by Jimmm Kelly
NOVEMBER 12th – 2013
new york, new york/the all-american national city
KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH No. 1 (October-November ’72), by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer.
New York, New York–ON THE TOWN (’49)–
the strange adventures of mr. mayer
Sheldon Mayer was born on April Fool’s Day–April 1st, 1917–in the City of New York.
Between ’32 and ’35, the teen-aged Mayer worked as an assistant to many New York newspaper cartoonists–in particular, Ving Fuller [who worked on BETTY BOOP, among other things]–and by the time he was eighteen, Shelly was working for Major Malcolm Wheeler Nicholson’s National Allied, who had their Mannhattan offices at 373 Fouth Avenue, in ’35. For National, Shelly produced features such as J. Worthington Blimp and the Strange Adventures of Mr. Weed.
The Strange Adventures of Mr. Weed by Sheldon Mayer, NEW COMICS No. 1 (December ’35).
In ’36, Mayer became an assistant to Max Gaines at the McClure Syndicate, which provided material for Dell’s funny books. Most of Dell’s content was taken from the McClure Syndicate newspaper strips, but Mayer provided new content for ads and filler, including his own strip, Scribbly (formatted to look like all the other reprinted newspaper strips), which appeared in THE FUNNIES.
Scribbly by Sheldon Mayer in THE FUNNIES Vol. 2, No. 2 (November ’36) and in ALL-AMERICAN COMICS No. 6 (September ’39).
Scribbly was Mayer’s alter-ego: a teen in New York who suddenly found himself working with the big boys in the comic strip trade. When Max Gaines started up his own comic book company in ’38, he brought Mayer along with him. And with him, Mayer brought Scribbly who held his own regular feature in ALL-AMERICAN COMICS for many years. This feature would spawn the Red Tornado, as well as a short-lived teen humour title in the late ’40s. But Scribbly is most notable for its autobiographical essence and its look behind the scenes at comics publishing.
To get his operation off the ground, Gaines had secured financing from Harry Donenfeld, who was now the publisher of National Allied and its sister company, Detective Comics, Inc.–with their offices by then at 480 Lexington in Manhattan. One condition of the agreement with Donenfeld is that Donenfeld’s DC partner, Jack Liebowitz, became the publishing partner of Gaines. Liebowitz was the owner of Independent News, which was the distributor for National/DC and now All-American, Inc. House advertising was also shared between the publishers’ titles.
Initially located at National’s 480 Lexington Avenue and later at its own offices on 225 Lafayette , Gaines’ new publishing outfit produced ALL-AMERICAN COMICS (published by All-American Comics, Inc.) and MOVIE COMICS (published by Picture Comics, Inc.). ALL-AMERICAN, like the Dell funny books, reprinted a lot of syndicated strips (and the same newspaper strips that had been carried by Dell before), with features like Scribbly filling out the original content. MOVIE COMICS, by contrast, did adaptations of the latest movies out on screen, using movie stills–these featured some of the earliest work by Jack Adler, who would become a vital part of National Periodical’s production department.
standing: H. G. Peter and Sheldon Mayer; seated: William Moulton Marston and Max Gaines (circa ’42)
All-American, Inc., would, of course, introduce a lot of new concepts–shepherded into existence by Mayer–including the Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and the Justice Society. In ’45, Gaines briefly broke away from National/DC, publishing All-American titles under their own imprint–before Liebowitz bought him out, in ’46, and All-American was merged with National and Detective Comics, Inc. to become National Periodical Publications, Inc.
While Gaines moved on to establish EC (Educational Comics/Entertaining Comics), Sheldon Mayer stayed with National, although he withdrew from editing in ’48 to concentrate for the rest of his life on creating his own stories and art.
the strange adventures of mr. schwartz
How to Make a Bomb, INFERIOR FIVE No. 6 (January-February ’68), art by Mike Sekowsky and Mike Esposito.
There was a time when you could see your heroes in the flesh. Or so I have been told.
