RINGGENBERG: George, when did you begin working for E.C. Comics?
EVANS: The New Trend had been under way and they were beginning to draw some flak, I don't know what the year would be, probably about '51 or '52.
RINGGENBERG: Maurice Horn's Encyclopedia of Comics said '53, but that seemed late to me.
EVANS: Well, it was late and that's very likely it is that because I was working for Fawcett. It was just before Fawcett was hit by that suit, lawsuit from D.C.
RINGGENBERG: And what were you doing for Fawcett?
EVANS: Oh, geez, all kinds of stuff. Everything that came along, they stuck me doing it and but, among other things there was Bob Colt, which was based, I think on a TV character, Captain Video, which also was based on TV characters, The House of Mystery, even love stories and adaptations of movies.
RINGGENBERG: So, Fawcett was going under and you had to find a new employer?
EVANS: Well, they were not at the time. I had no idea of their financial state. In fact, I don't think it had been decided, but Al Williamson, who cruised everywhere, and wherever he went he was as much a salesman for me and my stuff as he was for his own, and he wanted me to go up to E.C. and he said: `Fawcett appears to be going to lose this suit and it will probably put them out of business.' So, he took me up to E.C. and introduced me to Bill and Al and we hit it off from the first. It was like walking into a friendly house, just people sitting around, and we talked and they said, `Well, we got a script here, do you want to try it?' So I talked to the people at Fawcett and they said, yes, it was true that things were going to be bad and if I had the chance it would probably be wise to take it. They were good people up at Fawcett. I liked every one of them.
RINGGENBERG: How did you meet Williamson?
EVANS: When I worked at Fiction House on staff he and several other kids visited the place from time to time. They'd just come up, I guess, and ask at the front office if they could come in and talk or see how things were done and they would just walk up and down the aisles looking at people at work and talking with anybody who would talk with them. Bob Lubbers, who had been made the Art Director there and he was a very intense man, nice enough man but when he got intensely into the work, he did it, oh boy! faster than anybody I ever saw, but his mind was on it and somebody bumped into his tabouret and almost knocked it over with all that ink, and he said, `I'm going to take whichever one of you guys did that and hold you out the window and let go.' That was the third floor on Fifty-first street, so there were three shocked faces and John Celardo and I, being softer kind of people sort of soothed them over, and Al remembered it and wherever I went, Al made a point of coming ar!
ound and we became very good friends. He was thirteen at the time.
RINGGENBERG: Oh, so he really was just a kid.
EVANS: Yeah, just a kid, still in school. So that's how we got to know each other, and as I say, have been friends since. And wherever he went selling his own stuff, he sold mine. And even the Secret Agent, when he decided not to do it, he told them at King Features to get in touch with me.
RINGGENBERG: Going back to the E.C. days, it's well documented that you love aviation art and history and I was wondering, why didn't you work more with Kurtzman on his magazines?
EVANS: Well, I, when I first went down there, Al took me to see Bill and Al, and they were doing the horror, the mystery and that sort of stuff, and I had done The House of Mystery, which was kind of horror stories, for Fawcett. Those were the things that they saw, and the script they gave me was for horror stuff, and Kurtzman had pretty well set up his staff there, he had Bill Elder and John Severin working together, you know, one penciling, one inking, I guess, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, and Bernie wasn't there yet, Krigstein. Who was the fourth?
RINGGENBERG: Well, Kurtzman was occasionally the fourth.
EVANS: That's right, he did a lot of his own. Anyway, it was pretty well set up and I possibly might not have worked for him at all. You've heard the story of how I did the "Napoleon" script and I tried not to, but they needed it, nobody to assign it to and deadlines on and Bill asked me to do it and I changed some of Harvey's pictures and that upset him very much. I don't know if you know how Harvey worked.
RINGGENBERG: I've heard of how he did the little overlays with layouts.
