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Comics History Quiz

by Michael Condon

We're going to shift gears on this quiz. When I first read that this month's issue was going to be on the pre-Superman age, I thought that it was going to be about the few comics that came out before 1938's Action Comics #1. So I researched the pre-history of comics, and built the quiz around that. Enjoy!

1. Who was the first costumed adventurer to have a secret identity?
A. Zorro.
B. The Phantom.
C. The Lone Ranger.
D. The Scarlet Pimpernel.

2. The oldest comic listed below is widely regarded as the first successful newspaper comic series. Which one is it? A. The Katzenjammer Kids.
B. Barney Google.
C. The Yellow Kid.
D. Mutt and Jeff.

3. The comic book was created by salesmen for Eastern Color Printing who thought they could drum up business for their company by reprinting newspaper comic strips in magazine form to serve as advertising premiums for various businesses like Gulf Oil and Kinney Shoes. One of these fathers of the comic book was also the father of an important figure in the comics world. Which one?
A. Arnvid Ditko, father of Spiderman penciller and Charlton Comics writer Steve Ditko.
B. Zev Kurtzberg, father of Jack Kirby. (Jacob Kurtzberg.)
C. Al Goodman, father of Timely Publisher Martin Goodman. Timely later became Marvel under the stewardship of Martin Goodman's nephew Stan Lee.
D. Maxwell Gaines, father of William M. Gaines, publisher of EC comics and Mad Magazine.

4. Why did the first comic books, and most of their Golden Age predecessors, have 64 pages?
A. Most daily newspapers' Sunday comics sections were sixteen pages long. By folding the same size paper in half and then in half again one wound up with a 64 page magazine with the dimensions of a standard comic book.
B. The man mentioned in question #4 had a mystical bent and felt that 64 was a particularly lucky number.
C. The United States Post Office classified periodicals with a page count ranging from nine to 63 pages as pamphlets. Periodicals with 64 or more pages were classified as magazines and had a much lower shipping weight per ounce than pamphlets.
D. Pure happenstance. The comic book was commissioned by Gulf Oil who put the address of a station on each page of the comic. Gulf had 64 gas stations within the area of this ad campaign. Mostly New York and New Jersey, but also some sites in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New England. Eastern Color's other clients didn't specify a page count, so the company continued the same plan. Other companies seeing that 64 pages had become the standard followed suit. Publishers that tried other formats, such as Fawcett's 32 page Nickel Comics found the market to be unfriendly.

5. The company that would later become DC Comics created the first comic book that solely contained original material. What was the name of this comic?
A. New Adventure Comics.
B. New Fun Comics.
C. The Brave and the Bold.
D. Detective Comics.

6. Who appeared on the front cover of Detective Comics #1?
A. Fu Manchu.
B. Chin Lung.
C. Sherlock Holmes.
D. Police Commissioner James Gordon, The Whisperer.

7. Many comic book writers were originally employed in what medium?
A. Silent Movies.
B. Pulp magazines.
C. Radio adventure serials.
D. Advertising.

8. Siegel and Schuster's creation Superman was rejected by every publisher they went to from 1933 until 1938 when their work was seen by a young editor who saw the possibilities of the character. He became editor of the All American Comics imprint that published such comics as Green Lantern, Flash and All Star Comics. This editor later created the semi-autobiographical Scribbly feature and still later, Sugar and Spike. Who was the editor?
A. Mort Weisinger.
B. Lev Gleason.
C. Sheldon Mayer.
D. Mart Nodell.

9. Who was DC comics' first heroic adventurer?
A. Crimson Avenger.
B. Dr. Occult.
C. Zatara.
D. Congo Bill.

10. Siegel and Schuster's original concept for Superman differed in what way from the version that appeared in Action Comics #1?
A. Their Superman was a Nazi-like alien invader who winds up getting overthrown by humanity.
B. Rather than being an alien, Superman was human scientist who acquired super powers through a special regimen of vitamins that he developed.
C. The original Superman was an obvious alien with green skin and antennae.
D. He had the full range of powers of the Silver Age Superman. The editor regarded his suite of powers as childish and had them toned down. Siegel and Schuster gradually restored powers to their creation throughout the Golden Age.

Answers.

1. D. The Scarlet Pimpernel first appeared in 1905. Zorro first appeared in 1919. The Lone Ranger started his ride in 1933. The Phantom first walked through the comics in 1936.

2. A. The Yellow Kid first appeared in 1895. The Katzenjammer Kids appeared shortly after in 1897. The comic strip A. Mutt first appeared in 1907. He was joined by escapee from a mental institution in 1908. I don't know when they first shared billing. In 1939 Mutt and Jeff were the stars of DC's first book devoted to reprints of a single newspaper strip. Jeff was named after the boxer James J. Jefferies. Boxing was also prominent in the origin of Barney Google as it was originally a feature on the sports page about a man obsessed with the upcoming July 4, 1919 Dempsey-Willard fight.

3. D. I invented everybody else.

4. A. Golden Age comics books did have at least two pages devoted to non-comic stories in order to comply with a postal regulation. The issues of All-Star Comics that I read on microfilm featured boy aviator Hop Harrigan. I don't know if any comics had prose fiction concerning superheroes. Fawcett did publish Nickel Comics featuring Bulletman, a 32 page weekly, but it didn't last long.

5. B. New Fun comics debuted in February of 1935 and became More Fun Comics after #7. It featured the first appearances of Dr. Occult, the Spectre, Dr. Fate, Aquaman and Superboy. It's final issue was # 127. New Adventure Comics started as New Comics in December of 1935 and became New Adventure with issue 12 and changed to Adventure Comics with issue 32. It had a rich and varied history, with some of its most notable events being the first appearance of Hourman, Starman, Krypto and the Legion of Super Heroes as well as the final appearance of the Golden Age Batman. It ended as a digest sized reprint anthology featuring at least two stories of the early Legion but also showcasing Golden and Silver Age stories published by DC, Fawcett and Quality.

6. B. I know it looks like Fu Manchu, you probably know that it looks like Fu Manchu, but did Sax Roehmer's lawyers would not have appreciated Fu Manchu's presence. My copy of Overstreet's says that the guy on the cover is named Chin Lung. Sax Roehmer's evil creation didn't appear until #17. In 1936, Zorro creator Johnston McCulley created Commissioner James W. Gordon who spent his nights as the vigilante, the Whisperer. (Batman the Complete History, Pg. 36) The book also shows that Batman owed a lot to Zorro. Lucky for the fledgling comic company that McCulley didn't sue.

7.B.

8. C. Mort Weisinger was another early DC editor. Lev Gleason was a comic publisher best known for Crime Does Not Pay, the first of the crime comics, the genre that succeeded super heroes as the most popular after World War II. Mart Nodell is the artist who created the Golden Age Green Lantern and the Pillsbury Doughboy. Now there's a collector's item of Brave and the Bold for you.

9. B. Dr. Occult first appeared in February 1935's New Fun Comics #1. Zatara and Congo Bill appeared with Superman in June 1938's Action Comics #1.The Crimson Avenger first appeared in December 1938's Detective Comics #20. Detective Comics first appeared in 1937. Brave and the Bold began in August of 1955 and lasted until issue 200.

10. A.

The Classic Era of American Comics by Nicky Wright, published by Prion Books, Limited, London, 2000 and The Encyclopedia of American Comics (From 1897 to the Present) edited by Ron Goulart, published by Promised Land Productions, 1990 were my primary sources of research.

 
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