I'm starting up a new feature here at the Dojo, where one of its primary interests has always been the comics produced by the Connecticut publisher Charlton. Charlton was a long-standing company in the field beginning during the Golden Age and giving up the ghost finally in 1986 after decades of relentless comics production, following an array of trends which waxed and waned over the years. But fifty years ago or thereabouts, they began to make arguably their greatest and most memorable contribution to the field, the "Action Heroes".
Over the next few years, in a regular series of monthly posts I'd like to take a look at how that started. Each month will feature five or so striking covers from the array which was available on the stands exactly fifty years ago, and hopefully we'll see the splendid rise and sadly the lamentable fall of one of comics most fascinating experiments.
Since the traditional gift for a fiftieth anniversary is gold and since Charlton Publishing was located in Derby, Connecticut, I'm going to label these monthly posts "The Golden Derby", an homage to the classic Hollywood coffee shop The Brown Derby. (I've always liked that weirdo image and of course Bullwinkle and Rocky once searched tirelessly for the "The Kirwood Derby", but that's another story. It's a stretch I know, but it's the best I could come up with. Sigh.)
|Action-Heroes House Ad from June, 1965|
Let's begin with what was on the stands in June, 1965.
Fifty years ago at Charlton, Pat Masulli was the editor of the comics line and follow the usual pattern at the company, he had instructed his staff to make some superheroes. To that end they had created Son of Vulcan (not on sale in June) and revived and revised one of their long-held properties, inherited from the Golden Age, the Blue Beetle. Both comics were produced by the team of Tony Tallarico and Bill Fracchio. But as charming as these products could be, they didn't seem to have the then-modern polish the fans were finding at the upstart Marvel who was setting the trend. Also available was Strange Suspense Stories which was reprinting choice Captain Atom reprints from the early 60's by Joe Gill and the great Steve Ditko.
Charlton was still producing westerns, this month featuring Billy the Kid and the Cheyenne Kid among others. As always romance was a steady reliable part of the Charlton game plan with titles like Sweethearts and Teen-Age Love. War also with several available with several titles including an issue of Battlefield Action which sported a very striking cover by Pat Masulli and Rocke Mastroserio, the best cover of the month in my opinion. On the war front was the debut of American Eagle in Fightin' Air Force, a feature with an action hero feel and likely a Dick Giordano cover. The impressive Jungle Tales of Tarzan comic had just been abruptly cancelled the previous month after the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate raised a ruckus over the unofficial adaptation. One book which debuted was a titled called Special War Series, which showcased familiar war adventures, but which would in a few months time offer up something quite special indeed.
To see all of the Charlton offerings for June, 1965 check out this link to Mike's Amazing World.
More next month for another installment.