EVANS: Yeah, meticulously planned out everything and I changed some of them around and he didn't like it, so I didn't work for him for quite a while, but then a whole bunch of us were at E.C. together, delivering work or in to pick up work and Bill said, let's all go out to lunch. And sitting around it came out, maybe Al mentioned it, that I was kind of aviation-nuts and Harvey gave me one of those piercing looks that he had and he said, `Ah, do you know anything about World War I aviation?' I said, `Well, that's specifically the era that I'm interested in.' He said, `How did you like "The Red Baron"?' And John Severin had done the artwork on it, and of course they had taken it from Floyd Gibbons' book, even the way it was handled. I said, `Well, it was good, but with the errors that Gibbons had about the actuality. And with the airplanes, they were well drawn, but obviously John didn't know what rotary motors were.' You know the story there too, I suppose. The rotary motor go!
es round and round with the propeller. And John had drawn each cylinder standing nice and still. And Harvey didn't believe it. Anyway, afterwards because he looked it up, I guess, and found that it was a fact, and he wanted authenticity, and I appeared to know what it was about, so he had me do, what was it, "Guynemer" and a couple of others for him, but again I changed some of his pictures and he got very upset about it.
RINGGENBERG: When you would change Harvey's layouts was it just in the interest of accuracy, or did you have a better idea visually?
EVANS: I thought I could do pictures. After all, why be a hand for somebody else's brain? They hired me because I was a professional and able to do this. And everybody else gave you a script and gave you some liberty on it, and I assumed that the same was generally true, that Harvey was simply avoiding the necessity of doing all that typing and description and so on. You know, in other words, a guideline with those overlays. I didn't know he was so dead serious on having every line, every aspect of it followed.
RINGGENBERG: Well, when you brought in the job with the changes, what was Harvey's reaction?
EVANS: He looked at it and he looked at it and he looked at it and I caught the feeling there and I said, `You don't like it, huh?' He said, `Well, you changed my layouts.' I said, `I thought I was supposed to be the artist on this stuff. I thought your layouts were only a guide.' He says, `No. When I do a layout, I have it all thought out and planned out.' And in one case, even, it was kind of funny. He handed me this layout of, what was it, the old Eindecker, you know, the single-wing plane and he has all kinds of stuff, with big blobs of pencil laid on. And I said, `What's all this stuff?' And he said, `That's when they fire the guns, or when it's hit with other gunfire, shreds of fabric and dirt and things would be shaken off the plane ahead.' I said, `Geez! Nothing this big.' He said, `Yeah, well, if it's coming right back at the pursuing pilot, even a speck of dust is going to look like maybe an orange.' Anyway, I put some of them in, but not all of them.
RINGGENBERG: That's interesting. Now, you did a lot more horror than you did the war stuff. Did the graphic nature of the horror stories ever bother you while you were doing them?
EVANS: No, it did not, and it's odd. I was just at a signing thing with Johnny Craig and it turns out that it did bother him. And I know it bothered Graham Ingels. But the horror genre dates, the cavemen were even telling horror stories to each other and it's part of life. And what we did, everything was sort of tongue in cheek and really for fun, not to scare the hell out of anybody the way Kefauver and that gang and Wertham had it. We would read the mail and I'd go in and find Bill and Al in, you know, guffawing over some of the mail that came in, because the kids or teenagers, or whoever was reading it evidently took each plot as a challenge, trying to out-think the writer. And the mail would come in and say, `I had a better ending than that.' And they would run pretty much the same story again and give it a different ending than the one the writer had sent in and expect another letter and usually got it. They actually became, what would you call it? Extended friends of a g!
ood many of the people who wrote letters in. Larry Stark was one. You know Larry Stark I guess.
RINGGENBERG: Oh, sure, I've heard of him.
EVANS: Yeah, his letters would come in and actually do a literary critique of what we had done and often challenge the ending, and then they'd play around with different endings. You remember, if you read the E.C. things, that that's the way they did it.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, often they would do a short story with two different endings.
EVANS: Yeah, right. So we took it as fun. And I had two daughters at the time and I would take the books home and they'd read them and sit there chuckling and say, `Ho! Look at this!' And their friends came in and, Geez, we'd have fifteen, twenty kids, all of them swapping these books and reading them. None of the parents there objected and there Catholics, there were Jewish people, all, nobody seemed to get all that upset until the censor people, was it, the Legion of Decency? and the like began to make all those noises. So I never had any qualms. I read them in the pulps myself as a kid. I recognized a hell of a lot of the stories that were done from old pulp stories I had read And all the kids I knew read them and we didn't go out butchering people and putting it all into action. We knew it was fun and fiction.
RINGGENBERG: So you were able to keep it all in perspective?
EVANS: I guess that puts it in a nutshell, and that's exactly it.
RINGGENBERG: Now when they killed off the New Trend titles and started the New Direction stuff, were you the one who suggested that they do Aces High?
