Dapper Dan and his future vivacious bride Jeanette (Strouse) in a
1956 photo, courtesy of Dan Adkins.
Dynamite Dan Adkins
On his years at Tower and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. contributions
Conducted by Jon B. Cooke
Transcribed by Jon B. Knutson
Book Artist #14
Daniel Adkins really went all out for CBA this issue and we extend
our profound appreciation for his back cover illustration, Tower checklist
consultation, and participation in yet another interview for our magazine
(hot on the heels of his Alter
Ego #8 cover and interview!).
While we talked to the artist about his Marvel Comics tenure for our
seventh issue, here we zero in on his experience working in Wally
Wood's studio during the 1960s, specifically his contributions on
Tower's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. This conversation took place by telephone
on January 11, 2001, and Dan copy edited the transcript.
Comic Book Artist: Do you have any idea how Tower Comics came
Dan Adkins: I don't know exactly how Wally learned that they
wanted to put out comics, but I assume he heard and took up a package
to them. I don't think he'd just approach them out of the blue. So,
he must've heard they were looking to put out comics.
CBA: Who was Samm Schwartz?
Dan: He was a previous editor of Archie Comics, I believe,
and he was the editor of the Tower Comics line. Samm was the guy I
had to deal with. If Wally was busy, it was me that had to deal with
Samm. "Well, Samm, I don't know, Wally's doing something. I think
he's taking a nap." [laughter] Anyway, Samm called me up after the
death of Menthor and gave me a dressing-down for killing him. I said,
"Sam, you okayed the idea!" But he had a bunch of kids down there
in the office that were after me, and he wanted to know what to tell
them! "Tell them to get out of your office, Samm!" [laughter]
CBA: They marched into his office?
Dan: Yeah, they were gonna do something. They wanted to know
who's the guy responsible for killing Menthor! [laughs]
CBA: Did you deal with the guys at the Tower offices?
Dan: I was the freshman on the block, a kid working with Wally
and the guys in his studio, so I didn't know any of the people at
the editorial office. I never met Harry Shorten or Samm Schwartz in
CBA: You just dealt with Samm over the phone?
Dan: Yeah, I never met the guys at Tower. I was just Wally's
assistant, you know? I was never working for Tower.
CBA: So you just worked for Woody?
Dan: When I first got there, Wally was putting out the first
issue, and the last story wasn't done. It had been penciled, and Wally
was redrawing it. I don't know who that penciler was.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #12 cover rough by Wally Wood, courtesy of
Bill Pearson and J. David Spurlock.
Art ©2001 the Estate of Wallace Wood. Thunder Agents © John
CBA: Was it Larry Ivie?
Dan: No. [laughs] It wasn't Larry Ivie, but Larry was to blame
for the mess at the beginning! We had to do the first four pages over.
The last story, I never did find out who that penciler was, but it
didn't look like anything like Larry Ivie. It looked more like John
Giunta, but I knew it wasn't. Dick Ayers penciled "The Counterfeit
Traitor." It ends up looking like Wally Wood, but it was penciled
by Dick Ayers. He didn't want credit, because I guess he was still
doing Sgt. Fury for Marvel. So we didn't tell anybody Dick was working
on the Tower stuff, and he wasn't quite as bad as the guy who penciled
that first Iron Maiden story. Anyway, I had to redraw it all over
and did a little inking on it. The first story was messed up by Larry
Ivie - the first four pages - the so-called "Introduction." Larry
had been down at the offices, and saw Samm, and Samm gave a call and
told Wally about Larry. But Wally did not know Larry at this time,
he never met him, so I don't know how that fits in with the Creepy
stuff, but I guess the Creepy stuff came later. Right? Creepy wasn't
along until about six months later, I guess. But I don't think Larry
Ivie and Wally Wood ever met, you know? I think all that stuff was
done through Samm. Anyway, Larry was given the four-page script and
the breakdowns by Wally for the first four pages. They were sent over
to Samm, and Samm gave them to Larry. Larry gave the stuff back to
Samm, but it came back to Samm penciled and inked! Well, the book
was supposed to look like Wally Wood had drawn it, so we had to fix
it up, you know? And we did it completely over. There was nothing
left of the Larry Ivie in that story.
CBA: I've seen Larry's version which he sent to me. They
were completely done, even lettered!
Dan: He did the inking, but he wasn't asked to do the inking!
