Tagged: EC Comics

Dennis O’Neil: Have I Offended Anyone?

judgment-day-ec-comics-4

So there’s some kind of election going on? Well, not in comicbookland there isn’t and maybe that’s just as well.

Last week, we blathered about the lack of ethnic diversity in mass entertainment, particularly regarding names, and suggested that the purveyors of such entertainment didn’t want to alienate potential customers by giving their heroes traits that some might find offensive. And it doesn’t stop with names.

You may have noticed, the more astute among you, that we as a nation are embroiled in what is surely the daffiest presidential contest in our history, and by “daffiest” I don’t necessarily mean most entertaining. On the contrary: I’m disgusted with it. But we’re stuck with it until November and then, if the results are not to my liking, I may consider some serious depression.

Politics generally plays no part in the procedurals that glut television, and even less in comics stories, and given the nastiness of our current national conversation, maybe we should be grateful. Here it is again, that fear of losing audience in action.

I’m not complaining. Mostly, we go to our screens and pages, not to be proselytized but to be entertained, and we don’t have to know everything, or even much, about a character to be amused by said character’s adventures. (Do we know how Spider-Man likes his coffee? Do we care?)

Let’s forget about television and movies for the moment and concentrate on comics, which have almost entirely avoided politics. I don’t recall any comics that labeled a character Democratic or Republican, or even Independent, or anybody in comic book political campaigns being identified by party. Maybe Abraham Lincoln. But comics have, occasionally, touched on subjects that concern politicians – or should concern them. There was, for example, an excellent short story in EC Comics’ Weird Science, published in 1953 and titled “Judgment Day.” It is as relevant today as it was 63 years ago and, given the subject matter, bigotry, that’s a shame. In an early Superman story our Man of Steel give the what-for to a wife beater. And in the early 70s, Neal Adams and I did a series inspired by the state of the world. All this and much more were possible political concerns, but they nothing to do with parties and precincts and superpacs and the rest of the kerfuffle of modern politics.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned religion. You’re right. I choose not to step into that particular quagmire. Ah, but why? Religion, as a subject for stories, is certainly pertinent to our discussion. The boundaries are relaxing and once in a while, character’s religious preference is specified. But this is new. Throughout the history of the media, religion has been largely avoided. (When it is part of a narrative, it usually affirms that what the parson told you about the Lord and going to Heaven was absolutely correct and don’t give me any of your sass, young man.)

Come to think of it, why have I not engaged what some might call spirituality here? Could it be that I’m afraid I’ll offend someone?

 

Ed Catto: Geek Culture’s Panic Attack

Panic Zillionaire Wood JPG

As I watched Fox’s Lucifer the other night, I uttered my all-too common refrain “Oh, that’s from a comic book.” Even I am amazed how often I recite it. The frequency with which we all say that simple phrase is proof that Geek Culture is thriving in 2016.

But in many ways Geek Culture never went away, it’s just that the momentum driving pop culture has gained so much visible traction in the last few years. This week I’m turning back the clock to 1954 to take a look at something that seems unique, but actually isn’t unique at all. I’d like to focus on comic that was a copy of another wildly popular comic. But therein lies the charm. Amazingly, its publication resulted in a ban from the state of Massachusetts, a police raid and an arrest.

comicbookxmascovers_Panic1_650pxPanic was EC’s other parody comic and it’s now collected in Dark Horse’s EC Archives: Panic Volume 1. Panic was created to backdraft its “older brother” MAD. Al Feldstein edited this comic for publisher Bill Gaines. With unusual candor, but with the smart mouth satire we’ve since come to expect, the first issue’s editorial proudly proclaimed, “Frankly, no one asked us for a companion magazine to MAD. The only reason we are publishing Panic is because MAD is selling well.”

In marketing, companies often strategically create fighter brands. When I was in brand management at Nabisco, most of our brands were category leaders, but not all. Cheese Nips, for example, was an imitation of Sunshine’s Cheez-It. Nabisco also developed a vanilla version of OREO called Cookie Time, an imitator brand, in order to keep other companies from making their own vanilla OREO.

