Easson Find

It’s an understatement to point out that most average income collectors, like me, have been priced out of battling for WECA comics through online auctions now that the comic collecting community has more widely become aware of them: of their quality, their distinctiveness, and their importance to Canadian culture. BUT, and I put that word in capitals, I believe that there are still collections (big and small) on the ground waiting to be unearthed. What surprises me is that all this interest in Canadian golden age comics hasn’t led to more coming out of the woodwork as I would have expected. But, and this one needn’t be in capitals, maybe this is a good thing because it shows us how rare these books are and makes them more precious.

Early this past October, I received a small comment on a post about Manny Easson I made back in March of 2013 saying that a reader, Marilyn O’Neil, had some of the comics I was writing about. Any comic collector knows what sort of “zing” this sends down your spine and, in over fifty years of collecting  (both vinyl records and comics) there have been a number of these memorable moments—each as special and powerful as the other and you never tire of them.

A couple of weeks and a couple of email exchanges later, I was able to meet Marilyn and her husband Dale who, it turns out, was the brother of Manny Easson’s second wife, Phyllis.

Manny with Phyllis in the late sixties.
Manny with Phyllis in the late sixties.

Manny passed away in 1982 and his widow was Phyllis who had 13 copies of The Funny Comics featuring Dizzy Don that Manny himself had kept along with 3 original sketches by Manny from the seventies. They only knew Manny from the time he got married to Phyllis, which was in the late sixties but I was able to interview them about Manny and they were able to supply a good deal of interesting information. While talking with this nice couple for a good part of the afternoon, I learned that Marilyn actually grew up on the same street I had in the North End of Hamilton, just two blocks away.

I had never seen a picture of Manny Easson before and Dale and Marilyn had a number to show me. It seems that Manny cultivated the “Ernie Kovacs look” (for you youngsters, Kovacs was a pioneering and leading TV skit comedy comedian of the late fifties and very early sixties who died in an auto accident in January of 1962) and even had his own omnipresent cigar.  Dale and Marilyn also told me that Manny had the swagger and penchant for humour that Kovacs had as well.

Ernie Kovacs
Ernie Kovacs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manny/Ernie in top form.
Manny/Ernie in top form during the seventies.

Sadly Phyllis had to be placed in care this past summer and now Dale and Marilyn had these Manny Easson items and were willing to part with them. I explained my interest in the area and some of the work I have done. They had found my post by Googling “Manny Easson.” I must mention that the greatest direct benefit of doing these posts has been the contacts I have made through them that have led to interviews about the creators, occasional comic finds, and many new friends who share my interest and passion for these first Canadian comic books and the people behind them. Anyway, I made a fair offer for the books together with the sketches and left it with them for the weekend. On the Sunday of that weekend, I received a call from Dale saying that they wanted me to have the collection and that they would accept my offer. I met with Dale and Marilyn the next afternoon and was able to take the following picture.

Dale and Marilyn with the  collection of Manny's comics and three original sketches.
Dale and Marilyn with the collection of Manny’s comics and three original sketches.

These books were all in decent shape (5.0 or better and a few 7 and 8s) but more importantly, the collection had belonged to the creator, Manny Easson. There was one oddity. All the copies I have seen of The Funny Comics No. 7 have a yellow cover.

The common copy of The Funny Comics No. 7
The common copy of The Funny Comics No. 7

The one in this set looks like it never got to the yellow printing plate and is white where all the yellow should be. Maybe Manny pulled it of the printing line just before it got to the yellow treatment!?

The copy of The Funny Comics No. 7 in the collection
The copy of The Funny Comics No. 7 in the collection

If I get these books slabbed, this one variant, at least, should be known as “The Easson Copy.”

There’s the next question. Should I get these 13 books slabbed and will CGC accept provenance letter I got from Dale and Marilyn stating that these were Manny’s own copies in order to grant this baker’s dozen of books some sort of pedigree standing? Will they also make note of the variance in Manny’s Funny Comics No. 7 in the comments on the book? I don’t generally like getting my WECA books slabbed, but this may be the only way to establish and preserve the pedigree of this tight little collection.

Another thing I’d like to point out quickly is that I now have two copies of The Funny Comics No. 19 but they are different. The one in this Manny Easson collection has the normal cartoons printed on the inside covers, while my other copy has blank inside covers much like the 1945 15 cent compendiums (Nelvana, Speed Savage, Phantom Rider…) which coincidentally appear in an ad on the back cover of this number. Possibly, the blank inside covers version is a later printing, but I wonder how many other examples there are of this type of thing?

