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Charlton Comics

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Charlton Comics:
a brief history

1926
White Plains, NY. Charlton founder-to-be John Santangelo, Sr., a former bricklayer and Italian immigrant, starts his own construction business. Santangelo makes enough money to start a development in White Plains.

1931
Yonkers, NY. Inspired by his wife’s friend’s desire to know the lyrics to a song, Santangelo begins publishing by printing song lyric books. Santangelo is unaware that he is in violation of copyright laws by reproducing the sheet music. Santangelo and his wife move to her hometown of Derby, CT. although Santangelo frequently travels to New York City on business.

1933
Sales of Santangelo’s lyric books are reportedly up to 7 million. Santangelo becomes involved in an ongoing legal battle with ASCAP, the American Society of Composers and Publishers.

1934
New Haven, CT. Santangelo is arrested for his violation of copyright laws and sentenced to a year and a day at New Haven County Jail. While there he meets Waterbury attorney Ed Levy. Levy would later become closely associated with Charlton.

1935
New York, NY. Santangelo begins legitimate publishing, producing magazines with titles like Hit Parade and Song Hits. Ed Levy assists Santangelo in acquiring permission from the publishers to reproduce the song lyrics.

1936
Santangelo learns about printing equipment and techniques. Santangelo and Levy open a printing plant in Waterbury, CT, home of numerous other printers including Eastern Color Printing.

1940
Derby, CT. Santangelo and Levy convince ASCAP to cooperate with them. Santangelo and Levy begin publishing as the “T.W.O. Charles Company,” named after the two publishers’ sons, both named Charles.
The company that would become Charlton Press acquires 20 acres of land, including the 4.615-acre lot on Division Street that would become the site of Charlton’s printing facility. Santangelo and Levy move their printing press to Derby.

Sept. 1944
Derby, CT. The company that would become Charlton publishes its first comic book, Yellowjacket Comics #1. The comic book, a mixture of superhero and horror tales, is published under the name of Frank Comunale Publications, with Ed Levy listed as the publisher. Frank Comunale Publications also produces comic books under the names Frank Publications and Charles Publishing Co.

1945
Santangelo and Levy begin publishing as Charlton Publishing.

1945 - December
The first comic book published under the Charlton name is produced – Zoo Funnies, a “funny animal” title that lasts until 1947.

1946
Charlton produces Marvels of Science, a comic book combination of science facts, oddities, and future predictions geared towards both adults and children. The publisher is listed as “Ted Charlton” and mentions a Holyoke, MA, location in addition to its Derby, CT facility.
Charlton moves its printing press to its newly completed facility near the railroad lines (still within Derby).

1947 - 1948
Charlton buys more presses and binding equipment.
Charlton Press is formed as an affiliate of Charlton Publishing, and Capital Distributing Company (CDC) is formed to handle distribution. Colonial Paper Company is formed as an off-site auxiliary concern of CDC to handle binding. Tops Engraving handles the engraving and color separation process. Charlton thus is able to avoid all middleman expenses and becomes self-sufficient in all aspects of production.

1950
Ed Levy’s cousin, a Mr. Bertley, takes over from him running the details of Charlton’s business.

1951
Santangelo sets up an in-house comics division, eliminating its reliance on freelancers.

1953
Charlton expands its printing facility.

1954
Charlton buys the rights to several Fawcett titles, including Six-Gun Western and (Fawcett’s) Funny Animals. Charlton also picks up several other properties: Blue Beetle and a couple of jungle heroes are purchased from the collapse of Fox Feature Syndicate; Charlton absorbs the entirety of smaller publishers Toby Press and Capitol Comics; and several licensed properties – based on newspaper strips, radio dramas, and television shows – are published.

1955
Hurricane Diane causes severe flooding in the Naugatuck Valley area. Charlton experiences extreme damage which threatens to put the publisher out of business.

1956
Charlton begins publishing superhero comic books featuring original Charlton characters, starting with John Buscema’s Nature Boy.

