With Gasoline Alley, Frank King created a neighborhood full of interesting characters who did something no other comics characters did: they aged. He was also a master of the Sunday newspaper page, utilizing it to its full potential by often creating a full-page image and dividing it into panels.
The “King” of the comic book artists, Jack Kirby was there from the beginning, co-creating Captain America in the Golden Age, whole genres such as romance comics in the 1940s, and the “Marvel Age of Comics” in the 1960s. He gave the distinctive look to such characters as the Fantastic Four, Thor, the Silver Surfer, the Avengers, and hundreds of other characters. In the 1970s he created the “Fourth World” for DC, giving birth to such characters as Darkseid, the Demon, and Mr. Miracle.
Denis Kitchen started out as an underground cartoonist. After self-publishing his own work in 1969, he founded Kitchen Sink Press in 1970. Under the name of the Krupp Syndicate, he distributed comic strips to almost 50 underground and college newspapers. Over the course of the next few decades Kitchen Sink published such cartoonists as R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, S. Clay Wilson, Howard Cruse, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Al Capp, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Scott McCloud, and dozens more. In 1986 Denis founded the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and he served as the fund’s president until his retirement in 2004.
Kazuo Koike is the co-creator and writer of such classic Japanese comics series as Lone Wolf and Cub, Samurai Executioner, and Crying Freeman. He is also an influential educator, having established the Gekikia Sonjuka, a college course that teaches manga, and mentoring a whole new generation of mangaka (comics artists).
Although B. Krigstein was not the most prolific artist in the EC Comics stable, he was one of the most influential. His experiments with storytelling and the use of zip-a-tone contributed to his distinctive style. His story “The Master Race” in EC’s Impact #1 is often cited as among the top comics stories ever told. Krigstein went on from comics to become an influential painter.
Having started in comics as a teenager in Will Eisner’s studio, Joe Kubert was involved professionally in comics as an artist and editor for 70 years. He is best known for his work at DC on Hawkman, Our Army at War, Sgt. Rock, Viking Prince, Enemy Ace, and Tarzan. His 1996 graphic novel Fax from Sarajevo won numerous awards. He is the founder of the Joe Kubert School in New Jersey.
Best known for his wild and wacky humor on the early issue of MAD and the other publications he edited (Humbug, Help!) and for his long-running Playboy strip “Little Annie Fanny,” Harvey Kurtzman also made an indelible mark in comics with the war comics he wrote and edited for EC in the early 1950s. Kurtzman was a major influence on a wide range of writers, artists, filmmakers, and particularly underground cartoonists.
In a career at Marvel Comics spanning more than 60 years, Stan Lee has seen it all. After having been an editor at Timely in the 1940s and 1950s, in the ’60s he co-created all the Silver Age Marvel characters, wrote all the books, and still had time to commune with readers (“Face front, true believers!”) via “Stan’s Soapbox.” He remains active today, with many projects in the works.
Paul Levitz began his career as a comics fan, publishing The Comic Reader. He started at DC in 1976 as an assistant editor (to Joe Orlando) and 1978 became editor of the Batman titles. He was an executive at DC for 30 years, ending as president and publisher. As a comics writer, he is best known for Legion of Super-Heroes. Most recently, Levitz has worked as a historian (75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Myth-Making, TASCHEN, 2010) and teacher (including the American Graphic Novel at Columbia). His most recent book is Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel (Abrams ComicArts, 2015).
In the early 1940s Harry Lucey worked in a studio with Bob Montana, and legend has it that he helped Montana create the original Archie gang for MLJ’s Pep comics (even contributing Betty’s name). After stints in World War II and as an advertising illustrator, Lucey returned to MLJ in 1949, where he drew Archie comics for the next two decades. The dynamic and expressive style he developed in his Archie stories was highly influential on subsequent artists, most prominently Jaime Hernandez.
Russ Manning was a giant in both the comic strip and comic book worlds. He drew the Tarzan comic for Dell in the 1950s and 1960s, then went on to draw the syndicated Tarzan newspaper strip from 1969 to 1972 and the Sunday strip through 1979. He created the comic book series Magnus, Robot Fighter for Gold Key in 1963 and continued to write and draw it through 1968. He wrote and drew the syndicated Star Wars strip in 1979–1980.
In 1940, psychologist William Marston was hired by Max Gaines as a consultant for National Comics (DC). Marston pointed out that DC had no females among its flagship heroes, and he (with his wife Elizabeth) proceeded to create Wonder Woman, who made her debut in All Star Comics #8 in December 1941. Wonder Woman was a hit and soon had her own book, which Martson (writing as “Charles Moulton”) wrote up until his death in 1947.
“MAD’s maddest artist” Don Martin delighted decades of readers with his goofy strips featuring oddball characters and demented sound effects. Who could forget Fonebone or Fester Bestertester? And what kind of imaginative mind did it take to add “Glabadap,” “Schloot,” “Sklishk,” “Sploydoing,” and “Thwizzik” to the sound effects lexicon? There could only be one Don Martin.
Sheldon Mayer was at DC from its very beginning, having played a role in convincing Harry Donenfeld to feature Superman in the company’s new title, Action Comics. He was not only one of the most revered editors in the history of comics but a cartoonist in his own right, having created Scribbly and the much-beloved Sugar and Spike.