Four George Kleins

GeorgeKleinArtistThis is George Dunsford Klein, who had a long career in comics (known simply as George Klein) as an artist and inker. He was born in Louisiana in about 1915 (records differ) and grew up in Wyoming. He attended the Kansas City Art Institute and then moved to New York City where he took a staff job at Timely Comics, the precursor of Marvel Comics. He initially was a penciler and inker on super-hero stories but later moved to funny animal comics at Timely. Since he was on staff, much of his work there is unsigned and hard to identify.

GeorgeKleinArtist2The first photo is cropped from a much larger one taken on August 14, 1942 at a Timely staff luncheon. As seen in this wider view, George was sitting next to company owner Martin Goodman.

PreludeToBambi_8-14-1942Here’s the entire photo, which is titled “Prelude to Bambi,” as the staff were going to see that Walt Disney film together afterwards. It’s the only Timely staff photo I know of, and the only picture of George from the 1940s I’ve found.

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My ace research partner Alex Jay discovered this photo of George on Wikimedia Commons. It was posted there by his niece Diane Boden, who guesses it’s from the late 1950s, and is free to use. According to Wikipedia, George worked as a freelancer for a variety of comics companies after World War Two, including DC Comics. In 1955 he began a long association with penciler Curt Swan as his inker on many SUPERMAN and related stories and covers.

Action-Comics-Vol1-309-February-1964_Swan_KleinImage © DC Comics.

Here are the last few panels of one of the more celebrated Superman stories Swan and Klein did, featuring the character meeting President John F. Kennedy, from ACTION COMICS #309 dated Feb. 1964. From the mid 1950s on, George was primarily an inker, and a highly respected and sought-after one. Though creators did not receive credit on stories at DC at the time, good records of his work at DC are known and easy to find online.

In 1968, George and other long-time artists were “eased out” at DC in favor of younger talent, but George had no trouble finding work at Marvel Comics, where he became one of their highest-profile inkers for a brief time until his death on May 10, 1969. His untimely passing at age 52 or 54 (records vary) was due to cirrhosis of the liver. Many of his peers spoke highly of him and his work.

GeorgeCKleinSometimes the internet gets things wrong. This is a photo of George Charles Klein, my father, though he didn’t use the full middle name, only the initial C. My dad was born in Brooklyn, NY on March 10, 1924. The photo is from the 1950s, I believe. I put it on my website in 2007 on a page of family photos. I don’t think it was ever online before that.

A few days ago I was reading an article/interview with comics writer and publisher Jim Shooter in ALTER EGO magazine #137, dated January 2016. Imagine my surprise when, on page 2, a sidebar with comics creator photos had this one in it identified as comics inker George Klein! I searched online and found the probable source: the Wikia website, where my dad’s photo is shown as that of the comics artist on both the DC and Marvel parts of the site. I’m guessing someone saw the photo on MY website and jumped to the conclusion that my dad was the comics artist. If you do a search today for “George Klein comics,” this photo is the only one that turns up. Friends have told me they’ve seen it in print in other magazines from TwoMorrows, who publishes ALTER EGO.

I find this amusing because, as far as I can remember, the entire ten years I was on staff at DC Comics, no one ever asked me if I was related to their former artist George Klein. I thought about it occasionally, and wondered why, but never found out. Klein is a pretty common name, after all, and maybe no one ever made the connection.

BenchByDadMy dad did have some artistic talent, though he didn’t make a career of it. After getting out of the Army in World War Two, he studied for and became a Licensed Land Surveyor, and his drawing skills then were mainly used on property blueprints. Late in life he took to working with wood, refinishing furniture and occasionally drawing scenes on it, as shown above. He also carved birds in wood and painted them. My dad died on March 8, 1978 after a battle with lung cancer and emphysema, just short of his 54th birthday. He was a great dad, and I still miss him.

GeorgeKleinSrWW1UniformHis father, my grandfather, was also George, simply George Klein, no middle name. He was born in Brooklyn, NY to German immigrant parents on July 21, 1899. He worked at a variety of jobs. The one I know about for sure was as a tile-setter in his own business and for others. Grampa Klein, as I knew him, didn’t ever show any artistic talent that I recall, but tile-setting takes some skill at least. This is him in his World War One uniform. He died on May 9, 1978, not long after my father. The two were close, and family members feel his passing at age 78 may have been precipitated by the early death of his son.

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The fourth George? That would be me, Todd George Klein, though I only use the George on a few legal documents. Not that I have anything against the name, in fact I like the family connection, but I preferred Todd, and never felt I needed three names. I was born on January 28, 1951, in Plainfield, New Jersey, not far from where my dad’s parents then lived. I grew up in more rural areas of central New Jersey, and in 1977 landed a staff job at DC Comics. I’m happy to say my father got to see that, and knew how thrilled I was to be working in a field I loved.

George_KleinBut I would very much like to set the internet and print record straight on this man, comics artist George Klein, and get THIS Wikimedia Commons photo used for him instead of the one of my dad, amusing as that is. I doubt this George’s family are or would be as amused. If any of you are able, get the word out to Wikia, Wikipedia, and any other site that uses the wrong photo, and see if they will switch to this one. Let’s help the internet get it right.

Thanks to Alex Jay, Jody Andreatch, Patrick Ford and Michael J. Vassallo for research help. Lots more information about the artist, George D. Klein, can be found on Alex’s Jay’s blog HERE.

 

3 thoughts on “Four George Kleins

  1. Joe Pilla

    Todd, thanks for setting the record straight as gracefully and eloquently as you letter. We need constant reminding that the easy access to information the Internet provides applies to misinformation, too.

  2. Dave Greene

    I enjoyed reading about your father and grandfather, Todd. Sorry you lost them so early in your life. They seem to live on in your character. Thanks also for trying to get the historical record straight.

  3. Dave Palmer

    Todd,

    Wikipedia now uses the correct photo. Somebody was listening. It was fascinating learning about your family.

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