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Dell Comics

Entry updated 21 August 2023. Tagged: Comics, Publisher.

The Comics imprint of Dell Publishing, which began issuing comics in various genres in the 1930s and was active for several decades, being the most successful US comics publisher for a time in the 1950s. Most of Dell's output made use of material licenced from various sources, including Walt Disney Productions, Lone Ranger Inc, Tarzan from Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc and the Walter Lantz Studios. Many of their titles sold a million or more copies per issue in the 1950s, more than any other publisher before or since. A distribution partnership with Western Publishing lasted from 1938 until 1962, when Western Publishing launched its Gold Key Comics imprint, taking most of the older licenced material with them, as well as most of the artists and writers.

Dell struggled on for another decade, obtaining new licenced titles adapting popular film and television properties of the 1960s, few of them sf. The company also published some original titles in various genres including teen humour, Horror, jungle adventures and the sf Space Man (seven issues 1962-1963). Attempts at establishing Dell Superheroes included Nukla (four issues from December 1964), starring a US Air Force pilot whose U-2 spy plane was vaporized over China by some secret Weapon, but who somehow reintegrated himself from the atomized state, with the inevitable new Superpowers; and Brain Boy (launched in Four Color Comics, 1962; then as Brain Boy #2-#6, 1962-1963), dealing with a young man whose considerable powers of Telekinesis stemmed from an accident suffered by his mother before he was born. An unfortunate attempt was made to turn the classic Universal Pictures Monsters into superheroes in the mid-1960s, with the titles Dracula, Frankenstein and Werewolf. None of these lasted more than a few issues; they are thought to have been written by Dan Segall with artwork by Tony Tallarico and others.

Dell Comics ceased operations in 1973, leaving behind a considerable legacy: a great many creators in the industry had at some point worked for them. These include Carl Barks, Leo Dorfman (1914-1974), Russ Manning (1929-1981), Dan Spiegle (1920-2017) and Frank Springer (1929-2009). Charles Beaumont and William F Nolan sold some early work to Dell's funny-animals titles in the 1950s. Gold Key Comics took over some of their more popular titles in 1973; Dark Horse Comics later reprinted selected material in archive format. [GSt/DRL]

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