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

Friday, February 5, 2016

Number of Comic Books Published Each Year 1933-2014

Since no one has done much quantitative data analysis of comic books over time, I thought I would post a graph I did last year which is a comparison of three sources that I have.  There are lots of problems with the graph.

Hopefully this will get me to reactivate this blog with more stats.

Click on the image to get a larger version

To be clear, this is the number of comic book issues published each year.  Not the total quantity of comics printed or sold.  For example, Astonishing Comics from Timely had 12 issues published in 1952, numbers 9-20.  So those 12 issues are part of the approx. 3,000 issues that came out in 1952.

The yellow line is data from Dan Stevenson's year by year title listing which was provided to APA-I members years ago.  I do not believe it has been published anywhere.  It is probably the most accurate.

The orange line is data provided by John Jackson Miller on his www.comichron.com web site Research Forum in 2007.  He extracted the numbers from the Standard Catalog of Comic Books database.  I could not find the Research Forum on his ComiChron web site, so he must have taken it down.

The blue line is from Mike's Amazing World Of Comics web site from info I downloaded in Feb 2014.  The numbers have been updated since I took them, so they will be better now.  Note the trailing off of numbers after 2009.  Ignore that.  Obviously the numbers were not up to date.  Visit his excellent web site : http://www.mikesamazingworld.com/index.php.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Stan Lee predicted the Marvel SHIELD TV show back in 1965.

As every Marvel Comic's fan knows, Joss Whedon is writing a S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot for ABC TV set to start in the fall of 2013.  As I understand it, shooting has already started along with a Twitter account.

But, Stan Lee predicted the SHIELD TV show way back in 1965.

In Daredevil #11 (Dec 1965), written by Stan Lee and drawn by Bob Powell, The Organizer is trying to take over the whole city by getting control of the Reform Party political machine.  In doing so, he attempts to blow up the mayor by remote control from an already planted bomb.  But Daredevil (in disguise) is broadcasting the event live via regular TV channels when The Organizer flips the switch. The bomb fails to explode and it results in the following panel on page 10:

Note the man's comment:

There is no other mention of the show, and of course DD defeats The Organizer.

Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, had just been introduced four months earlier in Strange Tales #135 (Aug 1965), so this was obviously a plug for the new series.  Nobody knew how big a success it would become.

Now I think Agent of SHIELD is a better title than just SHIELD, so I hope they use it for the TV show instead of just SHIELD.  Hopefully they will get a Stan Lee cameo too.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Jerry Bails - Media beginnings

In the New York Times today in 1965, there is an article about the new phenomena of escalating prices of old comic books. 

New York Times, January 30, 1965 pg 31

It was a sequel of sorts to an earlier New York Times article from Dec. 1964.

New York Times, December 6, 1965 pg 141

The first story above is one of the earliest media mentions Dr. Jerry Bails, who of course, is one of the founders of modern comic book fandom.  Soon after this article, Jerry Bails is in the Newsweek of Feb. 15 article about fandom titled "Superfans and Batmaniacs".  The media starts to notice comic books in a different light than as a problem to be solved.

Bill Schelly, in his excellent Golden Age of Comic Fandom book, says that this New York Times article "was reprinted in scores of newspapers across the country".  Unfortunately I couldn't find any other papers that carried the article in Google News Archives or the the online database of New York state newspapers.  I did find other articles later in 1965 and 1966  where you could see how Jerry became a spokesman for fandom.  His professorship at Detroit's Wayne State University made him the voice of authority.

He again was the voice of authority in the newspaper in March.  (Sorry the bottom line is missing)

Watertown NY Daily News, March 24 1965 pg 33

And again in June from an article reprinted from the Los Angeles Times.

Watertown NY Daily News, June 10 1965 pg 4 & 6

Then again in a UPI syndicated story a year later in July of 1966.

News And Courier, July 3 1966 pg 8B (Charleston SC)

At the end of 1966, he was even mentioned in an article about Golden Age artist Jack Binder in the Warrensburg-Lake George News.

