TreasuryCast #47 – Famous First Edition: New Fun #1

TREASURYCAST #47 – FAMOUS FIRST EDITION: NEW FUN #1

Rob welcomes Chuck Coletta, Professor of Pop Culture Studies at BGSU, to discuss the brand-new FAMOUS FIRST EDITION: NEW FUN #1, reprinting the first ever DC comic book from 1935!

Check out images from this comic by clicking here!

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25 responses to “TreasuryCast #47 – Famous First Edition: New Fun #1

  1. That was just fascinating, thanks Rob and Chuck. I’ve not bought this but have been tempted, and you may have pushed me over the edge; the context that came with the countdown and criticism of contents – congratulations.

    That Charles Atlas ad is great, I also hadn’t realised the man went back so far, how fab to see the Edwardian-ish bathing outfits. My dad sent away for the course. Didn’t work.

    Like Rob. I only know Gasoline Alley from Mad! (‘Skizziks speeled upside down is…’) and an Elkie Brooks song of the same name, I’d love to track down a collected edition or two.

    1. FYI “Skeezix” is actually cowboy slang for an orphan calf, which is appropriate for a baby left on a doorstep. The strip was launched in 1918 & is still running – you can find it online at gocomics.com & there were actually 2 1951 movies. Also, there are a few hardcover “Walt & Skeezix” collections now available reprinting the first several years. It’s never really laugh out loud funny – more warmly humorous observations of daily life.

      1. I used to read Gasoline Alley from late grade school and all through high school, so basically all through the first half of the 1980s. I found it really engaging, with very likeable characters and often amusing situations (although, yeah, no laugh-out-loud gags).
        I also remember – some time in college – reading a book about comics which reprinted some of the Gasoline Alley Sunday pages from the 1930s. They were absolutely amazing: beautifully drawn and designed, and often featuring almost surreal imagery.

        1. The Sunday strips were often filled with surreal artistic flights of fantasy. There are some hardcover reprints available. One is more than then treasury sized & measures 16.25 x 21.13 inches!

  2. Thanks for doing this one, guys, and thanks especially to Dr. Coletta for coming on the show. I love when Fire & Water brings the academics on, because I’m also that kind of nerd. I’m actually only a few minutes into the show, but you’ve inspired some amateur research into Sandra of the Secret Service.

    My first thought was that Sandra McLane (who apparently existed on Earth-2 in pre-Crisis continuity) was an agent of “a” secret service, not “the” U.S. Secret Service that started as a division of the Treasury Department hunting counterfeiters and picked up protection duties when President McKinley asked them to. Outside the U.S. (and I think even here before the Treasury’s Secret Service was well-known), the term “secret service” refer to any “governmental service of a secret nature” (a Merriam-Webster definition). A website called spyguysandgals.com concurs with my hypothesis in their article about Sandra. Their take is that “This is not the Secret Service as we know it…but rather a catch-all name for some intelligence bureau in the American alphabet soup group. Which one is never revealed.”

    Websites focused on comics disagree, however, linking Sandra to the U.S. Secret Service. Wikipedia says (with no reference I could confirm) that the U.S. Secret Service once did domestic intelligence and counterintelligence. That would come closer to justifying Sandra’s adventures, but if Wikipedia is correct, they only did those things until 1908, when the FBI was established. I will sum up my attempt to no-prize these discrepancies by saying that Earth-2 is different, because comics.* Regardless, kudos to Major Malcom Wheeler-Nicholson of the U.S. Calvary and all the creators who told us about Sandra’s adventures for making a woman the highly capable protagonist of an action adventure strip in 1935.

    *Is it Michael Bailey I owe money to when I use that excuse? I can never remember.

    1. Hi Captain Entropy, “the Major” was in Military Intelligence circa 1916-1917. He was literally sent to Siberia with the American Expeditionary Force and at one point on a supposed secret mission to the border of China near Tibet. His mother, Antoinette was a suffragette thus our hyphenated last name–Wheeler-Nicholson. Sandra has been attributed to Charles Flanders but Jerry Bails notes most of the scripts as written by MWN. Flanders never claimed this creation, was not a writer, and throughout his long career created only one character for King Features–Robin Hood. Those facts along with Sandra occupying the highly prized real estate of the first comic in the magazine suggest that MWN is the creator. I’m a big Sandra fan!

      1. Thank you, Ms. Wheeler-Nicholson! It’s a pleasure and an honor to correspond with you! May I call you Nicky?

        I’ve just been looking up your work and adding books to my mental Father’s Day list. My family and I have met Jim Steranko (who did the foreword to your book DC Comics Before Superman) at two separate conventions. He graciously gave of his time speaking with us. “Talking” with you now feels like getting a second undeserved treat.

