Favorite Quotes

"The fact that you think you are a person is a socially induced hallucination. There is not such thing as a person."
- D. Chopra, Playboy March 2011 interview

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Centaur Publications Demise

Wham Comics #2 (December 1940) [Centaur Publications]

This final day in November of 1940 was probably one of the last days that you could have purchased a Centaur Publications comic book on the newsstands.  Their remaining four comic titles all have December cover dates.  Comic books were actually on sale a month or two before the cover date, so sometime during December, the newsdealer would have removed their comics to make room for more. 

Maybe he would have made room for Amazing Man Comics #19, which was published by Comic Corporation of America.  But if you had bought that issue, you would have given your money to essentially the same company.  It seems, according to the Statement of Ownership published in their comics, that both companies were owned by some of the same people, Raymond J. Kelly, Joseph J. Hardie,  and E. L. Angel.  

Centaur had published 133 different comics in 19 different titles from 1938 to 1940.  But, Centaur filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 20 owing their printer (World Color) and others thousands of dollars [New York Times, Oct. 21, 1940].  So, did the owners just change their company name and keep publishing comics?

Detective Eye (December 1940) [Centaur Publications]

Centaur Publications, Comic Corporation of America, Ultem Publications, Comics Magazine Company, Kable Distribution, and others are all linked together in a convoluted way.  All at the the beginning of comic periodical history.  

To get a better understanding for these connections, I built a mindmap for Centaur Publications.  Its not complete, but its a start.  The map is large, but moves around easily by clicking and dragging.


There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding these companies and what went on.  If you are interested in the nitty gritty details of their interconnections or know something about the business, then the newly formed Google Group "comics-pub" is for you.  The Centaur mindmap is a result of our first discussion.  We are not limiting our topics to just Golden Age comics, as we discuss the entire history of the business including printing, distribution, circulation and more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Stone Age by Victor Dowling

Funny Pages v1 #7 (December 1936) [Comics Magazine Company]

If you had gone to the newsstand today in 1936, and opened up the latest issue of Funny Pages, you'd find a fascinating 2 page strip by Victor Dowling:  The Stone Age.  It merged the high style of the 1930s flapper with prehistoric fashions to get a unique look.  Note the modern touches of top hat and street cleaner equipment in the example above.

It started out as the Age of Stone in Comics Magazine v1 #3, but switched the title by the 3rd episode in v1#5.  When the comic book became Funny Pages with v1 #6 the strip continued thru #11 (June 1937).  But when Ultem picked up the book, it discontinued The Stone Age, much to my regret.

Funny Pages v1 #6 (November 1936) [Comics Magazine Company]

Note the extra touches of humor like the donkey licking the lion's face and its reaction in panels 1 & 2 above. Thanks to the Digital Comics Museum for the scans.

Later, Dowling did other strips for Harry "A" Chesler's shop, but they were of the adventure type with nice, but standard art. He also even did a cover, Funny Pages v1 #9.  Dowling did do a few other 2 page humorous strips called Sights About Town which showcased his wit, but they didn't reach the pinnacle of The Stone Age.  He also did some work for Atlas.

Victor Dowling went on to illustrate a few books, including one which is still in print.  Joey Goes To Sea by Alan Villiers was originally published in 1939 with illustrations by Dowling.  Mystic Seaport's latest printing of a story about a cat that lives on a boat was in 2005.  Not bad for an forgotten comic book artist.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advance Comics #1

Since the new Diamond Comics Distributors' December Previews catalog arrives in comic shops this week, I thought I'd highlight the first monthly catalog for Capital City Distribution.

Though dated January, Advance Comics #1 actually came out in November 1988.  The cover date was intended to indicate when the comic books in this catalog would arrive at the comic shop.  And though it says #1 on the cover, it is actually v2 #1.  The previous month actually was the first issue, v1 #1.

This catalog was intended for consumers; customers of comic shops.  For a long time, there were 2 versions of this catalog, one for the retailer and one for the fan.  Before this, readers could find out what was going to come out in the future from The Comic Reader, The Comics Buyers Guide, The Comics Journal, Amazing Heroes and other similar publications.  This issue had 64 pages and over "800 new releases".  Compare that to November 2011 Previews with its 426 pages and over 1900 item listings.

