Before there were comic books, there were comic strips. Historians and researchers have moved the timeline ever backward on the evolutionary origins of the format, both single and sequential panel, doubling and trebling the Victorian era of comics in the Overstreet guide over the years. My pal Bob Beerbohm has taken the printed format of "comic book" in this country as far back as 1842, revealing The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck by Swiss cartoonist Rodolphe Töpffer. Printed first in Europe, it was reprinted in the U.S. as a newspaper supplement. The Platinum era likewise promulgated compilations of sequential art, frequently popular newspaper features. But the earliest newsstand comic books, as we generally know them, started in 1933 with Eastern Color's Famous Funnies, and the contents were newspaper comic strip reprints.
November 19, 1967:
Here Louie's wife catches their son rotting his brain with a horror comic book. Dr. Frederic Wertham would be proud!
March 19, 1972:
Stan Lynde's Rick O'Shay ran sporadically for 3 decades:
February 3, 1974:
On Easter Sunday of 1972, two new features debuted simultaneously. Both had been running for nearly a decade elsewhere. Jim Berry's Berry's World had been running since 1963 and Bil Kean's The Family Circus since 1960. Both would have Easter themes:
April 2, 1972:
Bill Keane's Family Circus was wonderful, but for some reason I never thought as funny as his Channel Chuckles, which didn't run in this paper (but I had enjoyed via paperback reprints).
Here Keane does a generational homage to characters long gone and revered by comic strip fans and historians...
June 1, 1980:
Scores and scores of wonderful features persisted, appeared and vanished through the decades....
Leonard Starr's gorgeous Mary Perkins On Stage.
December 31, 1967:
This entry uses artist/writer Tom Sawyer (Tom Scheuer) as a model for one of the characters. Sawyer did backgrounds for Starr when he broke into the business.
May 16, 1971:
Starr would ultimately re-launch Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie in late 1979 as ANNIE. (The original Sunday run ended in the News on March 14, 1976.) Here is the debut Starr Annie Sunday.
December 9, 1979:
In 1973 I found the debut of Hagar the Horrible by Dik Browne.
February 4, 1973:
Jerry Robinson's Flubs & Fluffs
December 18, 1983:
(Running since the mid 1960's, here is a huge double splash Holiday centerfold!! It's 14 by 16 inches!)
1971 saw the debut of two new features. The first was Dark Shadows, based on the enormously popular daytime Gothic soap opera, and drawn by ex-Timely artist Ken Bald. (Bald had drawn the definitive versions of Timely's Millie The Model and Cindy Smith in the 1940's).
Dark Shadows debuted with the March 14, 1971 Sunday page. It ran daily and Sunday until November 7, 1971 in the Sunday News, continuing elsewhere until March 11, 1972. I can tell you why the News dropped it half-way through its run... As gorgeous as it was drawn, it was as boring as can be, story-lines meandering and dragging on with minimal suspense. Here is the second Sunday page....
March 21, 1971:
Then on November 14, 1971, appeared a promo for another new comic strip, Cliff Roberts' Sesame Street, which would debut the very next Monday on November 15. Based on the very popular Public Television children's show that began in 1969, the feature replaced Dark Shadows, which, as mentioned, had been running since March 14. Sesame Street would only run here until July of 1972 (continuing elsewhere until 1975). The early period of the strip did not feature any of Jim Henson's Muppets, but rather highlighted the art of Sesame Street animator Cliff Roberts. The Muppets themselves would have a later strip in the Sunday News called Jim Henson's Muppets, from September 1981 to April 1983.
November 14, 1971:
January 9, 1972:
Week after week, month after month, the format and features could be counted on to be there and in their respective positions, with the occasional minor aberration. "Country Editions" of the Sunday News, meaning editions that were sold out of state, had red prices as opposed to the blue NYC editions (labeled "Comics Section" under the left blue price), as well as extra features due to the lack of local ads. So. for example, when "Super" Duper was missing any given week, it was likely often instead published in the National edition. And unfortunately, vice versa.
