Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hidden Gems Part 2: Herb Trimpe and Bill Everett

In my last post I displayed some new material pin-ups that appeared in Marvel's reprint titles. While going through my Marvel reprints (and indexing them for the GCD) I came upon another oddity, this time in a western comic.

Outlaw Kid # 2, Oct 1970. Herb Trimpe pencils; Bill Everett inks

The Outlaw Kid was one of a number of Marvel westerns of the period. Others included the Ringo Kid, Mighty Marvel Western, Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid and Western Gunfighters, the latter two were the only titles then including new material (Rawhide Kid, like Sgt. Fury, then included new material every other issue. Obviously using reprints was a cost savings). At this point Marvel was reprinting a chunk of its Timely-Atlas product, not only in the westerns, but also in Where Monsters Dwell, Where Creatures Roam, L'il Kids, Our Love Story and My Love (which also featured new stories).

While going through my western reprint collection I came across a curiosity: a 2 page Outlaw Kid story that I was "certain" was pencilled and inked by Bill Everett. Doug Wildey was the primary artist on the Outlaw Kid stories of the 1950s, but Everett was also working for Atlas in the 1950s and my first inclination was to think this was a reprint from that era.    

  "One of the Outlaw Kid's Fastest Gunfights!" Herb Trimpe pencils? Or Bill Everett? Bill Everett inks (and story?), Artie Simek letters.

The page count was odd in itself. Most 1950s stories ran 4, 5 or 6 pages, with occasional 3 pagers, but this story was only two pages. The job number was also strange. The upper left side of page 1, panel one has the number 407-Z. I'm not an expert on job numbers, which were used in the production process of comics, but I do know they began with a letter first, then a three digit number, as in the reprinted Outlaw Kid story in this issue, "The Newcomers!" F-678.

My next step was to turn to my good friend Michael J. Vassallo, an expert on Timely-Atlas lore. I explained what I had found and he replied there was no such job number used in that period. He agreed it must be a new story. I sent him a scan and he confirmed that it was not a reprint.

Did I discover an unknown Everett story? The art very much resembled Everett's contemporary work. I checked on the GCD and they had Herb Trimpe credited as artist. Although I could clearly see Trimpe's figurework on the cover (which Everett also inked) I didn't detect anything that pointed to his pencils in the interior story. Everett was a very distinctive inker, but usually something noticable about the penciller remained. In this case I couldn't pick anything out. Jim Salicrup believed that Trimpe drew the story, but I remained unconvinced. Jim contacted Trimpe directly and he responded that he DID pencil the story, but there are occasions where an artist does not always recognize his own work. Trimpe was a busy artist in that period, drawing many covers and stories, so its possible he has made an error. My instinct still yells "Solo Everett", but there is no real way of knowing.    

Further research proved that production numbers were used in this period, beginning with April 1970 cover dated issues and apprently ending with Nov 1973 cover dated comics. They were not always seen on the splash pages, likely for the same reasons they did not always appear in the past - they were covered up by art or lettering. Examples concurrent with the Outlaw Kid story include Captain America # 130 (340-Z); Silver Surfer # 18 (342-Z); "Did I Make the Wrong Choice?" from My Love # 7 (362-Z); Amazing Spider-Man # 89 (375-Z) and "Gargoyle Every Night" from Chamber of Darkness # 7 (377-Z). Need I add that these are all from original stories - reprints usually included the old job numbers on the printed comic.

So, why a new two page story in the Outlaw Kid? In this period Bill Everett was doing his share of inking at Marvel, especially over Marie Severin pencils*. The month Outlaw Kid # 2 was on the stands Everett inked the covers to Iron-Man # 30; Marvel Super-Heroes # 28 and Marvel Tales # 28. Everett was also probably coloring and writing the occasional script (on Sgt. Fury). so its entirely possibly that he produced a two-page filler for the Outlaw Kid. But Marvel could just as easily have filled those pages with in-house ads, so its still a mystery why new material was included. The only other place this could have been intended for was Western Gunfighters, a 25 cent title that featured a mix of new stories and reprints.

