Monday, August 05, 2013

Classic Comic Speak: The 1972 E.C. Comics Panels


Now here’s a real treat.  Forty one years ago, on the 27th of May 1972, the EC Fan-Addict Convention was held.  The Convention brought together the majority of the artists and writers who worked for E.C. along with Bill Gaines, the publisher.  Best of all those present took part in three separate panels, one of the first, and only, times that this would happen with so many E.C. staffers.  The result saw Gaines, Al Feldstien, Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Marie Severin, George Evans, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Jerry DeFuccio, Joe Orlando and Al Williamson (plus a cameo from Howard Chaykin) talk about all things E.C., from horror through to westerns through to science fiction.  Luckily the panels were taped and the transcriptions saw print, first in the E.C. fanzine Squa Tront #8 (1978) and a few other places since then.  Here, now, you can kick back and enjoy the panels in one big hit, as complete as they get and dream about being in a place where such talent was gathered.

If you were there then share your thoughts about the event.  Such a gathering might have the impact today as it did then, but, for those of us who are aware of E.C. and their talent, it was a series of panels to die for.

QUESTION:  From time to time at EC you redid the covers of the horror magazines.  How did the public react to these changes?
AL FELDSTEIN:  There was one cover we had censored ourselves, if that's the one you're talking about - possibly two.  So the public really wouldn't have reacted in any way because they wouldn't have known what the original was like.  I'm not sure I know what you mean.
BILL GAINES:  Let me help answer that question, because I think Al has forgotten.  [laughter]
FELDSTEIN:  Well, I've been working late.  [laughter]
GAINES:  There were many periods in our history when we were censored one way or another.  We belonged to two different associations.  There was a third period when we had to have an attorney censoring our material because of the trouble we got into with the wholesalers, which I'm not too clear on because the whole thing's kind of blurred together.  But I believe the two covers that you may be referring, to are the two that Ron Barlow has done uncensored versions of in poster form.  And the reason the reader knew in those days that the covers had been changed is because we had run house ads, Al, of the uncensored versions.  So we censored the covers at the request of somebody.  I think in that case it was at the request of this attorney.
The only self-censorship that we ever had was Marie Severin, who, as I think it says in your program booklet, was the only person we allowed to trample on our creative efforts.  We all loved and respected Marie and so we listened to her, but no one else could control us without a cleaver.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  I'd like to ask a sort of related question.  It seemed that in the horror comics you would have people outlandishly French fried and cut apart and so on, yet when you were dealing with a more ordinary kind of mayhem like stabbing or shooting, that tended to happen off to one side.  Was there any policy behind that, or is that just the way it worked out?
GAINES:  Not to my recollection.
QUESTION:  OK.
GAINES:  I didn't understand the question; he didn't understand my answer.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  Did you have any control over the script of the movie Tales from the Crypt?
FELDSTEIN:  No.  Not as much as we should have.
GAINES:  There were a lot of changes from our original concepts.  There were a couple of changes that improved it.  But they missed the point on a few things.
FELDSTEIN:  They offered us the screenplay in final form to look at and we caught a lot of things that they slipped up on, or that they had not done right.  And that helped a little.  But as far as objections to any changes that they had already made in terms of plot - we had no right to do that.
QUESTION:  I'd like to ask Mr.  Davis if he would work on horror comics again.
JACK DAVIS:  Well, I don't think there's a big demand for horror; maybe I haven't been keeping up with it, I don't know.  I've been doing a lot of ads and stuff.  But I enjoyed the horror bit.
QUESTION:  Did having worked on horror have an adverse effect on your role as a more public artist with the advertising?
DAVIS:  No.  I don't know, I just started doing ads and doing the humor stuff with Mad and whatever, and I enjoyed doing that.  But there was no calling for the horror stuff, for me any more.
GAINES:  There was no call for horror for maybe ten years between the time we dropped it and the time Jim Warren really started bringing it back again with Creepy and Eerie.  And in the interim Jack adapted to other fields, and certainly today we want him in Mad as much as we can get him.
FELDSTEIN:  We don't get him enough.
GAINES:  We don't get him enough.  So as far as Jack is concerned I would say that drawing horror comics causes cancer.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  Were you satisfied with the movie Tales from the Crypt?
GAINES:  I thought it was a good movie and I thought it could have been a lot better.  I wasn't satisfied, no.  You'll see a showing of it today, and probably some of you will see some of the reasons that we thought it could have been better.  But as a movie, as a complete entity, I thought it was a very fine job.  These were professional movie makers and they did a great job photographically; the color, sound effects, the acting, the sets were all first rate.
FELDSTEIN:  I'd like to add to that.  I personally got a big kick out of the movie because I saw a lot of the things we had written come to life.  I wasn't particularly intrigued with the bridging of the stories, that little gimmick, but this is a problem for a movie maker in terms of tying four separate stories together.  We tied it together with a cover and some staples, but... [laughter] It was easy for us.  But we were not responsible for that and we had let them have it, so I wouldn't criticize them.
QUESTION:  What's the story on the Tales of Terror annuals? Where were they distributed and what was the print run on them? Anything about them like that.  I heard rumors that they were distributed on just the East Coast, or maybe just the West Coast.
GAINES:  That's a good question; a lot of people have wondered about that.  We had three kinds of annuals:  horror, science fiction, and war.  In each case, what we did was to take four regular ten cent comics, ripped the covers off by hand [laughter]…not by our hands, but literally it was done by hand.  It was not done by machinery, which made it very expensive.  A new cover was printed and the four books were bound in this cover and we sold it for a quarter.  And we thought, isn't that clever, because we've taken four magazines that would have been thrown away and bound them in a new cover, and we can sell it for a quarter so we make the money and the EC reader gets forty cents worth for a quarter.  We did that until we realized that we were losing a couple of thousand dollars every time we did it.  The hand removing of covers was just too expensive.  We only did it with a relatively small number of copies.  We only got complete returns from the East Coast area.  And it's very possible they weren't distributed anywhere but on the East Coast; there weren't enough of them.  I would guess there were 25,000 of each of those seven editions.
VOICE:  They were distributed in the Mid-west.  I bought one of them.
GAINES:  Oh, then they did get out there.
FELDSTEIN:  Another interesting aspect is that there were many that were not like others.  We would take four science fiction magazines; one annual might have numbers 17, 18, 20, and 21 and another would have 21 through 24.  You could get a copy of an annual and have something different in the next copy of the same annual.  That ought to be fun for you collectors.  [laughter]
GAINES:  It already is fun for collectors, because Joe Vucenic, in the latest edition of The EC Checklist, Fred von Bernewitz's insanity - there's von Bernewitz.  This guy made that checklist, and if you ever read it you'll wonder how anybody in his right mind could have taken the time and trouble to do it; it's an unbelievable job.  He has everything catalogued from every different angle:  the writer, the artist, what issue...
FELDSTEIN:  How long a brush lasted... [laughter]
GAINES:  The latest edition does have all the different kinds of annuals that have been discovered.  Like, Tales of Terror #1, maybe there's seven versions, version one has these four magazines, version two has these four [laughs].  The collector is a strange animal and will go to great lengths.
QUESTION:  Could you tell how the EC comics came to be associated with Ray Bradbury?
GAINES:  Yes, that's a very funny story.  We were stealing Ray Bradbury stories.  [laughter]
FELDSTEIN:  He was! I was just writing from Bill's plots.
GAINES:  That's true; I was stealing Ray Bradbury stories.  And one day I stole two at the same time, and we put them together and made a better story out of them than either of them had been alone, we thought, and as a matter of fact Bradbury agreed.  He wrote me a letter and said, "You have inadvertently omitted my royalty on these wonderful adaptations." So of course we immediately remitted his royalty and got permission to go on with it.
QUESTION:  I just wanted to congratulate you on doing stories on race and religion.  You were the first comics to do that.
GAINES:  Yes, I think in these days that's called 'relevance.'
QUESTION:  Where did you get the ideas for them? And what was the reaction?
FELDSTEIN:  Being socially conscious is not relegated only to today's times.  We came out of World War II, and we all had great hopes for the marvellous world of tomorrow.  And when we started writing our comics, I guess one of the things that was in the back of our minds was to do a little proselytizing in terms of social conscience.  So Bill and I would try to include, mainly in our science fiction, but I think we did it in the horror books too, what we called "preachy" stories - our own term for a story that had some sort of a plea to improve our social standards.
As far as the reaction was concerned, we never had any problems with them, and they were well received.  And they did what we wanted them to do.
QUESTION:  I hear you had trouble with the government, with your story "Judgment Day".
FELDSTEIN:  No, that wasn't a government problem.  The problem was when we resubmitted "Judgment Day" when we were associated with the Comics Code to see whether we could get it past.  I think we had another story turned down and we zinged them with this one.  We wanted them to give us a good reason why they were turning it down, but they were smart enough not to.  It was a straight plea for racial tolerance, orange and blue robots, and the only objection I understand they had was that they wanted us to remove the sweat from the Negro's temples and forehead in the last panel, which we refused to do.
GAINES:  We never had any government interference at all with anything we have ever published, just for the record.  That includes the FBI, the CIA - none of these people have ever bothered us.  Not to disappoint any anarchists among you.  I'm sorry, that happens to be the facts.
FELDSTEIN:  Of course, our dossiers are about this thick.  [laughter]
GAINES:  One time we were bothered by the Secret Service when it was discovered that a three dollar bill we had published was given change in a Texas airport.  [laughter] And they made us stop it.
FELDSTEIN:  There was one other thing.  We had a visit from the FBI when we published a game called "Draft Dodger," and it said that when you reach the final square, you send your name to J.  Edgar Hoover, may he rest in peace, and he would send you an authorized bona fide Draft Dodger card.  And these two stalwart, blond, handsome out-of-the-comic book type men came and said, "We're from the FBI.  Please do not do this anymore, because Mr.  Hoover doesn't like to receive this type of material.  [laughter] So when we published it in an annual I think we changed it.
QUESTION:  I would like to ask Mrs.  Severin…
GAINES:  Miss Severin.  This is Johnny's sister.
QUESTION:  How did you meet the deadlines with all the color separations?
MARIE SEVERIN:  Painfully.  No, Bill and Al had very good deadlines, so I never really had to do anything that fast.
GAINES:  Marie, tell the truth.  How did you get those overnight 32 page books colored?
SEVERIN:  My brother helped me.  [laughter]
GAINES:  The real truth! You've forgotten.  I used to give you Dexedrine pills [laughs].  I was on a diet in those days, as I always am, and as a result I was taking Dexedrine and the side effect of Dexedrine is to keep you awake.  So Marie, when she really got in a hole, would borrow a Dexedrine.
QUESTION:  Mr.  Davis, this is directed to you because you handled the Crypt Keeper stories.  Getting back to the movie, what is your opinion of the Ralph Richardson version without makeup?
DAVIS:  Well, I'm embarrassed.  I missed every showing of the movie.  [laughter] But I'd really hate to go to see it.  I picture the Crypt Keeper a certain way, and from the pictures I've seen I'm a little disappointed.
GAINES:  Of course, that really wasn't the Crypt Keeper.  That was kind of something ...We insisted that they have a Crypt Keeper.  It was originally going to be the Devil; at least we talked them out of that.  [laughter] But it wasn't the Crypt Keeper in any sense of the way we know the Crypt Keeper.
QUESTION:  Mr.  Davis, how did you feel about drawing all that gruesome horror?
DAVIS:  Well, I really ...no, I really felt bad about it.  [laughter] When I first came to New York, I went around to all the comic book publishers and I was turned down so many times, and then I was accepted at EC by Al, and I got some work right away.  And I enjoyed doing the horror bit and they liked it, and so I kept at it.  But when I looked back on it after things began to get very ticklish with the Code and everything, I began to ask - am I doing something constructive or good.  I still, I don't know, I don't think it's really that bad.
GAINES:  You have to understand Jack comes from another era, and another kind of background.  Jack was, and still is, a very moral, religious person.  He came up here from Georgia... [laughter]…I'm serious now...and Jack did this stuff because it was his job as an artist.  Jack has always had some misgivings about it, and I respect his misgivings.  Jack has been more comfortable with other types of material than horror.  But the fact that he's a real pro is evident from the fact that although he wasn't 100% comfortable with it, you see the job he did.
DAVIS:  There was a lot of talent down there, and it was great to be associated with them.  It was one big team and I enjoyed it.
FELDSTEIN:  I'd like to make an observation on what Jack referred to.  I think we all went through it, everyone associated with the EC organization, and I think Bill, too, would have to admit it.  When we were doing the stuff we were enjoying it, because we knew we were having fun with a tongue-in-cheek type of entertainment.  When Senator Kefauver started the crime investigations, the "experts," in quotes, gave all kinds of supportive testimony how terrible we were, and what we were doing to the youth of America.  We became intimidated, and I'm sure that we all did some soul-searching.  In retrospect now, with all of you young people looking at this stuff and saying how great it was, we've come full circle.  But the interesting thing is that at that time we were intimidated, and that's a frightening thing to happen and a frightening thing that it could have happened.  And let's all hope that it never happens again.
QUESTION:  Mr.  Feldstein, you mentioned that you were having fun.  Did you intentionally set out to create a high quality art product, or was it just the result of the free spirit?
FELDSTEIN:  Well, there were two things we were doing.  First of all, we intentionally set out to do comic books that would make money.  That was the first thing.  Secondly, in terms of the horror, and I think you have to take each of them separately, we intended to put out horror comics that would be scary and entertaining.  I remember back when I was young, listening to The Witch's Tale on the radio, Arch Obler's Lights Out, and the squeaking door...Inner Sanctum.  Bill and I talked about it when I first became associated with him, and we decided we were going to put out something like that in comics.  So we set out to do it, and we did the best we could.  We never underestimated our audience and we always wrote to our level.  If we thought the comics were being read by very young children, we were not particularly concerned with writing to their level.  You have to remember that this was an era when television was at its infancy, and the visual media was either motion pictures or comics.  Television, of course, has supplanted the comics.  So we were writing in a visual medium and we did the best we could with the level we felt we could reach.  We were writing for teenagers and young adults; we were writing for the guys that were reading it in the Army.  We were writing for ourselves at our age level, and I think perhaps that was responsible for the level we reached.
GAINES:  Of course, as we accumulated a fine staff of artists, they started competing among themselves, not in any nasty way, but each one of them was so inspired by what the others were doing that they started doing better work.  If two artists would be delivering their jobs to the EC offices at the same moment, what you would have is two guys fainting over the other's work.  Literally.  If Davis and Wood got there together...
FELDSTEIN:  "Holy cow!" "Bad scene!" [laughter]
GAINES:  This still goes on at the Mad office, but in those days it was kind of unique.  It was part of the general pride of being part of a group.  I think everyone ended up drawing for the other nine guys.  Because everyone wanted to bring in something that was so good that it would make the other nine artists faint.  They all kept doing this for five years.
QUESTION:  All three of your horror titles underwent either a title or a format change after three issues.  Were you considering dropping horror at that time?
GAINES:  Well, let's go back.  The first horror book was The Crypt of Terror, and after three issues we changed it to Tales from the Crypt.  As I recall, the reason we changed it was because we had immediately run into wholesaler problems, and we saw that if we took "Terror" out of the title it would alleviate the situation.  We were in the process of changing The Vault of Horror to something when all of a sudden The Crypt of Terror, the last one, started selling.  But Tales from the Crypt turned out to be a very wonderful title; it never was outsold by The Vault of Horror anyway.