[laughs] He also did a cover of three of the characters running towards
you, which we used later on. But there wasn't anything new in that
idea, because Mac Raboy and everybody had done covers of heroes running
at you at that point. So, Larry took credit for that cover later on.
On the layout he did of the first cover, he had a little banner across
it that said "Crandall/Ivie/Wood." We didn't use the banner.
CBA: Did Larry come into the studio later?
Dan: No, he was never at the studio. He wrote scripts which
were given to Samm.
CBA: I read an essay by Ralph Reese, and he was describing
a time when Wally Wood was inking "Captain America" - which I ascertain
must've been when Woody was inking The Avengers - and Larry Ivie took
it upon himself to ink Cap as the Golden Age Captain America, without
the stripes down his back. [laughs] Apparently, Woody was not too
happy about that.
Dan: But that wasn't done at Wally's studio. He was never up
there. There's only one room in the studio, and I had a desk there.
CBA: Samm Schwartz was point central for Tower as editor
of the books?
Dan: Well, he was like the manager of Wally! [laughter] Wally
was basically the editor of the book.
CBA: Artists came to the studio with their finished assignments?
Dan: Well, no... they dropped the stuff off down at Samm's
all the time or mailed it to Wally. Nobody came up to the studio!
[laughs] Nobody bothers Wally. Ditko dropped stuff off down there,
and Samm called up and says, "This guy is terrible, Wally! He draws
CBA: [laughs] Good old Samm!
Dan: Yeah! And Wally says, "This guy's got a great following;
he's very popular!"
CBA: Ditko was never better than at that time! [laughs]
Dan: Yeah, that's true. It was real good stuff. In fact, we
inked a couple of Steve's jobs just to please Sam.
CBA: Oh, really? [laughs] That was a beautiful job!
Dan: Hell, Ditko drew "The Death of Menthor"... he's the
one that killed Menthor!
CBA: [laughs] It's all Steve's fault!
Dan: Wally and I just wanted to ink it. Of course, we wrote
the script, too.
CBA: But Wally would do breakdowns for Steve at times?
Dan: Wally would for almost everybody, because he did a lot
of the storytelling, so he did all the breakdowns. He would draw the
breakdowns on this 81/2" x 11" typewriter paper. For us
in the studio, he'd do the breakdowns on big sheets. We had to job
a few stories out sometimes. The one about China is inked by Chic
Stone, one of the stories we never had a chance to ink, but it was
originally penciled by me. It's the only story in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents
that I penciled and somebody else inked. Wally did all the breakdowns
on all the other ones. I don't think Wally liked my layouts very much,
and that was the reason we kept putting that story aside! [laughs]
We finally needed a story, so we sent it to Chic Stone to ink.
CBA: As far as you recall, did Steve Ditko immediately come
over to Tower after he quit Marvel?
Dan: Well, the reason he worked for Tower is Wally Wood asked
him to. Samm insisted on seeing his work, so he went down to see Samm.
[laughs] Samm didn't like the art! But he gave him work, anyway. It
was real good work, too.
CBA: Did Gil Kane visit much?
Dan: When I was up there - I don't know who visited when I
wasn't there, you know - but the only people who ever came was Al
Williamson and Leo Dillon, the science-fiction illustrator.
CBA: If Woody was editor of the books, when did he see the
final work? Did Samm send the finished pages over to him for approval?
Dan: No. We didn't see the finished work when Ditko would hand
in a job, for instance. We did most of the jobs because we inked them.
We inked Crandall, Dick Ayers, even Orlando did a story we inked,
and we inked our own stories... there wasn't a hell of a lot that
was not touched by us.
CBA: Oh, I see, all the stories came through the studio anyway.
Dan: You know, we depended on Gil Kane. He would sometimes
drop off a story. [laughs] It was a five flight walk up to Wally's!
You could take an elevator up to Samm's, you know? So, I don't think
those other guys wanted to walk up five flights. [laughter] We talked
to Crandall by phone - he lived out in Kansas - and we'd get his stuff
in the mail, so that came to us first.
CBA: Sometimes Reed would pencil and ink?
Dan: Oh, yeah.
CBA: Do you know what happened to the original art after
the job was printed?
Dan: Well, I don't know what happened to the art, but I used
to own some pages which I sold for peanuts - ten or fifteen bucks
a page - but I don't know where I got that stuff from.
