Friday, September 22, 2023

Today in Comics History, September 22: Happy birthday, E. Nelson Bridwell!

Born on this day in 1931: E. Nelson Bridwell, comics writer and editor (MAD, Super Friends, the Batman comic strip, Action Comics, Adventure Comics, Shazam!, Superman, The Superman Family, World's Finest Comics, The Legion of Super-Heroes and more)! Bridwell co-created some of the greatest B-list characters at DC, including the Inferior Five, The Maniaks, the Secret Six, Angel and the Ape, Fire and Ice, and more! He was an early advocate of continuity between titles, and in his role as assistant editor to Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz on the Superman titles, he edited the letters columns and developed the Kryptonese language and characters. So yeah: he's pretty important! Why not read more about him in this post? Sure, we all do!

from the editorial page of Showcase #62 [The Inferior Five] (DC/National, May 1966), text by Jack Miller

Yes, we can tell Bridwell was a comics nut from an early age: here's a fan letter written to EC's "New Direction Picto-Fiction" title Crime Illustrated from issue #3 — which was never published because the book was cancelled with #2. (This is a repro from the excellent EC Archives volume on Crime Illustrated which reprints the entire unpublished #3.)

from the letters column of the unpublished Crime Illustrated #3 (EC, planned for June 1956); reproduced in The EC Archives: Crime Illustrated (Dark Horse, 2021)

A handful of biographical pieces on Bridwell before we get to the silly stuff!

from the editorial page of Secret Six #1 (DC/National, April 1968)

from Amazing World of DC Comics #1 (DC/National, July 1974)

from DC Comics cover-dated April 1978

Nelson got his start writing script for MAD in the fities and sixties. Here he is homaged from within: the interviewer in this story (wearing glasses) is a caricature of Bridwell! As a bonus, we see that Nelson really is a star, because he's drawn by none other than Mort Drucker!

from "Mad Visits the Producer-Director of 'Charades'"MAD #88 (July 1964), script by Larry Siegel, pencils and inks by Mort Drucker

Bridwell shows up in the cwaziest places! (Please pronounce the previous sentence in the voice of Lew Lehr.) Here's a (not completely savage) pastiche of him (and Mort Weisinger) in a Superman spoof from Marvel's Not Brand Echh, later reprinted in their Crazy four-color comic...hey, that fits in with the "crazy" element I announced earlier in the paragraph!

from "The Origin of...Stuporman" in Not Brand Echh #3 (Marvel, April 1968), script by Roy Thomas, pencils and inks (and colors?) by Marie Severin, letters by Artie Simek

This Eisneresque splash page from Astro City introduces the curious Mr. Birdwell, named by scripter Kurt Busiek after E. Nelson. He's keeping tracks and making notes on the heroes of the burg, presumably doing research for his entries in The Official Handbook of the Astro City Universe.

from Kurt Busiek's Astro City (1995 series) #5 (Image, December 1995), script by Kurt Busiek, pencils and inks by Brent Anderson, colors by Steve Buccellato, letters by Richard Starkings

Uh oh! Turns out Mr. Bridwell is actually the alien-in-disguise Enelsians, who's making notes on the strength of the Earth heroes in order to plan his race's alien invasion! Pretty sneaky, Brid!

But will he still proceed with his signal to his conquering race even after he's saved by hero Crackerjack? Well, check in on later issues and find out, kids!

Now that you've learned all this about E. Nelson Bridwell, lemme ask you the 64,000 Cookie Question: if you were mugged by him, how easily could you pick him out of a lineup and send him away toi comic book creator prison? In other words: find E. Nelson Bridwell!:

back cover of The Best of Blue Ribbon Digest #5 (DC, May 1980), pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Dick Giordano

Give up? Here's a hint the answer!:

Oh, you found that one easy, did ya? Don't get cocky, kid, 'coz now you have to pick E, Nelson Bridwell out of the thousands and thousands of celebrities and characters at the infamous Superman/Muhammad Ali prize fight! Another hint for here: he bought a scalped ticket from Guy Gardner!

cover of All-New Collectors' Edition #C-56 (DC, March 1978), layout by Joe Kubert, pencils by Neal Adams, inks by Neal Adams (?) and/or Cory Adams (?), logo design by John Workman
(Click top picture to GOAT-size)

E. Nelson Bridwell passed away in January of 1987. Here's two lovely obituaries of him by two creators who worked alongside him for many years, Dick Giordano and Roy Thomas.

from (top) DC Comics cover-dated August 1987;
(bottom( letters column of Infinity Inc. (1984 series) #41 (DC, August 1987)

Happy birthday, Mr. Bridwell.

from Amazing World of Superman (DC, March 1973)

1 comment:

Blam said...

ENB was practically my spirit animal in Li’l Blam’s Personal Golden Age of Comics — for all that continuity knowledge, and the reprint material so carefully selected and contextualized, and his scripting on Super Friends and Shazam to boot. One bit from Dick G.’s remembrance has stuck with me for decades: I don’t think he got the joke in Bridwell’s reply about Krypton’s moons!