As some of you might know, when we decided to add a fourth horror book we called it The Crypt of Terror.  And just before the first issue was published we decided to drop horror.  So we knocked off the title, and the last issue of Tales from the Crypt had a black and white masthead which was stuck on at the last minute where the original color Crypt of Terror masthead had been.  So if you read the inside of the last issue of Tales from the Crypt, it says that it's the fourth horror book, called The Crypt of Terror.
QUESTION:  Do you think you could, and would you want to, do the whole mess over again?
GAINES:  You mean starting now? [laughter] I just turned fifty, and the answer is no.  If I were 25 again, yes.
FELDSTEIN:  I would enjoy doing it over again, maybe doing it differently.
QUESTION:  Differently how?
FELDSTEIN:  I think the level today would have to be even higher than it was in those days.  I think the unfortunate thing is that it can't be done.  The saddest thing that has happened to the comic book as an art form is the Code.  I think it relegated the comic book to a substandard level and it's still strapping and inhibiting it.  So whether I want to do it over or not, we couldn't do it today.
QUESTION:  How about a magazine format?
GAINES:  It's constantly under consideration, but thus far we have felt that it wasn't feasible.  If you tried to publish a standard four color horror comic today it wouldn't get through the Code, and if you tried to do it without the Code in normal format the wholesalers would kick it back at you and it wouldn't get on sale.  So one way or another you've got a disaster on your hands.  Now you can go the Warren route, which goes out for 754 is it now?, in black and white.  That's one way.  I don't know that Warren's books are doing all that well.  I don't know how they're doing lately, but I never heard that they're great money makers.
QUESTION:  Are you saying that we're stuck with the code?
GAINES:  Well at the moment you damn well are.  You've been stuck with it for twenty years.
QUESTION:  But do you see that for the future?
GAINES:  Well, the country has been going in a more and more liberal and uninhibited direction, and unless the pendulum starts swinging the other direction which it very well may because historically it always has, perhaps the time will come when you could put out a horror comic for a 14 year old child and no one will care, but I don't think the time is today.
FELDSTEIN:  I might point out that as a result of the investigations there are laws on the books in the state of New York that you can't publish a comic with the words "terror" or "horror" or "weird" or a few other things on the cover.
GAINES:  I don't think we should mention this outside of this room because they may have forgotten, but there is a law on the books in New York prohibiting crime and horror comics period.
FELDSTEIN:  It's unconstitutional.
GAINES:  But someone's going to have to go to jail to prove it.
QUESTION:  How about a rating code like the movies have?
FELDSTEIN:  It's an interesting idea and they should have done that 20 years ago.  I think it's a great idea.
GAINES:  There's one thing wrong with that, though, I think, and that is that basically comics are read by children.  Although there are a lot of adults who read comics, I don't think there are enough to support a magazine which, may I remind you, must print a quarter of a million copies minimum.
QUESTION:  Which is more satisfying to you - I'm not talking about dollars; I'm talking about rewarding to you personally - the EC comic days, or Mad?
GAINES:  Well, each one of us has to answer separately.  To me, the EC days were more rewarding.
FELDSTEIN:  As far as I'm concerned, what I'm doing today with Mad.  And you have to go back to that question of social conscience.  I think I'm doing more with Mad in that area than was ever done with the horror comics.  I think the horror comics were great entertainment, and I enjoyed doing them as entertainment.  I get a kind of a satisfaction out of Mad that goes beyond just the satisfaction of doing something entertaining.  I get a kind of moral satisfaction too.  That sounds like my conscience, but I enjoy that for what it is.
QUESTION:  What were the sales figures like for the horror comics?
GAINES:  I'll precede this with something that you must know businesswise.  At the time we were publishing, for a variety of reasons, we were with the worst, the weakest and the least well thought of distributor among all the national distributors, which was Leader News.  They subsequently went bankrupt and are no longer in existence.  The distribution system works like this - I don't want to bore you with this, but it's important - there are maybe six to ten distributors who handle all the magazines.  Now they take these magazines and distribute them in turn to some 700 local wholesalers, and these 700 wholesalers in turn distribute the magazines to about 100,000 news dealers and stores, who in turn sell it to you.  Now, Leader was one of those ten distributors.  And the wholesaler's respect for a distributor was a large factor in how well he would handle a distributor's books.  Since we were with the weakest distributor, we got the weakest distribution.  Also, because we were with this weak distributor we had to sell our books for a quarter of a cent less than anyone else in the business.  Where everyone else was getting five and a quarter cents for a ten cent comic, we were getting only a nickel.  Now that quarter of a cent doesn't sound like much, but it's an awful lot.  Sometimes it's the margin between making a profit and having a loss.  So with these two facts in mind, our figures were never that high.  The most we ever sold of a horror comic I think was about 400,000.  Now for a comic in those days, that was low.  Today it would be tremendous, but those were the days of Superman selling two and three million copies an issue, Crime Does Not Pay selling up to four million copies an issue.  Those were some of the leaders.  The most we ever sold was about a half a million.  And yet we built our reputation and had our fans despite this very bad distribution set up.  There are parts of the country that probably never saw an EC book and probably to this day the people that live there have never heard of them.  We just didn't get full national distribution.
QUESTION:  How successful were the Picto-Fictions?
GAINES:  It was a disaster! After we dropped all our New Trend books and went into the New Direction books, that was a disaster, I mean really a disaster.  Then we got out of that and into Picto-Fiction, which was a bigger disaster, but it didn't last as long because we ran out of money.  And then we just stopped.
FELDSTEIN:  I really wonder whether the Picto-Fiction ever got a fair chance, Bill.  I mean, we were with the weakest distributor, they were in terrible trouble financially, and we know that they weren't really distributed well.
GAINES:  No.  But they were selling like 15 to 20 percent.
 FELDSTEIN:  We don't know whether they were good or they weren't.  We don't know whether they would have done anything if they'd been given the chance.
QUESTION:  What's the story on Shock Illustrated #3?
GAINES:  When Leader News went bankrupt in 1956, I was wiped out and about a hundred grand in the red.  But Shock #3 had been printed in an amount of about 200 to 250,000 copies.  The insides had been printed and the covers had been printed; all it required was the binding money.  I didn't have binding money.  I couldn't even raise the few grand to bind it, and they were selling so badly I figured even if I bound it and sent it out we wouldn't sell anyway.  So we chopped up and threw away 200,000 odd copies of Shock #3, except for one to 200 copies which I had hand bound.  I recall 100; some people say there were 200.  They laid around the office in big piles, and anybody came in and grabbed a few, and they were gone and who gave it a thought.  And now of course it's become the super super EC collector’s item, because in the whole world there could be no more than 200 of them.
QUESTION:  I heard that during the fifties the other companies were copying from you.  Did you get any ideas from them?
GAINES:  I think Al pointed out in the interview we had with The Monster Times that until 1950 we were copying them.  The EC books were very mediocre down to poor; crime books, westerns, love books...Here's Wally Wood!  Wow! That was so exciting I forgot what we were talking about.  [laughter] Oh yes, the exciting love books.  One thing funny about the love books I'll just throw in; if any of you have them, you might have seen the lovelorn columns.  In Modern Love it was "Advice from Amy." In A Moon, A Girl, Romance it was "Advice from Adrian." You want to know who Adrian and Amy were? Us.  [laughter]
WALLY WOOD:  I don't know.  I thought there were a lot of funny things in those books.
GAINES:  I can see the panel is going to liven up.  But before that, what were we into?
FELDSTEIN:  You were saying that we decided at one point that we were no longer going to follow, but we were going to go out on our own and let them follow us if we hit it right.
GAINES:  Since 1950 we started all the trends of the stuff we've been in.  We haven't copied anybody.
QUESTION:  Who was the first on your staff to do horror stories?
GAINES:  Al.  He wrote it and he drew it.
FELDSTEIN:  It was called "The Crypt of Terror" and it was in War Against Crime or Crime Patrol...Crime Patrol #15, thank you.  I also did the first "Vault of Horror" which, if "Terror" was in Crime Patrol, was in War Against Crime.
QUESTION:  What about Johnny Craig?
FELDSTEIN:  Johnny took over "The Vault of Horror" when we made it its own magazine.  I did "The Crypt of Terror" until Jack took over.
GAINES:  Of course you know who did "The Haunt of Fear" and the Old Witch.
QUESTION:  Where is he?
GAINES:  Graham Ingels kind of dropped out of things and disappeared about ten years ago.  We didn't even know if he was alive until fairly recently, and we discovered to our delight...I forget who discovered it, one of the fanzine-type people dug around and found out that Graham was in Florida.  He doesn't want it known where he is in Florida, and I don't know where he is in Florida.  But I'll tell you that I did talk to him twice by telephone.  And the way I get in touch with him is, I call an attorney in Florida and the attorney calls Graham and Graham calls me collect.  [laughter] He won't tell me what he's doing, and he won't tell me where he is, and all he says is that he's very happy.
FELDSTEIN:  I think he's an undertaker.  [laughter]
GAINES:  Actually Graham has kind of dropped out, and if that's the way he wants it, so be it.
QUESTION:  I'm interested in the matter of personal artistic taste.  I wonder what types of comic stories you each felt most comfortable with.
DAVIS:  I like to do athletic stuff, sports, the outdoor stuff, cowboys.  I'm not an illustrator.  It goes back to the question, which do I like better, the horror or Mad.  I think the horror books were more illustrative, and I enjoy doing the funny books, and that's why I enjoy Mad better.
QUESTION:  The reason I asked is because I know several illustrators who were heavily inspired by your war comics, especially the Civil War.
DAVIS:  I enjoyed doing that, but I don't think I did it as good as what I do for Mad.
GAINES:  You could well wish that you had a penny for every artist that has been inspired by Jack Davis.
WOOD:  I like the funny stuff, 'cause it's less effort, you know.  [laughter]
SEVERIN:  I didn't draw at EC.  Coloring wise, I think I had more fun with the science fiction, just because it was science fiction.  But in a lot of the horror books you could really go wild with the mood.  Also, a nice thing about EC is that they had so many different styles that a book was interesting, not 20 pages of one story.  You would have someone like Wood, who would drive you crazy, absolutely terrible, but it was so rewarding what came out, it was great.
GAINES:  If Marie didn't like something she would just paint it dark blue and nobody could ever see it.  [laughter]
SEVERIN:  I really only censored Shock, that was the only one.
FELDSTEIN:  I want to answer this question from my point of view.  I got into the comic book business having never read a comic book.  I found out from a friend at the High School of Music and Art that you could make 30 dollars a page drawing comic books.  So I got a job and developed a style of my own which was terrible; well, I thought so.  But one thing I did learn after I got into the industry was that there was too much of the same kind of thing going on.  This was something I always insisted upon, and that's why when Jack Davis walked into my office - and I didn't know he'd been turned down all over the place, I just heard about it now [laughter] - I said, "That's a great style, and don't change it." And that was what happened with everybody in the EC organization.  Everybody worked their own style.  I never felt anybody should work any differently from what was most comfortable for them.  That's where Marie gets her kicks from in terms of saying that every artist did his different style and everything looked different.  That's why "Ghastly" Graham Ingels was able to blossom, because his style was such that it lent itself to the horror comics.  And I know that he had experience drawing for other people where he had to kind of try to draw what the rest of the field was doing at the time.
QUESTION:  How come Marie Severin didn't draw for EC?
GAINES:  Marie has always had a cartoony style, or at least she did then, and as you can see from the program book she was a damn good cartoonist.  But in those days we weren't really turning out cartoon type books.  Mad did come along, but by that time we weren't letting her out of the coloring closet for anything.
QUESTION:  I'd like to ask each of you separately; which did you prefer, the science fiction or the horror magazines?
GAINES:  Of course Al and I always preferred the science fiction.  We always said we were proudest of the science fiction, and we still do.
FELDSTEIN:  From my own personal point of view of writing, I felt the science fiction allowed me to do a little more creative writing, sometimes at the expense of the space left for the artist to draw in.  Right, Wally?
WOOD:  We developed short fingers because of that.  [laughter]
GAINES:  The classic story I like to tell about that is when Al had a balloon that was so big that there was hardly any space left for Graham to draw the Old Witch in.  So when Graham brought back the story, there's the Old Witch, holding up the balloon like this.
QUESTION:  When you spoke of encouraging the artists, what is your feeling now that they're so well-known and admired?
GAINES:  Pride.
DAVIS:  There's something that I've learned.  At one period after the horror bit I started walking the streets looking for work, and I was going around to these advertising agencies.  And most of the art directors were these young guys who were Mad fans or EC fans and I got a lot of work from those guys, and I appreciated it.
WOOD:  Yeah, me too, you know.  But you had to wait for them to grow up to get the jobs.  [laughter]
FELDSTEIN:  I'll give you another example of this kind of experience.  When I took over Mad in 1956 we started to do movie satires.  I would try to get research stills from the movie companies, and we were blackballed all over the place.  The opinion at that time was that you don't make fun of any product.  Today we have absolutely no problem.  Because all the kids that read Mad then are now handing out publicity for these motion picture companies, and they're very cooperative.
But in answer to the question, I have one observation, and it's an observation of sadness.  It's interesting that the EC comics have inspired you young people to take up art, and it's very sad that there's no market in which you can use your talent, if you have it.  It is a sad thing that the comic industry has shrunk to the size it has, whether it is due to the competition of television or the limitations of the Code and therefore the limiting of the market.  It's too bad that the Warren-type comics aren't doing well.  By that I mean well enough that there would be six or eight companies.
GAINES:  The underground comics, we understand, have a very small circulation of around 20,000.  I don't know how a comic with a sale of 20,000 could survive.  Of course, they sell for 50¢ or a buck and that does make a difference.  I don't know what they pay the artists.
WOOD:  Bill, I'm doing a story for the underground press.  And it's not bad.  It pays better than Charlton.  [Much laughter.]
FELDSTEIN:  I really feel that the comic book still is an excellent entertainment medium.  I think if it were done today without the restrictions, that it could become a big industry again.  I think the restrictions that are on it are what's hurting it as an industry.
QUESTION:  But aren't the underground comics unrestricted?
FELDSTEIN:  Yes, but do you know the education that would have to go on all the way up the line through the distributors, the wholesalers and the retailers to get this thing going again? Because the stigma has lasted for 20 years.  But I wish the undergrounds luck, I really do.
GAINES:  This strange looking little man over here. 
QUESTION:  Marie, if Bill Gaines starts doing horror comics again, would you be his colorer again?
SEVERIN:  Well, Mr.  Gaines hasn't yet.  Let's see what happens.  I wouldn't mind coloring the horror again.  They were a lot of fun.
FELDSTEIN:  Marie, be careful.  There'd be no horror this time, it'll be sexy.
GAINES:  Incidentally, that strange looking little man over there is my son.
QUESTION:  What do you feel when you see your artwork selling for $150?
FELDSTEIN:  I wish I had gotten paid that much!
DAVIS:  I wish I'd saved some.  [laughter] I think I burned a whole flock of it.
FELDSTEIN:  He started book burning before the government did!
QUESTION:  What do you think of The National Lampoon?
GAINES:  What's that? [laughter] It's a good effort. 
QUESTION:  What did you think of their Mad parody?
GAINES:  Pretty funny.  In parts it was very funny. 
