Stanley Martin Lieber, better known to the world as Stan Lee since 1941, passed away on Monday November 12, 2018, at the age of 95.
With a vitality beyond the average nonagenarian, where he was still able to maintain a frenetic schedule of appearances, signings and movie cameos at an age most folks would either be in a rocking chair ... or dead, the last few years finally saw mortality catch up with him as maladies ..... emotional, physical and external, began to take their toll. The death of his beloved wife of nearly 70 years, Joan; a series of medical setbacks leaving him somewhat frail; and stress from the culmination of years of exploitation by hanger-ons and shady business associates who attempted to enrich themselves by way of dubious dealings.
I knew this was coming. I even considered months ago having something prepared to run on this blog on a moment's notice. But it was never started for two reasons. The first is that I was always too busy and the silly perception was that Stan would be around forever. The second is that I could never come up with an approach that satisfied me. The man was a legend to the industry and well beyond, outside our 4-color universe. He was the single best known comic book creator in the world, bolstered into the stratosphere by virtue of a score or more of movie cameos. His name was so associated with Marvel Comics, and comics in general, that at least half of the written tributes I've seen by newspapers and magazines since his passing still incorrectly called him the sole "creator" of all the characters he was associated with.
I've studied the history of Marvel Comics and its owner Martin Goodman for nearly 40 years now. My only interest is really the years up through 1969 and my "main" interest has always been 1939 to 1961. In fact, I probably know more about the company and their physical product during the years 1939 to 1961 than anyone in the world. And by corollary, I probably know more about the physical products Stan Lee produced during the years 1939 to 1961 than anyone in the world.
So what was I going to write about? Most of the tributes talk about the innovative Marvel years of the 1960's and the incredibly successful movies of the last 15 years. Some of the better articles with less sugar-coating address the darker side of Lee's Marvel years and the perception of how credit was taken from some artists who did the bulk of the "writing" by plotting the stories in pictures. I'm very happy to see at least some of the mainstream press articles address this because it's very important.
My understanding of the "credit" problem has been mercurial over the decades. I loved the Marvel books of the 1960's. I cut my comic book teeth on them (pun intended). But I came of age in the early 1970's when Stan Lee was already gone from the day-to day writing of comic books so I wasn't a member (literally or spiritually) of the 1960's MMMS club, nor was I one of Stan's gang of "True Believers". I digested the entire 1960's canon and cherished it from the moment I read it. Regardless of whether some people believe it was partially colored through the lens of being 10 years old in 1971 is besides the point. It was special. A synchronicity of time, people and circumstances.... Time: the 1960's; People: a handful of creative giants; Circumstances: the pop-culture milieu of societal upheaval and social change.
But against the backdrop of a deeper study of comic book history, as the decades passed, problems arose in my mind about the "official" version fed to the outside world. Stuff didn't make sense, stuff beyond the fact that Stan was certainly the most vocal and successful cheerleader for both Marvel Comics "the company", and the industry in general. And the more I delved into the history, the less sense it seemed to make.
How did someone who was an excellent editor, yet pedestrian, run-of-the-mill comics writer all of a sudden have a creative epiphany? How did a powerhouse of creativity and innovation, both solo and as part of the most successful 1940's and 1950's creative duo in comics history, all of a sudden be downgraded to "just a pair of hands?"
A working knowledge of the career of Jack Kirby easily demonstrates that he had been "writing" comic book stories and creating characters and universes from the moment he picked up a brush, both before and after his association with Stan Lee. Aliens, super-powered heroes, mythological concepts meshing into modern times, he had already done it all, including at Timely. These characters and universes still form part of the core of comic book publishing at both Marvel and DC.
Stan also wrote comic book stories before the Marvel explosion, created pedestrian characters by the busload, although most are forgotten today. Stan's creative output before the 1960's ebbed and flowed, competing for time with his enormous editorial duties of supervising a company that by the mid 1950's had almost 85 different titles. He broke in with a burst of superhero stories, went off to war, dove into funny-animal tales, retreated to editorial duties, wrote a handful of book-length mystery stories in 1948, penned derivative teen-humor and dealt with the Fredric Wertham fiasco. His strong point during the middle Atlas years, in addition to run-of-the-mill genre stories (primarily pre-code horror and post-code western fillers) was mainly "dumb-blonde" teen humor books (yes, it was once actually a genre) with snappy patter and wise-cracking exposition, something he was very good at and enormously successful. These book were extremely funny, had long runs, and he worked intimately with some of the best of the best in this genre, including the great Dan DeCarlo. He even folded this talent into several attempts to get out of the dregs of the comic book business and into newspaper comics syndication. Some were moderately successful but all ended without any real long-term success.
What happened at Marvel starting with the introduction of Fantastic Four #1 was a kismet moment. A creative engine of innovation with no place else to go met a jocular wordsmith with a felicity of expression. The end result was something not quite seen before in superhero comics. The creative engine of innovation then moved on and kept creating and innovating. The jocular wordsmith also moved on, continually jocular wordsmithing, but now it was as a figurehead, to live audiences and years later, ultimately Hollywood. That theoretically would be fine and in a perfect and fair world years later both creators should have commiserated and fondly looked back on their time spent together, soaking up well deserved adulation from fans. But that was not to be. The strain causing the rift never relented and only increased as the decades went on. For a complex set of reasons, a mixture of some parts ego, some parts corporate dictate and some parts poor reporting by the mainstream press, one side of the equation received the vast majority of the creative credit, an amount that in my measured estimation, only comes to about 30% of what appears on the printed page.
We can quibble about exact amounts because it's difficult to quantify artistic creation among collaborators in a piecemeal business. The main problem is that there were no scripts. The method of creation depended on the artist to plot the stories after a discussion, or a paragraph summary, or one or two sentences, or even on his own. The plotted stories were then delivered back with copious notes in the margins explaining what was going on, often with rudimentary dialogue. Stan would then use these guidelines and turn on the "jocular wordsmith with a felicity of expression" mode, giving them a sheen, a voice, or a "read", usually in full alignment with the artist-plotted continuity, although on rare occasions pulling the story in an awkwardly different, and in my opinion, inferior direction. The end result was something different to what was usually found on the newsstands and was embraced by rabid fans. It was a collaboration, certainly, just not an equal one.
Further, at different times different amounts of contributions were made. But if you jump over the earlier years of initial growth where Jack Kirby was penciling voluminously, and measuring contributions is more difficult as the company flew by the seat of its pants, and examine the expansion years 1965-1967 (when Jack was settled into just a few books) you find a burst of creativity on a scale never seen before, where issue after issue, characters, universes and concepts exploded across the pages in a frenetic torrent. Then like a tap turned off, it abruptly, purposely, stopped. Within a few years that same explosion of creativity... characters, concepts and universes happened again, this time for a different company. The exact same can be said of the other main artistic collaborator, Steve Ditko. At one point, during the near exact same period, a burst of creativity on an unheard scale ensued during the time Ditko was receiving demanded plotting credit on both Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. Unlike the tap being turned off in the previous example, Ditko just finally walked away in disgust.
And this doesn't even address the arguments of who actually created or initiated the idea for all the characters of the early Marvel universe. Stan's solo claims were decidedly set down, possibly by corporate dictate, with the Origins books in 1974, and for several years after. Jack Kirby's claims were diametrically opposed to what was in those books, claiming he brought the concepts to nearly all of the characters to Stan, rather than receiving working orders from Stan. Decades of dispute would culminate with Disney settling with the Jack Kirby Estate and both receiving co-creator credit. However, an official, legal credit still does not necessarily have to line up with historical accuracy.
But Marvel in the 1960's was more than just the stories. Stan's stamp was all over the concept of a "Marvel Comic". Letter pages ran Stan's responses back to the letter writers. Beloved corresponding secretary Flo Steinberg caused teen-age boys (and grown men) to swoon. Over the top promotion of the company corralled kids into getting onto the ground floor of the coolest club in town. Stan's Soapbox page told readers every month what was going on in all the books, what was happening the next issues, letting fans in on secrets and promoting every person who worked at the "bullpen" like they were rock stars, including instituting credit boxes that gave shout outs to everyone down to the letterer. Stan worked this marketing angle better than anyone in the history of the medium. He was a master showman, part P.T. Barnum, part carnival barker, but not selling a quack remedy. He was hawking a product that delivered and fans ate up. It was fun, it was cool and the stories were a blast, even garnering notice on college campuses and in academia.
So at the very least, we can say with full truthfulness that Stan Lee created and produced "Marvel Comics", the entity. And that's what a lot of fans love and recall.
I knew Stan Lee in a faint acquaintance sort of way. I met him twice, once he and his entourage walked right past me outside in the back of the San Diego con and he stopped to talk for a minute with me. The other time I arranged in advance to meet and introduce him to the youngest daughter, Nancy, of his late friend and collaborator, the great Joe Maneely. We spent about 10 minutes talking together about Joe. After the ten minutes were up, his handlers pulled him back to a line of fans paying $50 a pop to have him place his signature on sundry items. The line seemed to snake for 10 miles. I couldn't even contemplate ever wanting to stand in such a line, but folks did by the multitude.
Even my wife Maggie ran into Stan at his last San Diego appearance in 2017, only several weeks after the passing of his wife. I detailed that HERE. Maggie mentioned my name to him and he responded with recognition and regards. All the rest of our interaction was via e-mail. I had his private e-mail address and for years queried him on nothing but early Timely history. He was actually quite happy to talk about those years, away from all the standard questions and potential conflicts. I uncovered tidbits of stuff no one knew about and he was happy to recollect this stuff just by our back and forth dialogue. Let me tell you, Stan's memory was not as bad as he always claimed. He dug up stuff from as far back as his first year at Timely, who his best friend on staff was, what they did together, etc. Stan was amazed about the obscure people I was asking about, wondering how I even knew about them at all, as many were nothing but lost footnotes to comics history.
Well, this is a blog about Timely and Atlas history and Stan Lee was the editor-in-chief of Timely and Atlas. Most of the people both inside and outside of comics know very little about what Stan Lee did before Fantastic Four #1. Incredibly, at one time, the assumption was that he probably wrote everything Timely/Atlas published. That is so far from the truth as to be patently ridiculous. There were scores of writers and editors under him for a good deal of the time, doing the majority of the creation of Timely/Atlas' comics. Stan oversaw it all, did some editing and some writing.
Every single thing he did will be shown here. I'm taking all the guesswork out of it. As I lay out Stan's Timely and Atlas years, use this as the basis to weigh against the explosion of creativity that launched with Fantastic Four #1 and developed even further in the following few years. Look at what came before and contrast against what came after. Will there be strands that connect the two eras? Did Stan do anything in the 20 year period prior to Marvel's launch that hinted he was the fount of creativity with universe launching talents? We'll see....
*** Note ***
(All the credits below in this article were sourced from the credits in the actual books. Stan had been signing his name on everything he touched from the moment he arrived at Timely. The idea that he wrote and didn't sign it has been rejected by myself in analyzing his career. That said, could a signature have been accidentally left out, a stat fallen off? Of course. But for the most part, for 99% of everything he wrote, he signed. He even signed paper doll pages, fashion pages, letter pages, contest pages... pages that didn't even require a signature to identify who put it together. Yet, he signed them. So it's a safe bet to go under the impression that if Stan wrote it, he signed it. if he didn't sign it, he most likely didn't write it. Where I think differently, I will note it.)
Stan Lee was born in Manhattan on December 28, 1922 to Romanian-Jewish parents, Jack Lieber and Celia Solomon. The only other sibling Larry was born in 1931. Graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, after a series of odd jobs, he landed at Timely Comics in the McGraw Hill Building just after turning 18, in January of 1941, at nearly the exact moment Captain America #1 appeared on the newsstands.
Timely Comics was the latest publishing line of the notorious Red Circle pulp publisher Martin Goodman, who entered the pulp industry originally partnered with future Archie Comics publisher Louis Silberkleit in 1933 (the partnership dissolved in 1934). Pulps, true-crime detective magazines, Esquire-like girly publications, Reader's Digest knock-offs and even Gernsback Sexology clones, there was nothing being published that Goodman wouldn't attempt to duplicate in a slightly inferior and cheaper manner.
In 1939 Frank Torpey, the salesman for comic shop packager Lloyd Jacquet's Funnies Incorporated, convinced Goodman that the next big trend in publishing was comic books. An aforementioned fierce follower of trends, Goodman had certainly seen the enormous success of National's Superman in Action Comics and later Batman in Detective Comics, and needed minimal prodding. Jacquet's company provided the material for what would become Marvel Comics #1 (Oct/39), Goodman taking the name "Marvel" from his Marvel Science Stories pulp magazine. With a pulp cover painting by Hugo Gernsback's favorite cover artist Frank R. Paul, Goodman published a litany of new adventure characters including the Human Torch by Carl Burgos and the Sub-Mariner by Bill Everett, a character that had been sitting on the shelf....... sort of.
***** (One of the Jacquet shop's very first jobs when they began was a premium giveaway comic book titled Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly, unique to us because of the inclusion in that issue of the underwater hero feature The Sub-Mariner, written and drawn by Bill Everett. There is long debate as to whether this book was actually ever published and given-away. It was not even known to exist until the early 1970's, when a handful of file copies were discovered in the Jacquet estate, leading to the still ongoing contention as to what was actually the debut of Everett's Sub-Mariner, Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly #1 or Marvel Comics #1, which published the feature padded with an additional 4 pages. Included in that estate find were also cover proofs for issues #2, #3 and #4. That debate is for another time.) *****
Married to Martin Goodman's older sister Sylvia, was Robbie Solomon, who was also a brother to Stan's mother Celia. It was "Uncle Robbie" who told Stan about a job opening at his brother-in-law's publishing company and Stan jumped at the chance, figuring it was a way to bigger and better things. Stan's job was office "gopher", and he wiled the time away erasing pencils from artwork, filling inkwells and buying lunch for the staff, mainly consisting of newly hired editor Joe Simon and art director Jack Kirby, both fresh from a tenure at Fox Feature Syndicate the year before, and flush with success from their masterpiece, Captain America Comics.
So let's set the stage. As Stan Lee arrives at Timely, the comic book operation is small. Joe Simon is editor and Jack Kirby is art director. They, with a cache of artists working for them outside Timely, are producing the monthly Captain America Comics. Already running since 1939 was Marvel Mystery Comics, then in early 1940 came Daring Mystery Comics, Mystic Comics, Human Torch Comics and the just launched Sub-Mariner Comics. The vast amount of material for Marvel Mystery, Human Torch and Sub-Mariner was coming from the Lloyd Jacquet shop. Mystic had material as varied as from the Jacquet and the Harry Chesler shops. Daring Mystery was a combination of in-house and shop material, and as mentioned, Captain America was primarily Simon & Kirby shop.
According to both Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Stanley Lieber was a pest to both of them, frequently badgering editor Simon to let him write something. Simon finally relented and gave him one of the 2-page text pieces necessary for comic books to qualify for second class postage. The result was Stan's first published work,
Captain America Comics #3 (May/41)
Text Story - "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge", published on March 17, 1941.
For this debut Stanley Lieber came up with a pseudonym, Stan Lee, hoping to save his real name for when he would one day write the great American novel. Coincidentally, the artist on this first text story was Jack Kirby.
And with that first story under his belt, the assignments keep coming. Simon feeds Stan a steady diet of text stories needed for Captain America Comics, Marvel Mystery Comics, and a troika of new books planned.
The very next month, a second text story with the Stan Lee by-line would appear.
Captain America Comics #4 (June/41)
Text Story - "Captain America and the Bomb Sight Thieves", published on April 15, 1941. Again, the illustration is by Jack Kirby.
Marvel Mystery Comics #21 (July/41)
Text Story - "The Story Behind the Cover", published May 15, 1941. The artist here is Carl Burgos, the creator of the Human Torch.
We now come to Stan Lee's first published comic book story. Historically, almost every reference always gave this debut as a story in Captain America Comics #5 (Aug/41), but the reality is that three different stories appeared almost simultaneously on the newsstands. Sorting out the cover dates versus the actual publishing dates allowed me to decisively refute this several years ago on this very blog.
With Simon and Kirby at the helm, two new titles were launched within a week of each other, U.S.A. Comics #1 (Aug/41) and All Winners Comics #1 (Summer/41). At the same time Captain America Comics #5 (Aug/41) also was published. All three issues carried comic book stories by Stan Lee and sorting out them out by publication dates reveals the following.....
