Charlton Comics was an American comic book publishing company that existed from 1945 to 1986, having begun under a different name (T.W.O. Charles Company) in 1944. It was based in Derby, Connecticut. The comic-book line was a division of Charlton Publications, which published magazines (most notably song-lyric magazines), puzzle books and, briefly, books (under the Monarch and Gold Star imprints). It had its own distribution company (Capital Distribution).
Charlton Comics published a wide variety of genres, including crime, science fiction, Western, horror, war and romance comics, as well as funny animal and superhero titles. The company was known for its low-budget practices, often using unpublished material acquired from defunct companies and paying comics creators among the lowest rates in the industry. Charlton Comics were also the last of the American comics to raise their price from ten cents to 12 cents in 1962.
It was unique among comic book companies in that it controlled all areas of publishing - from editorial to printing to distribution - rather than working with outside printers and distributors as did most other publishers. It did so under one roof at its Derby headquarters.
The company was formed by John Santangelo, Sr. and Ed Levy in 1940 as T.W.O. Charles Company, named after the co-founders' two sons, both named Charles, and became Charlton Publications in 1945.
|Founder||John Santangelo, Sr.|
|Divisions||Frank Comunale Publications|
Children Comics Publishing
In 1931, Italian immigrant John Santangelo, Sr., a bricklayer who had started a construction business in White Plains, New York, five years earlier, began what became a highly successful business publishing song-lyric magazines out of nearby Yonkers, New York. Operating in violation of copyright laws, however, he was sentenced in 1934 to a year and a day at New Haven County Jail in New Haven, Connecticut, near Derby, Connecticut where he and his wife by then lived. In jail, he met Waterbury, Connecticut, attorney Ed Levy, with whom he began legitimate publishing in 1935, acquiring permissions to reproduce lyrics in such magazines as Hit Parade and Song Hits. Santangelo and Levy opened a printing plant in Waterbury the following year, and in 1940 founded the T.W.O. Charles Company, eventually moving its headquarters to Derby.
The company's first comic book was Yellowjacket, an anthology of superhero and horror stories launched September 1944 under the imprint Frank Comunale Publications, with Ed Levy listed as publisher. Zoo Funnies was published under the imprint Children Comics Publishing; Jack in the Box, under Frank Comunale; and TNT Comics, under Charles Publishing Co.. Another imprint was Frank Publications.
Following the adoption of the Charlton Comics name in 1946, the company over the next five years acquired material from freelance editor and comics packager Al Fago (brother of former Timely Comics editor Vincent Fago). Charlton additionally published Merry Comics, Cowboy Western, the Western title Tim McCoy, and Pictorial Love Stories.
In 1951, when Al Fago began as an in-house editor, Charlton hired a staff of artists that included its future managing editor, Dick Giordano. Others (staff or freelance) who would eventually work with Charlton included; Vince Alascia, Jon D'Agostino, Sam Glanzman, Rocco "Rocke" Mastroserio, Bill Molno, Charles Nicholas and Sal Trapani. The primary writer was the remarkably prolific Joe Gill.
The company began a wide expansion of its comics line, which would include notoriously gory horror comics (the principal title being Steve Ditko's The Thing!). In 1954–55, it acquired a stable of comic book properties from the defunct Superior Comics, Mainline Publications, St. John Publications, and most significantly, Fawcett Publications, which was shutting down its Fawcett Comics division. Charlton continued publishing two of Fawcett's horror books—This Magazine Is Haunted and Strange Suspense Stories—initially using unpublished material from Fawcett's inventory. Artistic chores were then handed to Ditko, whose moody, individualistic touch came to dominate Charlton's supernatural line. Beset by the circulation slump that swept the industry towards the end of the 1950s, Haunted struggled for another two years, published bi-monthly until May 1958. Strange Suspense Stories ran longer, lasting well into the 1960s before giving up the ghost in 1965.
