Monday, April 15, 2013


Harvey Comics "America's Famous Comics Characters" Promotional Poster (Harvey, 1947).   This rare poster measures 22" x 15" and recently sold at auction for $165.  The poster was meant to entice advertisers by showcasing their high-profile licensed characters that millions of eyes saw every day.  The ad boasts about feature film plans for "these same famous comics characters," but only Joe Palooka would have any life on film in this period, with a series of 11 movies in the late 1940s.  The serial days for "Terry" and "Green Hornet" were behind them.  "Terry", "Palooka" and "Steve Canyon" would find life on TV in the '50s, and "Green Hornet in the '60s.  I guess the 4,000,000 circulation in the ad was monthly.   

I thought it would be interesting to look at those characters and the comic book covers shown in the ad. 

Joe Palooka had a long history in comic books.  Before he joined Harvey Comics, he had a long stint in Columbia's "Big Shot" anthology, as well as a brief 4-issue series of his own.  He had better luck at Harvey, running from 1945 until 1961, longer than any of the other books represented in the ad.

The comic pictured with Joe is the cover of issue 16 (dated 1/48).  Joe's image was the comic's logo from issues #1-29, until they switched to a logo of just Joe's head.  It was also used as the cover of issue 6.  

"Terry and the Pirates" had a long history of comics, primarily in the 12 year run of Dell's "Popular Comics" anthology.  It moved to Harvey Comics in 1947, and the cover in the ad is from issue 6 (dated 10/47).  By the time of this ad, and comic, George Wunder had been on the strip for almost a year after Caniff's departure.  The comic, however, would reprint old Caniff strips during its entire run, even though Wunder was producing the current newspaper strip.  The Terry figure in the ad is by Wunder, though I'm not sure of the source.

"Green Hornet" had a long life on radio, where the character was introduced in 1936.  There was no Green Hornet comic strip at this time, but his radio show had been popular for twenty years running.  I assume the title of "Green Hornet" was amended to add "Fights Crime" with issue #34 to join in on the popular crime genre of the time.  He got even more specific later, becoming "Green Hornet, Racket Buster" with issue #44.  It fell four issues later, either due to dimished sales or the growing furor of activist groups against crime comics.  After 1949, we wouldn't see him again in comic books until his late '60s TV series.  The comic pictured in the ad is #37, dated Dec. 1947-Jan. 1948.

"Kerry Drake" creator Alfred Andriola had been an assistant to Caniff in the late 1930s, before starting the "Charlie Chan" comic strip,  When that ended, he began the "Kerry Drake" strip, which lasted 40 years until his death.  The Drake figure is from the cover of issue 7 and the comic in the ad is the cover to issue 6.
"Steve Canyon" had only begun a year as a comic strip before his comic book debut.  The ad makes me think Harvey either rethought the cover or hadn't finalized it at the time of the ad.  The figure of Steve in the ad is at the center of the cover of issue #1.  The cover depicted in the ad is actually the upper-left panel of the montage behind the central figure.  I'm glad they changed it, as the cover from the ad would have been an inauspicious debut.  Steve being roughed up by some goons pictures him in a sympathetic light, when it should be heroic.  "Steve Canyon"  had the shortest comic book run of any of the comics in the ad, lasting six issues.  A new collection of these issues, and an unpublished 7th, had been planned for last year, but was never printed.  The publisher, Hermes Press, has stated it would be released digitally, but that has yet to materialize. 

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