Monday, May 17, 2021

Comics: Searching for Tarpé Mills and Discovering Her “Secret Identity”

A biography of June Tarpé Mills said she was born on February 25, 1918, in Brooklyn, New York. However, the New York, New York Birth Index, at Ancestry.com, does not have anyone named June Mills or with the Mills surname who was born on that date. The biography mentioned her mother’s name, Margaret, but not the father’s name. Also mentioned were Margaret’s sister, Elizabeth, and niece, Helen. With information from public family trees at Ancestry.com, the story of June Tarpé Mills can be told in more detail.

Mills’ mother was Margaret Agnes Dunn (her middle name was on her son’s World War II draft card). Margaret was born on July 29, 1891 in Brooklyn, New York. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Margaret was the youngest of four children born to Thomas Dunn and Mary Kennedy, both Irish emigrants. The family lived in the Bronx.

Around 1906 Margaret married John Tarpey. Their first child was Thomas Edward Tarpey who was born on September 18, 1907 in the Bronx. According to the 1910 census, Margaret and Thomas were living with her parents in the Bronx at 395 East 151st Street. Margaret was a widow. It’s not clear what happened to her husband. The census was enumerated in April. On October 27, 1910, Margaret’s second child, Margaret, was born. 


At Ancestry.com the New York, New York, Index to Marriage Licenses said Margaret’s second marriage was to Charles E. Mills in Manhattan on July 30, 1910.


According to the New York, New York Birth Index, Genevieve Mills was born on June 13, 1915, in the Bronx. In 1915 the child, Margaret Tarpey, was placed in an orphanage, the New York Foundling Hospital. 


On June 5, 1917, Charles Edward Mills signed his World War I draft card. His Bronx address was 1961 Washington Avenue. He worked at the Charles Williams store in Brooklyn. The draft card said he had a wife and child as dependents. 


The 1920 census recorded Genevieve Mills, her mother and half-brother, Thomas, in Manhattan at 15 East 126th Street. Margaret Tarpey was at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin in Staten Island. 


At some point the Mills family moved to Brooklyn. Genevieve participated in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s children’s activity page. Her name appeared in the paper on January 10, 1923 and July 18, 1923

In the 1925 New York state census, Margaret Mills was head of the household which included her son, Thomas, daughter, Genevieve, niece, Helen Barry, and nephew, Frances Barry. Their Brooklyn address was 1047 Bergen Street. Helen and Frances were the children of Elizabeth, who was Margaret’s older sister. Elizabeth was born in 1882 and passed away in 1922. The whereabouts of Margaret’s husband, Charles, is not known. 


The 1930 census said Margaret Mills, a widow, was head of the household which included her three children: Thomas Tarpey, Margaret Tarpey and June T. Mills, previously known as Genevieve, who was an artist model. Also in the household were nephew, Frank Barry, and niece, Marie Barry. They resided in Brooklyn at 970 St. Marks Avenue. 


The census said June Mills was 18 years old which made her birth year around 1912. Her biography said she was born in 1918, making her age 12. Another birth year, mentioned earlier, was 1915. That year was also in World War II and the Postwar Years in America: A Historical and Cultural Encyclopedia (2010) and Comics Through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas (2014).

There was a June Mills in the Erasmus Hall High School class of 1930. However her name did not appear in the graduating classes of January 1930 or June 1930. Apparently she dropped out of school. 

At some point June fashioned another first name, Tarpé, out of her step-father’s surname, Tarpey.

Tarpé Mills’ earliest comic art appeared in Centaur Publications dated 1939. The story of the Centaur comics character, Daredevil Barry Finn, is here. Her comic book credits are at the Grand Comics Database. Additional information is at Who's Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999. Some of the comics can be viewed at the Digital Comic Museum

According to the 1940 census, June Mills was married (a possible entry error) and a self-employed artist working for magazines and newspapers. At the time she was living alone in Manhattan at 37 West 46th Street. Her highest level of education was three years of high school.


Tarpé Mills created the comic strip, “Black Fury”, which was distributed by the Bell Syndicate. The strip was listed in the September 14, 1940 issue of Editor & Publisher in it’s Seventeenth Annual Directory of Newspaper Features. “Black Fury”, debuted in the Evening Star (Washington, DC) on March 31, 1941. Many months later the strip was retitled “Miss Fury”. (Coincidentally, Black Fury was the name of a 1941 comic book superhero in Fantastic Comics.) In American Newspaper Comics (2012) Alberto Becattini claimed George Mandel ghost pencilled some of the strips around 1941. The same attribution is at Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999. Early in their careers Tarpé Mills and George Mandel worked for Funnies Inc. She was not mentioned in his interview with Jim Amash in Alter Ego #103. 



The New York Post, April 6, 1942, profiled Tarpé Mills.
Girls, you'll have to get in line. Tarpe Mills, creator of “Miss Fury,” is one of you, and she said today she isn’t letting go of Dan Carey just like that. Recently she wrote one of Dan’s more burning admirers:

“Listen, sister, put your name on the waiting list. I got here first!”

