We as comic book fans should be so lucky. We live in an era of instant information: Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Texts and Google. You name it and whatever information you want, it’s at your fingertips within seconds. I find it fascinating, though, that in this day and age of Wikipedia, biography publishing is at an all time high. Yes, the lives of people, and their line of work, past and present, are being read about everyday. Nowhere is this more evident then in the comic book industry. Every month (or it seems every week) we get a new Art Of or some type of career retrospective from a multitude of publishing houses. TwoMorrows is just one of these companies that in just a few short years has become a well respected publisher of periodicals and books devoted to the creators and their craft: Modern Masters, Back Issue, Draw, The Companion series, and The Jack Kirby Collector are all must haves for the serious, and even novice, fanboy. But one magazine is not only celebrating 100 issues but also 50 years: Alter Ego edited by Roy Thomas.
Alter Ego started out as the first comic fanzine in March of 1961 by Jerry Bails in Detroit, Michigan. Thomas knew Bails from Wayne State University and was asked to be a contributor and has been at it ever since. Alter Ego, in case you don’t know, is a love letter to the medium and mostly focuses on comics from 1930-1970 but sometimes crosses into the 70’s and 80’s (that era is usually saved for Back Issue Magazine edited by Michael Eury). Now we have the Centennial issue and it is oversized with color and an extra page count. It features a Justice Society of America cover from Rich Buckler that was originally drawn for the All-Star Squadron preview from Justice League of America #193 (September 1981); Jerry Ordway did the inks. Among the pieces in this issue are:
- The Annotated Alter Ego #1, a complete reprint and look at the very first issue
- A tribute to A Giant Of The Industry: Mike Esposito by Frank Lovece
- A reproduction of the 1964 Superhero Calender with contributions from Jack Kirby, Alan Weiss and Russ Manning just to name a few.
- Correspondence, Comments and Letters from greats like Stan Lee and Dick Ayers
- A captivating pin-up art section of the super-heroines of the 1940’s by Alex Wright
- The Fawcett Collectors of America look at Superman and Captain Marvel meeting “for the first time” in 1942, retroactively, in the pages of All-Star Squadron #37 (September 1984)
- Tributes to Alter Ego #100 from creators and luminaries in the comic book industry
- 32 pages of commentary complete with gorgeous never before seen full color artwork
But the real gem of the book is part three of the Roy Thomas career retrospective which began in AE #50 (Roy at DC and Marvel in the 1960’s), AE #70 (Roy at Marvel in the 1970’s) and finishes up here with Roy back at DC in the 1980’s. The two previous Alter Ego magazines are available at TwoMorrow’s Publishing. The interview is conducted Jim Amash and you can tell by the looseness of the talk that they have been friends for years. Thomas sometimes goes so in-depth that you would swear that you are at the the drawing board with him. It also has a great look at the revival of the JSA in All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc. in the 1980’s.
You see it a lot in comic book solicitations, but here it rings true: if you have never read Alter Ego, this is a great jumping on point. There is so much that AE has to offer. The tone of the magazine is welcoming and not highbrow. The history contained is both informational and educational as to how everything works and you even get some good backroom gossip, which is always fun. And catching up on past issues is easy and inexpensive as TwoMorrows offers digital editions at a fraction of the printed price. Finally, the art is fantastic, every issue Roy digs up new treasures for us to look over and drool. Did I tell you that in this Centennial issue there is a rarely seen Steve Ditko Spider-Man drawing made exclusively for the 1964 New York Comicon? In a word: Awesome! So go out and brush up on your history, you’ll learn much more then a thing or two.
My thanks to TwoMorrows for supplying me with a copy of this magazine.
Alter Ego: Centennial – The 100th Issue of Alter Ego
Edited by Roy Thomas
$19.99, 160 pages, TwoMorrows Publishing
My sincere thanks to Alter Ego contributor Lynn Walker for helping me with this post. If you are interested in more information on Alter Ego and classic comic books, please visit the Alter Ego Fans Yahoo Group. Anyone can join, all you have to do is request permission, telling us your real first and last name and something to prove you actually read the magazine and aren’t a spammer.