Editor Roy Thomas points out that prior to the 1960s there were a lot of comicbook companies and these are be covered with this issue of ‘Alter Ego’. The initial focus is on Frank Thomas (1914-1968), who contributed to the Centaur Group a selection of super-hero types such as the Owl and a wandering Eye, literally a talking eyeball, on this month’s cover that he not only wrote but drew as well.
Not only does Michael T. Gilbert tell you about the various comics but he also has Nancy Bardeen, Thomas’ daughter, telling about her father. Thomas was very much self-taught but could switch from standard illustration to cartoon and sustained a career. He ghosted on a newspaper cartoon series called ‘Ferd’nand’ and I have vague memories that I might have seen some of his art back in the 1960s.
Thomas might not have appeared in any of the major comicbook companies but he did succeed in making a living so makes for interesting reading.
Mark Evanier explores the relationship between Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics with their connection to the Western Company (not cowboy just territory, as there was also an Eastern Company) and you get some insight into corporations.
The biggest item must surely belong to Stuart Fischer as he explores the Dell and Gold Key’s output of significant characters from their comicbook books. This list is staggering and also a useful guide because it shows their history and want happened next with so many still in print in one form or another. I was surprised at the number of one-offs that barely made a couple issues although there is no information given as to their immediate cancellation without sales figures.
I did wonder if it was to fulfil quotas or for taxes though. Some of the artists and writers also worked for the Big Two so if you’re after particular artists early material, this should become essential reading. If you look down on such titles, be warned, the first issue of ‘The Funnies’ featuring ‘Phantasamo, The Master Of The World’ is worth a cool $1500.
There are tributes to the passing of Len Wein (1948-2017), Rich Bucker (1949-2017), John Calanan (1932-2016) and Doug Fratz (1952-2016).
Finally, Mike Tiefenbacker follows the copyright and trademark trail of the Fawcett Publications characters as they are bought up by other companies. This is the first of a three-part series and, although I thought he covered a lot of ground here, there must obviously be more to be seen.
As always, ‘Alter Ego’ is a delight of information about the Golden Age of American comics. If you lived through any of it, then it will stir old memories. If you’re more modern, then it’s a means to build up the history on the subject and realise some things simply don’t change, they just start again in a new age.
(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 98 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 9.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6890. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 8.46 (US))
check out websites: www.TwoMorrows.com and http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_55&products_id=1339