We all agree (hopefully) that the Golden Age of Comics began with Action Comics #1 (Ju'38) with Superman on the cover. And we all know that Superman didn't reappear on the cover until #7 (D'38). When I was researching one of those darn Twenty Questions, I was amazed to learn that in the same month, Detective Comics #22 featured the Crimson Avenger, a costumed hero albeit a non-powered one.
When Action Comics #12 (Jl'39) with its cover highlighting both Superman and Zatara, Detective Comics #27, of course, had the debut of Batman!
But it took Superman a few more months to be on every cover of Action Comics even with Superman #1 coming out in 1939. Nor was Batman on every cover of Detective during his first year! His second cover was in Detective #29 (Jl'39), the same time as the Sandman's debut in Adventure Comics #40.
By September 1939, Superman, Batman and Sandman were cover featured though the Sandman was not consistently promoted. All American Comics featured its early "superhero" with Gary Concord, Ultra-Man and in January 1940, Flash Comics arrived though it took several months until the Flash and Hawkman were the rotating cover stars.
The Spectre gave More Fun Comics a regular cover feature though he would share it with Doctor Fate and the Sandman got pushed off by Hourman in Adventure #48. When Green Lantern debuted in All American Comics #16 (Jl'40), all the books had super-heroes on their covers regularly, some two years after Action Comics #1.
So while the Golden Age began in 1938, it didn't fully thrive until 1940.This early expansion would culminate with All Star Comics #3 at the end of 1940.
I skipped mention of DC's Captain Desmo, who first appeared in New Adventure Comics #26 in Apr. 1938. His costume consisted of a flying helmet with a star on the forehead, but apparently he wore it all the time, indicating it was intended as a kind of costume. Reportedly, in the final instalments he dropped it in favour of dark glasses.
I missed a masked pilot called the Masked Pilot, who appeared in Dell's Popular Comics. The feature may have started in Popular Comics #40 in May 1939, but I can't be sure of that as the GCD doesn't have contents lists for the immediately preceding issues. The GCD lists it as "© 1939 by Stephen Slesinger, Inc." It may have been an unplaced newspaper strip. (Or one that made it into some papers, for all I know.)
The first issue of CMC's The Comics Magazine (Mar. 1936) had a feature called "Dr. Mystic" by Siegel and Shuster. The hero was a variation on Dr Occult, and the story continued in More Fun Comics as a Dr Occult serial. In the instalment from The Comics Magazine Mystic performs a spectacular magical stunt: he conducts an "old, mystic ritual" that causes him to grow to giant size and become semi-material so he can fight a giant wraith. In the Dr Occult stories I've seen he was a supernatural investigator without powers.
Siegel reused the multi-powered belt concept when he created Dynamo Boy in Adventure Comics #330-#331.
You can see the evolution of DC's Golden Age quite clearly in All Star Comics. #7 (N'41) was the last hurrah of the original lineup as both the Flash and Green Lantern received their own solo titles and Hourman was dropped from the team. By #11 (Jl'42), Starman and Doctor Mid-Nite had already joined the JSA, Doctor Fate was significantly altered, Sandman could have been a brand new character and Wonder Woman was introduced!
Oh, and World War II started!
Rumors were that if it wasn't for the paper shortage, both Hawkman and the Spectre might have gotten their own titles as well!
In an Alter Ego interview conducted by Roy Thomas Sheldon Moldoff said Max Gaines wanted to do a Hawkman quarterly, and Moldoff just didn't have time to do it.
Dr Fate replaced the Spectre on the More Fun Comics covers from #68 (dated for Jun. 1941). So I think if DC thought of giving the Spectre his own title it was probably in an earlier time-frame. I've formerly taken his removal from the covers to be an indication DC wasn't happy with the title's sales, but it may instead have been one of the steps DC took to clean up its line after Sterling North's article.
Strange with all the Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman stories produced, a Hawkman Quarterly would have been too much!
Jerry Siegel was DC's "boy genius" thanks to Superman. His creation of both the Spectre and the Star Spangled Kid was heavily promoted as they had high hopes for both features.
I find reading Golden Age stories a bit of a slog but I love seeing these covers and knowing the history.
If Philip doesn't mind I'll continue my look at the industry's early history to the end of 1939. I should note that I've used on sale dates instead of cover dates, which is why there are discrepancies between my dates and the ones used by Philip and the Captain.
Two new publishers entered the industry in Aug.: Marvel and Brookwood.
Marvel's first title was Marvel Comics, which became Marvel Mystery Comics with #2. Its inaugural superhero features were "The Human Torch", "The Angel" and "The Sub-Mariner". The title also had a masked Western hero feature, "The Masked Raider".
The issue's contents were produced by Lloyd Jacquet's Funnies, Inc. Wikipedia says Jacquet had been the art director at Centaur.
Brookwood was co-owned Frank Temerson. Its one title, Speed Comics, ended in mid-1940 and was continued after a hiatus by Harvey. Its sole superhero feature was "Shock Gibson". Gibson was an electricity-powered imitation of Superman. These two covers appeared the same month:
The other new superhero title that month was Centaur's Amazing Man Comics #5. Its superhero features were "The Amazing-Man", "The Iron Skull", "Minimidget the Miniature Man",(1) and "Mighty Man". Bill Everett and Carl Burgos contributed stories, so it may have been packaged by Funnies, Inc. too.
