Fiction House

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Fiction House
Industry Publishing
Genre Aviation, detective, jungle, sports, Western, Adventure
Founded 1927
Founders J.W. Glenister and John B. "Jack" Kelly
Defunct 1950s
Headquarters 366 Fifth Avenue, New York City, USA
Key people Co-founders J.W. Glenister (President) & John B. "Jack" Kelly (Editor: 1927-1932); Malcolm Reiss (1937-39. Thurman T. Scott
Products Comic books
Pulp magazines

Fiction House is an American publisher of pulp magazines and comic books that existed from 1927 to the 1950s. The later-day owner's comics division was best known for its pinup-style good girl art, as epitomized by the company's most popular character, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

History[edit]

Jumbo Comics #1 (Sept 1938). Cover artist(s) unknown.
Fight Stories Vol. 2, #4 (Sept 1929). Cover art by F. R. Glass
Detective Book Magazine Vol. 5, #10 (Winter 1948)

Fiction House was co-founded in 1927 by J.W. Glenister and John B. "Jack" Kelly, whose editorial offices were located at 366 Fifth Avenue, New York City. It began as a pulp-magazine publisher of primarily aviation, Western, Adventure and Detective stories, and sports pulps. "Action Stories" was the publisher's first imprint. The front covers of Fiction House magazines featured the original firm's distinctive bulls-eye as its trademark and logo. (citations: Comic Books - Pulp Magazines Project, www.pulpmags.org/contexts_pages/comics/comics.html)

Titles from other well-known pulp magazine publishers of the 1930s and 1940s include Battle Stories, Complete Love Magazine, Startling Comics, Thrilling Comics, War Comics, and Western Love Trails. Publishers include Hillman Periodicals, Ace Magazines, Standard, Fawcett, and Dell. However -- Nearly half of the titles featured were published by Fiction House alone, including Air Stories, Wings, Action Stories. (citation: pulpmags.org; The Pulp Magazines Project, an archive of all-fiction pulpwood magazines from 1896-1946; The Digital Comic Museum.)

Fiction House's "Air Stories" Considered "The First Air Story Magazine" According to Alexandra Blair (University of Mississippi) writing for The Pulp Magazines Project: "In May 1927 Charles Lindbergh made his world-famous solo flight across the Atlantic, catapulting himself (and The Spirit of St. Louis) into the history books and America into an "air-minded" frenzy. The "golden era" of aviation fiction had begun. In the next five years, 148 aviation series and dozens of aviation pulps like Air Trails, Air Adventures, Dare-Devil Aces, Flying Aces, Sky Trails, and Wings would come into print. "Amid stiff competition, Fiction House's Air Stories, edited by Jack B. Kelly (1927-1932) and Malcolm Reiss (1937-1939), held a unique bragging right; its first issue appeared in August 1927, making it "The First Air Story Magazine!" as prominently advertised on many of the magazine's covers. Air Stories not only could claim status as a "first," but also often featured some of the most popular talent in the aviation genre. The artwork of Rudolph Belarski, Frank Tinsley, and Frederick Blakeslee, the top three air-war illustrators of the day, regularly graced Air Stories's covers, and its pages were filled with stories by the likes of Thomson Burtis, author of the Rex Lee series, and George Bruce, whose popularity led to three aviation pulps being named after him. (citation: Pulp Magazines Organization, The Pulp Magazines Project).

The publishing firm's Editor, John B. "Jack" Kelly—the driving force behind the founding of Fiction House—died unexpectedly in 1932 at the age of 43. Soon after, J.W. Glenister sold the firm and retired to California. (citation: The Kelly Family Archives.)

"By the 1930s, Fiction House had expended into detective mysteries.[1] Publisher Thurman T. Scott, whose Fiction House group included the pulp-magazine imprints Glen-Kel and Real Adventures Publishing Co.,[citation needed] expanded into comic books in the late 1930s when that emerging medium began to seem a viable adjunct to the fading pulps. Receptive to a sales call by Eisner & Iger, one of the prominent "packagers" of that time who produced complete comic books on demand for publishers looking to enter the field, Scott released Jumbo Comics #1 (Sept. 1938).[2]===Jumbo and Jack Kirby=== Fiction House star Sheena, Queen of the Jungle appeared in that initial issue. Will Eisner and S.M. "Jerry" Iger had created the leggy, leopard-wearing jungle goddess for the British magazine Wags,[3] under the joint pseudonym "W. Morgan Thomas".[4]

Fiction House's other features in that initial foray included the period adventure "Hawks of the Seas" (continuing a story from Quality Comics' Feature Funnies #12, after Eisner-Iger and Quality had had a falling out), and several now-obscure strips ("Peter Pupp"; "ZX-5 Spies in Action"; "Spencer Steel"; "Inspector Dayton").[5] These include three by future industry legend Jack Kirby, representing his first comic-book work following his debut in Wild Boy Magazine:[6] the science fiction feature The Diary of Dr. Hayward (under the pseudonym "Curt Davis"), the modern-West crimefighter strip Wilton of the West (as "Fred Sande"), and Part One of the swashbuckling serialization of Alexandre Dumas, père's The Count of Monte Cristo (as "Jack Curtiss"), each four pages long.

"The big 6 of the comics"[edit]

Jumbo proved a hit, and Fiction House would go on to publish Jungle Comics; the aviation-themed Wings Comics; the science fiction title Planet Comics; Rangers Comics; and Fight Comics during the early 1940s — most of these series taking their titles and themes from the Fiction House pulps. Fiction House referred to these titles in its regular house ads as "The Big Six," but the company also published several other titles, among them the Western-themed Indians and Firehair, jungle titles Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and Wambi, and five issues of Eisner's The Spirit.[7]

Quickly developing its own staff under editor Joe Cunningham followed by Jack Burden,[8] Fiction House employed either in-house or on a freelance basis such artists as Meskin, Matt Baker (the first prominent African-American artist in comics), Nick Cardy, George Evans, Bob Powell, and the British Lee Elias, as well as such rare female comics artists as Ruth Atkinson, Fran Hopper, Lily Renée, and Marcia Snyder.

