An Interview With Martin Filchock, Pioneer Comic Book Artist
Interviewed by Mark Heike for Golden-Age Men of Mystery No. 23 (published by AC Comics) Mark asked about Marty’s life as a cartoonist. Marty told Mark how, at around 17, he sent in a comic strip to Bill Cooke (of “Funny Pages”) about “how I hoboed my way from Pittsburgh to California.” He called it “Obo Ossie”. To his surprise, Mr Cooke responded with a few pointers. Marty had a sister that lived in New York, so he moved there, went to see Bill Cooke, got more pointers and finally began doing strips for him…. his very first work as a professional cartoonist.
“I did one called “The C.C. Kid” (“the C.C. stood for “civilian conservation”) and another called “Windy”. I called it “Windy” because it was all pantomimed. From there I started drawing covers and features. I made my first big sales to Bill Cooke.”
When Cooke sold out to Centaur (Joe Hardy and Fred Gardner) he started working for them. He was paid big bucks for those days, the depression, you know. “I made $5.00 per page (writing, penciling, inking and lettering)”.
For Centaur he did such superhero strips as “Mighty Man”, “Fire-Man”, “The Owl” and “Electro Bolt”.
Mark asked Marty if he was given ideas for strips by the editors. He replied that he did everything himself. It was great to work for Hardy at Centaur… he accepted practically everything Filchock presented to him. He did his work only on subjects he knew. “My experiences working on the railroad, bumming around, the C.C. camp and so forth. I was raised in the country so I did a lot of hunting and trapping.”
After the war Joe Hardy dropped comics at Centaur and began publishing crossword puzzles. Marty drew over a hundred covers for his crossword magazines. And while in the Army, he was drawing gag cartoons for Army cartoon magazines. He got paid $5.00 a gag and that sure beat $5.00 per page for comic book art.
“I did one about the mess officers who served us hot tea every afternoon while we were sailing near the Equator! It showing us drinking hot tea and dreaming of something cold to drink. After that we were never served anything hot again!”
When Mark Heike asked Marty if he ever regretted choosing cartooning as his life’s work, he replied “NO….. I always get into funny situations which I can turn into a gag cartoon. I’d rather put hours and hours into this because I enjoy it. It keeps me sharp.”
Mark asked him if at any point he missed working on comic books. He responded that he did admire some of the artists drawing superheroes nowadays. He replied he would not have enjoyed all the work, but he would enjoy being able to draw like that. But, all and all, he’s been very happy with his life and career of cartooning.
See more of Martin Filchock’s work in Men of Mystery 23.