Monday, December 8, 2014

Under the Covers: Charlton's Ghostly Tales - 1966-68

Charlton Press had a long history of publishing anthology comics in the horror/mystery/fantasy vein, but in 1965 the two remaining titles from this period, Strange Suspense Stories and Unusual Tales, were cancelled. For the rest of '65 Charlton focused on an array of war, western, romance, hot rod, adventure, monster and superhero fare, but in early 1966 decided to return to familiar territory with a new title: Ghostly Tales. Picking up the numbering from the poorly selling Blue Beetle (a device used by publishers in order to avoid paying a postal fee for a new publication) Ghostly Tales returned to a format that was successful in the past: a narrator/host.

Narrators of supernatural/fantasy/science fiction oriented tales date back to the early days of radio, where hosts often added a dose of self-deprecating humor to lighten the horrific proceedings. A few notable shows include Witch's Tale (1931-1938, with Nancy the Witch, an inspiration for EC comics' later horror hosts); The Whistler (1942-45); Inner Sanctum (1941-52), featuring Raymond and the long running Suspense, starring The Man in Black, which remained on the air for two decades, from 1942-1962. Television followed in radio's footsteps with the likes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Boris Karloff's Thriller and Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone - the latter two of which would become long running comic books published by Western/Gold Key.

Copying the TV series, a caricature of Rod Serling opened and closed each story in the comic books. George Wilson cover painting to The Twilight Zone # 12, August 1965. Image from the Grand Comic Book Database:

Boris Karloff Thriller # 1, October 1962. After two issues Gold Key changed the title to Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, which ran for seventeen years. Image from the Grand Comic Book Database:       

for more information on radio's horror hosts visit this blog: 

Dr. Haunt welcomes the reader as he begins a story. "The Second Self", This Magazine is Haunted Vol 2; # 14, December 1957.  

In the early 1950's Charlton published horror titles such as The Thing! and This Magazine is Haunted, a title acquired from Fawcett when they closed their comics division. The books featured a plethora of gruesome and violent stories before the Comics Code was instituted and such material either had to be toned down considerably or totally eliminated when Code restrictions came into play. Dr. Death was the first host of This Magazine is Haunted, a character Steve Ditko only drew on a few covers and no interior stories. This Magazine is Haunted was cancelled with issue # 21, November 1954 and was revived for a second volume in 1957, starting with # 12 (ignoring the old numbering and probably taking up the number of a recently cancelled comic). Dr. Death was "retired", replaced by Dr. Haunt, a narrator Ditko may have designed. 

 "Above the Topmost Peak", Joe Gill script?; Steve Ditko art, Tales of The Mysterious Traveler # 5, November 1957.

The Mysterious Traveler originated as a radio program from 1943-1952 featuring stories of suspense. Charlton licensed the name and created original stories (as Tales of the Mysterious Traveler) many likely penned by Joe Gill, one of Charlton's most prolific writers. A variety of artists worked on the two titles, but Ditko's incorporation of the narrator was the most inventive and visually compelling.

When Ditko quit Marvel in late 1965 he began producing more stories for Charlton. In addition to Captain Atom he was assigned work on the debut issue of Ghostly Tales, a title that suited his unique style. The new comic was first announced in the news section of The Comic Reader # 46, February 1966, with info likely supplied by editor Pat Masulli:  

    The cover to Ghostly Tales # 55, May 1966. Rocco "Rocke" Mastroserio cover art.

Page one (which doubles as the Table of Contents, a technique Charlton employed throughout their later mystery line) introduces the reader to Mr. L. Dedd, proprietor of the Haunted House. The artwork is by the talented Rocco "Rocke" Mastroserio, which would lead to the conclusion that he designed the character, who was likely conceived and written by Joe Gill. However, things are not always as they appear...  

