The talented Russ Manning not only kept TCR informed of his work on various features for Western Publishing, including Magnus, but provided artwork as well. Cover of The Comic Reader # 34, February 1965. This issue also mentions in the news section that "Marvel MIGHT put out a book concerning Sgt. Fury's activities as a spy after the war, patterned after the Man From UNCLE. Instead of Thrush they'd have Hydra!" . They were correct, of course, and about four months later Fury replaced The Human Torch in Strange Tales.
The Comic Reader # 35, March 1965 took a look at some of the results of the 1964 Alley Awards. Spider-Man and FF were very popular with fans, but surprisingly, Hawkman was third runner up, not one of DC's bigger stars. Marvel and DC were not singled out either. ACG's Forbidden Worlds won the Best Regularly Published Fantasy Comic; Russ Manning was second favorite pencil artist (Infantino was # 1, followed by Kirby, Murphy Anderson and Kubert) and best humorous comic was ACG's Herbie, followed by Uncle Scrooge. Other awards (not shown above) included Strip most desired for revival, with a distinct emphasis on DC's 1940s heroes, including Spectre, Dr. Fate, Dr. Mid-Nite, Justice Society, and Fawcett's Captain Marvel. In the years ahead many fans wishes were fulfilled in one form or another. Best new strips included Captain America, Daredevil, Hawkman, Elongated Man and Jungle Tales of Tarzan. Charlton published an unauthorized series (they apparently believed Tarzan to be in the public domain) which ran four issues. Edgar Rice Burroughs inc. reportedly filed an injunction against Charlton, who had a fifth issue,"on the presses" according to a news item in TCR #39. Did any of these issues survive, or were they all pulped?
Steve Ditko provides the cover to TCR # 36, April 1965, foreshadowing his return to Charlton. This was simultaneous with Charlton reprinting Capt. Atom stories. The news section explains "...if it catches on Steve will probably be asked to continue the series." concluding with "I hope Steve has the time to work for two companies."
Fan artist Ron Foss provides the back cover illo promoting the second NY Comiccon in 1965, run by Dave Kaler. One aspect of the early comic book conventions that remains popular - as anyone who attends in the present day knows - is the costume contest. More clear than the drawing is the postal stamp, dated April 17th, and the 10 cent stamp!
A nice Dick Ayers drawing of the Human Torch (who he was drawing or inking at the time) graces the cover to The Comic Reader # 37, May 1965. The inside front cover notes that Ayers drew this for fan Kent Russell. Don't try reading the fading purple type unless you want to wind up like the near sighted Mr. Magoo!
A big announcement from Charlton editor Pat Masulli, one of the first to seek out fans to write comics. Masulli would keep is word, as we shall soon see. Another interesting note at the bottom of the news column says that Masulli will sell original art for $25.oo a page to "qualified collectors only". Did any fans in that period buy art from Masulli? Was he "authorized" to sell the art which many believed was destroyed ? Was he selling art covers that he drew (Masulli was an artist as well as an Editor). Did Charlton management know or care?
Another interesting news item is the information on future issues of Spider-Man. Since issue # 27 would have been out at the time of this announcement, and Ditko and Lee were not speaking, the news apparently came directly from Ditko (who is often credited in the news sources on page 2, although not in this issue). This is direct proof of how far ahead Ditko was plotting Spider-Man: mention of "the Octopus" (obviously DR. Octopus, referring to the Master Planner storyline) and the Meteor Man, who would not appear until issue # 36, some nine months later.
The 38th issue of The Comic Reader (June 1965) announced Roy Thomas' first pro work for Charlton, which appeared in Son of Vulcan # 50, January 1966. As noted in the article, Roy planned to have Son of Vulcan meet Blue Beetle and Capt. Atom, but issue # 50 was the last issue. Roy might have been able to team-up the heroes in Blue Beetle, since he wrote #50 (Feb-March 1966), but THAT title succumbed to poor sales as well! Don't feel too bad for Roy, though. Although his career at Charlton was short-lived, I've heard he's written a few comics since then....
Charlton heralds a new writer from the world on fanzines on the cover of Son of Vulcan #50. Although Roy Thomas didn't get his name mentioned on the cover, a month earlier Dave Cockrum, who would soon become a prolific fan artist and later pro, was - for costume ideas. That creativity served him well a few years hence, designing costumes for the Legion of Super Heroes and the revised X-Men. Bill Fraccio pencils; Tony Tallarico inks. Image from the GCD.
