Friday, October 23, 2015

One Springboard for Two Stories

As EC's publisher, Bill Gaines would read at home as much as he could to bring in "springboards" to story conferences with editor Al Feldstein. Generally they would take ideas, including some from Gaines's reading, to come up with plots and build new new stories around them. Famously, Ray Bradbury differed with them on the definition of "new" when they hewed too closely to a couple of his stories.

If comic book writers do any reading at all, of course others' ideas may resurface even unconsciously as springboards for scripts. Where is the line crossed into plagiarism?

C. M Kornbluth's story "The Little Black Bag" was published in Astounding Stories, July/50. The situation involves a doctor finding a bag of surgical instruments from the future. I've recognized that situation in two comic book stories that came out a few years later.

MT 134, SSS 36 strange instruments

"Little Black Bag" is from Marvel Tales 134 (May/55); artist Robert Q. Sale, and writer unknown. "The Strange Package" is from Strange Suspense Stories 36 (March/58); art by (of all people, at Charlton) Gene Colan and script by Joe Gill. [CORRECTED FROM SSS 33 PER PAUL BRIGG'S COMMENT]

Neither follows the Kornbluth story's plot at all closely; that had a grisly ECish ending, and these two stories came out under the Comcs Code. Still, (especially considering the Marvel story's title), it's obvious the writers were familiar with the prose story. I wonder if Edmond Hamilton springboarded it even further into "The Burglar Kit from the Future" in Jimmy Olsen...

As to Joe Gill's style, in "The Strange Package" there's a good example of his joining two sentences with an "and" but no comma in a caption: The hospital was close and he walked through the early, gathering darkness toward it!


  1. This also served as the basis for a memorable segment of Night Gallery.

  2. And comic-book/TV related, too, since it starred Burgess Meredith.

  3. "The Strange Package" is from Strange Suspense Stories 36, not 33, though it is indeed March 1958. Did not know Colan had worked for Charlton -- tracking down his other stories for them now!

  4. Thanks, Paul, I corrected the issue number.