Win Mortimer

James Winslow "Win" Mortimer was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1919. Win received his early graphics training from his father who supervised the poster department of a lithography firm in Hamilton. Win worked at the firm during summer breaks from high school. After high school, Win attended the Art Students League of New York, studying anatomy under the renowned George Bridgeman. In that same class of artists was Stan Drake.

At the outbreak of World War II, Mortimer joined the Canadian army. He was discharged from the service in 1943, and began designing posters for the Canadian Ministry of Information. At the end of the war, many soldiers returned home, and Win found jobs difficult to come by. He decided to move to New York in mid-1945. After meeting with Jack Schiff, an editor at DC comics, he was hired and immediately assigned a number of stories for World's Finest and Batman comics.

To comply with immigration laws of the 1940's, Mortimer was required to provide documentation that he would have steady employment and income, and not become a financial burden to the state. DC assisted him by placing him on salary in the DC "bullpen". However, there was more money to be made as a freelance artist, and by 1949, Mortimer was working primarily at his home.

In general, Win Mortimer both pencilled and inked his own work. However, in 1946, Mortimer inked two sequences of the Batman and Robin Sunday newspaper strip over the pencils of Jack Burnley: Catwoman's Grasshopper Chase (April 28-June 16. 1946) and Half Man-Half Monster (June 23-August 18, 1946), a Two-Face story. Mortimer recalled that Burney's pencils were extremely "clean and precise".

During 1946, Mortimer also began producing what would become the most prolific output of covers in DC history. From 1946 to 1955, Mortimer pencilled and inked covers for Detective Comics (starting with issue 110, and including the first Riddler cover), Batman, World's Finest Comics, Adventure Comics, Action Comics, Superman (including the famous Superman 76, the first Superman Batman team-up), Star Spangled Comics, Mr. District Attorney, Real Fact Comics, and Strange Adventure Comics. In addition to his covers, Mortimer produced many stories for World's Finest Comics (Full Steam Foley), Star Spangled Comics (Merry, Girl of 1000 Gimmicks and The Star Spangled Kid), Mr. District Attorney, Real Fact Comics and Superman.

Past producing an amazing number of cover drawings, Mortimer is best remembered for two things. First, while Wayne Boring and Jack Burnely produced the Sunday versions of the Superman strip from 1940-1966, Win Mortimer pencilled and inked essentially all of the Superman dailies from 1949-1955 producing some critically acclaimed story sequences, not to mention some outstanding artwork. It is sad that this material is difficult to find, and to date has never been reprinted. Mortimer also produced the "Superman Time Capsule", a highly prized comic-book giveaway found in Kellogg's Sugar Smacks in 1955.

The second achievement of Mortimer's tenure at DC was less conspicuous. Jack Schiff's pet project was a series of one-page public service announcements that he hoped would be read by young comics readers and serve to give a wholesome message. Schiff worked with the National Social Welfare Assembly, a group of psychologists and educators from several organizations, including Nobel Prize winner Pearl Buck, to produce a page which appeared every month in over thirty magazines from 1949 into the 1960's. After delivering his assignment of Superman Daily strips to Schiff, Mortimer was often asked if he might be able to do a single page and produced a large body of work for this project featuring Superman, Superboy, Green Arrow, Tomahawk, and Batman to name just a few. The topics varied from racism, to doing chores around the house, traffic safety and study tips. The pages were requested by schools and civic organizations by the thousands and DC printed them and sent them out in a conscious effort to be a good citizen at a time when, as then-publisher Jack Liebowitz said, "a lot of people came into the [comics industry] who didn't have any standards at all."

Win Mortimer left DC Comics in 1956, taking a job to draw David Crane, a daily newspaper strip published by the Prentice-Hall Syndicate. He worked on this strip until 1960, then taking on Larry Bannon, published by the Toronto Star Syndicate, from 1961-68. From 1968, Mortimer worked in and out of the comic book field. Out of the field, Mortimer produced a great deal of commercial art.

Within the comic's field, Mortimer produced work for DC, Marvel and Gold Key from 1968-1983. During that time, he showed an amazing versatility, handling a diversity of strips: from "funny strips" like Stanley & His Monster (Brave and Bold #64 and 69), Scooter, Binky, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin and Fat Albert, to hero strips like Supergirl (Adventure Comics), Lois Lane, the Legion of Superheroes (Action and Adventure Comics), and Spiderman, to horror and mystery stories like Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery, The Twilight Zone, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Frankenstein and Supernatural Thrillers.

In 1983, Win Mortimer joined Neal Adams' Continuity Associates, and began working on advertising and commercial projects. Following heart bypass surgery in 1987, Mortimer returned to Continuity and worked there producing a weekly editorial cartoon for the Putnam County Courier, a five-page religion-oriented comic book called "Faith and Stuff" as well as varied illustrations and commission work.

On Sunday, January 11, 1998, Win Mortimer passed following a six-month battle with cancer. Even Superman could not help him defeat this illness. Still, Win worked at his craft every day right up until his death. He is survived by his wife, Eileen, three children, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

For those that knew Win, they will miss his dedication, his sense of humor and his zeal for life. After hearing of Win's death, Neal Adams put it very succinctly when he said, "Win fit his work into his life. He had a family, a home and made contributions to his community. He was an ideal for other artists to pay attention to."


Copyright © 1997-98, Wallace Harrington (wwh27539@mindspring.com)
Used with kind permission from the author.