Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Inadvertent Ghost?

Can you recognize whose pencils lie under Al Williamson's inks here?

'You Never Can Tell' panels--earth-diving suit

Adventures into the Unknown 107 (Apr/59) is the third issue to carry credits on the stories' splash pages. The artist on "You Never Can Tell" is given as Williamson.

Art-spotters have noticed that it doesn't really look like his solo work; at present, the Grand Comics Database IDs Williamson as the penciller and Jack Davis as the inker. Others like James Vadeboncoeur Jr. have zeroed in on the pencils as the non-Williamson component.

Many of the other pages and panels might have been a distraction in the identification process; I cherry-picked these. Williamson has inked this artist elsewhere with a much lighter hand.

I doubt that Williamson called up the uncredited one offering a ghost-penciling job. I'd posit that, instead, he had this inking job on hand from another publisher—say Harvey—when the book it was meant for was canceled. Eventually he brought it to ACG.

The writer's credit is to "Kermit Lundgren" (Richard Hughes), and I don't see any reason to say he didn't do the final script; the lettering is certainly ACG's. Under the circumstances I've imagined, the original artist might well have written as he drew, lettering in pencil; editor Hughes, just like some other editor-writers, then revised to fit his one-man house style.

So—do you see who I see?


  1. Martin,

    Even before I read your post the figures and poses looked like the work of Jack Kirby to my eye.

  2. Nick, I figured showing the panels without noting right away that they came from an ACG comic would stave off the subconscious thought that Kirby isn't known to have any work there.

    On some of the other panels in the story you can work backwards from the conclusion and say, "Yes, I can make out some Kirby touches." But page 1, as it happens, doesn't suggest Jack Kirby art at all. I can see why the ID has been problematic.

  3. Yes, I see Kirby in the undetwater scene especially. But I would have discounted it based on it being ACG. So, possibly an Alarming Tale that wasn't used?

  4. Alarming Tales or Black Cat Mystic, I would think, Scott--although each continued a couple of issues past Kirby's tenure. In that period at Harvey Williamson inked a Kirby story in Race for the Moon, but that title was of course all space stories.

  5. If Hughes wrote it -- and it sure seems like he did -- then the story must have originated with him. I don't believe it's a leftover from Harvey or anywhere Kirby worked. I don't think Hughes ever worked for Simon and Kirby or just Simon. The multi-named Mr. Hughes had enough to do generating scripts for his own company.

    I looked over the story and I only see Kirby in a handful of panels, mostly the ones isolated here. I don't see any trace of him in most panels and even in the ones where we see what look like Kirby figures, I don't see any of his panel composition.

    I'm not 100% confident of this but if I had to guess, I'd guess that Williamson got help from Angelo Torres on it and that Torres decided to engage in some Kirby swiping/imitation as a lark.

  6. I have to admit that I can't pick out Angelo Torres's style if his work isn't signed or credited. I do recall seeing photo swipes every so often in his Warren work. Maybe eventually someone will run across an earlier Kirby panel and connect it with one they saw here (and remember to bring it to our attention in a reply). I can see the point of swiping; but going to the trouble of imitating Kirby when working for Al Williamson, not so much.

    I agree, Mark: Hughes didn't work for S&K. But I don't agree that his writing the final script means that only he could have written the original one. My supposition was that he rewrote.

  7. Martin, I'm a little fuzzy on what you mean in the second paragraph above. My assumption is that Hughes wrote a script, gave it to Williamson to draw, Williamson did it (perhaps with help) and turned it in. Is there any reason to assume that might not have been the case here?

    I can't imagine any scenario where the script is commissioned by Simon or Simon and Kirby and then somehow winds up in an ACG comic lettered by Ed Hamilton (who didn't work for Simon and Kirby) and redialogued by Hughes. There's no evidence anywhere of Simon selling leftover work to ACG.

    1. Unless it is one of an earlier stash of Kirby stories that weren't used (I am of the opinion that thwo of the storie he brought to Stan Lee in 1956 were from a stash of drawn ahead stories that were not used in Black Cat when that halted for a full year). They may have had to be redialogied because there was little more than some sketched pages. There certainly was a lot of that sort of stuff in those years and Kirby for one kept trying to sell it.

    2. Ger, that was the basis of my reasoning; but to follow Mark's as I now do, Kirby's having the penciled pages in those cases is a reasonable premise; Williamson's ending up with them (unlettered) in this case turns out to be a shaky assumption.

    3. Ger, I'm going along with Mark's reasoning at this point: penciller Kirby's possession of those pages is a reasonable premise, inker Williamson's possession of these (unlettered, yet) is a shaky assumption.

  8. Mark, my reasoning backwards to make the Kirby ID anywhere near plausible was that Williamson was somehow left with the penciled pages and brought them to Hughes to salvage them. It seems to me that's happened with other people in other circumstances, but I can't cite examples. Scripts commissioned for the Warren magazines that ended up published elsewhere?

    But, to agree with your line of thought, if Simon wouldn't have committed that sin of omission (or neglect of his intellectual property), then it didn't happen. The fact that Williamson-inked Kirby stories unused in this era ended up published in the mid-Sixties, when Simon returned to Harvey, certainly supports your logic and not mine!

