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Quality Comics Group


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Quality Comic Group:
a brief history

New York, NY. Future Quality founder Everett M. “Busy” Arnold works for the Goss Printing Company, selling presses to Waterbury, Connecticut based Eastern Color Printing and the Baltimore-based McClure Syndicate. Arnold learns about color printing.

Around 1930
Buffalo, NY. Buffalo printer Walter Koessler persuades Arnold to invest in a color plant for the purpose of printing comic sections. Arnold resigns from Goss and joins Koessler at Greater Buffalo Press as Vice President. During this time, Arnold learns about the publishing industry and establishes industry contacts.

1936 - May
New York, NY. Comics Magazine Co. is founded by John Mahon and Bill Cook, two former employees of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson at National Allied Publications (predecessor of DC). With the assistance of Everett Arnold, Comics Magazine Co. publishes the first issue of The Comics Magazine, featuring a Superman prototype named Dr. Mystic (first published work of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster). This title would also feature the first Western story in comic books.

1936 - September
The Comics Magazine is renamed The Funny Pages, and features comics’ first masked hero, The Clock.

1937 - October
Seeing profit in the new medium of comic books, Everett Arnold forms his own firm, Comic Favorites, Inc., in collaboration with several syndicates.
Comic Favorites, Inc. publishes Feature Funnies, a comic book that continues to reprint several newspaper serials that had expired with Eastern’s Famous Funnies, plus several other favorites. Feature Funnies runs features provided by the Harry “A” Chesler and other work-for-hire shops, including material from The Funny Pages. The Eisner-Iger shop would eventually become Arnold’s sole supplier of material.
Arnold is promptly sued by Eastern Color Printing over the name Feature Funnies, Eastern claiming infringement on its own title Famous Funnies. Arnold wins the case with no damages after proving use of the word “funnies” to describe comics predates Eastern’s use of the word.

“Busy” Arnold and two of his collaborators, the Cowles Brothers, buy out the McNaught and Markey syndicates’ interests in Comic Favorites, Inc. Arnold and the Cowles brothers each now own fifty percent of Comic Favorites, Inc., now publishing under the corporate name of Comic Magazines, Inc.

1939 - June
Feature Funnies is renamed Feature Comics, beginning numbering with issue #21.

1939 - August
Arnold publishes Smash Comics #1, the first Comic Favorites publication with all-new material.

1940 [Early]
Arnold uses his connections at Greater Buffalo Press to explore producing a comic book to be distributed as a supplement to national newspapers. Editors like the idea, but insist that it be extremely well done.
Arnold initially considers artists George Brenner and Lou Fine for the project. According to Will Eisner, Brenner was an alcoholic and produced poor quality work; Steranko claims that Fine was rejected because of his slow work rate. Arnold approaches Will Eisner to oversee the supplement.

1940 - February
Quality moves from New York City to Stamford, Connecticut, where it remains for the rest of its existence.

1940 - June 2
Arnold begins publication of The Comic Book Section, a supplement to be distributed in newspapers and other sources. The section, under Will Eisner’s directorship, features Eisner’s most enduring and famous creation, The Spirit, and the section is soon renamed The Spirit Section. The Spirit Section widens Eisner’s audience, and runs nationally until 1952. The insert is popular enough to spawn an imitator, Red Barry, from King Features Syndicate. Victor Fox considers production of a similar insert featuring the Blue Beetle, but it never gets produced.
Although never officially associated with the Quality Comics Group, The Comic Book/Spirit Section is packaged and produced by the Eisner-Iger shop, and marketed through Arnold, who would then distribute the material to newspapers.

1940 - September
First appearance of the Quality Comics Group name and logo, in Crack Comics #5. Seemingly never an official publishing title, the Quality Comics Group is a trademarked name (presumably taking its name from Stamford’s nickname of “the Quality City”) encompassing Comic Favorites Inc., E.M. Arnold Publications, Smash Comics, and any other imprints owned by Arnold.

1941 - March
Will Eisner splits up from his partnership with Jerry Iger. Eisner (and possibly the Iger shop as well) continues to produce material for material for Quality.