Advance Comics was the first coming comic book catalog/order form for fans and lasted 94 issues, until Diamond bought "selected assets" of Capital City in 1996.  It listed comic books by publisher, with color comics first, then games, black & white comics, zines, books and the rest.  No real editorial material except the Top 100 Comics list on the inside front cover.  More on these in the future.

It wasn't the first advance order catalog for retailers as Glenwood had one in 1982.  Its catalog was a quick and dirty paste up job of promotional pieces supplied by publishers.  If anyone has copies of the Glenwood catalogs, I'd love to get my hands on them.  Previews started in Jan. 1989.

Founded by Milton Griepp and John Davis in 1980, Capital City was the more innovative of the two big distributors of the 1990s as they had imports and computerized ordering first.  They were also more open to erotic material than Diamond who has ghettoized adult material now that they are a monopoly.  Milton Griepp now runs the excellent comic industry news and information site ICv2 (http://icv2.com).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Creation Convention

November 27-28, 1971, The Creation 1971 Art Convention.  First annual Creation convention organized by Adam Malin and Gary Berman over Thanksgiving weekend at the New New Yorker Hotel.  Jim Steranko was the first Guest of Honor.

This con continued on Thanksgiving weekend for many years and soon branched out into many cities and many dates.  Still going on today as Creation Entertainment.   More of a popular culture convention than a comic book convention.

Malin and Berman also put out a fanzine in the early 1970s titled Infinity.  Lasted at least 6 issues.

The book From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and comic books By Arie Kaplan  confuses this convention with Seuling's 1971 Comic Art Convention when it claims that Will Esiner met Denis Kitchen at Creation Con (pg 151).  It was at the Comic Art Convention in 1971 as Will says in an interview in the Warren Companion (pg 158).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Seuling Kicks Off The Direct Market

In November 1973, Phil Seuling convinces National Periodical Publications (DC Comics) and Warren Publishing Co. to sell new comic books to him on a non-returnable basis for distribution to comic book dealers.  Marvel Comics follows suit a month later.  This small start represents the beginning of the Direct Market distribution system of comic book stores that we have today.

Scholar Robert Beerbohm has said that Seuling didn't create the direct market but expanded the underground distribution system that already existed.  There is some truth to that, but not the complete truth.  As part of that system, Seuling undoubtedly was just adding items to his product mix that he was selling to dealers.  But the addition of new newsstand comics enabled a store to have enough continuous new product to survive on comic books and related materials alone.  Underground comix creators did not produce enough material to do that.  It also nearly guaranteed stores could get every comic book issue they wanted, which was not the case with the newsstand distribution system.  This was a fundamental change in distribution and created a new system, the Direct Market.

This new system also saved and marginalized comic books in North America at the same time.  The Direct Market's growth in the 1970s and 1980s rescued the comic book from an increasingly hostile newsstand environment while at the same time focusing the product on a small segment of superhero fans.  This focus excluded most women, girls and non-superhero readers.  This marginalization also meant that comic books were harder to find, so new readers declined.  This trend continued until the acceptance of manga trade paperbacks and graphic novels by bookstores in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Friday, November 25, 2011

In The Comic Shop Today in 1992

Archer & Armstrong #7 (Feb. 1992) - Valiant [Voyager Communications]

This comic appeared this week in your comic book store in 1992.  "Scowling" Jim Cowling posted the New Releases: November 25-27 1992 list on rec.arts.comics.info on Usenet.  Back in the early days of the Internet.

It was one of the great buddy comics of the 1990s.  Back in the early years of Valiant when they had a cohesive universe, great stories and great art.  The two get into a brawl when they stop at a mansion to ask to use the phone because their car ran out of gas.  Armstrong (the big guy) fights through most of the issue while Archer writes in his journal.

Even though this issue had guest penciler Art Nichols on the inside, Barry Windsor-Smith did the nice cover and wrote the story.

Go visit the excellent Valiant fan site, http://www.valiantfan.com/valiant.asp, for more.

On The Newsstand Today In 1961

Tales of Suspense #26 (Feb. 1962) Marvel.

A great monster cover by Jack Kirby.

On the newsstand on Nov. 6.  The average circulation for this title in 1961 was 148,929 copies.