The month also saw the last issue of AA's Movie Comics and the first issue of its strip reprint title Mutt & Jeff. The second issue didn't appear until the next year.
(1) The first instalment was apparently done as a non-series horror story, based on the movie The Devil-Doll (1936). But the title box envisions the series continuing as the adventures of Minimidget and Ritty.
Three new publishers debuted in Sep. 1939: MLJ (=Archie), Lev Gleason and Pines (=Standard).
Archie's first title was Blue Ribbon Comics. The first issue had no superhero features. The lead feature was "Rang-a-Tang", which might be the first wonder dog feature. He was evidently named for Rin Tin Tin.
Lev Gleason's was Silver Streak Comics. It had three: "Mister Midnight", "The Wasp" and "Spirit Man". The lead slot was occupied by "The Claw", about a superpowerful villain.(1) The issue had an ad for Marvel Mystery Comics on the inside back page.
Pines's Best Comics was a strip reprint title. Its contents were Syndicated Features strips.(2)
All-American Comics #6 introduced "Gary Concord, the Ultra-Man". The title character was included with several DC superheroes in an ad in Batman #1, but I don't think he can be called a superhero himself. The feature was a sci-fi strip.
Amazing Man Comics #6 introduced the Shark. The title now had five superhero features in its line-up.
The last non-Superman Action Comics cover of the period appeared this month.
(1) I've not tried to trace the emergence of masked villains or criminal masterminds, as they appear in features about non-powered heroes. Several villain features preceded the Claw's:
-A Fu Manchu-like villain called Fang Gow was the usual antagonist of DC's Barry O'Neill, and co-billed with him for part of his feature's run. The feature started in New Fun #1, remained in the title through its title changes, and moved to New Adventure Comics in 1938.
-Detective Comics reprinted the Fu Manchu newspaper strip from #17-#28.
-Mystery Men Comics carried a villain strip called "Chen Chang".
-Speed Comics had one called "Landor, Maker of Monsters".
(2) The lead slot was occupied by Adventures of the Red Mask.
Oct. 1939 saw the debuts of one new publisher and several new titles and heroes.
The new publisher was Worth Carnahan. Its first title, Champion Comics, initially had no superhero features. The title was bought by Harvey in 1940.
Marvel's new title was Daring Mystery Comics. It had two superhero features in its debut line-up: "The Fiery Mask", and "Monako, Prince of Magic".
Fox's was Fantastic Comics #1. It also had two: "Samson" and "Stardust".
Fiction House's was Jungle Comics. The first issue had a jungle superhero feature called "White Panther", and a jungle magician feature called "Tabu, Wizard of the Jungle".(1)
MLJ's was Top-Notch Comics. It had one, "The Wizard". Another feature, "The Mystic", is one of those marginal cases. It was about a crime-fighting stage magician.
MLJ's "Bob Phantom" started in Blue Ribbon Comics #2.
Centaur added two superhero features. "The Eye Sees" commenced in Keen Detective Funnies v.2 #12. "Magician from Mars" started in Amazing Man Comics #7. The title character of the latter was a Martian woman of the future with incredible powers.(2) Amazing Man Comics now had six superhero features.
"Martan, the Marvel Man" started in Dell's Popular Comics #46. This was about the adventures on Earth of a man and a woman from a super-advanced planet.
(1) In #2 "The Red Panther" replaced "White Panther" and "Fantomah" commenced. But Mike's Amazing World says the issue didn't appear until the new year.
(2) I think she was the first starring superheroine. She was preceded by Ritty from "Minimidget", who might be the first partner superheroine.
Nov. 1939 saw the debuts of several well-known characters.
AA started Flash Comics. This initially had four superhero features: "The Flash", "The Hawkman", "The Whip" and "Johnny Thunderbolt" (later "Johnny Thunder").
MLJ started Pep Comics. This had four: "The Shield",(1) "The Comet", "The Press Guardian", which starred a hero called the Falcon, and "Fu Chang, International Detective", about an American-educated Chinese detective who family god brought figurines to life to aid him.
Fiction House started Planet Comics and Fight Comics. The former included "The Red Comet", a sci-fi/superhero strip. The latter "The Spy Fighter", about a super-counterspy of the future named Saber.(2)
"The Dollman" commenced in Feature Comics #27.(3)
Finally, the last non-Batman Detective Comics cover of the period appeared. This was the cover of #34, which I wrote about on p.1.
(1) The Shield is regarded was the first patriotic hero, but the Wizard's feature, which narrowly preceded his, initially had a strong patriotic theme.
(2) "Rip Regan, the Power-Man" didn't start until #3.
(3) At this point the two parts of his name were run together.
Speaking of Amazing Man, I've always wondered about Roy Thomas' version of the character in his various WWII retcon books. I'm aware that there was at least one Amazing Man in the Golden Age, maybe more than one. What I wondered is how closely Roy's versions were to the original(s), or if it was a wholly original creation. His costume and powers -- basically Absorbing Man, IIRC -- seemed very modern, and not what someone in the Golden Age would have dreamed up.
And how many Amazing Men were there?