Monday, July 20, 2020


This is the second installment of our extensive look at New Fun #1 [February 1935], the first comic book from the publisher we know as DC Comics. Then the company name was National Allied Publications, Inc. The president of the company was former career soldier Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and the editor of this 10" by 15" premiere was Lloyd Jacquet, who was also, less than five years later, the editor of Marvel Comics #1, the first Marvel Comics release.

Today’s installment starts with “Wing Brady Solider of Fortune” by Wheeler-Nicholson and artist Henry Kiefer, though the house name on the strip is “deKerosett.”  Wing and his pal Slim are serving with the French Foreign Legion. When they spot a squad of legionnaires under attack by hostile Bedouins, they jump in a plane and try to save the men. The page ends with them being shot down and coming to a landing in the midst of their enemies.

Kiefer was all over the Golden Age of Comics. He drew for several comic art shops and comics publishers, including Fiction House. He is best known for his extensive work on Classics Illustrated, which he drew through 1953. He passed in 1957.

As previously noted, many of the strips in New Fun #1 were not quite full-page. The Grand Comics Database has done the math and they occupy 84% of a page. The other 16% featured Oswald the Rabbit strips that were  done for the comic book. The strips were probably written by New Fun cartoon editor Sheldon Stark and drawn by John Lindermayer.

Next up is “Ivanhoe,” adapted from the novel by Sir Walter Scott. It’s adapted by Wheeler-Nicholson and drawn by Charles Flanders. This writing on this page is tame with perhaps too many characters to introduce. The art is superb. I’m not looking  ahead as I read this issue, but, at this point, this is the best art in the issue.

“Judge Perkins” by Bert aka Bert Salg is a gag strip that frankly baffles me. The title character has been elected to his office for the third time and, talking to himself in the mirror, it appears he plans to use his office for personal gain. However, that’s not very clear. Neither is his accosting a steer of some sort. Fortunately for Salg, he didn’t stay in the comic-book business for long. He’d draw one more episode of this strip before moving on to doing book covers and illustrations.

"Don Drake on the Planet Saro" was written by Ken Fitch and drawn by Clem Gretter. It’s fast-paced, well-drawn and well-written episode. In its dozen panels, we are introduced to Drake and his girlfriend Betty. Their balloon-like vehicle breaks free of the Earth, tumbles around for hours, lands on a planet conducive to human life and are captured by “midget men.” For the cliffhanger, captors and captives alike are attacked by giant lobsters.

Like Kiefer, Fitch and Gretter are all over the Golden Age of Comics with credits at several different publishers apiece. Gretter also worked on newspaper comics features, including a decade-long stint on the popular Ripley’s Believe or Not!

Unlike the earlier strips in New Fun #1, Don Drake runs an entire page. For the remainder of the issue, that will be the norm for the comics features.

This brings up something I’ve been wanting to discuss. Why was the rather dull western strip Jack Woods given the cover spot on this inaugural issue? Don Drake is more exciting and more eye-catching. I suppose this is one of my questions that will never be answered.

“Loco Luke” by Jack Warren is a humorous western strip. The hapless Luke is pursuing a wanted criminal. The criminal gets the drop on him and steals his clothes, gun and horse. In the feature’s final  three panels, we see Luke is being shadowed by an “Indian.” The end caption promises plenty of grief ahead for Luke. I’d rate this one as so-so at best.

Like so many other contributors to this issue, Warren is all over the comic books of the era, as well as pulp magazines and newspaper strips. He worked on the “Pecos Bill” comic strip.

“Vic Riley” is the lead character of the prose story “Spook Ranch” by Wheeler-Nicholson (writing as Roger Furlong). The illustrations are by Charles Flanders. The “western mystery” is the first chapter of a serial and runs 1.67 pages. New Fun customers were certainly getting their money’s worth from this comics magazine. Even on 10" by 15" pages, the text is so small that it was difficult to read. 
“Which One Gets the Job?” The remainder of this two-page feature is filled out by an advertisement for the National Correspondence Schools. Of the three men shown in the ad, the obvious choice for a position is the one who took one of the dozens of technical and industrial or business training courses offered therein.

“Scrub Hardy” by Joe Archibald is a college/sports humor strip. The diminutive Scrub attends a basketball practice hoping to impress a coach and make the team. He gives it the...ahem...old college try and gets knocked around for his effort. He also gets some sympathy from the lovely Letty, so it’s not all bad. For obvious reasons, I took a liking to Scrub from the start.

My one brief moment of basketball glory was on a recreational team in grade school. I was there to fill out the roster, averaging two or three minutes a game tops. Once, I ended up in a jump shot with the tallest kid in the league. It was quite a comical sight, made even more so when the giant kid decided to show off and jumped so high his hand passed over the ball. I hit it to my teammates. It’s hard to believe no scouts tried to sign me.

Archibald was, like many contributors to New Fun #1, very prolific. He did illustrations for pulp magazines and wrote for them as well. In the creator biographies at the back of this reprint edition, it is reported Archibald wrote over 900 stories for over 70 different magazines. He remained in comics for over two decades, including a stint as air director at Standard Comics.

