Comic Book Artist # 1/Alter Ego Vol. 2 # 1 Spring 1998 Second Printing (magazine review).

Now here’s a remarkable fluke. I was pulling a once-in-a-lifetime bundle from the Neal Adams website and it included what I thought was a reprint of ‘Comic Book Artist Collection Volume 1’ because it had the same Neal Adams Batman cover and turned out to be the original use from 1998. All right, a second printing but it was the original start for the second volume of Comic Book Artist # 1 and Alter Ego Vol. 2 # 1 on the flipside at TwoMorrows that is out of print and I never thought I would get a chance to see in paper format let alone read.

I should point out that you can buy/download a digital download copy from TwoMorrows. As its back to 1998, this was also the year that Archie Goodwin died, so a potent year to remember, especially as his last interview about his career is here. So let’s pick out some highlights from ‘Comic Book Artist’ first.

We also get a lengthy interview with Carmen Infantino looking at his time as publisher at DC Comics with long hours and various decisions, all depending on reports from their distributors so that poor sales mean cancellation. A revelation for some is the advance money came from said distributors so they had to depend on three sets of figures set over a year to confirm such decisions. Infantino saying that if the first figure was below 50% then the title would fail, above and the sales would go up. Not that this would go on forever but it’s an interesting insight. In many respects, direct sales with no returns changed this limitation but didn’t stop the implosion.

It’s very weird but I can’t recall reading a Joe Orlando interview before so this is my first one and he’s very illuminating about artists becoming editors at DC Comics and how it shook up the old hierarchy with the writers dictating terms to the editors than vice versa. Quite the reverse to what is going on in today’s comicbooks but there has to be a middle ground.

The interview with Dick Giordano is going to be the closest I’m going to get to the book TwoMorrows published on him. Learning his background, moving to Charlton and later as editor at DC Comics was informative. Looking at how he edited is very close to how I get on with people as you get better work by being nice. His insights into how Infantino worked his creators is a useful contrast in temperament.

An informal chat with Carmen Infantino and Jack Kirby from 1971 looks at their early career as well as the latter’s just started tenure at DC Comics. There is also an examination of Mike Sekowsky’s work as a comicbook artist and editor. In case you wonder where the Neal Adams content is, throughout this issue there is a lot of his art including many disused covers. I said in a previous review it would be interesting to see a release of a book of all his covers at DC Comics but looking here, I would also include the disused sketches as well because there’s fundamentally nothing wrong with them as art.

Of course, the flipside of this magazine, literally, is the opening first issue of ‘Alter Ego’. Back in 1998, TwoMorrows were principally selling ‘The Jack Kirby Collector’ and here they were branching out with two magazines under one cover. Ultimately, ‘Comic Book Artist’ evolved into ‘Comic Book Creator’ and ‘Alter Ego’ its own full magazine.

Roy Thomas goes over the original magazine’s eleven issues from 1961-78 and reminisces of Joe Kubert’s Hawkman with the art showing how to get the mask right from the front. Something which is very fannish is a look at some mail sent to comicbook writer Gardner Fox by people before they got into the industry. Finally, 5 pages of Wallace Wood’s spoofs on DC comicbook characters as scripted by Len Brown and Art Spiegelman for ‘Mad’ magazine which are still fun.

The odd thing about TwoMorrows publications is that even their early releases don’t really age. They are literally time capsules of the past and, of course, with the original interviews with now long past comicbook creators are an excellent source material. Even without them, there’s a lot of good art here as well to stir up memories. A joy to finally read the magazine.

GF Willmetts

January 2020

(pub: TwoMorrows, 1998. 80 page/16 page magazine Price: I pulled my copy for £ (UK), the digital version is $ 4.99 (US).

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