Saturday, September 6, 2014

Comic Book Ads: Free Star Photos.

I don't know if it's because I felt like punishing myself, or because August, 2014, marked the 44 th anniversary of that horrifying day in August, 1970, that I saw my first CHARLTON Hanna-Barbera comic book (above), after a lifetime of quality H-B comic books from Dell and Gold Key. 

Whatever the reason, I recently found myself looking through Charlton's THE FLINTSTONES # 1.

No joke here... Charlton's pages even SCAN bad!  Can't tell if it's the PAPER, or the PRINTING, but I scanned this (and the ones below) in the usual fashion, yet look at the result!

An aside, this marked the FIRST "Number One" issue for the FLINTSTONES title, because Dell began the run with a Dell Giant, which reflected the numbering of the Dell Giant series.  Gold Key, of course, continued the Dell numbering - giving Charlton an undeserved distinction among collectors. 

For what it's worth, the art in Charlton's THE FLINTSTONES # 1 wasn't nearly as bad as it would eventually get.  (Like this kind of "bad"!)

From Issue # 25
The stories, however, were all sorts of legendary gosh-awful.  Read the, "story" (if you could call it that) pages and judge for yourself.  Click to Enlarge, if you dare.
Though I kinda like "Don't hit us again, Sir!"

But, the real reason we're here is for this amazing AD found therein. 


Imagine that we once lived in a time where a service like this was not only desirable, but NECESSARY to the well-being and completeness of anyone of the "fannish" persuasion! 

Now, all we need do is type the name of the "Celebrity-Of-Your Choice" into Google, select "Images", and you are met with a torrent of these things.  Need I say that's how I illustrate this Blog? 

Yet, in 1970, devotees would have to respond to offers like this to get their photo-fix of... of...

...SAY, just look at all the great names of sixties stardom on that "Free-Photo List"! 

And, from the "Not-Free Poster Gallery"...

You could even join their FAN CLUBS! 

And that "Lifetime Membership" would still be good in 2014!  Pretty good "Bang for your [one] Buck"!

One thing that particularly stands out is Jonathan Harris, immediately followed by George Harrison! 


I'll bet that appeared in NO OTHER CONTEXT in the entire history of entertainment and pop-culture! 

In fact, Jonathan Harris even dressed for the occasion!

...And, just two doors down were GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E.'s Noel Harrison and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA's David Hedison! 

If I were collecting photos and posters in 1970, instead of comic books, I'd have been all over this! 

...I wonder if I can still order that Raquel Welch poster? 


Chris Barat said...


Mr. Slate seemed rather hirsute in that story, did he not? Maybe he was getting in step with the times and letting it all... grow out!

Why did some Allen personnel rate posters and some only photos? Surely you would have preferred that Marta Kristen get a poster and Angela Cartwright a photo? Or is this saying something about the target audience?


top_cat_james said...

To be fair, quite a few of the Flintstones covers towards the end of the Gold Key run I find rather unappealing. Not as bad as what was coming with Charlton, perhaps, but certainly nowhere as good as what preceded them. The artwork I'm refering to is HERE,HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. Why would someone think it was a good idea to increase Fred's height and remove his five o'clock shadow muzzle? Take away his distinguishing visual characteristics, and he's just not Fred anymore.

Now if you'll excuse me, I shall be giving our Ms. Welch a much needed shoulder-length haircut. Snip, snip, snip...

Joe Torcivia said...


I can’t speak for the people behind the ad, or its intended target audience, but *I* certainly would have preferred a life-sized poster of Marta Kristen! That’s goes for me NOW, as well as me in 1970!

Another thing I wondered, if the photo or poster was of an actor most famous for a particular ROLE, was the photo or poster provided that of a “standard publicity photo”, or that of the actor IN that role?

Meaning was it Marta Kristen AS “Judy Robinson”, or just Marta Kristen? Or Leonard Nimoy AS “Spock”, or just Leonard Nimoy? I suspect that question will not be answered here.

Joe Torcivia said...


Yes, to be completely fair, those later Gold Key covers should be part of the conversation.

Further, I will go on record as saying that I was just as “horrified” (to use the exact word I used against Charlton) to suddenly see artwork like THIS on my beloved Gold Key Comics – beginning in the first two months of 1969, a year and a half BEFORE the some of the H-B comics shifted to Charlton.