Back in the ’60s, intrepid fans could go up to the National Periodical offices–now at 575 Lexington Avenue–and get a guided tour, possibly from Julie Schwartz himself, if he was willing.
It’s always been one of my great regrets that I never got to visit New York, back in the day, just so I could go to 575 Lex and get that grand tour.
Turns out I’m not alone there–other fans have hankered to turn back the clock and take the tour. See master letterer Todd Klein’s blog: Visiting DC Comics in the 1960s.
The closest I can claim to have come is through the fourth wall. There have always been some writers, artists and editors, in the tradition of Sheldon Mayer, who took perverse delight in pulling back the curtain on this funny business.
The Martian Masquerade, STRANGE ADVENTURES 67 (April ’56), art by Gil Kane and Joe Giella. At the time of this story, National stil had its offices at 480 Lexington.
Artist Sid Greene, who contributed a lot to STRANGE ADVENTURES and MYSTERY IN SPACE–among other Schwartz edtited titles–mischievously snuck the likeness of Julie Schwartz into the stories he pencilled and inked; however, Broome’s Martian Masquerade goes further in establishing Mr. Black as a complete doppelganger for Schwartz.
The Flash–Fact or Fiction? THE FLASH 179 (May ’68), art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.
–until Barry convinces Julie:
To help Barry return to his own world–Earth-One–and leave our world of Earth-Prime, Mr. Schwartz has to cobble together a cosmic treadmill. Such a treadmill would later be employed by the writer, Bates, and his writing partner, Elliot S! Maggin, in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 123 (October ’75) and 124 (November ’75). By this time the National Periodical offices had relocated to Rockefeller Center.
Art by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin.
Art by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella and by Bruno Premiani–reprinted in THE COMIC BOOK ARTIST COLLECTION Vol. 2 (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2002).
Cover by Kurt Schaffenberger featuring Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin surrounded by their creations, with Kurt himself sneaking into the group for AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS No. 2 (September ’74); cover by Joe Kubert featuring a strange Schwartz stonehead surrounded by his dependents for AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS No. 3 (November ’74).
KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH 29 (May ’75), art by Jack Kirby and D. Bruce Berry.
Map of modern Manhattan
How to Make a Bomb, INFERIOR FIVE No. 6 (January-February ’68), art by Mike Sekowsky and Mike Esposito. Can you guess who’s who in this editorial fracas?
THE INFERIOR FIVE, as written by E. Nelson Bridwell, was a funny book–but it was funny in ways that might not have been obvious to the average Joe. I suppose because Bridwell had worked at MAD–as had the first I5 artist, Joe Orlando–National execs expected to get the same sort of zany parodies that that mag is known for. But Bridwell seems to have decided to make the queer quintet serve as an outlet for his inner stream of consciousness. E. Nelson Bridwell was a walking encyclopedia, so every I5 story is a constant flow of cross references that even the best minds might not decode.
Although INFERIOR FIVE No. 6 (January-February ’56) remains abstruse in choosing the offices of National Periodicals for its latest attack–somehow it’s easier to enter than previous issues that referenced THE EDDA or the French Revolution. All you had to know for this issue was that office politics can be a blood sport.
This scene between Mike Sekowsky and Carmine Infantino cuts almost too close to the bone, as they get into one of their legendary dust-ups over creative freedom.
The reader, along with the Five, are taken through the Byzantine operations of DC staffers in their effort to put together the comic being read.
The house ad below–meant to drum up excitement for the new creative direction that DC will follow in the coming months–appeared at the bottom of the last page of How to Make a Bomb and comes across as (unintentionally) ironic, given what we’ve been through in the previous 22 pages–
the last good-bye (gulp)
ACTION COMICS 583 (September ’86) had a cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, from a cover design by Ed Hannigan–it remains the saddest comic book cover I’ve ever seen.
The Neal Adams cover for Superman vs. Muhammad Ali–ALL NEW COLLECTORS’ EDITION C-56 (’78), from a cover design by Joe Kubert–had mixed real life people (including DC staffers) with fictional characters for a spectacular purpose [see Another You–Revue]. ACTION 383 did the same on a smaller scale for a melancholy purpose.
