Alter Ego #25 May 2003 (magazine review).

As you can tell from the cover, the 25th edition of ‘Alter Ego’ from 2003 looks at the X-Men from its early days up until its rise to fame in the 1970s. Considering how so many of the early creators are no longer with us, its now a rare testimony. I should point out that I don’t regard this as one of Dave Cockrum’s best pieces but I don’t think we realised how ill he was slowly getting back then.

It’s interesting comparing the interviews with Stan Lee and Arnold Drake about which came first as DC Comics’ ‘Doom Patrol’ and Marvel’s ‘X-Men’ both had wheelchaired leaders. I can well believe that Stan Lee didn’t read DC’s output as he had enough things to keep himself occupied. Even Arnold Drake points out that the lead times would have made it impossible to do so, so maybe we can just put it down to coincidence at long last.

Roy Thomas’ look at his own first run on the X-Men does indicate that he was thrown in the deep end with a teambook when Stan Lee wanted to move on and the number of word balloons being used. Back in the day, his Locust story from X-Men # 24 was probably my first American comic encounter with the team before I read the early adventures in UK reprint. By the way, Roy, the first splash page original art page of Kukulkan is part of my collection. I do wish he would have explained the rushed ending of the Factor Three story with the Changeling masquerading as Xavier.

The separate interviews with Len Wein, Dave Cockrum and Chris Claremont build up a picture of the new X-Men’s development and sorting out the balance of the team. There’s some gorgeous Cockrum art and far better than what was used for the cover. The end of Claremont’s interview is in the next issue, so if you are going to be a completest, you’ll need that one as well. Without realising it, I found I had picked up on it recently. Looking objectively at the team, you would have thought from the start they would have realised that Thunderbird and Wolverine were too similar, but the former’s fate was already sealed and from the looks of things stayed that way. Then again, his younger brother probably fills his role now.

I don’t know if it was ever shown in later colour editions of ‘Alter Ego’, as I still have gaps, but it would be nice to see some decently large pictures of Roy Thomas’ Marvel characters chess set that Paty Cockrum made for him. Its an important one-off.

Flipping the magazine over, there’s an in-depth look at Mort Meskin (1916-1995), a respected artist at National Periodicals/DC Comics notable for the cowboy Vigilante and Johnny Quick, being the first to depict a fast moving character. What was most important was the long interview by Jim Amash with his sons, Philip and Peter. It also gives some insight into why so few offspring become comicbook artists simply because their parents know how much hard work is involved and think they can get more profitable jobs elsewhere.

The interview by P.C. Hamerlinck with comicbook writer William Woolfolk (1917-2003), which must have been done shortly before he died is really enlightening and honest. Woolfolk also notes that his comicbook career is known far more than his novelist career. He was prolific, working for all the companies at some point but known for his work at Quality and scripting ‘The Spirit’ for a while. He wrote consistently 6 pages a day which basically mounted up to 150 pages a month which surpassed other writers at the time.

If you have an interest in early American comicbook history and can lay your hands on early issues of ‘Alter Ego’, then it’s a worthy pursuit.

GF Willmetts

September 2022

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 100 page illustrated magazine. Price: I must have pulled it for under a tenner at auction. ISSN: 1932-6890. Direct from them, you can get it for digitally for $ 4.99 (US))

check out websites: www.TwoMorrows.com and https://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_55&products_id=483


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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