January 24, 2012
30 Years of AC Comics by Mark Heike
Movie madman and digital genius JohnJG brought something to my attention within the last week or so, something that had previously escaped my notice. Since THE very FIRST, OFFICIAL AC Comics comic book (Fun Comics #4, by the way ) actually rolled off of the presses in December of 1982; this year of 2012 will mark 30 years of AC Comics. Of course, nothing is EVER what it seems in the AC world, and that includes our history. Since our Fearless Leader Bill Black was actually publishing comic book material starring the likes of Synn, Captain Paragon, Scarlet Scorpion, The Shade; etc for more than a dozen years before that. (Under his pre-AC Paragon Publications imprint, as everyone knows. And if you DON’T know, you’ll have the opportunity to learn all about it in March if you get the big, 200-page, magazine-sized Bizarre Thrills: The Paragon Publications Story TPB. If you haven’t already done so, order it NOW with your local retailer. Tell him you want DCD item #DEC110766, from the December issue of Diamond Previews.) The AC imprint was launched through the burgeoning comic book specialty store direct-sales market 29 Decembers ago, and has been publishing continuously, releasing new material every month since. Quite a run, if we do say so ourselves. Throughout the entire history of the American comic book, there are but a precious few publishers who have lasted as long as three decades. Obviously, Marvel, DC and Archie Comics, even though they started out as MLJ Magazines back in 1939. Fantagraphics, too has stood the test of time, starting out as a contemporary of Paragon; we congratulate them on their longevity, as well. Among defunct publishers, Harvey Comics had the best run. Starting out in 1941 when Alfred Harvey bought Speed and Champion Comics from their original owner, Harvey produced comics until 1989, with the last issue of Richie Rich Relics. Fawcett actually lasted 40 years. Though they cancelled most of their line along with the Marvel Family in 1953, they DID occasionally release licensed Dennis the Menace comic books into 1980. The venerable Dell comics line of pioneer George Delacorte made it. Their first offering actually appeared in 1936, with the last comic books appearing on newsstands with Dell logos in 1973. If you count the continuation of some Dell properties through the Whitman/Gold Key imprint, you can add another decade on top of that. Charlton almost made it. Although they started life under a different name in 1944, management and ownership remained consistent until they relinquished their comics line in 1983. Although the company remained officially in business for some years beyond that, they were no longer actively producing comic books. EC is not usually considered in this sort of discussion, as their run of producing actual “comic book ” format comics ran from 1946-1956. Mad switched over to black & white magazine format with issue #24, and though it was published officially by EC until bought out by DC Comics in the mid-’80’s, is not usually considered a “comic book” per se, after issue #23. Other venerable publishers that NEVER made it include the American Comics Group. They spanned several eras, running from 1943 to 1967, but didn’t even make the quarter-century mark. Prize Comics might surprise a few, but they came on the scene in 1940, and their long-running Black Magic book actually lasted into 1961. Standard/Better/Nedor technically survived two decades, starting up with the sideways-format Best Comics in 1939, and releasing their LAST comic book under the Pines logo in 1959. Quality Comics lasted less than 20 years, even if you start counting from the first issue of Feature Funnies- actually published by Harry “A” Chesler until bought out by Quality’s Everett Arnold in 1939. They were out of the comic publishing biz by 1957. Hillman, Fiction House and Lev Gleason hung on in the 15-16 year range, with all other publishers lasting for shorter durations. So thirty years is a big deal in this business. In most businesses, when you come down to it. We’re not sure what we may do to celebrate this milestone. Getting the Eagle Awards nominations this year is rather nice; don’t forget to go to the Eagle Awards website and look for AC and AC-related creators to vote for, by the way. Any other suggestions from you readers out there?