THE CHARLTON COMICS MYSTIQUE, PART SEVEN-!
In ‘The Charlton Comics Mystique, Part Six’, I talked about how Charlton Comics’ Yellowjacket character was Charlton’s very first superhero character, ever. The first nine issues of the ten issue comic book series in which Yellowjacket appeared, entitled, ‘Yellowjacket Comics’, was listed, on the inside indicia information of those first eight issues, as having been published by ‘The Frank Communale Company’, located at ’49 Hawkins Street, Derby, Connecticut.’
With the tenth and final issue of Yellowjacket Comics, the indicia read, instead, this way: ‘Charlton Comics, 49 Hawkins Street, Derby, Connecticut.’
Which means, of course, that ‘The Frank Communale Company’ was, indeed, Charlton Comics, by an earlier company name, at the SAME address. And thus, 49 Hawkins Street, Derby, Connecticut, was the address of the sprawling 550,000 square foot Charlton Publications/-Charlton Press/-The Capital Distribution Company/-Charlton Comics, etc. building.
And so, it turns out that, while both John Santangelo (Senior), and Ed Levy did, indeed, (eventually) name ‘Charlton Comics’ after both of their sons; as both of their sons names were Charles – they didn’t name their company/-companies after their sons, both named Charles, right away — having named the company ‘The Frank Communale Company’, first. But, to your reading eyes, (of this article), this company name(s) thing is about to get even more convoluted, than you’ve read, thus far.
I should mention that ‘Zoo Funnies’, Volume One, Number One, has an inside indicia publishing company name of ‘Children’s Comics Publishers,’ and NOT ‘Charlton Comics’, (nor ‘The Frank Communale Company’) — despite the fact that the annual (Bob) Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide lists Zoo Funnies, Volume One, Number One as ‘The First Charlton comic book.’
Therefore, as you are perhaps beginning to understand, by this time, Zoo Funnies, Vol. One, # 1 — which on the cover and inside, is listed as number ‘101’ (one hundred and one), WAS and WAS NOT….the first ‘Charlton’ comic book-!
Nonetheless, despite the issue numbering as being # ‘101’ on Zoo Funnies, Vol. one, # 1, it was, nonetheless, the very first comic book published by John Santangelo and Ed Levy’s multiple names….for the same company! As well as the first ever issue of ‘Zoo Funnies’, by the company that would eventually become ‘Charlton Comics.’
And, I’m pretty sure that I mentioned, previously, that with Yellowjacket Comics # 9, in the indicia, the publisher is listed as not ‘Children’s Comics Publishers’, nor ‘The Frank Communale Company’, nor ‘Charlton Comics.’
YJ issue #9 is simply listed as ‘The Frank Company.’
So, can I be perfectly frank with you gentle readers-?
To which, by this time, your tempers are likely becoming quite livid. And thus, you’ll probably reply, “Oh hey ~ you can be anyone you want-!!!”
Got a headache, yet? Wait just a second, pal. I have a bottle of Tylenol one in my bathroom medicine cabinet. Here you go.
And here’s a nice glass of ice cold water, to wash them down, with! Chase it down with this chaser of gin.
They’re not going to help, though — cuz by the time I’m done, your headache may very well fester into a full-blown migraine. (You’re welcome!)
The inside indicia date for Zoo funnies (the first ever ‘Charlton’ Comic Book) – but by a different company name, at the very same address as the later Charlton Comics, was dated inside, as March of 1945. In fact, the first five issues of Zoo Funnies had an indicia company name of ‘Children’s Comics Publishers.’ And, a few ‘Charlton’ one-shots published by this company in the summer of 1946, bore the publisher names as ‘Special Action Comics’, and ‘The Charles Publishing Company.’ By the summer time of 1946, every single %$#@&**!!! friggin’ comics title of this previously multi-name-company was finally listed as being published by — sigh — ‘Charlton Comics, Inc.’
I guess they truly believed in Extended Foreplay, before they finally got to ‘The Main Event-!’
However…(I’m lovin’ this…)….when Ed Levy and John Santangelo, Sr., added horror and crime titles to their comics publishing roster in the early 1950’s, many of these were listed as being published by a slew of even more names. These included: Law and Order Magazines, Outstanding Comics, and even Song Hits, Inc. Yes, that’s right, this latter name was applied as the publisher name, on some of their early 1950’s comic books! And, I’m guessing these additional company names (on their crime comics), probably had something to do with the (Dr. Frederick Wertham started) – comic book witch hunts that were going on, by that time — wherein thousands of parents of kids (or more), all over the USA – and yes, in Canada, too — were having comic book collection drives, locating and burning in bonfires….tens of thousands of these crime (and) horror genre comic books, saying that kids reading these, were the main cause…..of juvenile delinquency-! But of course, all of these comic books, with numerous company names, were ALL published, at the same address. It most certainly doesn’t take an Albert Einstein to figure that out!
