Harry Donenfeld

Harry Donenfeld (/ˈdɔːnənfəld/; October 17, 1893 – February 1, 1965)[1] was an American publisher who is known primarily for being the owner of National Allied Publications, which distributed Detective Comics and Action Comics, the originator publications for the superhero characters Superman and Batman. Donenfeld was also a founder of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.[2]

Harry Donenfeld
Harry Donenfeld, 1938
Donenfeld at a Superman promotion on July 3rd, 1940 at New York World's Fair
BornOctober 17, 1893
DiedFebruary 1, 1965 (aged 71)
New York City, United States
Resting placeMount Ararat Cemetery, East Farmingdale New York, USA
Gussie Weinstein (1898–1961) (m. 1918)
ChildrenIrwin (1926–2004)
Sonia "Peachy" (b. 1928)
Parent(s)Itzhak Donenfeld
RelativesCharlie, Mike, and Irving (brothers)


Early years

Harry Donenfeld was born into a Jewish family in Iași, Romania, and at the age of five emigrated to the United States of America with his parents and his brother Irving. A few years later the family was joined by Harry's two elder brothers Charlie and Mike. Little is known of his early life, as is common with many people entering America during the days of mass immigration; but the family entered America via Ellis Island and took up residence in New York City in the Lower East Side area.[3]

Donenfeld spent his early life in and out of school, and later in and out of gangs,[4] refusing to settle down or find an occupation like his brothers, who had set up a printing enterprise. Harry became a clothing salesman working in the city, and saw himself as a class above the ordinary working man, and wanted a better life, but preferably without the hard work. After he avoided the draft in 1917, he married Gussie Weinstein in 1918, and thanks to a loan from her parents he was able to open a clothing store in Newark, New Jersey.[5]

Martin Press

When consumer spending dropped in the US in late 1920, Harry and Gussie's store fell on hard times and by early 1921 they were in debt. Harry's skills of flattery and fast talking were of no use when the country was in economic decline and despite Gussie's best efforts the store went broke.[6] Under pressure to find a steady income, Harry found work with his brothers' printing company, now called Martin Press, as a salesman and fourth partner. During the twenties Martin Press saw a vast expansion in capital. It is speculated that Harry, through links with gangster Frank Costello, moved alcohol, now illegal during the prohibition, along with legitimate Canadian pulp paper across the border. By 1923 Harry had managed his most important sales deal of his life, acquiring the rights for Martin Press to print six million subscription leaflets for Hearst magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. This was partly due to his new underworld contacts having close connections with Hearst newspaper salesman Moe Annenberg. The company was able to move from their earlier downtown location to a twelve-story building in the Chelsea district. 1923 also saw the emergence of the brutal business side of Harry as he took control of Martin Press and forced his two older brothers out of the company, leaving Irving as a minority partner and head printer. Harry then changed the company name from Martin Press to Donny Press.[7]

Pulp magazines

From around 1925, Donenfeld began working with Frank Armer to produce lines of girlie pulps published under the auspices of different company names. Donenfeld acquired the girlie pulps Ginger Stories, Pep Stories and Snappy Stories from William Clayton, and put them out under the name of DM.[8] He used the names Merwil and later Irwin Publishing to release more magazines along the same lines: Hot Stories, Joy Stories and Juicy Tales.[9]

In November 1933, Donenfeld drafted Armer to form a company called Super Magazines which ended up specializing in the mixed girlie/genre pulps, Spicy Adventure, Spicy Detective, Spicy Mystery and Spicy Western. After getting charged with obscenity, and narrowly escaped jail, Donenfeld changed the name of Super Magazines to Culture Publications.[10] In January 1943, again trying to clean up their image, he changed the word 'Spicy' to 'Speed' in the four magazines with that name. Speed Western lasted the longest, ceasing publication in 1948.

