A Tribute to the of






Green Lantern, the second important character reborn in the Silver Age, met perhaps his greatest foe way back in issue #7 of his new magazine.  The date is July/August of 1961.  The scripter is John Broome, with pencils by Gil Kane and inking by Joe GiellaJulius Schwartz serves as editor and the name of the adventure is "The Day 100,000 People Vanished!"

Feature if you can a bustling morning scene in the city of Valdale, somewhere on the west coast when a shimmering rain of light followed by a noise like a thunderclap occurs and at 9:15, every living soul has disappeared.

Apparently Valdale isn't far from Green Lantern's HQ of Coast City as he's investigated the event and come up completely dry.  He consults with his friend and co-worker at Ferris Aircraft Company, Thomas "Pieface" Kalmaku and remarks that it may be significant that the disappearance happened a little after 9 o'clock since our hero had been scheduled to be in Valdale, but had been delayed.  Before he can ponder matters further, however, Hal experiences a brief dizzy spell.  What he doesn't realize is that an energy duplicate of himself has been summoned by the Guardians of the Universe on Oa.  His astral self remembers the Guardians from his prior meeting with them in "The Planet of Doomed Men!" in Green Lantern #1, but his corporeal form is not yet aware of the creators of the power batteries and their universal oversight.

They then proceed to explain his presence by recounting the error they once made in appointing a Green Lantern in space sector 1417 on the planet Korugar.  His name was Sinestro.  At first he dispatched his duties well, but unbeknownst to the Guardians, he began to change in small but significant ways until he took it upon himself to use his power for self-aggrandizement, building a palatial headquarters and receiving requests for help from his throne-like perch, acting only when he felt like it.

The Guardian continues that Sinestro was afflicted with the virus of power and that some psychological quirk in his brain made him vulnerable.  It was inevitable that he would take the next step, dissolving the high council of Korugar and setting himself up as the ultimate law of the land.  At that time the Guardians became aware of his misdeeds and stripped him of his battery, ring, insignia and all honors connected with being a Green Lantern.  He was then banished to the anti-matter universe of Qward, where everything is evil (as shown in Green Lantern #2, for the details of that adventure click here).

Finally they come to the point for the Green Lantern of sector 2814, Hal Jordan, by telling his energy duplicate that while they have no influence on Qward, they can monitor it and they've seen some disturbing developments involving their former GL.  They glimpse him lecturing the Qwardians about their three failed attempts at the Earth Green Lantern's destruction and he will show them what true evil is capable of.  Creating a device to ambush Green Lantern when he goes to Valdale (Sinestro is able to monitor the Earth via some form of super-radar on Qward) and he somehow knows that Hal's ring will not be operating at this time, so they will use the newly-created Viso-teleporter to abduct all the citizenry, and especially Green Lantern, to Qward.

Fully briefed, Hal is dispatched by the Guardians to go forth to Qward and defeat Sinestro and rescue the citizens of Valdale.  Unfortunately he must do so without their help as they have no jurisdiction in the anti-matter universe.  As a final note they add they are allowing him to retain his memory of this meeting as a reward for his valor and loyalty.

Nearly instantaneously he returns to his discussion with Kalmaku and decides to keep the knowledge of the Guardians to himself as he takes flight.  He soon discovers, to his dismay, that the inter-universe aperture he'd used to enter Qward before is blocked.  He decides there is one other way, though it involves risk.  He goes to Coast City and using the incredible power of the ring causes every citizen there to disappear, so they'll be immune to Sinestro's device.  Then…he waits and soon his patience is rewarded when he is transported by the viso-teleporter.  Shortly after this event the temporary invisibility of the Coast City inhabitants wears off.

On Qward, the attack on Green Lantern is nearly immediate, but he quickly erects an emerald shield.  Sinestro then announces that unless he surrenders the people of Valdale will be destroyed.  GL agrees on the condition that the 100,000 people will be sent safely back to Valdale.  The bargain is struck and Jordan soon finds himself suspended helplessly in a yellow energy bubble prison, impervious to his power ring due to the weakness in its design.  The evil being from Korugar explains that while Hal's ring precludes any harm to him while he is conscious, they will simply wait for the clock on the wall to reach six, the end of the 24-hour charge in his ring.  The clock shows approximately 15 minutes left.  The Qwardians are most pleased and propose that Sinestro be made Chieftain.  The red-skinned villain promises that they'll soon take on the Guardians themselves.

