"I Let People Do Their Jobs!"
A Conversation with VINCE FAGO—Artist, Writer, and Third
Editor-in-Chief of Timely/Marvel Comics
Interview Conducted and Transcribed by Jim Amash
Ego Vol. 3 #11
[INTRODUCTORY NOTE: Vince Fago has worn many hats and worked in many capacities
and fields and genres over his long career, and is still active today, at
the age of 87. Even so, he remains relatively (and undeservedly) unknown
even by many longtime comics fans, especially in his capacity as Timely/Marvel's
third editor-in-chief—probably because his predecessor and his successor
in that position were the same man: None other than Stan Lee. Just as Stan
had followed Joe Simon as Timely's editor, so did Vince step into Stan's
shoes when the latter was drafted in 1942, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor,
until Stan was mustered out of the service, probably in late 1945. But let's
let Vince speak for himself... —Roy.]
Three years after he stepped down as Timely's editor-in-chief, this photo
of Vince Fago—flanked by two versions of Peter Rabbit—appeared in the
Sept. 20, 1948, issue of Newsweek.
Photo courtesy of VF, ©2001 Newsweek. [Peter Rabbit art ©2001 respective
I. Of Fagos And Fleischers
JIM AMASH: Where were you born—and who was older, you or your brother
VINCE FAGO: I was born Vincenzo Francisco Gennaro Di Fago, in Yonkers, N.Y.,
on November 28, 1914. Physically, Al was ten years older than me. Mentally,
he was ten years younger than me. That's good or bad, depending on your
point of view. One of my sisters was a dress designer and the other one a beautician.
My parents came over from Naples about 1890 on a boat that took three months
to get to America.
JA: What inspired you to be an artist?
FAGO: I always liked to draw. In 1922 or '23, Al got a job with the Alexander
Smith Rug Company. Everybody thought he'd be on the assembly line, but
he was put into the design department. He had gone to a trade school and knew
woodwork and painting. He used to put a rug on a big piece of paper on the
side of the apartment we lived in and grind his own colors and paint little
squares on that paper.
JA: What newspaper strips did you like as a child?
FAGO: The Katzenjammer Kids, Tillie the Toiler, Mutt and Jeff, Bringing Up
Father, and Moon Mullins. Kids like colors, so it was a dream event every
JA: When did you start your art career?
FAGO: I graduated from De Witt Clinton when I was 20. I had lost the vision
in one eye when I was 16. In those days, they didn't care if you were
handicapped, so I stayed longer in high school. I started at Audio Productions
in 1933 as a tracer and worked there about a year. We were in the old Edison
studios, and because film was so flammable, that building had been fireproofed.
I became an in-betweener when the studio moved from the Bronx to the Fox
Movietone News Building.
Some guy from New York got a job in Detroit as an animator, and they didn't
think much of his ability. So they sent Doc Ellison to New York, and he set
up in a hotel room with a drawing board and tested us out to see who'd
get the Detroit job. I did. I worked in Detroit at the Jam Handy Company for
about four years. We did films for Chevrolet, and stop-motion pictures, and
Technicolor films for the Metropolitan Insurance Company. They had a $35,000
Technicolor camera that I got to use.
I worked in Detroit for about four years, and there were several Disney people
there. Then Fleischer Studios hired us to come to New York. But then Fleischer
Studios had a strike, so I didn't start working for them until it was
settled. After the strike they moved the entire operation to Florida. They
moved everyone's furniture and paid the train fare and hotel bills for
a while. I ended up working for Fleischer for four years.
JA: Why did you leave Detroit?
FAGO: I went down to the railroad tracks and got on a train and figured it'd
change my life. I was unhappy in Detroit.
JA: What did you do at Fleischer's?
FAGO: I was an assistant animator. I worked on a lot of the films. Recently,
someone from Harvard was looking for a speaker at a film festival Ken Burns
was involved in. They asked me to do something on Gulliver's Travels.
They had about 300 people in the theatre at North Hampton. I had a bunch
of slides and kept the young people entertained. They also had the Beach
Boys; I don't understand why. But it was very successful. Ken Burns
had a morning slot and I was the featured speaker on Saturday night. I not
only received a fee but they paid our transportation and hotel for three
days. I never thought I'd ever get to do something like that.
