A Tribute to the of

It was like déjà vu all over again when DC decided to roll out some Western titles in 1970. All-Star Western began with classic reprints (from Western Comics #73 & #80, 1959-60) of Carmine Infantino drawing his famous Pow-Wow Smith character in issue #1 with a cover by Gil Kane and script assists by John Broome and Gardner Fox.

Issue #2, however, introduced some new stories and characters and some magnificent artwork. Let’s start with Neal Adams' original cover art (+ printer's color guide #1 & #2) showing Outlaw. Note also in the lower right corner the debut for the backup series featuring El Diablo. This issue has a publication date of October/November 1970, with editing by Dick Giordano. The first tale, “Draw Death!” was written by the ever-prolific Robert Kanigher with pencils and inks by Tony DeZuniga, but the focus of this review is on the second story, “The Devil Has Two Faces!,” also written by Kanigher, but with some stunning art by Gray Morrow.

It’s a simple enough story. A stagecoach is being put upon by three highwaymen, but out of the shadows, a caped stranger wearing a mask and astride a black horse drives them away. Dressed a bit like Zorro, it is El Diablo, and two of the villains successfully flee while the third falls to the blazing six-shooter of the dark rider.

Moments after the gun battle, El Diablo hears a cry for help from the stagecoach and investigates. A young woman emerges, explaining that another woman is about to deliver a baby. Just then a man in a suit and bowler emerges from the bushes, admitting he was hiding from the outlaws. The woman introduces him as Doc Anderson.

El Diablo suggests the doctor do his duty and help deliver the baby, but he refuses, saying that he and the young woman are traveling together, looking for a better beginning somewhere else. Doc Anderson then further explains his reluctance, that his “skill” didn’t save his wife and newborn child. El Diablo tries to encourage the doctor further, and pretty well insists, when a groan from inside the stagecoach draws his attention long enough that Anderson gets on one of the outlaw horses and takes off.

The young woman agrees to help and soon a healthy baby is delivered. El Diablo then drives the stagecoach toward town, but the ambush party has come back and the lead begins to fly anew. El Diablo jumps to his black steed tied to the back of the stagecoach and like a man possessed attacks with both pistols, ending the threat for good.

After the dust settles, it’s discovered that Doc had met his end at their hands and was draped over the horse he’d borrowed. A little later in town, the sheriff queries the young woman about the stranger who helped her, suggesting perhaps the babe should bear his name, but she says that would be impossible, for the only name given was El Diablo.

The last panel of this brief 6-page story promises we’ll learn more in the next issue of All-Star Western about who and what El Diablo really is.

Perhaps you’d like to know how I settled on this tale. Glad you asked. You see I’d been corresponding with John Workman a little about the recent Plastic Man article I’d written for BACK ISSUE that John had kindly contributed to and had mentioned in passing that I’d started doing a little work for Comics Bulletin. I then shared a recent article and told him how thrilled I was that George Perez had drawn a character in his new SIRENS series based on yours truly: http://comicsbulletin.com/look-ma-im-comic-book-character/

Since my character is an old west cowboy, John remarked that it was just like an El Diablo story Gray Morrow had drawn, and much like my little appearance, Gray had used some familiar faces in his story. Intrigued, I did a little detective work and was able to find the issue John was talking about. The splash page, for example, features three outlaws modeled on (from top to bottom) Al Williamson, Angelo Torres and Dick Giordano. Dick’s character then appears on the next page. Pages 3 and 4 show us Doc Anderson, who is based on Gil Kane and the sheriff is Phil Seuling. How cool is that? I’ve not seen a great deal of Gray Morrow’s work, but boy howdy, the man could draw in a most photo-realistic fashion and I got a real bang out of the notion that I was following in sort of a tradition.

Also, it spurred me to locate and interview (via e-mail) the wonderful Angelo Torres. Here is what he had to share:

Bryan D. Stroud: How did you become interested in art?

Angelo Torres: Growing up in the 30s with the great Sunday funnies being drawn at that time and with so many great comic book titles filling every newsstand, I began copying the characters and attempting to create my own. My school notebooks were full of drawings which didn’t help my grades and by the time I got to high school all I wanted to do was draw a newspaper syndicated strip.

BDS: What was your training?

AT: I attended the School of Industrial Art, a vocational high school in New York City where I got my first formal art training. Graduating in 1951, I went into the Army for the next two years after which I used the GI Bill to study at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (now the School of Visual Arts).

BDS: You have a very realistic style. What led you to comics?