In the very first issue of Zoo Funnies, Vol One, # 1, November 1945, most all stories in this comic book were ‘funny animal’ type stories. The lead story was called Detecto Bloodhound. Detecto Bloodhound was – quite literally – an anthropomorphized bloodhound dog….who was also… a private detective, with his own office! Think of TV’s Columbo… as a dog! This was a six-page comics story.
The second story in this issue was a three-page story, entitled, ‘They Say….that among the American Indians that the squirrel kept the day and night apart.’ It was a fable type story of Indians in the Old West and with talking animals.
The third story was entitled ‘Little Leo’, six pages in length, was about numerous more talking animals, and it was the first of many ‘Little Leo’ continuing comics stories.
Next was a two-page comics story called ‘Animal Quiz’ – basically, it was about little-known facts about various real animals.
A particular type of insect in the wild is called a ‘walking stick’, so named, because, at first glance – especially if it doesn’t move – looks for all the world, like a twig that fell off of a tree. This next comics story, two pages in length, is about a talking ‘walking stick’ insect, and his pals.
After that, the sixth comics story in Zoo Funnies, Vol One, # 1, was called ‘The Low-down on Mother Goose’, and it involved a storyline about what happened after Humpty Dumpty sat on (then fell off) the wall, and went SPLAT-! This story was four pages long.
The Seventh comics story in this ‘ish’ was titled ‘Rabbit-son Crusoe’ (after Robinson Crusoe, of course) ~ about a talking rabbit, kind of like Bugs Bunny, and it ran five pages. The eighth comics story in this issue was also about Rabbit-son Crusoe, but the title of this one, is simply, ‘Tricks and Puzzles, starring Rabbit-son Crusoe and Friday’, running a mere two pages.
The eighth story in this issue was entitled ‘Yellowjacket Jr.’ Running seven pages, Yellowjacket Junior, as previously mentioned, is the nephew of Yellowjacket, himself. I’m going to swing back to this story, briefly.
The ninth story in Zoo Funnies, Vol. One, # 1, was called ‘Tommy and Dodo.’ It ran five pages, and it was about some kids, (humans), who owned a green parrot (yes, a ‘real one’); the bird was named ‘Dodo’, after the extinct Dodo bird species.
The tenth comics story this issue was named ‘Bojo The Monk’, running six pages. This one was about a person (human) who made his living, panhandling on the street, with a musical ‘organ grinder’, along with his pet trick – dealing monkey, named – of course – Bojo!
On the inside back cover, there was a one-page final cartoon strip, entitled ‘It’s True’ – which was a ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’ type multi panel strip about true (but strange) facts!
In an earlier chapter, I mentioned that Charlton, briefly published books, including science fiction novels, under the ‘Monarch’ imprint. I’ve discovered, since, that they also published books under the ‘Gold Star’ name imprint.
And now, I’m going to give you a blow by blow, page by page, panel by panel story synopsis, along with dialogue, re-play of the ‘Yellowjacket, Junior’ feature story, in the same issue!
Note: this was the only appearance of Yellowjacket’s nephew, ‘Yellowjacket, Jr.’ Yellowjacket, Jr., real name Tom Burton, went by his nickname, more often, that of ‘Buzz.’
Zoo Funnies, Vol. One, # 101 (first issue, misnumbered), Nov, 1945
Page One: Caption: ‘Most boys are content with one nickname —- but 11 (eleven) year old Tom Burton, nephew of Yellowjacket, famous fiction writer, boasts two, for his friends call him either “Buzz” or “Yellowjacket, Jr — both nicknames stemming from his hobby of raising bees. And it is this same hobby which almost brings catastrophe to Buzz — in an adventure as thrilling as it is unusual!’
Caption: ‘Buzz, better known as Yellowjacket, Junior and his pal — Rusty Brown — stops before a Bulletin Board at Junior High School…’
Rusty Brown: “Hey, Buzz! You made the basket ball team!”
Buzz: “Yeah — so did you! I guess we’re both lucky!”
Caption: ‘A moment later, the school bully, scrappy sneed appears —‘
Buzz: “Hello, Scrappy, did you make the team?”
Scrappy: “No I didn’t — thanks to you!”
Page Two: Buzz: “What do you mean, Scrappy?”
Scrappy: “You succeeded in keeping me off the team, Buzz Burton, but I’m gonna get even with you!”
