Scott's Classics Comics Corner: The Many Faces of Ace Comics

Ace Comics has a bit of an odd history. They were around for more than 15 years, and yet produced only 50 titles, none running more than 52 issues. They seemed to have a very focused publication schedule; ensuring that their handful of titles latched onto and then abandoned each new trend. Here’s a quick overview of the company’s publishing history:

Ace Comics was founded by pulp publisher Aaron Wyn. Wyn entered the comic book field very early one with a slew of patriotic themed titles such as Banner Comics and Our Flag Comics featuring the likes of Captain Courageous and Unknown Soldier. Jim Mooney was the workhorse for Ace during the early years, but other names that would pop up include Harry Anderson and Rudy Palais.

Post-war, there was a shift away from superhero books towards mainly humor with titles such as Hap Hazard, Monkey Shines and Scream. Even the flagship title, Four Favorites jumped genres with a switch to mainly humor. Super-Mystery, on the other hand, began a shift towards ‘mystery’ and away from ‘super. Sam Singer was an important contributor to the humor titles. Singer had worked as a Disney illustrator and would go on to find even more success as a television animator in the 60s.

By 1948 or 1949, Ace decided to shoot for a more mature audience, releasing a number of Romance, Horror and Crime titles. In the world of horror, Ace had 4 successful series: The Beyond, Web of Mystery, Baffling Mysteries and Hand of Fate. Lou Cameron was the go-to guy for cover design for Ace's horror titles. While he has a lot of fans, his work has never really done much for me. I had a few issues of The Beyond and Hand of Fate, and I recall seeing some Mike Sekowsky artwork in there. The stories were definitely sub-EC/Harvey/Atlas – nothing too shocking, but certainly not the worst of the publishers from the era.

Ace also had some big success in the Romance genre, and some of the title had their origins with Ace’s pulp magazines. Most of these titles started out with handsome line drawn covers, but made the switch to photo covers for the rest of their runs. That’s too bad, because while a few are quite humorous, most are just lame. From the handful of issues I've read of Glamorous Romances and Love at First Sight, I believe that these were pretty bland titles, lacking the shock value that could be found from publishers like Fox and the elegance that could found in a DC or Prize romance book.

From an artistic perspective, I would argue that Ace had more success with their Crime books. From the few issues I’ve read, Crime Must Pay the Penalty was a top tier crime title. I can only imagine the same is true for Trapped, which I’ve never read but I have often admired its awesome covers. Ace’s Crime contributors included Mike Sekowsky, Gene Colan and Mort Meskin. Ace also had western titles as well as funny animal and teen humor titles in the early 50s, but none lasted very long.

It appears that Mr. Wyn and the folks at Ace Comics saw the writing on the wall before many publishers. In 1952, they founded the paperback company Ace Books, which became an industry leader in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy. By mid-1956, Ace was completely out of the comic book industry, with only a handful of books ever bearing the CCA stamp.

As far as pre-Code comic books go, Ace books are on the relatively inexpensive side. They haven't been reprinted too often, but I believe some Ace stories pop up in the 'Mammoth' books. For more comic book chatter, stop by my blog Seduction of the Indifferent

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