  9. I can't think of any time when an artist wound up with penciled pages from one company and sold them to another. I suppose it happened somewhere but I can't believe it would have happened with a story someone drew for a company that was still in business (Harvey) and an editor who was still around and known for suing people (Simon).

    Also if it did happen, I'll bet it happened with a story that the artist in question regarded as wholly his work -- he wrote it, he drew it and he hadn't been paid for it so he felt he had the right to sell it elsewhere.

    There have been writers who sold a script to one company and then if it went unpublished there, they tried selling it elsewhere. A few writers have even done that with scripts that were published. The only time I can think of when an artist sold a story that was assigned from a different publisher from a script the published bought was that story Alex Toth drew for Charlton from a Joe Gill script -- "Bookworm," I think it was called -- and then didn't hand in. Alex gave it to me and asked me to redialogue it into something else so he could sell it elsewhere and I decided I couldn't change it enough to make that ethical. It would still be Gill's plot and panel to panel continuity. I think Alex changed it himself or had someone else do that and sold it to some small publisher.

    I can't imagine a scenario where Joe Simon had a story penciled by Kirby, handed it to Williamson to ink and then Al didn't just ink it, hand it in to Simon and get paid. Even if the comic had been cancelled by then, Harvey Comics and Joe Simon were both good about paying people. Simon wound up with lots of material that wasn't published at the time it was done. I also can't imagine Williamson thinking he could take a story written by someone else and drawn by someone else and sell it to Richard Hughes who would then decide there would be no complaint from Simon, Kirby or Al Harvey if he just redialogued the story and printed it.

    I think the only possible scenario here is that Hughes wrote the script and assigned it to Williamson. I suppose it's theoretically possible that Al somehow got Jack to do some work on it but I don't see enough traces of Kirby to believe that. I can believe Angelo Torres penciled or co-penciled it. Maybe someone can ask Angelo. He's still with us.

  10. By the way: I used to suspect that when A.C.G. ceased publishing, Hughes sold some leftover scripts to DC for STRANGE ADVENTURES. Hughes told me in a letter after A.C.G. stopped that he was doing some work for DC. He also told me something interesting, which was that at A.C.G., he had often worked very far ahead of publication; that he had other, non-comic work and that he'd sometimes write and assemble many issues of the A.C.G. books and then go off and do other things for several sometimes he'd finish an issue a year or more before it went to press. He said in that letter, which I wish I could find, that A.C.G. stopped him from assembling new issues at some point and then just stayed in business until they'd used up all the issues he'd completed. Of course, that wouldn't mean that there weren't some leftover scripts and maybe even some art that never got into a finished issue.

    I used to think that "The Way Out Worlds of Bertram Tilley" in S.A. #189 was an A.C.G. leftover because it read to me like Hughes...and since it was drawn by Ditko/Trapani, I imagined that it was a story prepared for A.C.G. that was relocated. Then I realized it wasn't lettered by the A.C.G. letterer, Ed Hamilton and the approach to the page layouts looked like whoever did them -- Ditko or Trapani -- was thinking DC, not A.C.G. I see in the GCD that someone (you?) has identified that as a Dave Wood script. Well, maybe so but it feels quite Hughesian to me. The other Ditko/Trapani story in S.A. about that time, however, does not. So I decided Hughes may well not have been involved in either. I am pretty sure though that Ditko was not hired for either story; that the editor assigned both to Trapani and that he enlisted Ditko. Somewhere, probably in the same file as my Hughes correspondence, I have a letter from Ditko telling me that the stories were not by him. I believe that's the way he regarded all those jobs where he penciled and Trapani inked. They were Sal Trapani art jobs and it was no one's business if someone else assisted him. That seems to be the same way he regards those bondage comics he drew. If you assist, it's not your work.

  11. Mark, another thing tilts me even closer to your view now. I realize I was misleading myself from all those photostats I've seen of Jack Kirby's pencilled pages, the ones where he lettered his script for the letterer to follow. Of course the letterer would get the pages before the inker. Repasting new lettering over the old work already in ink?--it would be simpler to just throw in a reprint.

    After seeing your idea about "Bertram Tilley" some years ago, (and yes, I was the one who then IDed Dave Wood), I looked at the story and figured that Hughes was never involved in it. His typical page used seven panels to cram in as much story as possible.

    Steve Ditko has such interesting ideas.

  12. Martin,

    Since I read your initial post I acquired a copy Adventures into the Unknown # 107 on ebay in order to study the art closely. My thoughts are that it's not Kirby pencils; some faces and figures initially reminded me of Mort Meskin, but as Mark noted, there is a strong similarity in style to the concurrent work of Angelo Torres, so he may indeed be the penciler.

  13. Martin, you're probably right about Dave Wood. I just thought the basic idea of the story sounded like one of those plots that Hughes did over and over again at A.C.G. I wasn't going by actual words or even panel breakdown.

