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Blake Bell Dr. Michael J. Vassallo

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History O 10 24 6 el34comics 52 INTRODUCTION

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Chapter 2

When Lawyers Clash

Chapter 1

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The Way It Began

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Chapter 4

Drowning the Newsstands

Chapter 3

A House Divided

66

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Chapter 7

The Last Laugh

90

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Chapter 5

44 Torture Porn

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Brand? Echh! Chapter 6

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ARTIST PROFILES Jack Kirby Joe Simon Stan Lee Alex Schomburg Bill Everett Frank R. Paul Syd Shores Carl Burgos Jack Binder George Klein Al Avison Al Jaffee Joe Maneely Artie Simek

pg. 106 pg. 146 pg. 156 pg. 166 pg. 196 pg. 210 pg. 216 pg. 224 pg. 228 pg. 236 pg. 240 pg. 244 pg. 246 pg. 250

105

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Dave Berg Dan DeCarlo John Severin Matt Baker Roy Krenkel Harry Harrison Al Williamson Gene Colan Stan Drake Russ Heath Mort Walker Hank Ketcham Miscellaneous

pg. 252 pg. 254 pg. 256 pg. 258 pg. 264 pg. 266 pg. 270 pg. 272 pg. 274 pg. 276 pg. 278 pg. 280 pg. 282

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288 ENDNOTES

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Introduction “Fans are not interested in quality.� —Martin Goodman1

Marvel Comics has published more than 40,000 individual comic book issues over an array of more than 5,000 titles — featuring at least that many characters — since Martin Goodman opened its doors in 1939.2 That’s a lot of action-packed stories starring (mostly) super beings in brightly colored tights, pounded out factory-like, by a lot of writers and artists. Also — no matter how else you look at it — that’s a lot of ink and a lot of paper. Fans and the public have historically labored under three false impressions about Marvel Comics. First, that there actually was a comic book company named “Marvel� for its first 30 or so years. Second, that Goodman founded the company to produce comic books. And third, that star artists Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby — who famously quit the company in late 1965 and 1970 respectively — did so solely as a result of their clashes with editor Stan Lee. 3

All of those popular beliefs are factually incorrect. Martin Goodman formed the company that would one day become Marvel Comics in 1933 — six years earlier than is commonly supposed. And he formed it, really, to sell magazines. Cheap magazines. Cheap magazines printed on cheap paper. And “it� wasn’t just one company. Oh, and Ditko’s and Kirby’s beefs were more with Goodman than with Lee (more on that later). Selling cheap magazines that printed artwork — almost as an afterthought — as opposed to selling art, is the key point of conflict that has generated more drama throughout the history of Marvel Comics than any writer of fiction would dare to make up. At the epicenter of that conflict is Marvel’s greatest prize: its intellectual property. In 2012, Marvel celebrated the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man, a character created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, which had by then

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generated more than a billion dollars in movie ticket sales alone. That creative partnership abruptly dissolved at its peak in late 1965 when Ditko felt compelled to walk away. Less than five years later, Marvel’s creative rock, Jack Kirby — co-creator (with Joe Simon) of Captain America and (with Stan Lee) of the Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, The Mighty Thor, The X-Men, the Avengers, the Silver Surfer, and many more — made a seismic break with the company. Kirby had been there with Marvel during its formative period in the early 1940s. He had returned in the late 1950s and played a vital role in resurrecting the comic book company from near oblivion. And in the 1960s he had done nothing less than design and co-create most of the Marvel Universe. The popular misperception is that both breakaways were the culmination of separate clashes between editor-writer Stan Lee and the two artists. The reality, however, is that the underlying conflict was (and had been since 1933) Martin Goodman’s battle against the creative people he depended upon to fill his pages. He was proud of the miserly wages he paid them and he treated them like they were as disposable as the cheap paper his lowbrow mass-marketed magazines were printed on.4 It was a classic battle of corporate vs. creative interests. And both sides have their secrets. Corporately, the secret of the story behind Marvel Comics is that everything Marvel became — everything it produced and sold, every business decision and strategic move — had its genesis in Martin Goodman’s other publishing enterprises. Creatively, the secret of Marvel’s legacy is that the writers and artists were able to create any legacy at all, given how :KR¡V ORRNLQJ DW \RX" $ FRYHU VXUH WR FDWFK D QHZVVWDQG EURZVHU¡V H\H %XW QRW HQRXJK RI WKHP ³WKLVZDVWKHÀQDOLVVXH !"#$%&'()*%+)%',*)-*.+!"#! 0D\&RYHU/HH$PHV

