Fiction House

Fiction House was an American publisher of pulp magazines and comic books that existed from the 1920s to the 1950s. It was founded by John B. "Jack" Kelly and John W. Glenister.[1] By the late 1930s, the publisher was Thurman T. Scott. Its comics division was best known for its pinup-style good girl art, as epitomized by the company's most popular character, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

Fiction House
FictionHouse house ad
House ad for "The Big 6 of the Comics!" advises, "Look for the Bull's-Eye..... Fiction House Magazines".
StatusDefunct, 1955
Founded1921
FoundersJohn B. Kelly and John W. Glenister
Headquarters locationNew York City
Key peopleThurman T. Scott
Publication typesComic books
Pulp magazines
Fiction genresAviation, detective, jungle, sports, Western, science fiction
ImprintsReal Adventures Publishing Company
Love Romances Publishing

Leadership and location

The company's original location was 461 Eighth Avenue in New York City.[1] At the end of 1929, a New York Times article referred to John B. Kelly as "head" of Fiction House, Inc., and a new location of 271 Madison Avenue.[2]

In late 1932, John W. Glenister was president of Fiction House and his son-in-law, Thurman T. Scott, was secretary of the corporation.[3] By the end of the 1930s Scott had risen to the title of publisher.[4]

In January 1950, the Manhattan-based company signed a lease for office space at 130 W. 42nd Street.[5]

History

Pulp fiction

Fiction House began in 1921[3] as a pulp-magazine publisher of primarily aviation, Western, and sports pulps.[6] According to co-founder John W. Glenister:

In association with J. B. Kelly, I put out our first fiction magazine devoted to adventure stories. That was in 1921. Within four years the magazine sold 150,000 copies an issue and we began four other outdoor magazines and several others."[7]

During their first decade the company produced pulp magazines such as Action Stories, Air Stories, Lariat Stories, Detective Classics, The Frontier, True Adventures, Wings, and Fight Stories. Fiction House occasionally acquired other publishers' magazines, such as its 1929 acquisition of Frontier Stories from Doubleday, Doran & Co.[8]

By the 1930s, the company had expanded into detective mysteries.[6] In late 1932, however, in the midst of the Great Depression, Fiction House cancelled 12 of its pulp magazines — Aces, Action Novels, Action Stories, Air Stories, Detective Book Magazine, Detective Classics, Fight Stories, Frontier Stories, Lariat, Love Romances, North-West Stories and Wings — with the stated goal of eventually reviving them.

After a very short hiatus, Action Stories resumed publishing through this period (lasting until the fall of 1950). In addition, Fiction House relaunched its pulp magazines in 1934, finding success with a number of detective and romance pulp titles. The cancelled pulps Fight Stories and Detective Book Magazine were revived in spring 1936 and in 1937 respectively, with both magazines publishing continuously into the 1950s. Fiction House's first title with science fiction interest was Jungle Stories, which was launched in early 1939; it was not primarily a science fiction magazine, but often featured storylines with marginally science fictional themes, such as survivors from Atlantis. At the end of 1939 Fiction House decided to add an sf magazine to its line up; it was titled Planet Stories, and was published by Love Romances, a subsidiary company that Fiction House created to publish the company's romance titles.

Comic books

JumboComics1
Jumbo Comics #1 (Sept 1938). Cover artist(s) unknown.

By the late 1930s, publisher Thurman T. Scott expanded Fiction House into comic books, an emerging medium that began to seem a viable adjunct to the fading pulps. Receptive to a sales call by Eisner & Iger, one of the prominent "packagers" of that time which produced complete comic books on demand for publishers looking to enter the field, Scott published Jumbo Comics #1 (Sept. 1938)[4] under the company's Real Adventures Publishing Company imprint.[9]

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle appeared in that initial issue, soon becoming the company's star character. Sheena appeared in every issue of Jumbo Comics (Sept. 1938 – April 1953), as well as in her groundbreaking, 18-issue spin-off, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (Spring 1942 – Winter 1952), the first comic book to title-star a female character.[10] Other features in Jumbo Comics #1 included three by future industry legend Jack Kirby, representing his first comic-book work following his debut in Wild Boy Magazine:[11] the science fiction feature The Diary of Dr. Hayward (under the pseudonym "Curt Davis"), the modern-West crimefighter strip Wilton of the West (as "Fred Sande"), and Part One of the swashbuckling serialization of Alexandre Dumas, père's The Count of Monte Cristo (as "Jack Curtiss"), each four pages long.

