Every now and then, I’m going to take a look at a particular publisher to give a sense of what kind of funnybooks they put on spinner racks. This week, I’m taking a look at Avon Publications.
Avon was much better known for its line of paperbacks, but for a relatively short-time it was a solid comic book publisher. The first Avon titles hit stores cover dated February, 1945 and the final issues were published with a cover date of September, 1956. For just over a decade, Avon (along with the Realistic imprint) published high quality comic books in a variety of genres.
What’s most notable about Avon’s comic book legacy is perhaps the incredible number of Avon one-shots that were published. Everything from the highly coveted Robotmen of the Lost Planet to the infamous Reform School Girl were ‘one and done’. Where many published (I’m talking to you, Charlton) seemed to do whatever was in their power to avoid a new series – Avon relished in the world of #1 issues. According to the GCD, Avon published 385 comic books over an incredible 125 titles. That’s got to be a record of some sort. Very rare was the Avon title that lasted more than 10 issues.
It’s worth noting a few of the interesting quirks that you might find in an Avon books. I’m mostly familiar with their Romance and War titles, as those have been within my budget, and I’m always delighted to find an issue with a classic Avon interior cover. These are black and white drawings, often serving as a Table of Contents. I’ve seen many of these drawn by Everett Raymond Kinstler, as is one of the examples I’ve featured above. I’ve also become quite enamored by the beautiful line work by Louis Ravielli, which pops up in many of Avon’s military titles. I’m partial to Fighting Undersea Commandos.
Another rather peculiar aspect of certain Avon titles is the ‘Story Behind the Cover’ feature. Rather than showcase the lead story in the cover, Avon’s covers would often serve as the springboard for the text pieces in many issues. Also of note is the fact that Avon text stories quite a bit longer than the industry standard (keep in mind that these were included to qualify for a lower postage rate). I’m not sure if these stories were reprints from various Avon magazines or paperbacks, but it is certainly something I’ve never seen done by another publisher.
Avon had a solid stable of talent working for it over the years. The aforementioned Kinstler shows up everywhere, and adds a touch of class to many an Avon comic book. Many Avon books are also notable for the contribution of a young Wallace Wood. You will also find a young Joe Kubert credited here and there, as well as the likes of Manny Stallman, Martin Nodell and Fred Kida. Unfortunately, as the 50s progressed, Avon books felt much more like Charlton books as it seemed like every single story was inked by Vince Alascia.
Strange Worlds is probably the most sought after Avon series, as it’s a terrific sci-fi title with tons of great artists on hand, including Wood. You will also find solid work by the likes of John Giunta, Joe Orlando and Carmine Infantino. In fact, there is a story in Strange Worlds #3 that is a collaboration among Wood, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Angelo Torres and Roy Krenzel. How’s that for an All-Star edition of Many Hands?
Avon back issues can be tough to find, and even tougher to afford. Luckily, many of these stories have been reprinted in various spots through the years. Bill Black’s AC Comics published many Avon-centric reprint titles during the 80s and 90s. Israel Waldman, master re-packager of the late 50s and early 60s published many Avon stories in his oddball titles, including his own version of Strange Worlds and the fun Mystery Tales. These are much, much more affordable than the originals and a lot of fun to track down.
So that’s a quick look at the short, but fulfilling life of Avon Publications. For more comic book talk, stop by my blog Seduction of the Indifferent
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