Hal, meanwhile, is thinking furiously and notes that the clock, inexorably working it's way to six, works on the vibration of atomic particles that his ring has been receiving.

At six, Sinestro triumphantly releases Jordan and begins to fire a ray gun at him, but to his stunned disbelief an emerald beam knocks him off his feet.  Jordan explains to his downed foe that while his ring couldn't penetrate the yellow bubble, the sub-particles of carbon dioxide from his exhaling could.  He therefore used the green beam of his ring to shoot the C02 particles out of the bubble at the clock, causing it to speed up.

Seizing the advantage, Jordan pins Sinestro to the wall and creates a green tidal wave to purge the area of the evil Qwardians.  Returning his attention to his captive foe, Hal is surprised to see the former Green Lantern laughing and mocking him, stating that GL's code of goodness prevents him from destroying his enemy, but "Evil alone can act!"  He also comments that due to his banishment, he cannot even be taken back to the other universe.  By way of reply the power ring glows brightly, encasing Sinestro in an impenetrable bubble.  Hal states that good is not helpless and any future evil produced will only be against himself.  With that, Green Lantern speeds to the sealed-up aperture and powers through the opening and back to Earth, just in time to recharge the nearly exhausted ring.  The story closes as GL keeps his postponed appointment with the Valdale Boys Settlement House, where he takes the opportunity to tell them that with right on their side, evil can always be overcome.

I believe it's no accident that Sinestro is portrayed as he is.  His name alone, a slight distortion of the word "sinister" immediately brings malevolence to mind.  Add in the slender physique, widow's peaks and crimson skin and it really isn't much of a stretch to imagine a pointy tail, horns and a pitchfork.  When you consider his admonition to the Qwardians that "[You] are not evil enough!  I shall teach you to be the ultimate in evil!" it only reinforces that this is one very bad guy and he won't rest until he gains his ultimate objective, which will doubtless leave everyone having a very bad day.

Kudos go out to John Broome and the artistic talents of Gil Kane and Joe Giella in bringing this fascinating, formidable and enduring character to life over 40 years ago.  He is a most worthy adversary for our favorite ring-slinger, as demonstrated by his many repeat performances over the years, and this classic first appearance story, along with the first remembrance by Hal of the Guardians, rates a 10 on the 10-point scale.

And now, as promised, it brings me great pleasure to present an interview with Mr. Joe Giella.  Joe gave me over an hour of his time on the telephone and I knew right away I was in for a pleasant time when he insisted I call him Joe.  He was a gracious gentleman and it was a singular joy speaking with him.  Take it away, Joe!

Prof:  You were involved in the Silver Age right from the beginning and indeed I see where you inked Black Canary in Flash Comics back in 1947.  From there you've done everything under the sun, from the cowboy westerns to the Mystery in Space title; Girl's Love Stories, Rex the Wonder Dog, Our Army at War, Strange Adventures, and many, many superhero titles including the reintroduced Flash and Green Lantern in Showcase, the first Adam Strange in Showcase, a segment of the first JLA with Starro the Conqueror, the introduction of Kid Flash and I could go on.  Was any genre better or easier than another?

Joe Giella:  The JLA was rough because of the different costumes, and multiple characters.  Julie would say, "You forgot this or that."  It was a tough one.  Consistency was important or you'd hear about it.

Prof:  Inking is much more than just coloring inside the lines.  Can you tell me a little about the inking process?

JG:  None of us started as inkers.  We were all pencillers, but inking worked out better for me for monetary reasons.  I could ink 2-3 pages a day vs. 1 page of penciling per day.  To be a decent inker, you must know how to pencil.  Corrections and changes are always necessary.