Warrensburg-Lake George News, December 8 1966 (New York)

Jerry was a voice of reason and knew how to deal with the media.  He appeared in countless other articles and gave a mature, professional face for comic books.  His stature helped turn around the negative impression of comic books.  He has been missed.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

DJ Art Roberts and Marvel Comics

Daredevil #12 (January 1966) [Olympia Publications Inc. (Marvel)]

Not sure when this story actually began, as it started sometime in mid 1965 in Chicago, IL.

But, it began in the pages of Marvel Comics with a Jan. 1966 cover date.  In the letters pages, a Merry Marvel Marching Society (MMMS) member writes about hearing a radio disk jockey mention that he'd also joined the club.  That DJ was Art Roberts of WLS in Chicago:

Now this was big news!  The media was beginning to pay attention to Marvel Comics.  Marvel had received a little attention from newspapers and other media, but this was a True Believer!  Not just someone reporting a story.  A real fan of comic books in the media.  Not the usual media drumbeat of how comic books were bad for children.  His show was from 9 to midnight, and he'd been on since 1963.

The MMMS had been introduced less than a year earlier in the February 1965 issues of Marvel comic books.  With the huge lead time for editorial material in comic books, Art must have been an early member.  Since Daredevil #12 was on the newsstands in November 1965 and Marvel's lead time for letters could easily have been four months, the letter could have been written in July 1965.  So Robert's mention of the MMMS was probably in the summer of 1965.

So, Marvel played it up BIG.  Three more fan letters were printed in other issues that same month that talked about hearing Art Robert's broadcast.

Amazing Spider-Man #32 (Jan. 1966)

Avengers #24 (Jan. 1966)

X-Men #16 (Jan. 1966)

Then again in Fantastic Four #47.  Though it was cover dated Feb., it was actually part of the previous months editorial group.  All four of the those issues had the same Bullpen Bulletins page which had another big news item.  Roy Thomas was starting to work for Marvel.  A fan had become a pro.

Fantastic Four #47 (Feb. 1966)

So Art Roberts got lots of attention from Marvel.  One cover month later, another letter in Amazing Spider-Man #34 again mentioned his broadcast.

Amazing Spider-Man #34 (Mar. 1966)

Note that these letter writers are from all over the country as WLS reached two-thirds of the US.

The following months Bullpen Bulletins page is talking about how much media attention Marvel is receiving. This is new for Marvel.

Amazing Spider-Man #35 (Apr. 1966)

Two months later, Stan Lee lists all the DJs and stations that are talking about Marvel on the Bullpen Bulletins page.  Of course including Roberts.

Amazing Spider-Man #37 (June 1966)

And in July's Amazing Spider-Man Bullpen Bulletins, Roberts gets mentioned again.

Amazing Spider-Man #38 (July 1966)

And the flood is on, as Stan's next Bullpen Bulletins talks about how 100 articles on Marvel had appeared across the nation.

Amazing Spider-Man #39 (Aug. 1966)

Then a month later in an unusual thank you, as Roberts gets put into an Amazing Spider-Man story.

Amazing Spider-Man #40 (Sept. 1966) pg 8

Over a 9 month period, Art Roberts gets his name in more than nine different comic books.

It appears that Art Roberts was one of the earliest media people to get the Marvel Silver Age media flood rolling.  And Stan Lee thanked him by putting him in an issue.

In an interview much later, he said:  "That was my debut in the comics. Truthfully, I got a big kick out of it. I believe it was meant to be a birthday present from Stan Lee. "  (Interview)

Roberts was on nights until 1968 and at WLS until 1970 when he went to San Francisco.  As typical of the radio business, he programed and managed in many cities in the US over the next 30 years.  He passed away in 2002.

