Moderator Alex Grand (Understanding Superhero Comic Books, Comic Book Historians founder), N. Scott Robinson, Ph.D. (Globo Comico founder, Comic Book Historians editor), and Bill Field (Neal Adams Master Illustrator co-writer, Comic Book Historians co-host) congratulate and engage in scholarly discussion with David Armstrong (American Association of Comicbook Collectors, Comic Book Historians moderator) about his renowned series of Golden and Silver Age comics creator interviews with more than 40 founding figures of the comic book industry (from Marvel, DC, Fiction House, EC Comics, Quality, and Centaur) who shaped its trajectory from the 1930s to the 1960s. Featuring never before seen EC Comics interviews.
[editing in progress.]
Alex Grand: All right, So I’m Alex, founder of the comic book historians, social media and I’m happy to present my fellow panelists. Let’s introduce ourselves. Let’s start with David Armstrong and move Down.
David Armstrong: I’m David Armstrong. I have been in the entertainment business for over 50 years and mostly distribution, but I do some creative stuff, too. But I’ve also been going to comic book conventions since 1965.
Alex: And Scott.
Scott Robinson, Ph.D.: Hello, everyone. My name is Scott Robinson and I’m a chair of the music department at San Diego Mesa College and in comics. I have worked with Alex and comic book historians as an editor of several of their biographical book Zines on Neal Adams and Frank Thorne and Howard Chaykin and David Anthony Kraft. We’ve done two graphic novels together, and I was the editor of this book, Understanding Superhero Comic Books and founder of the Globo Comico International Comics Social Media.
Bill Field: Well, I’m Bill Field. I’m a cartoonist, animator, author of the Neal Adams book. And I also produce television series right now. And that’s about it.
Alex: So, the two big things that happened to me last year were finally finishing my book that I turned into McFarland. And the second thing was doing the post-production and editing on David’s now very famous Golden age and Silver Age interviews, it’s pretty amazing that they were basically sitting in cold storage for a couple of decades and we talked and and we had a really fun collaboration, put them together, and I’m excited to show you some of that here. It was great, I upconverted them to 4K because he filmed them in such high detail and great sound. So it was easy for me to upconvert it. And then I also overlaid images. I kind of remixed the narrative so it’s a bit more of a podcast narrative format and so David, why don’t you start kind of telling us about how you put these interviews together?
David: my first comic book show was in 1965. This is from 1966. It’s the first time I wore… second time I wore this outfit. But these are early photographs from the conventions I went to. I started going in 1965, the first show that I went to, I saw a dealer who drew some pretty good stuff and he had a number two who was working with him. The dealer was Jim Steranko and the the guy who was working with him was a guy named Ken Dixon. Ken Dixon was a high school student when I started, became an NYU film student, and then went to the American film Institute and I ended up going to the Film Institute with him. Now, in 1965, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said to me, Would you like to meet the guy who created the Joker? And I said, Sure. So he introduced me to Bill Finger, and I said, What’s your name? And he said, Otto Binder. And so I kept that in the back of my mind since it was the first time I met professionals at a comic book show. So I ended up going to AFI and I started working on films there, and I ended up getting a job as a projectionist. And there were three things that I did as a projectionist. One was to run dailies for motion pictures that were being in shorts that were being shot there. One was to do research screenings for people who were doing oral histories, and one was to do academic study to show potential directors and cinematographers how film was made. When I was doing when they cut down the research department, I kind of got bored because I was running mixes for student films, and I was running dailies for David Lynch on Eraserhead and John Cassavetes on A Woman Under the Influence. So I asked Cassavetes for a job because I wanted to leave and actually do something different. And he said, I can only pay you a certain amount of money, so I said, okay, I’ll take it and I started as a film editor for John, and then we started a film distribution company, and that’s how I started my career. I ended up going to a comic book show in Philadelphia in 1993, and I was helping out Robert Gauvin, who is a dealer there, and Bob Overstreet comes up to the table and starts talking. The only thing I knew about Bob was he was a pretty good inker on Landon Chesney in the sixties. He was… he was an inker on fanzines in those days. So we had a conversation and I said to him, you know, I told him a story about Otto Binder. And I said, unfortunately, he passed away right after that. And then when I went to the Film Institute, I realized that everyone was doing oral histories on cinematographers, on musicians, on actors and directors. I said, and no one’s done that for you know everyone other than like Jack Kirby or Stan Lee. And Overstreet looks at me and says, Well, when are you going to start? And then I started going to work for USA Network in 1993. So I had access to the equipment. I had, you know, a decent salary. And I thought, it’s time to go start doing this. So that’s how we ended up working it out. So that’s how the interviews came about. And I shot them over a seven year period and they sat, they were shot in Beta-SP which at the time was broadcast standard for US broadcast. And they sat, you know, in the box in the in the cases that they came in for the last 20 years, they’ve been used two or three times for film documentaries where I license the material. But other than that they hadn’t done anything until Alex said, You know, we should do something with all that stuff. I said, yeah but it would cost a lot of money to sit down to convert it. And he said, okay, that was the beginning.