Prof:  Please tell me your memories of people and events at DC back in the Silver Age.  I'll give you a name and ask your impressions:

Gil Kane

JG:  Good friend.  He was one of the best layout men in the business.  He really knew how to utilize space to the fullest.  His artwork was very dynamic.  He was also very articulate and interesting to talk to.

Julie Schwartz (Did you work for any other editors?)

JG:  Occasionally. Julie was one of my favorite people.  He was tough, but fair.  I worked for him for 45 years.  Julie ensured I had a job every week and he always had a check for me upon delivery.  That meant a lot to me.  We became good friends.

The very first job in comics was given to me by Ed Cronin at Hilton Periodicals.  I had to pencil and ink a feature called Captain Codfish, but I wanted a staff position in order to get that weekly check.  The life of a freelancer is tough, financially.

Later on I worked with Stan Lee for 3-1/2 years.  I liked the Marvel characters and worked on the Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Captain America.  I got thrown into the bullpen, doing a little bit of everything.  I pitched in and did penciling, lettering, inking, just everything.  It was great training.  I still needed a weekly check, and needed to contribute to the family finances.  Three and a half years later I went to work for DC comics.

I penciled and inked the Batman comic strip for DC comics and Julie warned me I wouldn't like working with Mort Weisinger.  All the stories about Mort are true.  I wanted to do more than just ink, so I tried the strip.  I quit twice over salary disputes.  DC finally decided that they would pay for the lettering, coloring, and provided me with paper, unlike now where I provide my own supplies on the Mary Worth strip.  After 4 years of working with Mort I got tired and went back to comic books.  Julie welcomed me with open arms. (Note: Here are two Sunday pages Joe produced that saw print in November 1967.)

Murphy Anderson

JG:  Murphy Anderson is a good friend and a true southern gentleman, and his wife Helen is delightful.  I have good memories.  We worked together on a few assignments.

Carmine Infantino

JG:  Carmine Infantino's drawings were a little tough to work on.  You had to know how to draw and decipher.  He's a good layout man and a master of storytelling, but his pencils are loose.

I also paint.  Carmine made a layout and asked me to paint it.  I worked it out in a monochromatic black and grey set-up. Carmine trusts me, and knows I'll do a decent job. I enjoy being with him, and would like to invite him to our Berndt Toast lunch.   

Gardner Fox

JG:  Gardner Fox was an excellent writer, but I wasn't really acquainted with him.  We'd say hello in the hallways.

I'd make deliveries to the DC offices once or twice a month.  It was an opportunity to have coffee or lunch with whoever was around, like Gil Kane or Julie.  Sometimes the place was empty except for the editors.  Working at home is like being in a cocoon.  It gets lonely and you start talking to yourself.  When that begins to happen, look out.

Joe Kubert was sort of on staff in those days, too.  You just never knew who would be around.

Mike Sekowsky

JG:  Mike Sekowsky had a very bad temper.  Anyone that crossed him had better look out.  He drank.  He had a great style and knew how to dress characters in up to date fashions.  We called him "The Speed Merchant."  Mike could pencil 5 to 7, even 10 pages a day.  He couldn't ink, but he could pencil very, very fast.  He was good and was a credit to the company.  He was the go-to guy, but began to deteriorate later.  One day he completed a story and I was asked to ink it, but it was very bad and I couldn't ink it.  I was asked to re-pencil it and I did so gladly, because Mike really saved me once on a job and wouldn't accept a dime for his help.  Wouldn't you know that when I delivered it, Mike was in the office, raging at Dick Giordano?  I told him I had to re-do the whole job and expected him to be teed off at me, but he wasn't.  He was really teed off at Dick Giordano for not giving him more work.  He called about 6 months later from California asking if I had any work for him.  Imagine the great Mike Sekowsky calling me for work.  At the time I was working on the Flash Gordon strip, but it wasn't mine and I didn't have the authority to give him work and the editors didn't want to take a chance on him.  It was sad.  I liked Mike very much, but the drinking was really starting to hurt him.

Joe Kubert

In the foreword to "The Greatest 50's Stories Ever Told", Joe wrote the following.  Do you recall the incident?

