Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Edison Bell and Novelty Press' DIY Air Raid Tips!

Tuesday is Old/New Comic Book Day!!!

The best things are things which aren't planned, I find.  No one can predict the next big entertainment trend, it's just that suddenly something clicks with the audience and BA-BANG! there's a new thing.  

Which brings us to "Edison Bell": the little DIY comic feature that was.

Novelty Press was a comic book publisher which was active between 1940 and 1949.  They published humor, crime and western comics and of course slam, bang super heroes like "Blue Bolt" and "Target & the Targeteers" during the golden age of such costumed he-men and women.

Hitting their stride (along with any one else who published 64 pages of saddle-stitched, four color goodness of this period, they decided to expand their line-up by doubling the output of some of their more popular features, just as other publishers did with the likes of Superman (Superman, Action, World's Finest), Batman (Batman, Detective, World's Finest), Captain Marvel (Cap. Marvel Adventures, Whiz, Marvel Family) ...and the list goes on and on and on.  For Novelty, it was mounting a quarterly titles "4 Most" with "Dick Cole" from "Blue Bolt" and "Target" from "Target Comics" together with the minor features "Edison Bell" and  "The Cadet".  Issue #1 came out in November 1941.

"Edison Bell" was a boy feature about the inventiveness of young and ambitious minds and holding inventors, scientists and thinkers up as the heroes that I agree they are.  So Ray Gill and Harold DeLay even named they're lead character after two famous scientist/inventors, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.  I'm sure if the character came about today, revisionists and re-constructors would name him "Tesla Bell", but that's another story to be told by someone else.

Young Edison and his team of "Junior Air Raid Wardens", after being told that they're too young to participate in their communities emergency preparedness efforts, use stuff found around the vacant lot and do a better job (though mis-guided) than their adult counterparts.

The art is really nice for a third tier comic company.  The faces of the characters especially and the "how-to" drawings show that the artist was not just someone with a pencil who showed up for "the new trend in commercial art", but someone who had studied and emulated newspaper comic strips and was wanting to get into the field long before.

Dig in!...then meet me after the short story for more.

Boy, them kids is swell, AND how!

A funny thing happened on the way to the printing press though.  1 month after this issue hit the news stands, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  By the second issue, this was the inside front cover editorial for "4 Most" #2...

"Edison Bell" was moved up to the second place in the book (right behind lead feature "Dick Cole") and the feature expanded from 7 pages to a whopping 12!  


An emphasis on how kids could help in their nations efforts and more importantly for an entertainment bent for kids, a relata-ble piece, a place where the reader could really envision themselves taking part in the action.

The new trend in war time entertainment expressed in comics.  Gung Ho propaganda.  With a Do It Yourself spin...Mr. Wizard would be proud.

And DANG that's some good stuff.  How cool to run out in your back yard and try some of this stuff out.

Now wasn't that a much better way to spend new comic book day than pouring over the New 52?

I thought so.

End of the article plug:  This and MANY, MANY other comic book scans from the golden, atomic and even some silver age of comic books which have slipped into neglect over the decades can be found at the "Digital Comics Museum".  All legal and all public domain and yours for the mere asking.  PLEASE click on the "donate" tab when you get there.  These admins are doing the Lord's work of keeping the good stuff alive!

End of the article disclaimer:  There are some remarks and depictions in the above story which by today's standards would be viewed as racist.  This is where the standard remarks about how they should be viewed as a product of their times and remembered to educate ourselves by viewing our mistakes of the past would go.  If you and I are going to keep having conversations, you should already understand this.  It's not my intention to titillate with off-color humor or label this as "banned" or "censored" as a marketing ploy.  This is the way it was.  Get over it.

Talk to you soon.

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