In 1947, still more than a decade before the Marvel revolution that would forever change the comic book industry and make his name a household word, Stan Lee toiled in obscurity at the editor of Martin Goodman’s Timely Comics. It was a safe postwar job to go back to, but not one with a lot of growth potential built into it. So every couple of years, Lee would attempt to stretch his legs by dabbling with side projects of one sort of another, hoping that he’d find some other opportunity so that he could leave the world of comic books behind. One of these projects was a 100-page self-published pamphlet called SECRETS BEHIND THE COMICS. Sold through classified ads in the Timely books, it purported to reveal the inside story of how comic books were made. And it’s a fascinating artifact, for all that none of it should be considered a legitimate source for the inside scoop of the field in 1947.
Stan wrote and manufactured the book himself–it wasn’t a Timely Comics publications. But presumably with Martin Goodman’s blessing, he was allowed to feature all of the Timely characters in this book, and he tapped a number of the artists he worked with regularly to illustrate it, primarily Ken Bald. It was written and aimed at a relatively young audience, which was the presumption of most comic book publishers of the time.
The Larry, Iden and Chip who turn up in the dedication are Stan’s brother Larry Lieber and Martin Goodman’s children. Stan’s already got his stylized signature perfected by 1947. That publishing address was Lee’s apartment at the time.
Stanley Martin, the name of the artist the example strip may really be drawn by, was clearly named after Lee himself–his own first and middle names. And if nothing else, as he was never an artist, we can be relatively certain that no comic books were really drawn by Stanley Martin Lieber.
This is a rare look at some golden age penciled pages, in this instance by Timely artists Ed Winiarski and Vic Dowd respectively.
A few more mostly-forgotten golden age creators are name-checked here, Ed Jurist and Frank Carin. As virtually everyone worked without any sort of credits or a byline in that era, the question of who precisely did work on each title and story is only something that’s been figured out after many years of research–and even there, records are spotty. So these pages provide a wealth of useful information.
More to follow in Part 2!