And you might know that in fact, Hydrox was the original sandwich cookie and OREO was the imitator.

Panic took great delight in the fact that it was a copycat of MAD. In fact, in issue #4, Panic ran a hilarious house ad, showcasing ‘research’ as a doctor proclaims that of the eight brands tested, Panic is the best imitator of MAD.

Through the lens of today, it’s also fascinating to see how on target Panic’s 1950s parodies can be. The movie satires, now be appropriate for the TCM crowd (I’ll admit it – I watch a lot of old movies), still have a biting and suspicious edge. In the How to Marry A Millionaire satire (Panic retitled it You Too Can Hook a Zillionaire). Writer Al Feldstein and artist Wally Wood begin their story with a peek inside a Hollywood movie studio conference. In the opening scenes, movie executives are planning the movie based on pandering to the female and male demographics. (Doesn’t Hollywood call them “quadrants” today?)

The other striking thing about this Panic collection is that so much of the art is just gorgeous. In particular, the great Wally Wood’s timeless artwork shines as he captures celebrity likenesses, provides a sense of visual humor and renders beauty amongst absurdity.

My Gun is the JuryPanic only lasted twelve issues. But during that time, it managed to seriously ruffle some feathers. The provocative Christmas parody from the debut issue caused the state of Massachusetts to ban the comic. The whole story is a smirkingly grisly little fable, but it was placing a “Just Divorced” sign on St. Nick’s sleigh that sent righteous censors into a tizzy.

It didn’t’ stop there. Issue #1’s hard-boiled send-up of Mickey Spillane’s best-selling (at the time) detective, Mike Hammer, called The Gun is My Jury, was punctuated with a gender-bending transvestite surprise. This led to outrage and ultimately a series of events including an office raid by the NYC police and an arrest.

But the best reason to spend some time with Panic is that it’s fun. If you’re brave enough to be drinking milk while reading these tales, I guarantee you’ll snort some through your nose at one point or another.

Issues 1-6 are collected in Dark Horse’s EC Archives: Panic Volume 1 on sale since January 27th and priced at $49.99. Ask your local comic shop or bookstore to reserve one for you!

PANIC best imitation house ad

Mike Gold: Jack Davis, We Truly Knew Ye

Jack Davis FrankensteinRelax. This isn’t an obituary. It’s bad news, but it’s not an obituary. And that’s the good news.

First, the headline. Legendary cartoonist Jack Davis decided to retire. One of the very last of the EC artists, one of the very best of the Mad Magazine artists and a man whose work graced hundreds of TV Guide and Time Magazine covers and movie posters and record albums and books finally decided that, after 90 years on this planet, it’s time to call it a career.

We kick the word “legendary” around a lot, but here the word is not rich enough to convey the quality and the width and breadth of his work. Jack is best known for his satirical illustrations, but he was equally gifted in storytelling. His comic book work includes most all genres – science fiction, westerns, war stories, horror, sports… and that’s just his stuff for EC Comics.

Jack DavisSecond, the personal story. Some time ago, I was sitting at a massive table at New York’s Society of Illustrators with a bunch of other people, folks who were actually talented. We were judging a humor in illustration contest, and we discussed each entry. For me, this was akin to going to college. To the right of me sat Jack Davis. Not to put down any of the other gifted folks at the table, but damnit, I was sitting next to Jack Davis! He turned to me and made a comment that seemed to me like a sound effect from Charlie Brown’s parents. All I could think of was “how the hell did I get to be here?”

Actually, that’s the polite version. I might have been drooling, but if so, Jack could have drawn it better.

Finally, the clever Jack Davis anecdote. It’s one of the more famous, and it deserves to be repeated. Jack Davis was, and may still be, an inveterate golfer. I am told it is an addiction. One day he was teeing up and was reminded by a companion that he was right on deadline. Jack stopped, walked over to the golf cart, whipped out his pen and found something upon which to work and he drew the assignment right there on the cart!

