Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Emergency Doctor, Son of Ben Casey?

Emergency Doctor 1 (Sum/63) is a Charlton one-shot in the medical genre of their ongoing series like Nurse Betsy Crane and Three Nurses. The TV show "Ben Casey" was a strong influence, though—so strong that they used Ben Casey's artist.

Emergency Doctor 1

Norman Nodel drew Dell's Ben Casey 1 (June-July/62) through 5 (Mar-Apr/63).

Ben Casey 1

As I said in my Ben Casey post, writer Carl Memling's ambulance sirens go "Rowrrr." When I saw that Nodel had drawn Emergency Doctor and that its sirens went "Rowrrr," my first thought was that Charlton had acquired an unused Ben Casey and had Nodel lightly redraw Vince Edwards' likeness. But the lettering in the Charlton machine style shows that this wasn't a Dell job changed with no more than a few brush strokes.

In fact, the script is by Joe Gill. He uses "Rowrrr" elsewhere for animal roars; by coincidence he uses it for sirens here. Did he rewrite Dell pages, which were then relettered? I don't think so; the number of pages in the issue's two Emergency Doctor stories don't match the fuller-length no-ads Dell standard. More tellingly, Emergency Doctor, along the lines of the nurse books, concentrates on an ongoing doctor-nurse romance that isn't in the Ben Casey comic because it isn't in the TV show.

Speaking of Joe Gill, from what I've seen he did write the vast majority of Charlton stories in the early Sixties. (Carl Wessler had written there in the Fifties, and the newbies like Dave Kaler, Steve Skeates, and so on, would come aboard in the mid-Sixties. I think Pete Morisi was writing his own stories before the mid-Sixties; I don't know Don Segall's tenure.)

One of Gill's stylistic tells is his long introductory blurbs with a number of sentences strung together with conjunctions. It seems counter-productive, when he was getting paid by the page, not by the word, but my theory is that it actually helped him in the long run. Joe Gill has said that he plotted as he typed (at his page rate, he had to). Getting started on the script with a flow-of-consciousness description of the set-up may have been a way of jump-starting the plotting process, to keep his mind a panel or two ahead of his fingers.


  1. Charlton had a habit of doing "similar-but-not-quite" books that "almost" looked like tv shows.
    "Public Defender in Action" and "Racket Squad in Action" (both based on Reed Hadley-starring series "The Public Defender" and "Racket Squad") are obvious examples.
    There were also a number of titles based on real-life people like Davy Crockett, Wyatt Earp, etc. when tv shows and films about them were on the air (and the licensed comics based on those shows were done by other companies)...

  2. Yes, the debt of "Yang" to the TV series "Kung Fu" springs to mind as a later Charlton example.