» Blog Archive Artist Allen Bellman on Marvel Comics. -

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What makes the Golden age of comics fascinating? Was it the more simpler time and old fashioned middle town America that was highlighted within the panels? Perhaps it was the politics of the time ranging from World War 2 and the war effort, or the whole “red scare” and its paranoid ideals seeping into American ideals.

It was a time where Fredric Wertham wrote The Seduction of the Innocent and gave a negative stigma to the fandom we grew to love. Comic books of the 1940’s demonstrated a time where good and evil was depicted as black and white with no shades of gray.

During 2014’s Special Edition in NYC I had the priviledge to meet Allen Bellman. An artist who worked for Marvel back in the 40’s when it was acknowledged as Timely Comics. Mr.Bellman is known for his primary work on Captain America, Sub Mariner, and The Human Torch. As I approached this gentlemen and his wife, I noticed his bright, and colorful Captain America tie and realized that while fans immersed themselves with the latest dark and eerie Indy comic, what ever happened to the appreciation for the cornerstone of our historical American comics? I thought that in order to appreciate the present innovations of our current artists, we must honor and preserve men like Allen Bellman. A known photographer as well, Allen Bellman agreed to conduct this interview turning me into that little boy who sits near the fire place with his grandfather listening to old stories of the past. I present to you, a tie to our Comic Book origin…..Allen Bellman.

 

1.How did Timely switch to Marvel and why?
Good question. This is a decision made by the front office and never consulted
 

2) Lets talk about patriotism during the 40’s. Was the patriotism at the time used more for propaganda or was it really creativity by the artist? (Cap, The Patriot etc).

Well, lets put it this way. We were all Patriots. heck no we didn’t want to lose. I wish my fellow Americans would feel Patriotic today. as we did then. Who thought of propaganda, we loved our work and this a job we were happy to have
 
3) Its interesting to get an artists take on bigotry, after all Kirby was contrite about it and created T’Challa and Wyatt Wingfoot.Would you say that there was subtle comic book racism disguised as patriotism, because of characters such as Ebony White and Jap Buster? Please explain.

There were no Bigotry except against the Japanese and Nazi’s. Rightfully so ! No, no no, there was nothing that even suggested hate against others accept our enemies. The only bigotry I saw at Timely and Marvel when one of the young girls would come in from the front office on business they would get heckled and remarks that they wouldn’t get away with today. Even a young female working in our room was not safe. The only woman no one would jeer was Violet Barclay, an inker and girl friend of Mike Sekowsky.
4) Foreign sensibilities defined corporate vision, since most original mainstream comic creators were first generation.  Did you have immigrant parents?  Was there a cultural background you connected with?

Yes my parents fled from Russia. as Jews were threatened by the anti Semitic Russians. I am of the Jewish faith with Christians in my family. My twin granddaughters, who are famous artists, having drawn four Kentucky Derby Posters in past years. are of the Christian faith. They had also drawn for TV. I see people as people. I don’t see color or religion.  
 
5) Since you were an actual staffer, you can say you were one phase removed from the outside shops of Simon and Kirby. What was it like working in this “house style”? Would you say you helped to solidify the established corporate style of this time and how did you?
Simon and Kirby came after me. I met Joe Simon for the first time in 2007 and I thanked him. He asked what for/ I said, Joe, when you and Kirby left for DC you left an opening for me to join the Marvel staff.  Joe laughed. The greatest compliment another artist could receive would be from another artist. I was told Joe liked my work. Working with others worked for me.

 
6) Speaking of culture and globalization.  Were you aware of the impact comics were having overseas?  This relates to the diversion of GI’s and enlistments.  It also portrays America to other cultures and as a possible inspiration for generations of European and Asian comic artists.  This art form is even reaching Latin American, and African cultures.

We never thought of it as propaganda,  and what was better then going after the enemy. It was profits for the publisher and a secure job for the artist. We had no idea of any impact it had anywhere. Many of us were very young, and our thoughts were to do our best work. Sure comic books had it’s influence all over the world. People come from all over the world to attend comic book conventions such as New York and San Diego. And they like the old style of comic books. That’s why artists, the few that are left, re enjoying great popularity.

7) Simon and Kirby drew Cap punching out Hitler a year before the war started, and its possible the Japanese knew about U.S. propaganda since they had racist iconography themselves.  Did you feel that the “war effort” messages felt more like an obligation to you as a job, or did you have some creative control to what you drew?

We had our thoughts and what we wanted to draw but we had to follow a script. Who knew what the Japanese was thinking. if we did we would be ready for them in Pearl Harbor. Then again the state department knew the Japanese were up to no good. 

 
8) What did you think about Dr. Wertham and the vilifying of comics in the 50’s? This was during the era of segregation, and the red scare, so how where you affected?

Dr. Wertham was a scoundrel, who lied and almost left the comic book industry in shambles. There was proof of this and was interested in his own gain. It affected me as others; we were out of work for a time. 
 

 
9) Do you keep up with the current “comic world?”  If so, what do you think of the messages and art forms of today?

The art in today’s comic books is superb.  but many fans love the old style and that is why I am a happy camper today. I attend many comic book cons all over the country and Canada and have fans all over the world. There is no message in today’s comic books just well drawn art, great scripts meant for entertainment.
We the golden age and Silver age artists have set the way for today’s great movies,
10) Do you see comic books growing on the global market?  If so, when did you notice the spread of this phenomenon?

Oh yes, and I cannot see the end of the trail for comic books.  In fact they should be used to fight our enemies. Comic Books would make great propaganda, drawn to educate the enemy. Captain_America_25_McNiven_Variant

BY: ADAM VEGA

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