Startling and Thrilling Comics
The vast pulp, paperback and comic book publishing
empire of the Ned Pines Company – usually known
as the Thrilling Group in the pulps, Popular Library
in the paperbacks and Better or Nedor in the comics
– produced three long-running Golden Age anthology
All three titles – Thrilling Comics, Exciting
Comics and Startling Comics – were anchored by
super heroes and for a decade were among the leaders
in their field, in sales if not always the quality of
the stories and art. Pines began the title of many of
his pulps with these rousing words along with “Popular,”
but Dell took the Popular title three years before Pines
got into the comic book business in 1939.
Most of the Better/Nedor anthology comics and many others
were primarily distinguished by dozens of wonderful
Alex Schomburg covers up to 1949, especially those with
World War II scenes. Other than one missing issue (Exciting
Issue #28), the Gerber Photo-Journal includes them all
and they were among the comics that enjoyed a huge leap
in popularity beginning in the late 1980’s after
the Photo-Journal first appeared.
Here, though, we are going to be primarily concerned
with the interiors. There were a bonanza of entertaining,
energetic super heroes, albeit involved in stories with
sometimes less-than-exemplary illustrations. These Better/Nedor
comics may come closer than any others of the Golden
Age to being the ultimate in generic Golden Age heroic
titles, especially considering their names. Can you
imagine an elderly church lady getting on a bus during
the height of World War II and clucking over a 10-year-old
holding up a garish copy of Exciting Comics, complete
with a huge logo and a gory image of The Black Terror
attacking Nazi or Japanese soldiers? The mind boggles!
Doc Strange (known as Dr. Strange in the first 10 issues)
never had much of a costume – a red t-shirt with
khaki pants – but he was the headliner in Thrilling
for many years. The most collectible World War II era
issues of Thrilling are the 68-page gems from Issue
#19 (August 1941) through Issue #35 (May 1943) because
all of these also include The American Crusader, a good
patriotic hero, and The Ghost, based on the costumed
pulp character. Most of them also include two minor
heroes – Women in Red and Lone Eagle. I especially
like Thrilling Issues #19-24 – the only ones with
American Crusaders covers.
Doc Strange ran all the way to Thrilling Issue #64 (February
1948) and The Phantom Detective (another pulp-based
character, introduced in Issue #53) made it all the
way to Issue #70 (February 1949). What distinguishes
the later issues, though, is Frank Frazetta’s
Louie Lazybones in Issues #67-73, along with Schomburg’s
Princess Pantha covers on Issues #58-71.
Exciting Comics was the second Nedor anthology, but
Issue #1 (April 1940) through Issue #8 (March 1941)
had no noteworthy costumed heroes. The Black Terror
came along in Issue #9 (May 1941), joined by The Liberator
in Issue #15 (December 1941) and The American Eagle
in issue #22 (October 1942). For my money – once
again, not counting interest in later Schomburg covers
– the issues of Exciting with the best combination
of interiors and covers are Issues #22-27, which contain
all three super heroes and are also the last six, 68-page
issues of the run. All three super heroes also appeared
in Issues #29, 31, 34, and 35. The only American Eagle
cover is Issue #22.
Among the late issues of Exciting, Issue #51 (September
1946) through Issue #54 (March 1947) are collectible
because of the four-issue run of Miss Masque, plus the
11-page Black Terror stories. Like the Princess Pantha
covers of Thrilling, Schomburg’s Judy of the Jungle
covers on Issue #56-66 are noteworthy and popular.
Startling Comics debuted June 1940, which featured the
Superman knockoff Captain Future in the first nine issues
(no relation to the pulp Captain Future). The Fighting
Yank began in Issue #10 (September 1941) and Pyroman
debuted in Issue #18 (December 1942). All three characters
appeared in 68-page Issues #18-#21 (May 1943), so those
four are the best of the best, with regard to interiors.
