At age 91, Hy Fleishman, a prolific comics artist of the 1950s, made his first and only appearance at a comics convention, Heroes Con 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fleishman autographed prints of his covers and chatted with fans for several hours, reportedly pleased that some fans remembered his work and thought so highly of it. Last week, on April 1, 2020 he passed away.
Fleishman was a penciler, inker, colorist and cover artist who worked for Timely, Stanmor, Lev Gleason, and Story Comics, among others, but stopped doing comics in 1956. Fleishman tackled a variety of genres during his comics career but is probably best known to modern comics readers for the pre-Code horror stories he drew, some of which will be coming out in a new collection.
His life was typical of many cartoonists who came up in the 1930s and ’40s on the East Coast. Herman “Hy” Fleishman was born Nov. 18, 1927 in Manhattan to parents David and Molly (née Zamoskiewicz) Fleishman. Turning 18 in 1945, he joined the U.S. Navy. Upon his discharge from military service, he married Dorothy née Abromson. He used his G.I. Bill benefits to attend New York’s City College and then went on to Burne Hogarth’s Cartoonists & Illustrators School (later the School of Visual Arts), before seeking work in the comic-book business.
By all accounts, during the 1950s, Hy Fleishman was a hard-working comics-industry professional with an eye-pleasing realistic style not unlike Mort Meskin’s. He not only penciled and inked, he also did coloring and drew covers. (Some of his pre-Code horror covers are classics.) According to historian and book designer Craig Yoe, Fleishman’s first work in comics was probably in Fight Against Crime May 1951. In a capsule biography written for the Atlas Tales website, his daughter Roberta recalled, “My own remembrance of those years was waking up many mornings finding my father at his drawing table where he had been working all night to meet a deadline.” She said her father looked back on those many long nights with the remark, “It was all a part of the work.”
Among the many Timely/Atlas titles Fleishman drew or inked for between 1953 and 1957 were, Journey Into Unknown Worlds, Justice, Kid Colt Outlaw, Marvel Tales, Astonishing, Mystic, Strange Tales, Strange Stories of Suspense and Strange Tales of the Unusual. His last work for Timely/Atlas was a story in Astonishing #58, cover-dated February 1957. Although he did do some Western and crime art, the bulk of his work for Timely/Atlas was Code-approved horror/mystery or science-fiction stories.
For Master/Merit Publications, he drew some pretty grisly Dark Mysteries horror covers, but was versatile enough to switch over to romance stories in titles like Romantic Hearts and, for Gilmore Publications, Tender Romance. He contributed to Mad imitator Nuts!, Weird Tales of the Future and Mister Mystery and did many stories for Police Against Crime and Mysterious Adventures. For publisher Lev Gleason, he did the characters “Chuck (Crimebuster) Chandler” in Boy Comics and “Dilly Duncan,” an Archie-style teen strip in Boy Comics and Daredevil. In 1955, he left behind his other clients to focus exclusively on Poppo of the Popcorn Theater, a weekly kid comic about a clown that was based on a WABC TV show that ran in the New York metro area from September to December 1956. The comic lasted 13 weekly issues, and Fleishman later stated, "...I drew all the art for those 13 issues, while (Charles) Biro did the story". When his daughter Roberta asked her father why his name did not appear on any of the pages, Fleisman commented that "...Biro did no artwork on Poppo (just the story), but insisted his name would be the only one to appear." The comic was sold on newsstands, but was also used as a promotional giveaway for IGA supermarkets. After Poppo was canceled because of mediocre sales, Fleishman couldn’t get his old job back, and stopped working full-time in the comics industry.
Fleishman moved to Connecticut and opened a Howdy! Beef Burger restaurant in East Hartford in 1964. Following the death of his first wife, Fleishman married Mary Drago in 1976 and went on to open several Dandy Lion restaurants in West Hartford and Granby, as well as Fleishman’s Luncheonette in West Hartford. After working in the restaurant business for decades, he retired to Florida. Mary passed away in 2011.
Craig Yoe, who included some of Fleishman’s stories in several of his collections of ’50s horror comics like Dark Mysteries and Haunted Horror and is currently at work on a book focused on Fleishman’s work, posted his recollection of meeting Fleishman at Heroes Con: “Hy was beyond joy, beaming with happiness at his first and last con where he received so much recognition and love.”
At the time of his death, Fleishman was living in Lake Wales, Florida with his partner and fiancé, Janice Sheldon. He is survived by Janice Sheldon, his daughter Roberta Smith, and her husband Michael, daughter Judith Gimmartino and her partner Robert Wages, daughter Nancy and her spouse Robert Puglisi, his only son David Fleishman and his wife Debra Gruber, as well as two step-children, Peter and his wife Mary Di Pietro, Marybeth and husband Marc Sanville, and eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.