Comic Book Artist Edited by Jon B. Cooke Comic Book Artist, Eisner Award winner for "Best Comics-Related Magazine", celebrates the lives and works of great cartoonists, writers and editors from all eras through in-depth interviews, feature articles, and unpublished art.

Bill Everett's splash page to Young Men #26.

William Blake Everett

A Conversation with the Great Cartoonist's Daughter

Conducted by & © Mike Friedrich

From Comic Book Artist #2

Wendy Everett is the daughter of Bill Everett, creator of Sub-Mariner and one of Marvel's greatest artists. She lives in San Francisco and was interviewed by Mike Friedrich, Bill's friend, former Marvel scribe, and artist representative. This conversation took place after lunch in a San Francisco restaurant on June 20, 1998.

MIKE FRIEDRICH: Did you go into the Marvel office with your dad often?
WENDY EVERETT: I did. "Often" is relative, since when you're a kid, it's a full time job going to school. But I got to go into New York City a lot.

Mike: When would this be?
Wendy: From 1952 to probably 1960, the last year that he worked for Marvel.

Mike: Did he work in the bullpen or at home?
Wendy: Both. He had an office at home—he always had one. Even if he was going to New York—which he did a couple of times a week—he always still worked at home.

Photo of Bill Everett, courtesy Wendy Everett. If you look closely, you can see that Bill is working on a Sub-Mariner story.

Mike: I know this is a big topic, but can you describe what it felt like?
Wendy: The artists lived a pretty wild life. After you called me to set up this interview, I went back and reread some of articles that have profiled my dad over time. I was reading these pieces and there was very little distinction between the fancifulness of how they perceived their lives and their work. This is a great example: I'm reading a several page interview with my dad and someone is asking him about the origin of Daredevil. They asked Dad if he created any other characters. He said, "Yes, I did." And he named such-and-such character and in his regular, daily life, his name was Bob Blake. So the interviewer asks, "How did you come up with that?" Either the reporter made this up or my father—which is much more likely—in a slightly baldfaced way, said, "Well, I named him after my brother, Robert, and William Blake, because Blake was a relative." Well, William Blake was a relative; my father's name is William Blake Everett and was descended from Blake. But I'm sitting there, saying "Uncle Bob? I have no 'Uncle Bob'!"

Mike: "I don't remember an Uncle Bob..." [laughs]
Wendy: There was no Uncle Bob. Nice try! You read it and think, "Ohh, isn't that charming! Totally charming!" It was just "what they did."

It was almost as if he came back from the grave! I was waiting for one of these "gotchas!" I'm sitting there thinking that this is a national publication and this guy says the character was named for his brother Bob! As a kid, it makes you question your own reality, because your reality is not exactly in sync with theirs.

Mike: Do you think being related to William Blake influenced your dad?
Wendy: It did. One of the things that you know well but that people outside the industry don't understand is that the people who wrote and drew comics knew mythology, and knew the historical characters. They had read the classics. All of those characters, that we as kids were just kind of reading just to be entertained, had this great mythological background. It's true (as anything can be true that my father ever thought or said), that the Sub-Mariner was based on the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Coleridge. He had read Coleridge and this background gave the characters a very erudite wholeness.

Mike: As a kid, was it cool that your dad did comics?
Wendy: As a kid it doesn't matter. When you're six, seven, eight, nine, ten, it didn't matter what anybody's father does. You don't know if he's a doctor or a lawyer—you're worried about Cub Scouts. But, as you might recall (knowing the history backwards and forwards), Timely was close to being blacklisted by the PTA. We were in an interesting situation. I would come home after school and sit with my dad. He had a studio set up at home, with a drawing board, taboret, and all his supplies. I'd sit there and watch him draw. At the same time, I heard the PTA call up my mother to get her to sign petitions banning all comic books. So my parents didn't exactly advertise that he worked for the business that the PTA had blacklisted.

And I was indifferent one way or another. I didn't spend a lot of time reading comics. The way that they were drawn back then was on these huge white boards and my father taught me how to letter. (This is probably stuff that Stan never needs to know about.) I was good. My dad would do the pencils and say, "Okay, I want you to letter." I'm eight... and nine... and ten. [laughter]

Mike: Do you remember what kind of comics they were?
Wendy: The Sub-Mariner comics. Some of them were war and horror stories. I can't quite remember when Namora came out but it may have been about that time. My dad would always be under deadlines and almost never made them. My parents were very social and partied quite a lot. My father came from a 300-year-old New England family. Everett, Massachusetts, is named after his great grandfather, who was also a president of Harvard University and became governor of Massachusetts. This guy grew up very privileged. My parents got a $20,000 inheritance when one of his uncles died. They spent the entire thing in one weekend. It was very wild. So he never got anything done on time and, of course, Stan or Martin Goodman would call him up, and hammer him. We would have to get out nine days of work in two days. It was not this great family bonding but that I could do lettering fairly quickly! [laughs] We had a really great, terrific time. I would just stand there and watch him draw and then go off and do something. There was never any "Gee, Daddy's working so we can't go in there." It was always, "Hey, what are you doing?" In that regard, he really liked having us around.

Mike: Did he bring comics home, other than the ones he did?
Wendy: He probably did. I was a pretty avid reader but I wasn't a big comic book reader. When you see them being done, you don't necessarily want to see them again just because they're in color. The important thing was the story. I loved to read read, but we always had comics around and they weren't a big deal. It was just life.