April 21, 1968:
(NYC edition - blue price)
April 1, 1973:
(Country Edition - red price)
Here is a direct comparison of the same section from both the Country Edition and the Local Edition of the April 15, 1973 Sunday section. Both copies have the same features, with some slight different positioning on different pages. The "blue" NYC edition on the right has 28 total features. The "red" Country Edition on the left has 27 features. The differences are that the NYC edition does not carry Animal Crackers nor Bill Kresse's Super Duper. The Country Edition does. Additionally, the NYC Edition has substituted Tweety-Pie (not the bird) in place of Super Duper. Tweety-Pie was a short strip by Roy Fox that always ran length-wise down a page against a 3/4 full page ad.
In the late 1960's, there were even features I didn't remember, showcasing gorgeous artwork by comic book legends including the great Joe Kubert, who had a spell on Tales of the Green Beret in 1967:
April 16, 1967:
April 23, 1967:
December 31, 1967:
January 7, 1968:
Mets manager Yogi Berra in the June 17, 1973 Sunday comics section.
Artist: Bruce Stark
I would occasionally even clip strips themselves, specifically my second favorite strip,"Super" Duper, a frantically stylized parody of a building superintendent who was more interested in girl-watching. Those girls in question were voluptuously rendered by former Humorama (and sometime 1960's Archie Comics) cartoonist, Bill Kresse. (Kresse drew a dynamite Sabrina the Teen-Aged Witch that was so jarring, the editors eventually pulled him off the feature!)
- (Irony of ironies, unbeknownst to me, Bill Kresse actually lived within walking distance of my Jackson Heights home all the years I lived there. I found this out years later when my youngest brother Stephen was working in a drug store on Northern Blvd and 80th street. He came home one day and told me one of his frequent customers was a cartoonist he'd never heard of. My curiosity piqued, I asked him to get the man's name the next time he came into the store. The following week Steve comes home and tells me the guy's name was Bill Kresse. "Bill Kresse??", I exclaimed, "Don't you know who that is? That's the guy who drew Super Duper in the Sunday News!" Well, two days later my brother comes home with a color autographed drawing of Super Duper. The inscription read ... "For Steve, thanks for remembering me! From Bill Kresse and Super Duper!". Thanks for remembering me, indeed! $%&#!!! )
May 6, 1973:
The Mirror's Sunday comics section was also fabulous. I don't have enough samples to come to a definite conclusion, but it appears that two main features jostled over the course of decades to appear on either the front cover or the back cover. Here are two examples. One from 1950 and one from 1961. In 1950 Ham Fisher's Joe Palooka took the cover spot, while Al Capp's Li'l Abner the back cover. By 1961 it was reversed... Li'l Abner on the cover and Joe Palooka on the back cover.
January 15, 1950:
Here's a strange anomaly....from the June 15, 1952 New York Daily News comic section, an Al Capp rendered full-page Li'l Abner contest ad sponsored by Surf soap. What makes this strange is the fact that Abner was then not running in the Daily News, but in the rival New York Mirror!
Back in the Sunday News, a late 1967 section even turns up an ad by pioneering comic book back-issue dealer Howard Rogofsky, right below Bill Hollman's Smokey Stover:
November 19, 1967:
I found another comic book ad in 1971. A fellow named Gene George placed at least 2 ads along the bottom of the Smokey Stover/"Super" Duper page offering to buy comic books from the 1930's to 1955. He obviously felt anything after that were worthless! The two Sunday dates were June 13 and June 27, 1971.
June 13, 1971:
In 1970 I found a great Hot Wheels ad illustrated by Alex Toth, who had a run on the comic book version of the classic toy car line. The ad was huge, lengthwise as a full page, 11x15 inches!