Ditko returns to drawing Capt. Atom for Charlton (this time credited as a news source on the second page) while continuing at Marvel on Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. Errors occasionally slipped in - one sentence states the inker is unknown and the next announces Rocke Mastroserio. As noted earlier, the info on Jungle Tales of Tarzan here is probably wrong. The later news item was confirmed by one of the Burroughs family and Pat Masulli. The Comic Reader # 38.
DC editor Murray Boltinoff was a friend of many fanzine editors and the source of news items. He also read articles related to his titles as the letter explains. From the "Quotes From the Readers" section of The Comic Reader # 39, July 1965.
Also from TCR # 39: Bill Dubay drew these "Picto-Origins" which were illustrated histories of Timely characters in fanzines such as TCR and his own Yancy Street Journal. About six months later, in Yancy Street Journal # 12 (Jan 1966) new Editorial Assistant Roy Thomas informed DuBay that Marvel could not give him permission to continue the picto-origins. Roy explained:
"While Stan and I certainly have no personal objections to the series, which is quite well-handled by Bill Dubay, the entire affair is strictly a legal matter."
Speaking of Roy Thomas, the On The Drawing Board section of TCR # 40, Aug 1965, announces his joining Marvel. Other "Bombshell Announcements" include Tower Comics starting up, Charlton's new Thunderbolt comic and Simon and Kirby Fighting American reprints from Harvey.
The cover to The Comic Reader # 41, Sept 1965, features another Russ Manning illo, this time of Tarzan which he had recently taken over.
That issues On The Drawing Board has probably the first mention of Jim Steranko. Although he didn't get a job with Stan Lee the first time around, Steranko picked up some work from Joe Simon at Harvey, where he created characters such as Spyman. A year or so later he was given the Nick Fury feature in Strange Tales to draw, and soon write, making a name for himself as a dynamic new talent. Dave Kaler was another fan turned pro that Charlton Editor Pat Masulli hired. Although the Son of Vulcan story mentioned never appeared since the book was cancelled, Kaler went on to write Capt. Atom and assorted features for the company. Did Tom Fagan ever write anything for Charlton?
Sal Trapani was another artist/inker who added some background info on himself and his work with Dick Giordano. From TCR # 41.
Issue 41 had another interesting news item concerning fan writers and Charlton.
Dave was apparently working on Son of Vulcan # 51, but, as noted earlier, it was cancelled. However it was in production and pages exist, as seen here:
The Blue Beetle has a cameo appearance and a recent issue is referenced. This may have been Roy Thomas' idea. I asked Roy, who doesn't recall his exact involvement, but believes it was indeed Dave Kaler who scripted that issue, with some editing/assistance by him. Kaler went on to script some of Ditko's Capt. Atom stories, along with fillers such as Dr. Graves appearing in Ghostly Tales.
Derrill Rothermich took over the editing/publishing of the TCR with issue # 42, October 1965, and a noticeable improvement was the switch to offset printing, creating a much clearer look. This is the complete Sal Trapani Nukla drawing, with inking likely by Dick Giordano (thanks to Mike DeLisa for pointing that out) that appeared in truncated form in the previous issue.
From the same issue, Paul Reinman adds a little background about Archie's Mighty Comics Superhero line of which he was the primary artist.
And we close out with not one, but TWO items from Steve Ditko in the very same issue! This illo is again from fan Kent Russell, who had earlier provided the Ayers Torch drawing. Kent was certainly getting some wonderful artwork from the pros. Apparently this was an older Ditko drawing, since Dr. Strange is attired in his earlier cape and Spidey looks less muscular than he was currently drawn.
Ditko also wrote a letter to TCR in response to their requests for background on him. Ditko points out that he had an uphill battle, seeking work in comics for three years and "just as regularly got turned down." One area worth pointing out is Ditko stating that he worked with other inkers on Harvey's 3D line. We know he assisted Simon and Kirby on Captain 3-D # 1, as well as the unpublished # 2, but did he assist on any other 3D comics for Harvey?
More explorations on The Comic Reader coming soon...