Dell Comics was the comic book publishing arm of Dell Publishing, which got its start in pulp magazines. It published comics from 1929 to 1974. At its peak, it was the most prominent and successful American company in the medium. In 1953 Dell claimed to be the world's largest comics publisher, selling 26 million copies each month.
|Parent company||Dell Publishing|
|Founder||George T. Delacorte, Jr.|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||New York City|
|Key people||Helen Meyer|
|Publication types||Comic books|
|Fiction genres||Licensed material|
Its first title was The Funnies (1929), described by the Library of Congress as "a short-lived newspaper tabloid insert" rather than a comic book. Comics historian Ron Goulart describes the 16-page, four-color, newsprint periodical as "more a Sunday comic section without the rest of the newspaper than a true comic book. But it did offer all original material and was sold on newsstands". It ran 36 weekly issues, published Saturdays from January 16, 1929, to October 16, 1930. The cover price rose from 10¢ to 30¢ with issue #3. This was reduced to a nickel from issue #22 to the end.
In 1933, Dell collaborated with Eastern Color Printing to publish the 36-page Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, considered by historians the first true American comic book; Goulart, for example, calls it "the cornerstone for one of the most lucrative branches of magazine publishing". It was distributed through the Woolworth's department store chain, though it is unclear whether it was sold or given away; the cover displays no price, but Goulart refers, either metaphorically or literally, to the publisher "sticking a ten-cent pricetag [sic] on the comic books".
In early 1934, Dell published the single-issue Famous Funnies: Series 1, also printed by Eastern Color. Unlike its predecessor, it was intended from the start to be sold rather than given away.
The company formed a partnership in 1938 with Western Publishing, in which Dell would finance and distribute publications that Western would produce. While this diverged from the regular practice in the medium of one company handling finance and production and outsourcing distribution, it was a highly successful enterprise with titles selling in the millions. Most of the Dell-produced comics done for Western Publishing during this period were under the Whitman Comics banner (later also used by Gold Key Comics); notable titles included Crackajack Funnies (1938–1942) and Super Comics (1938–1949).
Comic book historian Mark Carlson has stated at its peak in the mid-50s "while Dell’s total number of comic book titles [was] only 15% of those published, it control[ed] nearly a third of the total market. Dell [had] more million-plus sellers than any other company before or since".
Dell Comics was best known for its licensed material, most notably the animated characters from Walt Disney Productions, Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Walter Lantz Studio, along with many movie and television properties such as the Lone Ranger, Tarzan, Felix the Cat, Howdy Doody, Yogi Bear and other Hanna-Barbera characters.
From 1938 to 1968, Dell's most notable and prolific title was the anthology Four Color. Published several times a month, the title (which primarily consisted of standalone issues featuring various licensed properties) saw more than 1,300 issues published in its 23-year history. It often served as a try-out title (much like DC's Showcase) and thus the launching pad for many long-running series.
Responding to pressure from the African-American community, the character Lil' Eightball (who appeared in a handful of Walter Lantz cartoons in the late 1930s and in those initial appearances constituted what animation and comics historian Michael Barrier described as being a "grotesquely stereotypical black boy") was discontinued as one of the featured characters in the Lantz anthology comic book New Funnies; the last appearance of the character was in the August 1947 issue.
In 1948, Dell refused an invitation of membership in the nascent Association of Comics Magazine Publishers. The association had been formed to pre-empt government intervention in the face of mounting public criticism of comic books. Dell vice-president Helen Meyer told Congress that Dell had opted out of the association because they didn't want their less controversial offerings to serve as "an umbrella for the crime comic publishers". When the Comics Code was formed in 1954 in reaction to Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent, Dell again refused to join and instead began publishing in its comics a "Pledge to Parents" that promised their editorial process "eliminates, rather than regulates, objectional [sic] material" and concluded with the now classic credo "Dell Comics Are Good Comics."
Bart Beaty in his book Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture describes a concerted campaign by Dell against publication of Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent to the extent of recruiting several of the companies that it licensed characters from (including Warner Brother Cartoons, the Lone Ranger Inc. and Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc.) to send letters of protest to Wertham's publisher Stanley Rinehart.
