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Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Legend That Is Martin Filchock: "Most Prolific Contributor To Golden Age Comics"



Martin Filchock. I bet very few of you even know who he is.   He drew comic strips and cartoons.  Of course, he never drew X-Men, The Avengers or one of those other 2all change tomorrow" comics. Filchock was one of those pioneers of the US Golden Age of Comics.

"Golden Age"....yeah, I can see you just blanked out -"there was no 'T&A', graphic violence, rape or obscenities in those comics!"  No, though they could be violent. Creators back then needed -needed- the money to support themselves and their families.  There was no egotistical posturing.  Not even a fan base as such.  What these creators had were their own imaginations.  And what imaginations!

Filchock had one heck of an imagination and though he was no slick John Byrne, Alex Ross et al, his work shouted out one thing -FUN!

For Centaur Comics' Funny Pages #34, January, 1940, he created the first comic book character to be called....The Owl!  It was the characters one and only outing in four colour.  It took me many years to track down even a scanned copy of the comic and The Owl -a strip I was told by many was just "not real" -someone did bad research on that other Owl and screwed up. 1

The "other" Owl was created by Frank Thomas (to whom Black Tower's Owl was dedicated in 1984) for Crackajack Funnies #25, July, 1940....hmm. Coincidence?2

As was  usual in comics back then, no one cried when the villains died -in this case going over a cliff when Filchock's Owl chased them.  Public shoot-outs between gangsters or FBI/Cops and gangsters on US streets had not been rare and the movies capitalised on that -no yellow costumed owl-men, though!

Above: "Frank" Filchock contribution (on same page as one from a 15 year old Joe Simon!) to the amateur  page from Dell Publications The Funnies.  Can't define issue number or exact date but c 1928 (worked out via Simon's birthdate of 1913).  Even here you can see this is Filchock's "line".

Filchock was also interviewed in Alter Ego #4, January, 2007, where he talked about his then 70 years in drawing comics!

He was known as a "prolific contributor" to Golden Age comics -including Timely (before it became Atlas and then Marvel).  He drew Mighty Man and Super Ann The World's Strongest Girl,

Above: A Filchock cover from 1938.
Below: Fire-Man from Centaur's Man Of War #2, 1942
 Filchock really was a fun cartoonist andlooking at his work AGAIN has made me appreciate it even more.  Check out this page of The Amazing Mighty Man from Centaurs' Amazing Man Comics #21, March, 141:

 And how about a page from AMAZING MAN COMICS #26 (January 1942) -the origin of Electric Ray?!


 Then we have the oft-incorrectly cited "The Ermine" a character that is NOT a super hero.  A page here from Star Ranger Funnies #15, October, 1938!

I mentioned Mighty Man and Super Ann? This is a later story (lost my reference notes!) but following is Super Ann's first appearance in Amazing Man #24, October, 1941!
 Here you go....I've written "first appearance" -right?


Of course, a certain Mr Stransky wants to see one particular image.  For him only -look away!- here it is: the splash banner to Martin Filchock's....THE OWL!

 And please note that decades before Thomas' revived owl sat in a tree and went "Hoot"....Filchock's did it first!

That Filchock really LOVED his work is without a doubt true.  That he continued drawing up to a few months before his death and was still enjoying comics....well, to me the man is legendary! 

Here is the Lambiek entry on Filchock -you really ought to be checking Lambiek out- plus a couple of his pseudonyms -it hasn't listed him as being dead yet so I added that:

Martin Filchock
Phil Chalk, Martin Chock, Frank Filchock
(b. 1912   d. 2012 USA)  United States
Fire-Man, by Martin Filchock (1938)

Martin, or "Marty" Filchock was a Golden Age artist, who did his first professional work for Bill Cooke of Funny Pages in New York. Starting in the 1930s, he did funny features like 'The C.C. Kid' and 'Windy'. He and his characters later moved over to Centaur, where he also worked with superheroes like 'Mighty Man', 'Fire-Man', 'The Owl' and 'Electro Bolt'. Filchock has also done most of the cover illustrations for the unpublished comic magazine Motion Picture Funnies Weekly.

