15 January 2010

Happy 75th Birthday, DC COMICS!

Okay, so maybe we're exactly one week to the day late with our birthday wishes, but what -- us quibble? Not on your pristine Action Comics #1, dabblers! DC's party is poised to be a year-long extravaganza, and its one that began 75 years ago, on Friday January 11th, 1935. (HISTORICAL DABBLING: On that same day, Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California, and just three days prior, Elvis Presley was born.) 

National Allied Publications, the company that would become DC Comics, was founded in 1934 and printed the first American comic book containing original stories. New Fun: The Big Comics Magazine #1 hit the stands January 11th, 1935, and created a sensation.  In addition to its original content,  the owner and publisher of National Publication, Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, printed New Fun as a tabloid-sized, 10-inch by 15-inch, 36-page magazine with a card-stock non-glossy cover. Other comics of the day, aside from being collections of already-printed comics strips, were smaller in size. They also didn't carry advertising, which New Fun #1 did.  

New Fun's innovation-- and the simple fact of its publication --  undoubtedly caught the attention of poor Cleveland teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the writer-artist team who would soon give the world Superman. But it was in 1935 that they two boys sent an envelope full of New Fun story ideas they had drawn on the backs of old wallpaper rolls to Wheeler-Nicholson in New York.  They received their response in June 1935, which accepted two of their features on the condition that the boys redraw the comics on suitable paper. 

They did, and the first published comic book work of Siegel and Shuster appeared in New Fun Comics #6 (October, 1935).  Henri Duval (a French Musketeer strip) and Dr. Occult , the tales of supernatural adventurer, both debuted in that issue, after which Wheeler-Nicholson renamed New Fun as More Fun. Siegel and Shuster only did two episodes of  Duval before turning it over to others, but their run on Dr. Occult continued until More Fun Comics #32 (June, 1938).  Shortly afterward, on April 18, 1938,  Action Comics #1 starring Superman went on sale.  [For more on Action Comics debut, see our Superman blog HERE.]

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