Saturday, January 30, 2016

BEST LOVE - A Pulp? A Comic? It's Both!

Throughout the long course of Martin Goodman's publishing career it's a well known fact that he loved to re-use titles again and again. These second generation usages could vary from utilization within the same publishing format, to crossing over into completely different formats and sizes..

Examples of the former include three different comic book titles called Mystic and two different titles called Marvel Tales.

Examples of the latter include the triple cross-over title Mystery Tales seen in pulp, comic book and digest formats, another triple cross-over title Joker depicted in bedsheet magazine, comic book and digest formats, the already seen here cross-over between the magazine and comic book title Amazing Detective Cases, multiple formats for Stag (here), Focus (here), and numerous pulp and comic book cross-overs in titles like Best Western, Gunsmoke Western, and a mish-mash of multiple versions of both pulp and comic book titles using the name Two Gun Western, Two-Gun Western, and 2-Gun Western.

Some of the above I've talked about already and the rest will one day have their day in the sun (if I live long enough), but today I want to discuss one I did not list above, the romance title Best Love.

Best Love began its life as the romance pulp Best Love Magazine Vol 1, #1 cover dated Dec/36 and published by Martin Goodman's Manvis Publications, Inc., a company just incorporated a few months earlier specifically to launch the Tarzan clone Ka-Zar. The name "Manvis" was a synthesis of the last 3 letters in the name Goodman and the last 3 letters in the name Davis, Martin's wife Jean's maiden name. Manvis was owned by Martin and Jean. In the upper right corner was a yellow star, the very first attempt by Goodman to brand his line of publications after 4 years of anonymity. Inside the star it eventually read "A Star Magazine". This brand lasted a total of 5 months, between cover months Oct/36 and Feb/37, and was replaced by Goodman's second brand attempt, Red Circle.

The period also covers the last half of the editorial reign of Martin's younger brother Sidney Charles Goodman, who edited a portion of the pulp line from mid 1936 to the Fall of 1937, including all the sports pulps and all three issues of Ka-Zar (as S. Charles Goodman).  The 12th of 13 total children (of which the first seven were female and Martin, the eighth, was the oldest male), Sidney was born on April 26, 1916, between David Goodman and Arthur Goodman, the youngest of the family. Tragically, Sidney would die on September 5, 1937 from subacute bacterial endocarditis brought on by rheumatic fever. He was all of 21 years old.

The Brooklyn Eagle daily newspaper carried an account, of sorts, of Sidney Charles Goodman's death, noting in the Friday January 7, 1938 edition:

Tale of Brotherly Affection Enlivens Appraisal Report
A story of brotherly affection is simply told today amid the formalities and routines (sic) statement of a report by State Transfer Tax Appraiser David F. Soden to Surrogate George Albert Wingate.
The estate involved was that of Charles Goodman, who died Sept. 5, 1937. There was a gross of $580 and a net of $580, which passed to the descendant’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Goodman. The administrator of the estate and brother of the descendant, Martin Goodman of 320 Central Park West, Manhattan, paid the funeral expenses, lawyer and court fees and waived his own fee.

Martin said that he took this step because of his fondness for his brother, who was also his employe (sic). Martin is manager of Manvis Publications, Inc., a magazine publishing firm in Manhattan. Charles’ only assets were $250 worth of stock of the Manvis firm and a $330 bank account.

The launch of Best Love was the first in a proposed new line of romance pulps, which were extremely popular on the newsstands, but of which Goodman had completely steered clear of since the demise of Romantic Love Secrets/Romantic Love Magazine in mid 1934, coinciding with Louis Silberkleit leaving the company to launch his own pulp line, Winford Publications.

Romantic Love Secrets was their third pulp, appearing 2 months after the line's debut title Western Supernovel Magazine (May/33) (becoming Complete Western Book with the second issue) and Black Book Detective. It was edited in its entirety by the former Clayton Publications editor Mary Gnaedinger, and the "only" title ever to be published by the Silberkleit/Goodman company Graham Publications. Miss Gnaedinger would move on to assist Anita Fairgrieve on All Story Magazine (replacing Helen MacVichie there, who moved on to edit Dell's Sweetheart Stories) and ultimately go on to a long and successful pulp editorship at Munsey's Publications (which was sold to Popular Publications in 1941), where she edited Sea Novel Magazine, Love NovelsFantastic Novels and Famous Fantastic Mysteries into the early 1950's.

Romantic Love Secrets Magazine ran until Vol 3, #4 (June/34), with the very last issue titled Romantic Love Magazine. At some point mid-run it even ran bi-weekly, seemingly very successful. The likely reason to consider as to why the title ended is that the title belonged to Louis Silberkleit, ending at the exact moment he left. In early 1938 Silberkleit relaunched Romantic Love Secrets with Lois Allan as editor, pretty much proving this out.

Romantic Love Secrets Magazine Vol 1, #1 (July/33) [Graham Publications, Inc.]

Romantic Love Secrets Magazine Vol 2, #? (January 3, 1934) [Graham Publications, Inc.]

Romantic Love Secrets Magazine Vol 3, #2 (February 14, 1934) [Graham Publications, Inc.]

This was the final bi-weekly issue.

Soon to join Best Love Magazine was Modern Love Vol 1, #1 (Jan/37), edited by Jean Goodman as Jean Davis, and Real Love Vol 1, #1 (Mar/37), the latter two mildly successful, I suppose, publishing mostly quarterly  through the late 1930's before petering out. But for the most part, the ambitiously proposed line of romance pulps never really panned out for Martin Goodman.

