Last week we had no Sunday Comics, but we more than make up for it this week
with a complete script by Archive friend Keith Chapman, better known as western
writer Chap O'Keefe. And who better to tell us about this week's offering than
the author himself? Keith here gives us some fascinating background on this
week's strip as well as some great reminiscences.
And so over to Keith:
Charlton Comics was founded in the early 1940s and published The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves from 1967 to 1982, for the best part of the run as a bi-monthly. It was one of Charlton's most popular mystery/ghost titles. Several now legendary comic-book artists drew for its pages, perhaps as an escape from the fetters on individual creativity imposed by New York publishing giants like Marvel and DC. More than one comics fan has noted that Charlton, despite its low budget, barely adequate printing press, and Derby, Connecticut address, produced some truly top-class material and gave a start to some of the finest talents the industry has known. Dr Graves "hosted" the stories that appeared in the comic carrying his name. This generally meant a thumbnail portrait of the character would be incorporated with the opening and closing text panels of each self-contained story. The same pattern was followed by other Charlton ghost comics. For example, Ghostly Tales had a Mr Dedd for a host and Ghost Manor had a Mr Bones. Usually three stories were featured in each issue. From time to time, Dr Graves, who had originally been introduced by writer-artist Ernie Baniche as a "ghost fighter" in the May 1966 edition of Ghostly Tales, would play an actual role in a story. The writers of these few "real" Dr Graves stories included prolific Charlton staff stalwart Joe Gill. The story here Strange Possessions, appeared in
The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves No. 62, October 1977.
I would have liked to have written more, but Charlton's fortunes were already in serious decline. In December 1975 , executive editor George Wildman, who had accepted every one of my 'great' stories for his ghost comics, wrote, 'At present I have more than enough scripts on file. Try me much later.' The following June, managing editor Paul DelPo wrote, 'We are again cutting back on comic titles and inventory. As a result, freelance scripts are being curtailed and we will only have enough work for our regular staff. As to how long this policy will remain in effect, I don't know.' By then I was established in New Zealand as the chief sub-editor of a women's magazine and had a young family to support. So basically it was goodbye to comic books, since the Kiwis published none of their own. A few years later, Transworld Feature Syndicate of New York, who'd sold a story of mine to a 'confessions' magazine, offered George another ghost script. He returned it to me, writing, 'I am sorry to say that at the present time we are not accepting any outside material due to our small production schedule of only twelve titles. We are using up inventory on hand plus reprinting old material.'
The artwork for Strange Possessions is by Steve Ditko, who is today largely thought of as a Marvel team member -- co-creator with that company's editor-in-chief Stan Lee of The Amazing Spider-Man, and artist at various times for The Hulk, Doctor Strange, and other famous superheroes. But as early as 1954, Ditko's art home had been at Charlton, for whom he'd drawn The Thing. His association with the company continued through to its closure in 1985. After a falling-out with Marvel in 1966, Ditko worked mainly for Charlton and various small-press publishers, though he did have a stint with DC in 1968 and '69. For a while, he lived close to the Charlton Building, in a small hotel in Derby, Connecticut. Through a long comics career, Ditko shunned interviews and avoided cameras. In 1969, he said, "When I do a job, it’s not my personality that I’m offering the readers but my artwork. It’s not what I'm like that counts; it’s what I did and how well it was done.... I produce a product, a comic art story. Steve Ditko is the brand name." In 1987, Ditko was declared the winner of the Comic-Con International Inkpot Award. Typically, Ditko didn't attend the convention, so the award was accepted on his behalf by one of his publishers. Ditko returned it to the publisher, telling her on the phone, "Awards bleed the artist and make us compete against each other. They are the most horrible things in the world. How dare you accept this on my behalf." With some of the unique Charlton background noted, it's time to turn to the fiction itself, and join psychic investigator Dr Milius T. Graves, who is more than ready to talk one more time to his public!
AND SO WE PRESENT THE MANY GHOSTS OF DOCTOR GRAVES
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