Alter Ego #34 March 2004 (magazine review).

With TwoMorrows going to release a Quality Companion shortly, it seemed prudent to read Alter Ego #34 where there is a focus on the material nearly 19 years ago now. The interview by Jim Amash with Dick Arnold, the son of Everett ‘Busy’ Arnold is mostly about who he remembered from his father’s business when growing up. What was really startling, though, was him attending the Senate hearing into comicbooks as this was the first time I’ve come across someone who was there throughout. The senators only appeared when there was were going to be cameras there and none of them had actually looked at the comicbooks they were reviewing! Although I’m not totally surprised, you would think someone should have made that point. Considering how much damage was done to the American comicbook industry by people who had no interest in it is hardly a demonstration of democracy.

The interview with comicbook artist Chuck Cuidera (1915-2001) by Jim Amash happened a few days before he died. Another reason to collect back issues to read is for such gems. Cuidera created ‘Blackhawk’, Quality Comics best-selling title and he only left because he was running out of ideas after a couple years but supported other artists and writers as inker that came onto the title and came back from time to time gives a reflection on them and various editors which gives some interesting insights and areas where he was also wrong.

Writer Michele Nolan examines the Blackhawks as they make the transition from Quality to DC Comics, where thinks moved ever more towards Science Fictiony.

Michael T. Gilbert’s Mr, Monster continues his look at Harvey Kurtzman work, this time in the ‘Varsity’ magazine and his developing comedy.

Flipping the magazine over we have an interview by Jim Amash with Alex Kotzky (1923-1996), who tackled every job in the comicbook industry before moving onto newspaper strip ‘Apartment 3-G’. Over the years he got to know a lot of the people, providing insights into many of them. As he died before the interview went to print, there was no way to query a few things that he had wrong but these interviews are turning into detective jigsaws of building up pictures of the past equivalent to archaeologists digging up ruins.

Brian Kotzky, son of Alex, is an artist in his own right and Jim Amash’s interview with his, mostly about his father is disturbing, mostly because of how much a workaholic he was working from home. In some respects, I can understand it because, in any creative work, there is a need for a flow while working and disruption makes it harder to get back in the same frame of thought. Even so, having some proper downtime and also sharpen up the perspective on any work,

Editor Al Grenet (1915-2006) was also a skilled artist, inker and letterer, the latter not even needing to draw guidelines. Working for ‘Busy’ Arnold at Quality Comics, he was also ordered to fire employees on Fridays when the work was completed which he was uncomfortable about. The insights here fill in a lot of gaps about various people.

I have to admit to being a little intrigued by writer PC Hamerlinck’s first part of a look at Big Bang Comics in the 1990s and looking them up, found they were still there: and you can buy collections of the various super-heroes. In many respects they are a homage to the Golden Age heroes and a touch parodying with occasional reinterpretations of classic illustrations. A lot of the pros, including the likes of Alex Ross and Rich Buckler, have contributed covers.

I’m getting increasingly amazed how magazines that are some 20 years old still have relevance about the comicbook industry today. As these magazines cover history, they are also unlikely to age too quickly, its just a matter of getting the ones where the creators were interviewed before they died. Always a learning curve.

GF Willmetts

August 2023

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 108 page illustrated magazine. Price: $10.95 (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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