Vol 1, #5 (Apr/38)
Vol 2, #1 (Oct/38)

Vol 1, #5 (Jan/39)
J.W. Scott cover art

Goodman made a handful of additional half-hearted further attempts at romance pulps. 1940 saw 2 issues of Romantic Short Stories, 1948 saw 3 issues of 2 Daring Love Novels and 1950 saw a single issue of both Ranch Love Stories and a revived one-shot digest Modern Love Stories. But he more than made up for it in his huge confession magazine line, a story for another time.

Vol 1, #2 (May/48)
Peter Driben (likely) cover art

But the first fared the worst. Best Love Magazine was cancelled after a single issue.

Best Love Magazine Vol 1, #1 (Dec/36) [Manvis Publications, Inc.]

The November, 1936 issue of Writer's Digest carried the news this way:

Best Love Magazine is a bi-monthly featuring a book-length novel which is done by arrangement. The shorter stories of 5,000 to 12,000 words form an open market. A companion pulp called Modern Love Magazine is also out by this time, with much the same requirements. 

The December, 1936 issue of Author & Journalist:

Best Love Magazine, RKO Bldg., Radio City, NY, is a new love-story magazine published by Martin Goodman of Newsstand Publications. Rates by arrangement.

The November, 1937 issue of Author & Journalist announced its demise:

Western Fiction Publishing Co., R.K.O. Bldg., Radio City, NY, issuing its magazines under the Red Circle banner, announces that all of its magazines pay rates of ½ cent to 1 ½ cent a word on acceptance. It announces the discontinuance of All Star Adventure Magazine, Best Love Magazine, and True Crime Stories, and the addition of two new titles, Sports Action and Six Gun Western. The former uses short-stories in the sport field, 4000 to 7000 words in length, and the latter, novels of 30,000 to 40,000 words. These periodicals have been using a good deal of reprint material.

From a high of 87 pulp issues released in 1938, every subsequent year saw a precipitous drop as the country entered the second world war and comic book sales soared. By 1943, a year that saw only 27 total pulp issues released by Martin Goodman, all that was left of the once powerful Red Circle line were 5 western, 2 war, 1 sport and 1 crime pulp.

........ To this add one more..... Best Love. Yes, Goodman revived his worst selling romance pulp, the single issue sales disaster from 1936, releasing three quarterly issues up to Vol 1, #3 (July/43) before succumbing for the last time.

Thought not to exist by myself, my pal Frank Motler turned up copyright data stating there was a first issue Vol 1, #1 dated Jan/43. Additionally, the holdings of the University of Louisville lists a Vol 1, #1 in their collection.

Best love magazine. © Western fiction pub. co., 
inc. V. 1, 1943, no. 1, Jan. © Dec. 5, 1942; B 
566857. 875 

The November, 1942 issue of Writer's Digest announced the revival this way:

Red Circle, or Newsstand Group, is reviving its love pulp, Best Love. The first issue will be dated January, but will appear on the stands late in November. The magazine will use about ten stories per issue, modern love stories, always clean and romantic in type. Plenty of plot interest and complication is important here. A war background is good, if it is authentic in detail. Stories on the slick-paper type, sweetened up to pulp taste, are good bets. Heroines may be glamorous or otherwise, there’s no hard and fast rule. The best lengths now are shorts of 5,000 words and novelettes of 8,000. No poetry is wanted at present, or articles. Payment is a half-cent per word, on publication for the present. Best Love is to be bi-monthly. Miss Elizabeth Hardwick is handling manuscripts. Address – 330 West 42nd Street.

The February, 1943 issue of Writer's Digest added:

Elizabeth Bruce is editor of Goodman's Best Love Magazine, which has just been revived as a bi-monthly. This uses clean love stories of the slick type, sweetened to pulp readers' tastes. They should be realistic, dramatic, frequently with a war background, but any sort of heroine. lengths are 5,000 words, and 8,000 word novelettes. Payment is a half-cent, on publication. Address - 330 West 42nd Street. 

One last blurb from the June, 1943 Writer's Digest. It seems that Elizabeth Hardwick was also Elizabeth Bruce, as they cannot be talking about a different magazine here......

However Goodman revived Best Love Magazine again. It is scheduled as a bi-monthly. Elizabeth Hardwick is editing it at 366 Madison Avenue. At present she is not in the market for much material. The usual makeup of the book is four novelets of 9,000 to 10,000 words and several shorts averaging 5,000 words. Lengths much under 5,000 words are almost never used for this particular love market. Payment is the same as for the Red Circle men’s magazines.

During the second world war, Martin Goodman and pulp editor Robert O. Erisman utilized the services of the Timely staff for many/most of the interior pulp illustrations. Long gone was the star of Goodman's pulp illustrators, L.F. Bjorklund (although Erisman almost certainly ran reprinted western illustrations where needed). Mel Blum was the art director and assembled an array of Timely comic book artists who moonlighted over in the pulps on a freelance basis.

Showing reciprocation, as the pulp line died further, releasing 7 total issues in 1944 and a measly 3 in 1945, Robert O. Erisman moved over to the Timely comics division to edit. With paper at a war-time premium, poor-selling pulps were gutted and paper used for both the comic books and the new ambitiously launched Miss America Magazine, edited by Bessie Little.

The August 1944 Writer's Digest carried it all this way...