Anyway, I inked two Crandall stories that I can remember. The first
one was where the story took place in the desert - Iraq or someplace
- do you remember that? With dinosaurs in the front? The other was
where they were under the Earth; where there were railroad cars. That's
the second one I inked. I remember being inhibited inking Crandall's
CBA: Those are your inks?
Dan: Wood and me. Wood did the better stuff! [laughter] He
did all the main figures. That doesn't mean I didn't do some of the
muscles on them, like Dynamo, which I did. But I was mostly doing
the guy's hats! [laughter] Weed's or something, or a train.
CBA: Did you chat at any length with Reed?
Dan: No, I didn't.
CBA: It was just pretty much it's in the mail?
Dan: Well, Wally had a whip, and if I talked long... crack!
[laughs] Actually, I don't even think we had music on in the studio,
CBA: Was he a taskmaster?
Dan: Well, only by example. He constantly worked! That's all
he did was work. Geez, besides eating, that's all he did.
CBA: That was an extremely busy time for Woody, wasn't it?
You guys didn't really get any break, did you?
Dan: When I came in, he was just finishing up Daredevil at
CBA: Do you recall meeting Larry Ivie for the first time?
Dan: I lived with the guy my first two weeks in New York. I
was his roommate. That's how I know he had nothing to do with Wally,
because Wally kept saying, "Who the hell is this guy?" [laughter]
At the time, Larry Ivie and Tim Battersby - who committed suicide
at 19, I think - and Ralph Reese were all good friends. They were
all lying their asses off in the fanzines about what they were doing
on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents! And Wally was madder than hell! But he was
trying to help Ralph, because Ralph had problems at the time - he
was only 15 - and Wally was an alcoholic (who was on the wagon at
the time) and he was always trying to help Ralph, but Ralph would
come over there, and he wouldn't even know who in the hell Wally was
some of the time! He kept calling him Larry! [laughter] Anyway, at
a science-fiction convention, Larry Ivie showed this slide show, and
he had my stuff and Virgil Finlay and a bunch of guys, he was showing
our swipes, or sources. Like when Virgil Finlay would swipe from the
Saturday Evening Post or something, he'd show that. He's show me swiping
Frazetta or someone. So, I wasn't at the convention, but I heard this
from Steve Stiles, so I went up to see Larry and talk it over, "What
the hell are you doing, smearing my name?" [laughs] This wasn't the
first time, he was also writing letters to Celia Goldsmith, who was
the editor at Amazing Stories, and she would show me the letters from
Larry Ivie, where he would show my swipes and stuff to her. And then,
he would show her how to draw! [laughs] He would point out, "This
is comic book art, this is illustration, this is fine art," he would
do examples. She was saying, "You've got to straighten Larry Ivie
out! I don't need this!" [laughs] So, he was working for Galaxy at
the time, doing a couple of illustrations for Galaxy, but I don't
think he ever worked for Amazing. Anyway, I went up to talk to Larry,
because he was writing Celia letters, and he was running me down....
CBA: Bad-mouthing you?
Dan: Yeah, at the conventions.... He put me in good company!
He was showing Krenkel, [laughs] and everybody. I knew that Larry
was always broke, so I stopped at the corner pharmacy to get sandwiches
and sodas for both of us, and so I went up there, and I said, "Do
you want this tuna fish and the soda?" He said, "I'll take the soda,
put the tuna fish in the refrigerator." I went over to the refrigerator,
opened it up, and it's empty! Completely empty, except for one little
upside-down clay dinosaur, on a rack down there! It's only as big
as your hand. This is from one of the little movies he used to make,
stop-motion movies. I just couldn't argue with the guy, I couldn't
do it that day. [laughter] Other stories, like we'd have parties,
and Larry would give parties, and all kinds of people would show up,
and I don't know if you know who Marvin Frenzel was, but Marvin was
sitting over in the corner - this was during hippie time, in the '60s
- and Marvin was playing with cooked spaghetti with his feet! [laughs]
He had a plate there, and he was playing with spaghetti with his feet!
That's the kind of people that showed up at Larry Ivie's.
This guide to storytelling was available to artist Wally Wood's assistants.
Contributor John Workman supplied us with this photocopy. ©2001
the Estate of Wallace Wood.
CBA: People would just come and crash at Larry's place a lot?
