Friday, November 08, 2013

Historic Masses

Friday Marvel History Day.

Last week I showed one of Timely's frequent history stories. Here is another one drawn by the famous John Romita Sr. Although Romita is best known these days for doing the Captain America revival in the fifties in a Milt Caniff style, he usually worked in a much cleaner style (remarkably similar to that of his son John Romita Jr., even though he was only a couple of years old at the time). For this story Stan Lee asked Romita to work in a busier style. In his interview with Roy Thomas for alter Ego, he said this about the story: "I have two pages from a racetrack gangster story I did in 1949. The Marvel book [The Art of John Romita] reproduces a gangster splash with an old 1920s car and machine-gun fire. Biro did period pieces, and so did Stan, from time to time. I did a story of the Revolutionary War, which is one of my pet stories of all time. Stan wrote a very interesting 10-page story dealing with a family in Boston that was torn apart by the Revolutionary War. Half the family was Tory, and half the family was Patriot. That's one of my stories that I use to show people what writers do to artists! I should have saved it. The script called for a splash showing a street in Boston, and outside this house there was a balcony above the entrance. And on the balcony was the father of the family, and four sons and, I think, a daughter. The family was looking at the Battle of Bunker Hill in the background - so I had to show Bunker Hill and the other hill [ED. NOTE: Breed's Hill], with gunfire and smoke from one of the M.C. Wyeth illustrations. Oh yes, and there was a division of Redcoats marching down the street! [laughs] So there's a thousand soldiers, this family, and other people looking out the windows and looking, in the distance, at the Battle of Bunker Hill. And I called up Stan and I said, "How in the hell do you expect me to get all this into one drawing?" I think he even had a panel at the bottom of the page, too; it wasn't even a full-page. It took me forever; it took me two days just to get reference. I should have used the Jack Keller system - have a lot of smoke obscuring things."

Of course it was not a ten page story. In early to mid fifties all stories in Stan Lee' books were three to six pages. Only if he wrote them himself, he sometimes took an extra page. But seven was the absolute maximum. Also, Romita's story gives the impression that Stan Lee was the writer, but in this case there are no hints that he would be. There is even the use of the word 'throuh' instead of 'thru' which Stan never ever did in his career. Still, it's a good example of the (sub)genre.

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