Of all the short-run titles that Timely/Atlas tried out in the 1950's, one of the most unique was in the tiny genre of "religious comics".
In 1953, editor-in-chief Stan Lee threw yet another series onto the stands, increasing Timely's ever-burgeoning line-up (the industry leader by sheer volume) yet again. Issue #1 of a new title called BIBLE TALES FOR YOUNG FOLK debuted with an Aug/53 cover date, squeezed onto the racks between the July debuts of "LORNA THE JUNGLE QUEEN", "HOMER HOOPER", "WENDY PARKER" and the Sept/53 debuts of "SPEED CARTER SPACEMAN" and "THE MONKEY AND THE BEAR".The series lasted only 5 issues and the title changed to BIBLE TALES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE for the last 2 issues.
As for the
content, during this 5 issue excursion into biblical history we find one of
the most "artist dense" religious runs in comic book history. It seems that
2 names had a large part in putting this series together, at least to launch
it. Jerry Robinson was the main cover artist, drawing at least 4 of the 5
covers as well as 1- page features on the inside front/back covers. He also
got the series off to it's start by a 5-page intro illustrating "In The beginning..."
Don Rico, a writer/artist who had worked at Timely from as far back as 1943 (on Captain America, Human Torch, Blonde Phantom, The Destroyer, among others), was by the 1950's abandoning the drawing board to concentrate solely on writing. Rico was one of 5 "main" scripters for what we now call the Atlas line, the others being Hank Chapman, Carl Wessler, Paul S. Newman and Stan Lee himself. Rico more likely than not also had editorial control over the books he was writing as there was no way Stan Lee could edit the entire line. Al Jaffee had similar control over his "Patsy Walker" group of teen books. Rico may or may not have scripted these bible stories (there are no scripting credits) but I'd guess he did. He also picked up the pencil again and contributed illustrations to the inside back cover and back cover of the first issue.
So what were the contents? The stories ran the gamut of tales and parables found in both the new and old testaments and the artistic line-up was simply incredible.
Here are some highlights:
Joe Sinnott needs no introduction other than that before he became the peerless inker of Jack Kirby he was a veteran of well over 10 years of pencilling his own work in every genre there is.
Fred Kida in the 1950's was another Atlas mainstay who is best known from that time as a western artist, following Joe Maneely and John Severin on RINGO KID.
Bill Everett, his golden-age Sub-Mariner notwithstanding, is one of the top 10 comic book artists of all time and in my top 3. Severely under-appreciated, he was a veritable giant of the Atlas line. His stock would be in the stratosphere if he had had the fortune to have drawn for Bill Gaines. He, along with Joe Maneely, were Stan Lee's top two talents in the decade of the 1950's.
is a special favorite of mine. Possibly the most prolific artist of the 1950's.
Without a doubt would have been one of the architects of the 1960's Marvel
Age had not a tragic accident robbed him of his life at the age of 32 in 1958.
He drew "everything" for Stan Lee and was the artist Stan went to whenever
a new feature would be tried, be it any western character, the Yellow Claw
or the Black Knight.
Issue #3 (Dec/53)
While Sid Greene is more known for his 1950's and 1960's National work, he did freelance a nice handful of stories for Stan. His best were the pre- code horror tales in titles like UNCANNY TALES and MYSTIC but if one looks closer you can also find him in JUNGLE TALES and select issues of LOVE ROMANCES.
Paul Reinman is another candidate for a good artist that no one has ever seen. By far, his best work (and it's superlative work) is buried in the Atlas war books of 1952-53. His talents waning, he inked Jack Kirby in the 1960's to less than stellar results and this is what most people remember him for. It's unfortunate as Reinman was a model of class and consistency for most of the 1950's.
Issue #4 (Feb/54)
Harry Anderson was one of the most talented and stylized artists of the 1940's and early 1950's. He never signed his work for Stan Lee, drew absolutely gorgeous pre-code horror stories and illustrated about one cover a month for Atlas from cover date Apr/54 through Nov/54, including the classic MENACE #11 "broken neck" cover. He was a grandfather to the Bernie Wrightson style similarly seen in Graham Ingels. I feel Anderson was even superior to Ingels.
Chuck Winter had a career that hailed back to the golden-age with many different companies. His Timely/Atlas career spans from "Maisie Martin in Hollywood" in COMEDY COMICS #11 (Sept/42) through a plethora of stylized stories up through 1955.
Gene Colan is another of my top 10 of all time. Debuted in the Timely Bullpen in 1948 with John Buscema and remained as one of Stan's top freelancers throughout the 1950's after the bullpen was closed down in late 1950.
Issue #5 (Mar/54)
Pete Tumlinson had a brief pencilling stint on BLONDE PHANTOM in 1948 and then toiled in the Timely bullpen, inked quite often by George Klein. He drew Kid Colt in 1950-51 and had a nice freelance run in many genres up through 1955. A dark, moody style, not unlike the very early Al Hartley of 1950-51. Also similar to our next artist, Mort Lawrence. Lawrence hailed back to the Timely hero titles, specifically SUB-MARINER in the mid 1940's and had a short run freelancing for Stan Lee from 1953-55. His art is one of consumate elegence, with fine feathering in the inking.
Which leads us to our last new artist, Louis Ravielli. In the continued vein of Anderson, Tumlinson and Lawrence, Ravielli was a fine illustrator who did the majority of his work for Avon publishing from 1950-54. His Atlas stories excel in depicting "period" pieces both in this bible story and in his myriad of war stories for titles like BATTLE where he illustrated "The Battle Of Waterloo" in 1954. He also was a wonderful pulp artist and can be found in Street and Smith pulps around 1953.
A magnificent collection of comic book artists populated this title for its short 5 issue run. As usual, the axe fell and Stan continued to throw titles out onto the stands throughout the 1950's hoping something would stick. Some did, some didn't but the point would become moot as 1957 approached. Martin Goodman changed his distribution company to ANC in 1956 and when ANC went under in spring of 1957, it took down the industry leader in quantity of titles and employment for freelancers. ANC's collapse pushed most of the freelancers out of the comic book business forever and closed the book on a phenomenal decade of comic book diversity.
About the author:
Dr. Michael J. Vassallo graces us once more with an article devoted to a little known Atlas comic with an amazing cast of creators. "Doc V" is regarded as a leading expert on the Timely/ Atlas line and this well-researched essay is a revelation for even the most knowledgeable comic fan.