Monday, February 19, 2007

Rheinstrom, MacFadden and the DC Connection

I have recently corresponded with an expert in the field of comics and magazine publishers, Michael Feldman. I recognise Michael’s contribution to comics scholarship from years on the comixschl list, and more recently on the GCD-Chat list. Michael is a significant contributor to Gerard Jones’ book Men of Tomorrow - which I thoroughly recommend – and is currently working on another project on the distribution of American journals.

Based on our email correspondence I have pieced together the following summary of the Rheinstrom / MacFadden / DC connection (and, by extension, the connection to K.G. Murray):

Contrary to some reports in various books and magazines, such as Daniel’s DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World’s Favorite Comic Book Heroes, and Comic Book Marketplace (on which I based my previous post) Rheinstrom was not in fact head of MacFadden Publications International - S.O. Shapiro (and some other person) were CEO. Bernarr MacFadden himself had been kicked out of the company in 1941, essentially for using the funds of a public company for his own use. MacFadden would be burdened by a huge printer debt throughout the 1940’s.

Rheinstrom was a top level executive at MacFadden, possibly in charge of overseas properties, and possibly had the title ‘Head of MacFadden International’ or some similar title. This may have been an autonomous operation linked to the main company.

It appears MacFadden’s problems throughout the 1940’s made them vulnerable to corporate raids, and some of its executives went to Independent News, DC's distribution sister company, around 1950.

It is no certainty that Rheinstrom also went directly to Independent News. It is likely that, having developed his own network while at McFadden, he formed his own service and consulting company circa 1950, and had NPP (National Periodical Publication - of which DC Comics and Independent News were divisions) as his major client.

There was some special deal at Independent News whereby Rheinstrom was granted 'carte blanche' in handling all their international reprints and licensing out of North America via his holding company, and after 1952 as president of Carroll Rheinstrom International Editions. This arrangement was still in place into the 1980s.

Besides the National/DC properties, Rheinstrom also handled product from other comics publishers. He may have been offered periodic 5 year contracts that were variously renewed.

There were deals with various companies and countries over the decades. Jack Adams was general manager of Independent News between 1939-52. Jack's brother Allan worked for Charlton, handling the resale of their returns to places like South Africa and other colonial countries. They mainly dealt in song lyric magazines. It’s possible he was even still handling MacFadden's properties for some time.

Not a lot to add to this for the moment, but these snippets of information do support the argument that Rheinstrom is the key to the range of publishers reprinted by the K.G. Murray titles. Indeed, it may explain the source of non-DC publishers who may not have been distributed by Independent News. The renewable 5-year contracts may shed light on supply-line symptoms referred to in previous blog entries. All good fodder for further analysis and speculation.

My thanks to Michael for contributing to our behind-the-scenes knowledge of the parties which likely hold the key to the source of the K.G. Murray reprints.

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