Dan: Yeah, he lived in Manhattan. Bill Pearson was there at
the time. Bill Pearson moved out of Larry's and Bill and I lived together
for maybe six months.
CBA: Who is Bill Pearson?
Dan: He put out witzend, and is head of the Wally Wood estate!
He's got all that Wood art out there and papers! He's got all these
sketches by Wally, Jesus, all these little doodles, thousands of them!
Anyway, Bill is the guy I met when we were both teenagers, and we
wrote letters to fanzines. We put out a fanzine together, Sata. He
was also editor up at Charlton for a long time. Bill also wrote some
of the first stories in Creepy and Eerie. As a matter of fact, Russ
Jones wrote a story with him, and Joe Orlando illustrated it, and
it was about voodoo or something. Read the byline there: "Russ Jones
and Bill Pearson," and what was Russ Jones' contribution? "Hey, Bill!
Do a story about the voodoo guy!" That was his contribution! [laughs]
Bill also wrote some stories for T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. So did Larry
Ivie and Len Brown.
CBA: Do you remember Len Brown? Did he come around?
Dan: I don't think he ever came around. I met Len, but not
there. I think I met him in Manhattan someplace. He worked for Topps,
you know. I guess he still works for Topps!
CBA: He just finally retired.
Dan: [laughs] Oh, so that's what happened! He was so young
when I was up there, he was in his 20s. Anyway, it was just me, Ralph
and Coleman up there for a year-and-a-half, and his wife, Tatjana.
CBA: This was Tony Coleman? He was out of Canada?
Dan: Yeah. He went back to Britain. I did such a good job on
"The Battle of Britain" because of those little digests, British war
magazines that Tony had. [laughs] I swiped just about everything in
"Battle of Britain" except the first page, which Wally laid out. But
in between, I used most of those British comics.
CBA: Coleman was an artist over in England?
Dan: Yeah, he was a comic book artist of the type like Mike
Esposito would be, you know? Not too flashy a style. But a good journeyman.
He worked for Wally for under six months, just to get enough money
to get back to England. He lost all his money in Canada or something,
and Joe Orlando sent him up from DC to work for Wally, which means
Orlando must've been editor down at DC during the Tower time.
CBA: So Joe and Woody always maintained their friendship?
Dan: Yeah, they were always great buddies.
CBA: Did they go out and socialize together?
Dan: Wally never went out. [laughter] Wally went out twice
a week to see a psychiatrist.
CBA: Did he order everything out?
Dan: Yes, we did. We ordered a lot of stuff out.
CBA: Did you have a hot plate? Did anyone ever cook?
Dan: We had a kitchen right next to us, then down the hall
was the bathroom, and then the swipe room, which was filled with about
22 cabinets. Wally had made his own swipe machine, it was a great,
elaborate affair! [laughs] Like this great big house was coming down
on us. Yeah, we turned a crank wheel, and a big wheel at the side
there, and Wally made the lenses and everything himself. It was a
great thing. I used to sleep in there, and I was afraid all the filing
cabinets would fall on me or something. Then, I slept in the living
room sometimes, on the couch in there. I was up there all the time!
CBA: Did you see, there was supposedly a ritual that Woody
would, one day a week, just do tear sheets, just go through magazines
and just tear out pictures for reference? Do you remember that?
Dan: No, I don't think he did that. I think most of that happened
beforehand. He might've had that ritual earlier on or something. But
I was up there seven days a week! I lived there! [laughs]
CBA: It was just an amazing amount of work you guys put out.
Dan: We put out all the Tower stuff, three or four series for
Topps, stuff for Harvey, the Total War and Fantastic Voyage stuff
for Western.... We even did an eight-page monster story for Western.
We did that Alka-Seltzer ad that appeared on TV. We did Argosy ads,
we did those six record album covers.
CBA: How long were you with Woody?
Dan: 16 months.
CBA: [laughs] Wow!
Dan: Yeah! I know I did 60 different assignments. It was great
fun, I had nothing but fun all the time.
CBA: Did you do some writing?
Dan: Yeah, I killed Menthor.
CBA: [laughs] So that was your idea?
Dan: Yeah, yeah.
CBA: What was your thinking behind that?
Dan: I guess it was because my parents and everybody treated
me bad. [laughter] I used to have dreams of everybody coming to my
funeral, and they were all weeping and sorry they treated me so bad.