QUESTION:  The National Lampoon brought out a piece on Mad; what did you think of it? [Incredulous snickers]
GAINES:  I didn't like that article at all.  [Much laughter, applause]
FELDSTEIN:  Could I say something about The National Lampoon? I wish I had their package to play with - the color.  We're working our way and they're working their way, but I think their package is great.  I don't know if I agree with what they do.
GAINES:  George Evans!
FELDSTEIN:  George has got his spad double parked.
QUESTION:  Mr.  Evans, it seems that you did the goriest stories, with dismembered bodies and so forth.  Did they give you those especially?
GEORGE EVANS:  One look at me and that's all they could do.  [laughter] I don't think so.
FELDSTEIN:  You're wrong.  We did give George stories that were gory in their conception.  His work was so straight and clean that the atmosphere that he presented was not gothic, so we gave him the stories that were shocking in the gothic concept.  So that he was the one who did the pigeons that ate up the pieces of the body and things like that, because he drew such pretty pigeons.  The horror was in the writing, really.  That went for George and Jack Kamen, who also did that kind of straight illustrative job.  We didn't have any trouble with Ghastly.  Ghastly could do a graveyard, and even if nothing was happening it was horrible.  And Jack Davis had kind of a hairy, you know, ratty looking... [laughter] style.  We didn't have any trouble writing horror stories for him.  Johnny Craig, of course, did his own, and he went along with the same kind of shock horror which was more of a concept in the writing than in the actual pictures.
EVANS:  If I could just add to that.  We talked it over before I even started to work for EC.  And they decided, talking with me and seeing the things I had, as Al explained, that you could do all of this build-up and sneak up to that gory smash ending.  And that seemed to fit.
QUESTION:  Why didn't Evans do more than one s-f story?
EVANS:  I was probably the slowest worker they had up there.
GAINES:  We probably kept him busy on other things.  We categorized our artists, and when we got them into their slot we kept them there.  George was very good on horror and war.
QUESTION:  I'm curious about the collaboration between the artist and the writer.  Did you rough out the story and then leave the artist to his own devices in illustrating it?
FELDSTEIN:  There were three steps.  The first step was the plotting, which Bill and I did.  Then there was the writing, and the writing was done in a very strange and unorthodox way.  This came out of my experiences in the early days of comics as a freelancer.  I would get from some supposed writer for comics a script that would tell me that I had to draw a guy driving in a car while in an airplane overhead was a girl tied up and he was talking on the telephone, or whatever, in the car - this kind of impossible situation in terms of illustrations.  So when I was writing the stories that Bill and I plotted, I would take into consideration how they would be illustrated, and break them down and write them directly on the illustration board.  There was never a script.  If you went back to the EC vaults to look for the scripts for all those stories, they don't exist.  They were written directly on the illustration board.  Then they were lettered, so that there was no problem with an artist taking a script and drawing a panel and sending it to a letterer and finding that his artwork had been overrun with lettering.  At that point the artist picked up the story.  And all he got from us was the rudimentary basic action that was going on.  I was not particularly interested in anything else but explaining to him, if he didn't already know from reading it - it was pretty obvious, when those captions got more lengthy - what was going on.  And I let them take it from there.  I felt Bill and I made the recipe and we cooked up the cake and there it was, and these guys could decorate it any way they wanted.  And I think they were able to creatively augment what we'd done in terms of the story.
QUESTION:  Did they ever bring in something that you thought should be changed?
FELDSTEIN:  Rarely; there were very few changes.  Only if they'd missed an essential point.
QUESTION:  You said you wrote the scripts directly on the illustration board.  In your books you didn't have hand lettering.  How was it done?
FELDSTEIN:  Well, it was machine lettering, but it was the same problem.  I lettered the captions and the balloons by hand in kind of scratchy capital letters and then it was turned over to the letterer, who would, over my lettering.
GAINES:  Excuse me, but Al actually wrote these things two lines below where the lettering was to go.  The letterer had to be able to read what he was lettering.
FELDSTEIN:  I'd forgotten that.  I remember now; we had illustration board that was printed with lettering lines in very light blue, and when I'd lay out the panels I'd count down two lines and start writing on the third line.  You're getting into technical areas here.  I don't know if you're interested.
GAINES:  This reminds me of a story about Al Williamson.  I hadn't seen Al for maybe five years, and we met one day and had dinner somewhere, spent a pleasant evening talking and catching up, and we ended up in my apartment and had a few beers.  And I walked him down to the subway, and as he walked down the stairs I waved goodbye, and ten years passed.  And I see Al, and I say, "Al, I want you to tell me everything that happened since I saw you last." And he said, "Well, when I went down into the subway ..." [laughter]
QUESTION:  How did the artists like being boxed into the little panels that were set up for them so they couldn't change the layout or the design of the panel?
EVANS:  I'll give you Reed Crandall's answer one time.  He said he felt like he was designing a postage stamp every damn time he had one of those little panels to work in.  But he did a good job I think, don't you?
DAVIS:  Well, it meant just a little less working time. 
GAINES:  Jack worked by the square yard.  A little panel like this would take a lot less time than a big panel.
WOOD:  It did and it didn't.  You know, sometimes it didn't bother me at all; other times I wished I could have expanded some things.
QUESTION:  Were there any special problems in adapting the Bradbury stories, both in the story and for the artists?
FELDSTEIN:  The difficulty with the Bradbury things was, being an artist and being cognizant of what the artist was going to have to face when he got the artwork, I tried to break the stories down so that they would come to a point in each panel that would present a picture for these guys to draw.  This was a difficult problem with Bradbury.  He's very flowery and very wordy, and he moves slowly, very slowly, sometimes nowhere at all.  It was difficult.  I think it's a credit to the artists that they were able to dredge up as much interesting illustrations as they did.  Wally did "There Will Come Soft Rains" and stuff like that was so tough to break down and illustrate.  But the thing that was controlling me was the respect for Bradbury's style.  I wanted to get it all in, all I could.  So it was a question of trying to mix the two problems together and coming out as best I could.  Sometimes it got a little wordy.  But from Bradbury's point of view he was very pleased, because I think we captured his stories.  When he got to a point of description where the artist could take it over and do it for him, that's where I stopped in a particular panel.
WOOD:  I'd like to go back and talk about the system of lettering the pages first.  I think this had a lot to do with why the stuff was as good as it was.  When we got those pages, lettered and all, all we had to do was go home and draw, and not worry about a thing.  We didn't have to show pencils, we brought in the finished product, and we could do just about anything we wanted to do.
FELDSTEIN:  Cool it, Wally.  You didn't have to show pencils.  A lot of the artists showed pencils.  [laughter]
WOOD:  There was one other thing.  You hand Bill a job and he would hand you a check.  And it still goes.
EVANS:  The man asked about adapting these things and doing the writing.  I asked Al pretty much the same thing, because, as you probably know, most of us have an interest in the writing end of it.  I sat while Al was finishing a story that I had come in to pick up, and he didn't have a single scrap of reference of any sort in front of him.  He was just lettering steadily from panel to panel, putting balloons in, and he came out right exactly on the end panel.  I said, "Al, how do you do it?" He said, "I'm not saying a word; that's the secret of it all." And he did it on every script that he worked with; it came out even without a note so far as I ever saw.
WOOD:  Some of them had 12 panels on the last page.  [laughter]
FELDSTEIN:  He just said the word.
GAINES:  As a matter of fact, Wally, that's not true. 
WOOD:  No, I know it.
GAINES:  Nobody ever knew how he did it.  I don't think Al knows how he did it.
QUESTION:  I was wondering, Mr.  Feldstein, how you felt about the work of Bernie Krigstein, particularly on "Master Race".  You were talking a while ago about how you had broken things down.  When he cut up the pages of "Master Race," did you feel that he was right or that you were right?
FELDSTEIN:  He was right.  I think that Bernie Krigstein was shining a light for us to follow, in terms of where the comic book could go.  It's too bad the door was slammed on it.
But Bernie Krigstein was a pioneer, just the same as we were earlier pioneers in lifting the level of writing and illustration and allowing the guys to do their own styles.  We explored a trail; Bernie Krigstein came in and showed us a further trail to go, and I probably, if we had continued, would have adapted my system of working to Bernie Krigstein's ideas.  It probably would have resulted in a re-examination of what we were doing at the time in terms of limitations on the artists.  But I think that he was a talented man, and what he did with "Master Race," increasing it from a six-pager to an 8-pager and causing all kinds of hell in our schedule at the time, improved the product.  We couldn't have had that anarchy all the time, but there would have had to have been some sort of a new system to work with.
JOHN BENSON:  Your comics were known for having more text than the average comic.  I'd like to know what led you to go in that direction, and whether you feel in retrospect that that was the proper direction for those books to have taken.
FELDSTEIN:  I wrote the stories the way I thought they should be told, and I really had no scientific or philosophical approach.  I know that they were wordy, and yet it gave the magazine reading time that was greater than the ordinary comic book.  This might have given more value for your money.  I really couldn't answer your question.  It was all like the old pilots who used to fly by the seat of their pants.  That's the way we did our stuff, and that's the way I continued to do things throughout my career.  I do it the way I feel it.
BENSON:  But your earlier comics had much less text than the later ones.
FELDSTEIN:  Yes, but the earlier comics were designed to follow standards that were set in the comic industry, which we decided to break away from.
GAINES:  This is getting into almost a philosophical discussion on the problem, but perhaps we shouldn't have been comic magazines.  Perhaps we should have been profusely illustrated text magazines of some sort.  But we were comic publishers and our business was comics and to tell the kind of stories that we wanted to tell, and to tell as many stories as we wanted to tell, and to tell them as beautifully as they were told, required a lot of words.  And so therefore they ended up a little crampy on the pictures, and yet they got the effect that was desired.
QUESTION:  Will Mad do a parody of Tales from the Crypt?
GAINES:  It wasn't that good a picture.  No, really.  We ..  .
FELDSTEIN:  We thought about it, we laughed about it.  I've been watching the grosses very carefully.  One of the things that Mad does is to make sure that we do a picture that a large group of our readership will have seen.  And it hasn't made that much money.  I think it's going to be a success in terms of the amount of money that it cost as opposed to what they'll get.  But I don't think it was a big enough picture for me to do in terms of selling Mad magazine.  I'd rather do The Godfather.
QUESTION:  Tales from the Crypt seemed to be advertised very heavily.
GAINES:  The story of Tales from the Crypt is as follows.  One of the leading people in a company called Amicus Productions happened to be an old EC reader, and that's another example of how the old EC readers are coming into positions of prominence, where they're doing things about EC because they loved it.
FELDSTEIN:  But none of them went into wholesaling.
GAINES:  Wouldn't that be something; 700 wholesalers that were old EC readers? Then we'll put out those comics that you're talking about.  Anyway, this English company called Amicus approached me on the idea of doing the movie, and I was agreeable and we made a contract.  They then got the backing of Metromedia, which you've probably heard of.  Metromedia, among other things, owns Channel Five.  Is the picture becoming clear? Metromedia then got Cinerama to distribute the movie.  And it is through the good graces of Cinerama that we have a print of Tales from the Crypt here to show at the convention.  They were very good about giving us the print; the idea of giving something away when you're still trying to sell it is something that's just never done in the movie industry.  Now that's the story.  The advertising campaign was sponsored and paid for by Cinerama, but a lot of it was done on Metromedia radio and TV stations, and maybe newspapers and magazines - God knows what they own.
QUESTION:  Another thing, the movie was reviewed in all the newspapers.
GAINES:  The way this movie was reviewed, I would have preferred it hadn't been.  Two thirds of the reviews were bombs.  Actually, most horror movies are reviewed and maybe you just don't notice it.
QUESTION:  The Nostalgia Press volume - are they going to do any more of them?
GAINES:  They would like to do a science fiction.  [Applause]
QUESTION:  Do you have any plans for doing a parody of the Tales from the Crypt movie in Mad? [laughter]
GAINES:  You're always one step behind.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  What are your feelings on Joe Orlando's new magazines, House of Mystery and so forth?
GAINES:  I think Joe's doing a nice job considering he's hampered by the code.  He's using one of our old writers, Carl Wessler.  I was in Florida recently and I called Carl, and he was practically crying.  He said, "For 20 years, every time I send them a plot they censor it.  Why don't you come back in the business so I can write?" It's a real problem for these guys.  A real old professional horror writer just can't work under the Code.  It inhibits them and drives them crazy.
QUESTION:  Why don't you put out a horror comic in the Mad format, because Mad gets very good distribution?
FELDSTEIN:  How about Mad Tales of Horror? [laughter] Mad gets good distribution because it's a saleable item.
GAINES:  For 20 years it's been that.  If it sells today, it's because we've been a good product over the years and it's gained acceptance.  The wholesalers and dealers know it's going to sell, so they put it out.
QUESTION:  Did you have distribution problems when Mad was still a comic?
GAINES:  Oh, yes.  The first three issues of Mad lost money.  The fifth issue of Mad, of course, had my biography.  That almost put us out of business, definitely.  What happened was, in those days we were doing biographies of all the artists, and when Harvey got sick and was a page short, Feldstein and I decided to write something which wasn't really a biography of me, but which was what we thought everybody probably thought I was like.  In those days it was the prevalent idea that a comic publisher must be a criminal type, of low educational background who probably ran whore houses on the side and pushed dope, and like that.  So we ran this biography which was really quite fictitious; there were only a few things in there that were true.  [laughter] And we published it along with a picture of me that Al drew, with a halo over my head.  We did a lot of verboten things that time, and the wholesalers were fit to be tied.  It almost put us out of business.  In fact, an association of Eastern wholesalers, the ECIDA, was meeting here in New York at the Hotel Commodore, and we had to literally compose and create a typewritten and illustrated apology in six copies for this committee of six, who were meeting to decide whether to put us out of business by simply refusing to handle our stuff.  That's the power the wholesaler holds over the publisher.  If he doesn't handle your stuff, you're dead.  And we managed to convince them that we would mend our ways, which, of course, we didn't.  So as a consequence, Mad #5 is scarce because wholesalers were destroying it; it was a book burning with Mad #5 because of this dreadful thing.
QUESTION:  Why don't you reprint that?
GAINES:  It would happen all over again, and I don't want to rock the boat.  
QUESTION:  That's self censorship.
GAINES:  That's all we have is self censorship.  Al Feldstein and I have great rapport, and Al knows just exactly how far to go.  And I don't think I've made a change in Mad more than once in two years on the average.  I recently asked him to change something that I thought might be slightly libellous; but this is very rare.
QUESTION:  Is it true that Dr.  Wertham has a complete set of EC comics? [laughter]
GAINES:  I doubt that very much.
QUESTION:  How were you able to write the comments by the Crypt Keeper and the Vault Keeper so well? This vehicle has been used by Warren, but yours seemed to fit the story context a lot better.
GAINES:  This was all the genius of Mr.  Feldstein.  It all flowed out of his pudgy little fingers.  [Applause.] It was just as simple as that:  talent.  Al was able to write day after day, and in addition to writing the stories he did the very funny dreadful puns and all the chitchat of the GhouLunatics.
QUESTION:  Did Mr.  Feldstein create the three characters?
