The Funnies

It was nice to see the Marvel versus DC debate Chris and I had on our last Comic Culture podcast draw out some extra comments; it’s a topic that needs more time, and us speeding through it like we did leave a lot wanting. Chris and I discussed doing a show next week covering all the other publishers and doing a similar comparison by eras for those other important contributors to our hobby. We’ll aim for next week for that show.

In that last podcast, I think I mentioned how the old Golden Age Timely’s were heavily skewed to covering World War II subject matter, especially on the cover; I mentioned how much rarer it was for DC to feature the war on their covers. Well, I was kind of wrong, at least as far as Batman is concerned. There was a string of seven Batman issues, 12 to 18, five of which had WWII covers, #12, 13, 15, 17 and #18 all featured the war on the cover, the next and last Batman war cover was #30, shown below and going up on next week’s eBay auction, its dated August/September 1945 but probably had a street date of July meaning the war in the Pacific had not yet ended.

On Saturdays I have this little routine, been doing it for decades when time allows, I go out and grab a black coffee and the local paper. Most of the paper goes right into the recycle bin: the only section I read is the comics. The Hamilton Spectator has a good comics section: my favourite strips (though I do read all the others as well) are Cornered, Sherman’s Lagoon, Garfield and Dilbert, I even test my detective chops by trying to solve the Slylock Fox mystery. This may be my favourite half hour of the week. I always marvel at the consistent level of quality and creativity from these cartoonists; it must be a tough gig. I had a bit of a panic this week when I read that Dilbert was being dropped by 77 newspapers due to some content that was contentious to some. I love Dilbert and would hate to see it leave my Saturday morning routine. Thankfully there was a great Dilbert weekend strip in my paper this past Saturday; I breathed a sigh of relief. The thought of how much joy the weekend funnies bring me crept into my mind when I saw this ad at the back of Batman #30 for the daily Batman newspaper strip. Having never read the Batman dailies I do have a question I’m hoping someone can answer, was there a weekly larger “Sunday” page edition that had more panels than the Monday to Friday dailies?

I was writing up a lot of Howard the Duck magazines for next week’s auctions and I was getting blown away by some of the Gene Colan artwork. I was trying to pick a page to feature here and for some strange reason, I ended up getting distracted by this great Dave Sim piece that’s on the inside front cover to issue #8. Being a fan of the weekend funnies I know how hard it is to draw comedy; I mean writing it is hard and I think drawing it is just as hard. Sim does a great job with this page, I’m still laughing at the Man-Thing gag.

For this week’s icecollectibles eBay auction that just ended I thought I’d tie into the top of the post and feature a Timely with a war cover. Though not technically a WWII cover as this is dated Fall 1945 and I’m not sure if the street date was still during the war, our copy of Human Torch #20, raw in all its glory, fetched $1,100 USD in what I thought was a solid performance. Quality raw Golden Age is tough to come by on eBay auctions and I thought the book did admirably, definitely advantage buyer.

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

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

Articles: 1688

12 Comments

  1. I have yet to hear that Marvel vs. DC show so I will save my two cents for the follow-up.

    I just Googled “Batman Sunday strip” and saw that in the sixties there was an extended color strip. Clearly there were full-page color strips in the 1940s. Offhand I didn’t see anything from the 1950s.

  2. Meli… I think the conclusion was that the scholarship ads and such appeared in DC comics because it was their readers who really really needed an education!

  3. Gerald
    I have to stop reading CBD while I’m drinking. That last remark made beer come out of my nose! Really!!!

  4. Chris and Walter, the Sunday Batman strips, I am pretty certain, were not ever larger than half page in the 1940s. Kitchen Sink reprinted a nice run of them and the books should not be hard to find. The Supermans Sundays in the 40s also ran a half page and Kitchen did an admirable job of collecting them also. Look on ABEbooks.com or bookfinder.com. I have Batmans in the warehouse, but only the 1940s dailies are up on the website right now

    IDW has continued doing the Superman dailies and Sundays right into the 1960s and several are in print right now. Funny that they didn’t do Batman also, since the Kitchen Sink books have been out of print for a long time. But Batman didn’t run as long and consistently as Superman did.