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Goodman viewed and executed what he saw as his core business: selling magazines — quickly, cheaply, and in mass quantities. Quality was not part of that equation. Goodman didn’t think fans cared about quality. He certainly didn’t, nor was he about to allow any sense of artistry to interfere with the sale of paper. Ironically, many of the artists most associated with Marvel Comics’ initial success often produced their most refined work while moonlighting for Goodman’s other, non-comics, businesses. The work they did for his pulps and magazines was, in a sense, more their own — free from the simplistic, juvenile sensibilitiess of Goodman’s comic books. It was also free from the “assembly line� method of producing comics that had the work pass through many skilled (and sometimes not-so-skilled) hands before arriving on the newsstands to be snatched up by its eager audience.


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Given the circumstances, many observers attribute the creative legacy of Marvel Comics to the creators’ own dogged determination. Others credit Stan Lee in his role as the corporate-creative buffer — the middle-management employee/creator whose legacy is destined to be both deified and vilified. History begs answers. Was Martin Goodman’s rags-to-riches story that of a visionary architect of an entertainment enterprise that continues to reach new heights? Or was he just a lucky speculator? Was he simply a product of his times or, like today’s Wall Street predators, was he a wolf in sheep’s clothing who created nothing, yet made a minor fortune off the backs of the actual creators who inspired all those customers to buy Goodman’s otherwise worthless paper? But history also asks what Marvel has generated creatively since Goodman sold his interest in 1968. Is today’s Marvel, the self-proclaimed “House of Ideas,� still following in the footsteps of its founder — constantly chasing trends and recycling someone else’s ideas? These days, Marvel’s comic book publishing division is an intellectual property R&D factory. Its main function is to generate characters and concepts — or perhaps more accurately, to re-conceptualize existing characters and concepts — that can be turned into toys, games, movies, television shows, and other merchandising opportunities, the worldwide marketing of which will secure returns to Disney stockholders in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. Measured against that, profits, if any, from the sales of actual paper or digitally distributed comic books are but a tiny fraction. This “secret history� of Marvel Comics seeks to correct the half-baked tales and legends that have spread across the internet and into books that deal with the origins of Marvel Comics. In so doing, it

unearths a treasure trove of unseen and rarely seen artwork by Marvel’s most famous artists. It provides insight into the previously undocumented business practices of Martin Goodman that shaped the Marvel Comics we know today. And it traces how his modus operandi set up a corporate culture that lifted him from a dropout to a multi-millionaire. That corporate culture has left a legacy of scars across the backs of the men (and a few women) whose creative work fueled the moneymaking engine that The Walt Disney Company purchased in 2009 for approximately $4 billion. Whose legacy was Disney buying? Goodman’s? Or the creators’? 5 In the Wild West of comic book publishing that began some 80 years ago, the deeper one drills, the more secrets gush to the surface ‌

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THE Way it Began “This Field is Full of Pirates.� —Martin Goodman1

Isaac Goodman was a young tailor from the city of Vilna, once dubbed the “Jerusalem of Lithuania.� Now known as Vilnius, it’s the capital and most populated metropolis of modern Lithuania, a country that was annexed by the Russian empire in the late 18th century. It is known for its heavy concentration of eastern European Jews, around 40% of the city’s population. But during Isaac Goodman’s youth, in the late 19th century, it was part of Russia. German Imperial forces occupied the city for three years during World War I. Then, as if to finish the job, German Nazis built the “Vilna ghetto� during their occupation in World War II. Lithuania finally wriggled its way back to independence in 1990, seceding from the Soviet Union under General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost. Just before the turn of the 20th century, the Goodman family got out before the going got bad. Isaac (born 1872) immigrated to the United

