Alter Ego #158 May 2019 (magazine review).

The latest issue of ‘Alter Ego’ focuses on writer William Woolfolk. He worked not only on the original Captain Marvel but was prolific on other comicbooks as well. His original intension was as a novel writer but when fellow writer Seymour Reit, whom he thought had sold out to writing comics, pointed out he was making $300 a week when other people were making $30 a week, Woolfolk ‘sold out’ as well.

Later in his career, Woolfolk went on to write novels and even scripts for TV and immensely prolific insisting he would write 6 pages a day. Something that all creators should do and probably don’t is keeping a record of their work so there’s a working history for historians to track down material, especially that not under their own names. Woolfolk’s example here should certainly make you think.

‘The 2002 San Diego Comic-Con Golden Age Panel’ moderated by Mark Evanier featured William Woolfolk, Bob Oksner, Nick Cardy, Bob Lubbers, Lew Sayre Schwartz and Irv Novick is transcribed by Sean Delaney. With them all gone now, apart from Evanier, it’s like a time capsule of memories from their era. I think the highlights have to be their memories of Al Capp and editor Harry Shorten, whom seemed to think rhinos were carnivorous and Beethoven was blind and not deaf.

The look at Johnston McCulley’s character Zorro in an article by Audrey Parente and Rich Harvey contends him as the first super-hero coming out in 1932, which made me think as I thought Lee Falk’s Phantom had that claim, although he came out in 1936. Certainly Zorro was a masked vigilante but he started off in prose not in comicbook, so there might be a distinction of saying that there might be a contention for both of them to be first.

Michael T. Gilbert continues looking at writer/artist Pete Morisi’s correspondence leading up to and after his creation of ‘Peter Cannon – Thunderbolt’ for Charlton Comics. It’s rather interesting how he points out that creating a new comic is complicated enough without adding ‘new wrinkles’ like Zip-a-tone (we call it commercial tone in the UK which is the pre-printed dots or whathaveyou) back in the mid-60s.

Bill Schelly’s look at Jim Warren’s company also shows the number of editor/writers that worked for him and all top-notch. The range of artists who worked for Warren from American to Spanish had an identifiable quality to them, too.

Of course, we lost 5 significant people in American comics last year: Russ Heath (1926-2018), Marie Severin (1929-2018) and Gary Friedrich (1943-2018) given tributes here and Steve Ditko and Stan Lee are to be covered in more details in coming issues of ‘Alter Ego).

Finally, ‘The Star Wars Comics Reunion Panel’ at the TerrifiCon 2017 had Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin with Charles Lippincott, who was head of ‘Star Wars’ publicity back in 1976. A lot of the artwork shown is from the UK reprints which has new covers. It wasn’t until the original American second issue was out that Chaykin actually saw the film and how his art had got some spaceship sizes wrong. There was also a little matter of the working script they had also wasn’t quite what appeared on screen but gave the clues as to what had been cut. The many sales that the original 6-issue run made by continually being reprinted kept Marvel Comics afloat when it needed back then. There’s a lot of observations here that give immense insight if you haven’t been aware of them. Of them all, Chaykin’s comment that current comicbook artists can draw but not do narrative should be the most stinging and certainly a reflection on poor sales.

As always, ‘Alter Ego’ covers a lot of ground and as you can see above, a lot of things I unconsciously committed to memory. A healthy dose of comicbook nostalgia.

GF Willmetts

May 2019

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 100 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 9.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6890. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 8.46 (US))

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