MV: What do you remember about a young Stan Lee at Timely?

AB:I remember a funny incident. One day Stan walked into our room holding a cough medicine bottle and a spoon. I was a young smart ass kid and jokingly asked Stan if it was the "silver spoon" he was born with (laughs). He laughed but I always did regret saying that. Stan was wonderful to work for. He was good-natured but strict with his editing. He wanted perfection. If you drew a cup on a table in one panel, do not leave that cup out in the next panel.

MV: It was Robby Solomon who originally got Stan Lee his job with Martin Goodman.

AB: I think I knew that but Stan Lee was much better to work for!

MV: What was the feeling at Timely of their hero comics compared to other company's like National with Superman or Fawcett with Captain Marvel? Was there a palpable competition?

AB: They were never really mentioned, almost as if they were not a threat to Timely. Martin Goodman usually had more books by volume on the stands than anyone else. I remember Robby Solomon and Stan Lee telling the staff to draw like Lou Fine or Mort Meskin, not realizing that Timely magazines likely were outselling the competition or at least drowning them on the stands.


MV:
Do you remember Gary Keller?

AB: Yes. Gary was a manager of some sort. He had glasses and walked around. My goodness, I haven't thought about him in 60 years! This really takes me way back. While I can't really put a finger on exactly what Gary did I do recall that he was a very nice man.

                                                                                      Gary Keller (1942)
                                                                          Letterer and Head of Production


MV
: What about Jack Grogan? I recall that he was a writer for a short time.

AB: Jack Grogan made up a sign when I went into the service. I think he lettered also. The sign said "We all agree that you're the guy to knock the Axis for a loop. The best of luck to you old pal from all your friends at the Timely group!" Unfortunately, I think my ex-wife tore it up. It had all the signatures of everybody working for Timely at that time.

MV: That's too bad. It would be wonderful to still have that! From I gather, Grogan developed drug problems and was later fired. Do you remember Ernie Hart?


AB:
Sure I do. He had a mustache.

MV: Ernie also went by the pseudonym E.H. Huntley as his full name was Ernest Huntley Hart. He worked on and off for Stan lee through the 1950's mostly as a writer and even came back in the early 1960's during the Marvel hero revival. Early on in the Timely days he was a fine funny-animal artist.
        Ernie Hart, circa 1942

AB: I told you that the animators were separated from the adventure artists. This is one of the reasons I didn't get to know the funny guys that well. Another thing I want to mention is that there were a few artists working there who had mean streaks, or were just plain cruel. There was this young girl who worked in the office and every time she had to come into our room to give something to the staff these guys would get on her case making vulgar remarks. I remember how fast she would run out of the room. Then there was a young married woman by the name of Barbara who joined us an inker. The guys would sing "Barbara's hole, Barbara's hole" to the tune of the Barbersole Shaving Cream tune on the radio. Once they got on your case, they didn't let go. This couldn't happen today in an office.

MV: Unfortunately sometimes it does now but there are harassment laws now to help a woman.

AB: That's true but they were isolated incidents and they stand out in my mind after all these years.


MV:
Kin Platt? He was another humor artist.

AB: I remember the name and have a vague picture of him as tall and with glasses.


            Kin Platt...                                                         and how he appeared in                                                                                    Secrets Behind the Comics

MV:
Kin's still around and about 90 years old. He's out in California and had a long career authoring books for young people.

MV:
What about Valerie Barclay?

AB: Valerie and I go way back. She went to the High School of Industrial Arts with me. I knew her well before my Timely days. She was called Violet back then but she was always changing her name. She was a bit of a loner who was always by herself. But she was an exquisitely beautiful young lady. She was a staff inker. I remember she would use India ink with a brush for mascara. That stands out in my mind. I remember she had a romance with Mike Sekowsky.
                                                                               Rusty #18 (Aug. 1948)
                                                                                 [Platt / Barclay art]


There was a feud that resulted between Mike and George Klein that I believe was about over Violet. George was a nice quiet guy. I got along well with him. Years later, after the bullpen closed I met her on the street while I was hoofing it from publication house to publication house looking for work. We spoke a bit and made a date but I never kept it. This was right around the time I met Roz!
 