Mike: Were there people that he knew from work that he met socially at the house?
Wendy: He was more part of a suburban commute. We lived in northern New Jersey and occasionally went over to John Severin's house because John was married and had kids—the cutest little kids that were about my brothers' ages. Marie would come over and we would do things with them. But my parents had their own social set of friends who weren't related to work. Once every three weeks, he went into New York to deliver work and would take me with him. Once it was delivered and the pressure was off, everybody would either go to Schrafft's or the Algonquin, and he'd take me along. That started when I was about eight years old.

Mike: Who did you meet at this point?
Wendy: There was John and Marie, Johnny Romita, Stan, and whoever else was there at that time. Marie was the only woman then so I particularly remember her. John Severin was really a sweet guy or at least sweet to me. I'd go and they'd drink all afternoon, keep buying me Shirley Temples. I'd take a book and sit in the Algonquin while they caroused, drank and told stories.

Mike: Were they telling comic book stories or...?
Wendy: Everything. They blurred the boundaries. They lived their work: They created new characters. One of the fun things would be when my dad would sit and talk to me about characters. I very clearly remember Daredevil. The two of us talked about what should happen to him, what should his tragic flaw be, and how should he get it. Whether he should be a doctor or not (I think he ended up being a lawyer). Should he be blind or not. I was always legally blind, but corrected. Because I'd never been able to see well, I have a very finely attuned sense of hearing and sound. So when someone comes down the hall, I know who it is. We took that and played with it. There were no boundaries between work and life; everything that happened got incorporated into the work—all of the time.

Mike: Were you aware why he didn't continue with Daredevil? You spend all that time coming up with that one character and then that's it, he's off the book after one issue.
Wendy: Again, when you're that age, you're pretty involved with your own life. The way that it was presented in the family was that he was offered a job to be the art director for Norcross Greeting Cards. So it was more that he was going to do something else. It didn't seem strange. Another one of the things about being the kid of an artist—and one that is so prolific and talented—is that he'd create art for us all of the time. When I was young and went to camp, every week he would send me one of those old Manila postcards and draw these fabulous cartoons that would depict what happened at home that week. So one would have a swimming pool with my brothers in it, and he'd put the dog in the middle. You know, no one in camp ever got anything like that and, of course, because they were postcards, everyone else at camp got to read it before I did.

Every time there was a birthday, Mother's Day, or other celebration, he would create a big card. It wasn't just that the artwork was good; it was the writer in him, as well. He would create a funny story just out of some "nothing" thing that happened at home and make it into some unbelievable creation! So for him to go and be the art director for a big greeting card company made perfect sense because that's what he did. I assumed that either Martin or Stan fired him, even though I never exactly knew, and he went and he got another job. He was not the least bit suited to be in a business environment. But no, it never dawned on me to consider why he didn't continue with Daredevil.

Mike: There was that tragic time in 1957 when everyone got fired at Marvel overnight. I think your dad was part of that process. How much of that do you recall?
Wendy: Not very much. They always landed on their feet. They were all a part of the Marvel Bullpen but they were also freelancers. It was a kind of loose association. They usually found the money to survive.
My dad was so thoughtless about money. He grew up with it so he didn't have much sense about it—I was reading through some articles, and the writer described a period in 1939-40 when they had first started in comics. My dad was broke and didn't have any money. I thought that he was probably the only person at Marvel who grew up with gazillions. He didn't have any money and didn't particularly care.

I read how he had to work all weekend to get a comic out by Tuesday so he could eat. That was how he lived and that was how we lived in our house. He'd come home on Friday night after Stan had paid him, and he'd stand in the living room and take these hundred dollar bills and throw them around the room and catch them. That was pretty much how he felt about money. [laughs] Is that how it should be when you're a kid? No. It doesn't make for a very stable household. [laughs]

Mike: He is, of course, associated primarily with the Sub-Mariner. There was, in the '50s, that TV show, Sea Hunt, with Lloyd Bridges that had a lot of the same elements. Did he ever talk about that?
Wendy: We had television from 1950 on so I guess in some ways TV was an extension of work. But I never saw the connection between the two. I don't think he made that connection. The Sub-Mariner was an integral part of my whole life. That's different than everything else—as if Sub-Mariner was the core and everything else was around it until Daredevil. I think that if he'd been in a position to continue, Daredevil would've probably taken the Sub-Mariner's place. My dad loved the Sub-Mariner and loved the concept of it—he loved creating the stories. The good and evil, the retribution for the genocide motif is what he loved to develop. I'd come in and say, "What're you drawing?" He didn't exactly write the story and then illustrate it—it didn't go that way. It was, "I think I've got an idea and I have to get this thing out by Friday or Stan's going to kill me. I'll just make it up as I go along; I've got to turn in ten pages because I get paid by the page." It was not very well planned. He'd say, "What comes to mind?" And we'd think out loud and he'd go back and change something.

Mike: How much of your dad was the Sub-Mariner? Do you think there was a lot of identification with the character?
Wendy: I don't, but that's not to say that he didn't. I know who my dad was and I know who the Sub-Mariner is. It may have been who my father aspired to be in some way, but I don't think so.

Mike: He told me in the late '60s that when he looked back at the early '40s, what he saw was a very angry young man that he later recognized as himself. Though he said at the time he wasn't conscious of it and was just doing the work.
Wendy: My guess is that what he said is accurate. My father was a charming, intelligent, immensely talented—and complicated—human being. I loved him enormously and miss him to this day.

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