In order to have paper for the new magazine and not cut into his comics, which are doing very well indeed, the publisher has reduced the once-important Red Circle list of pulps to a single title Complete Western Book. This is a bi-monthly, and hence offers a very limited market. One novel of 30,000 words and one novelette of 12,000 to 15,000 words are used in each issue. Robert Erisman, who continues to edit, says that he buys just one issue’s copy at a time now, but he’s interested in these lengths. He won’t be in the market for shorts for some time. Payment runs from ½ to ¾ cent, on publication. Address manuscripts for this pulp to 366 Madison Avenue, New York 17.

Red Circle pulps suspended for the duration include: Detective Short StoriesComplete SportsBest WesternWestern Novel and Short StoriesWestern Short Stories. Mr. Erisman keeps busy now editing some of Goodman’s comics.

Best Love Magazine Vol 1, #1 (Jan/43) [Western Fiction Publishing Co., Inc.]

Thanks to the generosity of  the Ekstrom Library at the University of Louisville, here is the cover and contents to the first issue.

Published under a different corporate entity than issue #1 in 1936, Western Fiction Publishing Co., Inc. was Martin Goodman's true first publishing company that he launched after the departure of Louis Silberkleit in the spring of 1934, and used to launch his very first "solo" post-Silberkleit title, Western Fiction Vol 1, #1 (Jan/35).

What's unique about this issue and the one that follows, is the fact that both cover are photo covers, the "only" pulp photocover in Goodman's entire pulp publishing history! The editor was Elizabeth Bruce and the contents consisted of "four thrilling novelettes" and "six thrilling short stories", primarily with war themes.

Best Love Magazine Vol 1, #2 (Apr/43) [Western Fiction Publishing Co., Inc.]

A photo cover like issue #1, most of the story illustrations are double-page spreads by Timely staff artist George Klein.

 Vol 1, #2 (Apr/43) p.10-11 (George Klein)

  Vol 1, #2 (Apr/43) p.24 (George Klein)

 Vol 1, #2 (Apr/43) p.66-67 (George Klein)

There are three additional one page illustrations by an artist signing "Allen", whose identification still eludes me. It's not Allen Bellman. I considered pulp cover artist Allen Anderson, but I have no idea what his pen and ink work looks like and he usually signed his work "Anderson". Al Avison? Al Gabriele? Both Avison and Gabriele did work for Goodman's magazines, including the already seen Stag/Male Home Companion here:

Al Avison  also occasionally freelanced solo pulp illustrations, although usually signing his own full name to them..

Sports Action Vol 2, #6 (Oct/41)

But to the best of my ability, the "Allen" illustrations below do not appear to be Al Avison nor Al Gabriele (nor Avison & Gabriele).

Below are the cropped signatures taken from all 3 story illustrations above.

So minus a Timely staff solution, let's go to the pulp artists. The only other pulp artist I can think of is James Edmund Allen. A sample of his signature from David Saunders shows several versions, including script, but one can see a dot after the name Allen in one printed sample. And a comparison of the "N" right before the dot below reveals a near identical match to the "N" in the middle "Allen" signature above, although the rest of the letters are somewhat dissimilar. I've never, ever come across his work in a Martin Goodman publication, nor have I ever seen any pulp illustrations to compare.

Lastly, one unsigned illustration that I otherwise have no guess. My mind is focused on the Timely staff, where most of these war-era pulp illustrations come from.

Best Love Magazine Vol 1, #3 (July/43) [Western Fiction Publishing Co., Inc.]

There are two more double-page spreads by George Klein in this issue. In both below, he signs his entire full name, George Dunsford Klein.

Vol 1, #3 (July/43) p. 8-9 (George Klein)

Vol 1, #3 (July/43) p. 32-33 (George Klein)

The rest of the issue is filled out with one signed but illegible signature and several unsigned illustrations by the same stylistically recognizable but unknown artist, an artist that reminds me of the Avison & Gabriele work.

Page 46:

Page 24:

Page 55:

And lastly, a beautiful unsigned double page spread. The artist is naggingly familiar. Sort of reminds me of Paul Cooper in the one below.

Page 70-71

With this issue, Best Love Magazine is cancelled. The reason? Sales possibly, or perhaps something more.Was Best Love Magazine too hot to handle? This April 15, 1943 Associated Press blurb apparently says so and perhaps Goodman thought the book too much trouble and killed it for that reason. (Thanks to Frank Motler for this clipping):

The ultimate demise once again was revealed  in the March, 1943 Writer's Digest:

The Red Circle Group has discontinued a number of titles. Leading Detective Cases, edited by Robert E. Levee at 366 Madison Avenue, is a casualty. Also, Exclusive Detective, edited by E.B. Sherman in the main office at 330 West 42nd Street. Male and Read are no longer published. The number of cartoon magazines is cut down to two – Comedy and Joker, - others discontinued being GayetyJest, and Snap. Among the pulps, two titles have been dropped. These are Best Love, edited by Elizabeth Bruce, and Western Fiction, edited by Robert Erisman. But on the other pulps, Editor Erisman says he is very much in need of copy, especially of Western stories.

In short order all pulps are gone save Goodman's first, Complete Western Book Magazine, which limped along at a quarterly pace through 1944. In reality, for a short period of time even this title was cancelled then immediately reinstated.

From the March, 1945 issue of the trade publication Author & Journalist:

Complete Western Book (Red Circle), 366 Madison Ave., NY, has suspended publication.