Jumbo proved a hit, and Fiction House would go on to publish Jungle Comics; the aviation-themed Wings Comics; the science fiction title Planet Comics; Rangers Comics; and Fight Comics during the early 1940s — most of these series taking their titles and themes from the Fiction House pulps. Fiction House referred to these titles in its regular house ads as "The Big Six," but the company also published several other titles, among them the Western-themed Indians and Firehair, jungle titles Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and Wambi, and five issues of Eisner's The Spirit.[12]

Quickly developing its own staff under editor Joe Cunningham followed by Jack Burden,[13] Fiction House employed either in-house or on a freelance basis such artists as Mort Meskin, Matt Baker (the first prominent African-American artist in comics), Nick Cardy, George Evans, Bob Powell, and the British Lee Elias, as well as such rare female comics artists as Ruth Atkinson, Fran Hopper, Lily Renée, and Marcia Snyder.

The popularity of Sheena led to numerous other Fiction House "jungle girls":[14]

  • Ann Mason (Jungle Comics) — the mate of Ka'a'nga, Jungle King; like Sheena, wears a leopard skin dress
  • Jessie (Jungle Comics) — replaces Ann as the mate of Ka'a'nga
  • Camilla, Wild Girl of the Congo (Jungle Comics) — wears a zebra skin dress
  • Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle (Jungle Comics) — comics' first super-powered heroine, created by Fletcher Hanks
  • Princess Taj (Jungle Comics) — rides an elephant
  • Tiger Girl (Fight Comics)
  • Princess Vishnu (Fight Comics)

Feminist comics historian Trina Robbins, writes that:

...most of [Fiction House's] pulp-style action stories either starred or featured strong, beautiful, competent heroines. They were war nurses, aviatrixes, girl detectives, counterspies, and animal skin-clad jungle queens, and they were in command. Guns blazing, daggers unsheathed, sword in hand, they leaped across the pages, ready to take on any villain. And they did not need rescuing.[15]

Despite such pre-feminist pedigree, Fiction House found itself targeted in psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent (1954), which in part blamed comic books for an increase in juvenile delinquency. Aside from the ostensible effects of gory horror in comic books, Wertham cast blame on the sexy, pneumatic heroines of Fiction House, Fox Comics and other companies. A subsequent, wide-ranging investigation by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, coupled with outcry by parents, a downturn in comics sales, the demise of the pulps, and the rise of television and paperback novels competing for readers and leisure time, Fiction House faced an increasingly difficult business environment, and soon closed shop.

List of Fiction House pulps

Fiction House pulp titles.

FightStories pulp v2n4
DetectiveBook pulp v5n10
Planet stories 1944spr
Two complete science adventure books 1952sum n6
Planet stories 1947fal
  • Aces [3]
  • Action Novels[3]
  • Action Stories (225 issues, September 1921 - Fall 1950)[3]
  • Air Stories [3]
  • Detective Book Magazine (65 issues, Apr. 1930–Sept. 1931; 1937–Winter 1952/1953)[3]
  • All Adventure Action Novels
  • All-American Football Magazine
  • Baseball Stories
  • Basketball Stories
  • Black Aces
  • Bull's-Eye Detective
  • Bull's-Eye Sports
  • Bull's-Eye Western Stories
  • Civil War Stories
  • Detective Classics [3]
  • Fight Stories (47 issues, June 1928 – May 1932; 59 issues, Spring 1936 - Spring 1952)[3]
  • Football Action
  • Football Illustrated Annual
  • Football Stories
  • Frontier Stories[3]
  • George Bruce's Aces (Glen-Kel)
  • George Bruce's Air Novels
  • Jungle Stories
  • Lariat[3]
  • Love Romances[3]
  • North-West Romances
  • North-West Stories[3]
  • Planet Stories (71 issues, Dec. 1939 - June 1955)[16][3]
  • Soldier Stories
  • Tops in Science Fiction (2 issues, Spring–Fall 1953) — vehicle to reprint stories from Planet Stories
  • True Adventures
  • Two Complete Detective Books (Real Adventure)
  • Two Complete Science-Adventure Books (11 issues, 1950–1954)
  • Two Western Books
  • Two Western Romances
  • Wings (133 issues [11+ volumes], Jan. 1928–Spring 1953)

List of Fiction House comic books (selected)

Typical cover art from Fiction House.