Spicy-Adventure Stories November 1934
Spicy Detective Stories February 1935
Spicy Mystery Stories May 1936

National Allied Publications

In 1929, as a favor to an old client, Julius Liebowitz, Donenfeld gave work to Julius' son, Jack.[11] Jack and Harry had little in common, but Jack soon emerged as a man who could run finances.[12] Whereas Harry would promise the world to clients without understanding the economic realities, Jack was bookish and ensured bills were paid on time and helped create a respectability in the firm. Soon the two men were spoken of as a partnership. With the financial backing of Paul Sampliner, Irving Donenfeld as head printer, Harry as salesman and Jack Liebowitz running the finances they launched the Independent News Company in 1932.[13] Now Donenfeld was a distributor as well as a publisher and was now no longer reliant on others to run his business.

In 1935, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson approached Independent News in a bid to relaunch his comic book New Fun, having lost his previous backers due to poor sales and debts. Donenfeld accepted to distribute the comic but with heavy loss of rights to Wheeler-Nicholson. The major produced two more titles to be handled by Independent News, New Comics and Detective Comics (which would later see the first appearance of Batman), now under the banner of Detective Comics Inc., in which Wheeler-Nicholson was forced to take Donenfeld and Liebowitz as partners. In 1938, Donenfeld sued Wheeler-Nicholson for nonpayment and Detective Comics Inc. went into bankruptcy. Donenfeld then bought up the company and Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications in their entirety as part of the action.[14]

The fourth publication under National Allied Publications would be Action Comics (1938). Issue #1 introduced the superhero, Superman, created by artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel. Donenfeld was initially repelled by the seemingly ridiculous fantasy of the character and ordered it never appear on the cover again. However, the property proved tremendously popular and profitable enough to change his mind by issue 7 to make "Superman" the title's feature. As such, Donenfeld enjoyed not only healthy comic book sales, but also in merchandising such as toys, costumes and even a radio show featuring the character.[15] At the end of 1941 Donenfeld's comic businesses took in $2.6 million. Shuster and Siegel had sold the rights for the character to National Allied Publications, so as Donenfeld became rich, they continued on flat employee fees. Legal actions between the creative pair and National Allied Publications for compensation would continue for decades to come, but Donenfeld allowed Liebowitz to handle this side of his empire.[16]

American Comics Group

Donenfeld also owned a stake in a competitor comics publisher, American Comics Group (ACG). A gin rummy and traveling partner of Benjamin W. Sangor, in 1943 Donenfeld helped Sangor start ACG,[17] which published until 1967. (ACG was also distributed by Donenfeld's Independent News.)

Injury and death

In 1962, the week before he was set to marry his second wife,[18] Donenfeld fell, injuring his head, which resulted in a lack of memory and speech from which he never recovered.[19] He died at a care home in 1965. Donenfeld was posthumously named in 1985 as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company's 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.[20]


Harry's son Irwin Donenfeld was born in 1926,[21] and worked for the firm from 1948 to c. 1968, holding the titles of Editorial Director and Executive Vice President. Harry's daughter Sonia (known as "Peachie") was born in 1927. She was married to Fred Iger in 1947, had 2 children and the marriage ended in divorce after 15 years.



  1. ^ Social Security Death Index, Social Security #082-03-1850.
  2. ^ Donenfeld death notice, New York Times (Feb. 28, 1965).
  3. ^ Jones, pp. 1–4.
  4. ^ Jones, p. 15.
  5. ^ Jones, pp. 19–22.
  6. ^ Jones, p. 42.
  7. ^ Jones, pp. 42–46.
  8. ^ David Saunders. http://www.pulpartists.com/Donenfeld.html
  9. ^ Douglas Ellis. 2003. Uncovered: The Hidden Art of Girlie Pulps. Adventure House.
  10. ^ David Saunders. http://www.pulpartists.com/Donenfeld.html
  11. ^ Jones, p. 62.
  12. ^ Jones, p. 89.
  13. ^ Jones, pp. 89–92.
  14. ^ Jones, pp. 101–102, 107–108, 125
  15. ^ Van Lente, Fred (2012). The Comic Book History of Comics. IDW. p. 32.
  16. ^ Jones, p. 142.
  17. ^ Markstein, Don. "The American Comics Group," Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Accessed Aug. 29, 2011.
  18. ^ "Our Hero: Superman on Earth", by Tom De Haven; published 2010 by Yale University Press
  19. ^ Donenfeld entry, Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999.
  20. ^ Marx, Barry, Cavalieri, Joey and Hill, Thomas (w), Petruccio, Steven (a), Marx, Barry (ed). "Harry Donenfeld Detective Comics Inc." Fifty Who Made DC Great: 6 (1985), DC Comics
  21. ^ Jones, p. 51.