    Valerie (Violet) Barclay entry
in
    
Secrets Behind the Comics (1947)

MV: So I guess she can't read this, can she? (laughing).

AB: No! I'll tell her the interview was never printed! (laughs).

MV: I met Valerie a few years back. We went out for some coffee and she allowed me to tape our conversation about her Timely years. A real charmer and still a stunner and impeccable dresser! The bad news is that after I got home I found out that the background noise in the coffeeshop completely obliterated all the spoken voices on the tape. It was completely ruined.

AB: I bet she told you a lot of Timely stories.

MV: I was interested in pinning down features she might have worked on but she was more interested in spilling Timely romance gossip. In fact, maybe it's a good thing that tape is useless! And don't worry, you were never mentioned!

AB: (laughing) That was a close one!


MV:
Was there anyone else you went to school with who later worked in the business?

AB: Yes, there was another fellow there with us at school who while still a student did a Sub-Mariner story. His name was Mike Roy. He was looked upon as a big shot at school. He had done a "real" comic book feature! (Laughs).

MV: Mike Roy was drawing for either Goodman or Jacquet while in high school?



      "Eustis Hayseed" page by Mike Roy
        from Joker Comics #8 (April 1943)


AB: Yes and he was real good, much better than we were at that time.

MV: Mike Roy had a long career in comics.

AB: He was also over at Lev Gleason where he drew DAREDEVIL.

MV: Was that Sub-Mariner story ever published?

AB: I don't know. I think it may have been. Chic Stone was another fellow Sam and I went to junior high school with. He later either worked on staff for Timely or freelanced, I don't remember which.

MV: I'm going to run more name by you. Do you remember Fred Eng?

AB: He was a letterer.

MV: Marty Nodel?

AB: Marty was on staff for a while. In fact, I ran into him at a comic book convention in Ft. Lauderdale years ago. He lives in West Palm here in Florida.
                                                                            "Eustis Hayseed" page from
                                                                            Joker Comics #7 (Feb. 1943)
                                                                                         by Chic Stone.

MV: What about Al Avison and Al Gabrielle?

AB: They weren't on staff when I was there. Either they predated me, were freelancers or worked strictly for Funnies Inc. and bypassed the staff completely in which case I would have likely missed them.

MV: They did early work on, among other things, CAPTAIN AMERICA after Simon and Kirby departed. That has me wondering about you mentioning that you did backgrounds for Syd Shores on CAPTAIN AMERICA.

AB: There were many CAPTAIN AMERICA artists as Timely published his stories in other books. Avison did them right after Simon and Kirby but Syd did some also. My first work was on those.

MV: Mike Becker?

AB: Mike I remember. We worked in the same room. He wasn't too friendly and never said much except that he was a P.O.W. A private person.

MV: In addition to the staff artists, was there much work done by artists "not" on staff, meaning freelancers?

AB: Yes. There were many, many freelancers. Bill Everett was a freelancer. I freelanced my crime feature Let's Play Detective while on staff. I wrote it and drew it all by myself. I created it. That was all extra money for me. Since I wrote it I was paid a scripting fee also.

MV: How did that come about?

AB: I knew that Stan needed fillers for the books so I went to him with the idea. It was my idea to have the reader turn the book upside down at the end for the answer to the mystery. Soon afterwards other magazines were doing the same thing and copying me! I'd see it all the time.

         "Let's Play Detective" from
      Young Allies
#19 (Spring 1946)
[this is the page Bellman is seen drawing
   in photo at beginning of interview.]

MV: You mentioned Bill Everett but what about Carl Burgos?

AB: Carl at some point was on staff, maybe off and on, I don't remember. While on staff he sat behind me. He didn't speak too much and just did his work. We hardly spoke at all but I knew who he was and that he had created the Human Torch.

MV: Was there any freelancing outside Timely while you were on the staff?

AB: No, there was no time to solicit outside work. We did get a nice Christmas bonus every year, though. I eventually worked for Bob Wood
in CRIME DOES NOT PAY. Bob killed a woman, you know.