Mr. L. Dedd greets the reader Bela Lugosi style. Joe Gill (probable) story; Steve Ditko pencils; Rocco Mastroserio inks, Jon D'Agostino, letters. Ghostly Tales # 55, May 1966.

The first story to appear in Ghostly Tales # 55 (following the contents page) is illustrated by Steve Ditko, with inking by Mastroserio. A study of Job numbers points to the theory that the story was written and drawn before the introductory contents page. Job numbers were used in the office to keep track of stories and account for payment. The number in the first panel of "Great Caesar's Ghost" is A-5378; the job number on page one is A-5383, which would make it the last page in order of production. Echoing the way movies are put together, where scenes are often not filmed in the order shown, comics - particularly anthologies with unconnected stories - did not always follow the sequence of production.Therefore it's entirely possible that the host was originally designed by Ditko, not Mastroserio. Further, note that Mr. Dedd is introducing himself in the above story, even though he was already introduced on page one.

Although uncredited the story reads very much like the work of Joe Gill, whose stylistic tics include a tendency to have the host speak directly to the reader and an overall whimsical tone. The "HEE HEE" phrase also appears throughout many Gill stories. 

Page 4 of "Great Ceasar's Ghost" (and no, Perry White doesn't appear in the story) illustrates how Ditko may have added to what the script detailed (which was a full script; not a synopsis) and not only featured the host in panels when he was speaking to the audience (via dialogue balloons) but in panels 3, 6 and 7, where he is commenting on situations through his expressions and pantomime. This may have been a Ditko innovation and not a direction in the script, since it is rarely used when other artists drew the character. It should be noted that Ditko's earlier use of narrators only occasionally used this effect, but he seems to have developed it to a greater degree in this period. Rocco Mastroserio's meticulous inking adds a layer of mood that is sympathetic to both the material and Ditko's pencils.

Another character who debuted in this issue in a three page vignette was Dr. Graves, an investigator of supernatural occurrences. The character would later go on to host his own comic book. Most stories were written by fan Dave Kaler and illustrated by Ernie Bache, an artist/inker who began working in comics in the 1940's. From 1953-55 Bache was Dick Ayers' assistant, adding a layer of depth to his pencils. The Ayers-Bache team did superb work for Timely/Atlas on western, war and crime stories, along with a run on the Human Torch. For Magazine Enterprises they excelled on the popular western character Ghost Rider (co-created by Ayers). After the pair separated Bache penciled and/or inked for various companies, migrating to Charlton in the 1960's on an array of titles, sometimes paired with penciler Bill Montes.

Rocco Mastroserio drew two of the stories in Ghostly Tales # 55. The above page from "A Powerful Tale" echoes some of Ditko's visual interpretation, no doubt derived from inking Ditko's opening story. Mastroserio often refrains from having Mr. Dedd acting or reacting to the story in situations where there is no dialogue, mainly using the character as narrator when the script calls for it.

Rocco Mastroserio produced an array of inventive intro pages in the first year of the title. The above example is from Ghostly Tales # 57, September 1966. 

Panels 3 and 4 of the Mastroserio illustrated story "Results from the Unknown" (Ghostly Tales # 57, Sept. 1956) is the first instance where the artist has Mr. Dedd appearing without narration or dialogue. Was Mastroserio following script instructions - or aping Ditko?  

The first three issues of Ghostly Tales were primarily a showcase for Steve Ditko and Rocco Mastroserio (who inked all Ditko's stories), with the exception of Ernie Bache's Dr. Graves stories and some one page fillers by Charles Nicholas. Other artists would come on board in the following issue.

