Harry Chesler, Sr. (ca. 1898 - 1981) 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.
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" — 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, or from 1936 to 1940, and then reorganized and running from 1940 to 1953 per a different edition of the same source. His shop employed "a growing group of men who produced scores of strips & entire books (often first issues) for nearly every publisher". 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]". 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". Circa 1939 to 1940, Chesler was living in Succasunna, New Jersey.
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.
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. Chesler alumni include Jack Cole, Jack Binder, Otto Binder, Charles Biro, Mort Meskin, Creig Flessel (briefly), Ken Ernst  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.
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)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Bails, Jerry. Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999: "Chesler Studio / Chesler, Harry
- ↑ Coogan, Pete. "Comics Veteran Harry "A" Chesler Dies", The Comics Journal #71 (March 1982), p. 13,
- ↑ 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)
- ↑ Cassell, Dewey, with Aaron Sultan and Mike Gartland. The Art of George Tuska (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2005), ISBN 1893905403; ISBN 978-1893905405, p. 28
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Cassell, p. 27
- ↑ Nicky Wright "Seducers of the Innocent". Accessed August 29, 2008
- ↑ Paul Wickham "Fiction House Comics Page 4: Jumbo Comics Comic Artists". Accessed August 29, 2008
- ↑ Comics Reporter - "Creig Flessel, 1912-2008". Accessed August 29, 2008
- ↑ Ernst bio at Lambiek.net's Comiclopedia .
- ↑ Excerpt from an interview with Carmine Infantino by Gary Groth for The Comics Journal #191
- Berk, Jon. "Harry 'A' Chesler, Jr.: Comic Book Entrepreneur," Scoop
- Harry "A" Chesler superheroes
- Cover, Scoop Comics #2 (shows imprint for "Harry A. Chesler Feature Syndication" and "A Dynamic Publication)
- Steranko, Jim. The Steranko History of Comics 2 (Supergraphics, 1972), p. 99