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Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: 1958 – A Year in Review Pt. 1

1958 was a very interesting year for comic books. The Comics Code Authority was now firmly entrenched and many publishers had already closed up shop. 1958 represented the final nail in the coffin for a few more, but many companies continued with reduced input, while others were flush with success. Here’s a look at what was going on at a handful of those companies in 1958:

Dell Comics was an absolute powerhouse in the late 50s. My math may be a bit off, but my best guesstimate shows that over 300 Dell comics hit stands in 1958. One of my favourite series of the decade, Cisco Kid ended with issue #41. Indian Chief was also cancelled at the end of the year, along with Flying A’s Range Rider. Most of their licensed properties such as Tarzan, Lone Ranger and a dozen Disney related titles were all doing well. Dell published more than 100 issues of its Four Color series with highlights including Bob Fujitani on Prince Valiant, Alex Toth on Zorro and the first comic appearance of Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel.

American Comics Group had survived the introduction of the Comics Code, but not without some damage. They had cancelled a good number of their titles by 1955, and only had 4 series on their roster during 1958. These venerable series including the two fun, but non-threatening horror titles Adventure Into the Unknown and Forbidden Worlds as well as two quality romances titles: Romantic Adventures and Confessions of the Lovelorn . It would be a couple more years before ACG launched a new title.

St. John actually wound up its operation at the end of 1957, but a few issues lingered on newsstands in early 1958. The final issues of titles such as Do you Believe in Nightmares , Double Trouble and Secrets of True Love were cover dated January and February of 1958. It was a shame to lose Archer St. John’s fine company, as it published some of the best book in the medium. St. John himself had died in 1955 and his star artist, Matt Baker, would die in 1959.

While it may not have been a year as seminal as 1938 or 1956, 1958 was still a very important and significant year for DC. Perhaps the most significant issue published that year was Adventure Comics #247 , which introduced the Legion of Superheroes. While Showcase did not introduce a Flash or Green Lantern in 1958, it still featured the first appearances of Adam Strange and Space Ranger. Furthermore, World’s Finest #94 had the first Batman/Superman team-up, Brainiac showed up in Action Comics #242 , and Bizarro was introduced in Superboy #68 . Sadly, 1958 saw the final issues of some terrific series at DC, including Mutt & Jeff #103 , Robin Hood Tales #14 , Peter Panda #31 , Gangbusters #67 , Mr. District Attorney #67 and Buzzy #77 . This made some room on the schedule for new series, including Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #1 and Challengers of the Unknown #1 , both of which had successful Showcase try outs in 1957. We also saw The New Adventures of Charlie Chan #1 , a series that can be very difficult to track down.

Charlton Comics was rolling right along, cranking out more than 150 comics in 1958. They were still years away from hopping on the superhero bandwagon, so most titles focused on other genres such as fantasy, western, romance and funny animals. Steve Ditko was still providing a lot of pages, along with Dick Giordano and Rocco ‘Rocke’ Mastroserio. They launched a few of unsuccessful titles that year including Sheriff of Tombstone and the terribly derivative Pudgy Pig . The only series with any staying power was U.S. Air Forces , which stuck around until 1965.

Next Week I’ll look at Atlas’ recovery from the Implosion, Harvey’s Hits (and Misses) and the reprint machine known as Israel Waldman.

For more comic book chatter, stop by my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent

7 Comments

I’ve got a crummy monitor but is Lois wearing polka dot undies on that broom?

“Might I suggest, Mr. District Attorney, that just because your name is Mr. District Attorney it doesn’t mean you have to be a District Attorney?”

“My name isn’t Mr. District Attorney, they call me that because I’m the District Attorney.”

Sorry, that sketch went through my mind when I saw the cancellation of that comic up there.

I think the polka-dots are a patch on her skirt.

The “Secrets of True Love” cover is Sah-WEET

Great work as always, Scott. The cover for “Secrets of True Love” is gorgeous, Matt Baker’s work is incredibly rich and detailed and so far ahead of many of the other artists of that time. A tragedy that he died so young. One thing that made Gold Key titles stand out for me is the painted covers, as a child this made them seem more book-like and somehow more sophisticated even if the contents weren’t always so; I wonder if kids in 1958 felt the same about Dell’s covers? Looking forward to Part 2 of your look at 1958, Scott (“Pudgy Pig”? Oh please!).

Matthew Johnson

October 6, 2010 at 7:56 am

The lettering in the word balloon on that “Gangbusters” cover looks very late-Silver Age to me — it looks as though it ought to be on a Neal Adams cover. When you see it side-by-side with that Lois Lane cover it’s hard to believe they came out the same year.

Jeremy A. Patterson

October 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm

1958 was also the year of the Charlton Double and Triple value comics.

1958 was also the debut of HERBIE!

J.A.P.

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