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Love Tales #36-58 (May 1949 - August 1952 continued from The Human Torch #1-35), continued as Love Tales #60-75 (Feb. 1955 - Sept. 1957; Issue #59 does not exist.
Lou Cameron (June 20, 1924 – November 25, 2010) was born in San Francisco to vaudevillians Lou Cameron, Sr., and Ruth Marvin Cameron. As a child, Lou appeared on the vaudeville stage with his parents, meeting a number of famous people, but the only one he'd admit to was Western star William S. Hart (Lou didn't like to namedrop, so this was virtually the only person I could get him to mention). After his parents separated, Lou lived in several places, including a ranch in Colorado. He's been referred to as having been a “cowboy” in a few biographies, but he told me, “I wasn't a movie-cowboy type. I just worked on a ranch.” He also worked as a truck driver, among a few other jobs. Lou had a tough childhood, living with various relatives, including an aunt and uncle who, along with their maid, treated Lou as an adult, exposing him to various kinds of literature. They also impressed upon him the value of tolerance and equality in racial issues, political and religious thought, and encouraged his interest in art and writing. He attended the California School of Fine Arts.
Lou served in the U.S. Army 2nd Armored Division in the European Theater during World War II, eventually becoming a Master Sergeant. He was wounded in battle and won a number of medals, though, like many servicemen, he didn't talk much about it. ”Too many guys spent their lives reliving the war because it was the only thing they did in life that mattered. I knew too many who also liked to build up their war résumé, and I could always spot a phony story.” Lou generally preferred not to talk about his WWII experiences—partly out of modesty (”I was not a hero. I was a guy doing what was asked of me.”)—but also because "I've written so much about World War II in some of my books, where I mixed what happened to me with fictional episodes, to the extent I have to think about what I really did [compared] to what I wrote about.” I suppose Lou really believed that, but he told me so many stories in such vivid detail that I had to question that statement. When I did, he just laughed it off. No matter what he said about his service memories, the Lou Cameron I knew never mixed fantasy with fact in real life, and possessed a photographic memory.
After the war was over, Lou turned down the opportunity to re-enlist for the Korean War. ”It’s a good thing I did, because the outfit I would have been assigned to was completed wiped out to the last man in Korea." Lou was making a small living as an artist in Brooklyn when a friend named Marvin tipped him off to Pat Masulli, who was coloring and packaging stories for small comic book companies. That quickly led to Lou freelancing for publisher William Friedman's company [Story, among other names], where he became one of the company's star artists, drawing mainly horror and crime stories, as well as romance and Westerns, for titles such as Fight against Crime, Dark Mysteries, and Mysterious Adventures.
While working for Friedman, Lou worked for Ace Publications on titles like Baffling Mysteries, The Beyond, Crime Must Pay the Penalty, The Hand of Fate, and Web of Mystery. Throughout most of the 1950s, he drew primarily crime and horror stories for St. John Publications, Charlton, Crestwood, Timely (including Astonishing Comics, Journey into Mystery, Uncanny Tales, Love Tales and Journey Into Unknown Worlds), ACG, Famous Funnies, and Fiction House. In 1951 and 1952 he did a syndicated feature called 'So It Seems'.
Lou remembered drawing several splash pages for existing romance stories so that packager and comics legend Joe Simon could pass them off as new stories. Drawing in other people's styles, Lou was never sure where or if these stories saw print, but if they were used, it was likely for Harvey Publications:
"I did a few for Timely. I also did some work for Joe Simon, who had broken up with Jack Kirby. Joe Simon was doing some romance comics. He hired me to do new splash pages and a cover. The first page was a new page, and the other six pages were pages he'd used before, so he paid me peanuts. The only problem was the splashes had to fit the style of the original art, but I did it, and he paid me.
At Timely, I never spoke to Stan Lee, because you would go to see him, and he would send his Girl Friday out. I've forgotten her name. She looked like Bettie Page with clothes on, but with a scar on her face. On one or two occasions, she would say, "Mr. Lee thinks this", "Mr. Lee thinks that". That was the extent of my dealings with Stan Lee".
For many, Lou's greatest claim to comics fame was his stellar work for Gilberton’s Classics Illustrated, including The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, The Battle Imp, The Count of Monte Cristo, Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, among others. These novel-length stories involved a bit of research, and Lou enjoyed making his work accurate (a trait that served him well in his writing career). His artwork on these books influenced a number of artists, notably Joe Staton, and helped set the tone for others who worked for Gilberton. He had several conflicts with line editor Roberta Strauss, which eventually drove him away from the company. Lou finished his comic book days in 1958 at DC Comics on Gang Busters, House of Mystery, My Greatest Adventure, Tales of the Unexpected, and House of Secrets.
