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Comic Legends: The ‘Creepy’ Revenge of the Ghost Artists!

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Comic Legends: The ‘Creepy’ Revenge of the Ghost Artists!

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and eighty-seventh installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

Here‘s part 1 of this week’s legends!

NOTE: The CSBG Twitter page hit 10,050 followers, so I did a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed earlier this week. We’ll keep the bit going, though. Every 1,000 followers of the CSBG Twitter page, I’ll do a bonus Comic Book Legends Revealed that week.

COMIC LEGEND:

A group of creators who worked uncredited for a cartoonist had a matter of revenge on the cartoonist in the first issue of Creepy.

STATUS:

True

Don Sherwood served in the Korean War as a member of the Marine Corps. After the war, he drew some small, unsuccessful strips and also worked as an assistant on a few different comic strips, including a stint as the assistant to George Wunder, the cartoonist who had a long run on Terry and the Pirates following the departure of the original Terry and the Pirates creator, Milton Caniff, in 1946 (Caniff created his own creator-owned comic strip, Steve Canyon).

In the early 1960s, Sherwood created Dan Flagg, an adventure comic strip starring a member of the U.S. Marine Corps…

The strip could not survive the unpopularity of the Vietnam War, so it ended by the end of the decade. Sherwood worked on a variety of comics after that, including a Partridge Family comic book and a Flintstones comic strip.

Now, let’s be clear, it was EXTREMELY common for comic strips to employ “ghost artists,” uncredited writers and artists who would do work on the strip and not get credited. It was this sort of absurd conceit that these creators did all of the work themselves. That attitude carried right over to the comic books, where Joe Shuster would be credited for years while he was not still drawing the Superman feature and Bob Kane was the only person to get ANY credit for Batman comics until, like, the late 1960s.

Sherwood employed a number of prominent comic creators of the era, from writer Archie Goodwin to artists Al Williamson, Angelo Torres and Al McWilliams.

What was apparently a bit unusual about Sherwood’s usage of assistants, however, is that, as far as the creators themselves believed, it appeared to them that Sherwood wasn’t actually doing practically anything on the strip, as Goodwin was writing it and the other guys were alternating on penciling and inking the strip.

When Warren launched the horror magazine series, Creepy, in 1966, Goodwin and Williamson decided to write a comic story about their experience, only with a horror-style ending. The three assistants were based visually on Goodwin, Torres and McWilliams while Williamson used his own visage for the cartoonist.

Like a lot of these things, while it was an obvious parody, Williamson and Goodwin did not like to confirm it, but years later, George Evans (who was Wunder’s assistant on Terry and the Pirates himself and later did some work for Sherwood’s Dan Flagg and then worked for Warren on Blazing Combat) confirmed the whole story to Jon B. Cooke in The Warren Companion.

George Evans: Don called me and asked me if I would do such and such for him, and I guess it was because he had alienated everybody in one way or another and was going down the line to get everybody he could, so I think I inked or did a week’s work for him. I told him that was all I was gonna do. Whatever he inherited, it must’ve been pretty good, so he had this Dan Flagg thing, and it ran for a whole! I don’t know if you…
Jon B. Cooke: I never saw it, no.
Evans: I went to visit him at his apartment and studio he had there, and would you believe he had a carpet already made there, hand-made, with pictures from Dan Flagg woven into the carpet! He really thought he was gonna set the world on fire, I guess. Alden McWilliams also did work for him. Anyway, he was using all these people and signing this work with his own name, of which he was apparently doing little or nothing! He alienated a number of them, so that…
Cooke: What was the alienation, that he wasn’t paying?
Evans: No, he paid! At least he paid me, and I assume the rest. But it was the business of his ego.
Cooke: He was insufferable?
Evans: He lived in a Don Sherwood fantast world. Actually, I think when the stuff was all finished and put together by the rest of us, by all these people, he believed it was his creation and demeaned…he didn’t with me, because I wasn’t with him long enough, but I got the feeling that he sort of demeaned and almost insulted some of the guys.
Cooke: So, the story that appeared in Creepy #1, “Success Story,” was based on those experience?
Evans: On the actual doing. Except, of course, the grisly ending!

Funny stuff! Thanks to Jon B. Cooke and the late George Evans for the story! I can’t confirm that Sherwood really treated the other artists that way, but it’s still interesting to see them turn it all into a comic book story!


Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed – How did Harlan Ellison get an acknowledgement in the film, The Terminator?


Check back later for the final part of this week’s Comic Book Legends Revealed!

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