The small firm Lev Gleason Publications made a huge impact on the comic book market, thanks to the innovative title Crime Does Not Pay
. In 1942, Crime Does Not Pay
#22 became the first genuine crime comic after replacing the original 21-issue run of Silver Streak
. Collectors also have long treasured the likes of Daredevil
and Silver Streak
, which were among the best and most imaginative of all 1940 – 42 comics.
But what about Boy Comics
? Collectors have long considered this title a definite third in Gleason's "Big Three". Yet Boy Comics
was one of the better comics of its era and perhaps the title that best stands up today, especially the substance-filled stories from 1946-51.
began with #3 (April 1942) published by the Gleason imprint Comic House, Inc. The first two issues, entitled Captain Battle Comics
, were among the first true patriotic hero issues, but for some inexplicable reason did not click with readers. Captain Battle and Hale
, his costumed kid aide, make those two issues among the best patriotic collectibles of the period. There is a pair of 16-page Captain Battle
stories in #1 (Summer 1941) and a five-chapter epic totaling 40 pages in #2 (Fall 1941).
appeared, it was as a typical anthology title, although Crimebuster
was clearly the featured strip. The other costume heroes were the forgettable Young Robin Hood in #3-32 and the utterly obscure kid hero Bombshell, Son of War in #3-7.
But Crimebuster — now there was a hero with staying power, not to mention
long, satisfying stories. Crimebuster was the identity adopted by teenage hockey
player Chuck Chandler after the death of his parents at the hands of Nazis and,
one of the most vicious of all four-color villains, Ironjaw. The Crimebuster
epics in #3-25, which appeared bimonthly through December 1945, were among the
most colorful and bloodthirsty epics of the World War II era. Ironjaw was supposedly
killed off in #15 (April 1944), although he returned in #60 (December 1950) and
appeared in many issues thereafter, albeit in a less bloody fashion.
The Crimebuster stories, written by the prolific Charles Biro, became even better after the war because they took on a social conscience. That element makes them highly collectible today, even though the title's often-stiff covers have led collectors to overlook them. Yet these stories are great reads. The word count is amazingly high for comic books.
Unlike other publishers, Gleason, for some reason, actually expanded its comic books to
68 pages for one year after the war. In the case of Boy Comics
, these were issues #26 (February 1946) through #32 (February 1947). The result was two Crimebuster stories in every issue. These are terrific collectibles, and they must have sold so well that it convinced Gleason to continue this pattern even after the title reverted to the then-standard 52 pages with #33 (April 1947).
While the 52-page era ended with #71 (November 1951), there were multiple Crimebuster stories in every issue through #86 (February 1953). Again, two stories were featured in #98 (February 1954) through the end of the run in #119 (March 1956), which had four short Chuck Chandler tales. There were even three Crimebuster stories in #50-54 and #72-79.
The primary numbers to get of Boy Comics
are #26-71, all thick issues representing some of the most compelling, socially conscious storytelling in comics of the era. The title became Boy Illustories with #43 (December 1948), but that was just marketing nomenclature. Though certainly capable enough with his fists, Crimebuster more often used his brains and empathy to solve problems in a memorable series of human-interest epics.
Give one or two of these issues from #26-71 a try, and I'll bet you'll want
them all. They're that good. I was skeptical years ago, but I became hooked
and eventually acquired them all. They must have sold extremely well, because
most of the post-World War II issues seem among the most common of Golden Age
Issue #33 could no longer plug "a full 68-page magazine," so instead the Crimebuster blurb read "Featuring America's Boy Hero in 2 Complete Feature Length Stories." The covers through #42 (October 1948) are crime scenes, some of them pretty nasty. After that, they became a mixture of humor, sports, crime, mystery, Ironjaw … a
little of everything. The stories retained their quality, although they
gradually tended to have a more light-hearted approach.
strip presented the Comics Code Authority with a unique challenge
after the Code Authority symbol began appearing on comic books early in 1955.
Someone, maybe Gleason, Biro, or who knows agreed to drop the hero's alter
ego simply because his very name violated the code's prohibition on the word "crime" being
in comic book titles. The changeover to simply Chuck Chandler
#111 (May 1955), with one story entitled Crimebuster
and the other tale called
In #119, the final issue, it's unusual that most of the issue deals with Chuck Chandler's efforts to play hockey for his school, Curtiss. Anyone reading this issue would be hard-pressed to realize that only a dozen years earlier, Chuck Chandler
was battling some of the nastiest villains of World War II. But with #119, Crimebuster
was still making sure the puck stopped there.
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