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This is the sixty-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous sixty-eight.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Daredevil Comics #2 was created over a weekend.
Lev Gleason had a minor hit with a comic book superhero by Charlie Biro named Daredevil who they had released a comic featuring a photo-esque drawing of Hitler on the cover, with Daredevil battling Hitler.
There were no immediate plans for a second issue, but, as Gerard Jones points out in this passage from his great comic history text, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book, plans were made quickly during the 1940s, and called for some drastic measures at times:
Production was not limited by the market but by time on the printers’ schedules and the availablity of paper. Sometimes a suddeny windfall of paper or cash brought a comic book into existence out of nothing. Lev Gleason, former printing salesman newly flung into the ranks of publishing, found himself with the chance to reserve a few million pages of pulp one day in early 1941. The catch was that he’d have to stake his claim for it immediately or someone else would get it and that he had to turn it into something salable immediately or the distributor wouldn’t advance him the money to pay the bill. So Gleason bought the paper with the promise that that he’d have his comic’s pages at the printers on the following Monday. Except that it was Friday, and he didn’t have a comic to print.
Gleason turned to his favorite cartoonist and packager, Charlie Biro, and said, “Get me sixty-four pages by Monday morning.” All he asked was that his one name superhero, Daredevil, have the lead story. How they filled the rest of the pages would be up to them. Biro shared a cheap art studio on 52nd Street, among jazz clubs and strip joints, with his best friend, Bob Wood, and Batman’s star artist, Jerry Robinson. Wood brought in his brothers, Dick and Dave, to help. Robinson brought in his roommates, Bernie Klein and Mort Meskin, and a fellow ghost artist for Bob Kane, Goerge Roussos. They were all nineteen or twenty years old and had already been published comics artists for at least a year.
Jones goes on to relate how the men worked for the weekend, drinking tons of coffee, inventing characters, drawing until they got to tired to draw, lettering until they couldn’t letter anymore. And during this weekend, New York City was hit by a blizzard!!! However, come Monday morning, Daredevil # was ready to go to the presses.
Simply amazing, eh?
Michael Chabon used the story (with fictional characters, of course) in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
Truth CAN be strangers than fiction, eh?
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