The Promise Collection 1947: Love, Death, and Comic Books

"As to this enormous use of sexual symbols in comic books it is almost useless to speak, except to mention that it is a predictable enough result of censorship," declared self-proclaimed Marxist and cultural commentator Gershon Legman, in Love and Death, which was ostensibly a study of the relationship between censorship and violent and sexual content.  The comic book portion of Love and Death was originally published in issue #3 of the magazine Neurotica from Fall 1948, which helps explain why several of Legman's examples are from the January-April 1947 cover-dated period that we're covering in this installment of the Promise Collection series.  Indeed, Legman continued this section of his rather breathless discourse by naming several comic books present in the Promise Collection in quick succession: "…with the whales rushing up between the legs of women who go out to fish for minnows (Jumbo Comics #94), the rhinoceros with double horns on his nose… (Fight Comics #48), the moon-rockets with the red tips to which interplanetary women-captives must be bound (this is standard), the snakes, the whips, the endless revolvers and automatics aimed from and at the groin, if not at the buttocks; and, at the absolute nadir of indefensible vulgarity, the habitual desecration of women in wedding gowns, now repeated on the cover of Claire Voyant Comics #3… where the bride is socked on the chin with the butt of a gun, thrown in the mud in her white tulle gown…"

Claire Voyant #3, 1947, The Promise Collection.
Claire Voyant #3, 1947, The Promise Collection.

Legman, briefly an associate of the more famous Fredric Wertham at his Lafargue Clinic, would also go all-in on Wonder Woman co-creator William Moulton Marston and DC Comics editorial advisor Dr. Lauretta Bender. — rather bizarrely calling Wonder Woman sexless, synthetic, and "Blondie with a bull-whip."  And Legman was hardly the only critic of comic books during this period.  Even Coulton Waugh, whose landmark The Comics historical overview of the comics art form, published in 1947, would say of comic books in particular, "We had better add comic books to the list of important developments made in the world in the last ten years. This hurts many people; it doesn't seem possible that anything so raw, so purely ugly, should be so important. Comic books are ugly; it is hard to find anything to admire about their appearance. The paper — it's like using sand in cooking. And the drawing: it's true that those artists are capable in a certain sense; the figures are usually well located in depth, they get across action… But there is a soulless emptiness to them, and outrageous vulgarity; and if you do find some that seem, at least, funny and gay, there's the color. Ouch!"  Such sentiments would help shape again-increasing comic book controversies over the next two years and beyond.

Welcome to Part 13 of the Promise Collection series, which is meant to serve as liner notes of sorts for the comic books in the collection. The Promise Collection is a set of nearly 5,000 comic books, 95% of which are blisteringly high grade, that were published from 1939 to 1952 and purchased by one young comic book fan.  The name of the Promise Collection was inspired by the reason that it was saved and kept in such amazing condition since that time. An avid comic book fan named Junie and his older brother Robert went to war in Korea.  Robert Promised Junie that he would take care of his brother's beloved comic book collection should anything happen to him. Junie was killed during the Korean War, and Robert kept his promise.  There are more details about that background in a previous post regarding this incredible collection of comic books.  And over the course of a few dozen articles in this new series of posts, we will also be revealing the complete listing of the collection.  You can always catch up with posts about this collection at this link, which will become a hub of sorts regarding these comic books over time.

Eerie Comics #1, 1947, The Promise Collection.
Eerie Comics #1, 1947, The Promise Collection.

January Through April 1947 in the Promise Collection

With newsprint shortages at least becoming manageable — if you knew a clever paper broker, at least — the boom in comic books that the industry hoped would materialize in 1946 became a reality in 1947.  The number of comic books in the Promise Collection in 1947 as a whole is up 30% over 1946.  According to Audit Bureau of Circulation data, DC Comics paid circulation exploded between the beginning of 1946 and the end of 1947 — fully doubling over this period.  The horror comics genre achieved a milestone with the release of Eerie Comics #1 from Avon, widely considered the first horror comic book.  Other new title debuts from this period include EC's International Comics #1, Blondie Comics #1, Cow Puncher Comics #1 and The Killers #1 among others, representing the changing range of comic book content as the industry began to evolve in the post-WW2 era.

