Famous Funnies #209, Four Color, December 1953. Artist: Frank Frazetta.
And it begins… The Frank Frazetta cover run on Famous Funnies is legendary, here is his stellar first cover.
I’m blown away by the talent of Michael Turner, I never noticed these Flash covers of his before but now I want them.
Bernie Wrightson doing what Bernie Wrightson does so well on the cover of House of Mysteries #209.
Some nice modern covers are starting to come to the forefront, I really liked Batman Legends of the Dark Knight #209.
A great comic book cover matching each day of the year, 1 through 365. Please chime in with your favourite corresponding cover, from any era.
Might as well give up the next few days to Mr. Frazetta.
It may be Frazetta, but I’ve always considered this perhaps the weakest of the Famous Funnies run. But maybe that’s proof that weak (well, lets call it early) Frazetta is still better than just about anything else. It feels like someone else could have inked it, like Ralph Mayo or a another member of the Fleagles, or that it was done earlier than the others. The fine-line inking on the covers coming up is light years better than the more conventional work on this.
Turner’s Flash cover deign feels crowded and a bit confusing, with the winged character conflicting with the logo. Too much going on there. If it didn’t state “The Race is On,” I would not understand why everyone is running or where they are running to.
Wrightson’s work is solid, but Fritz still wins between the two.
I used to own a complete super high grade set of the Frazetta Famous Funnies covers that were part of a “archives” purchase from Eastern Color’s warehouse by Larry and his father, Irving Bigman, way back in the early seventies. 30+ years later, after storing them in crappy early plastic bags, I sent them to Heritage to be certified and sold. At least a couple turned put to be the best ever graded…at that time…so I got pretty good return on them. I think Larry was asking $10 each. I loved them, but they’ve certainly been reproduced a zillion times, so I didn’t see the need to keep them. Sometimes owning something for several decades is enough, says my more rational mind. Or not, since so much else I can’t give up.
Maybe Larry Bigman will chime in on this, since Walter may be doing much of the run… the Eastern Color find is an interesting story.
Well… while there are plenty of great Frazetta covers in the series I will go with Chris on thus one and go with the Tarzan which is very dynamic! I also found that Wonder Woman cover innovative as well and would gave had it as second ir third along with the Famous Funnies. The House of Mystery is good as well….but I find there is something awkward about that Flash cover… like a superhero version of a mambo line!
Hi. First, the Frazetta cover on Famous Funnies #209. An OK cover, but not one of his best, even considering his non-FF covers – the ME Ghost Rider covers are better than #209. To Bud’s point, I think it likely was done earlier (but I do think it’s all Frazetta), as it smacks more of Frazetta’s brush than pen inking, and shares a lot in finish with some of his Dan Brand & Tipi/White Indian stories in ME’s Durango Kid, which show Frazetta experimenting in different styles for his compositions and finish work over the run of the 16 stories. Maybe it was an earlier sample cover that he pitched to Eastern Color to get the job in the first place. But he had been working for them for a few years already, doing his stories for their Heroic Comics. The later FF covers have much more dynamic compositions and more pen inking. They also benefit from Frazetta’s having colored those covers too. I’ve always wondered whether he colored #209, but the subtlety in the coloring of #s 210-216 is striking. It ain’t there on #209. And if I remember correctly, the only comic story Frazetta colored himself was the classic “Untamed Love” in Eastern Color’s Personal Love #32.
Which is a good segue to my Eastern Color story. For those who don’t know of me (which I suspect will be most of you reading this!), I’m Larry Bigman and I was a big name comic fan/collector/dealer/writer from the late 60s through the 70s. Back in the day, I wrote for the RBCC and the Menomonee Falls Gazette, contributed to and assistant edited Overstreet’s Comic Book Price Guide, and my father and I were on the summer con circuit with Bud and the rest of us early dealers, crisscrossing the country starting in 1968 and on through the 70s. We managed to find a few great collections in those days, and definitely right up there was the Eastern Color collection.
