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Charlton Comics
1966-1967
by Billy Ingram

This small publishing house (known mostly for printing cereal boxes) had a slogan in the mid-sixties - 'Buy Charlton Comics, we need the money'. This was indicative of the attitude brought about in 1966 when Dick Giordano became the editor at Charlton. Revivals of old characters by Steve Ditko, and new concepts by Pat Boyette and PAM came about in the two short years Giordano was editor, the letter columns became lively and you really got the feeling that this was the comic book company that tried harder.

Plagued by spotty distribution, poor production and inferior printing, titles like 'Charlton Premiere',' The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves', and 'The Fightin' Five' occasionally featured quality material by young up and coming writers and artists like Denny O'Neil and Jim Aparo.

Charlton Comics is where Steve Ditko (Spiderman, Doctor Strange) concentrated his efforts after leaving Marvel, and he produced some of his finest work on Charlton's super-hero, science fiction and horror comics well into the Seventies. Here are some examples of the best comic books produced under the short Giordano rein.

 

Fantastic Giants vol.2 no. 24 September 1966

This comic book is a Steve Ditko special, it even says so on the cover. Perhaps the first and only time an artist's name appeared in type on a Charlton cover.

Steve Ditko did some of his best work in the Charlton mystery and monster titles that were published throughout the sixties into the late seventies. The stories contained here are some of the best of the bunch. This book reprints classic Konga and Gorgo stories, and contains two great new stories, and by some miracle, the reproduction and coloring are pretty decent as well (a problem for Charlton).

The Gorgo story is especially good, maybe Ditko's best fifties work, and the new stories have all of the elements you want in a Ditko horror story- voodoo witchdoctors, flying saucers and misanthropic wandering monsters.

 
Captain Atom no. 82 September 1966

The same month you bought 'Fantastic Giants', you could have bought this comic book, featuring the revival of Captain Atom, a late fifties Charlton character drawn (then as here) by Steve Ditko and written by David Kaler. The next issue of this great run of comics (that starts with issue 79 and ends with number 89) brings the revival of The Blue Beetle plotted, penciled and inked by Ditko.

I chose issue 82 (at right) to highlight because of the strong cover, even tho the inking on the story inside by Rocke Mastroserio looks rushed and sloppy. Also shown here (at left) is the cover to issue number 85. When the Blue Beetle was spun off into his own book, Nightshade by David Kaler and Jim Aparo took over as the back up feature.

captain atom

Steve Ditko Book
Great Steve Ditko Book!

The Peacemaker no. 1 March 1967

 

"A man who loves peace so much he is willing to fight for it!" Hey, that's right in step with today's thinking, with our President calling the troops 'Peacemakers'. Drawn by Pat Boyette in his distinctive, old world style, 'Peacemaker' was a cold war classic, us against them. I guess 'they' won, because Peacemaker lasted only 5 short issues.

When I was younger, I didn't appreciate Pat Boyette's style, it was too stiff and it reminded me too much of woodcuts, but now I see that he was an artist with a unique vision and he told a story well.

While Boyette's style was much more suited to mystery stories and such, his approach to super heroes was still refreshing and effective in a strange way. This issue has two excellent short stories by the underrated Boyette as well as a bio and photo of the artist.

Go-Go no 6 April 1967

Charlton's attempt to be Mad magazine, with nice humor art by Jim Aparo and future underground artist Grass Green, who illustrates 'The BLA vs the Marvelous Super-Heroes', cleverly written by Gary Friedrich.

All of these creators got their starts at Charlton under editor Dick Giordano, and the Charlton comics produced at this time have an exuberance brought out by young artists set free. 'Go-Go', featuring 'Miss Bikini Luv', lasted nine issues, and any comic book that ends with a pin-up of Petula Clark or The Beatles can't be all bad.

Thunderbolt no 54 October 1966

Rather than start over at number one, Charlton had the annoying habit of ending one series (in this case 'Son of Vulcan') and starting another, continuing the numbering from the cancelled series. 'Thunderbolt', created, written and drawn by PAM, began with issue number 51.

PAM's actual name (Pete Morisi) was kept a mystery at the time but there was no mistaking his unique style. Crisp and clean lines, almost to a fault, this Alex Toth protege was all style over expression, but somehow he made it work reasonably well.

Pat Boyette took over the art chores on the last few issues until the title's demise with issue number 60. The new titles failed to catch on, and Dick Giordano left Charlton for DC comics in 1968, where he brought many of the Charlton writers and artists (including Denny O'Neil and Jim Aparo) and ignited a new renaissance of great comic books there.

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