In the decade of the 1950's, well over 250 different artists showcased their wares for Stan Lee under Martin Goodman's Atlas imprint. One of these artists, Sam Kweskin, would show up at Stan's door in the middle of 1952 armed with samples of biblical stories done for the David Cook Publishing Company. Sam was encouraged to do this by a friend of someone his wife knew , who worked in some capacity for Goodman's company. Stan Lee liked what he saw and gave Sam a script, thereby beginning the short pre-code career of Sam Kweskin at Timely/Atlas.

Sam Kweskin drew roughly 25 stories that appeared during the cover dates of 1953. His style possessed a rough-hewn earthiness that suited the pre-code material extremely well. His horror stories (ADVENTURES INTO TERROR, ASTONISHING, MARVEL TALES, MYSTIC, UNCANNY TALES) were dark and foreboding, his war stories (BATTLE, BATTLE ACTION, BATTLEFRONT, WAR COMICS) full of muddy trenches and gritty struggles, and his westerns (WILD WESTERN) were dusty and somber.

In "He Lurks In The Shadows" (UNCANNY TALES #6, Mar/53) Kweskin depicts the dark, eerie alleys where a mugger plys his trade, repeatedly killing and robbing victims to get money to keep his wife in expensive gifts, only to unexpectantly fall as a robbery victim to his own wife, trying to rob to buy gifts for "him". The panels and pacing are dark and expressive, oozing with pre-code ambiance.

Likewise in "The Brain" (ASTONISHING #22, Feb/53). The world's greatest intellect comes up with a solution to pay off his large personal debts. Upon realizing he is dying, he pre-sells his brain to science (to be studied after he dies), selling it to 10 different parties and getting them to pay him in advance! Thus all his debts were paid off before he died.

As 1953 progressed, Sam illustrated World War ll stories, revolutionary war period pieces like "Ticonderoga" (WAR COMICS #20, July/53), and even returned to biblical themes with "Noah's Ark" in BIBLE TALES FOR YOUNG FOLKS #1 (Aug/53).

Sam's work also graced the cover of one Atlas' most notorious pre-code horror titles, ADVENTURES INTO TERROR #17 (Mar/53). This is considered a coup due mostly to the fact that Stan Lee had his personal small cache of cover artists who rotated through 90% of all the horror cover duties, namely Bill Everett, Joe Maneely, Russ Heath, Sol Brodsky and Carl Burgos. Sam's cover is beautifully gruesome, depicting a bound young woman being dumped into an open grave and menaced by the approaching hands of skeletal corpses. Horror in all it's pre-code splendor!

By far though, one of Sam's best stories dealt with the theme of a Jewish concentration camp and a brutal Nazi camp commander. In "The Butcher of Wulfhausen" (KENT BLAKE OF THE SECRET SERVICE #14, July/53), a brutal, sadistic death camp commander escapes the war and by 1952 is trying to sneak behind the Iron Curtain. He's pursued by an American agent, ultimately chased right over the site of his old, now long gone death camp and is pulled screaming into a mass grave pit by the scores of corpses of his old victims. A powerful and eerie story perfectly rendered in an atmosphere of dread. This tale mirrors the classic Twilight Zone episode "Deaths- Head Revisted" which would air in 1961, without the EC-like rotting corpses, of course.

Sam eventually moved back to Chicago and Stan Lee continued to mail scripts to him for a while but this eventually petered out. He entered the commercial art world left comics altogether for almost 20 years, except for one anomaly. In 1957 a 3-page light fantasy story "The Hidden Hex" appeared in WORLD OF FANTASY #7 (May/57). This single "out of the blue" story pretty much capped off the Timely/Atlas career of Sam Kweskin. Sam would return to comics for a short while in the early 1970's, following Bill Everett on SUB- MARINER as well as pencilling a bunch of mystery/horror stories for Marvel's renewed horror line.