As an editor, I cannot begin to tell you how much I admire that level of professionalism… not to mention his sense of priorities. He didn’t slow the game down at all, as his foursome had yet to complete the hole.

When called for a comment, Jack told Wired Magazine “I’m not satisfied with the work. I can still draw, but I just can’t draw like I used to.” Yeah, well, the rest of us could never draw like you used to, Jack, and I’ll bet my last barbecue brisket sandwich that your work today remains top drawer.

My dear friend Mark Wheatley said we knew this day was going to come, and of course he’s right about that. It happens to us all, probably. But, damn, I’ve spent an entire lifetime enjoying his career and now I can no longer live in denial.

Thanks, Jack. You are a master and your work will live long after the last tree is pulped.

 

Mike Gold: Marvel’s 75-Year Marvel

Marvel 75th Anniversary MagazineIf you can find a decent magazine rack near you, or you are lucky enough to live near a bone fide comic book store, you might want to check out Marvel’s 75th Anniversary magazine, conveniently pictured to our left.

Oh, look! Rocket Raccoon and Star Lord and Groot and Nova! And no Sub-Mariner or Human Torch! Man, 75 years go by so fast we forget our roots.

Look, these magazines are rarely more than the team programs they sell us as we walk into sports stadia, and by that measure this one is a lot more attractive than most. It’s good for what it is – an opportunity to get people excited about new talent, new media and new movies. In other words, it’s really more about Marvel’s next 75 years than it is a tribute to its past. Not a lot about Bill Everett, Carl Burgos, Steve Ditko or even Jack Kirby here.

A real Marvel history would run a hell of a lot more than four-dozen pages, and there are plenty of such histories in the bookstores to prove that. The only real “history” is the article about Marvel’s golden age written by ComicMix’s own Robert Greenberger.

Bobby, as we affectionately call him, was once DC Comics’ own Robert Greenberger. And Marvel’s own Robert Greenberger. And Starlog’s own Robert Greenberger. And Star Trek’s own Robert Greenberger. He’s also been my friend long enough to deserve a medal for perseverance. Oh, and his daughter is getting married this month, so he’s The Father-of-the-Bride Kathleen Michelle’s own Robert Greenberger. And, as pictured here, he’s also Deb Greenberger’s Robert Greenberger. Woof.B&DGreenberger

OK. Enough fawning about a talented old buddy. I’m embarrassing him. (OK, I’ve been doing that for three decades. Hey, it’s a living.)

His piece is called “The Timely Birth of Marvel.” Get it? Timely Comics begat Atlas Comics which begat Marvel Comics which is now the Pac Man inside the Disney empire. It’s worth the price of admission. I said it was about the golden age, but to be clear Bobby’s piece is not just about the Golden Age – it’s about the company’s founding right up to the founding of the contemporary Marvel Universe.

There’s a hell of a lot of information in this article. It is the Secret Origin of Marvel Comics, which is vaguely ironic in that Bobby edited DC’s Secret Origins title.

Marvel survived on enthusiasm. Bigger publishers – Fawcett and Dell/Gold Key, to be sure – went blooie in the mid-1950s, as did Quality, EC, Gleason, Gilberton (Classics Illustrated), Charlton, Harvey and a great, great many others. Only DC and Archie join Marvel in its unbroken timeline from the beginnings of the Golden Age, and it survived by respecting the readers’ intelligence while consistently catering to our sense of wonder.

You did ‘em justice, pal.

 

Ed Catto: Yoe’s Haunted Pop Culture

Every two months, I’m not ashamed to admit that IDW supplies one of the guiltiest pleasures in my stack of new comics. Craig Yoe’s Haunted Horror is a ghastly anthology of the horror stories from comics’ Golden Age. But beware: these aren’t those hackneyed horror stories you’ve read so often before. Each issue is a collection of seldom reprinted tales – filled with shock endings, grisly artwork and politically incorrect morality plays well calculated to make you recoil in shock, disgust and horror.

