Martin Nodell by Michael Netzer
November 15, 1915|
|Died||December 9, 2006
Martin Nodell (November 15, 1915 – December 9, 2006) was an American cartoonist and commercial artist, best known as the creator of the Golden Age superhero Green Lantern. Some of his work appeared under the pen name "Mart Dellon."
Early life and career
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Nodell was the son of Jewish immigrants. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago. He moved to New York City in the 1930s, where he attended Pratt Institute.
Nodell began his illustrating career in 1938, working first as a freelancer. In 1940 he provided some work for Sheldon Mayer, an editor at All-American Publications, one of three companies that ultimately merged to form the present-day DC Comics. Interested in gaining more steady employment, Nodell created designs for a new character that would become the Golden Age Green Lantern (Alan Scott). The inspiration came in January 1940 at the 34th Street subway station in Manhattan. Nodell noticed a trainman waving a lantern along the darkened tracks. He coupled the imagery with elements from Richard Wagner's operatic Ring cycle as well as Chinese folklore and Greek mythology to create the hero.
As Nodell himself described in 2000:
I picked out the name from the train man on the tracks who was waving a lantern, going from red to green.... Green meant go and I decided that was it. Then I needed a colorful and interesting costume. I was interested in Greek mythology and so the costume took on elements of that. It just all fell into place. When I sent it in, I waited into the second week before I heard the word to come in. I was ushered into Mr. [Max] Gaines office, publisher, and after sitting a long time and flipping through the pages of my presentation, he announced, 'We like it!' And then, 'Get to work!' I did the first five pages of an eight page story, and then they called in Bill Finger to help. We worked on it for seven years.
The first adventure, drawn by Nodell (as Mart Dellon) and written by Bill Finger, appeared in All-American Comics #16 (July 1940). Nodell continued to use the pseudonym through at least All Star Comics #2 (Fall 1940). He said in 2000 he had used the pen name since, "Comics were a forbidden literature, culturally unacceptable. It wasn't something you were proud of". Nodell penciled and virtually always self-inked Green Lantern stories in All-American and All Star until the character got his own title, the premiere issue cover-dated July 1941. He would continue with it through to #25 (May 1947), very rarely drawing the covers, before being succeeded by a variety of artists including Howard Purcell, Irwin Hasen, and Alex Toth.
Captain America and the Pillsbury Doughboy
Nodell left All-American in 1947 and joined Timely Comics, the 1930s-'40s forerunner of Marvel Comics), where he drew postwar stories of Captain America, the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. His work there was rarely signed, making idenfication difficult, though comics historians have confirmed that Nodell drew two well-known covers: The first issue of Marvel Tales, Timely's horror-comics revamp of the company's flagship series Marvel Mystery Comics; and the penultimate issue (#74) of Captain America's book, which for its last two issues became the horror-oriented Captain America's Weird Tales.
In 1950, Nodell left comics to work in advertising and later joined the Leo Burnett Agency in Chicago as an art director. In 1965, his design team there developed the long-running flour-company mascot the Pillsbury Doughboy. His only known comics work in the interim are penciling the story "The Glistening Death" in the Avon Comics one-shot City of the Living Dead (1952), reprinted two decades later in the Skywald horror-comics magazine Psycho #1 (Jan. 1971); and "Master of the Dead" in Avon's Eerie (1951 series) #14, reprinted in Skywald's Nightmare #1 (Dec. 1970).
In the 1980s, Nodell submitted new work to DC, which led to his being rediscovered by comic fans. His first pieces included a 13-page puzzle-and-activity section in Super Friends Special #1 (1981), and drawing the Golden Age Harlequin in Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #10 (Dec. 1985). His final two published pieces of Green Lantern art were a one-page illustration of Golden Age Alan Scott Green Lantern in the 50th-anniversary issue Green Lantern vol. 4, #19 (Dec. 1991) and a one-page illustration of the Alan Scott Green Lantern and Superman in the one-shot Superman: The Man of Steel Gallery #1 (Dec. 1995). At 80, Nodell penciled his final comic-book work, the whimsical, 10-page Harlan Ellison adaptation "Gnomebody", scripted by John Ostrander and Ellison and inked by Jed Hotchkiss, in Dark Horse Comics' Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor Quarterly #1 (Aug. 1996).
Nodell met his future wife, Carrie, at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, in September 1940. They were married December 1, 1941, and afterward moved to Huntington, Long Island, to move in with Nodell's brother Simon, an engineer at Republic Aviation. They lived there two years before moving back to Brooklyn, New York City. The couple were living in West Palm Beach, Florida, by 2000. They had two sons: Spencer, who lived in Waukesha, Wisconsin at the time of his father's death, and Mitchell.
- "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JTFD-H6D : accessed 02 Mar 2013), Martin Nodell, 9 December 2006.
- Miller, John Jackson (June 10, 2005). "Comics Industry Birthdays". Comics Buyer's Guide. Archived from the original on October 29, 2010. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- Goodale, Gloria (June 17, 2011). "Superhero summer: Behind 'Green Lantern' and the rest, an American story". The Christian Science Monitor: 2. Archived from the original on June 23, 2011. Retrieved December 14, 2011.
- Martin Nodell at the Lambiek Comiclopedia. This source says Nodell also attended the "Chicago Academy of Art", but no school of that name exists, and the Chicago Academy for the Arts was not founded until 1981.
- Dioniso, Joseph (July 16, 2000). "Lantern's Light / Celebrity fans flock to the hip DC Comics superhero, but he still can't get a movie gig". Newsday. p. B6 of print version. Archived from the original on December 14, 2011.
- Woollcombe, Alan (December 19, 2006). "Mart Nodell: Creator of the Green Lantern". The Independent. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
- Dionisio, Joseph (December 11, 2006). "Green Lantern Creator Martin Nodell, 91". Newsday. Archived from the original on February 5, 2007. Additional WebCitation archive, June 5, 2011.
- Blac, Bill. "An Interview with Green Lantern Creator Martin Nodell", AC Comics, 2000. WebCitation archive.
- Martin Nodell at the Grand Comics Database
- Dionisio, 2000. Sidebar "Ring Power vs. Flour Power".
- Green Lantern DC, 1990 Series) #19 at Grand Comics Database
- Superman: The Man of Steel Gallery #1 at the Grand Comics Database. Note: The GCD also lists Nodell among three pencilers who contributed to the single Hal Jordan Green Lantern figure on the cover of the one-shot Green Lantern Gallery #1 (1996), but this cover is signed only by penciler Gil Kane and inker Kevin Nowlan.
- "Nominees Announced for 2011 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards", Comic-Con.org, 2011. WebCitation archive.
- Dionisio, 2000. p. B9 of print version.
- Dioniso, 2000. p. B7 of print version.
- News from Me (column; Dec. 9, 2006): "Martin Nodell, R.I.P.", by Mark Evanier
- News from Me (column; April 27, 2004): "Carrie Nodell, R.I.P.", by Mark Evanier
- Short Nodel bio