An early effort from artist Pat Boyette (his first published story appeared a month earlier in Charlton's one shot Shadows from Beyond).  Boyette brought an offbeat style to "The Phantom Green Beret" adding his own interpretation of Mr. Dedd, often putting the host in different outfits to suit the setting. In one panel he has Mr. Dedd attired in a U.S. Army uniform and helmet. Script likely by Joe Gill, art and lettering by Boyette. From Ghostly Tales # 58, November 1966. Boyette would become a prolific artist and sometime writer at Charlton, working primarily in the war and ghost genres, but also showing up in adventure titles like Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim and Peacemaker

The excellent Ditko-Mastroserio combination continued to turn out stories every issue. Page 6 of "The Flying Dutchman" is an example of Ditko bringing his sense of design and characterization to the table. Notice the use of the pipe smoke flowing from panel to panel. Possible Gill script, Herb Field letters. Ghostly Tales # 58, November 1966.

Bill Ely was a veteran artist going back to 1939. His work appeared at Dell, Hillman and Ziff-Davis, but Ely was most prolific at National/DC, drawing everything from mystery stories (Tales of the Unexpected; House of Mystery) and crime (Gang Busters; Mr. District Attorney) to long runs on Congo Bill and Rip Hunter, Time Master. "The Curse of Miller's Cave" is one of a handful of stories he drew for Charlton. From Ghostly Tales # 59, January 1967.

 Rudy Palais had a long list of credits. Early in his career Palais painted movie posters for Columbia. In comics he worked at the Chelser shop in the early 1940's and his art appeared at Ace, Avon, Fiction House, Hillman, Gilberton (on Classics Illustrated, adapting novels such as Dostoevski's Crime and Punishment) and Harvey, where he excelled at drawing horror oriented stories and covers in Chamber of Chills and Tomb of Terror. His first outing in Ghostly Tales is a cartoonish/atmospheric blend with an effective use of layouts. Palais' interpretation of Mr. Dedd is quite good and includes the host in two panels (one shown here) where the character is observing the scene ala Ditko. Palais also draws a one page tale. Other contributors in GT # 59 (the first issue without Ditko art) are Pat Boyette and Ernie Bache.

Ditko returns in Ghostly Tales # 60, March 1967, penciling "If I Had Three Wishes". While credits were infrequent and sporadic, newcomer Gary Friedrich, who wrote a few stories for Charlton (including the dialogue for three of Ditko's "Blue Beetle" back-up stories) is credited on the splash page. Friedrich soon moved to Marvel, where he had a long and successful tenure on Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. It's interesting to note that Friedrich differs from the (suspected) Gill scripts in that the host neither narrates or addresses the reader, with the exception of page 3; panel 4 and the final panel. Ditko, however, has Mr. Dedd react to situations throughout the story, often humorously, although the host is in a suitably pensive mood in the last panel above. 

In between issues 60-61 of Ghostly Tales a decision was made to utilize Dr. Graves as the host of a second ghost oriented anthology comic:The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, likely due to positive sales figures on Ghostly Tales. While Dr. Graves filled a similar narrator/host role he was also often featured in early stories, continuing his role as psychic investigator. In one memorable story author Steve Skeates even had Graves use mystic powers ala Dr. Strange to combat an alien menace, drawn - appropriately - by Steve Ditko ("The Ultimate Evil". Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves # 11, February 1969). Doctor Graves continued to appear as filler in Ghostly Tales, his last appearance being issue # 70. 

In a rare instance of cross-promotion Mr. L. Dedd hosted two short stories in the premiere issue of The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves # 1, May 1967. The final panel reminds kids where to go to find similar spooky material. Possible Joe Gill script; atmosphere drenched art by Rudi Palais.

Rudi Palais' next GT story is closer in style to his frenzied art from the horror comics of a decade earlier. His often profusely sweating/psychotic characters had to be toned down for the Comics Code, but the wet, muddy setting is a suitable substitute. From Ghostly Tales # 61, June 1967.

 This continuous two-panel sequence is a technique rarely used by Ditko. "The Wee Warriors" was the final Mastroserio inked Ditko story. Mastroserio was getting assignments from Warren, drawing several stories for Creepy and Eerie in an increasingly accomplished style. Ditko was absent from the pages of Ghostly Tales for six issues; like Mastroserio, drawing exceptional horror stories for Warren's black and white magazines while continuing to work for Charlton on Captain Atom and his revised version of the Blue Beetle. From Ghostly Tales # 61, June 1967. 

