Charlton Publications was, well, almost like the relative
you didn't want to talk about.
And thats too bad. There are a lot of great collectable
gems under this comic publishing label.
It hosted some of the best artists, albeit some who either
left or were dropped by the major companies, while helping launch
the careers of others. Its comic title runs usually only lasted
a couple of issues, but the art was generally good, while the
stories ranged from excellent to passable.
And collectors largely ignore the books.
Thats good, suggesting that many key Charlton books
remain affordable, at least compared to other publishers
comics in the collectable market.
Collectors looking for books printed during the Golden, Silver
and Bronze Ages could find some stars within its catalogue, especially
if they are focused on artists rather than short-lived titles.
Its comics highlighted the work of many artists who made
a mark in comics, including Jack Kirby (one of comicdoms
greatest), Joe Simon (whose resume is too long to list), Steve
Ditko (of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange fame), Dick Giordano (who
peaked at DC), John Buscema (a major Marvel artist), Jon DAgostino
(who became an Archie stalwart), Tom Sutton, Joe Staton, and
Superman artist Joe Shuster.
The Derby, Conn., company, launched in 1940 as T.W.O. Charles
Company as the founders, former bricklayer John Santangelo Sr.
and disbarred attorney Ed Levy, both had sons named Charles.
Unlike other comics companies, its offices, printing presses
and distribution arm were housed in one building.
The founders met while both were serving jail sentences.
They formed the company once they got out and it started with
printing some of the most iconic music magazines of the 20th
Century, such as Hit Parader and Song Hits, collectables in their
own right, before adding comic books.
The name was changed to Charlton in 1946, publishing comics
until 1985 before closing shop six years later.
Self-serving politicians along with misguided and even manipulative
pop psychologists who shrieked that reading comics led to juvenile
delinquency triggered the near-collapse of the industry in 1950s.
But Charlton was among the handful that survived the storm and
managed to buy titles from the publishing houses that pulled
out of the shrinking comics market.
Charlton was to Marvel and DC like a junior hockey league
is to the big pro league. They paid poorly. The quality of the
physical product seemed inferior to that of Marvel or DC.
that reputation among creative talent as well. For example, the
comic worlds dynamic duo of Simon and Kirby, creators of
Captain America, were left on the streets after Mainline Comics
shut down in 1955. They turned to Charlton for work, a place
Simon described Charlton in a 1990 interview with Gary Groth
of The Comics Journal as the graveyard.
The last port of call, Simon told Groth.
Simon and Kirby toiled there briefly before moving to other
While the company may not have been among the top paying
publishers or best employers for artists and writers, it's a
potential goldmine for collectors.
Titles Charlton published in the Golden Age include Police
Trap, Racket Squad in Action, Nature Boy, Atomic Rabbit, Black
Fury, Space Adventures, Space Western, Brenda Starr (which reprinted
the newspaper strips), the last four issues of Don Winslow of
the Navy before changing the title to Fightin Navy, Dynamite/Johnny
Dynamite, Flash Gordon, and one of it's longest running titles
Fightin Air Force. Of course, Charlton also published Fightin
Army and Fightin Marines, along with a long list of romance
and western titles.
Charlton lingered into the Silver and Bronze Ages while Marvel
and DC took off, focusing on movie and television (both action
and cartoon) titles, space anthologies, and horror titles. Some
of the more notable from this era include Emergency!, Space:
1999, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, the Phantom, Doomsday+1,
Flash Gordon, The Six Million Dollar Man, and oddball titles
like The Partridge Family, David Cassidy and The Mothers of Invention.
Charlton also briefly issued a number of black-and-white
magazines of TV shows, which are tough to find, some of it drawn
by Neal Adams art studio Continuity Associates.
of the better titles it published was the new talent showcase
Charlton Bullseye. One can't have enough of that title.
Most Charlton titles had short lifespans although there were
a few exceptions, including I Love You, formerly In Love, which
ran between 1955 and 1980.
Charlton was also known famously, or infamously depending
on tastes, for the adventures of Clint Curtis in a number of
auto racing and hot-rod comics.
Almost all of the comic titles were idle by the late 1970s
and Giordano at DC Comics pushed to acquire the rights to a number
of Charlton action characters in 1983, including Blue Beetle
and Captain Atom.
Also, the characters in the great 1986 DC series The Watchmen,
by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, is based on Charltons Sentinels
of Justice. Those characters - The Question, Blue Beetle, Captain
Atom, Judomaster, Peacemaker, Nightshade and Sarge Steel - were
incorporated in DCs L.A.W. limited series issued in 1999,
as well as being part of other titles in the DC universe.
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti, who started collecting
comics when the going price was 12 cents an issue and Peter Parker
really was a teenager. He dabbled in the comic convention circuit
in the Toronto area for a while, but stopped to concentrate on
his career as a not-so-mild- mannered crime reporter for a great
metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped he managed to record a
little bit of history the past three decades.