JA: Who did you work with at Fleischer's that we might know for their
comic book work?
FAGO: Pauline Loth—a great artist—was an assistant animator there.
I hired her at Timely when she left Fleischer's and came to New York.
She did "Miss America" for us and created her costume. And Doc Ellison,
who did the rotoscoping for Gulliver's Travels. I worked with him in Detroit
and I hired him when I hired Pauline Loth.
JA: How much did you make while working for the Fleischers?
FAGO: They started me out at $30 a week. After I'd been there a year,
I was given a three-year contract at the same salary. I got a raise later on,
and by the time I left, I was making $40 a week, which was very good money
then. I worked on Popeye, Betty Boop, Superman, Mr. Bug Goes to Town, and Gulliver's
I remember Steve Muffati's opening shot for Superman. He had that down
to an art. When Paramount took over and we redid the beginning, Steve was ready
to do it again. He had it mapped out in his head. He was a real artist with
a terrific background.
JA: Did the staff have a big reaction to doing the Superman cartoons?
FAGO: Oh, yeah. Whoever worked on it felt they were doing something beyond
the call of duty. I was an assistant animator on it, and I remember helping
draw a train that Superman was pushing. Doc Ellison animated Superman, and
he would push out his jaw in an exaggerated way for effect. Abner Kneitel
was a friend of mine, and I worked for him on several different cartoon features.
JA: Do you remember meeting Joe Shuster when he came down to the studios and
did some model sheets for the cartoons?
FAGO: I did meet him, but I really don't remember much about him.
JA: So you were there when Paramount bought out the Fleischer brothers?
FAGO: Yes. The Fleischers owed Paramount money, and when they had trouble paying
it back, Paramount took over and kicked the Fleischers out. Paramount knew
how to beat people because they were from Hollywood.
The building had a jail on the eighteenth floor. And sometimes the animators
would have a wild weekend and tear up a bar or something and they'd land
in jail. But at least they'd be in the same building. [laughs]
JA: How did the staffers react to the change from the Fleischers to Paramount?
FAGO: I wasn't really upset because I was going to leave anyway. A while
back, I had gone on a vacation to New York. I'd quit but I didn't
tell anyone. So for two weeks I did model charts for an animation studio. "Pepsi
Pete" was one of the characters I did. Then I went back to Florida and
never told them what I had done. They were still holding my job for me because
they thought I was on vacation.
Sometimes they'd check out a guy's work if they were suspicious
of his work habits. There was this one guy who kept the same drawing on his
desk for a month. He never bothered to change it. He wasn't working!
Anyway, the transition from Fleischer's to Paramount was no big deal.
Paramount was really running the studio the whole time they were in Florida.
Sam Buckwald was in charge of the staff people. Max wasn't too active,
but his brother Dave was. Dave had a big, booming voice.
Max Fleischer had his relatives working for him, running the studio restaurant
and such. There must have been over thirty of his relatives working for him
in various capacities. The Fleischers would look around for a relative before
they hired anyone. Like Izzy Sparber, who was a distant relative. He had been
a tailor and he couldn't draw, so they made him a director.
The New York studio was located in the Paramount Building, in Times Square.
It had a big clock on it that quit working and wasn't fixed for over a
month. Walter Winchell [famous newspaper columnist] said the reason it stayed
broken was because Fleischer couldn't find a relative who knew how to
JA: Did you get to know the Fleischers?
FAGO: Yes. Max was a kindly, older man. I used to bowl on Monday nights with
Max. One time, he hit himself with a bowling ball and fractured his leg.
I drew a caricature of that. They always asked me to draw caricatures because
they felt I was the best. I felt I was the worst.
Dan Gordon, who wrote Gulliver's Travels, was a genius. Guys like him
really ran the place. When we moved to Florida, Disney animators came and worked
for us. I always worked with them. People would say, "Vince Fago never
worked for Disney. Why does he know so much?" I paid attention to what
people did and that's how I learned. It was just common sense.