WingComics69
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle 18
Planet Comics 53

"The Big Six"

  • Fight Comics (86 issues, Jan. 1940–[Jan.] 1954)
  • Jumbo Comics (167 issues, Sept. 1938–Mar. 1953)
  • Jungle Comics (163 issues, Jan. 1940–Summer 1954)
  • Planet Comics (73 issues, Jan. 1940–Winter 1953)
  • Rangers of Freedom Comics / Rangers Comics (69 issues, October 1941–Winter 1953)
  • Wings Comics (124 issues, Sept. 1940–1954)

Other titles

  • 3-D Circus (1 issue, 1953)
  • Cowgirl Romances (12 issues, 1950–Winter 1952/1953)
  • The First Christmas (1 issue, 1953; 3-D)
  • Ghost Comics (11 issues, 1951–1954)
  • Indians (17 issues, 1950–1953)
  • Ka'a'nga, Jungle King (20 issues, Spring 1949–Summer 1954)
  • Long Bow (9 issues, 1951–Winter 1952/1953)
  • Man O' Mars (1 issue, 1953)
  • Movie Comics (4 issues, Dec. 1946–1947)
  • Pioneer West Romances / Firehair (11 issues, Spring 1950–Spring 1952)
  • Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (18 issues, Spring 1942–Winter 1952/1953)
  • The Spirit (5 issues, 1952–54)
  • Wambi, Jungle Boy (18 issues, Spring 1942–Winter 1952)

References

  1. ^ a b Saunders, David. "JACK BYRNE (1902-1972)," Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists (2015). Accessed Mar. 14, 2017.
  2. ^ "Air Tales Stolen, 'War Ace' Is Held". The New York Times. December 12, 1929. p. 27. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "12 'Pulp' Magazines Stop Publication". The New York Times. December 28, 1932. p. 19. Retrieved February 4, 2015. ...in the eleven-year history of Fiction House.
  4. ^ a b Goldstein, Andrew (n.d.). "Fiction House: History and Influences". Connecticut Historical Society. Archived from the original on September 8, 2008.
  5. ^ "Added Space Taken by General Foods". The New York Times. January 24, 1950. p. 45. Retrieved February 4, 2015. ...Fiction House Inc., Universal Buying Service, in 130 W 42d St...
  6. ^ a b Johnson, Virginia E. (Summer 2004). "Detective Book Magazine". Web Mystery Magazine. 2 (1). Archived from the original on July 17, 2011.
  7. ^ Saunders, David. "John B. Kelly (1886–1932)," Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists (2015).
  8. ^ "Frontier Stories Magazine Sold". The New York Times. March 25, 1929. p. 12. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  9. ^ Real Adventures Publishing Co., Inc., Grand Comics Database. Accessed Mar. 10, 2017.
  10. ^ Sheena, Queen of the Jungle at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original November 10, 2011
  11. ^ Per Kirby's recollection in interview, The Nostalgia Journal #30 (Nov. 1976), reprinted in The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby (2002) ISBN 1-56097-466-4, p. 3
  12. ^ Fiction House at the Grand Comics Database
  13. ^ Cassell, Dewey, with Aaron Sultan and Mike Gartland. The Art of George Tuska (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2005), ISBN 1-893905-40-3; ISBN 978-1-893905-40-5, p. 30
  14. ^ Sergi, Joe. "Tales From the Code: The Near Extinction of Sheena," CBLDF website (January 25, 2013).
  15. ^ Robbins, Trina (1996). The Great Women Superheroes. Kitchen Sink Press. p. 86. ISBN 0-87816-481-2.
  16. ^ Thomas D. Clareson, "Planet Stories", in Tymn & Ashley, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines, pp. 476–481.

Further reading

  • Comic Book Marketplace vol. 2, #57 (March 1998): "Fiction House Pulps!" by Christian K. Berger, pp. 34–37, 44
  • Comic Book Marketplace vol. 2 2, #60 (June 1998): "Fiction House Sci-Fi" (cover gallery) pp. 40–43
  • Comic Book Marketplace vol. 2, #72 Oct. 1999): Letter from Bill Black on Australian versions of Fiction House comics, pp. 8–9
  • Fiction House: A Golden Age Index compiled by Henry Steele (San Francisco, A. Dellinges, 1978)
  • Fiction House: A Golden Age Index of Planet Comics (San Francisco: A. Dellinges, 1978)
  • Ron Goulart's Comics History Magazine #4 (Summer 1997): "The History of Good Girl Art", Part 2, pp. 3–5
  • Scott, Kevin Michael (1991). Images of women in the popular culture publications of Fiction House, 1941–1952 (MA thesis). Iowa State University. Retrieved February 14, 2013.

External links

Adult comics

The term adult comics typically denotes comic books, comic magazines, comic strips or graphic novels with content of an erotic, violent, or sophisticated nature, which appeals to adult readers. They are sometimes restricted to purchase by legal adults, especially erotic comics which include sexually explicit material.