July 19, 1970:
1970 also saw a similar lengthwise full page 11x15 inch ad for the upcoming ABC Saturday morning children's lineup:
September 6, 1970:
In the early 1980's appeared the rare occasional ad by infamous discount electronics retailer Crazy Eddie. His iconic television spots were some of the most obnoxious commercials in NYC retail history! Crazy Eddie was actually Eddie Antar whose company at its peak reached sales of $300 million dollars a year and 43 stores. But after going public, it all eventually collapsed in fraud. When the massive skimming scheme was uncovered Eddie fled the country, later being convicted and imprisoned on the testimony of his cousin Sam, the company CFO. The man in the TV ads was not Eddie, but radio DJ Jerry Carroll. It was these "crazy" TV ads that drove a great deal of Eddie's retail success.
June 13, 1982 August 1, 1982
And if you don't believe me, try this....
The collection I had accumulated was downright gorgeous!
52 near mint Sunday News sections from 1973 and 1974:
October 10, 1965:
(Rare Black & White)
Page 6 of the newspaper explains why the comics lacked color. Unfortunately, I don't have the paper's main section.
Immersed in all these thousands of Sunday sections wasn't good enough. Having all this before me, I realized that there was data here that had to be mined and recorded for posterity, and this would probably be my only chance to do it. I created two spreadsheets. In one I began to systematically list all the features each week in the order they appeared. The second would list the features "sequentially", meaning the order they appeared as features. So all the features in my earliest sections would be at the start of the spreadsheet and as they disappeared over the years, blank spaces would be created, allowing me to easily track when features appeared, when they ended and exactly what replaced them. Dick Tracy would always be in the first column, obviously, no matter when it moved inside, and it moved off the front page for good on December 14, 1980, moving inside and being replaced on the cover with Hagar The Horrible. Based on my 1939 section, this gave Dick Tracy at the very least, a 40 year run on the front page of the New York Daily News. In 1929 and 1930, The Gumps were on the cover with Gasoline Alley on the back cover. In 1931 Gasoline Alley was on the cover, so sometime between 1931 and 1939, Dick Tracy rose to the coveted cover feature and did not relinquish it until the Sunday after John Lennon's death in 1980.
As I made my way through the mid 1970's, three Sunday News Comics debuts appeared in succession as some of the older guards were juggled onto partial hiatus. On January 2, 1977 the comics ran a full page promo ad for the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man strip by Stan Lee and John Romita, the first Sunday starting the following week on January 9. The feature would run in the News until July of 1981, leave the paper and return again to the Sunday page on April 23, 1983, continuing on for over 2 decades.
Then on May 1, 1977, the comics ran an interior full page promotional ad for Charles Schulz's Peanuts, which would finally make it's Daily News Sunday debut 27 years late on May 8, 1977. Debuting on the back cover, it kicked off Irwin Hasen's long-running Dondi, which had owned the back cover since about 1962. Peanuts would run continuously in this paper until the last Sunday on February 13, 2000. 49% of the strip's entire 50 year run would be carried by the New York Daily News. Peanuts had not been completely absent from the area, though. It ran in Long Island's Newsday and may have appeared in earlier defunct NYC papers.
Finally, on March 26, 1978, the comics ran a full page promo ad for DC's World's Greatest Superheros strip, which debuted 2 Sundays later on April 9, 1978. This was written by Martin Pasko, penciled by George Tuska and inked by Vince Colletta. The Sunday feature would run here until October 7, 1979, where it was replaced by the feature Koky (which debuted 3 weeks earlier).
When I reached the summer of 1978 a horrific discovery was made. I was absolutely stunned to find that 3 entire months were missing from August through October! How could this be? At the very least, I could recall never missing more than 2 or 3... maybe at the very most 5 in any given year, and the vast majority of years were 100% complete! How could 3 months be missing??? Had my grandmother (who I lived with while in college), cleaned up my old bedroom (meaning, tossed stuff out)? Had my mother thrown them out? I frantically thought back through the years in my mind and realized that these were during high school. What happened in high school that would cause a loss of three entire months of sections? And then it hit me! There was another long multi-union New York City newspaper strike in 1978 taking down the New York Times, New York Post and New York Daily News!