Feminist comics historian Trina Robbins, wrote that

...most of [Fiction House's] pulp-style action stories either starred or featured strong, beautiful, competent heroines. They were war nurses, aviatrixes, girl detectives, counterspies, and animal skin-clad jungle queens, and they were in command. Guns blazing, daggers unsheathed, sword in hand, they leaped across the pages, ready to take on any villain. And they did not need rescuing.[9]

Despite such pre-feminist pedigree, (by the 1940-50s) Fiction House found itself targeted in psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent (1954), which in part blamed comic books for an increase in juvenile delinquency. Aside from the ostensible effects of gory horror in comic books, Wertham cast blame on the sexy, pneumatic heroines of Fiction House, Fox Comics and other companies. A subsequent, wide-ranging investigation by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, coupled with outcry by parents, a downturn in comics sales, the demise of the pulps, and the rise of television and paperback novels competing for readers and leisure time, Fiction House faced an increasingly difficult business environment, and soon closed shop.

List of Fiction House pulps[edit]

  • Aces (estimated 100 issues, December 1928 - Spring 1939)
  • Action Novels
  • Action Stories (225 issues, September 1921 - Fall 1950)
  • Air Stories (estimated 50 issues, August 1927 - Winter 1939)
  • All Adventure Action Novels
  • All-American Football Magazine
  • Baseball Stories (estimated 50 issues, Spring 1938 - Spring 1954)
  • Basketball Stories (one known issue, Winter 1937)
  • Black Aces (7 issues, January 1932 - July 1932)
  • Bull's-Eye Detective
  • Bull's-Eye Sports (estimated 8 issues, Winter 1938 - Fall 1939)
  • Bull's-Eye Western Stories
  • Civil War Stories (one known issue, Spring 1940)
  • Detective Book Magazine (65 issues, April 1930 - Winter 1952/53)
  • Detective Classics (22 issues, November 1929 - September 1931)
  • Fight Stories (106 issues, June 1928 – Spring 1952)
  • Football Action
  • Football Illustrated Annual (24 issues, 1930 - 1953)
  • Football Stories (estimated 35 issues, Fall 1937 - Fall 1953)
  • Frontier Stories
  • Frontier Stories of the Pioneer Days
  • George Bruce's Aces (Glen-Kel)
  • George Bruce's Air Novels
  • Jungle Stories (59 issues)
  • Lariat Story Magazine
  • North-West Stories
  • North-West Romances
  • Planet Stories (71 issues)
  • Soldier Stories
  • True Adventures
  • Two Complete Detective Books (Real Adventure)
  • Two Western Books
  • Two Western Romances
  • Wings

List of Fiction House comic books[edit]

  • Cowgirl Romances
  • Fight Comics
  • Firehair
  • Ghost
  • Indians
  • Jumbo Comics
  • Jungle Comics
  • Ka'a'nga, Jungle King
  • Man O'Mars
  • Movie Comics
  • Planet Comics
  • Rangers Comics
  • Sheena, Queen of the Jungle
  • The Spirit (five issues, 1952–54)
  • Wambi
  • Wings Comics

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnson, Virginia E. (Summer 2004). "Detective Book Magazine". Web Mystery Magazine 2 (1). Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. 
  2. ^ Goldstein, Andrew (undated). "Fiction House: History and Influences". Connecticut Historical Society. Archived from the original on September 8, 2008.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Sheena, Queen of the Jungle at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original November 10, 2011
  4. ^ Schumacher, Michael (2010). Will Eisner: A Dreamer's Life in Comics. Bloomsbury USA. p. 39. ISBN 1-60819-013-7. 
  5. ^ Jumbo Comics at the Grand Comics Database
  6. ^ Per Kirby's recollection in interview, The Nostalgia Journal #30 (Nov. 1976), reprinted in The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby (2002) ISBN 1-56097-466-4, p. 3
  7. ^ Fiction House at the Grand Comics Database
  8. ^ Cassell, Dewey, with Aaron Sultan and Mike Gartland. The Art of George Tuska (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2005), ISBN 1-893905-40-3; ISBN 978-1-893905-40-5, p. 30
  9. ^ Robbins, Trina (1996). The Great Women Superheroes. Kitchen Sink Press. p. 86. ISBN 0-87816-481-2. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Comic Book Marketplace vol. 2, #57 (March 1998): "Fiction House Pulps!" by Christian K. Berger, pp. 34–37, 44
  • Comic Book Marketplace vol. 2 2, #60 (June 1998): "Fiction House Sci-Fi" (cover gallery) pp. 40–43
  • Comic Book Marketplace vol. 2, #72 Oct. 1999): Letter from Bill Black on Australian versions of Fiction House comics, pp. 8–9
  • Fiction House: A Golden Age Index compiled by Henry Steele (San Francisco, A. Dellinges, 1978)
  • Fiction House: A Golden Age Index of Planet Comics (San Francisco: A. Dellinges, 1978)
  • Ron Goulart's Comics History Magazine #4 (Summer 1997): "The History of Good Girl Art", Part 2, pp. 3–5
  • Scott, Kevin Michael (1991). Images of women in the popular culture publications of Fiction House, 1941–1952 (MA thesis). Iowa State University. Retrieved February 14, 2013.