The Ominous Octopus

Monday, November 26, 2012


I've got this Captain America novel.

Ted White is a sort of a friend of mine and when I asked him about his book he directed me to something he'd already written about it.

--- In Timely-Atlas-Comics@yahoogroups.com, Ted White wrote:

"It's an oft-told story, but probably more appropriate to this list than

It starts with Otto Binder. Binder wanted to write for Marvel (in the
mid-'60s) and Stan refused to let him, feeling (rightfully) that Otto
did not "get" and could not write in the current Marvel style. So Otto
made an end-run, going over Stan's head to Martin Goodman and to Bantam
Books. He talked Bantam into doing Marvel-character novels (this was
when Batman was coming on TV and there was a big (but shallow) public
interest in comics.

At this same time I had wanted to do a Batman novel, and my agent had
talked Bantam into it -- until they discovered Signet Books had first
refusal on all books originating from DC Comics characters (Signet was
then distributed by IND). I'd primed the pump, but Otto brought them
Marvel, and contracted to write an Avengers book. (Goodman would not
license the biggest characters, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four.)

When Stan found out, he was infuriated. He knew Binder was wrong for
the project, and he told Bantam they should get me to do the second
book, on Captain America. I'd met Stan a year or two earlier, when we
were both guests on a late-night radio show, and we'd gotten along quite
well. He asked me to write for Marvel, but I had no confidence in
myself as a comics writer; I was a writer of prose fiction (and a jazz
critic and a journalist).

Stan knew I "got" Marvel, so when he recommended me to Bantam, and
Bantam already knew who I was (from the Batman proposal) all it took was
a half-hour conversation with the Bantam editor (mostly, as it turned
out, about Ross Macdonald, whom we both liked a lot and Bantam
published) and a handshake and I had the contract. My agent even
negotiated a clause giving me "royalties" if/when the book passed
certain sales milestones, even though I could not own the property; it
was essentially Work For Hire.

I originally wanted to redo the plot of my Batman book as the Captain
America book, but when I discussed it with Stan, he talked me out of
it. So I hatched a brand new plot, involving the robbery of the Federal
Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan, which at that time had more gold stocks
than Fort Knox.

My influences were Ian Flemming (James Bond) and Lester Dent (Doc
Savage) -- which is why I put Monk from Doc Savage in the opening
chapters of the book (and ended up offending some Doc Savage fans,
*sigh*). I felt it should be a fast-moving pulp-adventure story. I had
a lot of fun writing it. One Sunday I drove to lower Manhattan and
walked the area around the Federal Reserve Bank to get the feel of it.
When I got home I wrote the first two chapters immediately (finished
copy). I finished the book in less than two weeks, and it virtually
wrote itself. (I loved the unmasking scene; I'd wanted to see a scene
like that for years.)

I turned in copies of the manuscript to both Bantam and Stan. Stan
couldn't bring himself to read it and gave it to Roy Thomas to vet. (I
don't think Stan *ever* read it.) Roy was a friend of mine and he liked
it and even incorporated elements of it (the description of the Avengers
HQ) into that year's AVENGERS ANNUAL.

I wrote it in the fall of 1966 for publication in early 1967. January,
1967, Bantam brought out Binder's Avengers book. It was *awful*. It
opened with a chapter which described the Avengers' *costumes* in
tedious detail, without the glimmerings of a *story*. There was no
"hook" to pull the readers in. There was instead an opening guaranteed
to repel anyone who read it. The book stiffed, sales-wise.

So Bantam sat on my book for a year, publishing it in the late spring of
1968. By then the boomlet of interest in such books had peaked and
declined. It never sold more than its first printing (maybe 95,000
copies), although I think it did sell that printing out eventually. I
never received any additional royalties.

I think Marvel owns the book and it *could* be republished any time they
wished to. But I know that when all those Marvel novelizations were
coming out in the late '70s and early '80s, Marv Wolfman (who was in
charge of that project) refused to use it. People have told me that was
because my book was much better than those Wolfman produced, but I never
read them, so I can't say that. I can say that Marv butchered another
book of mine (DOC PHOENIX: THE OZ ENCOUNTER) and that my opinion of him
is not high.

Hope that answers your questions.

--Ted White"

THE GREAT GOLD STEAL was published by Bantam books. This was the same publisher that was putting out the Doc Savage books, it was similar to the Doc Savage books, and even featured Monk Mayfair as one of the charachters in the story. He got killed during the course
of the story, but I don't supposed that mattered very much as Monk continued to
appear in other adventures afterwords.

I think this is one of the better Captain America stories I have read, although it changed a few details, such as Captain America's having metal bones. The Red Skull is still a communist in this story, like in the 1950's comics, although later stories would have it that the Red Skull had never been a communist and that the 1950's version was an impostor. But I never paid much attention to that business anyway.

And here's the Captain America book that came out in the 1970's. I didn't think it was as good as the other book, myself.


At "Young Trek":

Sentinel Of Liberty ( Captain America Site ):
THE GREAT GOLD STEAL was a Captain America novel by Ted White that was published

Ted White At Wikipedia:

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