adam West’s nephew.

Alex Grand:
Oh, that’s cool. Yeah, uh-huh (affirmative).

Mort Todd:
It was. I was just like, “What?!” So I’d go to his house in my hometown and he’d be talking to Adam West on the phone, I’d be like, “wow!” And then probably 10 or 12 years later, I met Adam West at a show, it was a Beyond Vaudeville, which was a public access show that would have burlesque and all kinds of stuff and he hosted it. And so I gave him a page from… We did a parody of Batman at Cracked with his show. I gave it to him and he was like, “Oh, that’s nice and everything.” And I was like, “Oh, I grew up with your nephew, Jay.” And he’s like, “Jay, he was just in Idaho last weekend. We were fishing.” And you know who Adam West’s neighbor was in Idaho?

Alex Grand:
Who?

Mort Todd:
Van Williams.

Alex Grand:
Oh, wow.

Mort Todd:
The Green Hornet.

Alex Grand:
That’s cool.

Mort Todd:
So Batman and the Green Hornet would go fishing all the time.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, yeah. You also then discovered Mad Magazine. It was under your uncle’s bed with some Playboys. Did I read that right?

Mort Todd:
You know all the dirt. Yeah. Yeah. Because I figured, oh man, this must be super adult, because it’s with his Playboys and stuff. So I’m checking it all out, but then I realized I could buy it too, so… And like the story of every other kid from that era is like, ah, I already have this Mad. What’s this Cracked thing?

Alex Grand:
Yeah.

Mort Todd:
Then it’s like it’s a Mad rip-off and not as good. But if you don’t got a Mad, you can buy a Cracked. That was when I was first exposed to a lot of artists like Bill Ward, because I was what? Eight or nine and you look at Bill Ward’s art with all these voluptuous women and you’re like, “I don’t know why, but I really like this art.”

Alex Grand:
I can’t quite place why that is. Yeah. And what was that like real life dolls? What was he doing then?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. Because yeah, it was like real life dolls and there were these Bardot dolls and they were all in their lingerie and all this stuff. And I remember reading that and then forgot about it until I was at Cracked, because one of the first things I did at Cracked was read every single issue and the reprints and everything, because we did a lot of reprints, so I wanted to know what was available. And sure enough, I saw that and I was like, “Oh boy, that’s etched into the recesses of my brain.” Because he would do stuff like…. He might be the only guy that does it. It’s like you got your basic cleavage.

Alex Grand:
Yeah.

Mort Todd:
He would do toe cleavage.

Alex Grand:
Yeah.

Mort Todd:
He would do these chicks in high heels and you could count every toe and the cleavage on it. And there’s definitely a market for that. I mean, I’m not necessarily foot fetish-ish, but there’s definitely people who are.

Alex Grand:
Did you ever go back and look at his Torchy stuff and things like that?

Mort Todd:
Did I? I reprinted it. After I left Cracked, I put a collection together and I think it was the first collection he had. It was called WOW, Women of… Or he had thousands of his originals and they were giant. He did them so massive and they were reproduced really small. He’d do them in conti crown on the crappiest paper possible and fortunately, he got them all back. But the thing was back then, they were selling for 25, 50 bucks a piece. That’s the most you can get for them and now, I see they’re like 10,000.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. Oh, I know. Everything’s overpriced. Yeah. Now, you were into satire comic magazines.

Mort Todd:
Oh, I was waking into superheroes and stuff.

Alex Grand:
There you go. So let’s talk about that. So what kind of superheroes were you into at that time?

Mort Todd:
Well, I started out being… Because it’s like baseball teams or politics, it’s like DC’s cool, Marvel sucks. But then obviously, I got addicted and I read everything; Archie, Marvel, Atlas, Christian Spire comics, Skywald comics. And growing up in Maine in the 70s, you’d go to flea markets and buy horror comics from the 50s. So I had an insane Atlas collection from the 50s and all this obscure stuff, ACE from Canada and junk, so…

Alex Grand:
Did you like the 60s Marvel stuff when that was popular.

Mort Todd:
Sure, yeah. Because at first, I was like, “Oh, gay. DC’s…” It’s pretty straight cut Superman and Batman, and everybody’s… Flash has a crew cut and then you read the Marvel stuff and you’re like, “oooohhh.” And then my little brother would get Charltons and I’d be like, “That’s so ghetto.” But I grew to appreciate them very quickly.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I love Charlton stuff, but I like it more as an adult, I think.

Mort Todd:
And I’ve got to work with tons of the Charlton artists.

Alex Grand:
That’s right. That’s right. You did. Now in high school, did you work on any fanzines or how involved were you getting into early forms of high school publishing and things?

Mort Todd:
Well, what happened was after I went to this camp called Wowonok, which was like a day camp, as opposed to the Y where you stayed for a couple of weeks. And Wowonok, I got involved with their weekly paper and then I was too old to go there. So I got hired as a junior counselor, probably when I was 13 or something and I was in charge of the newspaper. So it was the old mimeograph where you print stuff and spit it out with a drum. But so I do that weekly and I do comics and articles and stuff like that.

Mort Todd:
And then off season, I was like, “You don’t need this machine from September to June. Maybe I’ll just take it home and print my own comics,” and that’s exactly what I did. Because most of them, like if you ever in school, they were purple or blue. I found a way to do multiple colors on one page.

Alex Grand:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Mort Todd:
So I would do… It was primitive, but I’d do different colors on every page and stuff.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. You were kind of getting innovative with that stuff, it sounds like, with the kind of the limited stuff you had at that point, you were pushing the boundary there.

Mort Todd:
Yeah. And then I talked to camp into doing a winter comic basically to send to all the campers and junk and they liked the idea too. “Don’t forget about Wowonok” So I did like… I don’t know if it was… It was probably like a 32 page comic and I did the Shield, the old MLJ Archie Shield without caring about copyright or anything. I did a new story and came up with some new characters and had Santa doing something on the cover or whatever. But yeah. We printed on color paper and then color ink. So it wasn’t the same old garbage.

Alex Grand:
You had an alias when you signed those things, right? What was that?

Mort Todd:
Not for the camp papers, no. The paper was called the Wig Wag and I used my real name for that, but then… Well, what happened was I had my printing machine. I was going to Yarmouth high school in my sophomore year and for April Fools, I thought, “You know what? Speaking of satire, I’m going to print up a parody of the announcements that every teacher would get and read to the class.” And so I did that and an old girlfriend of mine was the one that passed them out. So she did it for me. So it was totally legit. And it started out super normal like, “People who ordered the T-shirts, basketball T-shirts can go to the office and pick it up.” But then it slowly… Because it’d be numbered one, two, three, four, and then it slowly got into depravity.

Mort Todd:
It was about drugs and sex and all kinds of stuff. Because then, I was really into undergrounds and junk. So I was rewarded for that by being suspended. So I was like, “Screw this, I’m quitting,” or whatever. But what I ended up, I got an art scholarship at a private school here in Portland called Wayneflete, which had a bunch of elite artist types and junk. That was when I first had carnal relations, which totally changed my life at 15 and gave me a sense of confidence that I hadn’t had as a comic book nerd in general.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. It’s like a radioactive spider in a way.

Mort Todd:
Totally. And the transformative powers of punk rock, because all of a sudden, I had short hair and this is like I’m saying, late 70s, Maine was full of hippies. I started wearing suits, I had short hair, I was a threat. And my mom would even say, “If I didn’t know, you I’d be scared of you.” I was just a comic geek, but it gave you some confidence because that was just it. You could define yourself instead of being defined and having grown up in the same school your whole life, you get defined, you get stereotyped as was the kid that lost his shorts at basketball or whatever, something like that that will stick with you forever.

Mort Todd:
So I went to this new school where no one knew me and it was really fun. But then I… And that’s when I did the newspaper there with some friends and I did a comic strip called Doctor Death. So they would call me Dr. Death and that’s when I came up with Mort Todd too, because Mort and Todd are French and German for death.

Alex Grand:
Yes, that’s right.

Mort Todd:
I’ve always been a morbid individual, so that would have been when I was 15, 16, so I’ve used it ever since. But then for my senior year, I was like, I felt… I went back to Yarmouth because it was like time traveling. Because I’ve been gone a year and these people were all the same, but I had transformed and I felt like I’m visiting the past. So I graduated from Yarmouth and it was really fun because again, I was the only punk rocker in his town of 3000 people.

Mort Todd:
And our class was probably 80 or 90 or something and we’ve known everybody since they were five or six. So it was weird. I’d wear jumped suits and suits and nobody gets that. Because conversely too when I was seven, I had super long hair and bell bottoms and stuff and in Maine, no one had long hair in the early 70s. And this one, it was like third grade going to the bus stop for the first day of school in third grade and she was making fun of my bell bottoms and saying, “Only girls wear bell bottoms.” And I was like, “Uh-uh (negative), sailors do. But yeah. So I’ve always been a contrarian.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. That’s awesome. And I respect that. So Mort Todd as being derived from Dr. Death, was there also some of that of attribute to the Mort Druckers and the Mort Weisingers or was that more of a later-

Mort Todd:
Yeah, that’s just it. There was a billion Morts in the comics industry; Mort Lawrence, Mort Meskin, but yeah, More Weisinger.

Alex Grand:
Was that in your mind at that point?

Mort Todd:
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Alex Grand:
At that same point. Okay.

Mort Todd:
Yeah, because like I said, I had tons of comics from the 50s by then, so… And also in the 70s, DC would reprint a lot of golden age stuff.

Alex Grand:
Yeah.

Mort Todd:
E. Nelson Bridwell in particular and do Johnny Quick by Morton Meskin and I think Weisinger wrote it and they’d sign it by Morton Mort.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. That’s right. Yeah. So you were mentioning underground comics were also trickling in.

Mort Todd:
Oh, yeah.

Alex Grand:
What was some of your big ones that you were into? Are you talking about Robert.

Mort Todd:
Crumb? Seriously. I read everything, because again, I was like 11 when I started reading underground comics. And also when I started buying Playboy and Lampoon, I was like 11. And there was this one shop airbus that had underground comics. I think the first one I got was Larry Wells’ Captain Guts or something like that. I don’t know. But then I got that, I think Mark Estren’s book about history of underground comics. So I just had a… I was the type of guy that read the comic book price guide from cover to cover every year and stuff.

Mort Todd:
So, I mean, I just absorbed all that stuff about the underground then found them. And I’ll tell you, I mean, yeah. I mean, obviously Crumb is fantastic. You can’t deny it, but I’ve gotten jaded over the years about Crumb, but I’ve always loved S. Clay Wilson and Spain Rodriguez, and a lot of the creepier dark stuff. And they had an influence on me as a youth too, because it was kind of crude stuff. So as far as my drawings, like, “Well, that’s not so far from what I’m drawing, so I can do that too.”

Alex Grand:
Were you into Harvey Kurtzman’s Help! Magazine as well?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. I didn’t see many of them until I moved to New York and then I got all of them and plus like production stuff, like in my Cracked office for a long time, I had this giant cardboard blow up cover that they used for promotion back in the day and stuff.

Alex Grand:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Mort Todd:
And I loved the photo comics and I’ve always loved photo comics because I guess the first time I saw them properly was in Lampoon and stuff, but then I got internationally into photo comics and now, I’ve put out photo comics.

Alex Grand:
Yeah.

Mort Todd:
And probably good, I’ve been talking about shooting new ones with this character. Where is it? Sadistic that’s behind me.