I caught up with the head horror-meister, Craig Yoe. As a fan who’s fascinated by this unique series, I wanted to better understand what sort of sick mind could be behind it all. It doesn’t take long before you realize that Craig mixes his love for the genre with a deep appreciation of the talented-yet-underrated artists who originally produced these stories, and then mixes it all up in a cauldron of mischief.

Craig explained it all started with the Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein hardcover collection that he developed for IDW Publishing. “That was the first one out of the tomb”, said Yoe. But it was as much about the stories as it was about the creators, and that’s why it made sense to start with that particular volume. “Briefer was able to mix a touch of horror into his humor, and humor into his horror.”

That was followed by two more collections: Bob Powell’s Terror and Zombie. And as he’s recounting the history, Craig can’t help and pause to muse about Bob Powell. He was an “amazing artist,” Craig reiterates.

Soon there was a notion of turning these creepy collections into an ongoing comic series. Craig first recollects that it was IDW Publisher Ted Adams who first came up with the idea. “Wait, wait – was it a good idea? Maybe it was mine,” Yoe joked. “I view comics as an endangered species,” said Yoe. “And I hope it never goes away. It’s the perfect package: it’s not too big, you can fold it up in your back pocket, you can hide it under your mattress and it won’t make a big lump there so you can hide it from Mom. And then you can read it under the covers.” Clearly Yoe is a supporter of traditional comics. “A comic is a wonderful thing,” he declares with conviction.

He also compares comics to a 45 RPM record: short and complete. On the other hand, the older comics he loves so much usually offered a number of complete stories in each issue.

Each issue of Haunted Horror is 44 full-color pages for just $3.99. And Yoe ensures that each issue offers a variety of stories, with a variety of artists –many of them unknown greats to today’s readers. Clearly, Craig is more reader than a collector, and creates this labor of love for other readers. “I’m not the type to put my comics in tombs of plastic,” he boasts.

In fact, Yoe often tries to showcase the work of “lesser known but brilliant” artists. And then he and his cadre of experts play “comic art detective” to diligently ascertain the correct artwork credits.

Is there a rhyme or reason to the stories that actually get selected for print? Yoe explained that longtime fan Jeff Gelb ‘cracked the code,’ and told Craig that he figured out Yoe’s strategies for choosing which tales are included. “It’s either tales with strong art providing a visual blast, or jaw-dropping stories.”

Still there have been some surprises for even a comic book horror expert, like Yoe. So often in these vintage stories, especially in the EC comics, the last panel would provide a shocking surprise. In fact, many fans would regularly get in a habit, when turning to the last page, of covering the final panel with their hand, lest their eye be drawn to the grisly surprise.

However, in the Jay Disbrow story in the first issue, this innovative artist had such an impactful, wide-screen style image, that he drew that last panel full page and sideways. “It blew my mind,” recalls Yoe.

I did ask Yoe if he ever found any the content he found too grisly or gross or in bad taste. “My moral compass broke years ago and I never replaced it,” he shrugged.

Yoe is also very particular in choosing covers. “The more simply designed covers seem to work the work the best”, said Yoe. “There’s no spinner rack these days, so the covers have to work at a very small scale – in Diamond’s Previews or online. You have to have a strong and immediate image, a force, that really reaches out and grabs you.”

The cover to the latest issue, Haunted Horror #10, really stands out. It features a lurid face, perhaps a ghoul or a mandrill, framed by an evil candle (the candlestick holder even says “evil”) and colorful winged creatures flittering about. “I was intrigued by this bizarre poster like cover by Golden Age great L.B. Cole.” Craig explained that he had many conversations after the artist’s comic book career. “Cole brought a graphic design sensibility to the design and color of his covers, in addition to his draftsmanship. He wanted to make his covers stand out on the crowded newsstand –and they did!”

