Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson : biography
Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson (January 4, 1890 – January 1, 1968) was an American pulp magazine writer and entrepreneur who pioneered the American comic book, publishing the first such periodical consisting solely of original material rather than reprints of newspaper comic strips. His comic book company, National Allied Publications, would evolve into DC Comics, one of the world's two largest comic book publishers, being rivaled by Marvel Comics, though long after its founder had left it.
He was a 2008 Judges' Choice inductee into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.
Early life and military career
Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson was born in Greeneville, Tennessee.Douglas Wheeler-Nicholson interview , p.10 His father, whose surname was Strain, died in 1894, after the birth of his second son, Malcolm's brother Christopher.Douglas Wheeler-Nicholson interview, p. 10 Another sibling, a sister, died in 1894, when Malcolm was four. Their mother, Antoinette Wheeler, afterward moved to New York City, New York, became a journalist, and later joined a start-up women's magazine in Portland, Oregon. By this time she had changed her last name to "Straham", a variant of "Strain", and upon marrying teacher T.J.B. Nicholson, who would become the boys' stepfather, reverted to her maiden name and appended her new married name. The brothers were raised in "an iconoclastic, intellectual household" where his family entertained such guests as Theodore Roosevelt and Rudyard Kipling.
Wheeler-Nicholson spent his boyhood both in Portland and on a horse ranch in Washington State. Raised riding, he went on to attend the military academy The Manlius School in DeWitt, New York, and in 1917 joined the U.S. CavalryDouglas Wheeler-Nicholson interview, p. 11 as a second-lieutenant.Wright, Nicky. The Classic Era of American Comics (Contemporary Books, Chicago, 2000) ISBN 0-8092-9966-6, p. 16 According to differing sources, he rose to become either "the youngest major in the Army", the youngest in the Cavalry, or one of the youngest in the Cavalry. By his own account, he "chased bandits on the Mexican border, fought fevers and played polo in the Philippines, led a battalion of infantry against the Bolsheviki in Siberia, helped straighten out the affairs of the army in France [and] commanded the headquarters cavalry of the American force in the Rhine". His Cavalry unit was among those under John J. Pershing's command that in 1916 hunted the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. The following year, he served under Pershing fighting the Muslim Moros in the Philippines, and with a Cossack troop in Siberia. Subsequent outposts included Japan; London, England; and Germany.Douglas Wheeler-Nicholson interview, pp. 11-12
After World War I, Wheeler-Nicholson was sent to study at the École Supérieure de Guerre in Paris, France, where he met Elsa Sachsenhausen Bjorkböm. They were married in Koblenz, Germany in 1920; their first child, Antoinette, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, his wife's home, in 1922.
That same year, following his public criticism of Army command in an open letter to President Warren G. Harding, as well as accusations by the major against senior officers, plus countercharges, hearings, a lawsuit against West Point head General Fred W. Sladen, and what the family calls an Army-sanctioned assassination attempt that left Wheeler-Nicholson hospitalized with a bullet wound,Douglas Wheeler-Nicholson interview, pp. 12-13 Wheeler-Nicholson was convicted in a court-martial trial of violating an Article of War in publishing his letter in The New York Times.Douglas Wheeler-Nicholson interview, p. 13 He resigned his commission in 1923, the year his second child, daughter Marianne was born. Sons Malcolm and Douglas were born in 1927 and 1928, respectively, and daughter Diane in 1932.
Having already written non-fiction about military topics, including the 1922 book The Modern Cavalry, and fiction, including the Western hardcover novel Death at the Corral, also 1922, Wheeler-Nicholson now began writing short stories for the pulps. The major soon became a cover name, penning military and historical adventure fiction for such magazines as Adventure and Argosy. He additionally ghost wrote six adventure novels about air hero Bill Barnes for Street & Smith Publications.
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