Alter Ego #124 May 2014 (magazine review).

Alter Ego # 124 should have been a massive seller in its own right, simply for the cover of Wolverine versus the Hulk on the cover is a reminder that Herb Trimpe first drew him in Incredible Hulk # 181, although I should point out that Wolverine was also briefly in # 180 and # 182 as well as I still own the original issues.

Interestingly, Trimpe only saw Wolverine as a one-off character and there was thoughts that the name was feminine. As if there would ever be a feminine Wolverine. Hmmm…

From his interview, Herb Trimpe’s own career at Marvel was also long, one of the new artists brought to work in the Bullpen and freelance at night, until Stan Lee suggested he might concentrate on the latter and cut the day job. Trimpe’s own confession that he knew his strengths was less in his art but in his storytelling ability, often brought in when other artists were late.

His reflection on working with a brief plot allowing his vision compared to a full script and interpreting what the writer wants should make any neo-artist think about preferences. There are a lot of insights in this interview and I came away from this interview with greater respect for him. Alas, Herb Trimpe died in 2015 but if you can get this issue of ‘Alter Ego’, its worth reading and his picture drawn by Marie Severin surrounding him with gushing secretaries is priceless.

Of particular interest is the opening chapter of ‘Seal Of Approval: The History Of The Comics Code’ by Amy Kiste Nyberg (University Press of Mississippi, 1998). I’m giving the full book details in case you want to track it down. If you thought Fredric Wertham was the only one to attack comicbook material back in the 1950s, she reveals how the Catholics had been doing this for decades earlier, mostly for comicbooks not being educational and subverting the young.

When you compare children’s books where one sold 5,000 against 15 million comicbooks, things look out of proportion until you compare prices and what kids could afford for escapism. Oddly, other than National Periodicals/DC Comics briefly having a steering committee, the response from the comicbook companies and their supporters seems lacking against all the attacks they were getting. Looking at what Nyberg covers, there is a sound argument that even the crime comicbooks instilled some ethics and the likes of Captain American and the Fighting American promoted some elements of patriotism.

The fact that it also encouraged kids to read and elements of escapism also seemed to be forgotten. Granted not all American comicbooks from this time period were necessarily kids fodder and some comics code was inevitable, seeing the history here in its opening chapter will make you think.

Michael T. Gilbert hands his Mr. Monster piece over to Dr. Thomas Inge who points out how Wertham and Joe Stalin had a similar dislike of comicbooks, the latter seeing them as fascist poison. Somewhere in all of this freedom of speech seems to be forgotten.

Picking on one other highlight, John G. Pierce’s look at Captain Marvel Adventures # 22 from March 1943 has writer Otto Binder parodying newspaper and comicbook characters when they go on strike, which did make me wonder if this was the earliest parody example. Read and learn.

GF Willmetts

December 2021

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing, 2014. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 8.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6890. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 8.95 (US))

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