But, that was tempered by contemporary “new covers” like THIS and THIS, and the many “reprint covers” and interior art created in a time when general artistic standards were much higher than when we were about to enter the seventies.

I’ll continue to be “fair” and remind everyone that Gold Key / Whitman continued its steady decline, until its demise in 1984, with dreadful stuff like THIS.

But, it had produced SOOOO much great material for these same characters in decades past, including my formative years of the sixties, that I still can’t bring myself to think of them in quite the same terms as Charlton, who never did any such thing. Meaning, even in the lesser days, I never felt as – if not actually “insulted”, certainly “ripped-off” -- buying a Gold Key comic as I did when buying a Charlton.

One other curiosity, while we’re on that subject, why did only the classic H-B characters (Flintstones, Jetsons, Huck, Yogi – unfortunately, the ones I liked best) go to Charlton, while new properties like Scooby-Doo, Wacky Races, my new favorite Roman Holidays, etc. remain at Gold Key?

I suspect it was some sort of “separate licenses” deal, as is now common with Disney, but I’d sure like to know more of the story behind that.

And, regarding Ms. Welch… Can I help with the hairstyling? Huh? Can I?

Chris Barat said...


Perhaps we will get some answers regarding the licensing issue in Michael Barrier's upcoming book, FUNNYBOOKS. Though I suspect that most of the attention there will be given to Dell comics, hopefully the GK era will not be entirely neglected.

Joe Torcivia said...


I’m up for any information heretofore unknown, so I’ll be getting the book for sure. I guess it all depends if Barrier’s focus is more Dell, where I suspect his greater interest lies, or Western Publishing as a whole.

It amazes me that, even after all these years, there is still so much mystery concerning the people and workings of Western Publishing – and that every new answer brings additional questions.

Come to think of it, Charlton would make a pretty interesting story too!

In fact, HERE is the Wiki entry.

It’s always fascinated me that the two founders of Charlton met while in JAIL!

scarecrow33 said...

The founders of Charlton should have gone right back to jail for the atrocities they committed on Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, The Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound, etc. but especially The Flintstones!

Fred calling Barney "runt" is bad enough, but calling Gazoo "needlenose" and kissing Creepella in the dark is just plain nauseating! I agree--the artwork in the first several issues of the Charlton run was not so bad, until Ray Dirgo came along and proceeded to destroy the H-B characters. In fact, several of the early Charlton comics had the characters more on-model and the larger word balloons, which makes me suspect that these were foreign-produced stories--in which the dialogue is left pretty much open to the translator, which accounts for why some of the word balloons are huge with only a couple of words inside them. It also could explain the frequent lack of a punch line in the last panel. Often these early issues would end a story with a straightforward comment like, "I'm glad we got out of that one!" or "It sure will be good to get home!". The Gold Key stories generally ended with a witty comment from one of the characters. The Charlton comics didn't include much if any wit.

And then the stories just got SO bad! I mean, did Ray Dirgo not ever see the series on TV, or did he just not care? The worst of these as far as I am concerned is when Fred's lodge buddies shaved off his hair and the remainder of the story showed a bald Fred trying to compensate for his sudden loss. Fred didn't look or act like Fred in that story.

Yes, and I agree that the decline had already begun at Gold Key with the poorer quality artwork and stories that didn't give much of a nod to the series. And even when it was really GOOD, the Dell and Gold Key writers never got the correct name of Fred's boss (they called him "Mr. Slater" when they gave his name at all) and they gave him wisps of hair which he never had on the show. Gazoo's personality was completely different in the Gold Key comic book story than on the TV version--and Wilma and Betty could see him! But no matter how poorly the Gold Key folks treated The Flintstones, they never did it as badly as Charlton.

And the Jeri of Hollywood ads, with the lists of celebrity names, brings up an interesting question--exactly WHO did the Charlton folks think were buying and reading their comics? Or was the idea that the young readers would hand over each issue to their teenaged sisters, who would then proceed to order the celebrity photos and posters? Did they honestly think that young kids were that interested in celebrity photos? I remember feeling that those ads were "too old" for me when I originally saw them. (And there were all of those "get your high school diploma at home" ads or ads for body-building--seemingly the target audience was either young men with no ambition, or teenage girls--definitely not 7 to 10 year old kids!)

