Saturday, January 25, 2014

Comic Episode Primer

Hey everyone! This is Jon. Up next on the show will be our episode dedicated to the Savage Sword of Conan, a comic series published by Marvel for over twenty years. Now, we understand that not everyone is as into comics as we are. Due to that I am hoping that by providing this primer on the cast of creators involved everyone can listen to and enjoy episode fifteen!

The Company

Marvel was founded in 1939 by Martin Goodman (more on him in a bit) as Timely Publications. The company first found success in WWII by publishing comics with heroes like Namor the Submariner, The Human Torch, and Captain America. After the war the company became more widely known as Atlas Comics and produced a wide variety of knock off horror, western, crime, and romance comics. The comic book industry as a whole slumped with the introduction of The Comics Code Authority, a government sponsored program to ensure comics didn't corrupt children. By the 60's superhero comics were coming back into the style and Goodman told his nephew and editor in chief, Stan Lee, to create him a super hero line. Lee along with Jack Kirby introduced the Fantastic Four in November 1961. Of course today they publish the world's most famous comics and are a multimedia presence with TV shows, cartoons, and obviously movies. At the time we meet them in our story about Conan comics, the company has recently overtaken DC as the top selling company. 

The Management

Martin Goodman

B. 1908 D. 1982

Martin Goodman was the original owner and publisher of Marvel Comics. During his lifetime he published a wide variety of printed goods including men's magazines like Stag and FILM International (an x-rated film review publication). Most comic historians describe him as mercurial at best and ruthless at worst. He once ordered Stan Lee to fire the entire staff of Atlas Comics except for himself. He also tended to be a bit of a copy cat and it seems that his company found success in spite of him. At the time Conan the Barbarian starts publication through Marvel, he has sold the company to Perfect Film and Chemical Corporation but still serves as publisher, a role he fulfills until 1972 when he retired. 

Stan Lee

B. 1922

Stan Lee started at his uncle's company on the very bottom rung of the ladder before becoming the pop-culture icon we know today. After serving as ink well filler, coffee retriever, and resident ocarina player for Timely he started writing comics in 1941 (beginning in Captain America). Around this same time Goodman named him editor in chief, a role he filled for the next 31 years. Along with Jack Kirby and others he created most of the characters Marvel is most famous for, including the Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor. When the Conan comics arrive at Marvel in 1970 he is still serving as editor in chief but will soon switch from that role and become the new publisher. 

The Writer

Roy Thomas

B. 1940

Thomas was once an English teacher in his home state of Missouri. At the same time he was part of a growing community of comic book fans during the Silver Age of Comics and he helped to found a very influential fan magazine known as Alter Ego. Due to this he was invited by DC Comic's editor Mort Weisinger to come and work for DC in 1965. He actually gave up a full ride scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis to move to New York. Once there, he worked for DC for only 8 days before moving to Marvel as a staff writer under Stan Lee. He mainly started out by filling in for Lee on various titles, including Millie the Model, Nick Fury, and Strange Adventures between '65 and '70. Most notable during this time was his run on The Avengers. He was the person put in charge of finding a licensed property for Marvel and was instrumental in securing the rights to Conan. He was the main scribe for most of the Conan comics until he left Marvel in 80's to work for DC. 

The Artists 

John Buscema

B. 1927 D. 2002

A prolific member of the Marvel art stable for many, many years. Buscema first worked for Timely and Atlas comics as a penciler before moving into the world of commercial art in 1958. He returned to Marvel and comic books in 1966 by working on a Nick Fury tale. Following this he started back as a full time comic artist and worked with Thomas on much of his run of The Avengers and notably was also the artist on the first Silver Surfer series. When Jack Kirby chose to leave Marvel in 1970, Buscema became the go to artist for the company. When the rights to Conan were being secured he was supposed to be the artist for the new series, but due to budget constraints the art duties were passed on to Barry Smith. He contributed over 100 issues of art to both Conan the Barbarian and the Savage Sword of Conan books before moving on to other characters and teaching. Later in life he always spoke highest of his work on Conan and listed it his personal favorite.

Barry Windsor-Smith

B. 1949

An English artist who first arrived in New York City and Marvel in the summer of 1968 and was hired basically hired on the spot by Stan Lee. Initially worked on titles like Daredevil, the X-Men, and Nick Fury. He was deported back to the UK in December 1968 but continued to work Marvel titles from home, including The Avengers and The Chamber of Darkness. It was Chamber of Darkness that led him to working with Roy Thomas on Conan the Barbarian when the title first started. He was involved with nearly all of the first 24 issues of the series, helped to write some tales, and co-created Red Sonja as well. He worked with Marvel and Conan until about 1974 when he left comics altogether to become a fine artist. He later returned to Marvel in 1983 working on Machine Man and a few other titles. In 1991 he wrote and drew the seminal Wolverine story Weapon X. Later worked for Valiant Comics as creative director and lead artist. He is currently working on "Monsters" a creator owned project.

Alfredo Alcala

B. 1925 D. 2000

Alcala was an extremely successful and famous Filipino artist and inker. He worked for Ace Publishing in The Philippines. He was known as a prolific artist who could create 12 fully produced pages in a work day. He was such a popular fixture at Ace that they named a book after him, Alcala Komix Magazine. His break in American comics came in 1963 when he created Voltar, an award winning sword and sorcery comic book. Joe Orlando, of DC Comics, initially got Alcala into American books before he also started working for Marvel. He inked books and provided pencils for both companies on a plethora of books. 

Tony Dezuniga 

B. 1932 D. 2012

Another Filipino artist, who started as a letterer in 1948 for Liwayway. He later moved to the US in the late 1960's and began working with Joe Orlando at DC. He is credited with exposing American comics to Filipino artists and opening the door for others, such as Alcala, to come to America. He worked primarily for DC where he co-created the western anti-hero Jonah Hex. He occasionally worked for Marvel as well primarily inking and drawing on Conan books. He worked in the US for 18 years before returning home. 

So, those are the main folks we will talk about in this episode. Hopefully you found this guide helpful. Please join us on the next episode, but before you do be sure to read our three stories: 

We'll see you all here next week! Stay frosty everyone!