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Dell Comics

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Dell Comics
Parent companyDell Publishing
Founded1929; 95 years ago (1929)
FounderGeorge T. Delacorte, Jr.
Defunct1973; 51 years ago (1973)
Country of originUnited States
Headquarters locationNew York City
Key peopleHelen Meyer
Publication typesComic books
Fiction genresLicensed material

Dell Comics was the comic book publishing arm of Dell Publishing, which got its start in pulp magazines. It published comics from 1929 to 1973. At its peak, it was the most prominent and successful American company in the medium.[1] In 1953 Dell claimed to be the world's largest comics publisher, selling 26 million copies each month.[2]



Its first title was The Funnies (1929), described by the Library of Congress as "a short-lived newspaper tabloid insert" rather than a comic book.[3] Comics historian Ron Goulart describes the 16-page, four-color, newsprint periodical as "more a Sunday comic section without the rest of the newspaper than a true comic book. But it did offer all original material and was sold on newsstands".[4] It ran 36 weekly issues, published Saturdays from January 16, 1929, to October 16, 1930.[5] The cover price rose from 10¢ to 30¢ with issue #3.[6] This was reduced to a nickel from issue #22 to the end.[6]

In 1933, Dell collaborated with Eastern Color Printing to publish the 36-page 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".[7][8] It was distributed through the Woolworth's department store chain, though it is unclear whether it was sold or given away; the cover displays no price, but Goulart refers, either metaphorically or literally, to the publisher "sticking a ten-cent pricetag [sic] on the comic books".[9]

In early 1934, Dell published the single-issue Famous Funnies: Series 1, also printed by Eastern Color. Unlike its predecessor, it was intended from the start to be sold rather than given away.[10][11]

Western Publishing[edit]

The company formed a partnership in 1938 with Western Publishing, in which Dell would finance and distribute publications that Western would produce. While this diverged from the regular practice in the medium of one company handling finance and production and outsourcing distribution, it was a highly successful enterprise with titles selling in the millions. Most of the Dell-produced comics done for Western Publishing during this period were under the Whitman Comics banner (later also used by Gold Key Comics); notable titles included Crackajack Funnies (1938–1942) and Super Comics (1938–1949).

Comic book historian Mark Carlson has stated that at its peak in the mid-1950s, "while Dell’s total number of comic book titles [was] only 15% of those published, it control[ed] nearly a third of the total market. Dell [had] more million-plus sellers than any other company before or since".[12]

Licensed material[edit]

Dell Comics was best known for its licensed material, most notably the animated characters from Walt Disney Productions, Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Walter Lantz Studio, along with many movie and television properties such as the Lone Ranger, Tarzan, Felix the Cat, Howdy Doody, Yogi Bear and other Hanna-Barbera characters.

Four Color[edit]

From 1938 to 1962, Dell's most notable and prolific title was the anthology Four Color.[13] Published several times a month, the title (which primarily consisted of standalone issues featuring various licensed properties) saw more than 1,300 issues published in its 23-year history. It often served as a try-out title (much like DC's Showcase) and thus the launching pad for many long-running series, a number of which (such as The Twilight Zone) were continued not by Dell, but Gold Key Comics, the competing company formed when Western ended its partnership (see below).

Lil' Eightball[edit]

Responding to pressure from the African-American community, the character Lil' Eightball (who appeared in a handful of Walter Lantz cartoons in the late 1930s and in those initial appearances constituted what animation and comics historian Michael Barrier described as being a "grotesquely stereotypical black boy") was discontinued as one of the featured characters in the Lantz anthology comic book New Funnies; the last appearance of the character was in the August 1947 issue.[14]

Fredric Wertham[edit]

In 1948, Dell refused an invitation of membership in the nascent Association of Comics Magazine Publishers. The association had been formed to pre-empt government intervention in the face of mounting public criticism of comic books. Dell vice-president Helen Meyer told Congress that Dell had opted out of the association because they didn't want their less controversial offerings to serve as "an umbrella for the crime comic publishers".[15] When the Comics Code was formed in 1954 in reaction to Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent, Dell again refused to join and instead began publishing in its comics a "Pledge to Parents" that promised their editorial process "eliminates, rather than regulates, objectional [sic] material" and concluded with the now classic credo "Dell Comics Are Good Comics."