MV:
Yes, I've heard that.

AB: It was in the NY Journal American. Bob was single. At Christmas time he used to have everyone up to his penthouse apartment. He threw parties and was a heavy drinker. He also used to come in on Mondays sporting a shiner and all bruised up. He must have fought often. He apparently had a woman next door that he knew and somehow killed her. I don't remember the details. It was probably in a drunken rage.


                                                                                                                                                   Silver Streak #10 (May 1941)
                                                                             with a Bob Wood cover.

MV: Who did you admire artistically at Timely?


AB:
Syd Shores was extremely talented. Mike Sekowsky for certain.

MV: He was extremely versatile, wasn't he?

AB: He was fantastic! Fast, free-flowing, just a natural talent. I didn't like him too much as a person though. He had a terrible attitude and looked at people with contempt.

      Mike Sekowsky from 
 Secrets
Behind the Comics
                                                                           
MV: You're not the first person to I've spoken to express such a sentiment. Everyone thought he was a fabulous artist but had a chip on his shoulder for some reason.

AB: He also had a brother who worked for Timely.


MV:
That would be George Sekowsky. He did very little but I never knew he worked at Timely.

AB: Yeah he was an artist also. I don't think he did much nor last too long there. George came to me to get him a television set one day. He gave me the money to buy it for him, knowing I was the only one in the neighborhood with a television. He wasn't like his brother, he was easy to talk to, a nice guy. Is Mike still alive?

MV: No, he passed away in 1989, if I remember correctly. He had a very long career in comics drawing up through the 1980's.
                                                                  
                                                               "Sub-Mariner" page by Mike Sekowsky
                                                                  from Human Torch #31 (July 1948)

AB: At Timely Mike only penciled, never inked his work. He had a lot of different people inking him. It didn't matter though, the end result was always good.

MV: Do you remember John Buscema at Timely?

AB: Yes. I am also sorry to hear that he's recently passed away. John was a quiet kid, good looking with thick black hair. He was a really good penciller I recall. I don't remember too much more about him. He wasn't around too long. Another Italian fellow I remember much earlier was Carmine Infantino. He was friends with Frank Giacoia. It was Carmine who I remember telling me about this new young Italian singer who was appearing at the Paramount. That was Frank Sinatra! Carmine was a big fan. I like Sinatra a great deal also and his records helped me get through a dark period of my life during my divorce.


MV:
Gene Colan?

AB: Gene was a young guy with lots of talent. He was quiet and laid back. Both John Buscema and Gene Colan were there towards the end of the staff's life.


       Human Torch #31 (July 1948)
                 [Gene Colan art]

MV: You mentioned to me once about Mickey Spillane at Timely.

AB: Mickey Spillane wrote quite a bit there. I remember the first time I met him. I had just finished up an assignment. I walked over to Stan Lee's office and knocked on the door. "Come in," says a voice from inside, Stan's voice. There's a GI standing there talking to Stan. Stan introduces me.."Allen, I want you to meet Mickey Spillane. Mickey, I want you to meet Allen Bellman." I shook his hand. He had a crew-cut and was in an army uniform. Then Stan handed me a script to draw as my next assignment. In those days as soon as you finished one job you turned it in and was handed another script. Spillane had just brought it in and it was handed over to me.                                                                                   Mickey Spillane
                         
MV: Do you remember what the feature was?

AB: Yes. It was a Jap Buster Johnson script. Even in those bullpen days, I often penciled and inked my own stuff. I remember that while I was inking it, I would use the script as an ink blotter to wipe off the excess ink. This totally marred the front page and then the script was tossed out at completion. Many times over the years I wished I had kept that script. A Mickey Spillane typed original script! Boy, who knew how famous he'd become!

In a similar vein of regret, when we lived in the Asbury Park section of New Jersey years ago my wife Roz helped book Bruce Springsteen for a teenager dance in the local community center, for which he was paid $400. She then interviewed him on tape for her weekly radio program called "Point of View" to help promote the dance. After the tape was broadcast she "erased" the tape! No one knew how famous Springsteen would become and this was all before his fame! But getting back to Mickey Spillane, in his ALTER EGO interview I think he denied that he ever wrote any war stories but he certainly did write that Jap Buster Johnson script I drew.

