Tony Tallarico worked in the comic industry from the 1950s to the 1970s.
His work ended up in Seduction of the Innocent, he created the first
solo character book devoted to a black hero, and he's done a number of
what Scott Shaw! calls Oddball Comics. In this phone interview we go
through his comics career and what he's been doing since.
What was your first work?
Yeah, Of course (laughter). I did some things for Charlton when Al
Fago was the editor. They were for Hot Rod and Racing Cars. I did a
bunch of cartoon cars, very similar to the Disney movie Cars. Only they
were done a long time ago.
Before that I was an assistant to a cartoonist. His name was Frank
Carin who was an animator.
Did you do any animated movies at all?
No, and he wasn't doing any animation either. When I knew him he
was doing comic books. He was packaging these small sized comic books
for Acme Supermarkets. There were 4 titles, I remember them distinctly.
One was Doh-Doh the Clown. Another one was Captain Atom that Lou
Ravielli did. His brother was a famous sports illustrator. Dave Gantz
did and it was a teenage character. The 4th one was the first comic book
and the first work really that Jack Davis did was called Lucky Stars. He
had just come up from the south. I don't know how he met Frank Carin but
that was the very first comic book he did. Before he even worked for EC.
Oh wow, I didn't know that. You said Captain Atom. Was he like a
Any similar relationship to the Captain Atom from Charlton that
came later on?
No. This was way before. It was probably.. I'm going to take a
guess... I was still going to high school.. probably 1950.
You were working for Charlton. What was the company like then?
How did it operate?
Al Fago had an office on 42nd street and Broadway, right on Times
Square. The building was just torn down a couple of years ago. It was
very impersonal, you just go up, show him what you had. If he had a
script for you you'd take it back. Otherwise you'd play the game of
calling him up asking for work.
I know later on Charlton was known for paying very low page rates
and it was piecemeal. Was it like this?
No it was a little better at this time. I mean, they weren't
paying anything great, but I think they were paying about $25 dollars a
That was around 1950. Early 50s, 51 tops.
I'm curious, I know L. B. Cole worked on some of the covers of
the books that you did. Do you know him well?
Well, I knew him. I don't know if he's still around.
He was also the editor of Classic Comics for a while. He was also
the editor of Dell when Dell pulled away from Western Publishing to
start up their own comic book operation. He was the editor.
(sigh)... he treated me very nice.
He treated you very nice.
He always did. But a lot of people did not like him. And there was
always talk that he was on the take. I can only say that he was always
the one that took me to lunch. I never paid for a lunch. I never gave
him a nickel and I never even heard of it. Lately I have heard stories
like that. I can't believe it.
Moving up a little bit at Charlton you were working on Blue
Beetle. And I know some of your work ended up in that notorious book
Seduction of the Innocent.
Yes it did (laughter). I was working for a Sol Cohen. He was the
editor of Avon Comics. This must have been 1953-1954.
That would be about right.
At that point they were taking paperback covers that they had,
they had the separations all done and transporting them into comic book
covers. And the one that I worked on was... it was one of these whip and
black stocking covers that they had. I edited down, cut it down so there
was very little showing. But that's one of the ones that made it into
(laughter) The one you toned down is the one that made it in the
Right. Had I never toned it down it would have been on the cover!
They were notoriously cheap, Avon. And so was Sol Cohen. But they
paid well and they had good people working for them. Woody was working
for them at that time. Everett [Raymond] Kinstler was quite a number of
good guys doing work there. A. C. Hollingsworth worked. Oh I know, Rex
Maxon.. [also Wally Wood and Joe Orlando]. He did, I don't know if it
was his first comic strip but he did Daily Tarzan. He was really more
like a pulp illustrator. He had that rough.. it did not translate well
in comics. For some reason he was very friendly with Sol Cohen so he got
lots of work. He did Kit Carson, that was the book that he did.
I know you did a lot of work with Bill Fraccio? (wrong
Fraccio. (correct pronouncation)
I met him at Frank Carin's. Bill was doing some work for Frank. He
was doing a thing called Sunny Sunshine. It was a little girl character
for Sunshine Bakeries that they gave away every few months. Frank was
the packager of the book and Bill worked for him. That's how we met. We
did a lot of things together.
