Rare Vintage Articles About Comics And The Comic Book Industry
“Famous Funnies” 1933
(Please note: All 3 articles discussed in this post are available in their entirety as downloadable file links. To access, click on the blue highlighted title of the article.)
Having been a big fan of comic books since I was a little kid, any books written about them and the industry itself has always grabbed my attention. The first book of ANY kind I ever specifically asked for was “The Great Comic Book Heroes” by Jules Feiffer (1965) and I still covet my original copy! Through the years I’ve added whatever I could find about comics to my library, but it seems that other than a few published works like “Comics And Their Creators” by Martin Sheridan (1942), “The Comics” by Coulton Waugh (1949), and the infamous “critique” of comic books, “Seduction Of The Innocent” by Fredric Wertham (1954), there were very few mainstream works published that were exclusively dedicated to the comics industry. We’d have to wait until the early-mid 1960’s (probably starting with White & Abel’s “The Funnies-An American Idiom” in 1963) to see any influx of titles.
Left: “The Funnies-An American Idiom” 1963 Right: “The Great Comic Book Heroes” 1965
Left: “Comics And Their Creators” 1942. Right: “The Comics” 1949
“Seduction Of The Innocent” 1954
But I’ve got three tasty magazine articles to add to this list of profiles that are not often mentioned when discussing comic strip and comic book history. I think they’re important because of the financial and graphic arts realms they’re geared to, and indicate that perhaps comics were not as overlooked a craft back then as I had always thought. . .
Fortune Magazine April 1933
“The Funny Papers” by The Editors of Fortune Magazine
A very early profile of the marketing value of comicstrips and their characters. It’s a testament to the industry’s status to have been focused on by a periodical like Fortune Magazine.
Print Magazine Volume III/Number 2 Summer 1942
“Narrative Illustration: The Comics” by M.C. Gaines Part one of a history and profile of comics and the comics industry, including two full color insert examples on newsprint of comicbook stories published by Gaines.
Color/newsprint splash page from article insert.
Color/newsprint examples from “Jonah and the Whale” insert.
M.C.“Max”Gaines (father of William M. “Bill” Gaines, Mad Magazine and Educational Comics/E.C. publisher, ) can be considered the father of the modern comic book having created the first saddle-stitched, four color pamphlet printed on newsprint in 1933.
His “Funnies On Parade” and “Famous Funnies” reprinted newspaper strips and were distributed through/at newsstands for 10 cents an issue. He co-published All-American Publications with Jack Liebowitz starting in 1938, the future home of Green Lantern, Hawkman, and Wonder Woman. Gaines and Liebowitz with their All-American Publications, in tandem with Harry Donenfeld and his National Allied Publications and Detective Comics, would eventually form National Comics, the precursor to National Periodical Publications and DC Comics. Gaines sold his stake in All-American in 1944 and used the proceeds to create Educational Comics. (Whew ! . . .see below)
The kings of the comic book: Max Gaines, Harry Donenfeld, and Jack Liebowitz, 1940. (Photo credit: The Mad World of William M. Gaines by Frank Jacobs, 1972)
All-American Comics, Inc. letterhead 1943
Top: Funnies On Parade and Wonder Woman comics as reproduced in the article. Bottom: Color examples of the actual comics.
Print Magazine Volume III/Number 3 1943
“Good Triumphs Over Evil – More About The Comics” This is part two of the Gaines comic history story.
In this installment, Gaines treats us to a behind the scenes look at how comic books are actually produced. A “Wonder Woman” script and splash-page are presented in rough and cleaned up forms. There are also photographs showing the art department and printing presses.
Illustration from first page of “Good Triumphs Over Evil” Part II of Max Gaines’ story of the comics industry.
Gaines’ first article proved to be so popular that Print asked for a “Part II”.
(Editor: Sheldon Mayer – Penciller/Inker: Harry G. Peter)
(Rare behind the scenes examples of the various phases of production.)
Gaines arranged to have a pamphlet produced containing the 2 Print Magazine articles. Good luck trying to find one of these !
I recently discovered that Gaines (always the “Marketeer”) evidently had these two articles reprinted and bound in a single pamphlet form and titled “Narrative Illustration/The Story Of The Comics”. There are very few of these known to exist but the Print Magazines have his articles in their original form and contain everything that’s in his reprinted pamphlet.
Unfortunately, Max Gaines was killed in a boating accident in 1947, but his then 25 year old son Bill took over E.C. and transformed it into a company gearing its publication themes (war, horror, and satire) more towards adults. (BTW – I heartily recommend researching Max Gaines and his contributions to the comic book backstory – it’s a story in itself !
(Thanks again for your help, Corrie Lebens !)
About J. J. Sedelmaier
As President/Director of J. J. Sedelmaier Productions, Inc., he is responsible for launching some of the most talked about broadcast animated productions of the past two decades – MTV’s “Beavis and Butt-Head”, SNL’s “Saturday TV Funhouse” series with Robert Smigel (“The Ambiguously Gay Duo”, “The X-Presidents”, etc.), Cartoon Network/Adult Swim’s “Harvey Birdman - Attorney at Law”, and the “Tek Jansen/Alpha Squad Seven” series for The Colbert Report. Sedelmaier has produced over 500 film and design pieces. He has been a professor at NYU, teaching Intermediate Animation and History Of Animation courses, and has curated design and animation exhibits at The Society Of Illustrators, Milwaukee's Grohmann Museum and Westchester Arts Council. In addition, he’s a very organized hoarder.View all posts by J. J. Sedelmaier →