Alex Grand:
Yes, it is. There he is. Yes. Now in 1981, you moved to New York, is that right? Is that-

Mort Todd:
’79. The second I got out of high school, I was like, “Goodbye,” because like I said, my dad lived in New York, but at that moment, they were moving to Rhode Island, back to Rhode Island. So they set me up with a place on 56th and 5th, right in the heart of the city. And that was what, New York was to me then, it was right by the time life building right off of Central Park. And so I rented one room from this woman who had escaped Russia in the 20s and she was a cosmetologist and she must’ve been like her 80s, whatever. She couldn’t understand where my head was at, but I was on the second floor. So a lot of times, I’d just go in and out the window because I’d come home super late at night. So in 1979, you could be in one of the most expensive parts of New York city and climb up the side of the building, go through window and it wouldn’t be a problem.

Alex Grand:
What were you then doing from ’79?

Mort Todd:
The reason was to go to school. I went to Parsons to study comics and then I started making comics and making money doing advertising and record covers. So like screw this. So the next year I went to school of visual arts and just studied film and animation and stuff. And then that year too, I sold the screenplay. So I was like, “What the hell am I paying money for going to these schools and junk?” Yeah, so I just started freelancing, but yeah, that’s at Parsons, I met a friend of Dan’s, Dan Klaus and Rick Altergott, and we all became bar carousing, and then we’d meet other cartoonists like JD King and Peter Bagge. And we’d just go to bars and sometimes start fights or sometimes be in fights.

Alex Grand:
What a fun time.

Mort Todd:
And we’d get drunk a lot, but with… And putting out comics. So yeah, we did psycho comics that was Dan, Rick Altergott and Pete Friedrich was the one that was the main impetus behind it. He did all the production and found the printer and got us an ad from Bud Seuling.

Alex Grand:
So Phil Seuling and Bud Plant, right? Are you talking about both of them?

Mort Todd:
No, I’m mixing them up. No, Phil Seuling.

Alex Grand:
Phil Seuling.

Mort Todd:
Phil Seuling who had Seagate and they were the first direct sales distributors. So we got into stores there. So we were really early direct sales to that. And Phil Seuling is the one that started all the comic cons.

Alex Grand:
So were you friends with Phil then?

Mort Todd:
Oh yeah. Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you what, one of the first cons I went to in New York city must’ve been I think my 13th birthday and it coincided with the first Famous Monsters of Filmland convention and Phil Seuling handled that. And the weird thing too is there had just been an article about Karloff that Forry Ackerman wrote and me and a few kids said, “Forry, you got the makeup artist strong on Ghoul.” So we wrote to him and he did a correction article that had our names in it. So this came out on my birthday at that con and I got to meet Forry and I had him autograph right next to my name and a cool Ken Kelly cover Terror at the Wax Museum later with kiss and stuff. But anyways, Phil Seuling was running it and he was just running everywhere and sweating and had to do this and do that. So my stepmother went out and got him a slice of pizza and he was just so happy.

Alex Grand:
Oh, that’s cool. Yeah. You helped him out. Yeah.

Mort Todd:
Oh, another funny thing about that. Again, I might’ve been 12, it was on my birthday. So I was either 12 or 13. And I remember going up the elevator with Jim Steranko and of course, you don’t miss, it’s Jim Steranko, right? And I might’ve been taller than him at the time. I don’t know. But anyways, so we get to the second floor and this was at the old Commodore Hotel on 42nd street, which is now I think the Trump Hotel. And it was a rotted out old place. It was really in its last stages. But anyways, the elevator doors open and Steranko turns to me, he goes, “Hmm, a lot of pussy here.” And even though I was a little deviant kid, I was like that’s a rather inappropriate thing to say to a preteen.

Alex Grand:
But it turns out you were on a similar wavelength as a teenager. Yeah. Who would’ve thought?

Mort Todd:
And that was back when no girls would go to cons. It was before the cosplay revolution.

Alex Grand:
Right. That’s true. That does kind of change that. Yeah.

Mort Todd:
I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve had some fairly attractive girlfriends in the past and whenever they go to cons with me, they stun comic people because they never seen girls at cons before.

Alex Grand:
Yeah. I mean, it was kind of like a unicorn setting back then, it sounds like.

Mort Todd:
Yeah, exactly. But that’s what I’d like to think, I am the ultimate comic geek that made good because I got to work with everyone in comics likes these comics and the creators, but I got to work with my favorite artists and became friends with them. And the same with a lot of rock bands and junk that I liked as a kid. And when I was 15 in Maine, in my home town, I met a playmate model, a Playboy playmate. And we became very good friends because we were all into rock and she dated a lot of rock stars that would come visit Yarmouth. So I got to meet a lot of bands that I liked. And some of my first work was doing record covers for them and junk when I’m still like 16, 15, 16. And so by the time I moved to New York, I was already deep in the whole band scene and the comic scene and wormed my way into film and video production and junk, so…

Alex Grand:
Because of the radioactive spider, when you were 15, you were saying.

Mort Todd:
She was kind of spidery.

Alex Grand:
So the screenplay you sold is that that TV pilot, The Ultimates?

Mort Todd:
Indeed it is.

Alex Grand:
To a German production company. Did they ever make it? What happened with that?

Mort Todd:
Oh yeah, it got produced and edited, but it never got picked up as a series. And now that starred Dan Klaus.

Alex Grand:
Oh, that’s cool.

Mort Todd:
We made him up because he was super skinny, had big mop of hair. We styled them basically, so he had this big dyed black mop of hair and the red jacket and black tights. And so it was basically, it was all my loves put together. It was a trio of teenage rock and roll superheroes, called The Ultimate. And there was this company called the Ultimate corporation, which sponsored them and they turned out to have evil motives and then ultimately involved the multi-verse and I was just watching low-key or whatever. I wrote that stuff 40 years ago, because not that I rip it off for comics before then and stuff, but we had all these alternate versions of Dr. Ultimate who ran the corporation and some of them were good. Some of them were bad, so it just seemed like what they’re doing Kang now and Loki.

Alex Grand:
So sounds like you would make for a fun, interesting Saturday morning cartoon also.

Mort Todd:
Well, it’s just the live action. They played a couple songs in clubs, they fought robots in the subway. Because back in the day in Canal street, it was all salvage stores and remnants and stuff. So I built all these robots buying a gas mask that I did latex to enhance and rubber tubes and their trench coats. And at first… Well, we had a pretty good budget in Germany. So first, we got permits from the city to be able to shoot in subways and they would give us special tracks that weren’t used in trains, shooting. And then finally, we were like fuck it and we just did it with people riding the trains.

Mort Todd:
And it was back in the day too, when New York was just covered in graffiti, everything was covered in graffiti, like the buildings, everything. So anyways, the guy I co-produced it with and he directed it, he died 20 years ago, but I got all the original tapes.

Alex Grand:
Oh you do? Oh, that’s cool.

Mort Todd:
Yeah. So I want to re-edit it because not only… Because it’s wacky as heck, but it’s got a lot of historical significance of New York 81, and with Dan, and even if I couldn’t edit it, reedit it as a pilot, I think it would make a great documentary too.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, absolutely.

Mort Todd:
I have all these clips and stuff. The guy who played Dr. Ultimate was this guy, Ed French, I think was his name. And he was a frigging editor at Meyer and Fass. So he actually gave me one of the cover paintings because it would have these chicks dipped in acid or something. And a few months later, they’d add a werewolf to it. They’d just paste on a werewolf and print that cover. And then a few months or years later, they’d paste on a Frankenstein monster with an exposed brain and all that. So ultimately, this cover had about eight layers on it, glued on that this thing would just keep evolving.

Alex Grand:
Myron Fass is interesting because he did that weird Captain Marvel thing with Carl Burgos and just the weird android.

Mort Todd:
This was about the same time. It’s like psycho and junk. And when we were doing psycho comics and so I met this art dealer and he had just been involved with… Because Fass’ company bought all the Warren stuff at auction. And you know Stanley Harris?

Alex Grand:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mort Todd:
He had worked with Fass for years and stuff. So yeah. So in high school, I was buying all the Fass’ UFO magazines and Elvis clone magazines. And I had a lot of the early black and white stuff where they’d get Dick Harris to take a 50s reprint and add gore to it and exposed bones and stuff like that. I got invited to go over to Fass and see this Warren stuff. And so I would probably have been 17 or something, 18.

Mort Todd:
And so we go into this warehouse room and there’s a mountain of original Warren art by everybody, Ditko, Neil Adams, everybody, right? And so they wanted to start a new creepy. So I sold him a couple of plots, scripts that never got printed, I don’t think, but that was kind of my first pro sale. I don’t know. So I visited every couple of weeks and that pile of original art was evaporating.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, I bet.

Mort Todd:
People would just swipe all the hell. And then they found out Carl Burgos was still the art director there. So I go see him, he’s in this tiny room with no light, hunched over the chair. What would he have been there? He would’ve been in his 60s and 70s, if not older, I don’t know. And I was like, “Oh, wow. Carl Burgos, I love your 40s and 50s stuff and Human Torch and even Captain Marvel and everything.” He’s like, “What?” He’s like, “I didn’t know anyone knew I did comics.”

Alex Grand:
Wow.

Mort Todd:
And I got that a lot from cartoonists that like…

Mort Todd:
… and I got that a lot from cartoonists, that I’d go in for storyboarding work, and the head of storyboards at this big ad agency was Jerry Grandenetti.

Alex Grand:
Yeah.

Mort Todd:
And I’d be like, “Oh, man. I loved all your stuff you did with Eisner and The Spectre at DC and everything.” So like, I didn’t know anyone knew I ever did comics and stuff.

Alex Grand:
But you were paying attention to credits from year three, though.

Mort Todd:
Yeah, and not only credits, styles. Even at a young age, I could figure out styles, because I used to love the Curt Swan/Murphy Anderson Superman. And then I noticed the background. So I was like, “Those trees. Those trees.” And I realized Jack Abel was doing the background.

Alex Grand:
That’s cool.

Mort Todd:
He didn’t get any credit, but I realized from the Hulk him inking Herb Trimpe, that’s the way he yanks trees. So it was like, even without credits, I was starting to figure out art styles between pencilers, inkers, and background people and all that.

Alex Grand:
That’s really sharp.

Mort Todd:
Even colorists and letterers and junk. And that was way before I was a pro. But by the same token, once I was able to hire people, I’d go out of my way and be like, “I want you.”

Alex Grand:
Speaking of that, tell us how you got set up at Cracked magazine. How did you get into there?

Mort Todd:
Well, at first, I was freelancing and I wrote for Julie Schwartz. I wrote some Superman.

Alex Grand:
You did? Okay. I was wondering about that.

Mort Todd:
Yeah. Of course, hoping Curt Swan would do it. But Kurt Schaffenberger did it and ended up inking it himself, because around then they were having other inkers and stuff. So I was just like, “Oh, boy.” Actually, no, it had to be later, because it was right before John Byrne took over. So it must have been like ’84.

Alex Grand:
’84 even. There you go.

Mort Todd:
Because I think some of my stories had the last reference ever to the original Superboy. I did a story with Professor Lang and Lana Lang and Jimmy Olsen’s professor father, which was probably the last time they appeared in the Silver Age and junk. And so that was a gas, because Julie Schwartz taught me a lot about editing, with just an hour or two would be like decades of education, because he had been in it for decades and stuff. He’d go through my script, and I just send it blindly to DC and they ended up… Nelson Bridwell got in touch with me and met with him. I think I probably told you before, when I was 13 going to DC with my art portfolio, I brought my portfolio to DC, grubby little 13-year-old, and the art director then was Vinnie Coletta.

Alex Grand:
This is 1974, ’75?

