Friday at San Diego Comic-Con we focused on the pulp magazine roots of comic books, with panels showcasing The Shadow, Doc Savage, the characters of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the “twisted roots” of DC Comics. Oh, and, yes, we still had plenty of time to take some awesome photographs of the day’s festivities.
The first panel of the day celebrated the late Edgar Rice Burroughs, who, for my money, is the godfather of modern pop culture. His characters, John Carter of Mars and Tarzan, have influenced and inspired generations of artists and writers, including the young Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, creators of Superman. Without Burroughs, there probably would not even be such a thing as a Comic-Con, and I’m always very happy to see a convention give ERB his due.
Speakers at the Burroughs panel included moderator, Scott Tracy Griffin (author of Tarzan The Centennial Celebration); Jim Sullos, president of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc; Mike Richardson, film producer and the founder of Dark Horse Comics, who, sadly, couldn’t talk about the upcoming film, Tarzan the Untamed (2016); Diana Leto, artist and editor of the fantastic new graphic novel, Jungle Tales of Tarzan, which features 12 classic stories illustrated by 12 contemporary artists; and artist Mark Wheatly, who talked about an upcoming 3-D live-action show (similar to a Cirque du Soleil production), featuring Tarzan, The Shadow and Green Hornet, that utilizes motion capture technology, “live” on stage. (Sounds really cool!)
Next up was the 75th anniversary of The Shadow and Doc Savage comics, with speakers Anthony Tollin and Michael Uslan, both renowned comic historians. They spoke to how both of these pulp characters influenced the creation of an untold number of comic book superheroes, among them Superman and Batman, whose first comic story (in Detective Comics #27) was a direct rip-off of a Shadow pulp novel, “Partners of Peril.”
Mr. Uslan also shared a great story about how he broke into comics in 1975, flying by the seat of his pants writing a last second Shadow tale for DC. The story led to his getting a Batman writing gig, which in turn led to his involvement with producing the Batman films we all know and love. Another reason to thank The Shadow.
Speaking of DC, the next panel delved into the seamier side of the comic book industry and how one hero and entrepreneur, and a small group of seedy pulp and porn publishers, changed the world by figuring out a way to make money off of recycled comic strips.
On hand for the “Twisted Roots of the Comics Industry” discussion was National Allied Publications (later called DC Comics) founder Malcolm (The Major) Wheeler-Nicholson’s granddaughter, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson; Batman film producer and comic historian Michael Uslan; Super Boys author Brad Ricca; Men of Tomorrow author Gerald Jones; and comic writer/editor Danny Fingeroth.
Mr. Ricca noted that July 10 (the day of the this panel) was Joe Shuster’s 101st birthday, and he reminded the attendees that without the work Shuster did drawing Superman, the comic convention would likely not exist.
SDCC Gallery: Friday, July 10, 2015 (click an image to see the large version):