This concludes a four-part Nolan's Niche on collecting the "Big Six" from Fiction House, one of the leading "second-tier" companies of the Golden Age.
Some collectors consider Fiction House to be the ultimate "generic" comic book company, and it's hard to disagree. Many of the stories make only marginal sense, and the vast majority of the characters are cardboard at best, yet Fiction House titles are just bursting with energy that typifies the Golden Age.
In the previous three installments, we covered five of Fiction House's classic "Big Six." We'll finish with Wings, surely as generic a title as ever existed. The title was taken straight from Fictions House's long-running pulp empire, as were Planet, Jungle and Fight.
Wings was one of the longest running of the genre specialty pulps, running 133 issues from January 1928 to Spring 1953. It's important to remember that even as late as 1940, when Wings Comics #1 (September 1940) appeared, the vast majority of the American public had never traveled by air. Look at it this way: When Wings #1 hit the newsstands, many parents of the children who read it were born either before or not long after the Wright brothers first flew in 1903!
It seems likely that Fiction House came up with Wings, the fifth comic book title, in response to the war then raging in Europe and Asia. In that respect, Wings can be considered the first truly successful war comic. Unlike Fiction House's other titles of the 1940-42 period, Wings did not feature any superheroes—unless you count the dynamic soldier of fortune Captain Wings, a lone-wolf type who debuted in Wings #16 (December 1941). Captain Wings ran for 101 consecutive issues—through #116 (an undated 1952 issue)—then returned in #118 and the final issue, #124, both original stories. Captain Wings ran at least 10 pages in all but a handful of issues, so Fiction House clearly felt it had a winner.
The real attraction of Wings is in the wonderful air-war covers, which duplicated the visual success of numerous pulps. Wings presented Fiction House with a unique dilemma—how to use the leggy lasses portrayed much more often than not on the covers of the five other "Big Six" titles.
Fiction House didn't even try to use femmes in peril on Wings covers until well after World War II ended in 1945. If you have a Gerber Photo-Journal, you can see for yourself that there is nary a female on the covers of #1-72 except for #26 (October 1942) and #69 (May 1946). Beginning with #73 (September 1946), women in danger dominated most covers of Wings through #109 (September 1949), which was the last monthly issue before Wings went quarterly or even less frequently. Bob Lubbers, one of the most imaginative cover artists of the post-war period, drew virtually all of these girls-in-danger covers, often dreaming up situations and fashions (!!) that can only be described as less-than-likely! But they're lots of fun for the collector who loves bizarre, thoroughly energetic covers.
My favorite Wings cover is #87 (November 1947), featuring one of the few females in charge during the title's run. On this cover, a redhead in full female-soldier-of-fortune regalia fires a machine gun to help answer the cover title of the Captain Wings feature: "Does Tomorrow Hold Death from the Outer Void?"
By the way, one of my favorite cover titles graces #63 (November 1945)—"Hari Kiri Rides the Skyways." It's an ironic title, since house ads indicate the issue went on sale about September 25—about three weeks after the Japanese officially surrendered to General MacArthur! But then, Fiction House kept aiming at the Japanese long after the end of the war. In fact, Captain Wings battled Colonel Kamikaze through #72 (August 1946)—though on that cover, the Japanese villain is billed as an "arch criminal."
Wings finished out as a Korean War comic for most of the final 12 issues from #113 Winter 1950/51) through #124 (Summer 1954), which ties as the final Fiction House comic. Wings #112 (undated 1950) features the science fictional "Flight of the Silver Saucers," featuring what is billed as "The Return of Captain Wings." Captain Wings had never left the scene! This issue is very tough to find—perhaps all the "flying saucer collectors" have scarfed up most of the available copies!
Oddly, the long-running Clipper Kirk emerged as the company's only genuine post-war costume hero (unless you count jungle girls) when he became The Phantom Falcon in #69 (May 1946). The Phantom Falcon ran through #106 (June 1949), plus in #110, always in six-page backup stories (seven pages in #70). Just another Fiction House oddity—why would the company create one of the final original Golden Age costume heroes, then never try to really take advantage of the concept?
Fiction House did not survive the mid-1950s, since it published virtually nothing other than pulps and comics. Only a handful of pulps remained after the last issue of Planet Stories in 1955, and most of Fiction House's garish comics could not have survived the beginning of the Comics Code with early 1955 issues.
Fiction House tried hard to take advantage of the Korean War, probably more than any company except Atlas/Marvel. The last five issues of Fight and the final four of Rangers featured Korean War stories to go with Wings, plus the short-lived Jet Aces #1-4, War Bird #1-3 and Knockout Adventures #1.
