Golden Age Nuggets

As time goes by, I make more and more discoveries—the learning never stops. The most recent example would be when a Golden Age artist by the name of Lily Renée celebrated her 100th birthday about two months back and this cover image popped up in my Twitter feed.

Fight Comics #47 (Dec. 1946), cover art by Lily Renée.

This cover really caught my eye; I thought the artwork was just lovely. Then, just in the last week, I stumbled onto Ben Herman’s blog, which contained a lengthy and fascinating write-up on Ms. Renée. Naturally, the story of a female artist finding work in comics during the Golden Age was most interesting—and it made me wonder how many other women may have been doing great work in comics back then that I have yet to discover.

All of this served to remind me just how BIG an industry the comics business was in the Golden Age. There were just so many comics being put out that even someone like me, who has already read an obscene number of them, has barely scratched the surface of the full output of comics published during this era.

Having grown up during that ancient time before the internet, Golden Age comics were awe-inspiring artifacts to me as a kid. My first major exposure to them came in my first Price Guide, Overstreet’s 1981 edition. The main text was in black and white and the covers were thumbnails, so you couldn’t appreciate the cover art there like it deserved, but there was also a color section that allowed you to properly view what masterpieces many of these Golden Age covers truly were. One part of this section offered a particular spotlight for the work of L. B. Cole. Here are some samples:

Blue Bolt #104 (Apr. 1950), cover art by L.B. Cole.
Catman Comics #28 (Jun. 1945), cover art by L.B. Cole.
Blue Bolt Weird Tales of Terror #115 (Oct. 1952), cover art by L.B. Cole.
Thrilling Crime Cases #49 (Jul. 1952), cover art by L. B. Cole

Probably the best comic art of the Golden Age was coming out of the Eisner & Iger shop, which did packaged work for Quality Comics, Fox, and Fiction House. (Most of Renée’s work was published by the latter.) Among the legends who came out of Eisner & Iger were Jack Cole, Reed Crandall, and Lou Fine. Here are a couple covers from the latter two:

Hit Comics #5 (Nov. 1940), cover art by Lou Fine.
Hit Comics #24 (Oct. 1942), cover art by Reed Crandall.

I can’t attest to the story quality behind those covers, but damn, that artwork is just soooo BYOOTEEFUL!

But the most wonderful part of all this is that all of these nuggets of precious gold have fallen into the public domain and be downloaded directly from The Digital Comic Museum in comic reader format (that is, .cbr or .cbz files). Nearly all of the specific comics whose covers I’ve shared in this post can be downloaded there at the following links:

Fight Comics #47

Blue Bolt #104

Catman Comics #28

Blue Bolt Weird Tales of Terror #115

Hit Comics #5

Hit Comics #24

The only one they haven’t got is Thrilling Crime Cases #49. I’ll be on the lookout for this one and if I find it, I’ll be certain to share it. Someone also put in the time and effort to collect the full run of Renée’s “Senorita Rio” stories from Fight Comics and put them all together into just two files, which can be found here and here.

But even if none of these comics I’ve touched on here today caught your fancy, I’d still recommend perusing the DCM. There’s a good chance you’ll find some more gold nuggets for yourself; some that may be more to your liking.

One thought on “Golden Age Nuggets”

  1. I, too, had that 1981 Price Guide, and I was the kind of kid who would read it cover to cover. It was my standard go-to for car trips. I fell in love with L.B. Cole’s artwork, and would marvel at how different it was from everything else of the time.

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