Newsdealer and Bestsellers magazine's Comics Directory
A resource for comic-book on-sale dates, from the collection of Robert Beerbohm
Filings with the Copyright Office have long been one of the major sources for comic-book release dates in the early days of publishing. Publishers like National and Dell were diligent about their filings, and the publication dates they listed are more reliable than not. But copyright dates for other publishers are not an infallible guide to when something shipped.
For many years, Harvey, for example, copyrighted all its comics on the 15th of the month, even though its issues went on sale throughout the month. Many publishers, including Archie, went through stretches where they didn't copyright everything — and there were others, like Charlton, that appear never to have filed anything at all with the Copyright Office. Finally, even among comics from diligent copyright-filers, many copies have been found with arrival date stamps earlier than their copyright dates.
There's a partial solution, however, in some of the trade magazines at the time. Paper supplier George W. Dougherty, for example, published more than 100 issues of his Comic Magazine Publishing Report, a newsletter starting in 1941 and running into the 1950s. And there's a slicker, professional magazine that ran for even longer: Newsdealer — The Business Paper for Publication Retailers, and its successor publication Bestsellers.
Newsdealer launched in March 1946, a production of New York-based publisher W.H. Cobb working under the corporate title Newsdealer Magazine Inc. The publication continued until the October 1960 issue (Vol. 15, #9) when the name changed to Bestsellers. (It should not be confused with Best Sellers, a literary review title published by the University of Scranton from 1941 to 1987.) Bestsellers ceased to file copyrights with its May 1962 issue, but the magazine continued publishing until the 1970s, a product by then of the National Bestsellers Institute.
Both publications had plenty of comics-related content, including annual issues about the comic-book market — a sign of how important the category was to sellers of magazines. But a major resource appeared in most months. A feature of Newsdealer from the beginning was its Magazine Directory, denoting for retailers what issues were on sale when; as early as 1948, comic books had their own subsection within it, before breaking out into a separate Comics Directory feature. The feature continued into the Bestsellers days.
The Comics Directory pages give ship dates for comics by almost everyone — including copyright-avoiders like Charlton. It did not appear in every issue; sometimes, other comics related articles took its place. But bimonthly and quarterly titles would appear more than once, so even with occasional skip months, data was published for them. Sometimes, as in the August 1968 issue, depicted below, a stylized clip art logo would appear; other times, it included just a text header.
Over the years, comics historian Robert Beerbohm has accumulated the largest known collection of Newsdealer and Bestsellers issues, and has shared many Comics Directory pages on social media. Issues of neither title appear to be in any library in large quantities; Beerbohm's copies could well be the only ones in existence in some cases. To further ensure the material reaches those researchers who need it, Comichron in cooperation with Beerbohm are pleased to make high-resolution images of select portions of his collection available at the links below. Click on any month to view the page at full size in a new window. You'll find a guide to understanding the content in the Directory features lower down on this page.
The linked pages were copyrighted by the publisher (though without official filings in many cases); they are presented by Comichron as an aid to academic research. No claim of ownership is intended or implied.
Not every issue had a Comics Directory. Issues without them are noted above.
A guide to the Comics Directory
Comics Directory pages initially appear straightforward — look at all the familiar titles! — but on closer examination, there's a lot of arcana in the entries. Here's a quick guide to how to read them.
The below appeared in the August 1970 issue, and is generally applicable to all the earlier features:
The first thing listed in any entry is the comic-book title, all sorted alphabetically. Publishers are not listed.
The next thing is the frequency. If a comic book came out quarterly (or every three months), you'll see a "Q" code. For bimonthly titles (coming out every other month), you'll see a "BM" code. When you see an "A", that's an annual. If a comic book is monthly, no frequency code is listed.
The cover price follows.
After the ellipses, you'll find the distributor code. Most of these distributors are listed in the box here, which appeared in the August 1970 edition of the magazine. While there are different distributors over the years, the 1970 table is correct at least back to 1966. Another chart from 1957 is further below. When no distributor is listed in the early years it's very likely a title from American News Company, which was never mentioned by name in the magazine; once ANC folded in 1957, its titles went to other distributors.
In the right-hand column, you'll see a number followed by a colon. The number represents the cover month of the issue — unless a number sign is present, in which case that's the issue number. The vast majority of Comics Directory listings were cover months.
Following the colon, you'll see two numbers separated with a slash. That's the scheduled on-sale date, a month followed by a year.
Occasionally you'll see an "OR" code, which means "On Release." It often appears associated with prepacks of multiple comic books.