Charlton published a wide line of romance titles, particularly after it acquired the Fawcett line, which included the romance comics Sweethearts, Romantic Secrets, and Romantic Story. Sweethearts was the comic world's first monthly romance title (debuting in 1948), and Charlton continued publishing it until 1973. Charlton had launched its first original romance title in 1951, True Life Secrets, but that series only lasted until 1956. Charlton also picked up a number of Western titles from the defunct Fawcett Comics line, including Gabby Hayes Western, Lash LaRue Western, Monte Hale Western, Rocky Lane Western. Six-Gun Heroes, Tex Ritter Western, Tom Mix Western, and Western Hero.
Al Fago left in the mid-1950s, and was succeeded by his assistant, Pat Masulli, who remained in the position for ten years. Masulli oversaw a plethora of new romance titles, including the long-running I Love You, Sweetheart Diary, Brides in Love, My Secret Life, and Just Married; and the teen-oriented romance comics Teen-Age Love, Teen Confessions, and Teen-Age Confidential Confessions.
Superheroes were a minor part of the company. At the beginning, Charlton's main characters were Yellowjacket, not to be confused with the later Marvel character, and Diana the Huntress. In the mid-1950s, Charlton briefly published a Blue Beetle title with new and reprinted stories, and in 1956, several short-lived titles written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, such as Mr. Muscles and Nature Boy (the latter with artist Mastroserio), and the Joe Gill-created Zaza the Mystic.
The company's most noteworthy period was during the 'silver age' of comic books, which had begun with DC Comics' successful revival of superheroes in 1956. In March 1960, Charlton's science fiction anthology title Space Adventures introduced Captain Atom, by Gill and the future co-creator of Marvel Comics' Spider-Man, Steve Ditko. (After the mid-1980s demise of Charlton, Captain Atom would go on to become a stalwart of the DC stable, as would Blue Beetle, the old Fox Comics superhero revived by Gill and artists Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico as a campy, comedic character in Blue Beetle #1 [June 1964].)
During the Silver Age, Charlton, like Marvel and DC, published war comics. Notable titles included the "Fightin'" line of Fightin' Air Force, Fightin' Army, Fightin' Marines, and Fightin' Navy; the "Attack" line of Army Attack and Submarine Attack; Battlefield Action; D-Day, U.S. Air Force Comics, and War Heroes. Though primarily anthologies of stories about 20th-century warfare, they included a small number of recurring characters and features, including "The American Eagle", "Shotgun Harker and the Chicken", "The Devil's Brigade", "The Iron Corporal" and "The Lonely War of Capt. Willy Schultz". Army War Heroes and Marine War Heroes depicted stories based on actual Medal of Honor recipients.
Charlton threw itself into the resurgent horror comics genre during this period with such titles as Ghostly Tales, The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, and Ghost Manor. It also created a pair of identical horror-movie magazines: Horror Monsters (1961–1964) and Mad Monsters (1961–1965). Additionally, Charlton produced comics based on monsters featured in motion pictures such as Konga, Gorgo and Reptilicus.
Charlton continued its commitment to romance comics with such new titles as Career Girl Romances, Hollywood Romances (later to change its name to For Lovers Only), and Time for Love.