As noted earlier, Pat Boyette often dressed Mr. Dedd up in different costumes, including three versions on the splash page! This story includes credits for Carl Wessler, a prolific comic book writer who penned countless war, western, crime and horror stories (to name but a few genres) for the likes of Better, National/DC, Timely/Atlas and EC. Ghostly Tales # 62, August 1967. Image from Comic Book Plus:  

An attractive splash page from Ghostly Tales # 63, October 1967 with art apparently by the unusual team of Charles Nicholas and Ernie Bache. 

 Charles Nicholas was a long time comic book artist and prolific Charlton workhorse who told a story in a competent, if somewhat bland style. The above is an example of a solid Nicholas page. The figure of the man in panel 1 and the poses in the last panel are typical of Nicholas, who is graced with Ernie Bache's distinctive inks. There is another Nicholas penciled story in this issue that cemented the id for me.

"The Odd Mod" is drawn by the team of Charles Nicholas and Vince Alascia, often credited as "Nicholas Alascia" (leading many to assume it was the name of a single artist). Vince Alascia was a veteran inker at Timely in the 1940's, often paired with artist Syd Shores, notably on Captain America. In the 1950's Alascia joined Charles Nicholas, becoming his primary inker at Charlton. Their names appeared in practically every title for over two decades: war, western, mystery, romance, science-fiction, hot rod, crime, adventure - the only exception being funny animal and animated strips (although I wouldn't be surprised if a Charlton historian proves me wrong). Their efforts were often predictable, but from time to time they raised the bar, as seen on this page, where the team incorporate an interesting layout with a solid rendition of Mr. Dedd.

Thus far every issue of Ghostly Tales featured a Rocco Mastroserio intro page, but that ended in issue # 63, with Pat Boyette substituting. While Mastroserio continued to draw for Charlton, particularly on covers, as noted earlier he was finding more lucrative assignments at Warren and trying to break into DC. Sadly, he died at a young age and never got the recognition he deserved. 

For more on Rocke read my earlier blog post:

Ghostly Tales #'s 64-66 showcased an array of talent, including Pat Boyette; a returning Rocco Mastroserio, who provided covers and intro pages for issues 64-66, Sal Trapani and newcomer Jim Aparo in #'s 65-66 (more on Aparo upcoming).  

Steve Ditko reappeared in Ghostly Tales # 67, July 1968, taking over the inking, as would be the case from this point on. The hospital setting and plot of "A Voice From Out There" seemed to stifle Ditko's creative juices, although a few panels stand out: the bum in panel 1; the character types in panel 2 and the setting in panel three. Another signal of possible disinterest in the script is the lack of Mr.Dedd cavorting throughout the story; the host only appeared in five panels of the seven page story. This was also the first cover neither drawn nor inked by Mastroserio. Instead scenes from Ditko's interior story were utilized; a cost cutting device. Story likely by Joe Gill, lettering by Charlotte Jetter. 

Jim Aparo began his career at Charlton. A talented artist, Aparo had a good storytelling sense and visual flair which he applied to many genre stories at Charlton, including western, humor, science fiction, romance, mystery and adventure, notably an acclaimed run on the Phantom. Aparo went on to a successful career at DC where he drew many of superhero features such as Aquaman, Phantom Stranger and Batman. Ghostly Tales # 67, July 1968.

Issue 67 also included a letters page, which probably began two issues earlier. Header art by Rocco Mastroserio (a composite of the Haunted House logo used on the cover and Mr. Dedd's face from Ghostly Tales # 58). The first letter is from cartoonist/fan Fred Hembeck, extolling the virtues of Charton's creative team. The replies echo some of the stories style, including a touch of humor, which makes me suspect that Joe Gill was writing them.    