And from the April, 1945 issue of Writer's Digest:

Paper continues to be the worst headache in the publishing business. A further cut seems to have been avoided at the present. But any new ventures have to feed off something that was killed to make room for it.

The last of the Red Circle pulp magazines, Complete Western Book Magazine, is appearing only irregularly now. Sufficient material is on hand for current needs. Robert Erisman, editor, informs me that he cannot consider any manuscripts, and those sent in are merely returned to the writers. This group was located in the office at 366 Madison Avenue, New York 17. Mr. Erisman is largely now occupied with work for the large string of comics by the same publisher, Martin Goodman.

Magazines and comic books were the post-war cash cow, although a big post-war dip in sales as superhero books sputtered in the late 1940's did make Goodman re-launch his pulp line in 1947.

But comic book trends now were heading towards genre titles. Crime, humor, horror, romance, and once the Korean war started, war comics would drive the industry for the next decade. When Simon & Kirby launched the romance comic genre in 1947 with Young Romance #1 the industry took notice and immediately began to copy the formula.

At no place was this seen in as extreme measure as at Timely Comics. Starting with one title, My Romance #1 (Sept/48), Goodman flooded the market with 31 different romance titles, including blended genres like the western romance. By mid 1950, all but 5 Timely romance titles remained as the top-heavy genre imploded upon itself across the industry.

Looking at the progression of titles from 1948 to 1950, for the 6th new romance comic book, Goodman went back to 1943 and revived his old pulp Best Love.

  1. My Romance #1 (Sept/48) becomes My Own Romance with #4 (Mar/49)
  2. Ideal Love & Romance #5 (Mar/49) becomes Love Romances with # 6 (May/49)
  3. Lovers #23 (May/49)
  4. Love Tales #36 (May/49)
  5. My Love #1 (July/49)
  6. Best Love #33 (Aug/49)
The strange numbering of the debut issue, #33 (Aug/49), appears to have pick up from the demise of the long-running hero book Sub-Mariner, which breathed its last with #32 (June/49). The Sub-Mariner had been published by Goodman's Manvis Publications, Inc. since issue #9 (Spring/43) and when the title changed to Best Love, the publication company continued as Manvis for the entirety of the 4 issue romance comic run.

So let's take a look at the Best Love comic book. All 4 covers sport photo covers, as do nearly all of the 1949-50 Timely romance issues. The first two have the Marvel Comics round bullet logo.This logo is an update of the original Red Circle bullet logo.

The last 2 have the "A Lovers Magazine" heart-shaped colophon, a branding logo that appeared on 62 romance covers between Oct/49 and June/50.

Timely pushed this brand in house ads. It can be seen in two separate ads in Best Love #35 (Jan/50) as well as strangely running them in May/50 cover dated books at the exact time the brand was dropped!

Best Love #35 (Jan/50) half-page ad:

Lovers #28 (May/50) half-page ad:

Best Love # 33 (Aug/49)

  • #5308 "My Heart Was At Stake!" (8 pages) Sekowsky / Rule
  • LETTER PAGE : (Let's Talk About Love) (2 pages)
  • #5520 "The Man I Couldn't Love!" (7 pages) Rosen / Kubert
  • #5143 TEXT STORY : "His Other Love" (3 pages)
  • #5374 "A Fool And Her Heart" (7 pages) ? / ?

Three stories totaling 22 story pages and a letter page of sorts.

#5308 "My Heart Was At Stake!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Mike Sekowsky
Inks:Christopher Rule

This is the meeting of the romance kings. Mike Sekowsky was probably the most prolific Timely romance artist of the period, by my count penciling 120 romance stories between 1948 and 1956, with the vast majority of them (100) coming  between 1948 and 1952. He was so prolific and so fast that for the most part he appeared to be in nearly every issue in 1948-50. There were even all Mike Sekowsky issues, Love Classics #1 (Nov/49) for example, where he penciled an entire 30 page story! Ask anyone who worked on staff at Timely (and I've spoken to many) "who" was the best all-around artist on staff, the debate will be between Syd Shores and Mike Sekowsky, with many leaning to Sekowsky in spite of his reputation of having a bad temperament. He literally churned out pages by the ton, faster than anyone, and all with marvelous storytelling and exciting pacing.

Christopher Rule was the other romance king, occasionally penciling but one of the most prolific romances inkers on staff. Rule was "the" Patsy Walker artist before Al Jaffee in both Miss America and the solo Patsy Walker title. Rules style was a throwback to his roots as a Hearst newspaper fashion artist. His women had a 1920's "flapper" look, his pencils and figures were stiff and his ink line was airy and delicate. He also had a way of inking faces that makes his identification impossible to miss. His women had beautiful heart-shaped faces and he toiled as a children's book illustrator throughout he 1920's and 1930's before ever getting into the comic book industry.

The brutally ugly Timely grid of 1948-49 opens the top tier. This technique of putting the title into the right hand box and a story climax panel in the left killed the aesthetics of page one every time. By mid 1950 Stan Lee was commissioning new splash panels across the top for multitudes of inventory stories published up through early 1953. The new splash panels were usually the same handful of staffers who could turn out a splash in minutes... Mike Sekowsky, Syd Shores, Chris Rule and some of the earliest Timely work by Joe Maneely

I have never felt that the letter pages that were in nearly every issue of the romance glut photo-cover issues of 1949-50 were real letter pages. Something about them were as phony as a can be. Yes, they solicited letters on the bottom right but how did they get there in the first place? This is the debut issue!