U.S.A. Comics #1 (Aug/41) "Jack Frost" - published May 15, 1941
All Winners Comics #1 (Summer/41) "Black Marvel" - published May 19, 1941
Captain America Comics #5 (Aug/41) "Headline Hunter" - published May 27, 1941
The Jack Frost story wins. This is Stan Lee's very first published comic book story.
U.S.A. Comics #1 (Aug/41) "Jack Frost" - published May 15, 1941
Filled with a cacophony of staff and freelance stories, including the first entry of Rockman by Basil Wolverton (freelancing from Washington state) and The Whizzer by Al Avison and Al Gabriele, Stan's debut story Jack Frost is illustrated by Charles Wojtkoski (Charles Nicholas) and somewhat derivative of Bill Everett's Sub-Mariner in manner and anti-hero sensibilities.
Four day later, Stan Lee's second comic book story was published in All Winners Comics #1 (Summer/41), on May 19, 1941. The artists are veterans of the Simon & Kirby shop that is producing Captain America Comics, Al Avison and Al Gabriele. All Winners Comics was stocked with Jacquet shop features loaned from Marvel Mystery Comics (Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, Angel) and staff/freelance work (Captain America, Black Marvel).
All Winners Comics #1 (Summer/41)
Black Marvel - "The Order of the Hood" (12 pages) - published May 19, 1941. Art by Al Avison & Al Gabriele.
The Black Marvel had already appeared previously in Mystic Comics #5 (Mar/41) and makes his second appearance here.
Text Story: "All Winners". The artist is Ed Winiarski.
Sub-Mariner Comics #2 (Summer/41), published on July 3, 1941. Bill Everett is the artist.
Text Story - "The Story Behind the Cover"
Human Torch Comics #5a (Summer/41), published on July 11, 1941. Carl Burgos is the artist.
Text Story - "The Human Torch and Sub-Mariner Battle the Nazi Super Shell of Death!"
Young Allies Comics #1 (Summer/41), published on July 23, 1941.
The last feature this cover month is a three-page filler by an unknown shop artist, "Unsolved Mysteries" in another newly launched title, Young Allies Comics #1 (Summer/41).
Unsolved Mysteries - (3 pages). Artist unknown.
Finally we get to what "used" to be known as Stan Lee's first comic book story. It's now considered his third. The attributed artist is Harry Fisk.When I did the credits for the Captain America Comics golden-age Masterworks and Omnibus, I corralled two of the best art spotters of this period in the entire world to help me, Jim Vadeboncouer Jr. and the late, great Hames Ware. Puzzled beyond belief on the artist for this feature, It was Hames who suggested it very well may be Harry Fisk. This is not a definitive decision, just a best guess scenario.
Captain America Comics #5 (Aug/41) "Headline Hunter" - published May 27, 1941.
Text Story: "Captain America and the Ruby Robbers". The artist is Jack Kirby.
Marvel Mystery Comics #22 (Aug/41), published on June 12, 1941.
Text Story: "Dunkirk Incident"
Captain America Comics #6 (Sept/41): published on June 25, 1941.
Stan writes a new feature called "Father Time", another filler to pad out the title, in addition to Headline Hunter. The credits state the character was created by Simon & Kirby and "narrated" to Stan Lee. The artists are Al Avison and Al Gabriele. He also pens the text story.
Father Time: (6 pages). Illustrated by Al Avison & Al Gabriele.
Headline Hunter: "Battles the Engine of Destruction" (4 pages)
Text Story: "Trap for a Traitor" .
Marvel Mystery Comics #23 (Sept/41) : published on July 13, 1941.
The Vision was created by Jack Kirby and launched in Marvel Mystery Comics #13 (Nov/40).
Text Story: "The Vision Speaks!"
All Winners Comics #2 (Fall/41): published on August 15, 1941.
Stan writes a long 12 page story illustrated by Paul Reinman as well as the issues's text story.
The Whizzer: (12 pages)
Text Story: "Winners All"
Captain America Comics #7 (Oct/41): published on August 4, 1941.
Headline Hunter (5 pages)
Text Story: "A Message From Captain America"
Marvel Mystery Comics #24 (Oct/41): published on August 18, 1941.
Text Story: "Who Robbed the Carter Bank?"
Mystic Comics #6 (Oct/41): published on July 31, 1941.
The Destroyer - (15 pages) illustrated by Jack Binder (or the Binder shop)
Text Story: "The Mystic Line-Up"
*** INTERLUDE #1 ***
Up to this point, 19 year old Stan Lee had been toiling on text features and superhero stories, all in Timely's comic books. Cover date Oct/41 also saw Stan branch out into other Goodman non-comic book types of publication. Humor and girly-humor publications in general were already a large part of Goodman's other newsstand product as well as being published by every single publisher that existed.
Goodman's humor magazine knock-offs were introduced in this order...
Snap (Aug/40) - bedsheet
Zest (Mar/41) - bedsheet
Zippy (May/41) - bedsheet
Jest (July/41) - bedsheet
Gayety (Sept/41) - bedsheet
Joker (Oct/41) - digest, bedsheet, standard magazine
Comedy (Jan/42) - digest
The editor of these magazines seemed to alternate between Harry Douglas and Martin's youngest brother, David Goodman. Stan Lee makes his first appearance in the one-shot digest Joker, on three separate pages. (The only person to sign their text material.) This title would re-start shortly after as a large bedsheet (Life Magazine size) and run 4 more issues as Volume #1-4 on a quarterly basis. As we will see below, it will also concurrently become a comic book at the same time.
Joker Vol 1, #1 (Oct/41): (digest)
Headline Hunter - "The Plague of Death" (5 pages)
Text Story: "The Young Allies Deal a Blow for Justice"
Marvel Mystery Comics #25 (Nov/41): published on September 18, 1941.
The seeds of future cross-overs in the Marvel universe are planted here as Stan assembles all the characters starring in Marvel Mystery Comics in this 2-page text story.
Text Story: "Marvel Get-Together"
U.S.A. Comics #2 (Nov/41): published on August 28, 1941.
More cross-over action in U.S.A. Comics as the heroes from diverse features meet....
Text Story: "When U.S.A. Heroes Meet!"
A trio of quarterly published features this month provide a puzzle as Stan Lee changes around how he presents himself.
All Winners Comics #3 (Winter 1941/42): published on December 27, 1941.
Captain America - "The Canvas of Doom!" (12 pages)
At first it seems that Stan has just decided to try another pseudonym, this time S.T. Anley (Stanley, get it?) but the credits read as follows, "Art & Editorial by Al Avison and S.T. Anley". So what does this actually mean? Well, Al Avison has drawn this Captain America loan from the main Cap book. What does "editorial" mean? Does it mean Stan Lee wrote it? Does it mean he edited it and an unnamed author wrote it? Why would he be editing so early when Joe Simon was the de facto editor. The answer is I just don't know. The writing credit has gone to Stan in all the indices and until someone who can analyze writing quirks comes along and disputes it, this is Stan's first Captain America story.
The Destroyer - "The Secret Tunnel of Death!" (12 pages). Illustrated by Chad Grothkopf
The splash page heralds "From the Famous Character Created by Stan Lee". What does that mean? Well, the obvious is that Stan created the character, making The Destroyer his first acknowledged character creation, having already appeared last issue in a story written by Otto Binder and illustrated by his older brother Jack (or the Binder shop). And before that, as seen above, Stan wrote the initial entry in Mystic Comics #6 (Oct/41). Did he write this story? All the splash says is that it's "from the famous character created by Stan Lee." I don't know but as before, the indices have given the writing credit to Stan. I'm somewhat doubtful he wrote this. I believe he's just making sure the reader knows he created the character, a possible early foreshadowing of a pattern of credit attributing we will see decades hence.
The Whizzer - "Terror Prison" (12 pages). Illustrated by Mike Sekowsky and George Klein.
Stan tries yet another pseudonym, this time Neel Nats (sort of Stan Lee backwards).
Captain America Comics #9 (Dec/41), published on September 30, 1941.
Headline Hunter - "Death in the Alps" (5 pages)
Text Story: "Dead Man's Ring"
Mystic Comics #7 (Dec/41): published on September 30, 1941
The Destroyer - "The Machine of Death" (15 pages), illustrated by Al Avison.
Text Story: "Heritage of Destruction"
At about this point I will pause because machinations were underway that would completely change the direction of Timely Comics and comics history hereafter. Editor Joe Simon and art director Jack Kirby were a veritable powerhouse of hit features, capable of turning out one success after another, each more exciting and innovative than the last. They had made a fortune for Martin Goodman on the success of Captain America Comics #1, and it surpassed all expectations.
Leading up to the first issue, Joe Simon interested Martin Goodman with the idea of a patriotic hero, showing him a sketch he had earlier done to work up the character. Publisher M.L.J. was already having great success with The Shield and the main money backing M.L.J. was Goodman's old mentor and now rival, Louis Silberkleit, owner and publisher of Columbia Publications.
*** (According to Joe Simon in his 2011 autobiography, "Joe Simon, My Life In Comics" (Titan Books), it was at this time, following the end of their tenure at Victor Fox, that Simon came up with the concept idea for Captain America. Joe and Jack put together a cadre of artists to produce the first issue and it was put on the shelf as Joe was recruited by Martin Goodman ) ***
Goodman didn't know they had the entire complete issue of Captain America #1 already done but agreed wholeheartedly and gave Simon the go-ahead on the new title. Simon also negotiated a deal where Simon & Kirby would receive a 25% stake in the profits, 15% for Joe and 10% for Jack.
As the following issues continued to sell like wildfire, Simon and Kirby were a hit machine and began to wonder when all the royalties (a 25% stake) they were promised by Martin Goodman would materialize. They certainly confronted the publisher at some point but were mostly rebuffed. As their concern began to grow and grow, it was Maurice Coyne who had the answer. Recall that Maurice Coyne was Goodman's accountant and notary. Maurice Coyne was "also" a partner in M.L.J. Magazines, the comic book wing of Columbia Publications (which would shortly in a few years be called Archie Comics).
Coyne told Joe Simon that Goodman was putting all the company's expenses on Captain America Comics. So after deducting all expenses across the line, .... there were no profits! I don't even think "livid" properly describes what Simon and Kirby were likely feeling. Perhaps they were tired of running the creative end of the company or felt there was no future under such baldfaced dishonesty, the end result was Simon and Kirby made the decision to leave, contacting DC Comics, who immediately offered them a huge raise and offers of unlimited work under their "hit" byline.
The decision made, they began to work off-site on material for Harry Donenfeld while still working for Timely. At some point, Stan Lee noted that something was up between the duo. Rumor has it that he actually once followed them to their moonlighting quarters, and was sworn to secrecy. As they were working on Captain America #10, they were finally confronted by the Goodman brothers Martin, Abe, David and Robbie Solomon... really, the entire family hierarchy of the company. They fired Simon & Kirby on the spot for disloyalty and insisted they complete issue #10 before they left, which was easily done. I believe to his dying day Jack Kirby suspected it was Stan Lee who ratted them out. Joe Simon, not so much.
*** Writer's Digest (Feb/42) ***
"The comics belonging to the Red Circle group are now edited by Stan Lee, who replaces Joe Simon."
It's interesting to note that Goodman's Timely Comics line were still known in the greater publishing industry as just a subsidiary of his Red Circle pulp line
At the young age of 19 and two months, Stan was now running the show.
Stag Vol 1, #1 (Jan/42): (digest)
The second non-comics girly-humor magazine Stan Lee appeared was the first Goodman incarnation of Stag. A one-shot digest like Joker before it, the history of this title is so convoluted I had to devote an entire article to it HERE.
And a final double page spread....
Captain America Comics #14 (May/42): published on March 5, 1942.
The Imp - (10 pages), illustrated by Chad Grotkopf
The great Chad Grotkopf possibly with a help from Al Jaffee. I showed this story to Jaffee and he thought it possible he worked on it under Chad. Miraculously, I own a page of the original art to this story!
Mystic Comics #9 (May/42): published on March 2, 1942.
Once again the splash states "From the Famous Character Created by Stan Lee." Did Stan write this? Or is he just reminding the reader he created the character? I don't know but he's getting the credit in all the indices so I'll post the splash below.
The Destroyer - (14 pages), illustrated by Chad Grothkopf
The Challenger - "Horror Mansion" (8 pages), by Mike Sekowsky, inked by George Klein
Captain America Comics #15 (June/42): published on April 6, 1942.
The Imp - (10 pages), illustrated by Chad Grotkopf
Comedy Vol 1, #2 (June/42): Cover by Peter Driben.
The third non comics humor appearance by Stan was in the girly digest Comedy, which ran 6 issues concurrent to the comic book of the same name. Pulp and good-girl artist Peter Driben renders the cover. Stan's piece is illustrated by Timely staffer Bill King.
Captain America Comics #16 (July/42): published on April 30, 1942.
Captain America - "Red Skull's Deadly Revenge!" (24 pages)
A beautiful double page splash by Al Avison fronts this long 24 page Captain America story by Stan.
The Imp - (7 pages), illustrated by Chad Grotkopf
Captain America X-tra (4 pages) - Art by Al Avison & George Klein
Two non-comics Oct/42 cover-dated entries.
Comedy Vol 1, #3 (Oct/42): Cover by Peter Driben.
The second non-comics entry is part of the earlier mentioned Stag geneology..
Male Home Companion Vol 1, #1 (Oct/42): Cover by Cardwell Higgins.
A way to use up inventory for the failed Esquire clone attempt that crashed and burned as "The Kugelmass Episode". A flurry of Timely comic book and pulp artists filled this magazine, including two contributions by Stan Lee......
"The Madman of Peakskill Point" - illustrated by Ralph Carlson.
Stan Lee as Stanley Martin.
"Where is Thy Sting?" - Illustrations by Don Rico.
*** INTERLUDE #2 ***
In early 1942, after 30 months of publishing superhero comic books to spectacular success and profits, Martin Goodman decided the time was ripe to diversify the comic book line. Humor comics had been a staple of syndicated newspaper comics and was always a background filler to super hero comic stories, as well as making inroads to all-humor content.
Within a 6 month period starting with cover date Apr/42 (an on-sale date of January, 1942), four humor comic book titles debuted. The first two were comic book clones of same-titled digests and bedsheet girly humor magazines already on the stands, Comedy Comics and Joker Comics. Both versions of Comedy and Joker, comic books and girly magazines, were on the newsstands concurrently, possibly leading to some confusion.
Comedy Comics started its numbering with #9 (Apr/42), and was published on January 22, 1942. The indicia has the title starting with Vol 2, possibly to distinguish it from the girly-digest run. The first two issues featured orphaned superhero features left over from its previous title numbering, Daring Mystery Comics, including Captain Dash, Citizen V, The Silver Scorpion, The Fin, Victory Boys, The Fourth Musketeer and Kid Columbus, in addition to humor features filling out the thick issues.
Joker Comics #1 (Apr/42) was published on January 22, 1942. The indicia has the title starting with Vol 1, probably because the one-shot digest had not yet restarted as the bedsheet. (It will shortly, as Spring/42). The contents were straight humor with contributors from the Jacquet shop, freelancers and staffers.
Krazy Komics #1 (July/42) was published on May 21, 1942. The contents were primarily funny-animal stories.
Terrytoons #1 (Oct/42) was published on August 3, 1942, featured funny-animal characters licensed from the Paul Terry studio.
From the June 6, 1942 issue of Showmen's Trade Review...
Stan Lee was the helm of these titles but the only scripted story that appears in the first 7 months was a 4-page war propaganda piece penciled by Ed Winiarski and inked by George Klein, featuring the characters Gandy Goose, Bertie Mouse, Dinky Duck and Sourpuss.
On November 9, 1942, Stan Lee enlisted in the service. In the months prior to his departure, a former Max Fleischer studio animation artist named Vince Fago came north from Florida and freelanced for Timely coinciding with the move into humor comics. Fago's talents from the animation industry were evident on the fast-paced, frenetic funny-animal stories now in demand. Stan and Vince were very friendly and Stan offered him his job while he was in the service, with the idea that he would give it back when the war was over. Vince accepted and oversaw Timely rapid expansion into humor comics, both funny-animal and teen, over the next three years.
