series. The first freelance gag I sold to Topps was part of that series: "Come alive! You're in the Monster Generation!" spoofed the familiar Pepsi Generation commercials. Wally Wood and
illustrated the series.
Cover: Esau Andrews
Although Ralph took an extended leave from illustrating, he returns this month with a wild DC Comics tale, "The Thirteenth Hour," featuring monsters crawling over buildings a la Cloverfield
. Look for it in issue #13 (May) of editor Angela Rufino's revival of House of Mystery
As I explained previously, I began working with the Topps Product Development staff in December 1967. By then, Art had taken off for San Francisco, and when he returned a few months later, we would take sketchpads down the hall to the Topps cafeteria, which was deserted during the hours before and after lunch. While the kitchen staff prepared lunch, we would drink coffee and toss gags back and forth.
Others in the Product Development department, run by Woody Gelman, were the cartoonist-designer Rick Varesi, Len Brown (now a classic country DJ in Austin, Texas), Mad writer Stan Hart (who only came in once a week), the clever, creative Larry Riley and the secretary, Faye Fleischer. Riley was a terrific raconteur with hilarious tales of his years working on Paramount animated cartoons, and I regret never tape recording his stories. When he left Topps, he worked as an animator on Ralph Bakshi's movie, Fritz the Cat (1972).
The inventive Larry Riley at Topps
Occasionally, other people would arrive and briefly take a crack at gagwriting. However, a special knack was required, and these wannabe humorists usually had odd and puzzling notions of what constituted humor.
One day Woody Gelman explained to us that the Topps execs were sending in a crackerjack humor writer to work on creating cards with us. I don't think Woody was too pleased about the situation of a newcomer crashing his party. Rick, Len, Larry and I were sitting in Woody's office waiting for the new guy to arrive. Expectations were high, because why was he being sent over unless he was a funny fellow? Indeed, he came in wearing a plaid jacket, a bowtie and big, confident grin. In retrospect, he looked sort of like Paul Reubens as Pee-wee Herman.
After a round of introductions and handshakes, Pee-wee took a seat, and Woody asked him to go right into his presentation. Pee-wee pitched a very strange concept. He said, "Okay, picture this. You show the world as it looks from a dog's point of view." Dead silence... as we all tried to comprehend just what he was describing.
I said, "So in other words, the dog is looking up, and there's a drawing of what he sees in an up-angle from ground level?"
"Yes," said Pee-wee with a big smile, obviously proud of this idea.
I continued, "So if that's the first card in a series of 44 cards, what would you do for the other 43 cards? Would card #2 be a cat looking up? Then maybe a hamster?"
He had no response. His smile faded. He began to twist slowly in the wind. And after that meeting, we never saw him again. In the bubble gum universe, another bubble had burst.
"Cowpoke in Africa" is another Krazy TV
card with gag and color rough by me. John Severin drew the finish. The card caricatures Chuck Connors in the short-lived TV series Cowboy in Africa
(1967-68). Coincidentally, Chuck Connors grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, within walking distance of the Bush Terminal where Topps offices were located.