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Crime Cases Comics #24-27, 5-12 (Aug. 1950 - July 1952; continued from Willie Comics and Li'l Willie Comics).
Marion Sitton (Hale Center, Texas, April 1, 1920) is one of untold hundreds of little-known comic book artists who entered the industry during the 1940's or 1950's, putting their time in for a few years, having a recognizable art style and then vanishing off the comic book landscape never to return. Marion has a wonderful story to tell about his Timely staff years of 1947-1950 and his years as a freelancer up through 1953 where he got out of the business and picked up his art career. Following his years as a comic book artist, Marion went on to do syndicated and commercial work as well as becoming a crayon artist whose portraits adorn the mantelpieces of many a celebrity.
Sitton was born near Hale Center, Texas, in a farm house. He was awarded the first art scholarship to Killgore Jr. College, after that his family moved to Houston and he got his first actual art job at the Parker Uniform Company, helping draw and design catalogs. When the WWII started he worked at the Phoenix Dairy doing illustrated comic cartoons for their newsletter. He spent his entire service in Texas.
Following the end of the war he headed to New York. Sitton knew comics or cartooning was based there. He wanted to talk to the syndicates and know all about the syndicate business. King Features, United Features, etc, were all in New York City. He finally got syndicated with a very small syndicate, the George Matthew Adams Syndicate. He drew it for a year and a half and finally gave it up when he began school. He began to hear about comic art business, so in 1947 he enrolled in the Cartoonists and Illustrators School on the GI Bill. That’s where Burne Hogarth was one of the teachers and one of the owners.
There he heard that Timely might be interested in new artists. Sitton recalls:
"I went to work on a sample and I was told that you had to do something original, not to copy anyone else’s work and not to try to copy a page out of some other book. They wanted you to do something they could look at and ask you questions about. I decided to pencil and ink the whole page and I think it was called “The Tarantula of Tombstone. Well, I was told to see Stan Lee.
So I went over there and I said that I wanted to see Stan. The girl told me that I would have to wait and took my name and all that. She also took what I had and I showed her the cover I had done over the splash page sample, trying to be neat and clean. She read the title and mispronounced it calling it “tarant tula”. I thought, well, I’m doomed now because nobody here in New York knows what a tarantula is! (laughs). I really thought “well you blew it there, fellow”.
But anyway, she took it with her and went behind the door somewhere and it was a while before she came back out. When she finally did she said that Stan would see me and she ushered me into his office. After a while he came in from somewhere although I didn’t see him enter. He was very friendly, smiled and talked to me. He was very nice. He asked me just normal questions about what I had done, where I was presently, etc. I told him I was from Texas, thinking it might impress him! (laughs). I told him I had been an artist all my life and that I was interested in getting into the comic book field and “that” was the reason I had been going to the Cartoonist and Illustration school. I told him I had been studying there for some months and that I was working on a little syndicated feature but it wasn’t proving to be very successful. I think he was a little bit impressed by that or at least I hope he was (laughs). I do remember telling him that.
So he looked over my samples and he asked a question or two like “why” I did this or that. I thought he was very interested and he was very relaxed with me. He was very friendly and I remember being a little surprised that he actually looked “younger” than I did! But overall he was very friendly and made me feel welcome. Stan made some remarks; he said “Well I see you can draw hands and feet. We have people coming up here with samples that can’t do that. You’d be amazed at the people that try to get into this business and can’t draw.” I felt really good about myself after he said that. He then told me he’d give me a try and I couldn’t believe it. I think I went for two or three days where I didn’t breathe, I was so taken back by getting offered a chance.
He said “Well, we’re going to try you out. I’ll take you back and show you where you can sit. We’ll just let you work and see how you can get used to this type of work we’re doing.” He then introduced me to Syd Shores and told me that Syd would help me with anything I needed and with any questions I had. Syd gave me a script to start on. You read the instructions and the dialogue. It was all spelled out back then pretty much so I basically just got started working. I actually came back the next day to start. They had a vacant desk seat in the back and I was about an arm’s length from where Syd Shores sat.”.
Sitton believes he started penciling for Timely in March of 1948. He was used primarily on romance stories because Timely at that time, had just flooded the market with romance titles and romance story art was in heavy demand. Many different companies were doing the same thing but Timely had the most titles, although many only lasted one or two issues before being canceled. Then shortly thereafter the fad passed and most titles were gone.
There was a mini-implosion of the line-up of titles in 1949. Timely had flooded the market with books, especially romance titles, causing a glut, and in a short time they were nearly all canceled after 2 issues. There was a lot of flux with more artwork than could be used and declining sales. It was a real transitional period in the company’s history. And in the middle of it all was the firing of the staff. Sitton's work never really stopped for Timely. What the end entailed was simply that you stopped working at the office and began to work at home instead, on a freelance basis. it was early 1950.
Sitton freelanced western and crime stories for Timely, Avon, Fox, Quality, Hillman and Fawcett.
In 1952 he and his wife moved to Dallas, Texas. Marion tried to continue freelancing but in those days the air-mail proved to be an inefficient system and finally he quit comic books and started a commercial art career. He also worked up a bunch of syndicated strips that never went very far.
In the 1970's he started to paint with crayons, he has written an unpublished book on the subject. He has done many crayon celebrity portraits over the years.
Sitton says: "I thoroughly enjoyed my days at Timely. Perhaps I pulled out and went home too soon, perhaps not, but I appreciated the camaraderie and learned a great deal. I thank Stan Lee for the opportunity to work there. But taking it back further, I’d like to thank my late brother Bill. Bill was my mentor and was the one who encouraged me the most. My mother started it all for me by giving me birth. Since then, I’ve been to a lot of places and experienced many adventures with the best of friends".