#5520 "The Man I Couldn't Love!" (7 pages)
Pencils: Hy Rosen
Inks: Joe Kubert

In May of 1999, through a friend, I sent Joe Kubert photocopies of all these 1949 Kubert-esque ink jobs and he confirmed to me in annotations on the splash pages which ones he believed he inked, not really remembering how or why he was doing them with Hy Rosen. It's only these, a few with Sy Moskowitz, and a few solo in the early-mid 1950's, that were ever done for Timely/Atlas.

Hy Rosen penciled 18 romance stories for Timely/Atlas between 1949 and 1952, at least 4 or 5 of them inked by Joe Kubert. Working all over the genre books, to me his best work was as a humor artist on Georgie and Homer Hooper.

#5374 "A Fool and Her Heart!" (7 pages)
Pencils: several unknowns
Inks: several unknowns

This seems a Timely staff jam job. I think I see see several different styles throughout the 7 pages. I can't put a name to anyone other than to say they are unknowns to me and I've seen some before. Here's page 1 only.

Best Love # 34 (Oct/49)

  • #5963 "The Tragic Decision of Kathryn Summers!" (9 pages) ? / ?
  • #5968 "The Love I Had To Share!" (8 pages) ? / ?
  • #5599 TEXT STORY "The Years Between Love" (2 pages); Text Illo. ?
  • #6036 "Problem In Paris! (7 pages) Severin / Hing

#5963 "The Tragic Decision of Kathryn Summers!" (9 pages) ?/?
Pencils: ?
Inks: ?

This story is a slickly rendered 9 pages that remind me of something coming out of the teen titles. But the reality is I don't know who this is.

#5968 "The Love I Had To Share!" (8 pages) ?/?
Pencils: ?
Inks: ?

Not as slick, wisps of Timely era staff regulars I cannot name. I don't know.

#6036 "Problem In Paris!" (7 pages)
Pencils: John Severin
Inks: Chu Hing

Now "this" one I can identify! This is an early John Severin story that somehow escaped my identification all these years! I didn't even have it in my records (I just identified it now) and a quick look to the John Severin Index in Sqa Tront #11 compiled by my pal Jim Vadaboncoeur, Jr. (to which I did give a few last minute additions) likewise doesn't have it. It slipped through the cracks!

The inks are distinctly heavy and thick, so this is Chu Hing! Hing was Hawaiian born of Chinese parents. Educated at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, he entered the comics industry at the Lloyd Jacquet shop and jumped to a staff position at Timely by the mid 1940's. His work can be found all over the 1949 crime and romance books, sometimes solo, but more often inking the likes of Severin and  Pierce Rice. A talented watercolor painter, Alex Jay uncovered his entire story here:

I'm honored to own one of his watercolors from 1933 in my collection:

Best Love #35 (Jan/50)
  • #6490 "I Learned What it Meant to be Jilted!" (7 pages) Everett? / Everett ; w-Natalie Krigstein
  • #????   FEATURE : (Am I In Love?) (1 page) Lin Streeter
  • #6138 "With Tears in My Heart!" (8 pages) Sekowsky / Alascia & Rule
  • #6652 TEXT STORY "Case File On Love" (2 pages) ; Text Illos by Hank Chapman
  • #6983 "Can A Girl Love Her Sworn Enemy?" (8 pages) Tumlinson / ?

#6490 "I Learned What It Meant To Be Jilted!" (7 pages)
Script: Natalie Krigstein
Pencils: Bill Everett (?)
Inks: Bill Everett
Letters: Bill Everett (?)

I covered this story back in my blog post on Bill Everett's Timely romance stories here:

No one in their right mind would not see this as anything but Bill Everett through and through. And I do. But.... there's something that continues to bother me every time I look at it, year after year. The storytelling is so pedestrian, the figure work so bland, the characters are nothing but talking heads. And what's with that inking of the girl's hair? Solid black "helmet" with light blue color streaks? That is so un-Everett and the storytelling so unlike the dynamic, fluid panels of Everett at the top of his game. Maybe, just maybe, unbeknownst to everyone (including me), this was penciled by someone else, maybe an inventory story, and Stan gave it to Everett to fix, to completely re-render it with his own inking/finishing and lettering. Just look at this concurrent Everett romance panel from another story this same month and tell me I'm nuts! (#6438 Romance Tales #7 (Jan/50) p.7, panel 1) That is all Everett!

The script here is by Natalie Krigstein, the wife of the great Bernie Krigstein. By her own records (as given to me by Robin Snyder) she scripted exactly 2 romance stories for Timely. The other in Love Adventures #2 (Jan/50).

FEATURE: "Am I In Love?"
Pencils: Lin Streeter
Inks: ?

This romance filler appeared 4 times in 1950. In addition to here, look for it in Romance Tales #9 (Apr/50), Love Romances #10 (Feb/50) and #11 (May/50)

#6138 "With Tears In My Heart!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Mike Sekowsky
Inks: Vince Alascia & Christopher Rule

Another (of course) story penciled by Mike Sekowsky inked this time by Timely staff inker Vince Alascia and Christopher Rule. Alascia was best known as Syd Shore's #1 inker in the early to mid 1940's. In fact, Allen Bellman's very first work at Timly, after answering an ad in the New York Times in October of 1942, was a background artist on a Syd Shores / Vince Alascia Captain America story. On first glance the story appears to be Alascia inked for the first 6 pages and Rule inking pages 7 & 8. But it's not that simple. Rule can be seen in the woman's face in the splash on page 1 panel 1, page.2 panel 3, page 3 panels 3-4, page 4 panels 3-4, page 5 panel 3, man with pipe on page 6 panel 3, and most of pages 7 & 8. So it's a real combo job with them passing the pages between themselves.