In 1965, Charlton revived the Captain Atom character in Strange Suspense Stories numbers 75, 76 and 77, reprinting the Steve Ditko illustrated stories which had originally appeared in Space Adventures in the early 1960s. Retitling the comic, Captain Atom Volume 2 #78 (cover dated Dec. 1965), Charlton began publishing newly created stories by Diko of the superhero. In 1967, Ditko stopped working at Marvel and returned to Charlton full-time. After his celebrated stint at Marvel, he had grown disenchanted with that company and his Spider-Man collaborator, writer-editor Stan Lee. Having the hugely popular Ditko back helped prompt Charlton editor Giordano to introduce the company's "Action Hero" superhero line, with characters including Captain Atom; Ditko's the Question; Gill and artist Pat Boyette's The Peacemaker; Gill and company art director Frank McLaughlin's Judomaster; Pete Morisi's Peter Cannon... Thunderbolt; and Ditko's new "Ted Kord" version of the Blue Beetle. The company also developed a reputation as a place for new talent to break into comics; examples include Jim Aparo, Dennis O'Neil and Sam Grainger. As well, Charlton in the late 1960s published some of the first manga in America, in Ghost Manor and other titles (thanks to artist Sanho Kim), and artist Wayne Howard became the industry's first known cover-credited series creator, with the horror-anthology Midnight Tales blurbing "Created by Wayne Howard" on each issue—"a declaration perhaps unique in the industry at the time".
Yet by the end of 1967, Charlton's superhero titles had been cancelled, and licensed properties had become the company's staples, particularly cartoon characters from Hanna-Barbera (The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Top Cat, others). Charlton took over publication of a number of King Features Syndicate characters from that company's short-lived King Comics, including Beetle Bailey, Blondie Comics, Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, The Phantom, and Popeye. Charlton also published Bullwinkle and Rocky, and Hoppity Hooper, based on Jay Ward Productions' Hoppity Hooper, and Rocky and His Friends/The Bullwinkle Show.
Nicola Cuti made creative improvements to Charlton's line in the early 1970s, which had been referred to as comics' 'bronze age' during which he worked as assistant editor under George Wildman, who was occupied primarily with administrative duties. Cuti brought Mike Zeck, among others, into Charlton's roster of artists, and his writing enlivened the Ghostly titles, now including Ghostly Haunts. Other Bronze Age Charlton horror titles included Haunted, Midnight Tales, and Scary Tales.
In 1973, Charlton debuted the gothic romance title Haunted Love, but this same period saw the mass cancellation of almost all of Charlton's vast stable of traditional romance titles, including such long-running series as; Sweethearts, Romantic Secrets, Romantic Story, I Love You, Teen-Age Love, Just Married, and Teen Confessions, all of which dated from the 1950s.
In the mid-1970s, there was a brief resurgence of talent, energized by Cuti, artist Joe Staton and the "CPL Gang" - a group of writer/artist comics fans including John Byrne, Roger Stern, Bob Layton, and Roger Slifer, who had all worked on the fanzine CPL (Contemporary Pictorial Literature). Charlton began publishing such new titles as E-Man, Midnight Tales and Doomsday + 1. The CPL Gang also produced an in-house fanzine called Charlton Bullseye, which published, among other things, such commissioned but previously unpublished material as the company's last Captain Atom story. Also during this period, most of Charlton's titles began sporting painted covers.
Early in 1975, Cuti, already writing freelance for the company in addition to his staff duties, quit to write freelance exclusively for Charlton when its line expanded to include black-and-white magazines in addition to the King Features and Hanna-Barbera franchised titles. He was replaced by Bill Pearson, who became assistant editor after promoting Don Newton as the new Phantom artist and writing scripts for that title.
Charlton's black-and-white comics magazines were based upon current television series and aimed at older readers. One of these was The Six Million Dollar Man #1–7 (July 1976 – August 1977). Retailing for $1, it featured art by Neal Adams' studio, Continuity Associates, as well as some stories by veteran illustrators Jack Sparling and Win Mortimer. Also published in magazine form were adaptations of The Six Million Dollar Man spinoff The Bionic Woman, Space: 1999, and Emergency!, as well as a comic based on teen heartthrob David Cassidy, then starring in the musical sitcom The Partridge Family.
By 1976, however, most of these titles had been canceled, and most of the company's remaining titles went on hiatus during the period January to August 1977. Much of the new talent took the opportunity to move on to Marvel and DC.
