World War Two had ended in 1945. After the war, people were tired of fighting and reading superhero comic books. From 1946 to 1949 no new superhero titles were introduced, with the one exception of Marvel’s Blonde Phantom in the winter of 1946/47. Superhero sales took a sharp decline immediately after the war. Captain Marvel lost about 2.5 million in circulation between 1945 and 1947. In 1948 many superhero titles are converted to western or romance books. With Young Romance being the smash hit, others decided to give the genre a try. The comic industry also noticed that Fawcett’s Hopalong Cassidy title went from 4 million to 8 million in yearly circulation between 1947 and 1948 (roughly from 333,334 to 666,667 in sales each month). In 1948 publishers began creating more Western and Romance Comics. The big explosion was in crime comic books as Lev Gleason's Crime Does Not Pay and Crime and Punishment had sales of 1.5 million every month. Every single publisher did a crime comic, this included the typically tame Dell Comics doing a Dick Tracy title. The explosion changed the market, as in 1947 crime made up 1.5% of the market. By the end of 1948 it was 15% of the market, a boom of 38 new titles. In 1949 the big explosion was in Romance Comics. With Young Romance selling over a million issues each month other publishers wanted in. By the end of the year there were 99 romance books on the newsstand.
All the new genres helped the industry as it the amount of new comics had gone up 75% between 1946 and 1949. Key to this explosion was the end of paper rationing after WWII was over. Among the superhero titles that did well during this period were DC’s Superman and Batman, this in part because of popular movie serials devoted to the characters. Another genre that should be noticed is young kids comics, particularly licensed books. Dell Comics was still the most prosperous of all publishers by doing these type of titles. Other publishers tried to compete by doing comics that appealed to the same demographic. Mixed in with most of these genres is what was called "Good Girl" art. These were comics that had good looking women in either (or a combination of) torn clothes, tied up, "nice headlights" or simply panels with provocative poses of their shapely figures. Some comics relied more on the good girl art than anything else to sell the title. The example shown here is The Saint #1 by Avon, published in August of 1947.
Dell would have another major hit with a licensed character, this being Tarzan. His series would start in January of 1948 would would continue until issue #258 ending in 1977. Along the way it would survive the Dell to Gold Key change and would move over to DC in 1972. The series would be published quarterly to bi-monthly to monthly and back again throughout it's run. Among the artists working on this series is Jesse Marsh (who drew this cover), Russ Manning and Joe Kubert. Within Tarzan there was a back up story called Brothers of the Spear which would grow popular enough to get it's own series as well. This would not be Tarzan's first appearance in newsstand comic books, his very popular comic strip was reprinted within the comic strip books back in the late 1930's and early 1940's. Tarzan still comes back now and then in comic books. In fact shortly after his stopped at DC, it started again at Marvel. That series went 29 issues ending in 1979. From there the character would come back though various publishers.
With the World War II over and Hitler and other foreign enemies beaten, superhero sales were falling. The war was won and people were happy to see it end. They were tired of fighting and wanted something different. Publisher began looking for something else to keep the young boys reading comics. One genre they quickly turned to was Western. In this year a number of western comics would come out. The one shown here is titled simply Western Comics and it's first issue was published by DC in January of 1948. This comic would go 13 years ending in 1961 with #85. Within this comic was a mix of real Western characters like Jesse James and new creations. Other companies would also create original western characters, Marvel being among the more successful. They created Two-Gun Kid who began in March of 1948 and went 136 issues and ending in 1977. Other original characters Marvel did were Kid Colt Outlaw and Rawhide Kid. Kid Colt Outlaw would be even more successful than Two-Gun. His series started in August of this year and end in 1979 with issue 229. It should be said that with from #140 (1969) on, the book was filled with reprints.
1948 would be a big year for brand name Western characters to get their own comics. Among the characters to get their own series this year would be The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. The Lone Ranger comic (published by Dell) would begin in January and go until 1962. It would start up again under the Gold Key name in 1964 and go 28 issues ending in 1977. Prior to this he appeared in Four Color Comics randomly from 1945 and up. His first 37 issues were comic strip reprints. From #38 and up Paul S. Newman would write original stories for the character. Like Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers would be published by Dell and would start in January of 1948. His series would go 145 issues ending in 1961. Dale Evans was published by DC Comics, her series would start in September of 1948 but would stop with issue #24 in 1952. The next year her title would be published by Dell under the name Queen of the West Dale Evans. It would go until 1959 ending with issue #22.
There were many, many other TV and movie cowboys would be published around this time. In fact, if he (or she) was on TV there was a very good chance would also be in comic books. Among the others are Gene Autry, Monty Hale, Howdy Doody and many, many others. One key note to most of the western books was the use of a photo of the star on the cover, it must have worked in getting sales because photo covers became much more common afterwards. The Lone Ranger started off with typical comic book covers, but would move to painted, then photo covers. Notable about Dale Evans DC series was the artwork was done by Alex Toth. He was a very highly regarded penciler that bounced around from series to series and publisher to publisher never staying in one place for very long. Editors would often frame his artwork and tell their artists to draw like Alex Toth.
During this period publishers experimented with mixed genre comic books. Publishers thought if Westerns sold and Romance sold and Crime sold then what about a mix of two or three elements? There were a variety of these types of books. The one shown here is Women Outlaws #1. By the cover you can see this mixes western, crime, and good girl art. With female characters there is also a likely element of romance. It was published by Fox in 1948 but like most of these types of series it didn't last very long. This particular series only went 8 issues. The problem with genre mixing was readers often liked one genre and were turned off by others getting mixed in. If a reader liked Crime then why buy a half crime/half western when there were plenty of pure crime books out there?
A crime comic with a twist came out in early 1948. This was called Murder Incorporated, named after a famous group of mob hit men that were in the news. It was published by Fox Features Syndicate and had an Adults Only label on it. This would be the first newsstand comic that attempted to make their comic for adult readers only. Inside were 3 stories all said to be true. They involve Charlie Birger, Michael Malloy and the duo of Arthur J Wright and Winnie McKeever. The first two has been identified as having some basis in fact, the last one I have not found any evidence of being true yet. There are no credits inside the comic. As with other Fox comics, the cover is slighter thicker paper than the insides and the first story page starts on the inside cover. The stories do show a lot of violence, with bullets going through people (men and women) and red, bloody bullet wounds. The murderers inside are very callous and think nothing of killing people. After two issues the Adults Only label was dropped. The title went 16 issues but oddly there would be 2 issue #9s. Then the series became a romance title called My Private Life. Fox would bring Murder Inc. back in 1950 starting with issue #5, but the following 2 issues would be numbered 2 and 3.
Murder Inc. #1 is in the public domain and you can download and read it by clicking here. (39.4 MB - Scanned Paper)