The very last things Stan wrote at Timely before leaving were published in four different titles with Jan/43 cover dates, Young Allies #6, and the following three humor/funny-animal stories, one each in Terrytoons #4, Krazy Komics #5 and Comedy Comics #13. While war themes are extremely strong in the superhero stories of the period, this spills over into the humor titles as funny-animal stars did their job rooting out Fifth Columnists and skulking anthropomorphic Axis saboteurs. Look for the appearance of Axis leaders including Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito.
Comedy Comics #13 (Jan/43), published on November 24, 1942.
Starting over in the #4 (Dec/42) issue of Krazy Komics, carrying over to this issue of Comedy Comics (and the next) and half the run of Terrytoons, the inside front covers sported a credits page that identified all the artists, writers, inkers and letterers in joking, often hilarious fashion. It becomes a scavenger hunt to figure out who did what!
Let's try to break it down...
- Stan Lee is at the top as "Editorial and Art Director". So he's top dog.
- Bill King is an "Associate". That means nothing. King was an inker and letterer and worked in production.
- Vince Fago and Ernest Hart are "Supervisors". In reality they are pencilers.
- Mel Barry is "Technical Advisor". Mel Barry is actually art editor Mel Blum. According to Allen Bellman, Mel would often take his brother Barry's first name as his last name!
- Frank Carino (Carin), A. Allan Jaffee, Dennis Neville and Kin Plat are "Layout Designers". They are really pencilers.
- Gary Keller. Mario Acquaviva and David Gantz are "Special Effects". Keller and Acquaviva were letterers. Gantz was probably inking. I'd never heard of him lettering.
- Geo. Klein, M. Sekowsky and E. Win (Winiarski) are "Chiefs of Staff". Sekowsky and Winiarski penciled, Klein inked near exclusive.
- Robert Solomon is "Consulting Expert", meaning pain in the ass.
- Stanley Martin is a "Script and Story Specialist", meaning just another way for Stan to get his name in twice!
Widjit Witch - (8 pages), illustrated by Kin Platt.
Krazy Komics had a credit page from issue #3 (Nov/42) to #13 (Jan/44).
Let's break issue #3's credits down...
- Stan Lee - "Editorial and Art Director", top dog.
- Bill King - "Associate", production primarily.
- Mel Barry - "Technical Advisor", in reality Mel Blum.
- George Klein, Michael Sekowsky, Ed Winiarski, Kin Platt, Abe Allen Jaffee - "Animation Superintendents", they were pencilers.
- M. Worth, Ernest Hart - "Designing Technicians", pencilers. M. Worth was Moe Worthman.
- Gary Kay, Mario Acquaviva, David Gantz - "Special Effects", letterers and Gantz likely inking.
- Stanley Martin, William Clayton, Joe Calcagno - "Story Dept", writers. William Clayton is in reality Bill King, as in William Clayton King. So Stan Lee and Bill King both get mentioned twice to pad the credits.
- Robert Solomon - Consulting Associate" - annoyance.
A little about William Clayton King, AKA Bill King. About a dozen years ago I picked Stan Lee's memory about his earliest years at Timely. His notoriously bad memory was not in fact a reality. I learned that if you asked him about particular things like stories, credits, etc, he didn't really have any definite answers mainly because he was supervising up to 50 titles a month, doing some writing on the side, assigning work, dictating one-line plots to writers under him, and overall producing a product that he didn't give more than a passing thought about. But if you nailed him down to particular people and events, he recalled a lot in full clarity.
I asked him about Bill King, since King's name is all over these funny-animal credits in one capacity or another, as well as known to have worked on early Captain America stories as one of the inkers and letterers, as well as having his name on all the house ads and possibly doing masthead credits and even worked on Silly Seal & Ziggy Pig in some capacity. Stan didn't really recall the name, which I thought strange, other than there being someone in the magazine department he thinks had that name.
"If he's the Bill King I'm thinking of he was actually in the magazine department rather than the comics department. (The company also published regular magazines). He certainly might have worked on masthead designs etc. with me, although I don't think he ever did any actual artwork for the comics. he was a helluva nice guy and he and I were very friendly. I always wondered what happened to him because, after the war, I never heard from him again."
Then I approached it a different way. I asked him about William Clayton (who was the same person) and immediately Stan had full realization who I was talking about.....
"Now I know the guy I was thinking of -- his name WAS William Clayton King. he was actually a very good friend for the short time we were together. I think he was my best friend at the company! He was thin and raw-boned and there was a New England look about him. We also went horse-back riding together."
"Is he no longer with us? I've always wondered what happened to him, why I never heard from him after the war. There was an expression he always used which I used to kid him about, and dammit now I can't remember what it was, but I can see him before me as clear as day. He was a great guy!"
I then told Stan that King had contributed a ton of cartoons in 1941 and 1942 to Martin Goodman's girly humor magazines (as well as for other publishers, including Victor Fox's Grin and Swank) and likewise entered the service in November of 1942. After the war he went into commercial art in Providence, Rhode Island, and as art director for Lawrence and Brooks advertising agency. He had a long and productive career, publishing some cartoons in The New Yorker and later illustrating his daughter Lois' book, "Wings in the Sea: The Humpback Whale " (University of New England Press, 1985). As an ad artist he did a lot of work for jewelry companies, including Colibri. Twice over the last 20 years I've been in contact with King's daughter and grandson. I hope to learn more about him and will present what I find here on this blog.
Here are two cartoons done for Victor Fox's Grin Vol 1, #8 (Mar/41).....
Little Lester - (9 pages), illustrated by Vince Fago.
And a request by Stan to write in and request another Little Lester story. I wonder if any original, signed drawings were done and exist to this day?
Stan (Bobo Lee) is also mentioned in this issue on the splash page of "The Creeper and Homer" by Ed Winiarski, along with Mike Sekowski (Bad Check), George Klein (Toothy Klein), Vince Fago (Varicose Vince), Syd Shores (alias Chimpanzee), Don Rico (Rhatt Rico) and Mel Blum (Bum Blum)
As noted above, both Stan Lee and Bill King worked in production on scores of the full page house ads that peppered the books in 1941 and 1942. Examples below...
Bill King house ad in All Winners Comics #2 (Fall/41) :
Cropped signature at lower left above.....
Lee house ad in Marvel Mystery Comics #34 (Aug/42) :
Lee-King house ad in Comedy Comics #13 (Jan/43) :
Dinky - (8 pages), illustrated by Vince Fago. Published on November 10, 1942.
This Christmas story is gorgeously drawn by the great Vince Fago and the Fleischer Studio animation influence is very strong. The artwork literally looks like it walked off an animated Max Fleischer cartoon. Vince likely did not ink this, the credit probably goes to his brother Al Fago, who did a lot of inking and distinctive lettering for Timely, working directly for his brother, not for Timely. This information was given to me by Vince himself back in July of 2001, when I drove up to Vermont and spent the day with him, his lovely wife D'Ann, and a near-complete collection of Timely funny-animal comic books to look through.
Read! Vol 1, #1 (Jan/43)
One shot magazine that looks to be another way to burn off Stag / Male Home Companion inventory.
*** Writer's Digest (Jan/43) ***
*** Writer's Digest (Mar/43) ***
The exact changeover in editorship from Stan Lee to Vince Fago can be easily identified on the humor book credits where ...
Comedy Comics #13 (Jan/43, published on November 24, 1942) has Stan Lee as "Editorial and Art Director" while #14 (Mar/43, published on January 18, 1943) has Vince Fago.
Krazy Komics #6 (Mar/43, published on January 10, 1943) has Stan Lee as "Editorial and Art Director" while #7 (Mar/43, published on February 11, 1943) has Vince Fago.
Terrytoons #5 (Feb/43) has Stan Lee as "Editorial and Art Director" while #6 (Mar/43) has Vince Fago.
Additionally, Kid Komics equally set the demarcation between issues #1 (Feb/43) [published December 12, 1942, edited by Stan Lee] and #2 (Summer/43) [published June 3, 1943, edited by Vince Fago].
The March, 1943 issue of Writer's Digest announced the change this way...
*** Writer's Digest (Mar/43) ***
Immediately upon enlisting, Stan Lee was assigned to the Signal Corps, a division of the Army dealing with communications and was then across the river in Astoria, Queens. From there he was stationed in several places, all stateside, for the duration of the war. All during his service, while Vince Fago ran the comics line, Stan's name continued to appear on the humor titles masthead credits as "Consulting Editor", and by cover date Aug/43, a full 7 months since his last published story, his by-line once again appeared, writing stories from wherever he was stationed. One place situated was in North Carolina, where he was stationed at Duke University.
One of Stan's close friends was Jim Mooney, then drawing the "Ginch and E.Claude Pennygrabber" feature running monthly in Terrytoons since the very first issue, and would do so right to the end of the title in 1947. Stan would pen eight scripts for Mooney while in the service and Jim told me a hilarious story about these scripts when I interviewed him back in the late 1990's.
"Stan was still writing scripts when he was in the army. I was working on a script at that time called "E. Claude Pennygrabber and the Ginch". Now before he left for the Army, Stan had bought a car in New York, keeping it stored in a garage there. He wanted that car desperately when he was stationed at Duke University, in North Carolina. He wasn't able to use a jeep all the time to get around. So he talked me into driving the car down to North Carolina, with practically no tires. It was really a rattletrap! Stan said, "we could work on some of the funny-animal stuff while you are here.We'll get ahead on things and meet some deadlines." I decided it sounded like fun, although at that age, almost anything sounded like fun. I took off with my wife and baby, and a trunk full of diapers wrapped to the top of the car. It was a pretty unpleasant journey because I was just hoping those tires would hold up. I had to do a few things mechanically on the car myself and had a few other things done on the way down. We arrived and I brought the car to him as safely as I could. We took a hotel there and I couldn't work in the hotel because the baby was making noise and my wife wasn't really too happy about it. Stan said, you know, I have just the thing for you. There a lot of empty laboratories and empty rooms. We'll find a place to work, and we'll get ahead on everything." So he did find me a place to work It was a pathology laboratory. There were all sorts of ghastly things there, pickled eyeballs and diseased brains... intestines floating in huge jars. He found me a desk in the corner with one of those old shade lights that looks like something from The Spirit, hanging over my head. Well believe me, I finished that job pretty fast! We had no problems with deadlines on that because I wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as I could! Later on when Stan was mustered out of the Army, Vince Fago took off."
The New York Times announced on July 14, 1943 that Timely Comics, Inc. had taken a new lease in the Empire State Building. Martin Goodman had now moved his base of operation from the McGraw Hill Building, where he had been since April 15, 1939.
Terrytoons #11 (Aug/43) - The Ginch and E. Claude Pennygrabber (7 pages). Art by Jim Mooney.
Terrytoons #14 (Nov/43) - The Ginch and E. Claude Pennygrabber (8 pages). Art by Jim Mooney.
Published September 29, 1943
Young Allies #10 (Winter/43) - (24 pages) Art by Don Rico. Published September 19, 1943.
Terrytoons #15 (Dec/43) - The Ginch and E. Claude Pennygrabber (7 pages). Art by Jim Mooney.
Published October 29, 1943.
Look at the book titles on the right. Jim Mooney, Stan Lee and Vince Fago are all mentioned.
Terrytoons #16 (Jan/44) - The Ginch and E. Claude Pennygrabber (8 pages). Art by Jim Mooney.
The 4th and last issue of the 2nd Goodman magazine incarnation of Joker (there is a concurrent comic book and there will be a post-war digest that ultimately becomes a Humorama publication.) An over-sized bedsheet, the issue is filled with primarily humorous girly cartoons.
Terrytoons #17 (Feb/44) - Published on December 21, 1943.
A possible trifecta of Stan Lee stories in a killer Timely comic book. The first two are signed, the third has a "hint" on the last page. Also, notice the Atlas globe on this cover. If you want to learn more about Martin Goodman's early 1940's attempt to brand his publications "Atlas" years before his 1950's Atlas News Company became synonymous with his 1950's Atlas comics, read THIS.
1) Frenchy Rabbit and Flippit (8 pages). Art by Vince Fago, Stan Lee as "Cpl. Stan Lee"
The lettering here and the inking are probably Vince's brother Al Fago. This is a Pearl Harbor funny-animal propaganda Christmas story.
2) The Ginch and E. Claude Pennygrabber (8 pages). Art by Jim Mooney.
3) Dinky (8 pages). Art by Vince Fago. Likely inks and lettering, Al Fago.
The final Dinky story is a Christmas tour-de-force that depicts Santa Claus, and gathers all the Paul Terry characters appearing in the book into one story! The last page has both Stan Lee and Vince Fago's name on the presents boxes, making me believe Stan wrote it. One thing to consider supporting the claim for Stan is that he was notorious both before (in superhero text stories above) and after (in the Marvel universe) for crossing over characters in the same story.
Cropped versions of the last panel with the names of Stan Lee and Vince Fago on the presents, along with the names of Terrytoon characters. It's possible Vince wrote this and added both names as they were both editors of the line. But I think not. I think Stan wrote it.
Terrytoons #19 (Apr/44) - The Ginch and E. Claude Pennygrabber (7 pages). Art by Jim Mooney.
Stan came right back to his original job and now lorded it over the staff, by many reports. Adele Hasen, a proofreader who met and fell in love with freelancer Harvey Kurtzman while at Timely, recalled Stan once sending Frank Giacoia home and docking him a day's pay for reading the NY Daily News a few minutes after work starting time. He also enjoyed calling her into his office to complain about things or not knowing the names to funny-animal characters.The way the recollection reads, Stan enjoyed his power.
Stan Lee at Timely Part 3 : The Post-War Years
All Select Comics #11 (Fall/46) - House ad by Stan Lee showing the pervasive nature of the line.
One of the editors on this line was Ernie Hart. Here are a pair of scarce original Jeanie and Frankie scripts by writer Burt Frohman, addressed to editor Ernie Hart......
In 1944 Martin Goodman nearly shut down his one-thriving pulp line to free up paper to publish a teen-girl magazine, Miss America Magazine, which had a small amount of comic material. Edited by Bessie Little and put together out of the offices where Goodman published his film and confession magazines, It was a huge success and launched Patsy Walker to stardom as an ongoing feature created by Stuart Little (Bessie's husband) and Ruth Atkinson), eventually making her the most published teen character in Timely-Atlas history.
The way Al Jaffee described it to me, Stan would have meetings with all the sub-editors and writers to go over the next month's teen titles. An editor would call out a title and Stan would dictate 5 one-line plot ideas to fill the book's stories for the writers. This would be repeated for Millie, Patsy, Tessie, Hedy, Frankie, Lana, Georgie, Cindy, Rusty, Frankie, etc... The entire thing took about a half hour.
Kid Movie Komics #11 (Summer/46) - House ad by Stan Lee asking kids to write in and win a dollar!
Krazy Komics #24 (Oct/46) - A pair of house ad by Stan Lee & Ed Winiarski, and Stan Lee & Al Jaffee on the multitude of Timely funny-animal comics.
Young Allies #20 (Oct/46) - Another house ad with a Lee signature. Art looks to be Syd Shores.
A couple of things happened in 1947 that gave Stan Lee a bit more exposure. First, he self-published a small digest book titled "Secrets Behind The Comics". This 100 page book proposed to give out the "secrets" of how comic books were created at Timely. A lot of it is rubbish as the creation scenario for Captain America puts all the creation praise onto Martin Goodman, without mentioning the actual creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. But it is an otherwise interesting look at the inner workings of writer/artist assignments, etc. Stan got help from the Timely staff with Ken Bald, Dave Berg, Morris Weiss and letterer Mario Acquaviva (who hand-lettered the entire 100 pages!) all contributing. It does reveal new data about who were some of the writers and artists on otherwise unsigned stories. Stan published it out of his home at 15 E. 94th Street in Manhattan by Famous Enterprises, Inc.
That's my copy below. A no-prize if you can decipher all the signatures!
The second thing that happened in 1947 is the appearance by Stan on the cover of the November, 1947 writer's industry trade magazine, Writer's Digest. Appearing distinguished on the cover with a pipe that he did not smoke, Stan contributes a 7-page treatise on the great job prospects for writers who want to break into the comic book industry. Included is the same Blonde Phantom page that was used in Secrets Behind the Comics on page 49. The end lists all the comic companies with their address contact info. That is also my copy below and unfortunately the magazine does not lend itself to scanning the interior without damaging it.
