|Allen Bellman - TIMELY COMICS, age 21, approx. 1945|
- Working on "Let's Play Detective" -
This interview was originally published in Roy Thomas' wonderful comic book history magazine ALTER EGO, #32 (May/04) as part of the issue's Golden Age Reunion, "Two Timely Talks with Allen Bellman", where it was paired with Jim Amash's interview with Sam Burlockoff. For the last seven years it was hosted on my pal Ken Quattro's Comicartville website as "A Timely Talk With Allen Bellman". I've decided to finally bring it onto this blog as it adds tremendously to Timely-Atlas history. The original introduction to the printed interview follows:
"The name Allen Bellman conjures up a smile of recognition among historians and aficionados of Timely Comics and Timely Comics history. From his beginnings as a teen-ager doing backgrounds for Syd Shores' CAPTAIN AMERICA in 1942 up through THE PATRIOT, THE DESTROYER, THE HUMAN TORCH, ALL WINNERS, JAP BUSTER JOHNSON, his self-created continuing crime feature LET'S PLAY DETECTIVE, the Atom-Age JET DIXON OF THE SPACE SQUADRON and scores of pre-code horror, crime, war and western tales for Atlas, Allen Bellman entertained us with a unique, distinctive and original comic book style. His career spanned the entire breadth of Timely/Atlas from the early golden-age to the dissolution of the Timely bullpen. He then joined the hundreds of freelancers whose work filled the myriad genres of titles that flourished after the decline and demise of the costumed heroes into the early 1950's".
"I tracked down Allen in Florida in 1998 thanks to a tip from Paul Curtis and began a close friendship that remains to this day. He is a storehouse of Timely reminiscences and looks back quite fondly on his career in the comic book industry. Allen had no existing copies of his comic book work and I was able to supply him with hundreds of pages, a sizable portion, of his Timely work. This material was drawn in the 1940's and early 1950's and had not been seen by him in over 50 years, nor had his family, his wonderful wife Roz or his children and grandchildren, "ever" seen it. This friendship and the validation of an artist's career long thought forgotten, has proven to be as gratifying to this author as it has been to Allen."
"I want to also mention that when this interview was originally conducted, Allen refers to his childhood friend Sam Burlockoff within the context that he had long passed away. During the piece's long preparation over two sessions, a very strange and happy situation presented itself in a coincidence that boggles my mind. Jim Amash called me up one day and asked me if I had ever heard of, or had any copies of Timely work done by an artist he was in the process of interviewing named Sam Burlockoff. I froze in astonishment and told Jim that I was at the same time interviewing his childhood friend, Timely artist Allen Bellman, and that Bellman thought him long deceased and mentions this in the interview."
"Roy, Jim and I immediately realized we had a unique opportunity here. We'd put both interviews into the same issue and be able to get these two long lost friends back together in the process. With barely self-contained glee I called up Allen and told him I had wonderful news for him. Asking him if he was sitting down, I related that accompany-ing his interview would be another interview by someone he knew long ago. I then told him that it was Sam Burlockoff, who was alive and well. The joy that emanated from the receiver cannot be reproduced here but needless to say it was something I will always treasure as having been a part of."
"With that, I've decided to keep the original interview as is and the reader will note that when Allen mentions Sam early on it's with the assumption that he was deceased but by the end of the interview, a part conducted "after" the happy revelation, he refers to Sam in the "present" tense. -- Dr. Michael J. Vassallo
The interview below is the original unedited interview conducted over two sessions 18 months apart on 9/10/01 and 3/19/03. I will include some minor annotations in blue.
|Bellman Brothers Bakery - age 15, approx 1939|
|"Aunt Jean's column"|
January 6, 1939
|Grand Street Theater, 743 Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn|
M: Boy, that was pretty quick, wasn't it?
|Simon & Kirby c. 1950|
|Syd and Selma Shores - 1965 (1)|
|MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #62 (Mar45) (Patriot) p.1|
|Ed Winiarski self-caricature from Krazy Komics #7 (Apr/43)|
|Vince Fago - post Timely (2)|
| Elmer (Tom) Tomasch |
MISS AMERICA Vol 1, #4 (Jan45)
|Western Magazine Vol 1, #2 (Sept/55)|
|Detective Short Stories Vol 4, #6 (Oct/47)|
cover artist unknown
(reminds me of Syd Shores, though)
|Allen Bellman - Detective Short Stories Vol 4, #6 (Oct/47) p.21|
|Allen Bellman -Detective Short Stories Vol 4, #6 (Oct/47) p.27 (signed)|
[NOTE: Teen-age Allen Bellman wrote to Milton Caniff in the late 1930's about a particular storyline in Terry and the Pirates. In August of 2016, comics scholar and researcher Carol Tilley discovered Allen's note among the Caniff archives at Ohio State University. The original note, written on a postcard is below!]
