|Fletcher Hanks, Sr.|
December 1, 1889|
Paterson, New Jersey
|Died||January 22, 1976
Manhattan, New York
Fletcher Hanks, Sr. (December 1, 1889 – January 22, 1976, in New York City) was a cartoonist from the Golden Age of Comic Books, who wrote and drew stories detailing the adventures of all-powerful, supernatural heroes and their elaborate punishments of transgressors. In addition to his birth name, Hanks worked under a number of pen names, including "Henry Fletcher", "C.C. Starr", "Barclay Flagg", "Bob Jordan", and "Hank Christy". Hanks was active in comic books from 1939 to 1941.
Life and career
Little is known of the life of Fletcher Hanks. He was born on December 1, 1889 in Paterson, New Jersey and grew up in Oxford, Maryland. His father, William Hanks, was a Methodist minister, and his mother, Alice Fletcher Hanks, was daughter of English immigrants; they married c. 1885. Fletcher himself married Margaret c. 1912. In 1910, his mother paid for her son to take the W. L. Evans correspondence course in cartooning; as early as 1911 he described himself as a cartoonist.
Hanks had four children: William, Fletcher Jr., Alma, and Douglas. Fletcher Jr. (1918–2008) was the primary source of biographical information on his father. Family members have described Fletcher Sr. as an abusive father and spouse, and an alcoholic, spoiled by an over-indulgent mother. He made money painting murals for the wealthy, and spent the money on alcohol for himself and his friends. Fletcher Jr. worked odd jobs to support the family; in 1930,[a] he found his earnings missing, along with his father. Fletcher Jr. said his mother responded, "It's a small price to pay to be rid of the bum."
Comic books (1939–1941)
In 1939, in the wake of the success of Action Comics and Superman, Hanks began producing comic book stories. Gradually, he abandoned the crosshatch-heavy style he had learned in his Evans courses and settled on a cleaner, thick-lined style that reproduced better in the cheaply manufactured comic books.
Some of Hanks' work was for the Eisner & Iger comic book packaging company; Will Eisner recalled Hanks as punctual artist whose work was reminiscent of the early work of Basil Wolverton. Hanks did all the work on his comics, from the writing to the lettering, and was considerably older than the other artists who worked there — many of whom were teenagers. Other publishers he produced work for include Fiction House and Fox Features Syndicate. His creations include Stardust the Super Wizard, Tabu the Wizard of the Jungle, and Fantomah—one of the first female superheroes, predating Wonder Woman.
He produced work for four publishers under a number of alias names: Bob Jordan, Charles Netcher, Hank Christy, and Barclay Flagg, the last of which he signed to his Fantomah stories. He used his real name on his Stardust the Super Wizard stories. In all Fletcher Hanks created 51 stories.
His body was found on a park bench in Manhattan in 1976; he had frozen to death, penniless and likely drunk.
A cult following developed around Hanks' work. His stories and art have been reprinted in the magazine Raw and several comics anthologies, and archival material of his work has been the subject of two books edited by Paul Karasik and published by Fantagraphics Books: I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! (2007) and You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! (2009).
- The US census return for 1930 describes Hanks as an artist, living with his wife, Margaret, widowed father, William, and his children Douglas, Alma, Fletcher Jr, and William.
- Social Security Death Index entry no. 051-22-1426 New York from FamilySearch.org
- Karasik 2009, Introduction 1.
- Draft registration card (1917) from FamilySearch.org
- 1900 U.S census return for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania from FamilySearch.org
- 1930 U.S census return for Trappe District, Talbot County, Maryland from FamilySearch.org
- Manifest of Passengers for S.S. Oceana, arriving New York May 1st 1911 from FamilySearch.org, with detailed manifest available at www.ellisisland.org
- Karasik 2009, Introduction 2.
- Karasik 2009, Introduction 3.
- Karasik 2009, Introduction 5.
- Karasik 2009, Introduction 4.
- Karasik 2009, Introduction 7.
- "Talbot County, Maryland: Municipalities - Oxford". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
- "Paul Karasik Announces Second Fletcher Hanks Collection Following Eisner Win". The Comics Reporter. July 28, 2008. Retrieved September 7, 2012.
- Karasik, Paul, ed. (2007). I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets!. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books. ISBN 1-56097-839-2.
- Karasik, Paul, ed. (2009). You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books. ISBN 978-1-60699-160-2.
Work appearing elsewhere
- Jones, Gerard (2005). Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book. New York, NY: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-03657-8. (appearing on the dust jacket only)
- Nadel, Dan (2006). Art Out Of Time. New York, NY: Abrams Books. ISBN 0-8109-5838-4.
- Sadowski, Greg (2009). Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1939–1941. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books. ISBN 1-56097-971-2.
- Website devoted to Fletcher Hanks
- Lambiek.net biography with links to Tabu, Stardust, and Space Smith stories
- Fantomah vs. giant spiders
- Fantomah vs. hopped up gorillas
- World's best supervillain origin
- Profile of his son, Fletcher Hanks Jr, who talks about childhood with his father
- News article about his son, Fletcher Hanks Jr
- Leopard Women of Venus, a role-playing game inspired by the works of Fletcher Hanks