Saturday, March 03, 2007

Al Feldstein

Well, I met Al Feldstein for the first time ever at Wondercon on Saturday, March 3, 2006. I was telling my non-comic book friends this for weeks and they all said, "Who?" Then I mentioned that he wrote all of the "Tales From the Crypt" stories and edited "Mad" for 30 years, then they respected him. It's too bad that Al doesn't get the recognition that Stan Lee or Walt Disney has, because he did more!

I had Al sign my "Tales of Terror/EC Companion" book, for which Al did a new front cover. Al also signed a print that he was offering for sale. One of the prints was similar to the cover of "Tales of Terror" but featured William M. Gaines in the central position. Al revealed that this painting was done in response to the "Tales of Terror" cover painting.

Recently, my dad has been downloading old children's records and two of them "Rumplestilskin" and "Tom Thumb" feature early Al Feldstein artwork on the sleeve. I asked Al about these and he remembered them well. They were done in 1945, long before he worked for EC and were done as a favor to a relative of his. There was supposed to be a third one, but as Al was not getting paid to do these, he rejected the third one and it was never done. I asked about the original paintings and he said that they were probably stored up in his attic and when he divorced his wife, he believes that she got it and probably tossed them out.

I also mentioned that the first time I had seen Al was on "The Mike Douglas Show" in 1977. Al revealed that he rode in a limo clear from New York City to Philadelphia to make his appearance. My recollections of the interview was that he was discussing the recent "Rocky" movie parody and he discussed the history of "Mad" for "Mad's" 25th Anniversary.

Al also confirmed why he left "Mad" which was because he felt that the publication was getting a bit stale and would do better with color and advertising. Ironically, "Mad" is now in color and has advertising, but the way he said he would do it is to have advertisers that were suited for "Mad" instead of just random advertising like "Mad" does now. I asked Al what he thought of the current "Mad" and he politely said that he thought John Ficarra was a good editor, but the magazine is basically not as good as it used to be.

Also, Al and William M. Gaines were at odds from 1985 (when Al left) to 1992 (Gaines' death), but they still communicated. He left "Mad" while pulling down a huge salary. Apparently, he was one of the highest paid editors in the country at the time of his retirement.

I asked him about the Amicus "Tales From the Crypt" and "Vault of Horror" films. He said that there is nothing that he knows about that would keep them from releasing them to DVD. They just haven't. In regards to the "Tales From the Crypt" TV show, he didn't receive credit for writing the material, because apparently the TV show producers wanted Al to sign a release absolving them from all blame should they find that any of the stories used were not original and that Al would have to take the blame and any financial responsibility should anyone take them to court.

Al didn't want to sign this agreement and called Gaines about it. Gaines said to cross out the part he didn't like and sign anyway. Al did just that and never received any on screen credit for his contributions. Pity.

Anyway, he was a very nice man and I'm glad I met him.

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