CBA: You'll show them! [laughs]
Dan: So, this came out in my "Death of Menthor" story. Instead
of writing it Wally's way, with a happy ending, I wanted to show the
people that characters can die. [laughter] It just wrote itself. I
sat down for two hours, and Wally gave me this plot about... they
swiped his helmet, you know? So I started out with that, and ended
up passing the pages along to Wally, and Wally's saying, "I hope to
hell you save this guy! It's good!" [laughs] Then, the last two pages,
I didn't save him. So, Wally told me for two hours, "You've got to
change this, we can't kill off Menthor!" And I kept saying, "Ah, you
never use him anyway! He's a lousy super-hero!" [laughter] I convinced
Wally, then Wally had to do the same act for Samm.
But he was very popular after we killed him! For a couple of months,
anyway. The story just happened, it just wrote itself.
That's the way I did my Doctor Strange stories, too. They might've
been a little better when Denny O'Neil was writing, because he did
have tight plots, but everybody else would just give me a loose plot
and I was just winging it! I liked my own control - I didn't like
being bossed around. That's why they stink, too. [laughter] Now, I
realize in the old days, those things were going nowhere! You can
tell they're just sort of like The Wizard of Oz.
CBA: I remember seeing it as a kid, and going, "Wow! You
can't kill a super-hero!" That was cool and innovative! It was before
Ferro Lad was killed in "Legion of Super-Heroes."
Dan: Wally wrote the last line, something about laying down
your life for a friend or something. Ditko ended up penciling it,
which pissed me off at the time, because I was going to do such a
marvelous job! [laughs] I probably couldn't have done any better than
he did though. Ditko used my layouts that I drew, as I wrote the script.
A page from the Adkins tour de force, "The Maze" (Dynamo #4), entirely
penciled by Dan and inked by Woody. Dynamo © John Carbonaro.
CBA: How much work were you doing on a typical T.H.U.N.D.E.R.
Dan: Well, when we started out, Wally had to fix up my work
a lot. I can't remember exactly what I did after that first Iron Maiden
story... I think it was that one about robots coming up in Washington,
D.C. with that big shot of the capitol on the splash page. He would
lay it out, the breakdowns.... Well, you've seen the Wood Sketchbook?
Well, those are the sketches. It was pretty good. There were no backgrounds
hardly on most of the stuff, and there's no faces much. It's just
basically figures, but there's some little indication of faces there.
But the figures were mostly there, all you had to do was tighten them
up, they were most of the time on the money. He said if I could find
a better figure, to swipe it. So sometimes I substituted Crandall
or somebody for his stuff. Then, there were a lot of backgrounds to
make up, because the backgrounds weren't too complex. The cover roughs
in there, he never did them that tight. Those are almost complete
pencils that he has in the Sketchbook, of some of the covers. Some
of those covers [laughs] where he went over a swipe by Ralph or something,
you can see some of the awkwardness in the train or something. We
had Ralph swipe a lot of the stuff. If we needed a train or something,
Ralph would swipe some of that stuff. But mostly after Wally laid
it out, I took it home, and I'd do the tight pencils, and back at
his place, we'd do mostly the inking, finish it up there, so Wally
could have the last... and usually it was deadline time anyway...
so Wally could have the last word on the panel. We'd make corrections
up there. But at home, I would tighten it up. I worked my ass off
up at Wally's, and drag it home, get a nap, and start working my ass
off at home! [laughter] I never slept any at all, probably averaged
four or five hours a night, you know? Only my day lasted about 35
hours [laughter] before I'd get to sleep!
CBA: Did you guys do lettering, too?
Dan: No, Ben Oda and his assistant, Billy Yoshida, would do
most of our lettering.
CBA: Would it be sent out, or would Ben come over?
Dan: I think he would pick that up, I think they'd pick up
four or five stories at a time. Billy was a very young guy, like 20.
I don't think he ever got credit.
CBA: Did Wally do all the story logos?
Dan: For the stories we did, he probably did. I don't know
if he inked them all, but he roughed them in there, just how he wanted.
CBA: What did Coleman do?
Dan: Coleman specifically inked Fantastic Voyage, the majority
of the inking on that. I did no inking on Fantastic Voyage. I did
almost all the penciling. [laughs] Conceptual, everything almost!
He worked on either Dynamo #2 or T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2. Wherever
all those guys are on a beach and Dynamo was beating the hell out
of about 20 or 30 guys in one panel. Tony was complaining about that.
