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Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: All In Color For A Nickel

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:

nickelcomics#1
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#1

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.

nickelcomics#4

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.

nationwide

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.

moonchild1

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

12 Comments

Jeremy A. Patterson

March 2, 2010 at 9:10 am

Nation-Wide also put out Mazie, a teen humor title that would take the lead of Bulletman & move into the 10-cent world as well!

J.A.P.

Thanks for plugging my creation, “Moonchild”. If you would like to see a more modern version of her please go to my web site, moonieandthespiderqueen.com. The one you have posted goes back to 1969. I’ve tried to improve my art and storytelling since then.

Best,

Nick

Didn’t Hasbro make a Bulletman in the mid-70s? Back when GI Joe was a ‘super adventurer’ or something like that, just before they discontinued the classic-type Joe.

NSFW

Nicola Cuti’a site may be considered NSFW by some.

Wow, I never knew there actually were any five cent comics.

I’d love to see “Action | Detective | Western | Comics | Puzzles | Stories | Tricks | Magic” on the cover of a comic these days.

What does the acronym NSFW stand for?

NSFW = Not safe for work, usually because it features sexual or obscene content

Scott Rowland

March 2, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Nick – “Not Safe For Work” generally means there might be some nudity or something else that could get someone in trouble if their boss sees it.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you for E-Man, Captain Cosmos, and the many many stories you wrote that I have enjoyed. You have given me hours and hours of entertainment, and I’m still delighted when I stumble across an old Charlton comic with a story by you and Joe Staton, or you and Wayne Howard, or you and whoever. Thank you!

Thanks for letting me know what NSFW means. Yes, there is nudity on my site. After 40 odd years in the field of art, nudity has never been offensive for me but I see where it might be inappropriate for the workplace. And Scott, thanks for the nice compliments on my stories. It is always good to know I’ve been able to entertain.

Thanks Scott for another enlightening feature. I like how on that great Bulletman cover one random guy is seen to be floating from gaping chasm Bulletman caused in that (presumably) enemy sub.

It’s nice to hear from you Mr. Cuti. I always thought your partnership with Joe Staton ranks among the great ones in comics. We had a feature elsewhere on this website in which participants were prompted to list their favourite classic writer/penciler combinations. I have to say I was not alone in placing you and Joe on a top 12 list that included Lee/Kirby, Claremont/Byrne, Kanigher/Kubert, Thomas/Smith, Gerber/Colan and others of that ilk. Thanks for the entertainment indeed!

Dear Benday-dot,
I have a particular fondness for your chosen name. An early job of mine in comics was working in the Wood Studio (Wallace Wood) and, as Woody’s assistant, one of my tasks was applying the Benday shading to Woody’s artwork.
I was unaware of the listing. It has always been a pleasure working with Joe, who I consider an old and very close friend. Please allow me to say I am honored to be in such company with some of the finest writer/artist teams in the business.

Thank you again Mr. Cuti. Other fans interested in reading up on the great Cuti/Staton partnership and the story of the creative spirit of Charlton Comics in the 70′s might want to check out Twomorrows Publishing issue #12 of Comic Book Artist. It’s a delightful read. And there is even an image or two of the creative period cited above by Nick. There is a great story called the “Cosmic All” that appeared in Warren Publishing’s Creepy magazine, and it has some of the fantastic Cuti shading on Woody’s pencils we have just heard about. Nicola Cuti had a fruitful history at Warren in my opinion.

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