Friday, August 31, 2012

Quality Comics Indicia: Early indicators

When I was writing the book, no copy of Quality's first issue, Feature Funnies #1 (Oct. 1937), was available to me. Well it still isn't available, but a gracious collector, Todd Warren, has hooked me up with another collector who was willing to take a solid picture of its indicia! (Incidentally, I just provided my coverless paper scan of issue #2 to the DCM. Now to get my issue of Uncle Sam Quarterly uploaded!)

Indicia from Feature Funnies #1 (Oct. 1937)

There is something curious about the indicia in the first line, where it inexplicably reads "VOL. 9." This seems too deliberate to be a typo. Volume numbers were used regularly by periodicals of the time and reliably counted the years of publication. This would have meant that whatever "predecessor" would have begun in 1929.

What's interesting is that this year is the same in which George Delacorte launched Dell's The Funnies. That book actually continued in publication through 1939 and there are no similarities in the content between it and Feature Funnies (in fact, some of the strips in Dell's book later moved into National's). Famous Funnies by Eastern Color ran from 1934–1955.

The same volume designation appears in Feature Funnies #2. This opens up a whole lot of questions, especially because of something Will Eisner said, which nags me to this day. Eisner stated,

“We were packaging features for Feature Funnies before Busy Arnold owned the title. It was only natural that we continued to supply work for Arnold.” (Jim Amash, Alter Ego #48, May 2005)
As I'd said in the book, I found no other account which would contradict the fact that Busy Arnold was an original partner in  Comic Favorites (and thus, Feature Funnies) from the outset. Here's the text:

FEATURE FUNNIES, October, 1937, VOL. 9, NO. 1. Published monthly by Comic Favorites, Inc., 1213 W. 3rd St., Cleveland, Ohio. Editorial Office, 368 Lexington Avenue, New York, N. Y. Yearly subscription, $1.20, plus 30 cents for mailing, total $1.50. Single copies 10 cents. Entered as second class matter at the Post Office at Cleveland, Ohio, under the act of March 3, 1879. Advertising Representative, William J. Delaney, Inc., 420 Lexington Avenue, New York, N. Y. Western Representative, T. W. Farrell, 64 E. Lake Street, Chicago, Ill.

The next (available) indicia that reflects any change is from issue #7. Gone is the volume number, but it adds the name of Quality's first editor, Edward Cronin.

Indicia from Feature Funnies #9 (June 1938)

Busy Arnold’s name does not appear in the indicia until Feature Comics #29 (Feb. 1940—the name of the magazine changed with issue #21), when he’s listed as “General Manager,” but that isn’t necessarily a reflection of ownership. It is probably no coincidence that this was right around the time that Arnold and the Register & Tribune bought out the McNaught Syndicate's share. New verbiage read:

Business and Editorial offices, Gurley Building, 322 Main St., Stamford, Conn. E. M. Arnold, General Manager. 

Indicia from Feature Comics #29 (Feb. 1940)

The business name "Comic Favorites" lived on, as indicated by financial documents found in the archives of the Register and Tribune Syndicate. (Read the Companion for this exclusive stuff!) The memos were drawn up in 1950 when the Cowles brothers decided to sell their shares, and indicate that there were several distinct entities in play.  E. M. Arnold, Comic Favorites, and “Arnold Publications, Inc.” were all listed as having lent money to Comic Magazines. The accountant noted that there were simple "intercompany loans" between them.  My guess is that Arnold retained "Favorites" as some sort of solo entity while "Magazines" was held jointly.

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