[laughter] He worked on a couple of the stories we did for Harvey...
this was like the V-1 Rocket story which I penciled.
CBA: Was this Warfront?
Dan: Oh, that's what the name of it was! [laughs] Yeah, that's
where they had "Dollar Bill Cash" and all those guys. I don't have
any copies of that, I haven't seen them in years. Earthman and all
that stuff. I haven't seen those in years.
CBA: Did you guys work on "Animan"?
Dan: The one that was printed in witzend? No, I had nothing
to do with that. I think I did a little inking on the splash, and
that's all I did... in front of those trees and stuff. That's just
because I happened to be there at the time. I don't know if that's
because that came in so late, I'd already left, or was close to leaving
Wally. Ralph was tracing off those little cavemen running over a log
from Reed Crandall [laughs] when I'd seen them.
CBA: What did Ralph do on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents?
Dan: He didn't do much art until after I left, but there's
one that Chic Stone penciled, and we added more penciling by Ralph.
Chic penciled this one about a castle, and there's one of those machines
that throws a big rock that's on the floor - catapult. Ralph did the
CBA: There was a splash page in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #4,
with billboards reading "A.G. Coleman Presents Daniel Adkins"?
Dan: Yeah, that's the Times Square thing. There's also other
artists mentioned throughout the whole damn book. The guys in Texas,
the Texas Trio - Buddy Saunders... those guys are mentioned. That's
when I was starting to get Wally interested in putting out witzend,
but under my control! [laughter]
CBA: Did you add those names, or did Woody?
Dan: No, I had it all in there. Tony on the splash... I think
I put Tony Coleman as a "BNF" - Big Name Fan! [laughter] And Jerry
Bails, Big Name Fan. There's also "Tim" for Tim Battersby. That's
when Tim was on good terms with us! [laughs]
CBA: Astor is just for the hotel?
Dan: Yeah, the Astor Hotel is where they held the convention.
CBA: You obviously did a lot of work on this story. I can
see your dinosaur, this is really...
Dan: Well, it's Wally's old round dinosaurs, I took a lot from
his EC stories. I like his dinosaur better than today's dinosaur,
which has all the color. All these old, gray, round ones! The dinosaurs
today are weird-looking! I like Wally's dinosaurs.
CBA: Did you know Manny Stallman?
Dan: Yeah, he lived out in Queens and was absolutely nuts.
CBA: The Raven stories were so cartoony.
Dan: Yeah, Wally didn't know what to think of that. [laughter]
I told him I liked it!
CBA: Who was John Giunta?
Dan: He was an old-timer. He did the one story where Dynamo
is running and dressed in uniform, as a soldier or something, with
a tank. He did quite a few. He also did science-fiction illustrations
CBA: Did you know Gray Morrow?
Dan: Yeah. He's been over to my home, we were good friends.
[laughs] I haven't really seen him lately, but he still looks great
to me, and he's older than I am! [laughter] Yeah, he still looks sharp
to me. Oh, yeah, we used to have a lot of fun together, because he
liked to party. In fact, I think he still likes to party, he invited
me for a drink! [laughs] He was here at a convention, too, but he
only stayed about two hours and left, because he found the convention
I helped Wally on a lot of the science-fiction stories. As a matter
of fact, Coleman inked a few of the science-fiction illustrations,
too. But this was right during that period where I was working there,
'68 or something, and I worked for Galaxy during that same period,
doing my own stuff. So, in one issue of Galaxy there's a story illustrated
by me, another illustrated by Wally I also did the penciling on, and
then there's a story by Ralph Reese... it was an all-Wally issue!
[laughter] Of course, Wally did a cover, all himself and his wife,
Tatjana. She helped some on the coloring. They wanted big changes
on the cover to make it cheaper and louder, and Wally was going to
say no to the whole deal, and Tatjana just says, "Let's let Danny
fix it, and we'll split the money." So, I made it cheap and louder,
and then they ended up giving the credit to Gray Morrow! [laughter]
CBA: Was Roger Brand around the studio at the time?
