The Ottumwa Courier


October 17, 2011

Batavia man has colorful career with comic book history

Wells’ article is in ‘Batman in the Eighties’

BATAVIA — John Wells is a guy who likes living in a small town that’s “quiet and peaceful.” But, for entertainment he turns to superheroes and super villains.

“It was never the big city for me,” he said Friday. “I like Batavia.”

Born in 1964, John has lived in Batavia since 1965. He receives invitations to comic book conventions, writes for comic book publishers and has a stack of professional credits. His recent work was to write the foreward for “Batman in the Eighties.”

John’s publishers know him as someone who has gathered comic books for years and put a lot of information about them into his computer. He’s been at it since 1983.

Early in his career, John was also involved with newspapers. Publisher Don Thompson liked John’s articles and gave him pointers on writing.

“I wasn’t full-time, but he bought my articles,” John said.

In 1986, John started working for Walmart in Fairfield. He also read a lot, wrote a lot and worked even more hours at Walmart.

“I’m amazed at how young I was then and had a lot of jobs,” he said.

Some of his contacts knew about the articles John had written, and they tracked him down because his company was working on a comic index.

“They sent me complimentary copies and that got my reputation out there,” John said.

Then John was recommended to Kurt Busick from DC Comics.

“I have some questions for you,” Kurt, said and John knew he’d be on the hunt again.

John also supplied answers for the ’70s comics and revived the information for a column.

Then he wrote a summer column for six weeks and did that for two years or so. And, of course, everyone tossed their questions to John.

The new leaders at DC Comics offered no money to John so he told them he was caring for his elderly parents, who were his first priority.

John wrote for “Alter Ego,” which covered the 1940s and 1960s, and “Back Issue,” which covered the 1970s and 1980s.

John said Roy Thomas was the right-hand man of Stan Lee, who was a big name at Marvel Comics.

“Roy started the Conan comics and fought to keep Conan in the comics,” John said. “Conan got Marvel Comics through the hard times.”

Wells also worked with Robert Greenberger, who was with DC Comics during the 1980s-90s. He helped John with some suggestions about his submissions for the ’80s forewards.

“Bob left his job in 2005, and he was my big contact,” John said.

Later, John worked on the “Wonder Woman Encyclopedia” and the “Superman Encyclopedia.” The writing and related tasks consumed six months of his life, no matter that he was working 40 hours a week at Walmart.

“I worked from sunup to sundown,” he said.

The good part is he was “very satisfied” with the project and his employers complimented him.

John has had a colorful career that started with newspaper comics. Even when he tried to quit working, various contacts would ask for his help.

Steve Court wanted to give John “one more assignment,” which was to identify 100 pictures from various comic books and even the TV “Batman” series.

John said he’s relieved the Internet offers a lot of help in identifying older items. Websites were particularly helpful in providing names of actors who were in the old superhero serials.

Thanks, John, for having all those answers and sources needed by comic book publishers!

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