While the reason why this short story appeared in The Outlaw Kid # 2 may be lost to time, it remains another pleasant surprise hidden in the recesses of Marvel's reprint line. I hope I'll uncover more treats in the future.

With Thanks to Jim Salicrup.

*see my earlier blog of Marie Severin and Bill Everett for more info. Studious Nick        

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hidden Gems in Marvel Reprints

If you had the original comics you might have ignored Marvel's reprint titles, but occasionally new material surfaced, nestled in the back pages and appearing without fanfare. While a new story was occasionally noted, such as the Angel stories that appeared in Marvel Tales and Ka-Zar, there were also pin-ups that were used to fill up pages from time to time. Most of them were either taken from earlier comics or manufactured by using images from covers, splash pages, tee-shirts or vignettes from a variety of sources. The new material was likely discovered in inventory and used as needed. One such example is the Dr. Strange pin-up that was published in Marvel Collectors' Item Classics # 10, Aug 1967.

Well over a year had passed since Steve Ditko quit Marvel, so this was certainly not a new illustration. The copy on the right, likely by Roy Thomas, only noted that Dr. Strange (who had been in every issue of MCIC) was squeezed out of the issue and the pin-up was a little extra. But where was this pin-up originally scheduled for? There are two possibilities. It may have been scheduled for an issue of Strange Tales around the time that pin-ups were included throughout the line, circa Jan 1965 cover-dated issues. A Ditko Dr. Stange pin-up appeared in Strange Tales # 128, and perhaps this pin-up was scheduled for the next issue but was squeezed out for an in-house ad (one appeared in ST # 129). It's also possible that the pin-up was meant to be used in Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 2, which co-starred Dr. Strange. Whatever the case, it's truly a wonderful piece of artwork by Mr. Ditko and a treat to be found in a reprint comic.

Marvel Collectors' Item Classics # 21, June 1969, included another treat, a pin-up of Medusa by a new kid on the block.

Only four months earlier, a British lad then simply named Barry Smith produced his first work in the states, in a crudely drawn issue of X-Men # 53. Smith already had work published in Marvel UK reprints, Terrific and Fantastic, mainly pin-ups, as can be seen by perusing Kid's blog:

Smith rapidly improved, and at the time of this Medusa illo was drawing fill-in issues of Daredevil. The pin-up may have been produced as a work sample for Marvel, but whatever its origin it is an attractively designed illustration.  

Marvel's western line continued for many years, although primarily in reprint form from the 1970s on. New material appeared in Outlaw Kid, Gunhawks, Red Wolf and Rawhide Kid. In the late 1970's a number of new pin-ups were included in the back-pages of various westerns.

Gunhawk pin-up from Kid Colt, Outlaw # 227, Dec 1978

Gunhawk was a short lived western feature that appeared in the 25 cent Western Gunfighters in the early 1970s. The title featured new tales of the Ghost Rider, Tales of Fort Rango, The Renegades and Gunhawk, mixed with Apache Kid and Wyatt Earp reprints. The pin-up here has a signature of Al Hartley and Sal Buscema, but I believe the pencils are actually by Werner Roth. Doing some research I discovered something interesting. Looking at the splash of the first Gunhawk tale, that stories credits read: Jerry Siegel (who did a litle work for Marvel in this period), writer, Werner Roth artist and Sal Buscema inks. The splash page, however, is drawn by Herb Trimpe, with lettering by Morrie Kuramoto, while the rest of the story is lettered by Jean Izzo. Apparently Roth's splash page was not considered dramatic enough, and Herb Trimpe produced a new splash. I suspect that someone found the unused splash page by Werner Roth and mis-credited the drawing to Hartley (I also don't believe Hartley was working for Marvel in 1970). The bottom copy reads: "Number six in a series--collect them all!!" Over on the Marvel Masterworks site you can see all the pin-ups, thanks to Turncoat. A few are taken from cover images, but there is new work by Arvell Jones and Keith Pollard (The Night Rider) and a very attractive Kid Colt pin-up by Alan Weiss!

