Sheldon Mayer: Prisoner of DC
by Jeet Heer
Friday, July 9, 2010
Back in the Comics Journal #126 (January 1989), R. Fiore wrote about a Plastic Man comic that made a nodding reference to Jack Cole. “It’s especially galling when Jack Cole is one of what I think of as the Prisoners of DC,” Fiore observed. “DC doesn’t think reprinting Cole’s Plastic Man, or Beck and Binder’s Captain Marvel or Sheldon Mayer’s Scribbly would be profitable enough for them, but they’re unwilling to license them to other publishers for fear of hurting sales of cold crap like this.”
That was 21 years ago. The situation has since improved slightly, but not enough. DC has given us eight volumes of Plastic Man (alas in their hideous Archives format) and allowed Art Spiegelman and Chip Kidd to do their Jack Cole book. There have also been books reprinting Captain Marvel (and I’m eagerly anticipating a Captain Marvel volume from Abrams that Chip Kidd is working on). And there were a few Mayer stories in the Spiegelman/Mouly Toon Treasury.
Of the three artists named by Fiore, Mayer has been the worst served by DC. He did thousands of pages of very entertaining kids comics, most notably Scribbly as well as Sugar and Spike. In an ideal world, the best of these comics would be reprinted in a format similar to the John Stanley Library D&Q put out. At the very least there should be a thick, 300-page Best of Sheldon Mayer, as rigorously edited as the Toon Treasury or Art In Time. If DC doesn’t want to do such a book, there are other publishers who would be happy to take up the task. Sheldon Mayer spent the vast majority of his life working for DC as a writer, artist and editor (he was actually at the company before Superman was first published). If the people at DC had any sense of obligation to the artists who created their company, they would give Mayer a “best of” volume. But as things stand, Mayer remains in death the most luckless of the “Prisoners of DC”: still trapped in a copyright prison with only the occasional, very brief release into the freedom of republication.
Labels: Sheldon Mayer