  • Jones, Gerard (2005). Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-03657-8. OCLC 62311432.

External links



was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Friday of the Julian calendar, the 1893rd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 893rd year of the 2nd millennium, the 93rd year of the 19th century, and the 4th year of the 1890s decade. As of the start of 1893, the Gregorian calendar was

12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

All-American Publications

All-American Publications is one of three American comic book companies that merged to form the modern day DC Comics, one of two largest publishers of comic books in the United States. Superheroes created for All-American include the original Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and Wonder Woman, all in the 1940s' Golden Age of Comic Books.

American Comics Group

American Comics Group (ACG) was an American comic book publisher started in 1939 and existing under the ACG name form 1943 to 1967. It published the medium's first ongoing horror-comics title, Adventures into the Unknown. ACG's best-known character was the 1960s satirical-humor hero Herbie Popnecker, who starred for a time in Forbidden Worlds. Herbie would later get his own title and be turned into a "superhero" called the Fat Fury.

Founded by Benjamin W. Sangor, ACG was co-owned by Fred Iger from 1948 to 1967. Iger's father-in-law, Harry Donenfeld, head of National Periodical Publications (later known as DC Comics), was also a co-owner in the early 1960s (though Donenfeld was severely incapacitated and out of the business after an accident in 1962). ACG was distributed by Independent News Company, which also distributed (and was part of the same company as) DC.

American comic book

An American comic book is a thin periodical, typically 32 pages, containing comics content. While the form originated in 1933, American comic books first gained popularity after the 1938 publication of Action Comics, which included the debut of the superhero Superman. This was followed by a superhero boom that lasted until the end of World War II. After the war, while superheroes were marginalized, the comic book industry rapidly expanded, and genres such as horror, crime, science fiction and romance became popular. The 1950s saw a gradual decline, due to a shift away from print media in the wake of television and the impact of the Comics Code Authority. The late 1950s and the 1960s saw a superhero revival, and superheroes remain the dominant character archetype in the 21st century.

Some fans collect comic books, helping drive up their value. Some have sold for more than US $1 million. Comic shops cater to fans, selling comic books, plastic sleeves ("bags") and cardboard backing ("boards") to protect the comic books.

An American comic book is also known as a floppy comic. It is typically thin and stapled, unlike traditional books. American comic books are one of the three major comic book schools globally, along with Japanese manga and the Franco-Belgian comic books.

Dennis Marks (screenwriter)

Dennis Marks (August 2, 1932 – January 10, 2006) was an American screenwriter, producer and voice actor, mainly for children's animations. Marks wrote for several big production companies during the 1960s through to the 1990s, including Hanna-Barbera, DC and Marvel. He wrote screenplays and stories for many popular animation shows including Batfink, The Beatles, Dungeons & Dragons and Spider-Man, providing the voice for the Green Goblin in the latter. He also worked as a producer for Children's TV show Wonderama, chat show A.M. New York and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.


Donenfeld is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Harry Donenfeld (1893–1965), American comic book publisher

Irwin Donenfeld (1926–2004), American comic book publisher

Fifty Who Made DC Great

Fifty Who Made DC Great is a one shot published by DC Comics to commemorate the company's 50th anniversary in 1985. It was published in comic book format but contained text articles with photographs and background caricatures.