Yeah there is a lot of mix up if he was inking you or if he was
It's not a mix up because we were doing both. I would pencil some,
he would ink some, visa versa y'know one of those things. I was really
the guy that went out and got the work. Bill never liked to do that. It
would depend. If he was working on something else I would start a
project too and do pencils. It was a fun time.
You did The Great Society and then you did Bobman
That was the sequel to the Great Society.
I was wondering, how did those sell the newsstand?
They sold very well. I was on Walter Cronkite on the news. He did
an interview with me. I couldn't believe it (laughter) this is a comic
book we're talking about here. But like I said, we had no humor for like
two years and this broke a comic relief. In fact, about two years ago I
got a letter from the Johnston Library in Austin Texas. I don't know how
they tracked me down. They said they would like to have a copy of the
book and anything else I may have to put into their library to put into
their permanent collection. I looked around and I sent them a poster of
the book that we used and a copy of the book.
Shortly after that I got a letter from Lynda Bird Johnston asking "Do
you have an extra one for me?" (laughter) I said sure and I sent her
one, and she sent me an autographed picture of herself. Now this is
funny, I have it hanging up on my studio with a lot of other stuff.
About 6 months ago I discovered her signature faded. You can't read it
and it looks like an unsigned photo. In the throes of next week or so
I'm going to send it back to her and say "hey, did Tricky Dicky do this?
(laughter) and can ya re-sign it for me?"
I know those books, they had covers that were made with anti-tear
Yeah, it was really a very lightweight board. Instead of a varnish
on it, they had a varnish that looked like Kansas. It had a tooth to it.
It really bulked up the cover. Because a lot of these were sold in
bookstores, very few of them were sold on the newsstand.
Wow. Did you sell very much on newsstands or was it..?
No, no, it was like maybe the American News Company. The better
newsstands, the ones in airports.. not the mom and pop stores. But we
had very little returns and we sold a heck of a lot. We sold maybe
5-600,000 and this was a $1 comic book. This was an unheard of thing.
Quite a bit more than 12 cents.
Oh yeah, and it was not a kids book. It was an adult book.
Was wondering why you didn't continue doing more of them after
Bobman and Teddy?
Well because the fad ended. It was a quick fad. We were kind of
lucky because Batman and Robin were on TV as a put on and that helped
the sales of Bobman and Teddy. The Great Society sold 500,000 and Bobman
and Teddy sold 150,000. The writing was on the wall, you're not going to
do another one.
I know you went over to Warren and did a lot of work for them.
Oh yeah, in fact Bill and I worked together. We had... I can't
think of it... we made up a name...
Williamsune! Tony Williamsune.
I had heard Al Williamson he just left Warren at the time and he
didn't like the name because he thought people would confuse you with
him so you had to change the spelling of the name a little bit.
I know you drew one of the earliest Vampirella stories in the
That's right. In fact I worked on the character sketches. I think
they used some of them. But I definitely did stuff on the first issue of
Vampirella. I got a Christmas card from him, I get a Christmas card from
him every year.
What is he up to these days do you know?
Yeah he keeps saying he's going to come back, he's going to do
this and do that but I don't think he has the money to do it. At that
time he was really in with the distributor. Which most comic publishers
were. It's a big nut to finance. By the time you get paid it's 6-7
months. If you putting out a bi-monthly, you putting out a lot of money
for art, printing, distribution and so on. It's a big nut. I mean, a
major publisher like Dell could do it, no problem. Even Timely or Marvel
at that time they had their own distributor. Atlas was the name of the
distributor but which was the same company.
At Warren publishing, they everything in black and white just
about. Did you like working in black and white vs. color?
Yeah it was fun and it was different. With the exception of The
Great Society, Bobman and Teddy and a couple of things I did for Classic
Comics I never got the say on the color. It was given out to the
coloring studios and whatever color they put in that was it. This was an
opportunity to do black and white, just what you wanted that was it. So
it was good.
Did you do any work for Marvel or DC in your career?
No. It's funny because when I graduated from high school, I went
to a high school that specialized in art. It was called the School of
Industrial Arts. A lot of people in the business went there. Al Toth,
who just passed away, Joe Giella, anyway, when I graduated I won the
Superman-DC award which was a drawing table. And it's the one I'm still
using! That was my last touch with Superman. Our paths just never
crossed. I was always doing something else and I just never went there.