Mort Todd:
Would’ve been, yeah, ’74, ’75. And so he goes through my portfolio and he goes… Yeah, it would have been ’75. Yeah. And then he goes, “You’re never going to work in comics, kid.” I was crestfallen. I go down the Rockefeller Plaza and I’m thinking like, “Wait, I don’t even like Vinnie Coletta’s work.” And then the ending of the story is 10 years later, which would have been ’85, he comes looking for work from me since I was an editor. I’m like, “Sorry, Vinnie. You’re not funny enough for Cracked.”

Alex Grand:
Is that what you did?

Mort Todd:
I didn’t say it in those words, but I was just like, “Yeah, we don’t have anything right now.” Because we had an incredible page rate at Cracked and I could hire anybody I wanted. We had a lot of nutty artists working there that I never really sought out, but a lot of artists were looking for work. You remember Henry Boltinoff?

Alex Grand:
Yeah, sure. Of course.

Mort Todd:
Super-Turtle and stuff that he did. Had him do some pages. A lot of the older guys, like him and Dick Ayers and Schaffenberger do stuff, and Severin, too, would wear their National Cartoonists blazers with the emblem on it on the pocket and stuff. They were old school, who would always come to the office dressed up in a suit and tie and stuff. Whereas, I was working with a lot of people my age of just bums.

Alex Grand:
Now, just to give the audience some background, Bob Sproul started Cracked in 1958 and sold it to new publishers in 1985. So you were around 23. Were you part of the at the end of the older or at the beginning of this new era? And how’d you get in there?

Mort Todd:
Yeah, it was the beginning of the new era. Because they were in Florida, originally, Sproul. And so this ad agency in New York bought it and thought be good to get into publishing, because they place ads for publishers, so they had access to distribution and stuff like that. The way I first heard about it was they were trying to find an editor for the magazine. They called Larry Hama, because he had done Crazy at Marvel. I had done some work for Larry too. I did a Savage Sword of Conan pinup for the Black and White magazine with zombies fighting Conan and all that stuff. Anyways, he wasn’t interested, so he asked his assistant, Pat Redding, who I’d gone to school with and was a pal and did a lot of club hopping and crazy adventures with, and she suggested me and a few other people. So Cracked called me up and I was enthused and showed them that I knew the dirt. What it turned out was that they had hired this guy, Paul Laikin, who had worked every humor magazine for 30 years, from Mad to… He was there in ’85 when they got hired. You can see a clear demarcation of when he started, because the last Sproul issue had a Severin cover and his first issue had a cover by his son.

Alex Grand:
That’s funny. So there was nepotism from the first day. And he started ’85. He was with the new people.

Mort Todd:
And it turned out, it was worse than nepotism. He was ripping off artists and the publisher. Anyways, he’s probably younger than I am now, but he was kind of like an old con man, pretty much. The publishers wanted a youngster who was more in tune with kids, for the readers, because this was ’85 and Laikin was still doing Nixon jokes. And I was like, “Kids don’t know who friggin Nixon is now.” And why beat a dead horse? Anyways, so they hired me as an assistant or associate editor or whatever. And so, at first, like I said, I read every friggin issue. I did an inventory of everything. So I get super familiar with everything. And then at first I just criticized all the crap he did, and it turned out he was getting kickbacks from artists. First, he gave them crummy page rates to begin with and then got kickbacks. I told the publishers, “If you don’t get Severin back, this magazine is dying. It’s going to die.” Because I think they did probably four or five issues without Severin, which it wouldn’t exist without Severin. John Severin’s work, it’s just…

Alex Grand:
Yeah. And that was the first thing you did and recommended, right?

Mort Todd:
I told them that and so they were like, “Get Severn at any cost.” So I got in touch with him and he was like, “Yeah, Laikin called me.” And it was something like he offered $100 a page and wanted 25 back from it or something.

Alex Grand:
Insulting, yeah.

Mort Todd:
Yeah. So I was like, “Well, what would you want for page rate?” And he was like, he said, “Five hundred.” I was like, “I’ll get it for you.” It’s worth it. And he was getting 1,500 for covers and stuff. So he was like, “Okay, I’ll work, but only if I deal with you and not Laikin.” And then I find out from other artists about all the kickbacks. I found out that he was reprinting stuff from Sick magazine and putting a Cracked logo for Sick, which could have gotten the publisher sued and all that stuff.

Alex Grand:
The funny thing about Laikin is he was a comedy writer for people like Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason, Alan King. He was in this older generation.

Mort Todd:
His pockets were stuffed with scraps of gags. He’d be like… At the time too, Cracked was doing, I think, then it was eight issues of new material a month. But there was something like 24 reprint books at least a year, and he was packaging them just so haphazardly and they were stupid. And he would have these bonus iron-ons or whatever that weren’t even printed on official iron-on paper. They were just regular paper. And just do all these puzzles. I was roughly 10 years older than the readers and I was like, “I don’t want this crap.” I wouldn’t want it 10 years ago and I don’t want it now. So I always tell him about it, how crappy it was. And he was like, “Well, maybe you should try and do all these books.” And I was like, “I would. I would like to do all these books.”

Mort Todd:
So, anyways, they bounced him. Then they figured, “Okay, now we’ve got to find a real editor.” They didn’t consider me. Meanwhile, I was the only one that had the publishing schedule, for some reason. So I put together three or four issues myself while they’re still looking for editors. I’d sit in on the meetings and all these people would be like, “All right. Well, the first thing you got to do is change the name and get rid of the mascot.” And they were like, “We just paid whatever dollars for this and you’re telling us…” There was stuff like that. Or they wanted to make it more adult and more violent. So I was just putting out the book myself and finally they would be like, within editorial meetings, “When’s the next book due?” And I’d be, “Two months from now.” And so, finally, I don’t know how it happened, but they saw the numbers on my books and they were like, “You want the job?” And I was thinking, “Oh.” So I was a youngster doing quite well in the publishing industry.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, you were.

Mort Todd:
Page rates were great. So after Severin, the first person I called up was Ditko, Steve Ditko. I was like, “Would you like to do some humor work?” His studio was two or three blocks away. He was there in like 10 minutes and he had a portfolio of stuff to prove that it could do humor.

Alex Grand:
You were already familiar, yeah.

Mort Todd:
That became a great friendship. At Cracked and at Marvel, he would just visit the office for hours and we would just talk about everything under the sun.

Alex Grand:
What were you guys talking about? What was the kind of stuff you did?

Mort Todd:
Movies, books, comics, comic artists, all kinds of stuff.

Alex Grand:
Did he ever mention his favorite movie or anything like that?

Mort Todd:
Yeah.

Alex Grand:
What was it?

Mort Todd:
Well, one day he was like, “You know, I want to get a VCR and I’m not sure how to hook it up.” And I was like, “Dude, I’m there for you.” So I went over to his place, hooked up his VCR. He already had a copy of Fountainhead.

Alex Grand:
Fountainhead?

Mort Todd:
Ayn Rand, yeah. She wrote the screenplay too and everything. Obviously, even before the videotape, he’d seen it many times. I don’t know where, because it wasn’t necessarily a regular on TV or you didn’t have cable and I don’t know how many times they would rerun it in the theater and stuff. But he knew it frame by frame and explained stuff like, “Well, when he’s in the ambulance, driving through the city, looking through the window. There’s the cross from the hospital and it’s sort of a sign that the city is sick.” He had it down. So I would say that might’ve been one of his favorite films. But he was a big foreign film fan, because in the ’60s New York had a bunch of art house theaters. Like Toho Studios itself had their own theater and they would show their either dubbed or captioned films before they ever came out in America, or distributed by America. So he’d seen all of the Kurosawa films.

Alex Grand:
Really?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. Even the non-brand samurai and stuff that even didn’t make it here. Same with Italian films. He just saw tons of the Giallo, the horror and gore films. In fact, there’s a character in one of the slasher movies that has no face and is in a suit and everything. Looks exactly like the question.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, I know about that. That’s an Italian one, right? He watched that movie?

Mort Todd:
He said he just watched tons of Italian films.

Alex Grand:
Italian films, and that was one of those characters. I see.

Mort Todd:
And a lot of them, like I said, didn’t even make it here.

Alex Grand:
Did he ever talk about personal matters or relationships or anything like that?

Mort Todd:
The first I found out about his family in Johnstown and stuff was I had optioned the rights for Mr. A. because I wanted to make a TV pilot and put out some new comics. He sent me everything he had, all the Mr. A. comics that had been put out in the ’70s. Crates of them. And they were all from Johnstown. He had them stored with his family and junk.

Alex Grand:
Wow.

Mort Todd:
Not too much, no. But he sure did appreciate my girlfriends. I’ll tell you that. Whenever a girlfriend was in the office, he was like… And they were charmed by him. They thought he was the greatest and stuff, because he was just a neat dude.

Alex Grand:
Was he pretty charismatic in conversation?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. He really took an interest in what you were talking about and added to the conversation and stuff. Certainly nothing like what he’s supposed to be like, this dour J.D. Salinger type.

Alex Grand:
Right. It wasn’t like that.

Mort Todd:
What it boiled down to, I think, was a lot of comic fans just banging on his door while he’s trying to work and like, “Are you Steve Ditko?” The door would slam. But if you were interesting… In fact, when he passed away, I got a call from Frank McLaughlin. Had done a little bit of work with Frank. And Frank was incensed because of what the myths about Steve Ditko were and everything.

Alex Grand:
Right.

Mort Todd:
So we did a two-hour interview, that I still haven’t finished editing yet, where he talks about the fun side of Ditko. Because at Charlton, McLaughlin was art director.

Alex Grand:
I see.

Mort Todd:
And so a lot of cartoonists would come out to Derby, Connecticut, where Charlton was. Charlton had this whole facility, from editorial to printing to distribution. And so they had a bowling alley in the basement and a catering hall for when people get married and all that stuff. So Ditko would come out there a lot and they’d play baseball and just all kinds of pranks Ditko would do and stuff.

Alex Grand:
Prank. That’s cool. I didn’t know that.

Mort Todd:
I was at a con once and this guy comes up to me and says, “My mom used to be a secretary at Charlton.” And there was this other secretary who would sit at this table that had no front to it, and there was a guy, a traveling salesman, who would come every time and he’d see her, and he’d look under the table at her legs and all that stuff and be real annoying. Ditko knew he was coming and got this giant sheet of paper and drew these gnarly, hairy, warty legs and they put it under the table. So when he went, he was like…

Alex Grand:
That’s amazing. I think that’s my first reference that referred to his sense of humor in a social situation. That’s…

Mort Todd:
Well, you can check out the stuff he did for Cracked too. He would do the site gags in the background that weren’t in the script. Some of them are kind of offbeat, but you’d see where his head was at, and he was being funny.

Alex Grand:
Last question about Ditko then back to this. Did he ever talk about politics ever? Was he like, “Oh, that Ed Koch is ruining this city”? Or-

Mort Todd:
Not particularly about Ed, but, yeah, he complained about a lot of politicians, like Teddy Kennedy and junk. As far as politics, we’d talk a lot about Ayn Rand, because he was a student of Ayn Rand’s.

Alex Grand:
I got you.

Mort Todd:
Went to the classes and stuff.

Alex Grand:
I see.

Mort Todd:
He was kind of an objectivist and an individualist and stuff, so that colored a lot of his conversations on things.

Alex Grand:
I got you.

Mort Todd:
And then the same with Severin too. Severin was pretty conservative. I’d probably talk to him many hours a week, maybe a dozen hours a week sometimes. And again, we’d talk about everything, comics, old comic publishers, comic personalities, movies, everything. And so between Ditko and Severin, I was probably 15 hours a week talking with these guys and junk, so it definitely colored my outlook on things.