Caption: ‘Shortly afterwards — in English class.’
Youth female teacher, in class: “Thomas Burton, are you ready to present your oral report?”
Buzz: “Yes, mam.”
Caption: ‘As Yellowjacket Jr. passes Scrappy’s desk…’
Another kid tries to warn Buzz, by yelling “Look out! Jacket!”
Note: Yellowjacket Jr. does not wear a costume nor mask, and his ‘identity’ as ‘Yellowjacket Jr.’ is publicly known, unlike his uncle, the superhero, Yellowjacket!
Caption: ‘But Rusty’s warning comes too late, for Yellowjacket Jr. trips…(over Scrappy’s intentional leg sprawled quickly into the aisle between class room desks, in order to intentionally trip Buzz.
Caption: ‘Infuriated, Yellowjacket Jr. jumps to his feet and yanks Scrappy from his desk.’
Caption: ‘Then — Buzz lets loose with an uppercut to the jaw!’
Caption: ‘A moment later —‘
Teacher: “Thomas Burton and Stephan Sneed — report to Mr. Nickerson — immediately!”
Page Three: Caption; ‘After Mr. Nickerson Hears their story…’
Mr. Nickerson: “Boys, this is no time for assignments on the home front, there is too much important work to be done. For instance, we’re staging a war bond show at Junior High. I want you two lads to take charge — how about it?”
Buzz: “You can count on me, Mr. Nickerson!”
Scrappy: “I still think —”
Mr. Nickerson: “Let’s get busy on the war bond show, Scrappy Sneed!”
Scrappy: “Okay, Mr. Nickerson!”
Caption: ‘As the boys hurry to their next class, Scrappy still secretly Smoulders with rage..’
Caption: ‘That afternoon, at the neighborhood club house…’
Page Four: Buzz: “Have you fellows any ideas for the show?”
Another boy at the club house: “Say, Buzz, why not give a performance with your trained bees?”
Buzz: “Well, I don’t think…”
Still another boy: “That’s a swell idea!”
And another boy: “It’s super!”
And another boy, still: “Boy…will those bees sell war bonds!”
One of the boys: “Have you any new tricks, Buzz?”
Buzz: “Yep, Tubby…see this whistle — when it is blown it’s inaudible to the human ear — but my bees seem to hear it instantly!”
Under Buzz’s command, hundreds of bees or wasps come flying in through the window of their club house!
One of the boys: “Buzz, it — it—why it’s almost unbelievable!”
Caption: ‘That evening…’
Buzz: “Hiya Scrappy!”
Scrappy: “Hey Buzz! I want you to meet my cousin, Martin Springer— the owner of Springer’s Wild Animal Circus!”
Boy: “I’ve told cousin Martin all about your bees, Buzz!”
Martin Springer: “He certainly has—and I’d like to buy them for my circus!”
Buzz: “Golly, Mr. Springer—I wouldn’t sell my bees for anything in the world!”
Martin Springer: “Well—all right. But if you change your mind—let me know!”
Page Five: Caption: “Shortly afterwards—‘
Martin Springer: “You know, Scrappy, I’d give a great deal to get my hands on those bees!”
Scrappy: “Don’t worry, cousin, you’ll get ’em!”
Caption: At the dress rehearsal on the day before the war bond show.”
Buzz is up on stage in the auditorium where war bonds show is going to take place the next day…
Buzz: “This is the big finale! Bees…what’s the important message we want to get across, tonight?”
Instantly, hundreds of bees line up over the auditorium’s red long theater curtains, getting into formation, to literally spell out the large
words, ‘BUY WAR BONDS!” — with their own bodies!
Caption: ‘Late that night—‘
Buzz is at home, sleeping in his bed, when a knock comes on his front door of the house, outside. (The bedroom window is open…)
waking up, and looking out of his bedroom window…
Caption: ‘Buzz awakens—jumps out of bed, and races to the window…’
Buzz: “Jeepers! Someone’s after my bees!”
Caption: ‘Dressing hastily, Yellowjacket, Jr. dashes to the back yard—‘
Buzz: “Stop! Stop at once!” He begins running, chasing a man with a large box of bees or wasps, that he has stolen, from Buzz’s back yard-!
Then Buzz stops, surprised!
Buzz: “What the—it’s Scrappy Sneed!”
Page Five: Caption: ‘Suddenly—Scrappy stops abruptly—bends over and picks up a rock—‘
Caption: Then–straightening up and deliberately throwing the rock at Buzz-!’
The rock hits Buzz right in the head!
Buzz: “Oh! Oh! My head!”
Caption: ‘Buzz collapses and sprawls on the ground in a heap!