The same thing with Marvel. The closest connection to Marvel was... oh
Cracked? or Sick?
Yeah, one of those things.
Might have been Brand Ecch or something like that.
Yeah right. That was uh . . . [Paul] Laiken? He was the editor. I really got
out of the comic book area in the early 70s. Well the comic books left
me. In the 70s the whole business went kaput. Luckily I was able to
transfer over into doing children's books. I've been doing children's
books ever since. My wife went though a count several months ago. It was
over a thousand titles. That's a lot of children's books. One series
that I did for Kids Books has sold like 16-17 million copies world wide.
Yeah I heard about that one.
That's an enormous amount. And it's still selling, they just
dressed it up a little. Put on a new cover or whatever.
Was there a particular character or genre that you liked to work
in within the comic industry? Did you prefer cowboys or horror or was it
all just work?
It was a little of everything. I did whatever I could get a hold
of. Most people did. I don't know any artist that really specialized in
a particular thing. Can you think of one? Jack Davis was pinned into
doing westerns until he went to EC. Then he started doing everything.
The only think I don't think he did was a romance story.
I did a romance cover one time for Charlton. You have to remember
Charlton paid very low and because of that you had to do an awful amount
of work. I did a splash page where a couple in embracing and the girl
has 3 hands. I meant to whiten one of them out, but I never got to it
(laughter). And it went all the way through! (laughter) it was kind of
funny. The editor didn't think so, but hell, it was his fault too, he
looked at it.
Yeah, he didn't see it himself so...
Well lets go back a little bit and who were your inspirations for
drawing was it like Caniff or..
Oh sure. In my days it was Caniff, Raymond and Noel Sickles. Those
were the three. For illustrators, of course [Norman] Rockwell and Al
Parker and Austin Briggs those were it. Austin Briggs did comics, he did
Flash Gordon for a long time, Al Park was more of a designing illustrator.
Did you ever try to get into comic strips at all even as a ghost?
Oh yeah. I and my wife did a strip for 17 years. It was called
Trivia Treat. It was 3 panels on a page. One was an illustrated
question. The next two were written questions. And there was an answer
upside down. It was based on Trivia. It was based on whatever was
popular, Hopalong Cassidey, whatever. The thing lasted 17 years.
Do you know when it ended?
It ended in the mid 90s. By that time my wife had withdrawn from
it and my son was writing it. He also does a feature for Tribune
Syndicate. Tribune was the Syndicate for this, Trivia Treats. My son
does a thing called Word Salsa. It's a word search puzzle that is half
in Spanish and half in English. It's been running for about 3 years and
it's in about 75 papers.
I also did a thing called Zap the Video Chap. Which lasted a year, that
was for the McNaught Syndicate. And I ghosted some stuff. I did Nancy
for a while, Davey Jones which was an adventure strip. I can't think of
Did you do any cartoons or advertising?
Oh yeah sure. I had a studio in the city, or space in the city
with an ad agency. And I did lots of stuff. Ford, sing a song issue.
Pan-Am was a very heavy user of comic books. For the GIs to take a
Pan-Am flight back to the states when they got week or 10 day leave or
Did you do any other work for the army or was it just through Pan-Am?
No, it was strictly through Pan-Am.
Did you serve any time at all, in the army?
Managed to bypass all that eh?
It was just one of those things. I was too young, then I was too old.
I guess you're one of the lucky ones (laughter).
Yeah, right exactly. I didn't plan it that way.
I guess you'r parents did.
I doubt it. Speaking of my parents, when I was 12-13 I told them I
wanted to be an artist and they were really happy about it. As the word
got out through the family they said they were nuts and I was wasting my
time. Well, 50 some years later I don't think I wasted my time.
If you made a good living out of it then you definitely didn't.
Yeah and I enjoyed it, I still enjoy it and I'm still doing it.
So what are you doing now and days?
Kids Books are my primary account. I do just about everything that
they & I come up with. Just stepping back a bit, I also create my own
stuff, and sometimes my son writes it with me. Just about everything I
come up with, Kids Books sponsors and publishes. Right now I'm doing a
series of picture find books based on classic stories. The first one is
based on Tom Sawyer. I think we'll be doing about 10 or 12 and after
that it will be famous people. Muhammad Ali is in there, Rosa Parks.
It's their life stories, but with hidden pictures in it. So the kids
will be a part of the story.
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