For about one year, Sam Kweskin was a vital cog in the pre-code Timely/Atlas line. I hope this has shed some much needed light on another of the unsung heroes of the Timely/Atlas era.

©2002
Dr. Michael J. Vassallo

BOOK TITLE
ISSUE
NUMBER

DATE
PAGE
LENGTH
STORY TITLE/NOTES
Adventures Into Terror
17
3/53
cover
 
"
"
"
3
They Don't Complain
 
19
4/53
5
The Strange Children!
Adventures Into Weird Worlds
25
1/54
5
A Million Light-Years Away
Astonishing
22
2/53
4
The Brain
25
6/53
5
I'll Only Die a Little Bit!
Battle
19
4/53
5
The Search
Battle Action
12
5/53
6
Bastogne
Battlefield
9
3/53
6
City of Slaves
Battlefront
9
2/53
4
Rocket Squad
 
23
9/54
6
Barbed Wire
Bible Tales for Young Folk
1
8/53
5
Noah's Ark- The Story of the Flood
Chamber of Chills
8
1/74
4
I Wait in the Dungeon! (reprint?)
Commando Adventures
2
8/57
4
Behind Enemy Lines!
Daredevil
99
5/73
20
The Mark of Hawkeye
Journey Into Mystery
6
3/53
5
The Man Who Went Back
8
5/53
5
Indoor Sport
10
7/53
3
Now You See It...
 
48
8/57
4
Where There's Smoke...
Journey Into Mystery (2nd series)
3
2/73
6
Revenge From the Rhine
6
8/73
4
Indoor Sport! (reprint)
Journey Into Unkown Worlds
19
6/53
5
The Long Wait
Justice
38
6/53
5
The Lowest Crime
Kent Blake of the Secret Service
14
7/53
5
The Butcher of Wulfhausen!
Kid Colt Outlaw
29
8/53
4
The Hangin's at Dawn
Man Comics
27
6/53
5
Death is a Spy's Reward
Marvel Premiere
5
11/72
20
The Lurker in the Labyrinth;
(Dr. Strange)
[as Irv Wesley]
Marvel Tales
116
7/53
2
Not Wanted!
117
8/53
4
Red Tape
 
157
4/57
3
The Man Who Changed!
Mystical Tales
8
8/57
4
The Island of No Return
Mystic
20
5/53
5
In the Wake of the Werewolf
 
59
5/57
4
Stormy Night!
Spellbound
12
2/53
4
The Diet of Donald Moore
Strange Stories of Suspense
15
6/57
3
The Man Who Forgot
Strange Tales
15*
2/53
4
Afraid
24
12/53
5
Russia
Sub-Mariner
58
2/73
20
Hands Across the Water, Hands Across the Skies
59
3/73
20
Thunder Over the Seas
60
4/73
20
The Invasion of New York
61*
5/73
?
The Prince and the Pirate
62
6/73
14
A Realm Besieged
63
7/73
14
And the Seas Shall Explode
Super Green Beret
2
6/67
7
Frank Luke, the Arizona Balloon Buster
[also written by Kweskin]
Uncanny Tales
6
3/53
5
He Lurks in the Shadows
12
9/53
4
Bertha Gets Buried
War Comics
20
7/53
5
Ticonderoga
Wild Western
29*
8/53
4
Water Hole
31
12/53
6
The Last Redman
World of Fantasy
7
4/57
3
The Hidden Hex!
World of Mystery
7
7/57
4
Obey...or Die!
Young Men
21
6/53
5
The Final Count!
[Rocky Steele- The Idol of the Ring]


Notes:
This majority of the information on this checklist was provided by Dr. Michael Vassallo and the rest was gleaned from the Grand Comic Book Database. Questionable entries are denoted in red and contain an asterisk.

About the author:

Dr. Michael J. Vassallo is one of the comic art community's leading experts on the Timely/ Atlas comic company. He has published numerous articles on the subject and his indices of Atlas artists have been the definitive source material for many researchers and collectors.

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