Crestwood Publications

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Crestwood Publications
Status defunct (1968)
Founded 1940
Country of origin United States
Headquarters location New York City
Key people Teddy Epstein, Mike Bleier, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Publication types Comic books, Magazines
Fiction genres romance, horror, superhero, Westerns
Imprints Prize Group

Crestwood Publications, also known as Feature Publications, was a magazine publisher that also published comic books from the 1940s through the 1960s. Its title Prize Comics contained what is considered the first ongoing horror comic-book feature, Dick Briefer's "Frankenstein". Crestwood is best known for its Prize Group imprint,[1] published in the late 1940s to mid-1950s through packagers Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who created such historically prominent titles as the horror comic Black Magic, the creator-owned superhero satire Fighting American, and the first romance comic title, Young Romance.

For much of its history, Crestwood's publishers were Teddy Epstein and Mike Bleier. In the 1940s the company's general manager was Maurice Rosenfeld,[2] and in the 1950s the general manager was M.R. Reese.[3] In the mid-1950s, the company office manager was Nevin Fidler (who later became Simon & Kirby's business manager).

In addition to Simon and Kirby, notable Crestwood/Prize contributors included Leonard Starr, Mort Meskin, Joe Maneely, John Severin, Will Elder, Carmine Infantino, Bruno Premiani, Dick Ayers, George Klein, Jack Abel, Ed Winiarski, and Dick Briefer.

History[edit]

Origins: Prize Comics[edit]

In 1940, Crestwood's Prize Publications, already established as a producer of pulp magazines, jumped onto the superhero bandwagon with the new title Prize Comics. The first issue featured the non-superpowered, costumed crime fighter K the Unknown, whose name was changed to the Black Owl in issue #2, April, 1940).

In Prize Comics #7 (Dec. 1940), writer-artist Dick Briefer introduced the eight-page feature "New Adventures of Frankenstein", an updated version of 19th-century novelist Mary Shelley's much-adapted Frankenstein monster.[4] Considered by comics historians including Don Markstein as "America's first ongoing comic book series to fall squarely within the horror genre",[5][6] the feature, set in New York City circa 1930, starred a guttural, rampaging creature actually dubbed "Frankenstein" (unlike Shelley's nameless original monster).

Simon and Kirby's Prize Group[edit]

Young Romance[edit]

Launched with a cover date of September 1947, the Prize Group title Young Romance signaled its distinction from traditional superhero and genre comics with a cover banner stating the series was "designed for the more adult readers of comics". Told from a first person perspective, underlining its claim to be recounting "true" stories, the title was an instant success, "bec[oming] Jack and Joe's biggest hit in years" and selling "millions of copies"[7] and a staggering 92% of its print run.[8] Crestwood increased the print run by the third issue to triple the initial numbers, and well as upgrade the title from bimonthly to monthly through issues #13-72 (Sept. 1949 - Aug. 1954).[8][7][9]

Within a year-and-a-half, Simon & Kirby were launching companion titles for Crestwood to capitalize on the success of this new genre. The first issue of Young Love (Feb. 1949) also sold well with "indistinguishable"[8] content from its parent-title.[3] Further spin-off titles Young Brides (married couples' stories) and In Love ("book-length" stories) also followed from Crestwood/Prize, and were produced by the Simon & Kirby stable of artists and writers.[8]

Black Magic[edit]

The long-running horror/suspense title Black Magic debuted in 1950. According to Jack Kirby, the idea for Spider-Man originated with him and Simon, who developed a character called The Silver Spider for Black Magic, who was subsequently not used.[10] (Ironically, eventual Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko drew a six-page story in Black Magic vol. 4, #3, Dec. 1953.)

Controversy[edit]

In 1954, a Crestwood/Prize salesman urged Kirby and Simon to launch their own comics company, Mainline Publications,[3][11] while the duo continued to produce work for Crestwood under contract.[11] When the duo rearranged and republished artwork from an old Crestwood story in the Mainline title In Love, Crestwood refused to pay Simon and Kirby.[12] After reviewing Crestwood's finances, Simon & Kirby's attorney's stated that the company owed them $130,000 over the past seven years. Crestwood paid them $10,000 in addition to their recent delayed payments.[13]

Decline[edit]

Crestwood gave up publishing comics in 1963, selling off its remaining romance comics to publisher DC Comics.[14] It continued to publish humor magazines, such as Sick, up until 1968 (when Sick was acquired by Hewfred Publications).