#6652 TEXT STORY "Case File On Love" (2 pages)
Text Illos: signed "H.C."

I don't usually comment on text stories but the 2 text illustrations bear a bit more scrutiny. Looking with a magnifying glass and then scanning at 1200 dpi, they appear  to be signed "H.C.". The first less than the second, but I think both are the same artist even though the first illo is more professional looking than the second, which is shaky.  But who? Well I'm going to propose that these were possibly drawn by Timely writer Hank Chapman (and this text story possibly written by him!)

Why Hank Chapman? First he's the only "H.C." that I can come up with, but second, Chapman did draw! Here is a cartoon I found published in the October 1946 issue of Author & Journalist.... You decide.

#6983 "Can A Girl Love Her Sworn Enemy?" (8 pages)
Pencils: Pete Tumlinson
Inks: ? (possibly Tumlinson, whiff of John Severin on page 1, panel 5??)

Written four years after the Axis powers were defeated, this next story is a bit unique in the Timely romance world. I immediately recognized the telegraphed ending early on but the story is a strong one. In a twist on a "Schindler's List" type of situation where Polish freedom-fighters are trying to sneak children out of the country, a young woman schoolteacher secretly working as a spy in Nazi-occupied Poland falls in love with the new local Polish Nazi collaborator commander. The usual pangs of romance angst this time are against a backdrop of serious devotion to duty and the cause of freedom contrasted against real world horror (though not explicit in the story).

The product of Texas A & M University (Class of 1942), an Air Corps pilot during the second world war and art training at Chicago Art Institute, Pete Tumlinson left his Texas home in 1947 and drove up to New York with friends, landing a job as an assistant to Ray Bailey on the comic strip feature Bruce Gentry. By 1948 he was on staff at Timely Comics on the 14th floor of the Empire State Building penciling a plethora of features in all genres including late stories of Captain America and the Blonde Phantom. When the staff was disbanded Tumlinson continued to freelance, including my favorite version of Kid Colt Outlaw in both Kid Colt Outlaw and Wild Western, ultimately going back to Texas and into commercial art. He continued to freelance long-distance occasionally as late as 1955. But even with all his accomplishments in the art world, some believe his most inspired work came in the pages of  Texas A&M's Battalion humor magazine between the years 1938 and 1942. His creations there included Fish Blotto, Battalion Betty, The Tumlinson Boy (competitor to The Petty Girl) and he guided the evolution of an earlier character, Magarkin, to Ol' Sarge, one of the most recognized icons of Texas A&M University. Ol' Sarge was created by Pete over the previous Margarkin template.

The Battalion (May/39):

Best Love #36 (Apr/50)

  • #7285 "Loveless Marriage?" (10 pages) Roth / ?
  • #6958 "The Cowboy I Couldn't Command!" (6 pages) (Shores + ? / ?
  • #7229 TEXT STORY "I Cheated Love" (2 pages)
  • #6224 "Come Back My Love!" (8 pages) Rule + ? / Alascia
  • #6523 "Storm In My Heart!" (8 pages) Maneely + Colan / ?
  • #6763 "I Craved His Kisses!" (7 pages) Bill Everett

With this issue three things need to be noted....

First, the format changes to a thick 52 pages, as did many of the line at this time. With the dissolution of the staff, all contributors of new material were now freelance after January of 1950.

Second, with so many recent romance titles, an enormous amount of romance inventory was built up. This inventory needed to be published so for a while no new romance material was commissioned (and this dovetails nicely into the 52 page expansion). Additionally, someone (thankfully) made the decision to junk the ugly Timely grid page one format! To get around this, new splash panels had to be created and seamlessly melded into an already completed story. Whatever small post-Timely staff remained of production people, etc., were corralled to make these changes. This would be artists of note like Mike Sekowsky, Syd Shores, Christopher Rule, George Klein and that new young kid that just arrived from Philadelphia after working at Street & Smith for 2 and a half years, Joe Maneely.

Third, this is a killer issue! Thick, and filled with great artists of note in various stages of their career. Roth, Rule, Shores, Maneely, Colan, Everett....Timely-Atlas royalty!

#7285 "Loveless Marriage!" (10 pages)
Pencils: Werner Roth ?
Inks: ?

As best as I can tell, this looks like very early Werner Roth to me. I cannot tell if he's inking it also. The later job # and the fact that Roth was never on staff, possibly places this story as a new post-Timely 10 page script. Roth produced this story at the same time he was working on Venus in issues #8 (Feb/50) and #9 (May/50). The splash page looks completely in cohesion with the remainder of the story.

#6958 "The Cowboy I Couldn't Command!" (6 pages)
Pencils: Syd Shores (splash)
Pencils: Unknown (story)
Inks: Unknown

All I can say about this story is that it's a western romance inventory story that has a new page 1 splash by Syd Shores to replace the Timely grid. The story art is unknown to me.

