Famous Funnies #1 (July 1934). Cover art by Jon Mayes.
|Publisher||Eastern Color Printing|
|Schedule||monthly, then bimonthly|
|Publication date||July 1934–July 1955|
|Number of issues||218|
The creation of the modern American comic book came in stages. Dell Publishing in 1929 published a 16-page, newsprint periodical of original, comic strip-styled material titled The Funnies and described by the Library of Congress as "a short-lived newspaper tabloid insert". (This is not to be confused with Dell's later same-name comic book, which began publication in 1936.) Historian Ron Goulart describes the four-color, newsstand periodical as "more a Sunday comic section without the rest of the newspaper than a true comic book".
It was followed in 1933 by Eastern Color Printing's Funnies on Parade, a similarly newsprint tabloid but only eight pages and composed of several comic strips licenced from the McNaught Syndicate and reprinted in color. Neither sold nor available on newsstands, it was sent free as a promotional item to consumers who mailed in coupons clipped from Procter & Gamble soap and toiletries products.
First modern comic book
That same year, Eastern Color salesperson Maxwell Gaines and sales manager Harry I. Wildenberg collaborated with Dell to publish the 36-page one-shot Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, considered by historians the first true American comic book; Goulart, for example, calls it "the cornerstone for one of the most lucrative branches of magazine publishing". It was distributed through the Woolworth's department store chain, though it is unclear whether it was sold or given away; the cover (see left) displays no price, but Goulart refers, either metaphorically or literally, to Gaines "sticking a ten-cent pricetag [sic] on the comic books".
When Delacorte declined to continue with Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, Eastern Color on its own published Famous Funnies #1 (cover-dated July 1934), a 68-page periodical selling for 10¢. Distributed to newsstands by the mammoth American News Company, it proved a hit with readers during the cash-strapped Great Depression, selling 90 percent of its 200,000 print run; however, its costs left Eastern Color more than $4,000 in the red. That quickly changed, with the book turning a $30,000 profit each issue starting with #12. Famous Funnies would eventually run 218 issues, inspire imitators, and largely launch a new mass medium.
- "The Funnies". U.S. Library of Congress: "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" exhibition. Archived from the original on September 7, 2009. Additional WebCitation archive.
- Goulart, Ron. "The Funnies: I" (entry), Comic Book Encyclopedia (Harper Entertainment, New York, 2004) ISBN 0-06-053816-3, p. 163
- Brown, Mitchell. "The 100 Greatest Comic Books of the 20th Century: Funnies on Parade" (Internet archive link)
- Famous Famous - Carnival of Comics at the Grand Comics Database
- Goulart, "Famous Funnies" (entry), p. 144
- Goulart, "Famous Funnies" (entry), p. 145
- All in Color for a Dime by Dick Lupoff & Don Thompson ISBN 0-87341-498-5
- The Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide by Robert Overstreet — Edition #35 ISBN 0-375-72107-X
- The Steranko History of Comics, Vol. 1 & 2, by James Steranko — Vol. 1 ISBN 0-517-50188-0
- Santos, Derek. CBW Comic History: "The Early Years...1896 to 1937, Part II"
- Coville, Jamie. The History of Comic Books: Introduction and "The Platinum Age 1897 - 1938", TheComicBooks.com, n.d. Archive.org archive. Originally published at defunct site CollectorTimes.com.