GAINES:  Al drew them all originally, and then ultimately they were given out on a permanent basis to Jack and Graham and Johnny.  For the last maybe three years those three always drew them, and if they didn't draw the story, photostats of their work were used.  For example, when George Evans did a story in The Vault of Horror which was supposed to be told by the Vault Keeper, George would use a Craig photostat of the Vault Keeper for the opening panel where you'd see the Vault Keeper talking, and then it would go into the Evans artwork up to probably the last panel, which would have a little Vault Keeper saying, " 'Bye, I'm turning you over to the next one." And since each one of these comics was literally custom made, when Al and I sat down to write a story, we knew exactly who was going to illustrate the story and where it was going to be in the book, so that we would know which of the other characters he turned it over to.  It was all formularized.  And one of the reasons, I think, for our success was because everything was written with the artist in mind.  When we wrote a story for a particular artist, we knew what he was strong with, so we looked for a story that would fit him.
FELDSTEIN:  For example, if Bill had a plot that involved a husband and a luscious looking wife, we knew that wasn't for Ghastly.
QUESTION:  I'd just like to know...
GAINES:  I've got to hear this.  Every once in a while we call on him just to find out what he's up to.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  The funny thing is I just forgot my question.  [Laughter, applause]
GAINES:  You couldn't beat that one.
VOICE:  There's a woman back here..  .
GAINES:  A woman! [Applause]
QUESTION:  I'd like to know if you had any female readers back in the fifties.
GAINES:  Oh yes, absolutely - Marie.  [laughter] Well, we had a lot of girls, but I'm sure it was predominantly boys.  It was probably three to one, I would estimate.  Mad today has a similar problem; I'd guess it was about two to one.
QUESTION:  Could you explain the photos you were pushing at one point? Were they real photos?
GAINES:  Is Paul Kast here? No? I'd hoped the guy who took them would be here.  We had an office boy whose name was Paul Kast.  He was also a friend of mine, which is why he was the office boy.  That's the closest I get to...hiring relatives and friends and things.  He was working his way through law school, or something.  And he conceived this idea of taking these photographs and selling them.  This was all his project.  We had nothing to do with it.  But we cooperated with him to the following extent.  Johnny Craig posed for all three pictures.  Al Feldstein made up Johnny for the pictures, and Paul took the pictures.  Then he had them reproduced and we allowed him to sell them through our books at NO apiece, three for a quarter.  And I understand it paid for two years of college for him.  [laughter] I just found out that Roger Hill has obtained from Johnny Craig something like 16 photographs of Al Feldstein making up Johnny Craig as these three characters.  You'll get them in the next issue of Squa Tront.
QUESTION:  Are you familiar with the story "Judgment Day"? [laughter]
GAINES:  I've heard tell of it.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  Could you tell about the...
GAINES:  Would you go over and sit with him? [laughter] We answered that question already.
QUESTION:  I'd like to direct this to Wally Wood and Marie Severin.  Which is the better medium for horror:  color, or black and white?
WOOD:  The National Lampoon, I'd say.  [laughter] I think I preferred black and white.
SEVERIN:  Well, Graham drew like a painter, and his black and white demanded color and it demanded distinctive color to come out right.
QUESTION:  Could each artist say what was their favorite story that they worked on?
SEVERIN:  I don't remember stories.  Craig's, they were all interesting to do.  They were good.  But I can't remember any titles.
WOOD:  Does this have to be a horror story?
QUESTION:  No.
WOOD:  I don't know, I sort of liked the one where the girl got married to an alien who clouded her mind.
VOICES:  "Spawn of Mars."
DAVIS:  I think the Mad story was the one, "The Lone Stranger." In the horror, it was about a fellow in the swamps down south with a club.
VOICES:  "Country Clubbing." 
DAVIS:  I don't even remember the title.
GAINES:  "Country Clubbing"? That's a good title.  [laughter.]
EVANS:  I don't recall the title either, but it was one of Al's stories about a browbeaten little English husband wearing a derby hat all the time, and he finally disposed of his wife the way Al's people always dispose of their wives. I really can't...the titles don't stay in my mind. 
QUESTION:  I know what Marie and Jack are doing.  I'd like to know what Wally and George have been doing lately.
WOOD:  I've been doing some advertising.  I have two comic strips now, which only appear in The Overseas Weekly for the armed forces.  And I've been doing something for the underground press.
EVANS:  I've been doing just about anything I can come up with including illustrating a couple of books, flying sort of stuff which has been a long-time hobby of mine, and spots for this, that and everything else.  The big thing is I've been working as a ghost for the daily pages of one of the newspaper comic strips.
QUESTION:  Which one?
EVANS:  Terry and the Pirates.
QUESTION:  Mr.  Wood, you've done all different kinds of comics.  Which do you really like to do best?
WOOD:  I don't really know.  I love science fiction, because I was a big science fiction fan; that was all I read.  Right now...wait till you see my things for the underground press; you're not going to believe that.
GAINES:  I think a clue to what Wally likes to do is what he did when he was doing Witzend, because there he had a chance to do anything he damn pleased.  I think Wally really likes fantasy.
QUESTION:  Mr.  Wood, in Witzend #6 you ran your story "Spawn of Venus," the 3-D story.  And you said it was one of the big money losers of all time.  Would you mind telling how come?
WOOD:  Oh, yes.  I remember what Bill paid for that; it was like half again what his normal page rates were.  But besides drawing it, you had the technical problem of figuring how these things were going to overlap.  The safest way to do that was to draw every figure complete, even the ones that were behind other figures.  Then you had to opaque them like cell, paint every figure white in behind, so my whole apartment, the floors, the sofa, the chairs, everything, was covered.  And this stuff didn't dry! [laughter] It was a job!
QUESTION:  Mr.  Evans, how come all the characters you drew always had moustaches just like yours? [laughter] Was that subconscious?
EVANS:  It really was; I didn't know...[laughter] I didn't have one so I drew them with moustaches.  Now I have one you see everybody clean shaven if I do any of that sort of thing.
GAINES:  I think we should break up now, but before we go I want to tell you that' preceding the Tales from the Crypt film this afternoon are two surprises.
About ten years ago we had to sue a general in Oklahoma who said that Mad was the most insidious propaganda in support of the communist cause that he had ever read.  And we were in trouble in Oklahoma.  So we sued him, and he retracted.  What nobody knows is that I have the television film of him saying it, so you will see today the first public presentation in ten years of Brig.  Gen.  Clyde Watts calling Mad communistic.  [Applause] When I was in Russia in 1968...[laughter] I had a wonderful visit at the Krokodil offices, which is roughly the Russian Mad.  And I was talking to four Krokodil editors, and I wanted to make it very clear to them at the outset that I was not a Communist.  This was after we had discussed our circulations, and one of the guys said, "With a two million circulation, I wouldn't think you'd be a Communist." [laughter]
The second surprise is a film called The Fisherman.  This is a funny story.  Al Feldstein many years ago got a plot and sat down and wrote a story called "Gone ...Fishing" and Jack Davis illustrated it.  One day I was sitting in the Coronet Theater and this little short comes on, and I start watching this thing, and as it unfolds I'm getting this funny feeling in my stomach that I've seen this somewhere before, and then all of a sudden I said, "Oh, no, it couldn't be," and sure enough the end comes, and of course it's Al's snap ending, which I'm not going to tell you.  And I say, "YAHH!" you know, and go running to my attorney.  [laughter] Of course, I've stolen so many things I wasn't that mad [laughter] , but I thought that Al and I should get credit.  So we made a deal with Columbia Pictures, who was distributing it, that they would put Al's and my name on as writers, and they would give us two free prints, one for Al and one for me.  So you will see that print today.
HARVEY KURTZMAN:  We've only got one live mike here. 
DAVIS:  It's war surplus.
QUESTION:  Was your story "The Big If" supposed to be protesting war?
KURTZMAN:  All our stories really protested war.  I don't think we thought war was very nice generally.  The whole mood of our stories was that war isn't a good thing.  You get killed.  And "The Big If" is about a soldier who happens by coincidence to be in a certain place at a certain time and a shell explodes.  He could have been several places, but he just happens to stop and gets killed.  That's the way war is; you get killed suddenly for no reason.
QUESTION:  There was an early story where the airplanes come in and strike in Korea, and there's a big patriotic speech at the end.  And to me it seemed a very false note.  Someone told me that that was done in order to get your war books on the stands at Army posts, at which point the Army censor would no longer look at the books but you had the books on the stands.
KURTZMAN:  Not true.  We never had a problem with getting the war books on the Army posts and we never wrote anything to tailor the books for the Army.  Right, Bill?
GAINES:  No.  In an issue of Mad about 1958 Dave Berg did a story where he suggested that wars should be accomplished by just pitting a few athletic people on one side against the other - or else playing ping-pong matches, or playing chess.  This had a little trouble with the PX's; we were banned on that one.  But I don't recall any trouble with your war comics.
QUESTION:  Do you know the story I'm referring to? It used phrases like, "As long as we are on the side of The Good," with capital letters.  It seemed like the only false note in any of those stories, which usually treated the enemy as human beings, which was an amazing thing in the middle of the Korean war.
KURTZMAN:  I think I remember the story.  But frankly I don't remember the patriotic speech.  I think there was a story where we talked about the efficacy of mechanical things, weapons, planes that a technological country like ours has.  That's as far as my memory goes.
QUESTION:  In Frontline Combat #4 there's a story "Combat Medic" where the Korean troops speak Korean.  Is that authentic Korean?
KURTZMAN:  Yes, it was.  As a matter of fact I remember badgering Jack on that story.  I think we got a standard medical kit with all the tools, and I would say to Jack, "You've gotta have a suture here and a gauze pad here." Remember that? And I went to the Korean consulate for the language, so it was as authentic as we could make it.
QUESTION:  What are they saying? [laughter]
KURTZMAN:  Funny thing; I can repeat the Korean, but I can't remember what it means.  I think it was like "Potrzebie." [laughter]
WILL ELDER:  If you'd read the titles on the bottom of the page...did you notice them?
QUESTION:  From time to time, yes.
KURTZMAN:  He's lying.  There were never...It was something like, "Eyoro kill kassus." I think it meant something like, "I'm hungry."
ELDER:  You insulted my wife.  [laughter]
KURTZMAN:  Everybody knows this is Will Elder.  He's slightly mad.
ELDER:  Slightly Mad's another magazine.  It's a smaller magazine.
KURTZMAN:  He's slightly Annie Fanny.  Very slightly.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  When you said in your comics, "This is a true story," were those always true?
KURTZMAN:  When I said it, it was true.
QUESTION:  Could you rap on that a bit - the ways you'd talk to veterans.
KURTZMAN:  I think that we can all probably talk about it.  When I started thinking about the problems involved in doing the stories, I'd send Jerry De Fuccio on assignments to pick up material.  And Jerry can probably tell you about the trip when he went down in a submarine, and when we sent him up in a rocket.
JERRY DE FUCCIO:  Jack Davis was doing a story called "Silent Service".  Harvey asked me, "What do you know about submarines?" So I said, "I only have a six foot shelf on submarines at home." And Harvey said, "That isn't enough.  You're going to New London, Connecticut.  You're going to the sub base and you're going to get a lot of information.  I want you to come home with sound effects:  the sound of the claxon, the diving bell and the supper chimes." So I went up there and the public information officer was under the impression that I was to go out on the USS Guardfish, the training sub.  I figured that this was a little wrinkle that Harvey had planned for me, so we went out in the Long Island Sound.  We submerged, and it was quite fascinating.
Harvey wasn't very trusting.  He said, "When you get up to New London, give me a phone call." So instead, I sent him a telegram that read, "Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep, glub glub." It was really a fascinating tour.  But the trouble with doing these stories was that you'd get all wrapped up in the history of the Alamo, and you almost had no desire to go on to the next topic, which was some other distant far away war or battle.
WOOD:  How about the dumbo; you took a trip in the dumbo.
KURTZMAN:  I took a trip in the dumbo.  Wally is talking about a story that I wrote and Wally drew, about Grumman amphibious rescue planes and I went up in a plane.  And when I got out to the airfield, they strapped a parachute on my back.  We took off in a sea plane; it was very thrilling.  And I kept saying, "Why the parachute?" We were well over the water by that time, and they said, "Well, this actually isn't an ordinary flight; we're test flying the plane, because every time we sell an airplane we have to test it out.  So we put a parachute on you in case things happen." They shut off one engine.  Then they shut off the second engine.  And like that.  And I think it was then that I decided to get an assistant.  From that point forward, Jerry started going up in the airplanes.
Have we exhausted ourselves on our research experiences?
DE FUCCIO:  I knew I was a real veteran when I was given a cast iron model of a Mauser to bring to Wally's house in Forest Hills, and I was on a crowded subway platform and it fell out of the paper bag.  [laughter] And I picked it up very casually, and then I knew that I was..  .
KURTZMAN:  Did you ever try to pull the trigger? It wasn't cast iron.  Your assignment was to go to Wally and kill! [laughter] He was late for a deadline.
QUESTION:  In reference to stories like the one on the amphibious rescue plane, which was interesting factually and all of that, but it came toward the end, as opposed to the beginning when you had these incredibly grisly anti-war stories portraying war as something really terrible.  Was that a conscious decision, or is that just the way things worked out?
KURTZMAN:  You probably sense something that in fact was true.  There was a certain amount of complicity with the Air Force in the airplane story.  That is, we wanted to do stories on the planes themselves, the technology of this or that plane.  And we'd go to the Air Force and try to do a technological story as well as a human story.  You sense the fact that we were working with a machine rather than with people as we might in one of our "people" war stories, where we'd work on the level of a GI, a single soldier having an experience in combat.
DE FUCCIO:  There's a later story called "Sailor" about a Navy medic which was pretty damn grisly.  I think Wally drew that.
WOOD:  No, I think Jack Davis drew that.
QUESTION:  But on the whole it seems that the editorial policy of the war books changed from a really cynical look at the institution of war to one of giving credit to all these guys doing a brave job.  I'm not trying to bring up a moral question, but it's an interesting change.
KURTZMAN:  There was no conscious ...There was a point where we changed the system of doing the issues, and I'm sure that's reflected in the contents late along in the line.  But always consciously our main theme was to talk about war, to tell about war like it was.  I was always conscious of that purpose.  But we were constantly experimenting with different kinds of stories.  [There is an outbreak of coughing on the podium.] One of our panel is dying.  
QUESTION:  This has been bothering me for about 15 years….
KURTZMAN:  I'd see a doctor if I were you.  [laughter; applause.] Does that answer your question?
QUESTION:  I don't know who drew it, but do you suppose that the aeolipile could be construed as a modern weapon of warfare?
KURTZMAN:  That gentleman picked up something out of our Mad comics.  Do you know that they took aeolipile out of the modern Webster dictionary? Does anyone not know what an aeolipile is?
ELDER:  Haemorrhoids, with something around it.
KURTZMAN:  What's that got to do with our war panel?
QUESTION:  Did you ever, get caught up in one particular historical period when you were writing the war stories? Did you prefer one over another?
KURTZMAN:  Well, we got into the Civil War thing.  It was a favorite project of mine.  We were hot to do the story of the Civil War from front to back.  I think we almost reached Gettysburg and then quit.
WOOD:  We did Gettysburg; we did that first.
KURTZMAN:  No, we didn't do Gettysburg first did we?
DE FUCCIO:  Sumter was first.
KURTZMAN:  Sumter? What do you mean, Sumter?? Excuse us folks.  We may have a little fight up here.
WOOD:  Gettysburg was the first story.
KURTZMAN:  We started the series trying to highlight the most vital personalities in the war, and then the opening shot at Fort Sumter, if I'm not mistaken.  But we did Lincoln, Grant and Lee in separate issues.  I think the very first story was Lincoln.   