  "Jap Buster Johnson" splash page
             NOT drawn by Bellman

MV: Spillane came out of the Lloyd Jacquet shop, FUNNIES INC. That was one of the major sources that supplied Martin Goodman with features before he had his own staff and even afterwards. Carl Burgos and Bill Everett came from that shop. That's where the features for MARVEL COMICS #1 came from. Prior to this Martin Goodman was strictly a pulp and magazine publisher.

AB: That all happened before I started at Timely. Bill Everett was a fine artist but I've never met him. I don't believe he was on staff during any time I was there.

MV: Really? That's fascinating considering how much work he did for Timely. Could it have "all" been freelance?

                                                              Daring Mystery Comics #7 (April 1941)
                                                                                 [Bill Everett art]

AB: Possibly. I want to digress here a minute. You asked about my earliest entry into the business. I once went for a job with my friend Sammy Burlockoff. He was also an artist and we were childhood friends. I think he's passed away, a long time ago. We went up to FAMOUS FUNNIES and saw this man pasting down comic pages. This was our very first introduction to the business. I don't remember his name but he was the guy who started FAMOUS FUNNIES. They were all reprints at that time.

MV: Was this before you answered the Timely ad in the newspaper?

AB: A few years before, we were about 15 or 16 and still in junior high school. We didn't get the job but it gave us a taste of what the comic book business was like. Sammy and I were great friends [Note: As noted in the introduction, Sam Burlockoff is alive and well and as mentioned, thanks to Jim Amash, after this interview was given, we put Allen back in touch with his long lost pal.]

MV: As the 1940's went on the super hero titles began to wane, especially after the war ended. Timely's first change outside of the superheroes or humor books were crime books in 1947. Across the industry, crime titles really took off.

AB: They were everywhere and were extremely popular. Did you read the issue of ALTER EGO with the Rudy Lapick interview?

MV: Yes, I did. Do you remember him at Timely?

AB: If I remember correctly, he was the fellow who bought a wire recorder when they came out.

MV: I gather you've seen Bob Deschamps' interview?

AB: Yes, in fact I remember him well now. In my mind I remember him as a young kid standing there waiting to take our food orders when he started. It's impregnated in my mind. I took a look at his picture in the magazine, he's about my age or so and there I see this young kid, his face clear as a bell. But Rudy Lapick, he mentioned me buying stock in plastics and that Sol Brodsky later told him I became a millionaire? I don't remember that!

MV: Talk about Sol Brodsky. I know he was a close friend to you.

AB: Now there was a friend. Sol and I were close friends. We both lived in Brooklyn and I was already married. I can remember picking up Sol at his home (he wasn't married as yet) and we went for a ride in my new car. I was a new driver and we were riding around the Prospect Park circle and I was scared stiff and frankly, I was driving blind! Even in those days traffic was heavy. I could hear horns honking at me and it's a miracle that we made it back safely! When Roz and I were married we moved to the Jersey shore area of Asbury Park and Sol and his wife visited us often. He was a warm, good-natured person. His passing so early in his life shook me up.                                              Strange Tales #9 (August 1952)
                                                                               [Sol Brodsky cover]

MV: Bob Deschamps mentions your father's bakery and that you would draw that bakery into the backgrounds of panels. Do you recall doing that?

