A Haven For Imagination, Mostly In Bright Colors
Comics books, as regularly published magazines, began in the mid-1930’s. In 1939 the industry really took off. Twenty years later some long time comics professionals thought comics might die out. They were wrong, of course, but some young talents were advised to seek work elsewhere.
In those twenty-some years many hundreds of comics book titles were published. A number of companies did not copyright their comics, or forgot to renew copyrights. An amazing number of those issues ended up in the public domain. At least 20,000. Somewhere in the first decade of the twenty-first Century some comic book fans began sharing digital scans of Public Domain (PD) comics.
At the end of that decade many of those scans were digitally housed at a web-site called “Golden Age Comics.” Fans, and the just curious, could read the books on-line, or download whole issues, free and legally. Something happened, I don’t know just what, but the staff split up to eventually launch two sites with much the same content, but slightly different styles and rules.
One site is “Comic Books +” the other is the “Digital Comic Museum.” I gravitated to the Digital Comic Museum (DCM) because I liked the interface better and knew one or two of the Staff from places like the comics related Yahoo Groups. I visit Comic Books + now and then. They also host some U.S. pulp magazines, and a large number of United Kingdom Story Papers.
That said, I go to DCM’s front page nearly every day to see what new comics have rolled in. Plus, I check for new messages on the Forums.
What exactly is available at DCM? Bunches of stuff, but where do you start?
The DCM home page does have a search function. But first scroll down for a bit. The first subdivision you come to is for collections of various kinds. Some collections are dedicated to a single character. (Here is Rangerhoues’s multiple issue origin of Captain Marvel Junior, that I was asked to introduce.) Others may put together all of a favorite artist’s output. (On this page are five links to the art of Frank Thomas.) As another example, artist / writer Walt Kelly, creator of the newspaper comic strip “Pogo,” created the give-a-way strip “Peter Wheat” for a baking company. Tiny Peter, and his animal friends’ adventures are collected for your enjoyment. (Links to two Peter Wheat collections are at the PW link above.) After the collections, the home page is divided mostly alphabetically by publishers. Each company’s major titles have direct links.
For instance, MLJ Comics started off big in 1939 with heroic comics. Then, a couple of years later, they introduced a teen character who caught fire. Since the late 1940’s they have been Archie Comics. All of MLJ‘s early comics are on DCM. These include The Shield, a patriotic hero predating Captain America. Add the Black Hood, Bob Phantom, the Fox, and a bunch of others. Plus, the earliest Archie stories are in Pep Comics, beginning with issue #22.
Did you see the movie titled “Shazam?” I didn’t, after seeing the promotional clips and stills. When the Blue-Ray finally hits five dollars, I’ll buy it. But, did you know that the character now titled Shazam, the original Captain Marvel, once out sold Superman by about two-to-one? Please go to the Fawcett Comics section of DCM. Read the Captain Marvel stories in the first few issues of Whiz Comics. Then grab random issues of Captain Marvel Adventures. Like what you see? Then branch out. Captain Marvel & his Family are in a lot of places, but far from all. I particularly like Master Comics with Bulletman, Captain Marvel Junior, Minute Man and, later Radar – the International Policeman.
See also, Novelty’s Target Comics and Columbia’s Big Shot Comics. If I don’t stop now, I’ll recommend just about everything on the whole site.
A Note of Caution from Yocitrus, a member of the DCM Staff:
One sad aspect of the comics on DCM and CB+ is the fact they are from a very different era than today. When racial humour and prejudice was acceptable content of theatre, movies, radio, comics, everything. It’s not right of course and we like to think we have evolved about such things and how to treat each other. But the books were done in the 1930s to 1960 and there is a lot of stuff in the books that some today might well find offense with. DCM was started to preserve these old comics ‘as-is’ and without changing a page, good bad or ugly. So any readers should exercise some caution when reading.
I’ve known Yocitrus, or Yoc, for fifteen or more years, on-line. I agree with him here 100%. Some things are relatively mild. But, other instances, put me in mind of the “human” toons in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Even white people are not immune to such treatment, Hillbillies, not to mention Axis Troops and their national leaders, especially.
If you plan to turn kids loose at DCM, or Comic Books Plus, please do your research, first.