        Given his other work in comics and the pulps, it would certainly make sense if your grandfather created Sandra McLane. He may even have met and worked with some highly capable women during his service that served as inspiration for the character. I‘ve been fortunate to meet several that shared not only Sandra’s spirit, but also some of her training and experience.

        The Major’s mission to the border with China sounds fascinating. I would bet that in addition to the challenge of being immersed in a different culture, the Major probably received clear objectives, limited support, and almost no guidance regarding methods for that mission. In my own service, I learned that those who can succeed in such circumstances are rare. Subsequent research into World War II’s Office of Strategic Services assured me that the scarcity was not unique to my generation. At the risk of changing my sobriquet to Captain Obvious, your grandfather must have been a very special man. The world is grateful that his spirit of adventure eventually led him into publishing.

        I hope you return to comment again. We have several fellow southerners who comment frequently, but we need as many as we can get to make Rob feel hopelessly outnumbered.

        Thank you again!

  3. Great show, yet again – of course, I expect nothing less from Treasury Cast.
    What an interesting book to cover: the first ever DC comic. It’s surprising to me that it hasn’t been reprinted more often, or just much earlier. And Chuck was the perfect guest for this one – I thoroughly enjoyed his insights into this book.

    By the way, when you guys talked about the Wing Brady strip, at first it sounded to me like you guys said ‘Wayne Brady’ – and I thought to myself, ‘man, he headlined a 1930s comic strip, too? That guy really can do anything!’

    1. @Edo Bosnar: DC was going to include New Fun #1 in its Millennium series of reprints back in 2000 – Jerry Bails’ introduction was originally written for that planned reprint – but those plans were scrapped because of copyright issues regarding the Oswald strips.

      Given that the original New Fun #1 was in tabloid size, I wonder how it would have looked when reduced to current comic book dimensions (which is how I presume a Millennium Edition New Fun #1 would have appeared).

  4. Finished now. Great show! This’ll go on the Father’s Day list, to be purchased from the family’s favorite local comic shop, of course.

    This really was super informative and enjoyable, and a great glimpse into the thirties, as Dr. Coletta said. I want him to know that I actually considered submitting a paper to BGSU’s Batman conference, but my actual grad school homework got in the way.

    I just have a couple questions:

    1) Did Roy Thomas establish that Tim Drake will be Don Drake’s grandfather in his foreword, or is DC publishing a new Don Drake story for the big reveal?

    2) Which parts of this are testable?

    1. Our plans at BGSU have been disrupted by the virus but we’re still hoping to hold a superheroines conference once we return to normal!

  5. As always, I enjoyed the show and getting a little more background on the characters.

    Rob mentioned that no one else he knew bought this…Well, Rob you don’t know me, but I did buy it, so you now know that someone you don’t know bought it. I have all the other Famous First Editions and I had to keep my collection complete. Seriously, I couldn’t turn down a chance to read the first DC comic book ever published and was glad to get a chance to read this.

  6. Thanks for not only another great TreasuryCast, but for alerting me to this book’s existence. This is a great piece of comic book history, and will make a great addition to my library.

  7. Great show! I was unaware this was out already. I will need to pick it up, just to have this piece of DC history in my hands. It does seem odd that current DC did such a deep dive into non-commercial material like this. There is a through line from Major Wheeler-Nicholson to Paul Levitz, with enough of an overlap of staff to keep some connective tissue to the past, but the DiDio era largely cut most of those long-running ties. So it is surprising to see this published, but I’m very glad it was!

    Professor Chuck is a great guest, and its always a pleasure to hear from him. I want to one day sit in on at least one of his classes!

    As for the comments section, Gothos’ grandma with her “I wish you’d outgrow that Batman” sounds a lot like Shag.

    Chris

    1. Wait a minute? Shag does comic book podcasts, but he wants people to out grow Batman? Poor Granny, she’s 100 and in the nursing home, and I still haven’t outgrown Batman.

        1. Granny was very religious, so I think she would be more put-out if I liked a character with “Devil” in their name. :)

          Besides, Blue Devil debuted when I was approaching teen-hood. Doesn’t it add to my nerd-i-tude that I can point out to people that my Batman and Detective consecutive issue runs begin with issues that are older than I am?

          My Batman phase started when I was 5 and has lasted for 43 years, so I guess it won’t abate anytime soon.

    2. I learn more from you & Cindy than you’d likely learn from me. Just saw the YouTube videos of your collection & I’m in awe!

  8. So I ordered this, twice, and didn’t know it was out due to the problems Diamond has been having. Luckily it wasn’t sold out. Thanks for letting me know.

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