Sunday, September 27, 2020

Otto Binder (author)

Otto Binder

Wikipedia Entry

Many of the great comic book creators of the 40s were anonymous. Companies didn’t list the writers like they may have the artists, so people like Bill Finger and Gardner Fox were not given the proper credit.*  One of the biggest and most successful at the time was Otto Binder.

Binder first started out as a science fiction writer, co-authoring stories with his brother Earl using the pen name “Eando Binder”,** starting with “The First Martian” in Amazing Stories in 1932. The collaboration produced a bunch of pulp novels and stories, and one that made a big splash:  “I, Robot.”*** It was one of the first SF stories to portray a robot as something other than a monster.**** As such, it was adapted to comics in 1955 and again in 1965. It was also the basis for an episode of the original Outer Limits with Leonard Nimoy, who also appeared the 1990s version of the show when they did the story again. It led to a series of stories about the robot, Adam Link.

By 1940, Earl stopped writing, becoming Otto’s agent and Otto started writing comics for Harry “A” Chesler’s comic book shop.  He was hired away by Fawcett  assigned to Fawcett’s major title, Captain Marvel. Binder wrote well over half of the Big Red Cheese’s adventures and created most of the characters that made it successful. Binder also worked for other companies, moving to DC when Fawcett stopped publishing comics. He introduced such mainstays as the Legion of Superheroes, Brainiac, Kandor, Supergirl, the Phantom Zone, Lucy Lane, Titano the Super Ape, Bizarro. and Jimmy Olsen’s signal watch. He continued to write Superman stories until 1969. He continued to write science fiction in his spare time, and returned to it after leaving comics.

Binder had a way of understanding the underlying silliness of comics and created character that where both whimsical and serious, often at the same time. His Mr. Mind – a superintelligent worm -- was one of Captain Marvel’s major foes and he managed to make Mr.Tawky Tawney – a tiger with the bearing of a man – into a charming sidekick.

Alas, in 1967, tragedy struck. Binder’s daughter died and it seemed to affect him. His stories became more pedestrian and he became interested in UFOlogy, writing many articles on the subject.

Binder died in 1974, but the characters he created are still  remembered well today.

*Of course, this was often a deliberate decision on the part of the artist (like Bob Kane), but also, while fans might recognize an artist’s style, the writing was not easy to pick out.

**Eando Binder: E–and-O Binder

****Not to be confused with the Isaac Asimov collection of the same name. Asimov has said that he read it and it influenced him to start writing robot stories.  The publisher of his first collection of robot stories used the title, despite Asimov’s objections.

****Lester del Rey’s “Helen O’Loy” beat it to publication by a month (by cover date).