Caption: ‘The next morning, Buzz rushes to the apiary.
Buzz: “Scrappy’s stolen all my bees!”
Caption: ‘Meanwhile, at the Station!’
A train is pulling out of the train station, with Martin Springer just having boarded it. On the train, Springer yells out to Scrappy, “Thanks for getting the bees, Scrappy!”
On the platform, Scappy replies, “All right, Cousin Martin—bye!”
As the train leaves the station, now in the distance, Buzz (Yellowjacket, Jr.), on the platform, yells, “Wait—stop that train!”
Scrapper, standing there, says, “I guess you’re just a little too late, Yellowjacket, Jr.”
Buzz: “That’s what you think, Scrappy Sneed!”
Caption: ‘Whipping out his whistle, Yellowjacket Jr. blows as hard as he can.’
Caption: ‘The bees sting Springer in uncomfortable places, and then (they) speed to their master, Yellowjacket, Jr.’
Martin Springer yells out, “Yeow!!’
Caption: ‘The bees report for orders—‘
Buzz: “Attack Scrappy, in FORCE!”
Scrappy: “Help! Help! Call ’em off! Help!”
Caption: ‘That night—having heard what the bees had done to Scrappy, throngs of people pack the Junior High school auditorium to see Buzz’s war bond show.”
Buzz: “And now, ladies and gentlemen—I will prove to you that my bees are entirely friendly unless unduly provoked”
Caption: ‘As the audience applauds, the bees swarm out over them, harming noone, and contributing to a very successful war bond show!
The bees then form themselves up in the shape of huge letters once again, on the long red auditorium curtains. This time, the letters say,
I’d like to talk about Charlton’s Al Fago. Al Fago was the very first comics editor at Charlton Comics. He was the editor there, even before Charlton Comics (as above) was even called Charlton Comics!
In fact, he was Charlton Comics’ very first editor, before Pat Masulli, and before George Wildman became the comics’ editor at Charlton, after Pat Masulli. Al Fago was also a fairly good artist. In fact, Al Fago was the main artist on the Yellowjacket comics stories in ‘Yellowjacket Comics’. He didn’t illustrate ALL of the Yellowjacket comics stories, but he did most of them!
Al Fago was the brother of Timely/-Atlas Comics’ Vince Fago – and not to be confused with the Atlas Comics group that lasted not quite a year, in 1975. No, I’m talking about the Atlas Comics of the 1950’s, which, prior to that period, had been first called Timely Comics, home of Captain America, The Human Torch and The Sub-Mariner. And, after the same company began calling itself Atlas Comics, (which was actually the name of the distributing company that distributed these comic books to the newsstands — so, in essence, these comic books (formerly called ‘Timely Comics’, in that period, didn’t really have a company name. And then, in the very early 1960’s, the ‘company’ title – but note the parenthesis’, morphed into what we know — since the very early 1960’s, to be, from that time forward, to be called….’Marvel Comics.’
And, there was a very brief period in the 1960’s when, on the covers of Marvel Comics, the company on those covers was, instead, branded as ‘Marvel Pop Art Productions.’ Thankfully, that title only lasted a few short months!
Charlton Comics, well-known for its low budget production, frequently published previously UNpublished comics material, that had been purchased from comic book companies that had gone out of business. And, as mentioned in a previous chapter, they paid just about the very lowest prices in the business, in terms of paying writers, artists, letters, and colourists!
Additionally, however, Charlton Comics were the very last to raise their cover prices, from ten cents to twelve cents, in 1962.
Al Fago, at Charlton Comics, and under its’ other, previous company names, was born in 1904, and he passed away in 1978.
Some of the numerous Charlton Comics titles that Al Fago either edited and/-or did penciling and/-or inking chores on, included Blue Beetle, Brenda Starr, Cowboy Love, Danger and Adventure, and Cheyenne Kid.
‘Charlton Comics’ only adopted that particular company name in 1946. During the following five years, Charlton Comics acquired comics material, to publish themselves, from a freelance editor and packager of comic books, Al Fago. Charlton also put out Cowboy Western, the western title Tim McCoy – featuring The Lemonade Kid (don’t ask) – a title which later changed its’ name, and became the western Ghost Rider, prior to Charlton Comics publishing the Tim McCoy title, while at M.E. Comics – home of the two 1950’s M.E. companies short-lived superhero titles The Avenger, and Captain Flash. Also, prior to picking up the Tim McCoy title at M.E., the Tim McCoy title, that title (and The Lemonade Kid, morphed into the western title (at M.E.), called Ghost Rider! Two additional titles that Charlton picked up were Merry Comics, as well as Pictorial Love Stories.
