Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bill Everett 1950 Lev Gleason story unearthed

Some of the most satisfying moments in putting together the Bill Everett Archives volumes have been discovering hitherto unknown works that seemingly no one knew existed, and that fall outside of Bill's normal modus operandi - i.e., working as a virtual lifer for Marvel Comics, creating the Sub-Mariner in 1939, doing all those horror books in the 1950s, and co-creating Daredevil in the 1960s.

We're still one story away - Target Comics #8 - from completing Everett's 1938-42 work in volume 2. If you have this comic, please email me.

Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives v1 focused on Bill's earliest Golden Age comics - from 1938 to 1942 - for companies other than the oft-reprinted Marvel superhero work. Heroic Comics: The Bill Everett Archives v2 completes that material and then moves into some of his most stunning work. And it's been this pursuit - especially the 1950s canon - that has led to some fantastic surprises.

The most recent is a story in Crime and Punishment for the company, Lev Gleason, (in)famous for its Crime Does Not Pay title and other books that brought the crime genre into comics. Collectors and historians have assumed that when Everett came back from WWII he jumped right into the Sub-Mariner books and then into the horror work. In fact, circa 1949-50, just after the Marvel heroes died off in 1949, and before the horror genre overtook that company, Everett did reach out to some other publishers to either fill a gap or load up on income, given that he would be bringing three children into the world around these years.

Everett wrote the following in a 1961 letter to comic fan, Jerry Defuccio: "Things got rough about 1949, and I felt it advisable to pack up and move back to New York. I left my family (two kids by now) in Erie, Pa., with my sister and her family, and came to N.Y. by myself. I picked up comic accounts with Quality Comics, Eastern Color, and, of course, with Stan Lee. Things finally started to good in '50, and my family joined me (four of us lived and worked - in one tiny room in a mid-town hotel for six months!), and we eventually moved to Ridgewood, New Jersey, where I brought a small house."

Everett reestablished his connection with Steve Douglas, editor at Eastern Color, and did a number of adventure and romance stories in books like Heroic Comics and Personal Love. But any 1950 Lev Gleason connection was unknown until I received an email from Mr. Monster creator, Michael T. Gilbert who sent me scans of "The Button" from Crime and Punishment #31, cover-dated October 1950. (Click on the above image to see the signed splash panel.)

Bill had done a couple of stories in 1942 for Silver Streak Comics published by Gleason, but that was while Everett was working in the Funnies Inc. studio, packaging stories for other companies. Still, in 1949/50, Everett must have reached out to Lev Gleason editor Charles Biro for some freelance work and was thrown this story. (Mr. Gilbert also sent me a text story from Silver Streak Comics #1, cover-dated Dec. 1939, that had an Everett illustration - another unknown Everett contribution!)

So far, that's the only Everett crime story for Biro/Gleason we've uncovered. Everett's not in the issue on either side - you can check out full books of the rest of the title at comicbookplus.com. Why possibly only one? Perhaps the same as why Everett only did one story for DC Comics in late 1959. Gleason editor Charles Biro and DC editor Robert Kanigher were reputed to have a "hands on" editorial style and Everett loved the freedom he had under Stan Lee.

Regardless, here's hoping we continue to uncover more Bill Everett in our journey of bringing you unreprinted works from this comic-book legend.

We're still one story away - Target Comics #8 - from completing Everett's 1938-42 run in vol. 2. If you have this comic, please email me.

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