#6224 "Come Back My Love!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Christopher Rule (splash)
Inks: Christopher Rule (splash)
Pencils: Jack Kamen (?) (story)
Inks: Vince Alascia

This is a completely new page one by Christopher Rule attached to story inked by Vince Alascia. Who penciled it has always been a bit of a mystery to me. It's naggingly familiar, sort of looking like Morris Weiss, or even better, Jack Kamen. If you look at the woman's head tilt and position in panel after panel, it's exactly what Jack Kamen did. Look at it structurally (look at the entire page) and try to ignore the overwhelming Vince Alasia inks. If you do, you'll possibly see Jack Kamen.  I just have a hard time coming to an understanding "why" Kamen would drop in a pencil a job for Timely when he was doing full inks at the same time for EC's Modern Love and A Moon, A Girl..Romance.. The only thing I'm definite about is Chris Rule drew the splash and Vince Alascia inked the story..

For comparison, here are pages 4 and 5 of Jack Kamen "Only Human" from EC's Weird Science #11 (Jan-Feb/52). This is pencils and inks by Kamen. Compare to the Timely story below, where you are also not going to look at Vince Alascia's inks.

And some cropped panel comparisons:



#6523 "Storm In My Heart!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Joe Maneely (splash)
Inks: Joe Maneely (splash)
Pencils: Gene Colan (story)
Inks: ? (story)

This is a treat that I already covered here. This is one of 20 instances where the newly arrived Joe Maneely was corralled to draw new splash panels for Timely grid inventory. In case anyone wants the entire list, go crazy......

2951 Nov/50 ALL - TRUE CRIME #41 When Death Wore a Dress!
5492 Nov/50 SUSPENSE #5 Hangman's House
5557 June/50 WESTERN OUTLAWS AND SHERIFFS #62 El Sombro!
6169 Apr/50 MY LOVE #4 Deception!
6330 Nov/50 ALL - TRUE CRIME #41 Lou "Lucky" Raven
6523 Apr/50 BEST LOVE #36 Storm In My Heart!
6591 Apr/50 MY LOVE #4 I Was Engaged To A Puppet!
6926 Mar/50 WESTERN OUTLAWS AND SHERIFFS #61 Chief Tall Wolf's War!
6993 Apr/50 WILD WESTERN #10 Killer For Hire!
7005 June/50 WESTERN OUTLAWS AND SHERIFFS #62 Thirty-Five Notches!
7039 June/50 WESTERN OUTLAWS AND SHERIFFS #62 Judge Ron Thomas' Gun-Gavel!
7164 Apr/50 GIRL COMICS #3 Second Fiddle!
7206 May/50 SUSPENSE #3 The Man Who Lost His Head!
7315 May/50 KID COLT OUTLAW #9 The Man From Nowhere!
7343 May/50 TRUE ADVENTURES #3 Killer At Large!
7348 May/50 KID COLT OUTLAW #9 The Gun - Shy Sheriff!
7355 May/50 KID COLT OUTLAW #9 The Meanest Man In The World!
7374 May/50 KID COLT OUTLAW #9 The Secret Of The Hidden Mine!
7513 Sept/50 BLACK RIDER #10 Six - Gun Lesson!
7529 Sept/50 BLACK RIDER #10 The Legend Of The Black Rider!

In this case, Gene Colan pencils the 8 page story. The inks are unknown.

#6763 "I Craved His Kisses!" (7 pages)
Pencils: ? (splash)
Pencils: Bill Everett
Inks: Bill Everett
Letters: Bill Everett

And finally, the last story. This is all Bill Everett, as far as I can see. In fact, go back and compare to that other Everett story above and see if it makes a difference in what we discussed above, that the other story may have a different penciler. The storytelling here is superior with variances in panel scenes, shot angles, etc., and not a bunch of static talking heads as in the story above in #35.

This is the only time I'd ever wish Timely had kept the original grid because someone other than Everett re-drew the top two tiers of the grid, causing us to lose 2 entire panels of Bill Everett's original story!@#$#!. This new panel is pedestrian and it sort of looks like Werner Roth, but I have no real idea.

Here's the Statement of Ownership that was published on the text page. Best Love, published bi-monthly, with all the corporate owners of the company Manvis Publications Inc. of 350 5th Avenue (The Empire State Building) ...

Publisher: Manvis Publications, Inc.
Editor: Stan Lee
Managing Editor: Martin Goodman
Business Manager: Robert Solomon (Stan Lee's uncle and Martin Goodman's brother-in-law)

Manvis Publications, Inc., 350 5th Avenue, New York 1, N.Y.
Martin Goodman, Jean Goodman, David Goodman, Jerome A. Perles, Morris Siegel

Jerry Perles was Martin's friend and business lawyer. His older brother Arthur Perles was a one-time editor of Goodman's old crime pulp True Crime Magazine, and later, in his capacity as Assistant Director of CBS Publicity, set up the agreements for Goodman to publish My Friend Irma, Suspense and Casey Crime Photographer. (As seen in Blake Bell and my book The Secret History of Marvel Comics, available by "click" on the upper right top of this blog).

It was Jerry Perles' interview with David Anthony Kraft in Comics Interview #43 (1987) that set in motion the entire (in my opinion) ridiculous story of Martin Goodman "riding the rails" like a hobo at the age of 14 or so. That quote has gotten into every single history and reference ever written about Goodman. I'm convinced the story is a conflation memory of Goodman's early career as a circulation manager for Eastern Distributing Corporation, where he was "required" to travel the country as part of his duties.

And with #36, Best Love was cancelled, along with other short-run romance glut titles. Timely's romance glut came crashing down! 25 total romance titles were cancelled from cover date January through April of 1950. Only My Own RomanceLove RomancesLove Tales, Lovers and Venus survived this crash.