In 1947 Martin Goodman decided that Lev Gleason wasn't going to have all the success with his Crime Does Not Pay, so he launched two crime titles with Fall/47 cover dates.... Official True Crime Cases (published June 30) and Justice Comics (published October 22). Both have covers by Syd Shores.
TWO BRIEF NON-COMIC DIVERSIONS :
1) Summer, 1948
Film Album (Summer/48) - Stan Lee is "Editorial Director"
This was also a good time for Stan to do a little moonlighting in Martin Goodman's Magazine Management.. Goodman launched a new quarterly film photo magazine titled Film Album and Stan became Editorial Director, which is confusing as Gloria Votsis is already the editor and Mel Blum is the art director. So what exactly did Stan do???
2) August, 1950
Focus (Aug/50) Vol 1, #3 - Stan Lee editor, Mel Blum art director
Focus (Oct/50) Vol 1, #4 - Stan Lee editor, "Don't Legalize Prostitution!" (2 p.) as Stanley Martin
Focus (Dec/50) Vol 1, #5 - Stan Lee editor, Mel Blum art director, Bonnie Herman assistant editor
A brief history of Focus.... It first appeared as a standard-sized magazine published by the sub-publisher Non-Pareil Publishing Corp. Vol 1, #1 (Dec/49). Bruce Jacobs was the editor and Ray Robinson (of Goodman's sports magazines) was associate editor. The magazine was extremely thin (only 32 pages + covers) and sported a surprisingly low cover price of only 10 cents! Cover articles included "Sex in College" and "The Nazis Still Run Germany".
It then vanished and reappeared as a 25 cent bedsheet (Life Magazine size) ,Vol 1, #2 (May/50), this time edited by Stan Lee's uncle, Robbie Solomon, and a cover sub-heading "A Pictorial Closeup of People".
After a three month additional hiatus, it returned in the same bedsheet format but this time Stan Lee was now the editor. It then appears to have ended with Vol 1, #5 (Dec/50), which had a great pictorial article about Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees.
Stan edits the August, October and December issues, including a 2-page article in the October issue, "Don't Legalize Prostitution!", written as Stanley Martin.
Focus then reappears again as Vol 1, #1, cover dated Aug/51, as a tiny pocket-sized magazine, a very popular newsstand format of the time where nearly all publishers released photo and picture magazines in this format. Pocket magazines were meant to fit in the reader's pocket! They were a minuscule 5 3/4 by 4 inches in size, with a cover price of 10 cents. Martin Goodman published at least 6 different titles in that format, some only an issue before changing to a different size.
To give you an idea of the size variations of the various magazines, here is an illustration depicting 4 different sizes of Goodman publications, all Marilyn Monroe covers, from bedsheet to regular magazine to digest and down to pocket-sized:
End of Non-Comic Diversion.......
"Fear in the Night" also may be a bit of an experiment. Last issue a ghostly specter narrated a crime tale. This issue, Stan and Burgos weave a tale of an evil man being unrelentingly pursued around the world by a man in black, with the kicker being it was his conscience all along. Concurrently, Timely was introducing the Witness to the newsstands, a supernatural "Phantom Stranger type character. All of this appears to be testing the waters for what will shortly come, the debut of horror/mystery at Timely with Amazing Mysteries #32 cover dated May/49. Stan and Goodman had almost certainly seen Avon's one-shot Eerie Comics #1 in late 1946 and with the success of radio suspense and mystery shows, probably felt the time was becoming right to dip into that quill.
The full story of the industry's battle with censorship and Timely's place in the fight can be found here:
Part 1: Fredric Wertham, Censorship & the Timely Anti-Wertham Editorials
Part 2: Fredric Wertham, Censorship & the Timely Anti-Wertham Editorials
Marvel Mystery Comics #92 (June/49) - Published February 16, 1949
Captain America's Weird Tales #74 (Oct/49) - Published July 4, 1949
Millie The Model : (100+ issues)
Probably the most iconic Timely/Atlas/Marvel teen title. It certainly was the longest, running 207 issues and 12 annuals between 1945 and 1973. Stan Lee's name is probably more associated with this teen character than any one outside of My Friend Irma.
Ruth Atkinson was the first artist on the first issue (as she was also on Patsy Walker's debut). Ken Bald was the first main writer/artist on the feature from #2 to #16. Stan began writing Millie the Model with the second Dan DeCarlo issue, #18 (June/49), around the same time period he began to write all the other characters I'm showing here. The team of Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo will near-exclusive own this book until DeCarlo's departure after issue #92 (Sept/59), after which Stan Goldberg picks up the reins and they both carry the title right into the Marvel age in 1961.
Now there is no way possible to showcase all this Millie the Model work by Stan. Let's just say it was pretty funny, filled with snappy patter and wise-cracking jokes, what Stan excelled at. The great Dan DeCarlo was just that, great. This was his long apprenticeship prior to single-handedly taking over the Archie universe in the 1960's. A few samples to follow.
Millie the Model # 18 (June/49) - Art by Dan DeCarlo. Stan Lee's debut issue on this title. Published March 10, 1949.
Below is the lead Millie story that starts off the book. At job #5300 it comes in 3rd this issue of three total Millie stories. So it's the first one seen but the third one written.
Millie the Model #20 (Oct/49)
Millie the Model #24 (Sept/50)
Millie the Model #25 (Nov/50)
Millie the Model #27 (Mar/51)
Millie the Model #33 (Mar/52)
Millie the Model #38 (Jan/53)
Millie the Model #73 (Dec/56)
A strange name changing of a title. It started as Mitzi Comics (Spring/48), changed to Mitzi's Boyfriend #2-7, then changed to Mitzi's Romances with #8 to #10. All along the content is the same. Stan Lee picks up with #8 (June/49), #9 (Aug/49) and #10 (Dec/49), with the art changing to that minimalistic style we see above on nearly all of Stan's teen work in 1949. This time the artist is Ken Bald, a far cry from his full, broad work on Millie and Cindy.
Mitzi's Romances #8 (June/49) (15 pages) - Art by Ken Bald.
Mitzi's Romances #9 (Aug/49) (10 pages, 4 pages, 7 pages) - Art by Ken Bald.
Mitzi's Romances #10 (Dec/49) (10 pages, 4 pages, 5 pages) - Art possibly by Ken Bald (?).
Hedy Devine / Hedy of Hollywood
The title ran 28 issues starting with #22 (Aug/47). Stan Lee appears in #34 (Aug/49) and #35 Oct/49). The title then changes to Hedy of Hollywood with #36-50. Stan returns for the last 4 issues, #47 to #50. The main artist on the feature is Ed Winiarski.
Hedy Devine #35 (Oct/49)
My Friend Irma (40 issues)
The girl character second most associated with Stan Lee after Millie the Model is My Friend Irma, a CBS licensed property secured by Martin Goodman along with Suspense and Casey Crime Photographer by way of Arthur Perles, the brother of Martin's friend and lawyer, Jerry Perles, in his capacity as Assistant Director of Publicity at CBS. All three titles were popular radio programs at CBS. This is classic "dumb-blonde" humor and Stan excels at the genre.
The title starts with #3 (June/50) with art by Dan DeCarlo and Stan joins with issue #8 (Apr/51). Stan and Dan then do 40 straight issues together until #48 (Feb/55) which ends the book. The story lengths vary from long 7,8, and 9 pages long, to on and half page quickies. In 1952 the team even took over the syndicated newspaper strip of the same name, producing the last 3 months of the strip from June 2 to August 23.
Also interesting is this....
My Friend Irma #4 (Aug/50) - "At Home With the Rumples" (10 pages), art by Harvey Kurtzman!! (no image available)
Way too much to show so a few samples will suffice. In the first example below, notice how Irma's boyfriend looks decidedly like Stan Lee.
My Friend Irma #24 (Oct/52)
My Girl Pearl
When My Friend Irma is cancelled, probably because Martin Goodman didn't want to pay the licensing fees any longer, rather than let a good thing go, without any wait in the schedule at all, Stan and Dan came up with ... (no surprise here) ... My Girl Pearl. Same concept, same dumb-blonde jokes and wisecracks. The title had two runs, Stan and Dan did the first 6 issues, then after a 3 year hiatus, Stan and Stan Goldberg revived it for 5 more issues in 1960-61 for 11 total. In fact, the final issue was published just 7 short months before Fantastic Four #1.
Homer the Happy Ghost (22 + 2 issues)
One month after the cancellation of My Friend Irma and one month before the start of My Girl Pearl, Martin Goodman was looking for something else to copy and the Stan and Dan team came up with a blatant copy of Casper the Friendly Ghost, none other than Homer the Happy Ghost. Homer had a long run of 22 issues into late 1958 and two more as a spin-off The Adventures of Homer Ghost at the time of the Atlas implosion. The latter short series had artwork by Tony DiPreta. Marvel then revived the series for 4 reprint issues 1969-70.
Homer the Happy Ghost #1 (Mar/55)
Homer the Happy Ghost #2 (May/55)
Adventures of Homer Ghost #1 (June/57) - Art by Tony DiPreta
Adventures of Homer Ghost #2 (Aug/57) - Art by Tony DiPreta
Homer the Happy Ghost #18 (Mar/58) - (4 pages) Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo appearamces!!
Sherry the Showgirl / Showgirls
The team of Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo was not done. One more series was to appear with a weird numbering system. The title started as Sherry the Showgirl 1-3 by Lee and DeCarlo, it then became Showgirls #4 by Lee and DeCarlo. It then switched back to Sherry the Showgirl for #5-7 by Lee and Al Hartley. At the same time as #6, a separate Showgirls series by Lee and DeCarlo appeared and lasted 2 issues, published the same months as #6 & #7. Whew! It's a gorgeous series, I must say!
Sherry the Showgirl #2 (Sept/56) - Art by Dan DeCarlo
Showgirls #4 (Feb/57) - Art by Dan DeCarlo
Sherry the Showgirl #5 (Apr/57) - Art by Al Hartley
Sherry the Showgirl #6 (June/57) - Art by Al Hartley
Sherry the Showgirl #7 (Aug/57) - Art by Al Hartley
Showgirls #1 (June/57) - Art by Dan DeCarlo
Crazy #7 (July/54) "Hollywood Extra" (5 pages) - art by Russ Heath
Riot #4 (Feb/56) - 5 stories and 20 pages, art by John Severin, Dan DeCarlo (2), Howie Post and Joe Maneely (no images available)
Riot #5 (Apr/56) - 5 stories and 17 pages, art by John Severin, Joe Maneely (2), Dan DeCarlo (2)
Riot #6 (June/56) - 6 stories and 19 pages, art by John Severin (2), Dan DeCarlo (2), Bill Everett and Joe Maneely.
A key, key issue as Stan and Joe Maneely do a dead-on imitation of Hank Ketcham's Dennis the Menace, which they will spin off to their own hell-child Melvin the Monster into a different book. This will launch the era of Atlas Kiddie humor titles.
Snafu Vol 1, #1 (Nov/55)
Snafu Vol 2, #1 (Jan/56
Snafu Vol 2, #2 (Mar/56)
By 1955 Martin Goodman told his editor-in-chief of his comic book division to now create a knock-off of the spectacularly successful Bill Gaines humor publication Mad Magazine. As seen above, Goodman's Atlas had already done knock-offs of Mad's earlier comic book version with Wild, Crazy and Riot, and when the converted magazine version of Mad took off sales-wise it was a natural that Goodman would follow suit. The magazine was Snafu, and it lasted only three issues, the last issue cover-dated Mar/56. Snafu was written by Stan Lee and produced in full or part by his closest Atlas artistic collaborators, namely Joe Maneely, John Severin, Bill Everett, Russ Heath, Howie Post and Marie Severin (in production). It consisted of parody, satire, and overall wackiness of the illustrated and photo variety, but was primarily illustrated material. Additionally, Snafu is where the later oft-used Bullpen Bulletins foil Irving Forbush came from!
Surprisingly, I just realized that I possess Stan Lee's own bound set of Snafu! I had completely forgotten I had this and just found it on a shelf while looking for my loose copies. Well it figures! Stan only bound the last 2 issues! It's not even a complete set!@#%$#!
Bunk Vol 1, #1 (Feb/56)
Running with this idea, Goodman then released Bunk! #1 cover dated Feb/56, in the off-month between Snafu #2 (Jan) and #3 (Mar). Unlike all of Goodman's newsstand magazines, Bunk! had no credits at all inside, leading me to feel it was produced by the same editorial staff as Snafu, namely Stan Lee, except that Bunk! was 90% photo humor (what Stan Lee excelled at) and only 10% illustration (Joe Maneely and John Severin). This was the direct opposite of Snafu, which was 90% illustration and 10% photo humor. Bunk! was nothing more than Snafu, packaged slightly more upscale in a squarebound magazine.
Bunk! was published bi-monthly by Goodman's Foto Parade Inc. sub-publisher, and apparently was supposed to be alternating with Snafu on the newsstands. Unfortunately it appears to have lasted a single issue and was cancelled along with Snafu at the same time. Perhaps Stan Lee used up so much of the illustrated Snafu material he was left with an abundance of photo humor material that had no place to go. As it stands, some of the illustrated material, including a Joe Maneely full-page inside front cover gag liquor ad, appears to be unused Snafu material.
*** [Ger Apeldoorn, author of Behaving Madly (IDW, 2017) believes Bunk may have been the magazine division's attempt to do similar humor, and Stan Lee may have had nothing to do with it.] ***
There's one final coda to Stan Lee's pre-Marvel humor writing. In mid 1955, as seen, there was a big push towards humor, which probably outsold everything else on the stands. (Mad parodies, Homer the Happy Ghost and others already seen above.) Oct/56 saw a spin off from the very popular Millie the Model by Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo, A Date With Millie, which ran 7 issues through Oct/57, all by Stan and Dan. (There were concurrent Patsy Walker spin-off one-shots, A Date With Patsy and Hedy Wolf, but they were written and drawn by Al Hartley.) (There will also be another series by this same name in 1959, which will then continue on as Life With Millie, then Modelling With Millie).
A Date With Millie #1 (Oct/56) - Stan Lee & Dan DeCarlo
A Date With Millie #2 (Dec/56) - Stan Lee & Dan DeCarlo
A Date With Millie #3 (Feb/57) - Stan Lee & Dan DeCarlo
A Date With Millie #4 (Apr/57) - Stan Lee & Dan DeCarlo
A Date With Millie #5 (May/57) - Stan Lee & Dan DeCarlo
A Date With Millie #6 (June/57) - Stan Lee & Dan DeCarlo
A Date With Millie #7 (Aug/57) - Stan Lee & Dan DeCarlo
Lastly, there's kiddie-humor. We already saw Stan and Joe Maneely parody Hank Ketcham's Dennis the Menace with Pascal the Rascal in Riot #6. Immediately following this Goodman published Melvin the Monster, a juvenile delinquent so surly, so mean, it really made him unlikable. Lee and Maneely got out 6 issues before a name change to Dexter the Demon with #7 (Sept/57). At the same time as the last issue, Stan and Fred Kida produced a single issue of Willie the Wiseguy #1 (Sept/57). Then as the Atlas implosion was looming, with both books cancelled, Dexter the Demon and Willie the Wiseguy leftovers were packaged as the unnumbered Cartoon Kids. Finally, with one last push, Nellie the Nurse was updated by Stan and Bill Everett (in a Millie Dan DeCarlo style, with leftover stories appearing in Millie's own book in 1958-59) in a new Nellie the Nurse #1, without a month, which appeared on the stands along with 2 new, one-shot funny-animal books, Marvin Mouse #1 by Stan and Bill Everett and Dippy Duck #1 (Oct/57) by Stan and Joe Maneely, the very last comic book to bear the Atlas globe logo, and the only one as late as cover date October.
This final flurry of titles were obviously meant to be a bit of a new direction for Stan, Joe, Bill and Fred, but unfortunately they got caught up in the fiasco of the Atlas implosion (more about that later) and it all came to a grinding halt.
