Coming in December, the 14Th volume of our acclaimed GOLDEN AGE GREATS SPOTLIGHT series will focus on yet another unsung pioneer of comics’ early days; the ubiquitous Harry “A” Chesler. Though seldom mentioned among the greats of the comic book medium, Harry Chesler was there at the virtual beginning, initially as a major player. Coming out of the world of advertising sales, he began experimenting in the comic book format in the mid-1930′s. In 1937, he initiated two new, ongoing comic book titles showcasing all new (as opposed to re-edited, reprinted newspaper strips, which was the norm in the early days of comic books) comics material, Star Comics and Star Ranger. Unable to make a success of the publishing venture, Chesler sold the titles to another group, but landed on his feet. He kept the creative team that he had created them with assembled, sold himself as an editor to the new publishers, and was now getting PAID to produce the same material he had previously been losing his own investment on. As more publishers sought to enter the comic book field, Chesler saw the value in having a ready-made production staff, and marketed his organization as a packager, producing creative material for new publishers entering the comic book realm, and the first important comic book “sweat shop” (or production studio) was born. Through the late 1930′s, a number of soon-to-be great creators got their first practical comics experience toiling at the Chesler Shop, including the likes of Jack Cole, Mort Meskin, Charles Biro, Irv Novick, Mac Raboy, Jack Binder and dozens more. As the comic book industry was experiencing explosive growth, the Chesler Shop produced hundreds of pages for publishers like MLJ, Fawcett, and even early Timely titles like Mystic Comics. The super-hero boom fueled even more growth, and Chesler couldn’t resist jumping back in as a publisher (even while his shop was churning out pages for other houses) in 1941 with a trio of new titles of his own; Scoop, Punch and Dynamic, headlined by original costumed super characters, (like DYNAMIC MAN, ROCKETMAN and YANKEE DOODLE JONES) drawn by Lou Fine- influenced artists such as Charles Sultan, George Tuska and Al Plastino. This is the phase of Chesler’s publishing career that our 14th volume of GOLDEN AGE GREATS SPOTLIGHT will focus on. Comparable in quality with the rest of the books on the market at the time, Chesler’s books always tended to be a bit… edgier that the normal standard, using just a little more sex and violence than the rest of the field. Other early-1940′s companies were very timid about trying female costumed characters- but Chesler had plenty- YANKEE GIRL, ROCKETGIRL, LADY SATAN, VEILED AVENGER, KITTY KELLY, SPIDER WOMAN, and more. All that notwithstanding, Chesler’s publishing ventures were curtailed yet again by 1942; perhaps due to a talent drain caused by the wartime draft, or possibly his inability to get around paper restrictions. Before the war was over, though; Chesler and his own comic book line were back, resurrecting some of his earlier “successes”; and inaugurating new characters, as rendered by a freah crop af artists including Reuben Moriera, Fran Smith and Gus Ricca. Among these later-1940′s creations was The BLACK DWARF (cover featured on this volume); a comic book feature that must be seen to be appreciated. Sort of a strange, pulpish mix between the (then-waning) costumed hero genre, and the upcoming crime trend, The DWARF( who was really just a kind of short guy, though artist Fran Smith seemed to keep forgetting that- but then, as you can see by the cover, his costume- red and green- wasn’t very “black” either) was aided by a trio of reformed criminals who went around busting up some of the most bizarre and twisted illegal operations ever seen in comicdom. Very representative of the tone of Chesler stories from that era. Along with The ‘DWARF, we’ve picked out some of the weirdest and wildest stories we could find to entertain discriminating students of Golden Age comic book history for this collection of all-Chesler-published material. Their will be text articles on Chesler and his entire career by Hames Ware, Jeff Rader and Mark Heike, and over 125 pages of mid-1940′s Chesler stories, covering the publishers most important and entertaining characters, including DYNAMIC MAN, ROCKETMAN, BLACK DWARF, LADY SATAN, DEVILS’ DAGGER, VEILED AVENGER, YANKEE DOODLE JONES, Mr. E, MASTER KEY, DAN HASTINGS, SKY CHIEF, The ECHO, YANKEE BOY, JOHNNY REBEL, HALE the MAGICIAN, the GREEN KNIGHT and more; rendered by artists such as George Tuska, Rueben Moreira, Ralph Mayo, Charles Sultan, Jack Binder, Anthony Cataldo, Raphael Astarita, Paul Gattuso, Al Plastino, Fran Smith, Gus Ricca and others. You’ll also notice we’ve gone back to our standard GOLDEN AGE GREATS SPOTLIGHT price and format this issue, as Volume 14 will once again be 140 saddle-stitched black and white pages (with full-color cover) for $29.95. If you’ve appreciated AC’s special focus on other publishers and creators of the Golden Age, you won’t want to miss THIS one. Harry Chesler publications is another topic you won’t see covered in any sort of depth anywhere else!! Look for GOLDEN AGE GREATS SPOTLIGHT Volume 14: The Comics of Harry Chesler in the October issue of Diamond Previews ( Volume 23, #301) and be sure to place your preorder with you favorite comicbook retail establishment.
– August 9, 2013