Golden Age Links
Welcome to my Lev Gleason Comics page. Leverett Gleason began his career in comics as the first editor of Tip Top, the magazine that the United Features Syndicate published in 1936, and which reprinted their more popular Sunday pages (including Tarzan, Li'l Abner, Fritzi Ritz, and The Captain & The Kids). Gleason would impose his personal vision when he took on autonomy as the comics publisher of the Funnies Inc.-produced Silver Streak Comics from Arthur Bernhardt's Rhoda Publications, starting at the third issue (the series got its name from a model of Pontiac that Bernhardt had recently purchased; there is evidence however that Bernhardt's and Gleason's professional relationship continued past this point of purchase). The new line hosted some of the most consistently well-written comics to be published in the Golden Age outside of DC, Fawcett, and Quality ... and the only one not currently under the DC aegis (though the character name Daredevil was later re-used by Marvel Comics).
Within a few years he and his business partner Arthur Bernhard had completely reconfigured the line, spinning Daredevil off into his own book, replacing the Captain Battle title (the line's dominant character prior to Silver Streak and Daredevil) with Boy Comics, and Silver Streak Comics with Crime Does Not Pay. Daredevil Comics #11 is a landmark issue because of reasons other than what many consider a classic cover. It is the last issue to feature such strips as Jerry Robinson's London. Essentially, the features that were started in issue #2 end, and the transition towards a different sort of publishing line begins, one which addressed moral issues facing the youth of the day. In addition, the covers from the following issues on, thanks to editor (and cover artist) Charles Biro and his collaborator Bob Wood, are immediately recognisable, with a tendency towards realistically drawn illustrations which take you directly into the middle of a story. Biro (1911-1972) started his career drawing humor strips for the Harry "A" Chesler studio in 1936; eventually he left the Chesler shop and provided material for the new MLJ line, for whom he created Steel Sterling, and he later went on to create Airboy for Hillman Publications. Bob Wood had previously worked on the Iron Mike newspaper strip.
Gleason was no stranger to controversy. Among his non-comics publications were two magazines (among others) named Friday, and Salute (a veterans' mag) that were considered "Commie influenced." In 1946 he, along with a group of sixteen others, were charged with contempt of Congress by HUAC, for failure to turn over subpoenaed documents. Gleason's comic line showed a strong social conscience at work.
Under Gleason's leadership, Comic House did not publish many titles; but the ones they did publish were blockbusters, reaching sales of up to 2 million by 1947. Ironically, the success of one of their most famous titles caused their downfall. Crime Does Not Pay, a series which featured morality plays adapted from real police files and court records, spawned a flood of increasingly violent and garish imitators (one of the best was True Crime Comics, edited, written and drawn by Jack Cole, and published by Magazine Village -- in fact, Arthur Bernhardt, for whom he had worked decades earlier). Consequently, Lev Gleason found his line one of the prime targets of attack by Frederick Wertham; his crime comics were frequently mentioned during the Kefauver hearings. He was a frequent writer of articles and op-ed pieces condemning the hearings and the attempts to censor comics. Sadly, public outcry ultimately forced the line to cease publishing by mid-1955.