Morrie Kuramoto's Raincoat

By | Friday, December 07, 2012 4 comments
Mamoru “Morrie” Kuramoto worked at Timely Comics as a letterer and production artist until 1957. He returned to the publisher (now called Marvel Comics) in the late 1960s where he continued until his death in 1985. I'm liberally swiping the rest of today's post (and this accompanying image) from Marvel Comics: The Untold Story Facebook page...

Timely offices, late 1940s. Morrie Kuramoto, center.

Rick Parker remembers: ""December 7th, 1941....a date that will live in infamy..."......I remember that every December 7th, we would mercilessly tease the one Japanese co-worker we had in the Marvel Bullpen, a fellow by the name of Morrie Kuramoto. Cartoonist, Marie Severin would annually do a hilarious cartoon of Morrie engaged in some type of war-like situation and we'd all gather 'round his desk when she presented the cartoon to him and we'd all have a good laugh....everyone, that is, except Morrie, who managed a tight-lippped smile or took a long drag on the Chesterfield King that hung permanently from his lips, making him look like some character in a B movie. One year, though, when Marie had him piloting a plane and dropping bombs on the Empire State Building, he just couldn't take it anymore. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. This time instead of bombs exploding, or peals of laughter bursting forth from the assembled multitude, it was Morrie who exploded. He really let us have it. We learned a lot that day. We learned that following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, as a young man, Morrie and his parents and sister were rounded up by the U.S. government and locked up in a prison camp in Arizona. We learned that his family's house and property were confiscated. And this was all done to protect them from possible repercussions to the attack on Pearl Harbor--or in case they were thinking of sabotage. Morrie was born in the U.S.A. He was an American citizen. Morrie did manage to escape from the camp by serving honorably with the United States Military in WWII. We learned that there is often more to that co-worker sitting quietly in the corner doing his job, than we thought. We also learned that freedom is not something we can take for granted, even in America. Morrie had a heart attack and died on the subway on his way to work one morning. I heard it said that his old black raincoat hung in the closet in the back of the Marvel Bullpen for many years after he died. I wonder if the person who eventually took it out and disposed of it realized to what kind of person it had belonged."

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Matt K said...

I first heard of Morrie from Jim Shooter's blog; there was actually a good post there one year ago today:

The comments add a good deal of information, too. Fascinating man.

thetrellan said...

I came across Kuramoto's name recently and am trying to find out exactly what he did on covers by other artists which Marvel Database claims he "created". The actual artists are other people, from Marie Severin to Gil Kane to Byrne and Austin. I have been collecting comics for over 40 years, and though his name has come up often, I've never seen a sample of his artwork, and I can identify most pencilers and artists from this period at a glance. All of the covers credited to him on his database page were by other pencilers and inkers. So what gives?

thetrellan said...

His db page calls him production artist, which could mean anything. I'm guessing either touch up art, cut and paste (essentially "creating" the cover by including titles, blurbs, etc. with the artwork proper), or both. But if it's just paste up, why is he being credited as cover artist? Romita Sr. used to do a ton of touch up, but was never credited as artist for it.

If you check Kuramoto's credits at the Grand Comics Database, they tend to get more specific about what creators actually did. Kuramoto was more of a letterer and did not just the word balloons and captions but logos and such on covers. It's roughly the same as giving Art Simek a credit on the interior of a book.