"Supergirl" Casts its Lucy Lane
You all know that comics could once be had for one, thin dime. Did you know, however, that some comics hit the racks priced at a mere 5 cents? Let’s take a look at some of them:
Nickel Comics #1 is a 1938 one-shot from Dell. The book was from an era when format and size were still in the experimental stages. This one measured 7.5″ x 5.5″ and totaled 64 pages, bearing a soft cardboard cover. As for content, the book contains black-and-white “Bobby and Chip” comics by Otto Messmer (of Felix the Cat fame) as well as comic strips with names like Bob the Bugler and Wyoming Willy. This book also included assorted games and puzzles; features that would continue to appear in comic books from time to time.
War Victory Comics #1 (Harvey, 1942) is a bit of an odd one. First, it claims that all profits are going to the USO and Army and Navy relief funds. I wonder why they decided to offer up a book with such a slim profit margin if they were trying to raise funds. The second thing that strikes me as odd is that this series continued as a 10 cent series, with a stereotypical ‘Heroes at War’ theme with a hero named Captain Cross who carried around plasma. This initial book included a message from FDR on the back cover and a Shirley Temple photo frontispiece. Harvey’s heart was obviously in the right place.
Fawcett’s Nickel Comics is, for my money, the King of all 5 cent titles. It had the dimension of a regular comic book, but only contained 36 pages, whereas 10 cent Fawcett titles from 1940 had 68 pages. I’ve only ever owned one of these, and it really felt very slim as compared to other Golden Age books. Each and every issue featured a great Jack Binder Bulletman cover. Fawcett must have felt that greater profits could be had at the 10 cent price point, as Nickel Comics was cancelled after 8 issues and Bulletman was shipped over to Master Comics.
In 1950 a new publisher, Nation-Wide launched a number of titles priced at 5 cents. Much like Dell’s earlier series, these were smaller comics, measuring 5″ x 7.25″ and contained 52 pages – the standard length at that time. Nation-Wide had books in a number of genres including funny animal (Do-Do Comics), western (Lucky Star) and superhero (Captain Atom). Lucky Star is notable for the fact that Jack Davis contributed much of the art. I can’t quite place the Captain Atom artist – anyone have any ideas? In the end, Nation-Wide’s experiment did not last more than a couple of years.
The most recent 5 cent series was a late 60s underground comic entitled Moonchild #1. This was the creation of Nicola Cuti, who went on to be a very story writer and editor for Charlton Comics. He’s also the co-creator, along with Joe Staton, of E-Man. I’m guessing that was Cuti’s home address at the time right there on the cover. It was a slightly smaller book 6.75″ x 9.5″, and had a small press run of 1,000 copies. Moonchild fans suffered through hyperinflation as subsequent issues were priced at 25 cents and 50 cents.
5 cent comics never really took off, but these do represent a nice little corner in comic book history. For more comic book chatter – check out my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent
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