Friday, October 21, 2016

Atlas Errata : Cover Alterations and Unpublished Implosion Inventory

One of the most fascinating aspects of Atlas research concerns itself beyond simple art spotting and publishing timelines of known multitudinous published titles. This tangential line of inquiry grew out of years of internet exposure to foreign reprints of Atlas comics (publications most folks didn't even know existed!) as well as compilations of job numbers into databases that allowed instantaneous cross-referencing. Today I want to talk about these two fascinating lines of Atlas inquiry, the cover alterations and the unpublished implosion inventory.

Atlas Cover Alterations

Atlas cover artwork across all the non-humor, non-romance genres were handled by a handful of artists between the years 1952 and 1958. We're familiar with all of these artists... Joe Maneely, Bill Everett, Carl Burgos, Sol Brodsky, Russ Heath and John Severin. A score of others also drew covers. Some like Jerry Robinson, Carmine Infantino and Harry Anderson, drew 10-20 within a short, limited time frame. But the vast majority were handled by the six artists I mentioned, many of these artists were associated with staff positions.

According to all accounts, Carl Burgos was the unofficial cover editor of the 1950's Atlas line. Several months ago (here) I showed how Burgos had a hand in tinkering with an inordinate amount of these covers, a process I termed "Burgosation". This often went beyond mere inking as many/most of these covers were already inked by their original artists before Carl Burgos stepped in.

Comic book production as it existed will frequently have artists adding to covers by others, and Atlas did this frequently..... Maneely with Colletta, Severin with Maneely, Colletta with Williamson, Brodsky with Burgos,  Burgos with "everyone" .... the list goes on and on. Some of the tinkering could have been necessitated due to comics-code reasons, but frequently it looks like there was no reason at all other than obsessive compulsiveness. The end result are some weird mash-ups and a lot of fun for latter day art spotters to test their abilities. But multiple hands on published Atlas covers is "not" what I'm talking about here.

Now, by virtue of the easy online access to foreign reprints of Atlas comics, reprints (as I mentioned above) many of us never realized even existed all the years we collected Atlas titles, the remarkable discovery has begun of the existence of earlier, unaltered or un-Burgosized versions of many of these Atlas covers. These early renditions were often statted before being altered and later used by foreign publishers in countries where code restrictions were non-existant.  These publishers included L. Miller & Son  and Alan Class of the United Kingdom, and Transworld Features Syndicate, Inc. (La Prensa) in Mexico.

***(Canadian reprints of Timely/Atlas comic books are a completely separate element, and the subject of a future article here.)***

***(Australian and New Zealand reprints of Timely/Atlas comic books likewise comprise a different consideration as they often used original Atlas covers and just as often rendered their own covers for their reprints.)***

I'm going to present some of these altered comparisons below, followed by a discussion on orphaned Atlas implosion stories.  My plan is to leave this blog post open-ended. I will continue to add to and update it as new discoveries are made, or brought to my attention. We can consider this the "permanent repository for altered Atlas cover comparisons and orphaned Implosion stories."

Let's start below with a cover I have mentioned before, the classic Spellbound #24 (Oct/55), the post-code cover that provides the ultimate example of Burgosation. Thirty years ago I came across this cover "signed" by Joe Maneely and like many folks, assumed that while it looked quite odd, Maneely was perhaps using a "hay-like" inking style. I'm sure others thought the exact same thing, leading to many incorrect Maneely attributions in early versions of Atlas credit indices. (Additionally, similar noodling on post-code Sol Brodsky covers also led to a long uncertainty on Brodsky's true style in the late 1950's.) At some point, based on a study of signed pulp illustrations, I deduced that Carl Burgos was the "mystery artist" that contributed to the cover "over" Maneely, although I was hesitant to say "inked", as I knew that no one really inked Joe Maneely, as he basically drew in ink over stick figure-like breakdowns. So I put this cover aside in my mind until several years ago when I spotted the "original" version of this cover on the Mexican reprint, Fantasias de Cumbres de Tortura #61!