    So here's a question that someone might be able to answer. At what point did the last new story appear in an A.C.G. comic that wasn't written by Richard E. Hughes? I believe I was the first person in fandom to figure out that he was everyone at that company from Ace Aquila to Zev Zimmer. I wrote to him and he confirmed it and said it had been a long time since he bought a script from anyone else. Anyone have any idea when that was?

    1. Nick and Mark, Angelo Torres looks likelier and likelier as the suspect. But it's a funny thing about "Bertram Tilley" feeling like a typical Hughes plot; the gimmick of "You Never Can Tell" felt very Kirby-like once I'd thought I'd found his art.

  14. Williamson has stated that the last story he did for ACG, Hughes told him that when they bought art from Al Williamson that they would like the work to be by Al Williamson. While I can't recall the exact language Williamson used - but he was too embarrassed to go back and get another assignment.
    As for the last non-Hughes story at ACG, it's one credited by Leon Lazarus in 1961. Norman Fruman wrote a lot for ACG from 52-57, and even has one editor credit. We know there were some other folks doing romance stories in the mid-50s, etc,. but only the Lazarus story post-1957.

  15. SangorShop, I pictured Hughes saying the same thing to Sal Trapani after his first job for ACG. It doesn't look as if Trapani was embarrassed, though--he just let Ditko get proper credit after that. But Hughes didn't credit Trapani's other ghosts later.

    I have to wonder if Hughes thought he was making up another writer name with Leon Lazarus. "Wes Wilson, Worry-Wart" is by Hughes--at least in the final script. "Oh-hhh", "Sh-hhh", and Pouf! are some of his tells. Was he rewriting the actual Leon Lazarus? I don't know if the portrait of Lazarus on the splash page looks anything like him, or if it's only as accurate as those of "Kurato Osaki" or "Shane O'Shea."

    A number of the "new" writers in Gasp! in 1967 are credited with plot rather than story, although again, completely unsurprisingly, the scripts are by Hughes. The GCD considers some of them real and some not, just as it does certain of the main group of Hughes pseudonyms--depending on whether it's Tuesday or not, I suppose.

    Was some story somewhere scripted by Hughes from an actual reader's plot in the Sixties?

  16. The caricature of Leon Lazarus in that UNKNOWN WORLDS looks like a real person to me, as opposed to one of Schaffenberg's obviously made-up faces. Since his brother Harry was an active freelancer for Hughes, I think it's safe to assume Leon wrote a script, possibly from a Hughes plot, and it if reads like Hughes, it's because he rewrote all or most of it.

    We could even speculate that after he did, Hughes said, "That's it! From now on, no outside writers! I'll just write everything myself!"

    Hughes ran a contest in HERBIE for readers to submit story ideas. There was no prize except the thrill of seeing your plot appear in the comic written by "Shane O'Shea" and drawn by Ogden Whitney. The winning story ran in HERBIE #12. The winner was a kid named Richard Roeberg. The first runner-up was someone named Marvin Wolfman.

    By the way: I was always fascinated by the A.C.G. letter columns which were obviously a mix of real letters and fake ones. Most of the real ones had a street address. Most of those that just listed city and state were probably phony. The weird schedule on which Hughes assembled these comics shows when you note that often, he'd be running letters about issues from a year or two earlier. But I loved the debates that would ensue when some fake reader would argue that Kurato Osaki wasn't as good as Greg Olivetti and then Hughes, who of course was both, would defend Osaki as better on certain kinds of material.

    The G.C.D. only lists seven scripts by Hughes for DC after A.C.G. shut down. Based on our correspondence, I had the impression he did a lot more and that some of them were for romance titles. (Someone needs to tell the G.C.D. that "Richard Hughes" and "Richard E. Hughes" were the same person.)

    Ken Landau, who drew some stories for Hughes near the end, told me that he thought Hughes was getting a job as a DC editor and would be hiring him to draw for that company. I don't know if there were really any discussions of that or it was just Landau's (or Hughes') imagination at work.

  17. Forgive typos on the names of Kurt Schaffenberger and Richard Roesberg.

  18. I wrote several responses, no idea if Blogger ate them. So to summarize: Leon Lazarus talks about writing for ACG in the interview he did that appears in Alter-Ego.

  19. It looks as if Blogger did eat them, SangorShop. To summarize the summaries: that UNKNOWN WORLDS story would be by the real Leon Lazarus but rewritten by Richard Hughes.

    Mark, I see that in a few instances the GCD identifies a script thus: "Richard Hughes as 'Richard E. Hughes.'" My first response is "You think?" but I suppose it is an attempt to get around the search engine's failings. (Enter "William Woolfolk" and you'll never see all the "Bill Woolfolk" credits.)

  20. The GCD hopes to eventually get a "creator index table" - and therefore uses the "official Jerry Bails" name from the Who's Who" - except when Jerry was wrong (as he was with Teresa Cloik). It was undecided about Art Cazeneuve, who never used "Art" on a story, did use "Arthur" once, but never changed his name from Arturo (which you can see in his credits in Time Magazine). Technically all those "William Woolfolk" credits should be the Bails approved "Bill Woolfolk".