Arf Lover Paul Bach kindly put me in touch with Golden Age Doll Man artist Fran Matera a while back. I’ve been saving this interview I did with him to celebrate our last days of Doll Man on the Arf Lovers blog. Fran Matera has worked during his career on The Hulk to Tarzan, Steve Roper to Dickie Dare but I wanted to ask Matera most about his days on Doll Man and at Quality Comics, Doll Man’s publisher. Mr. Matera graciously answered my questions. and I’ve peppered them with some of his Doll Man sketches.
1. What was your early experience with comics?
The best part of my grammar and high school years was swapping comic books! I discovered newspapers from many parts of the country containing double page comic sections were available in the public library reading room, a daily stop-over before heading for home while in my senior year.
2. How did you get professionally involved in the field?
FDR’s “greetings” draft notices were sent to all available men (including draft-age cartoonists at Quality Comics). Al Andriola, viewing my work, encouraged me to carry some pieces to the editors at Quality Comics. The conditions of the bullpens was obviously thinning out.I was hired that day. Editor Busy Arnold assiged me an empty board, Gill Fox handed me sample proof pages of his “Poison Ivy” with a script. In those few weeks, Geo. Brennan assigned me to pencil and ink “The Clock”, followed by penciling and inking Will Eisner’s Doll Man.
3. What particular approach was taken to illustrate the Doll Man scripts?
There didn’t seem to be any particular challenges except the ever awareness of keeping surrouding objects such as phones, pencils, door knobs,tables, lamps etc in proper adjustments to the eight -inch hero. Playing up the uniqueness of Doll Man’s size offered the artist quaranteed “special affects” with Doll Man staged in an appropriate viewpoint whether in closup or background.
4. Any other remembrances of the those times?
Commuting to the Quality offices at Lexington Ave in NYC I recall Al Stahl, Harry Chessler, Gustafson, John Belfi (doing backgrounds on the delivered Reed Crandall and Jack Cole pages). There was a lettering person, whose name I can’t remember, I watched him letter page after page in quick fashion without guide lines to accumulate enough pages, 25 plus at one- buck per page.
5. Any more thoughts?The highlight of my short term spent there before moving to the Stamford Connecticut studio at Busy Arnold’s suggestion was the experience of meeting Jack Kirby and Simon in their studio a few blocks south in Tudor City to assist completion of a late six page pencil-and ink layout of “Boy Commandos”!
Now here’s the best part! I asked Fran Matera if he would provide us with a photo of himself and maybe a drawing of Doll Man and look at this beauty he created of contemporary Fran Matera and Doll Man looking on a 1940s Fran Matera slaving away at the drawing board creating Doll Man’s adventures!
Fran Matera has a terrific website and accepts commissions here.
Next week, to conclude our long and fun run of our little hero Doll Man I am going to present “The Top Ten Wonkiest Doll Man Covers”. #1 will be one I’ve not yet shown you and is the craziest, kookiest, weirdest, silliest, sexiest Doll Man cover of all. Don’t miss the exciting Doll Man conclusion!
— C. Yoe (in the funny papers)