|Stan Lee and Allen Bellman - 1992|
|Valerie (nee Violet) Barclay (6)|
|"Let's Play Detective" from YOUNG ALLIES #19 (Spring/46)|
|New York Daily News - August 27, 1958|
|New York Daily News - September 14, 1958|
[2012 addendum... The author of the second Bob Wood article above has the byline Kermit Jaediker. There is both a Timely and Lev Gleason connection here because Jaediker spent an earlier part of his writing career in comic books from 1940-1943. The Timely connection is that he wrote for the Funnies Inc. shop in 1942, scripting The Angel (see below), The Human Torch and The Sub-Mariner, all while Bob Wood toiled there from 1939-1942. But even more coincidental, Jaediker also wrote for Lev Gleason in 1941 and likely knew Bob Wood there also!] (7)
|SUB-MARINER #8 (Winter 42-43) "The Angel" Kermit Jaediker script|
[Additionally, Kermit Jaediker wrote prose fiction. Here is a reprint of one of his crime novels, coincidentally, published by Martin Goodman's Lion Books in 1951. The original was copyrighted in 1947.]
|Kermit Jaediker - Lion Books #51 (Jan/51)|
|MARGIE COMICS #49 (Dec/49)|
The famous Bellman television!! Now it can be told.. Margie's father was ... George Sekowsky??
|#A-412 SPORTS ACTION #13 (July52) p.1 (Could this be it?)|
|Closes after 7 performances|
|Timely card game - June, 1948. Photo taken by Pete Tumlinson.|
Artie Simek in right foreground facing camera. Syd Shores in middle background.
On the photo's right of Syd Shores (Syd's left) is David Jaffee, baby brother of Al Jaffee.
|Irv Spector KRAZY KROW #1 (1945)|
|Lev Gleason Christmas Card|
|Space Squadron #5 (Feb/52) story 1|
|Space Worlds #6 (Apr/52) story 1|
|Space Worlds #6 (Apr/52) story 2|
(Atlas monster prototype? Nah!)
|1957 Pyramid Books - front & back cover|
|Adventures Into Terror #4 (June/51)|
B: That was the story where I put my daughter Judy, who was 3 years old at the time, into the last panel. She had cute pigtails! She was the “vampire brat”!
B: Years later she was married to her first husband, now deceased and she called me up excitedly telling me her husband had found a copy of the issue containing that story. He then put it into a trunk with a ton of other comic books and could never locate it again. At that time I had no copies of any of my comic book work and was dying to find some to show my wife Roz and my children, who had never seen it. It was very discouraging. But then you tracked me down and sent me hundreds of pages. I cannot “ever” thank you enough.
|TheVassallos & The Bellmans, March 26, 2000|
|Allen with my children, Michelle & Jason|
We didn’t have tickets and went pretending we had them. The studio was on
|Allen Bellman and Sam Burlockoff - "the reunion!" 2003|
B: Another name from the past is Al Lewis who played Grandpa
|Allen with his passion|
|Roz and Allen Bellman March 26, 2000 (8)|
Following the publication of the above interview in ALTER EGO magazine its and subsequent hosting online at Ken Quattro's Comicartville site, Allen was re-discovered by comic book fandom and has become a regular guest at cons all over the country, including MegaCon in Orlando and Comic-Con International in San Diego, where he was awarded an Inkpot in 2007. He does sketches and commissions for fans, has drawn convention program covers, and can be contacted through his website http://www.allenbellman.com/.
