Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Identifying the Writers

An excerpt from an upcoming Alter Ego article that Roy Thomas asked me for, on IDing comic book writers:

Writers have individual styles. If they didn't, who would have cared that Stan Lee scripted over Jack Kirby's plots in the Sixties but Kirby scripted for himself in the Seventies?

Writer identification calls for listing characteristic sound effects, interjections, expressions, variant spellings, quirks of punctuation, the form of captions, and anything else from a particular story, and comparing it with the lists of various authors' data from stories already identified. Here's the beginning of my Otto Binder list:

"about as funny as the plague"
Above the clouds...
abyss of space
ace athlete
Ace of Planeteers
across the abyss of space
Action Ace
"Action at last!"
action costume
act fast
act the part of

In many cases, just about as important as matching up a story positively with a list of one author's data is matching it negatively against others'. If an early-Sixties Superman story seems equally likely to be by Otto Binder or by Robert Bernstein (both known to have been writing the character at the time), the use of "action costume," which isn’t on Bernstein's list, might tip the scales.

The article focuses on the Superman writers of 1959-64, with examples from individual stories. Roy tells me that he's tracking down page samples from the comics for illustrations.

On this blog, I want to identify the work of writers and artists who went uncredited in the first few decades of comic books. A lot of comic creator IDs on the Web have been cut-and-pasted any number of times, generations removed now from their original sources. Did they come from the creators' records, the companies' records, after-the-fact recollections, or historians' attributions? This blog will give some of my attributions—and a number of posts will showcase one important comic book author's own records.

The Terrible Troll logo

My pulp superhero novel was plotted in the style of Jack Kirby: the writer kept asking himself, "Can you top this?"

Marc Svensson, the cover painter of Troll, is a comic book historian who's contributed a great deal to Alter Ego; he's recorded Golden and Silver Age creators on camera at convention after convention. Marc scanned the script sales records that I'll introduce in an upcoming post.

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