Alex Grand:
So they left an impression on you, as far as how you look at stuff also then?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. Because in the ’60s Severin was a John Bircher. He mellowed out over the years and stuff. But it’s funny. Sometimes you look at some of the stuff from the ’60s or ’50s and you’re like, “Okay.” That he probably wouldn’t have done later in his life.

Alex Grand:
You also worked with a lot of artists, like Gene Colan, Gray Morrow.

Mort Todd:
And they became great friends, and the wives. I’ve always said, with those guys in particular, that they are so lucky. And Don Martin and his wife and Severin’s wife, they handled the business so that the artists can just be chained to the drawing table, get the work done, and they can play good cop, bad cop with the publishers, where it’s like the wife can call them and be like, “Where’s that check?” Stuff like that. Or “We need a raise,” and stuff like that. I’ve always envied them for that.

Alex Grand:
And you got these guys paid really well, too, right? Was it like what? A hundred dollars a page or something like that?

Mort Todd:
It’s probably about 250 a page.

Alex Grand:
Wow. That’s great.

Mort Todd:
And that was back then. Don Martin was getting 12 a page, 1,200.

Alex Grand:
1,200 a page. Wow.

Mort Todd:
Because we had swiped him from Mad. So we offered him the same rate, but we also gave him his copyright and returned his original art, which Mad never did in 30 years. And we got him on a health plan, because he had really bad eye problems. He was legally blind. At the time, I was using three legally blind artists. Colan was legally blind and Bill Ward and Don Martin. But they were still cranking it out, because you don’t have benefits in comics. To make money, you’ve got to crank that page out. And you’re at the whim of the publishers. The same with Ditko. He couldn’t get work from Marvel and stuff. Colan couldn’t get work from Marvel. Kirby. All the guys that started Marvel couldn’t get work in the ’80s from the company that they made.

Alex Grand:
I know.

Mort Todd:
All digitals and junk. But, yeah, Gray was hilarious, and his wife, Poco, short for Pocahontas. They had a beautiful place out in Jersey, kind of like a log cabin-y type thing. And whenever we were at cons, Gray and I were 90% at the bar.

Alex Grand:
That’s cool.

Mort Todd:
And Gene and his wife, Adrienne, sweethearts. Because I worked with Gene at Cracked and for my Monster magazine and at Marvel. He was fed up with inkers and just wanted to reproduce from his pencils. And I’m like, “Sure. You don’t need no stinking inker. We can do it beautifully from your pencils.” The advantage at Cracked was it was an incredible page rate. In Marvel or whatever, you got to draw 18 pages, 22 pages every month, and you get less of a page rate.

Mort Todd:
So I always thought that Cracked was sort of doing like actors who do ads or short films or whatever cameos, because you’re doing four to eight pages, but you’re getting paid three times as much. And it’s black and white, which some artists really embraced rather than doing the color comics and junk. Ditko, in particular, he would try every kind of medium in each story. He would do a shade paper where you have the tones that would appear with a chemical magically and he would do a wash or markers or this. Because some people think black and white’s limiting, but you can embrace it and do some pretty genius stuff.

Alex Grand:
Now, you were also bringing in new people as well as worked with some of the older people. You brought in like what? Dan Clowes into Cracked? Peter Bagge also, right?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. Because, like I said, they were old drinking buddies. And it was funny because the publisher hated Dan Clowes’ work. Hated it viscerally. Dan and I did a strip we created called The Ugly Family that I wrote and did layouts and he drew. And so the publisher saw it, hit the roof. So we slipped it into one of the reprint books. We got tons of fan mail.

Alex Grand:
That’s cool. And the publisher kind of backed off?

Mort Todd:
Every time the publisher disagreed with me, we’d get such a positive response. Then, finally, he was like, “Okay. Do whatever you want.”

Alex Grand:
They trusted you after that.

Mort Todd:
Because that was another thing I did with reprint books is, like I said with Laikin, he would just throw anything in there. I came up with themes. Because I always liked monsters and Cracked had done tons of monster parodies over the years, so I created a title called Cracked Monster Party.

Alex Grand:
Yes. Right.

Mort Todd:
A ripoff of the movie Mad Monster Party. It became insanely popular. It ran for years after I left. And so because of the success of a horror humor magazine, I was on my publisher’s ass to do a straight horror magazine. Because we had all these artists working for us at Cracked that had worked at EC and Warren. They knew horror. So it was like, “Let’s do a book.” And it was like, “Oh yeah. Well, we’ll see. We’ll see.” So I just did the book on my own. I commissioned the stuff. I ordered a printing press date. I got a UPC and distribution thing. They didn’t know I did this until it came out, and they were pissed as hell. I had already had stuff for a second issue. They canceled it. They were so pissed. And then two or three months later, they were like, “This number is pretty good.” So they were like, “Why don’t you start that magazine again?”

Mort Todd:
That’s what I was saying with the publisher. Everything they hated I proved that like, “No, it’s pretty good.” And so I just recently put out the… I reprinted the books. There’s two volumes, Monsters Attack. It’s got Severin, Pat Boyette, who was another great talent, Gene Colan, Gray Morrow, Alex Toth. Lots of stuff. I don’t know if you can see it on my mantle piece here. Got a hard cover coming out in the fall that collects two volumes, in October, around Halloween.

Alex Grand:
That’s exciting. I’ll definitely get myself a copy.

Mort Todd:
I should probably tell everyone that you can find all my fun stuff at morttodd.com.

Alex Grand:
Morttodd.com. That’s right. As far as Dan, you also did some stuff with him with Fantagraphics around the time that you were at Cracked, right? You weren’t just locked into Cracked?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. It might’ve been a little before when I first started. Yeah. Well, at Psycho, we collaborated on a lot of stuff. I would write in pencil and he would ink and letter, or I don’t think I ever inked anything. And I did a few Lloyd Llewellyns. I wrote a couple and I penciled at least one that Danny… And then also Kitchen Sink. We did a strip called The Squirt, which was like a homicidal Dennis the Menace. That was in a couple of issues of, I think, the magazine Twitch. And then Dan wrote one after I had stopped doing it.

Alex Grand:
And you did something called Divisible Man with him. Is that right?

Mort Todd:
I did, indeed. Thank you for asking. In fact, that was definitely inspired by the Myron Fass Captain Marvel.

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
Because, like I said, I was big fan of Plastic Man and I was trying to come with up something visually alarming that wouldn’t be like Plastic Man but would still be like, “What the hell?” So I came with that. Have you seen the trailers for the new Suicide Squad?

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
Have you seen T.D.K.? The Detachable Kid? They got a character, one of their characters, whose arms pop off.

Alex Grand:
I see.

Mort Todd:
I think it’s by actor Nathan Fillion or whatever.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, okay.

Mort Todd:
The scene I saw, the arms just float. They don’t really go at any speed, and they slap these bad guys and stuff like that. And I was like, “Dammit, they ripped me off.”

Alex Grand:
Yeah, that’s Divisible Man right there.

Mort Todd:
I also did a comic called Protoplasman for Big Bang. That was a total Plastic Man homage. It was all of Jack Cole stuff mixed together, so it had a little Daredevil, a little Claw, Plastic Man, and that was fun to do. That was for Big Bang with Gary Carlson.

Alex Grand:
Your mind was pointing a lot of directions, and that’s probably why Cracked has more of a diverse look to it rather than everything just copying Jack Davis.

Mort Todd:
Well, see a lot of artists, when I started at Cracked, were doing Davis and Drucker. I continued to use some of them, but I was like, “Get your own style. That’s how you make a name. As a clone, you’re just going to be third rate.” And every artist has their influences. The super early Kirby, he was swiping Caniff and whatever. Or Alex Raymond, even, and junk. And then when you create your own style you become a commodity and people want that style. So that was my first rule at Cracked, it’s not copy Mad, except where it helped.

Alex Grand:
And so speaking of getting Don Martin to come over, there’s a picture I saw of you at the Mad office getting Bill Gaines’ autograph. But he didn’t know that you were from Cracked at that time, right? Tell us about that.

Mort Todd:
No, because I would have been like 25. Why the hell would he think his competition would be wearing shades and a t-shirt and a skateboard and stuff? This is a funny story. Have you got a minute?

Alex Grand:
Yeah, of course.

Mort Todd:
I was at a comic convention. Pretty sure we had a table for Cracked and everything. I’m walking around. And I was this big skateboarder then. I would commute to work on a skateboard. I also created a monstrous Tac skateboard with a Severin cover and all that shit.

Alex Grand:
Cool.

Mort Todd:
But so we were at the con and I saw Mad had a table. I was like, “Interesting.” They had a Alfred E. Neuman skateboard and I was like, “Ooh, I wouldn’t mind one of them.” So I bought it and the guy at the table was Chris Gaines, who is… I was going to say Max Gaines… Bill Gaines’ son. And so I buy it and I go, “You know, I know Mad used to have tours. Does Mad still have tours?” He goes, “We sure do,” and he gave me his business card. He was like, “Give me a call and I’ll set it up.” I was like, “Fantastic.” So I ended up calling them, setting it up. Every now and then Cracked would allow me to hire short-term assistant editors, who would do production work and stuff for me, and at the time I had Ian Wheeler-Nicholson, who was the grandson of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson.

Alex Grand:
That’s cool.

Mort Todd:
He was my assistant editor. So we go to Mad. It was him, my art director, Cliff Mott, who’s a stunning personality I haven’t mentioned enough about. Haven’t brought him up, but he was the glue for Cracked magazine, an incredible talent, great cartoonist, done a lot of record covers and stuff. But, anyway, so the three of us go there. Ian’s like 18. Cliff and I are like 25. And so we’re like, “Ooh, Mad.” And so they give us the tour and show us original artwork that they didn’t return to their artists and stuff. We saw some Don Martin stuff and we were like, “Gosh, why did Don Martin leave Mad?” And I go, “Because his wife’s a bitch.” He was like, “Oh, really?”

Mort Todd:
So we were talking about history of Mad and EC and all that stuff. And so, finally, they take us to Bill’s office and he’s not in there, but you might have seen pictures with the Zeppelin and King Kong and all that stuff. And so we’re there waiting and Bill comes thundering down the hall. Well, not thundering but wobbling. And so his son, Chris, says, “Dad, here are some old EC fans.” He looks at us, he goes, “Those aren’t old EC fans.” And I thought we got narced. I thought he was like… that we’re from Cracked. He goes…

Mort Todd:
I thought he was like… That we’re from Cracked. He goes, “Those are young EC fans.”

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
Because I was looking around and it’s like, “We’re trapped.” There’s no way to get out of here.

Alex Grand:
That’s like out of a movie. That’s hilarious.

Mort Todd:
So we were talking, I introduced Ian. I was like, “His grandfather worked with your father.” So it was all like, “Whoa, happy home week.” and all that. So, we did it. He signed my skateboard and I was like, “I need a photo of this.” So we got a photo, but I wasn’t a big enough dick that I would print that photo in Cracked. So I sent it to Thrasher Magazine-

Alex Grand:
That’s Thrasher.

Mort Todd:
… and they printed it.

Alex Grand:
That was 1987, I think. Right?

Mort Todd:
Probably, yeah.

Alex Grand:
1987.

Mort Todd:
So Gaines found out and hit the roof, because we had spies at Mad. We used a lot of writers and junk under pseudonym, because Gaines wouldn’t allow you to work for other publishers and junk, and you’d be fired if they found out. I had a few spies there and they said, “Yeah, he hit the roof.” This is personal, but he said… They were at, it was a Christmas party or some shit. This writer and Gaines were standing at the urinal in the bathroom. He goes, “That guy at Cracked has balls of brass.” I respected Mad, I just didn’t like what they did.

