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Meta-Messages – The Classic Creator Who Wanted Readers to Know His Comic Was 5H17

by  in Comic News Comment
Meta-Messages – The Classic Creator Who Wanted Readers to Know His Comic Was 5H17

In this feature I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments!

Today, I feature another Meta-Message that I did as a Comic Book Legend years ago, the story of Mike Sekowsky expressing his feelings about the 1970s series, The Brute…

After selling Marvel Comics, former Marvel publisher Martin Goodman decided to create another comic book company in the mid-70s. Dubbed Atlas/Seaboard, it opened with quite a lot of flair, as Goodman was willing to spend some real money at the start, so he was able to initially hire a lot of interesting comic book talent. Ultimately, the company did not work out and most of the initial talent left by the time the company folded.

One of the lesser characters published by Atlas/Seaboard was a sort of Hulk riff called The Brute. The Brute was a prehistoric creature who was thawed out of being frozen in 1975. He became a fugitive after he accidentally killed two young boys who discovered him in the thawed out ice.

Meanwhile, a young female scientist tried to help the nearly mindless creature.

Here are the last few pages of issue #1, written by Mike Fleisher and penciled by veteran comic book artist Mike Sekowsky, the classic Silver Age artist who was the original artist on Justice League of America (he was also the comic creator who introduced the mod Wonder Woman in the late 1960s).

At the time, Atlas was trying to avoid having to go along with the Comics Code. They pushed for this right up until the release of their first few comics. Ultimately, they lost that fight (distributors weren’t willing to give shelf space to comics without the Comics Code). So they had to “clean up” their issues to be Code-Approved.

This aggravated the editors, and it might have aggravated Mike Sekowsky, as well.

According to Brute editor Jeff Rovin, Sekowsky was upset (as was Rovin) that the Brute had to be Code-approved.

According to other versions of the story that I’ve heard, Sekowsky was not a fan of the script, and he let his feelings be known in a very subtle fashion.

Whatever Sekowsky was protesting, the fact remains that he did sneak a protest into the issue.

Look back to the last page.

Check out the airplane’s tag.

5H17.

Or, in other word, SHIT.

Either Sekowsky’s attempt to stick it to the Comics Code or his attempt to voice his feelings about the issue, I don’t know which one it was, but either way, there it is. And as Rovin says:

Childish? You bet. But at Atlas, we learned not to let any victory slip through our fingers, no matter how moronic.

Thanks to Scott Shaw! for the info behind this one. Thanks to Jeff Rovin and the Comics Journal for the quote (and thanks to Phil at The Atlas Archives for transcribing the quote).

If you folks have suggestions for OTHER meta-messages, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

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