Alex: So we’re basically going to go in a series of interviews that start from the thirties and their comic relevance and then lead up toward more like the sixties. So Dave is going to introduce us to Martin Filchock, who actually worked at Centaur Comics in the thirties.
Dave: So I’m going to play the clip and I’ll tell you a bit about my interview with Martin Filchock He was a fascinating guy.
Martin Filchock: So I go to Centaur and they had two gentlemen, one Joe Hardy and the other one, Harley and they started this company and they called it Centaur. I would go into… they had one special place where the Arts department was, that’s where I was at, with Gilkinson, that’s where he was able to be standard and talk, and even show me… He was really a good artist and I used to hang around there a lot because I was in great demand. I would do covers for them, and squts and as you can see by my magazines, that I had features that I’ve done. I did a lot of work for them.
Dave: Did they take over the same offices that Cook and Mahon had before?
Martin Filchock: No they moved to a different place. They had a much larger place. A fellow by the name of Jacquet was the editor. Lloyd Jacquet, and he looked over the cartoons and he was a big help too. While I was there, I met Jack Cole, Bill Everett and George Brenner and a few others.
David: Martin was a guy who started working for Centaur or actually Ultem where it was Centaur. Cook and Mahon had left working for Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and started their own company, which eventually would become Centaur, and he started working for them doing covers and interior stories. When I interviewed him he was 88 years old, he’d lived to be 100 years old and he and he was still drawing at 100 and claimed to be the oldest continuously living comic book artist in the business. Actually, he said cartoonist because he was doing crossword puzzle cartoons. So I’ll tell you two quick stories about him and then we’ll move on. But the there are two amazing things. First of all, I found out about where he was. He lived in Rogersville, Tennessee, which was near the Smoky Mountains as you leave Knoxville. It’s where Davy Crockett’s grandparents lived and they are actually buried there. But I hired a crew in Knoxville, so we spent the night in Knoxville and I had to drive up there to see him at 9:00 in the morning. And so as we were looking for his place, we got lost. I had to call him and find out where he was and he gave us directions. When we got there, he had already been out picking Blackberries and had made BlackBerry cobbler for us, and it was still warm. I mean, you know, this is a guy who was 88 years old and he was taking care of his wife who’s sick in bed. Anyways so one thing I asked him about was the CC Kid. Now the CC Kid is based on the Conservation Corps, which is basically a split between an amalgam of the WPA projects and like the Boy Scouts. And it was, you know, people who helped do projects and they would get be in an encampment and then they would send their money home. So I said, How did you come about doing this CC Kid story? Because there are several CC Kids stories in the Centaur Books And he said to me, I came home one day, my mom was crying. My mom said to me that my older brother, who had just gotten a scholarship to school, was going to have to go to work because her her husband, their father, had lost his job. This is like 1936. So he ran out and joined the Conservation Corps. So Martin came back and said, you don’t have to worry about that. You didn’t have to worry about your son going to work because there’ll be enough money from the Conservation Corps. Well, he ended up going on that scholarship to school, and he became a quarterback for the Washington Redskins. So it kind of worked out for them.
Alex: All right. So now the next we’re going to talk about Will Eisner. So, Scott, why don’t you give us a one minute intro on Will Eisner and his significance in the 1930s. Then we’ll play that clip.
Scott: So Will Eisner was a very famous writer and artist that worked in comics originally from Brooklyn, New York. He’s known as the creator of the Spirit character and comic strip that ran from 1940 to 1952. He’s also known for a particular type of experimentation and the content form of his work. He popularized the term graphic novel with the 1978 A Contract with God, and he also was involved in early comic studies with his book, Comics and Sequential Art, which was published in 1985. His father was an artist, and he began drawing comics when he was 19, in 1936 for Wow — What a Magazine! And then by 1940, he created the Spirit as a comic book insert for newspapers that were published across the US and Canada and even as far away as England. So the significance of this clip is not so much about Will Eisner in The Spirit but his early work with, Wow — What a Magazine! And this is just a brief, you know, 20 seconds, a minute to a full 30 minute interview about Will Eisner.