By the 1980s, Charlton was in decline. The comic book industry was in a sales slump, struggling to reinvent a profitable distribution and retail system. Charlton's licensed titles lapsed, its aging presses were deteriorating towards uselessness, and the company did not have the resources to replace them. In 1981, there was yet another attempt at new material, with a comic book version of Charlton Bullseye serving as a new-talent showcase that actively solicited submissions by comic book fans, and an attempt at new Ditko-produced titles. A number of 1970s-era titles were also reprinted under the Modern Comics imprint and sold in bagged sets in department stores (in much the same way Gold Key Comics were published under the Whitman Comics moniker around the same time). None of these measures worked, and in 1984 Charlton Comics suspended publication.
In 1985, a final attempt at a revival was spearheaded by new editor T. C. Ford with a direct-market Charlton Bullseye Special. But later that same year, Charlton comics went out of business; Charlton Publications followed suit in 1991, and its building and presses were demolished in 1999.
Editor Robin Snyder oversaw the sale of some properties to their creators, though the bulk of the rights was purchased by Canadian entrepreneur Roger Broughton. He would produce several reprint titles under the company name of Avalon Communications and its imprint America's Comics Group (ACG for short, Broughton having also purchased the rights to the defunct American Comics Group properties), and announced plans to restart Charlton Comics. This did not occur beyond its publishing a number of reprints and changing his company name to Charlton Media Group.
Most of Charlton's superhero characters were acquired in 1983 by DC Comics, where former Charlton editor Dick Giordano was then managing editor. These "Action Hero" characters were originally to be used in the landmark Watchmen miniseries written by Alan Moore, but DC then chose to save the characters for other uses. Moore instead developed new characters loosely based on them. The Charlton characters were incorporated into DC's main superhero line, starting in the epic Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries of 1985.
In 2014, comics writer Mort Todd founded a revival imprint named Charlton Neo, which relied heavily on crowdfunding, and printed stories featuring Charlton characters and titles not owned by DC. In May 2017, AC Comics announced that they had entered into an agreement to bring print versions of Charlton Neo's comics to the direct sales comic shop market, starting with Charlton Arrow #1 in September. The Charlton Arrow, an anthology series featuring many Charlton characters, was the company's main product and only title sold in stores, but the company ran a number of other titles through mail-order and digital sales. In January 2018, citing poor sales and "a variety of financial calamities," Todd launched a GoFundMe campaign to "help save" the company.
Captain Atom was born in a tale by artist Steve Ditko and writer Joe Gill.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
Billy the Kid is a Western comic book series published by Charlton Comics, with stories of a fictional character based on the historical Billy the Kid. Taking over the numbering of a previous Western comic, Masked Raider, Billy the Kid was published from issues #9-153 (Nov. 1957 - March 1983). The Billy the Kid character made his first appearance in Masked Raider #6.
Regular backup features in the book included Bounty Hunter Shawn O'Meara, Tenderfoot Sheriff John Lind, Mr. Young Of The Boothill Gazette, and Apache Red.
Regular contributors to the title included writer Joe Gill, and artists Pat Boyette, José Delbo, Jack Keller, Sanho Kim, Rocke Mastroserio, Charles Nicholas, Warren Sattler, and Carl Wessler.Black Fury (comics)
Black Fury is the name of several fictional comic book characters.Blue Beetle
Blue Beetle is the name of three fictional superheroes who appear in a number of American comic books published by a variety of companies since 1939. The most recent of the companies to own rights to the Blue Beetle is DC Comics who bought the rights to the character in 1983, using the name for three distinct characters over the years.
The original Blue Beetle was created by Fox Comics and later owned by Charlton Comics. The first Beetle was Dan Garret (later spelled Dan Garrett), who initially gained super powers from a special vitamin, which was later changed to gaining powers from a "sacred scarab". The original Blue Beetle was featured not only in his own comic but also a weekly radio serial.