My advice for collecting Wings is to focus on the covers you enjoy, realizing that the earlier the issue, the more expensive it's likely to be.
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Accepting Submissions at the Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon 2005 — April 29-May
At the end of the month, CGC will be making a stop in Toronto for the 2005 edition of the Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon. Our only Canadian stop on this year's convention circuit, the PCTC has a spectacular guest list and an excellent location to have books signed for the prestigious Signature Series label. The show will see the debut of the new Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon CGC Signature Series Center, a booth designed to organize and oversee Signature Series signings at the convention. The center will even feature guest charity signings right at the booth, and will be adjacent to CGC's own submission center.
With writer guests such as the ones listed below, one would wonder if the Paradise crew had decided to make writing the focus of this year's convention. "When you put it like that, I wonder if we did," said co-promoter and organizer Kevin Boyd, "but it just worked out that way."
Ellis (Iron Man, Planetary)
- Brian Michael Bendis (Daredevil, New Avengers,
- Samm Barnes (Spectacular Spider-Man, Doctor Spectrum)
- B. Clay Moore (The Expatriate,
- Ken Siu-Chong (Street Fighter, Darkstalkers)
- Ian Boothby (Simpsons Comics),
J. Torres (Teen Titans Go!)
- Bill Willingham (Fables, Robin)
Boyd continued: "We've
got a stellar line of artists coming as well, so don't forget to bring a sketchbook!"
Jimenez (D.C. Countdown, Otherworld)
- Adi Granov (Iron Man)
- Tom Fowler (Green Arrow)
- David Mack (Kabuki)
- Dale Keown (Darkness/Hulk)
- Alvin Lee (Street Fighter, Darkstalkers)
- Kaare Andrews (Spider-Man/Doctor
- Tom Grummett (New Thunderbolts)
- Dave Sim (Cerebus)
- Jerry Robinson (Golden Age Batman artist).
"We're really excited about this year's convention, and the fan 'buzz'
has been phenomenal," said Peter Dixon, owner and co-promoter of the Paradise
con. "We've got a lot of new dealer faces, which is something that the
Toronto community has been asking for, for years now." In fact, the convention,
which is held at the National Trade Centre at Exhibition Place in Toronto,
is even bigger than last year and has moved into a hall that better fits
the needs of the Comicon. At 55,000 square feet it is the largest comic
book only show in Canada. "We have over 50 companies, plus another dozen
publishers and over 200 comic book creators in attendance," Dixon reports, "and
Kevin and his helpers have organized some great panels, and then there's
the debut of the Shusters."
The Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards debut at this year's show and the organizers hope to see it become an annual tradition. "There are so many great creators in Canada. This is the community's way of honoring their achievements," says Boyd, who is also the Associate Coordinator of the Shusters. There are five fan-voted awards for work done in 2004, plus a Retailer Recognition award and six Hall of Fame awards. Fans voted online and by paper ballot and the winners will be announced at a special ceremony on April 30th at the Comicon.
With Canadian heavyweights like Dave Sim, Darwyn Cooke, Cary Nord, David
Finch and more nominated, you never know who may show up for the awards
and who may end up winning.
For more information, visit www.Torontocomicon.com and www.CGCComics.com.
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in 2002, the Comics Guaranty, LLC Registry has been an important and expanding
part of CGC's trifecta of services that have been introduced since the company
first started third-party grading, certification and encapsulation in February,
2000 (the other two being the CGC census or population report and the CGC boards
or forum). The Registry allows Collectors' Society members to list (register)
their certified comic books (and comic magazines) onto the Registry, where each
certified item receives a value (in points) based on its grade. The Registry
is divided into sets (such as: Fantastic Four issues 1-300; X-Men issues
1-201, etc.) and subsets (such as: X-Men issues 94-143; Amazing
Spider-Man issues 1-25). The registrants' set listings are ranked according
to the total number of points his or her set accumulates by adding up the assigned
value of each specific issue within that set. At first glance, this would seem
like a competition or a means by which a collector can "show off" his
or her comic books, but the Registry is far more significant and consequential
than its apparent use.
