Marvel's Original Event Comics

By | Thursday, September 08, 2022 Leave a Comment
Back in the 1940s, Timely Comics (the company that would eventually become Marvel) had a string of hits. The Human Torch proved popular, as did Sub-Mariner and Captain America and the Young Allies and seemingly just about everything else. It stood to reason that throwing the individual characters together could goose sales, and the fire and water combination between the Torch and Sub-Mariner was nearly impossible to pass up. So in Marvel Mystery Comics #8, the two characters met for what was billed as "the battle of the comic century!" Both Carl Burgos (creator of the Torch) and Bill Everett (creator of the Sub-Mariner) tag-teamed on the story, focusing each on their respective characters. The story proper ran through #9 as well, with a quick conclusion in #10. It was this story that essentially provided the impetus for every Marvel event since.

In fact, they tried basically the same thing the very next year. In Human Torch #5b (the book itself is shown to be issue #5, but since they had already printed an issue #5, this second one is generally referred to as #5b) the fire and water battle is brought to the fore once again. The story is contained to a single issue this time, but it's a 60-pager. Unfortunately, it's not as compelling a story as the original but the reason why is what I find so interesting about it. Namely, the entire comic -- start to finish -- was created over a long weekend.

Interviewed later by Roy Thomas, Bill Everett recalled about it...
I don't remember how many days we had to do it; it was a very limited amount of time we had to produce it. As I recall, it was a 64-page book, and we did turn it out something like between Wednesday or Thursday and the following Monday. There were quite a few of us that got together and went to my apartment and did the whole thing. We just stayed there the entire weekend. Nobody left except to go out and get food or more liquor and come back to work. We had four or five writers, and we had at least six artists including Carl and myself. Oh, anything up to a dozen people, in and out constantly, working on this thing. It was a pretty wild weekend.
For a few more details, Jim Steranko has what seems to be the most descriptive account in The History of Comics...
"All we knew is that the Torch and Namor had to have a fight," Bill remembers. They began assembling their forces immediately for an assault on [publisher Martin] Goodman's deadline. The word went out: anybody available over the Friday-Saturday-Sunday interval was invited to pitch in on anything from pencil sharpening to erasing pages.

It was decided that Everett's apartment on 33rd Street would be the scene of the crime. A couple of cases of beer were ordered and a few stacks of sandwiches. They began to work.

Carl and Bill sat down at the drawing boards and composed the first two pages without having the slightest notion about story line. John Compton came in and began to plot out a script. Then Jack Darcy from Hillman Publications showed up, found a corner and began to work. Mike Roy and Harry Sahle followed and started doing breakdowns and backgrounds. George Kapitan and Harry Chapman dropped in next to lend their writing talents. Then Joey Piazza who, being unable to find a place to work, set up his writing quarters in the bathtub.

Breakdowns were pencilled as soon as page by page synopses were completed. Finished dialogue was written directly on the pages, then lettered. They all teamed up to produce the story a page at a time, making it up as they went along. Reams of paper littered the floor. Bottles collected in the corners. Everybody was yelling their own ideas to the rest. Artists and writers slept in shifts. More then [sic] a dozen showed up over the weekend. The radio and record player were going full blast. Neighbors complained and called the cops. The telephone never stopped ringing. It was the comic industry's version of Duck Soup.

But they got the job done. The book was a complete sell-out.

"The era of the ten cent comic book was a romantic and adventuresome one," Everett explains. "Of such incidents was the early comic industry made..."
And to think that this one crazy weekend is what, in part, led to all the crossovers and event comics we see today.
Newer Post Older Post Home