The second Blue Beetle was created by Charlton and later taken over by DC Comics, the successor to Dan Garrett known as Ted Kord. Kord "jumped" to the DC Comics universe during the Crisis on Infinite Earths alongside a number of other Charlton Comics characters. The second Blue Beetle later starred in his own 24 issue comic. Kord never had any super powers but used science to create various devices to help him fight crime. He became a member of the Justice League of America and was later killed during DC Comics' Infinite Crisis cross over.
The third Blue Beetle, created by DC Comics, is Jaime Reyes, a teenager who discovered that the original Blue Beetle scarab morphed into a battle suit allowing him to fight crime and travel in space. Over the years Reyes became a member of the Teen Titans and starred in two Blue Beetle comic series. In DC Comics' 2011 "New 52" reboot, Jaime Reyes was the primary Blue Beetle character, only occasionally referring to past versions. However, with the subsequent continuity revision "DC Rebirth", the previous versions were restored.Comics anthology
A comics anthologies, also known as a comic magazine, collect works in the medium of comics, typically from multiple series, and compiles them into an anthology or magazine. The comics in these anthologies range from comic strips that are too short for standalone publication to comic book chapters that are later compiled into collected comic book volumes (such as manga tankobon and comic albums).Dan Garret
Dan Garret is a fictional superhero, appearing in American comic books published by multiple companies, including Fox Comics, Charlton Comics, and DC Comics. Garret was created by Charles Nicholas Wojtkoski, and made his first appearance in Fox's Mystery Men Comics #1. Garret is the first character to become the superhero Blue Beetle, predating Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes.E-Man
E-Man is a comic-book character, a superhero created by writer Nicola Cuti and artist Joe Staton for the American company Charlton Comics in 1973. Though the character's original series was short-lived, the lightly humorous hero has become a cult-classic sporadically revived by various independent comics publishers. Ownership of the character has changed hands over the years, moving from the original publisher to the character's creators.Fawcett Comics
Fawcett Comics, a division of Fawcett Publications, was one of several successful comic book publishers during the Golden Age of Comic Books in the 1940s. Its most popular character was Captain Marvel, the alter ego of radio reporter Billy Batson, who transformed into the hero whenever he said the magic word "Shazam!".
Other characters published by Fawcett include Captain Video, Hopalong Cassidy, Ibis the Invincible, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Spy Smasher, Captain Midnight, Phantom Eagle, Mister Scarlet and Pinky, Minute-Man, Commando Yank and Golden Arrow.
Aside from the better known superhero books, Fawcett also published a short-lived line of horror comics during the early 1950s, a string of titles which included This Magazine Is Haunted, Beware! Terror Tales, Worlds of Fear, Strange Suspense Stories, and Unknown World. Other genres included teenage humor (Otis and Babs), funny animal (Hoppy the Marvel Bunny), romance (Sweethearts), war (Soldier Comics) and Western (Lash LaRue, Six Gun Heroes). Fawcett also produced comics based on contemporary movie stars (Tom Mix, Monte Hale) and matinee serials (Nyoka the Jungle Girl). The entire line was dropped in 1953, when Fawcett closed down their comics publishing wing (though many titles were picked up by Charlton Comics).Joe Gill
Joseph P. Gill (July 13, 1919 – December 17, 2006) was an American magazine writer and highly prolific comic book scripter. Most of his work was for Charlton Comics, where he co-created the superheroes Captain Atom, Peacemaker, and Judomaster, among others. Comics historians consider Gill a top contender as the comic-book field's most prolific writer. Per historian and columnist Mark Evanier, Gill "wrote a staggering number of comics. There are a half-dozen guys in his category. If someone came back and said he was the most prolific ever, no one would be surprised."Judomaster
Judomaster is the name given to three fictional superheroes published by DC Comics. The first Judomaster debuted in Special War Series #4 (November 1965) published by Charlton Comics, and was created by Joe Gill and Frank McLaughlin.Jungle Jim