Will Eisner: There was a magazine called Wow, published by a guy named Henley who was really a shirt manufacturer on Fourth Avenue. But he had literary aspirations. And so he took the front of this big loft, had a little office there, hired a guy named Jerry Iger. Sam Iger, he was called Jerry, who had been working for Max Fleischer, doing little cartoons for Max Fleischer made him editor. He decided to publish a magazine called Wow, which was really formatted in imitation of the English magazines that combined stories and some pictures and some little adventure cartoons and so forth and decided to publish this magazine called Wow. I found out about it. I don’t remember how I think it might have been Bob Kane who told me about it because we were high school buddies. We’d see each other from time to time, very little, because we lived near each other. But he looked at my work and I did a feature for them called Scott Dalton, which was the first adventure feature.
Alex: The next person is Julius Schwartz, who started out in the 1930s with his childhood friend Mort Weisinger, Weisinger, as a science fiction pulp agent. And he did that for about ten years. And then in 1946, he joined All-American comics under Sheldon Mayer, Shelley Mayer, and he has a lot of great anecdotes about the Golden Age. He was there when All-American and Detective Comics fused into National Periodical Publications and he, in a lot of people’s opinion, helped essentially establish the Silver Age by overseeing the creation of the Justice League of America with the Flash, Green Lantern, you know, the Silver Age versions. And I think his equation was use more relatable science fiction while retconning Golden Age characters, and it was a concept that worked really well where I think after the JLA came out and that proved successful, then…Stan Lee and, and Marvel is essentially a reaction to what Julie Schwartz oversaw in DC.
David: And by the way, two of his other clients, when he was an agent were Ray Bradbury and Forry Ackerman so he knew a lot of the people at the very beginning of the business.
Julius Schwartz: One day Shelley Mayer gets a newspaper strip that appears every day, and they got one about a character called Superman. It was done by a couple of kids named Siegel and Shuster. They had failed to sell it to the newspaper syndicates, but Gaines was putting out a magazine that was reprinting syndicate material, so they got the idea, Hey, maybe they’ll take a new one and maybe some newspaper will pick it up. So they sent it to All-American comics, and Shelley Mayer was the one who saw it phrased. Well, he liked it, and he brought it into Max Gaines and says I think we can use the Superman character and Gaines says, Well, now he says, Wait a second, Harry Donenfeld, my partner, in a sense, is putting out a magazine called Action Comics, and it hasn’t got a lead feature for it. Let’s send up the Superman character, maybe he’ll go for it. So you see, Shelley Mayer was really the discoverer, in my opinion. This is a story I’ve heard and I believe it, was the discoverer of Superman going into Action Comics June 1938. And from then on it’s history.
David: by the way, that’s Julie’s opinion.
Alex: Yeah. Julie… that interview I really recommend everyone watch the whole thing. It’s on the CBH YouTube channel, but he’s so alive and energetic and it’s just amazing he had that much energy at that age. And when you watch it, it’s like he just doesn’t stop talking and he’s like pure energy the whole time.
David: He’s a real kick, actually. But I must tell you, when I was interviewing, he’d say, Ask me this question because he had answers for them. Yeah, he had prepared answers. That’s totally right. So now the next one we’re going to talk about is John Romita.
Alex: So Scott, why don’t you introduce us to John Romita now.
