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Simply WeirdThe (fake) History of Weird Comics Incorporated, A (fake) Comic Book Company
By William Robert Webb III
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 WILLIAM ROBERT WEBB III
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePulps and the precursors to the peculiar history of Weird Comics Inc.
Weird Comics Inc. has a fairly peculiar history and its beginnings come from an odd series of events. To truly appreciate its formation one must look at a time before its creation/formation. One must look back at the career of Waldo Richard Winecrest II, whose publishing company Industrial Pulps was the parent company of Weird Comics Incorporated.
Waldo was born in London, England and not much else is known about his life before moving to the United States. Even family Members didn't really know when he was even born. Waldo Richards Winecrest IV (or Dicky Winecrest as he is most commonly known as) once said to me that he had, "asked my father when my grandfather was born. He then shrugged and told me he had no clue. Obviously I was pretty shocked to hear that."
The only bit of information that is known about Waldo is that during his years in London he worked at a company that published Penny Dreadfuls. It is said that Waldo wanted a change of scenery and wanted to jump into the blossoming American Pulp Market. So according to Elis Island records Waldo reached America's shores on the date of June 2nd 1924.
Some of Waldo's early dealings in New York are as much in the shadows as his days in London. Seemingly overnight Waldo formed Industrial Pulps which happened to published several pulp magazines in several genres. There were such titles as the Hard Boiled magazine "Private Dicks", the Science Fiction magazine "Tales of Uranus" and a horror magazine "The Gapping Horror" just to name a few.
Many happened to be puzzled with the fact that Winecrest a British immigrant could make such a quick and swift ascent into the business of Pulp magazines. This has led to much speculation and rumors. Many (then and now) hypothesized that the mob may have had some involvement with helping Waldo get the money needed to quickly expand Industrial Pulps. The thing though is that there is no solid evidence either way.
Dicky Winecrest's own take is that his grandfather must have, "gotten some money through an inheritance or something. I really doubt my grandfather was involved with the mob."
Never the less Waldo was riding high off of the success of Industrial Pulps and was seen as a very eligible bachelor at the time. He became legendary for his womanizing but he would soon settle down and leave his tomcat days behind him focusing mostly on business.
On July 7th 1925 Waldo would become a family man when he married a woman named Jane Dodson whom he had met through mutual friends. Their first and only child was born on January 14th 1926 named Waldo Richard Winecrest III (who was referred to as Richard by everyone he had known except Waldo). Waldo was somewhat disappointed in Richard as a son to say the least. Waldo would often refer to Richard as "That Git".
Commenting on the relationship between his father and grandfather Dicky Winecrest has said, "Sadly my Grandfather saw my father as some sort of disappointment. I never understood why and neither did my father. It was just a very bizarre relationship.
"My Grandfather once said that his disappointment in my father led to him deciding to not have any other children because of how much a disappointment my father was to him.
"I guess the fact my dad wasn't an athletic type of person didn't help since my Grandfather did want an athletic son. It also didn't help that my father would misunderstand some of the British colloquialisms that my Grandfather would use.
"Besides that there was also the fact that my father was an eccentric child who grew up into a very eccentric man. Now that I think about it those are probably some of the reasons my Grandfather was disappointed. Still those are pretty stupid reasons to hate your own son."
A few of the eccentricities that Richard would express during his childhood included (but not limited to) running around the house wearing his mother's bonnet, pacing in his room in a circle for hours while talking to himself and the fact that he demanded that cheese not be in his presence. These would usually anger his father who would stew in silence about his son's unusual behavior.
Most of these mentioned eccentricities would fall by the waist side over time while other eccentricities would take their place. One eccentricity from childhood that would follow Richard into adulthood would be pacing and talking to himself. He'd use as a method to come up with comic book stories as an adult.
While growing up Richard was an avid reader of Pulp Magazines including many that were published by his own father. Richard also happened to appreciate what would be considered more cultured reading. Along with his beloved Pulps he would read the likes of William Faulkner, Nikolai Gogol, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Andre Breton, Albert Camus and Charles Maturin. Still his favorite author was Pulp writer H.P. Lovecraft. In Richard's eyes there was no high art and not low art, there was just the act of expression.
Richard also started reading newspaper comic strips around the age of twelve. The blend of the visual with the written word fascinated Richard. He was particularly fond of Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon and George Herriman's Krazy Kat.
