Matt Baker's Kid Kane and the Mystery of Atomic Comics #4, at Auction

There's no other way to say it:  Atomic Comics is a weird title from a weird publisher.  The short-lived series from Green Publishing Co. is perhaps best-remembered for the fact that the cover of issue #1 is a swipe of Creig Flessel's memorable cover of Detective Comics #8.  The publisher's output is largely an eclectic mix of (probably unauthorized) reprints from other publishers like DC Comics and MLJ, swipes, and original material with unusual circumstances attached to it.  There's a Kid Kane story that is classic Matt Baker, a wonderfully strange feature story called The Atomic Blondshell by Jack Kamen (probably) and others from Iger Studio, and a memorably unusual cover featuring the character Lucky Wings (the Atomic Blondshell in this story) being threatened by an atomic energy projector.  A wonderfully weird comic book stem to stern, there's an Atomic Comics #4 (Green Publishing Co., 1946) Condition: VG up for auction in the 2022 August 11 The Matt Baker Showcase Auction #40190 at Heritage Auctions.

Atomic Comics #4 (Green Publishing Co., 1946) featuring Matt Baker artwork.
Atomic Comics #4 (Green Publishing Co., 1946) featuring Matt Baker artwork.

It's been widely noted that Baker's Kid Kane in Atomic Comics #2-4 is very similar to Kayo Kirby, a character from Fiction House's Fight Comics which Baker had also been working on around this same time.  However, Fight Comics dropped from 48 pages to 32 pages for issues #40-42 (bi-monthly cover-dated October 1945 to February 1946), no doubt due to difficulties in getting paper, and in the process, the Kayo Kirby feature was dropped for those three issues.  Kid Kane then ran for three issues in Atomic Comics #2-4, cover-dated March to July-August 1946.  It is not unlikely that those three installments of Kayo Kirby were revamped into three Kid Kane stories.  Fight Comics thereafter expanded to 48 pages again, and Kayo Kirby resumed.

But that Atomic Blondshell cover story feature is even more unusual.  The artwork from this Iger Studio story was remixed with additional panels into a Blue Beetle story called The Anonymous Atom which appears in Blue Beetle #55 (Fox Feature Syndicate, 1948) two years later.  The specific reference to atomic bomb testing in the Pacific, which was actually a plot point in the story, makes it unlikely that this tale was ever meant for another publisher due to the historical reference to the tests at Bikini Atoll that year.  In fact, Atomic Comics #4 was just hitting the newsstands around the day that testing there began, incredibly enough, though preparations for the tests had been discussed in the media for much of the year.  The Atomic Comics title itself had been launched about three months after the U.S. had used atomic bombs in World War II.

Atomic Comics publisher Green Publishing Co. is an obscure publisher with a handful of output entirely clustered around two years, 1946 and 1957. Publisher David Korneman was also a paper broker who used his connections parlay his paper access into the hot comic market of the late war era.  Korneman also had a relationship to a publisher named Chicago Nite Life News — another company with a brief involvement in comic book publishing in 1945.  The two publishers share an address and ownership and/or control.  A 1945 obituary for Norman Korneman, magazine and book editor of Green Publishing Co., identifies his father David Korneman as the President of Chicago Nite Life News, while a 1947 notice about paper shortages identifies David Korneman as the President of Green Publishing Co. of New York City.  The elder Korneman testified before a Senate Subcommittee on Newsprint and Paper Shortages about Post-WWII newsprint shortages that had persisted after the war for a variety of reasons.

This gives us a likely clue towards what's going on with the brief comic book involvement of both Green Publishing Co., and Chicago Nite Life News.  Chicago Nite Life News had run afoul of War Production Board paper quotas in 1945 due to involvement with notorious comic book publisher Victor Fox:

Permission to continue distribution of two comic magazines, Ribtickler and Book All Comics, was refused by the War Production Board's Appeals Board, it was announced by WPB on June 22. The magazines had been printed in violation Of order L-244 which limits the paper tonnage that can be used to print magazines and periodicals.
The decision, WPB said, may set up a precedent for cases involving many millions Of copies Of comic and detective magazines that have been printed in violation of paper quota regulations. The Appeals Board held that the "evidence at hearing failed to support claim of severe hardship other than what was apparently self-imposed". The appeal was filed by Belmont Books, Inc., and Giant Books, Inc. Victor S. Fox is president of both corporations. The two comic magazines Ribtickler and Book of All Comics were published under the imprint of Chicago Nite Life News. Inc., 250 West Broadway, New York N, Y. , which has used paper greatly in excess of its quota.
The company that printed Ribtickler and Book of All Comics used, for the account of Chicago Nite Life News. 234 tons of paper in March 1945, whereas the consumption quota of Chicago Nite Life News. Inc., under Order L-244 is only 3.8 tons per quarter.
This combined with David Korneman's 1947 Senate testimony about paper shortages points to the notion that Korneman was adroit at understanding the ins and outs of paper brokerage issues of the era and was able to leverage his expertise to obtain paper for his companies and use it to his advantage or on behalf of other publishers.  Korneman's 1947 Senate testimony is worth your time.  He informs the Senate Subcommittee that he had been a publisher of comic books and "detective stories", and then proceeds to outline how he conducted business with paper brokers and paper mills for newsprint throughout 1946 — exactly the time of Green Publishing Co's first stint in the comic book business, publishing Atomic Comics among others.  Korneman also appeared to be a familiar figure to others testifying before the Subcommittee. It's a historically fascinating exchange.

A weird comic book with Matt Baker artwork and some deliciously obscure history behind it, there's an Atomic Comics #4 (Green Publishing Co., 1946) Condition: VG up for auction in the 2022 August 11 The Matt Baker Showcase Auction #40190 at Heritage Auctions.

Atomic Comics #4 (Green Publishing Co., 1946)
Atomic Comics #4 (Green Publishing Co., 1946)

Atomic Comics #4 (Green Publishing Co., 1946) Condition: VG. Matt Baker and Robert Webb art. Final issue of the title. Overstreet 2021 VG 4.0 value = $86.

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Mark SeifertAbout 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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