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Fiction House is an American publisher of pulp magazines and comic books that existed from the 1920s to the 1950s. Its comics division was best known for its pinup-style good girl art, as epitomized by the company's most popular character, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

History

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Jumbo and Jack Kirby

Publisher Thurman T. Scott, whose Fiction House group included the pulp imprints Glen-Kel and Real Adventures Publishing Co., expanded into comic books in the late 1930s when that emerging medium began to seem a viable adjunct to the fading pulps. Receptive to a sales call by Eisner & Iger, one of the prominent "packagers" of that time who produced complete comic books on demand for publishers looking to enter the field, Scott released Jumbo Comics #1 (Sept. 1938).

Fiction House star Sheena appeared in that initial issue. Will Eisner and S.M. "Jerry" Iger had created the leggy, leopard-wearing jungle goddess for the British magazine Wags, under the joint pseudonym "W. Morgan Thomas".

Fiction House's other features in that initial foray included the period adventure "Hawks of the Seas" (continuing a story from Quality Comics' Feature Funnies #12, after Eisner-Iger and Quality had had a falling out), and several now-obscure strips ("Peter Pupp"; "ZX-5 Spies in Action"; "Spencer Steel"; "Inspector Dayton") that nonetheless include future industry legend Jack Kirby's first comic-book work following his debut in Wild Boy Magazine:[1] the science fiction feature The Diary of Dr. Hayward (under the pseudonym "Curt Davis"), the modern-West crimefighter strip Wilton of the West (as "Fred Sande"), and Part One of the swashbuckling serialization of Alexandre Dumas, père's The Count of Monte Cristo (as "Jack Curtiss"), each four pages long.

"The big 6 of the comics"

Jumbo proved a hit, and Fiction House would go on to publish Jungle Comics; the aviation-themed Wings Comics; the science fiction title Planet Comics; Rangers Comics; and Fight Comics during the early 1940s — most of these series taking their titles and themes from the Fiction House pulps. Fiction House referred to these titles in its regular house ads as "The Big Six," but the company also published several other titles, among them the Western-themed Indians and Firehair, jungle titles Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and Wambi, and five issues of Eisner's The Spirit.

Quickly developing its own staff under editor Joe Cunningham followed by Jack Burden,[2] Fiction House employed either in-house or on a freelance basis such artists as Meskin, Matt Baker (the first prominent African-American artist in comics), Nick Cardy, George Evans, Bob Powell, and the British Lee Elias, as well as such rare female comics artists as Ruth Atkinson, Fran Hopper, Lilly Renée, and Marcia Snyder.

Trina Robbins, in The Great Women Superheroes (Kitchen Sink Press, 1996, ISBN 0-87816-481-2), wrote:

[M]ost of [Fiction House's] pulp-style action stories either starred or featured strong, beautiful, competent heroines. They were war nurses, aviatrixes, girl detectives, counterspies, and animal skin-clad jungle queens, and they were in command. Guns blazing, daggers unsheathed, sword in hand, they leaped across the pages, ready to take on any villain. And they did not need rescuing.

Despite such pre-feminist pedigree, Fiction House found itself targeted in psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent (1954), which in part blamed comic books for an increase in juvenile delinquency. Aside from the ostensible effects of gory horror in comic books, Wertham cast blame on the sexy, pneumatic heroines of Fiction House, Fox Comics and other companies. A subsequent, wide-ranging investigation by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, coupled with outcry by parents, a downturn in comics sales, the demise of the pulps, and the rise of television and paperback novels competing for readers and leisure time, Fiction House faced an increasingly difficult business environment, and soon closed shop.

List of Fiction House pulps

  • Aces (estimated 100 issues, December 1928 - Spring 1939)
  • Action Novels
  • Action Stories (225 issues, September 1921 - Fall 1950)
  • Air Stories (estimated 50 issues, August 1927 - Winter 1939)
  • All Adventure Action Novels
  • All-American Football Magazine
  • Baseball Stories (estimated 50 issues, Spring 1938 - Spring 1954)
  • Basketball Stories (one known issue, Winter 1937)
  • Black Aces (7 issues, January 1932 - July 1932)
  • Bull's-Eye Detective
  • Bull's-Eye Sports (estimated 8 issues, Winter 1938 - Fall 1939)
  • Bull's-Eye Western Stories
  • Civil War Stories (one known issue, Spring 1940)
  • Detective Book Magazine (65 issues, April 1930 - Winter 1952/53)
  • Detective Classics (22 issues, November 1929 - September 1931)
  • Fight Stories (106 issues, June 1928 – Spring 1952)
  • Football Action
  • Football Stories (estimated 35 issues, Fall 1937 - Fall 1953)
  • Frontier Stories
  • Frontier Stories of the Pioneer Days
  • George Bruce's Aces (Glen-Kel)
  • George Bruce's Air Novels
  • Jungle Stories (59 issues)
  • Lariat Story Magazine
  • North-West Stories
  • North-West Romances
  • Planet Stories (71 issues)
  • Soldier Stories
  • True Adventures
  • Two Complete Detective Books (Real Adventure)
  • Two Western Books
  • Two Western Romances
  • Wings

List of Fiction House comic books

  • Cowgirl Romances
  • Fight Comics
  • Firehair
  • Ghost
  • Indians
  • Jumbo Comics
  • Jungle Comics
  • Ka'a'nga, Jungle King
  • Man O'Mars
  • Movie Comics
  • Planet Comics
  • Rangers Comics
  • Sheena, Queen of the Jungle
  • The Spirit (five issues, 1952-54)
  • Wambi
  • Wings Comics

Notes

  1. Per Kirby's recollection in interview, The Nostalgia Journal #30 (Nov. 1976), reprinted in The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby (2002) ISBN 1-56097-466-4, p. 3
  2. Cassell, Dewey, with Aaron Sultan and Mike Gartland. The Art of George Tuska (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2005), ISBN 1893905403; ISBN 978-1893905405, p. 30

References

Further reading

  • Comic Book Marketplace vol. 2, #57 (March 1998): "Fiction House Pulps!" by Christian K. Berger, pp. 34-37, 44
  • Comic Book Marketplace vol. 2 2, #60 (June 1998): "Fiction House Sci-Fi" (cover gallery) pp. 40-43
  • Comic Book Marketplace vol. 2, #72 Oct. 1999): Letter from Bill Black on Australian versions of Fiction House comics, pp. 8-9
  • Fiction House: A Golden Age Index compiled by Henry Steele (San Francisco, A. Dellinges, 1978)
  • Fiction House: A Golden Age Index of Planet Comics (San Francisco: A. Dellinges, 1978)
  • Ron Goulart's Comics History Magazine #4 (Summer 1997): "The History of Good Girl Art", Part 2, pp. 3-5

External links

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