In fact, Yoe is always looking to make each issue of Haunted Horror standout. He selects the stories to print not only from his personal collection, and those of his friends.

But in the great tradition of comic (and TV) horror hosts, Craig Yoe transforms into the creepy Warlock the Forelock in the pages of these comics to introduce the stories. And he doesn’t do it alone. Haunted Horror is actually the brainchild of several creepy editors, who fans know by their horror host alter egos: Madame Clizia and Mr. Kraswell. Yoe is so very appreciative for the help of his co-conspirators and friends in this mad venture. “I’m grateful for the kindness of my friends.” And that’s not so horrible, is it?

 

 

Al Feldstein, 1925 – 2014

Feldstein ArtComics legend Al Feldstein died yesterday at his Montana home, at the age of 88.

Best known for his work as editor of Mad Magazine from 1956 to 1984, Al co-created, wrote and drew for most of the classic EC comics, including Tales From The Crypt, Weird Science, Panic and Shock SuspenStories. Prior to signing on with EC, Feldstein was a prolific comics artist with work appearing in comics published by Fiction House, Fox, and ACG, among many others.

Taking Mad over from co-creator Harvey Kurtzman, Al introduced many of the magazine’s most popular features, including Don Martin’s irrepressible pages, Antonio Prohias’ Spy Vs. Spy, Dave Berg’s Lighter Side, and Al Jaffee’s fold-ins. He also increased the visibility of company mascot Alfred E. Neuman.

A man of strong progressive political beliefs, he was the subject of an FBI investigation following his publication of satirical criticism of notorious FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. According to USA Today, two FBI agents demanded an apology for “sullying” Hoover’s reputation by using his name in Mad. No such apology was issued by Feldstein.

Over the years, Feldstein’s work at EC Comics inspired quite a number of movies, television shows, cartoons and Broadway musicals. The level of outrageousness set by the editor and his staff inspired later satirists such as Mike Judge, Matt Groening, Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Al devoted his retirement years to western painting, as well as the occasional “flashback” painting of the EC horror hosts, 1950s science-fiction themes and his late EC/Mad boss, Bill Gaines. He also appeared at numerous comics conventions where he  signed autographs and sold prints of his painted work.

Last August, IDW published Grant Geissman’s definitive autobiography of the cartoonist, Feldstein: The Mad Life and Fantastic Art of Al Feldstein! 

That final exclamation point in the title tells it all.

Mike Gold: What Goes Around…

Mike Gold: What Goes Around…

Gold Art 130911Having spent the past four days in Baltimore attending my favorite comics convention – the one that’s actually about comics – I had the opportunity to spend some serious conversation time with a lot of my friends. However, because the show is a four-hour-plus drive from La Casa Del Oro, the best conversation is with my daughter and ComicMix cohort Adriane Nash. Whereas much of her work is behind the scenes, Adriane is the one who kills here each year on April Fool’s Day and at least one of her hoaxes has graduated to the level of Urban Myth.

As her dad, this makes me very proud. But (sing along, folks), I digress.

After returning from Baltimore Monday night, while cuing TiVo for Ricky Gervais’ appearance on David Letterman, we had one of those “let’s tie-up everything we’ve been talking about” conversations. This one was about how, given time, them younger generations eventually discover the really great stuff that was done before they were born. Adriane started with Jack Kirby, which, of course, made me feel even older than my present dotage. Younger readers have to discover Kirby, the most influential creator in the history of American comics. And they do… with a little help from their friends.

There’s nothing wrong with that. When I was about half Adriane’s age, I interviewed disc jockey Bob Hale (WLS, NBC, and the guy who emceed the Iowa concert the day the music died). Bob said he didn’t despair for those kids who like crappy rock’n’roll because they eventually grow up and discover the Good Stuff. That was an important lesson (thanks, Bob!), one I’ve remembered for the past, ummm, well, 45 years. And so it is with comic books.