Comic-book characters[edit]

Titles published[edit]

Title Series Issues Dates Notes
All for Love #1 - vol. 3, #4 [#17][15] 1957 - 1960 Went on hiatus, relaunched as Young Love.
Black Magic #1 - 50 1950 - 1961 renamed Cool Cat.
Cool Cat #51 - 53 1962
Charlie Chan #1 - 5 1948 - 1949
Fighting American #1 - 7 1954 - 1955
Frankenstein Comics #1 - 33 1945 - 1954
Headline Comics #1 - 77 1943 - 1956
Justice Traps the Guilty #1 - 92 1947 - 1958
Prize Comics #1 - 68 1940 - 1948
Prize Comics Western #69 - 119 1948 - 1956 continues from Prize Comics
Strange World Of Your Dreams #1 - 4 1952 - 1953
Treasure Comics #1 - 12 1945 - 1947
Western Love #1 - 5 1949 - 1950
Young Brides #1 - 29 1952 - 1956
Young Love Series 1 #1 - 73 1949 - 1957
Series 2 #18 - 38 1960 - 1963 continued from All For Love, continued at DC Comics.
Young Romance #1 - 126 1947 - 1963 Continued at DC Comics.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Prize Group at the Grand Comics Database
  2. ^ Simon, Joe, with Jim Simon. The Comic Book Makers (Crestwood/II, 1990) ISBN 1-887591-35-4; reissued (Vanguard Productions, 2003) ISBN 1-887591-35-4, pp. 123-125.
  3. ^ a b c Ro, Ronin (2004). Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and the American Comic Book Revolution. Bloomsbury USA. p. ???. ISBN 1-58234-345-4. 
  4. ^ Grand Comics Database: Prize Comics #7 (Dec. 1940)
  5. ^ Frankenstein (1940) at Don Markstein's Toonopedia
  6. ^ Watt-Evans, Lawrence. "The Other Guys", The Scream Factory #19 (Summer 1997), reprinted as "The Other Guys: A Gargoyle's-Eye View of the Non-EC Horro Comics of the 1950s" at Alter Ego #97, October 2010, pp. 3-33. On page 5 of the latter, the author notes, "...there were no horror comics as such in the earliest days. The first real horror series seems to have been the 'Frankenstein' series by Dick Briefer, in Prize Comics ... [which was] a superhero title, featuring the Black Owl, the Green Lama, and the like, except for this one aberration".
  7. ^ a b Ro, p. 46
  8. ^ a b c d Howell, Richard, "Introduction" to Real Love - The Best of the Simon and Kirby Romance Comics" 1940s-1950s (Eclipse Books, 1988).
  9. ^ Miller, J. J., Thompson, Maggie, Bickford, Peter & Frankenhoff, Brent, The Comic Buyer's Guide Standard Catalog of Comic Books, 4th Edition (KP Books, 2005) - "Young Romance", pp. 1599-1601
  10. ^ Jack Kirby in "Shop Talk: Jack Kirby", Will Eisner's Spirit Magazine #39 (February 1982): "Spider-Man was discussed between Joe Simon and myself. It was the last thing Joe and I had discussed. We had a strip called 'The Silver Spider.' The Silver Spider was going into a magazine called Black Magic. Black Magic folded with Crestwood ... and we were left with the script. I believe I said this could become a thing called Spider-Man, see, a superhero character. I had a lot of faith in the superhero character that they could be brought back ... and I said Spider-Man would be a fine character to start with. But Joe had already moved on. So the idea was already there when I talked to Stan".
  11. ^ a b Beerbohm, Robert Lee (August 1999). "The Mainline Story". Jack Kirby Collector (25). Archived from the original on March 26, 2008. Retrieved March 26, 2008. 
  12. ^ Ro, p. 55.
  13. ^ Ro, p. 56.
  14. ^ Don Markstein's Toonopedia: "Romance Comics". Accessed May 27, 2008.
  15. ^ All for Love at the Grand Comics Database

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]