But that greater range brought greater scrutiny with it.  Along with increasing criticism of what we now call Good Girl comics (and which Gershon Legman called "Squinkies" refining that curious term that seems to have first emerged in 1945), crime comics were also increasingly in the critics' crosshairs.  Put on the spot by a New York Herald Tribune reporter in the aftermath of one of his comic book titles having been banned by the Detroit Police Department, Magazine Enterprises editor Raymond C. Krank responded with surprising candor. "In spite of protests against crime comics," Krank said, "the so-called harmless books just don't sell."  It's likely that Krank well understood he was playing with fire.  Magazine Enterprises hadn't bothered with the pretense that most other publishers used that the title in question was in reality pro-law enforcement (CRIME… Does Not Pay, for example) as the title of the comic launched during this period and then quickly banned in Detroit in 1948 got directly to the point: The Killers.

Star Spangled Comics #65, 1947, The Promise Collection.
Star Spangled Comics #65, 1947, The Promise Collection.

The New Face of Crime

Star Spangled Comics #65, cover-dated February 1947 with a Library of Congress copyright date of  December 11, 1946, is the debut of Robin's first solo series.  The cover and art for the Robin story in this issue is by Win Mortimer.  The writer of the story is unknown but presumed to be Bill Finger. Robin was the cover feature until Star Spangled Comics #95 (cover-dated August 1949) and continued to be a feature in the title until its end with Star Spangled Comics #130 (cover-dated July 1952). Most issues included Batman to some extent as well, and several are even effectively Batman/Robin stories, or nearly so.

Robin's solo debut in this issue seems to directly address one of the underlying concerns of the comic book critics of this era: juvenile delinquency.  Star Spangled Comics #65 has Robin infiltrating a crime school for kids, masquerading as a reform school for juvenile delinquents. The name of this school, "Boyville," was clearly inspired by Boys Town, Nebraska, a town founded in 1917 by Father Edward J. Flanagan to help underprivileged and delinquent boys. The town was made famous by a 1938 movie of the same name starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. The crime school element seems loosely inspired by another 1938 movie of that same name, Crime School, among others. Somewhat ironically, the Robin story in Star Spangled Comics #65 tracks the rise in the national concern over juvenile delinquency during this era, which would result in the Association of Comics Magazine Publishers Code of 1948 — and more famously the Comics Magazine Association of America's Comics Code Authority in 1954.

While Star Spangled Comics in the Robin cover-feature era has a very local and specific take against fighting crime in the post-WW2 period, EC would take that fight against crime global. EC Comics title International Comics (continued for one issue as International Crime Patrol, then as simply Crime Patrol) doesn't get as much attention as the New Trend titles, or even many of the other Pre-Tend titles, but it's an utterly fascinating and underappreciated series from a historical perspective.  The series hit the newsstands in February 1947, less than a year and a half after the formation of the United Nations was announced, and including four separate stories in each issue featuring heroes from various nations fighting crime in their own countries.  As the debut inside front cover states, "ONE WORLD at last becomes a reality as we follow the exciting adventures of our new friends, in far-off places."  The lead feature of each issue was Van Manhattan, American Supersleuth.  The United Nations connection was made explicit with the formation of the International Patrol in International Comics #5.

The introduction of the International Patrol brings the United Nations connections of the series into focus: "Fighting world-wide crime wherever they find it, the representatives of the Big Four… Van Manhattan of America, Igor of Russia, the Chessmen of England and Madelon of France… join forces to protect the United Nations."  This language is a clear reference to the "Big Four" and the "Four Policemen" terminology of the Post WWII council that U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed as a guarantor of world peace, which in turn led to the formation of the United Nations itself.  It's worth noting, however, that the International Crime Patrol leaves out China but includes France in the group. The original "Four Policemen" were the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China.  France was added to that original group as one of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council when the United Nations was formed.

