Tuesday, August 30, 2011

World of Fantasy

Here in my old age I'm getting a real kick out of collecting comics. Almost strictly Silver Age, of course, since that was the era of my youth.

When I was a kid, my dad always had lots of the late Atlas-era comics. These were the books that Martin Goodman and Stan Lee were putting out before they decided to ride DC's coattails into the superhero genre. That was the thing about Goodman and Lee--they were copycats. I can think of no instance in which they were ahead of the pack, and were always doing their best to ape what was selling for other publishers who were, indeed, pushing the envelope.

As the comics industry limped into the late 1950s and early 1960s, there weren't many bright spots in four color publishing. Some westerns were still doing all right--but even that genre was fading fast with the great days of the movie western hero collapsing under the weight of TV competition. Disney comics were holding their own, but they had such a hold on the funny animal business that few could think of competing with them.

In these dark days, Lee had thrown the dice and placed his bets on science fiction and fantasy comics. The HUAC had pretty much killed that off and forced EC comics to abandon not only their great genre titles, but comics entirely. I think it was Goodman's thinking that with EC gone, his company could fill that void in the fans' pocketbooks. However, he wasn't willing to give Lee the kind of money it would take to attract the best artists, and so the Lee efforts never achieved the type of success that William Gaines had enjoyed at EC.

This issue of WORLD OF FANTASY came out in 1959. The Marvel superhero efforts were still two years away, but the talent which was to make up the core of the Marvel bullpen was taking form. This is one of the few comics from this period of early Marvel that doesn't have a Jack Kirby story. I suspect that he may have done the layouts for one of the stories, but by and large his presence in this issue is the cover, which is not quite up to his usual efforts. The interior of the book is dominated by the some of the guys who would soon make such an impact in the industry and in comics fandom.

Don Heck has a nice story that was a variation on the famous TIM BOO BA story by Ditko. I suppose the bare bones plot must have been from Stan Lee who stole it from some musty pulp that was old before he even started editing. The best thing in the book, though, was an extremely nice Steve Ditko effort called "Guardian of the Stars". Again, it's a variation on a morality theme that would have been quite at home in one of the Feldstein-edited issues of an EC science-fiction comic.

I was really happy to land this copy.


Kirk G said...

By any chance, is the rear cover ad by Lee or Goodman, looking to attract comic book artists? (just kidding)

HemlockMan said...

Lee had always been searching for a great artist to run the company for him. He had such in Joe Maneely and despaired for a replacement. Enter Jack Kirby.