EVANS: No. No. I told them in fact that it was probably not a good idea, that there would be a very limited, in spite of the reaction they got from the, from Harvey's books, I said `I think you'll find that it's a pretty limited audience who's interested in this.' The post World War aviation stuff might have gone better, and they did get around to that, too. But no, I didn't suggest it. They evidently just brought it in just on the basis of what had drawn mail from the earlier line.
RINGGENBERG: Did you actually edit Aces High or were you sort of a consultant?
EVANS: He called it a consultant, and it's just as well it was only that. It may well have been that Bill would have let me edit it because I was out one day walking our dog, and there's a phone call, and when Ev said, `They didn't say who it was.' But when I got back to her and talked to her, she said, I'm gettin' my talk twisted here, anyway, the voice on the phone had said, `Where is he?' She said, `Walking the dog.' He said, `Oh, I guess if that's more important than his work I guess maybe he better go on walking the dog.' So it may have been that he was tempted briefly to, I don't know that this is so, but this was my speculation, to offer me the job of editing it, in which case it would have been a totally different book. But he did pay me twenty-five dollars to pick up what he called major errors. And with the first issue, there were so many that when I handed him the list I think he paid the twenty-five dollars extra each issue just not to bother.
RINGGENBERG: Did they ever actually use any of your comments in the stories to change things?
EVANS: No, because they were buying, they bought the stories from people who in their own right were buying them from other people they believed knew something about World War I aviation, Whitehouse and William E. Barrett, and, oh, other pulp people.
RINGGENBERG: Okay, now after the New Direction books they did the Picto-fiction books briefly. You worked on some of those, didn't you?
EVANS: Yeah, I guess I worked on most of those, yeah.
RINGGENBERG: And was that like the work you did on the horror and crime comics?
EVANS: Yeah, the stories were a mix of stories and as with the other books, Al tried to sort of tailor them to the artist who was going to be doing them. And, you know, they were not done in continuity form, they were written fully out in text and the, it was profusely illustrated I guess would be the idea, and they wanted a variety of styles for the illustrations, so everybody was fooling around with halftones and wash drawings and this coquille board, you know, surfaced boards, and trying for a different technique.
RINGGENBERG: Did you enjoy doing that work?
EVANS: I did very much, yeah. And I know Graham Ingels did, too, because that had always been a big thing with him. He was good in different media ideas.
RINGGENBERG: Speaking of Ingels, I've heard rumors over the years that, you know, he suffered from a drinking problem. That's what eventually made him retire from comics.
EVANS: No, that wasn't what got him out of comics, but he did, he had joined Alcoholics Anonymous, but he had periods when he would drift away, and what it did do was destroy his family. It broke his family up. But he left comics because of course after E.C. closed down all the comics were in pretty bad shape and he was a well-rounded enough artist he went looking elsewhere and I guess found that, he found a job up with the Famous Artists course, which had surfaced at that time.
RINGGENBERG: I had read that he was a painting teacher after he left comics.
EVANS: Uh-huh, that's right. Well, for a little while, until he got the job with that Connecticut outfit, the correspondence school, he had set up a teaching studio on his own property there. He had a little studio, hut I guess you would call it, well set-up, you know, nice little place there. That was his studio, and he had eight or ten students he was teaching, and doing spot freelancing of whatever came by. He helped me with a few things that I did, and as I say, anything that came by. But then he went up and full-time, a staff employee up at the Famous Artists course and that eventually got him enough notice, or gave him enough background so that he, he got an assignment, a huge assignment to paint a series of murals for the state of Florida, on the history of Florida, and they were gorgeous things. I saw eight by ten color prints or color slides of them, that his daughter had, that he sent her, and they were gorgeous, and very, very, very well-done. When that assignment p!
etered out, I guess he did prints, art for prints and kept himself busy as a painter until Cochran, through Bill, got in touch with him and asked him if he would like to try some originals with the Old Witch and such. He refused at first, but I guess talking with Bill and, seeing the realism of the economic situation, I guess it looked like a pretty good deal.
RINGGENBERG: I don't know that I've ever seen any prints or anything that Ingels did.
EVANS: Oh, Good Grief, let me, let me get your address down straight here...Damn, never have a pen around.
RINGGENBERG: An artist with no pen.