Scott: John Romita Sr. is also very well known, having lived from 1930 and recently just passed this year. He’s also from Brooklyn, New York. Like Will Eisner and a graduate of Manhattan School of Industrial Art in 1947, he began his work in comics with the Famous Funnies in 1949, published by Eastern Color Printing. and then soon afterwards was Timely Comics and sort of the beginnings of Marvel Comics. By 1951, he was drawing a wide variety of genres for Atlas. The next development of Timely on the way to Marvel was to become Atlas Comics, and that includes war, romance and horror comics and he even began drawing Captain America in the 1950s. From 1958 to 1965. He worked for DC mainly in romance comics at that time, known as National Periodical Publications. By 1965, he joined Marvel Comics first drawing Daredevil and then taking over the art duties in 1966 on the Amazing Spider-Man following Steve Ditko in which he combined his background with romance comics in the superhero genre and restylized not only the look of Spider-Man, but the entire book itself, introducing important characters like Mary Jane Watson and it really relaunched the book as the number one selling book for the company by 1967. In 1973, his influence on the entire look of Marvel was felt as he became the art director for Marvel Comics. So in the significance of this clip, it’s just a brief part of Dave’s full shoot interview. But in this one, he speaks about learning inking from Joe Maneely. A lot of times we’ll celebrate an artist like John Romita Sr., but actually getting a window into how he learned this is really interesting in this clip,
John Romita Sr.: Joe Maneely and Stan Lee. I think that’s right after my first job, maybe that job or the second or third. He must have noticed that I was not the best thinker. He called up Joe Maneely, who had a studio in Flushing, Queens, and I lived on the city line about 15, 20 minutes away from there. So he told me could you do me a favor? Could you go and spend a day with Joe Maneely at his studio? So I get in my little 36 Plymouth, whatever it was, with the tar roof, and I drove in and I spent the day there. I got there about ten, and I left about four. And before that he was working on a double spread Western scene of an Indian attack on a fort. It was like Kirby esque, you know, You could see all the wood, all the structure of the fort, the way wooden stockades were made. You could see the horse, the Indians on horseback, all authentic, all reeking of authenticity, full of dynamics there, circling the fort. Guys are shooting long rifles in buckskin from the fort. I mean, typical boy’s ranch kind of stuff. He’s penciling that thing. When I go there, he’s talking to me a mile a minute, telling me how to structure a panel, how to work your fingers in, how to make sure the background doesn’t clash with it. He had this wonderful trick of doing his figures in a slightly bolder line than his background. And then when he did the ink work, he used a different pen for the backgrounds. He did a bolder pen for the foreground and a finer pen for the background, a great amount of depth, almost a 3-D effect. He would do the whole thing in pen after he blocked in the pencils, very roughly, he would then roll up the page and start doing the inking immediately, and he would do a pen outline, contour, a drawing of everything on the page, and then he would do details and then he would take a big brush. A number five brush or something and start slashing blacks in there, which was also Kirbyesque Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had worked out that principle. I could see it. They used a very thin brush or pen to do the outline of all the drawings, and then Jack and Joe or just Jack would go in there with the blacks and do all the technique. So it was a wonderful assembly line approach, but it also had this great effect of when you do a contour drawing and you’re forced to make it simple because you don’t want to have the background clash with it. It’s the secret of simplicity in comics and of of clarity. And Joe Maneeyly had it nailed. He could do silhouettes. Make you think you’re looking at a character full of guns and knives and bristling with stuff and the silhouette was as simple as can be. It was almost like a coloring book silhouette to some extent, only better. And then you would look at the finish and not believe all the stuff that’s going on in the figure and in the background, but never once blending into each other, always clearly separated. And I immediately caught it and he told me he must have told me that that was the purpose, because from that moment on I understood the principle of clarity and depth in comics. And he did that double page spread while he’s telling me all this stuff, knocking it out mindlessly clear. It was just a pleasure to watch.
David: I got to tell you, it was great. You know, one of the things that I wanted to do with this is be able to have artists and writers talk about people who are no longer with us to be able to give us a picture of who they were and what they did and that to me is worth 1,000,000 million bucks. Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Alex: Now the next one is the Irwin Donenfeld. I find the business of comics just interesting and decisions, distribution decisions and… His father, Harry Donenfeld, essentially co-founded what would kind of become DC Comics with Major Malcolm Wheeler Nicholson and then him and Jack Liebowitz kind of essentially run the show over at that company for a while. And then his son Irwin takes over and what’s interesting about Irwin is he has like a very business corporate side of looking at what happened during the Silver Age. One clip we don’t have is one where how he dealt with the Fredric Wertham stuff and how he would travel in different cities, talking on behalf of Superman comics and talking about how they were good for kids, essentially doing a public relations tour. But this one is another really great clip because we talk about or rather he talks about how his father and him would establish Independent New Distribution relationships with different carriers around the country.
Irwin Donenfeld: Since I was both in the publishing end and the distributing end, I knew pretty near every son of a distributor all around the country. Here in Bridgeport, there was the Rotman family. So Mickey Rotman was a very dear friend of mine. There’s an example in Oklahoma City. Harvey Evers was the wholesaler. His son Gene and I were hunting buddies. The guy in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Fulton Tyler and I were hunting buddies. So I did that in all around the country. I knew everybody. I go to a convention and my father would be with the the owners of all of these distributing companies, and I would be with all of their sons.
