Alter Ego # 6 Autumn 2000 (magazine review)

I seem to be having a running luck with a second pile of TwoMorrows publications, this one focused on ‘Alter Ego’, with # 6 being the lowest numbered one.

As you can see from the cover, the masked version of Doctor Strange and a Roy Thomas interview with his artist, Gene Colan, someone he also worked with. This gives a fascinating insight into his history and his early work. Colan was also a Stan Lee favourite, although he wasn’t keen on the Sub-Mariner, but thrived on Daredevil and less keen on Wonder Woman, preferring to draw male action heroes. He liked his freedom to draw at Marvel and often drew pages before even getting to the actual plot of the story.

Did you know that back in 1943, Robert Kaniger had a book out with a title, that he hadn’t chosen but his publisher Famous Enterprises did, called ‘How To Make Money Writing For Comics, Magazines And Secrets Behind The Comics’ composed of booklets he had written. In the early 1960s, Stan Lee did a self-published booklet, ‘Secrets Behind The Comics’ more targeted at the American teen fans to collectively answer a lot of the questions about comicbook production. Writer Mike W. Barr interviews both of them about these books and sound like they are rarer than hen’s teeth these days. Both books had different types of audiences and this makes for an education of who they were trying to reach and impart knowledge.

Did you know that writer Gary Friedrich did a plot based on the film ‘Casablanca’ for Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandoes # 72 and when Stan Lee saw it had to have likenesses and such quickly changed than even consider buying a fee from Warner who owned DC Comics. Roy Thomas goes over the details and I can see Stan Lee’s point here. However, when I finished reading, I did wonder how that was got around in ‘Master Of Kung Fu’ a decade later.

Michael T. Gilbert’s ‘Mr. Monster’ column brings up what is considered two early articles about Superman. The first in the 1940 January edition of ‘The New Yorker’ by E.J. Kahn Jr. focuses more on the Man of Steel’s newspaper strip than the comicbook. He does make an interesting comment about Superman’s possible hygiene problems wearing his costume under his civies, let alone dumping them when he’s off to the rescue. He’d have a field day had he lived to see Peter Parker. The other is by Mort Weisinger in the 1946 July edition of ‘The Coronet’ detailing Superman’s early history and how he was used to educate kids in dental care and such.

Writer Bill Schelly’s piece is part 2 of collecting American comics fanzines, pointing out some of the early rare ones. Whichever country, most fanzines have a limited print run and even when they don’t, they are either stored for a rainy day (he says thinking of his own attic) or pulped. I think the only thing Schelly didn’t focus on is how they were printed. A lot of American fanzines pre-date photo-offset and printed rather cheaply so I tend to be more surprised if they survive.

These early issues of ‘Alter Ego’ had half its size devoted to Fawcett publications and probably its first use of Mac Raboy’s painting of Captain Marvel, Jr. Roger Hill’s extended article looking for more information by speaking to Raboy’s assistants. Raboy was very much a perfectionist, often erasing a page if he wasn’t happy, which also made him a slow but quality worker. He also kept himself to himself so there was never any interviews. The piece here, along with his art, speaks for itself.

Roger Hill’s first part of an interview with background artist Rubin ‘Ruby’ Zubofsky who worked for a period with Mac Raboy shows a speciality that is often forgotten. A lot of the time, as witnessed with Wallace Wood that it was common as a training ground for upcoming artists, although Zubofsky did it both as a speciality and, as the work shows here, could do the rest of the art as well.

What was the real selling point was an extended piece by William Woolfolk (1917-2003) about his time at various comicbook companies as a means to make money. Very self-effacing and totally funny in places but, above all, demonstrating his writing quality.

It’s nice to see the quality of material, even in the early issues. If you can’t pull a paper copy when it pops up and move I nab any I haven’t got, they are worth pursuing. If not, grab a digital reading copy.

GF Willmetts

May 2023

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing, 2000. 100 page illustrated magazine. Price: ??. ISSN: 1932-6890. Direct from them, you can get it digitally for $ 4.99 (US))

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