Monday, February 15, 2010

Who Am I? Why Am I Here?

There's a very good chance you won't know me. Although I've been involved with comic books as a reader and fan for 50 years (it hurts to even write that), until the invention of the Internet I was just a face in a convention crowd.

I've always been fascinated by the history of this medium, going back to the Sixties and the typewritten, hand-stapled copies of The Panelologist I ordered from Jerry Bails. In many ways, Jerry is responsible for this blog. I grew up in the Detroit area and attended some of the earliest comic shows, The Detroit Triple Fan-Fairs, organized in part by Dr. Bails. I bought some of my first Golden Age comics from him as a shy kid at these conventions. I eagerly read and re-read his scholarly take on what most adults disregarded as childish trash. Years later, Jerry helped me on many occasions when I had run into a wall in my own comic history research or just needed to run some of my theories by him. He's gone now and I miss him. But I want to thank him just the same.

The Panelologist vol. 1 #1

This next part is uncomfortable for me as I hate to talk about myself, but probably should at this point.

I've been referred to as a comic historian, but that sounds like a frightening combination of Jerry Lewis and Stephen Ambrose, so I prefer comics detective. Maybe you've read some of my writings on my Comicartville website. Or maybe you've seen some of the articles I've had published in ALTER EGO, THE COMICS JOURNAL and Craig Yoe's ARF FORUM. Greg Theakston used an abridged version of one article for the text of his book, WILL EISNER: EDGE OF GENIUS. I've been an unnamed contributor to numerous publications over the years, a named contributor to OVERSTREET'S PRICE GUIDE, cited by Bob Andelman in his Eisner bio, A SPIRITED LIFE and in the credits of the Eisner documentary film, “Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist”. And yeah, that's a copy of my Merry Marvel Marching Society membership card and kit in THE MARVEL VAULT book from a few years back.

I'll probably refer back to some of these from time-to-time as my research doesn't end when an article does. I'm currently finishing up a long piece on the life and career of Bernard Baily, a much shorter piece on Matt Baker and a half-dozen other writings in various stages of completion. I plan on featuring previews of articles as they develop and will often seek advice and information from YOU, the reader. I'm fortunate to have friendly relations with some of the most thoughtful and generous people involved in the study of this medium, and hope to feature their words and insights upon occasion.

As for comments--I welcome them all! But please follow these rules of the road:

1) Always be respectful. No insults, no name-calling, no airing of grudges.

2) No adults-only language. In other words: don't curse or use language you wouldn't use in front of children. I want this blog to be viewable by as many curious comic book fans as possible and that includes the young.

3) No political, religious or other divisive posting. There are plenty of sites and discussion lists devoted to those pursuits. This isn't one of them.

I have the ability to moderate comments here on my end, so any comment that violates the above will be summarily deleted.

Please follow these easily followable rules and we can all have a good time and perhaps learn something.


  1. Hi Ken!

    Congrats on a wonderful blog! I enjoyed your into and especially liked the designation "Comics Detective" inwtead of Comic Book Historian (or CBH as our pal Barry Pearl calls it). I do enjoy investigating the rich history of comics, and think of myself more as a detective than "historian".

    I found your post on the FF fascinating. It is entirely possible that Lee, Kirby, or both absorbed that story. Influences come from so many places, but I believe it is how it is adapted and revised that is important. Lee and Kirby took elements from different areas and made the FF unique, one of the reasons we're still discussing it almost 50 years later.

    I look forward to future posts!

    Nick Caputo

  2. Thank you, Nick! I appreciate your comments and if you ever have any comic book mystery you need solving, feel free to email me and I'll post it here. If I can't help, maybe someone *out there* can!

  3. Dear Ken:

    It’s wonderful to see your site. I have been involved with some of your projects and appreciate how though and complete you are in your writing and discussions.

    Recently, I have become a bit disappointing in people who proclaim themselves “historians” but who have not put in the time or effort to merit such a title. And they really do not have the knowledge or resources to really be considered the authority they claim for themselves.

    As you know, I have always be proud to be associated with you in any way! Not just because you are a true and dedicated scholar, but because you have an open mind and all always looking for answers. You are also a fine writer, seeing the point and expressing it very well. This is a great place for you!

    Your story on the Fantastic Four is terrific, but you may NOT know the actual truth of the origin of the Fantastic Four, as tracked down by Nick Caputo!!!!

    In Sid Caesar’s biography Caesar’s Hours, he wrote: “In…a sketch, Paul Douglas and I play scientists who send a termite into space and expose it to cosmic rays. As we retrieve the capsule, while I reach in to get the termite, it bites my finger. Moments later I develop an insatiable appetite for wood, ripping the arm off a chair and eating it...”...Two short years later, a young man named Stan Lee wrote a comic book about a teenager who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and develops remarkable powers. I assume Stan Lee was a fan of our shows. Although I can’t prove it, I suspect Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen may be indirectly responsible for the creation of Spider-Man.”

    Stan replied personally to us: “I seem to be in good company with Ditko, Gelbart and Allen! But, while I was a big fan of Sid’s and would never miss a show, I have absolutely no recollection of the termite from space. In fact, since they say he was exposed to cosmic rays, they might as well take credit for the FF, too!”

  4. Thanks for the kind words, Barry!

    As for Caesar giving credit to Allen and Gelbart for Spider-Man's creation--all I can say is success has many fathers. ;-)

  5. Ken, it's great to see you on a blog. I really appreciate your contributions to comics. I am a big fan of Matt Baker and I can't wait to see your take on him. I think it would be interesting to hear more about his illustrative career. Have you been able to interview people who knew him? This seems to be the most difficult part.
    Thanks Ken

  6. Hi Joanna,

    Thank you for the kind words!

    My contribution on Matt Baker is an article about Baker's St. John comics and it will be appearing in a book about his life and career.

    I have interviewed a few people about Baker--Al Feldstein and Arnold Drake among them--but the ultimate interview regarding Baker was the one Jim Amash conducted with Baker's half-brother and nephew in ALTER EGO #47. It's a great interview and source about Baker's life.