Thursday, February 07, 2008
Obscurity of the Day: True Comics
True Comics was an exercise is making comics that were 'good' for kids. In 1941 a company called Parents Institute, a publishers better known for its parenting magazines, decided to create a line of educational comic books. Designed to wean kids from "blood and thunder" comics, the concept by the publishers own admission was a flop. That didn't keep them plugging away with the idea for almost a full decade. The flagship Parents Institute comic book title, True Comics, appeared on the newsstands in early 1941. Not long after that the company also put together a newspaper comic strip, also titled True Comics, along the same lines. It was distributed to newspapers in conjunction with Bell Syndicate.
The Sunday strip started on November 2 1941, and the earliest dailes I find are from the first week of December. Both the daily and Sunday strips told stories about famous people and events; the lives of Wild Bill Donovan, Amelia Earhart and Cordell Hull were early subjects.
The daily told rather long stories, while the Sunday at first had stories that continued anywhere from 1-5 weeks. After the first ten months the Sunday changed tactics and made all the stories self-contained each week.
Quite a few cartoonists contributed to the feature; unfortunately many of them didn't bother to sign their work. The most frequent artist was Sam Glankoff, who probably did well over half of the entire run, but Chad Grothkopf did some Sundays and dailies in 1942, and others such as Ed Smalle, Lew Glanz, and George Andrew Corley each made an appearance. Of particular interest is the very odd pairing of Joe Simon and Milt Gross who subbed for Glankoff on the Sunday every 3-5 weeks during much of 1945 (the sample above is a Simon-Gross production).
The daily, which some papers titled Real Heroes for reasons unknown, seems to have ended on February 6 1943, while the Sunday soldiered on until November 25 1945. (The comic book version ran until 1949.)
Here's a good Time magazine article on Parents Institute, and an interesting blog article on the comic book series.
Wendy Snyder / firstname.lastname@example.org