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CAPTAIN AMERICA IN DENVER

At the Denver Comic-Con last spring, I was established at a table in the usual habitat for cartoonists and artists. In recognition of the venue being near Colorado’s majestic mountains, Artists Alley here is called “Artists Valley” (probably because it's between peeks).

The table next to mine was Allen Bellman’s, and he and his wife Roz held forth like yoemen all day for three days (and he’s 89). Bellman is one of the nearly forgotten comic book artists of the Golden Age. He joined the Marvel (then Timely) bullpen in 1942 at the age of 18 and did some backgrounds in Syd Shores’ Captain America. He also worked on the Human Torch, the Patriot, the Destroyer, and the weirdly named World War II hero, Jap-buster Johnson,  among other characters and titles, and he wrote and drew a one-page feature, “Let’s Play Detective,” but it was his almost parenthetical contribution to Captain America that has underwritten his appearances at comic cons since about 2007.

After his stint at Marvel, he worked for Gleason comics in the early 1950s; then after a while, he was freelancing for Marvel. But he left comics in about 1952, and following a brief career in illustration, he went to Florida where he joined a Florida newspaper as a photographer. Then in 2007, a couple of funnybook fans found him and persuaded him to venture forth into the burgeoning business of being a Golden Age celebrity at comic cons, where he appears as a Captain America/Human Torch artist.

“This is what I live for now,” he told me, nodding at the milling throngs passing by his table. And it is a lively living: he signed autographs (often on cosplayers’ Captain America shields) and sold energetic sketches of Captain America and talked with whomever stopped to chat. I asked if I could photograph him with his cane, the grip of which, as you can see, is a Jaguar hood ornament. “Never could afford the car,” he quipped, “ — this is as close as I could get.”

He struck his comic con pose — fist defiantly, victoriously, thrust at the photographer. When little kids wanted to be photographed with him, he instructed them in how to do the fistic pose, and they did it together.

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For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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