Jungle Jim is the fictional hero of a series of jungle adventures in various media. The series began in 1934 as an American newspaper comic strip chronicling the adventures of Asia-based hunter Jim Bradley, who was nicknamed Jungle Jim. The character also trekked through radio, film, comic book and television adaptations. Notable was a series of films and television episodes in which Johnny Weissmuller portrayed the safari-suit wearing character, after hanging up his Tarzan loincloth.Liberty Belle (comics)
Liberty Belle is the name of three fictional superheroines. Two are from DC Comics: Libby Lawrence and Jesse Chambers, the other is from Charlton Comics: Caroline Dean.List of romance comics
Starting in the late 1940s, several American comic book publishers sought out older audiences by creating a new genre: romance comics. Although the genre had waned in popularity by the 1970s, romance comics continue to be produced in the 2000s.Nightshade (DC Comics)
Nightshade is a fictional character, a comic book superheroine published by DC Comics. Created by David Kaler and Steve Ditko, the character first appeared in Captain Atom v1 #82 (September 1966) originally published by Charlton Comics.Peacemaker (comics)
The Peacemaker is the name of a series of superheroes originally owned by Charlton Comics and later acquired by DC Comics. The original Peacemaker first appeared in Fightin' 5 #40 (Nov. 1966), and was created by writer Joe Gill and artist Pat Boyette.Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt
Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt is a fictional superhero character originally published by Charlton Comics. The character has been owned by the estate of its creator, writer-artist Pete Morisi, since his death in 2003.Question (comics)
The Question (real name Charles Victor Szasz, better known as Vic Sage) is a fictional character, a superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. Created by writer-artist Steve Ditko, the Question first appeared in Charlton Comics' Blue Beetle #1 (June 1967). The character was acquired by DC Comics in the early 1980s and incorporated into the DC Universe.
The Question's secret identity was originally Vic Sage. However, after the events of the 2006–2007 miniseries 52, Sage's protégé Renee Montoya took up his mantle and became his successor. Following the DC relaunch The New 52, Sage is reintroduced as a government agent.
As conceived by Ditko, the Question was an adherent of objectivism during his career as a minor Charlton hero, much like Ditko's earlier creation, Mr. A. In a 1987–1990 solo series from DC, the character developed a Zen-like philosophy.Sarge Steel
Sarge Steel is a detective/spy character published by Charlton Comics during the 1960s. As he was published during the time of Charlton's Action Heroes line of superheroes, and had loose ties to some, he is sometimes included with that group. He was purchased by DC Comics along with the other "Action Heroes".
Sarge (short for "Sargent," as in "Sargent Shriver") Steel has a mechanical left hand. As Dick Giordano stated in the editorial page of L.A.W. #4 he was created by Pat Masulli, and later written and drawn by Joe Gill and artist Dick Giordano. Other artists, including the team of Bill Montes and Ernie Bache, would later take over.The Thing!
The Thing! is an American horror comic book published by Charlton Comics that ran 17 issues from 1952 to 1954. Its tagline was "Weird tales of suspense and horror!" After the 17th issue, it was cancelled and the series' numbering continued as Blue Beetle vol. 2.Artist Steve Ditko provided the covers for #12-15 and 17. He also illustrated stories in issues #12-15. The cover of #12 marks this industry notable's first comic-book cover art.In 2006, Pure Imagination released the trade paperback Steve Ditko's The Thing! that reprinted all of Ditko's stories from this title, and used the cover of #15 for its cover. The back cover shows the covers from The Thing! #12, 13 and 14 and Strange Suspense Stories #22. It also included Ditko stories from Charlton's Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #5 and #11, Do You Believe In Nightmares #1, Strange Suspense Stories #36, and Unusual Tales #25.
In 2014, the UK publisher PS Artbooks reprinted the entire series in a two-volume hardcover edition.Tiger (comic strip)
Tiger was an American comic strip created by cartoonist Bud Blake. It ran from May 3, 1965 until the spring of 2003.