Thursday, July 21, 2022

Dell Tie-ins by "The Mystic of the Lower East Side"

Wikipedia, may wonders never cease, has it almost right on Lionel Ziprin: "Ziprin wrote comic book scripts for Dell Comics in the mid-1960s, including Kona Monarch of Monster Island and several stories depicting combat during World War II." It was more accurately the early 1960s (and the "several stories" were the first 10 or 11 issues of Combat).

I mention the up-to-date Wikipedia entry because the original sources of info on Ziprin still floating around on the Internet, derived from his 2009 obit, sent historians way off in the wrong direction by saying he wrote for Dell "in the late forties and into the fifties." (In 2009 Mark Evanier, bringing the news of Ziprin to fandom's attention, soon concluded that "the bio of [Ziprin] had events somewhat out of sequence.") See the 2020 Allen Ginsberg Project post, which quotes that time frame but goes on to mention Ziprin's doing the first 10 issues of Kona without realizing that the 12-cent comic they show couldn't have come from that earlier era.

Part of the quote from Ziprin himself (in it he never says nineteen forties or fifties) mentions his doing movie adaptations too. So far I've found one movie adaptation by him and three original-story TV tie-ins. The Aladdin plot he was stuck with (although it would have aligned with his interests in mysticism) but the three TV ones are, like Kona, worthy of the description "hallucinogenic."

The Grand Comics Database doesn't even include Lionel Ziprin yet; it still attributes the early issues of Kona to Don Segall (derived from, I think--mea culpa--a long-ago misatttribution by me).

Wonders of Aladdin

Ziprin was writing directly for Dell. In 1961-62 the split into Dell and Gold Key was looming, as according to the indicias these issues were among those "Designed and Produced by Dell Publishing" whereas most in this portion of the Four Color run were still "Designed and Produced by Western Printing and Lithographing" although all were printed and published by Dell. Perhaps that explains Paul S. Newman's records showing "Aladdin"; maybe Western bought a script from him before they found they'd lost some individual properties to their own printers. Newman's writing is, in a word, straightforward, whereas the page here is typical of Ziprin's more flamboyant style as seen in his Kona.

All the one-page inside-cover/back cover fillers in these were very likely written by Ziprin too. It seems to me, by the way, that some other writer did issue #2 of 87th Precinct.

Some Lionel Ziprin scripts in FOUR COLOR

1961 1255  The Wonders of Aladdin
Feb-Apr/62 1301  Adventures in Paradise: Circle of Fire
Mar-May/     1308  Tales of the Wizard of Oz
Apr-Jun/     1309  87th Precinct: Blind Man's Bluff...


  1. Surprised to see that the GCD didnt list Ziprin as the writer of the infamous 87th Precinct Four Color. Krigstein made a big deal about his feelings about the story and author, although I dont recall that he named him other than as a beatnik poet. But how many beatnik poets would Dell hire?

  2. I hadn't seen that interview in which Krigstein said "beatnik poet" or it would have led me to Ziprin sooner (once I'd heard of Ziprin). Sam Glanzman has said Kona was among his favorite strips to work on, so I guess he didn't find the scripts stupid and certainly didn't quit comics over them.

    1. I haven't seen a comment like that either. I assume what Steven mentioning are comments in the interview with John Benson and what Krigstein says is something like the script was awful. Krigstein had a low opinion of comic book scripts in general so I don't read much into that remark and it's unfortunate as Greg Sadowski used those comments as a reason to not include the story in a collection of reprints.

  3. Ziprin's Wizard of Oz script really did show his interest in the occult, especially the inside covers and back covers of it. Kinda spooky.

    1. Not to mention the Wizard's incanting a "real" spell for once. Ziprin's connection to Oz extended to producing an experimental movie short, "Oz: The Tin Woodman's Dream," in 1967.

    2. what real spell was that?
      also want to know the symboism of those weird things he turned into...I think.

    3. I was thinking of the spell where he uses the names of fallen angels out of the Apocrypha, which I don't recall Baum having him do: "By the powers of Shemhazai--Armaros--" et cetera.
      Those weird illusions could be inspired by the Ball of Fire the Lion sees in the book and the Beast the Tin Woodman sees, but yes, it feels like the symbolism in the details must be just as esoteric as those angel/demon names.

  4. I would love to see Ziprin's work collected. He was clearly a very original voice in comics.

  5. I spoke to both Lionel and his son Leigh (both now deceased) about his work for Dell, and recorded the best information I had in the supplemental content of his SONGS FOR SCHIZOID SIBLINGS, published by The Song Cave in 2017.