Alex Blum

Alexander Anthony Blum (February 7, 1889 – September 1969) was a comic book artist best remembered for his contributions to the long-running comic book series Classics Illustrated (1941–1971). Born in Hungary, into a Jewish family, Blum studied at the National Academy of Design in New York before signing-on with the Eisner & Iger shop. In the 1930s and 1940s, his work appeared in Fox Comics, Quality Comics, and Fiction House. He later illustrated twenty-five Classics Illustrated titles as well as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the debut issue of Classics Illustrated Junior. Blum died in 1969 in Rye, New York.

Big Town (film)

Big Town is a 1947 American crime film directed by William C. Thomas and written by Daniel Mainwaring and Maxwell Shane. The film stars Phillip Reed, Hillary Brooke, Robert Lowery, Veda Ann Borg, Byron Barr and Charles Arnt. The film was released on May 23, 1947, by Paramount Pictures.

Bob Lubbers

Robert Bartow Lubbers (January 10, 1922 – July 8, 2017) was an American comic strip and comic book artist best known for his work on such strips as Tarzan, Li'l Abner and Long Sam.

Earle K. Bergey

Earle Kulp Bergey (August 26, 1901 – September 30, 1952) was an American artist and illustrator who painted cover art for thousands of pulp fiction magazines and paperback books. One of the most prolific pulp fiction artists of the 20th century, Bergey is recognized for creating the iconic cover of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for Popular Library at the height of his career in 1948.

Bergey was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to A. Frank and Ella Kulp Bergey. He attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1921 to 1926, finishing formal Academy studies in the spring of 1926. He initially went to work in the art departments of Philadelphia newspapers including Public Ledger, and he drew the comic strip Deb Days in 1927. Early in his career, Bergey contributed many covers to the pulp magazines of publisher Fiction House. By the mid-1930s, Bergey made a home and studio in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and he married in 1935.

Fantomah

Fantomah is an American comics character, best known as the first comic-book superheroine. Created by Fletcher Hanks, the character first appeared in Jungle Comics #2 (cover-dated Feb. 1940), published by Fiction House.

Fight Stories

Fight Stories was a pulp magazine devoted to stories of boxing. Published by Fiction House, it ran 47 issues cover-dated June 1928 to May 1932, followed by a four-year hiatus. It then ran an additional 59 issues, dated Spring 1936 - Spring 1952. It is best remembered for publishing a large number of stories by Robert E. Howard.

Fletcher Hanks

Fletcher Hanks, Sr. (December 1, 1889 – January 22, 1976) was a cartoonist from the Golden Age of Comic Books, who wrote and drew stories detailing the adventures of all-powerful, supernatural heroes and their elaborate punishments of transgressors. In addition to his birth name, Hanks worked under a number of pen names, including "Hank Christy," "Charles Netcher," "C. C. Starr," and "Barclay Flagg." Hanks was active in comic books from 1939 to 1941.

I. W. Publications

I.W. Publications (also known as Super Comics) was a short-lived comic book publisher in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The company was part of I.W. Enterprises, and named for the company's owner, Israel Waldman. I.W. Publications was notable for publishing unauthorized reprints of other publishers' properties. Usually these companies were already out of business — but not always.

I.W. Publications published comics in 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 products: most of I.W.'s comics were sold in grocery and discount stores, often in "three comics for a quarter" plastic bags. The numbering of most of the company's titles is misleading, often not starting at issue #1 and skipping issue numbers. Incredibly, the company produced 118 separate titles, but only 332 individual issues — many titles only published a single issue.

The company published one comic book with original material: Marty Mouse #1 (1958), featuring funny animal stories by Vincent Fago, among others.Some I.W./Super Comics titles used original cover art: illustrators included Jack Abel, Ross Andru, Sol Brodsky, Carl Burgos, Mike Esposito, and John Severin, with lettering by Ben Oda.

John Forte

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Forte additionally drew for Timely Comics and Atlas Comics — the 1940s and 1950s predecessors, respectively, of Marvel Comics — as well as for the American Comics Group. Fiction House, Lev Gleason, and Quality Comics. He worked primarily for DC Comics beginning 1958, penciling Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane stories for the Superman family of titles. Aside from his work on the far-future teen-superhero team the Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics, Forte also drew that comic's backup feature "Tales from the Bizarro World".

Jumbo Comics

Jumbo Comics was an adventure anthology comic book published by Fiction House from 1938–1953. Jumbo Comics was Fiction House's first comics title; beforehand the publisher had specialized in pulp magazines. The lead feature for Jumbo Comics' entire run was Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

Notable creators who worked on Jumbo Comics included Jack Kirby (working under a variety of pseudonyms), Bob Kane, Matt Baker, Mort Meskin, Lou Fine, Bob Powell, Mort Leav, Art Saaf, Dick Briefer, Lily Renée, and Ruth Roche. Jerry Iger was Jumbo Comics' art director for its entire run.

Merton of the Movies (1947 film)

Merton of the Movies is a 1947 comedy film, based on the 1922 novel of the same name by Harry Leon Wilson (previously adapted as a 1924 silent film and as the 1932 film Make Me a Star). It stars Red Skelton and is directed by choreographer Robert Alton in his directorial debut.

Mubarak Ali

Mubarak Ali (Urdu: مُبارَک علی ‬‎), is a Pakistani historian, activist and scholar. His main theme, in most of his books, has been that some history books written in Pakistan had been 'dictated' by the ruling class (the so-called 'Establishmint in Pakistan') and, in his view, those history books represent 'perversion of facts'.

Planet Comics

Planet Comics was a science fiction comic book title published by Fiction House from January 1940 to Winter 1953. It was the first comic book dedicated wholly to science fiction. Like most of Fiction House's early comics titles, Planet Comics was a spinoff of a pulp magazine, in this case Planet Stories. Like the magazine before it, Planet Comics featured space operatic tales of muscular, heroic space adventurers who were quick with their "ray pistols" and always running into gorgeous females who needed rescuing from bug-eyed space aliens or fiendish interstellar bad guys.

Planet Stories

Planet Stories was an American pulp science fiction magazine, published by Fiction House between 1939 and 1955. It featured interplanetary adventures, both in space and on some other planets, and was initially focused on a young readership. Malcolm Reiss was editor or editor-in-chief for all of its 71 issues. Planet Stories was launched at the same time as Planet Comics, the success of which probably helped to fund the early issues of Planet Stories. Planet Stories did not pay well enough to regularly attract the leading science fiction writers of the day, but occasionally obtained work from well-known authors, including Isaac Asimov and Clifford D. Simak. In 1952 Planet Stories published Philip K. Dick's first sale, and printed four more of his stories over the next three years.

The two writers most identified with Planet Stories are Leigh Brackett and Ray Bradbury, both of whom set many of their stories on a romanticized version of Mars that owed much to the depiction of Barsoom in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury's work for Planet included an early story in his Martian Chronicles sequence. Brackett's best-known work for the magazine was a series of adventures featuring Eric John Stark, which began in the summer of 1949. Brackett and Bradbury collaborated on one story, "Lorelei of the Red Mist", which appeared in 1946; it was generally well-received, although one letter to the magazine complained that the story's treatment of sex, though mild by modern standards, was too explicit. The artwork also emphasized attractive women, with a scantily clad damsel in distress or alien princess on almost every cover.

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle is a fictional American comic book jungle girl heroine, originally published primarily by Fiction House. She was the first female comic book character with her own title, with her 1937 (in Great Britain; 1938 in the United States) premiere preceding Wonder Woman #1 (cover-dated Dec. 1941). Sheena inspired a wealth of similar comic book jungle queens. She was predated in literature by Rima, the Jungle Girl, introduced in the 1904 William Henry Hudson novel Green Mansions.

An orphan who grew up in the jungle, learning how to survive and thrive there, she possesses the ability to communicate with wild animals and is proficient in fighting with knives, spears, bows, and makeshift weapons. Her adventures mostly involve encounters with slave traders, white hunters, native Africans, and wild animals.

The TNT Punch

"The TNT Punch" is a Sailor Steve Costigan short story by Robert E. Howard. It was originally published in the January 1931 issue of Action Stories. It has been reprinted under the titles "The Waterfront Law" and "The Waterfront Wallop" since Howard's death. The story was sold to Action Stories publisher Fiction House in August 1930 for $75.The story concerns Costigan entering into a grudge match in South Africa in order to raise bail money for another boxer. Like all of the Sailor Steve Costigan stories it is told in the first person by Costigan himself.

Two Complete Science-Adventure Books

Two Complete Science-Adventure Books was an American pulp science fiction magazine, published by Fiction House, which lasted for eleven issues between 1950 and 1954 as a companion to Planet Stories. Each issue carried two novels or long novellas. It was initially intended to carry only reprints, but soon began to publish original stories. Contributors included Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, John Brunner, and James Blish. The magazine folded in 1954, almost at the end of the pulp era.

Wings Comics

Wings Comics was an aviation-themed anthology comic book published by Fiction House from 1940–1954. Wings Comics was one of Fiction House's "Big 6" comics titles (which also included Jumbo Comics, Jungle Comics, Planet Comics, Fight Comics, and Rangers Comics).

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