    Those Supermans in the original 1/2 page Sundays are a joy to see and they turn up in a lot of old newspaper collections. Stories were longer with better development than in the comics, and I am sure Batman had the same going. They often adapted stories from the comics but then fleshed them out nicely.

    But I suspect Batman must have been far less popular and in less papers back in the day, because I rarely see those in the original papers.

    Dc.fandom.com has info on Batman…it only ran 1943-46, then in 1953, then 66-74 (brought about by the TV series), then 89-91. So a far shorter run than Superman, which ran all the way from 1939 to 1966!! What a run!

    Today Batman is as popular or more so than Superman for all of us, but back in the 1940s, I think Superman dominated…he was in Superman, Action, and World’s Finest. Batman was also in three titles, Batman, Detective and World’s Finest (we won’t bring All Star and the JSA into this), but I just suspect Superman/Action sold a LOT more copies than the Batman/Detective titles. Superman and Action are certainly more common today in the vintage market than Batman and Detectives.

  5. You tell ’em Gerald- those DC fans think they’re better than everybody else ! There is a reason that Silver Age DC books are so hard to find in nice shape- most readers smacked ’em against a wall after they had finished reading them ‘coz they were so boring!!! I lined my budgie’s birdcage with Rex the Wonder Dog comics & my bird died of constipation!- it wouldn’t go !!!!

    Mel- a nasal flush with a fine beer is so good for you! The scouring action of the carbonated gases removes irritants such as dirt, dust & pollen, and your sinuses will sing! I find that my pulp magazines smell EVEN BETTER after a good flushing!! I recommend that you flush only with lager or ale; do not do this with porter or stout as the stuff does not come out!!!

    Bud, you are a fountain of knowledge. Which books do you think have the best smell ?? I think pulps have the most pleasing aroma, with better preserved examples having a certain ‘warmth’ with a hint of vanilla- but 1950’s Marvel & EC comics have a delightful acidity that can become quite addictive! Please give us your two bits.

  6. Walt- virtually every Timely cover was a war cover once the war had begun. They constantly railed against the Japanese and the Nazis, even the Italians! Every title was involved in this propaganda from Captain America to Kid Comics and that is why they are so popular with collectors today. They were the WARNER BROTHERS of the comic books, as Warner produced more war & propaganda movies during the war than any other studio, even when audiences began to tire of them & they began to lose money. These are very powerful images & they will probably never lose their momentum. It is no surprise that Timely & Warners went after the nazis with such zeal- both companies were headed by people of Jewish descent and nothing further needs to be said about their motivation!
    You really have to think hard to remember the handful of DC war covers from the same period. Yes, they’re neat covers, but very sedate compared to the raucous violent mayhem of the Timely covers. Other companies produced great war covers & comics too, but none maintained such an aggressive presence as Timely comics! No wonder that kids began to shun superhero comics after the war- after you’ve enjoyed the war years seeing Cap or Torch or Subby smash the nazis, how can you accept them merely going after petty criminals ?

    Classic newspaper comics were better written than the comic books, as a large part of their audience was adult. Comic books were always considered a kid’s thing and treated accordingly. I am not surprised that Bud feels that the Batman & Superman newspaper comics were better written & ‘fleshed out’ than the comic stories that they were adapting, because they had to live up to an adult audiences expectations. Thus, I urge you all to read as many classic newspaper strips as you can get your hands on, as these things may open your eyes. Humor or action, the newspaper strips did it best- comic books are simply fun little things without much depth, until guys like Will Eisner & Charles Biro came along to show what could be done with the lowly comic book!