Fred Iger

Frederick Hillel Iger (July 12, 1924 – April 10, 2015) was an American comic book publisher, associated for many years with the media figure Harry Donenfeld. (Iger's first marriage was to Donenfeld's daughter, and his second marriage was to Donenfeld's ex-daughter-in-law.) Iger was an owner of American Comics Group from 1943 to 1967, and co-owner of National Periodical Publications (otherwise known as DC Comics) from 1948–1961.

Iger is not known to be related to pioneering comic-book packager Jerry Iger.

H. J. Ward

Hugh Joseph Ward (March 8, 1909 – February 7, 1945), who usually signed his work H. J. Ward, was an American illustrator known for his cover art for pulp magazines. He is noted especially for his paintings for Spicy Mystery, Spicy Detective, and other titles in the weird menace genre published by Harry Donenfeld. He also painted definitive images of popular radio characters the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet.

Independent News

Independent News Co. was a magazine and comic book distribution business owned by National Periodical Publications, the parent company of DC Comics. Independent News distributed all DC publications, as well as those of a few rival publishers, such as Marvel Comics from 1957 to 1969, in addition to pulp and popular magazines. The company was founded in 1932 and operated until c. 1970.

Ira Schnapp

Ira Schnapp (October 10, 1894 – July 24, 1969) was a logo designer and letterer who brought his classic and art deco design styles to DC Comics (then National Comics) beginning with the redesign of the Superman logo in 1940. He did a great deal of logo and lettering work for the company in the 1940s. Around 1949, he joined the staff as their in-house logo, cover lettering and house-ad designer and letterer, and continued in that role until about 1967.

Irwin Donenfeld

Irwin Donenfeld (March 1, 1926 – November 29, 2004) was an American comic book publishing executive for DC Comics. Donenfeld co-owned the firm from 1948 to 1967, holding the positions of Editorial Director (1952–1957) and Executive Vice President (1958 – c. 1968). He was the son of Harry Donenfeld, co-founder of the company.

Jack Liebowitz

Jacob S. "Jack" Liebowitz (; born Yacov Lebovitz October 10, 1900 – December 11, 2000) was an American accountant and publisher, known primarily as the co-owner with Harry Donenfeld of National Allied Publications (later DC Comics).

Jerry Siegel

Jerome Siegel (; October 17, 1914 – January 28, 1996), who also used pseudonyms including Joe Carter and Jerry Ess, was an American comic book writer. His most famous creation was DC Comics character Superman, which he created in collaboration with his friend Joe Shuster.

He was inducted (with Shuster posthumously) into the comic book industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1993.

Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson

Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson (January 7, 1890 – 1965) was an American pulp magazine writer and entrepreneur who pioneered the American comic book, publishing the first such periodical consisting solely of original material rather than reprints of newspaper comic strips. Long after his departure from the comic book company he founded, Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications would evolve into DC Comics, one of the U.S.'s two largest comic book publishers along with rival Marvel Comics.

He was a 2008 Judges' Choice inductee into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.

Max Gaines

Maxwell Charles Gaines (born Max Ginzberg September 21, 1894 – August 20, 1947) was a pioneering figure in the creation of the modern comic book.In 1933, Gaines devised the first four-color, saddle-stitched newsprint pamphlet, a precursor to the color-comics format that became the standard for the American comic book industry. He was co-publisher of All-American Publications, a seminal comic-book company that introduced such enduring fictional characters as Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Hawkman. He went on to found Educational Comics, producing the series Picture Stories from the Bible. He authored one of the earliest essays on comic books, a 1942 pamphlet titled Narrative Illustration, The Story of the Comics.

After Gaines' death in 1947, Educational Comics was taken over by his son Bill Gaines, who transformed the company (now known as EC Comics) into a pioneer of horror, science fiction, and satirical comics.

Sol Cohen

Sol Cohen (December 16, 1910 – July 28, 1988) was an American publisher who worked mostly in the science fiction field.

