Separated at Birth: NY World's Fair 1940 and Big 3 #1, Up for Auction

Over the course of our recent posts about Fox Feature Syndicate, we've talked a lot about Victor Fox's various conflicts with other publishers. There are two known legal conflicts with DC Comics, involving similarities between Fox characters and Superman and Batman & Robin.  There was a likely conflict between Fox and Marvel over the name Electro, and in another instance that shows that he was certainly not the only publisher who cribbed from his competitors there's a case where he accused Marvel of copying the Blue Beetle that we'll get to here shortly.  Victor Fox did not shy away from these conflicts, and seemingly accepted the risk associated with mimicking the successes of his rivals.  And while this particular instance didn't result in any legal action (as far as we know), Big 3 #1 is another clear-cut case of Victor Fox mimicking a DC Comics release.  There's a complete run of Fox Feature Syndicate's Big 3 up for auction in the 2022 December 1 Fox Comics Showcase Auction #40214 at Heritage Auctions.

Big 3 #1 (Fox) vs NY World's Fair Comics 1940 (DC Comics).
Big 3 #1 (Fox) vs NY World's Fair Comics 1940 (DC Comics).

Although titles combining the most popular superhero characters picked from other titles in the publisher's line would become a standard practice in the comic book industry, the idea didn't truly get started before 1940 for obvious reasons. With the industry exploding in Superman's wake in the second half of 1939, no Golden Age publisher had built up an entire line of ostensibly popular superhero-centric titles until then.  While DC Comics had published New York World's Fair 1939 in conjunction with the debut of that event, it didn't even feature its superhero characters prominently on its cover.  But when they did it again with New York World's Fair 1940, and DC's sister company All-American Comics published All Star Comics #1 in the same month, Victor Fox spotted the trend.  Five months after those two comics had been published, Fox had his own version on the newsstands with the launch of Big 3 #1, with its cover clearly patterned after New York World's Fair 1940 right down to the color scheme, composition and the waving superheroes.  Like many such titles, Big 3 featured its star characters in separate adventures.

Interestingly, while All Star Comics was of course a continuing series from the beginning, New York World's Fair wasn't truly an ongoing series, and the fair closed on October 27, 1940.  But the next year, DC Comics launched World's Best Comics, featuring Superman, Batman, and Robin, renamed it World's Finest Comics with issue #2, and it's possible they "returned the favor" to Fox early on in that series.  World's Finest Comics #5 featured its three heroes saluting on its cover, just as Big 3 #3 had several months prior.  A common enough concept during wartime, but an interesting similarity nonetheless.

The cover of New York World's Fair 1940 was the first published cover by Golden Age great Jack Burnley.  Burnley would go on to do extensive work across the DC Comics line, including both Superman and Batman material.  He is perhaps best remembered as the co-creator of Starman with Gardner Fox.  The artist of the cover of Big 3 #1 is unknown.  An early example of featuring all of a comic book publisher's superhero stars in a single comic, there's a complete run of Fox Feature Syndicate's Big 3 up for auction in the 2022 December 1 Fox Comics Showcase Auction #40214 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.

Big 3 #1 (Fox, 1940)
Big 3 #1 (Fox, 1940)

Separated At Birth used to be called Swipe File, in which we present two or more images that resemble each other to some degree. They may be homages, parodies, ironic appropriations, coincidences, or works of the lightbox. We trust you, the reader, to make that judgment yourself. If you are unable to do so, we ask that you please return your eyes to their maker before any further damage is done. Separated At Borth doesn't judge; it is interested more in the process of creation, how work influences other work, how new work comes from old, and sometimes how the same ideas emerge simultaneously as if their time has just come. The Swipe File was named after the advertising industry habit where writers and artists collect images and lines they admire to inspire them in their work. It was swiped from the Comic Journal, who originally ran a similar column and the now-defunct Swipe Of The Week website, but Separated At Birth is considered a less antagonistic title.

 

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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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