After a one issue hiatus Ditko was back in form in "Music of Murder" written by Denny O'Neil, who began in comics two years earlier at Marvel, scripting Millie the Model, Patsy and Hedy, Kid Colt, Outlaw and Rawhide Kid, and provided dialogue for the last two issues of Steve Ditko's plotted and drawn Dr. Strange stories (Strange Tales # 145 & 146, June/July 1966). There is a tongue-in-cheek atmosphere pervading the script, with Mr. Dedd very active throughout; observing, reacting and speaking directly to the audience. On this page the host is clearly disgusted by the romantic goings on instead of the "blood and killing" that is supposed to be taking place (not with the Comics Code watching!). In panel 3 our host walks through walls, an ability I don't recall seeing before. Ghostly Tales # 69, October 1968.

Mr. Dedd even has a cameo in the story! If it's good enough for Hitchcock...    

Ghostly Tales # 69 includes two stories by Nicholas and Alascia, who take over the intro page from Mastroserio with this issue. 

Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico (as Tony Williams) were a longtime artist/inker team that churned out an enormous amount of work for Charlton over the decades, often together but occasionally on their own. They were credited under the name "Tony Williams" or "Tony Williamsune". Credits include numerous stories for Gilberton, Dell and Warren, coloring books and commercial comics. Their work is an acquired taste, more suitable for humorous than horrific work, although it certainly has a distinctive style. From Ghostly Tales # 70, November 1968. 

We end 1968 with "Finders Keepers ... Losers Dead!" Probable Joe Gill script, Steve Ditko art. In this story Ditko experiments with a skewed panel arrangement to mixed effect. While there are some interesting panels/pages like the one above, ultimately the reader pays too much attention to the technique, which distracts from the story. Ditko toyed with this style intermittently but soon returned to a more traditional format.

Thanks to Martin O'Hearn, Darkmark and the ever-diligent Frank Mastropaolo for corrections, clarifications, and, especially, for keeping me on my toes.  

Next Up: more Ghostly Tales, including a period showcasing some truly stunning Ditko art.     

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Astonishing Alterations!

If you've visited this blog in the past you won't be surprised by my fascination (some would say obsession) over editorial changes on artwork, both major and minor. This time out I'll delve into alterations on some early Marvel era Tales to Astonish covers.

Henry Pym becomes a costumed hero after his miniaturized adventure in Tales To Astonish # 27 eight months earlier. Ant-Man was the only Marvel hero to spin-off from a Pre-Hero monster story and while he would occasionally face creatures like the Scarlet Beetle, more often than not he faced - excuse the pun - down to earth criminals, thugs and delusional scientists, aided by his loyal ants. Jack Kirby pencils; Dick Ayers inks; Stan Goldberg colors and Artie Simek letters, Tales To Astonish # 35, September 1962.

When this cover was reprinted in England the original stat was used. Changes are minimal but worth pointing out. The beakers on the desk and the wall vanished, while the hoods shoes were made darker. By eliminating background clutter the viewers eyes are focused on the main figures - Ant-Man, the criminal and the ants. Amazing Stories of Suspense # 55, Alan Class, circa mid-1960's? Image from the GCD.

Ant-Man underwent changes from his earliest days, gaining the ability to grow to great heights and acquiring a female partner, the Wasp (I felt the early stories had a charm that was not replicated when he became a towering giant, but being 5''7 I admit to a slight prejudice...)

Chic Stone's vibrant inking over Jack Kirby's pencils was a centerpiece of the early Marvel era, particularly on the many covers he graced. Two issues earlier the Incredible Hulk was revived by Lee and Ditko as a co-feature in Astonish. The Hulk would soon overpower Giant-Man as the more popular character, and  Sub-Mariner would replace Giant-Man in the lead spot. 