AB: Sure! One time it was Martin Goodman's birthday and I told my father to order up a cake to the office. Then I found out, or realized that no one would deliver it. I had to take the subway back into Brooklyn to get it and bring it in myself! Bob also mentions Murray Postel. Murray was Mel Blum's brother-in-law. I say "was" because Murray was the brother of Mel's ex-wife. Bob also mentions my Bell's Palsy. I came down with that because I was always sitting next to the window in the Timely office. Bob Landers was sitting near me and always bugged me to open the window. This was in the Empire State Building and they didn't have an updraft glass. There were fans going in our room and I can remember when Vince Alascia went to move the fan as it was blowing on him and accidentally cut his fingers on the blades. Landers always wanted the window open and then the window broke and was never replaced. The constant wind injured my facial nerve behind my left ear. There was no air-conditioning then and it was either the fans or the window. I recovered about 90% over the years. During the summer we worked a half day because of the heat so Syd Shores and I used to go to Ebbets Field to see the Brooklyn Dodgers play. Syd and I were very close. There was a camera store in the Empire State Building where we rented porno films and after work Syd and a few others stayed and when the others left we watched dirty movie. Even Martin Goodman would sit in! This was not a frequent occurrence, mind you.

MV: What about writers at Timely? You mentioned Mickey Spillane and we know Stan Lee also wrote but who else was there that you could recall?


AB: I remember Ray Cummings, for one.

MV: I'm glad to have that confirmed. Cummings was a pretty well known pulp writer at the time.

AB: I remember a story he wrote for CAPTAIN AMERICA that he took from one of his pulp stories, "Princess of the Atom'.

MV: Yes! That story is well known. A friend of mine, an excellent author in his own right and a fine comic book and pulp historian named Will Murray has postulated the same connection.
                                                                                                                                                                   Ray Cummings' two-part                                                                               adaptation of his 1929 novel                                                                            appeared in Captain America                                                                                #25 & 26 (April & May 1943)

AB: Ray was an elderly gentleman and he always had his daughter with him who I think also wrote for Timely. He was always coming in and going into Stan Lee's office for conferences and meetings. I guess they were story conferences. Syd Shores was frequently in on those meetings.

MV: Well that probably because Shores was likely drawing Captain America at the time.

AB: Syd Shores was a good friend of mine and a great talent. On the Westerns he drew the best horses of anyone on staff. It was a sad day when I attended his funeral in Morristown, New Jersey. Stan Lee and Martin Goodman attended and if I remember correctly they gave me a lift back to New York City so I could get the bus back to New Jersey. It was shortly after a bad auto accident where I had a leg cast on close to a year. I decided not to drive to the funeral.

MV: I think Syd was a fine artist and one of the most under-rated on comics. His Captain America was superb.

AB: After Simon and Kirby left (I never saw them there, they'd gone before I arrived) many people drew Captain America. I think I remember Fred Bell was one, perhaps Al Avison also, although I never saw him. But Syd Shores was the main Captain America artist throughout the 1940's. Vince Alascia was his primary inker, I'm certain. Vince was a very nervous type of guy and he inked in that manner, in very short strokes.

MV: Did Ray Cummings and his daughter work in the office or did they just come in to drop things off?

AB: They came up to discuss matters but that's all I remember. I never saw them working in the office. I remember them very clearly there.

MV: Did the artists and writers have a lot of contact with each other in the office?

AB: No, except in certain circumstances like I mentioned where Ray and his daughter would confer on a story with Syd Shores. I also know another writer you may not know about?

MV: Who?

AB: My cousin, Leon Bellman. He also wrote for Timely.

MV: You're kidding?

AB: No, it's true. It was only for a short time. He floated around after school from job to job. He then got this urge to become an opera singer and was tied in with the Metropolitan Opera. He also went to Italy to study opera singing for a while. He never stuck to anything. I encouraged him to write and he landed work at Timely and was doing pretty good.

MV: How long did he work there?

AB: I don't remember exactly, not too long though. I also cannot for the life of me recall what exactly he wrote. But I can tell you he wrote for Timely in some capacity because I got him the job. He was about 6 years older than I was, born in 1918. I also remember Bill Finger at Timely.

MV: This takes us back to Bob Kane and his arrangement with National. Finger wrote for Timely in 1946 only on all their major characters, Captain America, Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch. He wrote the All Winners Squad also. This must have been some freelance work for him because he spent just about his whole career writing for National. Finger never got the credit for his role in the early Batman co-creation. Somehow Bob Kane was able to cut him out of the history. He later spent a lot of time writing for television in the 1960's.

AB: There was also a husband and wife team writing for Timely that I remember. Bill and Dorothy, I believe.