HOWARD CHAYKIN:  Knowing John Severin's politics at the time... [laughter]…everyone's been talking about that...
KURTZMAN:  I think you ought to address that question to his sister.  Marie Severin, stand up.  [Applause.] Marie used to color our war comics.
CHAYKIN:  Really?
KURTZMAN:  She was the best.  And she would share the aggravation of authenticity with us.
SEVERIN:  I certainly did.
KURTZMAN:  If she didn't get the color right she had to do double time around the parade ground with a rifle.  And you asked?
CHAYKIN:  You didn't let me finish the beginning of the question.  It seemed that because of the anti-war tone of the book, Severin did more historical stories, like the Tubridy stories.  Did he object to doing stories that were, if not blatantly, apparently subtly against war?
KURTZMAN:  John had a great feeling for history.  He was a collector of costumes and war memorabilia, and he was just the best war history nut going that I knew of.  And so he came quite naturally to historical war stories.  He was fantastically good, and still is, at historical costumes and weapons.  I think Marie'll attest to that.
CHAYKIN:  Did he actually have any objection to doing a story that was...you know....
KURTZMAN:  Well, I think we have that problem with all artists.  You always have that problem in writers working with artists, where they very often don't see eye to eye with you and they have feelings about it.  No two people think alike.  I'm sure John had objections.  I'm sure that at one time or another we all had objections.  Right, gang?
QUESTION:  Could you compare your war books to the current war comics, especially DC, with its "Make war no more."
KURTZMAN:  Maybe someone else here is up on what they're doing today.  Frankly, I'm not.
WOOD:  I've seen that, Harvey.  It's Sgt.  Rock in "War is Fun," and at the very last panel is this little blurb that they stick on, "Make war no more." He'll kill thousands of Germans, but.
QUESTION:  In the story "War Machines" the soldier is portrayed as a fighting machine.  They had to take a mountain and they went in and cleaned it out like the good machine.  John Severin lent a certain strength and almost mechanized movement to the figures, in contrast to your art in "The Big If, " which created a very human, almost pathetic, character.  And I wondered if this was intentional, if you gave a story of that type to Severin, and a more...
KURTZMAN:  I'm sure that various strips were given to various artists because of the relationship to their ability, or their enthusiasm, to do that kind of story.  But in the two stories you mentioned, the focus of attention was different.  In "The Big If," the attention was on a personality, a human being, and the fact that he loses his life.  And it's a very tragic event, because you recognize him as a person.  The other story was about machinery.
QUESTION:  No, it was about the foot soldier as a piece of machinery.
KURTZMAN:  Well, I think i made the point that machines are very important to battles today, but in the end it's the human being who's really the most significant factor, and I think that's borne out by Viet Nam today.  You don't win wars with machinery; you win them with people on the ground.  But in that particular story there was no room really to concentrate on the people we were talking about.  I think the point was made that the soldier is the most important one of a series of weapons.  There was no intention to make the soldier appear mechanical or a non-person.  But unfortunately that's the point that came across to you, I see.  But it served the purposes of the story, and I don't feel guilty about it.
QUESTION:  This is not to open old wounds, but...
KURTZMAN:  Oh, oh, here it comes...
QUESTION:  I'd like to know how the individual artists felt working with the very strict layouts.
KURTZMAN:  I'd like to hear that, too.
DAVIS:  I don't know.  I think the end product came out pretty good - the detail and all.  There's a lot of people that appreciate detail and there's a lot of people that don't.  Once, you do something you like it to be authentic.  Where doing the horror books you didn't have to be authentic, this was something that you'd like for it to come across as true, and Harvey felt very strongly about truth - the way the weapons worked and everything.  We did the best we could, and I enjoyed it.  It wasn't that bad.  I'd hate to do it all the time.
ELDER:  Harvey was a very good talker.  In the early stages of the war comics he would sit down with most of the artists and describe the story to them panel by panel, and he'd go through the sound effects.  He'd say, "This guy is holding a gun and he lets go a blast, BRRRRAOWW!" And I said, "My God, you ought to put yourself on a record." And before you knew it you got very absorbed in the story and it became very interesting.
KURTZMAN:  BHLOOH! BHOOM! AKAKAKAKAK! [laughter]
ELDER:  Yes dear, I'll be home in a minute.  And so you got so absorbed in the story because of Harvey's descriptions that eventually you saw the thing laid out as he described it, and before you knew it you were very much involved.  I found it very interesting.
EVANS:  The first thing I did for Harvey was the story of Napoleon and Harvey wanted me to draw every one of Napoleon's troops, and every one of the Austrians, the Prussians, the Russians and everything else.  And he had taken the time...
KURTZMAN:  Uh uh.  Not every one.
EVANS:  Complete with uniforms and name tags.
KURTZMAN:  All I wanted was half the Napoleonic army, not all of it.  We didn't have enough room in the panel.  You didn't have to draw their feet.
EVANS:  I drew little dots; but Harvey had meticulously done all those before that.  I think he knew every man's name that was in it.
KURTZMAN:  You'd better believe it.
EVANS:  So I just decided that I didn't have about five or six years to put into this, and I did it with variations on his tight layouts.  I didn't work for Harvey for a little over a year or so, and John Severin had done a story of something about flying in World War I, and we were out having dinner together, and Harvey and his desire for authenticity came up, and somebody commented on it, and I said, "Fine, but he had a couple of mistakes." And from that point on ...heh heh.
KURTZMAN:  I had a couple of mistakes??
EVANS:  The story had a couple of mistakes in it. 
KURTZMAN:  All these many years, and you choose to tell me now? I had a couple of mistakes??
EVANS:  You did...you did...I agreed then to do those air stories.  After, I think, you vowed never to have another Evans drawing in your pages.
KURTZMAN:  Wait a minute.  Who made the mistakes? You made the mistakes!
EVANS:  No, no, no.  I corrected them.
KURTZMAN:  I made the mistakes??
EVANS [flustered]:  Well, the point was, this story ...heh heh.
KURTZMAN:  YOU'RE FIRED!! [laughter]
EVANS:  Anyway, at a given point I began working for Harvey again.  He had put all this time and effort and so on into his meticulous layouts, and we would go over them and he would explain what he had in mind.  And even though I didn't have it in mind, I drew it the way Harvey wanted…for the most part.  But every now and again Harvey looked distressed, but we got on pretty well.
KURTZMAN:  Listen, we did that Immelman turn.  We drew the Immelman turn, hah?
EVANS:  About those mistakes.  You want to go into the Immelman turn? That's not a dance step, the Immelman turn. 
KURTZMAN:  We're saving the best for last; Wally?
WOOD:  Actually, what Harvey would do was not just write the story, but give us layouts for every panel…
EVANS:  ...and every man in every panel…
WOOD:  ...which I didn't feel…
KURTZMAN:  Just because I gave you a diagram on where to go to the bathroom during the coffee break, you didn't have to get sore.  Chees!
WOOD:  ...and I can honestly say that most of the time it didn't make any trouble, because that's about the way I would have done it anyway.  [laughter] But there were times when I changed Harvey's layouts, right?
KURTZMAN:  The skeletons in the closet are all coming out.  Yeah, we used to talk about this all the time, and in my own defense I must point out that all of these guys were the greatest cartoonists of that particular period - and today - and as such they were all very strong individuals.  I, too, have my own individuality, and it had to clash.  The fact that we did get along as well as we did I think was amazing, because we did overlap so much, and if we weren't on the same wavelengths, we'd really be stepping on each other's toes.  But I don't think we had that much friction, and I think it's a tribute to the particular guys here.  They were an unusually easy group to work with.  I've worked with a lot of people in my time, and these four are some of the best.
QUESTION:  What was the thinking behind the format change from Two-Fisted Tales to the New Two-Fisted Tales, when it went to espionage, etc.?
KURTZMAN:  Well, very simply I think I stopped doing Two-Fisted Tales.  That is, I stopped writing the stories, and we started experimenting with new story arrangements.  I was moving on to other things.  
Mr.  Gaines, the father of us all.
GAINES:  My recollection of what happened there was that you no longer had the time for Two-Fisted Tales because Mad went monthly, and secondly, the Korean war being over, the war books stopped selling as such, and we dropped Frontline Combat and we converted Two-Fisted Tales into an adventure book
VOICE:  Actually, it just reverted back to its…
KURTZMAN:  Yeah.  When we'd originally started Two-Fisted Tales, the concept was we were going to do blood and thunder tales and rip-roaring adventure.
QUESTION:  Harvey, in most of the stories you drew yourself I noticed there was an absence of a lot of color.  A panel would be only one or two colors.  Was this a direction on your part to the colorist, and why did you choose to do it that way? I personally liked the more varied colors like in the voodoo story in the second issue of Two-Fisted Tales.
KURTZMAN:  The voodoo story?
VOICE:  The one that was stolen.
KURTZMAN:  Stolen??
VOICE:  Inspired…
KURTZMAN: I don't know what he's talking about.
EVANS:  Genius is when you know how to be inspired and rise above the original, right?
KURTZMAN:  Right.  Anyhow, we started experimenting with color.  Color had been pretty slapdash, without any overall plan or system.  The color would generally be out of our hands; it'd be done at the engravers.  And sometimes we wanted the color to do special things.  A case in point was in one airplane story.  When airplanes were ready below deck in aircraft carriers, the below decks was bathed in red light; the condition was always red down below there.  And we wanted that, so we used a monotone of red.  I think my absolute favorite color story was the one that Jack did, where the whole thing was in blacks and blues.  It was a night bombing mission where the B-26 takes off in the dark and bombs in the dark and comes back in the dark, and we did it all in blues and little pinpoints of yellow.  That was really exciting to me, the fact that it wasn't color everywhere.  I didn't miss it.
QUESTION:  In devoting such a major portion of your time for several years to writing stories about war, from the beginning of the first Two-Fisted Tales to the end of the period, did your own viewpoint of war, or any of the facets of it, change, and if so, how?
KURTZMAN:  It didn't affect me LOOK OUT!! No ...I was pretty much against war, and I still think it's a dreadful business, and I haven't ever felt any differently.  I just think it's a terrible blight that visits us again and again, and it's something that we could well do without.  It's unfortunate that we haven't figured a way out of wars.
DE FUCCIO:  Harvey, when you first went into the service, you had an experience.  They were tearing up an old barracks and there were these rats' nests there, and these men went wild and they were clubbing these rats to death, and that made a terrible impression on you.
KURTZMAN:  Jerry really hauls them out of the cellar.  Well, I'd forgotten that little episode in my life.  But the cruelty of that moment where we did discover rats under that barracks...the little animals running in every direction, and there's this platoon of guys just having a wild old time smashing them ...was to me an example of man's irreverence to...
VOICE:  …to rats.
KURTZMAN:  Yes, even rats.  I just had a very strong feeling that if mankind did have more of a reverence for life that possibly we'd have less killing.
SEVERIN:  Is that the extent of your war experience?
KURTZMAN:  Well, I can tell you about some wild times in Galveston, but that's not what we came here for.  As a matter of fact, I think that Wally and Willy really had the war experiences, and Jack got out of the country a lot more than I did.  I think Jack was in China.  Willy was in the Battle of the Bulge.  Wally was in the Murmansk Run.  And George was flying with the Richtofen squad.
EVANS:  I was in the flying training command. 
KURTZMAN:  And I was in the pearl divers - the dishwashers platoon.  I did a lot of KP.
QUESTION:  Do you have any thoughts on Blazing Combat, which got squelched?
VOICE:  What do you mean, "Got squelched?"
QUESTION:  I'm not familiar with…
KURTZMAN:  Not a thought in my head.
ELDER:  You're not familiar with a thought in your head? [laughter]
QUESTION:  ...the details on that.  Apparently they weren't well distributed, or banned from PX's, or something, because of the anti-Viet Nam stories they had before that was popular.
EVANS:  I did one or two pages of fillers for them.  I knew the sales were not good, but I didn't know that it was due to distribution problems.
WOOD:  I'm sure that's not it.  War comics just don't sell.
QUESTION:  In retrospect it seems that you were doing anti-war stories.  At the time you were doing them, was that apparent to your readership? Did you get any reactions to that type of story?
KURTZMAN:  No, we never got into that.  I think simply because our - or certainly my - point of view is:  I don't regard myself as a man who pushes specific opinions or strong points of view.  I like to think that I spend my time trying to describe what's true and what is, and to describe it as well as I can.  And that's what the research was all about; that's what going down in submarines was all about; and when I did "human" stories on particular soldiers, that's why I talked to soldiers, and asked them...Do you mean, "Did the readers miss the point?"
QUESTION:  Did they think you were trying to do something else? Did you get angry letters from people?
 KURTZMAN:  Well the readers always think all kinds of things.  But generally we never had trouble with readers, or censorship, or...I don't think we made people mad, generally speaking.  But you never know what the audience is thinking.  I never tried to make my audience think any one thing.  The audience to me is a great unpredictable beast.
EVANS:  That's a very good question, if I understand what you're saying, and I think my answer to it would be that things are colored by the times you live in, and there was no real push at the time as to whether people were really anti-war or pro-war.  And so the stories were taken pretty much as entertainment.  From what mail I saw, you were more likely to get a criticism that you had the wrong unit badges or something of that sort.  Nowadays, everything, you realize, everything is considered propaganda! At the time there may have been some leaning in that direction, but I don't think it reached down to the people that were reading the sort of thing we did.  If you’ll recall, at the time other magazines all the way up to the very high-price slicks were publishing war stories, some reasonably anti-war and some real gung-ho, and either people accepted it as entertainment or ignored it.  And I think that's the way it was with us.  As I say, your big criticisms were if you had the wrong cap on somebody, or this particular rifle wasn't yet used.  But in the light of our time we think everything has a message.
I don't think the stories that were assigned to me carried a message, other than those that were biographical, when Harvey was really reflecting the person's point of view.  For instance, he took Immelman who was a German flyer and an extremely arrogant man who believed that the Kaiser was next to, or maybe above God if it came to that.  And Harvey put him across that way as a man who was doing what he considered the Kaiser's and God's will and the fact that he was killing people didn't bother him.  And that's the way Harvey presented the story.  You got an excellent picture of Immelman without moralizing.  And if anyone chose to take anything out of it, he was really looking below or above levels that we were working on.
DE FUCCIO:  Harvey did emphasize that the enemy was human.  He showed that they had kids, and pictures in their wallets and all that, just as the Americans did.
KURTZMAN:  The enemy had problems, too.
DE FUCCIO:  They were really compassionate war stories, I think.
EVANS:  But not propaganda.
KURTZMAN:  That's it.  I personally don't like propagandizing from either end.  I don't like to have it come at me, and I don't like to dish it out.
QUESTION:  In your considered opinion, who was the best artist who worked for you? [laughter]
KURTZMAN:  That's an easy question to answer, because everybody sitting here is remarkable in his own special way…I'm lying - I'll tell you later.
QUESTION:  The first issue of Two-Fisted Tales, #18, was edited by Al Feldstein, as I understand.  You started editorship with #19, right?
KURTZMAN:  I literally edited from the beginning.  There may have been a technicality of the credits, but…
QUESTION:  I was wondering who scripted the stories in #18.  You did an Aztec story, "Conquest." Did you script your own story?
KURTZMAN:  Yes.  I think you're right; I think Al was involved in the first issue.
QUESTION:  Wally's story was on a South American revolution.
KURTZMAN:  That's right! God, that's right! How do you remember all this?
