The Bulletman Saga in Fawcett's Nickel Comics, Up for Auction

Created by Fawcett Publications editor/writer Bill Parker and artist Jon Smalle, Bulletman debuted in the launch of the series Nickel Comics (cover-dated May 1940).  The character Jim Barr was the son of a police officer killed on the job, who wanted nothing more than to follow in his father's footsteps.  But he found he was "too short… too skinny…" and had bad marksmanship.  He turned his focus to science and forensics, and was soon working with police as a criminologist. A formidable intellect, Barr began pursuing the theory that crime was a disease of the body that could be cured with serum.  Using the serum he developed on himself, he found that it destroyed "the poisons which sap other men's strength," giving him incredible physical power and durability.  Barr also developed an anti-gravity helmet, completing his transition to Bulletman.  The earliest adventures of an important Golden Age superhero, there's a group of several issues of Nickel Comics up for auction in the 2022 July 10-11 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122228 at Heritage Auctions.

Nickel Comics #5 featuring Bulletman, (Fawcett 1940).
Nickel Comics #5 featuring Bulletman, (Fawcett 1940).

As the name implies, Nickel Comics was a noteworthy experiment by Fawcett, at half the price of the rest of the field at the time and with a bi-weekly release schedule.  It was also half the page count of the standard format at the time.  This was not an out-of-the-blue experiment by Fawcett during this period, as they dropped their Hollywood Magazine from ten cents to five cents with apparently some success for a few years around 1937-1940.  Fawcett even told Writer's Digest that they were prepared to follow up with a second title, called Five-Cent Comics if Nickel Comics was a success.

Of course, Nickel Comics ended after eight issues.  While the price point and format were undoubtedly a factor, there may have been other matters in play as well. Over the course of two months in Fall 1940, Fawcett ended Nickel Comics, moved its oversized Master Comics to a standard format, ended Slam-Bang Comics, and then folded Bulletman and several Slam-Bang Comics features into Master Comics. This series of moves reduced the line to two standard-format titles.

Fascinatingly, this streamlining of the comic book line might have been planned to go even further.  In a move that might have altered the course of comic book history, it was reported that the company was prepared to contract to a single title at that time, and Writer's Digest reported that Slam Bang Comics would be the survivor, with Nickel Comics, Master Comics, and Whiz Comics ending.  While it's possible that this was a miscommunication between Fawcett and Writer's Digest, at this time Fawcett was undergoing a shakeup across its publishing operations due to editors being drafted into military service for WWII.  Comics editor Bill Parker, who was also scripting numerous features for the comics line, handed off his editorial duties to France E. Herron right after the line was streamlined.

Nevertheless, despite this editorial turmoil, Bulletman survived and the franchise soon expanded to include Bulletgirl and Bulletdog, and his own title in addition to the Master Comics feature. The genesis of an important Golden Age superhero, there's a group of several issues of Nickel Comics up for auction in the 2022 July 10-11 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122228 at Heritage Auctions.

Nickel Comics #3 (Fawcett Publications, 1940) CGC FN/VF 7.0 Cream to off-white pages. Jack Binder cover. Overstreet 2021 FN 6.0 value = $282; VF 8.0 value = $597. CGC census 6/22: 2 in 7.0, 5 higher.

Nickel Comics #5 (Fawcett Publications, 1940) CGC FN+ 6.5 Off-white to white pages. Bondage cover by C. C. Beck. Overstreet 2021 FN 6.0 value = $231; VF 8.0 value = $493. CGC census 6/22: 3 in 6.5, 5 higher.

Nickel Comics #7 (Fawcett Publications, 1940) CGC FN/VF 7.0 Off-white to white pages. Gerber rates this issue a "7" ("scarce") on its Scarcity Index. Bulletman cover by C. C. Beck. Overstreet 2021 FN 6.0 value = $231; VF 8.0 value = $493. CGC census 6/22: 2 in 7.0, 6 higher.

Nickel Comics #8 (Fawcett Publications, 1940) CGC FN- 5.5 White pages. Both Overstreet and Gerber list this last issue of the title as "scarce". World's Fair cover by C. C. Beck. Overstreet 2021 FN 6.0 value = $291. CGC census 6/22: 4 in 5.5, 10 higher.

Heritage Sponsored
Affiliates of Bleeding Cool buy from and/or consign to Heritage Auctions.

Enjoyed this? Please share on social media!

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.
twitterfacebook
Comments will load 8 seconds after page. Click here to load them now.