We were required to do thirty feet of animation a week. Arnold Gillespie,
who had worked at Disney, said he could do thirty feet a week but it wouldn't
be his best work. He said he could do twelve feet and it'd be great. So
they let him, and we worked together. We were the only guys working on that
quota. Gillespie was also the first man to do pencil tests. We shot the scenes
in pencil to see how it'd look.
II. A Timely Change
JA: Where were you when you heard the news about Pearl Harbor?
FAGO: I was on the lawn in Coral Gables listening to the Philharmonic when
they broke in with the news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I didn't
understand what had happened. So I took a train up to New York. I just figured
it was too big a change to stay where I was. The studio started doing war
work and I didn't want to be a part of that. I moved in with my mother
in the Bronx.
I went to Timely Publications looking for a job in comics. The owner, Martin
Goodman, was doing comics, pulps, detective magazines, and sex hygiene books.
Once a week, a guy named Frank Torpey would come in and Martin would give him
a check for 25 bucks. This was his reward because Torpey talked Goodman into
publishing comics. That was good money then. Torpey was a magazine pusher.
That's where Stan Lee discovered me. He was impressed by my work and
immediately hired me as a freelance artist. I felt it was a put-down to do
comics after having been an animator. But I needed a job. Timely was in the
McGraw-Hill Building. There were two little rooms and four people in the back.
There were three or four people in the front and the rest were freelancers.
JA: Who worked on staff then?
FAGO: Mike Sekowsky. Ed Winiarski. Gary Keller was a production assistant and
letterer. Ernest Hart and Kin Platt were writers, but they worked freelance;
Hart also drew. George Klein, Syd Shores, Vince Alascia, Dave Gantz, and
Chris Rule were there, too.
JA: What were your early impressions of Stan?
FAGO: I had worked in animation, and those guy were really free thinkers. So
was Stan. He used to play a recorder all day long. It was like a clarinet.
It made it very nice for everybody; it made things relaxing. He'd make
us wait while he finished whatever tune he was playing. He'd even go
into Martin Goodman's office and blow it at him. Everybody felt Stan
was wonderful. He kept things pretty loose.
Stan used to like long walks and I'd go walking with him. We'd have
fun doing it and I learned something from this. When I was the editor, I'd
go walking with a freelancer and say, "Okay, I'll give you a dollar
more a page." In the course of a year's time, that translates into
a lot of money if you're a freelancer. Stan did that with me and many
others, so I got that habit from him. It was fun. It wasn't my money,
and I knew there was a lot of money being made. You know, I always thought
it was unusual to be drawing in an office, for money.
Martin Goodman had about six or seven companies. If he was ever sued or went
bankrupt, he'd still have these other companies! Goodman knew the hard
times, and though things were going great, he banked on things changing later.
And he was right. He used to split my salary up into six different checks.
JA: Didn't Goodman have some relatives working there, too?
FAGO: Robert Solomon was married to Martin Goodman's sister, and he kept
everybody honest. It was a sin if you worked on the side for anybody else.
Some guys would rent a hotel room and moonlight. One guy—I won't
tell you his name—his initials were Harry Stein—used to write the
same story for 4-5 different places. He figured by the time they came out,
the war would be over and nobody'd recognize the stories. But he was a
good writer and didn't have to do that. It was like stealing.
A lot of guys thought comics were going to die after the war, so doing things
like recycling stories didn't seem to matter. We thought it was going
to be harder getting dimes from kids, and the armed services wouldn't
be ordering the amount of comics they had been. I felt that life might not
be planned out for me in a very pleasant way, so I had to figure out my own
way to be interested in comics.
Anyway, Solomon just sat in the offices and talked. He had a store on 34th
Street and sold women's hats, but he'd always come into the offices.
He never worked. He was loud and talked all the time and knew absolutely nothing.
He was just a watchman for Goodman.
JA: Did you like Martin Goodman?
FAGO: He seemed like a kind man to me at times. But then he'd say, "After
the war, I'll get those sons of bitches!" I couldn't imagine
who these people were. The Goodmans were nice people and hard workers. His
wife used to come in and ask us to do special work for her. Fred Eng, a staffer,
would end up making displays for her private club. He was also supposed to
be an assistant, but he wasn't really. His girlfriend used to always sit
on his lap, so he wasn't always working.