It was in the year 1951, that Al Fago became a Charlton Comics full-time editor – no longer freelancing, at that time.
Under Al Fago, Charlton Comics began hiring later well-known names including the future managing editor, Dick Giordano, later joined by Vince Alascia, Jon D’Agostino, Sam Glanzman – the last of whom I talked about, here: firstcomicsnews.com/sam-glanzman-writer-illustrator-and-war-hero-i-lament-his-sad-passing
Rocke Mastroserio (real name Rocco Mastroserio), then came aboard, along with Bill Molno, Charles Nicholas, and Sal Trapani.
Between the years 1954 and 1955, the powers that be at Charlton acquired numerous comics titles from the no longer in business Canadian comics company, Superior Comics, which had been published out of Toronto, Ontario.
Fawcett Publications had ceased publishing comics, thanks to a lawsuit from National Periodical Publications (DC Comics) – a lawsuit that, it should be added, had no (zero) merit. But this plaintiff (National Periodical Publications) won the suit, anyway – the second time they had tried to bring legal action against Fawcett Publications. Charlton Comics purchased their as yet unpublished comics material and published these, themselves.
Unpublished St. John Publications’ comics, and Mainline Publications were purchased and published by Charlton, as well!
Charlton took up where Fawcett had left off, in that they also kept published the formerly Fawcett titles This Magazine Is Haunted (and) Strange Suspense Stories, the latter of which I mentioned, in a previous chapter.
Some of the aforementioned Fawcett love and romance titles picked up by Charlton, and continued to be published by them, included the titles Romantic Secrets, Romantic Story, and Sweethearts.
Sweethearts was the very first ever monthly romance comic book title; it began in 1948, over at Charlton.
Some of the many western comics series purchased and continued by Charlton included Gabby Hayes Western, Lash LaRue Western, Monte Hale Western, Six Gun Heroes (which eventually, beginning with # 57, would feature a very long-running masked hero named Gunmaster, with his costumed and masked younger sidekick, going by the name Bullet. These two characters never appeared at Fawcett, however; these were unique characters, at Charlton Comics.
At about the middle of the 1950’s, Al Fago, who illustrated, as mentioned, Yellowjacket, in ‘Yellowjacket Comics’, also drew a lot of ‘funny animals features, in addition to comics features in numerous other genres – left Charlton, for good.
Pat Masulli was his successor comics editor, followed, still later, by Dick Giordano, then George Wildman.
Interestingly, co-creator of Superman writer Jerry Siegel, (along with his boyhood friend Joe Shuster on the early Superman art chores) – worked at Charlton, on the superhero title, ‘Mr. Muscles’ and ‘Nature Boy.’ Silver Age Avengers artist John Buscema (and brother to comics artist Sal Buscema) illustrated Nature Boy.
At a British comics company, Jerry Siegel also wrote many The Spider, in the title ‘Lion.’ Lion was a British comic book that was published weekly. The Spider was created by writer Ted Cowan and artist Reg Bunn. Jerry Siegel took over the written part of The Spider with his third adventure and ended up writing most all of that series. The Spider was in the ‘Lion’ comic book title between the 26th of June, 1965 through the 26th of April of 1969. This is, of course, a mainly Charlton Comics article, but there have been a number of comics projects which Jerry Siegel worked on, that most comics fans are not at all familiar with. And so….at Magazine Enterprises, Siegel created a short-lived comics series entitled Funnyman. Still later, Jerry Siegel was hired in the position as an art director for comics publisher Ziff-Davis, early in the 1950’s.
Still later, he went on to work for DC Comics once again. There, he wrote (unfortunately), non-credited Superman stories in the year 1959.
At Marvel Comics, under the pseudonym ‘Joe Carter’, he wrote Human Torch stories in Strange Tales # 112 and # 113, as well as creating the Johnny Storm Human Torch’s early girlfriend, Dorrie Evans.
Also at Marvel, Siegel wrote a backup story about X-men member ‘The Angel’ feature, in the giant size, twenty-five cent two issues of Ka-zar that came out, then.
He even did work at Archie Comics, doing a lot of the campy superheroes on the ‘Mighty Comics’ line Mighty Crusaders characters. It is even said that Jerry Siegel created the M.F. Enterprises’ robot from outer space version of Captain Marvel. These are just some of Jerry Siegel’s non-Superman comics projects that he worked on.
Next Up, in Chapter eight of ‘The Charlton Comics Mystique’:
Charlton ‘Give-Away’ Comics, Yellowjacket Comics # 2 script synopsis and dialogue, and a lot more-!