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"I Didn't Stay In One Place!"

by George Tuska
Edited by P.C. Hamerlinck

From Alter Ego Vol. 3 #9

George Tuska, artist and comic book pioneer, reflects back on his long career, with special emphasis on the time he illustrated some of the early issues of Fawcett's Captain Marvel Adventures, as well as "Golden Arrow"stories. Thanks to Mike Gartland for his assistance with this article. -PCH.

George Tuska in the 1960s - a photo taken in Stan Lee's office at Marvel Comics. Courtesy of G.T.

I was born in Hartford, Connecticut, eighty-five years ago. My first interest in art was looking at my brother's pulp magazine illustrations of cowboys when I was about seven or eight years old. A few years later, I had an appendix operation. At the hospital where I was treated, an elderly patient showed me how to draw a cowboy and an Indian. (Western adventures were the big thing at the time.) As I watched him draw the figures on the paper before my very eyes, I began to feel a little artist in myself for the first time.

After high school I visited my aunt in New York City, where I ended up working a few odd jobs. One was designing women's costume jewelry. It was fun, but I soon found out that it just wasn't my thing. Shortly thereafter, a friend of mine invited me to work out with him, lifting weights at a local gym. I exercised for five hours that day. The next day I was so sore I couldn't get out of bed. My friend came over, and we dropped in to visit a friend of his who was a sculptor. His studio was on one of the West 70s Streets, overlooking Central Park. I never got to know his name, but he knew I was interested in art, so he recommended me to the National Academy of Design. At the time it was located at 104th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Thus began my art career!

I had filled out an application as an artist and cartoonist at a professional agency in New York City. Will Eisner and Jerry Iger called for me to submit some art samples. I was soon accepted and asked to work in their studio. I worked alongside Bob Powell, Lou Fine, and Mike Sekowsky. Later the studio expanded, with Charles Sultan, John Celardo, Nick Cardy, and Toni Blum joining in. I worked on "Shark Brodie," "Spike Marlin," and other strips.
I soon left the Eisner & Iger studio to go work for Harry Chesler's shop. Chesler was currently handling some comics for Fawcett Publications, who couldn't keep up with the production of their successful and expanding line of comics. It was at this time I drew several early issues of Captain Marvel Adventures, as well as some other strips. We had a good group of artists at the Chesler shop: Ruben Moreira, Mac Raboy (who later worked for Fawcett), Ralph Astarita, and Charles Sultan, whom I had first met at Eisner & Iger's studio.

Splash panel from Captain Marvel Adventures #3, Aug./Sept. 1941. Art by George Tuska.
©2001 DC Comics.

I left Chesler and found myself working again for Will Eisner, who had just separated from Iger. Will had his group of artists, including Alex Kotzky and Tex Blaisdell. Will was busy with The Spirit and also handled comics for Busy Arnold [Quality Comics]. While with Eisner, I penciled some Spirit and "Uncle Sam"stories.

To make some additional income, I decided to freelance a bit on the side. I paid a visit to the Fawcett offices at the Paramount Building. I met briefly with Fawcett Publications art director Al Allard. I ended up drawing a few more "Captain Marvel"stories. Allard had asked me to draw as close as possible to the way Captain Marvel had first appeared in Whiz Comics. I also drew two or three "Golden Arrow" stories while freelancing for Fawcett. A girl named Judy, I believe, handled the scripts for me. I would complete the entire final page; I drew all the figures and backgrounds, and inked everything. I was about 24 or 25 at the time. After those freelance jobs, I never worked for Fawcett again.

I went on to work for Lev Gleason, drawing Crime Does Not Pay and others. From there I illustrated the Scorchy Smith newspaper strip for the Associated Press, then the Buck Rogers strip for the National Newspaper Syndicate.

In the '60s I met Stan Lee and made Marvel Comics my comic book home. I illustrated Iron Man and probably just about every Marvel Comics super-hero there was!

When I retired, I was making $55 a page. When I first started out in the comic book business in the early '40s, I made $10 a week.

Today I am invited to comic conventions. They are nice, and attending them sort of brings up your spirits again. They're also a good vacation away from home.

I'm sure that, had I worked for Fawcett for a longer period of time, they would have treated me very well. I never really knew why I didn't stay in one place.

Iron Man confronts The Mandarin in a specialty piece recently rendered in color by Tuska.
Art ©2001 George Tuska; Iron Man & Mandarin ©2001 Marvel Characters, Inc.

George Tuska Is Available for Commissions! 9" x 12" or 11" x 14" Pen & Ink & Color
Write to George at: 899A Stratford Ct, Manchester, NJ 08759

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