EVANS: Everybody says the same thing. I talked to Johnny Craig and Jack Da, not Jack Davis, Jack Kamen, and it's same situation, there's never a pen around. All right, I'll yell, here's one...(Ringgenberg reads off his address to Evans) Wait'll I get the damn thing functional, these ball-point pens...Okay, yeah, I'll send you xeroxes at least of some of his prints. Didn't you ever see the ones he did for Russ Cochran?
RINGGENBERG: No, no. I've been in contact with Russ since the mid-70s and I never heard anything about that. I know Frazetta did prints with him.
EVANS: Yeah, well, his daughter sent me color photos of some of them and Roger Hill sent me the colored prints from the brochure and they're excellent, and then his daughter sent me prints of other things that he did, scenic stuff down in the Everglades, that sort of thing. Very, very nice stuff. I'll see if there's any way I can get a color picture of some of it for you. But you know he was a good painter. He was an excellent painter.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, that's what I've heard. I've seen the Old Witch painting that he did for Bill Gaines and I thought that was excellent.
EVANS: Yeah. That, his stuff went for somewhere in the neighborhood of five to eight thousand dollars at Cochran's auction, I was told. Even the roughs, which were quite well-developed, went for three, four thousand, but they might have drawn more except, as Bill Gaines himself put it, everybody wanted Graham to paint as he had painted that picture of the Old Witch, you know, with the off-drawing and the kind of awkward stumbly stuff, but instead, he had developed as a draftsman and it was, oh, he painted some, one of the Old Witch scenes, with a beautiful young lady as part of the scenery and well-formed, well-developed, well-painted.
RINGGENBERG: Well, it sounds like you stayed in touch with him after he left comics.
EVANS: Through his, we kept in touch with his daughter. We had gotten to be good family friends on Long Island, and it's tragic, because we liked all of them, they got along well together for the most part, but as I say that was what the drink did, it broke up his family, but we kept in touch with his younger, how would, she was his oldest daughter. He had a younger boy, too. But Deeana kept in touch with us and then later Graham got, said to Bill, that he would like to resume contact with his children at least, and Bill knew that we still were in touch with Deeana, so he put us back in touch with Graham and reunited at least Deeana and him. I think Gertrude, his wife, never forgave him for the things that happened.
RINGGENBERG: That's a shame.
EVANS: Yeah, it was a, at the end, I guess it hurt him. You know he finally realized how everything had come apart. But on his own, he didn't do that badly from what I hear. I would not say that we had remained in close contact, but he called a couple of times then and talked to us.
RINGGENBERG: That's interesting. I had always wondered what became of him. The impression that I'd gotten from talking to Bill Gaines and various people was that he just sort of didn't want to be remembered for the horror stuff, that he felt badly about how grisly his work was.
EVANS: Yes. Apparently what you felt was true, because I got that from Johnny Craig, who would fight with them to modify some of the horror stuff they did for him. And some fan had brought in one of his ax things, if you remember, which got on the Kefauver television interviews.
RINGGENBERG: Oh, yeah, that one cover with the severed head and the ax.
EVANS: And he said that he hadn't wanted to do it, that he tried to get them to change it but they wouldn't and when it came down to it, he was an employee and he did it. But he said it did trouble him. That's Johnny Craig. And I guess Graham, but Graham really played it the same way I did. He thought these things were for fun, and you can see it in his pictures.
RINGGENBERG: Oh, yeah, especially the ones that were more fairy tale-oriented. You can tell he was having fun with it.
EVANS: You're right. And he did. He really did, because he took the same attitude I did, that everybody likes to sit there and tell, gather around and tell horror stories and be horrified in a safe way. I know I still do.
RINGGENBERG: Interesting. Okay, listen to jump back to something else in the E.C. days, I know you did one job that you and Williamson collaborated on that was in Valor. How did that come about?
EVANS: I don't think it was meant to be that way, but Al and I were good friends for years and years, and with the Fawcett things, I would get these fifty-two page books to do on a tight deadline and often I would give a yell for Al and he would journey over from Brooklyn, into the wilds of New Jersey and get himself a good case of hay fever and sniffle and snort, but he'd help me out. And when he would get an assignment he, at that point, would do all the things that he liked to do, the sword and sorcery bit, but the pedestrian pictures, you know, where somebody's just walking down the street with a row of tenement buildings or something, he hated to be confined to doing that sort of stuff, so he would send up an SOS, and I would help him out and do those pedestrian things.
RINGGENBERG: You always seemed like you had a good handle on doing the civilian stuff, you know, just people in street clothes and the naturalistic settings.