"I remember a weekend up in Toronto, Canada, when Carmine, Joe Giella and myself (I was the chauffeur, since I was the only one with a car—the car was owned by me and the finance company) went up to our "northern neighbor" on a date.  We got snowed in for a week.  It's very difficult, indeed, to finish deadline work when you're up in Canada and the artwork's in Brooklyn!"

JG:  We were caught in a snowstorm in Toronto partly because we were driving into the storm.  We were fellow students along with Mike Sekowsky at the Art Students League.  We learned the basics like figure drawing.

John Broome

JG:  John Broome was a nice gentleman who lived in Japan for a time.  He was tall and slim and he reminded me of Gary Cooper.  He was a good friend of Julie's and was devoted to his work.  I guess that's what makes a good writer.

Bill Finger

JG:  I didn't know Bill Finger.  I was closer to Bob Kane.  For awhile Bob had a television show where he would sketch characters on a pad in front of a live audience.  He'd do about a dozen drawings of each character.  What many people don't know is that he was drawing over light lines I'd laid down, using his magic marker.  I was paid by him, out of his own pocket, but my kids used to say, "Dad, that's not fair."  I had to explain to my kids that I was assisting him.

A true story about Bob Kane:  Bob asked me to go with him to the police station to recover his lost wallet.  We walked to the desk and Bob said, "I'm Bob Kane and I lost my wallet."  They didn't know who he was and that made him very indignant, so he practically shouted, "I'm Bob Kane, the creator of Batman!"  I felt like crawling under a desk.  The police gathered around him and started asking all kinds of questions and really rolled out the red carpet.  I stood there in amazement, thinking, "These guys are nuts."  Bob retained the rights to Batman and the characters for years until DC finally bought him out and so when I was doing the newspaper strip I had to sign it as Bob Kane.  Sometimes, though, I'd put a truck in the background with something like Giella's donuts or Joe's donuts, just to get a little personal touch in there.  After I left the strip my successor was able to sign his own name since DC got the rights to the characters.

Prof:  You've done mainly inking, but a fair amount of penciling, too.  Which do you prefer?

JG:  Between pencils and inks, I liked both, but when I was penciling I couldn't wait to do the finish.  That's the drawback to just being a penciller is that you can never finish the job.  The job is finished when it's inked.  The reverse is true, too.  If you could only ink, you could never have the satisfaction of completing a job yourself.    I did a lot of licensing work, penciling and inking for DC comics.  Those jobs paid a lot more than the standard page rate and I also attended meetings with the client to discuss the assignment.  As I recall, I'd go home and do the layouts and then get DC's approval and deliver the finished product to our client, the National Biscuit Company. I also designed 21 T-shirts for Walt Disney Studios through Alison Manufacturing Company and worked for many advertising companies.  Diversifying is the name of the game.

Prof:  Have you seen the new Showcase Presents series by DC?  The Flash, Volume I is coming out on May 16th and I believe includes stories you worked on.  Do you think they lack something without the colors?

JG:  No.  I've been a little out of touch lately with the comics.

Prof:  What was with DC and gorillas?

JG:  Covers were based on previous sales, so if a cover included a gorilla and sold well, Julie Schwartz would say, "That book sold, do something similar."  They used this as a barometer for future covers.

Prof:  Let me ask you a question I asked of Joe Kubert.   Do you think inking with a brush, as opposed to inking with a pen, is becoming a lost art? It seems few people do it anymore.

JG:  I do 90% of my work with a pen.  It gives a better effect.  Brushes are difficult and can ruin your eyesight after awhile.  I only use a brush for filling in large black areas and I use a flexible pen like a brush.  People often think I use a brush to ink.

Prof:  Your credits list is extensive and I see where you worked on Elvira's House of Mystery in 1986.  Was that the last time you did any comic work?

JG:  My son keeps up with all that, but I think my last comic work was penciling and inking a 23 page memorial story on Julie Schwartz for DC Comics. I still do an occasional job for DC, but it takes time.  I do slow, careful work and if I can have, say, 3 months I can do it.  My strip keeps me very busy.