This is my salute to another comics fan who made a difference.  He was at the forefront, maybe even one of the initiators of all the media attention Marvel started to receive.  It seems they are every where these days, in movies, TV, and even theatre.  But back then, he was the exception and helped turn back the negative view of comic books and made them be cool.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Clean Up By Comics Czar Fallout 2

After my series of posts on the beginning use of the comics code seal, researcher extraordinaire Frank Motler, sent me these scans of a short comic book given out by DC that I had never seen.   I don't know when this actually came out, but it was probably a little later in the year 1955.   I don't think many others will have heard of it, so I'm posting scans now to tie in with my earlier posts.

What Do You Know About This Comics Seal of Approval,  front cover (1955) [National Comics Publications]

This four page comic stars your local newsdealer and includes our buddy Judge Charles F. Murphy, explaining The Comic Code Authority and how it works.  The booklet, drawn by Win Mortimer, is DC's attempt to head off further attacks and to show that they are cleaning up comics.

What Do You Know About This Comics Seal of Approval,  back cover (1955) [National Comics Publications]

These scans come from the Heritage Auction site where it sold for $1,265.00 in 2005.

Were you wondering about which issues were partially shown on the page one scan?  Well, Frank also sent along that information too.

From the top (note/ colors different from actual issues):

Our Army at War #33, Apr (shown twice, also bottom left edge; note/ 2nd CCA issue)
A Date With Judy  #46, Apr/May
Strange Adventures #55, Apr
Real Screen Comics #85, Apr (note/ 2nd CCA issue)
Adventures of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis #20, Apr

Also interesting to note that the cover images in this comic were probably mock ups or pre-final versions.   Compare the actual covers from the GCD below with those cover images.  Real Screen Comics is missing the donkey head, and the code seal placement is slightly different than the final printed comic books.

The seal is larger in the final versions of both Strange Adventures and Adventures of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis.

And, Judy's profile is missing from the logo in A Date With Judy.

And finally Our Army at War which is used in two places.

Anyone recognize the logo from the red cover comic book image?  That was one Frank didn't identify.  Doesn't appear to be any DC comic of the time.  May just be a fake for artistic reasons.

Thanks again Frank.


Oh yea, I forgot to mention the write up I got in the Springfield News & Sun a couple of weeks ago.  Where I spent most of my time growing up and where I went to college.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fandom's Forgotten Founder: Richard Hughes

Unknown Worlds #6 (March 1961) [American Comics Group (ACG)]

Today is an important day in comic book fandom, though not normally recognized as such.  Today, this issue of Unknown Worlds was on the newsstands.  Note the date stamped on the cover.

Most histories of comic book fandom accord Julie Schwartz and Stan Lee with most of the credit for helping modern fandom get started in the early 1960s.  They each played a big role in creating a comic book community and the impression that the companies cared about their fans.  This was done in many ways including fan letter pages, clubs, giving out original art and prizes, responding and following fan suggestions, and sending post cards in response to letters.   All of those engendered fan appreciation and loyalty to the editors and comics of Marvel and DC.  Schwartz and Lee could have stopped there. 

But, they went farther.  They helped the fans communicate with each other and form their own communities not tied to a specific company, editor or title.  Julie Schwartz gave names and addresses of fans who had written him to Jerry Bails.  Both Lee and Schwartz also started attaching the full name and address to the fan letters they printed in the comics. 

This is a key factor in why fandom was able to form.  All the other increased communication efforts helped the fan interact with the company, but giving the fan the means to talk among themselves sparked the foundation of comic book fandom as we know it.  Without a means to communicate between themselves, neither fanzines nor conventions would have ever been formed.  Since at the time, comic books were so looked down upon, thought of as so much trash, most fans didn't know other fans.  For fandom to get started, you first have to know that you are not alone.  With today's internet, everyone forgets how hard it used to be to find others who have your same interests.  Not living in a big city, it wasn't until I was 17 that I actually met another comic book fan.

