Gold Key Comics

Gold Key Comics

Gold Key Comics was an imprint of Western Publishing created for comic books distributed to newsstands.

History

Gold Key Comics was created in 1962, when Western switched to in-house publishing rather than packaging content for branding and distribution by its business partner, Dell Comics.

Properties

Gold Key featured a number of licensed properties and several original titles (including a number of publications that spun-off from Dell's "Four Color" series). It maintained decent sales numbers throughout the 1960s, thanks to its offering many titles based upon popular TV series of the day, as well as numerous titles based upon both Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. animated properties. It was also the first company to publish comic books based upon "Star Trek".

Over the years it did lose several properties, including the King Features Syndicate characters (Popeye, Flash Gordon, The Phantom, etc) in 1966, the Hanna Barbera characters (to Charlton Comics) in 1970, and "Star Trek" (to Marvel Comics) in 1979.

Key creators

The stable of writers and artists built up by Western Publishing during the Dell Comics era mostly continued into the Gold Key era. In the mid-60s a number of artists left to work for the newly formed Disney Studio Program. Among the few new creators at Gold Key were writers Don Glut, Len Wein and Mark Evanier and artist Mike Royer. Also in the 70s writer Bob Gregory started drawing stories, mostly for "Daisy and Donald".

A striking difference between Gold Key and other publishers (which had been done by Dell as well) was to publish most of their mystery, jungle, science-fiction, adventure and the like series with full color painted covers rather than the standard line-artwork.Fact|date=June 2007

Hard times

In the 1970s, when the comics industry experienced a downswing, Gold Key was among the hardest hit. Its editorial policies had not kept pace with changing times and suffered erosion of its base of sales among children who could now instead watch cartoons and other entertainment on free television. [It is also alleged by Carmine Infantino that in the mid-to-late 1960s, DC Comics attempted to pressure Gold Key from the stands by sheer weight of output. Quoted in: Ro, Ronin. "Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and the American Comic Book Revolution" (Bloomsbury, 2004)] By 1977, all of the company's original series had been cancelled (most had been dropped circa 1973-1974), and its licensed series were virtually all reprint-only, although Gold Key was still able to obtain the rights to publish a comic book series based upon "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" between 1979 and 1981.

In this period Gold Key experimented with digests, to some success, and distributing comic books simultaneously both on racks at drug stores, super markets and such under the Gold Key label and — usually in plastic bags of three — in toy and department stores, along with newsstands at airports and bus/train stations "as well as other outlets that weren't conducive to conventional comic racks" [ [http://www.newsfromme.com/archives/2007_05_02.html#013399 News from Me (column): "More on Comicpacs" (May 2, 2007), by Mark Evanier] ] under the Whitman logo which it also used for such products as coloring books. Western at one point also distributed bagged comics from its rivals DC Comics and Marvel Comics under the Whitman logo. President of DC Comics Paul Levitz has stated "The Western program was enormous — even well into the '70s they were taking very large numbers of DC titles for distribution (I recall 50,000+ copies offhand)." [ibid] Continued declining sales forced Western in 1981 to cease newsstand distribution and thereafter release all its comics solely in bags as "Whitman Comics". The "Gold Key" logo was discontinued. Eventually arrangements were made to distribute these releases to the nascent national network of comic book stores as part of the Whitman alternate methods of distribution. All these efforts proved ultimately unsuccessful, and by 1984 Western was out of the comic book business.

Relaunches and reprints

Three of Gold Key's original characters — Magnus, Robot Fighter, Doctor Solar and Turok, Son of Stone — were used in the 1990s to launch Valiant Comics' "Valiant Universe".

Dark Horse Comics has published reprints, including several in hardcover collections, of such original Gold Key titles as "Magnus, Robot Fighter", "Doctor Solar", "M.A.R.S. Patrol", and the Russ Manning-produced "Tarzan" series. The Checker Book Publishing Group, in conjunction with Paramount Pictures, began reprinting the Gold Key "Star Trek" series in 2004.

Footnotes

Trivia

* According to former Western Publishing writer Mark Evanier, during the mid-1960s comedy writer Jerry Belson (whose writing partner at the time was Garry Marshall), while writing for leading TV sitcoms like "The Dick Van Dyke Show", also did scripts for Gold Key Comics. Among the comics he wrote for were "The Flintstones", "Uncle Scrooge", "Daffy Duck", "Bugs Bunny", "The Three Stooges" and "Woody Woodpecker".

* Acclaimed artist/writer Frank Miller had his first published artwork in "The Twilight Zone" for Gold Key in 1978.

* Bongo Comics published a parody of Gold Key in "Radioactive Man" #106 (volume 2 #6, Nov. 2002) with script/layout by Batton Lash and finished art by Mike DeCarlo that Tony Isabella dubbed "a nigh-flawless facsimile of the Gold Key comics published by Western in the early 1960s...from the painting with tasteful come-on copy on the front cover to the same painting, sans logo or other type, presented as a "pin-up" on the back cover." [http://www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony/back20030517.shtml]

elected titles

Original Series

*"Brothers of the Spear" (originally a backup series in "Tarzan")
*"Doctor Solar"
*"The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor"
*"Golden Comics Digest"
*"Grimm's Ghost Stories"
*"Jungle Twins"
*"M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War" (formerly "Total War")
*"Magnus, Robot Fighter"
*"Mighty Samson"
*"Mystery Comics Digest"
*"Space Family Robinson" - predated similar television series "Lost in Space"
*"Tales of Sword and Sorcery", featuring "Dagar the Invincible"
*"Turok, Son of Stone"
*"Tragg and the Sky Gods"
*"UFO Flying Saucers" (retitled/reprinted as "UFO and Outer Space")
*"Wacky Witch"

Licensed Series

*"The Avengers" (published as "John Steed & Emma Peel")
*"Battle of The Planets"
*"Bonanza"
*"Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery" (based upon the TV series "Thriller")
*"Buck Rogers in the 25th Century"
*"Dark Shadows"
*"" (unproduced 1966 movie tie-in)
*"Fireball XL5"
*"The Flintstones"
*"The Girl from U.N.C.L.E."
*"Honey West"
*"I Spy"
*"Korak, Son of Tarzan"
*"Huey, Dewey and Louie, Junior Woodchucks"
*"Little Lulu"
*"The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
*"My Favorite Martian"
*"The Phantom"
*"Ripley's Believe it or not! True Ghost Stories
*"Ripley's Believe It or not! True Demons and Monsters
*"Secret Agent" (based upon the TV series, "Danger Man")
*"Star Trek"
*"Supercar"
*"Tarzan"
*"The Twilight Zone"
*"Uncle Scrooge"
*"Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea"
*"Walt Disney Comics Digest"
*"Walt Disney's Comics and Stories"
*"The Wild Wild West"

External links

* [http://www.toonopedia.com/goldkey.htm Toonopedia's Article on Gold Key Comics]
* [http://www.comics.org/publisher_details.lasso?id=286 Database and Cover Gallery of Gold Key Comics]
* [http://www.newsfromme.com/archives/2007_04_29.html#013379 Mark Evanier on the failure of Gold Key's attempt to distribute their comics in bags of three]


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