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Harry Chesler, Sr. (ca. 1898[1] - 1981)[2] was the entrepreneur behind what is often credited as the first comic book "packager" of the late-1930s to 1940s Golden Age of comic books, supplying complete comics to publishers testing the waters of the emerging medium.

Biography

Most often credited as Harry "A" Chesler — the "A" was an affectation rather than a true initial, and Chesler sometimes quipped that it stood for "anything"[citation needed] — Chesler's studio was located at 28th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, and was active between 1935 and 1946, according to one source,[3] or from 1936 to 1940, and then reorganized and running from 1940 to 1953 per a different edition of the same source.[1] His shop employed "a growing group of men who produced scores of strips & entire books (often first issues) for nearly every publisher".[3] George Tuska, a notable comic book artist for decades, who had worked for Chesler in the late 1930s, recalled in the mid-2000s that, "Chelser had his office on the fourth floor of a building on 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue[s]".[4] Tuska also recalled that Chesler "was in the furniture business before he went into comics. He sold furniture. He did alright with comics. Bought a lot of property in [New] Jersey. Made his own lake".[5] Circa 1939 to 1940, Chesler was living in Succasunna, New Jersey.[5]

Output and roles

Chesler's studio produced comics work for a number of titles including Chesler's own Star Comics, Star Ranger, Dynamic Comics, Punch Comics and Yankee Comics. The studio also "[p]roduced the early issues of MLJ Publications Zip Comics, Pep Comics and Top-Notch Comics, Captain Marvel, Master," and titles for Centaur Comics.[3]

Chesler was an editor for Centaur between 1937 and 1938, and a partner with Archer St. John in the latter's St. John Publications in 1953.[3]

Employees

Once dispersed, the employees of the Chesler Shop "went on to form the nuclei of various comics art staffs" for a number of different early comics companies.[3] Chesler alumni include Jack Cole, Jack Binder, Otto Binder, Charles Biro,[6] Mort Meskin,[7] Creig Flessel (briefly[8]), Ken Ernst [9] and dozens of others. Carmine Infantino remembers that, c. 1940, he was paid by Chesler "a dollar a day, just [to] study art, learn, and grow. That was damn nice of him. I thought. He did that for me for a whole summer" while Infantino was in high school.[10]

Imprints

He later published comics himself through his Harry A. Chesler Feature Syndicate. His other imprints include "Dynamic Publications", "Home Guide Publications", "Magazine Press" (during a partnership with publisher Lev Gleason), as well as his own eponymous syndicate. Comic-book historians sometimes label all such imprints informally "Harry A Chesler Comics."

Chesler's comics enterprise was severely affected by World War II. Both he and his main pre-war editor, Phil Sturm, went on active duty for most of the war, severely curtailing the company's ability to produce comics. Except for a brief period of time in 1942, evidence from his publications' statements of ownership indicate that he was "on leave to the US Army." In actuality this was his son, Harry A Chesler, Jr., who was listed as the business manager in name and was enlisted in the US Army. Harry A Chesler, Sr. was in fact the publisher. Harry A Chesler, Jr., although listed in the business records, was never involved in the publishing business.

List of Harry "A" Chesler titles

  • Bulls Eye Comics #11 (previously Komik Pages, retitled Kayo Komics?)
  • Carnival Comics #1-13 (1945)
  • Cocomalt Book of Comics one-shot giveaway (1939)
  • Dynamic Comics #1-24 (1941 – 1948)
  • Feature Funnies #1-20 (1937 – 1939; subsequently published as Feature Comics #21-144 by Quality Comics, 1939 – 1950)
  • Kayo Komics #12 (1945; previously Bull's-Eye Comics?)
  • Komic Pages #10 (1945; retitled Bull's-Eye Comics?)
  • Major Victory Comics #1-3 (1944 – 1945)
  • Punch Comics #1-23 (1941 – 1948)
  • Red Seal Comics #14-22 (1945 – 1947; previously Carnival Comics)
  • Scoop Comics #1-3, 8 (no issues #4-7 published; 1941 – 1942, 1945)
  • Skyrocket Comics #1 (1944)
  • Snap Comics #9 (no issues #1-8 published; 1944)
  • Spotlight Comics #1-3 (1944 – 1945)
  • Star Comics
  • Star Ranger
  • Yankee Comics #1-4 (1941 – 1942; fifth issue published as Danger #16 by IW/Super)

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Bails, Jerry. Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999: "Chesler Studio / Chesler, Harry
  2. Coogan, Pete. "Comics Veteran Harry "A" Chesler Dies", The Comics Journal #71 (March 1982), p. 13,
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Bails, Jerry G. and Ware, Hames (ed.s), The Who's Who of American Comic Books: Volume One, p. 31 (Bails, 1973)
  4. Cassell, Dewey, with Aaron Sultan and Mike Gartland. The Art of George Tuska (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2005), ISBN 1893905403; ISBN 978-1893905405, p. 28
  5. 5.0 5.1 Cassell, p. 27
  6. Nicky Wright "Seducers of the Innocent". Accessed August 29, 2008
  7. Paul Wickham "Fiction House Comics Page 4: Jumbo Comics Comic Artists". Accessed August 29, 2008
  8. Comics Reporter - "Creig Flessel, 1912-2008". Accessed August 29, 2008
  9. Ernst bio at Lambiek.net's Comiclopedia .
  10. Excerpt from an interview with Carmine Infantino by Gary Groth for The Comics Journal #191

References

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