Cohen started his long association with Avon Publications in 1947, working as an editor for their comics division from 1947–1956. During this same period, from 1947–1949, Cohen was the circulation director and business manager of EC Comics. Also during this period, Cohen became associated with Golden Age comics financier Harry Donenfeld; in 1949 the two men helped found the publisher Youthful Magazines.Cohen edited Avon magazines, including Avon Science Fiction & Fantasy Reader, through most of the 1950s, eventually became an Avon Books vice-president. When Cohen's stock gains from that job enabled him to retire in the early 1960s, he decided to continue working in publishing, and joined Robert Guinn at Galaxy Science Fiction.

Cohen left Galaxy in 1965, and bought Amazing Stories and Fantastic from Ziff-Davis, forming a new publishing company, Ultimate Publishing, to do so. Cohen's tenure as publisher of Amazing Stories and Fantastic was filled with conflicts with his editors, contributors, and the Science Fiction Writers of America.In 1977, Cohen sold his half of the business to his partner, Arthur Bernhard, and moved to Fort Lauderdale. He died in July 1988.


Superman is a fictional superhero created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. He first appeared in Action Comics #1, a comic book published on April 18, 1938. He appears regularly in American comic books published by DC Comics, and has been adapted to radio shows, newspaper strips, television shows, movies, and video games.

Superman was born on the planet Krypton and named Kal-El. As a baby, he was sent to Earth in a small spaceship by his scientist father Jor-El moments before Krypton was destroyed in a natural cataclysm. His ship landed in the American countryside; he was found and adopted by farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, who named him Clark Kent. Clark displayed various superhuman abilities, such as incredible strength and impervious skin. His foster parents advised him to use his gifts for the benefit of humanity, and he decided to use his powers to fight crime as a vigilante. To protect his privacy, he changes into a colorful costume and uses the alias "Superman" when fighting crime. Clark Kent resides in the fictional American city of Metropolis, where he works as a journalist for the Daily Planet. Superman's love interest is his fellow journalist Lois Lane, and his classic arch-enemy is the genius inventor Lex Luthor. He is a friend of many other superheroes in the DC Universe, such as Batman and Wonder Woman.

Superman is a cultural icon of the United States. Superman popularized the superhero genre and defined its conventions, and it remains one of the most lucrative superhero franchises.

Youthful (publisher)

Youthful (also known as Youthful Magazines) was an American comic book publisher that operated from 1949–1954. The company was owned by attorney Bill Friedman and his wife Sophie, with Bill holding the title of Publisher. Comics editor Sol Cohen (possibly with help from financier Harry Donenfeld) helped launch Youthful.

The company specialized in non-superhero titles, instead focusing on horror, Western, humor, and romance comics. Notable titles published by Youthful included the Western titles Gunsmoke, Indian Fighter, and Redskin (later known as Famous Western Badmen); the science fiction/horror series Captain Science (later known as Fantastic, Beware, and Chilling Tales), and the humor title Jackpot. Altogether, the company only published ten distinct titles, with many series changing their name and continuing the numbering of the previous title.

Doug Wildey was the company's lead cartoonist, with work published in virtually all their titles. Other notable creators associated with Youthful included Bill Fraccio, Harry Harrison, Pat Masulli, Don Perlin, Wally Wood, Graham Ingels, Ed Goldfarb, Henry Kiefer, and Manny Stallman.

Youthful's first title was Gunsmoke, which debuted Apr./May 1949 and ran until 1952. Youthful acquired the Pix-Parade title Youthful Hearts in 1952, continuing its numbering under the new title Daring Confessions until 1953. The Youthful titles Attack and Beware were acquired by Trojan Magazines in 1952, which continued their numbering. Youthful, in turn, renamed the titles Atomic Attack and Chilling Tales, respectively, also continuing the numbering. The company was mostly finished by 1953, with only Jackpot continuing until 1954 (its final issue cover-dated May).

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