Inside front cover cartoon from one of the versions of The Funny Comics 19
Inside front cover cartoon from one of the versions of The Funny Comics 19

To close out this post which, in fact, my 97th in this series, I want to announce that I will be stopping my weekly entries after my one hundredth post. I hope I have accomplished what I intended to do by helping set this grand WECA wheel in motion and I want to use the time saved on my main project which will be an art book sized (think Fantagraphics and IDW examples) collection of original Bell Features art pages from the collection at the Library and Archives of Canada who have kindly given me license to reprint the 150 or so pages I’ve selected. Each artist’s selection of pages will have an accompanying bio and interview with the artists themselves where available or their descendants. I hope to have a finalized version ready by the end of the summer at the latest and dedicating myself to this means that I will be able to make my usual posts only occasionally as the news arises (perhaps monthly or so).  The denouement begins….

One of the original sketches in the collection
One of the original sketches in the collection
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Ivan Kocmarek
Grew up in Hamilton's North End. Comic collector for over 50 yrs. Recent interest in Canadian WECA era comics.
Articles: 169

19 Comments

  1. Hey Ivan
    These are lovely examples of WECA art and I beg you not to slab them and remove the possibility of anyone seeing the contents. I think your pictures and documentation are proof enough of what these are and why they are important. Slapping them in a plastic coffin will make them useless as cultural artifacts. Bob MacMillan recently had a problem getting information about some of Lipson’s holdings because they are slabbed. This eliminates any innate cultural value these books might have had. What good is the printed word if you can’t read it? The guy might as well collect posters! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: slabbing is not just a crime against researchers but a crime against humanity. Enough already!

  2. You make an excellent point, as always, Mel. I do know that the whole set exists at the Library and Archives in Ottawa and at the Ryerson University Archives, so these books are available to researchers and fans. Dizzy Don also merits a reprint of some sort in the near future to preserve Manny Easson’s story telling and illustration, so I’m still teetering on which way to go. I must tell you Mel, that Stephen Lipson is generally against slabbing books except for certain key issues in high grade, which many collectors do and which I have done. Stephen has always been very free in offering any information he has about these books and their contents. He has helped me with data and pictures for many of these posts. In the end, it’s always easy to get a screwdriver and pop the slab of any of our books if we want to. I’ll have to think about this whole thing a little longer.

  3. Good day Mel
    Oddly, I cannot recollect Bob MacMillan inquiring about my “slabbed” holdings. At this juncture, I would kindly ask you to refrain from conjecture. Moreover, I have a name. It is Stephen, not Lipson. Quite frankly I am at an impasse as to why you keep disparaging me. I would ask you moving forward to please refrain from your slanderous and malicious missives. I have done nothing to warrent your comments, and I will not have any more of it. I have refrained from responding to your frivolous allegations thus far, but you have gone too far this time. Again, I will ask you politely to refrain from making disparaging comments about me moving forward, as they are both unwarrented and unnecessary.I will thank you in advance for your co-operation in this matter. Be advised that I have a sterling reputation in this hobby and I have the support of many enlightened collectors and historians and have been more than willing to share my knowedge and collection with those who express interest. Kind Regards, Stephen Lipson

  4. Ivan. I want to congratulate you on your magnificent find. I am glad these treasures have found a good home with you, my esteemed colleague

  5. Hello Stephen
    Actually it was Ivan who told me Bob was interested in some of your books, but the ones he wanted to look into were slabbed. Also, I don’t think wishing that these books had never been slabbed could be construed as “disparaging.” Despairing, yes. Disparaging, no. And, yes, I know you have a first name, but I have a number of friends with the same name and none of them seem too upset when I differentiate by calling each one by his last name. Also, I don`t think my comments on the practice of encapsulation could be construed as slanderous, malicious or frivolous. I just don`t like it, and I believe in a free and open society I am entitled to my opinion. If I have somehow put your nose out of joint and you take personal exception to my opinions I do sincerely apologize.

  6. Stephen
    I should actually correct myself. I checked my records and it was Bob (indirectly through Ivan) who told me about not being able to get info from your collection. I quote: “I was researching ‘Pat the Air Cadet’ and ‘Martin Blake Animal King’ and supposing WECA would be able to fill in the information I couldn’t get from my collection, I contacted Ivan. He contacted Steve [LIpson] who had a Grand Slam 1 but could not get the information because Steve [Lipson] slabbed it.”

    Hardly what I would call “conjecture”, am I right?

    And, once again, if you took personal exception to my opinion I do sincerely apologize. I am still entitled to one though.

  7. Hi Mel
    My statement is not just about the “conjecture”. If you read my comment where I state verbatim: “I have refrained from responding to your frivolous allegations”, I am alluding to the ongoing salvo of SCATHING remarks you have made regarding my character in past Comic Book Daily Blogs. I quote you from the Feb 27, 2014 ComicLink Whites Auction Blog: “I would be very curious to know the circumstance under which Lipson managed to get a Nelvana and a Super Comics in exactly the same grade as the ones which just sold on ComicLink. I think the Lipsons of this world are the ones who will ensure that we are frozen out of that market once and for all. I jsut hope his books are slated for some museum or archives in the event of his demise!” Really Mel? Enough is enough. You should be ashamed of your lack of decorum. This conversation is indeed over as far as I am concerned.

