Newsstand Period 1922 - 1955

1942 - All Star Comics #8 - Click
for Bigger Image in a New Page           In All Star Comics #8 (Jan. 1942) the first successful female superhero made her debut from publisher All-American Comics. Wonder Woman was created by a psychiatrist named Dr. William Moulton Marston. He was published under the pseudonym Charles Moulton. The artist who did much of her story was Harry G. Peter. Marston noticed there wasn’t any female superheroes being created and wrote a magazine article complaining about that. Max Gaines read it and contacted Marston. Gaines learned that Marston was a frustrated cartoonist and invited him to create a strong female superhero. It's often said that for inspiration Marston read a book by Dr. Ashley Montagu, called The Natural Superiority of Women. This cannot be true as the book was first published in 1953.

          Wonder Woman originates from an uncharted secret Paradise Island populated by Immortal Amazon Women. Steve Trevor's plane runs out of gas and ends up crashing on the island. The women (Princess Diana among them) find he is injured and tend to his wounds. Because of World War Two, they decide it's time to get involved with the outside world again. They hold a contest to see which of the Amazon women is physically best to battle in the world of men. A masked Princess Diana (acting against her mothers wishes) enters and wins the contest. She is given the title Wonder Woman and a costume to match. Wonder Woman decides to go to the United States to be with Steve Trevor and to help defend America.

William Moulton Marston, Harry G. Peter, Sheldon Mayer, Charlie Max Gaines - Click
for Bigger Image in a New Page           Wonder Woman would next move over to Sensation Comics becoming the lead feature right away. In 6 months she would get her own title. This was quite quick as both Batman and Superman had to wait a year before getting their own title. Despite appearing in three different titles, Wonder Woman would sometimes outsell Batman and Superman. Many people consider Wonder Woman an inspiration for feminists. At the time she was the only successful strong female superhero character in comic books. It should be said that a large part of her readership were young boys, reading to see the pretty girls all tied up (as they often were). DC once did a survey that suggested Superman had more female readers than Wonder Woman did.

Behind the Scenes - Bondage, Ménage à trois, and the Superior Sex.
          William Moulton Marston was a psychologist that fell on hard times. He wrote a book in 1928 called "The Emotions of Ordinary People" that was designed to make him a popular media personality. He boiled down human emotions into a nice pat system he called DISC. It stood for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. While the book was popular it didn't turn into steady work with the media. The views expressed pretty much killed his academic career. Marston was already married but picked up a mistress during this time. He told his wife about her and she liked the idea of a 2nd woman, so the mistress moved in and the three lived happily together with their 4 kids.
          William was able to write some columns for the Family Circle magazine. His girlfriend used her journalistic credentials to publish some interviews with Marston as well. It's there William Gaines read about him and offered him an opportunity at All American Comics. Marston told Gaines the biggest problem with comics was all the masculinity. He proposed to create a female superhero that would be propaganda for his views on women. He believed that all men secretly wanted a woman more powerful than they were to mother them and love them. He also believed women were the superior sex and wanted them to rule the world. His intent was to use a comic superhero character to turn young girls into strong women. Gaines agreed to publish the new character but his assistant Sheldon Mayer convinced Marston to use the name Wonder Woman instead of the original name, Suprema. Marston did insist on artist Harry G. Peter because he liked how innocent he drew Wonder Woman. He also had a fetish for bondage and made sure every story had at least one situation where somebody was tied down. This became common in other comic books for years afterwards.
          Marston would be a smart negotiator for his character. He had it written in his contract that if DC ever stopped publishing Wonder Woman all the rights would revert back to him.

Did You Know? - Dr. William Mouton Marston would also create the lie detector, although he used a process a bit more complicated than a Magic Lasso.

1942 - Crime Does Not Pay #22 - Click
for Bigger Image in a New Page           Crime Does Not Pay started with issue #22, cover dated June 1942. It started at this number because the comic was originally called Silver Streak Comics but they changed the name with that issue. The comic was published by Lev Gleason and was a huge success. Charles Biro was the main creative editor/script writer and Bob Wood was the one handling the business end of the comic. This comic once claimed it had over 6 million readers a month, but they were assuming an industry standard of more than one person reading each bought issue. Regardless, the comic sold high numbers because it wasn't for kids only. Sometimes the cover would have "Get Crime Does Not Pay! Show it to Dad, He'll Love it!" The very title was taken from a popular MGM newsreel and surprisingly they didn’t sue. In the third issue, Mr. Crime would appear and narrate the story.

          While simple sounding, the comic actually had many elements that contributed to its success. First off the comic showed things normal comics wouldn't because the stories were true. You would see criminals smoke, drink, their violent acts and their often violent capture or death. You also couldn't see these things in movies or radios because of their own strict codes. Secondly because the story would have the criminals in the lead roll and some of the readers would cheer while they did their dirty deeds. They also secretly hoped the criminal would get away. That never happened though as the covers often showed the criminals were in a no-escape situation and didn't escape. It should be said there were magazines of a similar nature and they too were popular.

          This lead to the other reasons the comic was popular. By showing the criminals doing their nasty acts the comic was also preventing kids from going into crime. They saw the lifestyle and stuff that really happened to people who joined the criminal element. Often the comic would get letters from parents, teachers and kids saying the comic steered young ones away from crime. Although after a while criticism of these ultra violent comics began to rise, Lev Gleason slapped a "Not Intended for Children" warning label on the covers but that didn't appease the critics. After Crime Does Not Pay many similar style comics came out. By 1948 the crime genre hit its peak with 14% of the market.

          Eventually the criticism became too great. In 1954, Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent came out claiming that these comics were partly (if not wholly) to blame for the rise of juvenile delinquency. When the CCA formed the crime genre came to an end. One of the provisions of the CCA was that the world "Crime" not be in the title. This comic and pretty much the crime genre died with issue #147 July 1955. This is a real shame as crime and horror comics were the first newsstand comics in a while to successfully reach out to a market other than children.

          Charles Biro was an editor that fans got to "know" through the comic. He would write in a hyperbolic style that Stan Lee would later imitate. He would think like a kid and knew that kids enjoyed the detailed art showing gore and violence. Even though his art was crude, he drew the early covers of Crime Does Not Pay and filled them with violence. At one time he tried to give comic books a new name, his suggestion was Illustories.

Behind the Scenes - Woodoya mean these comics are violent?
          Editor / Artist Bob Wood would become famous for another reason, the murder of his 45 year old girlfriend Violette Phillips. In 1958 the two were staying at the Irving Hotel in New York and Wood was on a 11 day drinking binge. The couple were arguing about getting married when Wood used an electric iron to kill her. He then hopped in a cab and told the cab driver what he had done. He said after a few hours of sleep he would jump into the east river. The cab driver told the police and they found Wood, passed out from drinking and still in blood stained clothes. He confessed to the police and was convicted of Manslaughter. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison. Because of his connection with the notorious Crime Does Not Pay comic, this became a major news story in the media. Wood had been known for his alcoholism and was believed to be a regularly abusive to women. He was also known to have owed money to loan sharks and on occasions disappeared for a few days to come back battered and bruised.
          After he got out of prison he tried getting back into comics again with the help of some former friends still in the industry. He didn’t have much luck due to his alcoholism (which gave him shaky hands) and out dated art style. According to Joe Simon who was in contact with Wood's family, Bob Wood was working as a short order cook for a New Jersey diner when some ex cons he owed money to paid him a visited. They took him for a ride in a car and dumped his dead body along side the New Jersey turnpike.

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