1941 - August
Quality publishes Military Comics #1, featuring the premiere of Blackhawk. The Blackhawks are popular characters and are soon spun off into their own title which lasts for the remainder of Quality’s publication and remains in print after being acquired by National (DC).
During the same month, Quality also introduces Police Comics, featuring Plastic Man. Plastic Man – so named to capitalize on the public’s fascination with the material – became an enduring character who remains popular today. Plastic Man received his own title in 1943, which remained in publication until 1956.
Police Comics #1 also features the debut of female crime-fighter Phantom Lady. Although Phantom Lady never gained much popularity as a Quality feature, the character would achieve notoriety in the late 1940’s under publication by Fox Feature Syndicate as an exemplar of “good girl” art drawn by pin-up artist Matt Baker.

Mid-year, Will Eisner is drafted; Iger shop artist Reed Crandall takes over Eisner’s titles.
British publisher Thomas Volney Boardman, founder of T.V. Boardman, Ltd., enters an arrangement with Everett Arnold to reprint issues of various Quality comic books in the United Kingdom. Boardman continued reprinting Blackhawk and other Quality titles until around 1954, becoming known for their cover illustrations designed by British illustrator Dennis McLaughlin.
Over the next several years (and even into the 1980s if one includes reprints of DC’s publications) Blackhawk is also reprinted in Australia, Canada, Mexico, and Sweden.

1945 - November
With World War II over, Military Comics is changed to Modern Comics.

1949 - November
With decreasing interest in superheroes, Crack Comics – featuring character The Black Condor, created by Lou Fine – changes to Crack Western Comics.

“Busy” Arnold buys out the Cowles’ brothers interest in Quality for $140,000.

1950s [Early]
With tastes in genres changing, Quality phases out its superhero comics in favor of genres like war, romance, humor, horror, and crime.

Kirk Allyn (who would later play Superman) stars in a 15-episode Blackhawk movie serial. A Blackhawk radio drama is also produced during the same year.

A casualty of anti-comics hysteria and competition from other media such as movies and television, Quality is forced out of business. National Periodicals (DC) buys the majority of Quality properties.

As part of the Silver Age super-hero revival, DC publishes a new Plastic Man series that lasts for two years. The character is revived by DC from time to time up to the present day, but Plastic Man never again occupies his own permanent title and is confined to cameo appearances in various other DC titles.

In an effort to keep up with current trends, DC turns the Blackhawk characters into costumed superheroes. Blackhawk is cancelled within two issues, but is revived by DC every few years, with notable revivals in 1977, 1982, 1987, and 1989.

1976 - March/April
DC Comics publishes Freedom Fighters, a comic book featuring the majority of Quality’s heroes (The Spirit and Plastic Man are not included). The series lasts 15 issues and runs until July/August 1978.

Ruby-Spears Productions produces a Plastic Man Saturday-morning cartoon which lasts for two years.

DC publishes 4-issue Plastic Man miniseries.

c. 1991
Filmmakers Larry and Andy Wachowski draft a script for a big-budget Plastic Man movie, with Paul Reubens (known for playing Pee Wee Herman on TV) in the starring role. Reportedly, the project is cancelled shortly thereafter when Reubens is arrested in an adult movie theater, although a draft of the script dated 1995 has circulated on the Internet.

The 60-year anniversary of the creation of Plastic Man. Fans of the character petition DC for a prestige-format book similar to those issued for other flagship characters, but to no avail. However, Chronicle Books produces a biography of Jack Cole, designed by Chipp Kidd and prefaced by artist Art Spiegelman. DC continues to reprint Golden Age adventures of Quality properties such as Plastic Man, The Spirit, and Blackhawk through its hardcover Archives series, and Quality characters appear in DC comic books from time to time.

2003 - November
DC Comics plans a new Plastic Man ongoing series, his first continuous series since the 1970s.

Selected Titles
  • Blackhawk
  • Buccaneers
  • Calling All Kids
  • Campus Loves
  • Candy
  • Crack Comics
  • Espionage
  • Exploits of Daniel Boone
  • Feature Comics
  • Gabby
  • Hit Comics
  • Intrigue
  • Ken Shannon
  • Kid Eternity
  • Military Comics
  • National Comics
  • Plastic Man
  • Police Comics
  • Smash Comics
  • T-Man
  • Torchy
  • True War Romances/Exotic Romances
  • Uncle Sam
  • Web of Evil
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