Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Leo Dorfman, Total Warlord of M.A.R.S.

Leo Dorfman wrote the entire run of Gold Key's Total War/M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War. (M.A.R.S. is the Marine Attack Rescue Service, a four-man team vital in the fight against invaders on America soil).

Wally Wood has gotten the attribution for writing the first three issues, just as Jack Cole has for all his Plastic Man stories, but with no better reason than that he wrote some of his own work elsewhere. Could Wood have brought the concept and plots to Gold Key? Very possible, but who can say? The "new writer" finally identifies the invaders as extraterrestrials, which supposedly proves a point, but he doesn't do it in issue 4, the first with the new artists; he works his way up to confirming the fact in #5.

Here are tiers from issues 3, 4, and 9. Do you notice a similarity in writing style? There's also Dorfman's use of captions beginning with "As" quite a bit, and at least one siren going "Howeee."

3--In the next hair-raising moment... 4--But in the next desperate instant... 9--In the next catastrophic moment...

I'm not sure exactly how the Wood/Adkins art was broken down: if one did layouts, one complete pencils, one complete inks; or more likely nothing so clearcut. And of course others may have helped. The inks on the remaining issues seem to me to match up with Mike Peppe's on, say, Mike Sekowsky's pencils on Man from U.N.C.L.E. Most often Roy and Peppe worked as a team, like Andru and Esposito—but the only signature in the series, on the splash page of #10, is Roy's alone.

Total War written by Leo Dorfman

July/65 Target: America a: Wally Wood & Dan Adkins
Oct/     Sneak Attack a: Wood & Adkins
Breakthrough a: Wood & Adkins

M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War written by Dorfman

Sept/66 Operation Copperhead a: Wood & Adkins
Oct/67 Operation Deep-Freeze p: Mike Roy  i: Mike Peppe
May/68 Mystery Beachhead p: Roy  i: Peppe
Aug/     Operation Snake-in-the-Brass p: Roy  i: Peppe
Nov/     The Death Wind p: Roy  i: Peppe
Feb/69 Tomorrow Is Doomsday p: Roy  i: Peppe
May/     City under Fire p: Roy  i: Peppe
Aug/     10  The Dragon's Teeth p: Roy  i: Peppe?


  1. Wonder if Dorfman wrote anything for Tower?

  2. I don't think Wood and Adkins ever worked as a penciler/inker team. I believe in every case, Wood was the artist of record and he turned around and employed a number of assistants who both penciled and inked...and the breakdown of work could vary from page to page in a story, much like a newspaper comic strip artist might hand different chores to his assistant(s).

    I once saw a detailed breakdown of how Russ Manning employed Mike Royer as an assistant and while there were some later jobs where Russ penciled and Mike inked, for the most part, it was like Russ did the parts of the page or strip he wanted to do -- or felt he had to as lead artist -- and then passed the rest of it on to Mike. He might do finished art on the foliage in Panel 1, then have Mike do pencils and inks to replicate that foliage in other panels.

    I suspect Wood usually laid out his stories, then just passed pages around to whoever was available to help him. On Total War/M.A.R.S. Patrol, I think Tony Coleman worked on some of them and also Ralph Reese. Adkins was the only one who ever went public in interviews saying he worked on them so folks view them as by Wood and Adkins.

  3. Also, I should add: I seriously doubt Wood brought the concept to Western. In my experience, if Wood had walked in with this thing, they would have said to him, "Do you want to write it?" He almost certainly would have said yes.

    My suspicion is that Dorfman created it and Wood was looking for work when they were looking for an artist.

  4. Mark, I added that line about "others may have helped" just before I published the post, to leave myself an out (or a further out when I wouldn't commit to how I thought the art broke down). Jake Oster also mentioned Tony Coleman to me.

    I was leaving myself yet another out, on Wood's bringing in the concept, because those who thought him the writer point out the "hard-hitting aspect that Gold Key would never otherwise come up with." The fact that there are just as many civilian deaths in the total war after Wood leaves goes unnoticed.

    darkmark, I haven't recognized anything by Dorfman at Tower. I agree with Mark's surmise: that the connection between Dorfman and Wood was through the Gold Key editors.

  5. You're probably right, Martin. Thanks.