This fair warning is given because last month The New York Post received 533 letters from enthusiastic followers of “Miss Fury,” the colored comic page that appears in the Week-End Edition. A lot of the letters were from girls who thought Dan Carey, one of the heroes of the strip, was mighty brave and handsome, and if they ever met up with a type like him, well, their hearts would be faint and fluttery.

Tarpe Mills, Erasmus Hall High graduate, said that she literally stumbled into cartooning. She posed for portrait painters, photographers and sculptors to pay her way through Pratt Institute. She studied sculpture and was told that she showed promise; but the market for birdbaths was pretty dry, so she went into animated cartooning.

Among other things she created a few cat characters which were used in a series of pictures, and finally, she said, “I was carried out of the joint with a nervous breakdown.” It was back to posing and free-lance drawing.

“Then,” she said, “a foot injury kept me out of circulation and I started a serial called “Daredevil Barry Finn” for one of the children's comic books. I hated to drop Barry, so I went into the business whole hog and turned out such hair-raising thrillers as “The Purple Zombie,” “Devil’s Dust” and “The Cat Man.”

Miss Mills dropped her first name (she won't say what it was) because it was too feminine.

“It would have been a major let-down to the kids if they found out that the author of such virile and awesome characters was a gal,” she said.

Miss Mills said she writes “Miss Fury” to provide amusement for kids and grownups alike. “Fashions, a hint of romance and human interest for the adults. Fantasy and action for the youngsters.”

She admitted she doesn’t know where she got her inspiration except that she was one of the imaginative kids “who hang around the house reading books instead of running around outside playing hop-scotch.”

Who poses for the girl characters in “Miss Fury,” she was asked.

“It’s all done with mirrors,” she said. “I find it simpler to sketch from a mirror than to have a model and explain just what the character should be doing.”

“Miss Fury” was reprinted in comic books by Timely Comics and copyrighted by Tarpé Mills here, here, here and here. She filed for a Miss Fury trademark in 1942. 


Editor & Publisher, July 14, 1945, reported the upcoming change of syndicates. 
Tarpe Mills’ Sunday adventure page, “Miss Fury,” moves from Bell Syndicate to the Chicago Sun Syndicate after July 29, Harry Baker, Sun syndicate manager, has announced. One of the few comics drawn by a woman, “Miss Fury” started in 1941 when a broken foot interrupted Miss Mills’ career as a fashion artist. Early in September she is starting a new episode about a gang of international thieves handling European plunder. The feature appears in about 90 newspapers.

Cartoonists Odin Burvik, Tarpé Mills, Dale Messick, Hilda Terry, Virginia Clark, and Edwina Dumm attended a party hosted by Editor & Publisher. A full-page of photographs appeared in the November 10, 1945 issue. (A better image of that page was published in Trina Robbins’ Pretty in Ink (2013).) The party was covered here

The “Miss Fury” comic strip ended in the 1950s.

A passenger list at Ancestry.com recorded Tarpé Mills on a Pan American Airways flight that departed Bermuda on December 2, 1947. Her address was 914 New York Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. The same address was on Thomas Tarpey’s World War II draft card that he signed on October 16, 1940.


The Brooklyn Eagle, June 3, 1951, published a death notice on Margaret Mills
Mills—On June 2, 1951, Margaret A., devoted mother of Thomas E. Tarpey, Mrs. Margaret Postel and Genevieve Mills. Funeral from William Dunigan & Son Chapel, Rogers Avenue and Montgomery Street, Tuesday, 9 a.m. Requiem Mass Holy Cross R C. Church, 9:30 a.m.
The Social Security Death Index said Charles Mills passed away in September 1977 and his last residence was in the Bronx. The Department of Veterans Affairs file said he served in the Navy from May 25, 1918 to January 31, 1919, and died on September 25, 1977. 

Tarpé Mills passed away on December 12, 1988. She was laid to rest in Forest Green Park Cemetery. The grave marker has the birth date February 25, 1918. She is not listed in the Social Security Death Index. 


Further Reading and Viewing
Giving Thanks: June Tarpé Mills Collection

Hidden women of history: Tarpe Mills, 1940s comic writer, and her feisty superhero Miss Fury 

Women’s History Month: Tarpé Mills 

Miss Fury! 

Comic Book Artist #10, October 2000
“Tarpe Mills, Miss Fury and Albino Jo” By Trina Robbins 

Heritage Auctions


(Next post on Monday: Technology Magazine)

Monday, May 3, 2021

Comics: Milton Cohen, Artist and Letterer

Milton Cohen was born on May 3, 1920, in Brooklyn, New York, according to his World War II draft card. His parents were Samuel Cohen and Jennie Heid who married in 1919.

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Cohen’s parents were living in the household of his maternal grandfather, Israel Heid. Cohen’s father was a shoe salesman. They all lived in Brooklyn at 1846 Pitkin Avenue.

Cohen’s father became a naturalized citizen on November 20, 1925. He was born on July 10, 1898 in Grodna, Russia. On February 12, 1914 he arrived in New York City. His address was 1498 Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn.

The 1930 census recorded Cohen, his parents and younger brother, Irving, in Brooklyn at 202 East 91 Street. Cohen’s father was a merchant.

