RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale This Week — in 1943!

 A YEAR-END SPECIAL: Scott and Dan hit up the comics racks from 80 years ago…

It’s the end of the year, so Scott and I have decided to do something in RETRO HOT PICKS that we’ve done only once before — go back to the Golden Age. Not just the Golden Age, but a full 80 years ago — and we plan this to be a 13th Dimension tradition. So, this is the week of Dec. 27, 1943, which, like last year’s 1942, was an extraordinarily important week in the history of mankind. And an excellent reminder — as if we should need one — that the Nazis are the bad guys.

Last time for RETRO HOT PICKS, it was the week of Dec. 20, 1974. Click here to check it out.

(Keep in mind that comics came out on multiple days, so these are technically the comics that went on sale between Dec. 24 and Dec. 30.)

So, let’s set the scene: World War II was raging across the planet but decisions were being made that would accelerate the Allies’ attempts to defeat the Nazis and the Axis powers. On Christmas Eve, in a nationwide radio address, President Roosevelt announced that U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower would command the Allied invasion of continental Europe the following year. Earlier in the month, FDR had told the general, “Well, Ike, you are going to command Overlord.” D-Day would be launched little more than six months later.

Meanwhile, as the Germans continued to commit atrocities and genocide — on Dec. 18 ramping up new rules for the arrest and deportation of Jews in Germany — the U.S. was preparing a more hopeful vision of the world. On Dec. 29, Leo Pasvolsky of the State Department finished the draft proposal for the basic organization of the United Nations Charter, which Secretary of State Cordell Hull presented to Roosevelt.

The Great Depression, meanwhile, symbolically ended earlier in the month, with the closing of the Works Progress Administration. Unemployment numbers were falling fast due to the increase in war-related jobs.

Americans continued to try to take their minds off the turmoil and tragedy around them: On Christmas, The Song of Bernadette, starring Jennifer Jones, was released. It would prove to be tough Oscar competition for Casablanca, which came out early in 1943. Jones won Best Actress but Casablanca would take Best Picture and Best Director (Michael Curtiz).

On radio, the pulpy The Mysterious Traveler, this month began a nine-year run. The cast featured the great Jackson Beck, a favorite among Superman fans.

On Dec. 26, for the first time, the NFL Championship Game was played after Christmas. The hometown Chicago Bears beat Washington, 41–21.

The Mills Brothers’ Paper Doll was the most popular song in the country. Other big acts included Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Dinah Shore, Xavier Cugat, Paul Robeson, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby.

But music history of another kind was made this month: On Dec. 18, Keith Richards was born in Dartford, Kent — the same day as Bobby Keys, the saxophonist and frequent Rolling Stones collaborator, in Slaton, Texas. They would be influenced by the great blues/folk artist Lead Belly, whose checkered career was on the upswing in 1943.

Sometimes I live in the country, sometimes I live in town, sometimes I haves a great notion, jumping in, into the river and drown…

Dan Greenfield, editor, 13th Dimension

Plastic Man #1, Quality. Plas had been around since 1941 but the folks at Quality Comics finally figured out that Jack Cole’s tour de force deserved its own mag. Betcha a lot of kids used their Christmas coin for this first issue.

Detective Comics #84, DC. The lead Batman story was by Mort Weisinger, with art by Ed Kressy and Dick Sprang. (Sprang did the moody cover.) Wanna know the backup features? OK, then: Air Wave, the Crimson Avenger, Slam Bradley, “Three-Ring” Binks, and the Boy Commandos, among others.

The Human Torch #14, Atlas. Torch and Toro vs. a bunch of disgusting Nazis — are there any other kind? — in a typically busy Alex Schomburg cover. There’s a Namor story too — guest-starring Roosevelt, Hitler and Stalin.

Superman #27, DC. Yep, those are the story titles the Man of Steel is tapping out.

Comic Cavalcade #5, DC. ’Tis the season to enjoy Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash and many others. By the way, like last year, for this special edition of RETRO HOT PICKS, we’re allowing some books from earlier in the month, just to give you a taste of what else was on the stands. This ish was released Dec. 1.

Planet Comics #29, Fiction House. If it’s Planet Comics, you can always count on monsters and leggy dames.

Scott Tipton, contributor-at-large, 13th Dimension

Adventure Comics #90, DC Comics. Some early Kirby goodness on the cover here.

Captain Marvel Adventures #32, Fawcett. Who knew Dallas had mole men?

Dan adds: Another from Dec. 1

Leading Comics #9, DC. The Seven Soldiers of Victory! The Washington Generals of superhero teams, but I still love ’em. (This one came out Dec. 3)

Captain Marvel, Jr. #15, Fawcett. Junior’s on skis here, with a rifle. I’m so confused.

Dan adds: I just love that there was a time when Junior could carry multiple series. This issue came out Dec. 22, and Master Comics #46 was released Dec. 8 — both with beautiful Mac Raboy covers.

Batman #21, DC. And here we have the Dynamic Duo riding bucking broncos. It seems superheroes took part in a lot more extracurricular activities back in the Golden Age.

Dan adds: The Penguin is the only supervillain in this one from Dec. 10, but the Caped Crusaders also battle cattle rustlers; tackle a military genius; and thwart a plot to target a Brit who has come to America after having discovered a cheaper process for obtaining rubber from petroleum. Sounds like Commodore Schmidlapp to me!


— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Dec. 20 — in 1974! Click here.

— RETRO HOT PICKS! On Sale The Week of Dec. 13 — in 1971! Click here.

Primary comics sources: Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, the Grand Comics Database.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Love it! Hey, there was a “Mysterious Traveller” comic book back in the day (for just one issue, I think!) Not to be confused with the Mysterious Traveller Magazine which lasted about six issues and was briefly revived online about fifteen years ago!

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  2. Comic books, football AND Keith Richards in the same post. It’s Christmas all over again.

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  3. Just imagine, $1.15 could have picked up all these treasures.

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  4. Wow ! I said it before but I love your intros !
    Love those Golden age comics. Would be great to go back in time to pick these up on the news stand .

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