Sunday, February 11, 2007

Carroll Rheinstrom - K.G. Murray's DC connection?

Hugh Joseph Ward is quite famous for painting ‘spicy’ pulp covers, but is possibly best known in comics circles for his painting of Superman which held pride of place in DC’s foyer for many years, and was later used as the cover image for one of the Limited Collectors’ Edition books put out in the 1970’s.

It is also seen in the background of publicity photos taken at the DC offices, such as this one of DC honchos Harry Donenfeld, Jack Liebowitz and Max Gaines taken in 1941. They would be the most well-known names to DC fans in the photo, apart from the prominent guy on the wall with the cape.

But take a closer look at the gentleman 2nd from the left – his name is Carroll Rheinstrom. At the time this photo was taken he was head of McFadden Publications International. This outfit was DC’s overseas distributor, and as such is likely to have been K.G. Murray's direct line to DC, and hence 'the source' of the DC reprints in Australia in this period.

The pioneer in DC’s overseas distribution was Carroll Rheinstrom, who represented the world’s first super heroes all around the world, initially as head of McFadden Publications International, and after 1952 as president of Carroll Rheinstrom International Editions… (and) took DC’s characters to countries that hadn’t even heard of comics books. (quoted from DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World’s Favorite Comic Book Heroes by Les Daniels, 1995, p. 243.)

(A Google search also advises Rheinstrom is "Described in Fifty Who Made DC Great, p. 19. (New York : DC Comics, 1985)", so there's another lead to follow for more info.)

I’ve been thinking recently about how K.G. Murray sourced the US material they reprinted for over a few decades, prompted in part by reviewing the non-DC material published in All Star Adventure Comic and Climax Adventure Comic, and partly by speculation by my friend Kevin Patrick that it may have been via an agency such as Transworld Features Syndicate.

As Kevin says, Transworld was an agent for US comics published in Australia by Frew Publications in the 1950’s and by Newton Comics in the 1970’s. It is possible they also supplied material to Horwitz Publications in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

If K.G. Murray dealt with an agency such as Carroll Rheinstrom’s or Transworld, it would go a long way to explaining how non-DC material was supplied along with the core DC material. It’s unlikely that an agency would operate exclusively for one company.

It would also explain how it was that DC and K.G. Murray managed to cooperate after the import restrictions were lifted in 1959 and avoid competing directly in the same market for as long as they did, compared to say Alan Class and Marvel in the UK. An agency would have been in the perfect position to broker an arrangement.

Much of this is speculation of course. There is more information I have uncovered over the last week or so which is more or less relevant and I will detail later, but nothing quite as significant as another name to throw into the mix of possible sources for the US material for K.G. Murray – and a face to go along with it!

PS The photo above was scanned from an article on H.J. Ward in Comic Book Marketplace #100, March 2003. Donenfeld, Gaines and Liebowitz are 3rd, 5th and 6th from left.


Daniel Best said...

What we do know is that Maxwell Newton dealt directly with Marvel itself and didn't deal with Transworld or any other company. It's more than possible that other companies - Page, Yaffa, Kenmure etc etc - who reprinted Marvel did deal with Transworld, but the link between Newton and Marvel is a clear and well documented one.

spiros xenos said...

Danny, please clarify:

Are you saying Maxwell Newton, and not Marty Dougherty, negotiated the license to reprint Marvel comics?
Are you saying Transworld and/or Al Landau were not involved in the negotiations?
What is the clear and well documented link between Newton and Marvel?
How do you account for Transworld being acknowledged in the Newton's indicia?

Based on the few sources of information I have - including your blog - I believe it was Marty Dougherty, not Maxwell Newton who flew to the US and brokered the license for Newton's Marvel reprints.

Further, I believe it is unlikely that he would not have dealt directly with Al Landau and/or Transworld at some stage of these negotiations. What I'm a bit unclear about is whether Landau would have been wearing a 'Marvel hat' or a 'Transworld hat' - or both - at this stage.

mcannon said...

Thanks, Spiros – more interesting stuff to ponder.

The theory that a sales agency could have been the reason why some non-DC material ended up in the KGM anthology books is an interesting one; it certainly makes more sense for KGM to have obtained this material from a sole source, rather than from a variety of companies. I’m still not sure how some near-contemporary Marvel material ended up in Climax Adventure and Super Giant, though!