In the meantime, Lou started writing and illustrating short stories and articles for men's magazines for several companies, including St. John, Volitant, and Sterling Publications. By 1960, having abandoned his art career, Lou was writing paperback novels for many different companies, his first being Angel's Flight for Fawcett Publications. He wrote crime, adventure, mystery, and detective fiction, television and movie adaptations (None but the Brave, California Split, Sky Riders, How the West Was Won with Louis L'amour, etc), and romance novels (as Mary Manning and Julie Cameron). His favorite genre—and the one for which he was most famous—was Westerns. Besides stand-alone Western books, Lou was the creator and writer of the Stringer series, the Renegade series (as Ramsey Thorne), and his biggest success, the Longarm series (as Tabor Evans). Lou wrote over I00 of the 350 Longarm paperbacks. In 1976, he won the prestigious Golden Spur Award for The Spirit Horses. A few of his books were made into movies—some legitimately and some plagiarized. I asked him how many books he'd written, and Lou responded "How many girls have you kissed?" Lou didn't know how many books he'd written and didn't care, but I estimate the number is between 200 and 300. Lou retired from writing in 2006, and only occasionally missed it.
Lou had a rich full life beyond his military career. He was a Scotsman who sat at bars with members of the IRA [Irish Republican Army] as they—not he—planned rebellion. While not a private detective in the conventional sense, he did his share of it when asked. He was married more than once and fathered several children He was a distant cousin to actor Lee Marvin (something he asked me not to mention in our interview, because "I don't want to trade on his name"). Lou was well known enough in New York to merit mention in famed gossip columnist Earl Wilson's column. In 1967, he ghostwrote two spy novels for the actress Dagmar. Among his many (mainly suspense, war and western) novels are 'Beyond the Scarlet Door', 'The Amphorae Pirates', 'Belle of Fort Smith', 'The Dirty War of Sgt. Slade' and a biography of President Reagan.
I came into Lou's life when I called for an interview in 2003. Having been burned a time or two by others, he was initially suspicious of another stranger wanting to chronicle his story. But he liked me. If he hadn't, there would have been no interview. One thing Lou did not do was waste his time or suffer fools gladly. I was suitably prepared by his lights regarding the subject matter. I just had to win his trust. That took a little time. After our interview was published, Lou admitted he had told me certain things to test my integrity and credibility. "How did you test me?" ”Oh, it doesn't matter," he laughed. "You passed." I never got an answer to my question, but I did win his trust. His phenomenal memory of creators who long since left the comics scene with unsigned work provided historians like Hames Ware and Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr., with a wealth of information to help fill the gaps in our knowledge of the industry's personnel.
What Lou needed—and I provided—was a friend he could trust to say anything to, a friend who would listen to any subject he cared to discuss, and give the same in return. That was no small task, because everything interested Lou. In me, he found a kindred spirit. There was no subject I ever found that Lou wasn't an expert on He was an agnostic who knew the history and teachings of all the world's religions. "I'd be an atheist, but you never know when you might need an ’out,”’ he said, half seriously, half kiddingly. He was obviously an expert on the Old West in addition to the entirety of American history. Lou knew the history of all the European and Asiatic nations, too. He was well versed in geography, science, philosophy, math, entertainment, and world politics, not to mention biographies and fiction He could take theoretical thought and boil it down to extreme practicality, e.g. Einstein's theories regarding time travel: "If Einstein's math says that time travel is achievable, then his math is wrong. We can't go back in time.”
Lou was the most talkative man I ever knew, and was as colorful in speech as in deed. He dominated at least 80% of our conversations, which is saying quite a bit, considering how much I talk. I never minded. We seldom had a phone conversation where I didn't learn something new, and we talked several times a week for years. Nothing seemed to escape his notice. Whenever I knew more about a subject than he did (which wasn't often), Lou wasn't satisfied until he drained every ounce of knowledge from me. To better inform himself, Lou would research what I imparted to him, and we would discuss it further. I did the same when he threw something new my way, which led to many sleepless nights studying shared subjects on the computer. I learned more from Lou than any person I've ever encountered.
Possession of all this accumulated knowledge did not rob him of his social skills, as it so often does with intellectual giants. Lou was down to Earth enough to relate to everyone he met. He never acted like he was smarter than other people, and hated condescension as a writer and humanitarian, he understood the human condition in all its forms without illusion of any kind. I never knew him to give bad advice, and I never knew him to lie. Seldom judgmental, always understanding. Lou encouraged his friends, dispensed straightforward, practical advice with warmth and understanding, and cared more deeply about people than he would admit. Lou despised pretension and dishonesty, and, as long as you were genuine, he was your friend.
Lou encouraged me to be more than I am. He cared about my failures and successes. At the time of his death, we had begun working on a detective series that I was to write, which I still plan to do. I didn't see him as a father figure, but he treated me like a son and as an equal. He was the incorruptible pillar of strength in the lives of those who knew him. He was the smartest and wisest man I've ever known; one of the most inﬂuential people in my life. There are very few truly great people, but I knew one. Lou Cameron.
From Alter Ego #110 with some excerpts from Lambiek Comiclopedia. Jim Amash's interview with Lou Cameron was serialized in Alter Ego #79-80.