Brainiac On Banjo #082: This Is Fitting… And About Time, Too!

Famous 1st Edition #C-63, New Fun Comics #1, published by DC Comics, 2020, in hardcover $19.99.

The very first thing that impressed me about the release of Famous 1st Edition #C-63, the first in four decades, is that the subtitle below the logo is “Limited Collectors’ Platinum Mint Series.” Holy crap! It’s Limited, it’s Platinum, it’s also Mint… and it’s a series?

So I looked it up. DC published a bunch of “Famous First Editions” reprinting the first issues of most of the usual suspects: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash Comics, All-Star Comics. Don’t ask me to explain how their numbering system worked; I figured it out with the intent of explaining it, but my head still hurts and it really isn’t important. The number isn’t on the cover, and, anyway, there can’t be a second Famous 1st Edition edition of New Fun #1. What I did’t realize, or maybe I forgot, is that before this Famous 1st Edition Limited Collectors’ Platinum Mint Series book DC had published issues as “Golden Mint,” “Silver Mint,” “Bronze Mint,” and Blue Ribbon series, the latter doubtlessly just to piss Archie Comics off.

But I’m just being a silly ol’ fanboy. This book is impressive because it is the first reprinting of the very first comic book published by the company that we now know as DC Comics. You know, that weirdly colored “DC” logo at the end of all those teevee shows? Well, it turns out they’ve been publishing comic books for 85 years now. Go know!

New Fun was titled “new fun” because it was because the very first American comic book with all new material… and that’s because the only other monthly comic book on the stands was Famous Funnies, which featured reprints of (wait for it) famous funnies from the newspapers. It came out, according to DC, on January 11 1935. That happened to be my mother’s 19th birthday, but she never mentioned New Fun to me.

Before long it was retitled More Fun and the word “New” was shifted over to their second release, New Adventure Comics. They were the brainchildren of a well-published writer named Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson — he named this company National Allied Publications, which is where the whole “National-DC” thing started. New Fun was edited and packaged by Lloyd Jacquet, starting him on his successful career as a comic book packager and shop-runner. The Major ran into those inevitable cash-flow disasters that were routinely created by dubious magazine distributors, and he lost the company prior to the release of Action Comics #1 in 1938.

Unless you’ve read the book — and I hadn’t until maybe a dozen years ago when historian and Comics Fanboy #1 Jerry Bails lent me a photocopy — you probably haven’t heard of the features therein. Jack Woods is cover-featured, and inside stories included Sandra of the Secret Service (yes, the first page of “DC’s” first comic book had a woman lead!), Wing Brady, Caveman Capers, Super Police and a bunch of others covering all the predictable genres at the time.

Obviously, New Fun was successful enough for the line to grow with other all-new titles such as the aforementioned Adventure Comics and the Fu Manchu-covered and so oddly named Detective Comics. They later hired talent such as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

There are no less than three introductions in this long-awaited reprint, and none can fault their choices. Roy Thomas wrote one because Roy earned his stripes as the medium’s foremost historian and managed to edit and/or write more than a few stellar comic books himself. The second was a piece Professor Bails wrote about 10 years ago; Jerry is generally regarded as the father of comics fandom. Whereas there hasn’t been a paternity test, I think it’s quite fair to bestow this honor upon him. Born 18 months before New Fun #1 was published, Jerry died almost fourteen years ago. He was a good friend and a mentor to me; this is a bit inside, but trust me, Professor Bails was the Mr. Wizard of comics.

The third intro was written by Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson, and when it comes to things that are fitting, her involvement heads the list. Nicky, as her name suggests, is the Major’s granddaughter. She’s also spent the past two decades researching his career, and this has been a significant and critical effort. Prior to her work, the Major’s history was clouded, full of misconceptions, facts shrouded in time, and outright untruths. Her task has been Herculean, and it has resulted in her book DC Comics Before Superman, published by Hermes Press. As a fan and historian myself, I shall be eternally grateful for her efforts. And she certainly knows how to respect family.

This is an important book. I’d say it is long-overdue, and, well, it is, but its contents have benefited greatly by Nicky’s efforts — which, of course, were not completely available until now.

If you are at all interested in the history of comics, this book is a must-have.

As for the subtitle ““Limited Collectors’ Platinum Mint Series…” well, DC, you just made a promise. I eagerly await the second volume in this series.

One thought on “Brainiac On Banjo #082: This Is Fitting… And About Time, Too!