Some years ago I exchanged a couple of brief e-mails with Dick Ayers, and mentioned how I’d read a lot of his 1950s “Ghost Rider” stories for ME (Magazine Enterprises) in Australian reprints in the 1960s. Other ME Western characters, like the Durango Kid, Bobby Benson and Tim Holt / Redmask were also widely reprinted in KGMs at the time. He replied that ME publisher Vin Sullivan had told him many years before that a lot of the ME material had been sold to Australia. At the time I assumed that Sullivan must have sold it directly to KGM, but it’s just as likely – perhaps more so – that it could have been sold through an intermediary agent. It does seem unlikely that Sullivan would have just stumbled all by himself into a reprint rights deal with an Australian company several years after he left the comics field.

The lack of DC comics in Australian newsagents, even after the removal of import restrictions, also does point to some sort of collusive deal. While there were always some DC comics available locally, they were mostly war, mystery / horror, science fiction and other non-superhero titles; very few of the major superhero titles were seen here. Those that did show up here regularly in the 1960s-early ‘70s, like Green Lantern, Hawkman and Metal Men, were books that weren’t commonly reprinted locally in KGMs until the mid-70s. The only DC superhero title that I can remember seeing regularly that was also a fixture in KGMs reprinted was the JLA – and the US original still vanished from the local shops for some years on a couple of occasions! And of course, a much wider range of DC comics started to appear in local newsagents in the mid-80s, just as the local reprints were finally giving up the ghost.

spiros xenos said...

Mark, you're right about the profusion of ME material in the KGMs. You could barely pick up a World's Finest Comic Monthly for the first few years without coming across an ME reprint (slight exaggeration!) All Favourites and Mighty Comic carried their fair share too circa 1965-1968. I'm sure they appeared in other titles too - - something for me to keep my eye on!

I think I’ve said before that when a third-party is factored into the equation, the many odd symptoms and curious anomalies of the KGMs, especially involving the non-DC material in the early period of All Star and Climax, and even in the post-Climax/Super Giant era, suddenly don’t seem quite as perplexing. They even seem plausible. Put another way – if there was no agency, we’d have to invent one to tell a smooth story!

This also applies to your examples of the DC titles which were available alongside the KGMs. That degree of cooperation would have to have been coordinated (unlike what I’ve read about Alan Class and Marvel in the UK!), and does seem like a perfect job description for an agency.

The Marvel’s in Climax and Super Giant are something I’ve been thinking about too. Super Giant began in 1972 as a new 100-page title and contained many features associated with Climax – Johnny Galaxy, Yellow Claw, older Atlas monster reprints and, as you say, ‘recent’ Marvel reprints. It looks like a collection of Climax-like features bolstered with a couple of recent full-length Marvel features. The first issue was unnumbered, but the series continued for 28 issues (the last few as Super Giant Album) until 1978. The only Marvel superhero features I can recall seeing on a KGM cover before Super Giant had been Climax #’s 11 and 12 (Conan and Daredevil respectively), but with Super Giant the Marvel superheroes alternated with monsters for cover duties.

Now whether KGM dealt with the one agency throughout the years, or changed in the 1970’s and 1980’s… who knows?!

I’m enjoying all this speculation and analysis. As I said to someone recently, it’s almost a relief that all of this is not written in stone. After all, if it was, we’d just be looking at a stupid rock, right?

Daniel Best said...

Spiros, I believe that Newton was present on the trip to Marvel. What we know is that a few of Newton's representatives dealt with Marvel directly for the license and the art (stats) that were used. I have a suspicion that they later cut another deal with Transworld to get more art. It's also possible that Newton might have done the deal with Marvel direct and then gotten their art via Transworld. I know that John Corneille has stated to me and others that he dealt with Marvel and not Transworld. Remember, at this time Marvel were firmly establishing themselves in the UK and would have wanted to expand into other markets.

Considering the amount of money involved it'd not be out of the question for Max Newton to have been directly involved with the negotiations.

All we need is some paperwork to establish the link, or someone with a vivid memory. So far neither have surfaced.

spiros xenos said...

Danny, I’ll set out the reasons why I think Marty Dougherty negotiated the deal with Transworld.

