Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hank Chapman Update

(Here is Ger Apeldoorn's update to his Hank Chapman post. Ger and I would both like to give thanks to Steven Rowe and Leonardo De Sá for their help with valuable information about Chapman.)

After Ken put my short piece on Timely/Atlas writer Hank Chapman,things went pretty fast. I wish I could say it was all due to the posting, but frankly most of the work was done by Ken himself. He truly is The Comics Detective.

Through the indispensable Hames Ware/Jerry Bails Who's Who In American Comic Books site, I had already found that Hank Chapman's real name probably was Henry P. Chapman. Confirmation for that came from a source I provided myself; Ken noticed it was the name Chapman used to sign the "The Nightmare" story we used to illustrate the article.

Working from that, Ken found a series of articles by Henry P. Chapman in DESERT MAGAZINE, a magazine about the nature and architecture of the American Southwest, which is almost completely available for viewing online at

One of these articles was followed by an editorial piece which gave some more information about Henry P. Chapman. Apparently he had visited New Mexico on holiday in 1952 and had moved there sometime later with his second wife, Toni. There he went on to become a freelance journalist and photographer.

The pieces he did for DESERT MAGAZINE were all about taking pictures of the area and showing them to your friends or turning them into a show-and-tell slideshow. This fit in with information found on Wikipedia, that Stan Goldberg had spoken about Chapman in his ALTER EGO interview and mentioned that Chapman had moved to New Mexico. From the same source came the information that Chapman had been married to a "Bonnie", who was a production staffer at Atlas and later married to Goodman magazine editor named Hano (no first name given).

In the meantime, fellow Timely/Atlas enthusiast Steven Rowe found an autobiographical war story by Henry P. Chapman in a book, MILITARY INTELLIGENCE: ITS HEROES AND LEGENDS. It was entitled "The Day I Died" and told the supposedly true story of Chapman's miraculous survival of a fall from a WWII airplane, where he was working as a photo-gunner.

Ken found the book and sent the story to me. Even though it reads as one of Bob Kanigher's first-person war yarns, all the contributions to the book are described as true stories. Could this mean that Chapman did serve in the war?

Apparently so, because using the name as a basis, Ken found the war records for a Henry P. Chapman and that tells us a lot of what I was looking for.

Henry P. Chapman was born on May 5, 1915 and died on October 18, 1973. In WWII he served in the U.S. Army Air Force as TSGT, which translates out as a Technical Staff Sergeant. He is buried in Santa Fe National Cemetery (in plot X 202), which is a reserved for military veterans only. Santa Fe is also where he lived,according to one of his DESERT MAGAZINE articles. Finding the war records is one of the things I couldn't do from Holland, so I am very grateful to Ken for that.

In a response to my post, Portuguese-French comic historian Leonardo De Sá, revealed that, "The Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post all have pieces on travel subjects by Hank Chapman in that 1962-1973 period. In later years he sometimes appeared alongside his wife, Toni Chapman, who *may* be the editor of some Fodor’s Travel Guides,".

So where does that leave us? Well, I would still like to know if something happened during the war that made hi so conflicted about it in later years. He was pretty old when he enlisted (35+), so that is probably too old for a brother to have died or something as traumatic as that. If the story that he was a photographer in WWII is true, that fits in nicely with the fact that he went on to sell articles based on his photographs later on. It also makes you wonder if he ever brought the camera to his work and if he ever photographed any of his co-workers.

Further research will hopefully show if he has any living relatives. Maybe one of those still has some of his pictures.I know I still have some of my granddad's slides he left to my father. And now that I have both a name and a city of residence I will use NewspaperArchive to try and find more evidence of Chapman's freelance writing and photographing. A quick search yielded several pieces in the late Sixties about Chapman selling articles to various publications as a "syndicated" travel writer. It also revealed that he "spends his summers in Tesuque and his winters in California".

As for DESERT MAGAZINE, I am still looking through those to find more articles. A search of gives four entries, the first of which is no more than a photo on an interior page, probably his first entry in the magazine. The last seems to have been published several years later in the August 1960 issue. I have downloaded and copied it for you to see. But there may have been more articles after that, that are not turning up in a name search. I will have to go though them one by one to be sure.

But mostly, I'd still like some personal remembrance of the guy. I will write Jim Amash and ask him to ask about it whenever he interviews someone connected with Timely/Atlas.

We still don't know when Chapman gave up being an editor for the war titles. Was that at the same time as he stopped writing for Stan Lee or after? One person who could know, is fellow editor Al Jaffee. Since I am in contact with him through my blog, I will try and ask him as well. And maybe one of the artists who worked for him as an editor has something to tell. People like Dick Ayers, Joe Sinnott and John Romita Sr. only mention Stan Lee when they talk about getting work from Atlas, but if Chapman was the editor did he not have the right to choose who should draw what story?

