The Historic Legacy of Columbia's Big Shot Comics, Up for Auction

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During the boom years of 1939 and the early 1940s of the Golden Age of American comic books, most new entrants in the field naturally had little or no experience in comics publishing.  Such was not the case for Columbia Comics Corporation, which entered the field in April 1940 with Big Shot Comics #1, a series debut that had an impressive array of creative talent behind it.  Columbia had brought in foundational DC Comics editor/creator Vin Sullivan as their editor. By some accounts, it was Sullivan who had acquired Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Superman for his publisher and then asked Bob Kane to develop a superhero character for the Detective Comics title — resulting in the creation of Batman. Sullivan tapped his industry contacts for Columbia, and foundational Golden Age greats like Gardner Fox, Creig Flessel, Fred Gardineer, Ogden Whitney, and others produced work for Big Shot Comics.  An underappreciated title featuring work by a number of important creators, there's a Big Shot Comics #1, #2, #11 and #14 available in this week's 2021 July 4-5 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122127 from Heritage Auctions.

Big Shot Comics #14 (Columbia, 1941)
Big Shot Comics #14 (Columbia, 1941)

Even aside from Vin Sullivan and the creative talent he brought to the company, the people behind Columbia Comics already had an impressive history in comics by 1940.  The publisher was a partnership between Sulivan, the McNaught Syndicate, and the Frank Jay Markey Syndicate.  McNaught was among the newspaper syndicates to provide material for the important 1933 comic book giveaway Funnies on Parade.  In 1937, McNaught, Markey, and Iowa's Register and Tribune Syndicate provided material for Everett M. Arnold's Feature Funnies anthology.

McNaught Syndicate itself was founded in 1922, handling regular features by the likes of Will Rogers, Walter Winchell, Dale Carnegie, and most famously Abigail Van Buren's Dear Abby.  McNaught Syndicate comic strips that appeared in Big Shot Comics included Ham Fisher's Joe Palooka, H.J. Tuthill's The Bungle Family, and Charlie Chan.

Skyman by Ogden Whitney and Gardner Fox was the stand-out original feature of Big Shot Comics, with some historians describing Skyman as a precursor of sorts to Gardner Fox's later creation Starman for DC Comics.  All of these early issues have surprisingly few entries on the CGC Census: #1: 16 entries, #2: 9 entries, #11: 1 entry, and #14: 5 entries. An underappreciated title featuring work by a number of important creators, there's a Big Shot Comics #1, #2, #11 and #14 available in this week's 2021 July 4-5 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122127 from Heritage Auctions.

Big Shot Comics #1 (Columbia, 1940)
Big Shot Comics #1 (Columbia, 1940)

Big Shot Comics #1 (Columbia, 1940) CGC VG- 3.5 White pages

Big Shot Comics #1 (Columbia, 1940) CGC VG- 3.5 White pages. Introduction and first appearance of Skyman. First appearance of The Face. The Cloak (Spy Master), Joe Palooka, Charlie Chan, Tom Kerry, Dixie Dugan, and Rock Ryan begin their series runs. Ogden Whitney cover and art. Mart Bailey and Fred Guardineer art. Overstreet 2020 VG 4.0 value = $600. CGC census 6/21: 1 in 3.5, 12 higher.

Big Shot Comics #2 CGC FN/VF 7.0 Off-white pages

Big Shot Comics #2 (Columbia, 1940) CGC FN/VF 7.0 Off-white pages. Appearances by Dixie Dugan, Spymaster, The Face, and more. Fred Guardineer art. Gerber rates this book as "uncommon". Overstreet 2020 FN 6.0 value = $300; VF 8.0 value = $635. CGC census 6/21: 4 in 7.0, 2 higher.

Big Shot Comics #11 (Columbia, 1941) CBCS FN+ 6.5 Cream to off-white pages

Big Shot Comics #11 (Columbia, 1941) CBCS FN+ 6.5 Cream to off-white pages. The Face, Marvelo, and Joe Palooka appearances. President Franklin Roosevelt appearance. Overstreet 2020 FN 6.0 value = $141; VF 8.0 value = $296.

Big Shot Comics #14 CGC Apparent FN- 5.5 Slight (C-1) Off-white to white pages

Big Shot Comics #14 (Columbia, 1941) CGC Apparent FN- 5.5 Slight (C-1) Off-white to white pages. Origin and first appearance of Sparky Watts. Skyman cover and interior art by Ogden Whitney. Joe Palooka, Charlie Chan, and the Face also appear. CGC notes, "Restoration includes: spine splits sealed to cover." Overstreet 2020 VG 4.0 value = $100; FN 6.0 value = $150.

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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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