Monday, April 21, 2008


Dell Publishing's "The Funnies"

Today we're going to start on a series of posts about a very rare series. Dell Publishing, for reasons long lost to the mists of time, decided in 1930 to begin publishing a tabloid called The Funnies. The 16 page publication was on newsprint throughout, including the cover, and featured comics, stories and columns. All the material was original to the publication.

The series lasted for at least 36 issues. Based on the numbering cited in Robert Beerbohm's platinum age comics section of the Overstreet Price Guide that places the first issue appearing on February 15 1930, and he has the last known issue, number 36, on October 18.

The big question, at least for me, is whether this series was intended as a newspaper insert or a standalone newsstand publication. There is evidence that goes both ways. Evidence that it was intended as a newspaper insert:

1) I corresponded with Beerbohm many years ago about the series -- unfortunately the correspondence was long ago lost but my best recollection is that he claimed his samples at the time all came from the microfilm of a newspaper in Quebec Canada.

2) The comic strips from the publication were offered in the Editor & Publisher Syndicate Yearbook. More on this in a subsequent post.

3) Beerbohm's samples (he made a batch of photocopies for me) had the cover price blanked out, which would be appropriate for an insert.

On the other hand, there is a definite possibility that it was a standalone newsstand publication:

1) Some samples of the tabloid, including mine, have prices printed on them.

2) It is cited as a newsstand publication by Beerbohm and others. I don't know what the basis for that is other than the cover price.

My guess is that Dell was probably trying to market it both ways. But part of the reason I'm doing this series of posts is to try to gather more information from you comics scholars out there. Surely there is more known about this publication now than there was a decade or so ago when I talked to Robert Beerbohm about it. Has anyone else found samples, either accompanying newspapers or otherwise?

The rest of this series of posts will reproduce samples of the features from The Funnies from my lone sample -- a find that I've been searching out for years now. Unfortunately my sample is missing 4 pages and there's a cutout on the back cover. But beggars can't be choosers, so I'm happy to have even this badly damaged copy.


Hello, Allan---I also have a copy of THE FUNNIES, namely #10, September, 1929,24 pages. It has a circle printed in the masthead, with "10c" in it. Some pretty fascinating stuff in it, perhaps the most interesting is a brand-new PERCY AND FERDY series by H.A.MacGill.Could you use xeroxes from it? Actually, I thought this would be outside the realm of comic strips, and would be considered more of a very early comio book. It's clearly designed as a stand-alone publication. My two cents is that the Quebec newspaper business sounds like a Loch Ness monster sighting.---Cole Johnson.
Says #10 on it, eh? Well that's shoots my timeline in the foot. Apparently the earlier issues were monthlies? Since yours just says September, that sure sounds like a monthly, so that would kill the idea that they were marketed as newspaper inserts, at least at first (I'll have more to say about that in my post tomorrow). My sample isn't numbered, so I'm leaning heavily on Overstreet here.

Beerbohm's samples that he sent me had the prices blanked out, so they definitely exist in that form. Hopefully Robert will find his way over to the blog and weigh in on the subject. I lost his email long ago -- could someone who corresponds with him ask him to pay a visit?

And what a question, Cole -- of course I'm chomping at the bit to get photocopies of your issue. Silly, silly fellow!

So here i was decided to Google my name to see where i stand in the rankings with ancestors Sir Herbert & Sir Max, discovered this citation, just had to check it out, found it is timely as in just yesterday

That all said, Allan, please go
check out the "Origin of the Modern Comic Book" article in the last few Overstreets wherein i credit Ken Barker for the Montreal Funnies discovery which placed THE FUNNIES as a newspaper insert in at least that city as well as your research re THE FUNNIES in Editor & Publisher 1930-34 as advertised therein by Eastern Color.

Collectively comics fandom actually knows a lot about this start-up and how it ties into the later start-up FAMOUS FUNNIES which Dell and Eastern also partnered up on - nothing bizaare to me on this concept: a printer and a wholesaler joining forces during the Great Depression.

This was Delacorte and Janosik's first partnership as i further document -and i suggest people check out the newest Overstreet #38 as i have fine tuned the data into what i think makes coherent sense - and always welcome other ideas on how it all evolved - as all we can do is comics archeology, making parts of it open to best educated conjecture

- best - Robert Beerbohm
Hi Bob -
Sorry, my last Overstreet is #36 at present. Since the only part of that tome that is of interest to me is your hall of wonders at the front, which may or may not have a lot of new information in a given year, I unclasp my purse only every three or four years for the latest version.

As I said to Steven Rowe in a comment a few days hence, I'm hoping that since this Montreal (Gazette? Star?) paper ran the section that others, hopefully in the US, did as well. If they did I can add all these delightful strips to my Stripper's Guide project. Otherwise I'm bound by my self-imposed rules to ignore them, a shame since most of the creators were newspaper strip guys, some pretty important (like H.A. MacGill and 'Bunny' Schultze).

So have you heard of any more discoveries re the section appearing as a newspaper insert?

Oh, and you mentioning Ken Barker has me wondering. Did I miscredit you for sending those photocopies? Was it actually Ken? If so, Ken, please accept my apologies.

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