Alter Ego #55 December 2005 (magazine review).

April 25, 2020 | By | Reply More

In my search for unavailable paper copies of ‘Alter Ego’, I picked up # 55, largely because of the Liberty Bell cover with actress Veronica Lake in the pose I spotted on-line. However, as the upsidedown back of the magazine was devoted to a 1943 calendar, this is the back cover. The front is actually a picture of the Shazam! family as painted by Alex Ross using Kathy Ireland (Mary Marvel), Fred MacMurray (Captain Marvel) and Michael Grey (Captain Marvel, Jr.) in the roles.

When you consider that MacMurray was the original template for Captain Marvel, this shouldn’t be surprising. Just to help out, I’ll show both covers here and you can make up your own mind as to which looks best.

A large chunk of this issue is devoted to an interview by Jim Amash with comicbook artist/newspaper strip illustrator Ken Bald (1920-2019). As this issue was released in 2005, we essentially have a time capsule of his career from working in Jack Binder’s art studio for Quality Communications ‘Captain Marvel’ titles where his part was figure drawing, an interlude of World War Two. He later worked for and become close pals with Stan Lee at Timely working on ‘Millie The Model’.

For newspaper strips, he worked on ‘Dr. Kildare’ and ‘Dark Shadows’. Samples of all his work are shown here. Considering American comicbook artists from that time saw moving into newspaper strips as the pinnacle of their career, then Ken Bald accomplished it all.

In fact, the following interviews cover various other artists who started off in the Jack Binder studio. The cross-connections and how they stayed in contact, a couple by relative marriage, makes it easier to join the dots.

Vic Dowd (1920-2010) had an interesting period in World War Two, as he was part of an artistic ghost army making the Germans thinking the platoons they were with was bigger than they were and was kept secret for many decades. He mentions a couple books available on the subject and they are still out there. It’s very interesting how comicbook illustrators and writers were employed for their artistic abilities in WW2.

Robert A. ‘Bob’ Boyajian (1922-2012) also worked in the ghost army and switched from comicbooks after the war into illustration and photographer.

Michael T. Gilbert looks at the career of John Stanley (1914-1993) who wrote the entire run of ‘Little Lulu’ newspaper strip. Of course, he did other work but this was what he might have been remembered for. Mind you, we never had the strip in the UK but we did have ‘Nancy’ shown in one of DC Thompson publications around that time that he did work on.

The third part of Comic Code Authority leader Leonard Darvin at the 1966 New York Comicon stopped them dead in their tracks explaining their role which in the context of his time removed a lot of myths. The softening of the use of horror creatures and the problems of breast size, especially why Dumb Bunny of ‘The Inferior Five’ showed they weren’t killjoys.

In the FCA, the Fawcett Collectors Of America, section, Richard Kyle supplied a taped interview from 1973 with both Jack and Otto Binder about their art studio so you get his perspective of how it was run and how he watered down the 200 artists who went through his studio simply by having to remove those who had no particular talent in this kind of work and specialising others in backgrounds or vehicles. This alone gives some particularly good insights into the kind of so-called and maybe rightly so comicbook sweatshops of the periods. Considering much of the work was piece work, if you were good and fast you did get well paid compared to other jobs.

P.C. Hamerlinck interviews Joanna Pang about her season on the Filmation ‘The Secrets Of Isis’ TV series (1975) as sidekick/student Cindy Lee and how she started in ballet and now teaches the subject.

Turning the magazine over and upside down, we come to the 1943 calendar as envisaged by Alex Wright, putting famous actresses from or early that time as various super-heroines. I think they all got off lightly except the Red Tornado with a bucket on her head.

15 years old and an interesting time capsule for an era even further back. If you were ever reticent about buying back issues of any magazine, then I think you might be making a mistake here because the knowledge never stops coming.

GF Willmetts

April 2020

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 6.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6890. Direct from them, you can get it digitally for $ 4.99 (US))

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Category: Magazines, Superheroes

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About UncleGeoff

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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