Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Heroes for Hire from Harvey

Some time in the future I hope to concentrate a few posts on the Harvey Thrillers, but at the moment I want to mention one story of interest. In Unearthly Spectaculars 3 (March/67) the story "Rent-a-Hero from Miracles Inc." carries on the Miracles Inc. feature from issue 2, and with a completely different writer-artist team (in issue 2 that "team" was pretty much Wallace Wood).

Unearthly Spectaculars 3--Miracles Inc.

The Harvey Thrillers line in the mid-Sixties was edited by Joe Simon, who called in a rosterful of people, many of whom had worked for him before as well as some new ones. His writers on the various features included Dick Wood, Otto Binder, France Herron, D. J. Arneson, and Jim Steranko.

But "Rent-a-Hero" stands out as the only story I've recognized at Harvey as written by Joe Simon himself. I had to look ahead to his work at DC in the Seventies to find a starting point in creating a list of his scripting characteristics; at Harvey in this period, and in the earlier Sixties and the Fifties there, as well as at Archie and Prize and Crestwood, it looks like he was busy enough editing that he relied on writers including Jack Kirby, Jack Oleck, Carl Wessler, Bob Powell, and so on.

As far as the art on this story goes—I can relate to convincing oneself of seeing the work of an artist who isn't there, but I'm going to suggest that that's exactly what's happening when "Rent-a-Hero" is attributed to Joe Orlando. It's certainly easy to see why it is: folks are working backward from Orlando's credited work at Warren and DC from this period.

I would have thought his use of ghosts in those years is notorious by now, but I hope eventually it will sink in.

I can't make out a hint of Orlando on this story. Jerry Grandenetti pencilled it. Period. Is he being inked by someone else? If so, it doesn't much look like Joe Orlando. The latter did work for Simon earlier, but I don't see his art anywhere at Harvey.


  1. I see a lot of the same style Orlando brought to his Inferior Five pencils.
    Could it be Grandenetti layouts/pencils and Orlando full pencils/inks?

  2. Britt, the basis of my argument is that you're seeing the same style Jerry Grandenetti brought to his Inferior Five pencils.The question is how much, if anything beyond his signature, Orlando did contribute to Inferior Five and Scooter when Grandenetti ghost-pencilled and Mike Esposito inked. I can readily acknowledge Orlando's inking/finished art over ghosts Grandenetti and Bill Draut (pencilling separate stories) at Warren.

  3. I have a few pages of original art from the second SHOWCASE issue of The Inferior Five. I'm not sure if Orlando was involved in any of the layouts but probably not. Grandenetti seems to have penciled everything, then Orlando went in and repenciled a few things -- mostly heads -- before Esposito inked. There are one or two places in the comic that look to me like Orlando did his fixing of Grandenetti's pencils by inking.

  4. I wonder if Orlando did that fixing in at the DC offices where he could be seen drawing Inferior Five--following the example of Bob Kane bringing in "his" pencils, and stopping off at a drawing board to very publicly add the finishing touch of a gesturing hand alongside a close-up head, in story after story.

  5. I find it hard to believe that anyone at DC thought Joe Orlando was doing all the work he was handing in that was actually by Bill Draut, Jerry Grandenetti and (I suspect) others. Grandenetti had worked for DC for years. The boys in the Production Department knew his work. I also don't think they ever thought Bob Kane was drawing the Batman stories he turned in.

  6. I guess I was just struck by the similarity in the small percentage of art actually by the guy getting the check from DC, but yes, I made a stretch to project Bob Kane's motivations onto anyone else.

    Still, I can see that Kane's contract meant the DC editors had to put up with the silly fiction from him, even if they were rolling their eyes after he left the office.

    But if they were exchanging wink-wink-nudge-nudges with Orlando over his bringing in Grandenetti work that didn't much look like Orlando's--why? What was the perceived advantage to DC in going through a middleman to get Grandenetti's art? (That question is addressed to the rhetorical heavens rather than to you, Mark. I know the answer: "Who the heck knows?")

  7. This is just a guess but I'd say the answer would go something like this. The editors at DC liked Orlando, professionally and personally, and felt that what he was handing in was good art even if he had someone help him...and better art than they would have gotten directly from Grandenetti. Whether you or I see any evidence of it, they probably felt Joe was getting better work out of Grandenetti than they would have, and that Joe fixed up some of the rough spots. It's also possible that at the time, Grandenetti was thought to be unreliable, whereas Orlando would make sure the pages were delivered on time. A lot of editors indirectly employed Bill Fraccio by buying material from Tony Tallarico, knowing Tony would make sure the work got in and would redraw some of the weaker portions.