JA: Which "sons of bitches" was Goodman referring to?
FAGO: His staff and freelancers. Anybody who was working for him. So I figured
he felt the same way about me. He didn't say much, but he had several
brothers and made sure none of them left the country during the war. I was
the only one who knew it.
JA: What was Mike Sekowsky drawing when you started?
FAGO: He was good and drew humor stuff. He usually just penciled. Mike was
tall and had a girlfriend named Violet Barclay, who had come to Timely before
I did and worked there for years. She was an inker... thin, good-looking,
with a nice nose and black hair. She drank with Mike and George Klein and
Chris Rule. She inked a lot of Mike's humor work. I don't think
they ever married. [NOTE: See interview with _Ms. Barclay elsewhere in this
Mike was very independent. When I was editor, he'd come into my office
with his work, throw it on the desk, and say, "Shove it!" You couldn't
fire Mike Sekowsky because he was so good, so you'd take it. I had a sense
of humor about it and felt the same way he did. So we were even. We always
owed him $1000 because of all the freelance work he was doing. He was fast!
I guess I could have paid him off, but he didn't need it, really. I probably
did him a favor. [laughs]
Sekowsky could do anything from hero to humor. Anytime I was stuck, I could
rely on Mike. I remember he did a Young Allies and Stan almost blew his top.
He thought it was lousy, but I didn't think it was that bad.
JA: Can you tell us any more about George Klein and Chris Rule?
FAGO: Rule was an inker who had to hock his wife's jewelry to stay alive.
He was a real high-society guy, older than the others, and strange in a way.
Mike was a streetfighter type of guy, and all three used to hang out together.
They'd go to a bar together. George was a very kind and a pleasant type,
the opposite of Sekowsky, who had been a street kid; Klein was also a staff
JA: How did things work when you started at Timely?
FAGO: Stan would write me a script or part of a script, and I'd go home
and pencil it. It used to take me about 45 minutes to pencil a page. I would
ink my stuff unless my brother Al was available.
JA: Did Stan write complete scripts?
FAGO: No, never. He wrote the story and dialogue, but he didn't break
the story down into panels. That was left up to me. I drew a lot of his scripts.
He didn't stage the scenes for me. And he didn't imitate anyone.
He had to handle writers and artists and production, and that didn't leave
him with much time. Stan put in the pay vouchers for the freelancers, too.
Goodman never interfered with what Stan was doing. He had faith in Stan. He
knew Stan was in control and that his work was good.
Otto Binder (writer) and Pauline Loth (artist) were the original team on the "Miss
America" feature in Marvel Mystery, but Miss A. lasted only two issues of
her own title before it morphed into a teen-humor mag. Anybody got any idea who
wore the costume for the photo in #2?
[©2001 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
JA: Were there other writers on staff besides Stan?
FAGO: No. They wouldn't take a staff job because they made too much money
JA: What were the strips you started out doing?
FAGO: "Frenchy Rabbit." "Dinky and Rudy Rooster." "Floop
and Skillyboo." Among others. I was making $15 a page—$8 for pencils
and $7 for inks. This was just for interiors; I wasn't doing covers when
I started. Art Simek and Gary Keller lettered my features.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I had a knack for drawing covers.
Ace Publishing and other companies used to have me draw the covers. They usually
had things happening in them. Like that Super Rabbit cover for Timely where
I had him land on an aircraft carrier, and a guy was flagging him in on deck.
JA: Did you work on any of the human super-hero titles before you became editor?
JA: Why did Goodman move his operations to the Empire State Building in '42?
FAGO: To put everything in the same area. They had a little reception area
about 20' by 10'. They had a long corridor that stretched from Martin Goodman's
office to way in the back where they were doing the magazines. And off that
was a promenade. They had offices with windows where the staff people worked.
I don't think he expected to expand too much, because these were the
war years and a lot of people were gone. Later, for $90 a week, I hired Marcia
Snyder, an artist who had done newspaper strips. She dressed like a man and
lived in Greenwich Village with a girlfriend named Mickey. I never thought
about her being a lesbian; I didn't care. We also had a letterer who freelanced
for us; she had one arm.