However, all three heroes ran through Issue #40 (July
1946) – except that Pyroman, in an amazing oddity,
did not appear in Issue #27 even though he was the only
cover feature of that issue!
Of the later issues, Schomburg’s exotic Lance
Space Detective covers on Issue #47 (September 1947)
through Issue #53 (September 1948) have always attracted
much interest, along with the Graham Ingles 1947 covers
for the same science fiction character on Issues #44-46.
They are among the earliest science fiction covers in
comics’ history outside the realm of Fiction House’s
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Comic Price Review Subscriptions Available
Gemstone Publishing has announced that subscriptions
are now available for their new monthly newsletter,
Overstreet’s Comic Price Review. The first
issue is scheduled to go on sale June 18.
If you’ve heard all the news about the record-breaking
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It will put the spotlight on the back issues gaining
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“We’ve been very impressed by the reactions
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Subscriptions for one year (12 issues) are $75 U.S.
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You can also subscribe by mailing your payment to OCPR,
Gemstone Publishing, Inc.,1966 Greenspring Drive, Timonium,
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are accepted by mail.
To receive an e-mail update about Overstreet’s
Comic Price Review, visit www.gemstonepub.com/newsletter/
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I spent most of my early growing experiences in the
1980’s going through fads like a cheap pair of
sneakers. From Transformers to Bon Jovi, nothing ever
stayed as a peak interest for a long period of time.
But there was one thing, besides Neal Diamond’s
Jazz Singer, that always held a continuous interest
no matter what bandwagon I jumped on—Dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs were my hidden passion. And this all took
place before Jurassic Park became a pop culture push
with everyone wanting to be a paleontologist. Everything
about them was cool, but what made them even cooler
was seeing pictures of how they actually looked with
their long sharp teeth and their huge claws. No matter
how many times I saw them on paper or television, none
compared to the one place I’d never thought to
look. About the age 15, while going through my comic
collection, I came across an issue of Death Rattle and
was sucked into the “Xenozoic” era.
Xenozoic Tales was published by Kitchen Sink Press and
first appeared in Death Rattle Issue 8. From there it
became its own 14-issue series, written and drawn by
the amazing Mark Schultz. Each issue contained futuristic
stories of Jack “Cadillac” Tenrec and the
beautiful Hannah Dundee. Jack was an unconventional
“guide” who knew his way around the dinosaur-inhabited,
post-apocalyptic North American cityscape, and Hannah
was an ambassador of a tribe who joined the ranks of
the city dwellers. They teamed on journeys together,
and she began to quickly take on tough characteristics
of her newfound friend Jack. Together they battled dinosaurs,
other humans, and even each other. Mark Schultz brings
the characters and story to life with a Frazetta-like
approach to the human figure and jungle atmosphere.
He takes his art one step further with his clean pencil
work and his panel placement, not to mention his amazing
Even though Jack and Hannah are the main characters,
the dinosaurs play an extremely important role. There
seemed to be dinosaurs of some kind in each issue terrorizing
Jack and his crew but never undermining the outcome
of each issue. Mark Schultz’s craftsmanship with
the dinosaurs was extraordinary. His attention to anatomical
and scientific detail was astounding, with his accurate
portrayal of the prehistoric beasts. What made the art
even more impressive was the fact that Kitchen Sink
published the series in black and white, giving the
details chances to shine in the purest form.
Xenozoic Tales was, and in my opinion still is, a defining
example of Schultz’s talent both writing and artistic
expertise. The series was later reprinted in a series
titled Cadillacs and Dinosaurs in color, but seemed
to lose the appeal the series first had in black and
white. Its overwhelming popularity led to an animated
series on Saturday mornings and even a toy line. Mark
Schultz seemed to hit an interest with everyone, no
matter the age group. I loved Xenozoic Tales for the
dinosaurs at first, then grew to respect it for the
series’ mature story telling and Schultz’s
insatiable attention to detail. I’ve always retained
my love for dinosaurs, but as I grew older my admiration
for the art of Mark Schultz has intensified.
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