EVANS: That I guess, in fact, Bill told me that was what charmed him and Al, that they gave me a story involving some innocuous little guy who at heart was a murderer. And when I brought in the story and that they sat there looking it over, Al would give you the thing done up with Leroy lettering and the panels planned for size and placement, so you didn't get much leeway. This drove Bernie Krigstein nuts, you know.
RINGGENBERG: Oh yeah, I've heard.
EVANS: And he would take and cut the lettering up and cut the paneling up and do it his own way. But, gee, that's dedicating an enormous amount of time, so I would work with what they had, you know, had given me. But they found, they sat there guffawing over what I had done, with what, because Al evidently had pictures in mind and then mine went different from the way he went and he loved it! Unlike Harvey, Al was delighted with what could be done with the stories he gave.
RINGGENBERG: Well, would Al ever tell you, you know, like we need this guy in this panel and you know, have particular action happening?
EVANS: Uh-huh. No, he had all the copy down there. And if you said to him, having, we'd read it through there. And if you asked him something, he'd say, `Well, this is what I thought. But, you're doing the artwork.' That was Al's attitude.
RINGGENBERG: Okay. Well, do you have any memories of doing a 3-D story called, "The Planetoid" with Al Williamson?
EVANS: I do, yeah. Yes.
RINGGENBERG: I talked to Angelo Torres and he said frankly, working with all the overlays on the 3-D stories, it was a pain in the butt.
EVANS: Yeah. Yeah. It took patience. It took patience and I wonder if it didn't destroy all our olfactory nerves for a bit because boy the stuff you worked with stank. It had a sharp, piercing kind of ugly smell, whatever, I guess an acid of some kind to make the ink stick to the slick overlay stuff.
RINGGENBERG: Was it hard to ink on the acetate?
EVANS: How can I put it? Hard. The acetate, when the ink went on it, would sort of rise up in a little ridge instead of the line laying on the surface. And you, the ink destroyed the brushes very rapidly, so after a page or so your brush began to get loggy and the lines less graceful. You had to switch to another brush and just write off the cost. We'd have all gone broke if the cost of Windsor-Newton brushes, and the price, you know, and the damage that it did so rapidly to brushes. And you could not clean them up afterwards.
RINGGENBERG: They were destroyed?
EVANS: They were destroyed, yeah.
RINGGENBERG: Now, on that story, it looked like your inks over Al's pencils. Was that the case?
EVANS: To the largest degree that is the case, yes. Areas again, where he had no interest in doing them, he would have loose sketches in and I would tighten them up and if I felt that, in other words I had full leeway. He'd say, `You want to do something else entirely, do it.' So, but, where he, he was a damn good storyteller and a damn good artist even then, even as a youngster and what he would put down I might re-pencil a little here, a little there in order to be able to, you know to ink from it. But largely I stayed with what he had indicated as his storytelling and the layout of the panel.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, well, given Al's handling of figures and your nice inking that's kind of a shame you too didn't work on more than those two stories.
EVANS: You bet! For E.C.
RINGGENBERG: For E.C., yeah.
EVANS: Right. But we worked on a hell of a lot of stuff together for Dell, and for Fawcett.
RINGGENBERG: Was that concurrent with the E.C. stuff?
EVANS: Oh no, that's why Al went looking at, you know, for work and wound up at E.C. although part of it was because he got a big kick out of what they were doing and he knew Wally Wood and Joe Orlando and maybe all of them, but no, it would precede, at least our involvement in the E.C., yeah, in E.C.
RINGGENBERG: When you were working for E.C., did you have any other accounts, anybody else you worked for?
EVANS: Yes, I did. I never put all my eggs in one basket because having been at Fiction House, they folded up late in the fall, in other words around Christmas time and I had worked for Better Publications, Ned Pines, and they did the same thing, and the bit with Fawcett, I think, it was around the holiday bit so I began to search around for other accounts. While I was doing comics I always tried to have several, several things going, which kept me from doing all the work that any of them wanted me to do. Fawcett's would have, while they were successful, every new thing that came along they would have a sort of a contest among the people on the staff and I wound up getting damn near every new thing that came along and they, I would ink and pencil everything, then they would bring a new thing out and that's how come I guess Al and I worked together. And I worked with one of the early black artists. Damn, his name escapes me--Al...
RINGGENBERG: Matt Baker?
EVANS: No. No. He--
EVELYN EVANS (FROM THE BACKGROUND): Hollingsworth.
