Here’s another item that was buried sufficiently deep in a closet that it survived the house disaster… and a great photostatic keepsake it is. It’s the splash page and additional art from a Superman story I wrote — and for fans of the classic era of Superman, there’s no mistaking the drawing style. The artist is Wayne Boring.
Wayne’s history with Superman runs deep. He was hired as a ghost artist for the Siegel and Shuster (Superman’s creators) studio in the mid-1930’s, and eventually became the main, credited artist for the Superman newspaper comic strip. When Siegel and Shuster split from their comic book publisher, Boring was hired by that publisher as a staff artist and became one of the main artists for the Superman comic book line for decades thereafter. His style couldn’t have been more distinctive; his Superman figures were the ones who looked like they were jogging across the sky rather than flying.
Wayne Boring had long-since retired when I began writing Superman stories for Editor Julius Schwartz in the mid-1980’s.
Around that time,I was invited to stop in and give a talk at my alma mater, The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey. I had attended the school in its earliest days and we alumni were frequently invited to give a progress report whenever we were in town.
I remember very little (nothing) about the talk I gave, but some of it must have centered on the old-school, quasi-retro approach I took when writing my Superman stories. I say that because when we got to the Q&A, one of the students suggested I write a sequel to one of his favorite classic Superman stories: “The Creature of 1000 Disguises!” which first appeared in Action Comics #234, November 1957, and was written by Edmond Hamilton. It had to do with a shape-shifting creature named Gollo, who in his natural state looked like a dinosaur a child might have molded out of Pla-Doh. Among the things Gollo (who was basically harmless) loved to imitate was Superman, complete with super-powers, forming the crux of the story’s complications.
I must have told the student I would write the sequel, because I did. I had also recalled the Gollo story fondly, so I pitched a long-after-the-fact sequel to editor Julie, and he gave me the green light. Moreover, I requested that we give Wayne Boring, the artist of the original tale, the drawing assignment for this update. Julie was in an agreeable mood that day!
This would be Wayne’s final appearance in any of the core Superman titles (though he did do some Superman work in an issue of Secret Origins, and, I think, a chapter of a book called All Star Squadron).
With this unlikely and unexpected addition of the retired Wayne Boring, I could now count as collaborators a triumvirate of classic Superman artists (with Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger); my personal bucket list was looking good.
My story was called “The World of Superman Masqueraders,” and it brought us up to date on Gollo, now living on his home planet, teaching the natives some of the tricks he had learned on Earth. After the script was complete and submitted into the editorial process, I asked Julie for the phone number of Wayne Boring, now living in Florida, so I could give him my regards. Of course it was a thrill to talk to one of the artists whose work had inspired a direction for my professional life. During the course of that conversation I asked Wayne if he could send me a copy of his pencils for this story. Glad I did, because this is perhaps the only sample of his uninked work I’ve ever seen. The story would be assigned to Dave Hunt for inking. Dave helped give the art a bit more of a contemporaneous look, but I wouldn’t say that his inks and Wayne’s pencils were meant to be.
I never knew the name of the Kubert student who suggested I write that particular story, but I had hoped that he would see that issue of Action Comics and recognize it for what it was.
Jump ahead to November 2014, Akron Comicon. I was a guest at that show, and one of the evening’s activities that had been arranged by the convention’s host Michael Savene was a field trip to the studio of Funky Winkerbean cartoonist Tom Batiuk. We were transported to and from there by bus, and during the ride I had the luxury of talking to some of the convention guests I never get a chance to see during a busy con weekend. One of those was Graham Nolan, a fine comic book artist whom I only knew through his work on Batman and The Phantom. It was there that Graham revealed to me, he was the Kubert student who, many years earlier, suggested I write that Superman/Gollo story!
So for me, this 8-pager was a story infused with layers of meaning.
As a capper, Action Comics #572, the issue in which “The World of Superman Masqueraders!” appeared, was also noteworthy for another story in the issue, “The Puzzle of the Purloined Fortress!” which marked the debut of quintessential comic book writer, my pal Mark Waid. So, a fond farewell to Wayne Boring and a welcome to Mark Waid, plus the behind-the-scenes intrigue with the then-unknown Graham Nolan, all under an unassuming cover (actually a pretty nice cover by one of my favorites, Eduardo Baretto), for only 75 cents. And that doesn’t even take into account the third story in that issue!