Searching online sources, the dates completely matched the dates of the missing Sunday sections, from August 10 to November 5, 1978. But here was something further.... August 10th was a Thursday. I had the Sunday section for August 13th here in the collection. Then I recalled that I had gone down to my local candy store at the corner of Northern Blvd. and 73rd street in Jackson Heights, and knowing that Sunday sections were printed up and sent to newsdealers a week in advance (I had worked at the candy store years earlier, often putting together the Sunday news and NY Times sections on Saturday nights), got a copy of the Sunday section for the never-published Sunday newspaper before they were thrown out! Heck, this may be the only one in existence, for all I know!
August 13, 1978 NY Daily News Sunday comics section:
(That candy store, long my source for newspapers and comic books when I was a kid, is now a Verizon store. When I returned to the area 5 years ago for the funeral of a childhood friend, my brothers and I stopped over at the Mark Twain Diner across the street and diagonal from The International House of Pancakes (sorry, I'll never call it IHOP). I couldn't believe my old candy store was gone! The original proprietors I knew were the parents of Gary Gold, a local kid I played baseball and hockey with. It was an old-fashioned corner store with a great soda fountain that made egg-creams that were out of this world. Gary Gold and I played baseball together one year for the local youth league on a team called Silksox Boy's Club. At that time I had very long hair in an almost 1965 Beatle-cut. Gary used to say I looked like Prince Valiant.
Buying my comic books in that store was always a bit of a chore. I could spend as much or as little time as I wanted looking through the racks but then when it came time to pay, it was impossible to get out fast. Gary's mother would slowly go through every book I had in my pile, reading the title out loud for everyone within earshot to hear... "One Spider-Man, one Uncanny Tales from the Grave, one Fantastic Four..." It drove me crazy! But his father was equally unnerving. Mr Gold would count out the price of each comic book out loud, ending with a round dollar he called by some inanimate (or animate) object... "25 cents, 50 cents, 75 cents, a bean, ... 25 cents, 50 cents, 75 cents, 2 fish!". So four 25 cent comics would cost me a bean and eight would cost me 2 fish!
The early 1970's long-shot photo above shows the Gold's candy store in the distance behind Jack-in-the-Box and the Mark Twain Diner. Both are gone now. Jack-in-the-Box became Arby's, then a parking lot, and now, an office building, I believe. The Mark Twain Diner is still structurally there, but may go under another name. Directly across Northern Blvd. from the candy store (just out of site at the left side of the photo) is the International House of Pancakes.What a block! Comics, newspapers, hamburgers, pancakes and egg creams!
One more story about that photo above. One day in January of 1975, my brother Nicholas and I were in the Gold candy store one afternoon buying comics. After spending either a bean or two fish, we were both tanked out and flat broke. On our way out I spied the cover of a book I'd never seen before, Weird War Tales. I'd never seen it before because it was DC and I never read DC comics. Superman, Batman, etc,... they were all silly to me compared to the Thing or the Hulk published by Marvel. It was a giant-sized book though, with a soldier, a caveman and a dinosaur on the cover! But the price! It was twice as much as a regular comic book at 50 cents and twice as thick. I absolutely had to have this book! But what to do? I had spent every cent I had, about two fish worth. My brother had nothing either.
Dejectedly, we exited the store and walked in front of the Mark Twain Diner, seen in red above behind the stop sign. Then I had a brainstorm! Jack-in-the-Box had a drive through window at the right of that same stop sign above! People paid from their car! They must occasionally drop money during the transaction that no one ever retrieves! I pulled my brother to the window, looked around. Lo and behold, two one dollar bills were on the floor!. I knew it! I scooped them up, hurried back to Gold's candy store and bought my giant size Weird War Tales. And I still have it!
