The Last Charltons

Charlton was a great comic publisher that gave us a good 50 year run. The company is synonymous with names like Steve Ditko, Pat Boyette and it helped launch the careers of John Byrne, Dennis O’Neal, Jim Aparo and many others.

Charlton first stopped the presses in 1984 but fired them up again in 1985 when a guy named T.C. Ford took another stab at it. The very last of these second chance Charlton issues have very low print runs, are tough to find and fetch a pretty penny as hard to find collectibles.

There are only 8 Charltons with published dates reaching into 1986. My 5 favorites are below (honorable mention to Atomic Mouse #12, Yang #17 and Li’l Genius #55.

#5. Captain Willy Schultz #77, January 1986.

Charlton had past success with its war themed titles so it makes sense them going back to the well. This was the first of the last Charltons that I owned. Researching it a bit I found out about the others and the hunt was on!

#4. Punchy and the Black Crow #12, February 1986.

All I’m saying is that maybe the reason the Charlton relaunch of 1986 did not work was because the brain trust went with titles like this one. There were a hell of a lot of titles to choose from so…

#3. Timmy the Timid Ghost, Series 2, #26, January 1986.

Timmy was a hit for Charlton back in the 1950s but the 1980s are not the 1950s now are they.

#2. The Iron Corporal #25, February 1986.

I Like the Iron Corporal and think they should have picked this as their only war title. Silly Schultz should have been a Romance title!

#1. Doctor Graves #75,  January 1986.

Formerly the Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves this one was the hardest for me to hunt down. The Doctor Graves run is very collectible and this last issue is one of the must haves.

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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  1. I believe that John Wren was the editor of Charlton’s last hurrah in 1985 (including these ones cover-dated early 1986), not T. C. Ford.  I think Ford attempted to revive Charlton in 1986 after this failed last hurrah but his comics weren’t published.

    I was actively buying Charltons off the stands in 1984-85, and it’s always a little surprising to me how I never saw some titles (like the Punchy issue shown here) on the spinner rack at the time, when I surely would have gotten them, which indicates to me that the company’s distribution was not that good in my area.  Another problem with these 1985 Charltons was that the pages were often creased, even more than usual.  I recall buying a Li’l Genius and Iron Corporal new off the stands in 1985 and being disappointed at how many of the inside pages were creased, like they had gotten caught in the printer. 

    It’s too bad that this short-lived revival didn’t work.  (Perhaps if they had renumbered them all from #1, it might have helped.)  It’s great to see how Steve Ditko contributed to new house ads for this revival at the time, too.

  2. Thanks for the correction Rob. Going back to issue #1 is always a good ploy. The mid 80s were years where collectors and speculators were buying multiple copies of new launches and this may have helped Charlton. I thought the mix they chose was weak though I am not sure which properties were already sold off at the time, Captain Atom, Question etc.

  3. Those late Charlton years were also when Marvel was putting out a bunch of the Star Comics line for younger kids. Perhaps Charlton’s management thought that sort of comic had coattails they could ride, hence revivals of past kiddy titles they owned.

  4. If you wouldn’t mind settleing a Charlton bet, who drew the most Charlton comics? I say Joe Gill, my friend says Vince Colletta.

  5. Whoever said Vince Colletta wins the bet. Joe Gill was a WRITER, not an artist, and thus drew no Charltons.

  6. Hi:

    I’m the guy named T.C. Ford.

    Yes, the comics you show are in fact from John Wren’s time at Charlton. My books (with the possible exception of Charlton Bullseye Special #1…yes , my books all began with Number Ones and were to be Direct only, but I walked before they made it to press. Bullseye Special was rumored to have been run on the in-house press which wasn’t the original plan, but I’ve never seen a copy) would have actually shipped in ’86. Remember, cover dates were 3-4 months ahead to allow longer exposure on the newsstand.

    Don’t blame John for what came out under his stay. There was always a rush to “get something out”, and that came from above John’s head. Other than covers, no new work was permitted with the sole exception of Steve Ditko who had his own book as brokered by Robin Snyder. Not having a first issue was more due to USPS mailing permits. First issues back then had less significance because there was a perceived lack of title history, plus a new permit would have to be applied for versus using old numbering and using an older permit. John did the best he could with what he had, but the plug was pulled after only a few months. 

    As for my material, look to my United Comics publishing house (LIKE us on facebook –, all of it will eventually see print. We would’ve had the first published work by Amanda Conner, with work by Steve Hauk, Steve Montano, Mike DeCarlo and others. It was a great experience working at Charlton, but it was also an uphill battle.

  7. The “Action Heroes” were sold to DC at that point. The strongest thing left in the stable at that point were the mystery and war characters. Doomsday+1 and Yang were still around, but had been reprinted ad nauseaum with no new material on the horizon. The higher ups were enamored with the “funny animal” stuff for some reason, and there were a lot of fans of Atomic Mouse.

  8. It was an uphill battle. I spent more time quelling rumors than getting work done. Dealers were hearing that properties were being sold (some were, through Robin Snyder, but nothing I contracted to work on), which made them think that we were closing up shop when we weren’t. Artists were made to believe that other companies had character rights to publish new material that they didn’t and would stop working, thinking that WE weren’t publishing. I’ve heard other rumors after the fact. I wish I had been thicker skinned at the time, ignored it all and just plowed through, but I just gave up in frustration. The upside was that I was allowed to retain material I produced, due to my contractual agreement.

  9. I wish you stuck it out too! I’d love to get the complete story off you. I’ll try contacting you within a few days. I’m hoping you can fill us all in a bit more on the final days of Charlton. I’d also love to know what you currently have in the works.

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