Dopey Kits, by Martin Filchock

During the War, Filchock did gag cartoons for army cartoon magazines. When Centaur switched from comics to crossword puzzles after the war, Filchock drew over hundred covers for the crossword magazines. He then focused on cartooning. One of his most famous creations is 'Check... and Double Check', a regular feature in Highlights for Children magazine since 1973.

Check... and Double Check, by Martin Filchock

He also drew a religious strip called 'Denny and Diane for the National Research Bureau for more than 40 years. In 2004, already in his 90s, he took over 'Cy's Super Service' in Electrical Apparatus after the death of Joe Buresch.

Cy's Super Service, by Martin Filchock

Pioneerng US comic fan Jerry Bails had an entry on Filchock and this was up-dated by Jim Amash in 2005: http://bailsprojects.com/bio.aspx?Name=FILCHOCK%2c+MARTIN

Mr. Filchock, 'oldest working cartoonist,' dies

From his childhood, Martin "Marty" Filchock knew he had a talent for cartooning — and he knew he loved it.

He loved it so much, he did it for almost 90 years.

Mr. Filchock, 100, died Sept. 5, having been in hospice care after a series of strokes. He continued drawing for all but the past few months of his life, said his daughter, Joanne Filchock.

Mr. Filchock's "life goal was to be the oldest actively working American cartoonist, and he reached that goal," she said.

A self-taught artist who was considered a pioneer for his Golden Age comic books work, Mr. Filchock drew the Mighty Man! comics in the late 1930s and drew several comic book strips for The Funny Pages and Centaur Comics. From the 1950s to the 1980s, he drew gag cartoons that he sold to a number of national magazines. He also illustrated books and drew for the Rogersville Review newspaper in Hawkins County, where he lived before moving to Knoxville two years ago to live with his daughter.

He was well known for his "Check and Double Check" puzzle in Highlights for Children magazine, which he drew for more than 40 years. His daughter said he loved children, and was extremely affectionate, generous and supportive as a father and grandfather. He also loved his dogs, boxer-black Lab mixes he named for his features: Check, Double Check and Puzzles.

"He was hilarious, constantly cracking jokes," Joanne Filchock said. "People flocked to him because of his sense of humor."

He had stories to tell as well, she said. Born in Pennsylvania, Mr. Filchock worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps and traveled the country by boxcar during the Great Depression, adventures that spawned his characters Obo Ossie and the C.C. Kid (for "civilian conservation.") He pitched semi-professional baseball for a time and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He drew gag comics for Army magazines while in the service. During Joanne Filchock's childhood, he was her primary caregiver, she said. During his senior years, he was caregiver for wife Sylvia for 15 years before she died of Alzheimer's disease.

Joanne Filchock said some of her father's original work, drawn before he became ill, are still being published for the first time.

"I knew from my earliest memories that he was talented" as an artist," she said. As a father, grandfather and friend, "he was just delightful."

 Above: Martin Filchock and Joanne Filchock.  I found this photo after a couple hours searching but every time it says "visit page" I get nothing.  So, I'm guessing, photo (c)2015 Joanne Filchock.


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1. The Ultimate Centaur Collection, combining vols. 1 & 2, Black Tower, 2010
2.  The Ultimate Owl Collection, Black Tower,2011

3 comments:

  1. Wa. Mr. Filchock. I'm literally crying. The short strip I'm working on is dedicated to you. Thank you Terry for this information and the indepth work on it. Cheers. I'll do my best.

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  2. "in depth"? This is pitiful when you think the man drew from such a young age until a few months before his death -almost 9 decades! Jeez. I wish I could last that long. Enjoy what you do -if it's drawing comics then draw them. If you get paid for it then fair enough. It's why I never criticise artists -maybe offer advice- because they may really love drawing and who the hell am I to criticise that....Glad you enjoyed it anyway.

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  3. As former managing editor at The Rogersville Review, it was a privilege to work with Martin briefly when I first came there as a staff writer in the early 2000s.

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