EVANS: Al Hollingsworth. Right. One of the nicest guys. Roy Ald(?) put him and me in touch and we did a lot together. And of course Jack Abel and a group, Rocco Mastrontonio, they helped me on the Captain Video. Yes, and, as your question was, I kept a lot of accounts, including a pretty damn good one. I did some halftone and two-color work for an aviation magazine called Air Trails, unfortunately, they also went under.
RINGGENBERG: I've read that you've done a bit of advertising work as well.
EVANS: Yeah, I did, that's right, Johnson and Cushing an agency that handled just about everything, but primarily did continuity type of advertising that went with the big comic sections of the time. Do you remember them?
RINGGENBERG: Like it would be in the Sunday paper?
EVANS: Did a lot of that. And then they handled spot illustrations and a segment of comics for Boys' Life and not really big money advertising, say like Hadden Sundblom (?) and the big advertising artists, Rockwell and the like....on the lower edges of it. But I'll tell you something, advertising people were not nearly as nice to work with as the people who put out comics.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, well you said at the beginning that coming into E.C. just felt comfortable. Could you just talk a little bit about the atmosphere up at the offices? Bill Gaines, I've heard, was a great guy to work for.
EVANS: Yes he was. Yes he was. In fact, moving there from Fawcett's was not really a move. It's more, we lived in Levittown, Long Island and the house we bought up here in Mount Joy is basically a brick kind of Levitt house. So, we felt at home moving up here the very first day and it was the same as going down to E.C. The offices of Fawcett because they had a whole run, you know, paperback books and you know, men's magazines. I think they had True magazine and other big things, but they had a more extensive office and yet the atmosphere was the same. You walked in and everybody would holler `Hi, George! What's new?' You'd holler out to every name you knew. And it was a big family thing up there, even the boss, whose name was Will Lieberson(?), if he happened to be there he'd come out and sit around and quack a while You know, this is heady stuff, after Fiction House, where they had the Inner Sanctum and so on. And when Al took me down to see the people at E.C. I walk in and t!
here's Bill and Al sitting on a big couch in this kind of, sure a smaller office space, and real friendly and nice and nobody knew me. I didn't know anybody, but they were still looking up: `Hi, how ya doin'? What's new?' So, atmosphere felt pretty much the same and then with Bill and Al it was hard to believe they were the big moguls at the place because they put on no airs whatsoever. Never did, all through the time right till Bill died. He was the same old Bill.
RINGGENBERG: Okay, looking back at the E.C. days do you have any stories that were particular favorites or ones that you think you did especially well?
EVANS: Well, the aviation thing, I felt at home doing them. I loved doing them. For the horror things, the one where some little fellow, the splash I recall, he's walking along a street, a lonely street, and there's a cat, he scared a cat, and it's flying away over--He's British, the little fellow with the derby. I liked that one in particular. I don't know why. But that stays with me.
RINGGENBERG: When you were working for E.C. how much work would you do in a typical month?
EVANS: Probably no more than four stories because as I said I had other accounts and kept busy on them.
RINGGENBERG: So that would be, what? About twenty or thirty pages of art?
EVANS: Somewhere between twenty-five and thirty, yeah.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, because the E.C. stories tended to run between six and eight pages if I'm not mistaken.
EVANS: Right, that's just what I did the mental arithmetic on.
RINGGENBERG: And right after E.C. folded, did you, I mean, was that a bad period or were you able to get enough work then to make ends meet?
EVANS: I could make ends meet but it got much leaner of course. And the other comic people were not too eager to see us E.C. people around. In fact, do you know Bob Kanigher?
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, I've interviewed him, in fact.
EVANS: Well, he was running the war books up at D.C. at the time and I went in to see him out of a clear sky. He didn't look, he looked at the stuff I had done for E.C. and then tossed it on the desk and stared up at me and said, `You people at E.C. ruined the comic book market and now you come around with the rest of us who are still able to make a go and think we're going to give you work? Not me.' But later years I worked for Bob Kanigher, or at least through Murray Boltinoff, did stories that Bob wrote.
RINGGENBERG: That's right. I remember a few things you did for D.C. and you also one or two aviation jobs for Warren Publishing in the sixties.
EVANS: I think I did one and a two-page filler for them, you're right.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, I remember that. Did you ever do any horror for the Warren Comics, like Eerie and Creepy.