But wait... there's more!

I usually do not talk about Canadian Timely/Atlas editions of these comics primarily because they are in every way inferior copies. I've collected them for years for their data, having amassed about 300 different issues, as I've been trying to ascertain exactly how many there were and exactly their breadth from 1948 to about early 1951. Also, I want to unravel their often strange numbering system (in titles that were not direct US version copies). The covers were frequently paper covers, the printing was occasionally off-register, the coloring was occasionally off-register and 52 page Timely issues (a larger part of the time period) often had stories left out of even pages removed. They frequently had off-numbering and overall are not agreeable to my liking. One day I'm going to write about them in more detail but for today I want to show how Best Love was published and represented up north.

I am not an expert on Canadian comic books but for the most part, Timely/Atlas versions were primarily published by 2 major publishers, Bell Publications and Superior Publishers (there were others but not pertinent to this discussion).

So starting at the very beginning, we have.........

Best Love #33 (Canadian) - [Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited]

The numbering and cover photo is the same as the US version. Inside front and inside back covers are blank. Back cover has an ad for Timely teen titles Hedy, Patsy Walker, Nellie, Millie, Irma and Georgie.
Interior contents are exactly the same as the US version. Canadian editions are shot from stats of the original art (or the art itself, I really don't know for certain) and at the top can often be seen writing that remained above the panel border on the original art/stat.

Best Love #34 (Canadian) - [Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited]

Now the problems start. The Bell Features Canadian version of Best Love #34 has nothing at all to do with the US version. Instead, it completely reprints the US version of Love Romances #18 (Sept/51), albeit in a grossly inferior printing quality. Inside front and inside back covers are blank and the back cover has an ad for other Canadian Timely/Atlas titles : War, Spy Fighters, Spy Cases, Secret Agent and Spy Secrets.

Best Love #34 (Canadian) - [Superior Publishers Limited]

And here's another version of the Canadian Best Love #34, a version published by Superior Publishers Limited. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of this book so other than the fact that it has the exact cover photo as the US version, I can't tell you the contents.

Best Love #35 (Canadian) - [Superior Publishers Limited]

The cover is exactly same as the US version as are the contents.The internal ads are different.

Best Love #35 (Canadian) - [Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited]

A second Canadian version of Best Love #35. (Sigh)... I hate when this happens! My records say I have this issue but for the life of me cannot find it as I write this. I can tell you when I bought it (12/12/12) and how much I paid for it ($23.02) and even give you a scan of the cover which I scanned upon arrival, but beyond that nothing. The cover photo is not the US version. In fact, the cover was lifted from Quality's Broadway Romances #4 (July/50). I'm betting the interior was also the Quality issue, certainly not the Timely/Atlas issue already reprinted in the Superior release. (Actually, I wouldn't take that bet!). If I ever find my copy I'll update this.

Best Love #36 (Canadian) - [Superior Publishers Limited]

An exact duplicate cover of the U.S. Version, I don't haven this but know that it is an exact U.S. duplicate minus the 7 page Bill Everett story story "I Craved His Kisses" and the Statement of Ownership.

Best Love #36 (Canadian) - [Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited]

Another non-Timely/Atlas Canadian reprint. The cover is taken from Quality's Love Scandals #2 (Apr/50) but the interior may be from one of the 6 issues of their Flaming Love, as there is a statement of ownership inside. I have a duplicate of this issue and will gladly trade for one of the ones I don't have.

Best Love #37 (Canadian) - [Superior Publishers Limited]

I don't have a copy of this either but it doesn't really matter as there is no Timely/Atlas content and they even mutilated the cover logo, pushing the "Love" far to the right. (?????). The cover image is from Superior's Our Secret #5 (Jan/50) and I'd bet the contents are also. Maybe.

Best Love #38 (Canadian) - [Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited]

Yet another false Timely/Atlas alarm. The cover hails from Quality's Flaming Love #4 (June/50) and the interior from an issue of one of the 8 issues of Fox's Women Outlaws. Word to the wise, the first story starts out with page 2 as pages were cut here in the Canadian version.

So let's summarize the various incarnations of BEST LOVE.

Best Love Magazine Vol 1, #1 (Dec/36) [Manvis Publications, Inc.]
Best Love Magazine Vol 1, #1 (Jan/43) [Western Fiction Publishing Co., Inc.]
Best Love Magazine Vol 1, #2 (Apr/43) [Western Fiction Publishing Co., Inc.]
Best Love Magazine Vol 1, #3 (July/43) [Western Fiction Publishing Co., Inc.]

Best Love #33 (Aug/49) [Manvis Publications, Inc.]
Best Love #34 (Oct/49) [Manvis Publications, Inc.]
Best Love #35 (Jan/50) [Manvis Publications, Inc.]
Best Love #36 (Apr/50) [Manvis Publications, Inc.]

COMIC: (Canadian)
Best Love #33 [Bell Features And Publishing Company Limited]

Best Love #34 [Bell Features And Publishing Company Limited]
Best Love #34 [Superior Publishers Limited]

Best Love #35 [Bell Features And Publishing Company Limited]
Best Love #35 [Superior Publishers Limited]

Best Love #36 [Superior Publishers Limited]
Best Love #36 [Bell Features And Publishing Company Limited]

Best Love #37 [Superior Publishing Limited]

Best Love #38 [Bell Features And Publishing Company Limited]

It's not impossible for there to be additional Canadian versions. Time will tell.