The Astonishing Jack Oleck

Jack Oleck
Jack Oleck

From “The Comic Book Makers” by Joe Simon and Jim Simon we learn some information on Jack Oleck. We find that Jack was a writer frequently used by the Simon and Kirby studio. Also that he was Joe Simon’s brother-in-law. From Foxhole we also learn that Jack had been a Sergeant in the Army.

Recently I have posted about two stories from Foxhole that were scripted by Jack Oleck (“Office Upstairs” in #3 and “Thirty Year Man” in #4). In terms of getting an idea of Oleck’s writings at that time this is not a lot to go. This would be all that we would have if it were not for copy of part of a script that Joe Simon has in his collection. The page has Jack’s address and the comic for which it was written. The story was “His Brother’s Keeper” and was published in Astonishing #55 (November 1956) by Atlas.

Astonishing #55
Astonishing #55 (November 1956) “His Brother’s Keeper”, script by Jack Oleck, art by John Forte

We find Larry Collins on Mars as he resists returning to his spaceship for the return trip to Earth. This was his first space voyage and he has developed a fear of returning to space. He does not care that if he does not overcome his fear he will never return home. Larry runs away so the Captain enlists the help of Larry’s older brother who also happens to be on Mars. It is a fun four page story but despite the blurb on the splash page it is not one of the most astonishing story you will have ever read.

The copy of the script only covers the first page and the very start of the second. The published version closely follows the original script. The only change is one small portions in the first panel which I have struck out. Actually I feel it was a good choice of editing since the excised portions was not really necessary. I have copied the original script below.

Legend:
Larry Collins had lost his nerve somewhere in the void between earth and Mars, and there was just one man who might help him to find it again…

Splash:
A rocket port on Mars. Not necessary to show any rockets. A group of uniformed spacemen is dragging Larry Collins toward a gate leading onto field. Larry is also a spaceman in uniform, very young. Over gate is sign: MARS ROCKET PORT. This entrance for ship’s crew only. Looking on is a ship’s captain.

Captain:
I don’t care! I’d rather stay on Mars forever than go back in space! I’m afraid! You can’t force me to go!

1

Art:
Men have dragged Larry through gate. Here a mechanic who is working on a rocket motor which has been set up on a stand turn.

Captain:
I can try! Lots of men lose their nerve on their first trip in space. They stay wherever their ship sets down. Forever! They haven’t the courage to made the return trip.

2

Art:
Larry still struggles. Mechanic has stopped working, watches.

Captain:
But you’re one of my crew. You’re my responsibility. I can’t let you exile yourself. Think of your family, your brother…

Larry:
My brother isn’t a coward! But I am! I can’t help it.

Page 2

1

Art:
Larry has started to fight even harder.

Captain:
You must! Think of him. You told me that that’s why you became

As far I know, Jack Oleck’s work for Atlas Comics had not been noted by any comic book historian. He is not listed in the database at Atlas Tales which has a wealth of information. Of course it is difficult to know who the writers were during this period because credits were not normally provided. Oleck did this script after the break up of the Simon and Kirby studio and before the Atlas Implosion. Before the Implosion Atlas published about 85 titles (from Tom Lammers “Tales of the Implosion”). So it is not surprising that they employed some writers, probably on a freelance basis. After the Implosion Atlas could only 16 bimonthly comic book. Under those circumstances most, or perhaps all, of the writing could be handled by Stan Lee and his brother Larry Lieber alone. The services of many freelance scripters such as Jack Oleck was no longer needed.

Jack Oleck also did writing for DC comics. When he started is not at all clear. A search of the Internet indicates that he was scripting for DC in the 70′s. It is likely he also wrote for them before that but since the comics did not provide credits during that period we cannot be sure.

3 thoughts on “The Astonishing Jack Oleck

  1. Stan Taylor

    Hi Harry,

    Thanks for the script/finished art comparison. I love comparing the writers’ vision to the artist’ interpretation. I have a copy of a Jack Oleck script meant for Joe Simon’s Silver Spider. (thanks to Greg T.) It’s amazing the detail that Oleck provides for the artists to follow. Not just the main characters, but also the background characters, the grid layout, the angles, and what I would think of as non-essential details.

    If this level of detail and storytelling elements was what was expected of a comic writer, than this really speaks volumes as to Kirby’s claims that considered himself the writer of those Marvel stories done by the “Marvel Method”
    Not to bring a constant debate from the kirby-l to your website, but the details that Jack Oleck provided his artist, was all supplied by the Marvel artists.

    I would love to see a few “complete scripts” by Larry Lieber for those Atlas monster tales he wrote for Kirby, Heck, and others. I have always wondered why none survived.

    It would be fun to see a script before Simon and Kirby sliced and diced it to fit their style.

    Thanks
    Stan

  2. Harry Post author

    Stan,

    Unfortunately I have not seen any S&K scripts. With all the stuff Joe Simon has this is a little surprising. Comics were considered disposable and scripts therefore were disposables on top of disposables. This may have something to do why so little has survived.

    As for the Marvel method. Well comic writing was one part plot, plus one part art description and one part the writing of the actual words. I quess each can make up their own minds about how Lee and Kirby shared this work and decide for themselves what the appropriate credits should be.

    Harry

  3. Andy B.

    Hi,

    There are at least two cases of Jack Oleck plagiarizing Richard Matheson’s work.

    -Jack Oleck’s, “This Will Kill You” = Richard Matheson’s, “No Such Thing as A Vampire”

    -Jack Oleck’s, “Portrait of Terror” = Richard Matheson’s, “A World of His Own”

    Andy B.

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