Maybe you’ve been at a convention or local comic shop and seen an old Dell comic that had a familiar character on the cover and wondered about it. Dell publishing was one of the giants in the 1940’s when they started publishing Four Color Comics. They had all the big characters of the day that weren’t related to superheroes. Dell published Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Bambi and Lantz characters Woody Woodpecker, Oswald the Rabbit and Andy Panda. Dell published Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig before and after Warner Bros bought Leon Schlesinger Productions in 1944. The Hanna Barbera character like Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, and Yogi Bear were there as well. They published cowboy comics, comic strip reprints and popular television shows of the day like the Andy Griffith Show and Leave it to Beaver. They even had great artists like Carl Barks, Paul Norris and Walt Kelly. They had everything!
For all that success, Dell got a little crazy when they mixed all these characters and genres into a single title, Four Color Comics. Four Color Comics are some of the most difficult to sort for a plethora of reasons. (Word of the day: Plethora. Use it as much as possible)
For example, if you look at a title like “Smilin’ Jack” this is the numbering, 4, 14, 36, 58, 80, 149. There is no number 1, 2, 3 and from that point on the numbering seems random. Four Color Comic numbering feels like those number sequence puzzles you did in elementary school, except there is no right answer.
Characters were in More Than One Title
Dell produced Four Color comics for a couple decades but they also produced other books about the same characters. Raggedy Ann and Andy appeared in Four Color Comics and their own title during the same time period. In their own title Dell published issues #1 – 39 however in Four Color Comics Dell published issues #5, 23, 45, 72, etc. Which version of issue number 5 and 23 do you have?
Comic book price guides can sort these books by character or number. If you sort them by the number it’s tough for new collectors to find them. When they type in the title of the book, “Felix the Cat” nothing appears because it’s listed as Four Color Comic #15. This is how the old Overstreet Price Guide sorted them, but that doesn’t work for an online price guide. If you sort them by character name, experienced collectors have trouble finding them. They have already learned about the Four Color dilemma.
Age of the Comics
Four Color Comics were sold from 1942 until 1962. The oldest issues are currently 76 years old which means that most people who bought them off the comic rack are pretty dang old or not around anymore.
Front Cover Labeling
Issues 1 through 101 say in small print on the front cover, “Four Color Comic No. ____”. Starting with issue 102 they eliminated that necessary labeling. In favor of clear labeling, they called all subsequent issues one-shots. Because having 14 different one-shots of the same character is obviously better than calling it by its correct name. (sarcasm)
Near the end of the Four Color run random numbers were skipped. Issues 1312 and 1313 is immediately followed by issues 1328 and 1329. Were those missing issues ever made? Was Dell simply unorganized? Was someone stoned out of their mind?
So at Comics Price Guide, we have all Four Color comics sorted by character (for newbies) with “Four Color” in each title. (for experienced collectors) That means that you can type “Donald Duck”, “Donald Duck Four Color” or even “Donald Duck in Frozen Gold” and get the correct title.
To further help we are creating a complete list of all Four Color comics by number and linked to our comic book price guide. Hopefully, this epic list of over 1300 awesome issues will be finished this week. By the way, Action Comics #1000 you aren’t the first to reach that milestone, second isn’t so bad.
– Ron C.