I briefly mentioned Dell as one of the companies that did not follow the Comics Code. They were a company that lasted until 1974. The reason they didn’t turn in their comics to the Code Authority is that their titles were almost entirely licensed properties such as Disney and Tarzan. They already had to follow the guidelines that were given to them by the licenses ‘ holders. To assure parents that they didn’t even need the Code in the first place, Dell would declare “Dell Comics are good comics!” in their ads.
In 1938, Dell partnered with Western Publishing, allowing Western to publish the comics they produced. In 1962, the company switched to in-house publishing, and created a new comics company called Gold Key. This version continued on through to 1984.
Beginning in 1956, the partnership expanded from licensed properties to many original characters as well. The first of these was Turok, Son of Stone. It followed the adventures of a Native American warrior living in the Lost Valley, a world where humans hunted and fought dinosaurs.
In 1962, Gold Key added a superhero to their lineup, Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom, created by Paul S. Newman, Matt Murphy, and Bob Fujitani. Solar was a scientist who was involved in a nuclear explosion, which granted him super powers. He was now able to transform into a being of nuclear energy, and manipulate that energy to fly and change shape.
The final concept I will discuss in this chapter is Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. Created by Russ Manning, this series was partially inspired by the robot stories of Isaac Asimov, and even quoted his Three Laws of Robotics early in its inception. The titular Magnus, who was trained by a robot named 1A, who was a firm believer in these laws. As a result of this training, Magnus possessed strength, endurance, and speed that surpassed most humans.
So, what killed this once large publisher? The changing market of the 70’s caused Western Publishing to be hardest hit by its downswing, while companies like Marvel and DC were still able to get by. The properties it published soon found other companies. Disney comics, for instance, were acquired by Another Rainbow Publishing, and are currently distributed by IDW.
Gold Key’s superheroes were later revived by Valiant Comics in the 1990’s, who later integrated them into their universe. But we’ll talk about Valiant much, much later.
Next: Honey, I Shrunk the Superhero!