Alex: Now the next one is a particular favorite of mine is John Broome. So, Bill, why don’t you lead us into John Broome’s clip.
Bill: Wow, what a guy John Broome was. He started in the comics in the Golden Age. He worked for, he worked for DC. Three of his most notable titles back then were of course, he worked on the Golden Age Flash, he worked on Sargon the Sorcerer, and he also worked on Green Lantern. What was important about that period was he was the only writer to introduce screwball comedy through Green Lantern in the Golden Age. Now that would go on to be picked up in the Silver and Bronze Age and go on to become a staple of the industry in the eighties from the new Justice League number one. That was by DeMatteis and Keith Giffen, so he really was instrumental in a lot of evolution of how that happened from him introducing more comedic elements. He it’s amazing. He’s won all three of the major awards in the industry, won the Eisner, Inkpot and the Finger Award. He created some of some of the Silver Age’s greatest characters. He created Kid Flash, created Elongated Man. He created Phantom Stranger in 1952. He created Detective Chip. He created Guy Gardner, which is now a very important character. It’s going to be portrayed in film by Nathan Fillion. He was just a guy who people didn’t really know what he did. He created almost all of the Silver Age Flash villains, Captain Boomerang et al. Everything you can think of, but he died in Thailand after teaching English in Japan. He was a really colorful character, and I think you’re going to get that from the next clip.
David: Did you have a lot of contact with the other writers in the business?
John Broome: Sure I was. It took me a whole year at least, it seems to me now, took a whole year for me. I was the leader and the ringleader, you might say, in the attempts to form a union among the writers, not the artists, but the writers. We couldn’t get the artists. They were getting too much money, but the writers, we had a chance with the writers and I collected the six main writers Otto Binder among them and I took a whole year and got them into Liebowitz’s office, with the right tempo with the right feeling. And my whole idea was simply to gain reprint rights, which we didn’t have yet, and they were reprinting our material without paying us. And I thought that was a kind of a crime. I was very happy when we finally marched into Liebowitz’s office when I’d began to open my mouth. No sooner did he take sight of me, that Liebowitz says to the boys. He says, I don’t know why you came to me like this, because I’m just getting ready to give you a raise of $2 a page. Well, at that moment the whole union collapsed. Everybody was so happy to get two dollars and I was disgusted. I was thoroughly disgusted that I couldn’t do anything. It just dissolved!
David: Yeah. So I have to tell you a quick story about John Broome. I met John and Peggy through Julie Schwartz, and Peggy lived in Paris and John lived in Tokyo half the year because he taught English in Tokyo and I was doing business. I ended up going to take Peggy to lunch one day in Paris and then I ended up going to Tokyo by Christmastime and I met both of them there because they end up getting together in Tokyo and then they go to Chiang Mai, Thailand for a month for their vacation for the year. So I go to lunch with them and we go to this, you know, Japanese restaurant, and I said to him at lunch, How’s your Japanese? And they looked at me with this kind of puzzled look. He goes, I don’t speak any Japanese. I go, Well, you’re here half the time, half the year. How do you how do I communicate like what you want to eat? And he pulls up the menu, which has pictures. He points to it and I said, That’s what you do when you order stuff goes, Yeah. I said, How do you get the check? He goes, He said, I’m done.
Alex: All right. So now the next clip is Ramona Fradon and so Dave will take us into that.
David: So Ramona Fradon is… as she said, I always get a kick out of this. She started drawing I think she did Shining Knight first, but then she did Aquaman. She started drawing the year I was born, 1951, so I always wanted to interview her and the funny thing is, I always thought that, you know, because she had done Aquaman, that would be her favorite. She loved Metamorpho and she loved Plastic Man. She did Aquaman for like 15 years as a backup feature in adventure before it became its own book, and then, Nick Cardy did, but she had given up being a professional artist to raise her daughter, so she didn’t come back to comics until, you know, the late sixties, early seventies when Metamorpho and Plas…. The Return of Plastic Man under DC came about. There was one point when she ended up turning in a story that she penciled and she said to the editor and I can’t remember who it was. I’m not sure that I’m going to have enough time to ink it, if you can get someone else to ink my stuff and editor looked at her and said, You have a unique style. I can’t get someone else to ink your stuff. And she couldn’t. It took her a long time to understand that she had a different style than everyone else that were in the business because she never went into the office and compared stuff with anyone else. She just worked at home for the most part. But it was interesting to me that she didn’t think that she had any particular style. When you look at an Aquaman story, you can tell the difference between Ramona’s work and obviously Nick Cardy or anyone else who worked on the strip, so she was interesting. She’s always upset about the interview because she had a little bit of a cold. So you’ll have to pardon her.