Let's just say, I was flabbergasted. The original version of this cover was (as I expected) both penciled "and" inked by Joe Maneely. A stat of that version was seemingly made and later sent south of the border. But here in the U.S., before Atlas published this cover, Burgos came in and re-rendered the entire cover in his style, moving the position of the man's right leg and taking the handgun off the table, probably for code reasons. (Inexplicably, the rifle he is holding is left exactly where it was. Apparently for the code censors, a handgun was taboo but a rifle was ok.)



























This week, another long-wondered about Atlas cover revealed its unsuspected origins. The Atlas romance issue Secret Story Romances #5 (Mar/54) has long held a place in Atlas romance collections as a rare instance of a "toned" cover. There are a tiny handful of others around this time but what makes this one so strange is the fact that the cover appeared to be the amalgamation of two different artists, none of which were a certainty. An initial look at the cover immediately gives the idea that this is Bill Everett...... but...... the large close-ups of the embracing couple immediately also scream out the artist is Jay Scott Pike, who was concurrently turning out a score or more of similar up-close, embracing covers. In my mind this was Pike (?) with Everett (?) tones. Or I could have been completely wrong and it was all Everett mimicking Pike's covers. I chalked it up to an Atlas mystery that would never be 100% cleared up, especially since I missed an opportunity to ask Jay Scott Pike himself (who I was frequently corresponding with) and who had now sadly passed away without me ever bringing it to his attention.

About a month ago I saw a foreign version of the Secret Story Romances #5 cover published by L. Miller & Son. I am a rabid collector of Canadian Timely/Atlas comics. I collect them for the sole reason to discern exactly how many there actually were and index their contents for posterity (which were frequently cut, edited and printed with horrific off-register color). I also dabble in Atlas reprints from any country I can find. I long treated them as novelties, really inferior versions of the U.S. editions as many are poorly printed in black and white, with off-register color, paper covers and even pages cut from stories.

The issue took a long 3 weeks to arrive in the mail. Recognizing what it was and seeing the smaller size that characterizes these L. Miller & Son reprints, I gave it a quick cursory look and stopped cold in place. I immediately realized what I was seeing! This was the original, unaltered and now "signed" cover by Jay Scott Pike before Bill Everett smoothed everything out with tones! Wow! I didn't even realize this when I purchased it.



























Here's another example from the U.K. (pointed out to me by pal Nick Caputo), this time on an Alan Class reprint, Secrets of the Unknown #175, reprinting the cover to the American Atlas Journey Into Unknown Worlds #53 (Jan/57). The cover by Bill Everett has been modified in the Atlas version for code reasons. The original cover depicted the shadow of the monster with a long menacing nose and claws. These are gone in the version that Atlas eventually published, although that hanging nose is really strange looking. It looks like it has a cold and could use a box of tissues!
























Another Alan Class edition, this time Creepy Worlds #13, reprinting the cover to the Atlas Astonishing #50 (June/56). The original, unaltered cover by either Burgosized Sol Brodsky or Burgos alone is on the left in the U.K. reprint. The altered cover, for code reasons I cannot even fathom, is on the right. I guess a bare arm is too menacing for the code censors. better put a sleeve and a watch.






















And my last example for now, again pointed out to me by Nick Caputo, the original Jack Kirby cover on L.H. Miller & Son's Spellbound #40 and the altered U.S. published cover to Tales of Suspense #21 (Sept/61). The likely reason for the change was that Jack drew a cover that didn't match his inside story monster! Klagg was a giant robot from space. On the cover Jack drew an ogre-like monster! 






















I'm positive other examples of these types of cover alterations exist and I will post them side-by-side here as I find them.





Unpublished Implosion Inventory


The "Atlas Implosion" was the event that probably had more to do with the eventual formation of modern Marvel than anything else. Yes, the 1961 Marvel universe was fathered by a mixture of Stan Lee's dissatisfaction with his work in comic books plus the artistic ingenuity and creativity of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. The exact proportions of credit remain debated to this day (and will not be deliberated here). But the simple fact is that if Goodman wasn't forced to gut his line to near extinction, he would have continued his newsstand flooding trend into the 1960's and different set of publishing pressures and circumstances would have likely negated the ingredients of the primordial stew, that when originally stirred together, gave us the Fantastic Four and the launch of the Marvel age of comics.

