Monday, April 20, 2009

The Secret History of the "Secret History"

My "Secret History of All-American Comics, Inc." has been appearing in issues of ALTER EGO and BACK ISSUE magazines (available from for about a year now and I'm just about done with the final chapters. The series is an alternate history of the comic book business, beginning with the premise that Max C. Gaines, one of the "founders" of the biz, bought DC Comics from his business partners, Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz, in 1946, bringing their titles under his AA banner. (The opposite of what really happened.) Additionally, as the result of lawsuits by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (creators of Superman) and Bob Kane (creator of Batman), those two characters cease publication in the late 40s, with Green Lantern and The Flash instead becoming the iconic stars of TV, movies and cartoons.
The series of articles actually had its origin back in 1998, shortly after I left my staff job as Director of Production. DC was publishing stories called "Elseworlds," which took the familiar characters and reinvented them in different incarnations. I had proposed an Elseworlds with a new Justice League, one based in the universe that had the original GL and Flash surviving, but with new versions of Superman and Batman. At the time, the proposal was rejected because the editor said, "There is no interest in the old Justice Society characters." (The JSA characters have since been appearing in their own monthly title as well as a variety of other specials and miniseries.)
In any case, the background for that story -- the "real world" in which it was published -- continued to percolate. I finally contacted Roy Thomas and Michael Eury (the editors of the aforementioned magazines) and asked if they would be interested in running the articles. Both responded enthusiastically and suggested that their staff artists could mock up some covers to go along. I picked out a few covers that seemed fairly easy to modify for the first chapters and we were on our way.
Not long afterwards, I came across the art of Larry Guidry, a fan living in New Orleans. He had created some fake covers of 1960s DC team-ups he would have liked to see. Realizing that, with minor modifications to logos, etc., they could be turned into art for my articles, I contacted him. Larry was willing and then became so excited by the series that he started creating more and more covers, as well as the interior pages for two stories. Most of the covers have been inked by Shane Foley, a regular contributor to ALTER EGO, and, between the two of them, Larry and Shane have created a compendium of AA Comics covers through the years.
Also helping out has been Alex Wright, who mastery of photo-manipulation provided chapters with stills from, among others, the 1950s "Adventures of Green Lantern" TV series, the 1960s campy Flash TV show, and the 1970s "Green Lantern: The Movie." Alex also provided the costume designs for the Silver Age Superman, Aquaman and Aquagirl.
Not to be left out, my former collaborators from my comic book writing days, Alex Saviuk and Stephen DeStefano, provided new looks for a pair of my reinvented characters. Alex came up with a new Batman, while Stephen provided a new look for Green Arrow. And veteran artist Joe Staton introduced his own E-Man character into the AA Universe by delivering a brand-new "1980s" cover.
Many of the chapters have utilized interviews with Ted P. Skimmer, a fictional staff member of AA from the 40s through the 90s. When Roy Thomas asked for a photo of someone who could be Ted, I supplied a photo of my father from 1946, as well as a couple of later ones. Playing the part of Anthony Allan, the media expert who is interviewed about the TV and movie appearances of the characters, is my son Chuck. And the final chapter will have a photo of my daughter Sammi as Samantha Skimmer, Ted's granddaughter, playing a role in the history as well.
A number of people have commented on how the history rings true. Indeed, most of what I've written has a basis in fact; in some cases it is not that far off from the actual events. My wife Laurie is convinced that, years from now, some of my invented history will work its way into real comics lore. She may be right.


  1. I love this alternate history. Any chance of these being collected in one (expanded) volume?

  2. Your alternate history is clever and beautifully written and illustrated- even for a non comics fan (that's me!) it's a great read. (OK, so I am somewhat biased, but I know good writing when I read it.)

  3. Eric L. Sofer, the Silver Age FogeyFriday, April 24, 2009

    That sounds like fun - I want to get that collection some day!

    It sounds like an idea I had had once about American and National Comics never getting back together after their split in the 40s, but continuing on independently (and assuming they each would have been able to stay in business through that time.) It would culminate in two super groups in the late 60s; the Justice League of America, with Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Black Canary, Wildcat, and Mr. Terrific; and the National Finest, with Superman, Batman, Dr. Fate, Starman, Aquaman, Aquagirl, and Manhunter from Mars.

    Crazy idea, but I thought it would be fun to posit the two super teams that would have come from each company...

    I remain,
    Eric L. Sofer
    The Silver Age Fogey

  4. Hello, Bob. Long-time fan, first time commenting. My apologies for commenting on this older entry, but it seemed appropriate. Hope you see it.

    I read your "Secret History" with great interest, especially since I knew from prior experience what a fantastic artist Larry Guidry is. There was one thing that kept nagging at me as I read it, and you mention it here.

    Many of the chapters have utilized interviews with Ted P. Skimmer, a fictional staff member of AA from the 40s through the 90s.

    I'm guessing this means that the "Ted P. Skimmer" who appeared in the pages of DC's books in the late 70s/early 80s wasn't real? Was this a pseudonym for you?

  5. The "Ted" who appeared in DC's books in the 70s is just as real as the "Ted" who worked at AA Comics.

  6. After all these years, I finally got to ask the Answer Man a question. :) Thanks Bob, I think that sums it up.

  7. Thanks for these, Answer Man. I've been reading them piecemeal and think they're one of the most brilliant things I've ever seen in comics. I hate to ask, but is there a checklist? I think I've tracked down all the BACK ISSUE but there might be an ALTER EGO installment or two I've missed.

  8. The series appeared in ALTER EGO #s 76, 78-81, 83, 85 and 87, with a bonus chapter scheduled for #93 or #94, depending on space. The second half is in BACK ISSUE #s 28 - 36, except #31.

  9. Thanks. Looks like I had everything up to that bonus chapter and now i know I'll have that to look forward to. It really is an achievement.