David: Did it ever occur to you that there weren’t that many other women working in the business?
Ramona Fradon: Oh, I always knew that. Yeah, I always knew that. I always I had a daily identity crisis. I mean, you know, I sometimes I’d sit there and I’d be drawing these people, smashing each other in the face, you know, doing all this stuff and I said, What on earth are we doing here? You know? But I remember one time saying to some friends of mine, you know, we were speculating about why there weren’t many women doing the cartooning. And I said, Well, I think it’s because women aren’t violent and they both laughed at me and this was way back in the sixties, you know, and I have to acknowledge that I have violence in me. This is an outlet. This this was an outlet for me. You know, I don’t know if I’m unusual or if I’m just more aware of that in myself. You know, I know that what I see most women’s drawing. They want to draw very sweet things, you know, and I don’t think that they really can draw the kind of things that I’ve been drawing. So it’s a kind of a problematic area for me. I have to wonder, you know… Maybe you’re just more talented. Well, I don’t know. I know that I have the ability to feel when I’m drawing a male figure to feel that, and when I’m drawing a female figure, to feel that I can I can move in and out of those two identities. I notice with many men who draw women, they look like men. They’ve got that kind of muscle bound look. They can’t switch over. But I think I can do
Alex: Yeah. Hers was like more of an existential interview, I noticed. Um, all right, so the next is Arnold Drake, and I think probably, I think the only Arnold Drake video I’ve seen.
Bill: Arnold Drake is also a unique character and also is very outspoken about page rates. But Arnold Drake basically got into the industry through a hookup through Bob Kane. And he had also suffered scarlet fever as a child. I don’t know if that had anything to do with some of the ways he wrote. But later on, because he wrote afflicted characters very, very well, believe it or not, he wrote most of Showcase #1. And of course, we know now Showcase went on to be the usher to the great characters from the Silver Age from DC. He created Tommy Tomorrow and a few other sci fi characters. Now what he’s really known for and probably most everybody here is aware of this. He created the Doom Patrol, with Bruno Premiani, he wrote every story. He co-wrote the first story with Bob Haney, but he wrote every story of the Doom Patrol. And while writing the last issue of the Doom Patrol, he pissed off Irwin Donenfeld because he had gone to work for Marvel because they gave him a higher page rate. So Irwin said, You won’t work here anymore. And he basically that was true, but he wanted to carry out the series, which was amazing. But he always fought for the rights of writers, just like John Broome did, and he was integral in creating a character like Robotman, who was very Ben Grimm-ish in the sense that he was this man who was trapped in a body that he didn’t want to be in. He also went on, of course, to write for both the Brotherhood of Evil in Doom Patrol, which he created. And then when he went to Marvel for X-Men, he went on to write The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. But he was very prolific. He, uh, let’s let him speak for himself.
Arnold Drake: I think Premiani was extraordinary. Really extraordinary. I’ve seen other guys try to do what he did. They just don’t make it. I often use the word, the term, artistic integrity. That’s not really a bullshit term. It has significance because he had that. Fortunately in addition to that, he had practicality. He had lived under two dictators, Mussolini and Perón, and he had learned practicality. So when he would get into a disagreement with Murray about something he had drawn, he would finally accede to Murray’s demand and he inevitably would say, I will do it Murray but it will be very poor.
Alex: What I found interesting about the Drake interview. If you go online and watch it, he kept warning Irwin Donenfeld, look, I’m serious what Stan Lee is doing over at Marvel they’re going to become something and we’re going to be left in the dust and they just wouldn’t listen to him. And it’s just so interesting because he was like kind of a quirky writer of the Sixties at DC kind of because Doom Patrol is so unique that he could tell what Stan was kind of doing. But everyone else there seemed somewhat oblivious. Like, Well, we’ll just let’s just put more gorillas on the cover or something and we’ll, we’ll counteract it. But, but he even told Irwin like we could do something here to prevent that and cut this of at the pass, but Irwin just kind of didn’t go for it.
David: You know that he was talking about Murray Boltinoff… who was his editor at that point. That’s who he’s referring to when he talked about.
Alex: But he does say he talked to Irwin in that interview, too. So now the next part is some of the footage that I know a lot of people are also here to see. We’re going to go over. So Dave also did a lot of interviews with the EC people, so he’ll talk about that.