States in 1891. In 1895, he married Anna “Annie� Gleichenhaus (also born in Vilna, in 1875), who had beaten him to America two years earlier, in 1889. 2 The Goodmans took the instruction God gave Adam and Eve to “be fruitful, and multiply� to heart. Beginning in 1896, they brought forth 13 children in less than 22 years — certainly enough to staff a good-sized family business. In 1900, the average number of children per family in the U.S. was 3.5 but that accompanied a mortality rate of 20% for children up to age 5. Six to nine of every 1,000 women died in childbirth. (The Goodmans may have had a 14th child that did not survive infancy. Fortunately, Annie Goodman beat the odds of so many births.) 3 Their first seven children were all daughters. That may have been disconcerting to Isaac, who needed a son to carry on the family name. Any such concerns were allayed, though, on January 18, 1908, when

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their first son, Moses, was born. Eventually, he would be known by the less derisible name of Martin.4 They didn’t stop there. Annie had one more girl before giving birth to the rest of the future Marvel Comics family trust: Abraham, David, Sidney Charles, and finally Aron (Arthur) in 1918. (Sidney Charles was the sole exception to the list of traditional Biblical names bestowed upon the other four boys.)5 Early life in Brooklyn might have seemed to the Goodmans a little bit like the ancient Hebrews wandering in the desert. They moved around a lot, but they never left until “Moses” (though by then he was “Martin”) led them out. The strain of 13 children on a tailor’s earnings pushed Martin out of school and into the work force — par for the course in the early 20th century.6 It was the same for a young man the world would later know as Jack Kirby. In the 1930s, still a few years away from working for Martin Goodman, Jacob Kurtzberg was also working to contribute to the family pot. Most kids in working-class families in the postWorld War I era dreamed of escape, especially those living near the glow of the city lights of Manhattan. Martin’s escape, in between odd jobs, was magazines. They fascinated him. Family legend has it that he cut out articles he liked and re-assembled them to create his own magazines, exactly the way he wanted to see them. It was a sign of things to come. 7 But Martin didn’t just dream. He found a way out and took it. He left home in the mid-1920s to ride the rails across America, scrounging for sustenance and a fire-lit barrel in whatever state an unending succession of lonely boxcars would take him. There’s no indication that Martin ever wrote a piece of fiction in his life, but he is reported to have kept a journal in those days as he lived the reality of the popular romantic fantasy of life on the rails.8 “Before his publishing days, there were many tramp trips, freight cars, cooking beans over a fire,” recalled Jerry Perles, one of Goodman’s lawyers from the 1940s to the 1970s. “I don’t think you could mention a town to him that he didn’t know about. He is knowledgeable about this country. It helped him a great deal later on in magazine circulation.”9

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Around age 20, Goodman brought that hardearned knowledge back to Manhattan and put it to use in the publishing business.10 Marvel Comics might never have existed without Louis Silberkleit. Most people familiar with comic book history associate that name with MLJ Comics (the “L” stood for Louis), which later re-named itself Archie Comics, in honor of its most famous character. In August 1929, long before the formation of MLJ, Silberkleit was hired as Circulation Manager at Eastern Distributing Corporation, a national distributor for more than 30 magazines and pulps. Prior to that, he had been Circulation Manager for Hugo Gernsback at Gernsback’s Experimenter Publishing Company. 11 12 Silberkleit, a graduate of St. John’s College (now St. John’s University) and New York Law School, was seven years older than Martin Goodman.13 14 “[Silberkleit] had a natural charm and warmth about him, which turned out to be genuine, even though more earthy qualities showed up when a very volatile temper displayed itself,” said the science fiction author and editor Robert A.W. Lowndes, who worked for Silberkleit for 20 years. “You knew where you stood with him — if he was displeased, he didn’t hesitate to say so, and when displeased, his voice could carry to the elevators.”15 Goodman would exhibit similar characteristics as the boss of Marvel Comics, but in 1929 it was likely that Goodman’s firsthand knowledge of America, and his love of magazines, was what impressed Silberkleit. Goodman came from little money, but he later often boasted that he employed people far above him in educational achievement but much lower than him on the wage scale. He may have adopted that attitude of smug superiority from his professional, and fiscal, mentor. Goodman was hired for a position in the circulation department under Silberkleit, who assigned him to work with a number of clients — not the least of whom was magazine entrepreneur/publisher Hugo Gernsback.16


