By Jacobus Dixon

By the winter of 1940, superheroes were causing funny book magazines to just fly off the newsstands. They were an odd blend or mythology and athleticism wrapped in a brilliant package of primary colors. They often lived fulfilling lives as prosperous or wealthy men, but men still hungry for adventure. And almost all of their adventures involved finding the source of their problems and delivering a killer knockout blow to them. It was like watching a sports event with higher stakes and a team that you knew would win, but not how. And even though the hero’s tactics to triumph were often completely exaggerated and unrealistic, it didn’t matter! That was part of the fun. It would have been like saying Popeye was terrible because he misrepresents what spinach can do for you. But people didn’t read Popeye comic strips and watch Popeye cartoons because they wanted to see the effects of spinach on human physiology, nor did they read superhero comics for real solutions to the financial inequities of the Depression and American life in general. They wanted to be entertained, and seeing a colorfully clad athlete sock a local street tough or thieving businessman was just what they were looking for.  But what was the next step? How do you keep these characters from going stale? Well…grouping them together to form some kind of team seemed like a good idea. And that’s exactly what All-American Publications did.

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By Jacobus Dixon

Although All-Star Publications wasn’t in a complete rivalry with National Allied Publications or Detective Comics Inc. (due to the fact that they were all owned by Harry Donenfeld) they still didn’t want to sit out on the superhero craze that was transforming the publishing industry.  They had some success with the Flash, Hawkman, and Johnny Thunder in Flash Comics. And naturally that taste of success led them to produce more superheroes. The spooky Spectre had promise, but he may have been a little too supernatural to attract more average readers. While most superheroes were defined by their phenomenal abilities, it was that human appearance that made them so appealing to readers. So you didn’t want to step too far away from that (at least not in the late 1930s/early 1940s) if you wanted your character to be successful. People do like supernatural stories though, so where do you strike the balance?

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Capture

By Jacobus Dixon

Why do they call it the Golden Age of comics? There were only three real big shot characters that anyone cared about. You got Superman, Captain Marvel, and Batman — what more was there? Well…actually there were quite a number of them. True, they may not have been as successful as Superman, but they were definitely hits. And like Superman and Batman, they belonged to Harry Donenfeld. Ol’ Donny had his hands in exactly three comic book publishers; Detective Comics Inc., National Allied Publications, and All-American Publications. He’d eventually combine the three into National Periodical Publications by the mid-40s, but for now they were separate companies run by separate guys (but all bankrolled by Donenfeld). While Superman headlined National Allied Publications, and Batman did the same for Detective Comics Inc., All-American would pitch its own superhero heavy hitters, and give Donenfeld a tight fist on the superhero genre.

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Batman

By Jacobus Dixon

While he still had a little ways to go in terms of reaching Superman levels of fame, Batman was still a pretty big hit for National Comics. But with the addition of Robin, that popularity doubled to the point where National thought it would be a good idea to give him his own title. Even with characters like Superman, there was always a little trepidation on giving a character their own magazine. Mostly because there was always the question of: “well, yeah…People like their individual stories, but will they read four consecutive stories with that character?” So far, Superman’s appearances in two magazines hadn’t hurt his image. But Batman wasn’t Superman…

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