QUESTION:  I just bought the issue.  It cost me $30. 
KURTZMAN:  I killed the rats… [laughter]
QUESTION:  "Hong Kong Intrigue" was drawn by Feldstein.  Who scripted that?
KURTZMAN:  That was probably Al.
DE FUCCIO:  That must be Al's.  He did The Yellow Claw later on for one issue.
QUESTION:  I was wondering if y'all would like to talk about the Civil War issues.  They were the ones I liked best.  It was too bad you couldn't continue the series.
KURTZMAN:  I think Jack was the first artist on those, so why don't we hear from him.
DAVIS:  The only thing I know is that Harvey is very good with his research, and [the microphone emits a piercing screech]…
VOICE:  It's a Yankee microphone.
DAVIS:  …and the South really won the war, that's all there is to it.  [laughter]
KURTZMAN:  I thought Jack'd bring that up.  We've been trying to tell him...the South didn't win the war.
DAVIS:  The stories I did were pro-Southern.
KURTZMAN:  Yeah.  We put Jack on the pro-Southern stories and we put Wally on the anti-Southern stories.
WOOD:  You had me do "Gettysburg." "Gettysburg" was the first Civil War story you ran.  We did that about a year before you started the series.
KURTZMAN:  Maybe I wasn't so accurate in my stuff after all.  I'm being caught in inaccuracies right and left here.  Well, it's possible.
WOOD:  No, I'm sure of it, because I went to Gettysburg and I came back and I started to work on the story.  We had no idea of a series then.
KURTZMAN:  Now, wait a minute…we did a separate Civil War story.  You're right.  But it wasn't a part of the series.
QUESTION:  Did you enjoy doing Two-Fisted Tales more than The Haunt of Fear, where the stories were just made up? Did you enjoy getting the facts?
KURTZMAN:  Yeah.  And I enjoyed it for the reason that I tried to express before.  I enjoyed thinking that I was telling little known true stories.  It was the truth stories that I was interested in putting down on paper; vignettes of truth.
QUESTION:  Do you see any possibility of an adventure comic coming out today, geared towards adults?
KURTZMAN:  It's always possible.  As a matter of fact, if you look at the European comic books, they're doing fantastic things on an adult level, beautiful cartoons.  It's always possible, sure.  It's being done even as we speak.
QUESTION:  The people on the horror panel were pretty pessimistic about it.
KURTZMAN:  There's always pessimism.  Then a guy comes along and does it, and then the pessimism vanishes.
EVANS:  If you're really buffs of this sort of thing, the Civil War, the historical aspects, and so on, there are all kinds of societies which put out a great deal of very accurate information and material.  There are Civil War clubs, which publish journals, Revolutionary War clubs, and, of course, John Severin belongs to the American Historical Society, which puts out plates and whatnot, and there are two aviation societies which put out extremely accurate information.  So anybody who's a real buff of this stuff…
QUESTION:  Did the war comics ever play a part or were they mentioned in the hearings concerning horror comics?
KURTZMAN:  I really don't remember.
EVANS:  There was this much; whether they were involved in the senate hearings or not, they came under the Comics Code thing, and it became impossible to do anything, because there were such idiotic things as, for example, if you had a ship explode with silhouettes of six bodies being blown up off the deck, they'd come up with the idea of taking three out to minimize the violence by half.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  Was there an outline or a regular script that the artist would follow when doing a story?
KURTZMAN:  It was already lettered when the artist would draw it, if I'm not mistaken.
WOOD:  Yeah.
QUESTION:  You said something earlier about pictures right on the pages.
WOOD:  The overlays; you used to do them on the overlays.
KURTZMAN:  Yeah, we'd storyboard the story, and then the letterer would put the lettering right in on the unfinished art.
QUESTION:  Did you use a typewriter?
KURTZMAN:  No.  I couldn't use a typewriter - only with a pencil, like this [demonstrates].
VOICE:  I think while he was working on it, he was rubbing across the page with his elbow.
QUESTION:  On the team of Severin and Elder, how did you split up your duties?
ELDER:  John Severin was a remarkable artist as far as drawing uniforms, soldiers.  He had a great sense of history; it was his hobby as I pointed out earlier.  I didn't.  I was more of a humorist; I never could get into that corner of it while working on the war stories.  Eventually it did come along.  John was very facile at that type of work.  Now, John at that time didn't have the ability to dramatize it in black and white, and I did.  I had a little experience doing that; in fact, that was my facility.  John was a marvellous artist, had great historical background, and drew very rapidly.  And there was always a time element involved.  I was very fast with the inking and dramatization of the stories, and together we seemed to work very well and very rapidly.  And this thing had to be out, you know; deadlines don't wait for anyone.
QUESTION:  Did the other artists pencil and ink their own work?
KURTZMAN:  Pretty much.  It's always good if the guy handles the whole thing.  The more you handle yourself, the more artistic the product is, because you have more control.  I think we're running out of questions.  And we just got word that the whole place blows up in ...Yes, from the kid there.  A three year old kid.  You weren't around when we were doing comic books.
QUESTION:  Mr.  Elder, how come you didn't do more horror stories like "Strop, You're Killing Me"?
ELDER:  I think it was kind of against my grain.  I never dug that type of bag.  As I mentioned before, I'm a humorist.  I love humor; it's the only way I can express myself.  I think each one of us here can express himself in a certain avenue of art, and this is my strongest point.  Now, why do anything less than that; it'd only be foolish.  So until Mad came along, which was just right for me, I worked in horror because it was making a living.  It's as simple as that.  It wasn't so simple sometimes.
QUESTION:  How did you decide which topics to get into, editorially?
KURTZMAN:  Well, at one time we had a policy that we'd do two contemporary stories and two historical stories, something like that.  A very crude division.  We'd try to do one from the past, one from the present, and one from the middle.  Does that make sense?
QUESTION:  I was wondering, have you ever done any work in films?
KURTZMAN:  As a matter of fact, there's a film you can see me in this very week.  I'm in a Scripto commercial.  I want you to know that after all these years I've wound up selling pencils.  [laughter] And that's the extent of my film career.
QUESTION:  I thought that since writing and editing a comic book is similar in many ways to directing a film...
KURTZMAN:  Similar in many ways, but film is a whole different thing.  It's like, everybody used to say, "Why doesn't Will Eisner film?" And you know, we devote our lives to our particular thing, and the fact that we do something that barely relates to films doesn't mean that we're entitled to then jump into films.  It's really not that simple, because you have to devote yourself to whatever you're in.  Yes, the gentleman over there.
QUESTION:  Didn't you...you go first...
KURTZMAN:  Actually I meant the other one.   
QUESTION:  What about the animated film that's on TV tonight, Mad Monster Party?
VOICES:   Right.
KURTZMAN [groans and clutches his throat]:  Well, I think I'll go home now folks.  I wrote for them like one evening and made about $3,000, and then they threw it all out the window and they put my name on it.  It's totally irrelevant to anything I do or did.
QUESTION:  When is your book coming out?
KURTZMAN:  We're scheduled to publish this year, but the publishing date seems to be elusive.  It advances in front of me.
QUESTION:  What gave you the idea to write a history of comics? [laughter]
KURTZMAN:  I suddenly got this incredible original inspiration.  [laughter] Well, it started out that a publishing company asked me to do it, and...can't we talk about girls, or something?
QUESTION:  Where did you get your pictorial research information, to make the war stories so accurate?
DAVIS:  I usually let EC supply the material for me; Jerry did the research.  And I have a library of books on pistols and shotguns and things of this sort.
KURTZMAN:  Yeah, it's pretty cut and dried.  I used to go to the Army and get lots of catalogues.  [In confidential tones] I've got a collection of restricted catalogues, let me tell you.  Talk about the Pentagon Papers...if they knew about my catalogues.  You get information from training manuals, catalogues, newspapers, Life magazine.  I had a live hand grenade sitting in the middle of my studio.
Any techniques I haven't covered? Fascinating bits of information, right folks? I think this may be a good time to break it up.
GAINES:  Well, you've got the heart and meat of the whole EC science fiction people right here.  With the exception of Feldstein, who wrote it and did some covers, these are the three science fiction greats, and I'm delighted that all three of them were able to make this panel.  Because this is it; I mean, there ain't no more.  Wally Wood, I guess, was the dean, and the first of the science fiction artists to come to EC.  And Wally kind of brought Joe and Al along with him.  And this was it.  So let's just throw it right open to questions.   
That was the quickest panel in the history of comic cons.
QUESTION:  Bill, is Al going to be here later? [laughter]
GAINES:  I'm afraid Al Feldstein has left us for the glories of his home on the lake somewhere.
QUESTION:  What about The National Lampoon? [laughter]
QUESTION:  You once answered a letter that dealt with a story about vivisection to the effect that the stories weren't written to make any moral point.  But all of the stories seemed to have some teaching purpose in the sense of making us more aware.  Toward the end of the science fiction books, the stories, it seemed to me, became very obviously morally oriented toward anti-war.  Earth was always being isolated by the rest of the universe because of its war-making capacities.  Was that a conscious editorial decision?
GAINES:  Yes.  If we ever answered a letter that we were not trying to teach anything with our science fiction stories, we were lying.  I don't remember any such answer to a letter, but if you say we did it, we did it.  On the contrary, science fiction traditionally has been a great vehicle for an author to try to teach a moral or ethical lesson, and we certainly were doing that throughout the entire history of EC's science fiction stuff.  And if we said differently, I can't imagine why we did, except that we thought it was good business to say it or something, I don't know.  As for the second part of what you said, it wasn't so much an anti-war stand as probably a belief on my part at that time that People Are No Damn Good.  This was a well known strain that you'd see running through a lot of science fiction stories, that the whole galaxy was so disgusted with Man that they would isolate him.  "Don't let him out of where he's coming from, 'cause he'll only make trouble." It wasn't anti-war per se; it was anti-people.
QUESTION:  In the horror you gave certain artists certain types of stories.  Did the same go for science fiction?
GAINES:  Not as much, because these three guys could do anything.  We did give certain kinds of stories to Jack Kamen.  If you remember, Jack Kamen would do the kind of story where people would mix up girls in the bathtub out of instant powder.  Kamen drew pretty girls, but he didn't do rocket ships or anything like that.  That stuff usually went to these three guys.  If it came to equipment, Williamson, with the aid of Krenkel, or Wally or Joe were unsurpassed in futuristic equipment and rocket ships and BEMs - Bug-Eyed Monsters, we used to call them BEMs.  Do they still call them BEMs?
VOICES:  Yes.
QUESTION:  What did you people think when the Comics Code tried to tell you that the magazines you were publishing were too horrible for children and they wanted to change it all?
GAINES:  Well, of course we thought it was absurd, and I'm sure we all still do.  The Code was directed more at horror and crime comics than the science fiction, although we had to change the name of our science fiction from Weird Science-Fantasy to Incredible Science Fiction because the word "weird" was not allowed on a comic book.  And, of course, I'm sure most of you folks know the story of how the Torres story which is in Woody Gelman's Nostalgia Press volume, would not be passed by the Code because it was too dreadful to suggest that somebody had three eyes.  And we had to substitute Joe Orlando's "Judgment Day," which was perfectly all right with everybody.
QUESTION:  I'd like to ask Joe Orlando, who's now working for DC, why DC doesn't come out with a science fiction type magazine of short stories.  They have the talent there to do a good job.
JOE ORLANDO:  I think the question will be best answered by how Bill Gaines felt about science fiction as compared to horror commercially.
GAINES:  Oh, yes.  Of course, our science fiction books lost money.  That's a very important point which I neglected to mention.  The horror and the crime books were supporting the science fiction.  This was true for at least the last half of the life of the science fiction books.  We were actually losing money on them, and we published them merely because we loved them.  And we always worked that way at EC.  If we were making money over all, that was OK.  We were making money and always did make money with our five crime and horror titles, and they supported the two science fiction and Harvey's war titles for a bit because those four were losing.  And even Mad, the first three issues lost.  But we always looked at the overall picture.  We didn't worry about each specific magazine, because we published to a large extent because we loved what we were publishing.
QUESTION:  If you were still going today, would you still keep up the science fiction and the war books even though they were losing money?
GAINES:  If I were still publishing something that was making money, yes.
QUESTION:  You are publishing...  [laughter]
GAINES:  Sure.  You're beautifully working me into a corner.  [laughter] But that's presupposing there's no Code.  I have always said, and I said for 20 years, I will never work under that Code again.  I spent one year under that Code and what it did to my stomach I don't want repeated.  It was a very difficult year.
QUESTION:  What do you think of Dr.  Wertham?
GAINES:  First of all, I heard a rumor that he died, and if he died I don't want to say anything.  And if he didn't die, then he's sick! [laughter] But if he's healthy, I'll answer your question.  I'm sure that Wertham basically believes what he said.  Basically.  I think because he was making a good living out of it...you know, sometimes you can color your own beliefs because you're making a living out of it, and perhaps Wertham was doing that.  Certainly I caught him in a couple of little dishonest tricks where he was obviously lying, and I can't believe he didn't know it.  But I think that perhaps he felt that the lies were for the general good over all.  Wertham, remember, was on the side of the children.  You would frequently find him testifying for the defense; if some kid were picked up for a crime, and the prosecution was trying to send this kid away to God-knows-what-for-how-long, it was Wertham you would frequently find testifying for the child.  And his position would be; well, it wasn't the kid's fault because this or that environmental factor has to be taken into consideration.  And among the environmental factors that he felt were doing these things to the kid he was trying to defend, he singled out comic books.  So, in a way, while we all despise what he did to comic books, you could say that perhaps he was doing it for a good cause, in another sense.  It's all water under the bridge at this point.
QUESTION:  Yesterday Mr.  Feldstein went into some detail about how you plotted a story and laid it out on the board for the artist.  I'd like to hear from each of the artists, especially about the Bradbury stories, what they did, had they read the story beforehand, and what background material they used to get their concepts.
ORLANDO:  I usually didn't read the story before.  Only after I drew the story and liked it, I looked it up in the prose form and read it, and said, "Wow, that's a great story!" I feel...possibly I was very busy, and the other thing was that it probably would have scared the hell out of me if I read it in prose.  It would have stopped me cold, perhaps for a couple of weeks, before I got the courage to draw the story.  But I usually got all the background material from Al.  He would tell me what he thought he would like to see in the pictures and the continuity.  And I drew from my own background; you know...what I would like to put in.
WOOD:  Let's see, I'm trying to remember.  I think mostly it was the other way around; I had read those stories some time before.  And I must say they were very good adaptations.  The story was all there; there were less words.  It got the feeling, and it translated very well into comics.  Where did I get my concepts? That's quite a question, like "How do you draw pictures?" It would suggest something to me.  I did a lot of research for that story "There Will Come Soft Rains," everything that looked remotely like futuristic settings.  I probably worked harder on that story than anything I ever did.
AL WILLIAMSON:  I just tackled the thing like I would Al's scripts.  They were very easy to do.  He would go over the story with me.  I'd come in to deliver a job, and he'd have a new one ready for me.  And we'd sit down for about half an hour, I'd read it, then we would go over it together.  He would suggest something that wasn't in the captions.  But I never read Bradbury's stuff; I only read the things that Al Feldstein had adapted.  I found it very easy to work with, no trouble.
QUESTION:  Did you visit the High School of Industrial Arts during the fifties?
GAINES:  Yes, the whole staff went up there once - at least once.
