Drake was a busy writer at DC in the 50s and 60s, creating THE DOOM PATROL with writer Bob Haney and artist Bruno Premiani and DEADMAN with Carmine Infantino. He went on to write many kids comics, creating STANLEY AND HIS MONSTER with the also-recently deceased Bob Oksner, and settling in for a long run on LITTLE LULU. With artist Matt Baker, Drake also pioneered the American graphic novel, creating the paperback IT RHYMES WiTH LUST which was published in 1950, and Dark Horse is reissuing it this month.
Clearly, Drake was a man ahead of his time, or at least at the forefront of his times. He was one of those quirky creators I was talking about a while ago. In his later years he was a fixture on the New York convention scene, and memorably appeared at the 2005 San Diego Comic-con where he won one of the first Bill Finger Awards, and charmed everyone with his singing.
At the Eisners award Drake received his Bill Finger award for both his writing and his cause. He ended his speech with, of all things, a song. It was a bit funny and a bit weird but something special happened after he sand the lyrics “I hears somebody said it/that Stan Lee would take credit/for Spider-Man to the King James testament.” I have never before heard a room of many hundreds simultaneously and with an equal amount of energy gasp and guffaw at the same time. It’s an odd sound but an enjoyable one. I was sitting next to TCJ then-Managing Editor Dirk Deppey and he immediately declared “We have to interview him!”
I wrote about my own encounter with Drake here:
Don’t let Arnold Drake fool you, he’s sharp! Anyway we talked about his work on Little Lulu — he took over after John Stanley retired — and the movie he wrote and co-produced back in the 60s. We also asked him if he thought there was a difference between how his generation viewed writing comics — as a slightly pulpish vocation perhaps, compared to today’s writers who see comics as an artform.
“Yes, but there were always those of us who knew it could be something more,” he told us.
That was my only lengthy encounter with Drake and I sadly regret not having more, because he was a smart, creative person who paved the way for a lot of what we take for granted now.
Mark Evanier has a lengthy, personal remembrance of Drake which is MUST reading:
But Drake was a feisty guy who had trouble getting along with editors. In the late sixties, he fought with the management at DC, partly over what he considered inept editorial direction and partly over business matters. He was a loud voice in a writers’ revolt during which several of the firm’s longtime freelancers were demanding health insurance, reprint fees and better pay. Many of them were ousted, including Arnold, and he then worked for a time for Marvel before settling down at Gold Key Comics for many years. For them, he wrote many comics including The Twilight Zone, Star Trek and a particularly long and delightful stint on Little Lulu.
You can also see Drake in this group shot of the 2005 Eisner winners. I had written earlier about something he said while winning his Finger award. It wasn’t as colorful as his song, but was even more accurate: He told the people there to look down at the vast, bleating, blinking star studded show floor and “Remember that you are the ones who created it.”
Drake created it and lived it and we are much the poorer without his presence this day.