For those who don’t know, ‘Alter Ego’ is comic writer Roy Thomas’ magazine that examines various aspects of the early comicbook industry. The appeal of this mag must surely appeal to readers of my age in their 50s but if you’re younger and really want to understand the history of your favourite hobby, than these mags are a god or roysend.
This issue of ‘Alter Ego’ focuses on the 3-D comics of the 1950s or more specifically, 1953 because after an enormous impact, interest dropped like a stone. Roy Thomas points out that this is likely to be the first to two issues on the subject and this one carries a pair of 3D glasses which you will need for the second issue, although they can be acquired separately. I should point out that both magazine and 3D glasses bags have re-sealable bags and therefore not likely to suffer any permanent damage by opening them.
My first encounter with 3D comicstrips was with ‘The Illustrated Harlen Ellison’ book back in the 70s. It even inspired me to try out the effect myself although all I really did was draw my pictures twice over in red and green pencils and with a few even to get the pictures to flash. Unlike the 3D films which normally chucked things off the screen at you, 3D comics examples in ‘Alter-Ego’ play with your depth of vision and just give…er…depth. Looking at the examples here, it’s rather fun putting your fingers into the picture and realising things aren’t quite where they seem.
There were a couple different processes involved in creating this effect. The key one used was by Joe Kubert and the Maurer brothers, Norman and Leonard – the latter brother doing the real technical stuff – for St. John Publishing bringing to 3D the likes of Mighty Mouse, the caveman Tor and The Three Stooges. To get the dimensionalising effect, they would highlight the areas to be in fore and background and got a rather pleasing effect. This might sound simple to do but you must also take into account how the eye goes over the picture in taking everything in. There are also some rare pencil page from the comicstrip Captain 3-D # 2 showing how intricately drawn they are.
A lot of the early artists played with 3D, including Jack Kirby, Joe Simon and Wallace Wood. Probably the biggest nuisance into the works was when William M. Gaines bought the early 3D copyright process from Freeman H. Owens a few months before its limitation ran out and proceeded to sue St. John Publishing. Fortunately, it failed to stand up in court because they weren’t using identical processes but it contributed to the failing interest by the readers.
This is a fabulous history of the early process. I suspect Roy Thomas’ continuation of the process is to look at the more contemporary examples in the 70s where it also had a brief resurrection. We’ll have to wait and see for that one.
Apart from the main 3D feature which dominates the mag, there is also an intensive letters column and other bits and pieces, including several obituaries. There’s certainly enough here to whet your appetite and if this subject doesn’t suit your taste, then there certainly is amongst the back issues.
(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated colour & 3D magazine. Price: $ 8.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6890)
check out website: www.TwoMorrows.com