During this time a new medium would come to the forefront. A medium that combined two of Richard's loves Pulp Magazines and newspaper comic strips. Of course this new medium would be called the comic book. With this new medium called comic books came a new sort of hero along with it. It would lead to the birth of the superhero.
Chapter TwoThe Birth of Weird Comics Inc. and its rise to prominence
Waldo did not think much of his son so he wanted Richard out of his house by the time Richard was eighteen. So Waldo paid the amount of money needed to put Richard in and keep him in college. During his time in college Richard would meet his future wife June Day.
After a whirlwind courtship June found out she was pregnant. Waldo immediately demanded that Richard not only marry June but drop out of school and get a job. The problem then became that Richard wanted to work at Industrial Pulps. Waldo refused to give his son a job at Industrial Pulps on the ground that he didn't want to see his son's face on an everyday basis.
A deal was struck between father and son. The deal would be that Richard would be the head of a new division of Industrial Pulps that would specialize in comics. Richard would serve as Head Writer and Editor in Chief. The new comic book division of Industrial Pulps would be held in a different building than the one that Industrial Pulps was run out of. This was done so that Waldo would not have to see Richard a stipulation that was very important to Waldo.
With those series of events set in motion Richard and June would get married on January 15th 1946 (the day after Richard's twentieth birthday). While Richards was setting ground over the next couple of months his son Waldo Richard Winecrest IV was born on July 7th 1946 (oddly enough on his grandparents wedding anniversary). The happiness of these two even would be overshadowed by the difficulty Richard was going through trying to get his upstart comic company off the ground.
Richard had very little experience in publishing except for working part time as a courier at Industrial Pulps during his High school days. Besides that he also had a handful of short stories published in some of the Pulp Magazines published by Industrial Pulps. This didn't matter to Waldo who honestly didn't care if anything was actually published. He only cared that his son would stay out of his hair. While most of Waldo's colleagues thought this reasoning was insane and financially irresponsible they kept their opinions to themselves (at the time).
Most of Richard's problems came from his inability to hire anyone to work for the fledgling comic company that at the time was simply called Weird Comics. Sometime in around August Richard would hire the man that would help jumpstart the process that would finally get the company off the ground. That man was Phil Hardy, a veteran editor of several Pulp Magazines and a handful of comics. He left the business originally to join the army during World War II but when he came back from Europe he couldn't find a job.
Hardy would describe his working at Weird Comics as, "reaching for the bottom of the barrel. A low point but, the only other jobs I could find were low paying at the time. Weird Comics was the only place I could work at and make enough to live off of. Still it was humiliating working there but like I said it was better than making no money."
As assistant editor Hardy was able to bring in freelance artists. He was also able to find people to fill up all the positions at Weird Comics that Richard couldn't get filled. Hardy was a miracle worker who was about to take the business side and managerial side while Richard focused on the creative side.
Most would agree with this saying that beyond complete editorial control over the content being published at Weird Comics Richard paid no attention to the business side of things. Anything not directly involving the content of the comics was handled by Hardy.
Hardy thought this was best since according to him, "Richard would make people uneasy. He was kinda out there. He'd have this Salvador Dali type of moustache and a tiny pointy beard on his chin. Y'know like whatcha'd call a goatee.
"He was harmless but most people were afraid of him. Well except the creative guys like the artists and the few writers we had. Wait scratch that last part there was only one writer and that was Richard.
"I honestly think that the two things he liked the most at work was writing and hanging out with the artists. But he seriously scared everyone else."
With Weird Comics finally getting on track there was one speed bump that got in the way of its launch. That speed bump was Waldo Winecrest. Up until that point Waldo had completely ignored the comics division until he looked over the comics that were to be launched. A misunderstanding would almost completely derail the launch.
As Phil Hardy put it, "Richard's old man thought Richard wouldn't get any comics published. He just thought of it as a money hole so that Richard would stay away from him. Richard showed him wrong."
Though what distressed Waldo the most wasn't that the comics were to be published but was the name of the company and its logo. The Logo for Weird comics was simply its initials within a circle (WC). Waldo had mistakenly thought that his son had named his comic book company Water Closet. With that Waldo would for the first and only time demand Richard make an editorial change. Richard would comply and change the name of the company Weird Comics Incorporated (shortened to WCI when referenced by most fans) which would remain its name throughout its storied history.