From mid-1950 to Spring 1959 Dell promoted subscriptions to its non-Disney titles with what it called the Dell Comics Club. Membership was automatic with any one year subscription to such titles and came with a certificate of membership plus a group portrait of the most prominent non-Disney characters published by Dell. Dell also offered various subscription premiums during the 1940s and 1950s (in some cases these were prints of covers or other character artwork and in one instance a cel from a Warner Brothers cartoon) in what Mark Evanier has dubbed a coordinated concerted "aggressive subscription push" and offered the option of an illustrated note or card be sent to the recipients of a gift subscription for birthdays or Christmas.
In 1961, Dell issued two atypical, comic-book like paperbacks without coloring, with cardboard covers and heavier-weight paper than standard comics, and selling for one dollar when most comic books were 12 cents: the 116-page The Flintstones on the Rocks and the 117-page Huck & Yogi Jamboree One historian describes the latter as "a collection of drawings with text (there’s not a word balloon to be found). But there are drawings that are sequential which tell stories.... [T]his was intended for Huck and Yogi’s adult fans. Of which there apparently were more than a few, given the format and high price — $1!"
While most of the talent who had worked on the Dell line continued at Gold Key, a few creators like John Stanley stuck with Dell and its new line. Dell also drew new talent to its fold, such as Frank Springer, Don Arneson, and Lionel Ziprin.
Dell Comics continued for another 11 years with licensed television and motion picture adaptations (including Mission: Impossible, Ben Casey, Burke's Law, Doctor Kildare, Beach Blanket Bingo) and a few generally poorly received original titles. Among the few long lasting series from this time include the teen-comic Thirteen Going on Eighteen (29 issues, written by John Stanley), Ghost Stories (37 issues, #1 only written by John Stanley), Combat (40 issues), Ponytail (20 issues), Kona Monarch of Monster Isle (20 issues), Toka the Jungle King (10 issues), and Naza Stone Age Warrior (9 issues). Dell additionally attempted to do superhero titles, including Nukla, Superheroes (starring the Fab 4, as the group's name was spelled on covers), Brain Boy, and a critically ridiculed trio of titles based on the Universal Pictures monsters Frankenstein, Dracula and Werewolf that recast the characters as superheroes.
Dell Comics ceased publication in 1974, with a few of its former titles moving to Gold Key Comics.
Throughout the course of years after Dell ceased publication, many of its obscure characters were brought back in indy publications.
In August 2016, InDELLible Comics was formed in tribute to the public domain characters orphaned by Dell. In July 2017, All-New Popular Comics #1 was published, and was #1 in its category on Amazon upon release. Founded and edited by the team of Jim Ludwig, David Noe and Dærick Gröss Sr., the first issue featured some original characters as well as stories and cameos with many Dell characters.
Writer/artists Walt Kelly and Carl Barks are the most noted talents associated with the company. Other prolific scripters were Gaylord DuBois, Paul S. Newman, Don "Arr" Christensen, John Stanley, Bob Gregory, Robert Schaefer and Eric Freiwald, Lloyd Turner, Leo Dorfman, Don Segall, Edward Kean, Cecil Beard and Carl Fallberg. Artists who worked on comics published by Dell included Fred Harman, Alex Toth, John Carey, Russ Manning, Jesse Marsh, Alberto Giolitti, Paul Murry, Tom Hickey, Tony Strobl, Harvey Eisenberg, Tom Gill, Dan Gormley, Ken Hultgren, Larry Mayer, Dick Moores, Jack Bradbury, Gil Turner, Nat Edson, Fred Fredericks, Mel Keefer, Roger Armstrong, Jack Manning, Kay Wright, Mike Roy, Bill Wright, Phil DeLara, Pete Alvarado, Dan Spiegle, Jack Sparling, Lynn Karp, Ellis Eringer, Paul Norris, Frank Bolle, Artie Saaf, Dan Noonan, John Ushler, Sam Glanzman, Bill Ziegler and John Buscema. Famed fantasy writer Charles Beaumont contributed a handful of stories for Dell's funny animal comics early in his career, a number of which were done in collaboration with William F. Nolan
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Notable events of 1936 in comics. See also List of years in comics.1937 in comics
Notable events of 1937 in comics. See also List of years in comics.Brothers of the Spear
"Brothers of the Spear" was a long-running backup feature in the Tarzan comic-book series created by American company Western Publishing and published first through Dell Comics and then through Gold Key Comics. Though published as part of a licensed Edgar Rice Burroughs franchise, this original series was owned by Western.Clyde Crashcup