The 1980's photo below shows the corner store now called Sun's Stationary, after sale to Steve Sun in the mid 1970's. We all now called it "Uncle Sun's"
This was my first meeting with actual responsibility. Here I was, a kid of about 14 or 15, running a candy store all day, alone during the "Summer of Sam"! I'd meet him in the morning, put out all the newspapers, and get behind the counter, as he left for most of the day. At about 10:30 AM on the dot, Syd the Mailman would saunter in, leaving his mail push-cart outside. Syd seemed middle-aged to me, which could have been 35 when I was 14, but I suspect was at least 50. He came in every day for his "morning vitamins", which meant a large sized bottle of Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink. Syd would tell me that if it was good enough for Yogi Berra (who was the advertising spokesperson for Yoo-Hoo), it was good enough for him. (And 40 years later, I'll come clean ... I never charged Syd for that daily Yoo-Hoo. Uncle Sun never found out!).
He'd then kick back and peruse the magazines and newspapers, often calling out their names and cracking jokes about them. One in particular I recall, had to do with The Hobo News, a street paper from the 1930's and 1940's. He'd ask me if any copies were left. When I answered in the negative, that we'd never, ever even had any copies, he'd reply, "Then what are the bums going to read?" He'd do this on a daily basis. The same Hobo News joke. And I probably laughed at it each day, certainly never realizing that there was once an actual publication called The Hobo News!
After Syd left to continue his rounds, the procession of neighborhood customers and characters would come throughout the day, all familiar to me. Newspapers, cigarettes, comic books, magazines, stickball bats, Lotto tickets, adult magazines, rolling paper, batteries, baseball cards, candy and gum, I took money for all of it, day after day, until Steve came back around 4:00 PM.
And what characters! In addition to Syd, there was an old guy I called "Two Eve". He looked like a squat hairy hobbit and every morning I'd see him slowly making his way towards the store, walking in front of Bohack across the street, crossing to the International House of Pancakes, where he would wait for the light to cross Northern Blvd. and enter the store. He'd come in, his breath wheezing, to buy two packages of Eve cigarettes. Back then the #1 brand was Marlboro. But "Two Eve" would come in daily, and after a while not even tell me the brand, he'd just put his hands into his pockets, pull out a handful of weird junk including washers, slugs, small ballpoint pen springs (which would invariably fall to the floor), what looked like wrapped Werner's butterscotch candy, and pocket change, blurting out, "Give me two!" Eve was a woman's brand of cigarette, debuting in 1971 as competition to Phillip Morris' Virginia Slims, so maybe he was buying them for his wife. But every day like clockwork, two packs of Eve. The same routine. Somebody was obviously smoking them.
Then there was this enormous woman, grossly overweight, who lived around the corner on 73rd street towards 34th Avenue, across from Physician's Hospital. She'd come in daily during the summer wearing thong slippers and a tank top, buying the largest bag of Wise potato chips that we sold. She washed the large bag down with a 2-liter bottle of diet Pepsi. The first time, I asked her whether she wanted me to put the soda in a bag for her. Her reply was, "No, just give me a big straw!" I had the straw ready every day after that.
One time I got into an argument with a guy buying a stickball bat. He was looking for these light bats I'd occasionally see in sporting good stores (like Bill Allen's on Steinway Street, or Barco's off Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside). I hated the light bats, (they felt like balsa wood!). We played with a heavier, sturdier wood bat. one that could withstand the rigors of fast-pitch handball-court stickball, a game played in the handball courts of St. Michael's Park, with a strike zone spray-painted on the wall behind the batter. The lighter bats appeared to be made of pine and would crack easily if something more substantial than a Spaldeen was used, like a tennis ball. He swore the lighter bats were better because you could swing them faster (which shows how much he knew!). I told him the lighter bats were cheap pieces of garbage that broke easily, and (the smart ass that I was) told him he'd realize that if he knew anything about stickball at all (which I certainly did). He ended up buying one of our bats. I never saw him again because the bat probably never broke! In all honesty, I think the same company made both types of bats. This was probably Spalding trying to save money and changing the wood used to a cheaper, lighter, more easily splintering wood. The heavier wood bats were probably older inventory still in various stores, including candy stores, where they'd often languish for years. Within a few years all the bats you could find were this cheap, light wood, and all of them broke easily and readily. We'd go through about one a week.
