- Gold Key Comics
Gold Key Comics was an
imprintof Western Publishingcreated for comic books distributed to newsstands.
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,
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 Syndicatecharacters ( Popeye, Flash Gordon, The Phantom, etc) in 1966, the Hanna Barberacharacters (to Charlton Comics) in 1970, and "Star Trek" (to Marvel Comics) in 1979.
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 Weinand Mark Evanierand artist Mike Royer. Also in the 70s writer Bob Gregorystarted 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
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 Infantinothat in the mid-to-late 1960s, DC Comicsattempted 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 marketsand such under the Gold Key label and — usually in plastic bags of three — in toy and department stores, along with newsstandsat airportsand 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 Comicsand Marvel Comicsunder the Whitman logo. President of DC Comics Paul Levitzhas 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
Dark Horse Comicshas 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.
* 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 Comicspublished a parody of Gold Key in "Radioactive Man" #106 (volume 2 #6, Nov. 2002) with script/layout by Batton Lashand finished art by Mike DeCarlothat Tony Isabelladubbed "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]
Brothers of the Spear" (originally a backup series in "Tarzan")
*"The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor"
Golden Comics Digest"
Grimm's Ghost Stories"
M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War" (formerly "Total War")
Magnus, Robot Fighter"
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")
*"The Avengers" (published as "John Steed & Emma Peel")
*"Battle of The Planets"
Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery" (based upon the TV series "Thriller")
*"Buck Rogers in the 25th Century"
*"" (unproduced 1966 movie tie-in)
The Girl from U.N.C.L.E."
*"Korak, Son of Tarzan"
Huey, Dewey and Louie, Junior Woodchucks"
The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
My Favorite Martian"
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")
*"The Twilight Zone"
*"Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea"
Walt Disney Comics Digest"
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories"
The Wild Wild West"
* [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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