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Secret Story Romances #1-21 (Nov. 1953 - March 1956) continued as True Tales of Love #22-31 (April 1956 - Sep. 1957) .
Thomas B. "Tom" Scheuer ( born Sep. 17 1930) studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, starting at age 7. By age 11, he already drew gag cartoons for a Baking Industry trade journal. He moved to New York to attend the Art Students League at age 20.
He started doing comics at Famous Funnies. His first work was in Heroic Comics, in I951."I was invited up to the News Syndicate. I’ve got some Terry and the Pirates, Dick Tracy, Moon Mullins, Gasoline Alley and the rest. I had entree there, and I kept trying to sell them a comic strip of my own right from the get-go."
"I started working for Leonard Starr with Tex Blaixdell. Leonard had his studio over on 57th Street, a few doors down from Carnegie Hall. The letterer, Ben Oda, was there, and a writer named John Augustin. Leonard was prolific, and his drawing ability was awesome. Tex had nicknamed him “glamorous and unpredictable”. Leonard had been a professional since he was fifteen. To this day, Leonard is the best friend I’ve ever had. We’re like brothers. He was my mentor and I adore the guy. We still talk once a week at least.
So anyway, I was doing that and doing my own stuff. And of course, Leonard was the busiest guy in the business. I don’t think I started working for Stan Lee until 1954. But I was in the business—meeting the likes of Art Peddy, Gene Colan, Mort Meskin. I remember Meskin especially, because of our ﬁrst meeting. Leonard and I were walking across Columbus Circle, and we ran into Mort, who’d famously spent some time in mental hospitals. Leonard introduced me as being new in town, and Mort’s response is one I’ve never forgotten. He said “Take my advice, kid. Save your money so you can afford a sunny room."
Scheuer went from Famous Funnies to Ziff-Davis: I got to New York in 1950 and in ’51, I got drafted. So now we're talking maybe eight months, if that. I didn't get to know Jerry Siegel. I rarely had to make changes. I wasn’t very good, but I thought I was better than I was. I even wrote one or two things, but I can’t remember who I wrote them for. Mostly they were just giving me scripts. I was so focused on selling a comic strip, and then quickly became focused also on helping Leonard draw comic books. We were cranking those pages out at $30, $35 a pop, whatever they were paying back then. I think the lowest rate I got was $25, and Leonard was getting $37 and $40."
"All I was really trying to do was hone my stuff so I would make more money in advertising, because that was what Leonard was doing, and I thought, “My God, why am I messing around with this stuff” I didn’t have a passion for it, you know lied almost apologetic. I always thought that comic books were little league while I was doing them. It wasn’t regarded by many people then like it is now. comics were just a stepping-stone to either a syndicated strip, or at least the advertising business, for many of us."
He freelanced on several romance comic books, mainly on Marvel's My Own Romance, Love Romances, True Tales of Love and My Love Story and some mystery and occult stories in 1955, and some war stories: "The brief time I had with Stan Lee sticks out partly because by that time—this was after I got out of the service—Leonard was already working for Johnstone and cushing, and getting $300 or $400 a page instead of 35. So my focus was, “I want to get into that as quickly as possible." so I said to Stan Lee, "I don’t want to do your underwear characters. I want to do your romance books, because I need to learn how to draw pretty girls and handsome men, because that’s where the bucks are —in advertising.” So he put me to work in his romance comics. one of the more flattering things was that he thought enough of my work to hire me to do pages of pretty girl heads and handsome men heads to give to the other artists. I gave myself a year to go from comic books into Johnstone and cushing. And that’s how long it took."
Some of the best comic strip ads ever to come out of Johnstone & Cushing were done by illustrator Tom Scheuer. Scheuer is one of those really great comic artists whose career is relatively unknown because he spent very little time doing actual comic books or strips, focusing almost entirely on advertising art.
Scheuer, like most other artists at J&C, became a regular contributor to the Boy's Life comic section. For that magazine he did an advertising strip called Chip Martin, College Reporter. Most of the strips and spots produced at Johnstone and Cushing for Boys' Life were signed 'Alsten', a pen name created by combining studio AD Al Stenzel's first and last names.
The Boy's Life account must have been a blessing for J&C at a time when the ad industry was losing interest in doing comic strip ads, a guaranteed monthly financial anchor. But no doubt it was still the advertising accounts that were most lucrative, and Tom Heintjes' article on Johnstone & Cushing tells us that "Scheuer was the office's self-described trouble maker. "I always wanted more money," he said. "I got into an argument with them when they got me an ad for Oxy-dol. It wasn't going to be just a page in the Sunday comics--it was going to be in the Ladies' Home Journal and McCall's and all these magazines. I said, 'Wait a minute, fellas, you're doing this all wrong. The pay should be based on how many people you're going to reach and what the comparable ad rates are for those magazines.' They didn't want to hear it; they'd been doing it the same way for 20 years. I eventually got my money, but it was never enough, as far as I was concerned."
He ghosted on such newspaper strips as Flash Gordon, On Stage, Juliet Jones, Rip Kirby and Li'l Abner. "I went back to Manhattan, and shared a studio with Leonard. Then he broke his leg, so I ghosted On Stage for a few weeks, around the mid-’60’s, I think. In those years, at varying times, I briefly ghosted Juliet Jones for Stan Drake, Flash Gordon for Dan Barry, Rip Kirby for John Prentice, and even helped out Al Capp [on Li’l Abner] for a few months in 1962."
After leaving Johnstone & Cushing in the mid-1960's, Scheuer focused his energies on doing storyboards. According to Heintjes' article, he quickly became the highest paid storyboard artist in New York.
Thanks to a TI list member, we now also know that Scheuer produced untold amounts of clip art for a 'mat art' studio called "Volk Corporation" in the early 70's.
In 1977 Scheuer changed his last name to "Sawyer", since many people had always mispronounced it as that over the years. He had been working towards a major career change: Sawyer moved to Hollywood and began working in the television industry, ultimately as the head writer on Murder, She Wrote.
Sawyer is now a full time writer, according to his website, and leaves us with a quote worthy of any artist, whether he is pursuing success in the visual art or otherwise:
"Obviously, I'm hoping someone will discover me. It's the dream of every artist. That people will discover how beautiful and talented you are and carry you off on their shoulders."
From Today Inspiration, Lambiek Comiclopedia and Alter Ego #77.