Someone mentioned publisher Goodwin's habit of having various companies on paper, and having complicated publishing deals as a method of protecting them from having one go under and dragging the whole operation under.

 

Can anyone shed more light on this?

We know that Atlas/Timely was a fore-runner of what became Marvel comics, but is anyone familiar with the how and why Atlas went under and what was left.  Are there any written accounts?

Looking for help from comic historians here as well as fans....

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I think Atlas was an imprint rather than a publishing company. The Atlas logo was also used on magazines Goodman published. According to Wikipedia's page on the 1950s Atlas, Atlas was also the name of the distribution company Goodman ran for a period.

 

Goodman decided to stop doing the distribution through Atlas and then ran into trouble when the distributor he'd switched to went out of business. Wikipedia's account of this is more authoritative than anything I could write.

I read that account a few years back (in ALTER EGO, possibly). Had to be the single dumbest move Martin Goodman ever made. Not mentioned in the Wikipedia article, was the suggestion that Goodman's accountant had sugested closing down Atlas in favor of American News, and that that accountant was a silent partner in American News, who would be receiving kickbacks for getting Goodman to do the switch. I note how Goodman was so totally dismissive of Lee, telling him, "You wouldn't understand..." I suspect Lee resented this, and that resentment may have factored into Lee's siding with Perfect Film against Goodman when they decided to boot Chip Goodman out in favor of making Lee the new publisher around 15 years later. I still find it amazing how the greed of ONE person (the accountant) brought down what had been one of the biggest comics publishers of the 50's.

 

Of course, Goodman's own greed & corruption led to the loss of Simon & Kirby some 15 years earlier, when he was ripping them off, not paying them the royalties that had been CONTRACTUALLY AGREED ON. Isn't it amazing how "big" guys like this will insist on others following a contract, but so often seem to feel THEY can break a contract any damn time they want, since they can afford higher-priced lawyers than the other guys?

 

And then of course I'm reminded of the situation between Jack Schiff & Jack Kirby, BOTH not doing the right thing, but basically (to my eyes) Schiff getting SO greedy and being in a position where he could do so with impunity, the end result driving Kirby back to work for Goodman again.  One could say, if you take all these "separate" instances and put them together, that greed & corruption led to the creation of The Marvel Universe.

Roy Thomas said somewhere, probably in one of the forewords to a Marvel Masterworks, that Goodman's comic-book arm was NOT "Atlas Comics" in the 1950s. He said that Atlas was the distributor, and had their logo on Goodman's comics and magazines, so that's just what everybody called them. But their official name was Curtis or Timely or something. I don't know where I read that, so I guess it remains hearsay until I find it. But that sticks in my memory.

 

In the same vein, DC Comics was National Allied Publications at its birth, and went through some permutations before listing National Publications in the indicia from the early 1940s to the mid-1970s. But because of the Superman-DC (Detective Comics) bullet, everybody called them DC Comics until the company officially changed its name to DC Comics around 1976 or so.

 

In both cases you simply have to let go of strict accuracy in favor of communication, and call them what other people call them.



Henry R. Kujawa said:

 

And then of course I'm reminded of the situation between Jack Schiff & Jack Kirby, BOTH not doing the right thing, but basically (to my eyes) Schiff getting SO greedy and being in a position where he could do so with impunity, the end result driving Kirby back to work for Goodman again.  One could say, if you take all these "separate" instances and put them together, that greed & corruption led to the creation of The Marvel Universe.


In the recently-released Joe Simon autobiography, he talked about their exit from Timely Comics, brought about because someone snitched on their moonlighting. Simon isn't sure who it was, but given the small and incestuous nature of the business at that point (even moreso than now), he isn't terribly surprised and thinks there are dozens of candidates. However, he said the Kirby was convinced that a teenaged Stan Lee was the culprit, and "hated him for the rest of his life." If Simon is correct, then Kirby going back to Goodman in the late 1950s, and working directly for Stan Lee for the next 12 or 13 years, must have been an incredibly bitter pill. It would certainly explain a lot of their friction.

Simon also talked about that in this interview. According to that version of the story it's not so much that they were moonlighting as that they were preparing to leave Goodman for DC.

"Of course, Goodman's own greed & corruption led to the loss of Simon & Kirby some 15 years earlier, when he was ripping them off, not paying them the royalties that had been CONTRACTUALLY AGREED ON."

 

I've only seen one photo of Goodman from the '60s, and frankly he looks like a Mafia don. He's smoking a huge cigar and wearing dark sunglasses -- indoors. His hair is white. Who knows, maybe he gave Mario Puzo some inspiration when Puzo was writing for Goodman's men's magazines. ;)

I'm dumbfounded when I read comments about Jack Kirby "not being a good negotiator", when, if you go way back, even when Joe Simon had A CONTRACT-- IN WRITING-- the other guy (Goodman) figured sticking by it was "optional". That's why Simon struck a deal with DC, for double the page rates (DOUBLE!!) and no editorial work overseeing other people's books. I do seem to recall reading somewhere that Jack said he felt sure it was Stan, as Stan saw what they were doing, and decided to "tell".