AT: My dream had always been to do another “Terry and the Pirates” or “Steve Canyon.” I loved Milton Caniff’s work and tried to emulate it. I was also a huge fan of Alex Raymond and Hal Foster, so even though I loved almost every strip appearing then, I wanted more than anything to draw in a realistic style. Attending classes at C&I, I found that my fellow cartooning students had no interest in doing a syndicated strip but dreamed instead of breaking into the comic book business, with EC Comics as their main target. I found myself going in the same direction.

BDS: You’ve done nearly every genre, from crime to Adventure, War to Western, Science Fiction and even a little romance. Where did you feel most comfortable?

AT: I have always felt most comfortable and gratified doing historical work. My work on Prehistoric World and World War II for Classics Illustrated (+ pg. 3 original art), the war stories for Warren and the Civil War book for Marvel are still some of my most satisfying work.

BDS: Tell me about the Fleagle Gang.

AT: Ah, the Fleagles. A couple of us from the art school, led by Nick Meglin (who in later years would become an editor of MAD Magazine) had become regular visitors to the EC offices in lower Manhattan. Always welcome by Bill Gaines and to some extent Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman, we also got to know some of the artists. Al Williamson became a close friend and on one of his trips to EC to deliver work, Nick, George Woodbridge, yours truly and Roy Krenkel tagged along with him. As we entered the office, somebody, they say it was Harvey, called out “Here comes the Fleagle gang” or words to that effect. It stuck, the fans got hold of it and the rest is history.

BDS: Most of your stories in the comics were 4 to 5 pages. Was that your sweet spot or just what was assigned?

AT: I did whatever was assigned to me. If it was a subject I liked I didn’t care about the number of pages.

BDS: Did you have an editor you particularly enjoyed working with?

AT: Archie Goodwin at Warren stands out and of course, the guys at MAD, Al Feldstein, Nick Meglin and John Ficarra, my editors for so many years.

BDS: You were at it before the Comics Code. How do you feel that affected your work?

AT: It never affected my work except for the one story I did for EC, “An Eye For an Eye”. It kept being rejected and Gaines was forced to shelve it.

BDS: You’ve done work for many, many publishers: EC, Archie, Warren, Prize, Marvel, Charlton, Classics Illustrated, Sick, Harvey, DC and even Bongo. Any preferences?

AT: How can I choose? They all hired me and liked my work. But if I had to, it would have to be EC. There was no one like William Gaines.

BDS: You’ve done very little superhero work except for special projects like the Supergirl (+ back cover) promotional comic from Honda and the “Celebrate the Century” super heroes stamp album. Is it your preference to do other styles besides superheroes?

AT: Ironically enough, one of the first characters I ever attempted to draw was Superman. My comic book collection growing up was comprised mostly of all those superheroes of the late 30s and 40s but for some reason, my drawing interests were elsewhere.

BDS: You also did an “Epic Battles of the Civil War” project for the Historical Souvenir Co. How did that come about?

AT: The Civil War project began with a phone call from Marvel. After learning that the other sections would be done by George Woodbridge, Gray Morrow and Richard Rockwell, I decided I had to do it. I have never regretted it and think of it as one of my better efforts.

BDS: I see you had some work in the first issue of Witzend. Did you work directly with Woody?

AT: I can’t remember what work of mine appeared in the first issue of Witzend and I never worked with Woody on anything.

BDS: You seemed to find your home with MAD. Was your work at SICK a precursor?

AT: Absolutely, as was my earlier work with Bob Powell. It was great fun being in at the inception of Sick and working with Joe Simon.

BDS: Do you prefer penciling or inking?

AT: I have always preferred penciling and inking my own work and have always done so with very few exceptions.

BDS: Are you still doing work?

AT: No big projects any more but, yes, I still do a piece here and there.

BDS: Do you do commissions?

AT: Only those I feel comfortable doing and that look like fun to do.

BDS: Do you think Gray Morrow did you justice in the El Diablo story?

AT: Gray Morrow was a dear friend and I loved his work.

BDS: What else can you tell me about that story? I believe Gil Kane, All Williamson and Dick Giordano and Phil Sueling were also characterized.

AT: I know little about the story but it was always fun to throw your friends into a job. We all did it at one time or another.

I’d like to send a big thank you to Angelo Torres for sharing some of his memories of a long and successful career and a shout out to John Workman for making me aware of the story in the first place. These are the sorts of discoveries that really make it a joy to dig into the rich history of DC comics.

The latest review (unless I’m lucky enough to land another interview to accompany it) will be posted on the 15th and in the meanwhile, do drop a line and let us know how we’re doing: professor_the@hotmail.com

See you then and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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