Martin Goodman had a long history in the distribution side of comic books and magazines. Let me condense the business history down to a paragraph or two (or several) ....

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.


Printers' Inc. Vol 148 #7, August 15, 1929 
































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 ParisienneGay Broadway, and La Paree to form Independent News, and Louis Silberkleit partnered with Martin Goodman and the Shade brothers (of Philadelphia, publishers of Gayety and new publishers of Paris Nights) to form Mutual Magazine Distributors, Inc.



Printers' Inc. September 29, 1932 (Vol 60, #13) p.20 


New York Times, October 9, 1932





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
Newsstand Publications, Inc., 53 Park Place, NY, is a new publishing company which will bring out a couple of pulp-paper magazines soon, for which it is buying material. Martin Goodman, editor, writes concerning its requirements. “We are interested in receiving western short stories ranging from 3000 to 6000 words in length. It must have fairly strong woman or love interest. The rate paid for accepted material is one to two cents a word, and a flat sum for a novel-length story.”

Western Supernovel Magazine Vol 1, #1 (May/33), Newsstand Publications, Inc.




By mid 1934 Mutual Magazine Distributors files for bankruptcy and Louis Silberkleit cashes out of the company, forming Winford Publications (a line of pulps that under several different sub-publishers ....Chesterfield Publications, Northwest Publications, Close-Up,  Blue Ribbon Magazines, Inc. and Columbia Publications, would ultimately lead to the formation of  M.L.J. Publications, the forerunner of Archie Comics in 1939).

Writer's Digest: July, 1934
The Winford Publications, Inc., 165 Franklin St., New York City, are starting a pulp string with a western, and a gang-detective magazine. Novelettes from 10 to 25 thousand. Shorts of 5,000 words. Payment, according to this firm in its statement to us is on acceptance. We have no knowledge of the men owning this nor of their reliability

Writer's Digest: August, 1934
Double Action Western, 165 Franklin St., NY, is announced as the first of a group of pulp magazines to be launched under the banner of Winford Publications, Inc. Bill Barnes, editor, writes: “Each issue will contain a book-length novel and several shorts. We are in the market for material in lengths of from 4000 to 10,000 words, as well as the book lengths, which should be from 55,000 to 75,000 words. We will accept published books which have never been serialized; or if they have appeared at least seven years ago. Rates and payment will be by arrangement, part on acceptance and balance on publication. In the early fall we will have a gang magazine as well as another Western and an adventure pulp.


Double Action Western Magazine Vol 1, #1 (Sept/34) Winford Publications, Inc.





With Louis Silberkleit out of the picture, editor Lincoln Hoffman and Goodman divide up the remnants of the pulp line. Hoffman takes Black Book Detective, Gang World and The Masked Rider. The Masked Rider is an interesting study as the editorial for the first 2 issues came out of Lincoln Hoffman's home on the upper west side, rather that the Newsstand Publishing office, leading me to believe Hoffman may have held an ownership stake in the title. Gang World was never published again but Hoffman relaunched it as The Gang Magazine. Hoffman initially published under Lincoln Hoffman Publications but switched to Ranger Publications in 1936. By the end of 1937 his last 3 pulps.... Black Book Detective, Masked Rider and West, were bought out by Standard Publications, and Hoffman left the industry.

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....

Tale of Brotherly Affection Enlivens Appraisal Report
A story of brotherly affection is simply told today amid the formalities and routines (sic) statement of a report by State Transfer Tax Appraiser David F. Soden to Surrogate George Albert Wingate.
The estate involved was that of Charles Goodman, who died Sept. 5, 1937. There was a gross of $580 and a net of $580, which passed to the descendant’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Goodman. The administrator of the estate and brother of the descendant, Martin Goodman of 320 Central Park West, Manhattan, paid the funeral expenses, lawyer and court fees and waived his own fee.
Martin said that he took this step because of his fondness for his brother, who was also his employe (sic). Martin is manager of Manvis Publications, Inc., a magazine publishing firm in Manhattan. Charles’ only assets were $250 worth of stock of the Manvis firm and a $330 bank account.








