You've probably all read about the collector who put together a collection of every comic ever published by DC. It took him nearly 40 years and the collection adds up to more than 30,000 comic books. Well, if you're anything like me - you won't be able to duplicate that trick unless you discover that you're Warren Buffett's secret love child. Don't worry, as it's quite possible to put together a collection of a publisher's entire output with relative ease. These may not be DC or Marvel, but you also won't need much more than a short box for any of these collections.
Let's start with King Comics. In the late 60s, King decided to begin publishing some of their own properties, which had previously been produced by thrid parties. Titles like Popeye, the Phantom and Mandrake the Magician were showing up on comic book stands with the King logo. The experiment didn't last very long and by the end of the decade, most of these titles had been transferred over to the fine folks at Charlton. All told, you'd be looking at about 100 books spread over 15 or so titles in various genres. There's some good reading in there (especially the Flash Gordon series, as I've mentioned before) and they are very affordable for Silver Age books.
Next up is Tower Comics - the grand experiment of the Silver Age. Wally Wood & Co. produced some terrific books, but in the end it was a commercial failure as fans were perhaps turned off by having to drop down a full quarter for a single book. Oh well, for whatever reason, it never took off but that makes putting together a full Tower collection that much easier. You would need to track down something like 75 issues spread out over 10 titles. Many of the stories have been collected in the DC Archives format, but you can still find low to mid grade copies of these books at very affordable prices. The thing is, unless you're a huge Tippy Teen fan - it make can a bit monotonous trying to complete this one.
Let's move into the 70s with Atlas-Seaboard, the Goodman family's Titanic-level failure. Atlas-Seaboard came out swinging with numerous titles in a variety of genres, trying to carve out a piece of the DC/Marvel pie. It didn't survive a year, and no title lasted more than 4 issues. There is some good stuff in there (and I'll comment on those in a future column), but much of it is pretty shoddy. Although I know there are plenty of collectors trying to put together a collection of this entire line - many of the books are widely available and quite cheap. All you'd have to do is track down is 60 or so issues spread out over 20+ titles. I've probably got this one 80% completed myself - but the really tough title to find is Vicki. If you're looking to add the black and white magazines, you'll discover that a few of those are quite scarce as well.
If those three companies seem a bit daunting, let me suggest some true micro-collections that won't take up too much space in your house. Skywald was the brainchild of Israel Waldman and Sol Brodsky, mixing new stories and covers with some reprints. They never got into the superhero game, but seemed to focus on westerns at a time when their popularity was waning. To collect all of their comic book output, you'd only need to find 20 or so issues. If you want a real challenge - add their B&W magazines and you'll need to find an additional 60 or so books. These mags are often a lot of fun and some, such as Crime Machine, can be tough to track down.
Here's nice challenge in a small package. For a short period in the early 50s, Ross Andru and Mike Eposito published books under their very own banner - Mikeross Publications. It wasn't a lasting success, but there is some good stuff in there. I stumbled into a partial Mikeross collection through my infinity cover collection as all 3 issues of Get Lost feature infinity covers. Although these might take you a while to track down - you only need to find 7 issues spread over 4 titles. Sure, it's Golden Age stuff - but low grade copies won't set you back much.
Finally, we've got Stanley Publications, which produced a grand total of two comic books in the mid-60s. I've got the first issue of Battle Heroes, and it's all reprints from a pre-Code war book from a Gilmor/Stanmor/Key book. If 2 books just doesn't satisfy you're craving, you can branch out into their horror magazines, which reprint pre-code horror stories (you may recognize the covers above). Although that only an additional 30+ titles, these don't show up all that often it may take you some time to piece together a collection.
There are plenty of other short-lived publishers, so the challenge of buying the whole company can go on and on.
For more classic comic talk - please visit my blog, Seduction of the Indifferent