Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Putting Together The "Secret History Of Marvel Comics" P1

This past weekend was dedicated to putting together the visuals for my latest book project, The Secret History Of Marvel Comics: Jack Kirby and the Moonlighting Artists at Martin Goodman’s Empire, that makes its debut at the San Diego Comicon in July of 2012.

My collaborator, Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, lives in a "Fortress Of Sequential Art" and we locked ourselves inside from Friday to Sunday night scanning our little hearts out  from all the work that had been put into researching the visuals. Here's some of what we were digging into this weekend (click to enlarge the photos). These may not appear in the book but are too much fun to resist not capturing in some manner...

Okay, that's my 2010 Bill Everett bio / art book which I'm pouring over, but let your eye wandering around the outskirts of the photo. You can see our scanning set up on the desk in the (your) bottom right corner (yes, that's the Iron Man Marvel Comics Omnibus we used to flatten out the materials that were being scanned, Ditko never far from my reach). Post your comments in the Comments Section below on what else catches your eye around the room.

That's Michael to my right in the photo. Michael's written 16 introductions to the Marvel Masterworks series of books; his knowledge of the 1930s-50s Marvel Comics empire is unrivaled. In my hands is the cover to a Martin Goodman magazine, National Detective Cases ("Sex Blasts Our Hideout" emblazoned on the cover). Michael is holding National Detective Cases v1 #2 from May 1941 with the captions "...He Tried To Burn Me Alive!" and "Case Of The Unwanted Babies".

Martin Goodman put out comic books, he put out pulps, and he put out magazines, books and smaller digests as well. Michael is holding a 3-Book Western digest from 1957 that features Matt Baker artwork. I'm hiding behind an illustration from the same issue by Carl Burgos, creator of the Human Torch in Marvel Comics #1, the very first comic that Goodman published (also featuring Bill Everett's Sub-Mariner debut). Probably the best Burgos illo. I saw all weekend.

One of my favourite Golden Age artists from my teenager years (in the 1980s) was Syd Shores. He took over as artist from Jack Kirby on Captain America Comics back in the early 1940s, and had a rendition of Sub-Mariner that I loved. Here, buried in a Martin Goodman magazine is Shores doing an illustration for the story, Devil's Weed. Yes, that's Satan rolling a doobie. Shores' brilliance really shines through on this material.

Michael's having fun with a Martin Goodman pulp entitled The Angel Detective from 1941 in his right hand, and a copy of the magazine, Amazing Detective Cases from 1942. The cover is by illustration artist Caldwell Higgins (who never did do any work for Goodman's line of comic books). Hmmm...Michael sure seems to be surrounded by a whole bunch of interesting artwork. Post your identifications of each to our Comments Section below.

We'll back for Part Two of our adventures in putting together our Secret History Of Marvel Comics book, including a look at some of the hilarious material to be found in the Martin Goodman books that was probably normal for the 1940s but is stunning when taken out of context.


  1. Hi Blake! Fascinating stuff, we're all drooling over the rare and obscure treasures you and Dr. Mike are slaving over, but what's the story of the B&W covers leaning against all and sundry?

  2. Ok, who said these photos were going global??

  3. THIS from the guy who wanted to LIVE STREAM the whole weekend of scanning...which WAS the best idea we never executed. Would love to have a tight, 3-hour "movie" / documentary-type footage of that weekend.