 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 this 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

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.





































The 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. ANC later bought the Union News Company (railway newsstands) and numerous companies, holdings which all added to its deep reach and influence.

ANC took over Goodman's distribution on November 1, 1956 as Goodman was ramping up his comic book line. While 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. 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 the year before 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, which he exploited by publishing them bi-monthly.

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 materiel when the call came to shut down production. We know that after a short hiatus Stan Lee filled out his skeleton line with inventory before the call went out for new material after a year.

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).

*** (The harbinger of "new" work in the pre-hero era was the appearance of P and S stories (in the teen and western titles), followed by T (in the war, romance and fantasy titles). ***

But in addition to completed inventory, there was also inventory in all manner of semi-completed states.

Atlas Implosion : Status of Source Material
  1. Complete and published
  2. Complete and unpublished
  3. Undrawn scripts

Let's take each one at a time.

1) Complete and publishedWe've already seen that completed inventory was used for an entire year. Focusing on fantasy books, this inventory filled the post-implosion issues of two titles.
  • Strange Tales from #60 (Dec/57) to #66 (Dec/58), a total of 42 inventory stories, 83% of which were M stories (and a handful of K and L stories). 
  • World of Fantasy from #9 (Dec/57) to #15 (Dec/58), a total of 42 inventory stories, 74% of which were M stories (the rest J, K and L)

What about inventory that was not used up? What about scripts never drawn? That comes next.

2) Complete and unpublished : While this was always a theoretical possibility, it took until last month for proof to emerge! On August 31 of this year I was contacted by Guy Miles Budziak, a collector/indexer who does work for the Grand Comics Database. He inquired about a British Atlas reprint of the Atlas title Six-Gun Western published by L. Miller & Son, a prolific packager of American comics in the U.K.during the 1940's and into the early 1960's. The cover by John Severin could not be placed on an American Atlas comic, nor could the  5 stories inside, all with late M job numbers. Well a grand search by myself confirmed that these stories were never published. But surprise! Cross-referencing them against Carl Wessler's work records showed that two of the scripts were written by Wessler on February 16, 1957!

A little about Carl Wessler...... Thanks to comics historian Robin Synder, we can track at least one of Timely's long-time writers, Carl Wessler. When Wessler died in 1989 his work records went to his friend, Robin Snyder, publisher of the seminal comics history newsletter, The Comics. Starting in the late 1990's, I began to cross-reference Wessler's Timely records against my Timely/Atlas database, able to assign nearly 700 stories to him from 1950 to 1957. Wessler's records contained the exact date he wrote each story and what book it was assigned to (book assignments that often changed as editors frequently moved stories to where they were needed in their redundant titles.)

When I got to 1957 (real time), immediately I noticed an aberration. From 1/4/57 to 4/13/57 Wessler scripted exactly 65 stories for Stan Lee. February, March and April's stories were all Westerns and Romance stories, 95% of which I was able to attribute to published stories based on story titles. These two drawn and unpublished westerns came from February joining two others already published and four more unknowns.

Here are the contents to Six-Gun Western #4 (L. Miller & Son). The art ID's were based on the splashes only. I have not seen these entire stories.

M-798 "Captive Town" (5 pages) [Syd Shores] w-Carl Wessler on 2/16/57
M-800 "Colts of the Gunhawk!" (5 pages) [Johnny Craig?] w-Carl Wessler on 2/16/57
M-895 "Shotgun Guard!" (4 pages) [John Romita]
M-823 "Draw, Lawman" (4 pages) [?]
M-830 "The Showdown at Owlhoot Mesa" (5 pages) [Russ Heath ?]

This is the previously unpublished John Severin cover...




And here are the black and white story splashes:









There may well exist many, many L.Miller & Son publications that contain heretofore unpublished and unknown completed Atlas stories from early 1957. This research is ongoing.