JA: Who was in charge of the magazines?
FAGO: Mel Blum did the detective magazines. He also used to go out in the mornings
and take pictures for them. Bess Little put out the love magazines. I never
saw them at McGraw-Hill, so they must have been elsewhere in the building.
You ever hear of Elizabeth Hardwick? She started the New York Review of Books
and was a pulp editor for Martin Goodman at the time. She came in on Tuesdays
One day, she told me about a friend of hers from Kentucky. I met her friend
and married her on April 1, 1943, of all days. Elizabeth Hardwick writes for
The New Yorker magazine and we still see her. She said she wanted to die at
seventy, and now she's eighty.
JA: I hope she wasn't disappointed.
FAGO: Who knows? [laughs]
JA: Did Stan socialize with the staff?
FAGO: With everybody! He'd take people for walks. He didn't drink.
Stan had an apartment and invited everybody over. He was always the object
of conversation, and the guys' wives would get jealous. Stan was well-liked
III. Indians And Chiefs
JA: How did you become the editor-in-chief? Who hired you—Stan or Martin
FAGO: Stan hired me, because he got drafted. He says, "How would you like
to take my job?" I said I'd have to think about it. I really didn't
want to work in the office five days a week. But after a while I figured I
was supposed to be doing it. It was good and I made a lot of money. That's
when I moved to Greenwich Village. But I didn't know about investing,
or I'd have bought my building there.
I started editing when Timely moved from the McGraw-Hill Building to the Empire
State Building. I think that was in August of 1942. Christmas of '42,
I received a $300 bonus, so I was editor by that time. Stan never really worked
as an editor in the Empire State Building until after the war. I was the editor
when we moved.
JA: How did Stan train you to take over?
FAGO: We discussed things when we took those long walks. He looked over my
shoulder as I did things, and that's how I learned. When I was editor,
I used to take a taxi back and forth to work. I spent a lot of money treating
people to daiquiris and stuff like that. I was making about $25,000 a year
between freelancing and editing. That was big money back then.
JA: You were holding Stan's job down for him while he was in the service?
JA: Why do you think you were offered the job?
FAGO: Martin and Stan knew they needed to put a new accent on the books. Goodman
was interested in me because of my humor background; they wanted more humor
comics for the soldiers. They also wanted to tone down the hero comics and
thought I had the background to do it. They knew that, if I could put that
into the work of the people who worked for me, it would be good for the company.
And Martin would be my watchdog. Anything I put into the books and he didn't
like, he'd let me know.
At one point, right before Stan left, he told me that now would be the best
time to ask Goodman for a raise. I asked him for a $100 a week raise, and he
said he wouldn't give it to me on general principles: "I'll
give you $75." And I made believe I fainted on the floor. So I was making
$250 a week now.
Martin Goodman used to lie back in a big chaise lounge, and he'd look
at the sales charts every day. He was counting his money. He had been a hustler
who'd had a rough life and he was trying to live it up. Goodman did things
the hard way, but he succeeded.
We put a subscription notice in Miss America Comics; $1 for 12 issues, and
in maybe a couple weeks' time, we got 20,000 dollar bills. I took some
of the artwork out of the bins and put the $20,000 in the bins! Money flowed,
and anybody who worked for me was making a lot of money.
JA: Was the comic book division as important to Goodman as his magazine department?
FAGO: Even more so. The print runs were 250,000 to 500,000 copies. Sometimes
we'd put out five books a week or more. You'd see the numbers come
back and could tell that Goodman was a millionaire. The comics were what
gave him that chaise lounge.
In fact, we sold 90% of our print runs, because many of the comics were going
to soldiers. For a time, we were called Magazine Management. But as far as
I was concerned, the company was named Timely. The guys who published were
monsters. They knew all about how to get the paper and the plates and distribution,
but they cared nothing about the people who worked for them. Goodman had a
good paper allocation and diverted much of it from his pulps to the comics.
That's how we were able to out-produce much of the competition.
JA: How long were you editor before Stan left?
