Tagged: Vin Sullivan

Dennis O’Neil: Return With Us Now To Those Thrilling Days…

Justice Society

The Second World War had not yet started, at least not for the United States, when I drifted through a wall and into office space in one of the Manhattan business buildings. Anyone seeing me would assume that I was a man in his thirties, but actually I was less than a year old. Astral reality, as you might know, proceeds via different reality routes than Other reality, particularly as regards time, which would explain everything, if only you could understand it. I should also mention that I’d done a Chronological Slurp, jumped ahead a half century or so and spent a nanosecond – your time, of course – acquiring knowledge I wouldn’t learn for – your time – decades.

jsaI was in a conference room the likes of which were in dozens of New York offices. Long wooden table, chairs, little else. A meeting was in progress. I recognized none of the men present – they were all men – but the guy over near the door might have been a very young Sheldon Mayer and the man at the far end of the table could have been Vin Sullivan. Sullivan, or whoever he was, glanced at me, paused, and returned his gaze to the yellow legal pad in front of him. My guess is, he saw me, immediately repressed the fact that the back of my chair was plainly visible through my body, and maybe thought I was a newcomer who belonged there. After all, this was a new company plying a new product and there were probably strangers continually wandering in and out.

I listened to the editors (for surely that’s what they were) discussing the success of Superman comics and the forthcoming Superman radio program, and the newer Batman, another winner. Then a bald guy asked about All-Star Comics, just that week making a newsstand debut. I gathered from the ensuing conversation that All-Star was a comic book anthology: short stories, each featuring a different hero. The bald guy seemed to think that All-Star’s multi-heroed format had no staying power and was doomed to early extinction. The rest of the group didn’t seem to know what they thought.

“Why not have the heroes all working on the same problem?” I asked everyone. “Fighting the same villain or group of villains. Make it a team effort. Don’t Americans love teams?”

“If they’re the Brooklyn Dodgers,” somebody muttered.

“It’d be a production nightmare,” the bald guy said.

The guy who may have been Sullivan said, “No, we could make it work. Interesting idea.”

That started a fresh dialogue that may have lasted until Christmas.

A few months later, All-Star Comics #3, featured The Justice Society of America, with a bunch of heroes, some of whom appeared in their own comics, gathered together to battle evil. Wonder Woman didn’t join until issue #8, but she was just a girl.

By then, my astral self was long gone. While the editors were still deep in discussion, I drifted away, into the Clutchesphere, where my astral self morphed into a neutrino and joined the cosmic dance.

My other, one-year-old self, wet his diaper.

Dennis O’Neil: A Funnyman

Funnyman1Imagine the nipper that was me 70 years ago, give or take, I’m just back from one of my irregular expeditions up and down Claxton Avenue, stopping at certain houses and trading comic books with the kids who lived in them.

(I no longer have any idea who these kids were – though Dard Schmidt may have been one of them – but I hereby tender to them much belated thanks.)

Anyway, I’m looking through the newly acquired comics and … what’s this?

A comic book about a guy dressed like a clown who calls himself Funnyman and fights criminals. Not exactly like Batman and Superman fight them, but I guess fighting criminals is fighting criminals and anyone who does that is a good guy and so let’s just open the cover and see what this Funnyman is doing these days,

I must have liked what I saw – after all, I did remember the character longer than your daddy’s been alive, despite having only one encounter with him (I think.)

I mentioned Superman, didn’t I? Well, back then, in post-war St. Louis, I doubt that I really understood what bylines were. Reading itself was a recently acquired skill. Fact is, I don’t know if Funnyman had bylines, but if it did, they would have featured the names Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Ringing any bells? Yep, that Siegel and Shuster, the creators of Superman. It seems that Jerry and Joe were in a legal hassle with their former employer, the publisher of Superman, and decided to try something new, something without a big red S on its chest.

Enter Vin Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan, who seems to be one of comics’ forgotten men, had worked with Jerry and Joe on the early Superman and had started his own publishing company, Magazine Enterprises. Mr. Sullivan gave Jerry and Joe’s latest creation his own comic and Funnyman was heading for glory. But not for long. The title lasted only six issues. Siegel and Shuster also tried Funnyman as a newspaper strip, and that did not fare well, either.

Farewell, Funnyman.

But might the character be revivable? Maybe hype up his alter ego, a comedian named Larry Davis, and borrow some tropes from the trickster myths and … Oh wait! I’ve got it! We’ll have him run for governor – no, not governor, let’s go big time…we’ll have him campaign for the presidency (of the United States) and he says that he will eliminate most of the country’s problems during his first week in office by firing all the stupid people. Then comes the mightiest plank in his platform: He will deal with crime by building this great big wall … did I say “great big?” I meant huge – HUGE! A trillion feet high! And really, really long. And then, he’ll put all of the bad criminals on one side of the huge wall and never, ever let them back into the country even if they ask very politely.

One more thing: let’s give Larry Davis his own television show. What do you think – Sunday nights on NBC?