Monday, January 28, 2013

Quality Comics History Unearthed!

This is one of those magical diamond dream posts, for me anyways. In a blog post by Ken Quattro at the Comics Detective, the author went further into the Will Eisner archives at the Ohio State University's Cartoon Research Library. This is where Bob Andelman found gems used in his biography of Will Eisner, A Spirited Life.

I never even considered that there might be more letters in their archive, but Quattro found a treasure trove of correspondence that gives us a transparent look at the relationships between Busy Arnold, Will Eisner, and Jerry Iger.

One thing these letters clear up is which comics Eisner was contracted to produce for Quality, namely Military Comics, and Uncle Sam Quarterly. (Eisner and Iger seem to have split the duties for producing Hit and National.) I had guessed that about Uncle Sam. If you read the earliest issues, it's a classic Eisner show of experimentation. These issues are greatly overlooked when people speak of Eisner as a format-buster. Long before The Spirit really hit its stride, this book was doing some surprising things.

It also removes some doubt about the artists on some of the features, especially those coming from Iger. Iger's material almost always had pen names on the bylines, and some of these artists are difficult to identify. (But I am doing that currently, I'll be blogging my index and findings as soon as I feel justified.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Quality: The First Statement of Ownership

Another minute thing that was not available when I was writing the Quality Companion, was their first Statement of Ownership filing, now availble from the DCM in Feature Funnies #4 (Jan. 1938).

The statement, which was required by law to run in periodicals, cites Edward Cronin as Editor and Ann L. Horgan as Business Manager, a name that has heretofore not popped up. I'm not sure whether she worked for Busy Arnold or one of the other partners.

The five entities listed as owners coincide with those listed in sources of record (including Jim Steranko's History of the Comics) were:
  • Comic Favorites, Inc. According to Steranko, this was the name of the parent corporation. It was represented by:
    • Frank J. Murphy (treasurer of the McNaught Syndicate; I discovered this proof here,  Smallwood, James M. and Steven K. Grager, eds. Will Rogers' Daily Telegrams.  Oklahoma State University Press, Stillwater, Oklahoma. 1978.)
    • Frank J. Markey, affiliated with McNaught and also ran his own small syndicate.
    • Henry P. Martin, Jr., (representing the Des Moines Rigister & Tribune), and
    • Everett M. Arnold.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Rarest Quality Comics Collectible?

Whoa, I'm reviewing all the non-super-hero stuff by Quality now and doing a fair amount of art spotting too. I just came across this solicitation in "Archie O'Toole" from Smash Comics #8 (Mar. 1940) which tells kids to send in for a free coloring map to Archie's kingdom, Pyromania!

Howdy, Friends..... I want to thank you all for following me and my adventures... and to show my appreciation, I'm going to give away free, a map of Pyromania which you can color yourself. Just write me c/o Smash Comics, Gurley Building,Stamford, Conn., — with five cents to cover the mailing and handling...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

George Edward Brenner (28 Sept. 1908–13 Sept. 1952)

Comic books' first masked hero, the Clock,
from Funny Picture Stories #2
(Dec. 1936, Comics Magazine Co.)
At some point, I became obsessed with unearthing more details about George Brenner. How could it be that the creator of the first masked comic book hero (the Clock), would go so undocumented? The obvious answer is that the man passed away at a very early age—in 1952 at the age of 42, to be precise. This was decades before anybody cared about his work which, if we're honest, was otherwise forgettable.

In interviews with Brenner's contemporaries, Jim Amash elicited lots of anectodal insight about the man during his time at Quality Comics. All of this is documented in the Quality Companion. But after he left (or purportedly was fired from) Quality in 1949, his story goes pretty dark. Only one mention, in a place I couldn't retrace, led me to believe that he moved to Dell/Western after that, and that he suffered an early death. noted the year of his death as 1952.