“Jack Andrews All-American Boy” was another sports strip with a bit of gangster drama added to the action. It was written and drawn by Lyman Anderson, the artist who drew the Jack Woods feature for the cover of this issue.

A gangster tries to bribe Andrews to throw the football game. First Jack punches the gangster in the snoot and then he doubles down to  try to win the game against an opposing team who seems likely to win. However, whenever Jack throws or kicks the football, someone shoots it and makes it veer off course. When it comes down to the last play of the game, Jack devises a clever strategy that seizes victory from defeat. As the strip ends, he’s determined to find out how someone was able to hit the football and who that someone was. Let’s be kind and merely note that “Jack Andrews All-American Boy”  was clearly inspired by “Jack Armstrong All-American Boy,” a very popular radio drama.

The next eight pages of New Fun #1 are a bevy if text features with illustrations and advertisements. The first of these pages starts with “Bathysphere - A Martian Dream”, a factual description of Dr. William Beebe's use of the Bathysphere to explore the oceans. Not sure why the unknown author referenced Mars in the short article.

Also on the page - and I literally squealed with delight when I saw it - is the classic Charles Atlas “The Insult That Made a Man out of Mac” advertisement. It just seemed right to me that this first DC Comics comic book had that advertisement. Next to the Atlas ad was a promo ad for the next issue of New Fun.

The second page features a sports column with illustration by Joe Archibald. He writes about hockey in general and the Toronto Maple Jacks in particular. There is another muscle ad/comic strip, this one for the Jowett Institute of Physical Culture and with the odd headline “Jack Puts One Over on His Boy Friend!” The headline would mean something much different today. Also on the page are a pair of small classified ads: “Make Money at Home” and “Become a Successful Detective.”

Pages 16 and 17 contain prose articles “On the Radio” and “In the Movies.” The radio column talks about Buck Rogers, Bobby Benson and Thrills of Tomorrow. The movie column kind of answered my question as to why “Jack Woods” was the issue’s cover feature.

The serial “Rustlers of Red Gap” is said to star Johnny Mack Brown as “Jack Woods.” The serial does exist, but it was titled Rustlers of Red Dog and Brown’s characters is named Jack Wood. Other films mentioned are Sequoia, David Copperfield, Square Shooter and Lives of a Bengal Lancer.

The first advertisement on the spread pitches a “16-tube all-wave radio” for $57.50. Ace pitcher Dizzy Dean endorses “Proback Junior” blades; 25 blades for 59 cents. The U.S. School of Music will teach readers how to “Learn MUSIC this Quick, Easy Way.” Respondents got a free book about these lessons and information on an easy payment plan. Seeing these kinds of classic ads makes me wonder what kind of ad might appear in modern comic books if such advertisers were at all interested in advertising in them.

Pages 18 and 19 showcased aviation with a “Model Aircraft” article (with a diagram of the Voight Corsair drawn by Dick Loederer) and a second text piece on famed American flyer Wiley Post and the new flying clipper  transport planes. There’s even an advertisement for Model Airplane News. Up until recently, many of us took air travel for granted, but, in 1935, it was still a glamorous adventures.

Digression. In recent years, I’ve become less enamored of flying. Most airlines treat customers like crap, charging high prices for cramped seats on their flying germ incubators. If and when, I feel safe to attend conventions again, my plan is to drive to even the most distant of them. It’ll take longer, but the upside will be my getting to see more of our country and maybe even visit with some friends along the way.

In the other advertisement within the spread, someone named George Bailey tells us “I have reduced my waist eight inches with the Weil belt.” It’s basically a corset.

Pages 20 and 21 feature “How to Build a Model of Hendrik Hudson’s Half Moon,” written and drawn by Robert Weinstein. From Wikipedia:

Henry Hudson (c.?1565 – disappeared 23 June 1611) was an English sea explorer and navigator during the early 17th century, best known for his explorations of present-day Canada and parts of the northeastern United States.

In 1607 and 1608, Hudson made two attempts on behalf of English merchants to find a rumored Northeast Passage to Cathay via a route above the Arctic Circle. In 1609, he landed in North America on behalf of the Dutch East India Company and explored the region around the modern New York metropolitan area. Looking for a Northwest Passage to Asia[3] on his ship Halve Maen ("Half Moon"), he sailed up the Hudson River, which was later named after him, and thereby laid the foundation for Dutch colonization of the region.

On his final expedition, while still searching for the Northwest Passage, Hudson became the first European to see Hudson Strait and the immense Hudson Bay. [4] In 1611, after wintering on the shore of James Bay, Hudson wanted to press on to the west, but most of his crew mutinied. The mutineers cast Hudson, his son, and seven others adrift; the Hudsons and their companions were never seen again. 
Page 21 has an advertisement from The Shav-Easy Foundation, whose  president wants to hear from the 10,000,000 new Gem Razor users and from all men who shave with safety blades or old fashioned razors. “Patricia” goes on to say that a free membership in the Foundation provides one with the only method of guaranteed shaving at a cost of less than two cents a week. Allowing for inflation, that would be 38 cents today.

That’s it for this installment of our continuing look at the first DC Comics issue. Look for another installment in the near future. I’ll be back tomorrow with a new “Tony’s Tips!” column.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

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