Since the print run had already been made Richard and many other employees of WCI had to manually write the letter I after the WC logo on the original run of comics published. Many hours were spent putting the letter on the comics at Waldo's request. A small portion of comics that made it to newsstands didn't have the letter I written after the WC logo. Those are now collector's items.
During this time Richard quickly came up with many characters and stories to populate the comics published by WCI. One of the first successes was a comic called Claws Son of Santa, a Christmas themed Superhero with retractable claws (made of candy canes) who happened to be the son of Santa Claus. The inspiration for the character somewhat came from a misunderstanding between Richard and Waldo when Richard was a child.
Waldo being British would always refer to Santa Claus as Father Christmas. As a young boy Richard always thought this meant that Santa was someone's actual father. Richard would not see how silly this was until he was an adult but the whole thing stuck with him.
Richard put a lot of his personal experience with his father as inspiration for the relationship between Claws and Santa. Claws was the superhero son of Santa Claus who like Richard was considered a disappointment by his father. In the character of Claws he found a much needed catharsis. He also found that while it was an odd idea it was one that struck a chord with readers much to the befuddlement to all who worked at WCI except Richard.
Phil Hardy would remark that, "We all thought it was too crazy an idea to appeal to kids. In the end we were all wrong. The comic sold like hot cakes. It surprised the hell out of all of us except Richard. It was like he had a golden touch or something."
With the success of Claws led to Richard being able to essentially write whatever he wanted to. No one would question his decisions. No idea was too crazy to print because of the success of Claws.
Besides several art classes in High school and College Richard had no art experience. Despite this he wanted to not only write but also draw a comic to be published by WCI. He wanted to draw and write a serialized comic within the Anthology comic Whole Lotta Comics.
Many wanted to say no since Richard was very limited in his drawing ability and was also a slow illustrator. On account of the success of Claws people said nothing. Richard was such a slow artist that it took him a whole month to complete one comic page. It wasn't very well drawn either.
Richard decided not to illustrate ever again but he did publish the completed page as a teaser for a Character to be published by WCI. Richard decided that he would get the (in his opinion) best freelancer working at WCI's. That artist that he chose was Leo Spitz.
Leo Spitz was born Leo Spitzleiberkurtzowoskiberg in the Polish Village of Bebla in 1920. His family left Poland for America in 1923 according to Elis Island records. He grew up poor in New York's Lower East Side. To pass the time he's drew pictures and read newspaper comic strips. His favorite comic strips were Windsor McKay's Little Nemo in Slumberland and George Herriman's Krazy Kat. Young Leo admired the work of McKay and Herriman. Young Leo wished to become a comic strip illustrator. He felt that was the only way he could make something out of himself.
Richard had sent Phil Hardy to approach Leo with the job. This entailed giving Spitz a copy of the teaser that Richard had drawn along with a full script to be illustrated for an upcoming issue of Whole Lotta Comics. He looked at the title and was puzzled. Koltar the Mighty Immortal was the title character who happened to be a superhero.
Spitz didn't know what to say. He liked his current gig as artist on WCI teen comedy comic Tommy Pulls a Boner. The comic in which the lead character Tommy Goodeboy would get into mischief while screwing up ("pulling many a boners"). Tommy was well known for his big ears and bow tie. The comic took allot of Spitz's time and he was worried he couldn't work on both comics. He was assured that each story would be no longer than ten pages. Spitz then reconsidered things and thought he could work on both comics.
Before Spitz made his final decision to work on Koltar he wanted to read the original teaser and the full comic book script. He didn't want to get stuck with something he wouldn't want to work on. He liked what he read because of its uniqueness and he was off to work on Koltar the Might Immoral.
The story of Koltar the Mighty Immortal was that of a brash scientist at the end of time who wanted to try and prevent the end of the universe. In an attempt to stall the destruction of the universe he creates a machine. That machine doesn't stop the end of the universe but instead puts the scientist known as Koltar back to the 20th century.
There he discovers that the process of time travel has made him indestructible and there go has become completely immortal. After finding a superhero comic, Koltar decides to fashion a blue costume and becomes a superhero. He christens himself The Mighty Immortal. All of this was found within the one page teaser that Richard had illustrated.
Excerpted from Simply Weird by William Robert Webb III Copyright © 2012 by WILLIAM ROBERT WEBB III. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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