(Martin Goodman’s earliest professional history stems from a lot of hearsay and little hard evidence. The notion that Goodman worked for Hugo Gernsback in “circulation� has often been repeated, but there is no evidence that Gernsback ever hired Goodman for anything. There is far more evidence of a connection to Louis Silberkleit, with Goodman assigned to Gernsback’s account with Eastern.17 18 19) Hugo Gernsback was in his mid-40s and was good friends with Silberkleit, his former employee, when Eastern was distributing the Gernsback magazines. Goodman learned a great deal about the trade from observing Gernsback’s business practices — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Gernsback’s first publishing company, Modern Electronics Publications, lasted from 1908 to 1913. In 1913, he founded the Experimenter Publishing Company. The 1926 launch of Amazing Stories, the first science fiction magazine, later earned him the title “The Father of Magazine Science Fiction.â€? The Hugo Awards, presented annually by the World Science Fiction Society, are named for him. Another famous Gernsback publication, Radio News, had debuted in 1919. Both remained under Gernsback’s supervision until he lost them, along with his other magazines, in 1929, at the start of the Great Depression. Unbowed, Gernsback immediately bounced back with a new company, Gernsback Publications, with two subsidiaries: Stellar Publishing and Techni-Craft Publishing. Within months, he was back in the game with Science Wonder Stories, Air Wonder Stories, and Radio-Craft. It was a vivid lesson in how to handle the ever-present financial troubles of magazine publishing. A lesson that surely impressed Martin Goodman. But that wasn’t the only lesson Gernsback’s practices offered Goodman. Despite the *RRGPDQODXQFKHGWKHSXEOLVKLQJHPSLUH WKDWZRXOGEHFRPH0DUYHO&RPLFVSDUWO\ EDVHGRQKLVORYHRI:HVWHUQV 723/()7*RRGPDQ¡VYHU\Ă€UVWSXOS7KH ´1HZ &RPSOHWH 1RYHOÂľ ZDV D UHSULQW 7KH WLWOH ZDV LPPHGLDWHO\ FKDQJHG WR !"#$%&'&( )&*'&+,( -"".( /01023,&( !"#$% WKH VHFRQG LVVXH )&*'&+,( 45$&+,"6&%( /01023,&( Y  0D\  &RYHU -RVHSK&UDJLQ &'(% )*+,&-( !"#$%&'&( )&*'&+,( -"".( /01023,& Y  6HSWHPEHU  &RYHU-:6FRWW %27720 /()7 !"#$%&'&( )&*'&+,( -"".( /01023,&( Y  0D\  &RYHU% -:6FRWW %27720 5,*+7 ´0D[ %UDQGÂľ ZDV WKH ELJJHVWQDPHLQ:HVWHUQVDWWKHWLPHWKLV WLWOH GHEXWHG *RRGPDQ FRQYHUWHG WKLV SXOS WLWOH LQWR D FRPLF ERRN WHPSRUDULO\ LQ  -&*'( )&*'&+,( /01023,& Y  6HSWHPEHU&RYHU-:6FRWW