There has always been precedent for this in Marvel history. The most notorious example was discovered by Roy Thomas and Sol Brodsky, the Dick Ayers/Ernie Bache  Human Torch story #E-960 "The Un-Human" from the Atlas hero revival, intended originally for Sub-Mariner #36 (Nov/54). Marvel Masterworks editor Cory Sedlmeier found the story among the photostatted flats in Marvel's archives and at the top it was indicated exactly where it was originally supposed to go. The Human Torch was a back-up feature of the Sub-Mariner title for the latter's first three "hero-revival" issues. By #36 the Torch was dropped in favor of a generic non-hero story for the rest of the run to #42 (Oct/55). In this case, at the very last minute the Torch story was replaced by the story "Shark Bait" by Mort Meskin, remaining unpublished until Marvel Super Heroes #16 (Sept/68) and reprinted for the first time in the 1970's The Human Torch #7 (Nov/75).

This is the actual original stat of the original artwork to page one. You can see the story was originally slated for Sub-Mariner #36.



And entire story cleaned up..........







And its original printing in 1968.........








A second, to me, just as notorious example was discovered by Will Brehm and pointed out to me a decade ago. He found two never-published Atlas Ringo Kid inventory stories by Joe Maneely that were published in the early 1970's Marvel  Ringo Kid reprint title. I'm absolutely 100% certain it was not known at the time that these two stories were unpublished inventory! Ringo Kid inventory had previously appeared before the implosion in scattered issues of Wild Western and Western Trails, (the Ringo Kid title lasted to #21 deep into cover date Sept/57) but the implosion caught everyone off guard and at least 2 stories remained unpublished and tossed aside for a decade. #M-878 appeared in Ringo Kid (2nd series) #19 (Mar/73) and #M-930 in Ringo Kid (2nd series) #18 (Jan/73).


















3) Undrawn Scripts :

Getting back to Carl Wessler and 1957, January was a completely different animal! The entire month of his 29 scripts were solely for the fantasy titles and only one single story written on January 4, #M-450 "Bedlam in Barnesville" (illustrated by Jim Mooney), was published as inventory in World of Fantasy #12 (June/58) an entire year later. So at first glance, it appears that almost none of Wessler's January-scripted fantasy stories ever appeared in print! That's a full four months before the Implosion.  It also became obvious that there could be more scripts by several different writers whose record we do "not" have, that were also never drawn before the work stoppage.

When you look at the earliest pre-hero titles, there are a tiny handful of stories with M and O job numbers that were drawn "new", likely from pre-implosion scripts. Examples of this include John Buscema's #M-567 "The Day I left My Body!" in Tales of Suspense #1 (Jan/59)  and Steve Ditko's #O-365 "The Hidden Doom!" in Battle #63 (Apr/59). Both these stories with pre-implosion job #'s were likely drawn "new" using scripts from early 1957, scripts already assigned older job numbers, were ready to go, then quickly shelved.

John Buscema drew six stories and a cover in this pre-hero period, all except this one were T scripts. So the #M-567 script easily falls into the realm of it being a left-over, never drawn script, although already assigned a job number. Nothing makes me believe this is simply unpublished inventory from 1957. Buscema did no work for Atlas since three stories in 1953.

#M-567 Tales of Suspense #1 (Jan/59) "The Day I Left My Body!!"
Script - unknown
Art - John Buscema









Steve Ditko drew seventeen stories for Atlas in 1956 (one published in 1957). The Job #'s run H to L. Then during the pre-hero period, cover date April/59, he draws a war story for Battle #63, job #O-365. Again, this is likely an older pre-implosion script already assigned a job number back in 1957, drawn "new" in late 1958.

#O-365 Battle #63 (Apr/59) "The Hidden Doom!"
Script - unknown
Art - Steve Ditko








But what about completely orphaned scripts? Scripts not even assigned a job number?

Now as nature abhors a vacuum, a nearly failing business abhors wasting money. And no one hated wasting money more than Martin Goodman. There just had to be a place where these already paid for fantasy scripts were used and the only place to look for them was in the period when work continued. For the most part, Stan Lee was the only writer around in the spring of 1958 when artists were called back and his signature appears on just about 100% of all the "new" western and teen-humor stories published with P and S job numbers. The fantasy line was re-launched with Strange Worlds #1 (Dec/58), concurrent with the death of Lee's top artist Joe Maneely on June 7, 1958.