Dan: I did a story called "The Haunted Sky" - I'm not sure
if that's a Creepy or Eerie story - but it was in one of the books,
and I penciled the splash, and I didn't want to do the rest of the
story, because I guess I had to do something for Marvel, so I gave
it to Roger to finish. So, "The Haunted Sky," which was printed in
one of the books, is my splash, a story Archie wrote for me about
planes, [laughs] that I begged him for, then I gave it back to him
and screwed him, and Roger finished the story. So, how much Roger
helped me, I don't know. Roger did a few - oh, I know what he helped
me on! He helped me on that anniversary issue, the 100th issue of
Sub-Mariner versus the Hulk, Tales to Astonish, I guess. Roger helped
me ink that, we inked nine pages in a week.
CBA: Did you meet him at the studio?
Dan: No, I don't know how I met Roger. You've got to remember,
it's New York, where you go up to the offices of the publishers, you
go to parties - Bill Pearson used to have an apartment that wasn't
too far from Wally Wood. You know, Wally was on 76th Street, off Grand
Central Park, and Pearson was at 72nd Street, on over towards the
river, and this was back when Steve Ditko used to actually get out
and go to these things, and I actually talked to Steve Ditko, so I
can assure you he's a real person! [laughter] A very nice, quiet guy,
usually wore a suit. Gray Morrow was over there, and you'd meet all
kinds of people over at Bill's place. I probably met Roger, because
I also knew Michelle, his wife. So, I met her over there. I don't
know if I met Marvin Wolfman. Jeff Jones came into the city a month
or two after I left Wally. He helped me on a couple of science-fiction
illustrations. He also helped me on a Not Brand Echh! story by...
geez, it was Magnus, Robot Fighter... [laughs] Don Heck! You know,
Jeff Jones helped me ink some Don Heck. It's all very strange, because
you meet so many people. I used to be with the other crowd, like Ted
White, Harlan Ellison, Lin Carter, Terry Carr - I still have photographs
in my scrapbook of Terry Carr and his wife when they got married.
Lin Carter was writing all that stuff, and he had an apartment with
Oriental curtains, and chests... [laughter] I was down in the Village,
that's where Ted White was.
The most refreshing aspect of Tower Comics' T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents
was the reverence given to the art above all, from the spectacular void-of-blurbs
covers to the exquisitely rendered pin-ups. Here's a magnificently rendered
one-pager by Wood & Adkins from #3. Thunder Agents © John Carbonaro.
CBA: Harlan was a character, right?
Dan: Yeah, Harlan was a character. He was briefly in town here,
spoke over here at Reading College. I went over and listened to him
for two hours. God, I don't know how these guys can project in their
old age! [laughs] Harlan's a couple of years older than me, and has
had one heart operation, I think, and he can still get out there and
talk without the microphone and project to 200-300 people or something.
I got to talk to him for a while; he's a nice guy.
CBA: What do you imagine the thinking behind the Tower Comics
were? Were they trying to grab some of the thunder from Marvel Comics?
Was it a James Bond thing?
Dan: Well, Wally had all these characters, almost since childhood,
like Animan, and Andor, a sort of a villain that looks like a civilian.
Ditko did a couple of stories with Andor. That was his Animan, as
far as giving power. But he had stories he'd done of Animan when he
was 13 years old. Those little sketches. Pearson has all these little
sketches, he sent a bunch to Steranko just to look at for a while.
According to Steranko, they were all done without any pencil lines,
Wally was just inking those as a kid! Just made 'em up! I don't know
CBA: Did he create all the Tower characters?
Dan: As far as I know. A lot of them were made up as we went
along, a lot of villains.
CBA: Did you develop any of the characters?
Dan: No. I don't think anybody ever asked me. I had to write
a couple of stories and stuff, and I probably wouldn't have been able
to do it, except Wally asked me. My God, he was my hero at the time!
CBA: Did you like the Tower comics?
Dan: Oh, well, one reason I quit was I kept telling Wally I'd
like to do bigger pictures. [laughs] Wally was always into this telling
a story in this formulaic way, and I was more into the image kind
of thing. I said, "Let me do some big splashes!"
CBA: They had pretty small panels.
Dan: In fact, there was one with a big rocket ship - I forget
what the hell that was - and I wanted to do a full splash, and Wally
sat down there as half a page, and he's got four other panels on that
page. That got in the way, when I started, Wally stopped doing the
breakdowns, and like I said, I did four on my own. He told me I had
to do them all together on my own. In fact, I probably got credit
for those, too, all three that I got credit for were probably ones
I did on my own. The other one was the one that Chic Stone inked.
