Spy Cases, by Allen Bellman (1952)
'The Mad Dogs' (Spy Cases #12, 1952).

Allen Bellman was part of the Timely Comics bullpen from the early 1940s through the early 1950s. He worked on several of the company's superhero features, most notably 'Captain America' and 'The Human Torch', during the Golden Age of Comic Books, while also creating his own back-up crime feature 'Let's Play Detective'. He stayed around up until the early years of Timely's Atlas Comics line as a contributor to their pre-Code horror, crime, war and western titles.

Early life
Allen, or Al, Bellman was born in 1924 in Manhattan's Lower East Side in New York City as the youngest of four children. His parents were Jewish immigrants, who had fled away from the Russian pogroms in the early 20th century. Al spent most of his childhood in Brooklyn's old Brownsville section, where his parents owned a bakery store. Their son was however more interested in drawing, which he started to do on the shop's brown paper bags. He also cranked out his own comic strips, with Alex Raymond and Milton Caniff being his idols. One of his earliest comics was 'Air Patrol' for his school newspaper. The New York Daily Mirror later bought one of his cartoons, while his characters 'Mander the Mystic' and 'Big Hank O'Malley' ran on the Aunt Jean page of the Brooklyn Eagle. He studied at the High School of Industrial Arts and attended the Pratt Institute in the evenings with his pal Sam Burlockoff, until he replied to an ad for background artists by Timely Comics.


'The Human Torch vs. The Spy-Master of the Third Reich' (Captain America Comics #42).

Timely Comics
He was hired by Timely's Don Rico in 1942, still eighteen years old. He was put to work on the 'Captain America' title, which had been created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon in the previous year, but was mainly drawn by Syd Shores by then. Working in the Timely offices, Bellman was quickly handed pencil and inking jobs of his own. Between 1942 and 1947 he pencilled several 'Human Torch' stories for several titles, including Captain America Comics, Marvel Mystery Comics and All Select Comics. In 1943 he served in the Navy as an insignia painter, but was discharged after a couple of months due to illness.

Superheroes
Between 1944 and 1946, Bellman worked on episodes of 'The Patriot' (1944-1946) for Marvel Mystery Comics, and 'The Destroyer', one of the earliest superhero creations by Stan Lee. Like many of the Golden Age heroes, their heroics were mostly aimed at Nazi villains. The same goes for the 'Young Allies', a gang of patriotic kids fighting the Axis powers, of whom Bellman drew several stories in the 1943-1947 period. The artist furthermore drew 'The Whizzer' and stories of the kid time traveler 'Tommy Tyme' (1944-1945). Bellman was by far not the only artist for those features; many of the bullpen had their turn as either penciller or inker. Bellman not only pencilled, but also inked over Vince Alascia, Mike Sekowsky, Dan Barry, Dick Briefer or Al Gabriele art.


Illustration for 'Detective Short Stories'.

Genre-based comics
On the side, Bellman made illustrations for the company's romance and crime pulp books, such as 'Love Story' and 'Detective Short Stories'. As a freelancer, he also contributed his own riddle comic 'Let's Play Detective' (1943-1949), which appeared as a filler feature in several of the Timely comic books. In the second half of the 1940s he drew stories with Navy lieutenant 'Jap Buster Johnson', at least one written by none other than the future crime novelist Mickey Spillane. By the time World War II was over, the popularity of superheroes waned, and comic book companies turned to genre-based anthology titles. So did Timely, who regrouped its activities into Stan Lee's Atlas Comics line in 1951. Bellman remained involved during the early years, contributing to the romance, western, crime and sports titles. One of the final regular features he worked on was 'Captain Jet Dixon of the Space Squadron' (1952) in Space Squadron and Space Worlds. Between 1950 and 1953 he also contributed some stories to the comic books 'Crime and Punishment' and 'Lover's Lane', published by Lev Gleason.

Further career
By 1953 Al Bellman left the industry altogether, largely because of the witch hunt against comic books instigated by Dr. Fredric Wertham. He moved to South Florida, where he joined the art department of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He eventually found his true passion in photography. The winner of several nationwide photography contests, he liked to see himself as an "artist who now paints with his camera". Hundreds of his photos have appeared in hardcover books, have been on exhibit in Florida museums and received positive  reviews in numerous newspapers. In old age, Allen Bellman enjoyed to attend comic conventions, signing comics and chatting with fans. In 2017 he self-published a book on his career called 'Timely Confidential: When the Golden Age of Comic Books Was Young', with the help of editors Michael J. Vassallo and Audrey Parente. Bellman was one of the last remaining artists of the Golden Age of Comic Books, when he passed away on 9 March 2020, at the age of 95.


'Let's Play Detective' (from Captain America Comics #66). 

allenbellman.com

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