Margaret Bourke-White Becomes the Hero of Camera Comics, at Auction

U.S. Camera Publishing Corp. was founded by photographer and advertising executive Thomas J. Maloney. in 1935.  The company initially published U.S. Camera annuals followed by related hardcover books.  A regular U.S. Camera magazine followed in 1938, becoming an important showcase for photography and its professional uses, and photojournalism as a news medium.  In 1944, U.S. Camera Publishing Corp launched Camera Comics, featuring covers and art from the likes of H.C. Kiefer, Louis Schroeder, and Roland Patenaude among others.  Beginning in Camera Comics #3, the series featured the fictional adventures of a character based on legendary photographer Margaret Bourke-White.  An obscure but historically important Golden Age series, there's a group of Camera Comics #3, 6, and 9 (U. S. Camera Publishing Corp., 1945-46) Condition: Average GD/VG up for auction in the 2022 September 18-19 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122238 at Heritage Auctions.

Camera Comics #3 (1945) featuring Linda Lens as inspired by Margaret Bourke-White.
Camera Comics #3 (1945) featuring Linda Lens as inspired by Margaret Bourke-White.

According to photography scholar Gary Saretzky, the character Linda Lens, who debuted in Camera Comics #3, was loosely inspired by pioneering photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White.  Among many other achievements, Bourke-White was a staff photographer for both Fortune and Life magazines, and her photograph of a dam at Fort Peck, Montana was used as the cover for the 1936 relaunch of Life as a photo-centric magazine (Life, which had launched in 1883, was previously best known for its illustrations by Charles Dana Gibson among others). In 1930-1932, she became the first Western professional photographer allowed into the Soviet Union, taking now-famous photographs of Joseph Stalin and other figures, among many other subjects.  During World War II, Bourk-White became a war correspondent, working in combat zones.  The March 1, 1943 issue of Life article "Life's Bourke-White Goes Bombing" further vaulted her into the public eye as she became the first woman to accompany the U.S. Army Air Force on a bombing mission.

Interestingly, Camera Comics was not the only Golden Age comic book to feature Margaret Bourke-White.  Famous Funnies #89 (cover-dated December 1941) contained a one-page comic of her career highlights at that time, and DC Comics' Real Fact Comics #8 (May-June 1947) included a story chronicling her career, and on its cover included an illustrated version of the iconic photo of Bourke-White from the May 1, 1943, Life article.  The Margaret Bourk-White Collection at Syracuse University includes original art pages from an additional comic book story featuring Bourke-White which may have gone unpublished.

The 1944 Alfred Hitchcock movie Lifeboat starring Tallulah Bankhead is said to have been inspired by a December 1942 incident in which a ship Bourke-White was traveling on during a combat mission was torpedoed.  In 1989, Farah Fawcett starred in the TV movie Double Exposure: The Story of Margaret Bourke-White, which was based on the book Margaret Bourke-White and The Power of Photography by Vicki Goldberg.

Featuring a character inspired by one of the most important figures in the history of American photojournalism, there's a group of Camera Comics #3, 6, and 9 (U. S. Camera Publishing Corp., 1945-46) Condition: Average GD/VG up for auction in the 2022 September 18-19 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122238 at Heritage Auctions. If you've never bid at Heritage Auctions before, you can get further information, you can check out their FAQ on the bidding process and related matters.

Camera Comics #3, 6, and 9 Group (U. S. Camera Publishing Corp., 1945-46)
Camera Comics #3, 6, and 9 Group (U. S. Camera Publishing Corp., 1945-46)

Camera Comics #3, 6, and 9 Group (U. S. Camera Publishing Corp., 1945-46) Condition: Average GD/VG. Includes Issues #3 (Nazi war cover – spine roll), 6 (FR/GD – top staple detached, top 1.5" of back cover missing, spine splitting from the bottom), and 9 (soiling, water damage, piece missing from the top of the spine). Approximate Overstreet value for group = $150.

More Information: EDIT: Specified that it's the back cover of #6 that's missing a 1.5" strip at the top, and that the book is in FR/GD grade.

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About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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