Digital Comic Museum > News and Announcements

Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics Introduction - part of our 13th Anniversary


Hi Gang,
Presenting Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics (Eastern 1933)...
A scan ninety years in the making!  :D :)

We're very pleased to be able to debut this historic comic as part of DCM's Thirteenth Anniversary!

Printed in 1933 we believe it's one of the first five 'contemporary' comics ever published.  By contemporary we mean it's very similar to a typical sized, shaped, page count comic that would become the norm for the golden-age and continue essentially unchanged for all future comics right up to today.  Of course people have experimented with the format but they hang in there like vinyl LPs seem to be doing.

“All modern comic books descend from ‘Famous Funnies’” said Yuki Hibben, assistant head and curator of books and art, VCU's Special Collections and Archives. “While there are earlier examples of comics publications outside of the world of newspaper strips, these items are formatted like books or tabloid-sized newspapers,” Hibben said. “‘Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics’ looks like any contemporary comic book. It's the first four-color printed, stapled comics booklet with a newsprint interior printed on both sides."  You can read a VCU blog post about this book at this link.

Hard cover and tabloid comic strip reprints collections had already existed for decades and were popular with buyers.  DCM even hosts some in it's 'MISC FUN STUFF - Platinum Age misc' section HERE.  Comics in the Victorian and Platinum Age took all sorts of shapes, sizes and formats, and sold for 50 cents up to a couple bucks each.  Then came the depression in 1929 and money became a very hard thing to find.

Comics lore has it these earlier reprint books would inspire Eastern Color salesperson (and future publisher of EC Comics) M. C. Gaines and Dell sales manager Harry I. Wildenberg to collaborate and come up with the modern sized comic book.  Early in 1933 Eastern published 'Funnies on Parade'.  (This is another comic DCM would LOVE to share if anyone out there has one to scan)  The Parade giveaway is often called the first 'modern' comic book.  It was printed at what became a standard golden-age size (7 1/2 by 10 1/2), had a slick colour cover and a 10,000 print run. 

You can read a nicely done Multiversity blog entry about these earliest Eastern books at this link.  Click HERE.   

'Parade' was distributed free as a promotional item to consumers who mailed in coupons clipped from Procter & Gamble soap and toiletries products.  The idea was a success.  A second book was made late in 1933 with reportedly a print run of 35,000. This was our 'Famous Funnies: Carnival of Comics' with Dell Publishing to publish the 36-page modern sized one-shot. The book was marketed to various retailers including Kinney Shoe Stores, John Wanamaker, and Milk-O-Malt as a promotional giveaway. 'Carnival' contains reprints of strips starring Joe Palooka, Mutt and Jeff, Reg'lar Fellers, and other then favorites.

Published five years before 'Action Comics #1', legend says 'Carnival' turned out to be part of a key moment in the history of comic books: Gaines put price stickers (10¢) on a few copies and arranged to have some newsstands try to sell them. They sold out, providing early proof that demand for the format existed.    -Heritage Auctions.

This book was also used as mail-away premium as confirmed in 1995, when Mark Wilson's 'Fandom Flashbacks' article in Comic Book Marketplace #25 (1995.07).  Original owner Shirley Johnson penciled her name and the date Dec. 11, 1933 on the mailing envelope which bears the imprint of the Wheatena corporation.  A CGC 6.0 of this book along with a second mailing envelope sold on Heritage for $3,346.00 on Nov. 21, 2013.

You can see a picture of the envelope here on Heritage Auctions. message pictures/13th Anniversary/Famous Funnies-envelope_small.jpgAdvertisements for 'Carnival' appeared in Sunday comics sections, the earliest known was in the Chicago Tribune on October 1, 1933. In this earliest advertisement, a different cover than what was actually printed is shown. The newspaper advertisements for the comic book appeared throughout October and early November. By the end of October the actual cover which would be published was reproduced. The comic book would continue to be mentioned in newspaper advertisements until March 1934.  -GCD

“Carnival of Comics” did so well that Gaines started getting calls from advertisers asking for another. Eastern quickly supplied them with 250,000 copies of the 100-page “A Century of Comics.” (Again, if anyone owns a copy, PLEASE consider scanning it for posterity.)

For decades the above was thought true.  That 'Parade' was the first and 'Carnival' the second 'modern' comics.  But then ...

Humor Publishing Co. put three books out in 1933 according to GCD.   'Ace King' has a copyright registered on October 16, 1933.  This is around the time some think Carnival of Comics was published. Humor's books were all tabloid sized (9.5" x 11 or 12") but had colour covers and contained 36 b/w pages and had 10 cent cover prices.  One of the three, Detective Dan, was generously donated for scanning by Ohio's Rupp's Comics and can be read here (Anyone out there with the other two Humor books, PLEASE consider scanning them for sharing!)  One might argue Humor's books could be called 'contemporary' books as well.  Humor Publishing Co. has an interesting history that we talk about in the Det Dan book linked above for those that might want to learn more about this all but forgotten publisher, including a connection to pre-DC Superman!  The discovery of Humor Pubs was first reported in Comic Book Marketplace 036 (1996.06).

Carnival would do well enough that by January 1934 Eastern was Dell publishing 'Famous Funnies' as a monthly comic for an impressive run of 218 issues ending in July, 1955.

The door is open here to anyone that would care to dispute or elaborate on any aspect of this intro.  I admit I relied on the mentioned online links for background information used in this introduction.

What shouldn't be in dispute though, is it's WONDERFUL to finally had a quality scan of this significant book being shared with the world.  Our thanks to Titansfan for sharing it with us all.

March 28th, 2023

Cool!  :D

Thanks SS, my best review yet.  ;)

This is big news!  Stop-the-presses, we-interrupt-this-broadcast type big.

And it's not just a case of "we have a scan," but the scan is of excellent quality!

Gives me hope that other comics I never thought I'd be able to "read" or "have" will someday be made available.  Funnies On Parade, Century Of Comics, Motion Picture Funnies Weekly, just to name three.


[0] Message Index

Go to full version