So let's go to a specific example, from the August 1968 issue:
In the above example, the third listing...
Adventure Comics—M .12 ...N 10:8/29
...means that the October 1968 cover-dated issue of Adventure Comics was monthly and cost 12¢. It was distributed by Independent News Co., and came out on August 29, 1968. This happens to be Adventure Comics #373, and its copyright registration is indeed for that date.
Trying another one, the bottom entry in the list...
Avengers—A .25 ...N #2:7/16
...is Avengers Annual #2, which came out from Independent News on July 16, 1968.
Note the presence of the issue number. Retailers rarely cared about issue numbers, but annuals of course had no cover months.
Finally, you'll find a number of items that are puzzling. The first listing...
Abbott/Costello—BM .12 Y 1:8/20
...means a January issue of Abbott and Costello, which was bimonthly and cost 12¢. It came from Capital Distributing Company and released on August 20, 1968. August seems really late for a January cover-dated issue — or early! A check of the series reveals that there was no January 1968 cover-dated issue — the series began with the February 1968 issue — but there was a January 1969 issue. Still, it wouldn't be unusual for a cover-date to have changed by a month between when Charlton sent out its information and publication — so which is it?
Here, the other Charlton issues in the chart help us out. Most of the other books with the "Y" code for Charlton's distributor are significantly post-dated, with covers four to five months after the release date. That means that the record in the Comics Directory above is indeed for Abbott and Costello #6, the January 1969 cover-dated issue.
Things are somewhat different in the earlier editions. Above, you'll see the distributor and publisher key from January 1957, which is somewhat different than the later one. (Remember the note from earlier: pre-1957 issues with no distributor initial likely came from American News.) Moreover, in the very earliest entries from Newsdealer in the 1940s, there are few shipping dates at all, and often no month is listed: they'll just say "12th." While it's probable that the months in question are the same as the cover month of the issue of Newsdealer, exercise caution in placing these dates.
The Comics Directory lists were compiled from information from multiple different sources, and there are apparent errors. The November 1968 edition, for example, erroneously includes non-comics magazines like Audio and Utopia. Also, items tended to appear more than once, sometimes with different shipping dates. Probably the last reported date is the correct one, but it's impossible to know for sure. See the "Errata and Ephemera" section below for details.
—John Jackson Miller
Comics Directory errata and ephemera
Historian Mike Tiefenbacher's notes on Comics Directory's more puzzling inclusions
As the Comics Directory pages were based on what information Newsdealer and Bestsellers had at the time, there's plenty that changed — and some that was simply wrong, or curious, that appeared. Historian Mike Tiefenbacher provides Comichron with the following notes on the pages posted above:
February 1955: I matched the entries in this Comics Direcory to the preliminary notes I took from the copyright book when I was determining which issues were the first to feature the Code seal several years ago. As anticipated, all the Atlas titles were on sale a month after their copyright dates, for whatevcer reason. All the Independent News distributed titles were listed two days after the copyright dates except, for some reason, Action, Adventure, and Detective (which always came out on the same day). Some of the St. John comics were copyrighted two days after their on-sale dates. And the Harvey copyright dates (if they even appeared) weren't accurate at all, though the month was correct. There are titles which ended with the previous even-numbered schedule that shouldn't be here, like Li'l Abner and Web of Evil, but the most curious holdover is Jungle Comics, which ended with the Summer, 1954 issue.
March 1955: There's the very puzzling presence of Story's Pawnee Bill, listed as the May issue releasing March 15, 1955, which last appeared in 1951's report. It's possible that a reprint issue was planned to replace one of Story's horror or crime titles that couldn't get Code approval. Story lasted through June, so it's possible. It never appeared, in any case. Win a Prize #3 is also isted, but it was never published.
November 1960:This chart features the July issue of Buddies, which was a Harvey men's joke book digest, which began its run on these charts with the June 1960 issue and was still there in August 1961, rivaling Mandrake's later errant run from '67-'70. Also from that chart, North to Alaska is listed under that title as well as its original title, Go North, under the movie list at the chart's end.
February 1961:The July issue of Buddies appears again. My theory that these lists were made by someone visually observing stuff on a visit to a distributor's wares displayed as cover photostats alphabetically pinned to a wall (which is how DC did it when I visited Carmine Infantino's office in '71) is shot down when I see random non-comic books listed — it simply would not have looked like the other normal-sized comics. So it's more likely that they used a template similar to the one I made myself to anticipate what I needed to look for each month, which they then entered the cover and release dates, and scribbled the titles of new issues not on the previous lists between them and then misread their own notes. The reason I thought it was made from seeing the covers is that more often than not, "My," "Our,", "The Adventures of", "Tales of," "Real," and other smaller-lettered prefixes are missing and alphabetized under "Jimmy Olsen" rather than under "Superman's Pal."