Overall, the 70's were hard times for the Hanna-Barbera characters. In comics they were represented by the garbage that Charlton, and especially Ray Dirgo, dished out. And in print, they were equally misrepresented by the dreadful stuff churned out by Horace J. Elias. I seriously wonder if Bill and Joe made these alliances deliberately, or if they just wanted to make a fast buck? Did they have any idea that they were causing disillusionment for a whole generation of fans?

Still, the Charlton comics do strive to answer the question--how far can you go, and in how many wrong directions, with the Hanna-Barbera characters? Answer: Pretty far.

Thanks for posting this, Joe! Gives us a chance to vent after all these years!

Joe Torcivia said...


That is about as comprehensive – and PERFECT – an analysis of the Charlton H-B comics as may ever have been published anywhere! And, from the perspective of someone who CARED about these comics far more than anyone involved with their production!

Thank you! I could not have done better – and, believe me, I’ve TRIED! To me, the toughest thing about reading your comments is knowing that you had to have READ SO MANY of those things to arrive at such a detailed dissection of them, and that I feel sorry for your pain and suffering!

Now, over the span of my single-digit youth through (Ahem!) upper-middle age, I’ve given a LOT of thought to things like this (…perhaps TOO MUCH thought) but one of the things that I love most about operating this Blog is when folks offer something that, no matter how many years a topic has rattled around in my brain, is a completely new notion to me…

…And, from mid-1970 to mid-2014, never once did it occur to me that some of those early Charlton stories – the ones that “kinda looked good”, as if someone were actually working off of H-B character model sheets, even if the posing was more often still and lifeless – might have originally been produced for the Foreign Market, and merely used by Charlton in their start-up efforts.

That makes perfect sense, and would explain why the “kinda looked good” (but was scripted bad) material, eventually gave way to the “bad original Charlton art”! It was simply USED UP.

Tying things together, some of these might even have formed the basis for those DUTCH FLINTSTONES COMICS I posted about earlier!

And, of course, what made those Charlton stories SOOO historically bad was the WRITING, just as much as the art. Even when Gold Key stories were drawn badly, they were never written as badly and ineptly as the Charlton ones.

As far as the Ads in Charlton Comics were concerned, I’d figure they ran the same ads in every title they published, regardless of intended audience. Since they were big into “Romance Comics”, Celebrity Photo ads would follow. Same with “Military Comics” and body-building ads. Eventually, if I recall correctly, they had specific Flintstones, etc. merchandising and fan clubs, didn’t they?

That may be more an effect of having a line with “something for everyone”, rather than catering to a more tightly focused audience as DC, Marvel, Archie, and Harvey did.

Gold Key ran the same ads (and, eventually, that dratted Gold Key Comics Club) in all their comics – but the ads they ran didn’t seem quite as jarring when appearing in both WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.

The Gold Key Comics Club, however, was jarring no matter where it appeared!

TC said...

I've heard various theories about the ads. One is that they assumed that people reading comic books were either nerdy kids who were targets for bullying (thus the ads for body building and martial arts training), or undereducated and unemployed adults (hence the ads for GED courses and vocational training).

More likely, though, the comic book companies were subsidiaries or subdivisions of larger publishing companies. The advertisers bought space at bulk rates, without regard for which magazines would carry which ads, and the publishers just threw them in more or less at random. So the ads in comics for celebrity photos or whatever were spillover from the "real" magazines, including the teenage fan magazines.

Joe Torcivia said...

That seems both likely and logical, TC.

I certainly won’t dispute it. The Charlton Comics line may very well have had other magazine lines “bundled” with it, when it came to advertising content. This may have been true for earlier Marvel Comics too.

DC Comics may have been (just) a little less so, but they were there too, thru the seventies when those pages of “lots of tiny little block ads” proliferated. By then, pretty much all publishers ran those “little ad” pages that gave us ads like THIS. …And, at the other extreme, let’s not forget those ubiquitous Hostess ads that helped DEFINE ‘70s comic books!

By the eighties, the “little ad” pages seemed to give way to what appeared to be more appropriate advertising overall, and it’s been pretty much that way ever since.

Dell hardly ran any advertising at all, except sometimes on back covers – and more interior stuff closer to the end in the early sixties. Then, we had Kelloggs, Dell Trading Post, Mr. Bubble, Pop-Ice, etc. Appropriate to its audience, to be sure. And, Gold Key, to its credit, did not appear to run any odd, unusual, or inappropriate advertising over its entire run.