MV: That would be Bill and Dorothy Woolfolk. Bill just recently passed away this August. Dorothy was an editor when Vince Fago was chief, while Stan Lee was in the service. Bill met Dorothy there.

AB: If I remember correctly, Bill had a slight Bell's palsy like I did.

MV: Maybe it came from the same window draft!                                                                             William (Bill) Woolfolk

AB: (laughs) No, he had it already, I believe. Bill and Dorothy seemed to work as a team and I never knew if they were freelancers or worked on staff. I remember there was one writer who sold his same script to many different comic book publishers, just changing the names of the characters.

MV: Did he get away with it?

AB: No, he was caught! I also remember doing a baseball story written by a woman who knew nothing about baseball. She had the manager taking a pitcher out of the game and then bringing the same pitcher back into the game. It got past Stan!

MV: What about a woman named Patricia Highsmith? She was supposed to have written for Timely.


AB:
No, I've never heard of her. Don Rico wrote quite a bit and later on Al Sulman also. I can't remember who else. Getting away from the comics division, I remember Bessie Herman Little as the editor of Martin Goodman's movie magazines.

MV: Bessie Little, from what I've gathered, actually created the character of Patsy Walker for the second issue of MISS AMERICA which was the first girl's magazine type issue. The first issue was a comic book.


              
                "Patsy Walker" from
      Miss America
vol. 2 #5 (Aug. 1945)


AB:
She also had an assistant, a young girl who walked with a limp. This young lady was president of the Eddie Fisher fan club and wanted Fisher to take her out. When he refused she became angry at him and that was the end of her being president. That young lady grew up to become a famous movie commentator whose name escapes me. Rona something.

MV: Rona Barrett?

                                                                                          Rona Barrett

AB: Yes! That's her. This info came to me from Mel Blum. One day she came in and asked me if I wanted to join her as she was going to interview a new movie starlet. I couldn't go but the name of the actress was Shirley Shrift who changed her name to Shelly Winters. Later on Bessie was publishing comic books with a cartoonist from the defunct NEW YORK DAILY MIRROR. The first job I did for her I got stiffed as I had with Fox publications one time. I was warned about Fox not paying so I went in with my eye's open. Mario Puzo also wrote for Goodman's publications, not for the comic books. Mel told me they paid him $35 a story or page, I forget which. I also remember actress Ann Rutherford coming to our office or rather to see Bessie who was editor of Goodman's movie magazines. When she left I made believe I was going to the men's room as I wanted to ride down the elevator with her. We spoke a few words. She was Mickey Rooney's girlfriend in the Andy Hardy movie series. She also played in "Gone With The Wind" as one of Scarlet's sisters.

MV: Anything or anyone else stand out about your Timely days?

AB: Outside of people I worked with, I remember someone on staff or a freelancer coming into our office saying that someone told him that we had a secret weapon that would end the war. Sure enough a short time later the atom bomb was dropped on Japan. I remember seeing a shoe falling down (I sat next to the window) of a man who committed suicide at the Empire State Building and him landing on top of a parked car belonging to a diplomat. The roof of the car was crushed in. I remember when the plane hit the Empire State Building on a Saturday when we were off.

MV: You fellows seemed to enjoy your workday.

AB: Any day could be an adventure. Like I mentioned, you never knew what movie star would visit the office because of Martin Goodman's movie magazines. Goodman also produced a Broadway play that bombed after one performance. Once there was a cocktail party at the Ritz Carlton hotel. I met child star Jane Withers, the late Carol Landis and others.

MV: Let's change direction again. What about Artie Simek?

AB: I remember the very day Artie Simek came to work for Timely. He gave the impression that he just came off the farm. A real hayseed. He was tall and lanky and really didn't say very much. This was his very first day and come lunch time some of the staff took out a deck of cards so they could play as the munched on their lunch. Not Artie, he pulls out a harmonica and starts to play. I don't remember the tune but it took us all by surprise. He played it quite well.

MV: What year was this?

