'Dead Man's Escape' (Adventures Into Terror #11, 1952). 

Joe Maneely was a mid-20th century American comic artist. Between the late 1940s and late 1950s he was a frequent contributor to Atlas Comics (nowadays Marvel Comics). A swift jack-of-all-trades, he drew many stories in equally plentiful different genres. He is best remembered as the co-creator and main artist of the western series 'The Ringo Kid' (1954-1957), 'The Black Knight' (1955-  ) and 'The Yellow Claw' (1956). This latter series introduced both the master villain The Yellow Claw as well as the heroic secret agent Jimmy Woo, who would be featured in several later Marvel Comics series. Maneely also created the gag-a-day comic 'Mrs. Lyons' Cubs' (1957-1958). Unfortunately a tragic train accident ended his career at age 32, making him one of the great "what if?" stories in the history of comics.

Early life
Joseph Maneely was born in 1926 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a large, but poor family. As a student at the local North East Catholic High School he designed their mascot 'The Red Falcon'. Maneely also drew a comic strip about the bird, which ran in the school newspaper. Maneely never finished his education but during World War II he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. During his service he drew cartoons for the army magazines. 

Yellow Claw by Joe Maneely
'The Yellow Claw', from Yellow Claw #1, 1956

Post-war career
After World War II Maneely became a freelance comics artist. Thanks to the G.I. Bill he was able to get a proper art education at the Hussian School of Art in Philadelphia. His first job was helping at the advertising art department of 'The Philadelphia Bulletin'. From 1948 until the end of the decade he drew various realistically-drawn action and crime comics for Street & Smith, Airboy Comics and Treasure Chest. In 1950 he and fellow artists George Ward and Peggy Zangerle founded an art studio in the Flo-Mar Building in Philadelphia. 

Atlas Comics
At Atlas Comics, Maneely's work really began to shine. His unique and efficient style appealed to editor-in-chief Stan Lee. It is said that Maneely could pencil and ink seven pages in a single day. His pencil sketches were deliberately soft. He worked everything out while inking, rather than use finished pencil drawings to trace ink drawings over them. Maneely was commissioned to draw various magazine covers and stories. He proved himself to be a veritable chameleon. He worked on all of Atlas' series, no matter what the subject matter was. Thanks to his speed and versatility Maneely was held in high esteem by his bosses. They nicknamed him "Joe Money", because he was such a lucrative artist among their force. 

The Ringo Kid
Maneely was co-creator of several enduring characters at Atlas. His first popular hero was 'The Ringo Kid', who debuted in August 1954 in 'Ringo Kid' (Atlas Comics). The Ringo Kid is a multiracial cowboy, whose mother was a Native American. Since he's not white, people mistreat him. One day the young man is accused of a crime he didn't commit. He becomes an outlaw, taking the name 'Ringo Kid'. The Ringo Kid is not alone on his journeys. His trusty horse, Arab, never leaves him alone. The Ringo Kid is also accompanied by his Native American friend Dull Knife. 'The Ringo Kid' ran until September 1957. Other artists who've drawn the feature have been Fred Kida and John Severin

The Black Knight
With Stan Lee as scriptwriter, Maneely co-created another black-dressed hero in a historical setting: 'The Black Knight'. Set in 6th-century England, the stories follow the adventures of Sir Percy of Scandia, a knight in King Arthur's court. Percy pretends to be a clumsy imbecile to guard his secret double life as the mysterious heroic Black Knight. Only Merlin the wizard knows Percy's real identity. He also gave him a special sword, made from a meteorite. Nicknamed the 'Ebony Blade', the weapon almost makes the Black Knight invincible. 'Almost', because in one episode the Black Knight is killed in battle by a blade made from the same meteorite as his ebony blade. In later stories sons and other descendants of Percy each take their famous ancestor's role as the new 'Black Knight'. This narrative allowed Lee and Maneely to have their character experience adventures in other time periods of the Middle Ages as well. Debuting in May 1955, 'The Black Knight' ran for five issues until December that year. Apart from Maneely, other stories were drawn by Fred Kida, Syd Shores and Christopher Rule.   

The Yellow Claw
In October 1956 scriptwriter Al Feldstein and Maneely introduced 'The Yellow Claw'. The mini series follows a Chinese-American secret agent, Jimmy Woo, who works for the F.B.I. Woo is assigned to a special mission. He has to find and stop a Chinese mastervillain nicknamed 'The Yellow Claw'. The Yellow Claw was obviously inspired by similar Asian supervillains, like Fu Manchu. Although in this comic strip his evilness had more political overtones. He was depicted as an advocate of his country's Communist regime and wants to take over the world. Although Woo eventually defeats him, both him and the Yellow Claw would continue to make appearances in many of Atlas' later comic titles. Other artists who worked on 'The Yellow Claw' were Jack Kirby and John Severin

Mrs Lyon's Cubs by Joe Maneely
 'Mrs. Lyons' Cubs'. 

Educational comics
Maneely also drew two educational comic strips, 'John's First Job' (1956) and 'A Farm and a Family' for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Mrs. Lyons' Cubs
In 1957, after Atlas Comics ran into financial troubles, Stan Lee and Maneely created a daily newspaper comic for The Chicago Sun Times to bring in some desperately needed cash. 'Mrs. Lyons' Cubs' (1957-1958) centered on a old lady, Mrs. Lyons, who is in charge of a group of boy scouts. The series also ran in The Milwaukee Gazette. After Maneely's death in June 1958, some episodes were ghosted by Al Hartley for two months extra. In August of that year the series was cancelled. 

Death and legacy
In 1958 Joe Maneely suddenly died in a tragic accident. One night he, George Ward and John Severin were travelling by train. At a certain moment Maneely walked to the balcony of the train to get some fresh air. There he lost his balance and fell to his death. He was only 32 years old. His mysterious death naturally led to all kinds of theories. Stan Goldberg claimed that Maneely had lost his glasses a week earlier and still hadn't found them back, nor wore another pair, on that fatal night. This might explain why he didn't notice where he was walking in the dark. John Severin attributed his friend's death to having had a few drinks too much. Others speculated it may have been a suicide. In general most people agree it was most likely an accident. Either way, Joe Maneely's premature death was a great loss to the world of comics. He left behind a wife and three children. In 2004 Stan Lee commented that if Maneely had lived "he would have been another Jack Kirby (...) the best you could imagine."

Strange Tales, by Joe Maneely

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