Silver Age Writers Rave

Who scripted the first hundred issues of Spider-Man? Stan Lee, of course. Every comics fan knows that. After all, Stan wrote everything in the early days of Marvel super-heroes, right? He wrote all the Fantastic Fours and all the Thors, Iron Mans, Captain Americas, and Hulks... at least until Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Denny O'Neil, Arnold Drake, and Archie Goodwin came along. Didn't he? Well, no, he didn't. Right, right, there was Larry Leiber (Stan's brother) doing some of the scripting work but it was all in the family, wasn't it? Well, no again.

For a period of about six months, back in 1963, twenty-three different Marvel super-hero comics came out crediting a plot by Stan Lee but a script by three different unknown writers. The first of these was Tales of Suspense #40 (April 1963). Iron man, in his second appearance ever, battling the giant called Gargantus. Art by Jack Kirby. Script by R. Berns.

Over half of these issues were scripted by the mysterious Mr. Berns. He continued the Iron Man stories up to ToS #46 (art by Kirby in #41 and 43; art by Don Heck in #42, 44, 45, and 46). He scripted the Thor stories in Journey into Mystery from issue #92 to 96. (art by Kirby in #93; art by Joe Sinnott in all the others). And he did two Human Torch stories in Strange Tales #108 and 109 (the art in both issues by Jack Kirby).

Seven other stories were written by H.E. Huntley. He not only scripted two Human Torch tales (Strange Tales #110 and 111; art by Dick Ayers) but five Ant-Man stories in Tales to Astonish as well. You think Stan Lee scripted the first appearance of the Wasp? It was H.E. Huntley in Tales to Astonish #44 (art by Kirby). His other Ant-Man tales (TtA #45 to 48) were drawn by Don Heck.

Finally, Joe Carter did the script work for two Human Torch stories in Strange Tales #112 and 113 (art by Ayers) only notable for the first appearance of Doris Evans, the Torch's first girl-friend.

So, who are these three men? When I first thought of writing about this, I couldn't have told you. In all the years since, in all the material discussed and dissected by fandom, I have never seen any reference to these three writers at all. The names all looked like pseudonyms but there was no way of telling. I couldn't think of any way to find this out. It remained a quaint and minor mystery that I thought might make a good little column.

And then, I was in e-mail contact with John Morrow, editor of the excellent and highly-recommended magazine The Jack Kirby Collector and, since Kirby had done the artwork for seven of these stories, I thought he might be a good person to ask. John didn't know the answer but he referred me to Mark Evanier, prolific comic book/television writer and expert on comic book history. I politely, almost meekly, wrote Mark asking him about all this and I got an answer back... within three hours!

To my question "Do you have any idea who these men are?", here's what Mark had to say (Notes in the brackets are mine):

"Yes. H.E. Huntley was Ernie Hart, who had been an editor and writer for Atlas in the fifties. Joe Carter was Jerry Siegel. [Co-creator of Superman, as I'm sure all of you know.] R. Berns was Robert Bernstein, who wrote many stories for DC and who wrote the Fly Comics for Archie after Joe Simon left.

"Also, there was a Dr. Strange story by 'N. Korok'. [Strange Tales #129; also the Iron Man story in Tales of Suspense #52, the first appearance of the Black Widow.] This was Don Rico, who was also an editor and writer for Atlas."

So, there's the answer, easily arrived at, thanks to e-mail and the kindness and courtesy of two gracious gentlemen... Mark Evanier and John Morrow. But, hey, now that Mark has mentioned Dr. Strange, what's the deal with Raymond Marais and Jim Lawrence... two Doc writers in the #160s of Strange Tales? Who are these guys? What's their story? Maybe I should look into them, too. Maybe I should write John and Mark again. Maybe I should.... naw.