Gil Kane pin-up from Rawhide Kid # 141, Sept 1977 

Gil Kane produced a plethora of compelling, dynamic covers for Marvel's western reprints throughout the 1970s. I'm not 100% certain if this is a new drawing or one taken from one of his covers, so if anyone knows for sure please let me know. Kane's Rawhide Kid was a tough looking hombre, very much in the Jack Kirby mold. 

Two-Gun Kid # 136, April 1977

Paty Greer Cockrum worked for Marvel's production department for many years beginning in the 1970s, coloring and occasionally pencilling. Here she contributes a drawing on the Two-Gun Kid in his final issue. 

Rawhide Kid # 145, May 1978

Kid Colt, Outlaw # 218, June 1977 

A 21 year old John Romita, Jr. drew these two pin-ups of The Outlaw Kid and Kid Colt early in his career. Romita Jr or his father may have inked the Outlaw Kid; Kid Colt in inked by veteran John Tartaglione. Romita Jr.learned his craft from his father and was inspired by other greats like Jack Kirby. His strong storytelling techniques have served him well over the years, and his art has graced many comics, including Iron-Man, Daredevil, X-Men and Spider-Man.  

Kid Colt Outlaw # 223, April 1978. 

Here is another pin-up by comic book legend Gil Kane. Kane drew a number of  Ringo Kid covers duing its run, but this image appears to be new material. 

The original Ghost Rider had a name change to Night Rider so as not to confuse anyone with that upstart with the skeleton face. Arvel Jones and Keith Pollard art.

Alan Weiss contributed this stunning image of Marvel's long running western star. Weiss was one of the many comic book fans who found a home in the industry, working for companies including Gold Key, DC and Warren, working in many genres, from romance and horror to superheroes and westerns. Kid Colt # 226, October 1978    

Sub-Mariner King-Size Special # 1, Jan 1971

Finally, we close out with a real treat, a Bill Everett pin-up of a young Namor, included in the first Sub-Mariner Special, which featured reprints of Lee-Colan Sub-Mariner stories from Tales to Astonish. Other pin-ups were images taken from different stories, but this was new artwork. Was this originally intended for inclusion in Subby's comic? Copy possibly by Roy Thomas. 

If I discover further reprint treasures I'll be sure to share them withing the pages of this blog.

Batmite has showcased an excellent array of pin-ups and special features over on the Marvel Masterworks site. Check it out:


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Marie Severin and Bill Everett

In the early 1970’s Marie Severin was producing a plethora of covers for Marvel’s growing line of comics. Severin not only created cover roughs for other artists to complete (including Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Dick Ayers and Neal Adams), but penciled many of her own covers as well. Some of the early 1970s covers were clearly rushed; lettering was often sloppy and word balloons and copy added distracted the eye from the art. There were also some gems that appeared, and some of the best bore the stylized signature “7-EV” or 7 in between EV", translating to Marie Severin pencils; Bill Everett inks.

Marie Severin cover preliminary for John Buscema, for Thor # 186. While some artists changed some of her compositions, many followed her design quite closely.  

 Marie Severin cut her teeth at EC comics, working in production and coloring the line of horror, science fiction and war titles. Her vibrant coloring added another level of quality to EC’s already exceptional creators. In the 1960’s Marie began working for Marvel full-time, at first as production assistant to Sol Brodsky, and soon getting penciling work on strips such as Dr. Strange, the Hulk and Sub-Mariner. Her storytelling skills were strong, but there was always a sense that she was winking at the audience and not taking all this “long underwear” stuff too seriously.  This was exemplified by her exceptional satire of Marvel’s heroes in Not Brand Echh.  Marie Severin continued to be a force at Marvel for many years. She contributed greatly to the comic book field in so many ways, but her greatest talent, perhaps, is her ability to find humor in the absurdities of life and share that with pen and brush.  
Marie's caricatures most of the Marvel heroes of the period on the cover of Not Brand Echh # 9, Aug 1968

 Aside from being one of the pioneers of comics and creating Sub-Mariner, one of the most original and long lasting comic book characters, Bill Everett was a versatile and unique talent. Everett’s art was distinctive from the beginning, and he continued to produce excellent work into the 1970s, when he died at the all too young age of 56. Over the decades Everett contributed greatly to Timely/Atlas/Marvel and Editor Stan Lee had him working in practically every genre, from horror to westerns to war (and even the occasional funny animal) and kept him busy. Everett left the business for a short time, but returned in the early 1960s, working manly for Marvel. By the late 1960s Everett was often employed to ink other artist’s pencils, and his crisp, detailed rendering made him one of the best in the field. Everett inked some of Marvel’s top artist’s, including Jim Steranko, Gene Colan and Jack Kirby.  While his inking style was elaborate, Everett never overpowered the pencils; instead he complimented the art and added another layer, like frosting on a cake.

