“If you get a title that catches on, then add a few more, you’re in for a nice profit.”
“No other field of endeavor is so populated with the get-rich-quick boys.” — Literary Digest
“[Martin Goodman] used to split my salary up into six different checks.”
“The guys who published were monsters.”
— Vince Fago, Timely Comics editor-in-chief
“We want plenty of sex, horror, and gore.” — Gene Fornshell, a Goodman editor
“I felt that we were a company of copycats.” — Stan Lee
Fans and the public have historically labored under three false impressions about Marvel Comics. First, that there actually was a comic book company named “Marvel” for its first 30 or so years. Second, that Goodman founded the company to produce comic books. And third, that star artists Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby — who famously quit the company in late 1965 and 1970 respectively — did so solely as a result of their clashes with editor Stan Lee.
All of those popular beliefs are factually incorrect. Martin Goodman formed the company that would one day become Marvel Comics in 1933 — six years earlier than is commonly supposed. And he formed it, really, to sell magazines. Cheap magazines. Cheap magazines printed on cheap paper. And “it” wasn’t just one company. Oh, and Ditko’s and Kirby’s beefs were more with Goodman than with Lee (more on that later).
Marvel Comics is home to such legendary super-heroes as Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, all of whom have spun box office gold in the 21st century. But Marvel Comics has a secret history hidden in the shadows of these well-known franchises.
The Secret History of Marvel Comics digs back to the 1930s when Marvel Comics wasn’t just a comic-book producing company. Marvel Comics owner Martin Goodman had tentacles into a publishing world that might have made that era’s conservative American parents lynch him on his front porch. Marvel was but a small part of Goodman’s publishing empire, which had begun years before he published his first comic book. Goodman mostly published lurid and sensationalistic story books (known as “pulps”) and magazines, featuring sexually-charged detective and romance short fiction, and celebrity gossip scandal sheets. And artists like Jack Kirby, who was producing Captain America for eight-year-olds, were simultaneously dipping their toes in both ponds.
The Secret History of Marvel Comics tells this parallel story of 1930s/40s Marvel Comics sharing offices with those Goodman publications not quite fit for children. The book also features a comprehensive display of the artwork produced for Goodman’s other enterprises by Marvel Comics artists such as Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, Alex Schomburg, Bill Everett, Al Jaffee, and Dan DeCarlo, plus the very best pulp artists in the field, including Norman Saunders, John Walter Scott, Hans Wesso, L.F. Bjorklund, and Marvel Comics #1 cover artist Frank R. Paul. Goodman’s magazines also featured cover stories on celebrities such as Jackie Gleason, Elizabeth Taylor, Liberace, and Sophia Loren, as well as contributions from famous literary and social figures such as Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and L. Ron Hubbard.
These rare pieces of comic art, pulp and magazine history will open the door to Marvel Comics’ unseen history.
With Halloween looming, allow me to suggest thirteen frightening favorites from Fantagraphics Books. Spooky fun for everyone, in no particular order.
Daniel Clowes' modern masterpiece Ghost World eerily conveys the otherworldly cool of 1990s counterculture. Peculia, by Clowes colleague Richard Sala, collects the misadventures of the precocious protagonist of his EvilEye comic book serial. Northwest native Charles Burns' essential Big Baby anthology of contemporary horror comix includes classics like "Blood Club," "Teen Plague," and "Curse of the Molemen."
Mysterious Traveler collects proto-psychedelic horror from Steve Ditko's Charlton era. Similarly, Weird Horrors displays the late, great JoeKubert's pre-Code classics edited by Kubert scholar BillSchelly. WallyWood weighs in with Came the Dawn, featuring timeless tales from the "Vault of Horror," as well as mid-century socio-political nightmares like "The Guilty."
Hee, hee! Here comes the Old Witch with a foul feast of fetid features cooked up in her cruddy cauldron! Over two dozen terrifying tales from the putrescent pen of the gourmand of gore, "Ghastly" Graham Ingels, are collected in the tomb — er, tome — we call Sucker Bait and Other Stories! It's the next vile volume in our EC Comics Library series and it's due just as the end of the year plunges you into the pit of despair.
