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.

Vince Fago and the Timely Funny Animal Dept.
continues on the next page...

Vince Fago...page 2

©2003
by Dr. Michael J. Vassallo
Foreword...
     On June 13th, 2002, Vince Fago passed away at age 87 from stomach cancer. Vince was about the sweetest person I've ever met and I want to preface this piece below with the history behind its writing.
     About 3 years ago, in early 2000, I was gratefully involved in a Timely funny-animal indexing project with Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. and Hames Ware. At one point I had in my possession a complete set of Timely funny- animal issues that we had indexed, comprising Jim V's and my own books. We had passed the books around between the three of us, each giving our own analytical opinions on the possible artists, with the final tentative identifications synthesized by Jim V. Their last stop was with me in NY. There were and are still, many unanswered questions about this era and hearing from Robin Snyder that Vince Fago, the editor-in-chief during the war years, was still around, I received Vince's address and phone number from Robin, who was periodically in touch with him by means of his publication THE COMICS. I had never really read an interview with Vince about the Timely era and I thought it was too good an opportunity to pass up. .
     Vince was as gracious as could be in answering my questions over the phone and as a thank you I compiled for him a near complete photocopy collection of "all" the work he ever did for Timely, a 5 inch binder bound volume of over 500 pages of Timely Fago funny-animal stories. He was ecstatic when he received it and passed it over to his local museum for display of his work. He also invited me up to visit if I was ever in the area.
     In July of 2001 I finally had the opportunity. I was planning to take my family up from Westchester to visit my parents who live in the Adirondacks, at the north end of Lake George, NY and realized that Vince lived about 100 miles from there in Bethel, Vermont. I called Vince to clear the visit and on July 25th I left everyone early in the morning to make the 2 hour drive from Lake George to Bethel. By about 11: 00 A.M. I pulled up to Vince's driveway, hidden in the mountains on about 200 acres of land and was greeted by Vince and his lovely wife D'Ann. I hauled out a still camera, a video camera and about 150 Timely funny-animal books. What a gracious couple ! Vince showed me around, his wife showed me her studio in an attached addition to the house and we retired to his porch to begin the task of poring over work Vince had either supervised or drawn almost 60 years before . As you can imagine, I was in sheer heaven. For 3 hours this went on. Vince often could not identify the artists on features we had problems with but did provide names that we never knew existed at Timely such as Doc Ellison. I had the foresight to turn on both my video camera and my audio recorder for at least one full hour of thisdiscussion. Vince then took me up to his studio which hasn't changed a bit from that 20 year old photo that ran in ALTER EGO. Vince's drawing table sat towards the window with a computer to the left and scores of books and drawings Vince had done over the years. By about 6:00, with the sun getting low over the mountains, I told Vince I had to get back as the Lake Champlain ferry shut down at 8:00 (and I had no idea how to get across Lake Champlain if I missed it!). Mrs. Fago packed me a care package of sandwiches and iced tea and we took two photos, one of Vince and his lovely wife and one of Vince and I, where I'm holding the original cover art to the Timely comic ALL SURPRISE #2 (Winter/44). I toted this cover up to Vince to get his input about who the artist/artists might be. I then made the long trek back down to my parents and family, just making the ferry with 5 minutes to spare and arriving back at about 9:00 P.M .     With the visit fresh in my mind I sat down and spent the next 3 hours writing the Fago article below that originally ran in the August/02 ALTER EGO #13 (the following is an updated version of that article). By 1: A.M. I was through and my Fago day over. The photos went undeveloped for 9 months as the roll of film seemed to vanish. I thought my brother had accidentally brought the roll home with him to Minneapolis but he swore he had not. The roll finally turned up this past April/02 and happily the two photos are safe and sound.
           Vince and D'Ann Fago, July 2001
     Jim Amash interviewed Vince for ALTER EGO (turning out a wonderful and definitive piece on this old master) and spent much more time getting to know Vince than I could with all the hours of interviewing he did. I'm just thankful I took the opportunity to meet Vince in person. I'll never forget the wonderful day I spent with the most gracious, unassuming man I've ever met. Vince was a master artist and a giant of a person. My condolescences go out to his wonderful wife and their family. Our first person connection to the Timely era is rapidly and sadly disappearing. And to Robin Snyder especially, thank you for providing me with the opportunity to meet and visit with this sweetheart of a man. I will always be grateful.
                                                                                                                -- Dr. Michael J. Vassallo
                                                                                                                   February, 2003
                                                                                                                   DocV@prodigy.net

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.