Charles Solomon Sultan was born on November 16, 1913 in Brooklyn, New York City. His father, Harry Sultan, was born 1886 in Minsk, Russia, of Jewish ancestry and came to America in 1905. His mother, Fanny Green, was born 1889 in Dvensk, Latvia, of Jewish ancestry. In 1895 her family moved to England and settled in Liverpool, where she worked as a seamstress until 1904, when she moved to America to live with her brother, Barney Green, at 431 Watkins Street in Brooklyn, New York City. Harry Sultan and Fanny Green met in Brooklyn and married in Manhattan on July 26, 1910. They moved to 185 Amboy Street in Brooklyn. They had five children. The first born was Isidor (b.1911). Charles was the second born. His younger siblings were Arthur (b.1920), Pauline (b.1922), and Arnold (b.1926).
His father worked as a polisher of surgical instruments, but eventually opened a hardware store at 1735 Sterling Place in Brooklyn.
In 1927 the family moved to 5721 Eighteenth Avenue. Their next door neighbors at 5723 were his Uncle Max Sultan, Aunt Lena and cousins William and Edward.
According to the artist,"Life was tough, always hard, but never dull. Those were rough and exciting days. The shops that lined the street where we lived were filled to bursting with all sorts of marvelous things. Stands loaded with clothing, fresh fruits, boxes of olives, dried fruits and figs, barrels of herring, and all sorts of smelly cheeses hung from tattered awnings in the front of stores. Gang fights were great fun too, if you didn't get your head split. Every street had its own toughs. No one had an automobile in those days. When one was parked along the curb with its shiny brass headlights we'd gather around it, jump on the running boards and kick the hard rubber wheels. None of us were envious, just curious. I guess we were too busy to be envious. Besides, owning an automobile was so farfetched we would have been laughed out of our knickers if we even suggested such a preposterous idea. Girls were of no interest either. They were just somebody's sister and to be avoided or else be classified a sissy. We lived in a third floor walk-up flat. Our place was never referred to as an apartment. Apartments were reserved for the more successful who lived on Ocean Parkway."
In June of 1931, after completing his Junior year at a Brooklyn high school, he quit school and began to work as a sign painter and commercial artist in order to contribute to the family income during the Great Depression.
By 1933 his career in illustration had earned enough extra income to afford night school art classes at the Art Students League of New York, where he studied with George Bridgman (1865-1943) and Walter Biggs (1886-1968). He also attended a seminar by Harvey Dunn(1884-1952). In 1934 he studied with John Steuart Curry (1897-1946), a disciple of Robert Henri (1865-1929). The artist later recalled Curry had said, "Read Henri's book, The Art Spirit, and you'll learn more about art than any art school will ever teach you!"
In 1936 he began to draw pen and ink story illustrations for pulp magazines. During this time his work appeared in Star Sport, All Star Adventure, Complete Northwest Novel Magazine, Ten Detective Aces, Thrilling Western, and Sports Action.
In 1939 he began to work for the comic book studio of Eisner & Iger. By 1940 he worked at the Chesler Studio. During this pre-war period he also worked for Fiction House Comics, Quality Comics, and Fawcett Comics, where he drew Minute Man, Rick O'Shay, and Spy Smasher.
On September 28, 1942 he was drafted for military service in WWII. He was recorded at the time to be twenty-eight year old, five-nine and 140 pounds. His occupation was listed as "artist" and his education was listed as having completed four years of college. This statement conflicts with his 1940 US Census Record, which lists his completion of the 11th grade of high school as his highest level of education. This confusion may have arisen from the fact that he studied at the Art Students League for several years, however the school did not offer a college diploma program.
As a Private in the Army he was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for boot camp and was later stationed at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
On March 13, 1943 according to The Hattiesburg American, "Private Charles Sultan, of the 896th Ordinance (Heavy Maintenance) Company, will draw a comic strip for Reveille, the newspaper of Camp Shelby. He has been doing cartoon work since 1932, and has worked for comic book syndicates. He last was employed by the Quality Comic Group in New York City. His boss there was Bill Eisner, who now draws the "Joe Dope" cartoons for the Army. Sultan has illustrated two covers for Harper's Magazine and a few other slick magazines no longer published. A student at the Art Student League in New York he studied under Walter Biggs and Harvey Dunn, who train most of today's well-known illustrators. He was also a pupil of John Steuart Curry, painter of the "American." Private Sultan was inducted into the Army October 12, 1942 at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Since being stationed at Camp Shelby he has decorated the wall of the company mess hall with cartoons of Disney's characters- Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Dumbo, etc."
In 1944 he was sent to Germany, where he was stationed in Bremen. In 1946 he was honorably discharged.
After the war he returned to New York City and resumed his career as a commercial artist. He drew comic books produced by Fiction House, DC Comics, EC Comics, American Comics Group, Better Publications, and Street & Smith Comics.
From 1949 to 1955 he drew John Wayne Comics for Toby Press. At the same time he illustrated several paperback books for Popular Library.
In the 1950s he began to work for men's adventure magazines, such as Man's Peril, Man's Exploits, Gusto He-Man Adventures, and Rage For Men. These magazines were published by Everett "Busy" Arnold.
Along with his art career, Charles Sultan also worked as a editor at Sports Car Wheel Magazine and Peril Magazine. In 1958 he bought a portion of Arnold's publishing company and formed Natlus Publications. Natlus spelled backwards is Sultan. Natlus Inc. produced Wild For Men, Man's Peril, and Rage For Men.
In 1962 he moved to Ventura, California.
This unusual evolution from a Jewish immigrant family in Pre-WWI Brooklyn to a 1930s freelance pulp magazine illustrator, WWII soldier, and then a California publisher of 1960s men's magazines is curiously parallel to the life story of Milton Luros.
It is unlikely that most freelance illustrators of modest income would have been able to finance the acquisition of a publishing company without financial backing from some third-party enterprise. Perhaps such an organization preferred to remain unknown, while using a trustworthy free-lance employee, who happened to have a clean police record, to act as a front man for a company that produced magazines of sexual content in order to avoid the risk of scandalous repercussions for their larger and more family-oriented publications.
Despite his impressive dealings, he continued to illustrate men's adventure magazines into the 1970s. His work appeared in Pioneer West, Westerner, and Wild West. He also produced paintings of the Old West for sale in fine art galleries.
Charles Sultan died in Camarillo, CA, at the age of seventy on February 28, 1984.
© David Saunders 2012