Monday, February 14, 2022

Comics: Ellen Cole, Letterer


Ellen Cole was born Helen Dolores Kovach on December 20, 1918, in Maxwell, Pennsylvania. (Maxwell is about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh.) The birth information was transcribed from her Social Security application at Ancestry.com. The name on the application said “Ellen Dolores Kovack” and, in brackets, “Ellen Cole”. 

According to the marriage license, transcribed at Ancestry.com, Leonard B. Cole* and “Helen Kovach” were married on April 25, 1942 in Manhattan, New York City. She was a waitress whose parents were John Joseph and Anna (Zajac) Kovach. The witnesses to the marriage were William F. Cole, Leonard’s father, and “Anne” Kovach. Below, the New York City marriage license registry, at Ancestry.com, said a license was issued on April 24, 1942.


In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Ellen was the youngest of three sisters; the other two were Mary and Anna. Their parents were Austrian emigrants. The father was a coal mine loader. The family resided in Luzerne, Pennsylvania at Maxwell Coal Works. 

The 1930 census recorded four more children in the Kovach household: Steve, Frank, Paul and Dorothy. They were residents in Cokeburg Borough, Pennsylvania. Some time after the census, Ellen’s father passed away. 

Ellen has not yet been found in the 1940 census. The census said her mother and four siblings lived in Searights, Menallen Township, Pennsylvania. At some point Ellen moved to New York City where she met her future husband.

Ellen’s marriage license had the address 316 West 95th Street in Manhattan. The same address was on her husband’s World War II draft card. When he signed the card, on October 16, 1940, his previous address was 300 West 106th Street. 


Ellen’s brother, Frank, used the same 95th Street address on his draft card. He named his mother as next of kin. In 1946, the address was crossed out when he moved to Uniontown, Pennsylvania.


Comic Book Marketplace, #30, December 1995, published an interview with Ellen’s husband.
Scotty Moore: Was your wife involved in the business at this point?

L.B. Cole: At this point, just towards the middle of the time we were with Continental she became involved. We were hard pressed to get letterers, particularly, and editors because we were doing a book every calendar day. Basically, we were turning out 365 books a year.

She was and is a very brilliant lady, at that time she edited every piece of copy that came out of the company. Well, she started to practice what was called thick and thin lettering. It was not but about a month that she became so adept at it that she was producing about 20–30 pages a day, maybe more. Literally the best lettering that I have seen, but of course I am a bit prejudiced. However everybody said that her lettering was about as good as it ever gets. She oversaw the lettering that we had to buy from other outside help.
In Black Light: The World of L.B. Cole (2015), Bill Schelly wrote
Ellen Cole also contributed to her husband’s endeavors. At his urging, she learned the craft of lettering for comic books and became one of the finest letterers in the business. She worked for Continental and, from time to time, for other companies. Ellen was also an excellent proofreader and probably fulfilled other editorial functions in the office on West 42nd Street. She played an important role in Leonard’s career for the rest of their lives. 
I believe Ellen lettered the Deacon and Mickey story in Cat-Man Comics #29, August 1945. The lettering is thick and thin strokes as described by her husband. Also, the nightclub singer is named Ellen Cole (detail below). 


At the Grand Comics Database, there is a suggestion Ellen lettered the entire issue of Blazing Comics, number four, February 1945. However, the lettering is single-weight strokes and looks nothing like the lettering in Cat-Man. She did not letter this issue of Blazing Comics

The 1949 Manhattan, New York city directory listed the Coles at 243 Riverside Drive.

Eventually, Ellen and her husband left the comics field. Schelly said 
In 1964, Leonard and Ellen Cole established an audio-visual business and began a long-running working relationship with University Films. Over the next 15 years, Cole made his living creating instructional films: safety films, films on health issues such as alcoholism and pre- and postnatal care, and training films for major airlines.
Ellen’s husband was a guest of honor at the 1979 Comic Art Convention in New York City and the 1981 Multi-Con in Oklahoma City. 

Ellen’s husband passed away on December 5, 1995, New York. An obituary appeared in The Comics Journal, number 183, January 1996. He was profiled in Alter Ego #117, June 2013. 

Ellen was mentioned in Frank Kovach’s obituary in the Scranton Tribune (Pennsylvania), October 11, 2000. 
Frank Kovach, October 10, 2000 
Frank Kovach, Olyphant RD 1, died Tuesday morning at Community Medical Center after an illness. His wife, the former Gloria Keiper, died in 1975. Born in Nemacolin, Greene County, son of the late John and Anna Zajac Kovach, he was formerly employed by the former Hoffman Ammunition Plant, Scranton. Prior to that, he had worked for the British Oldsmobile Pontiac assembly plant in New Jersey and as a coal miner. He was an Army veteran of World War II, serving in northern France and Rhineland. He earned a combat infantryman badge and was a Purple Heart recipient. Surviving are six sons, Frank Jr., Gilmore, Texas; Gary, Fort Knox, Ky.; Charles, Kenneth and Stephen, all of Scranton; and David, Olyphant RD; two daughters, Ann Marie Baker, Greenwood, Ind.; and Gloria Kovach Martinelli, Peckville; a sister, Ellen Cole, Queens, N.Y.; 13 grandchildren; nieces and nephews. He was also preceded in death by three sisters, Dorothy Boscuvich [sic], Ann Kovach and Mary; and a brother, Paul. The funeral will be Friday with services at 10 a.m. from the Davies and Jones Funeral Chapel Inc., 135 S. Main Ave. Interment, Fairview Memorial Park, Elmhurst Friends may call Thursday, 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. 
Ellen passed away on March 7, 2007, in New York. The Social Security Death Index said her last residence was in Flushing, Queens, New York. 

* L.B. Cole’s profile, at Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists, said he married Blanche Ellen Miller on June 4, 1939. Actually, their engagement was announced in The New York Times on June 4, 1939, and the marriage never happened. The 1940 census said Cole was single and living in the household of his grand uncle, Emanuel Cohen, in Manhattan. 


Further Reading



(Next post on Monday: 1930 Phoenician)