What Was the Deal With Gold Key Comics?

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at brianc@cbr.com).

After seeing my Comic Book Legends Revealed where I discussed Dell Comics, reader Gene B. asked:

I was always curious why Dell split-off the majority of their line to Gold Key Comics? But then still kept the Dell imprint for some titles?

The issue, Gene, is how Dell Comics did their comics. The way that most comic book companies worked, they would write and draw their own comic books and then they would have them distributed by a distribution company. DC Comics famously owned their own distribution company (which ended up being Marvel's distribution company for years during the late 1950s through the late 1960s).

In the case of Dell, they distributed their own comic books, but they did not actually write and draw their own comics. They had a deal with another company, Western Publishing, who would do the actual production of the comics and then Dell would distribute them under the Dell name. This is similar to how the early days of comics would have studios that would produce the comics and then package them to companies to then put out themselves.

The partnership worked for decades, and it was a great success, especially their Disney comics.

Eventually, in 1962, Western decided to go out on their own, taking almost all of the licensed comics with them, and Gold Key Comics was what they called most of these comics (they also called some of them Whitman Comics).

Dell kept going, but they didn't have any of the major licenses, so they had to try out weird stuff like the infamous Dracula superhero comic book.

Dell eventually closed in 1973. Western lasted until 1984 (they were hurt as they lost most of their licenses to other comic book companies). They were sold in 2001 to Classic Media.

Thanks for the question, Gene! My pal, (soon-to-be-birthday-boy) Jamie Coville answered him before I could, but hey, at least now others know, as well!

Again, if anyone has any question they'd like to know the answer to, just drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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