IW/SUPER COMICSPrimary Product: Comic books
Producing from: 1958-64
Noted For: Unauthorized reprints from Fox, Quality, Fiction House and more
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By the late 1950s, comic books had been an established part of the American publishing industry for a couple of decades. It had old, solidly-established firms like DC, had endured brash upstarts like EC, was in the early stages of establishing industry-wide cooperation through organizations like the Comics Magazine Association of America, sponsors of The Comics Code Authority, and had developed a hierarchy of publishers, with Charlton performing the function of absorbing the remains of failing companies, scooping up such properties as The Blue Beetle from Fox and Ibis the Invincible from Fawcett. But in 1958, a publisher came along that occupied an economic niche even lower than a company that got much of its
product by purchasing the characters and unprinted issues of its recently-defunct colleagues and served as a training ground for fledgling pros. IW Enterprises didn't produce comics at all. It just printed them from artwork that was lying around, most of which had already been published, and none of which belonged to them. Only the titles and covers were new. Sometimes.
At this late date, it's impossible to pinpoint exactly what month in 1958 IW's #1 issues came out. The numbering system it used is said by everyone who's written about it to be utterly incomprehensible, but it was actually very simple. Israel Waldman, who imaginatively used his own initials to name the company, sent a batch of comics to the printer, and put a "#1" on each of them. A little while later, he sent another batch to the printer, some of which had the same title while others didn't, and called them all "#2". In this way, it went through batch after batch until the #9's came out, still (from appearances, at least) in 1958. Those titles bore little or no relation to the ones they'd originally been published under.
The vagueness of dates is a result of Waldman's publishing strategy. By not dating them, he was declining to set a time when they'd go off sale, thus (he reasoned) ensuring their perpetual salability. He also bypassed traditional distributors, and sold them non-returnably to retailers at a steep discount. Prices printed on the covers were generally ignored. In some areas, they were sold in bags of three (like Gold Key comics were in the 1970s); and in others, they were treated like used magazines and retailed at half-price.
Waldman was able to sell them cheaply because in many cases, he was able to supply the letterpress plates they were printed from, and thus avoid paying for new ones. How a man who gives little evidence of being interested in comics before emerging as an extremely low-end publisher, came to have such production materials is simply that he bought out defunct publishers' storage facilities, purchasing physical materials only and ignoring intellectual property rights. In many cases, he dealt with Eastern Color Printing, which did most of America's comics, for materials their publishers had left behind when they went out of business.
Thus, his initial offerings included comics originally published by Fiction House (Kaanga, Firehair,), Fox (Phantom Lady, Jo-Jo), Avon (Space Detective, Taanda), Magazine Enterprises (Jet Powers, Redmask) and many other publishers that failed during the 1950s. Also present were occasional Marvel and EC properties such as Super Rabbit and Incredible Science Fiction, respectively.
The #10 issues brought a change in imprint. Under a new publishing name proclaiming them to be part of the "Super Comics" line, those came out in 1963 Whether there was a gap, as the dates seem to indicate, or #s 1-9 had actually filled the time, isn't clear. For the first time, Quality Comics series, including Doll Man, Plastic Man and even The Spirit appeared as part of the line. New covers appeared more frequently. The work of Ross Andru/Mike Esposito (Wonder Woman), Jack Abel (The Defenders) and Vince Colletta (Thor) has been identified on those covers.
Probably the best published first-person description of actually meeting and doing business with Waldman appeared in The Comicbook Makers, by Joe Simon (Young Romance), Simon's 2003 autobiography. According to Simon, Waldman showed little interest in the quality of the pages Simon sold him, and less in the copyrights attached to them. Dealing with him wasn't unpleasant, but cold and business-like, as Mainline Publications (Bullseye), the company Simon and partner Jack Kirby (Boys' Ranch) had used for their comics-publishing ventures, became part of his quasi-legal empire.
Super Comics folded in 1964, with the 18th "issues" of its various titles. Waldman later went into business with Sol Brodsky (Bunny) to publish Skywald Comics, which did pretty much the same thing as Super Comics.
It's easy, from our 21st-century perspective, to condemn Waldman as nothing but a sleazy bottom-feeder eking out a precarious living by pirating the marginal dregs of an industry he was only peripherally a part of. But to many full but faltering participants in that beleaguered industry, he offered a much-needed financial lifeline to ease their departure.
And to many comic book readers of the time, he offered a rare glimpse into the industry as it had been just a little before their time not just its mounds of dreck, which constituted the vast bulk of his output, but also occasional work by the field's greats like Jack Cole (The Claw), Matt Baker (Rulah, Jungle Goddess) and even Will Eisner (Sheena, Queen of the Jungle).
IW/Super Comics articles in Don Markstein's Toonopedia: