by Roy Thomas
[Adapted in part from material appearing in Alter Ego, Vol. 3, #7, 14, 21, 44, & 50
As every real fan of the Justice Society knows, in 1965 the concept's co-creator Gardner F. Fox informed Jerry G. Bails by mail that his personal records indicated he had actually scripted four JSA tales in the mid-'40s in addition to issues #3-34. That quartet, he said, "apparently were scrapped, or came out under different titles." But that's all Fox's records contained concerning them-just their tantalizing titles, and nothing more:
"The Men of Magnifica"
"The Emperors of Japan"
"The Will of William Wilson"
"Peril of the Paper Death"
The first of these is discussed in Chapter VI of this volume by Craig Delich; and all four were speculated upon at length in Vol. 1 of this series, and to a lesser extent in Dennis Mallonee's article in Chapter III of this one. In the late 1960s it was learned that a considerable amount of original art-and-story from the third-named "lost" tale had actually survived, although most of it had been sliced into "tiers"-i.e., rows of panels-so that often only parts of pages were known to exist. That JSA tale, and a lot of other unpublished Golden Age material from canceled features, had been "written off" by DC for tax purposes on Sept. 30, 1949. Approximately two decades later, much of this art had been reluctantly sliced into horizontal thirds by future pro writer and editor Marv Wolfman, who was then working at DC as an editorial "intern," as the only way he could keep any of the artwork as opposed to consigning it to the company incinerator. (The situation is described more fully in our previous volume and in The Alter Ego Collection, Vol. 1.)
The first All-Star Companion printed 42 of the 44 tiers of art (that's 14 pages worth!) from "The Will of William Wilson" that were then acknowledged to exist-including a problematical Dr. Mid-Nite page that, we now know, definitely was from that adventure. The other two rows of panels saw print in A/E V3#7 (Winter 2001). Shown between those two places were most of the story's Flash solo segment and the JSA conclusion, and several tiers each from the Green Lantern, Atom, and Dr. Mid-Nite chapters. Most of this art from Wolfman's late-'60s cache had come into the hands of the late Mark Hanerfeld, an inveterate comics fan and sometime editorial assistant at DC; he eventually sold it to the present writer in the early 1980s. A handful of other art tiers from that book-lengther turned out to be in the collections of Wolfman himself, his friend (and fellow pro writer/editor) Len Wein, Jerry Bails (via a trade with Hanerfeld), and collector Ethan Roberts. Each of these gents kindly provided copies of the art he owned.
Even after all the above material was printed in 2000, several key mysteries remained:
Why did no art seem to have survived from the JSA introduction or from the Hawkman and Johnny Thunder chapters?
Since the extant pages revealed that the tale dealt with half a dozen "impossible feats" that the JSAers accomplished on solo missions at the behest of attorney Harvey Davis, to fulfill the terms of the will of a Mr. William Wilson (who in the end was revealed to be their old enemy, The Psycho-Pirate, and very much alive!), what the heck was that roundish object Hawkman was shown carrying in the group finale? And what was the pie-slice-shaped thing in Johnny's hands? The present writer speculated that Hawkman's prize might be either Nostradamus' (poorly-drawn) crystal ball or, more likely, "the egg of some mythical animal such as a roc-or of an extinct dinosaur or dodo." And that JT might be toting "a piece of the green cheese out of which the moon is sometimes said to be made." Just a handful of half-wild guesses.
For that matter, while the surviving art revealed that GL's task had been to locate a goblet carved by 16th-century metalsmith Benvenuto Cellini, that Doc had apparently brought back the signature of a recluse named Abel Northrup (but who he?), and that Flash had retrieved Genghis Khan's sword-what precisely was that huge gem in The Atom's hands?
Moreover: since the Flash chapter was 6 pages long, and since in all published All-Stars of that era all solo segments in a given issue were of exactly the same length (except for the Hawkman chapters, which sometimes contained an extra page), that meant it was a dead certainty that the six solo chapters of "Will" had taken up at least 36 pages. That, plus the 6-page group finale, meant the entire adventure was at least 42 pages long-even before we add in the AWOL group intro, which would've surely been at least three pages long, bringing the total to an absolute minimum of 45! And this in a period (circa 1944-46) when each and every printed JSA tale was either 38 or 39 pages long-never more, never less! What was going on?
What's more, beginning in #18 All-Star solo segments were usually 5 pages long, not 6-and concluding group chapters usually contained just two or three pages (not a half dozen!)-in that era after the interior page count of issues had been gradually dropped from 64 to 56 to 48. A 45-page story would have left virtually no room in an issue for paid or house ads. Where in blazes did DC intend to print that story??
Alas, it seemed we might never know the answers to any of the above questions.
But then, in late 2001, the present writer learned from A/E associate editor Jim Amash that Stephen Fishler, owner of Metropolitan Comics in New York City, had recently purchased five intact, unsliced pages of a Justice Society story from persons unknown. These pages were marked as being from "All-Star Comics #31," but Fishler quickly realized that, in fact, they had never been published. Supplied with photocopies, the present writer determined that they constituted a JSAficionado's "holy grail" of sorts: the introductory JSA chapter of "The Will of William Wilson," drawn by Martin Naydel, which had somehow (like one Dr. Mid-Nite page) escaped being chopped into thirds! Through Fishler's generosity, we printed those pages in A/E #14. More about them in a minute.
As it turned out, however, there was even more artwork out there from that MIA saga, which had clearly been drawn circa 1945, and certainly no later than 1946. In Alter Ego #21, courtesy of Jack Bender, current artist of the Alley Oop comic strip, we printed another surprising find: the only known surviving splash panel from any of the half dozen solo chapters-that of the Atom segment, drawn by Chester Kozlak.
But wait, there's more!
In late 2004, pro artist and regular A/E contributor Michael T. Gilbert was one of a couple of folks who e-mailed Ye Editor that two Naydel-drawn panels from "Will" had surfaced on eBay. They were being sold by comics historian (and science-fiction and mystery novelist, as well as sometime comic book/strip writer) Ron Goulart. Ron and his friend John Wilcox provided a photocopy-and so did Dominic Bongo, the collector who had just purchased it. That tier appeared in A/E #44, a Justice Society/All-Star Squadron/Infinity, Inc. special.
And that's still not quite all!
The previously-mentioned Ethan Roberts soon sent us a photocopy of yet another Dr. Mid-Nite tier to go with the full, uncut page from that chapter he already owned. That row of panels was printed in A/E #50.
That made it a total of 20 pages, or something like 45%, of "The Will of William Wilson" that was now known to exist, virtually all of it seeing the light of day for the first time in the 21st century, more than five decades after it was written and drawn!
Beginning on the next page, with added commentary, are the panels from that missing Justice Society tale which weren't printed in All-Star Companion, Vol. 1. All art on the following 9 pages is, of course, (c)2006 DC Comics. First, the story's splash page:
Notations at the top indicate this story was once scheduled for All-Star Comics #31-that it had an illegible code number that started with the letters "OH" ("On Hand"?) that may have had something to do with its inventory status-that it was "KILLED" at some point (possibly well before the 9-30-49 date when it was officially "written off")-and, as per note to left of "A.S.#31"-that it was 48 pages long! A 5-page intro, a 6-page conclusion, and 6 solo chapters of 6-page length, equal 47 pages-making it all but certain that the missing Hawkman segment was 7 pages long, to account for that 48th page. Unusually, the JSAers were to appear on the splash only in circles (but why are the latter blacked in?), off to one side, perhaps with name labels. To the left of the splash here, we've placed the (mostly reversed) cameo heads that were printed in All-Star #24, the only published issue with a similar layout. (But why the blank shield at bottom right for the "Roll Call," if the members were to be named elsewhere on the same page?) A notation says that the words "Last Will and Testament" on the parchment were to be rendered in the style of "Old English Lettering," and there is a note to "Sol"-doubtless production manager Sol Harrison-that the body of the will was to be re-lettered "like type," in "upper & lower" case with "seriphs" (a misspelling of "serifs"), the style used in the text you're now reading. For some reason, the note-writer (probably 1940-48 All-Star editor Sheldon Mayer rather than his 1944-48 story editor Julius Schwartz) didn't like the idea of the will being handwritten.
