TwoMorrows Charlton Companion by Jon B. COOKE with Michael Ambrose & Frank Motler is a treasure trove of unexpected surprises that I was not aware that I experienced till now. I did not know that I was privy to some of the history of Charlton Comics’ last days. The companion covers everything you need to know about the publisher that indirectly still knocks at the door with Peacemaker, Blue Beetle, The Question, Captain Atom, and indirectly The Watchmen. This is an amazing story of a publisher that does not get much love, I highly recommend this book. Charlton Comics’ story is worth a movie treatment. Some of the comic’s most celebrated talents at one time or another worked with Charlton Comics. The main characters ceased to be in 1985 with Charlton Comics but morphed into better stories with DC Comics. They never really went away.
As a kid, I had a soft spot for Charlton Comics. There was something about that logo that appealed to me. I knew it was not the same caliber as DC or Marvel. If I had spare change it buy the odd Charlton issue. In those days, I loved Space 1999 and The Six Million Dollar Man, so it was a no-brainer with those two. It was hard getting a good quality book, the printing seemed off and sometimes the pages were perforated. It had its charm in my young eyes. Charlton Comics always seemed like a knockoff of sorts. My true experience with the line was mostly in the mid-70s. When specialty comic shops came into existence, they all but disappeared from my comic buying. They would end up in comic book bins, I gobbled many issues at a quarter or so.
It’s a funny thing, as a kid I started going to specialty comic book stores in the early 80s. I talked to Roger Broughton, the owner of Excalibur comics in Montreal. He was doing great business as the top comic book vendor in Montreal. This was when the X-Men were starting to take off for Marvel. He had a steady flow of customers in those days. He told me one day that he was planning to publish comic books. Roger went to the States to buy what he thought was the copyright of the remaining non-superhero books from Charlton Comics. A few months later, I never heard from Roger. Excaliber ceased to exist as a comic store. Roger became a publisher with his imprint Sword In Stone Productions. He has become a mystery man in the annals of comic book publishing. This is my indirect connection to the demise of Charlton Comics.
Jon B. Cooke is a veteran comic book historian, his chronicling of Charlton Comics is a storied one. Charlton Comics always seemed to be a step behind on what was popular. They got into the game only when things cooled off for the flavor of the month. Just a tad too late. Charlton tried to publish adult magazines that knocked off both Hustler and Playboy. They were met with lawsuits for their ventures into this domain. These dodgy printings kept the business running, they were always trying to find new ways to stay afloat in so many ways. They were always trying to keep the presses going, they did not care about the quality of its output at the end of the day. The Siver Age of comics was the company’s most successful, they soldiered on till 1985 when they closed their doors.
An all-new definitive history of Connecticut’s notorious all-in-one comic book company! Often disparaged as a second-rate funny-book outfit, Charlton produced a vast array of titles that span from the 1940s Golden Age to the Bronze Age of the ’70s in many genres, from Hot Rods to Haunted Love. The imprint experienced explosive bursts of creativity, most memorably the “Action Hero Line” edited by Dick Giordano in the 1960s, which featured the renowned talents of Steve Ditko and a stellar team of creators, as well as the unforgettable ’70s “Bullseye” era that spawned E-Man and Doomsday +1, all helmed by veteran masters and talented newcomers―and serving as a training ground for an entire generation of comics creators thriving in an environment of complete creative freedom. From its beginnings with a handshake deal consummated in county jail, to the company’s accomplishments beyond comics, woven into this prose narrative are interviews with dozens of talented participants, including Giordano, DENNIS O’Neil, Alex Toth, Sanho Kim, Tom Sutton, Pat Boyette, Nick Cuti, John Byrne, Mike Zeck, Joe Staton, Sam Glanzman, Neal Adams, Joe Gill, and even some Derby residents who recall working in the sprawling company plant. Though it gave up the ghost over three decades ago, Charlton’s influence continues today with its Action Heroes serving as inspiration for Alan Moore’s cross-media graphic novel hit, Watchmen. By Jon B. Cooke with Michael Ambrose & Frank Motler.