|Gold Key Comics|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||Poughkeepsie, New York|
|Publication types||Comic books|
Gold Key Comics was created in 1962, when its parent company Western Publishing switched to in-house publishing rather than packaging content for branding and distribution by its business partner, Dell Comics. Hoping to make their comics more like traditional children's books, they initially eliminated panel line-borders, using just the panel, with its ink and artwork evenly edged but not bordered by a "container" line. Within a year they had reverted to using inked panel borders and oval balloons. They experimented with new formats, including Whitman Comic Book, a black-and-white 136 page hardcover series containing reprints and Golden Picture Story Book, a tabloid-sized 52-page hardcover containing new material. In 1967, Gold Key reprinted a number of selected issues of their comics under the title Top Comics which were sold in plastic bags containing five comics at gas stations and various eateries. Like Dell, Gold Key was one of the few major American publishers of comic books never to display the Comics Code Authority seal on its covers.
Gold Key featured a number of licensed properties and several original titles, including a number of publications that spun off from Dell's Four Color series, or were published as standalones by Dell. It maintained decent sales numbers throughout the 1960s, thanks to its offering of many titles based upon popular TV series of the day, as well as numerous titles based upon both Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. animated properties. It was also the first company to publish comic books based upon Star Trek. While some titles, such as Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, were published for many years, many other licensed titles were characterized by short runs, sometimes publishing no more than one or two issues. Gold Key considered suing over the similarly themed television series Lost in Space for its resemblance to the preexisting Space Family Robinson but decided their business relationship with CBS and Irwin Allen was more important than any monetary reward resulting from such a suit; as a result, the Gold Key series adopted the branding Space Family Robinson Lost in Space with issue #15 (Jan. 1966), even though narratively it had no connection to the TV series.
Editor Chase Craig stated that Gold Key would launch titles with Hanna-Barbera characters with direct adaptations of episodes of the program because "[t]he studio had approval rights and the people there could get pointlessly picky about the material... but they rarely bothered looking at any issue after the first few. Therefore, it simplified the procedure to do the first issue as an adaptation and maybe the second. They couldn't very well complain that a plot taken from the show was inappropriate".
Over the years, it lost several properties, including the King Features Syndicate characters (Popeye, Flash Gordon, The Phantom, etc.) to Charlton Comics in 1966, numerous, but not all, Hanna-Barbera characters also to Charlton Comics in 1970, and Star Trek to Marvel Comics in 1979.
The stable of writers and artists built up by Western Publishing during the Dell Comics era mostly continued into the Gold Key era. In the mid-1960s a number of artists were recruited by the newly formed Disney Studio Program and thereafter divided their output between the Disney Program and Western. Writer/artist Russ Manning and editor Chase Craig launched the Magnus, Robot Fighter series in 1963. Jack Sparling co-created the superhero Tiger Girl with Jerry Siegel in 1968, drew the toyline tie-in Microbots one-shot, and illustrated comic book adaptations of the television series Family Affair, The Outer Limits, and Adam-12. Dan Spiegle worked on Space Family Robinson, The Green Hornet, The Invaders, Korak, Son of Tarzan, Brothers of the Spear, and many of Gold Key's mystery/occult titles. Among the other creators at Gold Key were writers Donald F. Glut, Len Wein, Bob Ogle, John David Warner, Steve Skeates, and Mark Evanier; and artists Cliff Voorhees, Joe Messerli, Carol Lay, Jesse Santos, and Mike Royer. Glut created and wrote several series including The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor, Dagar the Invincible, and Tragg and the Sky Gods. Also in the 1970s, writer Bob Gregory started drawing stories, mostly for Daisy and Donald. Artist/writer Frank Miller had his first published comic book artwork in The Twilight Zone for Gold Key in 1978.
Diana Gabaldon began her career writing for Gold Key, initially sending a query that stated "I’ve been reading your comics for the last 25 years, and they’ve been getting worse and worse. I’m not sure if I could do better myself, but I’d like to try." Editor Del Connell provided a script sample and bought her second submission.
According to former Western Publishing writer Mark Evanier, during the mid-1960s comedy writer Jerry Belson, whose writing partner at the time was Garry Marshall, also did scripts for Gold Key while writing for leading TV sitcoms like The Dick Van Dyke Show. Among the comics he wrote for were The Flintstones, Uncle Scrooge, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, The Three Stooges, and Woody Woodpecker.
Leo Dorfman, creator of Ghosts for DC Comics, also produced supernatural stories for Gold Key's similarly themed Twilight Zone, Ripley's Believe it or Not, Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, and Grimm's Ghost Stories. One of Gold Key's editors at the time told Mark Evanier, "Leo writes stories and then he decides whether he's going to sell them to DC [for Ghosts] or to us. He tells us that if they come out good, they go to us and if they don't, they go to DC. I assume he tells DC the opposite."
