1971: Mike Zeck, photographer

One of the challenges writing about the history of selling comics is that many of the people involved did not realize they were living through events that should be documented.

There is no trove of photos and original documents for many of the people and places.

Today, I want to focus on one of the great exceptions. I have a vivid sense of the look and feel of the 1971 Comic Art Convention in New York — Phil Seuling’s annual show — thanks to a young man who shot several rolls of film and held onto the negatives.

His name was Mike Zeck, a comics fan from Florida who had dreams of getting a job in the industry as an artist. He competed in the show’s costume contest as Marvel’s Black Bolt (pictured above), and won first prize.

(Mike tells a more detailed version of the story in the book.)

The 1971 Comic Art Convention was held July 2 to 4 at the Statler Hilton in Manhattan.

I saw a few of Mike’s photos online, and reached out to him for permission to use some of them in print. He was gracious, and took the time to prepare high-resolution versions for me.

Here are a few of them:

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Phil Seuling, the main organizer of the show, auctioning off the splash page of DC’s Showcase #29, “Last Dive of the Sea Devils.”
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Seuling seated next to DC writer Gardner Fox.
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The dealers’ room, where comics and original art were sold for prices so low that you would weep today.
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Dealers room (2 of 3)
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Dealers room (3 of 3)

Some of Zeck’s best photos are of comics creators speaking at panels. I am particularly struck by Harvey Kurtzman, with a wiseass grin and his first few buttons undone.

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Harvey Kurtzman
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Harvey Kurtzman (2 of 2)
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Frank Frazetta
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Gil Kane

As we now know, Zeck’s professional dreams came true. He was one of Marvel Comics’ star artists, known for his cover work in the 1980s and for being the artist on Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars and the Spider-Man story Kraven’s Last Hunt.

Here is one cover. I could list a hundred.

Cap annual
Image from Comics.org

OK, one more cover. Seriously, I could go all day.

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Image from Comics.org

The cover artwork and characters, and Black Bolt, are copyright Marvel Comics.

Mike is doing well and is a regular at comics shows. Here is his website, and he does frequent updates on Facebook.