 

Another interesting point (and which ties in neatly with the distribution DISASTER) was the story that, apparently, back in 1941, Goodman's accountant (ANOTHER ONE, or the same guy?) was also a secret partner in ANOTHER publishing house. HE saw Goodman was cheating Simon & Kirby, HE let them know, hoping they would go with HIS publisher.  Instead, they went with DC.

 

Why don't we just rub out all the lawyers and accountants, as a message to the rest of them?

It's well established that Simon handled the business end of Simon and Kirby.  Unless I misunderstand your initial comment ("I'm dumbfounded when I read comments about Jack Kirby "not being a good negotiator"), I don't understand why.  For most of his career, Roz handled the billing, correspondence, and "managed" Jack's affairs.  He was the creative powerhouse...but he always needed a "business partner" to watch that end of it for him.... be it Simon, Roz or Stan.   Not so surprising.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that THE VAST MAJORITY of people working in comics back then were almost completely at the mercy of businessmen with CRIMINAL GANGSTER mentality. There's "fans" (and I do use that word loosely) at another board who love to keep harping on Kirby being a "poor negoatiator", as if it would somehow matter if he wasn't. Joe Simon worked out a good deal, and Martin Goodman walked all over it ANYWAY.

 

The fact that this kind of thing went on as "business as usual", by the way, does NOT make it "acceptable" human behavior by any standards, in my opinion.

 

It crosses my mind that one of the few people back them who didn't get walked over was Bob Kane-- and look at all the people who worked for HIM that HE just walked all over. I sometime feel there's no hope for the human race...

Perhaps the truth of the matter is that publishers had the power, and the working stiffs just tried to stay employeed and support their families as best they could.   It was a long time coming before anything like creator rights even reared it's head as a topic of discussion.  And even longer before it became a reality.

 

I remember speaking briefly with Curt Swain at a Chicao ComicCon about his career, and after complimenting him that his vision of Superman seemed to be the enduring style or image of the icon that we all default to, I asked if he had any sense that his work would be so highly valued someday.  He replied that he was just a working Joe who was trying to pay the bills and draw product just as fast as he could to make as much for the family as he could.  There was no sense of importance or value to the artwork except that it had to be turned in so that the book could be printed.


Then he also asked me (since I was writing free-lance articles) not to "upset the apple cart" for him.  He said he had only recently gotten any form of health care from the company, and didn't want to risk that by printing anything negative about those early years or how he had been treated.  It wasn't a complaint, but still the mindset that the artist was entirely dependant upon the good will of the publisher.  I remember the feeling echoing down the years to modern day.


I enjoyed our conversation and his frankness, and vowed that i would not print anything critical, as he hadn't said anything critical... only that we fans had had a chance to meet a living legend and honor him.  He was still a little embarassed by that, but thanked me.


I also recall seeing Bob Kane speaking at the San Diego ComicCon when the first Batman film with Michael Keaton came out, and Kane being very critical of the fact that the batmobile had machine guns on it to fire through a garage door at Ajax Chemical Company.  His comment was "My Batman doesn't use guns."  And the attitude was that he was going to get them to take that out of the movie because HIS Batman didn't use guns. (It's funny, but I  think I recall drawings from the earliest years that shows a holster for the gun on Batman's belt.)


So, I'm not sure how any creator can keep from getting walked on at some point in their career.  Maybe it's just the nature of the creative process.

I'd have to check the earliest stories, as to whether or not or how much Batman used a gun... but I definitely remember the earliest Batplane had MACHINE GUNS mounted on it, which he used to take out some of Prof. Hugo Strange's giant monsters, in a scene rather reminiscent of when Michael Keaton used his "Batwing" to attack THE JOKER. Despite all the emphasis that the '89 movie was NOT like the TV show, I always remember thinking it was a celebration of the best from all different eras of Batman.  And I admit, MY favorite bits DID come from the TV show! The Joker in the art gallery mirrored episodes with both The Riddler and The Joker in a gallery, colored knock-out gas being used, the cameras tilting at an angle when the bad guys were on screen... and when we finally got to see The Batmobile, it SHOT FLAMES out of the back!!  What other Batmobile had ever done that, except the one Adam West drove?

 

It's funny, but after decades of (in my view) Denny O'Neil running the character into the ground (as editor), my favorite version of Batman has become the Adam West show.  Crazy, isn't it?  Mind you, while I find myself able to enjoy the show all over again now (well, the first 2 seasons, anyway, after that, there's only 5 later episodes I can tolerate at all), I often see the show with a view of how much potential it had, and how much better it COULD easily have been... if the guy in charge hadn't been so dead-set on deliberately playing it stupid. (There's a difference between funny and stupid... Stanley Ralph Ross, HE knew "funny"! I give his episodes more leeway than most, just because they make me laugh SO hard.)

 

 

 

"Are you SURE he's Mexican?"

 

 

Michael Fleischer's Batman encyclopedia carefully notes each instance of Batman using a gun or having guns at hand, including a comic in which Batman is wielding a gun in the splash panel, but is not seen with it in the rest of the story. Yes, there's a story in which Batman has guns mounted on the Batplane. But Batman using guns was verboten by the second year of the character, certainly before Robin came along. I don't think two years of Batman using guns outweighs 60-plus years in which he didn't.

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