Melvin the Monster #1 (July/56) - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely
Melvin the Monster #2 (Sept/59) - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely
Melvin the Monster #3 (Nov/56) - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely
Melvin the Monster #4 (Feb/57) - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely
Melvin the Monster #5 (June/57) - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely
Melvin the Monster #6 (July/57) - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely
Dexter the Demon #7 (Sept/57) - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely
Willie the Wiseguy #1 (Sept/57) - Stan Lee and Fred Kida
Cartoon Kids [NN] 1957 - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely
Nellie the Nurse 1957 - Stan Lee & Bill Everett
Marvin Mouse #1 (Sept/57) - Stan Lee & Bill Everett
Dippy Duck #1 (Oct/57) - Stan Lee & Joe Maneely
Stan Lee at Timely Part 4 : The Atlas Years
So to explain exactly what Atlas comics are, first we must look into Martin Goodman's history with distribution................
Goodman broke into publishing working for Hugo Gernsback under Louis Silberkleit and his Experimenter Publishing Company. Gernsback's magazines were distributed by Kable News, a new subsidiary of the older Kable Printing. When the father of the science fiction magazine was forced into bankruptcy in 1929, Silberkleit left and joined Eastern Distributing Corporation, taking his protege` Goodman with him.
When Eastern went under in October of 1932, it paved the way for two additional small distribution companies. Eastern's Paul Sampliner partnered with Harry Donenfeld (of the Merwil Publishing Co., formerly the Irwin Publishing Co. and sometimes the Donny Press, publishers of sex pulps including Gay Parisienne, Gay Broadway, and La Paree ) to form Independent News, and Louis Silberkleit partnered the Shade brothers (of Philadelphia, publishers of Gayety and new publishers of Paris Nights) and with Martin Goodman to form Mutual Magazine Distributors, Inc.
Additionally, by early 1933 Silberkleit (with Goodman) started Newsstand Publications, Inc., launching their first pulp magazine Western Supernovel Magazine Vol 1, #1 (May/33).
Author & Journalist: April, 1933
Martin Goodman now on his own, starts Western Fiction Publishing Co., Inc., (the first title is Western Fiction vol 1, #1, Jan/35) and is a successful pulp baron helming the notorious Red Circle brand. (Before Red Circle, an earlier, short-lived, 5-month long brand was the yellow "A Star Magazine" colophon, covering the entire editorship of Martin's younger brother Sidney Charles Goodman, approximately 17 months from May-June/36 to Oct-Nov/37. Sidney passed away on September 5, 1937).
***(The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper carried an account, of sorts, of Sidney Charles Goodman's death, noting in the January 7, 1938 edition....
In 1939 Goodman forms Timely Publications (initially for an aborted Reader's Digest clone called Popular Digest) and then thanks to cajoling from comic shop Funnies Incorporated's Frank Torpey, starts his own comic book line to cash in on the newest newsstand craze.
Goodman's pulps, comics and magazines from the Timely period are all distributed by Kable News. In 1952 Goodman once again gets involved with self-distribution, launching the Atlas News Company, a subsidiary of his Magazine Management Corporation, the umbrella name under which lay "all" his different publishing companies and modalities ... comics, pulps, magazines, digests.
Magazine Management Corporation originally started out as just another sub-publisher (I've traced the name back to January 1943's Read! Vol 1, #1) but ultimately rose in 1945-47 to be the general name "all" of Goodman's publishing was referred.
Writer's Digest: October, 1945
Magazine Management Corp. is the other house buying only First North American Serial Rights.
Writer's Digest: September, 1947
There have been a number of different names used for the pulps put out by Martin Goodman, including Red Circle. But now I am told that the correct name by which they should go is Magazine Management Company.
*** [For the sake of completeness, the comic book line was also called Marvel Comics for two different periods in the Timely era. First, in 1946/47 "A Marvel Comic" banner could be seen on some Timely issues. Then in late 1949, right at the time the staff was fired, a round "Marvel Comic" bullet logo was seen, similar in appearance to Goodman's old Red Circle brand logo.] ***
The logo of the Atlas News Company was a small globe (the Atlas Globe) taken from the same logo Goodman had earlier used as a try-out brand on the cover of a handful of comics books, crime digest paperbacks, and detective magazines in the mid 1940's (which itself was taken from the double globe of the defunct Mutual Magazine Distributors masthead). Back then, it failed to catch on and was subsequently dropped. This Atlas Globe reappeared again on comic books as another attempt at logo branding cover dated October, 1951 (newsstand time July, 1951), but when Goodman started his Atlas News distribution company (beginning national distribution on June 1, 1952), the recently appearing globe was handily adopted as both logo and distribution mark. (Strangely, Goodman's pulps never carried the globe, nor did his digests or paperback books.) Goodman's newly appointed Director of Distribution was Arthur Marchand, the Vice President and General Manager of Magazine Management.
So, to sum up, Atlas Comics were the Goodman comic books from Oct/51 to Oct/57, the time of the Atlas implosion (which I will talk about later). Contrary to popular belief, it was both a distributor mark and a brand. And if anyone needs further proof that Atlas was both a distributor mark and a brand, there's this.....
Between the years 1947 and 1957, from Justice Comics #7 (Fall/47) to Tales of Justice #67 (Sept/57), Timely/Atlas published exactly 276 crime comics issues spread among 23 different titles. This includes Spy type comics which nearly cross over into the War genre, where some issues were crime comics and the rest were war comics. For the sake of simplicity, I've just counted them all as crime comics. The genre started with the dual debut in 1947 of Official True Crime Cases and Justice Comics. Titles were added slowly until 1950-51 when nine more titles were added, flourishing into 1952. The Wertham fiasco and the comics code killed the genre and only a handful squeaked into the post-code period.
Of identified writers, the most prolific writer of this period on these titles was Carl Wessler, who wrote 159 crime stories from 1951-53.Hank Chapman wrote 9 stories, Clayton Martin wrote 5, Irv Werstein wrote 1.
In all these titles and issues, Stan Lee wrote the 3 book-length stories I showed above in Complete Mystery #2,3,4 in 1948, and one other story, "The Big Shot" (4 pages) in Justice Comics #37 (May/53), illustrated by his humor comics compatriot Hy Rosen, the artist he worked with on Georgie Comics in 1952 and Homer Hooper in 1953.
Justice Comics #37 (May/53) - #C-215 "The Big Shot" (4 pages). Art by Hy Rosen.
Between the years 1950 and 1960, Timely/Atlas/Marvel published 525 War comics issues spread among 32 different titles, ranging from War Comics #1 (Dec/50) to Battle #70 (June/60). These do not include the Spy titles that do have some War comics content. The impetus for the genre was the start of the Korean War conflict on June 25, 1950. I covered this genre extensively in my History of Atlas War Comics blog post back in 2013.
In this vast array of War titles and stories, of known writers identified through their records and/or signatures on the printed stories, Hank Chapman wrote 176 stories, Paul S. Newman 41, Carl Wessler 15, Don Rico 10 and Ernie Hart 2. My feeling is that Don Rico wrote a heck of a lot more that are unsigned as he rarely signed stories he wrote, with the artist usually the one to add Rico's name to a splash page.
Stan Lee wrote exactly 4 stories, all in 1952 (one cover-dated Feb/53, written/published in 1952) and 2 one-page war humor "fillers" in 1956. That's it.
War Adventures #3 (Apr/52) - #9927 "Cycle" (3 pages). Art by Joe Maneely.
Battle #13 (Oct/52) - #A-968 "Troop Movement" (5 pages), art by Cal Massey.
Combat #4 ((Sept/52) - #A-993 "The Mistake of General Ming" (5 pages), art by Fred Kida
Battle #17 (Feb/53) - #B-794 "The Last Command of Colonel Fong" (7 p.), art by Werner Roth
Sergeant Barney Barker #3 (Dec/56) - NN "Barker's Belly Laffs!" (1 p.), art by John Severin
Tales of the Marines #4 (Feb/57) - #L-024 "Dugan Does it Again!" (1 p.), art by Joe Sinnott
- War Adventures #3 (Apr/52) - #9927 "Cycle" (3 pages). Art by Joe Maneely.
- Combat #4 ((Sept/52) - #A-993 "The Mistake of General Ming" (5 pages), art by Fred Kida
- Battle #13 (Oct/52) - #A-968 "Troop Movement" (5 pages), art by Cal Massey.
- Battle #17 (Feb/53) - #B-794 "The Last Command of Colonel Fong" (7 p.), art by Werner Roth
Sergeant Barney Barker and Devil Dog Dugan were humorous war books drawn by John Severin and Joe Sinnott respectively. Barker was definitely pattered after Phil Silver's character in the Sgt. Bilko television show but I've always felt Severin was also parodying his boss Stan Lee.
- Sergeant Barney Barker #3 (Dec/56) - NN "Barker's Belly Laffs!" (1 p.), art by John Severin
- Tales of the Marines #4 (Feb/57) - #L-024 "Dugan Does it Again!" (1 p.), art by Joe Sinnott
From cover date Sept/48 to the Atlas implosion, Timely/Atlas published approximately 425 Romance comics issues spread out over 42 titles.
Goodman debuted My Romance #1 (Sept/48) and immediately changed its title to the long-running My Own Romance with #4 (Mar/49). (The reason for the seemingly unnecessary title change is due to the fact that he also debuted a romance/confession magazine by the same name, My Romance, immediately after the comic title change, preferring to use My Romance as a magazine title instead). The same March cover month as this name change, Goodman changed his eclectic historical title Ideal a Classical Comic to Ideal Love and Romance with #5, which immediately changed to the long-running Love Romances with #6 (May/49). This same May cover month then additionally saw the debuts of Lovers #23 and Love Tales #36, both with debut numbers spun off of existing non-romance books. Finally, My Love #1 (July), Best Love #33 (Aug), a genre change to romance for Venus #6 (Aug), and Molly Manton's Romances #1 (Sept) with Our Love #1 (Sept).
But this was not good enough for Martin Goodman. The very next month the deluge begins, a torrent unrivaled in comic book history as 22 "additional" romance titles are added in cover month October, November, December and January of 1950. By April, 20 of the 22 new titles are cancelled!
During all this time, 1948 to 1957, Stan Lee was an editor of the romance line at certain times. I don't know if it was the entire 9 years but for certain in 1952-53. Here is an original romance script by writer Burt Frohman to editor Stan Lee.....
As far as writing himself, though, Stan Lee scripted exactly seven stories, all written in 1952-53. This is the order they were written. Two of them have the exact same title and the exact same artist, master Lorna the Jungle Girl artist Werner Roth!!!
#A-683 True Secrets #21 (Aug/52) - "Beauty is Where You Find it!" (7 p.) Art by Jay Scott Pike
#A-727 Actual Confessions #13 (Oct/52) - "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" (10 p.) Art by Werner Roth
#B-800 Girl Confessions #23 (Feb/53) - "The Long Engagement" (7 p.) Art by Jay Scott Pike
#B-815 My Own Romance #27 (Mar/53) - "Love Story" (7 p.) Art by Carmine Infantino / Gil Kane
#B-721 Lovers #46 (Feb/53) - "Possessed!" (5 p.) Art by Jay Scott Pike
#B-885 Lovers #48 (Apr/53) - "Will You Marry Me, Miss Smith?" (7 p.) Art by Jerry Robinson
#C-252 My Own Romance #29 (Apr/53) - "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" (5 p.) Art by Werner Roth
- #A-683 True Secrets #21 (Aug/52) - "Beauty is Where You Find it!" (7 p.) Art by Jay Scott Pike
- #A-727 Actual Confessions #13 (Oct/52) - "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" (10 p.) Art by Werner Roth
- #B-800 Girl Confessions #23 (Feb/53) - "The Long Engagement" (7 p.) Art by Jay Scott Pike
- #B-815 My Own Romance #27 (Mar/53) - "Love Story" (7 p.) Art by Carmine Infantino / Gil Kane
- #B-721 Lovers #46 (Feb/53) - "Possessed!" (5 p.) Art by Jay Scott Pike
- #B-885 Lovers #48 (Apr/53) - "Will You Marry Me, Miss Smith?" (7 p.) Art by Jerry Robinson
- #C-252 My Own Romance #29 (Apr/53) - "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" (5 p.) Art by Werner Roth
Additionally while editor in 1952, Stan instituted a letters page in 3 titles in 3 genres, all books he was completely overseeing. All letter pages during this period were in thick 52 page issues, a trend started around this time that really gave value to the reader. It started as Aug/52 as "Suspense Sanctuary" in the horror title Suspense (7 times). "Battlefield Bivouak" ran a single time in Battlefield and "Heart to Heart Talk" ran twice in My Own Romance, #24 (Sept/52) and #25 (Nov/52). The final letter in My Own Romance #25 is notable because it's a planted letter by Stan's wife Joan, signed Joan Clayton from Newcastle on Tyne, where his wife was originally from, and with her middle name Clayton (nee Joan Clayton Boocock). All these letter pages had the same format and witty answers to reader's queries, foreshadowing what Stan would do in his Marvel age letter pages and Bullpen Bulletins. How many other letters were planted, as some were in the early Marvel books, is unknown.
One last thing to mention. There are a handful of stories in these months surrounding the letter page issues where stories "read" like Stan but are unsigned. Did he write them? I suspect, "yes". Why aren't they signed? I don't know. One in particular, "Two Men Love Joan" in My Own Romance #24 (Sept/52) is a warped parody of Stan and Joan's own courtship and marriage. The story is beautifully drawn by Al Hartley.
In real life, Joan, a war bride, was already married when Stan met her in 1947. They eloped to Las Vegas where she got a divorce and they married. In the story, "Two Men Love Joan," the man who comes between her and her boyfriend is married. He tells her his wife is a war bride. In the story, Joan goes back to her original boyfriend, kicking the newcomer with the war bride (and children!) to the curb. It really looks like Stan and Joan were purposely spoofing their own courtship history! And the Joan here in the story is named Joan Clayton, of the Clayton Lumber Company. So who wrote this? I think Stan Lee did. Why it's not signed, I don't know. One other story this issue, "A Man for Amy" also reads like Stan wrote it. But I believe these are rare exceptions. The second story, there is a big text box right where Stan would normally sign his name and perhaps that's what happened. No such box on the "Two Men Love Joan" story, though. Maybe Joan wrote it!
#A-647 My Own Romance #24 (Sept/52) - "Two Men Love Joan" (10 p.) Art by Al Hartley.
When you think of Atlas miscellaneous, only one title really comes to mind, and it's probably the most well-known pre-Marvel age title that Stan Lee is affiliated, Black Knight.. The title ran 5 issues, from cover date May/55 to Apr/56 and was launched by the fantastic team of Stan Lee and Joe Maneely, #1 published on January 14, 1955, and definitely influenced by a litany of recent film releases, the MGM film Knights of the Round Table, 20th Century Fox's Prince Valiant, Warner Bros' King Richard and the Crusaders, Universal's The Black Shield of Falworth, and finally... wait for it....Columbia's The Black Knight.
Stan Lee writes and signs the first issue only. Joe Maneely draws all 5 covers and all the stories in the first 3 issues, handing off the title to first Fred Kida then Syd Shores inked by Christopher Rule.
Years ago I asked Stan why Joe Maneely was taken off the title, since by our late date, it's a book he's so associated with. Stan's response was simply that Joe launched the book and he now needed him for something else, making me see the connection between what Stan was doing at Atlas and what he would later do at Marvel with Jack Kirby, namely, using a superiorly talented creator to launch a character feature, be it Black Knight, Yellow Claw, Ringo Kid, Rawhide Kid, et al, and then move him over to launch something new. Stan did the exact same thing with Jack Kirby, although in the Marvel age the paucity of title allowed Jack to stick around a bit longer than 3 issues, on the Hulk, Avengers, X-Men, etc. But the sensibility is the same.
Black Knight #1 (May/55)
Black Knight #1 (May/56) - #F-868 "The Menace of Modred the Evil!" (10 pages)
A wonderful opening story in what is probably the best work of Atlas master Joe Maneely's aborted, yet fruitful, 10 year career. "Romantic Realism" ... between the quiet segments and the action-filled battle scenes, the Marvel age lost a giant when Joe died. This is probably the closest to superhero action by Joe we will see in the genre age of comics.
Black Knight #1 (May/56) - #F-900 (8 pages)
Between cover month Mar/48 and the Atlas implosion, Atlas released 514 Western comic issues among 45 different Western titles.The genre debuted with Two-Gun Kid #1 (Mar/48, published on January 27, 1948) and at the time of the Spring work stoppage, still had 20 Western titles running. Only 4 would survive into the post-implosion period, Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt Outlaw, Gunsmoke Western and Wyatt Earp.
Stan Lee scripted about 200 western stories during this period, the vast majority post-code Western fillers. He wrote no western character stories except for a single lone Ringo Kid story (not the real Ringo Kid!). Of course in the post-code period he will nearly single-handedly write "every" character, but we're not there yet.
In the pre-code Western books, he writes about 10-15 generic stories. In the post-code books, he writes about 180 Western fillers in about every single Western title Martin Goodman published. There's no way I'm going to show all these stories so be content with a few samples
The earliest Stan Lee appearance was posing on the cover to Black Rider #8 (Mar/50), published on December 27, 1949.
Black Rider #8 (Mar/50)
A quick pre-code survey finds him in:
Black Rider #12 (Jan/51) - #7688 "Torture" (4 pages) Art by George Tuska
Black Rider #12 (Jan/51) - #7764 "The Man Who Wouldn't Fight!" (3 p.) Art by George Tuska
The Gunhawk #13 (Feb/51) - #7781 "The Man Who Wore No Guns" (4 p.) Art by George Tuska
Wild Western #26 (Feb53) - #B-359 "The Ringo Kid" (4 pages) Art by Jay Scott Pike
Wild Western #27 (Apr/53) - #B-767 "Six-Gun Showdown" (7 pages) Art by George Tuska
Wild Western #28 (June/53) #C-216 "Stagecoach!" (7 pages) Art by Joe Maneely
Wild Western #28 (June/53) #C-217 "The Brute of Butte Gap" (6 pages) Art by Werner Roth
Wild Western #28 (June/53) #C-255 "The Killer!" (3 pages) Art by John Forte
Wild Western #29 (Aug/53) #C-351 "Killer at Bay!" (7 pages) Art by George Tuska
- Black Rider #12 (Jan/51) - #7688 "Torture" (4 pages) Art by George Tuska
Wild Western #26 (Feb53) - #B-359 "The Ringo Kid" (4 pages) Art by Jay Scott Pike
This is not the Ringo Kid western character that would appear as an ongoing series in 1954 by Joe Maneely. This is one of two different non-Ringo Kid Ringo Kids. It seems Stan, or somebody, had a real affinity for the name and used it twice on generic westerns before deciding to launch a title with a character by the]at name.
- Wild Western #28 (June/53) #C-216 "Stagecoach!" (7 pages) Art by Joe Maneely
- Wild Western #28 (June/53) #C-217 "The Brute of Butte Gap" (6 pages) Art by Werner Roth
- Wild Western #28 (June/53) #C-255 "The Killer!" (3 pages) Art by John Forte
In the post-code period, Stan Lee scripts about 200 more stories. All are generic western fillers.
Here are exactly 149 of them in the order they were written. The stories are usually simple morality plays. Nothing terribly wordy, often 3 or 4 pages at most. But they are good reads and a lot of fun. I think Stan excelled at these and he worked with the best of the best that Atlas had freelancing.... Joe Maneely, Al Williamson, Mort Drucker, Matt Baker, Doug Wildey, John Severin, Russ Heath, Syd Shores, Angelo Torres, Reed Crandall, Alex Toth, John Romita, Joe Sinnot, Fred Kida, Al Hartley, Bob McCarty, Joe Orlando, George Tuska, Ross Andru, Bob Powell, Jay Scott Pike, Dave Berg, Dick Ayers, Paul Reinman, Werner Roth, Gene Colan and even Steve Ditko!
As can be seen below, Stan Lee wrote no westerns after the L job numbers, which were in 1956. He had piled up enough filler inventory to use all through the 1957 books.
|F-742||COWBOY ACTION||6||May-55||The Posse Strikes!|
|F-772||COWBOY ACTION||6||May-55||No Law In Durado|
|F-778 (?)||COWBOY ACTION||6||May-55||The End Of The Gun - Dance Kid!|
|F-779||COWBOY ACTION||6||May-55||Sam Scragg The Betrayer|
|G-016||ANNIE OAKLEY WESTERN TALES||5||Jun-55||The Deputy|
|H-???||TWO - GUN KID||30||Apr-56||Afraid Of No Man!|
|H-029||TWO - GUN KID||31||Jun-56||Man On The Run|
|H-280||RINGO KID||10||Feb-56||Stranger In Town!|
|H-430||WILD WESTERN||48||Mar-56||The Tough Hombre!|
|H-432||OUTLAW KID||10||Mar-56||The Protector!|
|H-434 (?)||COWBOY ACTION||11||Mar-56||Billy The Kid|
|H-436||BILLY BUCKSKIN WESTERN||3||Mar-56||The Mob!|
|H-437||RAWHIDE KID||7||Mar-56||The Coward!|
|H-475||WILD WESTERN||48||Mar-56||The Cur!|
|H-6??||COWBOY ACTION||11||Mar-56||The Last Laugh|
|H-648||FRONTIER WESTERN||1||Feb-56||When The Wagons Roll!|
|H-651||FRONTIER WESTERN||1||Feb-56||The Gunfighter!|
|H-652||COWBOY ACTION||11||Mar-56||The Cheat|
|H-653||FRONTIER WESTERN||1||Feb-56||The Badge of the Deputy|
|H-654||FRONTIER WESTERN||1||Feb-56||War In Chicamaw Territory|
|H-655||FRONTIER WESTERN||1||Feb-56||The Pecos Kid!|
|H-665||COWBOY ACTION||11||Mar-56||The Man-Hunter!|
|H-681||COWBOY ACTION||11||Mar-56||Gunfight At Cody's Landing|
|H-684||COWBOY ACTION||11||Mar-56||The Man Who Hated Navajos!|
|H-714||WESTERN KID||9||Apr-56||A Stranger In Tombstone!|
|J-003||APACHE KID||19||Apr-56||The Gunman|
|J-121||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||12||May-56||Bull Larsen Strikes|
|J-122||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||12||May-56||When Luke Hammer Escaped|
|J-123||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||12||May-56||The Badman of the Valley!|
|J-124||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||12||May-56||The Man Who Wouldn't Fight!|
|J-240||WILD WESTERN||49||May-56||Don't Draw That Gun!|
|J-241||WILD WESTERN||49||May-56||The Train Robber!|
|J-318||2 - GUN WESTERN||4||May-56||The Gun - Barrel Kid Escapes|
|J-319||2 - GUN WESTERN||4||May-56||The Outlaw Breed!|
|J-320||2 - GUN WESTERN||4||May-56||The Man Who Wouldn't Fight!|
|J-382||2 - GUN WESTERN||4||May-56||The Badmen!|
|J-383||2 - GUN WESTERN||4||May-56||The Black Stallion!|
|J-442||ANNIE OAKLEY WESTERN TALES||11||Jun-56||The Man Who Was Afraid!|
|J-444||MATT SLADE, GUNFIGHTER||1||May-56||When Keely Came to Town!|
|J-467||RINGO KID||12||Jun-56||The Silver Holster|
|J-608||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||13||Jul-56||Outlaw's Hideout|
|J-609||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||13||Jul-56||The Wild One!|
|J-610||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||13||Jul-56||When the Sioux Attack|
|J-651||WILD WESTERN||50||Jul-56||The Tenderfoot|
|J-652||WYATT EARP||5||Jul-56||The Posse!|
|J-653||RAWHIDE KID||9||Jul-56||The Judge!|
|J-720||TWO GUN WESTERN (2)||5||Jul-56||Return of the Gunhawk|
|J-730||TWO GUN WESTERN (2)||5||Jul-56||The Sheriff - Hater!|
|J-731||TWO GUN WESTERN (2)||5||Jul-56||Vince Wilkins, Badman!|
|J-900||TWO - GUN KID||32||Aug-56||A Man Called Natchez!|
|J-902||RINGO KID||13||Aug-56||Where Larrabee Rode!|
|J-971||WESTERN OUTLAWS||16||Aug-56||The Revenge of Joe Granger!|
|J-972||WESTERN OUTLAWS||16||Aug-56||When The Gila Gang Strikes!|
|J-993||WESTERN OUTLAWS||16||Aug-56||The Arizona Jailbirds!|
|K-???||MATT SLADE, GUNFIGHTER||4||Nov-56||Outlaw In Hiding|
|K-010||WESTERN OUTLAWS||16||Aug-56||The Night Rider!|
|K-025||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||14||Sep-56||Showdown at Eagle Rock|
|K-026||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||14||Sep-56||Crag Noonan, Fastest Gun in the West!|
|K-074||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||14||Sep-56||Outlaw at Large|
|K-075||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||14||Sep-56||Tenderfoot in Town|
|K-083||WYATT EARP||6||Sep-56||The Sheriff!|
|K-148||WILD WESTERN||51||Sep-56||Duel In Durango!|
|K-150||WILD WESTERN||51||Sep-56||The Man Who Wouldn't Fight!|
|K-161||OUTLAW KID||13||Sep-56||Wanted Dead or Alive|
|K-163||TWO GUN WESTERN (2)||6||Sep-56||When The Rustlers Strike!|
|K-201||TWO GUN WESTERN (2)||6||Sep-56||The Return Of Joe Laredo!|
|K-234||TWO GUN WESTERN (2)||6||Sep-56||Gun - Duel!|
|K-235||TWO GUN WESTERN (2)||6||Sep-56||His Father's Son!|
|K-257||MATT SLADE, GUNFIGHTER||3||Sep-56||The Blacksmith|
|K-423||TWO - GUN KID||33||Oct-56||Under Arrest|
|K-521||RINGO KID||14||Oct-56||The Stranger!|
|K-537||KID COLT OUTLAW||65||Oct-56||The Promise!|
|K-551||WESTERN OUTLAWS||17||Oct-56||When The Wild Bunch Rides!|
|K-556||WESTERN OUTLAWS||17||Oct-56||Every Gun Against Him!|
|K-566||WESTERN OUTLAWS||17||Oct-56||The Man Called Dango|
|K-567||WESTERN OUTLAWS||17||Oct-56||The Masked Outlaw|
|K-568||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||15||Dec-56||The Dakota Kid Rides Again!|
|K-608||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||15||Dec-56||Gun Duel in Tombstone|
|K-609||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||15||Dec-56||The Man!|
|K-614||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||15||Dec-56||No Place to Hide!|
|K-684||WYATT EARP||7||Nov-56||The Man Who Lost the Fight|
|K-849||TWO - GUN KID||34||Dec-56||The Stranger!|
|K-874||KID COLT OUTLAW||67||Dec-56||Return of the Outlaw!|
|K-995||RAWHIDE KID||12||Jan-57||Kid Six - Gun|
|L-008||WILD WESTERN||53||Jan-57||The Men Who Snared The Stagecoach!|
|L-010||WILD WESTERN||53||Jan-57||Gun-Fight In Abiline|
|L-011||WILD WESTERN||53||Jan-57||The Utah Kid|
|L-026||OUTLAW KID||15||Jan-57||The Fastest Draw!|
|L-029||TWO GUN WESTERN (2)||8||Jan-57||Return of the Hair - Trigger Kid!|
|L-033||TWO GUN WESTERN (2)||8||Jan-57||The Stage Driver!|
|L-043||KID COLT OUTLAW||68||Jan-57||A Desperado At Our Door!|
|L-044||TWO GUN WESTERN (2)||8||Jan-57||The Man Who Wouldn't Fight!|
|L-045||TWO GUN WESTERN (2)||8||Jan-57||When the Mob Strikes|
|L-058||KID SLADE, GUNFIGHTER||5||Jan-57||The Winner!|
|L-072||FRONTIER WESTERN||7||Feb-57||Return Of The Gunfighter!|
|L-075||WESTERN OUTLAWS||18||Jan-57||Draw If You Dare|
|L-085||WESTERN OUTLAWS||18||Jan-57||Nugget Murdock, The Robber Baron|
|L-089||WESTERN OUTLAWS||18||Jan-57||Bull Morgan He Ambushed The Man From Natchez|
|L-090||WESTERN OUTLAWS||18||Jan-57||Barton Fargo's Revenge!|
|L-100||WESTERN GUNFIGHTERS||24||Feb-57||His Back To The Wall!|
|L-103||SIX - GUN WESTERN||1||Jan-57||The Fastest Draw In Texas!|
|L-133||SIX - GUN WESTERN||1||Jan-57||Six - Gun For Hire!|
|L-134||SIX - GUN WESTERN||1||Jan-57||Bait For Boot-Hill|
|L-151||SIX - GUN WESTERN||1||Jan-57||Kid Yukon, Gunslinger|
|L-193||FRONTIER WESTERN||7||Feb-57||Dead Or Alive!|
|L-194||FRONTIER WESTERN||7||Feb-57||Hoofs Of Doom!|
|L-195||FRONTIER WESTERN||7||Feb-57||The deputy!|
|L-239||TWO - GUN KID||35||Feb-57||The Man Who Wears The Badge!|
|L-240||RINGO KID||16||Feb-57||Back Down or Die!|
|L-248||WESTERN KID||14||Feb-57||The Getaway!|
|L-255||KID COLT OUTLAW||69||Feb-57||Saddle - Bum!|
|L-326 (?)||RAWHIDE KID||13||Mar-57||The Gun!|
|L-352||WYATT EARP||9||Mar-57||The Saddle - Tramp!|
|L-379||KID COLT OUTLAW||70||Mar-57||He Stands In The Shadow!|
|L-399||WESTERN OUTLAWS||19||Mar-57||Outlaw In Hiding!|
|L-404||WESTERN OUTLAWS||19||Mar-57||The Betrayer!|
|L-418||WESTERN OUTLAWS||19||Mar-57||Strong - Man Thompson|
|L-419||WESTERN OUTLAWS||19||Mar-57||The McGill Gang's Gun Guard!|
|L-454||TWO - GUN KID||36||Apr-57||Trail's End!|
|L-457||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||17||Apr-57||Gunfighter For Hire!|
|L-458||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||17||Apr-57||Captive Town|
|L-482||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||17||Apr-57||Ambush!|
|L-541||RINGO KID||17||Apr-57||The Payoff!|
|L-586||QUICK - TRIGGER WESTERN||17||Apr-57||Man Without Guns!|
|L-596||KID COLT OUTLAW||71||Apr-57||The Coward!|
|L-629||WESTERN GUNFIGHTERS||25||Apr-57||The Fastest Gun In Cheyenne!|
|L-633||WESTERN GUNFIGHTERS||25||Apr-57||Once A Sheriff!|
|L-648||WESTERN GUNFIGHTERS||25||Apr-57||The Tin Horn|
|L-661||WESTERN GUNFIGHTERS||25||Apr-57||The Kid From Tombstone!|
|L-675||RAWHIDE KID||14||May-57||The Texas Gunhark|
|L-753||WYATT EARP||10||Apr-57||The Gun!|
|L-860||KID SLADE, GUNFIGHTER||7||May-57||The Gun-Slinger!|
|L-861||KID COLT OUTLAW||72||May-57||The Big Man|
|L-929||RINGO KID||18||Jun-57||Man With A Gun!|
|L-930||TWO - GUN KID||37||Jun-57||A Stranger Came A - Ridin'!|
|L-984||WYATT EARP||11||May-57||The Guns of Dakota Joe!|
- 2-Gun Western #4 (May/56) - #J-382 "The Badmen!" (4 pages) Art by Steve Ditko
The very first pair up between Stan Lee and Steve Ditko! Cover by Joe Maneely. This is just a killer Atlas issue!
- Outlaw Kid #10 (Mar/56) - #H-432 "The Protector!" (4 pages). Art by Al Williamson
- Cowboy Action #11 (Mar/56) - #H-434 "Billy The Kid" (4 pages). Art by Matt Baker.
- Wild Western #53 (Jan/57) - #L-011 "The Utah Kid" (5 pages) Art by Dick Ayers.
- Western Gunfighters #24 (Feb/57) - #L-100 "His Back to the Wall!" (7 p.) Art by Alex Toth
Outside of the Black Knight, Stan Lee's Atlas pre-code horror writing is probably the most well-known of his pre-Marvel work. Let's face it, until the publication of the Timely golden-age superhero Masterworks, very few people had seen and read Stan Lee's 1940's work. And unless you are as obsessive as I am, even less people have ever seen his funny-animal and teen work. But pre-code horror? Marvel reprinted a lot of it in the early 1970's in titles like Chamber of Chills and Crypt of Shadows, and that's where we found it!
From cover date May/49 to the Atlas implosion, Timely/Atlas published 678 horror/fantasy/sci-fi issues over the course of 24 different titles. The genre started innocuously with the February 19, 1949 publication of Amazing Mysteries #32. Next, the long-running flagship title of Timely superheroes, Marvel Mystery Comics, changed title to Marvel Tales. Captain America Comics changed to Captain America's Weird Tales and then ended. In 1950, Suspense changed from crime to horror, Venus takes on a fantastic bent, Journey into Unknown Worlds debuts and Adventures into Terror shows up.
On July 27, 1951, Stan Lee's very first horror/fantasy story appears in this line, in the 11th (Nov/51) issue of the licensed title Suspense, and illustrated by Joe Maneely. Over the next 2 year period, Stan will script 151 stories, edit part of the line and fully take over and launch a new title, Menace, where he will write all the stories in the first 7 issues himself, coming the closest Atlas will come to parroting Bill Gaines' horror line at E.C. He will also institute a letter page in Suspense titled "Suspense Sanctuary", fight in print with Dr. Fredric Wertham and then all at once vanish from these types of books, never to script another story in the genre until he teams up with Steve Ditko in the pre-hero period.
Below is a listing of 120 of Stan's 151 pre-code horror stories. The artists are the cream of the Atlas crop, Bill Everett, Joe Maneely, Russ Heath, George Tuska, John Romita, Joe Sinnott, Gene Colan, Jerry Robinson, Fred Kida, Carmine Infantino, Paul Reinman, Howie Post, Dick Ayers and others. His most frequent collaborators was Joe Maneely, followed by Russ Heath and then Bill Everett.
The stories are hit or miss. Some are interesting and some give a decent zing at the end. Many are pretty dumb. As I mentioned, Stan's Western fillers I found much stronger and I think he spent more time there developing characterization. The characters below are cardboard cutouts. I'll post some samples, staying away mostly from his stories in Menace that I covered in another blog post on that title alone, and then return for a wrap-up.
|#9368||ASTONISHING||9||Feb-52||Who Dares To Enter?|
|#9926||SUSPENSE *||16||Spring/52||Alone In The Dark!|
|#9988||ASTONISHING||12||Apr-52||The Torture Chamber|
|A-021||MYSTIC *||8||May-52||We Meet at Midnight!|
|A-070||UNCANNY TALES||1||Jun-52||While the City Sleeps|
|A-109||UNCANNY TALES||1||Jun-52||Satan and Sammy Snodgrass|
|A-350||MYSTIC *||9||Jun-52||It Happened in the Darkness|
|A-439||SUSPENSE *||20||Jul-52||The Beast-Man|
|A-530||UNCANNY TALES||2||Aug-52||The Man Who Melted|
|A-566||MYSTIC *||10||Jul-52||They Called Her a Witch!|
|A-595||ADVENTURES INTO WEIRD WORLDS||9||Aug-52||Too Much T.V.|
|A-599||MYSTIC *||11||Aug-52||Death and Tommy Norton|
|A-614||MYSTIC *||25||Dec-53||Have You Ever Seen a Huge Black Vampire?|
|A-634||STRANGE TALES *||9||Aug-52||The Man From Mars|
|A-770||SUSPENSE *||21||Aug-52||The Ghost Of Grimm Towers!|
|A-785||MYSTIC *||12||Sep-52||The Hooded Horror!|
|A-928 (?)||SPELLBOUND||8||Oct-52||The Man Who Hated Children!|
|B-???||ADVENTURES INTO WEIRD WORLDS||12||Nov-52||Throw Another Coal On The Fire!|
|B-066||MYSTERY TALES||5||Nov-52||Blackout At Midnight|
|B-079||STRANGE TALES *||11||Oct-52||The Devil and Donald Webster|
|B-102||ADVENTURES INTO WEIRD WORLDS||11||Oct-52||Ghost in the House!|
|B-103||SUSPENSE *||23||Oct-52||Vampire, Beware!|
|B-104||SUSPENSE *||23||Oct-52||The Ugly Man|
|B-122||SPELLBOUND||7||Sep-52||The Vampire's Bride|
|B-144||ADVENTURES INTO TERROR||13||Dec-52||Don't Try To Outsmart The Devil!|
|B-145||ASTONISHING||18||Oct-52||Vampire At The Window|
|B-147||UNCANNY TALES||4||Dec-52||Nobody's Fool|
|B-184||ASTONISHING||19||Nov-52||Back From The Grave|
|B-204||SUSPENSE *||23||Oct-52||Molu's Secret!|
|B-233||SUSPENSE *||24||Nov-52||Horror Story|
|B-234||SUSPENSE *||24||Nov-52||Boiling Point|
|B-267||SPELLBOUND||9||Nov-52||The Vampire and the Lady!|
|B-274||SUSPENSE *||24||Nov-52||Back From The Dead!|
|B-305||ASTONISHING||20||Dec-52||Mystery At Midnight|
|B-306||ASTONISHING||20||Dec-52||When You Die!|
|B-329||SUSPENSE *||27||Feb-53||Storm Warning!|
|B-332||UNCANNY TALES||4||Dec-52||Worse Than Black Magic!|
|B-350||MYSTIC *||16||Jan-53||Ghosts In The Night|
|B-351||SPELLBOUND||11||Jan-53||Never Trust A Woman!|
|B-381||MYSTIC *||16||Jan-53||The Wooden Box|
|B-382||ADVENTURES INTO WEIRD WORLDS||14||Jan-53||Shriek In The Night|
|B-383||MARVEL TALES||111||Feb-53||The Man Who Searched For Satan!|
|B-399||STRANGE TALES *||14||Jan-53||Horrible Herman|
|B-424||ADVENTURES INTO WEIRD WORLDS||14||Jan-53||Horror On Haunted Hill!|
|B-431||SUSPENSE *||26||Jan-53||Worse Than Death!|
|B-434||JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY||5||Feb-53||Fright!|
|B-514||STRANGE TALES *||14||Jan-53||The Man Who Talked to Ghosts!|
|B-553||ADVENTURES INTO TERROR||14||Winter/53||The Little People|
|B-637||MYSTERY TALES||7||Jan-53||Rudolf's Revenge!|
|B-638||MYSTERY TALES||7||Jan-53||The Man Who Was A God|
|B-656||ADVENTURES INTO TERROR||15||Jan-53||He Kept Him In Stitches!|
|B-658||MYSTIC *||17||Feb-53||The Vampire|
|B-694||ADVENTURES INTO TERROR||16||Feb-53||My Name is Death!|
|B-695||SUSPENSE *||28||Mar-53||With Intent To Kill|
|B-790||Journey Into Unknown Worlds||15||Feb-53||The Unknown|
|B-941||SUSPENSE *||29||Apr-53||The Raving Maniac|
|B-963||SUSPENSE *||28||Mar-53||The Poor Fish!|
|B-979||JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY||6||Mar-53||Death!|
|B-980||ADVENTURES INTO TERROR||18||Apr-53||Headache|
|C-???||ADVENTURES INTO TERROR||22||Aug-53||In One Ear...|
|C-018 (?)||JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY||6||Mar-53||Wings Of The Vampire!|
|C-037||SUSPENSE *||29||Apr-53||The Man Behind The Blinds!|
|C-038||ASTONISHING||24||Apr-53||The Stone Face|
|C-068||Journey Into Unknown Worlds||17||Apr-53||The Great Disappointment!|
|C-078||UNCANNY TALES||7||Apr-53||I was Locked in a ... Haunted House|
|C-114||SPELLBOUND||15||Jun-53||The Living Dead|
|C-116||ADVENTURES INTO TERROR||18||Apr-53||Vampire By Night|
|C-167||UNCANNY TALES||8||May-53||Day of Execution|
|C-168||JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY||8||May-53||Willie Brown Is Out To Get Me!|
|C-169||MENACE *||1||Mar-53||One Head Too Many!|
|C-170||JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY||8||May-53||The Tough Guy|
|C-188||MENACE *||1||Mar-53||Poor Mr. Watkins|
|C-189||MENACE *||1||Mar-53||The Man Who Couldn't Move|
|C-190||MENACE *||1||Mar-53||They Wait In Their ... Dungeon|
|C-287||MENACE *||2||Apr-53||On With The Dance!|
|C-288||MENACE *||2||Apr-53||Burton's Blood!|
|C-289||MENACE *||2||Apr-53||The Man In Black|
|C-298 (?)||MENACE *||2||Apr-53||Rocket To The Moon|
|C-323||MENACE *||3||May-53||You're Gonna Live Forever|
|C-332||MENACE *||8||Oct-53||The Lizard - Man|
|NN||SUSPENSE *||29||Apr-53||Strong As An Ox!|
|C-359||MEN'S ADVENTURES||21||May-53||My Brother Must Die|
|C-366||MEN'S ADVENTURES||21||May-53||The Secret of the Flying Saucers!|
|C-428||UNCANNY TALES||8||May-53||Bring Back My Face|
|C-443||STRANGE TALES *||19||Jun-53||You Made the Pants too Long|
|C-608||MENACE *||3||May-53||Men In Black|
|C-683||MENACE *||4||Jun-53||The Madman|
|C-706||UNCANNY TALES||10||Jul-53||Money Mad!|
|C-753 (?)||MENACE *||4||Jun-53||Escape To The Moon!|
|C-789||ADVENTURES INTO TERROR||21||Jul-53||Sticks And Stones Can Break My Bones|
|C-814||MENACE *||4||Jun-53||A Vampire is Born|
|C-969||MENACE *||5||Jul-53||Rocket Ship!|
|C-999||MENACE *||5||Jul-53||Crack - Down!|
|D-046||MENACE *||6||Aug-53||The Graymoor Ghost|
|D-114||MENACE *||6||Aug-53||Flying Saucer!|
|D-166 (?)||MENACE *||6||Aug-53||Checkmate!|
|D-225||MENACE *||7||Sep-53||The Witch In The Woods|
|D-276||MENACE *||7||Sep-53||The Planet of Living Death|
|D-290||MENACE *||7||Sep-53||Fresh Out Of Flesh!|
|D-304 (?)||MENACE *||6||Aug-53||The Corpse|
|D-309||MENACE *||7||Sep-53||Your Name is Frankenstein!|
|D-325||MENACE *||8||Oct-53||The Face Of Horror|
Uncanny Tales #3 (Oct/52) - #A-682 "Crazy" (3 pages). Art by Jerry Robinson.
Mystic #12 (Sept/52) - #A-785 "The Hooded Horror!" (7 p.) Art by Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane
Marvel Tales #110 (Dec/52) - #B-267 "Foolproof!" (3 pages). Art by Russ Heath.
One of my favorite Stan Lee pre-code horror stories is this 3-page quickie with Russ Heath. I recall seeing this reprinted in the 1970's and finally tracked down the original decades ago.
Astonishing #20 (Dec/52) - #B-384 "Living Doll!" (5 pages). Art by Jerry Robinson.
Adventures Into Weird Worlds #14 (Jan/43) - #B-424 "Horror on Haunted Hill!" (6 p.) Art by Carmine Infantino & Gil Kane.
Mystery Tales #7 (Jan/53) - #B-637 "Rudolph's Revenge!" (4 pages) - Art by Jerry Robinson.
Hank Chapman, Ernie Hart and Stan Lee were three of the editors knee-deep in the very large horror/fantasy line. Stan coalesced his influence around two titles in 1952-53, the licensed title Suspense, and then the new title Menace, which supplanted it. Stan has spoken about the effect of the Fredric Wertham attacks on the comic book industry many times. He's mentioned how he was even embarrassed to tell people he wrote for comic books. Well everything was coming to a head at the same time.Stan was trying to really put a stamp on the horror line. E.C. was the gold standard but Atlas was the market leader with a high as 11 titles being published a month. Stan takes over Suspense and institutes a letter page called "Suspense Sanctuary". It's exactly the same as the concurrently seen romance letter page with his wife's letter. It will appear in all issues of Suspense from #21 to #28 (except #24). As expected, #23's letter page has planted letters, including one from Stan himself as S. Martin (from Woodmere, Long Island) and Lester Keyes, a likely thinly veiled reference to writer Daniel Keyes, then a comic book sci-fi writer and associate editor of Martin Goodman's science fiction pulp revival, Marvel Science Stories.
With the Fredric Wertham imbroglio at its apex, with articles appearing in the major print media about the bad effects comic books are having on children, with Seduction of the Innocent on the horizon, Martin Goodman cancels Suspense, the reason having more to do with the license from CBS than anything else. In the final issue, #29 (Apr/53), Stan Lee and Joe Maneely produce a shot back at Dr. Wertham, the 4-page classic, "The Raving Maniac".
Suspense #29 (Apr/53) - #B-941 "The Raving Maniac" (4 pages). Art by Joe Maneely.
The last issue of Suspense saw a full page ad for Atlas' newest horror title that would replace it, Menace.
As I wrote, Menace was unique in the manner that Stan Lee tried to do E.C. He wrote every story up to issue #7 and surrounded himself only with his hand-picked favorite artists, Bill Everett, Joe Maneely and Russ Heath, being the most used here. I covered this title in detail in another article so I'll only mention a few stories. First is probably the most famous Stan Lee pre-code horror story of all, "Zombie!" from issue #5, with Bill Everett providing the gorgeous visuals.
Menace #5 (July/53) - #C-952 "Zombie!" (7 pages). Art by Bill Everett
In the very last issue of Menace that Stan Lee fully scripted, he took one last parting shot at Dr. Fredric Wertham.. After this, the anti-comics media would be at a frenzy with a major article appearing in the November issue of Ladies Home Journal titled "What Parents Don't Know About Comic Books".
Menace #7 (Sept/53) - #D-225 "The Witch in the Woods" (5 pages). Art by Joe Sinnott.
And with this last volley off the starboard side, Stan Lee vanished from horror/fantasy/sci-fi comics.
I've now covered every single thing Stan Lee wrote during his time in the Timely and Atlas periods of Martin Goodman's comic book line. One further mention should be that he also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get out of the industry completely. My friend Ger Apeldoorn wrote a fantastically detailed article in the 150th issue of Alter Ego magazine, showcasing all of Stan's attempts at comic strip syndication, self-publishing, etc., during the years 1956-1962. The most successful was Mrs. Lyons' Cubs, with Joe Maneely. I'll touch upon that in a short while. One attempt, Golfer's Anonymous, has a page Stan Goldberg told me Jack Kirby worked on. The year was 1961.
Stan Lee may have stopped writing horror comics but Martin Goodman didn't miss a beat. With the publication of Dr. Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent in the spring of 1954, the industry was in turmoil. . A hastily created "Comics Code Authority" was instituted and self-censorship was now the order of the day. Companies shut down, creative people left the industry in droves....... and Martin Goodman just kept on chugging along. In fact, he increased his output! Horror comics banned? Then he increased his output of everything else, including code-sponsored fantasy.
Goodman's Atlas News Company distributed Goodman's publications until 1956. In that year Goodman's business manager, Monroe Froelich, Jr., convinced Goodman to drop it and give up self-distribution, changing his distributor to the venerable American News Company, the largest and most influential in the nation, a company hailing back to 1864, when it distributed the immensely popular Beadle Dime Stories. ANC later bought the Union News Company (railway newsstands) and numerous companies, holdings which all added to its deep engulfing reach and influence.
Goodman dismantled his Atlas Magazine Company and switched, ANC taking over on November 1, 1956, as Goodman was ramping up his comic book line. While I mentioned the comics code had killed the output of many companies, driving most out of business, Goodman kept expanding until by early 1957 had almost 85 different comic book titles on the newsstands. The Atlas Globe continued to be seen on covers, now only as a brand.
But unbeknownst disaster loomed.
The question will long be asked whether Martin Goodman, with his long experience in publishing, distribution and circulation, should have foreseen the problems ANC was having behind the scenes. As I've written elsewhere, ANC's Wholesale Periodical Division was hemorrhaging money and clients were leaving in droves just as Goodman was signing up. In April of 1957 it all came to a head as ANC's largest client, Dell Publishing, pulled out also (and soon to sue ANC for restraint of trade).