EVANS: No, they didn't. They kept calling me about it, but as I say, those other accounts had, when I had more time to devote to them, had developed pretty well and the rates were a lot better with them than even with Warren, who wasn't paying badly.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah. When did you pick up the Secret Agent strip from Al? What year was that?
EVANS: I had ghosted three stories in the seventies and I guess I began doing it in 1980 on my own. He turned it over to me. It was a funny bit right there. As a kid even, I used to draw comics and have the effrontery to send them off to King Features, figuring I was as good as any of them and they would return them. And they were always kind about it but they were the big money then, if you believed the publicity stories, so as a kid in the family I used to tell them I was going to get a big money contract with King Features and then Ev and I married with a family on Long Island. When things would get lean as one company folded or another, we'd say, `King Features is going to call and offer me a fabulous salary.' And by God, one day the phone rang and Ev gave me the funniest blank look and said, `It's King Features.' (Laughs) But they didn't offer a fabulous salary. The money for story strips is far from fabulous these days. I do it more for love and for an interest in it tha!
n I do it for the money that comes out of it.
RINGGENBERG: How many papers are carrying your strip now?
EVANS: I haven't the foggiest idea. Not many in the United States. But they tell me that the European, the offshore market I guess they call it, is still pretty good.
RINGGENBERG: From what I've read, the European market and South America is very big on adventure strips, still.
EVANS: Yes. I've had mail from South America, too, yeah.
RINGGENBERG: Well, George, I think that will do what I need for this article. I sure appreciate your time.
EVANS: No problem. It's always fun talking with people who are interested in the same nonsensical but fun field...(Tape Ends/Tape restarts partway into a conversation.)
EVANS:...How the hell to put it. He had his own style, but he could draw that style very well and very deftly and the pages would come with them roughed in as I mentioned with Al Williamson, close enough almost to work from. I would then develop everything around it. Once I went to work for him directly, not through Leyte(?) I said to him, `Why fiddle around with this? Let me know what your picture needs are and I'll do them.' But he said he wanted to handle the heads of the main characters and so they would come tightly pencilled with the heads placed here there and everywhere. And it was fun to work in what you could perceive of his idea of the perspective, etcetera. Anyway, I did a crowd scene with a lot of people and a lot of faces and I did them not Wunder-style and I spent the afternoon at his place, redoing them Wunder-style. I'll send you a xerox of some of the strips....
RINGGENBERG: George, that would be great. I'd love to see that. God I feel like if you'd been handling the art yourself it would have been a nicer-looking strip.
EVANS: Well, that's flattering, I would have cleaned it up a lot. We used to talk a lot about cleaning it up, but he firmly believed that he had to fill in every ounce of space. You know it's being revived, don't you?
RINGGENBERG: No, I hadn't heard? Who's going to do the art?
EVANS: Oh yeah. Sometime in March they're supposed to release them, but you know the Brothers Hildebrandt?
RINGGENBERG: Oh, sure.
EVANS: They are doing the artwork on it but they're doing the same thing that they did with The Shadow, and all the other things that came out of comics or the pulps. They are buying the name and then jerking the characterizations around. So Terry is going to be a kind of swinging mod guy with an earring in his ear and one of those haircuts that's grazed up the sides and a flop like...
RINGGENBERG: Oh God, that's going to be awful.
EVANS: And the Dragon Lady has no pizazz. She's round-eyed, round-featured. The artwork, mind, is very well done, it's just the concept of the...Burma has become a mod kind of character with a sulky, not sultry as Caniff did it, but a sulky kind of nasty-looking face, and the hair that apparently is meant to be all colors...
RINGGENBERG: Oh, that sounds dreaincr=F|dful.
EVANS: Combed straight up, that's how I felt. And Frank Springer, who worked with both Caniff and with Wunder, was very upset about it and called the other night and asked me. He had seen some of the preview stuff of it, and he said, `How do you feel about that? Should we go get these guys?'
RINGGENBERG: Oh dear. You know I heard before Caniff stopped doing Steve Canyon, he tried to get the syndicate to have Alex Toth carry it on, and I thought, that would have been worth seeing.
EVANS: Yes, it would have been. It would have been, and I wonder if maybe they offered Toth the artwork on this. That would have been a hell of a good move.
RINGGENBERG: That would have been right in the classic tradition.
EVANS: It sure would have, but maybe he, I asked Springer if they'd offer it to him would he take it and he said not seven days a week again. That's murder...