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Dell Comics was the comic book publishing arm of Dell Publishing, which got its start in pulp magazines. It published comics from 1929 to 1973. 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.
Its first title was The Funnies, which was the first comic book to feature original material, but since it was published in the tabloid format as opposed to the standard one, it is normally not recognized as such.
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. 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, Howdy Doody, Yogi Bear and other Hanna-Barbera characters.
From 1939 to 1962, 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.
Li'l Eight Ball
Responding to pressure from the African-American community, the character
Li'l Eight Ball (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 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
Dell in this period even burnished its image by taking out full-page ads in the Saturday Evening Post in late 1952 and early 1953 that emphasized the wholesomeness of its comics.
Dell Comics Club and subscription promotions
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.
Multi-year subscriptions were also available (in the case of Walt Disney's
Comics and Stories, at one point in the 1940s subscriptions for up to five years
Western partnership ends, Dell declines
The end of Four Color in 1962 coincided with the end of the partnership with Western, which took most of its licensed properties and its original material and created its own imprint, Gold Key Comics.
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. Also Dell drew new talent to its fold, such as Frank Springer 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, Fab 4, 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 finally ceased publication in 1973, with a few of its former
titles moving to Gold Key Comics.
All of the material that is contained on these DVDS has been carefully researched and determined to be in the public domain. No copyrights have been infringed upon. Characters are only used as allowed by fair use law to describe the product being sold and are trademarks of their respective owners. The seller has no association with any publishers of the original materials and/or trademark owners and no such affiliation is intended or implied.
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