Della meets her new boss. Artist: Al Hartley.

DELLA VISION

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1955
Creators: Stan Lee (writer) and Al Hartley (artist)
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When an established medium of entertainment goes into decline, it's traditional to blame up-and-coming new media, siphoning off its audience. Thus, television has often been cited as one of the reasons comic books lost much of their popularity in the late 1940s and all through the '50s. But TV also served as an inspiration …

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… for some, such as DC's Roy Raymond, TV Detective (1949), Charlton's TV Teens (1954) and this mid-'50s entry, Marvel's Della Vision.

As the first issue (dated April, 1955) opened, Della aspired to a career as an on-screen personality in the new medium. An important asset to her in this pursuit was an ability to inspire responses like the Wolf gave "Red" in Tex Avery's MGM cartoons about her. By the time her first 10-page story was over, she'd replaced rival actress Flame Fancy as hostess of The Pringle Pretzel Variety Show, earning her cover blurb, "Television Queen". Flame remained part of the series. Della's other supporting characters included publicity man Gabby Gimmick, producer J.P. Kilowatt (no relation), director Marvin "Nervous" Reck, comedian Tubby Dubbs and receptionist Zelda Quackenbush.

Della's writer was none other than editor Stan Lee himself, who even in those pre-"Marvel" days before he became the company's only working writer for a time, was responsible for The Black Knight, Homer the Happy Ghost and other stars of what was then known as Atlas Comics. Her artist was Al Hartley, one of several artists responsible for maintaining the look of Archie and his friends, whose later credits at Marvel include Linda Carter, Student Nurse; Sherry the Showgirl and a single-issue stint on The Mighty Thor. Hartley is also the cartoonist who created Barney Bear for Spire Christian Comics.

If Della had a direct inspiration, it was Katy Keene, who also had a career in show biz in addition to her work as a comic book star. Della even used Katy's most famous schtick, wearing clothes designed by readers, but only once or twice in the first issue. A schtick she had on her own was occasionally using or referring to real-life stars, such as Bob Hope and The Marx Brothers. In the first issue, she was compared to Pinky Lee and Rootie Kazootie.

Lee and Hartley continued to produce Della's stories, but not for long. In fact, she ran only three issues, ending even before the year 1955 did. As of #4 (October, 1955) she was replaced on the publisher's schedule with Patty Powers (also by Lee and Hartley), whose own cover blurb, "Queen of Screen", identified her as an actress in a more prestigious medium. Marvel later became known for incorporating defunct stars into its universe of characters. But Della, who never, then or later, was connected to any superhero, didn't get that treatment. She went straight to oblivion, and seems unlikely to emerge.

— DDM

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Text ©2007-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art: © Marvel Comics.