Fawcett would also experiment with different formats for newsstand comics. In March they came out with Master Comics which sold for 15 cents and was magazine sized. It was also 48 pages which was smaller than the typical comic book. It’s main feature was Master Man another hero DC felt was too close to Superman. They threatened to sue and Fawcett stopped using the character. In May came Nickel Comics, which had half the pages (36) at half the price. It should be said Dell Comics tried the same thing in 1938. Fawcett's version would come out on a bi-weekly basis and they promised newsstand dealers it would become weekly if it was a success. This didn’t happen but the hero within called Bulletman would be used in a variety of Fawcett Comics for sometime to come.
Many of the publishers getting into comics did pulp novels and in fact saw their pulp book sales go down because kids were reading comic books instead. Among them would be Street and Smith, who brought their radio & pulp heroes with them into comics. In March and May of 1940 they published The Shadow and Doc Savage comic series. Doc Savage only went 3 years but The Shadow went 9 years. Helping the Shadow was the creator Walter Gibson writing the first few stories. These characters would return in comic books several times, but only in short lived series.
Just so you know not every new publisher had a major success at this time. Some published moderate selling comics and managed to stay in business for years and years. Others simply were a flash in the pan. Among the mix of small to medium sized publishers were Hillman Periodicals (Miracle Comics #1 - 2/40), Novelty Publications aka Curtis Publishing Company (Target Comics #1 - 2/40), Prize Publications (Prize Comics #1 - 3/40), Columbia Comics Group (Big Shot Comics #1 - 5/40), Ace Magazines (Sure-Fire Comics #1 - 6/40). Some of these companies did make significant contributions though. Hillman Publications produced a character called Air Boy in Air Fighters Comics #2 whom would stay in print for a long time and even come back during the 80's. In Air Fighters Comics #3 would appear The Heap, comics first "muck monster." He would inspire many monster style superhero characters in the future.
Miracle Comics #1 is in the public domain and you can download and read it by clicking here. (38.8 MB - Scanned Microfiche)
Target Comics #1 is in the public domain and you can download and read it by clicking here. (49.8 MB - Scanned Paper)
Sure Fire Comics #1 is in the public domain and you can download and read it by clicking here. (23.3 MB - Scanned Microfiche)
Novelty Press would give us the first pairing of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in Blue Bolt #2 (July 1940). Coming out in the same month the duo would draw the Champion Comics #9 cover. Champion Comics was published by Harvey Publications under the name Worth Publishing Company. Simon and Kirby would take the industry by storm creating a wide variety of popular characters and entire genre’s of comic books. Joe Simon was an editor at Fox Features Syndicate when he first came across Jack Kirby’s work. He recognized that Kirby had great talent and would soon pair up with him. Simon would often do the business deals with publishers, write the stories, do some design work and ink the comics. Jack would do the bulk of the comic drawing and ink if they were behind schedule. The two remained a duo until the late 1950’s.
Blue Bolt #2 is in the public domain and you can download and read it by clicking here. (23.3 MB - Scanned Paper)
Did You Know? - Curtis Publishing Company of Philadelphia was also the publisher of Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal. In comics they called themselves Novelty Press.
In April of 1940 Batman would get an important addition to his comic. This would be a new young sidekick named Robin. He makes his first appearance in Detective Comics #38. At first owner Jack Liebowitz was skeptical about adding a kid to the cast but Bob Kane managed to convince him to give Robin a chance. The sales for Batman doubled with Robin as now young readers had a hero that was one of them. The main reason for his addition was that it was getting boring having Batman talk to himself or not talk at all in his stories. They wanted someone to go with him on adventures to have him play off of. Bob Kane’s assistant Jerry Robinson claims he created the character and based him after his last name. Due to the success of this comic almost every hero got a sidekick. Most future heroes would come out with a sidekick already created. Over the years Robin would be replaced with a new person under the mask with the older one either grew up or died.
The first comic devoted to War was done by Dell Publishing in May of 1940. This was called simply War Comics #1. It only went 4 issues, but afterwards a large amount of comics dealing normal men in military fighting would soon appear. Comic Books usually do quite well when a war is going on as military men read them on top of normal domestic audience.