1964
Charlton publishes Captain Atom, with art by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko. Despite paying among the lowest rates in the business, Charlton starts to gain a reputation as a good starting point for beginning artists and writers. Many highly regarded artists got their start in the field at Charlton during this time.

mid-1960’s
Ed Levy sells his share of Charlton to John Santangelo’s son, Charles. Charles Santangelo heads Charlton Publishing alongside his father until 1968, when Charles’ younger brother takes over the business.
In an attempt to further cut corners, graphic designer Pat Masulli develops a comic typesetting machine called the Typositer, which is used by Charlton. Although the results are poor in quality, it is one of the first examples of a publisher making use of an automated lettering system.
Also around this time, managing editor Dick Giordano opens a second Charlton office located in New York, NY (at 529 Fifth Avenue) for the purposes of conducting business with New York based freelancers.

1967
After abandoning licensing for approximately a decade, Charlton picks up the titles of King Comics, including Flash Gordon, Popeye, The Phantom, Blondie, Jungle Jim and Beetle Bailey. More King Features comics are added over the next year, including Hi & Lois and Barney Google & Snuffy Smith.
John Santangelo’s son and son-in-law, John Santangelo, Jr. and Ron Scott, take over control of Charlton as publisher and general manager, respectively.

1970
Charlton picks up several titles from Gold Key Comics, including most of the existing properties for Hanna-Barbera characters.

1973
Charlton’s output reaches 70,000,000 comic books per year.

1973 - October
Charlton publishes the first issue of Joe Staton’s and Nicola Cuti’s E-Man, a creator-owned title that in many ways is exemplary of Bronze Age books. Although not tremendously popular, E-Man becomes something of a cult hit; after Charlton’s demise, E-Man is given short series by publishers First Comics (1983-85), Comico (1989-90) and Alpha Productions (1993-94).

1973 - October 22
The publishing industry experiences a paper shortage. Charlton is hit hard, and goes on a temporary hiatus that lasts through 1974.

1976
Charlton collaborates with Modern Comics, who reprints many of their Action Hero stories from the 1960’s.

1979-1980
Charlton adds both a high-speed stitcher and a five color press to its facilities, along with new trailer trucks.

1983
AC Comics purchases Charlton’s Action Hero line of comics. The deal lasts one year before the Action Hero books revert back to the possession of Charlton. The Blue Beetle appears in Americomics, a comic book published by AC’s Americomics imprint.
Charlton sells its property to a private owner and ceases its own printing operations. The property is used as an office warehouse complex until 1988, when it is sold to International Real Estate Associates and eventually turned into a retail commercial complex.

1984
DC Comics buys the Charlton superhero books formerly owned by AC. Reportedly, they were purchased by DC vice president Paul Levitz as an in-house gift to Dick Giordano (former Charlton managing editor and at the time a DC executive).

1986
Faced with rising costs to run its subsidiary operations, Charlton’s remaining comic book properties and assets are sold at auction. AC purchases several of the Charlton properties (through Canadian publisher Roger Broughton) and to this day helps to keep the Charlton characters alive through reprints.

1986-1987
DC Comics publishes Alan Moore’s critically acclaimed Watchmen, a 12-issue series based on the Charlton superhero characters.

1991 - March
Reduced to a staff of 8 people producing two magazines (Hit Parader and Country Song Round-Up), Charlton officially closes its business.

1992-1993
Harvey Comics reprints Charlton 1970s stories of Hanna-Barbara properties.

1992
The building that housed Charlton Comics is demolished, along with its presses.

1999 - July
DC Comics releases L.A.W.: Living Assault Weapons, a 6-issue miniseries by Charlton alumni Bob Layton and Dick Giordano, prominently featuring the Charlton Action Heroes. The attempted Charlton revival goes largely unnoticed.

2001
Shanda Fantasy Arts, having acquired the rights to Charlton funny animal character Atomic Mouse and romance comic First Kiss, publishes two Charlton-based titles. Atomic Mouse features both old and new material; First Kiss is given new dialogue and released as a parody, entitled Last Kiss.

2002 - August
Roger Broughton/ACG announces a merger with a Canadian graphic design firm, forming a new company calling itself Charlton Media Group. Charlton Media declares its plans to reprint older Charlton material as well as new comic book material and children’s books in both French and English.

2003 - July
DC Comics releases the first issue of Formerly Known as the Justice League, a six-issue mini-series. The humorous comic book series stars former Charlton heroes Captain Atom and Blue Beetle, former Fawcett heroine Mary Marvel, and several heroes originating with DC.

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