David: Yeah, I came to the… in 2000, the American Association of Comic Book Collectors had a dinner, Um, and it was basically to honor the EC guys who came to the reunion. And there were two really wonderful guitar players who went up on stage to do two little ditties. Oh, Grant’s in the audience. So there you go.
Bill: Grammy nominated Grant Geissman, that’s Grant guys.
David: Thank you. So I interviewed all the all the EC guys that showed up with the exception of Al Williamson, and we had some issues with Al… um, so we, we haven’t put them on YouTube with the rest of the interviews because we’re thinking very seriously about doing a documentary. I think Bill is very excited about, um, and the thing is what we’ll probably use is that dinner which basically introduces everyone and hands out awards as our framing device because I have, you know, much deeper interviews. The interview I did with Feldstein is about an hour long. Each of the other interviews, about half an hour. But, you know, Jack Kamen, and well you’ll see who’s in here.
Bill: Jack Davis’ interview is an epiphany to me. I didn’t know. I never got a chance to meet Jack. But the interesting thing about what you’re probably going to see here is Jack did not really enjoy drawing horror comics because they were horrifying. They were horrifying to him, and he also said that he burned his own comics along with the people that were burning comics, which I’m like that blew my mind. And he realized from then on he was a funny artist. He made people laugh. He made people, you know, just explode with humor and the main thing is he went on, of course, to be prolific at Mad magazine, but even more so, he was at one time the highest paid commercial artist in the United States. And you see his work in more places more often than any other comic artist, any comic artist. And he was prolific as hell and he was a Southern gentleman, which was also something of a unique thing to comics because a lot of the talent came from the East Coast, of course. So.
David: So what you’re going to see is about a six minute clip that has all of those interviews that we just talked about together so you can get a feel for how the EC interviews went.
[begin EC interviews]
Al Feldstein: Why don’t we be innovators instead of imitators? Why don’t we start our own genres? And that’s how we got into talking about what we liked as kids and what we thought would well, and I had remembered when I was a kid coming down, sneaking down the stairs to listen to the Witches Tale, because my brother was listening to it with his friends 12:00 at night while he was babysitting for me and Witches Tale and Lights Out and Inner Sanctum and Frankenstein, the movie and Dracula, and gee, you know, let’s put horror into comics. Now, this wasn’t the first time there was Adventures into the Unknown, but it was kind of wimpy. And what I wanted to do was, you know, real scare the pants off these kids. And so he said, well, why don’t we try it? So the Crypt of Terror, which I first created and wrote with a host, because that was impressed by the Old Witch used to cackle and have a cat and see, which was she was 100 and some other years old and she was going to tell the story. So I had the Crypt Keeper tell the story in the Crypt of Terror and then that was tried out in a crime book, Crime Patrol. And then we tried out the Vault of Horror, which I also wrote and drew in War Against Crime. And in those days, the distributors had road men that would go around and then check the newsstand. And if they got 20 issues or something on July the third and some of them were sold by July the 20th, they were going to have a 70% sale of the total print or whatever. They had to figure it out. And suddenly War Against Crime and Crime Patrol showed good checkups. And Bill said, you know, Bill was no dope. I mean, it was that thing that we had introduced, that new trend, a new trend in comics, the Crypt of Terror, which we changed fortuitously to Tales from the Crypt and the Vault of Horror. And then later on we did The Witches Cauldron, who got his or her own book, Haunt of Fear. And that was the beginning of our horror comics.
Jack Davis: Al Feldstein, you know, and gave me a script right away, and every time I’d come in with a job, Bill Gaines the publisher would pay me, give me a check right there on the spot. I didn’t have to bill him or anything like that. And so I started working fast just to take a script home and do it and come back in. And that’s where it all started.
David: When you got a script from Bill, was it a written script, or did he give you a layout of the story?
Jack: There would be a written script and I’d sit down with Al Feldstein and read it, and we’d go over it. But now Harvey would practically draw his stories on tracing paper, and he would sit down with you and read it to you and almost act it out. So I would go home and he was really a perfectionist with what he wanted done, and Al was a little more lenient, you know, and I’d just take it home and do it and come back and it was pretty horrible stuff. I mean, it got to be gruesome, you know, and I didn’t know what I was doing.
David to Marie Severin: Did you think that a lot of the stories that they did suited their characters?