The comics industry experienced a downswing in the 1970s and Gold Key was among the hardest hit. Its editorial policies had not kept pace with the changing times and suffered an erosion of its base of sales among children, who could now watch cartoons and other entertainment on television for free instead. It is also alleged by Carmine Infantino that in the mid-to-late 1960s DC Comics attempted to pressure Gold Key from the comics business through sheer weight of output. Among the original titles launched by Gold Key in the 1970s were Baby Snoots and Wacky Witch By 1977 many of the company's series had been cancelled and the surviving titles featured more reprinted material, although Gold Key was able to obtain the rights to publish a comic book series based upon Buck Rogers in the 25th Century between 1979 and 1981. It also lost the rights to publish Star Trek-based comic books to Marvel Comics just prior to the revival of the franchise via Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with the final Gold Key-published Star Trek title being issued in March 1979.
In this period, Gold Key experimented with digests with some success. In a similar manner, to explore new markets, in the mid-1970s it produced a four-volume series, with somewhat better production values and printing aimed at the emerging collector market, containing classic stories of the Disney characters by Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson (Best of Walt Disney's Comics). In the late 1970s came somewhat higher grade reprints of various licensed characters also aimed at new venues (Dynabrites), plus Starstream, a four-issue series adapting classic science fiction stories by authors such as Isaac Asimov and John W. Campbell. Golden Press released trade paperback reprint collections such as Walt Disney Christmas Parade, Bugs Bunny Comics-Go-Round, and Star Trek: The Enterprise Logs  while the distribution of comic books on spinners and racks at drug stores and supermarkets and similar stores continued under the Gold Key label. The same comics were simultaneously distributed, usually three comics in plastic bags, to toy and department stores, newsstands at airports, bus/train stations, "as well as other outlets that weren't conducive to conventional comic racks", under the Whitman logo, which it also used for products like coloring books. Western, at one point, also distributed bagged comics from its rival DC Comics under the Whitman logo. Former DC Comics Executive Paul Levitz stated that the "Western program was enormous — even well into the 1970s they were taking very large numbers of DC titles for distribution (I recall 50,000+ copies offhand)." The continued decline in sales forced Western to cease newsstand distribution in 1981, and thereafter it released all its comics solely in bags as "Whitman Comics" and the "Gold Key" logo was discontinued. Eventually arrangements were made to distribute these releases to the nascent national network of comic book stores. Western also prepared a prospectus in the early 1980s for a deluxe Carl Barks reprint project aimed at the collector market that was never published. All these efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful and by 1984 Western was out of the comic book business.
Dark Horse Comics (and later, Dynamite Entertainment) have published reprints, including several in hardcover collections, of such original Gold Key titles as Magnus, Robot Fighter; Doctor Solar; Mighty Samson; M.A.R.S. Patrol; Turok: Son of Stone; The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor; Dagar the Invincible; Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery; Space Family Robinson; Flash Gordon; the Jesse Marsh drawn Tarzan;  and some of the Russ Manning-produced Tarzan series. They started several revivals of characters under Jim Shooter, including Doctor Solar, Magnus, Turok, and Mighty Samson. The Checker Book Publishing Group, in conjunction with Paramount Pictures, began reprinting the Gold Key Star Trek series in 2004. Hermes Press reprinted the three series based on Irwin Allen's science-fiction TV series, as well as Gold Key's Dark Shadows, My Favorite Martian, and the Phantom.
Bongo Comics published a parody of Gold Key in Radioactive Man #106 (volume 2 #6, Nov. 2002) with script/layout by Batton Lash and finished art by Mike DeCarlo that Tony Isabella dubbed "a nigh-flawless facsimile of the Gold Key comics published by Western in the early 1960s...from the painting with tasteful come-on copy on the front cover to the same painting, sans logo or other type, presented as a "pin-up" on the back cover".
In 2001, Western Publishing, including the Gold Key properties, was bought by Classic Media. In 2012, Classic Media was bought out by DreamWorks Animation SKG and rebranded as DreamWorks Classics, who currently own the Gold Key properties. On April 28, 2016, NBCUniversal acquired DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion.
Gold Key didn't sue, because it had some very lucrative licensing deals going with various TV producers and didn't want to upset any apple carts.
After abandoning licensing for a decade or so, Charlton re-entered that field in 1967, by picking up the titles of King Comics — Flash Gordon, Popeye, The Phantom, Blondie, Jungle Jim, and Beetle Bailey...In 1970, most of the Hanna-Barbera characters, including Yogi Bear and The Flintstones, went from Gold Key Comics to Charlton.
Russ Manning also created...Magnus, Robot Fighter (1963-68) for the Gold Key comic books. Especially Magnus, stood out for its excellent artwork.
Tiger Girl's comic was drawn by Jack Sparling...The writer was no less a personage than Jerry Siegel, who co-created Superman himself.
He also did fillers and issues of Space Family Robinson, Magnus Robot Fighter, Maverick, Tarzan, Brothers of the Spear, Flipper, and Lassie. When Russ Manning left Dell in 1967, Spiegle took over the Korak title.
He began an association with Western Publications in 1970...and illustrated Gold Key titles like Brothers of the Spear, Dagar, Dr. Spektor, and Tragg.