 In Mexico Giant-Man and the Hulk stories were reprinted in Los Vengadores ("The Avengers")  # 20, June 1966. If you look closely you might notice the minor changes in the original version. Giant-Man's left arm is in a different position and holding up a jewel; his left leg is shaded. One of the diamonds near the Wasp is darkened and some touch-ups occurred on the Hulk's hair and bricks. In both versions there appears to be tinkering by other hands. The Wasp's mask and costume was likely altered to conform with her interior look (working at a breakneck pace Kirby often forgot the exact costume designs of every character). The necklace surrounding Giant-Man was probably inked by Kirby. My guess is that Stone inked the necklace without adding any lines, but Lee in his capacity as art director may have noticed that the necklace had no "weight" and asked Kirby to touch it up. Image from the GCD.

The cover to Tales To Astonish # 66 (April, 1965) is worth taking a detailed look at. A mixture of new art coupled with images from the interior story points to a cobbled together rush job. Covers were often produced after the interior stories were completed at Marvel, and this was clearly the case here. 

                     The image of Madame Macabre was a blow-up of the figure on page 3, panel 4. 

The figure of her assistant is taken from page 2, panel 6, with the hands redrawn. Interior art was by Bob Powell, with inking by Frank Giacoia. Powell was a talented and versatile artist whose work spanned an array of publishers, including Eisner and Iger, Street and Smith, Magazine Enterprises, Harvey, Charlton and Atlas, drawing western, war, jungle, crime, horror, romance and everything in between. His layouts on Giant-Man were particularly effective, emphasizing the characters size in ways others had not exploited. While his tenure at Marvel was short-lived, his artwork graced the Human Torch and Hulk strips,and he laid out or penciled a few attractive Daredevil's with Wally Wood.

The inset figure of Giant-Man is particularly interesting and may provide a clue to the cut and paste cover art.  In this scene the hero is trapped in a room too small for him. The pencils are clearly by Jack Kirby, with inking by Chic Stone. Kirby and Stone apparently drew the Hulk figure on the bottom third of the cover. I suspect that the image of Giant-Man was reduced and originally intended to be the top half of the cover. If so, why did it become a cover within a cover? The answer may have to do with the previous issues cover scene.

 The Kirby/Stone Tales To Astonish # 65 cover which appeared a month earlier had Giant-Man in the same predicament, so either the image used for issue # 66 was an earlier version of this cover, or the same scene was duplicated in the following issue and Lee (or Publisher Martin Goodman) didn't notice the comparison until late in the game. An observation: Giant-Man was often depicted in positions of helplessness (as further examples will illustrate) and perhaps that is why the hero didn't catch on. How many kids want to see a superhero constantly weak and ineffective? This didn't happen with the Hulk!

  ... and to prove my point, what is Giant-Man doing on the cover of Astonish # 67 (May, 1965)?  Looking frightened and losing his grip as a little guy with a gun attacks him and the Wasp speeds to his rescue! Jack Kirby pencils; Chic Stone inks.

The original cover as published in Los Vengadores # 20, June 1966 has Giant-Man's legs straighter. The published cover has his legs altered, likely by Sol Brodsky, putting him in an even more precarious position. The Wasp is also re-positioned.  Image from the GCD.

Tales To Astonish # 68 (June, 1965) is another piecemeal cover. the bottom tier featuring the Hulk and his cast of characters is by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta. 

While the Hulk is poised to lash out and filled with rage, Giant-Man is unconscious and threatened by an ordinary man with a bolder! Is there any question why the Hulk became more popular? A hero that can tower over his opponents appears to be as efficient as Alex Rodriguez was on the New York Yankees! 

 The figure was taken from page 3, panel 1, with art by Bob Powell and Vince Colletta. The cover included a few alterations on Giant-Man and the figure of the man on the ground was replaced with a more menacing version.