Prof:  Mary Worth isn't your first foray into comic strips.  You penciled and inked the Batman comic strip in particular and also worked on The Phantom and others.  Do you enjoy strip work?  How far ahead do you have to produce them?

JG:  I've worked on the Mary Worth strip for 16 years and I really like it.  I was told when I started, "Joe, you won't be happy with this.  You don't have superheroes flying around and crashing through walls.  Mary Worth is a low-key soap opera."  Initially, they were right.  It was a little boring, but I soon found I could do interesting things with facial expressions and such. 

I get 10 to 15 fan letters a month.  Some drove me crazy.  One guy wrote in and took me to task by saying that Harvard never had a lion on its crest.  Well, that's true except that I was depicting the crest for Harvard Medical School, which does have a lion and I know that because I got it from my nephew, who graduated from Harvard Medical School.  I should write that guy back and set him straight.  I also got a note once saying I'd put six fingers on one character and sure enough when I went back to the strip I'd done it, but when you're working until 2 or 3 in the morning to beat a deadline stuff can happen. 

Doing dailies and the Sunday strip gets hectic sometimes.  Once I got behind and the syndicate fined me $1,200.00!  I thought it had to be a mistake, but they said, "Joe, didn't you read your   contract?"  Well, sure, but I figured the fine was much less.  As you can see, I'm very conscious of deadlines.

Prof:  I understand you still do commissions.  If someone wanted one how would they go about contacting you?

JG:  I do 2 to 3 commission jobs a month.  I paint, do black and whites or color, or pencil, whatever they want.  I enjoy an international fan base and have sent work to the UK, Belgium, Germany and other locations.  I tell them all the same thing when I get a request:  I'll put them on the line.  The line moves slowly, but it moves.  I work to the client's pocketbook.  If they've got a set amount to spend I work with them.  Regardless of whether it's a painting or a simple pencil sketch, the quality is the same.  I'm often asked if I can do a specific character.  After 50 years I've done them all, so it's not a problem.  I'm a freelance artist and I've got the experience.  If someone asks, give them my number.

Prof:  June 27th is your 79th birthday and you remain very active with the daily strip, your involvement in the Berndt Toast Gang (the Long Island chapter of cartoonists) and other activities.  Do you see yourself retiring any time?

JG:  I have no plans to retire.  I have given up deep sea fishing, but I still do carpentry and lots of walking.  I'm into nutrition, too.  Those of us who are in sedentary jobs can do themselves the biggest favor by getting exercise.

Prof:  Do you appear in any comic books?  Thanks to a reference in the All-Star Companion I discovered Strange Adventures #140, which contains a story by Gardner Fox where he, Julie, Ed Eisenberg, and Sid Greene appear.  I just wondered if anyone ever depicted you.

JG:  I don't know that I've ever been depicted in a comic, but thanks to one of my former students, a silhouette of me is in an episode of The Simpson's.  It shows a group of kids going by an art studio and Matt Groening sometimes likes to poke good-natured fun at Mary Worth.  So, they're going by the office where Mary Worth is produced and they all just walk right by.  My silhouette is shown collapsing on the desk.  I thought it was hilarious and when I recently met Matt Groening in Manhattan I said, "Matt, I love the way you make fun of Mary Worth."

Prof:  Was there any satisfaction in finally being able to sign your work in the mid-60's?

JG:  Neal Adams was probably due some credit for our being able to sign our work starting in the mid-60's.  It was nice to be able to do so.

As you can see, Joe is a knowledgeable, wonderful man and he paid me a compliment that still has me grinning:  "You really have a way of putting people at ease."  Frankly, I don't know how anyone could have a difficult time sharing a conversation with this fine man.  I'm very grateful for the opportunity, and I hope you enjoyed it half as much as I did.

Readers, I seem to have become a man on a mission and believe it or not I have yet another prime interview in store for next time, so be sure to return to this URL in the requisite two weeks for another review and another interview.  You can, of course, contact me at my convenient e-mail, professor_the@hotmail.com and I hope you will.

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!



© 2000-2007 by B.D.S.

Interview copy edited by Joe Giella


This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by

B.D.S.

 





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