Before Batman and Superman were first published as most know them, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson created National Allied Publications, which would then go on to become DC Comics; one of the largest comic publishers in the world. Last year, Hermes Press released DC Comics Before Superman: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s Pulp Comics, written by his grand-daughter, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson.
Some of that history will be in the spotlight at a panel titled “Sassy Smart Women of Pre-Super Hero Comics“at the upcoming San Diego Comic Con. Brad Ricca (Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, Super Boys), Trina Robbins (Last Girl Standing, The Great Women Cartoonists), Alex Grand (CBH), and Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson discuss the legacy of heroines Miss Fury, Sandra of the Secret Service, and Sally Norris of Bart Regan, Spy, all of whom appeared before Superman and Wonder Woman. The event takes place on 18th July and full details are here on the official Comic-Con web site.
It’s a fascinating subject. Miss Fury, for example, was a sexy adventurer clad in a skin-tight panther costume. By day, she was socialite Marla Drake. By night… Miss Fury – and her adventures, which have been previously collected by IDW, in two collections edited by Trina Robbins, were the work of Tarpé Mills, one of the few who drew adventure comics, and the only one who drew a costumed superheroine.
The Miss Fury Sunday newspaper strip ran from 1941 until 1952 and had millions of readers, among them GIs who painted the beautiful action heroine on the nosecones of their bombers.
“Gentleman” Inventor Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson was the founder of DC Comics and is regarded as the creator of the modern US comic book. A prolific pulp fiction writer, he had an adventurous military career and was also a writer of military strategy.
In DC Comics Before Superman: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s Pulp Comics, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson (the Major’s granddaughter and noted comics historian) provides an in-depth look at the formation of National Allied Publications and the man behind New Fun, New Comics, and other memorable original US comics that predated DC Comics’ inception.
It offers a detailed overview of the early years of US comics and the pulps which Wheeler-Nicholson says stitching together required the assistance of many, including a helpful online community devoted to pulps and comics.
“These comics guys, you better not mess with the details,” she told the East Bay Times, last year, noting she started a deep dive into her grandfather’s colourful backstory 20 years ago. She recalls growing up and hearing relatives refer to her grandfather’s work as “trashy novels. They didn’t even use the name pulps.”
While she enjoyed comics as a child and later embraced underground comics, her appreciation for the form took root when she read her grandfather’s pulps, which he began writing around 1924. He went on to publish New Fun Comics #1 in 1935, which – unlike others at that time – featured all original stories.
A groundbreaking, well-received book, it includes painstakingly reproduced and repaired comics, showing how they would have looked back in the 1930s. It explores the history of DC Comics before it became the behemoth we know today; the pulp stories that formed the basis for all many different kinds of comics.
Titles included in this historical reprint include Barry O’Neill and Fang Gow (scripted by Wheeler-Nicholson, art by Leo O’Mealia), Blood Pearls (scripted by Wheeler-Nicholson, art by Munson Paddock), Foe of the Borgias (scripted by Wheeler-Nicholson, art by Sven Elven), The Golden Dragon (scripted by Wheeler-Nicholson, art by Tom Hickey) – and more.
Other contributions to the book include an introduction by Jim Steranko and an afterward by comic collector David Armstrong.
With thanks to Alex Grand