Alter Ego #2 Autumn 1999 (magazine review).

I really never thought I would be able to hold a copy of Alter Ego # 2 in my hands and ended up picking it up in one of those job lots.

Under the primary cover, editor Roy Thomas goes over the edict of the magazine and, although produced professionally, he still sees it as a fanzine, with access to people on the inside of the industry.

The first piece goes over the origins of the second version of the Atom where Jerry Bails and Roy Thomas attempt to convince National Periodicals editor Julius Schwartz to resurrect him. Unlike the original, Al Pratt, who was just a short man, they both wanted someone who really was atom-size or at least 6 inches tall as a super-hero like Doll Man. The history here, including copies of letters between them, fills in a lot of their ideas. Reading them, I have to say too much of it was McGuffin, making it too complex and dependent on a device to work. Then again, when you look at the final version, Ray Palmer’s costume only appears when he shrinks in size so he never enlarged, even with the JLA.

Mike W. Barr gives a piece about how he was a proof-reader at DC Comics before progressing to writer. Part of his remit was returning original art to their artists and found a double-sized picture of the Atom by Gil Kane, which is shown here.

The Roy Thomas interview with artist/writer Larry Leiber is very insightful and another reason why I’m looking for sold-out issues as there are covering people I haven’t seen in the latter issues. I often wondered how he got on with his brother, Stan, and he received an education in balloon placement when he was asked to write as well as draw. It was less about being right but being correct. He also wrote full scripts and was responsible for naming Henry Pym and Tony Stark. Unlike his brother, Leiber tended to get on with the work than media interest and, at the time of the interview, had been doing the Spider-Man newspaper strip for 13 years so the longest term Spidey writer.

If you think you have all of Will Eisner’s ‘The Spirit’ New York Herald Tribute strips, then this one from 1966 has only been reprinted once. Twice now as Michael T. Gilbert’s Mr. Monster introduces this reprint. Set in New York than Central City, the time period is also contemporary with the Spirit’s supporting cast much older. Of course, Danny Colt himself hasn’t aged because of what made him the Spirit in the first place. There is also political intrigue with the New York mayor election at the time. I love finding little diamonds like this.

Flipping the magazine over, Roy Thomas interviews comicbook artist Jack Burnley (1911-2006), 7 years before his death. He just saw art as a business with no particular love for it, although he drew the original Starman and was the first person to draw Batman and Superman together in ‘World’s Fair Comics’ in 1940. Much of his career was doing sports cartoons. Seeing samples of his art, he was really refined and some of his super-hero poses have become iconic.

Seeing the second Fawcett Collector, it was seeing some of the writers early insights. Marc Swayze’s look at Mary Marvel also reveals there was very little preparation in her creation and I do wonder if she was being considered as a throwaway character, especially as, in a later article here, CC Beck wasn’t convinced by her. It also shows no one can anticipate a successful character. The real star piece is PC Hamerlinck’s interview with Richard Deane Taylor. Initially hired by Fawcett as a letterer because of his accuracy and speed, it neglected his other artistic abilities shown here. He really was a good portrait painter.

Is that enough taster to get you interested in this edition?

GF Willmetts

June 2023

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 100 page illustrated magazine. Price:  (US). ISSN: 1932-6890. Direct from them, you can get it digitally for $ 4.99 (US))

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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