Since the earliest days of the industry, when most comics cost 10 cents, publishers experimented with different formats and prices. In 1939 National (later know as DC) published New York World' s Fair Comics, a tie-in to the famous event that took place in Flushing, Queens. It sold for 15 cents and clocked in at 96 pages. A year later it would resurface as World's Best Comics, cover-starring popular characters Superman and Batman, alongside an assortment of costumed heroes. The title was tweaked to World's Finest Comics, and remained a 15 cent giant (although page count was cut to 72 and later 64 pages) until 1954 when it reverted to standard size. Other companies followed, including Fawcett with America's Best Comics, which featured top-seller Captain Marvel and their most popular heroes. also copied the idea, including Archie Publications, which often published 25 cent titles staring Archie and his gang. While these comics sold at various times during the year, the summer months were often the most profitable, with maximum sales attained due to many youngsters being out of school.
Boris Karloff's Thriller was based on the anthology TV show of the same name. This 80 page comic was available on newsstands in July, 1962, and included stories by Leo Dorfman and art by Mike Sekowsky, Ray Bailey, Tom Gill, Alberto Giolotti, Giovanni Ticci and Jerry Robinson. To mimic a phrase host Karloff began each show with: "As sure as my name is Nick Caputo, I can assure you this post is a Thriller!"
Dell's Little Lulu was a tremendous success headlined by author John Stanley, who had an affinity for writing about children from their point of view. Cover art by Irving Tripp. Marge's Little Lulu and Tubby at Summer Camp # 5, July 1957.
DC had success with their 80 page Annuals including Batman which featured reprinted stories. Cover art by Sheldon Moldoff, Dick Sprang and Curt Swan; inks by Charles Paris, lettering by Ira Schnapp. Batman Annual # 1, June, 1961.
National/DC focused much of their 80 page Giants on superhero-related material, including Superman and Batman, which consisted of reprint material. Archie publications was another powerhouse, and they had 25 cent favorites including The World of Jughead, Betty and Veronica Summer Fun, Little Archie and Madhouse. Western produced a huge amount of oversized titles such as Hanna Barbera Summer Fun, Popeye, Little Lulu and Boris Karloff's Thriller. Harvey had extra-length presentations of their most successful comics such as Richie Rich, Sad Sack, Little Audrey, Spooky, Little Dot and Blondie.
All of these comics filled the nations newsstands back in the summer of 1962, offering hours of entertainment for children trekking to the beach or going for long rides on vacation. Into the mix came the beginning of Marvel's Annual's.
Lee promoted both himself and artist Stan Goldberg on this feature page. He would continue that practice in later titles and Annuals.
Cross-Promotion became prominent during the Marvel superhero expansion, although Lee, probably inspired by radio programs such as Jack Benny, was inclined in that direction throughout his career.
The other title chosen for extra-length treatment was Strange Tales, an anthology that had been in publication since 1952, originally consisting of horror material, but toned down to lighter fantasy fare with the debut of the Comics Code, and finally settled into monster-oriented stories in the early 1960s.Strange Tales Annual # 1 was on stands the same day as Millie, although it differed in that it consisted of material published just 2-3 years earlier. Jack Kirby pencils and inks (along with a touch of Dick Ayers; see the following caption); Artie Simek letters and (likely) Stan Goldberg colors.
This was Kirby's original cover to Strange Tales Annual # 1. Stan Lee obviously felt the monsters needed to be menacing humans, so Kirby revised the scenario, which was probably why he both penciled and inked the published version, which may have been rushed out in the office. Note that "the Shadow Thing" vignette is a stat used on the published cover, with Kirby adding a fearful citizen. Since I love minutiae I noticed that Dick Ayers inks, as seen in the background bricks, were utilized. as was Artie Simek's original lettering, with a little repositioning.
Popeye and his cast of characters occupy this impressive cover by Bud Sagendorf, who wrote and drew all the interior stories. This was the first issue published by Western (aka Gold Key) with the numbering continued from Dell's series. Popeye # 66, July 1962.
Western had the rights to many animated cartoons, including Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera and Jay Ward. They produced giants for many of them during the summer, including Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and Terrytoons. This attractive cover is attributed to Pete Alvarado and Norm McGary.
Harvey specialized in comics for the small-fry, as the above sampling, on-sale during June-July of 1962, reflects. Sad Sack cover by George Baker, Richie Rich is uncertain and Casper is by Warren Kremer.
Harvey produced one superhero/adventure giant in 1962, Black Cat, a character that dated back to 1942. Lee Elias cover art; Joe Rosen lettering. Interior stories were reprints, all drawn by Elisa and some scripted by Bob Haney. In later years Harvey turned out Giants spotlighting Will Eisner's Spirit and Simon and Kirby's Fighting American.
The Adventures of Little Archie # 24. Bob Bolling art and lettering; Victor Gorelick colors. Interior stories and art by Bolling; Joe Edwards, Joe Harold and Dexter Taylor. You could have purchased this comics in August, 1962.
I'd be remiss if I skipped over my favorite character, Jughead, who predated Kramer by half a century or so! Archie Giant Series # 19: The World of Jughead; Samm Schwartz art. Available at your local candy store in August, 1962.
Since there has been much written about that period (including on this blog) I believe its important to look at the bigger picture and get a realistic perspective of what was selling 60 years ago. Mainstream comics were readily available in candy stores, newsstands, luncheonettes, railway stations and many other areas that kids, either on their own or with family, could easily access. Unfortunately, comics has become a much more niche audience in the 21st century. Gone, for the most part, is the ability - or interest - in reaching out to young readers. Thus, comics have become of interest primarily to the older, or indoctrinated fan. Annuals, once a special presentation, produced with care, are overrun with superhero pyrotechnics, and anthologies such as Thriller are a thing of the past.
Surviving the superhero explosion of the 1960s and the monster-horror era of the 1970s, Millie's Annual's lasted into 1975. Stan Goldberg pencils (and possible inks), Morrie Kuramoto letters. Back in the day comics were published that appealed to a wide range of tastes, which I believe was a good thing. A Treasury of Horses, July, 1955. Cover painter unknown.
Looking at it from an adult perspective I can appreciate the quality of work that went into the various titles. Each company had its own distinct style and the material in general was well-crafted. Many Annuals sold in the hundreds of thousands. Even at Marvel during the superhero boom of the 1960s, Millie the Model remained a solid seller into the 1970s. That audience is largely gone now, and it's doubtful it will ever return. The present generation has many choices with new technology, and the world moves much faster than it did decades ago. Still, those days can be reflected on as a distinct period in time, when comics were truly a part of our popular culture.
There were GIANTS in those day! 96 pages worth! A charming baseball-oriented cover by Fred Ray, from World's Finest Comics # 3, Fall 1941