FAGO: Oh, he went right out. He was stationed in New Jersey. He was stateside
the whole time. Stan told me that he had to pick up cigarette butts on the
ball field. He'd peel off the white paper and put it in something. And
he'd let the excess tobacco scatter to the wind. That's the way
he described it.
JA: Were you in charge of all the comics? Hero and humor?
JA: Did you deal with Goodman every day?
FAGO: Yes. He had to approve every cover. Or I'd show him a new artist's
work. Goodman would just shake his head, because he didn't know what the
hell it was all about. We had a good working relationship. He'd go in
and sleep on that chaise lounge. It was in a corner near the windows. I'd
come in and look at him and make believe I'd turn away. He'd open
his eyes and tell me to come in. Goodman never once said no to anything I wanted.
He was scared of me in some way, because if I decided to quit (and I did look
for other jobs), then he'd be stuck.
JA: So you had the power to hire and fire people?
FAGO: Yeah but I never fired anyone. How could you fire people, especially
in wartime? You know, later on during the war, we lived near Burgess Meredith
and Paulette Goddard [movie stars who were married at that time] in Rockland
County. There was this pilot who used to buzz their house every Monday and
Wednesday because he was trying to impress Paulette. It used to scare all
of us. He made so much noise that a lot of people complained.
JA: I'll bet they did. When you were in charge of all those titles, did
you have an assistant editor?
FAGO: No. Neither had Stan. What would I have needed an assistant editor for?
I made a big chart with the names of the books and the artists who worked on
them, like a graph, to determine which work was being done on what book. We
always had backlog, so I could drop another story in if someone was late or
drank and lied about it. Then we'd put ten guys on it to get it done.
I let people do their jobs. Like Otto Binder. He created Miss America. Otto
was a very good writer, so there was no need to question what he did. If you
have enough faith to hire someone, then you have to have confidence in his
Martin didn't put any limits on what we were ordering or spending. We
assumed that what we were ordering would be used someday. At one point, I think
I had about $100,000 worth of inventory. Stan had done the same thing. He bought
a lot of junk. We kept it in the cabinets in another room.
Stan once told me, "Martin likes to brag about how much money we're
spending to produce the books." Stan knew I was a little leery about spending
money and said, "Don't think that way. You have to be reckless." Maybe
Stan was saying that to protect himself, because he'd spent so much money
and had all this work piled up. I inherited it. It was all mine if I wanted
it, but I didn't know if I wanted it or not.
Goodman would tell us when a book was due at the engravers. (He had two of
them.) He'd give me the name of the book and which engraver to send it
Among the many super-heroes in Fago-edited Timely comics during the WWII years
were The Patriot, The Vision, and The Angel, seen here in splashes from Marvel
Mystery Comics #41 (March 1943), repro'd from photostats of the original
art which were shipped to Canada for wartime reprinting there. Artists unknown—any
help out there?
©2001 Marvel Characters, Inc.
JA: Did Goodman keep a close eye on what the competition was doing?
FAGO: Oh yeah. They used to watch each other like hawks. The DC people looked
down at us. They were snobs. They thought they were higher class than we
JA: How did the staff react to the editorial change, from Stan to you?
FAGO: One thing I hate is when people are subservient in their jobs and don't
act like people because they're afraid for their jobs. Vince Alascia was
one of those guys. He was a terrific staff inker, but there was no spirit in
his work. I remember he'd always ask for a day off and say something like "One
of my twins is sick."
JA: Was he jealous that you were made editor?
FAGO: Probably. He worked on the super-hero stuff with Syd Shores. Syd was
kind of humorless and a workhorse. He was pretty fast. He was one of the
best and worked on Captain America.
IV. Some Faces In The Four-Color Crowd
JA: Who else do you remember from that time?
FAGO: Kin Platt, a writer, used to call me up on a Thursday and say, "Look,
I got to make five hundred bucks!" Every week he had to make five hundred
bucks. He'd go from DC to me and he'd knock out this stuff. He wrote
many features for us, including "Widget the Witch." And he types
with one finger! We're lifelong friends. Kin used to own this great Plymouth
convertible that Charlie Biro liked, so Biro bought one like it.
