Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Reader Fred C. wrote in to ask, "I was reading about the passing of Stan Lee. NY POST says he was the editor, then went to the service, then came back.
I knew that, but then it hit me.
Who were the editors (or who was the editor) when Stan was in uniform?"
Great question, Fred, as it gives us the chance to pay homage to one of the most underrated creators in Marvel Comics history, as, well, come on, the guy was Marvel's Editor-in-Chief and very few people even know his name!
Vincenzo Francisco Gennaro Di Fago, otherwise known as Vince Fago, was born in Yonkers, NY in 1914. After graduating high school in the early 1930s, he began to work in animation for a few different companies. Fago worked for the Jam Handy Studio in Detroit, doing mostly industrial films for car companies and insurance companies. He then moved to Florida in the late 1930s to work for the Fleischer Brothers, who had moved Fleischer Studios down South following an animators strike in 1937. During that period, the studio began to work on their first feature-length films, Gulliver's Travels, while continuing their standard Betty Boop and Popeye shorter series. Fago was at the studio when they acquired the license to do Superman short animated films. Fago remained at Fleischer when Paramount (who the Fleischers had a distribution deal with) just outright purchased the company in 1941 after the Fleischers fell too deep into debt.
Later that year, of course, Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States went to war with Japan, Germany and Italy. Like most other studios, Paramount prepared to change their output to mostly military-related films and that did not interest Fago, so he moved back to New York. He gained work from Stan Lee at Marvel Comics (then called Timely Comics).
Here is a shot of Fago and Lee going swimming around this time. Fago is on the right...
Lee and Fago became close friends (Lee was friendly with most of the staff. Sales were good and money was flowing).
Fago drew for Marvel's humor titles of the era.
This is also why Fago is a bit less well-known, since he did not do any of the superhero series of the era and obviously the superhero stuff is what is best known from this point in time from Marvel. Fago was an excellent comic book artist. Here is one of his works from 1945's Giggle Comics #18...
In 1942, with Stan Lee headed into the military, Lee asked Fago to take over for him as the interim Editor-in-Chief and Art Director. Fago had lost the use of one of his eyes when he was a teenager, so he was ineligible to be drafted.
Fago agreed and he was Timely's Editor-in-Chief from early 1943 through Lee's return in 1945. Sales were still excellent because of the high demand for comic books from the military and Fago was well situated to help increase Marvel's output of humor magazines, which were particularly popular with the soldiers at the time (who just needed something to amuse themselves).
Fago's younger brother, Al, inked him a lot during this period. Al Fago would later go on to have a career as a funny animal comic book artist, as well.