All are gathered on the roof of the fictional Daily Planet building, although in this instance the fictional Metropolis and the real New York are one and the same–the realities of Earth-One and Earth-Prime have crossed over. The two cover artists, plus the editor and the publisher have joined the fictional heroes and friends of Superman to say their farewells to the classic Caped Kryptonian.
There will never be another–no hoax, no imaginary story, no red K or magic, no dream–this is the end and whatever happens next will never bring back those days. I realized with that cover, even if DC still had tours of their offices in New York, it would not be worth the trip. That world was gone forever.
ACTION COMICS 583 (September ’86). Cover by Swan and Anderson. Pictured: Superman; Robin [Jason Todd]; Hawkman [Katar Hol]; Batman [Bruce Wayne]; Green Arrow [Oliver Queen]; Legion of Super-Heroes [Cosmic Boy; Lightning Lad; Saturn Girl]; Martian Manhunter (miscolored); Captain Marvel [Billy Batson]; Wonder Woman [Diana Prince]; The Flash [Barry Allen]; Green Lantern [Hal Jordan]; Jimmy Olsen; Lana Lang; Lois Lane; Krypto; Julius Schwartz; Jenette Kahn; Murphy Anderson; Curt Swan; two unidentified children.
Good-bye, Superman! We’ll miss you!
The Crash Test Dummies–Superman’s Song
. . . for the second week in November, try these new fashions . . .
All-American launches FLASH COMICS No. 1 (January ’40) which features the first appearances of the Flash, Hawkman, Johnny Thunder, Cliff Cornwall and the Whip, at your newsdealer on November 10 ’39.
You’ve enjoyed them in DETECTIVE COMICS, now Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s BOY COMMANDOS rate their own comic magazine. In issue No. 1 (Winter ’42-’43), the Newsboy Legion guest star, as they go to the DC offices to report the deaths of the Commandos, but Kirby and Simon ask the Sandman to get to the bottom of this story (Jack Schiff, Jack Liebowitz and Whitney Ellsworth also appear). Scheduled for sale on November 11 ’42.
On sale November 11 ’71, for SUPERMAN 247 (January ’72), Elliot Maggin writes his first Superman story–this one based on an idea by Jeph Loeb–as the Guardians of the Universe suggest to Kal-El that his actions are limiting the development of human beings on Earth (art by Swan and Anderson). And in another new story, Denny O’Neil writes the first Private Life of Clark Kent feature, as Clark decides to solve some problems on a human level (art by Swan and Anderson). While the reprint for this issue is an Edmond Hamilton yarn about the Superman of 2966 (here changed to 2496) against his arch enemy Muto (art by Swan and Klein).
Hello! Here we are with the first number of NEW COMICS–the International Picture Story Magazine. Here’s something you have always wanted–eighty pages packed and jammed with new comic features, written and drawn especially for NEW COMICS–never printed before anywhere. Here is a magazine of picturized stories chock full of laughter and thrills, comic characters of every hue, knights and Vikings of ancient days, adventuring heroes, detectives, aviator daredevils of today and hero supermen of the days to come!
We know that your eyes won’t suffer from strain while you enjoy these clearly drawn pictures and the large readable text, but we can’t guarantee that you won’t strain your ribs from laughter at the antics of these comic characters. Also, we’ll guarantee that, no matter how wise you are, there are heaps of things you will learn about this wide world and its people and their histories every time you read through a copy of NEW COMICS Magazine.
So climb aboard and ride with us every month through Eighty Pages of wit and humor, drama and thrills. Laughter is the universal antidote for the blues. Be a NEW COMICS booster.
Yours to command,
—NEW COMICS No. 1 (December ’35) the second ongoing title from Major Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Newspaper Syndicate at newsstands on November 12 ’35. The new features include J. Worthington Blimp by Sheldon Mayer and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels with text and illustrations by Walt Kelly (much of the book is in black and white, with text features).
Martin Goodman’s new Atlas publications for the week of November 12 ’74 are the first issues of THE GRIM GHOST (January ’75), IRONJAW (January ’75) and PHOENIX (January ’75).
On November 14 ’47, The popular radio crime drama MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY gets its own long running DC comic book with issue No. 1 (January-February ’48).
November 14 ’51 HERE’S HOWIE No. 1 (January-February ’52) features the latest teen comedy character.
. . . for the third week in November, everybody has to start somewhere . . .
MLJ launches what promises to be one of the longest running comic book titles, when ARCHIE COMICS No. 1 (Winter ’42) arrives at the newsstands November 15 ’42.
Coming to town November 16 ’48, Dell’s FOUR COLOR 207 features King of the Royal Mounted.
In ADVENTURES OF REX THE WONDER DOG No. 1 (January-February ’52), in his first appearance, Rex witnesses the murder of three men, but Danny’s brother is framed for the murder, at newsstands on November 16 ’51.
MY GREATEST ADVENTURE No. 1 (January-February ’55) is an anthology adventure series in which the stories are told in the first person–I would go to the newsstand on November 16 ’54, if I were you.
For November 18 ’65, DC has these direct currents: TEEN TITANS No. 1 (January-February ’66) features Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Girl in their own super-team. Robbie Reed dials “H” for HERO for the first time in HOUSE OF MYSTERY 156 (January ’66). After breaking formation to gun down several hot-air balloons that are causing carnage on the battlefield, Lt. Steve Savage, aka Balloon Buster, is grounded in ALL-AMERICAN MEN OF WAR 113 (January-February ’66). Ma and Pa Kent are transformed into teenagers and start to act irresponsibly, in SUPERBOY 126 (January ’66).
No, it’s not the Spirit–Jack Cole’s look alike creation, Midnight, makes his first appearance in SMASH COMICS 18 (January ’41) where his origin is told, at your newsstand on November 20 ’40.
Billy, Mary, Freddy and Uncle Dudley get together for the launch of their new title, when MARVEL FAMILY No. 1 (December ’45) hits the newsstands on November 21 ’45— and to challenge them someone who was kicked out of the family long ago makes his first and only appearance in a Fawcett comic, when we get the low-down on the low down Black Adam.
November 21 ’47. Green Lantern tries to lure the Harlequin out into the open, by using Molly Mayne, in ALL-AMERICAN COMICS 93 (January ’48).
. . . for the last week in November, there’s nothing like being there . . .
In ALL-STAR COMICS No. 3 (Winter ’40 -’41), Johnny Thunder is whisked by his Thunderbolt to the first meeting of the Justice Society of America on November 22 ’40.
Be sure to show up in person at your drugstore on November 23 ’67 for these personal appearances: Frank Sinatra guest stars in SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN 108 (January ’68), when Jimmy is promised an inheritance of a million dollars, if he can spend another million in 24 hours. In issue No. 6 (January-February ’68) of INFERIOR FIVE, the I5 go to the DC offices to see how a comic book is created–guest stars include: Jack Miller, Mort Weisinger, Julie Schwartz, E. Nelson Bridwell, Murray Boltinoff, Jack Schiff, Mike Sekwosky, Carmine Infantino, Sol Harrison, Jack Adler, Mike Esposito, Gil Kane, Joe Letterese, Joe Kubert and Dick Giordano.
November 23 ’71, Dracula Lives! in the first issue of THE TOMB OF DRACULA (April ’72) and the first issue of MARVEL PREMIERE (April ’72) features the Power of Warlock. [Note: the gap between on sale date and cover date for these Marvel comics seems especially great–probably in an effort to let these books find an audience.]
Based on the long running radio show and films, now a major television series, BIG TOWN No. 1 (January ’51) tells the story of a metropolitan newspaper and the people who work for it. In this issue crime photographer Jim Springer gets the scoop on some stolen uranium. At newsstands on November 24 ’50.
Check these shocking Direct Currents for November 25 ’65: The Emerald Gladiator encounters Zatanna for the first time, as she continues to search for her father in GREEN LANTERN 42 (January ’66). The Spectre gets his first try-out in SHOWCASE 60 (January-February ’67). What would happen if Batman died? Find out in DETECTIVE COMICS 347 (January ’66). The Legion of Super-Heroes engage in an epic struggle against Computo the Conqueror, in ADVENTURE COMICS 340 (January ’66).
November 26 ’58. Congo Bill transfers his mind into Congorilla for the first time, in ACTION COMICS 248 (January ’59). Then, a new version of Oliver Queen’s origin as Green Arrow is told in ADVENTURE COMICS 256 (January ’59).
Beat a trail to the drugstore on November 29 ’66 for these Direct Currents: The Fatal Five make their first appearance in ADVENTURE COMICS 352 (January ’67), as the Legion enlists the services of these criminals in combatting the deadly Sun-Eater that threatens to destroy our solar system (but that’s not due to happen for a thousand years, so you have time to prepare). Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara (in her first appearance) is on her way to a costume party, dressed in a Batgirl outfit she has made for the event, when she encounters the Killer Moth and his gang attacking millionaire Bruce Wayne, in DETECTIVE COMICS 359 (January ’67).
In the Super-Spectacular DETECTIVE COMICS 439 (February-March ’74), an armed robbery at dusk sets the Darknight Detective on the trail of the gang of crooks, silently hunting each one, in Night of the Stalker by Steve Englehart, Sal Amendola and Dick Giordano, on sale November 29 ’73.
8 More Days Louise! for November, we’re gonna need more candles . . .
Jimmy Olsen’s birthday seems to be a movable feast. So how many candles do you want on the cake? November 22 ’60, Jimmy celebrates his birthday in the 50th issue of SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN (January ’61), as Superman lends his powers to his pal for a birthday present.
Then on November 21 ’61, Jimmy celebrates another birthday, when Batman poses as Clark Kent so both Clark and Superman can be at Jimmy’s birthday party, in SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN 58 (January ’62).
Now on November 22 ’66, another birthday comes around for Mr. Olsen, as Jimmy becomes Lightning Lad, Element Lad and Sun Boy in SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN 99 (January ’67). Plus, the origin of B’wana Beast is told, in the jungle man’s first try-out in SHOWCASE 66 (January-February ’67).
One of America’s most popular entertainers hitches his star to DC’s bandwagon, when THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE No. 1 (February-March ’50) hits the newsstands on November 25 ’49.
More first issues from the new Atlas on November 26 ’74 are, in comic book format, THE SCORPION (February ’75) and, in magazine format, DEVILINA (January ’75) and THRILLING ADVENTURE STORIES (February ’75).
November 28 ’61,the ’61 motion picture THE ERRAND BOY is adapted in THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS 68 (January-February ’62), where Jerry plays Morty Tashman–a movie studio executive has Morty spy on his underlings in different studio productions.
On November 29 ’56, DC takes over from Quality in publishing ROBIN HOOD TALES with issue No. 7 (January-February ’57). This is followed on November 8 ’56 with the DC/Quality switch on BLACKHAWK 108 (January ’57)–Dick Dillin and Chuck Cuidera continue as artists on this series. And on November 22 ’56, G. I. COMBAT 44 (January ’57) follows in kind.
Eyeball these Direct Currents on November 29 ’62: Bill Finger and Jim Mooney tell how wealthy Tom Blake, animal trainer and feline expert, bored with his routine, turns to crime, adopting the costume and identity of the Cat-Man, as the villain makes his first appearance in DETECTIVE COMICS 311 (January ’63). While in ACTION COMICS 296 (January ’63), Edmond Hamilton and Al Plastino provide a cautionary tale about what could happen to our planet if we allow escalating nuclear proliferation to continue–and Superman (with a red ant-head) leads an army of giant ants, to drive the message home to the Earth’s political super-powers.
All on sale dates might be approximate, as provided by Mike’s Amazing World of Comics (The Newsstand) and by other sources.
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