In the winter of 1942, former assistant animator Vince Fago left the Fleischer/Paramount stable of artists and returned to New York looking for work in the comic book business.
In the preceding six months, Martin Goodman had begun expandingTimely's nascent super- hero lineup of titles in an attempt to cash in on the now booming costumed hero trend. From 1939 to mid-'42 Timely had (in order) Marvel Mystery Comics, Daring Mystery Comics, Mystic, Red Raven, Human Torch , Captain America, Sub- Mariner, All Winners, Young Allies, U.S.A. Comics, and Tough Kid Squad Comics. With a cover date of April 1942 Daring, after eight issues, would change its name to Comedy Comics; simultaneously a second title, Joker Comics, would debut. These two bimonthlies would launch a genre (humor) that would, by the postwar period, eclipse the super-hero titles in sales.
Comedy Comics #9 (Apr. '42) continued the numbering of the aforementioned Daring Mystery and is actually a dual-genre book. Part of its contents, and that of #10 (June '42), consisted of super-hero features continuing from Daring #8: Ben Thompson's "Citizen V" and Bill Everett's "The Fin." (Both these stories are reprinted in the excellent trade paperback The Golden Age of Marvel Comics, Vol. Two.)
To this were added humor features like Basil Wolverton's "Splash Morgan," Ray Houlihan's "Tubby an' Tack," and Clyde Don's "Trinket." The cover would sport a wacky humor motif and blare "A Riot of Fun!" under the title lettering.
Comedy #10 (June '42) would be similarly split between hero and humor, with Don Rico's "The Fourth Musketeer" and Ernie Hart's "Victory Boys" accompanying Art Helfant's "Educatin' Otto," Art Gates' "Cannon Ball Brown," and Lily Reney's "Wheezy." The cover again sports a "Riot of Fun" blurb, this time in the familiar Timely Comics shield at the lower right hand corner.
Both of these covers (#9 and #10) are unsigned but if I had to hazard a guess, I'd pick Mike Sekowsky to have possibly pencilled them. I'm discovering more and more that the incredibly fast Sekowsky was an unheralded workhorse of this period. He never signed his name but Vince Fago suggested to me that Sekowsky was a good candidate to have drawn them, as he was used everywhere on many diverse features.
Comedy #11 (Sept. '42) sports (finally!) an almost-all-humor lineup, with Chick Winter's "Maise Martin in Hollywood," the sole serious strip accompanying humor features like Lou Paige's "Otto Bragg & Snippy," Ed Winiarski's "The Vagabond" (inked seemingly by George Klein), Harry Fisk and Doug Grant's "Stuporman," Louis Ferstadt's "Casey McKann," Red Holmdale's "Snigger," Sekowsky's "Percy" (inked by Klein), and what looks to be a very early George Tuska freelance piece called "Maymee Hazzit.". Tuska took a look at this feature at the wonderful White Plains, NY convention in 2000 and vaguely recalled drawing it. . He suggested that it "may" have been inventory from a shop, though, and this thought immediately makes some sense-- in fact, it makes me consider that many of these strange "one-shot" humor features peppering these earliest Timely humor issues were possibly bought by Martin Goodman from a source outside his early bullpen staff. As it stands now, more research is pending into this scenario. The cover of #11 is an image of Sekowsky/ Klein's "Percy" taken right from the one-page feature inside.
Joker Comics #1 (April 1942) consisted of all humor features by creators like Ernie Hart, Art Gates, Ed Winiarski, Al Fagaly, and Red Holmdale. #1 also saw the debut of Basil Wolverton's "Powerhouse Pepper" and the start of features like "Snoopy and Dr. Nutzy," "Trinket," "Tommy Gunz," "Eustice Hayseed," and "Stuporman" (which would shortly continue in Comedy Comics). Many of these features would continue to run through this title for most of its run.