Gene Colan and Bill Everett's rendition of Spider-Man, from Captain America and the Falcon # 137, May 1971

Everett added a layer to Kirby's roughness in his Thor pages. Here he gets to ink the oceans he so loved. Wouldn't it have been wonderful if Sub-Mariner had guest-starred in a Everett inked Thor story? From Thor # 179, Nov 1969. 
Everett inked a series of covers over Marie Severin’s pencils, and it was always a treat to see these two dynamic artists working together. While many other inkers did a fine job working on Marie’s pencils, including Frank Giacoia, Herb Trimpe, Dan Adkins and Tom Palmer, Everett’s inking seemed to mesh completely with her style. Marie often had busy covers with background characters, and Everett added to the scenery with his intricate inks. They lent their talents to a number of superhero covers, including Daredevil, Iron-Man and Spider-Man (in Marvel Tales) and produced exceptional art for the mystery and monster line, including Tower of Shadows, Chamber of Darkness and Where Monsters Dwell. Oddly enough, with one exception (seen below) the team never drew covers together of their signature characters such as Sub-Mariner of the Hulk.  
The only instance I know of that Marie pencilled an Everett inked Sub-Mariner. Their signature can be seen next to Iron-Man's left foot. From Iron-Man Special # 1, Aug 1970 

Another water based background. Signature on the sunken ship to the right. Daredevil # 67, Aug 1970.  

Close-up of the stylized E7V signature. A variation of this signature appeared on all their covers.

One of three Severin-Everett Iron-Man covers (including the special). I suspect the cover would have worked just as well without word balloons. Their signature is on the building to the right. Iron-Man # 30, Oct 1970  

Severin and Everett's Spider-Man, from Marvel Tales # 28, Oct 1970. Note the detailed buildings and characters looking out the windows. Their signature is on the truck in the lower left hand corner.

While the Severin-Everett team did some fine work on the superhero covers, I feel they really outdid themselves on the mystery and monster covers. Bill Everett was at home in the horror and suspense genre, having drawn many exceptional covers for Stan Lee in the 1950s. Here we have detailed buildings and fearful citizens, with more faces popping out of windows. Chamber of Darkness # 4, Apr 1970.   

A deliciously rendered Everett cover, with a busy and interesting background. And, no, that's not the Puppet Master applying the makeup (although it might be his brother Norman). Can YOU spot the Severin-Everett signature? Tower of Shadows # 5, May 1970. 
Everett’s inking over Marie eventually ended and in 1972 he was brought back to work on Sub-Mariner for a final time. His art on the early issues was some of the finest, most impressive of his career (which is saying a lot). His rendering of Namor’s undersea world is breathtaking and those issues deserve a more detailed post of their own.
Everett's final go-round on his creation was perhaps his artistic height, if that's possible. Although Everett had been drawing the undersea land for decades, he seems to add even more atmosphere on these pages. Script and art by Everett, Sub-Mariner #  50, June 1972.     

Both separately and together, Bill Everett and Marie Severin are examples of the endlessly creative mind of an artist at work. They produced work that continues to resonate – worthy of study, appreciation and analysis. Quite simply, they are one of a kind.    

A sight many New Yorkers see every day, a giant ant outside their apartment house. Clearly, Marie must have loved drawing buildings with people looking out of windows. I close with this image because a have a soft spot in my heart for giant ants, and because it's MY blog! Incidentally, the interior story, from Strange Tales # 73, Feb 1960, drawn by Jack Kirby, was inked by Bill Everett! The Sev/Ev signature can be seen on the lower right side, next to the building steps. From Where Monsters Dwell # 3, May 1970