In 1934 John Santangelo, Jr. went to jail for copyright infringement. Think about that for a minute. Felony copyright infringement! Boy have times changed. These days we call it the internet. Anyway while in jail he met Edward Levy, a disbarred attorney incarcerated because of his involvement in a Waterbury political scandal. After they paid their debt to society, the two formed a partnership in 1940 and included the publication of Charlton Comics from 1944 to 1985. The company was originally called T.W.O. Charles Company, named after the co-founders’ two infant sons, both named Charles. The company changed it’s name to Charlton Publications in 1945.
Comics were a means to an end for Charlton. They owned their own printing presses so they kept the press running with comic in-between their other publications like “Hit Parade” and “Song Hits” magazines.
Their first comic was Yellowjacket Comics #1, September 1944, an anthology of superhero and horror stories launched under the imprint Frank Comunale Publications. Like many of the early golden age publishers. Charlton published work produced by studio artist working outside the company. In 1951, Al Fago who had been one of those studios was hired to work as an editor in the Charlton offices. He worked with Dick Giordano and Joe Gill who are two of the names most associated with the Charlton line of comics
At the end of the golden age in 1954 and 1955, as many publishers went out of business, Charlton picked up inventory stories from them and repackaged them as Charlton comics. it acquired comic book properties from Superior Comics, Mainline Publications, St. John Publications, and Fawcett Comics. Charlton continued publishing of This Magazine Is Haunted, Strange Suspense Stories, Sweethearts, Romantic Secrets, Romantic Story, Gabby Hayes Western, Lash LaRue Western, Monte Hale Western, Rocky Lane Western. Six-Gun Heroes, Tex Ritter Western, Tom Mix Western, all of which were originally published by other publishing houses most notably Fawcett.
Charlton Comics were also the last of the American comics to raise their price from ten cents to 12 cents in 1962.
When the silver age of comics began Charlton was right there too with their own heroes, most have since moved on to DC Comics since Charlton’s demise. These heroes include… Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, The Question, Peacemaker, Thunderbolt, Judomaster, Son of Vulcan, and Sarge Steel.
In the mid-1970s, there was a brief resurgence of talent, energized by Nicola Cuti, artist Joe Staton and the “CPL Gang” — a group of writer/artist comics fans including John Byrne, Roger Stern, Bob Layton, and Roger Slifer, who had all worked on the fanzine CPL (Contemporary Pictorial Literature). Charlton began publishing such new titles as E-Man, Midnight Tales and Doomsday + 1. The CPL Gang also produced an in-house fanzine called Charlton Bullseye, which published, among other things, such commissioned but previously unpublished material as the company’s last Captain Atom story. Also during this period, most of Charlton’s titles began sporting painted covers.
After this period Charlton published mostly licensed comics from the most popular television shows of the day.
Most of Charlton’s superhero characters were acquired in 1983 by DC Comics, where former Charlton editor Dick Giordano was then managing editor. These “Action Hero” characters were originally to be used in the landmark Watchmen miniseries written by Alan Moore, but DC then chose to save the characters for other uses. Moore instead developed new characters loosely based on them. The Charlton characters were incorporated into DC’s main superhero line, starting in the epic Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries of 1985.
Editor Robin Snyder oversaw the sale of some properties to their creators, the bulk of the rights was purchased by Canadian entrepreneur Roger Broughton’s Avalon Communications under the imprint America’s Comics Group. ACG announced plans to restart Charlton Comics, however, the company was short lived and produced only a few reprints under a Charlton Media Group imprint.