As it stands today, no less than three major comics publishers are reprinting various aspects of the canonical EC Comics. Will Eisner’s The Spirit stays out there on the racks, as well it should. Carl Barks – same thing. Because Jack Kirby’s output was so astonishingly massive, it seems there’s a new reprint of his stuff about every six weeks.

This is true with the classic newspaper strips (I define The Spirit as a comic book that was published in newspapers), these days largely through the efforts of the gifted and knowledgeable Dean Mullaney and our friends at IDW. Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, Chester Gould, Al Capp… you can bust your back dragging out all those massive hardcover tomes of Terry and the Pirates, Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, and Li’l Abner, and that’s a small price to pay for the thrill of such discovery. And then you go over to Fantagraphics for Walt Kelly’s Pogo, Roy Crane’s Captain Easy, Charles Shultz’s Peanuts and Elzie Segar’s Popeye.

So… as you age you’ve got a responsibility to pass along the good stuff, to educate the young’uns to the great stuff that provided not only the foundation for our great medium, but the first half-dozen floors as well. I guarantee you that just about every talented artist and writer impressing the hell out of you today has devoured these folks and many others possessing equal gift: Alex Toth, Joe Kubert, Mort Meskin… the Internet doesn’t have enough bandwidth for me to list them all.

It is our responsibility, our duty to pass along the good self.

That’s how art works.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY EVENING: Martin Pasko

 

Mark Maddox Covers Mad Scientist #26 and #27

Cover Art: Mark Maddox

Cover Art: Mark Maddox

New Pulp Artist Mark Maddox has provided the covers to Mad Scientist magazine issues 26 and 27.

Available now!
Issue #26 (Winter 2013) – 48 pages

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
A full-color cover by Mark Maddox
I Bid You Welcome… (Editorial)
Frankenstein Conquers the World!
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein!
Charlton’s Reptilicus/Reptisaurus comics
Interview with EC Comics artist, Jack Davis
Chicago’s Shock Theatre!

Art by Don Marquez, Andy Bennett, Mike Hoffman, and John Rozum
Plus more!

Find out more here.

Issue #27 is currently at press and is expected to premiere at G-Fest.

Mike Gold: Worst … Villain… Ever!


Gold Art 130313Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins • Interior illustrations by Terry Beatty • Hard Case Crime • Paperback: $9.95 • Digital: $6.39 • Audio: $9.18

So… Who is the worst, most evil comic book villain ever? Well, if you’re a hard-core comics fan and/or comics professional, the worst comic book villain ever might very well be Dr. Fredric Wertham. He’s the guy who spearheaded the comic books breed juvenile delinquency movement of the late 1940s and early 1950s that led to Senate hearings, state-by-state censorship (Can’t have the word “crime” in the title of your comic book? Really?), massively plummeting sales, and the dissolution of more than half of the comics publishing companies and the jobs that went along with them.

An entire generation of fans grew up loathing the man. His so-called study, which was lacking in any real scientific evidence, was called Seduction of the Innocent. Suffice it to say that a lot of us have had a “thing” about the guy… perhaps none more than massively talented and successful novelist/comics writer/filmmaker/musician Max Allan Collins.

Collins was in a rock band called Seduction of the Innocent that played, among other venues, the San Diego Comic Con pre-show party – his bandmates included Bill Mumy, Miguel Ferrer and Steve Leialoha. It was… loud.

Now he’s repurposed the Evil Doctor’s seminal title in a mystery novel, the third (and hopefully not last) of his Jack Starr private eye stories that revolve around the comic strip and comic book business. Collins writes novels almost as often as I consume barbecue beef sandwiches – for one thing, he’s been co-writing, finishing off, and/or editing the plethora of unpublished material written by his friend, the late crimemaster Mickey Spillane. I wish I could come anywhere near keeping up with his output, but I’ve cut back on the barbecue beef.

But if you’re a comics or a popular culture fan and you only read one Max Allan Collins book this week, make it Seduction of the Innocent. I’d like to say it is one of the best books ever written, but that’s a stupid concept. However, I can say it is one of the most fun books I’ve ever read.