As more clients then pulled out, on May 17, 1957, the American News Company closed down its Wholesale Periodical Division for good. The result of this for Martin Goodman was devastating. He had a huge publishing line of comics and magazines, and now no way to get them to the newsstand. Immediately he canceled the last few straggling pulp lines, which had been floundering for years anyway. His Lion Books line had already ended when he sold the line to New American Books, where they continued to release under their Signet brand. But his magazines, especially his men's sweat titles, a genre he nearly single-handedly pioneered, was too valuable to cancel. Comic books were a different matter. Perhaps sensing that disaster was ahead, Goodman began to cancel titles slowly one and two months leading up to the Implosion. Around April 27, 1957, all new work in the comic books was halted and Martin Goodman gutted his line, hastily secured distribution from Independent News, owned by his main comic book competitor, Harry Donenfeld and his National Periodical Publications (DC Comics). DC didn't want the competition that Goodman usually employed by flooding the stands with titles so a rigid restriction was put in place. Goodman was only allowed 16 titles, an 80% reduction of his line (!), which he exploited by publishing them bi-monthly.
Although the line was probably gutted immediately, possibly in anticipation of trouble that was occurring, the newsstands ended up with comic books sporting different cover months. The final issue to sport an Atlas globe cover was a new funny animal comic book by Stan Lee and Joe Maneely, Dippy Duck #1, (Oct/57). In fact, it was one of only 2 comic book published with an Oct/57 cover date, the other being Patsy Walker #73, which did not sport an Atlas globe logo. Goodman kept the old Atlas logo off now, not even using it as a company brand, possibly to not be confusing with the new Ind. distribution mark of Independent News. For the record, in this post-implosion period, the company sported no identifying logo or branding whatsoever.
Stan Lee was ordered to fire everybody once again, the second time in 8 years. Atlas had employed well over 200 freelancers in the decade and now most were out of work. Artists frantically looked for employment at National, Charlton and many left the comic book industry altogether, never to return.
So here is the set-up in place now. At the time of the work stoppage, production was on schedule for Goodman's full spectrum of scores of titles. Perhaps a hundred freelance artists and at least 10 freelance writers were all churning out material when the call came to shut down production. There was a huge inventory of unpublished comic book stories already written and drawn, as well as hundreds of undrawn scripts by a bevy of freelance writers.
With a skeleton line, Lee assembled the books using inventory. Let's go back to the time of the work stoppage. The backlog of inventory was large. In the fantasy titles, there was enough completed inventory to pace the two re-started post-implosion fantasy books (World of Fantasy and Strange Tales) for an entire year using inventory from the M job number run. The war titles had three books with M and O inventory (Battle, Marines in Battle and Navy Combat) while the romance line had two with M and O (Love Romances and My Own Romance). In the westerns, there were four with M and O (Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt Outlaw, Gunsmoke Western and Wyatt Earp).
All stories up through O were created and paid for before the Atlas implosion work stoppage. The first inventory to run out was in the teen books, then the westerns. Stan began to write nearly everything himself. Millie the Model, Patsy Walker, Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt Outlaw, Wyatt Earp... If there was a character feature, Stan wrote it. Not 100%, especially at first, some of the stories lack his signature and Dan DeCarlo and Al Hartley were perfectly capable writers themselves. But certainly most of it. Now what constitutes "writing" is up for debate. The artists were long-time professionals who had been working with Stan for years. Crafting a humorous 4-page Millie or Patsy story took nothing at all. I'm positive Stan was working these stories "Marvel Method", where the artist plotted the story and Stan then dialogued them in his unique "snappy patter" manner. It's the only way Stan could actually "write" so many stories. There were no scripts.
Many fillers were still from inventory. The new job numbers were P and S in the teen and Western books. Fantasy, war and romance still utilized inventory at this juncture. The first new story P-1 was published in Miss America #88 (Jan/58), published on September 9, 1957, approximately 4 months after the publication of Dippy Duck #1 (Oct/57) on May 13, 1957.
So let's look across the genres......
Teen- New teen work came back first with P and S job numbers, Stan primarily writing all the various Millie and Patsy incarnations, as well as a new title Kathy done with Stan Goldberg, another Archie-type clone .. Below is the splash page to the very first issue, Goldberg is inked only on the debut issue by Christopher Rule.
Romance - Inventory remained until cover date Sept-Nov, 1958. Then new work is commissioned with "T" job numbers in the pre-hero era. Most/all of this comes out of the Vince Colletta shop. Stan wrote none of it until 1961.
War - Inventory until Jack Kirby returns in Battle with "T" job numbers in 1959, the pre-hero era. Stan wrote none of it.
Horror/Fantasy/Sci-Fi - Inventory until Strange Worlds #1, T job number and Jack Kirby's return at start of pre-hro era. Stan writes none of it until pairing with Steve Ditko in 1961. The rest of the entire pre-hero monster line is Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby written.
Western - New western stories with "P" numbers came back in Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt Outlaw, Gunsmoke Western and Wyatt Earp cover dated Feb-Mar-Apr, 1958, with Stan writing all the character features for Joe Maneely, Jack Keller and Dick Ayers.
*** [Following the Atlas implosion, Stan and Joe Maneely launched the syndicated strip Mrs. Lyons' Cubs, via the Chicago Sun-Times Syndicate (see Ger Apeldoorn's article in AE #150 for details), and between his revived comic book writing and strip work,, including later Willie Lumpkin with Dan DeCarlo, was certainly busy. Yet the looming dread of Goodman cancelling his entire comic book line continued to hang over his head.] ***
What does the phrase "pre-hero" even mean? Well it means the period in Marvel's history just before Fantastic Four #1 (Nov/61). We typically date the start of this period to the return of Jack Kirby to the company, along with the publication of Strange Worlds #1 (Dec/58). That is when the march towards Marvel superheroes began. But if we want to really be exact, it was the moment new work was commissioned and the post-implosion inventory began to run out, namely P-1 in Miss America #88 (Jan/58).
But it's more complicated than that. In fact, if not for a random, tragic event, there may not have ever even been a pre-hero period, and by inference, no hero period either, especially if one of my scenarios below is right.
As mentioned, following the Atlas implosion, It was strict inventory until the Teen and Western inventory ran out. Then Stan was writing nearly everything, meaning teen and western characters. On June 7, 1958, in the midst of drawing the Two-Gun Kid, Mrs. Lyons' Cubs, and rendering most of the non-teen, non-romance covers, Joe Maneely, Stan Lee's fastest, top artistic collaborator, and friend, died on the way back home by train. Stan must have been shell-shocked. The very last thing Joe drew was the splash above to Two-Gun Kid #45, #T-67, cover date Dec/58 and published on September 2, 1958. Jack Davis would finish the rest of the story, John Severin would ultimately take over the book and later give way to Al Hartley.
The very first story Jack Kirby did when he returned to what used to be called Atlas, was #T-76 Strange Worlds #1's "I Discovered the Secret of the Flying Saucers!", cover date Dec/58, published around September 3, 1958.
So these two stories, Joe Maneely's last and Jack Kirby's first, were assigned and published almost simultaneously. The Kirby story is assigned within one or two days of Maneely's death. That is a fact. Dick Ayers once gave me the date of a western story he did, with a number a few digits from Kirby's story, and it was assigned the Monday after Joe's death. So what are some of the possibilities of what may have happened?
Jack Kirby is on record that he talked Stan Lee into pursuing new ideas, science fiction and ultimately superheroes. Kirby claimed on more than one occasion that they were "carrying out the furniture" when he arrived, and alternately, that he "found Stan Lee crying", because they were going to shut down the comics.
Let's parse this further. The Atlas implosion a year earlier certainly would have led Stan to think Goodman was going to shut down the company. Was Jack talking about that? I don't know. The death of Maneely, his friend and collaborator, would have left Stan "also" thinking there was now no future in the comic books, and that Martin Goodman may well shut down the comics division. Plus, if he arrived at Stan's office the next day, Monday, he would quite possibly have found Stan Lee in tears, not because of his job, but because of Joe's death.
Additionally, how did Jack get to Stan's office, out of the blue, the Monday (or Tuesday) after Joe's death over the weekend? The only way is that Stan called him. Don Heck, in an interview with Will Murray, stated that Stan called him up immediately after Joe died, telling him that there was work open. Heck had not worked for Stan since the implosion in the Spring of 1957. Heck was also in that first issue of Strange Worlds, on a story with a job #T-77, the number immediately after Jack's story. The other artists that issue were Steve Ditko, T-81 and an unknown artist, T-80.
So there are only two ways this can go. Stan and Goodman were planning a new science fiction direction for the company, in a genre Goodman patently despised. His science fiction pulp Marvel Science Stories in both the 1930's and 1950's versions failed, his science fiction comic books were the consistently worst sellers of the fantasy line (among horror, mystery, etc.). So in this scenario, Stan and Goodman suggested it and it was ready to launch with Kirby, Ditko, Heck and Maneely, when Maneely unexpectantly dies.
The company was plodding along and Maneely dies. Stan in a panic called Kirby (guess), Ditko (guess) and Heck (corroborated). Kirby tells Stan to ditch the stupid, boring junk they'd been publishing and think bigger, think of the future, think science fantasy, something he had already been doing in Sky Masters. Goodman would have been wary but with Stan on board may have given in, especially since there was already a large pile of science fantasy scripts un-drawn. The decision was made on the spot. Remember, the monster stories didn't start until a year later, and that would be a logical evolution of the science fiction stories buttressed by what was happening in the BEM films. Stan is sold. Goodman is sold, a new title debuts (Strange Worlds), the following month two more new titles debut (Tales to Astonish & Tales of Suspense), stories assigned from a huge stack of unused post-code fantasy scripts that were orphaned after the Implosion, perhaps tweaked to upgrade them. Jack plots and writes his own stories, mostly. Stan's brother Larry Lieber is corralled to assist plot and script (he has stated he wrote full scripts) so Stan can continue to churn out the myriad Millie, Patsy, Kathy stories, as well as the character westerns, Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid and still Wyatt Earp (which will soon be cancelled).
(One exception to this was a re-boot of the old Atlas western, Rawhide Kid. Stan and Jack craft a new origin and new character entirely, with the main plot strangely reminiscent of the future Spider-Man's origin in 1962, complete with an Uncle Ben who gets murdered and setting up the youth's oath to never forget.)
Kirby writes and draws a last gasp flurry of war stories for Battle and the title (and genre) is cancelled. Monsters take over the fantasy books but Stan is not scripting them, perhaps co-plotting some, at the very least. Ditko settles into fantasy stories and when the old scripts run out, Stan starts writing with him, first unsigned, then with a signature. Stan scripts a last gasp at romance stories, both with and without Kirby, and the line is heading to the shelf. Redundant stories and sales falling has Goodman looking for a new trend as we approach the summer of 1961. Is he threatening once again to shut down the comics line? Stan has said he was. Jack said he had been plugging for superheroes since he returned.
Does Stan, on his wife's advice, finally do comic book stories like he wants to? (Having done a thousand Millie the Model, My Friend Irma, My Girl Pearl, Rusty, Lana, Tessie, Mitzi, Little Lenny, Little Lizzie, Nellie, Kathy, Ginch, Imp, Mrs. Lyons' Cubs, Willie Lumpkin, et al stories, a smattering of recent westerns, and not a single superhero since 1942).
Does Stan and Goodman, after constant pushing by Kirby, relent and see what he proposes? (Having already done the most visually exciting superheroes hits of the golden-age, co-invented the romance comics genre, produced some of the most respected genre comics of the genre age, Sky Masters, Challengers of the Unknown for DC, The Fly at Archie, bug powers via an "extract" for Harvey, two different previous Thors, untold powerful monsters, and a score of "ancient gods walking among men" stories).
I've laid out all the data. Draw your own conclusions.
Fantastic Four #1. (Henry Martini pedigree copy)
*** [The copy above is known in certain collecting circles as "The Henry Martini copy" of Fantastic Four #1. That's because it's my copy, having had it since I bought it from my childhood friend Henry Martini around 1975. Henry was my teammate on our neighborhood Little League baseball team in Astoria, NY, The Silksox Boy's Club. We were both pitchers and one day the subject of comic books came up. I told Henry I loved the Marvel books and had about 200 comics total. Henry proceeded to make my jaw drop by telling me he had the first 100 issues of both The Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-Man! Kids being natural skeptics, I demanded proof and the next day he bicycled from Astoria to my home in Jackson Heights with two paper shopping bags dangling from each handlebar, each with the first 100 issues of each title! He arrived and we spread them around my basement floor, he trying to keep the drool from my mouth from damaging them, as they were unbagged. His Spideys were his babies, but my eye was drawn to Fantastic Four #1. I didn't then have an issue before #69 and he let me page through the entire thing, smelling the pages. It was a worn copy, it was a beat copy, it was even a taped copy! But I was in love! I asked Henry where he got all the books and my memory of his answer was that a neighbor's son had gone into the army during the Vietnam war, and his mom gave all his comics to Henry. Questions I've always had, which probably always will be unanswered, is whether the fellow returned safely from the war or not.
The following year we attended the same high school together, Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School, in East Elmhurst, NY (2 short blocks from my house), still pitching for the same teams, both outside the school and the school team also. One day in the hallway Henry stopped me and told me he was selling his comics. He was keeping the Spideys, but the FF's were for sale. Prices quoted were too rich for my 15 year old self but we decided that I could afford FF #3, which I bought. A week later I traded it back for FF #2, adding $15 to the deal. I then offered to trade back the #2 for #1, which was the only one I wanted all along. Henry wanted a sizable increase back in cash and I agreed, not knowing how I was going to pay it. Good-hearted Henry even gave me the book immediately upon trading in the #2. It turns out, Henry was fine with time payments, and for the rest of the year, would approach me in class, in the hallway, out on the baseball field, etc., take out his index card and ask me if I wanted to pay down the debt, happily taking $1, $5, or $10, whatever I wanted to pay. By summer vacation, I owned it outright! Henry transferred to a different school to play on a city baseball team, I think L.I.C High School, and I never saw him again.
The Henry Martini copy of Fantastic Four #1 has gone a long way in helping me nail down the inker of the issue, George Klein. It survived photocopying, scanning, passing around among Yancy Street Gang members, you name it. It's a working book, a piece of comics research history, and more valuable (in a scholarly sense) than any other copy of hi-grade version. Henry, if you're out there, your book has been a boon to the hobby!] ***
Two photos of Stan Lee at Vince Colletta's house in New Jersey around 1963.
- The photo at the top comes from my copy of the November, 1947 Writer's Digest, hosting Stan's 7 page article, "There's Money in Comics."
- Simon, Joe. "My Life in Comics"; Titan Books, 2011
- Bell, Blake and Dr. Michael J. Vassallo. "The Secret History of Marvel Comics"; Fantagraphics Publishing, 2013
- Stan Lee quotes about Bill King from author's private, unpublished correspondence.
- Bill King data from private correspondence with his daughter Lois , 2005.
- Thank you to Cory Sedlmeier for tons of Timely scans.
- Thank you to Tom Stewart for a heads up on Mystic Comics #9
- Huge thank you to Tom Lammers for help sorting out Stan's writing run in Millie the Model, all Patsy Walker titles, Hedy DeVine and Nellie the Nurse. He saved me untold hours paging through hundreds of books in the only genre I haven't fully indexed.
- Lammers, Tom. "Tales of the Implosion," Self Published, 2005
- Interview with Jim Mooney from author's private, unpublished interview.
- Raphael, Jordan and Tom Spurgeon. "Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book," Chicago Review Press, 2003
- Photo of Stan Lee and Vince Fago is courtesy of John Fago and used with his permission.
- Schelly, Bill. Harvey Kurtzman - The Man Who Created Mad. Fantagraphics Publishing, 2015
- Photos of Vince and D'Ann, & Vince and the author, courtesy of the author.
- Apeldoorn, Ger "Get Me Out of Here!", Alter Ego Magazine #150, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2018
- Apeldoorn, Ger and Craig Yoe. "Behaving Madly", IDW, 2017.
- The rest of all scans come from the author's own collection.
- Fantastic Four #1 is the vaunted Henry Martini pedigree copy.
- Photos of Stan Lee at Vince Colletta's house courtesy of Frankie Colletta and used with his permission.