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Batom Comics – The Untold History Part 11

posted on October 22, 2016

starbuck-jones_col-36

It was a snowy Saturday afternoon outside the Batom Comics offices on West Third Street. Inside, Mitch Knox had just finished with his weekly dressing-down from Brady Wentworth and was impatiently fidgeting as he waited for his mother to return from shopping at Higbees so she could take him home and he could get to work on his latest Tank Thompson World War Two Tale. Flash Freeman was there working with Phil Holt wrapping up an already late Starbuck Jones issue when he decided to lighten the mood in the room by positing a question to those assembled. As the cars slushed by on the street below, Freeman asked, “If someone were to offer you two thousand  dollars to create a hero based in Africa, what’s the first thing that you would do?”

With barely any hesitation, Phil Holt said that he’d use some of the money to go to Africa where he’d live for a couple of months in the shadow of Kilimanjaro sketching and taking photographs in an effort to study the life there and soak up as much of the African mythos as he could before returning home to begin work on the story.

Without reaction, Freeman then turned to young Mitch who seemed pleased to be distracted by the query. After a few thoughtful seconds, Mitch declared that since he still needed a ride from his parents to go anywhere, visiting Africa was out of the question, so instead he’d have them drop him off for a Saturday at the downtown Cleveland Library where he’d spend the day researching all he could about the dark continent so that, when he began to write, all of the details would ring true and could be backed-up by his usual encyclopedic research. And then he said, “What would you do, Mr. Freeman?

Flash waited a beat and then said, “I would put the two thousand dollars in the bank first, and then I’d go home and write the whole story from my imagination.”

Batom Comics – The Untold History Part 10

posted on February 13, 2016

Tank Thompson B&W Russ Heath3

In the late summer of 1955 as Fall loomed around the corner, Brady suddenly realized that his young prodigy, Mitch Knox, would soon be heading back to school. He began worrying about all of the scheduling problems that this might entail, but they were nothing compared to the problem that Mitch would run into his first week of school.

In her English class at Grafton Jr. High, Mrs. Adams had been handing out the same opening day assignment for over a decade. Presenting it as thought it was the first time that she had thought of it, she would announce to her class that their first writing assignment would be to prepare an essay on what they had done over the summer. Since Mitch’s summer had been spent writing scripts for Batom Comics, he did what came naturally and wrote all about the experience of working with his editor Brady Wentworth and the artist on his books, Coy Dockett. A couple of days later, Mrs. Adams called Mitch up to her desk ash the class was leaving. She said that she’d read his essay and congratulated him on being a very imaginative writer. However, she said, the assignment had been to tell what you had actually done over the summer, not what you imagined you had done. Over Mitch’s protestations in vain, she handed him his essay with a large red D across the top.

Mitch left determined to prove his innocence and after class the following day he went up to Mrs. Adams’s desk and handed her copies of Charlie and Chuck and Tank Thompson. When she saw his name credited as the writer on both books, she apologized for accusing him of having concocted the whole story of working for Batom Comics. Then she gave him a detention for the next day after school for bringing comic books to school, and said that she would give him another one if she ever caught him working on one of his comic book scripts in class.

Batom Comics – The Untold History Part 9

posted on February 6, 2016

Tank Rough

War comics had long been a staple of comic books. From Harvey Kurtzman’s Frontline Combat on to Robert Kanigher’s numerous war titles at DC Comics, comics about men in battle provided an enduring source of story material. World War Two was still in the rearview mirror and versions of heroic soldiers still inspired the nation’s youth. So it wasn’t surprising that one afternoon after school as Brady was wrapping up his weekly obligatory and finely choreographed browbeating of Mitch Knox’s most recent Charley and Chuck script, he said that, against his better judgement, he was going to give Mitch a shot at creating something new. While Batom Comic’s Starbuck Jones and The Amazing Mister Sponge clearly staked out their claim in the super hero genre, and Charlie and Chuck were holding down the fort in the kid detective market, Batom was noticeably absent on the comics spinner rack where war comics were concerned. Brady suggested that Mitch might want to give some thought to creating a war comic for Batom and Mitch asserted that he was game. The obvious irony of a fifteen year old boy writing a war comic was no doubt not lost on the pair, but Brady figured that this stuff was all made-up anyway and Mitch, despite Brady’s constant harping, was as good as anyone at making stuff up.

So on their way home to Grafton, Mitch had his mom stop off at the Grafton library so he could rifle the library’s somewhat limited offerings of WW II history and visual reference books. Later that evening after the dinner dishes were cleared, he set himself up at the kitchen table and began work on the hero he was already calling Tank Thompson, who would be a WWII tank commander, but with a twist. As Mitch began sketching a cover, he showed a medieval knight charging Tank Thompson’s tank with Tank exclaiming in an homage to Dorathy’s line from Mitch’s favorite movie The Wizard of Oz: “Well, Tank… it looks like we’re not in (quickly referring to his World Almanac for a French town that came the closest to sounding like Kansas) Kerrist anymore!” Mitch hadn’t been in WWII, but he had had to deal with Kenny Roadabarger on the playground after school, so, in some ways, the idea of facing fear inducing combat in the hedge rows of Franch wasn’t all that far removed from the dystopian hell of the Junior High School. And besides, this stuff was all made-up anyway.

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