In your blog 24th July 2006 you say(in a reply to a couple of queries):

"According to an editor at Newton, who was there from the start to the bitter end, publisher Maxwell Newton flew to America, got in touch with Marvel and established a deal whereby he'd pay royalties for the exclusive right to publish Marvel in Australia."

I assume the editor is John Corneille.

In an article for The Melbourne Observer in 2003, Robert Thomas says:

"It was unlikely (Maxwell Newton) even knew what Marvel Comics were… What he did was employ people who were in the know. One of these people was journalist and wheeler-dealer, Marty Dougherty… Charged with the responsibility of producing comics for Max Newton’s Regal Press, Martin Dougherty traveled to the US and met with Marvel executives and publisher Stan Lee, securing a license to reprint Marvel comics in Australia."

Robert lists Marty Dougherty in his “Correspondence and acknowledgments” at the end of the article, so presumably this is first-hand information from Marty, but I’m not sure – there are quotes in the article from John Corneille and Ash Long, but not from Marty Dougherty.

In your interview with John Corneille (24th July 2006), Marvel and the Marvel deal are mentioned briefly. Here’s a few excerpts:

"JC: Originally the guys who set it up went to the states and lined it all up."

"DB: I've spoken to people who worked at Marvel at the time and no-one remembers Newton.
JC: No, they wouldn't. Their only input was meeting the guys from Australia, doing the initial set-up, sending the material and getting an initial payment."

"JC. I was in the office with (Regal Press editor) Marty Dougherty when he took a couple of calls from the United States and after a while they said we won't take the calls from Marvel anymore."

Unless I’ve missed something in Robert’s article or your interview, there is no specific mention of Maxwell Newton going to the US to cut the deal. Corneille refers to “the guys who set it up”, but no names are mentioned, and as I understand it, Corneille was employed after the deal was already done. And, by his own account, Dougherty took the calls from the US, not Newton.

Given that no-one at Marvel from that time seems to remember Newton, maybe it’s because Dougherty dealt directly with Transworld as Marvel’s agency for such matters.

Maybe there is evidence I’m not privy to that Maxwell Newton dealt directly with Marvel. There may be, I don’t deny that. And maybe he was in the party or delegation that went to the US. Quite possible. But, based on the evidence I have to hand, I’m happy to assume that Dougherty dealt directly with Transworld.

The other reason I expect this is the case is that in this period it appears Marvel were actively taking stock and control of their international licenses.

In an article titled “Alan Class Comics” in Comic Book Marketplace #112, May 2004, Chris Bonham writes:

"…Alan Class… (set) up an import business for American film, detective and romance magazines in 1959. By 1962, he had begun publishing his own comic books, all of which consisted of material from American comics of the ‘50s, and eventually the 1960s and beyond… He had a good deal with Marvel to reprint their stories and the super-heroes just happened to be part of their catalog…"

This article suggests Class not only dealt directly with Marvel, but that his deal with Marvel pre-dated the superhero comics and as such he was a beneficiary of their popularity by default rather than foresight or acumen.

The article goes on to say that even when Marvel UK was established in 1972, Class was able to continue publishing Marvel superhero stories “mainly because the powers that be had forgotten the arrangement…” even though he was in direct competition with them, until “Marvel UK (finally) realized this and rectified the situation”.

I’m not sure of the precise dates and details but it appears this is the general period Transworld became involved with Marvel.

In Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, by Les Daniels, 1991, there is a short report of a meeting (circa 1974/75) between Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Al Landau in which Landau makes a suggestion for a book with characters from different countries which could be sold abroad. Landau is described as “Marvel’s president… appointed by Cadence Industries, Marvel’s Parent Company… Landau had no direct publishing experience, but he headed Trans World Syndicate…” (p. 168)

I don’t know much about the corporate or editorial setups of Marvel at this time, but based on the above account of Landau’s roles at Marvel at the time – President; some degree of editorial input; (ex?) Trans World executive – it would not surprise me if anyone such as Dougherty meeting Landau at the time was not quite sure whether Landau was wearing his ‘Marvel President hat’ or his "Transworld" hat.

Long answer! Now, I can't say for certain whether it was Newton, or Dougherty, or both who dealt with Marvel, or Transworld, or both. But I've set out the basis for my opinion. Happy to see more info