***(We know it was almost to the day because job # analysis of the lead Jack Kirby story in Strange Worlds #1 (Dec/58), T-76 "I Discovered the Secret of the Flying Saucers" and Joe Maneely's last story in Two-Gun Kid #45 (Dec/58), T-67 "The Revenge of Roaring Bear!" are only 9 single digits apart, a period of time indicating they may have been assigned simultaneously, possibly even on the same day. Maneely only got the splash page drawn, Jack Davis completed the story. To parse this even further, there's more evidence that Jack Kirby's story could have been assigned within a day(s) of Maneely's death. The Dick Ayers story "Guns Roar in Tombstone", #T-65, was delivered to Stan Lee on June 9, 1958, two days after Maneely's death)***

Along with Strange Worlds, five additional titles encompassed the "new" fantasy line. Cover date Jan/59 saw two new titles, Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense, while Strange Tales stopped publishing inventory with #67 (Feb/59) and Journey Into Mystery was re-started after a 15 month hiatus with inventory-filled #49 (Nov/58) and then new material with #50 (Jan/59). Finally, World of Fantasy, a title that had been also publishing inventory since the implosion, puts a new Jack Kirby cover onto #15 (Dec/58), simultaneous with the launch of Strange Worlds #1, and converts completely to new material with #16 (Feb/59). This change between #15 and #16 also interestingly reveals a change in the titles sub-publisher from Chipiden Publishing Corp. to Zenith Publishing Corp., as Goodman began to discontinue the use of his older, longer-running publishing companies, for the newer companies like Zenith, Vista and Canam. (By the way, Chipiden is the joining together of Martin's two sons, Chip and Iden.)

Stan Lee now had 6 fantasy titles to fill with material. All of these stories were primarily science-fiction based along with light fantasy twist-endings. There are no signatures at all on the early pre-hero fantasy stories. So who wrote them? Well, I can tell you one thing. It wasn't Stan Lee. Not a single story is signed by Stan Lee, and won't until they begin appearing on Steve Ditko stories in 1961. The 28 orphaned scripts penned by Carl Wessler in January of 1957 may hold a clue.

Other than the single story illustrated by Jim Mooney I mentioned above, none of the others match the exact titles of known published stories. But as I wrote in my Carl Burgos article (here), two others I can attribute with 90% degree of certainty.

According to Carl Wessler's records, these three of the 28 orphaned stories were written as follows:
  • January 17, 1957 "The Gargoyles are Watching" (4p.) for Mystic
  • January 19, 1957 "The Man in the Deep Freeze" (4p.) for Marvel Tales
  • January 19, 1957 "The World Must Be Warned" (4p.) for Mystery Tales
Both MysticMarvel Tales and Mystery Tales were long cancelled in the Atlas Implosion of April, 1957. Scanning well over 150 stories published among the 6 titles during the first year reveals three possibilities.....
  • #T-354 "I Know The Gargoyle's Secret!" (4p) in Journey Into Mystery #54 (Sept/59)
  • #T-141 "I Spent Eternity In A Deep Freeze" (4p) in Tales To Astonish #2 (Mar/59)
  • ?????   "I Saw The Day The World Ended!" (4p.) in Strange Worlds #2 (Feb/59)
I would say with a great degree of certainty, that the first two match up.They were never assigned older job numbers and possibly were even partially re-written and given new T designations. The third above has no job # whatsoever and a reading of the story (reprinted below) gives the plot as a possibility. Let me know what you think. The other 25 are ciphers and may always be so. None of their names match up with anything I can glean as a possibility. It will take a close reading of all these stories with the list of story titles to see what shakes out in the future.  

#T-141 Tales To Astonish #2 (Mar/59) "I Spent Eternity in a Deep Freeze!"
Script - Carl Wessler
Art - Carl Burgos









#T-354 Journey Into Mystery #54 (Sept/59) "I Know the Gargoyle's Secret!"
Script - Carl Wessler
Art - John Severin

This even reads like a post-code fantasy story.