Whatever EC Comics' plans for this U.N.-centric group may have been, it appears likely that those plans ended with the death of Max GainesInternational Comics #5 featuring the debut of the group hit the newsstands one week after his death on August 20, 1947.  The group appeared for the last time a few months later in International Crime Patrol #6, although the issue was rounded out with a Moon Girl story.  The title was renamed Crime Patrol, a more traditional type of crime comic book, with the next issue.  The untimely death of industry pioneer Max Gaines and the subsequent rising influence of his son Bill Gaines upon the industry his father helped to build is symbolic of the crossroads that comic books would face during this moment in its history.

 

Title Issue # grade Cover Date Prices Realized
Action Comics 104 Action Comics #104 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 White pages January 1947 $13,200.00
Action Comics 105 Action Comics #105 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM 9.4 White pages February 1947 $7,200.00
Action Comics 106 Action Comics #106 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM+ 9.6 White pages March 1947 $4,560.00
Action Comics 107 Action Comics #107 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM 9.4 White pages April 1947 $3,360.00
Adventure Comics 112 January 1947
Adventure Comics 113 February 1947
Adventure Comics 114 March 1947
Adventure Comics 115 Adventure Comics #115 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 White pages April 1947
Airboy Comics v3 #12 January 1947
Airboy Comics v4 #1 February 1947
Airboy Comics v4 #2 March 1947
All-New Comics 14 January-February 1947
All-Star Comics 33 All Star Comics #33 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM+ 9.6 White pages February-March 1947 $33,600.00
All-Star Comics 34 April-May 1947
All-American Comics 83 March 1947
All-American Comics 84 April 1947
Archie Comics 24 January-February 1947
Archie Comics 25 March-April 1947
Batman (1940) 39 Batman #39 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 Off-white to white pages February-March 1947
Batman (1940) 40 Batman #40 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages April-May 1947
Big Shot 73 January 1947
Big Shot 74 February 1947
Big Shot 75 March 1947
Big Shot 76 April 1947
Black Cat 4 February-March 1947
Black Cat 5 April-May 1947
Blackhawk 14 Spring 1947
Blonde Phantom 13 Spring 1947
Blondie Comics 1 Spring 1947
Boy Comics 32 February 1947
Boy Comics 33 April 1947
Boy Commandos 19 Boy Commandos #19 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM- 9.2 Off-white to white pages January-February 1947 $2,640.00
Boy Commandos 20 Boy Commandos #20 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC VF/NM 9.0 Off-white to white pages March-April 1947 $780.00
Captain America Comics 60 January 1947
Captain America Comics 61 March 1947
Captain Flight Comics 11 Captain Flight Comics #11 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Four Star, 1947) CGC VF/NM 9.0 White pages February-March 1947 $18,000.00
Captain Marvel Jr. 46 February 1947
Captain Marvel Jr. 47 March 1947
Captain Marvel Jr. 48 April 1947
Captain Marvel Adventures 69 February 1947
Captain Marvel Adventures 70 March 1947
Captain Marvel Adventures 71 April 1947
Claire Voyant 3 Claire Voyant #3 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Leader Enterprises, 1947) CGC VF/NM 9.0 Off-white to white pages 1947 $10,200.00
Claire Voyant 4 Claire Voyant #4 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Leader Enterprises, 1947) CGC NM 9.4 White pages 1947 $10,200.00
Clue Comics 12 February 1947
Clue Comics v2 #1 March 1947
Clue Comics v2 #2 April 1947
Comic Cavalcade 19 February-March 1947
Comic Cavalcade 20 April-May 1947
Cow Puncher Comics 1 Cow Puncher Comics #1 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Avon, 1947) CGC VF+ 8.5 Off-white pages January 1947 $900.00
Crack Comics 46 January 1947
Crime Does Not Pay 49 January 1947
Crime Does Not Pay 50 March 1947
Daredevil Comics (1941) 40 January 1947
Detective Comics 119 Detective Comics #119 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM+ 9.6 White pages January 1947 $9,000.00
Detective Comics 120 Detective Comics #120 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM+ 9.6 White pages February 1947 $40,800.00
Detective Comics 121 March 1947
Detective Comics 122 Detective Comics #122 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC VF/NM 9.0 Off-white to white pages April 1947 $28,800.00
