Guest post by JIM AMASH

Alter Ego associate editor Jim Amash added this post to his own blog, and I’m offering it here as well, as I think it conveys some great info:


The January issue of Alter Ego is out now, printing part one of my two part interview with First Kingdom creator Jack Katz.  In this issue, Jack and I spend a lot of time talking about his childhood memories of Alex Toth, Pete Morisi, Alphonso Greene, and their visits with comics’ legend Frank Robbins (writer/artist of the Scorchy Smith and Johnny Hazard newspaper strips). Some of these stories were told to me by Alex Toth during our many long phone calls, and so I found it interesting to hear Jack’s take on those events.  The stories were similar in the telling – the difference being that Jack had quite a bit to say about the young Alex Toth.

Alex had told me a fair amount about his childhood, which was often not a happy one. Jack and I talked about some of it (though not all of it, for print, anyway).  Jack spoke eloquently about his old friend, and how Alex was an intense personality even in his teen years.  Our sadness about Alex and his problems has always been a topic for private discussion between Jack and I, and I confess to having lingering thoughts about how much of it to print.  We loved Alex, and there was no joy in taping this part of the interview. It was very emotional for both of us, especially for Jack, who knew Alex long before I was even born.

Yes, there were a couple things Jack and I discussed that we were not comfortable in printing.  I faced this same problem when Alex died, and Roy and I decided to devote Alter Ego #63 to Alex.  Alex told me much about his life, good and bad, and in seeking a balanced look at the man, I had to seriously weigh not just what to say, but what not to say.  It’s one thing to write biography about someone you don’t know, and another thing when you knew the person, and knew him as well as I did Alex.  I wrote as objective a piece as possible, realizing that someday, I would have more to say on the subject of Alex Toth.  Alex was a complicated man (as I’ve found most people to be), and undoubtedly, Dean Mullaney – who is writing an authorized biography of Alex’s life – faces the same concerns.

The problem is that too many people concentrate on Alex’s foibles, often neglecting his virtues.  I worried about that when I wrote about him, and interviewed those who knew him in AE #63: Jack Mendelsohn, Sy Barry, Joe Kubert, Lew Sayre Schwartz, and Sparky Moore.  Jack Katz and I had the same fears during our interview, and while we privately questioned (off tape) what we were doing, we both realized the importance of Alex’s legacy, good and bad, and the necessity of speaking our minds.  Otherwise, we wouidn’t be giving an honest evaluation of a man who was, at times, a big part of our lives.

Many of my interview subjects face this dilemma when I ask about people they knew.  Sometimes, they clam up, and say very little, and sometimes, they have no fear in saying what they think.  We know that what gets into print becomes part of a historical record, and there is a responsibility that goes with it.  Everyone, from Roy Thomas, John Morrow, the interview subjects, and myself, recognize that, and operate within that framework.  In doing so, we hope that you find the work informative, honest, revealing, and historically important in understanding those who made the comics.  Some of it is cold, hard fact, and some of it is personal opinion.  That’s what oral history is about.  That’s a large part of what Alter Ego is about it.  At times there is a Rashomon effect in oral history, but that’s part and parcel of biography.  People are entitled to their point of view, and we do our best to relate their experiences.

I’m curious to hear what you think when you read what Jack and I say in this issue, and the next, too, when we talk about Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.  Jack Katz’s memories of Kirby are extensive, describing aspects of Jack Kirby that no one else has said in print.  I think you’ll find it worth your time.