Marie: Well, as far as I know, Al tried to… Al Feldstein, the writer, tried to gear the certain adaptations to the way he thought… he was a very good art director… to the way they would like to interpret it. You know, with EC, they they didn’t have the wild panels. It was continuity. Al wrote his stories right on the boards you know. He didn’t da da da da da da… He wrote it in pencil on the boards. And so the guys were restricted to square panels, but that was good. The continuity was there. Once in a great while, a guy would ask to lay out his own pages with Al… you couldn’t do that with Harvey. Harvey laid out and did pencil sketches and little goofy stuff which were delightful. However, it’s very intimidating to get a piece of art that you have to do, and somebody laid it out and also been already funny and you’re restricted all of a sudden. Sometimes your mind clicks and I can’t do that like him. This is so funny. It’s done. It’s doing it the second time and it loses something, but a lot of the guys got over that or just would grumble about it, but then you look at Mad magazine, it came out great.
Will Elder: Harvey was my alter ego. We thought alike. We enjoyed the same things. We loved music and everything with the cartoons… we appreciated good art. And I thought, well, this is my, my, my brother. I mean, what’s not to like working for your brother? And that’s how it all began. Were you surprised at how successful Matt was? Not really. It became that way gradually. In fact, when I am actually impressed by what he what’s happened to MAD today, this very day where we’re living. But not then because it was a slow grade gradation of the book becoming more popular with children who love the simple things, you know, like Mickey Mouse growing up, growing a fifth finger. I mean the guy’s been walking around for years with four fingers. That’s crazy.
Jack Kamen: Are you familiar with Kamen’s calamity? Oh well they wrote a whole story about how that was at the onset of the horror comics blitz. You know, I found a little difficult to do with the other guys doing all the horrible decapitations or whatever. So I don’t do that stuff, you know? But Al wrote particular stories for me, basically, all involving, like he said, it was always a nice, friendly story. Well, Poppa was always the head of the family. In the end of the end of the story, was it the wife kills the husband in some fashion or other. And basically he said, you come with me permanently. I’ll take [good care of you]. So you’ll be busy all the time. And so, you know, this great sense of security and I was with Gaines until I left…
[end EC interviews]
David: So a couple of things. I just want to say that I hadn’t seen these interviews in 20 some odd years when when Alex convinced me to to up convert them, they hold up remarkably well. And it’s fascinating to see the people talk about our industry in such intimate terms. I mean, I it served the purpose that I really like. That’s number one. And number two, you have to realize that Alex Grand edited all these and all of the, you know, the images that you see other than the talking head for the most part were edited and produced by Alex. I gave him a bunch of comic book pages, but you can see there’s far more than just comic book pages in this stuff. And he did a phenomenal job.
Alex But it should be noted, noted that it’s intimate terms because they like David. That’s actually the reason. Because they liked him, they trusted him. He already had a relationship with them. He’s already had lunch with them. He already did all sorts of things. So this is like talking between two friends. Each of these interviews. That’s that’s why it’s so interesting to see it, you know, play in front of you.
David: So we’ve got one one clip to close out the show. This is for everyone who goes to comic book conventions.
[begin Ramona interview]
David to Ramona: How do you like Comic Con?
Ramona: Oh yeah I love them, they’re, they’re really a lot of fun.
David: You get to meet all the people you never…
Ramona: Yeah, I know. It’s really it’s a nice thing and it’s nice to meet the fans. I was so touched the first time I came here was the first show that I’d been to in 20 years. And when I see these fans, you know, around 30 years old, 35 years old, who had read Aquaman when they were kids, they’d come up and they’d look at my drawings and they all have this look on their face. It is so sweet. You know, they get this little smile. You can just see that they’re going back, you know? And that was a great pleasure for me to see there. You know, I began to realize that I’d given them something valuable really. It wasn’t just a job. Yeah, it wasn’t just a job.
Alex: And she stopped for water in the middle of those cuts So that’s all that was.
Scott: Thank you all for coming. These are just some brief excerpts of the interviews, it’s at least 40 that David has done. If you go to the YouTube channel Comic Book Historians, you can see them in full. There’s also at least another almost 100 interviews that Alex and colleagues have done. So thank you all for coming and please check out the Comic Book Historians social media. Thank you, everybody.
Bill: Alex and I also wrote this little baby about Neil Adams, which is pretty, pretty great, you know? But, uh, I have to give Alex a lot of credit. Alex has basically single handedly changed and morphed the comic historian into something that people appreciate and they respect. and I want to give you a round of applause for that.
David: He definitely focused the field let’s put it that way.
Alex: I focused Bill Field, I’ll take credit for that.
Bill: I am ADD so…
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