My dad (and mom too!) went to the first Atlanta comic convention, officially the “1971 Atlanta Graphic Art Convention,” as titled on the program, which, Honest to God!, I just found yesterday by chance after we emptied out our attic last week! It was held August 6-8 at the Admiral Benbow Inn. I was pleased to see in the program that I was Member #1. Chaired by Lamar Blaylock (later the editor of Blab), the con was also attended by fans such as Jim Gray, Gordon Flagg, Andrew Zerbe, John Wilson, and Harry Thomas, Bob Overstreet’s old friend.
But the pro guests of honor, who drove down from NYC to attend, were Dick Giordano, Frank McLaughlin, and Sal Amendola, the Charlton crew. Frank, of course, was the artist on Charlton’s Judo Master. But he also did promotional advertising comic books inserted in area newspapers, and these were printed and published by Eastern Color Printing in Waterbury, Connecticut. Eastern Color had been the original comic book printer going back to 1929-30 with Dell’s original run of The Funnies, and then really jump started US comic book publishing in 1933 with Funnies on Parade, which led directly to their starting up Famous Funnies in 1934, I believe the first regularly published modern comic title with newsstand distribution.
And within the next few years, Eastern Color became THE major printer of most US-produced comic books. This continued all the way to the 1960s when the business slowed down. So at the Atlanta Con, Frank McLaughlin came as an agent for Eastern Color. Their then-current executive, C.E. Poindexter, knew old comics were worth money (he’d gotten ahold of a copy of the first Overstreet Price Guide), and decided Eastern Color should sell their old file copies of comics and make some money. I did a Google search a few months ago by chance, and found out that Poindexter was married to the daughter of Eastern Color’s founder, and had recently taken charge of the company. They went out of business in the early 2000s, but were effectively out of comic book printing by the later 1970s.
McLaughlin had a short list from Poindexter of comics they had, and was shopping it around at the Atlanta Con. My dad and I quickly glommed onto him once we understood the situation, and quickly arranged a visit to Waterbury within a few weeks to see firsthand what they had.
So in October, 1971, my dad and I flew from Miami to Hartford, Connecticut, rented a car and drove down to Waterbury and the Eastern Color plant. I remember it was the first time I’d ever seen a full blown autumn color change, having grown up in Florida and California. The trees were beautiful.
We checked into a motel, and the next day met up with Poindexter at the Eastern Color facility. It was a huge brick factory amongst other industrial buildings on the edge of town. We spoke briefly with Poindexter in his office, before he led us out through a large factory room, to the rear of the building and an interior staircase. This led to a second floor storage room – full of comics!
Eastern Color had kept a few dozen copies of most all of their own Famous Funnies line of publications. And they had single copies of thousands of other comics from other publishers, for whom they’d done the printing. Bud will recall, too, that at that time the Frazetta Famous Funnies and love comics were amazingly scarce and generally turned up, if they did at all, in pretty trashed condition.
When I found those boxes, I rifled the spines of dozens of near-pristine copies of each. We bought 2-3 dozen of each, and I pulled out the best copies for me. But we also got Golden Age Timelys and DCs and Dells in amazing condition. We were focused on Golden Age as dealers, so we didn’t hit the Marvels, which was a mistake.
But the other books were beautiful. Poindexter sold us everything for the “good” price in the first Price Guide. So feel free to look them up, and see how we made out. The single best purchase that day was a f-vf Flash Gordon Four Color #10 for 50 cents. Poindexter had read the price for the KING Flash Gordon #10, and I couldn’t argue.
We also got a couple copies of what started it all – their 1933 Funnies on Parade. Bob Sidebottom, the underground comic dealer and publisher, bought one of them at San Diego in 1972. Also I traded a few of those amazing Timelys at the first Creation Con in NYC the next month (Thanksgiving, 1971) to Captain George Henderson from Canada. What’d I get? What I would rate nowadays as a 9.0+ copy of Action #1. Price? $375. Cost of Timelys to us – $236. And so you have my Action #1 story. Sold it October, 1984 for $5800 to finance my beginning medical practice in Sacramento.