I find this whole thing fascinating.

scarecrow33 said...

Just for the record, the last Gold Key Flintstones issue was dated September 1970, while the first Charlton issue was dated November 1970. If publication was every other month, it meant that the first Charlton issue was "on time" and in step with the Gold Key publishing schedule. Of course, the publication dates are much later than when the issues actually hit the stands, because it was definitely summer time when they were released. If I remember correctly, there were still some of the Gold Key H-B issues on the stands when the Charlton versions started appearing.

My first encounter was with the Charlton Yogi Bear #1, which I found in a drug store in Fresno while on a family vacation. When I first saw it, I was startled to say the least, because it looked nothing like the Gold Key Yogis to which I had been accustomed. My first reaction (at 10 years of age) was to assume that this was some novelty reprint of an "old" Yogi Bear comic book from long ago. The longer I looked at it, however, the more I realized that this was an ACTUAL issue of a current Yogi Bear comic book! Of course, I was naive enough to think that the Gold Key issues would keep on appearing by the side of these anomalies, and of course I would always favor the Gold Key ones over these. In the ensuing days as our road trip took us to several more drug stores in several more towns, I saw more and more of the H-B characters in "new" Charlton comics, and slowly started to realize that this was the future--Charlton and not Gold Key. Then I got Flintstones #1, which I of course had to get, and while not overly impressed with it, I was not totally disappointed--as I would be later when the artwork and writing just got poorer and poorer.

scarecrow33 said...

While I'm on this roll, I wanted to share some of the publication history of our favorite stone-age family:

The first Dell Flintstones was issued in 1961 (no month given)as a Dell Giant. The last Dell issue, which was #6, was in July-August 1962. The first Gold Key (continuing Dell's numbering at #7) was October 1962. The last Gold Key (#60) was Sept. 1970, with the first Charlton in Nov. 1970 as noted above. The last Charlton issue (the Bible talks about 7 years of famines and plagues) was February 1977, with issue (ripe tomatoes, please)#50. (Imagine 50 issues and 7 years of that stuff!) Right away, Marvel got into the act with their first Flintstones issue in Oct. 1977. Alas, their much improved run lasted only to issue #9 (running concurrently with a similarly-well done Yogi Bear comic book)in February 1978. (Nine issues in 5 months seems pretty remarkable, but that is according to the comic books themselves--in this case bi-monthly means twice a month, I guess. At Gold Key, bi-monthly had meant every other month.) After that, no more Flintstones for nearly 10 years until Blackthorne issued "Flintstones 3D" for four issues from April 1987 until February 1988. Concurrently Marvel/Star published 11 issues of "The Flintstone Kids" from August 1987 to April 1988. Then in September 1992, Harvey published the first of 13 issues containing reprints from the Charlton era (like those needed a second run--oh, well, at least the colors were brighter and the paper was better quality--however, cosmetics could not fix the quality of the stories and art). The last Harvey issue was in June 1994. Then Archie comics printed new Flintstones stories from September 1995 to June 1997 for 22 issues. After that, DC comics (who finally started to get The Flintstones right) pubished 21 issues of "The Flintstones and the Jetsons" from August 1997 until May 1999. Since then, (sob!) no more Flintstones comics or any other H-B characters except Scooby-Doo.

This does not, of course, include the many one-shots and spinoffs that were also published at various times. (Bigger and Boulder, the NY World's Fair, Cave Kids, etc.)

Sadly now, The Flintstones, Yogi, and the others have gone the way of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, and all the classic Disney characters (actually, it was the opposite order, but the result is the same). Let's hope the next time, if ever, The Flintstones see print, it will be in better quality than the 7 plague years produced. Then, too, we can always re-read the classic Dell and Gold Key issues, which set a standard that was never quite reached again.

Joe Torcivia said...

I will never stop reading and re-reading the classic Dell and Gold Key issues, Scarecrow!

That is one great publication history! Glad you chose to bring it here!

Oh, and I can say DEFINITIVELY that, regardless of cover dates (which may have differed by publisher, anyway), the final Gold Key FLINTSTONES (# 60) was released in July, 1970. I bought it, along with HUEY, DEWEY AND LOUIE JUNIOR WOODCHUCKS # 7, at a newsstand in Plainview NY, during school summer vacation 1970.