Joker Comics #1, pg. 1 (April 1942)
First Powerhouse Pepper by Basil Wolverton
Early issues also saw the debut of "Tessie the Typist," as well as "Squat Car Squad," "Scottie," "Dippy Diplomat," and the peculiar yet very long-running "E. Radicate de Bugs," a feature that for part of its run sported art by Dennis Neville, the Golden Age Hawkman's first artist. Finally, by the cover date of July '42, we see the debut of Timely's funny animals, with the publication of Krazy Komics #1.
What was unique about Krazy Komics was the fact that actual credits were printed on the inside front cover, usually with the creators being given joke titles or designations! These credits continue up through issue #13 (Jan. '44) and, along with similar credits in Terrytoons, and in issue #13 & 14 of Comedy Comics, give us a valuable insight into the Timely humor bullpen of 1942-43.Many of these credit designations were phony and done tongue-in-cheek but allow us, at the very least, to place certain creators in particular issues at particular times.
Krazy Komics #1 lists Stan Lee as "managing editor" and begins with a cover by Chad Grothkopf (noted then and later, respectively, for work on DC's "Sandman" and Fawcett's "Hoppy the Marvel Bunny"). "Silly Seal & Ziggy Pig" makes their debuts separately, done by Al Jaffee... much the way Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy did solo work before Hal Roach decided to team them up. Other features include Baldy by Dave Berg Dave Berg's "Baldy" and two features by Ernie Hart, "Pookey the Poetical Pup" and "Ding-a-Ling the Little Bellboy." Chad seems to draw the feature "Snappy," and Moss Worth is the likely artist on "Chester Chipmunk and Toughy Tomcat," while Ed Winiarski and inker George Klein seemingly are the team on "Little Pan."
The debut of "Posty the Pelican Postman," a feature that will be long- running Vince Fago vehicle, is a bit of a tough guess. While Fago's name is not on the credit page, this art has enough Fago elements to lead me to believe that it in fact his work. Add to this the distinctive lettering by Vince's brother Al (who years later would do Atomic Mouse for Charlton) and the fact that Vince debuted as a freelancer, a status that would possibly preclude his name from being on the credits page with those of the staff artists.
Posty and Lolly by Vince Fago
By the cover date of Nov.-Dec. 1942 Vince is listed in the credits of both Krazy Komics and Terrytoons, the latter which debuts with a cover date of Oct. '42.
Smelling success with funny animals, Goodman procured the rights to publish the comic book adventures of Paul Terry's animated characters and quickly got out the first issue. The features in that debut issue would continue almost without change through 1945.
Gandy and Sourpuss by Mike Sekowsky
The cover to #1 featuring the characters Gandy and Sourpuss, appears to be the work of Mike Sekowsky, who will draw them inside. Sekowsky's inker is probably George Klein, who seems to have primarily "inked" for Timely during this period. Klein did contribute pencilled and inked story illustrations to Goodman's pulp and magazine line though: American Sky Devils, Vol. 1, #1 (July/42), Vol.1, #2 (Sept/42) and Vol. 1, #5 (Apr/43) all sport Klein illustrations (as well as by Stan Drake and David Gantz). Klein also drew pulp illustrations for pulp titles as diverse as Complete War Novels (May/43 ), Best Love (July/43) and Western Short Stories (Apr/49).
Next we have Ed Winiarski on "Oscar Pig." Vince Fago will carry two features in Terrytoons: "Dinky" and "Frenchy Rabbit." Jim Mooney is on "E. Claude Pennygrabber and the Ginch," and Ernie Hart carries two features, "Wacky Willie" and "Andy Wolf & Bertie Mouse." Except for a 4-page war bond propaganda feature in issue #2 titled "Hello! We Want to Talk to You!" by Lee, Winiarski, and Klein, these character lineups will likewise remain unchanged in this title up to 1945.
Fago and the Timely Funny Animal Dept.
continues on the next page...
About the author:
Dr. Michael J. Vassallo graces us once again with this detailed account of the fabled Timely Comics funny animal department and its guiding light, Vince Fago. Dr. Vassallo's personal recollection preceding his article is particularly touching. An earlier version of this fine article appeared in Alter Ego magazine and has been updated by Dr. Vassallo with addtional text and images.