There Will Be A Cover For "Will"! Chances are that no cover was ever done for the never-published Justice Society of America story "The Will of William Wilson" back in the mid-1940s when it was written and drawn-so Michael T. Gilbert decided to draw one, in his own tongue-in-cheek style, as the cover of Alter Ego #14 (April 2002). It's numbered as "No. 31" because "Will" was, at one time, scheduled to be printed in that issue of All-Star Comics. [JSA & characters TM & (c)2006 DC Comics.]
Naydel Revamped If "Will" had been published circa 1945-46 like other stories drawn by the same artists around the same time, it would undoubtedly have sported a cover by JSA/Flash artist Martin Naydel. Covers at this time sometimes duplicated, in whole or in part, the splash pages inside...so collector/artist Al Dellinges combined the will itself and the six "impossible" items with adapted JSA figures from the cover of the actual All-Star #32, and came up with this intriguing approximation of what a cover for "The Will of William Wilson" might have looked like. It was first printed in Alter Ego #21 (2003). [Art (c)2006 DC Comics.]
What would have been the splash art for the Atom chapter in "The Will of William Wilson." [Art (c)2006 DC Comics.]
"The Mystery of the Forgotten Comic Cover" Naturally, if we had other art from "The Will of William Wilson" on hand, we'd print it-but we don't. However, on reading in All-Star Companion, Vol. 1, that in 1967 Roy Thomas had artist John Buscema draw the cover of The X-Men #43 (April 1968) utilizing a layout similar to the one Joe Gallagher had employed on 1945's All-Star Comics #25 (maybe the first issue of that mag Ye Editor ever saw), Australian collector and artist Shane Foley found himself wondering what the JSA and their red-hooded foe would've looked like drawn by one of Marvel's greatest illustrators-so he created his own version thereof. The art for All-Star #25 was done in the same general period that "Will" was drawn, with Gallagher redrawing GL and Flash over other heroes done by Naydel. Great job, Shane! [JSA & All-Star Comics logo TM & (c)2006 DC Comics.]
For the rest of this article, and more great lost All-Star art, be sure to check out Roy Thomas' All-Star Companion, Volume Two, in stores now for $24.95. ROY THOMAS' new sequel presents still more secrets of the Justice Society of America and ALL-STAR COMICS, from 1940 through the 1980s, featuring: A fabulous wraparound cover by CARLOS PACHECO! More amazing information and speculation on the classic ALL-STAR COMICS of 1940-1951! Never-before-seen Golden Age art by IRWIN HASEN, CARMINE INFANTINO, ALEX TOTH, MART NODELL, PAUL REINMAN, H.G. PETER, and others! Art from the unpublished 1940s JSA story "The Will of William Wilson" not seen in Volume 1! Rare art from the original 1963-1985 JLA-JSA team-ups and the 1970s All-Star Comics Revival by MIKE SEKOWSKY, DICK DILLIN, JOE STATON, WALLY WOOD, KEITH GIFFEN, and RIC ESTRADA! Full coverage of the 1980s ALL-STAR SQUADRON, AMERICA Vs. THE JUSTICE SOCIETY, and LAST DAYS OF THE JUSTICE SOCIETY, with a bio of every single All-Star (from Air Wave to Zatara), featuring never-seen art by JERRY ORDWAY, RICH BUCKLER, ADRIAN GONZALES, TODD McFARLANE, and more! Plus: Notes and illos on the original 1940s DC Comics sources of Roy's ALL-STAR SQUADRON stories-special JSA-related art and features by FRANK BRUNNER, ALEX ROSS, NEAL ADAMS, GIL KANE, MIKE MIGNOLA, and RAMONA FRADON-and more!
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