Note: They had different cover dates. FLINTSTONES # 60 was September, 1970 and HUEY, DEWEY AND LOUIE JUNIOR WOODCHUCKS # 7 was October, 1970. But they WERE on sale on the same day, because the former was a bimonthly, and the latter a quarterly. (You just don’t get info like this anywhere else!)

Charlton’s FLINTSTONES # 1 was released in August, 1970, and purchased from a newsstand in Westbury, NY, during that same summer vacation. We never went anywhere as a family, so I just hopped on busses and went to different stores that had comic books. Any wonder I still love the things?

…And, that’s “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”, 44 years ago!

Dan said...

Joe, Chris, Scarecrow & TCJ:

I'm afraid I'm a touch late to the party on this one, but as Joe exclaimed, it's a most fascinating topic!

An in-depth article or series of posts on the various incarnations of Flintstones comics (or H-B comic book overall) would be worth the research. The transition of content quality from Dell to Gold Key to Charlton is is a dramatic slide as the 1960s came to a close. Two things on what's been discussed here:

1) Charlton's paper and printing quality were indeed a product of low-budget system-that Wiki link explains that the Derby, CT operation housed EVERYTHING under one roof: editorial, distribution and printing. To add to that: Scott Shaw! has mentioned that same exact presses that produced the comic pages often churned out rough & tough packaging like cereal boxes in between.

2) The reason H-B had titles available through Gold Key and Charlton simultaneously is that Western began slashing titles that weren't selling or self-sustaining by the late 1960s. Editors felt that newer H-B properties were a safer bet to hang onto.

There was also good money in re-selling the art to overseas publishers for foreign reprints... so rather than leaving the comics settle into the void of cancellation or obscurity (translation: lost $$$) Bill and Joe's marketing folks let those earlier licenses move to Charlton, who was notorious for paying low page rates to their creatives.

The real problem wasn't just that glut of titles not only looked poor to we, the readers: the content-hungry foreign markets were so accustomed to the faithful H-B art of artists like Harvey Eisenberg and Pete Alvarado via Gold Key, they TURNED DOWN the Charlton content!!! So money and credibility were lost under the Charlton run.

To connect TIAH posts further, this may explain why Daan Jippes was brought in to draw some of those exquisite, original Dutch Flintstones covers a few posts back—the timing certainly lines up! Our own Scarecrow captured what happened afterward perfectly in his capsule history above.

On a side note: Racquel Welch posters were common stock... but Lord, the world NEEDS posters of mop-top Jonathan Harris!!! "Young ladies forever pursuing me through London streets... OH, THE PAIN!" - Dan

Joe Torcivia said...


No one’s ever “late to the party” around here. Our comments are “evergreen” and always open.

One might say that, after the initial “Charlton shock”, things ended up pretty good for our overseas friends. Imagine a CHART of going from Harvey Eisenberg and Pete Alvarado, to Charlton art, and then to Daan Jippes… It would probably look like an inverted camel!

As the sixties were drawing to a close, Western was indeed producing less and less new material – for all its licensees. Disney may have gotten the lion’s share of that new material, because the market for Disney comics worldwide was just so large.

From 1967-1970, there were no new stories of The Jetsons and Top Cat, only reprints. About 2 1/3 new issues of Huckleberry Hound. At least one new Yogi Bear story per issue of that title. And primarily, but not always, new stories in The Flintstones.

If Hanna-Barbera Productions was selling material to foreign publishers, it would be understandable to seek another supplier… but to peddle the inferior work of Charlton? Didn’t they at least “audition” what they were buying?

That’s most likely why the Marvel stuff started up in the later seventies, under established pros from Western like Chase Craig and Mark Evanier.

It’s a pity the Hanna-Barbera license never “came back” to Western, once the Marvel stuff was over – in the same way the Jay Ward and King Features licenses did. We got some reasonably decent Popeye and Rocky and Bullwinkle comics out of those later years of Western. Some of the R&B stuff is being reprinted now, by IDW. It would have been nice to see some Huck, Yogi, and Flintstones comics as well.

Unfortunately, there was no poster of Jonathan Harris in a “mop-top”, but there sure SHOULD have been! It was merely a screen grab from the wonderful 1968 LOST IN SPACE episode “The Promised Planet” - the one with that crazy “space-a-delic” song that echoes in your head for days, and that every sixties-lover should see someday!