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and works of great cartoonists, writers and editors from all eras through in-depth interviews, feature articles, and unpublished art.

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

From Comic 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 about?
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 person.

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 Carbonaro.

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 weird stuff!"

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 pencils.

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, you know?

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 Marvel.

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. Agents story?
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 catapult.

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 for Galaxy.

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 dull.
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 about that.

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 and stuff.

CBA: And that's all they did; they just reprinted to the end, right?
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? [laughs]

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] Geez!

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 extent.

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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