  8. Dear Mr. Lipson
    Again, I apologize. You are right. I should not have used references like “the Lipsons of this world.” You’re a big player in this game, and your name comes to mind first and that is some kind of perhaps, in my case, offhanded tribute to your zealous collecting spirit. I hope more people get it, as you have. It had never occurred to me that I had made a habit of singling you out. At the time, I thought it was an odd coincidence and nothing more and I thought it was resolved. It’s too bad the conversation is over.
    All the best, Mel Taylor

  9. Stephen and Mel, I regret that this misunderstanding has blown up a bit in my column. You are both singular human beings whose friendship I value greatly and who have both significantly contributed to my understanding and appreciation of this strange passion of comic book collecting that we all share–that I, myself, have had for over fifty years. I don’t know if you’ve ever met each other but I’m sure that you would both get along with each other had you the chance to sit down and chat about this passion. Please, let’s close the door on this amicably and I genuinely look forward to you both continuing, with your informative and valuable comments on my posts and others whenever the occasion moves you. I, for one, would certainly look forward to them.

  10. Ivan and Mel.

    I think it would be in all of our best interests to work together as one cohesive unit, in order to preserve the record for posterity.

    I am more than willing to make amends with you Mel. Perhaps it would be a nice idea to meet you one day, and share our mutual passion for the Canadian Whites and Canadian pop culture in general.

    Thank you Mel for your last missive, as per above, and if I appeared a little harsh in my rebuke, I also apologize as well. Let’s move forward.

    Sincerely, Stephen

  11. It’s really nice to see a bit of information about Manny Easson, thanks for sharing this Ivan. I would still like to know more about the man and his career, for instance when and where his newspaper strip of Dizzy Don appeared, and how often he did make live appearances at theatres.

    His live act as an entertainer is one of the first things that comes to mind when hearing about variants of The Funny Comics/ Dizzy Don, such as you mention with issue #19. Could it be that a version of the comic book was just done for Manny to hand out at one of his performances, different than the newsstand version? Or it could just be a proof copy before the print run started. That’s all I got for assumptions.

  12. Ivan

    I’m going to miss reading your weekly column here.
    The amount of research material on Canadian Whites you have shared with us on the last 97 articles has been amazing.

    I look forward to seeing more in the future, even if it is less frequently.

  13. Thank you Stephen. As another great comics pioneer once said: ‘Nuff said. Now, let’s all move on…together.
    cheers, mel

  14. Sadly, Dale and Marion had nothing to contribute about Manny’s early career since they only came to know Manny after he married Phyllis in the sixties. I have heard talk of Dizzy Don appearing in newspaper form but have never found any evidence of it and I am beginning to think that this may have been some of Manny’s own hype.
    One of the three sketches that were included with the collection was a self portrait of Manny in front of a microphone like a stand-up comic. My own theory about the blank covers is that The Funny Comics No. 19 came out at the same time that the 1945 compendiums with the blank inside covers came out and that later printings of this issue were done in the same manner. It would be great if readers who had copies of The Funny Comics No. 19 could tell us if there copy is the blank inside covers version or not. It would be useful to know which is the more common copy and for that matter if there are any other WECA Bells with blank inside covers.

  15. Well, I’m certainly going to miss your weekly labor of love. I’ve learned a ton over the past 100. And it sounds like you’re just cutting back–perfectly understandable. I’ll look forward to the more occasional insights.

    Loved this last story…you so deserve to be the person to make contact with the family and to preserve their legacy. Slab them? I wouldn’t. I’d just print up a form, perhaps have them sign each one along with yourself, to provide provenance, and put one with each book or associated item. That’s what they do in the rare book business, since there is no such thing as slabbing. You don’t need to pay CGC to verify the pedigree that you know better than anyone else.

    The only reason I see to slab anything is the maximize your sale price WHEN you sell it. To me, the possible ego gratification of having a “high-grade” copy is more than offset by never being able to look inside the book, or show it to others. The only books I’ve ever slabbed are ones I sent to Heritage to auction off for me. I continue to break open any slabs I get, preserve the CGC information slip with the copy, and proceed to read and enjoy the entire comic. AT 62, I’m not ready to inconvenience myself, not to mention pay the slabbing cost, just to make the book more valuable years from now when I finally consider selling out.

    My friend Michelle Nolan (who won an Inkpot for her career of writing about comics at San Diego Comic-Con this year), is now a fan of your column. I knew she’d enjoy it–she is a sponge for comics history. She’s even working on her own WECA database, even though with her budget she’s entirely priced out of the current market.

    I’ll look eagerly forward to more from you: Your WECA book and perhaps a Kickstarter Freelance collection, both of which I would love to handle for you Best Wishes!

  16. Thanks so much for all your support and advice, Bud. It’s comments like yours that have kept me putting out these columns every week. Let’s see what the future holds.

  17. Hi Ivan, Manny was my grandfather and his son, my father would be happy to supply more information about the early days. If interested you can email me.
    By the way; great article and thanks for keeping my grandfather’s legacy going!

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