The cover figure was drawn by the same team who drew the bottom tier featuring the Hulk: Kirby and Colletta. Was there an earlier version of the Giant-Man portion of the cover by Kirby/Colletta? If so, why was it replaced? It's one of many ongoing mysteries that may never be answered.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bill Everett and Company: Who Else Drew Tales To Astonish # 87?

It's no secret that Bill Everett often had trouble meeting deadlines. One such example is the Sub-Mariner story in Tales to Astonish # 87, although the credits leave no clue since the splash page asserts: "Illustration: Wild Bill Everett." A close examination points to other artists clearly being involved. Comic book credits, particularly in earlier decades, can sometimes be deceiving due to the method of production. The story would first be penciled (following either a script, or at Marvel, a plot synopsis or verbal discussion), lettered and then sent off to the inker - or the presumed inker. The letterer would add whatever name editor Stan Lee provided, but sometimes there would be a last-minute substitute. The substitute would occasionally add his own name, or someone in production might make a correction, but there are numerous instances where the printed comic saw publication with erroneous credits. These mistakes were sometimes acknowledged in future letter columns; other times they were forgotten and have remained in print for decades. 

In looking over the Sub-Mariner story in Astonish # 87, January 1967; "Moment of Truth!," scripted by Stan Lee story, with Everett art/co-plot, lettering by Artie Simek and coloring by unknown (colorists were one of the last in the production line and didn't get credit at Marvel until the early 1970s) I realized the art looked odd; while Everett's hand is evident throughout the 12-page story, uncredited artists assisted in both the pencils and inks, which I will attempt to detail here.

The first alteration can be seen on page 2; panel 2, although this appears to be an  instance where Lee was not quite satisfied with Everett's rendition of Lady Dorma and had John Romita "beautify" her. This alteration often happened in Kirby-drawn books as well. The background figure of Krang and Dorma's hand are all rendered by Everett.

  Page 4; panels 3-4 have redrawn figures of Lord Vashti, possibly by Marie Severin, whose duties included art, coloring and production in this period. Although Everett was involved as inker over Gene Colan and Jerry Grandenetti (Tales To Astonish #'s 79, 85 and 86) this was the first time in over a decade he returned to draw his creation. Everett's Sub-Mariner was a feature in Marvel Comics # 1, October, 1939, publisher Martin Goodman's entry into comic books. Namor had a long and successful run in comics for a decade; Everett returned to the character for a brief revival in 1954-55. Several years later, in the pages of The Fantastic Four, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby brought the character back for a new era of fans. When it was decided to give the Sub-Mariner a new feature in Tales to Astonish, Lee, with Gene Colan developed new characters such as Lord Vashti, - perhaps Everett did not draw him to Lee's satisfaction.

From page 5 onward there are signs that Everett was getting into deadline trouble.

The inking on most of this page, particularly the backgrounds and figures, is the work of Frank Giacoia. His bold inking is evident in panel 5, especially on Krang and his guards. Everett may have inked the Sub-Mariner figures and perhaps Vashti in panel 2. If the deadline was looming and pages were coming in slowly, Lee probably decided to bring in others to complete the job. A lack of backgrounds and unfinished pages on Daredevil # 1 just two years earlier led to Steve Ditko and Sol Brodsky pitching in to finish the book. 

                                       Here's where it gets interesting. 

On page 6; panel 1, Everett apparently penciled and inked Sub-Mariner, which I suspect he did throughout the issue. This mixture of Everett pencils (or breakdowns)/inks point to a rush job.

  In this three panel sequence on page 6 the face of Krang is the only evidence of Everett art. My guess is that Lee decided to alter whatever costume Everett originally drew. Panels 1 and 2 are inked (and perhaps finished) by Frank Giacoia. The final panel may be the work of Marie Severin and Giacoia. 