lofty name of his new subsidiary, Gernsback’s reputation among the authors and artists whose words and pictures filled his pages was less than stellar. Science fiction and fantasy writer Barry N. Malzberg had little good to say about Gernsback or the way he treated his authors. In the SFWA Bulletin of December 2009–January 2010, Malzberg, who edited Amazing Stories under a different publisher, referred to “Gernsback’s venality and corruption, his sleaziness and his utter disregard for the financial rights of authors,â€? adding, “That the founder of genre science fiction who gave his name to the field’s most prestigious award ‌ was pretty much a crook (and a contemptuous crook who stiffed his writers but paid himself $100K a year as president of Gernsback Publications) has been clearly established.â€?20 The pulp pirates of the 1920s and 1930s became the comic book barons of the 1930s and 1940s. All of comic books’ founding fathers rose up from the fetid swamp of cheap magazine and pulp publishing. Most lived in New York, and the comic book business they created was just as nasty and incestuous as the pulp business that had spawned them. These men were in the business of moving paper to grow profits — not to grow talent. The seeds of contempt exhibited by comic book publishers for their creative talent were sown well before Martin Goodman released his first comic book, Marvel Comics #1, in 1939. As Gernsback’s example had shown, it was useful for a pulp or magazine publisher to create multiple publishing companies, and most did so. When trouble arose, one company could be placed into bankruptcy and have its intellectual property bought out by one of the publisher’s other companies. The purchaser company would then be legally shielded from responsibility for paying the debts of the bankrupt company (even though the editors stayed the same, as did the office addresses). Those unpaid debts included money owed to the hapless writers, some of whom were already getting a bad deal by being paid “upon publicationâ€? instead of “upon acceptance.â€? Payment upon publication forced

writers to wait weeks and months for their payments, with no guarantee that their work would ever see print. It was a delaying tactic that allowed publishers to build and manage inventory at no cost while holding on to their money longer — maybe even long enough to see the debt discharged in bankruptcy. A more insidious practice was (to use a modern term) to “repurpose� an author’s work: present it as original material by changing the title and the characters’ names — and stripping away the original copyright notice. The trade magazines of the late 1920s and early 1930s are overflowing with complaints from writers who had been so victimized. One of the chief practitioners of such dirty dodges was Harry Donenfeld, the future publisher of DC Comics, the main rival of Marvel Comics to this day. 21 Two tiers of pulp publishers existed during this pre-comic book era: the Cadillacs of the industry, such as Street & Smith and Popular Publications, and the “shoestring and a hank of hair� outfits that included, among other characters, Silberkleit, Goodman, and the Philadelphia-based Shade brothers. It was the bonding of the latter group that helped Goodman get his foot in the door as a publisher. Many businesses failed during the Great Depression. By October 1932, after Goodman had been on the job at Eastern Distributing for three years, the company went bankrupt and closed its doors for good. What happened next set the stage not only for the coming of Marvel Comics, but also for its two most tenacious competitors. 22 The primary significance of Eastern’s demise to Goodman — and to the imminent comic book industry — was the rivalry that emerged between two groups of its former employees. Eastern had been co-founded by Paul H. Sampliner and owed Donenfeld approximately $30,000 when it collapsed. (Donenfeld’s printing company, Donny Press, had printed Sampliner’s line of magazines before he left to form Eastern.)

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Sampliner wriggled his way out of the debt by agreeing to join forces with Donenfeld to create Independent News, a new magazine distribution company (financed by Sampliner’s mother) that aligned with the printing and publishing companies Donenfeld already owned. Those companies included the aforementioned Donny Press and the Merwil Publishing Company (co-owned with Donenfeld’s brother Irving), publisher of La Paree, Gay Parisienne, Pep Stories, Spicy Stories, and Snappy Magazine. Donenfeld drove sales, his brother Irving handled the printing, Sampliner headed distribution, and Jack Liebowitz supervised the finances.23 One of their clients, Malcolm WheelerNicholson’s National Allied Publications, published its first comic book, New Fun #1, in January 1935 (cover-dated February). All this set the wheels in motion for the formation of what would become DC Comics. By the time Action Comics #1, featuring the debut of Superman, was published in April of 1938 (cover-dated June), Donenfeld owned WheelerNicholson’s company, too.24 The second venture to rise, phoenix-like, from Eastern’s 1932 bankruptcy would sow the seeds for not one but two comic book publishers. In a strategy similar to Donenfeld and Sampliner’s, Silberkleit invested in a couple of new ventures and brought

along his protĂŠgĂŠ, Goodman. With his well-honed knowledge of periodical distribution from his experience at Eastern and Experimenter Publishing, Silberkleit tapped the Shade brothers (who ran the Shade Publishing Company) for additional financing. The Shade brothers were known primarily for putting out under-the-counter pulps, like Paris Nights (a title they had scavenged in 1929 from the original publisher). Together, under a veil of secrecy, they formed Mutual Magazine Distributors, Inc. Martin Goodman was listed as part owner.25 The secrecy was necessary because Silberkleit and Goodman were following a path similar to that of Donenfeld — distributing their own books that were published via multiple publishing companies that could come and go when bankruptcy offered a better alternative than publishing. Silberkleit put up the money to form Newsstand Publications Inc., regarded as the “umbrellaâ€? for what would become their maze of companies, and made Goodman his editor.26 They set up shop at 53 Park Place, at the corner of West Broadway, near Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. (Confusingly, 60 Murray Street is often cited as the address of the office. 53 Park Place is the front of the building. 60 Murray Street is the north service entrance to the same building.)27

