From Comics to Cosmic, Part 3: Pterodactyls Play Ptheir Part

From Comics to Cosmic” is a new series from noted comic book writer/artist Steve Englehart. Read about the intense and often unbelievable ups and downs of his experience working in the comic industry. Check back daily for more of his exploits! Previous installments of “From Comics to Cosmic” can be found here.

Last time, I was telling you how I ended up on staff with the dominant comics company. The job didn’t pay much—about $105 a week, or something like that—so Marvel threw freelance work in my direction.

It began as artwork because I was working at being an artist, but then, one day, the assistant editor I was filling in for sent back a script he was supposed to do. I don’t know why he did—it was only a 6-page filler for a generic fantasy comic—but I guess summertime away from Manhattan had slowed him down. Anyway, since I was filling in for him on one thing, Marvel figured I might as well fill in for him on another thing, and they offered me that story.

It involved a pterodactyl. I’d have to go look to see what the rest of the plot was about, but something jumped out at me on the point of the spelling of the dinosaur’s name. The editor at Marvel, as you may recall, was Stan Lee—whose name I thought could still be understood if you spelled it “Pstan” in the credits. And my name could be “Psteve.” And the artist’s name, no lie, was Syd Shores. (You see where this is going… How could I resist?) So I titled the story “Pterror of the Pterodactyl.”

I was just messing around, but lo and behold, Marvel liked it and gave me other writing to do. New writers there apprenticed on monster books, romance books, westerns—all the titles Marvel published that stayed outside the limelight and high sales of the superhero books. When writing for the romance titles, I was “Anne Spencer.” (My sister is named Anne and she married a guy from Spencer, Indiana.) Though the stories were by necessity highly formulaic, I discovered the simple fun of writing—something anyone reading this blog might have some rough idea about—and in fairly short order, (you may remember my mentioning that comics worked on a continuous deadline) I broke through to the big fun at Marvel, the superheroes.

There, once upon a time, was a group called the X-Men. For whatever reason, their comic was not popular, and finally was canceled. But now, a few years later, Marvel was having some luck with its monster books, so they took one of the X-Men, the Beast, and gave him his own title after having him mutate into more of a monster. An established writer wrote the debut issue—then they gave it to me.

For the next year, I wrote the only X-Men title there was. And in case you’re wondering, it was two years after that when Marvel launched a new X-Men book which, unlike the first incarnation, took off big-time. And that’s why the X-Men are famous movie stars today. But in my era, no.

Steve Englehart is a novelist, comic book, film, television, and video game writer known for his work on high profile titles, including Marvel’s Captain America, The Hulk, The Avengers, Dr. Strange, DC’s Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and many more.


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