Collins incorporates his massive knowledge of – and enthusiasm for – 1950s popular culture. In addition to pastiches of Wertham and the folks at EC Comics and Lev Gleason Publications, he nods (often with the energy of a bobble-head on meth) towards Dragnet, Mickey Spillane, Al Capp, Dick Tracy, paperback culture, and mid-century culture. Mostly, though, he infuses his mystery novel with a smokepot of comics effluvia – aided by his long-time researcher George Hagenauer. However, if you’re not up on this sort of thing and/or couldn’t care less, it doesn’t get in the way of this clever yarn.

Indeed, I must compliment the author on a great diversionary move. For those of us who are up on comics history, he directs us towards one likely suspect – and then makes a crosstown turn worthy of a Manhattan cabdriver. I won’t spoil this for you, but if you’re curious read Joe Simon’s My Life in Comics.

I must point out that Collins’ long-time comics collaborator Terry Beatty (artist on the current Phantom Sunday pages) supplied the illustrations for each chapter. They are brilliant. Beatty even found an old Leroy Letterer to exacerbate the effect of reading an old (and relevant) EC Comics story.

If you’re looking for a good time and yet want to keep your clothes on, you’ll do well with Seduction of the Innocent. Max Allan Collins’ version, not Fredric Wertham’s.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

 

Mike Gold: EC Comics Fight – T’aint The Teat, It’s The Humanity

Over at The Comics Journal website Michael Dean posted an article about how the Harvey Kurtzman Estate (represented by Denis Kitchen) and Al Feldstein filed to “regain” the copyrights to their EC Comics work.

Feldstein and the Bill Gaines estate reached an agreement – undisclosed, of course – but the Kurtzman situation is more complex. Kurtzman created Mad, he wrote it, he did the layouts for his artists and he drew a modicum of the material as well. But it’s Mad and Mad is owned by Time Warner. It’s a teevee show on one of Time Warner’s cablenets. The magazine might not be very profitable any longer, but the brand name most certainly is.

Be that as it may, I put the word “regain” in quotation marks because, well, Al and Harvey never had those copyrights in the first place. EC Publications and its sundry successors in interest always held them. And, as Dean and others point out, the exploitation value of the material has been well-plundered. But we’re saddled with a remarkably antiquated, unfair and pro-theft copyright law and I think Al and Denis deserve to get in the game.

But who really should own what? This is the sort of thing that gives compassionate thinkers migraines and earns lawyers their reputations. Lots of people contributed massively to the creation of this body of material, including a great many of the most accomplished writers and artists of the time. And, in my opinion, of any time.

Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Bernie Krigstein, Willie Elder, Al Williamson, John Severin – to name simply the first half-dozen creators to come to mind. They and their co-workers played as important a function in the creation of the EC legacy as Al and Harvey. Their work was not interchangeable. The then-current artist list of, say, Charlton or even St. John Comics could not have been dropped into their place – well, they could, but you wouldn’t have had EC Comics and I wouldn’t be writing this piece.

Then again, Bill Gaines took the financial risk. He selected and hired these people. He contributed to a great many of the stories, particularly those edited by Al Feldstein. Does he (or his estate) deserve to be chilled from the long-term rewards?

Maybe. Bill didn’t return any of the original art – but, then again, in those days nobody did. However, Bill kept and archived the original art, and decades later he had it auctioned off. When he did this, artists were getting their work back and those that had it returned whatever inventories of old art they had on hand. Bill did not do this. He gave the artist a taste of the revenue, at a price determined by him and him alone. The artists were unable to get their art back, to do with what they wish.

“Ethics” are tricky. The idea is to rectify wrongs without wronging others in the process. This is only somewhat easier than building a perpetual motion machine.

The conversation over at The Comics Journal is spirited, engaging and, in a few instances, amusingly over-the-top. These are three important elements in protracted online conversations. You might want to check it out.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil