Fox Feature Syndicate (also known as Fox Comics and Fox Publications) was a comic book publisher from early in the period known to fans and historians as the Golden Age of Comic Books. Founded by entrepreneur Victor S. Fox, it produced such titles as Blue Beetle, Fantastic Comics and Mystery Men Comics.
|Fox Feature Syndicate|
|Victor S. Fox|
Victor S. Fox and business associate Bob Farrell launched Fox Feature Syndicate at 480 Lexington Avenue in New York City in the late 1930s. For content, Fox contracted with comics packager Eisner & Iger, one of a handful of companies creating comic books on demand for publishers entering the field. Writer-artist Will Eisner, at Victor Fox's request for a hero to mimic the newly created hit Superman, created the superhero Wonder Man for Fox's first publication, Wonder Comics #1 (May 1939), signing his work "Willis". Eisner said in interviews throughout his later life that he had protested the derivative nature of the character and story, and that when subpoenaed after National Periodical Publications, the company that would evolve into DC Comics, sued Fox, alleging Wonder Man was an illegal copy of Superman, Eisner testified that this was so, undermining Fox's case; Eisner even depicts himself doing so in his semi-autobiographical graphic novel The Dreamer. However, a transcript of the proceeding, uncovered by comics historian Ken Quattro in 2010, indicates Eisner in fact supported Fox and claimed Wonder Man as an original Eisner creation.
After losing at trial, Victor Fox dropped Eisner and Iger, and hired his own stable of comic creators, beginning with a New York Times classified ad on December 2, 1939. Joe Simon, a former Eisner and Iger freelancer, became Fox Publications' editor.
As one of the earliest companies in the emerging field, it employed or bought the packaged material of a huge number of Golden Age greats, many at the start of their careers. Lou Fine created the superhero The Flame in Wonderworld Comics; Dick Briefer created Rex Dexter of Mars in the eponymous series. George Tuska did his first comics work here with the features "Zanzibar" (Mystery Men Comics #1, Aug. 1939) and "Tom Barry" (Wonderworld Comics #4). Fletcher Hanks wrote and drew Stardust the Super Wizard in Fantastic Comics in 1939 and 1940. Matt Baker, one of the few African-American comic book artists of the Golden Age, revamped – in more than one sense – the newly acquired Quality Comics character Phantom Lady in 1947, creating one of the most memorable and controversial examples of superhero "good girl art".
Future comics legend Jack Kirby, brought on staff here after freelancing for Eisner & Iger, wrote and drew the syndicated newspaper comic strip The Blue Beetle (starting Jan. 1940), starring a character created by Charles Nicholas Wojtkowski in Mystery Men Comics #1 (Aug. 1939). Kirby retained the house name "Charles Nicholas" for the comic strip, which lasted three months. Kirby, additionally, created and did one story each of the Fox features "Wing Turner" (Mystery Men #10, May 1940) and "Cosmic Carson" (Science Comics #4, same month).
Fox Feature Syndicate sponsored a "Blue Beetle Day" at the 1939 New York World's Fair on August 7, 1940, beginning at 10:30 a.m. and including 300 children in relay-race finals at the Field of Special Events, following preliminaries in New York City parks. The race was broadcast over radio station WMCA.
Throughout the 1940s, Fox produced comics in a typically wide variety of genres, but was best known for superheroes and humor. With the post-war decline in superheroes' popularity, Fox, like other publishers, concentrated on horror and crime comics, including some of the most notorious of the latter. Following the establishment of Comics Code Authority in the mid-1950s, Fox went out of business, selling the rights to the Blue Beetle to Charlton Comics.
According to Nicky Wright, "Competing well in the 'most sexy, sadistic, and violent' category, Victor Fox's Murder Incorporated and Blue Beetle are noteworthy.... When historians describe sleaze, sex, and violence as Fox's obsession, they are masters of understatement. His best artists, Jack Kamen and Matt Baker, are much revered and collected for their good girl art. (Of special note is the company's breasty crime-fighter-in-bedroom-lingerie, Phantom Lady...along with the wild and scantily attired Rulah, Jungle Goddess.)"
Boyd Magers said of the publisher, "Never one to overlook a secondary sale, Fox often repackaged four remaindered (unsold) comics into a 25¢ Giant with a new cover, hence Hoot Gibson's Western Roundup, 132 pages dated 1950. However, since Fox always started their stories on the inside front cover (where other publishers ran an ad), these repackaged comics are always missing the first page of story content. Also, since Fox used remaindered issues, contents will vary from copy to copy of Hoot Gibson's Western Roundup."
Fox Feature Syndicate, located at 60 East 42nd Street, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in July 1950, listing liabilities of $721,448 and assets of $932,878, which included $567,800 in uncollected accounts receivables. Central Color Press of the same address filed likewise, listing liabilities of $513,587 and assets of $603,427. Fox was listed as president of both corporations.
Fox Publications founder Victor Fox was born Samuel Victor Joseph Fox on July 3, 1893, in Nottinghamshire, England, the fourth of six children born to Russian emigres Joseph and Bessie Fox. He had older sisters Annie (b. July 1884), Rosie (b. September 1885), Fanny E. (b. April 1892), and younger sisters Etta G. (b. March 1898) and Marrion (b. May 1900). The family relocated to the United States in March 1898, and within two years were living in Fall River, Massachusetts. By 1917, patriarch Joseph, a storekeeper, moved the family to New York City, where he opened a women's clothing business; the family lived at 555 West 151st Street.
U.S. Attorney Charles H. Tuttle in 1929 arrested several individuals including a Victor S. Fox for illegal "boiler-room" stock-trading. Reports of Fox's September 4 arraignment said his Allied Capital Corporation had offices at 49 Broadway and 331 Madison Avenue, and that Fox also had "desk room" at 230 Park Avenue as Fox Motor and Bank Stock, Inc., and as American Common Stocks, Inc. His hearing was set for September 18. Another individual, J.A. Sachs, was named in the same warrant. A report the following month gave the latter's name as John A. Sacks and identified him as president of Allied Capital and Fox as a director; the two were temporarily enjoined from continuing sales of securities. On November 27, Fox and three other individuals connected with Allied Capital — Fred H. Hallen, I. Lloyd Zimmer, and William McManus — were indicted on charges of mail fraud. In 1944, an individual named Victor S. Fox, identified as a former partner of the Cornwall Shipbuilding Company, testified in the prosecution of U.S. Army Captain Joseph Gould who was convicted for conspiracy to accept bribes to award $1,000,000 worth of army contracts to the Cornwall Shipbuilding Company.
It is unclear if the individual(s) in these accounts may be future comics publisher Victor Fox. However, a 1946 New York Times real-estate article identifies a "Victor S. Fox" as a "magazine publisher" who purchased for occupancy a five-story residential building at 59 E. 82nd Street. In October 1947, a syndicate headed by Fox and also including Central Color Press of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, purchased Potsdam Paper Mill, Inc., of Potsdam, New York, in order to have what one report called "a completely integrated operation."
Historian Jon Berk has written that Fox was an accountant/bookkeeper at the publishing firm that would become DC Comics, where he was privy to sales figures that convinced him to launch his own comic book company. Fellow historian Gerard Jones, writing in his book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book, was unable to find documentation of this, and Christopher Irving wrote that Fox learned about DC's success while with another magazine distributed by Independent News, DC's distributor.
Artist Jack "King" Kirby said of the employer who gave him his start drawing superhero comics, "Victor Fox was a character. He'd look up at the ceiling with a big cigar, this little fellow, very broad, going back and forth with his hands behind his back saying, 'I'm the King of Comics! I'm the King of Comics!' and we would watch him and, of course, smile a little because he was a genuine type".
Writer/artist Joe Simon commented on Fox, "He was an accountant for DC Comics. He was doing the sales figures and he liked what he saw. So, he moved downstairs and started his own company.... I happened to get a job; I went over to Fox and became editor there, which was just an impossible job, because ... there were no artists, no writers, no editors, no letterers – nothing there. Everything came out of the Eisner and Iger shop. ... He was a very strange character. He had kind of a British accent; he was like 5'2", told us he was a former ballroom dancer. He was very loud, menacing, and really a scary little guy. He used to say, 'I'm the King of the Comics. I'm the King of the Comics. I'm the King of the Comics.' We couldn't stop him".
Notable events of 1939 in comics. See also List of years in comics.1940 in comics
Notable events of 1940 in comics. See also List of years in comics.1941 in comics
Notable events of 1941 in comics. See also List of years in comics.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.Bouncer (Fox Feature Syndicate)
The Bouncer is a fictional character who appeared in comic books published by Fox Feature Syndicate. A superhero created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Louis Ferstadt, he first appeared in The Bouncer (no number, September 1944). His final appearance was in The Bouncer #14 (January 1945). He is the first comic book character created by Kanigher.Bronze Man
Bronze Man is a fictional comic-book superhero in comics published by Fox Feature Syndicate. He first appeared in Blue Beetle #42 (July/August 1946).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.Dynamo (Fox Feature Syndicate)
Dynamo is a fictional superhero that appeared in comic books published by Fox Feature Syndicate. He originally appeared in Science Comics #1 (February 1940) under the name Electro. He appeared for the first time as Dynamo in Science Comics #2 (March 1940).Fantastic Comics
Fantastic Comics was an American comic book superhero anthology title published by Fox Feature Syndicate during the Golden Age of Comic Books. The title introduced the characters Banshee, Black Fury (John Perry), Nagana, Queen of Evil, Samson, and Stardust the Super Wizard.Flame (comics)
The Flame is a fictional superhero that appeared in American comic books published by Fox Feature Syndicate. The Flame first appeared in Wonderworld Comics #3 (July 1939) and was created by writer Will Eisner and artist Lou Fine.Green Mask
The Green Mask is the name of two fictional comic book superheroes, both published by Fox Feature Syndicate. Both are in the public domain with some of the original stories having been reprinted by AC Comics.Phantom Lady
Phantom Lady is a fictional superheroine, one of the first such characters to debut in the 1940s Golden Age of Comic Books. Originally published by Quality Comics, the character was subsequently published by a series of now-defunct comic book companies, and a new version of the character currently appears in books published by DC Comics.
Phantom Lady was created by the Eisner & Iger studio, one of the first to produce comics on demand for publishers. The character's early adventures were drawn by Arthur Peddy. As published by Fox Feature Syndicate in the late 1940s, the busty and scantily-clad Phantom Lady is a notable and controversial example of "good girl art", a style of comic art depicting voluptuous female characters in provocative situations and pin-up poses that contributed to widespread criticism of the medium's effect on children. The character was ranked 49th in Comics Buyer's Guide's "100 Sexiest Women in Comics" list.Samson (Fox Feature Syndicate)
Samson is a fictional superhero that appeared in comic books published by Fox Feature Syndicate. He first appeared in Fantastic Comics #1 (Dec. 1939). The writer was uncredited, but is believed to be Will Eisner; the artist was Alex Blum, using the pseudonym "Alex Boon".Spider Queen
Spider Queen is the name of two different characters in Marvel Comics: Shannon Kane and Adriana Soria.Stardust the Super Wizard
Stardust the Super Wizard is a fictional superhero from the Golden Age of Comics who originally appeared in American comic books published by Fox Feature Syndicate. The character was created by writer-artist Fletcher Hanks. Stardust the Super Wizard made his first appearance in Fantastic Comics #1 (December 1939).U.S. Jones
U.S. Jones is a fictional patriotic superhero character who first appeared in comic books from the Fox Feature Syndicate in the 1940s.V-Man
V-Man is a fictional patriotic-themed superhero character who first appeared in January 1942.Wonder Man (Fox Publications)
Wonder Man is a fictional superhero created by American cartoonist Will Eisner, whose only appearance was in the comic book Wonder Comics #1 (May 1939). The character is of some historical significance due to a lawsuit that resulted from his only appearance.