My advise to any fans who are lucky enough to attend a con where Allen is a guest, would be to go up to his table and meet him. Say hello. Shake his hand. He is one of the most gracious comic creators you will ever meet, one of our last links to the early golden-age of comic books and a witness and participant to a history we all cherish dearly.
|Sun-Sentinel April 26, 2004 cover story|
And finally, some misc events and San Diego con photos through the years that I was fortunate to be a part of:
|Timely staff colleagues Allen Bellman and Gene Colan|
Montclair N.J. Art Museum - September 15, 2007
|Allen and Roz - 2007 San Diego Con|
|My son Jason, Allen and myself - 2007 San Diego Con|
|Allen at 2009 San Diego Con|
|Myself with Allen at 2009 San Diego Con|
|Roz talking with Adrienne Colan - 2009 San Diego Con|
|Myself with Allen again at 2009 San Diego Con|
|Allen and Roz - 2009 San Diego Con|
|Once again, the Vassallos and the Bellmans - 9 years later! - San Diego Con 2009|
And finally, some mementos from Allen's very first New York Con appearance on March 31, 2012.
About 3 months ago, my friend Keif Fromm told me Stan Lee was coming to NY and asked me whether I knew of any golden-age creators he could consider for an upcoming Big Apple con, where he was in charge of procuring guests. Keif had arranged a stellar golden-age and silver-age line-up including Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, Stan Goldberg, Irwin Hasen, Joe Sinnott, Dick Ayers and even Ken Bald, who was making what may have been his very first con appearance. I suggested Allen Bellman and Keif was thrilled about the idea . The proper connections were made and all was set for Allen and Roz Bellman's NY con debut on March 31, this past Saturday.
|Roz and Allen working on sketches for fans|
|The Bellmans and yours truly|
|Timely alumni Ken Bald and Allen Bellman|
|Stan Goldberg, Allen Bellman and Syd Shores' daughter Nancy|
The interview above originally was conducted over two marathon sessions on 9/10/01 and 3/19/02. It was transcribed by myself and published in ALTER EGO #32 (Jan/04). It then was hosted on Ken Quattro's Comicartville site from 2005 to 2012. I cannot thank Ken enough for hosting it all these years.
All Timely comic book images are from my own collection except for the MARGIE COMICS #49 Al Bellman "television" panel, which was given to me by Tom Lammers several years ago. Random non-comicbook images were sourced from several online sources as was the image of ACTION COMICS #1 (no, I don't own that!).
All historical photos of Allen Bellman came from Bellman himself. Other photos will be sourced with footnotes as indicated.
Photos of Don Rico, Vince Alascia, Ernie Hart, Gary Keller, Stan Lee and Frank Torpey are cropped from the classic photo now called "Prelude to Bambi", an incredible group photo of the Timely staff and the Lloyd Jacquet shop (still supplying some of Timely's features). The dinner was at the Astor Hotel in Manhattan and the date was August 14, 1942. The source of the "original" photo may have been Stan Lee. The photo cropping was done by Ken Quattro for the interview's original online hosting at Ken's Comicartville.com site.
- The photo of Syd and Selma Shores either came from Syd's daughter Nancy or from Michael Sturm, the son of Phil Sturm, scriptor on Syd's Chesler shop work and also his brother-in-law. When I straighten this out I will update this footnote accordingly.
- Vince Fago's photo above originally appeared in the September 20, 1948 issue of Newsweek magazine. The image above was given to Jim Amash by Vince to run with his excellent interview of Fago conducted in 2001.
- The photo of Tom Tomasch came through the generosity of comics historian Roger Hill.
- For an exhaustive examination of these freelanced Timely artist pulp illustrations, make sure you pick up a copy of my upcoming book"The Secret History of Marvel Comics" to be published by Fantagraphics in the summer/fall of 2012. http://www.amazon.com/Secret-History-Marvel-Comics-Moonlighting/dp/1606995529
- The photo of Milton Caniff came from the October 21, 2011 Ohio State University website blog entry on Milton Caniff.
- This photo of Violet Barclay comes courtesy of Trina Robbins, who used it in Violet's obituary on The Comics Journal website.
- Both Bob Wood New York Daily News newspaper articles came from Denis Kitchen's introduction "Biro and Wood - Partners in Crime" in the recent Crime Does Not Pay trade paperback volume published by Dark Horse in 2011. No mention of the Kermit Jaediker connection is to be found there.
- All photos of Allen, Roz and my family were taken on March 26, 2000, The Montclair Art Museum on September 15, 2007 and San Diego Cons of 2007 and 2009. For the earlier meeting in 2000, Allen invited my family out to dinner in New Jersey, while he was up from Florida attending a family function. Needless to say, a wonderful time was had by all!