Doll Man 12 Spring 1947
Eerie Comics 1 Eerie #1 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Avon, 1947) CGC NM- 9.2 Cream to off-white pages January 1947 $90,000.00
Exciting Comics 53 Exciting Comics #53 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Nedor, 1947) CGC NM- 9.2 Off-white to white pages January 1947 $5,760.00
Exciting Comics 54 March 1947
Famous Funnies 150 January 1947
Famous Funnies 151 February 1947
Famous Funnies 152 March 1947
Famous Funnies 153 April 1947
Feature Comics 106 January 1947
Feature Comics 107 February 1947
Feature Comics 108 March 1947
Feature Comics 109 April 1947
Fight Comics 48 Fight Comics #48 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fiction House, 1947) CGC VF/NM 9.0 Off-white to white pages February 1947
Fight Comics 49 April 1947
Four Color 149 1947
Four Color 152 1947
Four Favorites 28 Four Favorites #28 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Ace, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 Off-white to white pages March 1947 $4,320.00
Green Hornet Comics 32 January-February 1947
Green Hornet Comics 33 March-April 1947
Green Lantern (1941) 25 April-May 1947
Headline Comics 23 March-April 1947
Hit Comics 44 January 1947
Hit Comics 45 March 1947
Hopalong Cassidy 5 March 1947
Human Torch 26 The Human Torch #26 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Timely, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 White pages Spring 1947 $14,400.00
International Comics 1 International Comics #1 The Promise Collection Pedigree (EC, 1947) CGC VF 8.0 White pages Spring 1947 $5,040.00
Joe Palooka 8 February-March 1947
Joe Palooka 9 April 1947
Jumbo Comics 95 Jumbo Comics #95 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fiction House, 1947) CGC VF 8.0 Off-white to white pages January 1947
Jumbo Comics 97 Jumbo Comics #97 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fiction House, 1947) CGC VF- 7.5 Off-white to white pages March 1947
Jumbo Comics 98 April 1947
Jungle Comics 85 January 1947
Jungle Comics 87 March 1947
Jungle Comics 88 April 1947
Kid Eternity 4 Kid Eternity #4 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Quality, 1947) CGC NM 9.4 White pages Winter 1947 $780.00
Kid Eternity 5 Spring 1947
Laugh Comics 22 Laugh Comics #22 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Archie, 1947) CGC VF+ 8.5 White pages Spring 1947 $1,680.00
Marvel Family 8 February 1947
Marvel Family 10 The Marvel Family #10 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fawcett Publications, 1947) CGC VF+ 8.5 Off-white to white pages April 1947
Marvel Mystery Comics 80 January 1947
Marvel Mystery Comics 81 March 1947
Mary Marvel 9 February 1947
Mary Marvel 10 Mary Marvel Comics #10 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fawcett Publications, 1947) CGC VF+ 8.5 Off-white to white pages March 1947
Mary Marvel 11 Mary Marvel Comics #11 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fawcett Publications, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 Off-white to white pages April 1947
Master Comics 76 February 1947
Master Comics 77 March 1947
Master Comics 78 April 1947
Modern Comics 57 January 1947
Modern Comics 58 February 1947
Modern Comics 59 Modern Comics #59 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Quality, 1947) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages March 1947 $3,120.00
Modern Comics 60 Modern Comics #60 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Quality, 1947) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages April 1947 $780.00
Movie Comics 2 February 1947
Movie Comics 4 1947
Mutt %26 Jeff 26 February-March 1947
Mutt %26 Jeff 27 April-May 1947
National Comics 58 National Comics #58 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Quality, 1947) CGC VF 8.0 White pages February 1947 $312.00
National Comics 59 National Comics #59 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Quality, 1947) CGC VF/NM 9.0 White pages April 1947 $384.00
Nyoka the Jungle Girl 6 April 1947
Pep Comics 60 March 1947
Planet Comics 46 Planet Comics #46 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fiction House, 1947) CGC NM+ 9.6 White pages January 1947
Planet Comics 47 Planet Comics #47 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fiction House, 1947) CGC VF+ 8.5 Off-white to white pages March 1947 $2,400.00
Plastic Man 6 Winter 1947
Plastic Man 7 Spring 1947
