|Born:||December 18, 1913|
|Died:||September 30, 1987|
Alfred Bester was an American science fiction author, TV and radio scriptwriter, magazine editor and scripter for comic strips and comic books.
Spring 1941, Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff start working for Detective Comics (DC). From Standard Magazines they brought with them Alfred Bester. Bester, who knew absolutely nothing about comics, told that Bill Finger (with help from Mort, Jack and Murray Boltinoff) learned him about comic books and comic book writing. Bester wrote scripts for various figures, among them: Captain Marvel, Genius Jones, Green Lantern, Hourman and Thorndyke, Starman and on. Late 1946, Bester left the comics industry and turned his attention to radio scripts.
Ghosting for Lee Falk
Early 70’s Lee Falk was to write a series of The Phantom novels for Avon Publications in the U.S. As later remarked by Ron Goulart, Lee Falk didn’t keep up with things and was looking for a writer who could adapt old strip continuities into novels. During WWII Alfred Bester had ghosted Falk’s strip and without being aware that Bester had become a successful writer, Lee Falk first asked him to write a few novels.
Later on Bester confirmed that he had worked on both The Phantom and Mandrake during WWII with the anecdote:
I had one funny experience during that time that I was writing comics. I also ghosted Mandrake and The Phantom for Lee Falk. Lee and I got together and he was telling me how one of the Sunday pages from Mandrake sold at auction in Paris for three hundred dollars. I told him, when we moved into our brownstone at 68th Street, the old Stephen Vincent Benét house we managed to get, I papered one entire wall of my workshop with the silver prints from Green Lantern. And he said, "My God, they're worth a fortune today, do you still have them?" I said "No, when we moved out I just left'em behind; I just put'em up with carpet tacks." I had no idea then that there would be this tremendous nostalgia vogue for the old comics. Had I but known ..
The ghost period
Neither Lee Falk nor Alfred Bester told more detailed about the period, or which stories, Bester ghosted Lee Falk. Reading the non-dated anecdote by Bester he said (to Lee Falk) he had moved out of the Stephen Vincent Benét house, where he had a wall of silver prints of Green Lantern.
Stephen Vincent Benét died on March 13, 1943. And according to GCD Bester’s first Green Lantern story was in the shops fall 1943. The anecdote then must have taken place after fall 1943 and before March 7, 1944, when Lee Falk was enlisted as private at Fort Devens.
The ghost stories
Two periods can be listed with possible ghosted stories:
- Lee Falk as Chief of Radio of the Foreign-Language Division of the OWI: About spring 1942 to about March 1944.
- Lee Falk in the army: About March 1944 to about July 1945.
Neither the dailies with Mandrake or The Phantom shows some clear literary characteristics which may indicate that they are written by Bester. One would think that the Sunday was more equal to writing stories for comic book, but even in these stories nobody yet have found any clues indicating Bester as writer.
There is also another possible explanation for stories ghosted by Bester. A situation similar to the Avon novels, adapting newspaper strips into novels. Like the "Better Little Book" series with Mandrake and The Phantom, or the book The Son of the Phantom by Dale Robertson.