QUESTION:  I go to the school now, and I heard that everyone showed up in limousines and beautiful clothes and everything, and then Al Williamson came running out in a jacket and a hero sandwich under his arm.  [laughter]
GAINES:  Well, not substantially.  [laughter] First of all, I don't think any of us ever owned a limousine.  And if you did own a limousine, unless it was a chauffeur-driven limousine, you wouldn't take it to the School of Industrial Arts because you couldn't park it.  So we probably all got there in taxis.  This was like 20 years ago, and I'm sure the story over the years has grown and grown.  What probably happened is that we all showed up with ties except Al who came in a T-shirt.
ORLANDO:  I remember something about that that I'd like to point out.
WILLIAMSON:  Thank you, Joe.  [laughter]
ORLANDO:  Al didn't go to that school, and I did.  I knew the principal Kenny, and after it was all over he came to me, and he said, "He's a terrific artist" - because he did the best drawings - "but why did he wear those blue jeans - and without a tie?"
VOICE:  And the boots.
ORLANDO:  And the boots.  You see, he was the first hippie around.  And now that everybody's wearing blue jeans, he's gotten very conservative.
GAINES:  [Laughs] That’s funny.  That's probably what happened, Al always wore blue jeans, and we got used to him in blue jeans.  But of course Joe is right; 20 years ago nobody wore blue jeans but Williamson.  You didn't see anybody in New York going around in blue jeans; that was strictly farm attire.  Even I, who was the biggest slob in New York, didn't wear blue jeans.  [laughter] I wore clothes which didn't fit, which I still do.  But Williamson was really the first genuine hippie, I think, that I ever saw.
ORLANDO:  And Roy Krenkel with his sneakers.
GAINES:  That's right.  Roy Krenkel always wore white low sneakers.
ORLANDO:  Whether there was snow...  [laughter]
GAINES:  But that's because Krenkel was Williamson's friend, so it figured.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  I'd like to know how long it took Wally Wood to draw each panel; the time involved on the larger panels.
GAINES:  I'm going to let Wally answer that, but I'll tell you it didn't take him very long.  Wally was one of our very fast artists.  Joe was, I would say, normal.  Al was very slow - because he never worked.  When he worked, he probably worked reasonably quickly, but he was playing baseball three-quarters of the time.  Now you can answer the question.  [Laughs]
WILLIAMSON:  I didn't play baseball.
GAINES:  What did you play?
WILLIAMSON:  I used to go to movies.
GAINES:  Oh, all right.  That's better.
ORLANDO:  He was a Buster Crabbe watcher.  [laughter]
GAINES:  When he was twenty, he switched to girls.  [laughter]
WOOD:  About how long it took, I can only give you an average, but I figured it out once.  I did a page a day for years.  Sometimes I could spend a whole day on a panel; other times I could do a couple of pages in a day.  It worked out to about a page a day.
GAINES:  From my point of view, seeing the way the different boys worked ...As a rule of thumb, it took what„I called a "standard speed" artist like Joe two weeks to do a seven page story.  It would take Wally one week.  It would take Jack Davis three days.  If he were pressed, he could do it in two days.  Williamson could take three or four weeks, but, as I say, really, because he didn't work very hard.
WILLIAMSON:  Actually, I didn't do as much work as the others.  Most of my work was in the science fiction books.  I had a longer deadline; I didn't do...
GAINES:  Well, you didn't do a lot of work because there was no time for you to do it, Al.
WILLIAMSON:  I didn't want to do it.
GAINES:  Oh, yeah, sure.  [laughter] I wasn't clear if you wanted it.
WILLIAMSON:  I just wanted to do science fiction.  I had you snowed.
ORLANDO:  I think that's an important factor for an artist:  the rate of his speed determines the amount of income he's going to make.  It's always a fight between quality and speed, and if you have the peculiar asset of being fast and good, you are going to make a lot of money.  And if you're just average speed, you're going to make a living.  And if you're very slow, you become a dilettante.
GAINES:  I love the way you put things.
WILLIAMSON:  What did he say?
GAINES:  That's why I love it.  I don't know either.
QUESTION:  I'd like to ask Al Williamson if he used any real female models the way he used Stewart Granger and Buster Crabbe for male models.
WILLIAMSON:  A couple of times I used models for stories.  I liked using movie actors; I used Stewart Granger in a couple of jobs and, let's see...Buster, of course.  The work I do now, I like to use real people in the strip.  I use all my friends, naturally.  I think I drew, or tried to draw, Liz Taylor once.  I think that's the only time I used a movie actress in a comic.
QUESTION:  Didn't you use Marilyn Monroe once?
WILLIAMSON:  No.  I think Frank Frazetta did.
QUESTION:  Mr.  Williamson, I'd be interested in the reasoning behind your use of so many collaborators.
WILLIAMSON:  Well, Frank and Roy and Ange Torres, we're all good friends.  And I enjoyed drawing figures very much; I didn't like drawing backgrounds.  And I was deathly afraid of the brush; I was afraid that I'd botch up the inking with the brush.  It sounds like they did all the work, the inking.  Frank, I think, inked roughly about two or three jobs for me, and I pencilled them.  Roy Krenkel pencilled the backgrounds and I inked those.  But one of the main reasons, I guess, that I worked with them was that we had a hell of a lot of fun.  We'd get together, and we enjoyed working on the stories.  We had a lot of fun, creating a panel, drawing a figure, putting a figure in a Roy Krenkel background, and, you know, creating something together.  We enjoyed it very very much, and it was really a very happy time.  It wasn't a case of ...a couple of times it was deadlines, I had to get a job in, but it was mostly for the friendship that we had.  We enjoyed each other's company and we worked together.  We just liked it.  It was just fun; that was really the main reason.  I worked with Wally a couple of times, and it was the same thing.  It was always a lot of fun to work with someone; I hated to work alone.  It was just...nobody to talk to, and yecch, you know.  It's really a drag to sit there and try to draw these pictures all by yourself.  It's tough.  It's much more fun when you have someone to work with.  Of course, now I'm married and I've got responsibilities so I've got to turn the work out, so I sit down and do it myself.  But in those days it was just fun.  It was nothing, you know, just a lot of fun.  I hope that answers your question.
GAINES:  I think it was in part too, that in those days Al was very young.  He was our youngest artist.  I think he was eleven.  [laughter] Well, he acted eleven.  And I think it was just a lack of confidence in his ability...
WILLIAMSON:  Gee, thanks a lot, Bill.
GAINES:  I'm not saying anything bad.  You had the ability; you just didn't know it.  As the years have gone on, he's become surer and surer of himself, until he is now probably the most conceited son of a bitch...  [Laughter, applause.]
WILLIAMSON:  I'll never work for you again, I'll tell you that! [laughter]
QUESTION:  Mr.  Wood, you commented before about how much time you devoted to "There Will Come Soft Rains." Did you devote an equal, amount of time to creating that period circa 1905 for the Bradbury story "Mars is Heaven"  where they find themselves in their childhood town - I believe it's Green Bluff, Illinois - and it turns out the Martians have created the town?
WOOD:  Yes.  [laughter] Yes, I did a fair amount of research on that.
QUESTION:  An equal amount?
WOOD:  It's impossible to say.  I wanted it to have that period look of that time, you know, the decorating...
GAINES:  Incidentally, I should mention at this point, if I didn't in the horror panel, that Bradbury was wild about these stories.  He was really very happy with them.  He's an old comic strip buff from way back, which is one of the reasons that he allowed us to do them as cheaply as he did - or at all.  And he just thought that Feldstein's adaptations were priceless, and the artwork ...every new one he saw he just kept raving about them.
With one exception.  I don't know if ...you surely must have noticed; we used exclamation points for periods.  This was something that came out of comic book writing, but we did it, I think, far beyond any other comic house, and it got to the point where there was no such thing, literally, as a period in an EC comic.  Periods were exclamation points.  We called them "bangs." You know, "The man came down the road.  Bang.  What did he want? Question mark.  He wanted to rape six women.  Bang, bang." [laughter] Sorry about that.  Bradbury couldn't stand those bangs.  And somewhere along the line, you may notice that the bangs disappeared from Bradbury's stories.  The latest stuff didn't have it because he never could get used to it.  All our readers were used to it.  We were used to it; we were so used to it we didn't notice it.  If we'd read it in any other place we would have thought they were out of their minds with all those exclamation points.  But in our own stuff we adjusted to it and so did our readers, but not Bradbury.  And that was the only criticism he had, but he loved the art.
Somebody from way back, way way back.  There's nobody way back? Aw, the hell with it.
QUESTION:  Why didn't you use other science fiction writers, like Asimov or Anderson?
GAINES:  I don't know.  I really don't know.  We did later on.  I think Joe did a bunch of "I, Robot" stories by Otto Binder, Eando Binder.  But we just never got into it.  For one thing, we couldn't afford to pay them what the stories were worth.  Bradbury did it almost as charity.  And Otto Binder, who was half of the Eando Binder team which were brothers, "E and 0" Binder, he let us do it pretty cheap too, because he was a comic book writer.
QUESTION:  You said you would never work under the Code.  How come you don't work outside the Code? With Mad turned into a magazine, how come you just didn't turn the rest of EC into magazines?
GAINES:  We did.  We turned them into four Picto-Fiction books which sold about 20% and completely wiped us out, short of the bankruptcy of our distributor, which came along shortly thereafter and really wiped us out.  We lost maybe our last $60-$70-$80,000 trying to do just what you suggested.  And when that happens to you, you kind of don't want to try it again.
QUESTION:  Why didn't you switch distributors when you were having such hard times?
GAINES:  You don't switch distributors that easily.  First of all, when you publish, you sell your entire output, 100% of your copies of each issue, to your distributor.  You actually sell it to him, and he pays you a tiny part of the money that's due you.  Then the magazine goes on sale, let's say for two months, and then it comes off sale, for let's say six months, and at that point you get the rest of your money.  You've waited eight months, and meanwhile you've put out all the other issues in that period and he's got that money too.  Now you can imagine…you suddenly say to him one day, you're leaving.  What do you think he does? He doesn't give you any more money.  And what do you publish with when you go to your new distributor? Actually, one of the best things that ever happened to me was my distributor going bankrupt.  I would never have gotten away from him otherwise.  And a lot of the smaller publishers today are in that position.  If you're not very wealthy, once the distributor gets you, you don't get away so easy.  And the other thing is, another distributor may not want you.  And no other distributor wanted me in those days.
QUESTION:  You mentioned "Judgment Day" a while back.  Would you tell us about the hassle you had with the Comics Code about that?
GAINES:  That was a very simple hassle.  When we sent the Torres story where the guy had three eyes to the Code for approval - they didn't know it, but it was the last comic they'd ever get from us - they turned it down.  So we sent out "Judgment Day" to replace it because we didn't have time to do a new story, nor did I want to waste the money.  Now this brings us to the latest issue of The Monster Times , which they were kind enough to devote to EC, but which has about 400 errors of fact.  [laughter] I don't object to it, except that it's going to mislead everybody.  One of the errors of fact is that according to The Monster Times the Code turned down "Judgment Day" because they wanted the spaceman not to be a Negro.  That is simply not true.  Knowing the Code, that I could have understood.  What they objected to, which I couldn't understand, was the beads of perspiration on the Negro's forehead.  This was to them a very distasteful thing.  I refused to remove it, and it became a cause celebre for a little while.  I threatened to take it to the Supreme Court, and they relented and the story was printed.  Then I sent them a letter and told them to go screw, and I still owe them a lot of money which I never paid them.  [Laughs]
QUESTION:  Why did the Code make such a big stink about it?
GAINES:  Ask them; ask the Code.  I don't know.
ORLANDO:  I think the Code assumed that perspiration was gross and shouldn't be shown publicly.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  This may not be correct, but I understand that you interested Bradbury in your adaptations by doing a few without his knowledge beforehand.
GAINES:  That's the nicest way I've ever heard it put.  [laughter] You should go into the diplomatic service; they need you in Washington.  We swiped a few Bradbury stories, and he caught us! [Laughs] But he was a real gentleman and wrote us a very nice letter suggesting that we had forgotten to pay him his royalty.
QUESTION:  One of my favorite stories is "Home to Stay" and the beginning and the end of that is based on "Kaleidoscope." Was that one of the....
GAINES:  That's one of the two stories we swiped and put into one.
QUESTION:  What was the second one?
GAINES:  I don't remember.
VOICE:  "The Rocket Man."
GAINES:  OK, good.  Somebody write those down and give them to me sometime.  I never know.  Write down the three names, seriously, because I'm always telling this story and I don't know what I'm talking about.  We took two Bradbury's, we put them together, and made a story which Bradbury himself admitted was better than the two originals, but he didn't feel it was so good that we shouldn't pay him.  [laughter]
You know, in the early EC days we used to lift a lot of springboards because before we got to the point where we could do our own plotting we were lifting plots that we remembered from things that we had read many years before in the pulps, never dreaming that anybody would ever recognize them.  I remember the very first story in Weird Science #12, which was the first science fiction issue we ever published.  It was called "Lost in the Microcosm," and I believe Kurtzman drew it.  I lifted it from something I remembered 20 years earlier, when I was like a ten year old kid, that I'd read in Amazing or Astounding Stories.  How the hell did I know that I was lifting a classic that everybody in science fiction knows as "He Who Shrank"? [Laughs] But no one ever called us on it, strangely enough ...or I guess just nobody ever cared.
QUESTION:  Who was the comic artist that attacked his wife with a hammer? I think he murdered her.
GAINES:  You mean in real life?
VOICE:  I think it was Bob Wood.
GAINES:  Yes, wasn't that one of the Biro-Wood team?
WOOD:  Yes.  Actually, it was his girl friend, and he beat her to death with a bottle.
GAINES:  Well, that was close.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  Well, what was the outcome? What happened to Wood?
WOOD:  He went to prison, and, almost instantly, as soon as he was released from prison, walked in front of a truck. 
GAINES:  New kind of question.  Yes.
QUESTION:  I want to ask Wally Wood which of the early science fiction stories he plotted; you know, like "The Enemies of the Colony" and those early ones.
WOOD:  Let's see, I wrote the first one - "Dark Side of the Moon" was it? And one other, I can't remember.  I did suggest the ideas for several of the stories which Al wrote.  But Al did write most of them.
 QUESTION:  Did you write "My World"?
WOOD:  No, I...
GAINES:  Let me answer that one, Wally, because that's a beautiful story.  Al and I used to do this story-a-day bit, and the way we did it was, we'd come in in the morning, and we'd sit down and I'd present a number of springboards for Al.  It was like selling him on a story, actually.  And I'd give him one after another until one struck his fancy, and then we'd plot it, and then he'd go in and write it.  And I'd sit there getting a stomach ache until he came out with it, because sometimes he'd come bursting back in two hours later saying that he couldn't write it.  Then we were in bad trouble because by now it would be one or two o'clock and we'd still have to come up with a story that day.  So what had happened this day was I'd sold him on a lousy story; we just were out of good stories.  And I just said, "Look, you've got to write it." I locked him in a closet somewhere, and two hours later he came bursting out, but he came bursting out with "My World," which is the most beautiful story he ever wrote, perhaps.  It had nothing to do with the original story.  After ten minutes he had decided the original story couldn't be written.  Instead of coming in and giving me an ulcer, he just wrote this thing, and he wrote it with Wally in mind.  Of course, Wally did the job with it that you all know, and it's become one of the finest stories ever.
