Tuesday, 3 February 2015


Wow, are you in for a treat!  Bashful BARRY PEARL, one of the men behind-the-scenes on the recent TASCHEN book on MARVEL (and who supplies many of the scans for Rascally ROY THOMAS's ALTER-EGO mag) has generously con-sented to write a guest-post for this here Blog of mine.  That'll give you a rest from reading about me prattling on about myself.  So, without further ado, let's see what interesting stuff  Barry has for us.


Don't think that, to early Marvel, the 'superheroes' were more important than The Rawhide Kid or Millie the Model.  Publisher Martin Goodman cared about sales and advertising, so in the 1950s and '60s (when Millie and Rawhide were top sellers) they were most important.

Although all comic book companies competed for spots on the newsstand, many people now tend to think (inaccurately) that DC and Marvel were the only main competitors.  However, there were several others, but that’s a whole other post!

DC, using several editors, had a very different business model to that of Marvel.  Each editor did their own 'genres', and their respective staff tended to work under just one editor.  Mort Weisinger edited the 'Superman Family' of magazines;  Jack Schiff edited the 'Batman Family' and Julius Schwartz edited The Flash, Green Lantern and JLA, amongst others.  They generally didn't share writers, artists, or ideas, so a Martian in a Superman comic would look different to one in a Green Lantern comic.  (Or J'onn J'onzz in his 'own'mag.)

When it came to scripts, the editors generally didn't write them, but handed over plots to a scripter.  DC published 25 to 30 comics a month and each editor was responsible for around half a dozen of them.  Most of DC's comics were published six to eight times a year, with extra mags during the summer to give circulation a boost.  That usually gave a creative team 45 to 60 days to complete an entire comic.  The monthlies, ActionDetective and Adventure Comics, had fillers, giving the artists more time to finish the main stories.

A major exception was Robert Kanigher, who, at that time, edited most of DC’s war comics and also wrote many of them.  Kanigher also wrote the origin of the Silver Age Flash and is famous for his work on Wonder Woman.

At Marvel, there was just one editor, Stan Lee, for all the comics:  superhero, romance, war and westerns.  Stan also wrote most of these stories, and often plotted the ones he didn’t, mostly for his brother Larry Lieber and occasionally for Robert Bernstein and a few others. When Martin Goodman’s distributor (American) suddenly went out of business, he used Independent Distributors, owned by the parent company of DC, who placed restrictions on the amount of comics Marvel could publish.  So Marvel was limited to about 16 comics a month at this time (sometimes a bit more or less). 

The main artists at Marvel, of course, were Jack KirbySteve Ditko, Don Heck and Dick Ayers, who, unlike their DC counterparts, drew for all genres.  Al HartleySol Brodsky and Stan Goldberg produced mostly the romance and teenage humour comics, with the occasional story or cover by any one of the aforementioned four.  Yes, there were others at that time, but those seven carried the load.  As time went by many of the 'new' Marvel writers, including Roy Thomas and Denny O’Neil, usually broke in on the romantic comics.

So at Marvel there were no 'barriers' from one genre to the next and that showed up in many of their comics.  For example, Spider-Man and The Hulk were very often soap operas!

We can see that the western mags introduced quite a few 'new characters'.  For example, The Ringmaster was originally presented in a Captain America comic in the 1940s, but his circus of crime entered the Marvel Age in Kid Colt, later turning up in Hulk, Spider-Man, Daredevil and Thor.

The Red Raven was a Simon & Kirby creation, also from the 1940s, and appeared in the Silver Age first in a western before moving to The X-Men.  And before The Cobra slithered into Thor's mag (Journey Into Mystery), a similar character popped up in The Rawhide Kid.  ("Snakes!  Why did it have to be snakes?!")

There are so many characters we think are unique to the Marvel Silver Age of Superheroes, but actually got a try-out somewhere else.  For example, did you know that The (Black) Panther started out as a western character in Two-Gun Kid, months before he met The Fantastic Four?  Below is the TGK's cover, along with an unpublished one for the FF.

Of course, Dr. Doom, the villain in the iron mask, was the major bad guy in the Fantastic Four, but he was also a western nasty too!  And he was the “Monster in the Iron Mask” in Tales of Suspense also!

When Stan wanted to attract and keep older readers, he had many of his teenage characters graduate High School and move on to College, just like his readers were doing.  But he started this trend in Patsy and Hedy, who graduated High School in issue #95 in 1964.  A little later, The X-Men would, too, and soon Peter Parker also received his diploma.  In all three strips this was a big event, but Stan liked to give the appearance of change without really changing anything.

As with Patsy and Hedy, when Peter Parker graduated High School, he wound up in College with basically the same people.  What Flash Thompson, on an athletic scholarship, is doing in Peter's science classes, is a mystery.  And blonde Liz Allen is 'exchanged' for blonde Gwen Stacy.

My favourite is The X-Men.  Professor X was their only teacher in 'High School' and after graduation they stayed on in the same building and he's still their only teacher in what is, effectively, 'College'.  As I said, this is not really change, but merely the illusion of change.

And it all started in the Romance mags.


Thanks once again to Barry, and I'm sure all Criv-ites will join me in hoping that Barry's cat, KIRBY, who has been ill recently, will be back to his normal self soon.


Dunsade Dave said...

