Wednesday 7 July 2010

Russ Jones, Woody and the Genesis of Creepy Part 2

So Russ Jones returned to Woody's West 74th Street Studio, to break the news about the McNaught Syndicate passing on the the proposal to which Woody said nothing, it was the look in his eyes that said it all, as he turned back to the work that he and Jones were hacking out between them.

So the two of them continued producing stuff for Vince Colletta and anyone else, Jones learning how to ink under Woody's tutelage, Jones eventually doing all the inking bar faces and hands, the monotony relieved by studio banter and the occasional break where they would pick up their guitars and sing old Hank Snow and Easy Riders songs whilst preserving the results on an ancient Revere recorder.

But Jones was by all accounts an excellent networker and was able to bring new business to the studio, whilst Woody kept grinding out the artwork, not only was he instrumental in keeping Woody busy he was also able to place the right kind of artists with editors in search of talent as was the case when he hooked up Al Williamson with the guys at King Comics who were looking for an artist for their about to be launched Flash Gordon series (this does have a bearing on the birth of Creepy so hang in there with me).

One of the accounts that did prove a very mixed blessing was when Jones started to court  magazine impresario and publisher James Warren, whose line of magazines already included such cult titles as "Help" (edited by Harvey Kurtzman), "Famous Monsters of Filmland" (edited by another "one of" Forrest J. Ackerman) and "Screen Thrills". Jones immediate stratagem was to pull in a few commissions for "Famous Monster" covers should Basil Gogos ever need a holiday. Jones whose talents included the ability to deftly knock out paintings of cinematic monsters had put together some samples and headed off to Warren's well appointed penthouse home cum office, after being under the misapprehension that Warren HQ was in Philadelpia which was the postal address for Warren's Captain Company.

The meeting went well, Warren's 14th floor apartment was truly impressive with commanding views over the city and a general vibe of a well heeled publisher with ambition and drive the sort of guy that the equally driven Jones would want to do business with. The kind of business Jones had in mind went well beyond his immediate remit of seeking cover gigs and possible interior work for himself and Woody. What Jones envisaged was no less that a full blown revival of EC style horror comics but in  Warren's black and white magazine format thereby neatly circumventing the need to conform to the Comic Code whose tenets would have nixed such a project before it got off the ground.

However despite the overall air of conviviality and the sense Jones had that Warren was a man he could do business with, Warren was less than forthcoming on Jones horror pitch and yes even though Jones had good connections with the old EC crew including Bill Gaines himself (who Jones had already pitched the self same idea to - Gaines had demurred but given Jones his blessing to tout it elsewhere), Warren felt a little cautious about such a pitch. He did however grant Jones a Famous Monsters cover (issue 30) and there was something else...

Something that would cause both Jones and Woody a lot of sleepless nights.

Next part - "The Horror - Of Party Beach!!!"

P.S. The cover to Famous Monsters Number 3 was painted by none other than James Warren himself.

Check out the ongoing series of reprints from Dark Horse Comics here for US readers.

And here for UK readers.


  1. Fascinating posts, Peter - can't wait for tomorrow's. I am beginning to wonder if Jones was one of those guys who is really useful to have on board in the early stages of a project to catalyze everybody, but once everything is running smoothly people start to mutter that there isn't much he's bringing to it. (The old "but what have you done for us *lately*?" problem.) Characters like Jones, Warren and Wally Wood are absolutely compelling and I am loving the way you're telling their story.

  2. Great stuff! I'm eagerly awaiting part 3 as well! (and I'll definitely have to look up that James Warren cover for Famous Monsters no.3)

    On the subject of Russ Jones didn't he paint Woody's lovely cover for the 1965 Spacemen Yearbook? I seem to remember quite a few Wood paintings for SF mags and books from this period (including one for an American paperback copy of 'Mission of Gravity' I just picked up from a boot sale!).

    The Wood-Colletta connection is news to me as well. Do you know if they actually worked together on any jobs (to me their inking styles would seem to be almost completely antithetical!!!)

  3. I agree, Phil, Wood is the master of the detailed finish, whereas it's said that Colletta would sometimes erase another penciller's background work rather than waste time inking it. Which reminds me of the story about how when Ditko came in to the Marvel bullpen to deliver work, if he found a comic inked by Colletta he always made a point of dropping it in the wastepaper bin.

  4. Great to read your comments chaps and the Wood Colletta connection was for real. The comics that they were working on for Colletta were in the main emanating from Charlton, Dell and Marvel.

    Jones reminiscing about those days recalls how he penciled Dell's Movie Comic of "Lawrence of Arabia".

    He'd drawn one panel in particular, which had the works. It was Prince Faisal's camp complete with camels and Bedouin tents. "Vinnie decided that there was a little too much to ink, so he put a huge rock in the foreground.And so 90% of the panel was a rock." (much laughter)

    Jones also went on to describe the nature of the work he did with Wood; " A lot of breakdowns, backgrounds, outlining. Wally insisted on inking the heads, hands and things like that. But the rest of the inking, for the most part, I would do and got to the point where even Vinnie couldn't tell the difference, because on one job - I think it was a war book for Charlton, a submarine story - I ended up doing pretty much the whole thing because Wally just couldn't handle doing it all at that point. He needed to take a little break."