Dell / Gold Key

Dell Publishing began producing pulp magazines and comics as far back as 1929. In 1938 they reached an agreement with Western Printing, which held the rights to do new stories based on characters from other media, allowing Dell to do comic books on them. During this time Dell produced only a couple of titles that could be considered superhero comics, including the Owl, Brain Boy and Turok, Son of Stone. Then in 1962 Western launched its own comic book line, Gold Key, and took its licensed characters away from Dell (they also took Turok, which was an original series). This left Dell bereft of most of its line, shaking the company badly. They did make at least a partial recovery, and in 1966 briefly tried again with superheroes, using the famous monsters Dracula, Frankenstein and Werewolf as the basis for new characters, as well as their own creation, Nukla - none of them took. In a market increasingly dominated by superheroes, the company found itself struggling, and in 1973, Dell, formerly the largest of all the comic publishers, ceased publication.

Meanwhile, from 1962 Gold Key set out to find its niche in the market. They soon established themselves publishing titles based on Disney and Warner Bros characters, as well as adaptions of series like Star Trek  (the first comic based on this show) and the comic book version of King Features' The Phantom. On the superhero front they had three notable titles - Magnus, Robot Fighter; Dr. Solar, Man of the Atom; and the aforementioned Turok, Son of Stone; one less notable one, the Mighty Samson; and a brief revival of the Owl. While popular for a while, they all eventually ceased publication. The downturn in comic sales which had hit the entire industry in the late seventies hit Gold Key especially hard; they carried on into the mid-eighties, but eventually yielded to the inevitable and stopped production. (For more  in-depth information on the history of both these companies check out Don Markstein's Toonopedia).

Terrence Berres informed me of an excellent in-depth article discussing the relationship between Dell and Gold Key on comic expert Mark Evanier's POVOnline site.

Several of the Gold Key characters were subsequently bought and revived as part of the Valiant line.

Golden Age Dell (and Gold Key)

Martan the Marvel Man

Triple Terror


Supermind's Son


The Owl

Captain Midnight

Owl Girl

Masked Pilot



Brain Boy





The Fab Four


Gold Key


Dr. Solar


Mighty Samson


Phantom Blot

Tiger Girl

Dr. Spektor



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