Clyde Crashcup is a fictional character from the early 1960s animated television series The Alvin Show. He is a scientist in a white coat who tended to "invent" things which had already been invented and whose experiments invariably failed. He usually invented by penciling the concept in air, with the picture becoming the actual object. The character has also appeared in comics and other Alvin and the Chipmunks works after The Alvin Show.Donald Duck (American comic book)
Donald Duck is an American comic book magazine starring the Disney character Donald Duck and published by various publishers since 1952.Dracula (Dell Comics)
Dracula is a superhero comic book series published by Dell Comics, based on the literary and movie character Count Dracula. The book was part of a line of three superhero comics based on the Universal Monsters characters; the other two were Frankenstein and Werewolf.Four Color
Four Color, also known as Four Color Comics and One Shots, was an American comic book anthology series published by Dell Comics between 1939 and 1962. The title is a reference to the four basic colors used when printing comic books (cyan, magenta, yellow and black at the time).More than 1,000 issues were published, usually with multiple titles released every month. An exact accounting of the actual number of unique issues produced is difficult because occasional issue numbers were skipped and a number of reprint issues were also included. Nonetheless, the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide lists well over 1,000 individual issues, ending with #1354. It currently holds the record for most issues produced of an American comic book; its nearest rival, DC's Action Comics, reached the 1,000-issue milestone in 2018. The first 25 issues are known as "series 1"; after they were published, the numbering began again and "series 2" began. Four Color published many of the first comics featuring characters licensed from Walt Disney.Frankenstein (Dell Comics)
Frankenstein is a superhero comic book series published by Dell Comics, based on the literary and movie character Frankenstein's monster. The book was part of a line of three superhero comics based on the Universal Monsters characters; the other two were Dracula and Werewolf.
Frankenstein lasted three issues, numbered 2-4 (Sept. 1966- March 1967). Issue #1 had been a 1964 adaptation of the 1931 movie. Art was by Tony Tallarico and Bill Fracchio.
Created in 1866 by a reclusive scientist referred to only as "the Doctor" who endowed him with a superior intellect and the strength of fifty men, Frankenstein lay dormant for over a hundred years under the ruins of an abandoned castle near the large modern American metropolis of Metropole City. Upon awakening thanks to a convenient lightning bolt, he dons a lifelike rubber mask to hide the fact that his white-haired and black-browed head has pale green skin (the rest of his tall, muscular body has a normal Caucasian flesh tone) and takes the name "Frank Stone", a pseudonym inspired by a fallen chunk of masonry with the word "FRANK" engraved in it.
Befriending elderly millionaire philanthropist Henry Knickerbocker after rescuing him from a traffic accident (and who, by an amazing coincidence, is the son of a man who had been his long-dead creator's friend and business partner), when the old man dies from a heart attack he leaves his "nephew" Frank his vast fortune, allowing him the financial freedom to devotes his life to being a scarlet-suited superhero.
Only his devoted butler William knows his secret, although neighboring blond busybody (and journalist) Miss Ann Thrope suspects that handsome brown-haired playboy Frank Stone is really the secret identity of the crew cut and craggy-faced crimefighter Frankenstein and is constantly trying to prove it. His archenemy is the amazingly "Mini-Me"-like midget mad scientist Mr. Freek who likes to ride around on the shoulders of his huge and extremely powerful pet gorilla Bruto. Another enemy was a sentient computer that brainwashed Frankenstein by turning him into a super criminal. He only broke out of his trance when his butler William hit him over the head with a large spanner.The series was lampooned by Big Bang Comics with their own superhero character, Super Frankenstein.Hercules (comics)
The mythological hero Hercules or Heracles appears in several comics.
Hercules (DC Comics), a long-running DC Comics character.
Hercules (Marvel Comics), a Marvel Comics character.
