Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Remembering: Jerry Bails and Dave Cockrum"

This past week, as most of you already know, we lost two important people connected with comic books and comic book fandom: Dr. Jerry Bails, and artist, Dave Cockrum.

The first time I ever heard of Jerry Bails was when I read his name in a letters column in a DC comic in the very early 1960's, but it really didn't mean anything to me as I read all such letter pages. It wasn't until I started buying fanzines until I saw his name again, first discovering that he and Roy Thomas were associated with the fanzine, Alter Ego; that he in fact, had begun said publication. Then I started reading his various 'zines on Golden Age characters.

I had a small amount of correspondence with him in the 1960's, but didn't renew our acquaintance again until the early 1980's, after which we would exchange a letter or two a year, and Christmas cards. Even though I never got to meet Jerry pesonally, I considered him a good correspondent friend, and I fully realized his importance in comic book history.

Jerry Bails opened the door for all of the super-hero related amateur publications that would follow in the steps of Alter Ego. Even though Roy Thomas took over the reins of its publication shortly after it began, it was Bails who began it all. He indeed deserved his title of "The Father of Comics Fandom". Without Jerry's initial contribution there would probably not have been a Rocket's Blast & Comicollector (which opened the door to people actually being able to sell comic books), or, a Comics Buyer's Guide. If for no other reason, millions of comic book dealers throughout the world should be eternally grateful for that fact.

Without the efforts of Jerry Bails (and Roy Thomas), there would have been either delayed revivals of various Golden Age DC heroes, or none at all in the
1960's. Both of them flooded DC's editorial staff with such requests, sometimes going to the effort of using pseunonyms and even mailing them from other cities just so the DC editors would think they were other fans.

We may have not had revivials of such great GA characters as "Dr. Fate, Hourman, The Spectre" and the rest of the cast of "The Justice Society of America" in those early days. Memorable issues such as Showcase #'s 55, 56, 60, The Flash #'s 123 & 137, Green Lantern #40, and many others, may have never been published with the great stories that they ended up containing.

I heard that Jerry died of a heart attack while in his sleep, so I would like to think he felt no pain in his passing. With the loss of Dr. Bails, we have indeed lost one of the founding Fathers of all that would come afterwards for the comic book collector.

Oddly enough, Dave Cockrum, I hear, also died in his sleep. I didn't know Dave at all, save through the great amount of his work that I've seen and enjoyed over the years.

I first saw his artwork in fanzines in the late 1960's, then the next time I saw his name he was the artist on Superboy & The Legion of Super-Heroes, a title that I pretty much followed religiously back then ,being a big Legion fan. While working on the LOSHs he redesigned several costumes for the characters; outfits that would define these characters for a long time afterwards.

Then next he was over at Marvel Comics and drawing The New X-Men, and, except for I suppose "Cyclops" and some of the other original team members, or "Wolverine", he designed the costumes for all of the additional cast, such as "Storm", "Colossus", "Nightcrawler", "Thunderbird", and "Phoenix". In those pre-Byrne days on this title, it was Dave Cockrum's artwork that carried this title and gave us the images that even now with the X-Men movies they attempt so hard to recapture.

I also remember his work on The Futurians, and many other of his projects. His work will be greatly missed.


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