So this is what we know now:

Date of Birth: May 5 1915

Army Record: Army Air Force, TSGT

Apparently worked at Fox as a writer (more information needed)

Worked at early Marvel in 1941 on the classic 60-page "The Human Torch Battles The Submariner As The World Faces Destruction" from THE HUMAN TORCH #5 (Fall 1941).

Worked at Marvel/Timely/Atlas as a writer and later writer/editor from 1951 to somewhere early in 1953 (with single stories appearing into 1954) (confirmed by a note on a Bert Frohman script sold on e-Bay to Doc Vassallo).

Married Bonnie (maiden name unknown), who later remarried and became Bonnie Hano (a Goodman production staffer).

Resigned as an editor and moved to New Mexico somewhere in the mid-Fifties.

Divorced and remarried someone called Toni (maiden name unknown), possibly somewhere in the mid-Fifties.

Worked as a writer for Bob Kanigher at DC for the various war titles from at least 1959 to 1967/8 (which is when Kanigher left and Joe Kubert took his place).

Started taking up photography as a hobby.

Started doing lectures with slides (from an article in DESERT MAGAZINE).

Won second prize with one of his photo's for DESERT MAGAZINE photo contest in December 1956, probably his first contact with the magazine.

Wrote several articles for DESERT MAGAZINE (3 confirmed as of now) in 1959/1960 and possibly more.

Wrote a story "The Day I Died!" about his experience being listed as KIA (Killed In Action), in a 1960 issue of AMERICAN LEGION MAGAZINE, reprinted in MILITARY INTELLIGENCE: ITS HEROES AND LEGENDS, by Diane L. Hamm and James L. Gilbert.

Sold articles on Indian and Western subjects to BOY'S LIFE magazine (two confirmed in 1960 and 1965).

Worked as a syndicated travel journalist in the mid-Sixties (from a 1966 newspaper article).

Worked as a travel journalist for various media in the Sixties, including FAMILY WEEKLY (in 1962), CHICAGO TRIBUNE (from 1969 newspaper article), ROUNDUP MAGAZINE (from 1967 newspaper article), THE TRAVEL MAGAZINE (from an newspaper article in 1966), the AMARILLO DAILY NEWS (from a newspaper article in 1967).

May have worked for the Copley News Service (from a newspaper article in 1967, which might explain his being referred to as a Santa Fe syndicated travel journalist). The Copley News Service sold it's assets to The Creator's Syndicate in 2008. Before that it was a famous news, political cartoon and opinion syndicate which had several newspapers, including its 'flagship title', THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE.

A story in AMERICAN WEST magazine, January 1971, by "Hank and Toni Chapman" entitled, "Midas of New Mexico", which was a biography of Lucien B. Maxwell.

Died in 1973 and was buried in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I also checked the Grand Comic Database and that left me with a few questions as well. For the DC war books, the GCD works wirh Julius Schwartz's records, so we are fortunate to have most if not all of Hank Chapman's credits from 1959 to 1968. But these records don't seem to start until 1959 for most books. The first Chapman stories appear in the summer of 1959 and he quickly jumps to a couple of stories each months for the various war books. That does seem to imply that Chapman didn't start working for DC until early 1959 (for the stories to be able to appear in the summer). There are no records of 1958 to check for earlier appearances of Chapman, but chances are his records for 1954 to 1958 are still unknown. He may have been freelancing for Stan Lee or working for Bob Kanigher or he even may have been concentrating on his move to New Mexico and his new marriage. His first articles as a travel journalist don't seem to appear until the same year and the pieces for BOY'S LIFE are all from a later date as well. So what did he do for a living in those years? Without the personal information from a surviving relative, we may never know.

One last thing. Jim Amash tells me Chapman may have had red hair, but he can't be sure.

Here are samplings of Chapman's post Timely/Atlas work:

The August 1960 DESERT MAGAZINE article:

"Mud Mansions" pg. 1

pg. 2

pg. 3

pg. 4

And an article Chapman wrote for the January 7, 1962 FAMILY WEEKLY:

"The Bible is His Beat"
FAMILY WEEKLY Jan. 7, 1962

Finally, a Mort Drucker drawn story written by Chapman for OUR FIGHTING FORCES #49 (Sept. 1959):

"Ace--Minus One!" pg. 1

pg. 2

pg. 3

pg. 4

pg. 5

pg. 6

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