WOOD:  There's more to it than that though, Bill.  Remember when I used to come in and give you lists of things that I wanted to draw?
GAINES:  Yes.  Did he incorporate all of that?
WOOD:  Yes, that was...
GAINES:  Oh, I didn't remember that.
WOOD:  I wanted to have a space scene and an alien landscape, and a list of a thousand things.  And Bill had just been collecting these for a while, and I think that was why this was a lousy story, the original thing he started with.  He tried to put...
GAINES:  Oh, you mean he started out to put all these things together into one plot? [Laughs] I'd forgotten that part of it.  That makes it even more charming.
QUESTION:  Wally, around the period of Weird Science #12 your work was very complex, like "He Walked Among Us" and "There'll Be Some Changes Made".  Then, about a year later, when you got into "The Precious Years" your work seemed simpler, more angular, but still of good quality.  Was that a conscious simplification on your part?
WOOD:  Yes, it was.  Sometimes I would look back on a job after a couple of months or so and realize that it was cluttered as hell.  And it was a real effort to simplify it and work out my design ...which I've been doing ever since.
GAINES:  I think everybody liked Wally's clutter.  Wally is probably the one artist who could never get too busy because his busyness was beautiful.
QUESTION:  Since EC, Wally did only one science fiction story, for Warren, called "The Cosmic All".  Do you have any more in mind?
WOOD:  No.
GAINES:  You wouldn't believe it, but he's related to Gary Cooper.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  I'd like to ask about the special "Flying Saucer Report" you did, which was the only nonfiction effort you had in the s-f mags over the years, and especially how you took a stand, as I see it, that flying saucers had a great deal of validity.  I wonder how you felt about this at the time when you were researching it, and also how you feel today about that project.
GAINES:  That's a very good question, and it's in line with what I said before; people believe sometimes what would be helpful to them to believe for their profession.  Al and I were about 75% convinced that there were such things as flying saucers.  We sure hoped there were.  And, in the hope, I think it helped us to delude ourselves into thinking that they really existed.  There was such a wealth of sightings and unexplained experiences, and quite a convincing case had been built up at that time for them.  And just the whole idea that the Air Force was suppressing something was delightful anyway.  [laughter] So even if it weren't true, we wished it were.
Donald Keyhoe was the basis of this; he had written a couple of books and a few articles on it.  And we called him up and invited him to New York, and paid him a substantial fee, as I recall.  He spent a whole day with us, and Al either taped it or took copious notes, I don't remember.  Keyhoe loaned us a lot of material to back up what he said, and Feldstein wrote the entire thing out of this Keyhoe material.  It cost us, oh, three-four-five hundred dollars, which was a lot of money for us to spend for a thing like that in those days.  Of course, we split the art up among the artists, which added to the book.  And then Frank Edwards, a radio commentator of the time who did believe in flying saucers and who wrote a best selling book on the subject, gave us a lot of publicity on his radio show which resulted in thousands and thousands of mail orders for this dime book.  We were inundated.  I remember it was a dreadful thing.  I was sorry we'd ever gotten involved in it.
ORLANDO:  I'm sorry you don't still believe in flying saucers.  I think they're still coming.  I think I particularly wanted flying saucers to be true because I envisioned many, many changes in our society once they landed.  It would shake up our religious beliefs and our political beliefs.  Fortunately, these changes did come about, but they didn't come from heaven.
QUESTION:  In regard to "He Walked Among Us," was there a lot of adverse reaction to that? I know there were some letters.
GAINES:  Yes.  Not as much as you might think.  We could slip a lot of stuff like that in because, you know, the people who hated our comics didn't really read them...fortunately.  They were just kind of looking at pictures.  There was nothing in that story, if you were just scanning it, that would catch your eye.  The people who would have been horrified by it would have been - if they'd read it.  But I don't recall having really any trouble with that.  But this is an example of what I was saying.  This is how you can use science fiction to make a point.  You simply take your whole situation and transpose it to a different planet.  In other words, if this were, in a sense, an attack on Christianity, and if we'd attacked Christianity, it would have made a lot more trouble; but we didn't.  We'd take the whole thing and put it on another planet.  And for those of you who don't know the story, instead of a crucifix people were wearing stretch-racks, because the person in this story who was analogous to Christ was not done away with on a cross but was done away with on a stretch-rack.  So we took the whole story of Christ and transposed it into another planet with stretch-racks.  And nobody really seemed to care.
QUESTION:  The story doesn't really seem to me to be an attack on Christ...
GAINES:  No, it wasn't an attack on Christ.  It was an attack on the hypocrisy of...
QUESTION:  You put it on another higher level, almost cosmic.
GAINES:  Yes.  I've always said that if there were a Christ, and he did what he was supposed to have done, he must have been a very fine man.  Whether there was a Christ and whether he did what he was supposed to have done, I have no way of knowing.  But I'll say "if."
QUESTION:  I have a related question for Mr.  Williamson.  In your Secret Agent Corrigan strip, there seems to be an entire arsenal of guns, yet not one is fired.  Yet you seem to have leeway on the type of females you draw.  The Code seems to be relaxing faster on sex than on violence.  You still can't show real blood, but the females now are allowed to wear torn dresses and blouses.  So, which would you prefer to be changed, violence or sex?
GAINES:  That's a joke? [laughter]
QUESTION:  There's simply no violence at all in the strip.  Yet the females that you draw, I would think, should get some letters.
WILLIAMSON:  Are you knocking it, or...  [laughter]
GAINES:  Are you friend or foe?
WILLIAMSON:  Are you talking about the comic book Code?
QUESTION:  I know you're not under it, but as far as the syndicate...
WILLIAMSON:  They're very strict.  And they've censored a lot of girls that I've drawn, unfortunately.  They keep taking the belly buttons out.  [laughter] They made me cover up a girl once because she was wearing a sort of tight fitting flesh-type outfit that was really a Ben-Day, but they had a heart attack and I had to take care of that.  We've got to cool it on the violence because King Features distributes the strip to about 150 papers, and that's 150 editors they have to please.  And you'd be surprised at the complaints they get.  So they have to, really, exercise a certain amount of - what's the word?
VOICE:  Discretion.
WILLIAMSON:  Discretion, thank you.  And frankly it's a pity, because I'd like to see a little more, not so much violence, but a little more action in the story.  Does that answer your question? OK.
QUESTION:  A question to all the artists.  What was the hardest strip you had to do in the days back then?
GAINES:  That kind of question is very difficult.  It's like asking, "What's your favorite story?" When you work on dozens and dozens of stories, it all blends into a blur so that you can't really pick one out.  I can never answer that question.  You love them all to one degree or another.  And "the hardest" is probably the same way.
ORLANDO:  I think it depends on your physical condition.  If you've been out boozing the night before.  [laughter] Or you were genuinely ill.  Or sometimes you were bored.  Boredom is one of the factors that you have to ...of doing the same thing over and over and over again.  Now, it's exciting looking back at it.  But when you're doing it every day, and you find yourself repeating yourself, you find yourself continually criticizing yourself, there comes a time when you want to draw back and not draw.  And you go on a sabbatical.  Then you don't make your deadline, and you come up with all kinds of excuses, like you were ill...
QUESTION:  Did Harry Harrison work for you at all?
GAINES:  Very early, Harrison used to do a little work.  He did a little work with Wally for a while.  There was this combination of Harrison and Wood, and I didn't know who did what.  When they broke up, all of a sudden Harrison's artwork wasn't very good any more.  [Laughs] And I found out who did what.
QUESTION:  How did you take the readers' reactions to the Bradbury stories? You asked readers to send in their opinions, and the majority said they could take them or leave them.  The smallest group said that they really liked them, and the largest group said they didn't like them at all.
GAINES:  Yes.  Well, I never believed in a democracy.  [laughter]
QUESTION:  After the Code first started, you tried to go within the Code, but still certain retailers wouldn't carry ECs because they had a bad name.  So how come Mad kept going?
GAINES:  Because, fortunately, we had changed Mad from a 104 color comic to a 254 black-and-white, different size, typeset magazine.  We did not do it to avoid the Code, as has sometimes been speculated; we did it for other reasons, but the result was that we did avoid the Code.  And that was the luckiest thing that ever happened to us.  Mad could never have gotten through the Code.  In fact, Panic couldn't, and died.
QUESTION:  What formula did you use in the balloons? I notice every couple of words were in capital letters.  Was that to make it more visually exciting?
GAINES:  Yes.  Well, no, that was part of our "bang bang" device which I didn't mention.  We also never used dashes.  We used three dots; we used a lot of three dots.  We had our own kind of punctuation system.  You may remember that Al and I came up with this theory which we still kind of believe:  that you can think of comics as a kind of stage where the panel line is the proscenium arch, the scriptwriter is the playwright, and the artist is the set designer and all the actors.  The lines in ECs are written to be spoken aloud, and, actually, whenever I edited the final written story, Feldstein and I would sit there and I would read it aloud, and sometimes we would make changes just because we didn't like the way it sounded.  And as part of reading it aloud, we underlined the words we wanted emphasized.  An underlined word meant to the letterer to italicize it and make it slightly larger in heavy type.  As you looked at an EC comic, a heavy word meant emphasize this.  "We were going around the corner, and then the car struck us.  It was terrible." Bang, bang, bang.  And so on.
QUESTION:  There's a story that Al illustrated about these reptilian sort of aliens who land on this chunk of the Earth and discover a comic book in the rubble.  As they read the comic book it becomes apparent that it's about them, until on the final page it's like it keeps going in.  It's an interesting device.  Can you tell me something about the background of that particular story?
GAINES:  Was that "By George"?
VOICES:  "The Aliens".
GAINES:  That's just something Al and I dreamed up one day when we couldn't come up with anything else.  No particular background.
QUESTION:  That story is a good representation of another aspect of science fiction.  You mentioned the fact that you could emphasize social points with science fiction.  This story demonstrated that you could get into conceptual ideas where you begin to question your own ideas about time and so forth.  I just wondered, how much of this kind of stuff would you guys talk about?
GAINES:  We had a lot of fun with that.  Al and I were always in theoretical discussions about mobius strips and time loops and klein bottles - that's a bottle that doesn't have an inside or an outside but only one side.  Al actually drew me a klein bottle once from my description of one, which I've still got.  Time stories were, I think, our favorites, and we came up with every conceivable variation on a time story.  And I'm proud...there's one that was completely original.  It was my idea, and I've never seen it anywhere else, or anything close to it.  That's where the guy goes back in time and becomes his own father.
QUESTION:  Robert Heinlein wrote a story...
GAINES:  Heinlein did it? God damn!
QUESTION:  ..  where he's his own mother and his own father.
GAINES:  His own mother and his own father?
QUESTION:  He had an operation and became a man.  Then he went back in time and raped himself.
GAINES:  I'm crushed! [Laughs] Well, if anybody could beat that story, it would be Heinlein.  [Laughs] Holy good Moses.
QUESTION:  I think he did it after you.
GAINES:  Oh, he did it after me? Thank God.  That's all right, he's entitled.
QUESTION:  Who thought up "spa fon" and "squa tront"?
GAINES:  Those were Al's.  Well, of course, "spa fon" is a little bit of Italian.  What's the expression, "spa-fon gool"? [laughter] I think that's where it came from, because Al didn't know it was wrong.  The "squa tront" he just made up.
QUESTION:  When you did a Bradbury story, did you ever confer with the author?
GAINES:  No.  No, Bradbury was in California and we never conferred with him.
QUESTION:  How do the artists appraise their work after 20 years? When they originally did it, did they consider themselves illustrators or artists?
ORLANDO:  Well, I don't think I would do it again.  It was just too much work.  I don't think we could buy that kind of work again.  Working now as an editor, I find very few young artists willing to put themselves on the line that much.  We did it because...I did it because I loved it.  It was my way to express myself and to do artwork at the same time.
I'd like to take this opportunity to express the gratitude I feel towards Wally Wood for the amount of help he gave me when I first started.  When I met Wally I really wanted to be a western illustrator.  I wanted to draw for the western pulps; and when I went out and found out what they paid I realized I didn't love it that much.  [laughter] Then I met Wally.  He got me into science fiction, and he was a tremendous amount of help to me.
WOOD:  Aw, shucks.  [laughter] I don't know, I don't worry about words, like whether I'm an illustrator or a cartoonist or whatever.  I'm an artist; I do it for a living.  I don't make any great distinctions between fine art and commercial art either.  After all, they sell those fine art paintings.
Looking back, I had fun.  For the first five years of EC I was just having a ball.  I would rather draw than eat, maybe.  And I don't quite have that energy any more.  That may be part of the reason why I've sort of simplified my style.  I'd never get the stuff done today.
WILLIAMSON:  What was the question? [laughter] I mean it, I've lost track.  Oh, you mean the old EC stuff? Ah, well...  [sighs] I think it's pretty awful, frankly.  I think what really shows is that I really loved what I was doing.  But as for the drawing, I think it's pretty bad, you know, it's no composition or anything like that; it's just a mishmosh of figures and, you know, it's just...[sighs] eh, you know.  But I had fun doing it.
QUESTION:  What reference material did the artists use to show rotting bodies and decapitated heads and so on?
GAINES:  We never did things like that! What are you talking about? Most of these guys didn't use swipe files.  For stuff like that they just made it up.  Are there any questions from any girls? Anyone over 65? Anyone under eight? Oh, well.
QUESTION:  How many early stories were written by Harrison, and how much at EC was done by outside writers?
GAINES:  In the very early years of the New Trend, Harrison did a little bit, and Wally I guess did a little bit and perhaps some outside scriptwriters who I can barely remember did a little bit, but when we got into our stride, there were only three scriptwriters.  Al and I plotted, and Al wrote the bulk of it.  Johnny and I plotted, and Johnny wrote mostly what Johnny drew, but a couple of other things, like Johnny wrote "Pipe Dream" and Johnny wrote "Shoe Button Eyes".  We plotted them, and Johnny wrote them, and other artists developed them.  But basically, Johnny only wrote what he drew.  Harvey, after doing a few stories that Al wrote, and even very early stories that an outside writer like Ivan Klapper, to spring a new name on you, wrote, started writing on his own.  And then, from that point on, Harvey wrote everything he ever drew, and then he wrote everything he ever edited.  And that's about it, except towards the end of EC.  Towards the end of the New Trends and into the New Directions, Al and I got tired, and we called in outside scriptwriters to help us.  Jack Oleck and Carl Wessler, both of whom are working for DC now, in those days did some very fine horror and crime stuff for us.  And then when we got into the New Directions, we had Jack Bernstein and Irving Werstein, who became a novelist and who died a couple of years ago.  And one other whose name escapes me.  That's about it.  But basically, it was Al and Johnny and Harvey.

4 comments:

Michael Hoskin said...

I quite enjoyed the Kurtzman portion - he left a lot of space for other people on the panel to speak, which was a nice change.

Gaines certainly had personality; he came across as somewhat more genuine than Stan Lee. Men of their time.

Bruce Hershenson said...

I co-organized this entire event with Ron Barlow, and it is VERY sad to not see him mentioned, because none of this would have happened without him! The convention was his idea, and I was the businessman (and all of 19!) who he approached to make it a reality, but it was RON who put the creative end of things together, including the panel discussions. Please revise your blog post to reflect Ron's contribution!

Daniel Best said...

Hi Bruce, can you drop me a line? I'd love to follow this up properly. snoopy967@gmail.com

Bruce Hershenson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.