The next five pages show little sign of Everett's input. While Sub-Mariner is drawn and (apparently) inked by Everett, everything else, including Krang and Vashti, are rendered by Marie Severin. Either Lee was dissatisfied with Everett's rendition, and didn't feel it had enough Kirby-styled theatrics, or, more likely, Everett only drew Namor, with Marie filling in details on the four page sequence. Whatever the circumstances Marie's figure work and poses are distinctive. 

Dick Ayers' inking also begins on page seven. Ayers usually worked at home and mailed his artwork in, but was asked to come into the office several times in 1966 to assist on deadlines. According to email correspondence in my files dated 7/21/2004, Ayers inked a few Daredevil stories (#'s 21 and 22, with Everett and Giacoia). On 6/10 and 7/8 he again helped out, although his record books had "no mention of what I was assigned." The January, 1967 dated issue of Tales To Astonish # 87 arrived on stands sometime in October, 1966, which would leave a 3-4 month period before the comic was published. This fits into the time frame when Ayers could have worked on this story. 

                Page 8; panel 2: Marie Severin/Dick Ayers art; Sub-Mariner by Everett.

                                          Page 9; panel 2. More Severin/Ayers art.

     Page 10: Everett Sub-Mariner (pencils/inks ?); Severin/Ayers Krang. Ayers background. 

The four page fight sequence on pages 7-10 predominantly spotlight Namor and Krang's brawl. Large panels are employed and backgrounds are minimal. The cheering Atlanteans on page 10 look like Dick Ayers' solo art, probably added at Lee's request while inking.

Page 11 is an interesting blend. Frank Giacoia's inking is evident in panel 1, although Everett drew Namor and Krang (or - at the very least - his face). 

 Giacoia (or possibly his friend and fellow inker Joe Giella, who often assisted Frank) provided background inks on page 11, but panel 2 looks like another artist inked Sub-Mariner. I'm not certain who, although it bears similarities to Dan Adkins style. Not impossible, but this was a month or two before his first credited Marvel job. 

The final frame on page 11 appears to be mostly Everett pencils and Giacoia or Giella inks. Namor, Krang and the guards all have Everett styled poses and faces. The inking on Sub-Mariner looks a little different though, similar to the "Adkins" style in the previous panel. 

The final page includes Everett drawing complete figures of Namor and Dorma (with another Romita face-lift in panel 2). Ayers likely inked the backgrounds, and either inked the last panel over Everett pencils/breakdowns, or drew it all himself. As for the next issue blurb: "The Greatest Threat of All!" may have referred to a missed deadline and late fee payments!    

Marie Severin showed up three issues later, redrawing this sequence from the Everett-drawn Sub-Mariner story in Tales to Astonish # 90, April 1967. (I should also note that John Tartaglione appears to have contributed some uncredited inking on this story).

Two years later Marie was assigned full art chores on Sub-Mariner (by that point in his own title) beginning with issue #12, teamed with writer Roy Thomas, and did impressive work on the character. I would be remiss not to mention Marie's excellent collaborations with Bill Everett on a run of covers in the early 1970's. You can read more about it on my earlier blog post:

While Bill Everett's return to his creation in late 1966 was welcome, the combination of deadline issues, stiff artwork in places and a lack of interest in the direction Stan Lee had taken his character led to a short-lived venture. In 1972 Everett was again reunited with Namor, this time for a more enjoyable run due to greater control and superb art, arguably some of the best in his long career. While deadline issues again surfaced, Everett's work shone brightly. His death in 1973 at the age of 56 was a tremendous loss to the industry and aficionados of comic art.   

Throughout his career Everett's artwork had a distinctive flair and was suited to all types of genres: superhero, adventure, horror, jungle, crime, romance, even animated features. In his final years Everett's art reached a plateau. His fluid ink line was as attractive as the sea he rendered with subtle beauty. An original, Everett made his mark in comic books and remains unparalleled.   

Exquisite Bill Everett art on his return to Sub-Mariner. "Who Am I?" Everett story/art (and probably colors); John Costanza letters, Sub-Mariner # 50, June 1972.