AB: About 1946 or 1947. Artie was a good soul. He never bothered anyone and did his work well. I'm sorry to hear that he too has passed on. His wife's name I believe was Emily, who passed on before him if my memory serves me correctly.

MV: Do you remember any other letterers?

AB: Bob Landers was a letterer who sat opposite me. There was a time that the office did not have airconditioning and I always sat next to the window. Bob used to open it all the time and the wind blew in my ear constantly and caused my Bell's Palsy.

MV: Do you recall Irv Spector at Timely? He didn't do that much there, just a handful of features and spot illustrations for the MISS AMERICA title for teen girls

AB: Oh yes. Irv Spector worked for Timely and then went over to Lev Gleason. I worked for Gleason when the Timely staff was disbanded. I then joined the Lev Gleason staff. Spector became the editor and later went on to Hollywood. I did quite a bit of freelance work for Irv at Lev Gleason also.

MV: He made a mark in animated cartoons.


       Krazy Krow #1 (Summer 1945)
                 [Irv Spector art]

AB: Yes, I saw his name on a Bugs Bunny cartoon once.

MV: The only feature I ever saw him on at Timely was a funny-animal feature called Little Lionel that ran in KRAZY KROW #1 (1945). He signed it in tiny letters "Spect". I spoke to his son once about this feature and his son couldn't believe it. He had no idea his dad was at Timely at this time and told me it must have been the first job he took when he got out of the service.

AB: Well a lot of things get left out of comics history. That's why these interviews in ALTER EGO are so important. We're all very old and many of us are gone or will be going soon. Not to be morbid but I've been waiting 50 years to tell my story. I didn't even know there were magazines that were interested in this stuff. It's very gratifying to be remembered for what we did so long ago. I want to make my story as accurate as possible.

MV: And you're doing a wonderful job!

AB: I ended up doing some freelance work for Irv Spector at Lev Gleason but then they let their staff go also. Sometimes I wondered if there ever was really a "Lev Gleason" because in all the time I was there I never met him!

MV: Was he hiding? (laughs)


AB:
Bob Wood, Charlie Biro, Martin Goodman, I knew them all.

MV: But not Lev Gleason?

AB: No, not Lev Gleason. Did he exist?

MV: As far as I know, yes. He was the publisher and put the crime line together with Biro and Bob Wood. I think he even offered them a percentage as incentive.
                                                                                                Charles Biro from
                                                                                               a 1937 promo flyer

AB: I worked on staff there drawing for books like CRIME DOES NOT PAY and he "never" was in the office. I knew both Biro and Wood well.

MV: I can't explain that. Now in 1947 Timely began to branch out. Up to this year the only types of comic books they published were super-hero titles and funny-type humor titles. With the decline of super-hero sales after the war, the first "new" type of books they produced were crime comics, copied from Lev Gleason's crime books that were on the stands since 1942. Martin Goodman finally caught on by the start of 1947 and they put out JUSTICE COMICS and OFFICIAL TRUE CRIME CASES. What do you recall about this change by Timely?


        
   Crime Does Not Pay #52 (June 1947)             Official True Crime Cases #24 (#1)
                                                                         (Fall 1947) [Syd Shores cover]

AB: I remember that during the war I was drawing The Patriot feature. As soon as the war was over, so was The Patriot! So I knew that super-hero features were stalling. Martin Goodman was no fool. He had a huge publishing empire outside of the comic books. He was always studying sales figures in his office. The Lev Gleason crime books were very popular and I'm surprised it took as long as it did for him to try something new. The Lev Gleason books had those Charlie Biro covers! They were great!

MV: Why do you think the hero titles waned after the war?

AB: I'm sure the public was sick of heroes fighting Nazi and Axis villains. While the war was on it was good propaganda. When the true horror of the Nazi regime was exposed to the world it likely made super-heroes seem silly in comparison. Perhaps the public wanted more realism and the crime books attempted to give them this realism. Also at this time crime films were in vogue and Hollywood's biggest stars, Cagney, Bogart, Eddie G. Robinson, all were headlining gangster films. It's normal for comic books to follow that trend. It seemed a natural progression. Some of them were very violent.