Famous Comics. What were they? When were they? Who cares? Taking the last question first, anyone who is interested in the embryonic stages of the Comic Book. With its plethora of newspaper reprints of sunday pages and puzzle pages, Famous Comics were indeed “comic” books.
It is only within the last several years that the Overstreet Price Guide has acknowledged the existence of at least nine versions. Gerber’s Photo-Journal only displays one. This may attest to the rarity/obscurity of these books.
What are they? They are twenty-four page paper cover comics (including the front and back covers) put out obstensibly by Zain-Eppy of New York City probably in 1934 and 1935 (note the dating of some covers as 1934 by artist Ed Salter). No price was listed leading to the inevitable conclusion that they were “give-aways” as can be observed by the club stickers on some of the covers. The covers had nothing to do with the content within and were , in essence, single panel “gags” similar in jocularity of the reprint comics of the mid-1930s. The content of each varied but centered about “Hairsbreadth Harry”, “Jane Arden”, “Dixie Dugan”, “Connie”,”Napoleon”,”Joe Palooka”, “Dan Dunn Secret Agent”,”Dip and Duck” (Charles Wooley opines in his History of the Comic Book that this strip is original material. He may be right. However, the layout is similar, somewhat, to the other features by MEB- who is M. E. Brady- “The Frog Pond Ferry” and “Buttons and Fatty” which were reprinted from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle) etc. One issue even contained a “Buck Rodgers” reprint.
Since no dates were listed, an “order” for the books was attempted to be determined from their contents . As the books were reviewed it was noted that the contents were strikingly similar to Famous Funnies and its predecessors, Funnies on Parade, Famous Funnies, A Carnival of Comics, Century of Comics and Famous Funnies, Series 1.
After cross-referencing Famous Comics with Famous Funnies, it was discovered that Famous Comics were derived totally from Famous Funnies. Just as Famous Funnies, Series 1 and Famous Funnies #1 were largely reprints of the earlier reprint books, Famous Comics were reprints of the Famous Funnies series ( Note, some of the strips appeared in more than one issue of Famous Comics). While some of the Famous Comics material first appeared (as the following list shows) in Funnies on Parade, Carnival of Comics, Century of Comics and Famous Funnies, Series 1 , the reprints of Famous Comics track the Famous Funnies series. The significance of this is to note just how closely early comic book production was tied. (Furthur indication of this is the fact that Favorite Comics, another give-away of this time period also reprinted the early Famous Funnies. Favorite Comics, Book No. 1 is primarily Famous Funnies #2; containing most of the same contents as the “Fire Engine” and “Tiger” books as listed below; Book No. 2 is primarily derived from Famous Funnies #3 with the rest of the contents derived from Famous Funnies #2 and #4 while the contents of Book No. 3 is derived primarily from Famous Funnies #5 with the rest of the contents derived from Famous Funnies # 4 and #2 with one “Joe Palooka” strip being reprinted from Famous Funnies Series 1). It would appear that Famous Comics was the second comic book series.
The contents of Famous Comics is derived primarily from Famous Funnies #1-6 as the following list demonstrate. The contents are so derivative that Famous Comics could be dubbed “Famous Funnies, Jr.” It is interesting to note, however, that Famous Comics did not include the Famous Funnies features of “Toonerville Folks”, “Mutt and Jeff”, “Ben Webster”, “Tailspin Tommy” or “Reg’lar Fellars”.
The chronological progression of reprints suggests that the order of the Famous Comics series is as follows:
1. “Fire Engine” cover [EXCLUSIVELY FAMOUS FUNNIES #2 WITH
“THE BUNGLE FAMILY” STRIP IN #2 FIRST
APPEARING IN CARNIVAL OF COMICS
AND THEN FAMOUS FUNNIES, SERIES 1.
"JOE PALOOKA” STRIP FROM 3/25/34
2.”Tiger” cover [PRIMARILY FAMOUS FUNNIES #3 WITH
SOME STRIPS FROM FAMOUS FUNNIES #2
3. “Ambrose” cover [MAJORITY IS FAMOUS FUNNIES #4,
WITH SEVERAL STRIPS FROM FAMOUS
FUNNIES #2 AND SOME FROM #3. THE “JOE
PALOOKA” STRIP IN #4 IS FROM 5/14/33]
4. “Goal” cover [PRIMARILY FAMOUS FUNNIES #4 WITH
SOME STRIPS FROM #3. NOTE ONE OF THE
‘‘JOE PALOOKA” STRIPS (3/26/33) IN #4
APPEARED IN FUNNIES ON PARADE AND
THEN IN FAMOUS FUNNIES, SERIES 1 AND
THE “STRANGE AS IT SEEMS” STRIP IN #4
FIRST APPEARED IN CARNIVAL OF COMICS]
5. “Cowboy” cover [EVENLY DIVIDED BETWEEN FAMOUS FUNNIES
#4 AND #5 WITH THE THREE
“NIPPER” STRIPS FROM FAMOUS FUNNIES #1
6. “Buttons” cover [EXCLUSIVELY FROM FAMOUS FUNNIES #5,
WITH ONE STRIP FROM #2 .”THE BUNGLE
FAMILY” STRIP FIRST APPEARED
IN CARNIVAL OF COMICS THEN CENTURY
OF COMICS AND THEN IN FAMOUS FUNNIES
SERIES 1. ONE “JANE ARDEN” STRIP
UNIDENTIFIED. ONLY ISSUE TO HAVE
“BUCK RODGERS” STRIP.]
7. “Palooka faint” cover [EXCLUSIVELY FROM FAMOUS FUNNIES
#5, WITH THE THREE “HAIRBREADTH
HARRY” STRIPS FROM FAMOUS FUNNIES #1.
NOTE THE TWO “JOE PALOOKA” STRIPS
(5/28/33 AND 6/4/33) IN #5 FIRST
APPEARED IN FUNNIES ON PARADE.
ACCORDINGLY F.O.P. COULD NOT HAVE
APPEARED UNTIL AT LEAST JUNE OF
1933, MAKING THE BIRTH OF THE
MODERN COMIC BOOK AND ITS OFF-
SPRING OCCURING IN A FAIRLY TIGHT
8. “Shot a Bear” cover [EXCLUSIVELY FROM FAMOUS FUNNIES #6
WITH THE TWO “SOMEBODY’S STENOG’’
FROM FAMOUS FUNNIES #1]
9. “Tail in stream” cover [EXCLUSIVELY FROM FAMOUS FUNNIES
#6, WITH THE TWO “PAM” STRIP
FROM FAMOUS FUNNIES #1. ONE
‘‘JANE ARDEN” STRIP UNIDENTIFIED]
As the above indicates, only a limited amount of material is derived from Famous Funnies #1, suggesting that additional earlier editions of Famous Comics exist, or, perhaps, the editor felt Famous Funnies#1 had been sufficiently reprinted from its predecessors. If any one knows of additional editions of this magazine I would be pleased to hear from you.
© Jon Berk, 2009, All Rights Reserved.