So, it's just that I wanted to do it differently than Wally. That's
what happens after you get so tired of doing it one way, you like
experimenting a little bit when you start out, whereas Wally had settled
to what he wanted to do.
CBA: Was the lack of credit bothersome to you at all?
Dan: No, I don't think so. I was a lot happier getting credit,
though! I could've lasted another two years if it continued, probably.
The main reason I left everything is because we were told by Samm
that the books weren't selling, or were having hard times with distribution,
and Wally said I should find some extra freelance work. I didn't want
to do advertising! [laughs] I did a couple of those advertising jobs
- I forget what the hell they were - and one was for Argosy magazine.
I ended up copying Mort Drucker! It was a "Subscribe to Argosy, we
have the great detective stories" ad. I had to draw Perry Mason and
a whole bunch of detectives... that wasn't any fun at all.
CBA: Was the money good?
Dan: Yeah, I guess. I don't remember the money on that, but
I do remember the money on the record albums, and that was $60 a page
for just doing the pencils. That's good money even ten years ago,
let alone 30! I had money back then. Although, when Wally left Mad,
he was getting $200 a page, which was good money today, almost!
CBA: Did Woody stick it out at Tower?
Dan: Until they went under. They started reprinting stories
CBA: And that's all they did; they just reprinted to the
Dan: Well, they had new covers, I think. Then they actually
reprinted a couple of covers and everything. I think it only went
to about #20.
CBA: Did you like Woody?
Dan: I don't know if I liked him or just admired him. After
all, he was mean-spirited, you know, but he really liked comics. I
mean, I love the man's work - everybody likes his work - but I don't
know if I liked him... I don't think he was a nice guy. I think he
was a very honest guy, but I don't know how many people you've talked
to about his later years, but I'm sure if he had a kid, he'd never
think much of the kid. But I might be wrong, because he sort of took
care of Ralph a little bit.
CBA: Was it unpleasant to work for him?
Dan: No, it wasn't unpleasant to work for him, because 1) You
knew the money was going to be there, and 2) You respected the man's
work - but there was something about him that made you _nervous; you
don't cross this man, you know?
CBA: You were afraid of him?
Dan: Well, yeah. I guess it boils down to that, yeah. I was
afraid to be myself.
CBA: But he wasn't prone to violence, was he?
Dan: Prone to violence? Did you ever hear about his later years?
CBA: Well, yes.
Dan: He tore up the whole studio, and then started shooting
a shotgun into the walls! And then he took an axe to everything! [laughter]
CBA: I mean, when you were there.
Dan: He was bleeding, he'd cut himself with the axe when Pearson
found him one time. He had this rage in him, this underlying rage,
that I've seen a few times. [laughs] When Tony left, and he didn't
like Tony's artwork, he'd tear the man apart verbally. So yeah, I
feared the guy. But basically, he was never terribly happy. The only
true light moments he had was when he would strum the guitar and play
folk songs. I always felt sorry for him, or concerned.
CBA: Do you think his being unhappy added to his creativity,
or do you think there was any correlation?
Dan: It would tire me out to be unhappy, because that's what
happens when I get unhappy. He was going to a psychiatrist. If he
was on meds, I don't know, but he could've been on medicine. I know
it was expensive for him to go to a psychiatrist. I don't know. I
think the thing that made Wally draw good was the fact that he wanted
to show people his talent. Usually his value of himself comes from
his work... in other words, what he valued from himself, what he was
most proud of, was his work. He had delusions of grandeur, to a certain
CBA: If this country was a little more hip to what was going
on, he would've been a major name in American culture, I think.
Dan: If it was like in Europe, you mean?
CBA: Yeah, more attuned. There was something in the early
'60s, with his work with Mad, that was the face of humor in this country
- Wally Wood's drawings were America.
Dan: He asked me if I thought they should have a Wally Wood
parade in New York, and how many people knew who he was, and all that
sort of thing. [laughter] One of the reasons you start out drawing
is to get attention, the ego thing. That can't sustain you or your
ego. He never got the glory like McFarlane. I went to a convention
in Philadelphia when those guys were at their peak, and they had that
big convention, it must've been '89, '90, somewhere in there, and
there was a line for signing autographs for McFarlane that was 1,000
people long! Get in that line, you're going to wait about two hours!
That never happened with Wally Wood.
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