Police Comics 62 January 1947
Police Comics 63 February 1947
Police Comics 64 March 1947
Police Comics 65 April 1947
Prize Comics 63 March-April 1947
Rangers Comics 33 February 1947
Rangers Comics 34 April 1947
Red Ryder Comics 43 February 1947
Red Ryder Comics 44 March 1947
Red Ryder Comics 45 April 1947
Sensation Comics 61 January 1947
Sensation Comics 62 February 1947
Sensation Comics 63 March 1947
Sensation Comics 64 April 1947
Seven Seas Comics 3 Seven Seas Comics #3 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Universal Phoenix Feature, 1947) CGC NM+ 9.6 Off-white to white pages 1947 $26,400.00
Skyman 3 1947
Smash Comics 69 February 1947
Smash Comics 70 April 1947
Sparkler Comics 64 February 1947
Sparkling Stars 21 January 1947
Sparkling Stars 22 April 1947
Speed Comics 44 Speed Comics #44 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Harvey, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 White pages January-February 1947 $6,600.00
Star Spangled Comics 64 Star Spangled Comics #64 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM+ 9.6 White pages January 1947 $1,260.00
Star Spangled Comics 65 Star Spangled Comics #65 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM 9.4 White pages February 1947 $5,760.00
Star Spangled Comics 66 Star Spangled Comics #66 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC VF/NM 9.0 White pages March 1947 $2,640.00
Star Spangled Comics 67 Star Spangled Comics #67 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM 9.4 White pages April 1947 $1,680.00
Sub-Mariner Comics 22 Sub-Mariner Comics #22 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Timely, 1947) CGC NM+ 9.6 Off-white to white pages Spring 1947 $15,600.00
Super-Mystery Comics v6 #4 Super-Mystery Comics V6#4 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Ace, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 Off-white pages February 1947 $6,900.00
Super-Mystery Comics v6 #5 Super-Mystery Comics V6#5 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Ace, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 Off-white pages April 1947 $7,200.00
Superman (1939) 44 Superman #44 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC VF 8.0 Off-white to white pages January-February 1947 $1,260.00
Superman (1939) 45 Superman #45 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 Off-white to white pages March-April 1947
Suzie Comics 56 April 1947
Target Comics v8 #2 April 1947
Tarzan 1 February 1947
Terry and the Pirates Comics 3 April 1947
The Barker 3 Spring 1947
The Killers 1 1947
Thrilling Comics 58 Thrilling Comics #58 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Better Publications, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 Off-white to white pages February 1947
Thrilling Comics 59 April 1947
Whiz Comics 82 Whiz Comics #82 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fawcett Publications, 1947) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages February 1947 $900.00
Whiz Comics 83 Whiz Comics #83 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fawcett Publications, 1947) CGC NM+ 9.6 Off-white to white pages March 1947 $1,320.00
Whiz Comics 84 Whiz Comics #84 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fawcett Publications, 1947) CGC NM- 9.2 Off-white to white pages April 1947 $660.00
Wilbur 12 April 1947
Wings Comics 77 January 1947
Wings Comics 78 February 1947
Wings Comics 79 March 1947
Wings Comics 80 April 1947
Wonder Comics 10 February 1947
Wonder Comics 11 April 1947
Wonder Woman (1942) 21 Wonder Woman #21 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM+ 9.6 Off-white to white pages January-February 1947
Wonder Woman (1942) 22 Wonder Woman #22 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1947) CGC NM/MT 9.8 White pages March-April 1947
World's Finest Comics 26 January-February 1947
World's Finest Comics 27 March-April 1947
Wow Comics 51 February 1947
Wow Comics 52 March 1947
Wow Comics 53 April 1947
Young King Cole v2 #4 Young King Cole V2#4 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Novelty Press, 1947) CGC NM- 9.2 White pages February-March 1947 $840.00
Young King Cole v2 #5 Young King Cole V2#5 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Novelty Press, 1947) CGC NM- 9.2 White pages April-May 1947 $1,020.00

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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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