Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Episode #127: Happy Birthday, Win Mortimer!

James Winslow Mortimer was born on May 1, 1919, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He died on January 11, 1998. He was an almost forgotten comic book artist who creted many pages of Superman covers and stories in the 1940's and 1950's. His art training began with his father, who supervised the poster department of a lithograph company. Win worked there in the summer during his high school years. He also attended the Art Student League in New York City, where he studied under George Bridgeman. One of Win's fellow students was future comic strip artist Stan Drake. Win served in the Canadian Army during WWII, and was discharged in 1943.

He began working as an illustrator, designing posters for the Canadian Ministry of Information. Beginning in 1945 he got a job drawing for DC Comics, and moved to New York City. Because of the immigration laws of the time, he had to provide documentation of steady employment. DC helped in that regard by placing Win Mortimer on salary. But by 1949 he worked from home.

Win Mortimer's first DC story was The Batman Goes Broke, published in Detective Comics #105, November 1945, published on September 25, 1945. It was reprinted in Batman Archives, vol. V. Mortimer usually inked his own work. He drew about 253 stories for DC, from 1945 - 1973, then from 1977 - 1982. His final DC work was for the four issue mini-series World Of Metropolis, which filled in the background of the main cast of the Superman who began in John Byrne's 1986 mini-series, Man Of Steel.It was published in 1988. He also drew about 352 DC covers, from 1946 - 1968, covering a wide variety of genres.

From 1949 - 1955, Win Mortimer also drew the Superman daily comic strip, while Wayne Boring and Jack Burnley drew the Superman Sunday strips from 1940 - 1966. Mortimer also drew Superman Time Capsule, a comic book prize for Kellogg's Sugar Smacks Cereal in 1955.

Win Mortimer's less well lnown work involved drawing the art for DC Comics editor Jack Schiff's public service announcements. These gave wholesome messages for young comic book readers. They covered a variety of comics, from study tips, chores and safety to racism. Schiff worked with the National Social Welfare Assembly, an organization composed of psychologists and educators from a variety of groups. Among its members was Nobel Prize winning author Pearl S. Buck. Together, Mortimer and Schiff produced single page public service announcements from 1949 - 1960's. DC Comics sent thousands of copies to schools and civic orgainzations as a public service.

Mortimer left DC Comics in 1956 to become the artist of a daily newspaper comic strip David Crane, a Christian themed strip about an ordained minister, published by the Prentice-Hall Syndicate. According to Eddy Zeno's book, Curt Swan: A Life In Comics, the opening left by Win's departure opened the door for Curt Swan to eventually become the iconic Superman artist for the next 30 years. Win left that comic strip to draw the comic strip Larry Bannon, from 1961 - 1968, distributed by the Toronto Star Syndicate.

After 1968, Win Mortimer did both comic book and commercial art work. From the late 1960's to 1983, his comic book work involved publishers DC, Marvel and Gold Key, in a variety of genres. Win drew such humor titles as Stanley And His Monster, Scooter, Binky, Jerry Lewis, superheroes such as Supergirl, Lois Lane, Legion Of Super-Heroes and Spider-Man, horror titles like Boris Karloff's Tales Of Mystery, The Twilight Zone, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, Frankenstein and Supernatural Thrillers, and romance in Young Romance.

In 1983, Win Mortimer joined Neal Adams' studio, Continuity Associates, doing advertising and commercial projects. Win had heart bypass surgery in 1987, and continued his work for Continuity. He also did a five page religious themed comic book, Faith & Stuff. As mentioned previously, Mortimer drew the four issue mini-series World Of Metropolis. While a number of inkers worked over Win's pencils, the art was very well done for a man of Mortimer's age, and after heart surgery. His final comic book work was for The Honeymooners, issue #11, June 1989.

Win Mortimer died on Sunday, January 11, 1998, after a six month battle against cancer. He worked as an artist almost up to the time of his death. He was survived by his wife Eileen, three children, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. About Win Mortimer, Neal Adams said, "Win fit his work into his life. He had a family , a home and made contributions to his community. He was an ideal for other artists to pay attention to."

In 2006, Win Mortimer was inducted into the Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall Of Fame.

For this episode, three stories drawn by Win Mortimer will be featured.

The first story is Crime Paradise, published in Action Comics #101, October 1946, around August 15, 1946. The issue contained 48 pages for 10 cents. George Roussos inked Win Mortimer's pencils. The story opened with several examples of Superman acting strangely. He ignored a drowning man to grab a shiny seashell from the ocean floor. The man was saved by lifeguards. Superman dismantled a stalled vehicle and left the stranded motorists. Then the Man of Steel dismantled a skyscraper, rebuilding it upside down after the occupants left the building.

