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Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: The Short Life of Comic Media

by  in Comic News Comment
Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: The Short Life of Comic Media

I wouldn’t be surprised if 75% of comic book fans had never heard of Comic Media and that’s too bad as they produced some awesome books.

The company was only around for a few years, publishing just over a dozen titles, none of which lasted more than 20 issues. It may be best known as Don Heck’s personal sandbox, but other talented artists such as Pete “PAM” Morisi and the Andru/Esposito team made significant contributions. Comic Media was one of a small handful of comic book related companies controlled by Alan Hardy over the years. I haven’t read much on the company or its history, but its legacy lives on due to the incredibly high quality of the books it put out. Here’s a quick look at some of what Comic Media had to offer.

Let’s start with a look at some of Comic Media’s Adventure/Crime titles. Danger began in January of 1953 as a pretty standard ‘male adventure’ type book that Atlas published by the truckload. I’ve only owned one issue from this phase (#6 to be precise) and I can tell you that it was fun but nothing groundbreaking. With the 7th issue, the title had a real shift in tone focusing on government agents such as Duke Douglas. It’s a lot more hardboiled pulpy fun.

Dynamite has a very similar history to Danger. Launched in may of 1953, it made the tonal shift to hardboiled detective magazine with the 3rd issue, introducing Johnny Dynamite, the only Comic Media character who still resonates today thanks to Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty. They featured reprints of Pete Morisi’s terrific creation as a back-up in Ms. Tree, eventually producing some original Johnny Dynamite stories.

Comic Media also dipped its toe into some other genres, including western with Death Valley (note the Andru/Esposito cover). I’ve never owned one of these, and came very, very close to picking one up at a show last weekend but stuck to my guns (and budget). War Fury was the only war book produced by Comic Media, but what a book it was. It’s a violent and sensational as any war book produced in the pre-Code era. Those with a keen eye will note that the soldier with the bullet through his head looks very similar to the infamous ‘bullet through the head’ cover to Horrific #3, which was published 4 months later. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a popular cover that was the result of simple stat.

Rounding out the genres, Comic Media also published a handful of Romance titles, including All-True Romance. Heck, Morisi and Andru/Esposito all excelled in that genre, some I can only assume that these were top notch books as I’ve never seen on in person. Finally, we’ve got Noodnik, a humor title feature a young Inuit boy. That’s something you don’t see every day. It was written and drawn by Frank Roberge, who went on to produce funnybooks for Charlton well into the 70s.

Ok, you’ve been patient. Now, we’ll get to the good stuff. The only reason Comic Media is still even a footnote among comic book lovers as its wonderful horror books. Weird Terror and Horrific are among the most highly coveted pre-Code titles on the market. I’ve had a handful of these over the years, and can state that they are among the finest horror books put out by a 2nd tier published. They are not quite at the EC/Harvey/Atlas level, but are far superior to the likes of Ajax-Farrell and Ace. How can anyone resist those great Don Heck covers? Comic Media never made it to the post-Code world, and they only real sign that the impending CCA was felt at the company was the change in title from Horrific to Terrific for the final issue. It was just a little hint that the end was nigh.

So, what happened to Comic Media? I don’t really know. Some of their titles were sold to Charlton, but they didn’t last more than a few issues. Aside from a few stories reprinted here and there, and the new Johnny Dynamite material, Comic Media is in danger of being lost to the sands of time. That’s a real shame, as there is plenty of great material and I’d line up for a collection of Comic Media reprints. I love EC as much as the next guy, but do we really need the 17th repacking of the EC titles, when great stuff like this has yet to see the light of day.

For more comic book chatter, stop by my blog Seduction of the Indifferent

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