Sunday, July 11, 2010

DC VS VICTOR FOX: The Testimony of Gaines & Mayer

This is the fifth installment of testimony from Detective Comics, Inc. vs. Bruns (Fox) Publications. As I've done previously, I’ll present the scanned transcript pages and leave my comments to the end.

M.C.Gaines and Sheldon Mayer. For nearly a decade the two were linked, from the early years when Gaines was packaging comics with Mayer as his assistant, to Mayer's ascension to editor over Gaines' All-American line.

"He [Mayer] worked better with the cantankerous Charlie Gaines, maybe because they both felt too smart for the world around them and they didn't mind the yelling." [Gerard Jones, MEN OF TOMORROW, pg. 122]

This linkage continues as Mayer's testimony is built to support that of Gaines, hence, I present them together.

-- M.C. Gaines & Sheldon Mayer, plaintiff witnesses herein referred to as The Witness
-- Asher Blum & Raphael Koenig, attorneys for defendant Brun Publications (Fox)
-- Horace Manges, attorney for the plaintiff Detective Comics, Inc.
-- Judge John Woolsey, herein referred to as The Court


Gaines, pg. 1

Gaines, pg. 2

Gaines, pg. 3

Gaines, pg. 4

Gaines, pg. 5

Gaines, pg. 6

Gaines, pg. 7

Mayer, pg. 1

Mayer, pg. 2

Mayer, pg. 3



Max Gaines description of his acquisition and subsequent presentation of Superman to DC is perhaps the earliest contemporaneous relating of those events.

Worth noting is Gaines' testimony about a meeting he had with Jerry Iger in late April, 1938:

Gaines: ...he [Iger] was interested at that time in coming out with another comic magazine. He had a lot of material available and could get other material and he wanted help from me to finance him in a comic publication.

If true, this poses the question: Did Iger contact Gaines without Fox's knowledge with the intention of publishing his own comic book?

Gaines goes on to make the potentially damning accusation that his assistant (Mayer) gave Iger copies of all five comics being packaged by him, including a copy of ACTION COMICS #1.

While he unequivocally backed his boss's words, Mayer's testimony is frustratingly short. The only new bit of information worthy of extraction was his memory of Iger's proposed comic book:

Blum: Do you remember the drawings Mr. Iger showed you in April?

Mayer: I do.

Blum: What were they?

Mayer: They were a series of--well, several series. As a matter of fact, they were photostatic copies of drawings and if I'm not mistaken most of them were used in Jumbo Comics.

Blum: What characters were in those drawings Mr. Iger showed you?

Mayer: Oh, there was an aviation strip and a spy strip. I don't recall the names of the characters because they didn't impress me very much at the time.

If Mayer's recollection was correct, Iger may have been showing him stats of Les Marshall's "Modern 'Planes" and Eisner's "ZX-5" spy features. Both were proven strips from the Eisner/Iger shop that had seen publication in the JUMBO, and could well have been part of any proposal Iger would have shown Mayer.

Gaines' description of Joe Shuster's use of Ben-Day (misspelled "Benda" in the transcript) on the first week of Superman strips is one of those little things that probably went unnoticed by most in court that day, but is intriguing to comic fans 70 years later. From his words, though, it seems that Gaines was describing Duo-Shade. This is the process in which a chemical developer is applied to Duo-Shade paper bringing out the desired pattern, as Gaines' describes. Ben-Day differs in that it is a dot pattern transferred from prepared overlay sheets of paper to a surface by use of a burnishing tool.

One aspect not generally (if ever) discussed was Gaines' original intention for the Superman feature:

Gaines: I had an idea of getting out a certain weekly tabloid containing a certain type of comic strip form for newspaper syndication and I wrote to Mr. Siegel and asked him if he still had available the material which he had sent me several years ago and which I had returned and to please forward it immediately as I might have some use for it.

Although Gaines' idea of a weekly comic tabloid didn't pan out for him, others in the courtroom may have been taking mental notes. Victor Fox published samples of his own weekly comic tabloid dated May 12, 1940 entitled FREE WEEKLY COMIC MAGAZINE, less than a month before "Busy" Arnold and the Register and Tribune Syndicate came out with Eisner's SPIRIT newspaper supplement.

Next: Harry Donenfeld...and a rebuttal from Victor Fox.

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