The Origins of Silverbeard
Catfood history of the Gorilla Gladiator
After the debut of Catfood Confidential, it took some time for founder, Emil Katfric to release another title but when the action anthology Catfood Attacks! # 1 hit the stands in November 1944, it hit big. The first issue’s cover star was, appropriately, Silverbeard, the Giant of the Jungle, a silverback gorilla of enormous size who preyed on the Great White Hunters who dared think they could turn him into a trophy. The huge sales led Catfood Comics to believe Gorillas were a comic book gold mine a full seven years before the rest of the industry and this ensured that a large part of their future titles would be ape-based. Silverbeard himself only lasted in the title until 1947 but was destined to be revamped in the late 60s into the company’s most successful character.
Catfood Comics editor and Seven Sagas creator, Morty Fields revealed in a 1975 interview that it was the first comic book appearance of Conan that inspired Fields to revamp Silverbeard from jungle monster to wandering warrior. “I picked up a comic called Cuentos de Abuelito while on a trip to Tiajuna, in the early 50s. It was adapting ‘The Queen of the Black Coast’ and it was pretty good, a little rough around the edges, and I didn’t know why Conan was blonde but I liked it enough to keep it around the office.”
Fields continues “When Emil told me to come up with a new title, it was the cover of that book which inspired me to revamp our old jungle character, Silverbeard into something new!”
In July 1967, Catfood Comics published The Savage Silverbeard #1 and sales were strong from the get go, soon the Ape Eternal gained more titles such as the anthology book, Hail Silverbeard! and the black & white Silverbeard Unbound! The Gorilla Gladiator remained Catfood Comics biggest seller for the next 25 years, if only the paper had been better SB’s name might still be known today.
Many Silverbeard scholars argue that the success of The Simian Swashbuckler might have brought him to the attention of Marvel editor, Roy Thomas and influenced his decision to license Conan, Morty Fields believes so “It was the only time the big guys took any notice of us!” Thomas convinced Stan Lee to license Conan for Marvel Comics and the first issue of Conan the Barbarian appeared in October 1970, a full three years after Silverbeard’s re-appearance.
Read next > Silverbeard Letters Pages