Mort Todd:
Also, around the same time, 60 Minutes was doing a piece on Mad. I tracked down the producer and I’m like, “You’re fucking 60 Minutes. You’re supposed to expose all this shit.” I told him about how artists didn’t get the art returned. They don’t get reprint money. Gaines owns it all and auctioned it off. He might give you some money if you’re alive and if he likes you, but if he doesn’t, you don’t get any money from the auction. I told him all this shit. He was like, “Nah.” They did a puff piece where it was all like, “Those wacky guys at Mad.” This is another difference between us, is that they had seven editors. At Cracked, it was me.

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
So you had seven editors getting a script and each wanting to put in their five cents. Then you had John Ficarra who had a drum kit in the office. So if someone said something funny, he’d be like, parum pum on the drums. I’m watching this on TV and it was just a butt kiss. So much for 60 Minutes and their hard hitting journalism, because that would have been news.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, that’s interesting and you’re right, a lot of times it is that way, even now. In the same year, in ’87, I saw a couple of things. What, The Joker’s Joke Book with Joey Cavalieri. You worked on that for, what? Was that for DC Comics.

Mort Todd:
Yeah, I was freelancing for DC. It’s just basically 101 joker jokes, with like, what happens to the Joker’s green hair when you throw him into the red sea?

Alex Grand:
What?

Mort Todd:
It gets wet.

Alex Grand:
Duh, yeah.

Mort Todd:
It was super stupid. I did that and then, also that year, I crashed the movie set for the Batman movie. When did that come out? ’88, ’89 or whatever.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, ’89.

Mort Todd:
So it was in ’88, because I had a British girlfriend at the time, so I’d spend a lot of time in the UK. A friend of hers was the assistant art director on Batman, on the movie. So we go one night, after hours, and we go with her and there’s a guard and he goes, “Do you have a chit?” I’m like, “What’s a chit?” It means pass in England. We’re like, “No, we don’t have anything like that.” And he goes, “Well, if you go down by the end of that fence, you’ll be able to get it.” I’m like, “Ooh, thank you.” So we go on the set. It’s at Pinewood, where they shot all the 007 films. Since she was the assistant art director, she had all the keys and junk. So, we go down the main street in Gotham where they had the big church and all of the sets. It was fantastic. Then she took us into the art director’s studio and I got photos of the Batmobile, which no one had seen anywhere and all that stuff, and all kinds of set design and stuff.

Mort Todd:
So, for not one of the first times, but we beat Mad with a parody, because I had all the source material. Mad is owned by Warner Brothers, who made the movie, and they didn’t get anything, and I got it all. So we came out months before Mad, because, another thing, with the seven editors at Mad, they always had to figure, “We got to see what the box office does and if this is popular, or whatever.” I was the sole voice of, “Oh yeah, we’re doing Batman.” I brought a copy of my Joker’s Joke Book to England and gave it to the assistant art director and it’s like, “Why don’t you give this to Jack Nicholson and maybe it’ll give him some it some inspiration.” I got photos all over the place, sitting in front of the Batmobile with my book.

Alex Grand:
With The Joker’s Joke Book. That’s great.

Mort Todd:
By then, Mad was getting hate mail. When I first came to Cracked, we actually got fish in the mail, which is a mafia sign of like, “You’re going to die. You rip off Mad.” and all that stuff. My spies, by then, we’re saying like, “Yeah.” We had a one month lead. I think they had a four or five month lead, before printing, plus, like I said, they had to check box office and TV ratings, and I just be doing it by the seat of my pants and we’d be out months before them. So they were getting hate mail. It’s like, “You’re ripping off Cracked.”

Alex Grand:
That’s awesome. You turned the tide. That’s what you did.

Mort Todd:
The one time I really screwed it up is, we did a parody of Leonard Part 6. Do you remember that?

Alex Grand:
Leonard, yeah.

Mort Todd:
Bill Cosby spy film.

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
It bombed, but it was still fun. Rick Altergott art, so it’s always fun when it’s from Altergott.

Alex Grand:
Leonard movie. How many were there?

Mort Todd:
It was just the one called Part 6.

Alex Grand:
Actually, yeah.

Mort Todd:
Because that was the funny part about it, because it’s Part 6 already.

Alex Grand:
I liked it though. I think I remember looking for other ones. I’m like, “Where are they?”

Mort Todd:
Because, that previous year we had Cosby on the cover so many times. It was like, “How can Cosby fail?” And where is he now?

Alex Grand:
That went south. It ended up going south.

Mort Todd:
That was another thing I’d do too, with covers, is that, a lot of times, Mad would just have one image. I was inspired by Kurtzman and I have 50 people on the cover involved in a fight or this or that. You’d have Schwarzenegger, Cosby, Michael J. Fox, whatever. Then as many titles of TV shows, or whatever we were doing, as possible. So it’s like, “Well, if you don’t like this, you’ll like this.”

Alex Grand:
That’s almost Will Elder Chicken Fat stuff, right?

Mort Todd:
Right. Exactly.

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
Because I laid out every cover we did and I was definitely inspired by Kurtzman with that stuff. Then, to have Severin do the finishes, you know it’s going to be good.

Alex Grand:
That’s right. Now, also you did, in ’87, if I read this right, the Return of the Skyman with A.C.E. Comics and that was with Steve Ditko. Is that right?

Mort Todd:
Yep.

Alex Grand:
What was that project all about?

Mort Todd:
Well, because, I guess, Steve did the new face, the Golden Age character, the face, and Frank MacLaughlin was inking it. For some reason he couldn’t ink the third issue, so I suggested Altergott, because I thought he was like Wally Wood, and Ditko and Wood always went well together. That’s when Steve told me they wanted to revive Skyman and I was like, “Ooh, ooh, ooh.” I sent in a plot and it got accepted. That company was just too ambitious. There was the black and white comic book glut of the ’80s, or whatever, so they went out of business. It was going to be a three issue mini series and I plotted it all. It was all time-travely and post-apocalyptic and all that. It was really fun, but probably about five years ago, I did a special edition of the book, because I had copies of Steve’s pencils before they were inked by Altergott for Skyman. So I did a book with page by page samples. So you could see Ditko’s pencils and the finished work, because not many people have Ditko’s pencils and junk. It’s just if you’re a geek like me.

Alex Grand:
What year did you leave Cracked and why did you leave?

Mort Todd:
’90, because they were doing phenomenally and, like I said, I was one editor and I was probably putting out, including the reprints, over 30 books a year. I sacrificed a lot of personal time, because I never missed a deadline and sometimes I’d be staying up all night, because they came up with things like, “Let’s do a Cracked Digest, because the distributor’s doing real well with Digest by the cash register.” Like Archie and horoscopes and junk.” So I went, “Okay.” They just threw it on me, so I had to cut and paste this whole book overnight, 150 pages or something, because instead of just shrinking all the pages down, I did two panels a page or something. A lot of things, again… And the girlfriend will be like, “When are you coming home?”

Mort Todd:
So anyway, by ’90 I was like, “I want a raise. I want a full-time assistant editor.” and probably something else, because I like to travel and junk, and I hadn’t been traveling and stuff. They were kind of against it, so I gave them an ultimatum and they were like, “Bye.” I found out that they were in the process of selling the magazine.

Alex Grand:
I see. Okay. There we go.

Mort Todd:
So they were able to say, “Okay, here are our sales. This is what it costs. Here’s our profits. One editor on salary.” When I left, they had to hire five editors to replace me.

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
They had three main editors and two assistant editors to do all the work I was doing.

Alex Grand:
Which is more expensive.

Mort Todd:
I know. So I think the original publisher bamboozled the new publisher. So, I think, as smart as I thought I was, I think I got squeezed out without me knowing it.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, that’s true. That stuff happens. You already talked about the W.O.W., World of Ward Magazine where there is Torchy, and he also did Pussycat, also, I think. Back for Martin Goodman or something. But-

Mort Todd:
No, there wasn’t any of that in there. No. Marvel still owns the rights to that, I guess. I’m not really sure, but I’d love to see a nice collection on that.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, it’s very good.

Mort Todd:
It wasn’t all Ward.

Alex Grand:
Right. Wally Wood also.

Mort Todd:
Yeah. Jim Mooney did, I think, the lion share of it, but there was this… I think Woody inked one of the Ward’s stories and I think Bill Everett inked another one of his stories. Do you know who Al Hartley is?

Alex Grand:
Isn’t that the Spire guy?

Mort Todd:
Exactly. When I was a kid, I had his autobiography that he wrote. It was Come Meet My Friend, is the title and has him in front of the drawing board. Since that Stan asked him to draw Pussycat and that’s when he quit Marvel, because he said, “I’m not going to draw any pornography.”

Alex Grand:
That was his critical-

Mort Todd:
It wasn’t any nudity or anything, and Al had done pin-up gags in the past.

Alex Grand:
It sounds like Spire was a good fit for him, obviously.

Mort Todd:
Oh, yeah. I loved all those comics. Not only the ones he did, maybe he did do all of them, but there was Cross and the Switchblade, which was based on a movie with that guy who played Ponch on S.W.A.T., I mean on CHiPs. Erik Estrada. When he was teenager, he played a Puerto Rican hoodlum that, I think, stabs a priest and then finds God. They actually showed that movie in elementary school. You couldn’t do that nowadays, show a Christian film. Then they did the comic based on it. The other great one was Hansi: The Girl who Loved the Swastika.

Alex Grand:
That’s right. Yes. Which is a weird cover, but the story is actually a true story of a girl who escaped Nazi-ism but the cover is just so strange.

Mort Todd:
Yes, it’s trippy. The thing is that, Al Hartley, whenever he drew people accepting Christ or having an experience, he would draw all these little flashes going off, and it was the same way he would draw people in Archie, that were stoned or psychotic or on drugs or something. They’d have the same little flashes, like, “I’m getting in enlightened.”

Alex Grand:
Archie was wholesome, back then anyway.

Mort Todd:
Back then.

Alex Grand:
Before the zombies and the sex. Okay. You mentioned the Monster Party stuff, but there was also Monsters Attack for Globe Communications. How did you get set up with Globe Communications of all things?

Mort Todd:
Well, what it was is, the guys that bought Cracked-

Alex Grand:
Okay.

Mort Todd:
… they did all of Globe’s advertising.

Alex Grand:
That’s how it happened.

Mort Todd:
They did an umbrella, because Globe did the newspapers, the tabloids, they did horoscope books, the puzzle books. So they teamed up with them to piggyback with the printing and distribution.

Alex Grand:
I actually miss seeing Bat Boy.

Mort Todd:
Did you ever see Pete Bagge’s Bat Boy comic?

Alex Grand:
No. I didn’t know that.

Mort Todd:
He used to do a strip in the Enquirer, or the Globe, I guess it was, for, I don’t know how long, but he did a regular strip.

Alex Grand:
I have to look at that.

Mort Todd:
Then, in New York, there was a Bat Boy musical, 10 years ago.

Alex Grand:
What did you do between, let’s say ’90, when he left Cracked, and then before Marvel Music started?

Mort Todd:
That’s a very good question. Well, I started my own small imprint called AAA, for Allied American Artists. Again, I was very ambitious, too ambitious perhaps. I did that Bill Ward magazine.

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
I had a second issue, which never came out. I had great Russ Meyer interview with it, because Bill had been illustrating Russ Meyer’s autobiography. Then I was going to do a five issue Mr. A series with Ditko.

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
Ditko ended up drawing, I think, three issues. I solicited the first one, because there’s going to be color comment, because I was like, “Mr. A has always been in black and white and that’s his whole bag, but, unless you see him in color, you don’t realize he’s all white.” He’s got a white metal mask. He’s got a white suit. You don’t notice that in black and white so much. Whereas, if you did it in color, it would be a stark contrast.

