September 19 - OK, I confess. It's deep into September 21st as I begin this "September 19" entry. What can I say? The best laid plans...are seldom mine. For me, this week has been an exhausting blur of caricature gigs, Fallfire prep, and LOTS of extra time spent at the dread "real" job. Oh, and I tried to draw some stuff amongst all of that. I've sort of been running myself ragged, and something had to give, I guess. I'm sorry that it was The WOMP-Blog, but, well, I just didn't have the "oomph." Now, with a day off from everything except my own projects, I hope to catch up. So, let's get started! Where was I? Oh, yes; I was going to talk about the changing face(s) of Crusty Bunker. Instead, let's first start with a little behind the scenes info. Just before Crusty burst onto the scene, the balance of power in comics had shifted. After decades of domination, DC was faltering while Marvel was rising. In part, this was due to style differences between the two publishers, but, surprisingly, much of that was due to a business gamble rather than an artistic one. Marvel Comics' founder, Martin Goodman, believed that his company, with Stan Lee's guidance, was ready to outsell DC if they could only find a way to break DC's stranglehold on the serpentine wholesaler and distribution network. What he did, then, was trick DC Comics into taking themselves out of the picture! First, with Marvel's 1971 October and November cover-dated comics, Mr. Goodman raised the number of pages in most titles by seventy-five percent (from 32 pages to 48), and raised the price by seventy-five percent as well (from 15 cents to 25 cents). Not to be out-done, DC quickly followed suit by doubling their page counts (from 32 pages to a voluminous 64 pages) for the same price as Marvel's 48-pagers (just a quarter). "Ha ha," they must have thought, "now we will crush puny Marvel once and for all with our massive, double-size dreadnoughts!" But, within a month, sneaky Mr. Goodman scaled back Marvel page counts to 32 (like they'd been before), but only reduced the cover price to 20 cents, which was still twenty-five percent higher than two months before. Marvel could then give those greedy wholesalers fifty percent off the cover price of their comics, while DC could only offer the standard forty percent discount! Mr. Goodman knew his competitors' weaknesses well, but I don't think that even he could have foreseen how successful this guerrilla tactic would prove to be. Not only did DC have to scramble to fill their 64 page monsters with lame reprinted material from the past, but they had to take chances on lots of untested young creators for their future. Worse, DC, to try to save money, had already pre-purchased a year's supply of paper for their titles (undoubtedly also meant to prevent Marvel from getting it). For an entire, agonizing year, DC slogged along with the bloated format, while the more hip, and much cheaper, Marvel comics flew off the racks. It was, as DC's Head Honcho, Carmine Infantino, put it, a "slaughter." By 1972, after almost forty years of domination, DC was looking for some way to just break even. Yep, the stage was set for the "birth" of Crusty Bunker. More in the "September 20" entry. Now, here's the 19th's "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Berni Wrightson!
September 20 - In the "September 19" entry, I talked about how, in 1972, DC had been toppled from comics dominance. I also suggested that, in the mad scramble to find some way to compete with Marvel, this led to the "birth" of Crusty Bunker. Part of that is because, without a doubt, the editorial component of DC understood that their only hope was to entice up-and-comers to DC, and away from Marvel. Back on the 5th, I told you about a 1973 DC Comics editorial that said (in part) -
About eight months ago, DC Production Manager Sol Harrison noticed that there weren't too many young people coming into the comics industry any more.
That was actually part of the first installment of a feature that began that year, called Behind The Scenes at The DC Comic World. Although uncredited, it was written by editor Paul Levitz. Meant not just as a standard promotional tool for DC titles, this editorial column was intended also to speak directly to the burgeoning comics fan community, from which many new comics talents were emerging. For example, the first three Behind The Scenes hawked the 1973 New York "Comicon" Comic Art Convention, where DC intended to review portfolios in search of what they called The Junior Bullpen. Mr. Levitz explained -
DC is starting a program under which promising talents can enter the business as apprentices. We will be offering twelve such jobs to young people this summer. All twelve will work in our new offices (DC is moving crosstown this summer to the new Warner Communications Headquarters) and meanwhile will have their skills polished by some of the most accomplished people in the business. These will be paying jobs; the first rung on the ladder of comic success. You will be guaranteed a basic wage while you learn. Six writing trainees and six artistic trainees will be chosen.
By the third Behind The Scenes, which was still just before the July 4th weekend convention, the first two apprentices had already been chosen; Carl Gafford and Allen Milgrom. While Mr. Gafford (The Godfather of Minicomics) is perhaps not that well known (he seems to have done many odd jobs at DC, working mostly as a colorist), Al Milgrom went on not only to famously guide much of Marvel's most memorable 1980's endeavors, but also to lend a hand as one of The Crusty Bunkers! In fact, many of the Bunkers were among those that DC had hired during that period. What an exciting time that must have been! Searching for something, anything, to get back into the fight, DC nabbed some of the most unique talents who ever drew comics. Imagine; the clean, predictable "house style" of Curt Swan and company was supplanted, almost overnight, by the strongly individualistic styles of Simonson, Adams, Kaluta, Wrightson, Cockrum, and so many others. Not too long afterward, Marvel also began to mine this treasure trove of talent, letting their own "house style" dramatically expand past Kirby, Ditko, Romita, et al. Heady days...heady days indeed. A couple of nights ago, Michael Netzer spoke of this time, describing the prevailing feeling as being "the comradery of belonging to what we believed to be the pinnacle of creative endeavors." How could they not? Circumstances were allowing these artists to change forever the face of their industry. They inspired each other, challenged each other, and worked with each other to advance the aesthetics, and acceptance, of comic books. That they would, almost on a lark, collaborate as The Crusty Bunkers is a testament to that comradery. For the next few years, conditions would be ideal for what was nothing short of an artistic revolution. That began to change, however, when the trick Martin Goodman had used to cripple DC came back to haunt the entire industry! More "tomorrow." Here is the 20th's "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Steve Engelhart!
September 21 - And it really is September 21st as I type this! Huzzah! I've done it! I've caught up with my WOMP-Blog postings...except....except that, well, I'm going to cop out of posting what I'd originally planned. At least for tonight. I have another big caricature gig tomorrow morning through afternoon (check out my Schedule), so I'm going to cut out early so that I can get some sleep. Still, I won't deny you your scheduled "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Klaus Janson!