August 1961: This Comics Directory has Dell's Linda Lark as "Linda Park," forty years before an actress by that name became a Star Trek: Enterprise regular.
November 1961: Buddies continues to appear.
April 1962: A bunch of weird Dell listings this month:
• Beany and Cecil #1339 came out with no number, but this affirms what it was scheduled to be.
• Eeek, a Dell 25¢ giant, was scheduled to appear Feb. 20, 1962. It was never published under that name but could very well have appeared as Monsterville, a b&w comic dated September 1962 with a 25¢ cover price.
• My Three Sons' July issue, slated for March 15, 1962, was never published. (Not only do we have the puzzle to solve of which numbers correspond to the unused FOUR COLOR numbers, we have additional unpublished issues to contend with!)
• (New Adventures of) Sherlock Holmes ended with #1245, dated November 1961-February 1962. The listing here duplicates the number for 77 Sunset Strip #1291, which precedes it on this list, but the release date of Dec. 21 corresponds to an issue that would have followed #1234's, as dated March-May 1962 (shown here as April). Until we see the previous chart or two, we won't know if this is an error or another scheduled but unpublished issue.
• There are a couple of dozen one-shot unnumbered Dells here without numbers that should have had Four Color numbers, but, sadly, do not: Barbie & Ken; Blue Phantom; Bonanza; Bozo the Clown; Brain Boy; Cain's Hundred; Drift Marlo; Follow the Sun; King Leonardo; Kit Karter; Kookie; Laramie; Lolly and Pepper; Man from Wells Fargo; Bullwinkle Mother Moose Nursery Pomes (shown here as Mother Goose); National Velvet; Peanuts; Pixie & Dixie & Mr. Jinks; Real McCoys; Target: The Corruptors; Twilight Zone; Untouchables; Walt Disney's Donald Duck Album; Walt Disney's Gyro Gearloose; and Walt Disney's Prince and the Pauper. I wrote an article published in Gary Brown and Alan Hutchinson's Four Color index that posited an updated list placing all of the unassigned one-shots and first issues to fill all the unused numbers.
May 1962: Add Brenda Lee Life Story, Dazey's Diary, The Horizontal Lieutenant, Johnny Jason, Teen Reporter, King of Diamonds, and The Twist to the would-be Four Color list.
July 1964:This month's Report corroborates the fact that JFK with the date on the cover was the first printing and that it came out on June 2 (the same as the earliest arrival date found). I've always assumed that the undated issue came out in July or August because the first printing sold so well. War Horses is a very believable misspelling of War Heroes.
August 1964: Popular Medicine wasn't a comic, obviously, but I've been unable to find evidence that it was ever even a magazine.
February 1967:This Comics Directory includes another favorite misspelling of mine: NoMan #1 is recorded here and the next couple of charts as Norman #1.
June 1967: The second giant issue of Tales Calculated to Drive You Bats, which was never published, was included.
August 1967: This report nails down the release date for the America's Best TV Comics one-shot, which I ordered and received from the ad that ran on ABC a several days after it appeared on newsstands. The four ACG titles which ended in May and June were scheduled to appear in August, according to this list: Adventures into the Unknown #175, Forbidden Worlds #146, Gasp #5, and Unknown Worlds #58.
August 1968: As noted in the description text above on this page, non-comics Audio and Utopia were included, but so was the men's fetish magazine 38-26-34, which otherwise looks a lot like an errant release date. The first of two issues of Brother Power, the Geek are spelled here as "Brother Power, the Greek."
July 1969: This Comics Directory lists the Gold Key title Mr. Colossal, which came out under the name of the cartoon pilot it was based on, The Colossal Show. A carry-over title from the June 1969 Directory, There Oughta Be A Law (a September issue, on sale June 10, 1969) is a black and white magazine published by Tower under the name Belmont Magazines, the name of their associated paperback line. (Harry Fagaly was a Tower editor.) It's the single black-and-white magazine-sized comic to appear on any of these charts, despite the fact that the Warren, Eerie, and Fass black and whites, as well as Mad, Cracked, Sick, Spectacular Spider-Man, and His Name is Savage were appearing during these years. It's a mystery why this one slipped through. If it was the only magazine PDC was distributing, I guess it's understandable.