Alex Grand:
That’s true.

Mort Todd:
So Steve and I had plenty of conversations about how color would work in a Mr. A comic and junk. So we were going to do a five issue series and I solicited the first issue. I got 1,000 orders with the colored book. This is before digital. So each page, to get color separated, cost $100 per page. So, I was already $3,200 in the hole, just to do the separations, and with only selling 1,000 copies, I couldn’t go it.

Alex Grand:
It wasn’t enough of a demand, basically.

Mort Todd:
Like I said, Steve drew about three issues. Robin Snyders put out some of the stories. In the last five or six years, I’ve colored on computer a lot of the stories and would send them to Steve to get his reaction and all this stuff. He loved them. I’ve talked with his family and maybe we can see him in color, finally.

Alex Grand:
Right. That’s right. Just to give the audience a little background on Marvel Music, Terry Stewart was the Marvel president. He wanted to go beyond superheroes and they did a test with an issue in 1990, Busted, starring Cheap Trick.

Mort Todd:
Right.

Alex Grand:
That sold pretty well. That was your little dabble into a music comic. There was an interest by them to go down that road. So tell us about starting Marvel Music at Marvel, and how did that all occur?

Mort Todd:
Well, like you said, they wanted to expand. Terry was a great innovator and could invasion comics outside of the comic shops. The original promise was that they’d get them into record stores and bookstores. It ultimately just ended up with the direct sales market. So, wizard on the vine. Another thing we were trying to do, and we did several times, was package the comic with a new CD or a new album. Do music videos to promote them. Actually press vinyl and CDs and cassettes, and have the bands take them on tour. We actually did some phenomenal numbers when the bands sold them with their other merch.

Alex Grand:
Did Terry call you, or did you call? How did that…

Mort Todd:
Well, again, it was my friend Pat Redding. I guess she was still at Marvel and she told me I was on a short list-

Alex Grand:
Okay.

Mort Todd:
… because they knew I did comics and I was in the music world.

Alex Grand:
And that you had success with Cracked as well. They knew that.

Mort Todd:
Right, so I had an interview with Terry and the publisher and we all just kept matching shots of whiskey and stuff. It was a good first meeting. I was like, “You know, I drink a lot.” And they were like, “So do we.”

Alex Grand:
So they hired you then and you were editor-in-chief of Marvel Music then. That’s what the title was.

Mort Todd:
Yeah. It was a separate imprint. At first, it took me about a year to get all these contracts together, with the bands and licensing agencies, because these were legit. They’d done the Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics before they were unauthorized. So we were doing them, licensing them, actually licensing it from the bands and the estates and the labels and stuff. So, it took me about a year before anything could really happen. Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of Marvel there, thought I wasn’t doing anything, and didn’t like my autonomy, I don’t think.

Mort Todd:
So he gave me a project to do for reprint titles, and I was like, “Cool. I want to do horror and crime.” I was thinking Western too, maybe, but they’re like, “No, horror. Horror only.” Because I thought it’d be cool to do some crime comics and westerns and stuff. They gave me four titles with four issues and, seriously, I was working really hard on these Marvel books, but they didn’t know it. So I was like, “Okay, I want to put all four titles out in four months. One title a week.” So, 16 weeks of these titles. There was a giant monster comic-

Alex Grand:
That’s Monster Menace, right?

Mort Todd:
That’s the one. There was a pre-code called Curse of the Weird.

Alex Grand:
Curse of the Weird. So this is all Atlas stuff then?

Mort Todd:
Yeah, and there was Book of the Dead, which was Frankenstein monster and man thing. Then I did, just to be a total sellout, I did a Dracula versus superheroes.

Alex Grand:
The superhero one is a sellout one.

Mort Todd:
You know what I mean? I was like, “Okay.”

Alex Grand:
So the editor-in-chief though, that was Tom DeFalco then, right?

Mort Todd:
Yeah.

Alex Grand:
Okay.

Mort Todd:
With the Dracula books I got the hottest artists, superhero artists at the time, to do the covers, but, in retrospect I should’ve just had Gene Colan do them all, but the other books I had, Ditko did new covers. I got a lot of off-beat artists to do covers for them. Some I got painted covers. The guy who did our Bob Marley comic was a Rasta. He did the zombie and man thing that looks like he’s made out of weed, almost.

Alex Grand:
Cool.

Mort Todd:
I got Gray Morrow to do the Frankenstein cover, with the bride and carrying the bride in the snow. He sent me the photo reference he took and he had wrapped his stepdaughter and toilet paper, and he was carrying her around with a Frankenstein mask, to use for the reference.

Alex Grand:
That was for Marvel, not Marvel Music. So, even though you’re editor-in-chief of Marvel Music, you were basically carrying your weight and doing that too, or something like that, right?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. Again, I had to travel a lot, which was such a pain, but I’d visit the bands in the studio while they were recording, or sometimes go on tour with them, or see them when they’re playing various places and junk. The other Marvel editors were very unhappy about that, that I had pretty much unlimited expense account. So, if I went to the San Diego con, after the con, I would stay at the Chateau Marmont for a week or so, and have parties and all those stuff. A lot of people went up to LA after San Diego and they were like, “I got to stay on a friend’s couch and had to pay to fly out here.” I’m like, “Well, if you had to go to Vegas to interview the Hulk, I’m sure they would have paid for it.”

Alex Grand:
Did you look at some of that earlier Music Marvel magazine stuff, like Kiss and Beatles?

Mort Todd:
I reprinted them, yeah. We talked with Apple about the Beatles, but that didn’t happen, but I reprinted the two Kiss books in one issue called Kiss Classics, and we did a new book called Kiss Nation. We got Ken Kelly who, like I told you, had been on the first magazine my name ever appeared in. Famous Monsters 111, I think. He did the Kiss paintings in the ’70s and stuff. He did this gatefold poster and it was Gene’s idea to have it based on Fantastic Four #1.

Alex Grand:
Cool.

Mort Todd:
With a monster coming out of the ground and grabbing all the Kiss guys.

Alex Grand:
I did a newspaper search on you a little bit. In ’93 or ’94, there’s one that says, “Mort Todd, the head of Marvel Music, was in Seattle talking to the bands.” Then you admit there was one that said that there was an Alice Cooper project. Then you said that he was a fan of the comics himself and the comic helps visualize his album. So you were on a media tour.

Mort Todd:
The Alice book was written by Neil Gaiman-

Alex Grand:
That’s right.

Mort Todd:
… and illustrated by Michael Zulli, who I think did his Sandman. It’s beautiful. The first issue, it was The Last Temptation Of Alice.

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
Was the name of the album and the comic. The first issue was packed with the album. They had an elaborate package in Japan, with a box set with the comic and CD. They shot a video that was in rotation, that featured art from the comics. It was pretty good. We did three issues of that and got to meet Alice a couple of times. Once in Arizona, while he was playing golf at his golf club.

Alex Grand:
That’s fun. Neil Gaiman loves music as well, too, right?

Mort Todd:
Well, this was his whole concept and he actually, I think, got the ball rolling before Marvel Music started it. I think he pitched it to DC and Marvel. One thing I didn’t mention earlier too, is that I had also been headhunted by DC when I was still at Cracked. They wanted to start an alternative line and I had connections for Claus and Bagge and-

Alex Grand:
Yeah, I heard that.

Mort Todd:
… and the Hernandez brothers and junk. So, I pitched them a whole bunch of junk and they didn’t go with it. They went with this thing and they called it Piranha Press. Really sad, really sad. I could have done some great stuff with their money. That was another thing of Marvel too. I pitched… You know Millie the Model, right?

Alex Grand:
Yeah.

Mort Todd:
I pitched a new series with Los Bros Hernandez and DeFalco turned it down. That would have been groundbreaking.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, Millie the Model by the Hernandez brothers. Yeah, exactly. Why did Marvel Music end in 1995?

Mort Todd:
I was at a meeting and they were saying, “We just can’t just sell Elvis Presley and Bob Marley.” I was like, “What? You could do Elvis tampons and make a million.” Then they were like, “Well, the comic shops don’t want them.” And I’m like, “No shit. This was supposed to be about getting them in record stores and in bookstores and get them on tour.”

Alex Grand:
I see.

Mort Todd:
It wasn’t supposed to be about the comic shops. So, my contract was up pretty soon and I was like, “Nah, fuck it. I’m not going to renew my contract.” Because there were some people who was saying, “Oh yeah, have him renewed his contract so we can have him finish these other books that weren’t finished yet.” Because a lot of the books were never released. We had a super cool AC/DC one where AC/DC goes to hell and hangs out with Bon Scott, who was their original singer who was dead. Elvis, we did a three issue Elvis that was… Elvis was on the ghost train. So he’s a ghost and the train stops at different points in his life. The framing sequence of the ghost train was Jean Colan and then the biography parts were John Severin. So it was a big, discerning difference in the artwork to tell the story.

Mort Todd:
We had a lot of stuff that just never came out and they were like, “Oh yeah, well, renew his contract and make him do this stuff.” Then they’d probably put me on some shit comics, because also at Marvel, to keep me busy, I did Biker Mice from Mars, which was an animated show. I’m sure there’s a few other things I put out. They put me on a Christian book, because they made all the editors do these Christian comics with Thomas Nelson, who’s a religious publisher in Nashville. So, at least I got to go to Nashville. They gave us a list of Christian books and I picked The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, but this was a book about… They were just basically letters from the devil’s nephew, Screwtape, trying to get advice about how to screw over this one guy and turn him the wrong way and stuff. I did it as a total underground comic, this Christian comic. So all the demons were all rat fink with warts and outy belly buttons and all kinds of stuff.

Mort Todd:
Each page, I just did it legit, just like the letter that the little demon was writing and put it on paper to look like rotted out flesh. Behind it was like Sergio Aragonés at Mad, with the marginals. So it was all, everything illustrated in the letter, like a montage of all these gross demons and junk. This was a Christian book and I got away with it. I got Gaiman to write the foreword for it, because he was a big fan of CS Lewis and stuff. All the other ones, they were atrocious. I enjoyed doing this book, but the other one, oh geez. They just use the most boring artists and they didn’t know the material either. You know what I mean? I had, at least, a familiarity with Christianity, to be able to do something. They had this one series called The Illuminator, which was about this football player who gets super powers, I guess from Christ or something. I don’t know. He wears a football outfit as his costume.

Alex Grand:
So there were some misfires there.

Mort Todd:
This one editor, who was in the news recently, in Central Park. He was a bird lover that felt he was racially profiled. Do you remember that?

Alex Grand:
Okay. Uh-huh (affirmative)

Mort Todd:
Well, he was an editor at Marvel back then. So he’s doing one of these books and he’s like, “Well, in the script it says that the guy accepts Jesus as his personal savior.” And, of course, I’ve read enough Jack Chick comics and Spire Comics to know how you could make that look in a comic, but he had no idea. I basically told him, “You know when Galactus hit Norrin Radd, he gave him the galactic glaze to become the Silver Surfer? Do it like that.” How many times in comics have people been transformed and it’s like, “Come on. Use your imagination.”

Alex Grand:
So, using the superhero as a reference, now it made sense. But ultimately everybody should know that Marvel Music did not completely go away. It actually got retooled for…

Alex Grand:
Did not completely go away… It actually got retold for Marvel studios, music, soundtrack division, and that’s still currently called Marvel Music.

Alex Grand:
You were raised Christian then, growing up?