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(Another major myth is that Silberkleit (or Silberkleit and Goodman) formed a company named Columbia Publications circa 1931–1932. Even Silberkleit’s obituary in the New York Times lists him as having formed Columbia in 1931 and cites it as the original company for MLJ/Archie Comics. However, there is no evidence that Columbia Publications existed before Goodman and Silberkleit parted company in 1934. Sources contributing to the myth: the late Jerry Bails’s Who’s Who of American Comics, the late Les Daniels in Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, and David Saunders in Illustration Magazine #14, Summer 2005. 28 29) Highlighting the incestuous nature of the publishing businesses that gave birth to the comic book industry, the dual-addressed building was not only the home of Mutual Magazine Distributors but also housed the offices of Donenfeld and Sampliner’s Independent News. Previously, it had been home to Gernsback’s Experimenter Publishing Company, which published Amazing Stories. It also served as

the headquarters for other publishing outfits, such as American Drugs Publishing Company and American Gas Journal. As became his practice, Goodman, the editor, went with what he knew and loved — the Western genre — even as detective and action hero pulps were rising in popularity. The first pulp that Newsstand published was Western Supernovel Magazine (May 1933). It offered “A New Complete $2.00 Novel� to offset the high cover price of 15 cents. (Most pulps at the time were 10 cents.) “I had read Westerns since I was a kid,� said Goodman of his first effort. “I was an average reader so we put out a book for the average reader. I decided to give them something they never had before — a book-length Western [in a magazine]. We ran a novel and two shorts.�30 By the end of 1933, the nascent pulp publisher had four ongoing titles (Complete Western Book Magazine, Black Book Detective, Romantic Love Secrets, and Gang World), had published just over a dozen

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issues, and had hired editor A. Lincoln Hoffman (formerly of Dell Publications) in anticipation of expanding its output. 31 Hoffman’s first assignment was to edit a new pulp title, Masked Rider, a shameless attempt to cash in on the popularity of 1933’s new hit radio program, The Lone Ranger (who was billed as “the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plainsâ€?). Even the name they gave to their new company, Ranger Publications, was an obvious steal. The first issues of Masked Rider list the publisher’s address at 140 West 71st Street. That is very near the address where Hoffman was living in 1940, 20 West 72nd Street (per the Federal census), and may have actually been his home in 1933-1934, since, apart from its street level retail stores, that neighborhood in Manhattan is mostly residential. No other pulp title was published from that address. If Masked Rider’s publisher’s address was indeed its editor’s residence, that suggests that Hoffman may have held an ownership stake in Masked Rider, perhaps as a form of compensation in lieu of salary, or perhaps because he brought the title with him. But trouble — not in the form of angered copyright holders (this time) but in the form of crusading politicians — loomed on the horizon. Fiorello H. LaGuardia was sworn in as mayor of New York City January 1, 1934 (for the first of three terms). He brought with him a zealous City License Commissioner, Paul Moss, who immediately declared war on the city’s scandalous burlesque shows — and other forms of entertainment that he and the mayor deemed too risquĂŠ. That included periodicals. Moss struck hard at the under-the-counter kind of magazines right out of the gate. He ordered nearly