A gang leader named Specs had gained knowledge of ancient drugs. He had discovered a drug which caused insanity. That evening Clark and Lois attened a banquet honoring a local dignitary, who went beserk and attacked the speaker. Clark secretly changed to Superman and subdued the man. As Clark he visited the man in the psychiatric ward of the hospital. Clark left and passed Specs, who visited the man, posing as a relative. After Spec's visit the man returned to normal. Later Clark and Lois attneded a play, where an actor went beserk onstage. Superman subdued thie actor, who was taken away by the authroities. Lois overheard members of Spec's gang talking, and was kidnapped when she was following them.

Clark went to visit the actor's wife, and saw Specs enter the actor's home. Using his x-ray vision and super hearing, he heard Specs blackmail the woman for the antidote. Clark became Superman and followed Specs to the hospital. After Spec's visit the actor returned to normal. Superman followed Specs to his hideout, where he found Lois tied up. Specs blackmailed Superman into ingesting the drug, which caused him to go berserk. Superman flew uncontrollably into an atomic bomb test detonation. The blast and radiation served as an antidote, and Superman returned to Metropolis to capture the gang and repair the damage he caused.

The second story is The Magnetic Mobster, from Superman #51, March/April 1948, published around January 7, 1948. It was written by Alvin Schwartz, and Win Mortimer pencilled and inked the art. Some crooks detonated a bomb buried in the road, under an armored car. They attacked the guards with tear gas and stole the contents. After the attack the armored car company decided to transport money using tanks, to deter robbers. Perry White sends Clark and Lois to cover the story. Clark bowed out of the story, saying he didn't see uch of a story there, but actually to be able to protect the shipment as Superman. He saved Lois car from an attack on the tank, which was deterred.

The leader of the gang, a Mr. Ohm, equipped a plane with an electromagnet to attack the tanks. When Superman flew to the Daily Planet offices, Perry White told him about the tank being stolen, and the Man of Steel being considered a suspect. After talking with the president of the armored car company, Superman guarded the the next tank. He was repelled by the magnetic field the plane generated.

The next day Clark and Lois covered the armored car company again. To repel the magnetic plane the company had covered the tank with lead, and a crowd had gathered around the building. To keep Clark and Lois from snooping around a police officer handcuffed them together. When the plane flew overhead, the magnet picked them up. the palane's crew shut down the magnet, letting Clark and Lois fall to their death. Lois fainted and Clark broke the cuffs, changed into Superman, and carried Lois to the ground. He left her a note to let her know that Superman had saved them and that Clark was phoning in his story.

To defeat the plane, Superman converted the next tank into a magnet. Holding two wires together, Superman spun around at super speed, as a dynamo, creating his own magnet. His was powerful enough to capture the magnetic plane. Back at the Daily Planet offices, Clark cracked that he was magnetically attracted to scoops. Lois retoreted that only when she was unconscious. Once again Lois got the last word.

The final story of the issue appeared in Adventure Comics #373, October 1968, published around August 29, 1968. The story, The Tornado Twins was written by Jim Shooter, with both pencils and inks provided by Win Mortimer. The story opened with various Legionnaires involved in different activities, al summoned by an alarm. A United Planets Experimental Vehicle Research Center was being robbed of some of its super-fast experimental vehicles. The Legion arrived to find the gang responsible was already captured by a male and female teen, both with red hair. They introduced themselves as Don and Dawn Allen. They made short work of Karate Kid when he demanded an explanation when they tried to leave. After they left, Don and Dawn comented to each other how their plan was working.

The Legion responded to another alarm, at a mine. They found a mine filled with mining robots that had gone berserk. They got the best of the Legion, and were defeated by the Allens. The Legion began to feel insecure because of the publicity the Allens received. As a result, the Legion began an investigation about the Allens, but found no criminal record, nor evidence of any super powers.

After the Legion responded to another alarm caused by a building fire, they find the flames doused by the Allens. Surprisingly, the Allens reject an offer of Legion membership. Karate Kid wanted to settle the score, and is quickly defeated again by the Allens.

Later, a dejected Legion was slow to respond to another alarm, but could not ignore their mission. They found an alien rocket in a city square. When they attacked it, they found the rocket is a fake. It fell apart, revealing a giant statue of the 20th Century hero the Flash. Don and Dawn, dressed in Kid Flash costumes, revealed that they were descendants of Barry Allen. As representatives of the Barry Allen Memorial Institute, they were given temporary powers by the Institute to promote Barry Allen Day, declared by the United Planets.

Next episode: Superman: The World Of New Krypton: The Review!

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