I met Biro at Audio Productions and he used to punch me on the arm. He'd
come in to work Monday morning and would have a patch over his eye from playing
ice hockey. He was an amazing guy. A strong, big Hungarian. We always had a
good time together. Anyway, Biro drove his car up 56th Street and Ninth Avenue
and this lady had stopped her car at the red light. Biro got so mad that he
pushed her car across Ninth Avenue, against the red light. Biro once threw
a gambler off a boat. He was that type of guy. I never worked for Biro, but
he came up to see me when I was at Timely. He was working for Lev Gleason and
I think he just wanted to spy on us.
JA: Who else sticks out in your mind from Timely?
FAGO: Leon Jason used to work for me; he later went into the toy business.
Doc Ellison did a "Sub-Mariner" once, though he usually did humor
work. He once gave Robbie Solomon a bawling out because he never did anything;
he was just a straw boss. One time, Doc and Pauline Loth were walking me to
my car and said to me, "You used to be such a nice person." But I
was in charge now and I had to do my job. That changed me some.
Clem Weisbecker did serious features. He was a rough and tumble guy and a
sour person. He was a painter and he scoffed at doing comics. He lived on the
same street I did, near 6th Avenue. Clem felt he was the best.
Dave Gantz penciled and inked. "Let's Play Detective" was one
of many features he worked on.
Dennis Neville [earlier the first "Hawkman" artist at DC/AA] did
hero work for me, like "Jap Buster Johnson." Once he was late on
his strip, so I called him and he said he'd have it next week. Well, I
went down to his house in the Village and found out he hadn't even started
yet. He used to drink. I went back to the staff and got the staff to knock
out the story in a hurry. I hadn't known about his drinking problem. He
was a nice person, but after that I didn't hire him again because he had
lied to me.
One thing that was strange: Guys who did work on Judge, Life, Hullabaloo,
used to come up and ask for work. It would frighten me that they would do that,
because these were guys whose work I admired! There was a guy named Joe Calcagno.
He always wanted Stan's job, and did "Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal" and
other humor stuff.
The big guy we got was Harvey Eisenberg, a Tom and Jerry animator who did "Ziggy
Pig and Silly Seal." He grew up with Kin Platt and worked for MGM in California.
I once sent him ten scripts so that he was able to have enough money to quit
Ed Winiarski had also been in the animation business before. He wasn't
a star, and sometimes his work dragged a little, but he did a lot of work for
us. I think he did some "Ziggy and Silly," too, among many other
Basil Wolverton lived out west and mailed everything in. He did Powerhouse
Pepper. I never even had any phone contact with him.
Chad Grothkopf was amazing. He could ink on a subway while it was going down
There was a man named Thomas who did a lot of the Human Torch stories; he
later became a teacher. I don't remember anything else about him except
he was German. [NOTE: Almost certainly Jimmy Thompson, who drew "Torch" tales
between '43-'47, as well as "Robotman" for DC and various
strips for Fawcett, et al. —Roy.]
Alex Schomburg drew fabulous covers for Timely during the WWII years, including
for All Select Comics #5 (Winter 1944-45)—but he also did quite a few
for Harvey Comics, including Speed Comics #32 (May '44), repro'd
here from a photocopy of the original art. We regret we've misplaced
the name of whoever mailed us the latter; but the nice copy of the All Select
cover was sent by Jerry K. Boyd.
[covers ©2001 Marvel Characters, Inc., and Harvey Comics, respectively.]
JA: What writers do you remember?
FAGO: Ray Cummings, who always lived in a hotel with his wife and daughter.
He once said to me, "If you move twice, you might as well have a fire." And
he always wore a cape. He was an older man and had written for pulp magazines.
Once he went up to Quebec for a snow festival, and he wrote a "Captain
America" dealing with toboggan slides and all that. The story was so
long that we had to knock off 10 or 12 pages to make it fit. He was a star
writer and wrote a bunch of "Captain Americas" for me. Once he
took my wife and me to a radio show. I think Martin Goodman sent him to me.