Bart Beaty in his book Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture describes a concerted campaign by Dell against publication of Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent to the extent of recruiting several of the companies that it licensed characters from (including Warner Brother Cartoons, the Lone Ranger Inc. and Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc.) to send letters of protest to Wertham's publisher Stanley Rinehart.[16]

Dell in this period even burnished its image by taking out full-page ads in the Saturday Evening Post in late 1952 and early 1953 that emphasized the wholesomeness of its comics.[2]

Dell Comics Club and subscription promotions[edit]

From mid-1950 to Spring 1959 Dell promoted subscriptions to its non-Disney titles with what it called the Dell Comics Club. Membership was automatic with any one year subscription to such titles and came with a certificate of membership plus a group portrait of the most prominent non-Disney characters published by Dell. Dell also offered various subscription premiums during the 1940s and 1950s (in some cases these were prints of covers or other character artwork and in one instance a cel from a Warner Brothers cartoon) in what Mark Evanier has dubbed a coordinated concerted "aggressive subscription push"[17] and offered the option of an illustrated note or card be sent to the recipients of a gift subscription for birthdays or Christmas.[18]

Multi-year subscriptions were also available (in the case of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, at one point in the 1940s subscriptions for up to five years were offered).[19][20]

Alternate format[edit]

In 1961, Dell issued two atypical, comic-book like paperbacks without coloring, with cardboard covers and heavier-weight paper than standard comics, and selling for one dollar when most comic books were 12 cents: the 116-page The Flintstones on the Rocks[21] and the 117-page Huck & Yogi Jamboree[22][23] One historian describes the latter as "a collection of drawings with text (there’s not a word balloon to be found). But there are drawings that are sequential which tell stories.... [T]his was intended for Huck and Yogi’s adult fans. Of which there apparently were more than a few, given the format and high price — $1!"[24]

Western partnership ends, Dell declines[edit]

In 1961, Dell became the first comic book company to increase its cover prices, raising the prices to fifteen cents; this was soon lowered to twelve cents.[25] In 1962 the partnership with Western ended, with Western taking most of its licensed properties and its original material and creating its own imprint, Gold Key Comics.[1]

While most of the talent who had worked on the Dell line continued at Gold Key, a few creators like John Stanley stuck with Dell and its new line. Dell also drew new talent to its fold, such as Frank Springer, Don Arneson, and Lionel Ziprin.

Dell Comics continued for another 11 years with licensed television and motion picture adaptations (including Mission: Impossible, Ben Casey, Burke's Law, Doctor Kildare, Beach Blanket Bingo) and a few generally poorly received original titles. Among the few long lasting series from this time include the teen-comic Thirteen Going on Eighteen (29 issues, written by John Stanley), Ghost Stories (37 issues, #1 only written by John Stanley), Combat (40 issues), Ponytail (20 issues), Kona Monarch of Monster Isle (20 issues), Toka the Jungle King (10 issues), and Naza Stone Age Warrior (9 issues).[26] Dell additionally attempted to do superhero titles, including Nukla, Superheroes (starring the Fab 4, as the group's name was spelled on covers),[27][28] Brain Boy, and a critically ridiculed[citation needed] trio of titles based on the Universal Pictures monsters Frankenstein, Dracula and Werewolf that recast the characters as superheroes.

Dell Comics ceased publication in 1973,[29] with a few of its former titles moving to Gold Key Comics.[citation needed]

Corporate acquisitions[edit]

Dell was acquired by Doubleday in 1976.[30] Doubleday was acquired by Bertelsmann in 1986, who formed Bantam Doubleday Dell as its US subsidiary.[31] Bertelsmann acquired Random House in 1998 and renamed its US business after the acquisition.[32] After the merger, Bantam was merged with Dell Publishing.[33] In 2001, Random House purchased Golden Books' book publishing properties[34] effectively reuniting the remnants of Dell and Western Publishing. Bantam Dell became part of the Random House publishing group in 2008.[35] Ballantine Books was merged with Bantam Dell in 2010.[36] In 2013, Random House merged with Penguin to form Penguin Random House.[37]

Fan revivals[edit]

After Dell ceased publication, a number of its obscure characters were brought back in independent comics. In August 2016, InDELLible Comics was formed in tribute to the public domain characters orphaned by Dell. In July 2017, All-New Popular Comics #1 was published, and was #1 in its category on Amazon upon release. Founded and edited by the team of Jim Ludwig, David Noe and Dærick Gröss Sr., the first issue featured some original characters as well as stories and cameos with many Dell characters.

