McHale’s Navy. (Hey, I LIKE it! So what!)
Three of my closest friends… though, I won’t reveal who.
In decades prior, Dell Comics (produced and packaged by the venerable Western Publishing Company) ruled the roost in terms of licensed animated characters, other properties from the movies and later television, and even a fair number of original creations. Under its own banner, Dell successfully distributed these comics for many years – and is said to have had the highest circulation comic book of all time, with WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES in the early 1950s.
|Those pennies ADD UP!|
THIS was the first one I ever saw!
THIS was the second.
|Did someone say...|
|A Potamus Pin-Up!|
These initial changes served as a mere “opening shot” in Gold Key’s aesthetic demarcation from Dell. The “innovations” would hardly end here.
In short order, said “innovations” would come SO fast and furious that, by the autumn of 1962, these comic books would literally NO LONGER RESEMBLE their earlier numbers from the preceding spring!
|Even Wile E. can't keep up with all the changes!|
The work of better artists like Carl Barks, Harvey Eisenberg, and Paul Murry particularly suffered under this system. The lone example of Carl Barks straining against his publisher’s imposition can be seen in UNCLE SCROOGE # 40 (above). After that, Barks’ visuals would return to normal, though the coloring quirks, outside of Barks’ control, would remain for a short time longer.
|Like Real Gone Gags, Man!|
WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES would abandon its “Donald Duck Cover Gag” format – in place since 1940 – for segmented covers illustrating some of the different stories contained therein. Strangely, it made for some interesting covers, combining art from Carl Barks, Paul Murry, Tony Strobl, and, with the addition of Zorro, even Alex Toth! You might occasionally find a photo of Guy Williams!
Covers illustrating a Gold Key issue’s “main adventure story” would return for the first time since the early-mid 1950s.
Many titles were converted to 80 page “giants”, which featured a “Primary Character” and laced with additional stories of the ancillary characters from the same licensed studio as the Primary Character. Among the titles to bulk-up were: BUGS BUNNY, HUCKLEBERRY HOUND, YOGI BEAR, QUICK DRAW McGRAW, WOODY WOODPECKER, TOM AND JERRY, ROCKY AND HIS FRIENDS, LITTLE LULU, and POPEYE. As an example of the "Primary/Ancillary Pairings", note Wally Gator being associated with Huckleberry Hound!
|Has anyone seen Hokey Wolf?|
|Hail, hail, the Lantz ancillary gang's all here!|
|Bugs "goes up"!|
Cancellations included LOONEY TUNES, PORKY PIG, TWEETY AND SYLVESTER, BEEP BEEP THE ROAD RUNNER – and, beyond Warners, WALTER LANTZ NEW (TV) FUNNIES, CHILLY WILLY, and SPIKE AND TYKE.
|Bugs "comes down"!|
|Don't call us "limited", Dah-ling!|
Oddly, no DISNEY titles were subject to this radical redirecting though, as noted, ZORRO lost his title and was folded-into WDC&S.
Zorro and Pete: Symmetry in Disembodied Floating Heads!
The results varied, in terms of accuracy and fidelity to the series in question, but at least the Gold Key Comics version of your favorite TV show was always there to extend the experience, once that show was over and done for another seven days. Photo covers for most of these series eased the pain of weekly separation - and marked the first time that many kids saw their '60s video heroes in color!
Original properties also proliferated like SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON (which would form the basis for the beloved ‘60s TV series LOST IN SPACE), DOCTOR SOLAR MAN OF THE ATOM, and MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER – all of which became popular in their own right. These were marked by outstanding painted covers. The Gold Key Adventure Comics style was parodied to a “T” in Bongo Comics’ RADIOACTIVE MAN # 6 (October, 2002).
|Note the words "LOST IN SPACE" in the cover caption!|
|Note the words "GOLDEN KEY" in the cover caption!|
|But I thought WE were "lost in space"!|
Was the original Dell issue an “ANT-ecedent”?
A burst of quality in both creativity and editorial direction that Western Publishing would NEVER SEE AGAIN! My high opinion of Gold Key as a publisher is admittedly forever colored by this period.
And also THIS AMAZING REPRINT!
When The Great Gazoo dropped in on Gold Key Comics, they were wise enough to SEND HIM BACK at story's end!
Lastly, let us not forget the unlikely Hanna-Barbera / Universal Studios crossover...
|Some sounds are TOO MUCH, even for a monster!|
|The joke's on US, all right!|
But, Carl Barks was still there – though 1967 would mark the last combination of his writing and drawing.
We were introduced to MOBY DUCK! Yay! (No sarcasm – I LIKED Moby!)
|January, 1967: Meet Moby! ...AND the first issue in which I discovered (Shudder!) the Gold Key Comics Club!|
|Ain't I a...Sprinkler!|
|Um, What happened to the ART?|
|No, REALLY... What happened?!|
Oddly, Jack Manning's stint on MICKEY MOUSE was unexpectedly interesting, with his figures looking somewhat like later period Floyd Gottfredson!
Adding insult to injury, the Hanna-Barbera “classic character” titles (FLINTSTONES, YOGI BEAR, etc.) were lost to the HORRORS of (*ahem*) “lesser” publisher Charlton Comics in the summer of 1970! The times were undeniably changing.
…Doesn’t this comparison make you want to CRY?
Similarly, Barks Donald Duck reprints (supplemented by new Mickey Mouse material by Paul Murry) would dominate WDC&S pretty much for the remainder of its Gold Key and Whitman run.
|Hey, that's not The Inspector!|
|A "Godfather" reference in a '70s Gold Key Comic? Looks like an "uptick" to me!|
|Mark Evanier & Dan Spiegle: A memorable team-up on Scooby-Doo!|
|Never fear... Mark Evanier is here... Keen Gear!|
|BAD DOG... I mean ART!|
Negative turning point: The parallel “Whitman Bag Issues” begin.
These were duplicates of the regular Gold Key comic books (plastic-bagged in groups of three, branded with a Whitman logo) and sold in toy and variety stores, rather than the traditional newsstands and candy stores. In consideration of the irregular distribution schedules of the “Bag System”, the Mickey Mouse serials in WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES – run since 1940 – were discontinued. How sad!
|Goofy and I had such great 3-4 Part Adventures! Sniff! Sniff!|
|Gold Key! ...Yippee!|
|"Racing with the Sun...Set?"|
|Issue # 209|
|...And AGAIN in # 215? ...For twenty cents MORE?|
|Issues 193 and 194 - Same day Service!|
|Missing Issues: # 132, 133! Guess that means Daffy's "not all there"!|
|Yeah... It WAS rainy!|
|Barks reprints heeeer! Get 'em while they're RARE!|
|Good Times and Glad(stone) Tidings ahead for Donald!|
|But, alas... Poor Woody! Abandoned by Yellow Beak!|
Happy 50 Years to you, Gold Key! You’re still “shining bright and opening doors of wonder” around here!