Dr. Adam Spektor, a researcher of the supernatural, was introduced in Mystery Comics Digest #5 (July, 1972)...The story was written by Don Glut...and drawn by Dan Spiegle.
Dagar started as a non-series character, the hero of a story that writer Don Glut...wrote for Gold Key's Mystery Comics Digest.
Writer Don Glut...and artist Jesse Santos...supplied the comic, in which aliens from interstellar space had a profound effect on a tribe of Stone Age people.
Baby Snoots, a Gold Key original launched with an August, 1970 cover date, was a young elephant...Snoots lasted a respectable 22 issues.
Wacky ran 21 issues, ending with a December, 1975 cover date.
"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.Checkmate (TV series)
Checkmate is an American detective television series created by Eric Ambler, starring Anthony George, Sebastian Cabot, and Doug McClure. The show aired on CBS Television from 1960 to 1962 for a total of 70 episodes. It was produced by Jack Benny's production company, "JaMco Productions" in co-operation with Revue Studios. Guest stars included Charles Laughton, Peter Lorre, Lee Marvin, Mickey Rooney and many other prominent performers.Doctor Spektor
Doctor Spektor is a fictional comic book "occult detective" that appeared in Western Publishing's Gold Key Comics. Created by writer Donald F. Glut and artist Dan Spiegle, he first appeared in Mystery Comics Digest #5 (July 1972).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.Green Hornet
The Green Hornet is a fictional masked crime-fighter created in 1936 by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, with input from radio director James Jewell. Since his 1930s radio debut, the character has appeared in numerous serialized dramas in a wide variety of media. The Green Hornet appeared in film serials in the 1940s, a television show in the 1960s, multiple comic book series from the 1940s on, and a feature film in January 2011. The franchise is owned by Green Hornet, Inc., who license the property across a wide variety of media that includes comics, films, TV shows, radio and books. As of the 2010s, the comic-book rights are licensed to Dynamite Entertainment.Kings Watch
Kings Watch is a bi-monthly comic book limited series written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Marc Laming. It was published by Dynamite Entertainment from September 6, 2013 to April 7, 2014. It is a crossover featuring Flash Gordon, the Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician from King Features Syndicate. The trade paperback edition was released on August 13, 2014.Korak (character)
Korak [long "O"] is the ape name of John "Jack" Clayton III, Earl of Greystoke , the son of Tarzan and Jane Porter.Mighty Samson
Mighty Samson was a comic book series published Gold Key Comics. A post-apocalyptic adventure, it was set in the area around New York City, now known as "N'Yark", on an Earth devastated by a nuclear war. The series was created by writer Otto Binder and artist Frank Thorne.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.Solar (comics)
Solar is an American fictional comic book superhero created by writer Paul S. Newman, editor Matt Murphy, and artist Bob Fujitani. The character first appeared in Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #1 in 1962 by Gold Key Comics and has since appeared in other incarnations in books published by Valiant Comics in the 1990s, Dark Horse Comics in the 2000s, and Dynamite Entertainment in the 2010s.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.Twilight Zone literature
Twilight Zone literature is an umbrella term for the many books and comic books which concern or adapt The Twilight Zone television series.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.Walt Disney Comics Digest
Walt Disney Comics Digest was one of three digest size comics published by Gold Key Comics in the early 1970s. The other two were Mystery Comics Digest and Golden Comics Digest.
Walt Disney Comics Digest was published for 57 issues from 1968 to 1976. The contents consisted (with few exceptions) of reprints, mainly from the various licensed Disney properties published by Gold Key. Most focused on the Disney animated characters (Mickey Mouse et al., Donald Duck et al., Junior Woodchucks, Uncle Scrooge, Gyro Gearloose, Chip 'n' Dale, Scamp, Peter Pan, etc.), but also included adaptions of various live action Disney films and TV shows, such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Zorro, True Life Adventures, Summer Magic, Kidnapped, and more. Besides stories, there were various text features, including puzzle pages and Minnie Mouse's Hollywood gossip column, plus reprints of Disney's panel comic strips Merry Menagerie and True Life Adventures.
It initially was 192 pages, but gradually shrunk until the last issues were only 128 pages. As distinguished from standard comics, the digest was square-bound with a glued binding. In many cases, stories were reformated to fit the digest format.Yogi Bear
Yogi Bear is a cartoon character who has appeared in numerous comic books, animated television shows and films. He made his debut in 1958 as a supporting character in The Huckleberry Hound Show.
Yogi Bear was the first breakout character created by Hanna-Barbera and was eventually more popular than Huckleberry Hound. In January 1961, he was given his own show, The Yogi Bear Show, sponsored by Kellogg's, which included the segments Snagglepuss and Yakky Doodle. Hokey Wolf replaced his segment on The Huckleberry Hound Show. A musical animated feature film, Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!, was produced in 1964.
Yogi was one of several Hanna-Barbera characters to have a collar. This allowed animators to keep his body static, redrawing only his head in each frame when he spoke—a method that reduced the number of drawings needed for a seven-minute cartoon from around 14,000 to around 2,000.