Thanks Barry! Very interesting post. I like to think I'm pretty clued up on Marvel history, but I had no idea that the Ringmaster was a pre-Silver Age character.

And, as a cat-lover, I hope Kirby gets well soon too.

Kid said...

I'm sure that Barry will appreciate your compliment on his post, and kind thoughts about Kirby, DD.

Barry Pearl said...

First thank you all for your concern about little Kirby. She'll be seeing the doctor tomorrow afternoon and I'll learn a little bit more about this adorable little five-year-old.
It is always a pleasure to see how well the kid puts up anything that I give him. I loveThe photographs he added and the way he laid it out. It looks so much better than what I gave him. And I appreciate the kind comments from Dave. I think i'll work on a new blog showing other rework characters from before the silver age. I happened to be one of them.

Colin Jones said...

And I didn't know the Black Panther and Dr. Doom had earlier incarnations. Yes, get well soon Kirby (interesting name, I wonder where he got that from ?) :)

Kid said...

You're too kind, Barry. After all, you did all the hard work in writing the thing. I want first dibs on that new post, mind.


See, CJ? You always learn something new on this blog. (At least when Barry writes the post, that is.)

TC said...

I had no idea that the Ringmaster, Panther, and Dr. Doom had previous incarnations in the Western titles.

The Silver Age is generally thought of as a renaissance for the comic book medium as a whole. Evidently, though, it was really only a revival for the superhero genre, which had been in a slump. Other genres-Westerns, war, romance, comedy-apparently sold well enough through the 1950's and into the 1960's.

IIRC, it was sometime around 1968 that the "split books" (Suspense, Astonish, Strange Tales) ended and those characters all got their own self-titled solo comics, so I assume that's when Marvel got a new distributor, who did not impose limits on how many titles they could publish.

Here's wishing Kirby a speedy recovery.

Kid said...

That's exactly right, TC. Once Marvel were freed from the publishing restrictions, they gave all the character who had shared mags one of their own. Know what 'though? I kinda liked the split mags.

Dunsade Dave said...

An indication of how important Marvel's romance titles obviously were to them at one point is that, even in the mid to late 60s, they featured work by artists as high profile as Steranko, Gene Colan, John Romita and my all time favourite, John Buscema.

To put that in perspective, imagine if Marvel had had Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee drawing Barbie Fashion and Heathcliff in the late 80s!

Kid said...

You mean they didn't? They missed a trick there, DD!

John Pitt said...

A little late, but I'd like to add my congratulations to Barry for an excellent, informative post. I'be been off line myself for a couple of days, because, believe it or not, one of my cats, also a CUTE 5-year old, has also not been well and I had to take her to the vets. BUT, she is loads better now. She is the absolute LOVE of my life, so, Barry, if you're reading this, I know exactly what you've been going through. They're such a WORRY, aren't they?

Kid said...

Love of your life? You'll be making your own tea tonight, JP, if your wife reads that. I'm sure Barry will appreciate your kind thoughts.

John Pitt said...

When my daughter brought her partner to meet us, I said, "This is the love of my life, here," pointing towards my cat, "...and you've met the missus, haven't you?"

Kid said...

Spare room again that night, JP?

Barry Pearl said...

Two points and one that I wanted to write a blog about. (I promised Kid a second blog)

First, Kirby and her sisters Lee, Ditko and Gussie had to see a behaviorist. After years of living together, things became hell here overnight. Really overnight. It is calmer now, (Gussie is on Prozac, really) and no one can figure out why they started tearing everyone apart. Kirby was living in total fear and they thought she might have had a rinary tract infection which triggered all this. . Whew. John I know just how you feel. They are so important to us.

Now I mention this, but I should go longer in a blog. First, Independent News was, as DC was, a subsidiary of National Periodicals and Publications. So was Signet books, home of the U.S’s James bond books!

And Kid is slightly wrong, “…Once Marvel were freed from the publishing restrictions”

Naturally, the people at Indie News wanted more Marvel books, that department made more money the more books Marvel sold. So, when Kinney (Later named Warner Brothers) bought National Periodicals they ALLOWED Marvel to expand. So it was under Independent News that Marvel split up their split books and first expanded! Also, the ten year contract was reaching its end they wanted to maintain their relationship with Marvel. Marvel went from 20 million comics a year to 70.

But Goodman would have none of this. He didn’t want his competition in on his plans. In 1968 he sold the company to Perfect Film and Chemical and when the contract was up with Indie News he used Curtis distributors, owned by Perfect Film.

Kid said...

Glad to hear that Kirby is on the mend and that things seem to be quietening down now, Barry. I think my original statement is accurate 'though, as Marvel did have restrictions placed on them about how many mags they could publish on a monthly basis. So Kinney allowing Marvel to expand was, essentially, to free them from the previous restrictions. See? We're both right.

Barry Pearl said...

No argument. :)

Kid said...

Argue? Moi? Never!

John Pitt said...

Hope Gussie is having no uncomfortable side-effects from the prozac, Barry? It's no surprise to me thar they prescribe it, having 2 cats with behavioral "issues" myself, ( they both had a bad start in life ). Vets will also prescribe clomipramine too, but I wouldn't recommend ever giving THAT to a cat!
Sometimes our house is like a madhouse with our pair, but we kind of learn to live amongst all the mayhem!
Anyway, love your blog too, really must comment more often!

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