Mort Todd:
Not particularly. I mean, my dad was Catholic, my mom was Protestant and she worked at church for a while. I was in choirs for a while and do Sunday school.

Alex Grand:
Okay. Uh-huh (affirmative)

Mort Todd:
She told me this story recently where it was in Sunday school and I was drawing a picture, and the priest goes, “What’s that a picture of?” And I was, “God?” He goes, “Nobody knows what God looks like,” and I was, “When I’m done, they will.” Of course, it looked like SHAZAM or something, some old guy with a beard and robes. I was, “Come on, that’s God.”

Alex Grand:
Now, you have a lot of skills. It’s not just comics, there’s publishing, animation and advertising. When you left Marvel Music then, what did… Is that when you started to go into other things?

Mort Todd:
No. Even after I left Cracked, I’m just doing a lot of storyboarding for TV commercials and always been doing album covers, band posters and I’ve taught a while. I actually substituted for two semesters for Jean Cohen at School of Visual Arts and the whole thing was… If you’re in a comics, you’re not going to be a millionaire, so use those skills and other media. I’ve done branding, logos, packaging, art, all those stuff. It’s any port in the storm for illustrators because… I mean, like I said, look at Colin and Ditko. Everybody in the 80s couldn’t get work at all and there’s some like Kirby and a lot of artists would do storyboards on the West Coast for animations.

Alex Grand:
Okay. So you were also doing stuff like that along the way, basically?

Mort Todd:
Yeah.

Alex Grand:
Then after Marvel Music, you were continuing to do things like that?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. I probably dive more in the video and film production and did TV commercials and storyboarding.

Alex Grand:
TV commercials and storyboarding. Yeah, that’s cool. I read that, in what? In 1999 there was a 10-page comic of Sebastian Bach. Is that right?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. I had met Sebastian at Marvel and we were going to do comic or something but it didn’t, and he’s a big comic fan. When he was a little kid, his dad’s a painter and he had on his bedroom wall, a Hulk busted through the wall. We did a photo shoot with him and also with Spider-Man and all that stuff.

Alex Grand:
A controversial guy but this was before all that controversy. John K from Ren & Stimpy, you actually developed something with him?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. This was while I was still at Marvel. I mean, that’s just it. I did so many other things at Marvel, I don’t even remember. I did a lot of licensed stuff and tried to do other stuff. There was a Saturday morning live action, Sea Monkeys? TV show with the Chiodo brothers? I was trying to get a deal with that because I was, “What’s more obvious than a sea monkeys comic?” Actually, it was a TV show but I hit a tangled web but a previous girlfriend had moved out to LA and was doing animation on Ren & Stimpy. I’d go and visit a lot and stuff and for Marvel stuff. I went to Spumco, which was Kricfalusi studio and stuff and this was right after Nickelodeon swiped Ren & Stimpy from him because it’s supposed to deadline things when it was actually, in-house backstabbing-

Alex Grand:
I see.

Mort Todd:
… from other artists working it. I was, “John, Ren & Stimpy is not your only idea, right? You must have more.” And I was, “This is what we can do,” because if he tried to start a new TV series, the studio would own it. They would own it again like with Ren & Stimpy. I was, “This is what we do. We take your new characters, you get a deal with Marvel where it’s not work for hire, that they’re licensing it from you, so you own the rights. We do it as a comic and you own the thing and then you pitch it for TV and stuff so that you’re in a position where it’s like, ‘Sorry, you can’t own it.'” We did this series and it was called Comic Book.

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
And John’s idea, we did a tabloid. Because it was John’s idea that an adult would be like a little kid because when you’re a little kid, comic takes up this much of your head, where a tabloid would be like that and stuff. We did four issues and again, Altergott was working that studio then and he did a lot of the comics for it. We did four issues, put out one, they got canceled. They had… Again, they were saying, “We’re going to get this distributed here.” They showed me these mock-ups with cutouts of Jimmy, the stupid boy, life sized, where they would stack the comics in his butt or something and you pull it out and he’d fart and all that shit. He had elaborate plans but of course, didn’t do it. Of course, comic shops were, “We can’t fit tabloid comics in our shelves,” and stepped out. Anyways, the three other books… I think dark horse put out in three other books.

Alex Grand:
That was Marvel that then after one issue they… Okay, interesting. Comic Book, yep. DC did something like that a few years ago, Mark Chiarello put out those Wednesday comics and they were a big newspaper thing.

Mort Todd:
You ever hear of Sojourn? It’s in the 70s. Cooper put out a book and had Severin and a bunch of people, and it was a newspaper thing.

Alex Grand:
Yeah.

Mort Todd:
But and about, I guess about 10 years ago, I put out a free weekly newspaper called Vex that had… It had also gotten a bunch of other artists and just again, it was doomed. We did it about a year, weekly, which is a lot of work but we just didn’t get enough advertising.

Alex Grand:
That was 2012, right?

Mort Todd:
Yeah.

Alex Grand:
And that was about a year you said?

Mort Todd:
Yeah.

Alex Grand:
Okay. Then now, also just to give the audience an idea of some of the commercials that you storyboarded for, like Disney, Sesame street, MTV, CBL-

Mort Todd:
It was animation. That was actual animation.

Alex Grand:
Actual animation, so tell us about that?

Mort Todd:
I was working with the studio in New York and whenever they needed animation, they’d nail me. There would be… I don’t even remember what they call it now. Upfronts, when networks would present their new shows in the fall? New TV series and jump advertisers? They get an idea of what to buy from and stuff. I did a bunch of animated wraparounds for that Sesame Street. I did a couple of animated musical stuff with this character called Cab Callowmouse. They weren’t really… I don’t know what the educational aspect of it was, but they were fun to do. Disney, it was just something about a grasshopper and I did a bunch of shorts for Howard Stern’s old, E! TV show and corny stuff.

Alex Grand:
What did you used to animate? How did you get into animation?

Mort Todd:
Lately… I’ve always animated old school. There was another one, we did the pilot for MTV, that was a half-hour pilot called Spider Virus. I only did one segment of it with Christopher Walken where he actually wrote a scope, then turning into a werewolf and stuff? All of that was old school and that was… Until about 15, 20 years ago we’d actually do it on the wheel, draw it and lift up the paper and see how it looked and move this arm and that. But since then, I’ve just draw stuff haphazardly. I still do it old school. I draw it, then scan it and then use animation programs to move stuff.

Alex Grand:
What? Like After Effects or something?

Mort Todd:
Yeah.

Alex Grand:
I animate my motion comics using After Effects.

Mort Todd:
Oh, yeah?

Alex Grand:
Yeah.

Mort Todd:
Yeah, those are cool. I forgot about those.

Alex Grand:
You’ve seen those? That’s awesome.

Mort Todd:
I’m good. You’ve been doing them for a while?

Alex Grand:
Yeah. I’ve made, I think, seven of them and there are a lot of Ditko from Charlton stuff. It’s pretty painstaking stuff though. I mean, just for seven minutes, it takes me four to six weeks.

Mort Todd:
Like I said, I happen to worked in old school animation. You know the shortcuts.

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
A lot of times you avoid a lot of grief knowing what you’re getting into and how you can reuse stuff or just zoom in on the same picture and it looks different or flat.

Alex Grand:
That’s true. You’re right.

Mort Todd:
Am I not right?

Alex Grand:
Yeah. No, that’s really funny.

Mort Todd:
Because as a kid too, you’d watch those Marvel superheroes in Grantray-Lawrence?

Alex Grand:
That’s right, yes.

Mort Todd:
Where they just drag a picture across the page or zoom in on it and just have a one-arm.

Alex Grand:
Right, and then shake the camera a little bit, too.

Mort Todd:
Yeah. You learn from that stuff and you go, “I’m not going to do it that way but something to be learned.”

Alex Grand:
Yeah, something similar.

Mort Todd:
Actually, going back to Gray Morrow in 60s Marvel cartoons, he worked on the second, third season of the Spider-Man that Bakshi did you know?

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
And did crazy psychedelic backgrounds with Spidey zipping through the night scene and there’s green clouds, pink and blue.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, so that was him? Those Bakshi episodes are a whole other thing.

Mort Todd:
When I was in school there, NYU had a screening of… Was it Rock & Rule or The Ice, The Frazetta that Bakshi did-

Alex Grand:
Fire & Ice?

Mort Todd:
Fire & Ice, yeah. I think that was it and I went to the screening and they had a Q&A after, and that’s all I kept asking Scott Spider-Man Chuck. “When you are doing that Spider-Man challenge…” He’ll say, “We’re here to talk about…”

Alex Grand:
But the ones he did… There was where they were in a coffee shop and you’d see a band playing and they’d trail the camera to see you.

Mort Todd:
I actually edited a copy of that because that is just so cool.

Alex Grand:
It is. I love that scene.

Mort Todd:
Then they got the same band playing and the girls singing without any vocals.

Alex Grand:
But yeah, it stands out. The Christopher Walken when you mentioned, that’s actually on YouTube. People can watch it, right?

Mort Todd:
Yeah, I’ve got… I don’t even know how to get to my YouTube page, but I got a lot of ads I’ve done and on animation.

Alex Grand:
I’ve subscribed to that, actually.

Mort Todd:
Why, thank you. You were the one?

Alex Grand:
That was me, yep. In 2000, you made a media company, Comicsfix? Is that-

Mort Todd:
Yeah.

Alex Grand:
What was that about?

Mort Todd:
Comic Singular Fix.

Alex Grand:
Comicfix.

Mort Todd:
Well, I got asked by the New York Post to create some comic strips because Peanuts and all that stuff, they get licensed and they’re in every paper. They actually wanted to create some unique, comic strips that would be unique to their paper and I came up with three strips. It was actually the amount of work of four strips, because one of them was an interactive comic strip, it had two tiers instead of one. I was writing all three, doing layouts for all three, penciling for two of them?

Alex Grand:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mort Todd:
Lettering and coloring and all that stuff. Because earlier too, I’d done a Rat Fink strip with big daddy Roth and we tried to get that going and it didn’t happen. For the Post, that’s why I created Comicfix but also I did other advertisement and junk but we did… I licensed Speed Racer. It’s Speed Racer Comic for a year and I created this strip called Celebrity Biografix which had celebrities and Severin drew that. John Severin drew it because who could draw celebrities better?

Alex Grand:
Yes.

Mort Todd:
What that would be like, it would tell someone’s biography in three days and we usually based it on their birthday so it’d be somehow topical. Then the other strip I did, and this was pulling back from the past of what they don’t do better earlier, is a strip called Molly the Model. Not Maley, but Molly because at the time, I was going with a model called Molly.

Alex Grand:
Okay. There you go.

Mort Todd:
It was awfully based on a lot of the grief she went through being a model and going to look, sees and it would be, “You’re too tall.” “You’re too short.” “You’re too white.” “You’re too exotic.” “You do this, you do that.”

Mort Todd:
But it was an interactive comic strip, it was soap opera. We had three plot lines going on where it was, “What should Molly do? Should she do this? Should she do that? Should she do this? Fill in your own answer,” and they’d go to the New York Post website and vote. I usually, pretty much already planned on what was going to happen and usually, the people voted the way I steered them. I never had to rewrite anything too much and I don’t know, that might’ve been the very first and very last interactive daily comic strip.

Alex Grand:
But it’s innovative and it’s interesting.

Mort Todd:
Then 9/11 happened and we had to change the strip really quick because it couldn’t be so lighthearted all of a sudden.

Alex Grand:
How long do you think that effect lasted? Making things serious after 9/11?

Mort Todd:
Depends on the project or whatever. I mean, on the one hand, we started getting soapy again pretty quick, just because you try to take people’s mind off it, maybe a little?