#???? Strange Worlds #2 (Feb/59) "I Saw The Day The World Ended!" 
Script - Carl Wessler (?)
Art - Bob Bean (?) / Carl Burgos

This story is a real enigma. It definitely doesn't belong to the pre-hero era although its title certainly does. My feeling is there is about a 75% chance this is the Wessler story "The World Must Be Warned" with a new title and completely re-written. The artist may be Bob Bean but if it is, I think this story may have been partially Burgosized. In fact, the man on the right of page 3, panel 3 "is" by Carl Burgos. So the theory is that this un-job numbered story is possibly a 1957 Carl Wessler story penciled by Bob Bean and Burgosized either in 1957 or in 1958.It could belong up above in the group of "inventory" stories unpublished until now but the fact it was re-written and Burgosized possibly in 1958, rather than 1957, takes it out of that group andplaces it here. Also, Bob Bean was not drawing for Stan Lee in 1958 so the story, possibly in pencil form, hails from 1957.









And finally, a very special treat! Back in 2012, Jack Kirby Museum founder Rand Hoppe contacted me about a strange Jack Kirby story that turned up in an Italian reprint edition. Luca Dolcini sent Rand and the Kirby Museum images of pages from a 25 page Kirby western story from La Legge Del West and in the splash panel was the job #O-253. Rand passed this data on to me and I immediately knew we'd found gold! The story, "Partitia Finale A Snake River" had never, ever seen print in an Atlas comic book! The cover appears to be John Severin.






The job number places it with books appearing on the stands in August of 1958 but based on the job number, the script was written in the spring of 1957 by an unknown writer. I also immediately identified this inker as George Klein, who inked a handful of Kirby stories including 2 inventoried Black Rider stories published post-implosion (left over from the canceled Black Rider Rides Again) a handful of pre-hero monster stories the first 2 issues of the Fantastic Four. So what to make of this? There were no 25 page Atlas stories and there wouldn't be a feature-length story until Fantastic Four #1 in 1961. Additionally, the O job number rules out that this is additional Black Rider inventory as all inventory Black Rider stories were of the M variety, even though they appeared as late as 1959. So like Rand, I'm stumped. Was this an experimental 25 pager for a book-length western that was killed stillborn by Goodman? Was it a long story purposely created for the foreign market? I just don't know.





Last week at the New York Comicon I also struck gold, discovering the Australian reprint (Horwitz Publications) that published the story in English. Strangely enough, the job # was deleted from the splash panel. But thanks to the Italian version, we know it's #O-253. The English title of this story is "Showdown At Snake River".

So now for the very first time, I present a heretofore unseen 25 page Kirby/Klein story drawn at the dawn of the pre-hero era and never published in the United States! Rand Hoppe's original story of it's discovery is (here) at the Kirby Museum site.

Note below that the 25 pages were re-numbered to 2-26 to accommodate the cover as page #1.



































SELECT SOURCES


  1. Printers' Inc., July 14, 1932;  p.94
  2. Printers' Ink., August 11, 1932;  p.96
  3. Printers' Ink., August 15, 1929
  4. Eastern Distributing Corporation, internal correspondence, March 3, 1930
  5. Printers' Ink., November 10, 1927; p.227
  6. Printers' Ink., October 13, 1927; p.247
  7. Printers' Ink., September 29, 1932; p.20
  8. The New York Times, October 9, 1932
  9. Mutual Magazine Distributors, Inc. (letterhead)
  10. Author & Journalist, April, 1933
  11. Writer's Digest, July, 1934
  12. Writer's Digest, August, 1934
  13. Writer's Digest, October, 1945
  14. Writer's Digest, September, 1947
  15. Work records of Joe Sinnott
  16. Work records of Carl Wessler
  17. Work records of Dick Ayers
  18. Bell & Vassallo, "The Secret History of Marvel Comics", Fantagraphics Books, 2013
  19. Collection of Michael J. Vassallo
  20. Collection of Nick Caputo
  21. Collection of Guy Miles Budziak
  22. Collection of Will Brehm