Saturday, February 8, 2020

A Crowded Life in Comics –

What If? Who Knows?

Casey Ruggles, Sparkler Comics No. 101, 1951

By Rick Marschall.

In editorial positions I have held during my crowded life in comics, I have tried to offer work to friends, not out of favoritism or nepotism. I have known so many cartoonists that I have been in a position to do so; and have been able to match cartoonists and open positions.

One also becomes aware of cartoonists’ styles and capabilities, their deadline reliability, openings on strips (when I was a syndicate editor) or books (when editor at Marvel). I also was able to offer assignments to cartoonists I knew in Europe; and European assignments I could arrange for American cartoonists.

I have been comics editor at United Feature Syndicate; New York News-Chicago Tribune Syndicate; and Field Enterprises (Publishers Newspaper Syndicate). Also at Marvel, as I said; and when I wrote for Disney Comics in Europe, I was able to tell American friends like Dwight Decker and Don Rosa about work there. I heard rumors that they checked out those opportunities.

I recommended Max Allan Collins for the Dick Tracy gig as Chet Gould was retiring. Otherwise my best luck – that is, enabling luck for the cartoonists – was at Field, where I was able to connect Fred daSilva, Frank Bolle, and Fran Matera to several strips; and at Marvel, where I brought syndicated cartoonists in as writers, artists, and inkers; and invited European cartoonists to contribute to Epic Illustrated, which I founded.

And that brings me to cartoonists to whom I tried like heck to assign work. Odd names they might seem, but worth the effort! Jack Kent, who had done the quiet classic King Aroo – “Who Knows?” Jack Finney, the great speculative fiction writer – “Who Knows?” Eric Gurney, the legendary animal cartoonist – “Who Knows?” Ray Gotto, the  sports cartoonist – “Who Knows?” Jean Shepherd – the great humorist, author of A Christmas Story – “Who Knows?”

A couple creators I tried to entice in more than one of my jobs. Alex Toth was one – hoping he world say Yes first, and then we would find work. Another cartoonist I admired to the same extent was, by coincidence, once Toth’s boss: Warren Tufts.

Warren had drawn the great cowboy strip Casey Ruggles, 1949-54; the parody strip Lone Spaceman; and the innovative full-page “painted-look” Sunday Western Lance. Warren also worked in comic books for Gold Key and in animation.

When I was at Field I tried to pull Warren back into strips, particularly a 1930s detective strip that Max Allan Collins and I brainstormed, but Warren was wary of the syndicate grind… and lack of control, despite my assurances. Some years later, when Epic Magazine was being planned, I offered another open invitation. Suggest a dream concept; design and write as wished; own the rights. He was tempted, but resisted.

What If? Who Knows?

I thought of those questions and of Warren Tufts this week when I heard of Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash in California. Besides the fact that Warren’s unique talent and fierce integrity kept him as a maverick in strips and comics, the hobby of aircraft design and test-piloting increasingly occupied his time away from the drawing board.

Warren died while testing a plane of his own design, in Placerville CA in 1982.

– 30


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