Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Charlton's Banner Days!

In the modern era the direct sales model delivers the comics that fans want. That said, the old-fashioned method of sales has been largely extinguished and with it the impetus to see comic book covers as advertising for the comic and the stories within it. Today covers are seen mostly as art and often the logo and cover will be so obscured that detecting what the comic is about can be a mighty task indeed. There's no real need to lure in a reader with an enticing cover, though I'm certain that still happens, since most buyers of comics come to the shop having already decided what they will get thanks to the internet filled with advance hype. But it was not always so.

Charlton Comics had to battle for space on the newsstands alongside the copious choices from Marvel, DC, Tower, Archie, and other publishers. Branding was critical to make the specific comics you published to stand out. Sometimes even getting them recognized was crucial. To that end Marvel had developed their cleverly done corner boxes which allowed the comics to be identified even if the guy who racked them only allowed the edge to peak out. Likewise sometimes the racking left little to see on top too and so banners became common.

Charlton under the guidance of Dick Giordano was trying to make the "Action Heroes" a thing fans wanted. To allow them to be identified he had to find ways to make the comics recognizable. The Big Red "C" was one thing they started to make the Charlton name pop. Another was a banner atop the comic which alternated the face of the hero inside with a potent symbol for same.

The device began on Captain Atom even before the advent of Giordano's reign. But soon spread to all the other "Action Hero" books for the short time the line up lasted.

Judomaster, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, Thunderbolt, Captain Atom, all of them got the cover treatment. And then away went Dick Giordano and away when the Action Heroes. But the banners stayed...sort of.

Two comics which started runs around this time kept the design for much of their runs. One was Hercules by Joe Gill and Sam Glanzman, a comic which for a short time filled the heroic gap left by the absence of the Action Heroes.

The other was Strange Suspense Stories, an addition to Charlton's burgeoning mystery comics line up.

But one line of comics adopted the format and pretty much kept it. Charlton always seemed to have a hefty batch of hot rod comics, most featuring covers by Jack Keller. All of these books used the top banner.

In fact, the final Charlton book to use this design was a 1973 issue of Hot Rods and Racing Cars.  Several months after this Charlton was again seeking to redefine its look with the addition of the distinctive "Charlton Bullseye".

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  1. Looking at these covers, I'm aware of how very few Charlton comics I actually have. Must fix that one day. Are these ones all from your collection, Rip?

    1. As it turns out most of these I do own, though the cover images are from the remarkable Grand Comics Database. Getting Charltons was easy once upon a time, relatively easy to find and relatively cheap. (Putting together my Action Heroes collection was perhaps the most fun I've had as a collector.) That's all changed in more recent years as the company's charms have been discovered by more folks.

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