Saturday, June 7, 2014

An 1870 "picture story" from The Little Corporal

This borderline comic strip from The Little Corporal (July, 1870!) is pretty amazing--and it seems to support my theory that modern (read: 1930s-on) comic books evolved from magazines for children, especially, the male variety thereof.  To be sure, historians have traced comic books back to the early 1800s, if not earlier, but the magazine-style layout of Charlton, Dell, and Gold Key comics--short stories, joke panels, novelty and make-money-at-home advertisements, puzzles, publisher-sponsored contests, etc.--seems to have come straight out of periodicals like Boy's Life, The American Boy, and Open Road for Boys, not to mention 19th century kiddie mags like this one.  Open Road, et al. were extremely high class derivatives of pulps and dime novels.  More (much more) on them later.

Even more amazing are some of the ads in this 1870 Little Corporal issue--all of them comic book staples, except maybe for the (what the...?) "Parlor Fireworks" offer.  Good grief.  Indoor fireworks?  How safe was that?

Plus, we have a how-to-draw book, money-making opportunities for boys and girls, an inexpensive  science gadget accompanied by classic Johnson Smith-style hype (It "reveals the thousands of the unseen wonders of creation," no less), and a home printing press (in addition to the burn-down-your-parlor kit).  Encountering these types of offers in '60s and '70s Charltons and Gold Keys, I had no idea how far back their roots stretched.  Now we know.

What to conclude?  That such offers have timeless appeal?  That comic book publishers and editors chose the cheap(er) alternative of going with tried-and-true marketing schemes?  That's the theory I lean toward....

Please stay away from fireworks, both outdoor and parlor.


1 comment:

  1. When you read the text of these li'l squibs - besides visualizing ferule-straight posture and yes-sir/yes-ma'am - you see something of the twenty-first century also clearly foreshadowed! The Jones, Junkin, and Co. ad includes these words: "We want nothing to do with drones"... haven't we heard that a lot lately? Maybe... that ties in with the Parlor Fireworks, which are claimed to be "perfectly harmless"?

    We may never know.

    Kind regards,
    A. Gene Childe