Fred Schwab

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Fred Schwab
Born August 25, 1917
New York City
Died May 13, 2000 (aged 82)
New York City
Nationality American
Area(s) Penciler, Inker, Cartoonist
Notable works
Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939)
"Lady Luck"

Fred Schwab (August 25, 1917 – May 13, 2000)[1][2] was an American cartoonist whose humor panels and short features were published in a wide variety of comic books from at least 1938 to 1950, during a period fans and historians call the Golden Age of Comic Books. His notable comic-book appearances include Timely Comics' Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939), the first publication of the company that would become Marvel Comics; and some of the earliest publications of the companies that would become DC Comics.


Fred Schwab was born in New York City[2] and educated there at the Art Students League; his influences included cartoonists Billy DeBeck and Milt Gross.[3] Schwab broke into the nascent field of comic books as a teenager in 1936, at Manhattan's Harry "A" Chesler studio,[4] the first of the comic book "packagers" that supplied complete comics to publishers testing the waters of the emerging medium.[5] In 1939, Schwab began freelancing for two other packagers: the Eisner-Iger studio, and Funnies, Inc.[6] He signed his work both with his own name and a variety of pseudonyms that included Boris Plaster, Fred Wood, Fist E. Cuffs, Stockton Fred, Fred Ricks, Fred West, and Fred Watt.[6][3] For this reason, and because creator credits were not routinely given during the early days of comic books, a comprehensive list of his credits is difficult if not impossible to compile.

Whether for a packager or on his own, Schwab supplied gag cartoons in 1938 and 1939 to the glossy magazine Boys' Life, and in the early 1940s to the military magazine Yank.[3] Schwab's first known comic-book credit is as writer and artist of the two-page "Tenderfoot Joe" Western-humor feature in Centaur Comics' Star Ranger #1 (Feb. 1937). Other early work includes the one-page "Silly Sleuths" in the publisher Detective Comics #1-2, 5 and 7 (March-April, July, Sept. 1937), from Detective Comics Inc., one of the predecessors of DC Comics; the two-page "The Great Boodini" in Centaur's Funny Pages vol. 2, #3 (Nov. 1937); the one-page "Butch the Pup" in More Fun Comics #33-35 (July-Sept. 1938), from DC predecessors National Allied Publications/National Comics; a Sherlock Holmes parody feature for Fox Comics' Mystery Men Comics #1-2 (Aug.-Sept. 1939); and much more in issues of National's Adventure Comics, Action Comics, and others.[7]

For Funnies, Inc., in 1939, either Schwab[8] or Martin Filchock[9] drew the cover of Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1 (sources differ), an unpublished series designed to be a promotional giveaway in movie theaters. That comic is best known for the first appearance of the superhero the Sub-Mariner, created by fellow Funnies, Inc. freelancer Bill Everett. When Funnies, Inc. then supplied the contents of Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939), the first comic book published by Marvel Comics predecessor Timely Comics, the packager included both an expanded version of the Sub-Mariner story plus five one-panel gags by Schwab that appear on the inside front cover under the rubric "Now I'll Tell One".[7]

Schwab also supplied humor pieces and features in the 1940s for Columbia Comics' Big Shot Comics; Fiction House's Fight Comics; Four Star Publications' Captain Flight Comics; Fox's Fantastic Comics; Novelty Press' Target Comics; and Timely's Daring Mystery Comics, in addition to much work for National.[7] He served in World War II as a photojournalist.[2]

In 1948, Schwab drew in a more adventure-oriented vein when he began ghosting for Klaus Nordling on the lighthearted adventure feature "Lady Luck", which originated in Will Eisner's syndicated Sunday-newspaper comic-book insert, The Spirit Section. Schwab, under Nordling's byline, drew a number of Lady Luck stories later reprinted in Quality Comics' Smash Comics #79 (Oct. 1948) and in the last four of the publisher's five issues of Lady Luck, which took over Smash Comics' numbering from issues #86-90 (Dec. 1949 - Aug. 1950).[7]

From 1947 until his retirement in 1979, he worked in the art department of The New York Times, as a graphic designer.[2][4]

Personal life[edit]

Schwab married Barbara Frick, who predeceased him.[2] He lived at 411 East 53rd Street in Manhattan at the time of his death.[2]


Schwab's work has been reprinted in publisher Ken Pierce's two-issue Lady Luck (1980); DC's Millennium Edition: Detective Comics 1 (2001); and Marvel Comics #1: 70th Anniversary Edition (2009). A handful of his humor pieces appear in DC's first three volumes of Superman Archives reprints of Golden Age Superman comics (1989–1991).


  1. ^ Fred Schwab at the Social Security Death Index via Accessed October 19, 2013. Identified via The New York Times, below, c.f. Ewing, Emma Mai, below. Note: His birth year is given incorrectly as 1920 in Bails, Jerry, and at the Lambiek Comiclopedia, both below.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Paid Notice: Deaths: Schwab, Fred". The New York Times. May 28, 2000. Retrieved October 19, 2013. He was a retired graphic illustrator for The New York Times and a freelance cartoonist. 
  3. ^ a b c Bails, Jerry; Ware, Hames, eds. "Schwab, Fred". Who's Who in American Comic Books 1928-1999. Archived from the original on May 11, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b Ewing, Emma Mai (September 12, 1976). "The 'Funnies' Can Be Serious". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2012. [Harry "A"] Chesler 'always wore his hat, even indoors, and he always smoked a big cigar,' recalled Fred Schwab, a member of The New York Times art department, who worked for Mr. Chesler in 1936.  (Abstract; full article available for fee or to subscribers)
  5. ^ Harvey, Robert C. (1996). The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History. University Press of Mississippi. p. 17. ISBN 978-0878057580. Much of this material was created by the first comic-art 'shop,' which had been set up in the summer of 1936 by a farsighted entrepreneur named Harry 'A' Chesler. 
  6. ^ a b Fred Schwab at the Lambiek Comiclopedia
  7. ^ a b c d Fred Schwab at the Grand Comics Database
  8. ^ Overstreet, Robert M., ed. (2007). Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide (37th Edition). House of Collectibles / Random House. p. 298. ISBN 978-0-375-72108-3. 
  9. ^ "Marvel Comics Index, Volume 1 Number 7B (1978)". Marvel Comics Group. Reprinted at The Deep Six Project. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. 

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