Sadly, the Gold Candy store/Sun Stationary store is now gone. What stories that Verizon store could tell...
Steve and Mrs. Sun, circa 1986, the candy counter at "Uncle Sun's", a decade after I last worked there. The original wood cabinetry hailing from the 1940's or earlier, can be seen behind them. I sat behind that counter for two summers in the mid 1970's.
END OF INTERLUDE
Getting back to the comic sections, now I was sidetracked. What I remembered about that long newspaper strike was that after a week or two, when it was realized that the presses were not going to begin running again for quite a while, newspaper editors and writers banded together under "silent" publishers and strange, never-before-seen newspapers, interim newspapers, began appearing on the newsstands across the city. There were three different papers, the New York Daily Metro, City News, the New York Daily Press that were readily available in Queens newsstands, A fourth paper, the New York Graphic, appeared sporadically it seemed and I saw it only for a short while, and not until the 5th or 6th issue. And further, I knew I had saved near complete runs of most these papers, knowing they would eventually end and be lost to history (except perhaps in microfilm libraries). Where were they now? Had anyone thrown them out? I had not seen or thought about them since 1978! I knew I had left nothing home when I moved out after school and married. In fact, my mother made it quite known that she wanted all of my junk to move out with me (and blessed my wife for putting up with it). It just had to be somewhere here in my garage. We had built this house and moved to northern Westchester County in 1994, hauling all our stuff up from our apartment in Forest Hills (and before that, my childhood home in Jackson Heights). Just as the pile of manila envelopes had remained undisturbed for 20 years, there were still boxes never opened on shelves in the back.
It didn't take long. If there is one thing I am, it's organized. I may have a lot of stuff but it's in order and usually labeled. There on a top back shelf were additional manila envelopes undisturbed for two decades and labeled on the sides in black magic marker "strike newspapers". Inside were near complete runs of these interim strike newspapers. The envelopes hailed from the 1970's and they had begun to get brittle and rip at the corners. The papers themselves were in beautiful condition! Kept out of the light for 37 years, first in a basement, then in a garage, most of the papers were superlative. I organized the four runs and this is how they played out. The entire runs of these periodicals were as follows based on what I have:
City News Vol 1, #1 (August 17) to Vol 1, #67 (November 3)
New York Daily Metro Vol 1, #1 (August 21) to Vol 1, #38 (October 5)
New York Daily Press Vol 1, #1 (August 21) to Vol 1, #64 (November 4-5)
New York Graphic Vol 1, #1 (August, ?) to Vol 1, #19+ (September 17+)
The New York Graphic's entire run is unknown to me as it did not always appear. It certainly lasted longer than Sept 17th. City News and The New York Daily Metro were 80% or better, complete. The New York Daily Press was 100% complete. I had the entire 64 issue run!
The three month period covered some of the most newsworthy events of the decade:
- A new pope elected, John Paul I ... the pope's death, and John Paul II followed
- One of the country's most deadly air disasters in San Diego
- Yankee Ron Guidry's Cy Young season, Bucky Dent's playoff home run against the Boston Red Sox, and the Yankee 2nd straight World Series victory against the L.A.Dodgers
- Middle east negotiations, trials and tribulations
- The House Select Committee on assassinations went to work
Here are some select covers to the papers, three debut issues and an early one on the last. I plan to write a future article here covering these papers and the strike more in depth. I'll post scanned covers of all of them at that time.
New York Sunday News Comics: May 28, 1939
- All comic strip an newspaper images were scanned from the author's own collection
- Two photographs of Gary Gold's parent's candy store on 73rd Street from the 1970's and 1980's were from images posted to a Jackson Heights Facebook group.