A BIRTHDAY SALUTE: The celebrated Mr. K’s latest in a new series of great stories about storied storytellers…
Welcome to columnist Paul Kupperberg’s recurring feature A COMIC MOMENT WITH… Having worked decades in the biz, Paul has so many great, humorous stories to tell, this seemed like a really groovy way to share some of them — especially on birthdays. This time out, it’s the late Don Heck, who was born 93 years ago!
A COMIC MOMENT With… DON HECK
By PAUL KUPPERBERG
Don Heck (January 2, 1929 – February 23, 1995) was an artist who began his career at Harvey Comics in 1950, repurposing newspaper comic strip photostats for publication in comic books. From there he moved to Atlas Comics where, a decade later, he would be one of the founding artists of the new Marvel Comics, co-creating such characters as Iron Man, the Black Widow, and Hawkeye and helping define the 1960s Avengers.
Later, at DC, Don co-created Steel, the Indestructible Man with Gerry Conway, and was known for his runs on The Flash, Wonder Woman and Batgirl’s solo adventures; he also drew a couple of Aquaman stories that appeared in Adventure Comics in 1978.
Once, when I asked then editor Paul Levitz why George Evans, the legendary artist of EC Comics and the Secret Agent Corrigan newspaper strip fame, had been given my crappy little five-pager to draw for Weird War Tales, he shrugged and said, “George had a hole in his schedule, and he came in looking for a short story to fill it. Your script was the next one on the pile.”
That’s how random art assignments for DC’s anthology titles could be; your script might be drawn by a legend, or… not. I had my share of both on the many stories I wrote for House of Mystery, Weird War Tales, et al, but I usually didn’t know who the artist was until I happened to see the art on the editor’s desk, or until the issue came out.
Concerning “Fire of the Gods,” a five-page story that would appear in Weird War Tales #75 (May 1979), I knew within moments of the assignment being made who the artist was. I was walking up the corridor, minding my own business, when from behind me came a furious roar: “Kupperberg, you son of a bitch!”
I turned around to see a frowning Don Heck standing outside of Paul’s office, waving a script at me in a threatening manner. I was, needless to say, shocked and confused. I couldn’t imagine what I might have said or done to anger Don. If anything, as a longtime fan, I went out of my way to be polite to and about the man.
Before I could ask what was wrong, Don stalked toward me, still waving the script. “So, it takes you, what? Five seconds to type, ‘Alexander the Great rides ahead of his entire army as they cross the Alps,’ and that’s gonna take me all goddamn day to draw!”
I froze, horrified by Don’s reaction, and tried to stammer out some sort of shocked explanation/apology. I must have looked as bad as I felt because the artist couldn’t keep a straight face very long.
“I’m just kiddin’ around with you,” he chuckled, breaking into a grin. “All I gotta do is throw in a few helmets and a bunch of silhouettes in the background. If we tried really drawing most of the things you writers ask for, we’d be lucky to finish a page a week.”
— PAUL KUPPERBERG: A Comic Moment With… DAVID V. REED. Click here.
— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite Books on MAKING COMICS. Click here.
Sure, you know Paul Kupperberg as the prolific writer of over a thousand comic books for such characters and series as Superman, Aquaman, Doom Patrol, Vigilante, Life with Archie, Bart Simpson, Scooby-Doo, and dozens more for DC Comics, Archie Comics, Bongo Comics, and others, and that he is also the creator of the series Arion, Lord of Atlantis, Checkmate and Takion, and is a former editor for DC, Weekly World News, and WWE Kids Magazine. But Paul is also the author of numerous books, including the superhero novel JSA: Ragnarok and the comics industry-based murder mystery, The Same Old Story, not to mention (but we will anyway) Paul Kupperberg’s Illustrated Guide to Writing Comics, I Never Write for the Money, But I Always Turn in the Manuscript for a Check, Direct Comments: Comic Book Creators in their Own Words, The Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg and Son of the Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg. You can follow Paul at PaulKupperberg.com and at Crazy8Press.com.