According to the 1940 census, Cohen was an illustrator who earned two-hundred dollars working 26 weeks on a religious project for the National Youth Administration. He had completed one year of college. Cohen lived with his parents in Brooklyn at 324 Howard Avenue. That address was not far from Thomas Jefferson High School which Cohen may have attended.

On July 1, 1941 Cohen signed his World War II draft card. His address was unchanged. Cohen’s description was five feet eight inches, 165 pounds, with brown hair and eyes. His employer was Alfred Harvey, who was publishing comic books produced at 67 West 44th Street. Cohen’s artwork may have appeared in Champ Comics, Pocket Comics, and Speed Comics.


Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Cohen was an artist and letterer at the Iger Studio in the early 1940s. In Alter Ego #34, March 2004, Jim Amash interviewed Al Grenet who remembered Cohen as a letterer the Iger Studio.
 
The Comics Journal #191, November 1996, published an interview with Carmine Infantino who talked about working at Holyoke Publishing.
… We did just a few books. It was myself and a couple of other people — there was a letterer there named Milton Cohen. This fellow Cohen had somehow gotten friendly with Lou Fine and he did a strip called The Cisco Kid for Lou. He tried, but he could never sell it. I don’t know why, it was a beautiful strip.
The Grand Comics Database (GCD) has a note about Cisco Kid Comics #1, Winter 1944.
This story (c) M.C, which is said to stand for Milton Cohen. Cohen was a letterer, inker and occasional penciler, who was also known to be an artist’s agent. It is not known what role Cohen played for this story, writer, agent, etc.
The GCD lists a few of Cohen’s comics credits here. In Air Fighters Comics #10, July 1943, Cohen inked the Sky Wolf story which was drawn by Dan Barry. Their names are on the left side near the bottom. 

 
Cohen was mentioned as a freelancer in Black Light: The World of L.B. Cole (2015).
 … Freelancers were plentiful. All he had to do was call up some former co-workers, and the word would spread. If he needed more, he would take out an ad in the New York City newspapers, and he would have his pick from a large group of respondents. Some of the artists who worked in the L.B. Cole Studio were Nina Albright, Jack Alderman, Gerald Altman, George Appel, Marc Borgatta, Milton Cohen, Maurice Del Bourgo, Tony Di Preta, Bob Fujitani, John Giunta, Carmine Infantino, and Gil Kane. Most of them had worked for other shops: the Iger Studio, Funnies, Inc. (Lloyd Jacquet), Bernard Baily, the Binder Studio, et al., through the 1940s …
What became of Cohen is a mystery. Today is his 101st birthday.
 
 
(Next post on Monday: The 1928 Gopher Yearbook)

Monday, April 19, 2021

Anatomy of a Logo: Wolfpack


The Wolfpack logo was created for Marvel Comics. An entry in my 1987 appointment book said I spoke to Ann Nocenti on Thursday, June 18, to meet the following day about two logos.

At 11 am, Friday, June 19, Ann showed me the in-house designs for The Fall of the Mutants cross-over series. She asked me to come up with some designs. Then she talked about the Wolfpack graphic novel by Larry Hama and Ron Wilson. Ann wanted a graffiti style logo but did not provide any visual reference material. She left the design up to me. 

My reference were the images I saw in the urban landscape. I moved to New York City in Fall 1977 and was fortunate to witness the blossoming of graffiti. Graffiti was a welcome sight at the dreary train stations and on dilapidated trains. I have the 1974 book, The Faith of Graffiti, and several issues International Graffiti Times (purchased at Forbidden Planet). 

Here are my initial design sketches.





The next step was to refine the letterforms and explore alternate letter designs. This version is on two lines.







For the following version I did a coloring guide. 



Here are the logo designs on one line. 







On Wednesday, July 1, I had separate appointments with Ann and Bob Harras about the status of the logos. Ann chose a The Fall of the Mutants design. Then I showed my Wolfpack sketches to Ann and she chose the design that was on one line. She expressed some reservation about the arrowheads because a graffiti artist used them on his tags. I assured her the arrowheads wouldn’t be a problem. 

On Sunday, July 5, I finalized the Wolfpack logo design and proceeded to do the final art. The letters were refined once more on tracing paper which was placed a light box. I peeled the paper from the illustration board and placed it over the tracing paper and started inking. I used a Rapidograph technical pen, French curve and several ellipse templates. 


I used rubber cement to reattach the paper to the board. You can see the rubber cement stains. 


On a piece of prepared acetate I inked in the shadow lines. 


A separate piece of prepared acetate was inked for the highlights. 


The Marvel production department added an overlay for coloring the interior of the letters. I think the adhesive caused the photostat and acetate to wrinkle. 


At 4pm, Thursday, July 9, I delivered the Wolfpack logo art to Ann’s assistant and filled out a voucher. The next day Ann called to say she got the Wolfpack logo art and signed the voucher.

The Wolfpack, Marvel Graphic Novel, was published in the second half of 1987.


The Wolfpack comic book series ran twelve issues from August 1988 to July 1989.