60 “indecent� titles off the racks. Retailers returned them to their wholesaler who returned them to their distributor who returned them to their publisher — who lost not only all their sales and advertising revenue but were on the hook for printing costs, too. It was a disaster up and down all links of the publishing chain.32 Hit especially hard was Silberkleit. As the owner of Newsstand Publications and co-owner of Mutual Magazine Distributors, Inc., he got hammered on both ends. Consequently, Silberkleit couldn’t pay his printer in Chicago, W.F. Hall. With pressure from all sides, Silberkleit activated his corporate shell game strategy and Mutual filed for bankruptcy. On Mutual’s books, Mutual (Silberkleit) owed Newsstand (Silberkleit) almost $25,000, thereby insuring that Newsstand (Silberkleit), as one of the largest debt holders, would get the lion’s share of any settlement monies. The Shade brothers took advantage of Mutual’s demise by using it as an excuse not to pay the authors who wrote for their publications, thus keeping more of what funds were available for themselves, Conveniently, they failed to disclose that they co-owned Mutual.33 34 To get out of his debt to W.F. Hall, Silberkleit sold his interest in Newsstand to Goodman and Hoffman so they could cut a deal with Hall for credit to keep publishing. Hall extended the credit.35 With Mutual’s bankruptcy behind him, Silberkleit, unsurprisingly, opened new offices less than a mile away from his old ones in a hole-in-thewall on Franklin Street. On a shoestring budget, he started up another group of publishing companies, beginning with the Winford Group, eventually adding Columbia Publications and, in 1939, MLJ Magazines. MLJ was created specifically to publish

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comic books in the hope of duplicating the success of Donenfeldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new Superman feature in Action Comics and his second hit, Batman, in Detective Comics. â&#x20AC;&#x153;MLJâ&#x20AC;? was an acronym for the first names of its three principals: Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John L. Goldwater. (Goldwater and Coyne have also been rumored to have worked for Eastern but no evidence places them there â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and Goldwater was only 16 when Eastern went bankrupt.)

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MLJâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first title, Blue Ribbon Comics, debuted with a cover date of November 1939, just one month following Goodmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first comic book. Top-Notch Comics, Pep Comics, and Zip Comics followed in quick succession. All featured superheroes. But it was the introduction of Archie, Betty, and Jughead by writer Vic Bloom and artist Bob Montana in Pep Comics #22 (Veronica showed up four issues later) that ensured that Louis Silberkleit would never have to operate on a shoestring again.

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Meanwhile, with Silberkleit gone, Goodman and Hoffman divvied up Newsstand Publicationsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; titles and began a mutually beneficial arrangement of sharing the same resources (and sometimes office space) that lasted until approximately February 1935.36 Hoffman took Masked Rider (soon to be known as Masked Rider Magazine) and published it through his Ranger Publications, and Black Book Detective, which he published as Lincoln Hoffman Publications for a few issues, then as Ranger Publications. Goodman took his two Western titles, Complete Western Book Magazine (re-named from Western Supernovel Magazine) and Western Novels and Short Stories and kept them under the Newsstand Publications imprint. (Gang World, which had begun with the December 1933 issue, had just printed its seventh issue, cover-dated July 1934, in May, the month of the split. Hoffman may have also taken that title, as is suggested in the trades of the day, but no further issues saw print.) The November 1934 issue of Writerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Digest described it thusly: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Ranger and Newsstand

Publications, after shifting around town in various offices, have finally concentrated forces at 220 West 42nd Street, and all manuscripts should be sent there. Ranger Publications, of which Lincoln Hoffman is president, include Black Book Detective Magazine and Masked Rider. Alice Phillips edits the former; Jack Phillips, the latter. Newsstand Publications, of which Martin Goodman is president, include Complete Western Book and Western Novels and Short Stories. This excludes Gang World, which is a separate corporation. Mr. Hoffman buys for all four magazines through his Publishers and Producers Exchange at the same address.â&#x20AC;? 37 For a while in 1934, they shared expenses and offices but, effectively, Martin Goodman was now the sole owner of his own publishing business. With America still in the midst of the Great Depression, Martin Goodman was set on a path that would lead him to found Marvel Comics. Along the way, he would adopt many of the same questionable business practices as the â&#x20AC;&#x153;piratesâ&#x20AC;? of his day.

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Goodman's Pulps & Comics 1933-1967

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Year PULPS: 1933-1959 Comics: 1939-1967

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The Secret History of Marvel Comics by Blake Bell & Dr. Michael J. Vassallo - preview