In our execrable excerpt you'll learn what atrocities await you in the Table of Contents and read a torturous trio of nauseating novelettes: the title story, "The Rover Boys!" and "Funereal Disease!"
Have a creative itch you just can't scratch? Let Ellen Forney help you, tonight, Sunday, October 20th, at Town Hall in Seattle!
As Town Hall's fall season Artist in Residence, Ellen is joining forces with Cornish College theater professor Kathleen Collins to present "Scratch Night" -- "scratch" is as in "scratch paper," like an experiment, Ellen explains, not like a scratchy wool sweater!
Together, Ellen and Kathleen will lead this dynamic, interactive workshop exploring the analogous skills and concepts that fuel their apparently disparate artistic mediums. “There’s so much acting in comics!” Forney says. “A cartoonist has to be the writer, director, and all the actors – just on paper.” No matter your preferred medium/practice — performance, literary, visual arts — breaching traditional boundaries enriches our experience of creating and understanding.
So, bring a sketchbook and your favorite pen or pencil, and wear comfy clothes! The fun begins tonight at 7:00 PM. This event is FREE and open to the public, and you are strongly encouraged to "RSVP" so they have an idea of how many people to expect. Beautiful Town Hall is located at 1119 Eighth Avenue, Seattle.
For those of you wondering what's up with the next volume of Dungeon Quest, well, Joe Daly has detoured onto another project for a while: a new graphic novel, Highbone Theatre, which he's unveiling, chunk by chunk, as a webcomic! And there's some pretty big chunks posted so far. Expect the same blend of neck-spasming action, awkward dude interactions, and flaccid penises you love Dungeon Quest for! There's also a Facebook page for you to like for updates and such.
Five years before Steve Ditko began work on his now legendary co-creations for Marvel Comics, the Amazing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, he was pro- ducing some of his best work in near anonymity for Charlton Comics. Like its predecessors, Impossible Tales: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 4 features over 200 meticulously restored full-color pages of Ditko in his early prime — stories that have never seen a proper reprinting until now, thrilling stories of suspense, mystery, haunted houses, and unsuspecting victims all delineated in Ditko’s wildly idiosyncratic, masterful style.
This fourth volume ranks as the best in the Steve Ditko Archives series to date thanks in large part to the inspiration Ditko took from comics derived from the classic host-narrated radio shows, which gave an extra oomph to his creepy yarns. Moreover, comics such as This Magazine Is Haunted and Tales of the Mysterious Traveler bore witness to a veritable explosion in Ditko’s ingenuity in terms of manipulating the traditional comic-book page layout. This new level of excellence also manifested itself in his work on other books, such as Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds, Out of This World, Strange Suspense Stories, and Unusual Tales, all of which are amply represented in this volume.
Join Kipp for a conversation at 7:00 PM with fellow author Barry Wightman as they discuss Barracuda in the Attic, Kipp's memoir about growing up and getting into hi-jinx on both coasts with his brothers Drew and Josh Friedman. Perhaps Kipp will talk about shooting pool with the mobster Crazy Joey Gallo, attending a dinner party hosted by an aged but remarkably spry Groucho Marx, or simply playing doctor with a classmate in the former estate of F. Scott Fitzgerald... it's sure to be a fascinating and hilarious evening!
“[Virgil Partch] was among a half-dozen or so cartoonists who had an absolutely distinctive style ... He was in a class by himself.” — Chuck Jones
“I wanted to become a professional cartoonist because of Virgil Partch. Cartoons were all sort of the same [at the time], and suddenly this man came along, drawing both eyes on one side of the face and pointed noses and lines that continued in a roll ... he was sensational! Virgil Partch was a big discovery for me.” — Sergio Aragonés
“Virgil Partch was one of the most influential cartoonists of his day. And through natural continuum, still is. He was one of those individuals who devise new approaches and realizations for all of us. His graphic sense and style were highly individual, as was his humor and the design of his pictures ... the height of comedic art. Vip was the V.I.P.!” — Arnold Roth
I'm going into this hoping that less is more and that a little convention report goes a long way with most folks. I know that's true of myself. I have yet to meet a comic book convention that I want to read more about than, say, WWI, despite how many con reports endeavor to prove me wrong.