  7. Chris Meli’s link shows us a bunch of Batman strips in tabloid size. Newspaper strips, dailies or Sundays were designed to be adaptable so they could be printed in various different forms, depending where they ended up- either in a full sheet newspaper [ like the Globe & Mail or Toronto Star ], or a tabloid [ like the Toronto Sun ]. Sundays would take up a full page [ if so desired by the editor ] on a tabloid newspaper, or half a page on a full sheet newspaper. Keep in mind that full sheet newspapers were HUGE back in the good old days, bigger than the Globe & Mail is today, and a full page strip, like Raymond’s Flash Gordon or Segar’s Popeye were absolutely breathtaking ! You guys can’t imagine what you’re missing !!! I have a few hundred full pages from various newspapers & dozens of tabs from the war years, thus speak from experience. Comic books are just ‘kid’s stuff’ in comparison! Unfortunately, these newspaper strips take up a lot of space and are a bugger to store properly!
    I have been buying old Canadian WW2 newspapers from a local antique store- these came from a local home that was being renovated & the newspapers were found within the walls, used as insulation. Where have you heard that before ?? These things are bloody HUGE, like movie posters!- but deliver the goods like no other medium. I am reading about our boys storming North Africa and Italy & the Siege of Leningrad being lifted, written at the time that these things were really happening. What a rush !!!

  8. LF
    I guess I’m just lucky I wasn’t drinking Te Bheag when I had that “nose flush.” But, I can now smell my Canadian wartime comics even better! Mmmm! That distinctive odour you are smelling in your pulps is the same sweet smell you get in most used book stores. Groundwood pulp may also contain non-cellulose materials such as lignin, a complex woody acid. The sweet smell of old pulp paper is from the lignin breaking down, You see, lignin is related closely to vanillanin, hence that sweet vVanilla smell of old pulp paper. Ambrosia!

  9. Thanks above for the Gene Colan Howard the Duck. I bought Howard the Duck 1 magazine off the rack and when I got to the end of the story, I thought, this is Marvel? Howard was incredibly hot for a few years in the late 1970s. Howard’s rise and fall paralleled Disco. Coincidence?

    Just a note that if I use numbers, or rankings, they are my own and are done without web site input other than using sales figures. I use my own formulas, and I do it without bias. And this leads me to many discoveries.

    I got to thinking about whether Columbia Records, Capitol, Decca, Warner Elektra Asylum or Island were better record companies and while I collect records this never comes up. Nobody cares because we like the songs, the albums and the artists much as we like comic book characters, the stories and the creators.

    I am a huge fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, his characters and stories and am well aware of his pulp involvement. It does not mean I like Munsey more than Street & Smith, Ziff-Davis, Popular Fiction, Culture or Edmar. I add that in our cover heavy comic world pulps should, in their entirety, really be valued more than they are based on covers. The October 1933 Weird Tales has shown us that.

    Marvel Mystery Comics 39 has a war cover with the Human Torch and Toro assisting the Russians against the Nazis. Bud mentioned this comic a while back so a tip of the hat.

  10. Mel- I went to seven pulpcons in Dayton or Bowling Green, Ohio back in 1990 to 1998. Walking into the dealers hall was like walking into a giant humidor! The smell was beyond incredible ! I still fantasize about it to this day. These were four day shows, starting on a Thursday afternoon & ending up on Sunday morning. 28 days of bliss for me, I’ve never been more at peace with the world than when I was there.

    Marvel vs DC is a silly question really, as most of us are not so set in our ways as to only collect one publishers’ output. I engage in these discussions for fun, not because I hate DC & I hope you guys aren’t taking me too seriously! As Alex S. mentions, nobody collects records by company- they are more than likely following artists that they like and not worrying too hard about the companies that issued the records. Certainly, as I collect the work of artists like Bob Powell or John Severin, my collection fills up with the work of many different publishers as these guys worked for anybody who would pay them. This is as true for the comics as it is for the pulps- I love the title ADVENTURE as it published some of the best adventure fiction that appeared in the pulps, but the writers who produced that work also worked for other publishers as the needs arose, thus I cannot JUST collect ADVENTURE, I have to include ARGOSY, SHORT STORIES, BLUE BOOK & a host other titles too, as I pursue the work of the artists & writers that I admire. Expanding your horizons beyond just one publisher or genre is very educating and entertaining & I am sure that I am preaching to the choir at this stage if I tell you to do so!

  11. OK so the Sunday editions were much more elaborate than the dailies, as they should be.

    I like the Live Frog statement that the strips were better written, I take it that the readers skewed older than comic book readers and those strips had to get to the point quickly and concisely due to a limited amount of panels available to the creators.

    Alex, keep doing it your way, all of us love it when you take us through your analysis.

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