Here's a thread to discuss the new Howard Chaykin comic, Hey Kids! Comics!, and the stories behind the stories...

Probably something we might benefit from are a list characters, and who they might correspond to in real life. I don't think Chaykin's going entirely for a one-to-one correspondence with his three main characters -- I suspect they'll be involved in incidents that happened to a variety of people throughout the industry. But the bosses, and the supporting characters, might all suggest one person or another in particular. So I'll try to keep a tally here on the front page, and see if that informs our reading. 

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And here's a story on the Image Comics website where Chaykin talks about the comic -- or at least the first arc.

I re-read #1 over the weekend and here’s what I came up with.

PUBLISHERS:
Verve – “Timely/Marvel”
Yankee – “National/DC”

CHARACTERS:
Powerhouse – “Superman”
MidKnight – “Batman”
Lt. Liberty – “Captain America”
Athena-X – “Wonder Woman”
Equity Alliance – “JLA”
Evoluteens – "X-Men"
Sea Sultan – “Sub-Mariner”
Tarantulad – “Spider-Man”
Cosmos Quartet – “Fantastic Four”
[?]erun – “Thor” (?)

PEOPLE:
Mayer Hershenson – ”Harry Donenfeld”
Irwin Glasen – “Jerry Seigel”
Ira Gelbart – “Joe Schuster”
Sid Mitchell – “Jack Kirby”
Milt Koenigsberg – “Jack Liebowitz”
Dan Fleischer – "Martin Goodman"
Bob Rose – “Stan Lee”
Jess Mayberg – "Wally Wood" (?) Worked for both “Marvel” and “EC”; lifelong antagonistic relationship with…
Alfred Kessler – “Harvey Kurtzman” (?)
Ed (?) – “Dick Sprang” (or “Bill Finger”)
Ron (?) - ?
Tom Hollenbeck – “Todd McFarlane/Rob Liefeld”

This brings us up to the three main characters who I don’t think are supposed to be anyone in particular (except perhaps Ray). One is a white guy, one is a black guy (Ted) and one is a woman (Benita).

RAY CLARKE – Worked in “masks” before the war. He did not work at Verve (“Marvel”) in the ‘60s, but had a highly distinctive, unmistakable style. Suggested using a pseudonym at Verve and suspected the suits at Yankee wouldn’t even notice. I see a lot of “Gil Kane” in Ray. He looks like Kane, plus Chaykin worked for Kane as an assistant.

TED WHITMAN – Specialized in “headlight” comics before the war, worked in advertising for a while, then went to Verve. I can’t really think of a prominent black artist who equates to Ted.

BENITA HEINDEL – Similarly, I can’t think of a prominent woman artist who equates to Benita, either. She has a bad marriage and has slept casually with both Ray and Ted. She worked in magazine publishing for a time, but ended up at Verve with Ted while Ray was at Yankee.

There’s no one-to-one correspondence with any of these, but I’m fairly certain about these guesses (except where noted by question marks). It’s interesting that Chaykin skipped his own “young turk” generation. Guessing the superheroes mentioned was a lot like reading Astro City. I’m glad I re-read this now rather than waiting until the release of #2 as I had originally planned. Doing so gave me a better understanding of who’s who and what’s what, and I hope I’ve helped anyone reading it for the first time.

I am, of course, open to other interpretations.

I didn't catch "Ed" and "Ron's" last names, but there was a "Bob Kane" in that scene. I don't have the comics with me, but Ron must be "Bob Kane."

Great rundown, Jeff! 

And as for Ted, I'm guessing he's in part based on Matt Baker, who's probably best known for his work on Phantom Lady.

But as Chaykin says, "“Ted, Ray, and Benita are amalgams of men and women who did comics from the ’40s on—the decade when the language itself was codified.” I think we'll see echoes of some of the people that inspired them, but I think it's just as likely that a story that might have happened to, say, Bob Brown also gets given to the Gil Kane-ish character.

Also, in Publishers, Manhattan Magazine seems like it's a stand-in for The New Yorker.

I'm not sure which company Masters, Bryant, and Olyphant is offhand. 

I was guessing that Jess Mayberg was Will Eisner....Thanks for the other suggestions on a who's-who.

[?]erun's full name might be Perun.

That's definitely it. 

Thanks, Luke!

"And as for Ted, I'm guessing he's in part based on Matt Baker..."

You know what? I never realized Matt Baker was black. Given his association with Phantom Lady (and Ted's with headlight comics), the comparison is a good one.

The most prominent female comic book artist of the period I can think of is Ramona Fradon, but she doesn't have ,uch in common with Benita (apart from the obvious). I'm going to think "Gil," "Matt" and "Ramona" for Ray, Ted and Benita until someone suggests a more apt comparison.

It wasn't always the case that people worked for the company that published the comics. For example, in the 1950s Dell bought its line from Western. Carl Barks worked for Western and not Dell. (I owe this point to Mark Evanier.)

In the 1940s the artists sometimes worked in company bullpens instead of at home. The comics shops used studio production too.

After Superman became a success Joe Shuster oversaw a studio. Wayne Boring was one of its members.

Marvel Comics/Marvel Mystery Comics was initially produced by Funnies, Inc., but Marvel quickly bought the production of its line in-house. I've read they got Funnies to give up its interest in the characters by continually requesting changes.

Bob Kane long had a contract to provide Batman stories. The artists who drew the feature sometimes worked for him, sometimes for DC, as it published more Batman material than Kane was contracted to produce. I think Dick Sprang worked for DC and not Kane, but I could be wrong. 

Matt Baker initially worked for the Iger studio. He worked for Marvel from the mid-50s, but I can't say to what extent directly and to what extent ghosting for Vince Colletta.

Wikipedia isn't clear as to exactly when Baker began working for Iger. The first story it identifies him as having contributed to is from 1944. E. C. Stoner worked in the industry before the war - he drew the first "Speed Saunders" story in Detective Comics - but isn't known for his girl art.

A couple of the characters seem to be named for people other than the ones they most represent: Irwin Glasen for Irwin Hasen; Ted Whitman for Bert or Maurice Whitman perhaps.

The next issue ships tomorrow, for those following along.

ISSUE #2: Now that the characters have been established, I was able to sit back and simply let the narrative unfold as I read issue #2. One new character was “William Gaines” (I forget the character’s name) who testified in support of “EC comics.” There was a comic strip artist who testified for the prosecution. Historically, who was that?

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