What I'm really saying is, I didn't take as many pics as I should, especially as the weekend wore on.
I flew down Friday afternoon, this time attended by my girls (wifey Rhea and 5YO child unit Clem), which was a rare treat for me. It wouldn't be APE without a kickoff party at the "offices" of the House that Ron Turner Built, a.k.a Last Gasp, so we began there. In a vast warehouse of thousands of filthy, filthy books (I mean that most affectionately), my little girl zoomed in on this book like she was a dog working for the DEA and this was a brick of high grade hash that someone abandoned hastily during a raid of the premises:
BOO: THE LIFE OF THE WORLD'S CUTEST DOG features back cover endorsements from Nicky Hilton, Khloé Kardashian, cuteoverload.com and "Facebook Fan." Of course we bought it for her. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Gary Groth had had a daughter.
I could have spent the rest of the weekend taking pictures at Last Gasp. It is one of my favorite places in the world. It gives me MAJOR WORKPLACE ENVY. Fantagraphics is a wonderful place but we don't have Binky Brown's coffin on the wall (although our inventory manager, Martin Bland, has a very similar Jack-in-theBox):
Anyway, the always totally awesome Kristine Anstine showed Clem the toy section while Mommy and Daddy enjoyed the party a bit more...
Kristine, however, continued to take orders throughout the party because she's a PRO (take note: this will come up again later).
Before we took leave, the great Ron Turner himself gave us a tour of his "private stash". I love and respect Ron immensely and really admire the empire he's built. His collection of cool shit is nonpareil.
From Last Gasp, we kept on truckin' (hyuk) to Mission Comics for onetime MOME contributor Malachi Ward's exhibition. Which was great, but you'll have to take my word for it, because I'd had two IPAs by that point and forgot to take any more photographs.
APE kicked off on Saturday morning at 11AM after a couple hours of set up. This will be my own little "panic room" for the next 36 hours or so:
Here is our first customer of the day, Brian Herrick, a fine cartoonist in his own right, with equally exceptional taste. I believe he is the first person in the world to take home a copy of Julia Gfrörer's BLACK IS THE COLOR. With great power comes great responsibility, Brian. I was so excited for you I couldn't hold the camera straight.
Remember when I mentioned Kristine Anstine being a true PRO? Well, here's another. APE Special Guest Bill Griffith dutifully worked on not one but two ZIPPY dailies behind our booth all weekend, in those rare moments that no one was asking him if he was having fun yet. Now that's a pro. Always working. I asked Bill if he ever got tired of drawing (something I've heard more than once from cartoonists who have been at it a lot less time than him). He matter-of-factly and without missing a beat answered, "No."
Can you tell I'm running out of steam? I'm thinking of trying to get a blurb from cuteoverload.com for this one:
Here is a picture of Alec Longsteth, followed by a picture of Mario Hernandez. Excellent gentlemen, each. Mario is always one of the people I look forward to seeing most at APE. He had the prettiest fingernails at the show this year.
Here is my APE stash. I didn't get a chance to do any proper shopping this year, but thanks to generosity of many of my fellow exhibitors, I managed to come home with an impressive haul.
Which reminds me, did anyone else notice the spine of this month's issue of THE BELIEVER?:
There were so many old friends at APE that I didn't get a chance to take a photo of, like Jim Blanchard, J.R. Williams, Pat Moriarity, and Renée French. I was too busy closing deals. ABC! ALWAYS BE CLOSING. What can I say? I, too, am a PRO.
Anyway, let me leave you with this cuteoverload.com-worthy piece by Graham Chaffee: