DFHC 9/5/2011

 Ask Super Cool Daddy Man

Dear Cool Daddy: What 2 things are wrong with this recent comic strip?  …from Dr. Foom, in Half Moon Bay

Dear Doctor: Well, 3 things actually…you had it upside down…

That’s better. Anyway, the first obvious thing is they got the dates wrong. The Thing debuted with the Fantastic Four in November, 1961…the Hulk in May, 1962. Yeah, I know, in some sense the Sixties didn’t “start” until the Beatles in February, 1964…some might argue it was the Kennedy assassination several months earlier…but really, that’s a pretty ignorant mistake…anybody who read comic books knows right off those 2 big lugs are Sixties icons, pure and simple.

But as you suggest, there is a second problem, and that relates to Dell Comics…Are Good Comics!…remember And You Might Be a Baby Boomer If…you wondered how that comic book company came to manufacture and sell computers, of all things? Obviously, 2 different companies, nez pah? What may not be clear to many people, comic book fans among them, is whatever happened to Dell…did it kind of change into Gold Key or something? Not really…here’s the story…

What we think of as Dell comic books were primarily, in their heyday, an enormous anthology series titled “Four Color Comics”…it began in 1939, and ended in 1962…coming out several times a month, with stand-alone one-shot features, along with continuing series within the series. The familiar Dell logo in the upper left-hand corner arrived in the early 1950s. Unlike other comic book companies, Dell did not create its own material…that was done by a company called Western Publishing…they had a business partnership with Dell as the distributor of their titles. Thus, Dell comics were famous for licensing everything under the sun…virtually every TV show and cowboy hero that existed, any big movie that might reasonably appeal to kids, (hence, no Butterfield 8, for example), and scads of cartoon characters, from Disney, Hanna-Barbera, and Warner Brothers…to Crusader Rabbit, Beetle Bailey, and Walter Lanz’ Woody Woodpecker, not to mention Space Mouse.

While some super hero comics would eventually make a big deal about their 100th or 200th issue, in 23 years Four Color came out with 1,354 issues! The finale was in June of 1962, the TV cartoon Calvin and the Colonel.  At that time, Western Publishing ended its arrangement with Dell, and began publishing its own lines under the Gold Key brand. That’s why many of your favorite titles “switched over.” Dell itself soldiered on for another 10 years before folding. It was around then that they made a real push to branch out with original material…but when the super hero crazy hit full force in the mid-60s…the results, as you might recall, were pretty lame. The folks at Dell, God bless ’em, just didn’t have the chops…

Four of their tries are pictured above…the book titled with minimalist panache “Super Heros,” featuring the “Fab 4,” was the nadir…they were called El, Polymer Polly, Hy, and Crispy…wha–?…sounds like names your little sister might come up with, right? They were 4 young adults who somehow got morphed into super-scientific androids…the whole thing was pretty silly and didn’t last long…ditto the others.

Meanwhile, Gold Key was having better luck, but just barely, with the also-rans above. Actually, both companies had much more success with the Jungle Man genre…you might recall Dell’s Kona Monarch of Monster Island, Toka the Jungle King, and Naza Stone Age Warrior…and Gold Key with Dagar the Invincible, Tragg and the Sky Gods, and the lovable old Turok Son of Stone. But to come to the point…

Perhaps Dell’s most laughable superhero venture, rivaling the Fab 4 and that’s saying something, was to take 3 traditional horror movie characters…and turn them into…???…ahem…and try as they might, they couldn’t give these books away…altho they are highly prized by collectors today for their transcendent goofiness. But those were the days, weren’t they, my friends?

shameless plugs are good plugs…or go suck an egg…

Podcasts at http://stolfpod.podbean.com  and   http://thewholething.podbean.com

Other Daily blog at http://stolf.wordpress.com  (the legendary Stolf’s Blog)

More bloggage at  http://travelingcyst.blogspot.com  and  http://www.examiner.com/retro-pop-culture-in-watertown/mark-john-astolfi

Resume at http://travelingcyst.blogspot.com/p/resume.html

NEW!   >>>>>   Audio samples at  http://stolfspots.podbean.com/   <<<<<<

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