I’ll stop here for now, but that’s the (relatively) short version of our Eastern Color story. I hope it’s been interesting and informative for you all.
I don’t think it is going too far to say that you are outvoted. Just because it is Frazetta doesn’t mean it is a pick.
Similarly I think the Flash cover is out. I don’t like it for the basic reason of the art. “Kane faces” would be welcome on this one.
I remain with Gerald picking Tarzan, which is by far the most exciting cover. Kubert’s art is spare and conceptual and highly distinctive and it still really works. Jane’s face beats everything else today.
The Dark Knight cover is pretty good but somewhat amateurish.
It seems like the covers are really hitting a second wind. Lots of good covers for #210 and don’t tell me Famous Funnies automatically wins because it doesn’t. Objectively look at Buck Rogers and tell me that is the best cover of #210.
I had a really hard time picking but I am calling it for Superman. This is yet another amazing piece of Adams art. If I am going to complain about anything it is Lois’s pose.
The runner up is again Adams with Strange Adventures. If Deadman hadn’t said “wanna”, it would have been that much closer to winning.
Others: Conan, House of Mystery, Superman (1987). I really enjoy Action although it’s not in the running. Batman just missed the cut. I also dig Detective but it probably gets the JOWA.
Wow this run of Captain America is weird.
Maybe one of the final giant hand sightings on Wonder Woman.
Larry, that was really great. I guess I seemed amiss by not acknowledging in my first response, but that’s a WordPress issue – it uses your local timestamp to order responses, which adds a bit of asynchronicity. That Eastern Color discovery seems like the comic book equivalent of the discovery of the statue of Nike on the isle of Crete.
Thanks for contributing Larry. A great story and one that will leave most younger collectors in awe. Did you have a sense of how important and rare a find this was or was it just the times when things constantly surfaced?
I remember in the early 70s that the Buyer’s Guide was offering copies of these Frazetta covers as a premium for subscribing. I think I opted for some Shadow radio shows instead. But I always loved these Famous Funnies covers. Then in the mid-1980s I was able to buy a beautiful condition copy of FF#210 that I still have. I may have another issue tucked away somewhere too. But what really struck me at the time (mid-1980s) is that every time I saw one of these Frazetta issues, it was in unbelievable condition. Not at all like you would normally see for this age of comics. Maybe the Eastern Color story explains some of this. It takes a little while for things to trickle out into the market especially pre-internet.
Walter, I was VERY aware that this was an historic find AND experience. At the time, these were the best condition Golden Age I’d ever seen, let alone in such large numbers and such a breadth of companies. We only had suitcases to fill (we weren’t shipping boxes back), as our dealing philosophy back then was to buy and sell prime Golden Age, allowing us not to have to lug around thousands of comics when we would go to cons, but rather just a couple valises filled with prime books, and still be able to make good money for back then. But to see such lovely books in multiple copies was astounding. It was AMAZING fun! But so much of collecting back then was archaeology, if you will. Barely a Price Guide and, oh yeah, no internet! So you had to dig and search – at old bookstores, garage sales, conventions if you could get to them, and of course the ads in the RBCC. But if you knew the info about certain comics that other people didn’t, you could make out well and find stuff others passed up. Now you can just Google it, and the Google Gods will inform you. But you still have to locate the books, and they cost more now, I hear!
It would be tough for me not to pick or at least have this run of Frazetta covers featured as a contender in every post for the next week. You just cant go wrong even though some might disagree. Its a fabulous run of sci-fi covers. There are a few in the run that do stand out above the rest.
Great history anecdote, Larry, thanks for sharing it and wow, you got an affordable Action #1. For a while. Aah, hindsight, but one has to do what one has to do.