Alex Grand:
Take their mind off it, okay. Now, in 2005 there was a return to Cracked. What was that all about?

Mort Todd:
Jesus. Yeah, this company bought it and they wanted to turn it more into… Do you remember FHM or all these lad mags that were… They certainly weren’t Playboy or anything, but they had chicks and models, and stuff like that. They wanted to turn it into that and do a more adult version and have potty humor and stuff. I went to a couple interviews for them and what they were doing, just their whole business model is stupid as hell. It was like the editors would get a piece of whatever contributors they could get in the magazine, so it sounded like Laykin again. You’re getting a kickback. The only way you’re making money is if the publisher accepts these things and there’s no guarantee that they’re going to host it. Then it would be, in the page rates, the offer were fraction of what Cracked was before. I wasn’t going to go out on my way and get any of these artists and writers and especially since they had no real vision and stuff. I think it lasted three or four issues.

Alex Grand:
They were their own worst enemies there.

Mort Todd:
I bought the rights to Sadistik, which is a photo comic from Italy and I started doing that. I was a real big fan of Diabolik and I was thinking, “You know what? Maybe we do Diabolik in english.” There’ve been a few attempts but because it’s an Italian thing, it’s a different one. I looked into getting the rights and they wanted a lot but then this broker told me about these photo comics that had been published in 70s and it had different names around the world. It was called Keeling in Italy and Satanik in France, and a couple other names. It was a lot cheaper to buy it outright than to lease the licensed Diabolik and stuff. I bought the rights and put them out in English and this is the character here.

Alex Grand:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). There it is.

Mort Todd:
Donning a skeleton suit that ends up tying up femme fatales and burning bullies. He’s a master of disguise. It’s a photo comic that features a lot of actors who were in a lot of films in Europe in the 60s and 70s that were in science fiction films, spy films and horror films. It’s pretty interesting if you’re into that stuff.

Alex Grand:
Yeah.

Mort Todd:
In 2007, I produced this film that this Italian director tracked down all the actors and interviewed them. It was pretty phenomenal. It turned out the guy who played Sadistik had a contract where he wasn’t allowed to show his face or anything on set or… All these actors that worked with him didn’t know who he was and half the film is this mystery, “Who was he?” And they go, “It was this actor.” Then that actor is, “No, it wasn’t me. I think it was this actor.” But it turns out that… The director tracked him down and he unmasked for the first time in the documentary, and it turns out he’s the Italian, Regis Philbin. He had a daily TV sports show for decades and stuff and no one knew his secret identity so it was pretty fun.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, that’s fun.

Mort Todd:
Big premiere in Italy and everything with all the actors and they’re all great people.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, have fun. Now, a year before Vex magazine that you mentioned from 2012, in 2011 I wrote about something called Station A that you started for print advertising comics and TV commercials. Is that right?

Mort Todd:
Right. That was the company that put out Vex.

Alex Grand:
Okay.

Mort Todd:
Yeah, the weekly comic newspaper and then…

Alex Grand:
Was that your company? Station A?

Mort Todd:
I co-owned it, yeah.

Alex Grand:
Co-owned it, okay.

Mort Todd:
Yeah, and it was… I had an investor. Jean Simmons taught me OPM, other people’s money. Never use your own money. I did a few TV commercials that I directed and that were universally hated and then a lot of print advertising, junk like that.

Alex Grand:
I got you. Interesting. Why were they hated? What do you mean?

Mort Todd:
Well, made fun of vegans in this one commercial for burger.

Alex Grand:
I read about this. There was a big flare-up about that.

Mort Todd:
And the other one was animated and it was for a Mexican restaurant, and it had a lucha libre, different wrestlers and I use the song track called The Crusher from an album that I did the cover four years ago. Freddie Blassie did a cover of the song, The Crusher, “like do the Crusher.” It was super noisy and heavy rotation and it was… We got letters like, “I always falling asleep at 3:00 AM and this commercial came up and I couldn’t go back to sleep and stuff.”

Alex Grand:
In 2013, there was some practical joke about a fake comic line called Zeus Comics. What was that?

Mort Todd:
Yeah, it was the April fools. I came up with all these fake covers of these comics from the 50s that were… Because the whole comics code thing and where to know that, so they were all over the top with Commies and zombies, martians and crime. I did all these fake covers, printed them out, aged them, stapled them on to old guts of 64-page, Archie comics from the 60s or something. Bagged them, put stickers on them and saying they’re worth $1,500. I got this comic store to go in on it with me and we said, “Yeah, we were tearing down this house and we found all these old comics behind the wall that are worth thousands and stuff.” They fell for it and then newspaper and TV, and everything covered it.

Mort Todd:
Then the next day, on the 2nd, I revealed, “Fooled you!” It’s my tradition because I could told you, when I was a sophomore in high school, I get bounced out of school for fake bulletins and what else did I did? A couple of years ago, I did a fake Batman cover by Tony Tallarico who did Batman coloring books. I did a fake mock-up of a Charlton Batman comic, saying it was based on the TV show and that they licensed it from the TV producers, not knowing that DC wouldn’t let them print it? I had it all mocked-up with the crop marks and all the information around the edges of it. Yeah, people fell for that, too.

Alex Grand:
That’s awesome.

Mort Todd:
Some people got pissed that they fell for it.

Alex Grand:
Because you’ve done a lot of editing and production and things, but you can actually draw?

Mort Todd:
I think so.

Alex Grand:
And then colorist.

Mort Todd:
In my Monsters Attack book, I have a few stories that I drew. I mean, it also helps when you have Severin in it. But I’m starting a new strip in a local, monthly, here in Portland. Political superheroes and then plenty of album covers and comic strips, Drawn for Marble and…

Alex Grand:
In 2014, tell us about Charlton Arrow, Charlton Neo?

Mort Todd:
Well, at that time, my father wasn’t doing well so I decided to move in with him to take care of him, ended being a year or two. I wasn’t doing much freelance and junk. In between, that’s when I came up with this. There’s a Facebook page called The Charlton Arrow and created by a fester, faceplant also known as Mark Knox, and he was playing you a fanzine and a bunch of the people in the Charlton Arrow page were comic pros and had worked at Charlton and stuff. He was just envisioning a black and white fanzine and stuff and I wanted to get involved. I did it and then he wasn’t able to actually come through with publishing it and stuff. I was, “I’ll do it.” We ended up doing it a color comic and yes, we did about 10 issues and used a lot of… People used to work at Charlton back in the day and also, people inspired by Charlton.

Mort Todd:
Some of it was new stuff based on Charlton characters or in that vein and just did everything from westerns to horror, superhero, sci-fi and had a few spin-off books and everything. Then also, a few times that come up, I’d find original stats from Charlton from the day he used to publish. I’d recolor them and stuff, and we did Billy the Kid volumes. We did two in color and one, collected black and white by John Severin.

Alex Grand:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mort Todd:
That was fun to color. I was a couple hundred pages of coloring John’s beautiful, detailed, intricate, Western work. It was sort of, “Where can we draw it again?” Collaborating with John and it just metamorphosized into stuff. I would say… Some of it reprints, some of the books are reprints, some are original. That’s how that happened. It was a way to waste time while I was taking care of my parents and stuff.

Alex Grand:
Is that ongoing still?

Mort Todd:
Yeah. The Charlton Arrow itself, we did the last three issues. We try direct sales because before that, and still you get them through my site, we have them on Amazon and KaBlam and stuff, so you can buy them online. But we tried the direct sales thing and it wasn’t any much better than when I tried Mr. A. Just, we weren’t getting a lot of orders and for this, the direct sales series, we did a new E-man by Nick Cudi and Joe Staton, than that for Charlton and stuff. It was the last gas because then Nick passed away last year and stuffs.

Alex Grand:
Yes. IndyPlanet, right? That’s where KaBlam sells their stuff?

Mort Todd:
Right. I’m sorry, IndyPlanet, yeah. KaBlam is their printing arm but yeah, IndyPlanet and Amazon.

Alex Grand:
I made a little comic, it’s four issues and it’s on IndyPlanet also.

Mort Todd:
What’s the title?

Alex Grand:
Journey into Mexico, is what it is.

Mort Todd:
It sounds mysterious.

Alex Grand:
It’s very mysterious, yeah. Tell me about the future and tell us about what’s coming?

Mort Todd:
Well lately, I don’t know if you’ve seen online and stuff, this Power Comics?

Alex Grand:
Okay.

Mort Todd:
This guy, Austin, who got this new line of comics and he’s lined up incredible amount of 70s and 80s Marvel artists?

Alex Grand:
Yeah.

Mort Todd:
I don’t want to leave anyone out, but you got… Val Mayerick or Ron Wilson or… There just so many. He’s doing and there’re all these PD characters that he’s reinvented. I mostly like coloring and lettering and doing stuff here and there but I did a whole bunch of Twinkie parodies. Remember those old hostess parodies? I did a bunch of those based on the original one, so it’s sort of ink and Sal Buscema] and changing the character and inking Curt Swan and stuff. That was pretty fun.

Mort Todd:
And I guess he’s doing a kickstarter this fall, but like I said, I’m leaving out so many… Look up on Facebook, Power Comics.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, I’ll get some.

Mort Todd:
We just got Tom Palmer. He’s going to do some Nick gang and because I just recently colored some Tom Palmer cover for Gemstone, so I got Tom’s contact. I got that to Austin and just so many great 70s, 80s artists from Marvel and stuff. Also, I have a secret project that I have signed a non-disclosure agreement but it’s going to change the face of comics industry. It’s going to make comics take the next step which is actually about two steps back, but it’s going to be two or three steps ahead because it’s going to get comics everywhere.

Alex Grand:
Really?

Mort Todd:
As opposed to just comic shops.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, distribution something.

Mort Todd:
I can’t say much more but it involves very well-known properties and we’re going to get them everywhere.

Alex Grand:
Wow! That’s exciting.

Mort Todd:
I hope I can announce that in the very near future and that’ll be my next stage, my next level and my next evolutionary phase.

Alex Grand:
Yes. Rising like a Phoenix, yes.

Mort Todd:
Because it seems like every 10 years, I managed to do something good in the last couple of years and then what’s next?

Alex Grand:
Yeah, that’s exciting. I’m excited to learn more and find out more about that. That’s awesome. Mort, thank you so much for hanging out today. This was a real pleasure for me. It’s something that I’ve always admired, the stuff that you put out on Facebook and…

Mort Todd:
I’m a pretty peripheral character in the industry because I’m not well-known by a lot of people, but I’ve certainly dipped my fingers and just spread every aspect of it.

Alex Grand:
You’re like a rebellious, independent thinker and I find that really interesting and refreshing.

Mort Todd:
Well, as I’ve always said, I love the medium and there’s enough people doing superheroes. I want to see other stuff happen, other genres and junk. It’s like if movies only did Western, so now, I guess it’s movies only a doing superhero movies but I’d love to see other genres happen. As much as I enjoy doing superheroes and I’ve done superheroes and probably, a plan to do more superheroes, I’d still just like to see every possible genre being done.

Alex Grand:
Yeah, absolutely. That’s awesome. Well, thank you. Thank you so much for your time.

Mort Todd:
Thanks for asking me. I really appreciate it.

Alex Grand:
This was a real treat. Thank you so much.

 

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Interview © 2021 Comic Book Historians

John A. Mozzer Interviewed 5 of Steranko’s Associates in 1973

1973 Intro by John A. Mozzer, Interviewer My name is John Mozzer. Jim Steranko, comic artist and escape artist of Reading, Pennsylvania is so involved with his current projects that he has neither the time nor the interest in searching his mind to recall his life of the past, or to reflect upon his previous…

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