Before Patricia Highsmith wrote Strangers on a Train for Alfred Hitchcock,
she wrote "Jap Buster Johnson" for me. Once, Stan came home from
the Army on leave, and I took him up to meet her because she was so beautiful.
She later moved to France. She's gone now.
Carl Wessler wrote a bunch of fillers for me. I don't remember much else
Bill Woolfolk and his wife, Dorothy Roubicek, also wrote for me. They did
super-hero features. He was a very good writer. Dorothy worked at DC first
and was very capable. Personally, I thought she was pushy.
JA: Did Mickey Spillane write for you?
FAGO: Yes. He used to come up to the office wearing his Navy uniform. I don't
remember much about him except that he wrote for us while in the service. He
was just a regular guy.
JA: How much did you pay the writers?
FAGO: About seven or eight bucks a page.
JA: Did you have trouble getting artists because of the war?
FAGO: Yes. We tried to get older people and women. There was a guy, Louis Fanchan,
whom I hired. He was old. I gave him a job and he died part way through drawing
it. Martin felt badly about it and paid the family for the whole job.
We also hired a lot of young kids that other companies wouldn't. There
was one guy who was really good. Shelly Mayer [at DC/AA] didn't think
much of his work, but I did, so I hired him. Mayer didn't think much of
my work, either.
JA: What about other production people or letterers?
FAGO: Billie Landis was a musician, sculptor, freelance letterer, and a friend.
Veda Lufkin was a housewife from New Jersey, and she'd letter at home.
Alberta Tews was also a freelance letterer. One day she came in and told me
she'd had her teeth knocked out playing basketball the day before. She
said it was no big deal because they were false teeth, even though she was
a young girl.
Mario Aquaviva lettered, too. Artie Simek worked for us; he was a tall, friendly
guy that everyone liked.
Allen Bellman also worked on staff and did a lot of inking.
Dana Dutch wrote a bunch of the text fillers, and also worked for a publishing
house. We had to have two pages of text in order to get a second-class mailing
privilege, which saved us a lot of money. So he always had a story waiting
Bernard Baily ran a shop and drew a feature called "Herman the German," a
character that acted like Hitler and spread germs and killed people. Baily
loved doing that one. He'd have people do complete stories and bring them
up to me. If I saw something I liked, I bought it.
JA: What was Alex Schomburg like?
FAGO: He was a very quiet man. I'd give him a cover and he'd disappear.
His detail was so amazing. He had insight that the rest of us didn't.
JA: Did he ever design his own covers?
FAGO: No. We designed all the covers in house. I thought up a lot of the adventure
covers. Then I'd ask Mike Sekowsky to give me a rough. He was terrific.
Syd Shores did some of the Captain America covers and he also did roughs
for Alex Schomburg's covers.
JA: Did Schomburg get a higher page rate for his covers?
FAGO: Oh yeah. There was no comparison. And he was perfect on deadlines.
JA: Do you remember Frank Giacoia?
FAGO: Frankie? Oh, yeah. He went to Paris Island as a Marine and would bring
back cigarettes. He met Tyrone Power there and said that Power was a snob.
He lifted his finger up to his nose and called Power stuck-up. Frank was
a sweet, lovable guy—also a terrific inker. He could ink anyone.
JA: Did you meet Giacoia's friend, Carmine Infantino?
FAGO: Yes. He used to come up after high school and we let him spend time talking
to the artists. Later he did work for Timely.
Remember Jim Mooney? He used to draw "E. Claude Pennygrabber," which
JA: What do you remember about Otto and Jack Binder?
FAGO: Otto was a great writer. His stuff was always solid. I went to visit
him once and his studio had junk all over the place. His wife helped him
write, too. Otto was a straightforward type of guy.
Jack Binder's shop supplied some work for us. I remember those guys didn't
call a page a "page." They called it a "card," and I felt
that cheapened the work. At a certain point, we stopped depending on him and
he ended up breaking the shop up. I wasn't always happy with what they
JA: Did any of the artists ever ask for their art back?
FAGO: No. Once we got the book back and we had the plates, the engraver might
have thrown them out. Or else we did. Who knew that these things would become
(For the rest of the Vince Fago interview, be sure to pick up ALTER EGO #11.
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