List of titles[edit]


















  • Peanuts #4—13 (February 1960–May 1962)
  • Petticoat Junction #1–5 (December 1964–October 1965)
  • Pogo Possum #1–16 (December 1949–June 1954)
  • Ponytail #1–12 (September 1962–December 1965) — continued by Charlton from #13.
  • Popeye # 1–65 (1948–September 1962) – continued under Gold Key Comics beginning with #66
  • Popular Comics #1–145 (February 1936–September 1948)
  • Porky Pig #25–81 (December 1952–April 1962)
  • The Prince and the Pauper (July 1962)
  • Private Secretary #1–2 (February–May 1963)






  • Uncle Scrooge #4–39 (February 1954–November 1962) — continued by Western, et al.
  • The Untouchables (July–August 1962)
  • U.S.A. ..is Ready! (1941)






  1. ^ a b Evanier, Mark. "What was the relationship between Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics?" Archived 2006-01-10 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b "Good Friends for Him... and Mother Too.. in Dell Comics!" Saturday Evening Post (January 10, 1953).
  3. ^ U.S. Library of Congress, The Funnies, "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" exhibition. WebCitation archive.
  4. ^ Goulart, Ron (2004). "The Funnies: I". Comic Book Encyclopedia. New York: Harper Entertainment. p. 163. ISBN 978-0060538163.
  5. ^ Funnies, The (Dell, Film Humor, Inc. [#1-2]; Dell Publishing Co. [#3-36] imprint, 1929 Series) at the Grand Comics Database
  6. ^ a b Coville, Jamie (n.d.). "The History of Comic Books: Introduction and 'The Platinum Age 1897 - 1938]'". CollectorTimes.com via TheComicBooks.com. Archived from the original on September 26, 2010.
  7. ^ Goulart, "Famous Funnies", p. 144
  8. ^ Famous Famous - Carnival of Comics at the Grand Comics Database.
  9. ^ Goulart, "Famous Funnies", p. 145
  10. ^ Famous Funnies: Series 1 at the Grand Comics Database.
  11. ^ Overstreet, Robert, ed. (2011). Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide (41 ed.). pp. 283, 571.
  12. ^ Carlson, Mark. "Funny Business: A History of the Comics Industry" Archived 2009-08-06 at the Wayback Machine Nostalgia Zine v.1 #1 (2005).
  13. ^ Booker, Marvin Keith, ed. (2014). Comics through time: a history of icons, idols, and ideas. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood. ISBN 978-0-313-39750-9.
  14. ^ Barrier, Michael. "Behind the Li'l Eight Ball" (September 2009). Archived 2009-09-23 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency: Interim Report of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Archived May 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Beaty, Bart. Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture. Jackson, MS : University Press of Mississippi, 2005. pp. 147-148
  17. ^ Christmas Comics Archived 2011-06-29 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Image Browser". Archived from the original on 2009-06-15.
  19. ^ "The New Dell Comics Club". Archived from the original on 2008-02-23. Retrieved 2008-03-06.
  20. ^ "CBGXtra.com -- Forums". Archived from the original on 2008-02-26.
  21. ^ "Flintstones on the Rocks (Dell, 1961)". Heritage Auctions. March 7, 2003. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  22. ^ Overstreet, Robert M., ed. (2012). "Huck & Yogi Jamboree, Dell Publishing Co., March 1961". The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide 2012-2013 (42 ed.). Timonium, Maryland: Gemstone Publishing. p. 669. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ Huck and Yogi Jamboree at the Grand Comics Database.
  24. ^ Bennett, Steve (July 23, 2012). "Comic Book Compulsive: Huck and Yogi Jamboree". International Team of Comics Historians. Archived from the original on October 3, 2012. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  25. ^ Torcivia, Joe (2019-08-21). "Joe Torcivia's The Issue At Hand Blog: Adventures in Comic-Boxing: Take THAT, Dell!". Joe Torcivia's The Issue At Hand Blog. Retrieved 2024-06-01.
  26. ^ Naza, Stone Age Warrior at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on August 17, 2015.
  27. ^ Superheroes at the Grand Comics Database
  28. ^ Super Heroes at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on April 13, 2012.
  29. ^ Dell at the Grand Comics Database
  30. ^ Krebs, Albin (1976-04-30). "It's Official: Doubleday Acquires Dell". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-14.
  31. ^ Tagliabue, John (1984-07-23). "German Publisher Widens U.s. Role". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-20.
  32. ^ Random House Company History, from Fundinguniverse.com Archived 4 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed April 13, 2008.
  33. ^ Carvajal, Doreen (1999-05-28). "Bertelsmann Is Reorganizing Random House". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-20.
  34. ^ "'Poky Little' $84M deal". CNN. Reuters. August 16, 2001. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  35. ^ "Massive Reorganization at Random House: Steve Rubin, Irwyn Applebaum Step Down; Doubleday and Bantam Divisions Dismantled". Observer. 2008-12-03. Retrieved 2019-10-14.
  36. ^ "Ballantine and Bantam Dell Come Together Under McGuire". Publishers Lunch. 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2019-01-20.
  37. ^ Bosman, Julie (2013-07-01). "Penguin and Random House Merge, Saying Change Will Come Slowly". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-04-04.

External links[edit]