Monday, March 15, 2010

The Clock - A 'Slight' History of Golden Age Comic Books: Super Heroes

We've covered some of what influenced popular fiction to find a colorful hero and we're now up to the time when those 10 cent, 4 color pieces of magic called comic books came into their own!

What better place to bring all that came before into fruition? The comic book offered all the things others did before and more. The serialization and the "back-pocket" compactness of the penny dreadful, the sensationalism of the pulp novel/magazine, the drama and excitement of the theatre, the personal contact and focus of radio and the visualization of the newspaper comic strip...except instead of 4 or 5 panels was 32 or 48 or 72 PAGES long!

And so, the first super hero created just for this new medium made his debut:

"The Clock" was indeed the very first masked crime-fighter produced for comic books. He first appeared in 1936, premiering in both "Funny Pages" issue #6 and "Funny Picture Stories" #1 in November of that year.

I should point out at this point, that comic books are traditionally "month dated" a few months ahead, so November was more than likely July of that year. The original thinking was that news distributors would leave them on the stands 4 months longer if they fibbed about the cover date. It didn't work, especially after comic books became successful enough to be published on a monthly basis and the old had to go as the new come out. The practice has lasted to this very day though. For the purpose of keeping me sane during our "Slight History", months mentioned will be the month on the cover date of the books, not the actual street date, which you can assume was always about 4 months earlier.

I don't want to jump ahead in our chronological journey, but our friend the clock deserves some telling about. He's not as forgotten as it seems. He was first published by "Comics Magazine Publishers", then in the late 1930's when the company almost went under, that company sold it's slate of characters to the fledgling "Quality Comics" line, where "The Clock" continued his adventures. "CMP" reorganized and got back into the fold as "Centaur Comics" and even though it had sold the characters to "Quality" and "Quality" was printing all new adventures, "Centaur" simultaneously re-printed it's stories as well. In 1956 "Quality" closed it's doors and most of it's canon was sold over the "National (DC)" and though "DC" acquired the characters, they did not renew the copyright on them all and "The Clock" slipped into the public domain. Since then tenuous references in some "DC" books have been made, though the character has not made an appearance, and other companies such as "Malibu Comics" HAVE used the PD character.

So you see, it's one of those weird things. No one really remembers the character, but he's been published by at least 5 different comics companies over 70+ years. Sounds like a stick-to-it kind of guy to me.

The character, when first appeared, didn't really have much of a back story. The stories published by "CMP" were little two page mystery stories. That's right, just 2 pages.

The character did develop more under the "Quality" umbrella and we'll get to that when the time is right. This is a chronologically told history after all.

For now, here's the earliest example I have of "The Clock" in action! From "Funny Pages" #11, here's comics' FIRST super hero!

Not alot there, but it's just the beginning of a very colorful ride.

Next up: The true dawn of the Golden Age!

See y'all then!

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