For me personally, using the Registry (and, in effect, the CGC
message boards) has been one of the most productive ventures I have ever
undertaken in the comic book hobby, the result of which has led directly to the
formation of my own Web site, PedigreeComics.com. I started registering my personal
collection of comics in late November 2003, and still do so under the nickname "Captain
Tripps." At that point in time, I was already known as a high grade collector
of Silver Age Marvels, but primarily only to dealers and a handful of other collectors,
people in the hobby whose best interests were served by keeping me anonymous.
registering a few of my favorite sets (X-Men 1-66 and Amazing Spider-Man 1-25)
and viewing the other sets that were present, I began to take notice of the number
of other high grade (and non-high grade) collectors using the CGC Registry, collectors
who previously never had a forum in which to list their books and see who else
and what else was out there. It was an absolute revelation, and an addictive
one at that, as I began to register practically all of my CGC certified comics
over the next few months. Almost instantly, other collectors were taking note
of who I was as I was now discovering a world of fellow collectors who shared
the same love of the hobby that I did. In a way, the CGC Registry became the
single best thing that has happened for collectors because before the registry
and boards, they never would have had the opportunity to learn each others' identities
beforehand. But now, they are e-mailing, private messaging each other, trading
comic books, and sharing their love of collecting. And this phenomenon was not
limited to just a handful of collectors or ones solely based in the Northeast
or this country. The Registry includes members from many different countries—international
comic book collectors who were now able to list their books alongside their American
CGC Registry is also invaluable in that it basically shows to the participating
members (and anyone in the world who knows how to use a computer) what each collector
has, and more importantly, which books within a set each collector is missing!
Trades, sales, purchases, etc. became commonplace among registrants, as did the
drive to upgrade one's own set to get higher in the rankings. As newer registrants
began listing their valued collections, more collector "awareness" was
achieved and the entire hobby benefited as a whole. The CGC Registry fueled topics
for the boards just as the board members cried out for more sets to be listed.
Comic book fandom had reached an incredible new and exciting level, courtesy
of the CGC.
For my benefit, the contacts I made through the CGC Registry (and the CGC boards)
were more significant and valuable than any auction house's or dealer's customer
list, as I used my new-found notoriety as a major Silver Age Marvel collector
to open Pedigree Comics, Inc. in June, 2004. Many of these collectors (and "forumites" as
per the CGC boards) have become good friends, valued customers and consignors
and they are the primary reason why my Web site has enjoyed success in its initial
year of operation. Looking back, I realize now that I never would have had the
means, contacts or vehicle in which to start an internet-based comic book company
without the advent of the CGC, and more particularly, the CGC Registry and chat
boards. I would have remained a fairly unknown high grade Marvel collector, one
of thousands to go unnoticed within our hobby.
The Registry has become a valuable tool for me as a collector and I remember
specifically those first few days and weeks as I began listing my collection.
I chose the name "Captain Tripps" after my love of Jerry Garcia, the
deceased lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead who went under that handle in the
1960s. I also initially chose to list my favorite set, which was and still is
the X-Men (issues 1-66), which I named "Pacific Coast Blues" since
the predominance of the comics in the set are from the Pacific Coast Collection
and all have blue, universal labels. It is undoubtedly the Registry set I take
the most pride in, due to its completeness (all 66 issues), high grades (all
in 9.6 or better) and composition of Pacific Coast copies (almost half). In fact,
through trades, re-submissions and purchases, the set now includes more 9.8s
(36) than 9.6s (29) plus one 9.9 (# 41). Most of the early issues are from the
Pacific Coast pedigree and are incredible, unread NM/M copies (#s 1-3, 5, 6,
9, 11, 12, 15, 17, 21, 24, 25 and 30). The Pacific Coasts that didn't make it
to 9.8 are all 9.6 (8, 10, 16, 18, 19, 29, 33, etc.). Since I first listed the
set, I have been able to acquire (through trades) and up-grade (through re-submissions)
several of the issues which are now 9.8, including the 1, 5, 9, 10, 12, 15, 25,
44, 47, 54, 56, 57 and 58.
Not only is the Pacific Coast Collection represented, but a few other known pedigrees
are as well. These include the Northland (#s 22, 23, 42, 43 and 62); Curator
(#s 10, 36 and 58); Oakland (#59); Golden State (#s 13 and 32) and Massachusetts
(#35). In my desire to have the best possible set I could, I actually traded
some Pacific Coast copies to get these other pedigreed ones as well as non-pedigree
9.8s. Once the ball got rolling and the "fever" came to the forefront,
I was trying to improve every issue, even making trades for an upgrade in page
quality. No doubt about it, managing a Registry set can be an expensive and addictive
There are many other sets that I have come to appreciate and actively list my
books into, such as the Avengers 1-50 set; Fantastic Four 1-102
and Daredevil 1-120; but the "Pacific Coast Blues" is my favorite
one. With new sets (and subsets) being constantly created, only time will tell
if X-Men #s 1-66 will remain that way!
For more information about the CGC Registry and the Collectors' Society, visit www.collectors-society.com.
For information about Pedigree Comics, visit www.pedigreecomics.com.