Now letters pages were not rare before the 1960s, and even letters pages with full addresses (name, street, city, state) were published in comic books back in the 1930s.  And there were fans clubs, even if they were mostly company run.   But something changed with comic book fans in the early 1960s.  There were many factors, but one key was the older, activist fan like Jerry Bails, Roy Thomas, and Don & Maggie Thompson.  They enjoyed comic books and wanted to tell others about it.  And they had the life experience and knowledge to act on that desire.  That made all the difference.  They and other fanzine publishers used the contacts they had and the addresses found in comic books to promote their fanzines.  They could reach a market that wanted their product.   And every new comic book published added new potential customers to their list.

Julie Schwartz is often credited with founding this practice of including the full address on his letters pages, at least in the early 1960s.  He drew on his experiences with science fiction fandom.   His efforts, letters, and encouragement to Bails and Thomas in Brave & Bold have cemented that thought in the minds of fans.  Stan Lee came along a little later and joined those practices of encouragement and printing the full address of fan letters.  His fun, irreverent, huckster style caught on with teens of that time.  For more on the founding fans activities and their interactions with Marvel and DC, you need to read Bill Schelly's fantastic book: The Golden Age of Comic Fandom.

So why is Unknown Worlds #6 important?   Well, with all the rightly deserved celebration of Schwartz and Lee, there is another important figure ignored, left out of this group of people responsible for the founding of modern comic book fandom. 

He also deserves some recognition for helping fandom get started.  He was the editor of this comic, Richard Hughes.  Hughes real name is thought to be Leo Rosenbaum according to Michael Vance.  He wrote the excellent history of ACG: Forbidden Adventures.

This issue of Unknown Worlds is important because it has letters pages and Richard Hughes prints the complete address of the letter writers.  "So What" you say, "Schwartz started that in Brave & Bold #35 (May 1961, cover date) when he printed letters from Bails and Thomas".  That's true, but that issue made it onto the newsstand in February of 1961 (Shelly pg 31).  This issue of Unknown Worlds was on the newsstands as of today, Jan. 18, 1961, and had 5 letters with their complete address (name, street, City state).   More significantly, this is the third consecutive issue of Unknown Worlds' letter pages with complete addresses.  So Hughes has already established a consistent pattern of printing complete addresses in ACG comic books.

Unknown Worlds #6  Letters Pages

Only a year before, a fan letter in Superman #135 (Feb 1960 cover date) asked the editor to print his address so he can swap books with other fans.  The printed reply was: "Sorry, but old issues of used magazines are known disease-carriers, so we can't encourage such swapping. - Ed." 

Julie wasn't the first to start printing the addresses in the silver age and he wasn't always consistent.  Sometimes he put in the entire address, sometimes not.   Did he see that Hughes had already started including full addresses on his letters pages a few months earlier and then follow suit?  Probably not, considering his background in science fiction and the long lead times of comic book publishing.

Adventures Into The Unknown #123 (Mar. 1961) also has complete addresses for fan letters.  Hughes followed this practice with all the titles ACG published by the middle of the year and continued on until to the end in 1967.  (except maybe My Romantic Adventures?) He even made it a point to chide letter writers who didn't provide their street address. 

So here is a steady source of addresses for fanzine publishers at the beginning of fandom that never gets more than a fleeting mention, if mentioned at all, in most histories of fandom.  Why is that?  Well, most fandom histories are written by superhero fans, so its not surprising that is where the focus would be.  Also, superhero fans didn't collect ACG comics, so they are hard to find.  In addition, the ACG titles generally had lower circulation numbers than either DC or Marvel.

Adventures Into The Unknown #123 (March 1961) [American Comics Group]

Future historians need to give Richard Hughes more respect for his role in the foundation of comic book fandom.  His role wasn't equal to Schwartz and Lee, but never the less, a lot more significant than usually given credit.

Unknown Worlds #4 (December 1960/January 1961) [American Comics Group]

Unknown Worlds #4  Letters Page

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Comic Reader #81 and Comic Professionals

Etcetera & The Comic Reader #81 (January 1972) Paul Levitz

Yesterday in 1972, you probably would have received this issue of The Comic Reader (TCR) in the mail had you been a subscriber.  The scan I have is postmarked the 15th.  You couldn't have received it today, as the 16th was a Sunday.

The Comic Reader was the oldest, longest running comic book news fanzine of the Golden Age of comic book fandom.  Started by Jerry Bails in 1961 as On The Drawing Board until the eighth issue before becoming TCR, it lasted until #219 in 1984.  It was one of the earliest fanzines to provide information about comic books yet to be published.  Most other fanzine publications looked back or created new stories by fans.  Jerry Bails' contacts with Marvel & DC made it unique.  Later editors continued those and expanded their reporting to cover as many publishers as possible.

This issue was pretty typical of the fanzine at this point in its history.  It was 16 photocopied pages with limited art.  It included news on upcoming comics including personnel and character changes, as well as expected on sale dates for DC & Marvel issues.  Articles included an opinion piece about fandom needing a press agent by Byron Preiss, a Paul Levitz editorial, fanzine and comic book reviews, an article on SF fandom by Tom Greeniones, and a Creation Convention 1971 report by Neal Pozner.

The Knowledgeable Ones among you will recognize many of those names as future comics professionals.  Neal Pozner's first credited pro work seems to be The Amazing World of DC Comics #9 in 1975, but is probably best known for his 1986 Aquaman four issue mini-series with Craig Hamilton.

Aquaman (February 1986) DC Comics Inc.

Byron Preiss was only a few years away from publishing his experimental Weird Heroes paperback series in 1975 and beautiful Fiction Illustrated series of illustrated novels.  Both of which were ground breaking for comic book fans.  He of course went on to do much more in the publishing field.  This Alex Nino illustrated Weird Heroes paperback was one of my favorites

Weird Heroes #3 (1976) Byron Preiss Visual Publications

Paul Levitz, of course, is the most well known of these soon to be pros.  By the end of the year, he would be freelancing for DC Comics (according to Wikipedia).  The GCD has his first work as an assistant editor of All-Star Western #11 (April-May 1972), but I believe this is an error.  He's not credited in the comic book itself, though that isn't unusual for the time.  Levitz went on to write thousands of comics, including the fondly remembered Legion of Superheroes, and even becoming President of DC.  Probably one of the highest corporate levels any former fan ever achieved.  Besides that, he's a great guy who never forgot his fandom roots.

Finally, since I am art inclined, is Rich Buckler.  One of my favorite artists of the time.  He drew this and several other covers of TCR even though he'd already broken into the professional ranks earlier with Warren Publishing.  In fact, his first DC work (House of Secrets #90) was on the newsstands the almost exactly a year before this issue of TCR hit fan's mailboxes. 

House of Secrets #90 (February-March 1971) National Periodical Publications, Inc.

Behind this Neal Adams cover, was a Marv Wolfman written, Rich Buckler drawn story: The Symbionts.  A metafiction favorite of mine since it aims at fandom.  The lead character, a prisoner, was named Lawrence Herndon.

House of Secrets #90, pg 15

Wolfman and Buckler, who came up through comics fandom, of course knew Big Name Fan Larry Herndon of Star-Studded Comics and of Texas Trio fame.  In fact, Buckler had drawn a Larry Herndon story in Star-Studded Comics #13 (1968).

Larry Herndon (1960s)

This older picture of Larry from Bill Schelly's Founders of Comic Fandom book was all I could find, but the heroic profile of Larry in House of Secrets may not have fit his outer self, but sure did show his inner spirit.

The nice Neal Adams quality of the art in this story really comes out (Adams inked it and Buckler drew in his popular style).  This was reinforced as one of the police was named Adams.

My bet is that the other named characters in the story, Laura and Janet Welch were real people too.  Hopefully someone can enlighten me.

A nice piece of metafiction showing fandom's growing influence on the comic book publishers, all connected to one of the top fanzines of the era.