Hercules, a trainee member of The Order
Hercules (Topps Comics), a Topps Comics series based on the character from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Hercules, a comic book from Dell Comics adapting the 1958 film Hercules
Hercules Unchained, a comic book from Dell Comics adapting the 1959 film Hercules Unchained
Hercules: Adventures of the Man-God, a 1967–1969 comic book series from Charlton Comics
Hercules (Radical Comics), a Radical Comics character who has appeared in two limited series
Joe Hercules, a superhuman circus strongman from Quality Comics who debuted in Hit Comics #1 (July 1940)
The Mighty Hercules, a comic book from Gold Key Comics based on the early 1960s animated series The Mighty Hercules
Spiff and Hercules, a French comic book series about a dog and catJungle 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.Lobo (Dell Comics)
Lobo is a fictional Western comic-book hero who is the medium's first African-American character to headline his own series.Owl (Dell Comics)
The Owl is a fictional superhero character who first appeared in Dell Comics in 1940; not to be confused with the Marvel Comics villain of the same name or with DC Comics’ Owlman.Scamp (comics)
Scamp is a Disney canine cartoon and comics character, the son of Lady and the Tramp, appearing in the animated movies Lady and the Tramp and Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, as well as in comic strips and books of his own since the 1950s. An unnamed puppy appeared in the first Lady and the Tramp that was used as the basis for the comics character.Tarzan in comics
Tarzan, a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, first appeared in the 1912 novel Tarzan of the Apes, and then in 23 sequels. The character proved immensely popular and quickly made the jump to other media, including comics.The Flintstones (comics)
The Flintstones is a comic series spun off from The Flintstones animated series. Various comic book publishers have created their own versions.
The 2016 comic book by DC Comics reimagines the 1960s Hanna Barbera properties alongside
Scooby Apocalypse, Wacky Raceland and Future Quest.Turok
Turok is a fictional character who first appeared in American comic books published by Western Publishing through licensee Dell Comics. He first appeared in Four Color Comics #596 (October/November 1954). After a second Four Color appearance (#656 October 1955), the character graduated to his own title – Turok, Son of Stone (#3 March–May 1956) — published by both Dell and then Gold Key Comics from 1956 to 1982. Subsequently, he appeared in titles published by Valiant Comics, Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Comics.
The character also inspired a popular video game series, starting with Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, published by Acclaim Entertainment in 1997. Several sequels would be released in the following years for various gaming consoles.Tweety
Tweety Bird is an animated fictional yellow canary in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of animated cartoons. The name "Tweety" is a play on words, as it originally meant "sweetie", along with "tweet" being a typical English chick for the sounds of birds. His characteristics are based on Red Skelton's famous "Mean Widdle Kid". Tweety appeared in 47 cartoons during the golden age.Uncle Scrooge
Uncle Scrooge (stylized as Uncle $crooge) is a comic book starring Scrooge McDuck ("the richest duck in the world"), his nephew Donald Duck, and grandnephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and revolving around their adventures in Duckburg and around the world. It was first published in Four Color Comics #386 March 1952, as a spin-off of the popular "Donald Duck" series and is still presently ongoing. It has been produced under the aegis of several different publishers, including Western Publishing (initially in association with Dell Comics and later under its own subsidiary, Gold Key Comics and its Whitman imprint), Gladstone Publishing, Disney Comics, Gemstone Publishing, Boom! Studios, and IDW Publishing, and has undergone several hiatuses of varying length. Despite this, it has maintained the same numbering scheme throughout its six decade history, with only IDW adding a secondary numbering that started at #1.Besides Scrooge and his family, recurring characters include Gyro Gearloose, Gladstone Gander, Emily Quackfaster, and Brigitta MacBridge. Among the adversaries who make repeat appearances are the Beagle Boys, Magica De Spell, John D. Rockerduck and Flintheart Glomgold. Uncle Scrooge is one of the core titles of the "Duck universe".
Its early issues by famed writer/artist (and creator of Scrooge McDuck) Carl Barks formed the inspiration for the syndicated television cartoon DuckTales in the late 1980s. Several stories written by Barks and published in Uncle Scrooge were adapted as episodes of DuckTales.Walt Disney's Comics and Stories
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, sometimes abbreviated WDC or WDC&S, is an anthology comic book series featuring an assortment of Disney characters, including Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Mickey Mouse, Chip 'n Dale, Lil Bad Wolf, Scamp, Bucky Bug, Grandma Duck, Brer Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, and others.