Thursday, December 2, 2010

Serene Summerfield: The First Lady of Comic Books

(Special thanks to Phil Barnhart, James Ludwig and Hames Ware for their contributions to this article. -- Ken Quattro)

Close your eyes and picture a serene summer field. Feel the warm sun on your face as your mind’s eye conjures a green expanse of lazily waving grasses, white butterflies wafting over sweet smelling wildflowers, the gentle symphony of harmoniously buzzing honeybees and the lilting chirp of birds on wing.

Then open your eyes and read how Jerry Iger portrayed Serene Summerfield to Hames Ware: "She certainly did not fit the description of her name." Lacking a photo of Ms. Summerfield, we are left to ponder his words.

Was Iger, a notorious ladies man, speaking solely of her physical appearance? Or did she possess an ill temper that belied her first name?

Right about now you are probably asking yourself why I am even discussing her. What makes Serene Summerfield significant? Simply this: in all likelihood, she was the first woman to produce original artwork for modern American comic books. [note: NO SHE WASN'T! It turns out, Emma C. McKean has that distinction. See comment at the end of this post for more details.]

About that first name. In actuality her given name was Serena, and she was born August 9, 1885 in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Her father Morris was an immigrant, as were the parents of many of her comic peers. But when he came to America from Germany in 1877, he settled in North Carolina instead of New York City. A dry goods merchant, Morris traveled extensively. On one of his business trips, he met and eventually married Annie Davison of Norfolk, Virginia in 1884. The couple returned to Goldsboro, where their eldest child, Serena, was born. Within a few years, they had two more children, with the family moving frequently to keep up with Morris’ burgeoning women's clothing business. In 1900 they were living in Staunton, Virginia. In the early years of the Twentieth Century, the Summerfield’s had moved to The Bronx. Here we get our first glimpse into the life of Serena.

In 1908, Serena was a design student at the Cooper Union, the revolutionary “free school” that provided a college education to qualified students without need of tuition. That year, Serena won a design award--“for an inlaid table top in the style of the Renaissance in Italy“--that resulted in a $10.00 prize. Serena turned her education into an occupation, as she is listed as a wall paper designer in the census of 1910.

By 1920, the Summerfield’s had moved to Baltimore, Maryland. Serena, by now in her mid-thirties, moved along with them. In 1922, the Summerfield’s moved for the last time back to New York, to Brooklyn, with their unmarried daughter in tow.

The 1920 census describes both Serena and her brother Jerome as "reproductional" artists. By 1925, Serena had her own studio. The previous year, she had illustrated the memoirs of businessman Saunders Norvell. Norvell's book, FORTY YEARS OF HARDWARE, was just as the title implied: a remembrance of his long career in the hardware business and is considered something of a classic for its detailing of a bygone era of American business. More to the point, Summerfield's illustrations for the book are the first examples of her published work to be found.

illustrations from

The drawings therein displayed the competency of an art student, but not much more. She was obviously most comfortable working from photos, for when she wasn't, her subject's anatomy broke down; she appeared lost. The fussiness of her pen-strokes seem to indicate the insecurity of an amateur rather than the sure line of an accomplished artist. She was no Nell Brinkley. Still, she had succeeded in getting published work.

And then, nothing.

Well, there was the short letter she wrote to the NEW YORK TIMES:

Queries and Answers page
NEW YORK TIMES (March 1,1931)

How proper. How reserved. How telling? Serena (under the somewhat more poetic nom de plume, "Serene"), comes across as erudite and as genteelly scolding as a schoolmarm.

Other than a vague reference in a 1935 copyright for a "King Cotton" piece of art (once again, as "Serene Summerfield"), her professional career as an illustrator seems to have been stillborn. Yet, not necessarily so. In the census of 1930, Summerfield is listed as a "poster" artist. Further (if anything can be derived from this information), her brother Jerome was also employed as an artist for the Nuart Poster Company.

But then came comic books. By the middle of the 1930s, this emerging market was hiring artists--a significant development in the midst of the Great Depression. Scuttling along at the lowest end of the publishing industry, comic publishers weren't particular about the quality of the work they bought, nor the credentials of their artists. Pure amateurs were having their worked published alongside that of longtime professional illustrators on the downside of their careers. This egalitarian situation was less the result of politics than of economics. While Serena's skill level wasn't a major consideration to editors, her willingness to work for the money paid for comic book work, was.

Summerfield's first venture into comics, entitled "Stratosphere Special", appeared in Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's NEW COMICS #4 (March-April, 1936). This brief, two-page effort is a curiosity for several reasons.

Stratosphere Special
NEW COMICS #4 (March-April, 1936)
[image courtesy of James Ludwig]

The artwork and story seem creakingly archaic. With a trip to the Moon accomplished by means of a balloon, Summerfield's knowledge of science fiction seemed to have stopped with the novels of Jules Verne. The feature was a relic compared to work regularly seen in concurrent comic strips and pulps. Still, her amateurish depiction of fin de siècle fashions and childlike Moon-men is quaintly humorous.

Stratosphere Special
NEW COMICS #5 (June, 1936)
[image courtesy of James Ludwig]

The second installment of "Stratosphere Special" in NEW COMICS #5 (June, 1936) would be its last, but undaunted, Summerfield sold the nearly identical "Space Limited (Above the Stratosphere)" to John Henle. Henle was the shirt manufacturer turned publisher who employed Samuel "Jerry" Iger to put together a new publication, "...containing comics, stories and articles on hobbies,"* the not-so-humbly titled, WOW, WHAT A MAGAZINE! #1 (July, 1936). *[NEW YORK TIMES, Aug. 5,1936]

At Henle Publications, Summerfield found herself working among such artists as Bob Kane, Barnard Baily, George Brenner and Iger's future business partner, Will Eisner.

“Eisner remembers Summerfield," wrote Trina Robbins and cat yronwode in their 1985 book, WOMEN AND THE COMICS, "(as) a big statuesque woman with a pleasant face, a sharp nose and hyperthyroid eyes who wore her hair in a bun.” A visually gentler, if not much kinder, description than that given by Iger.

Space Limited (Above the Stratosphere)
WOW, WHAT A MAGAZINE #2, pg. 17 (August, 1936)
[images courtesy of Phil Barnhart]

pg. 18

pg. 19

As far as the strip itself was concerned, Summerfield seems to have been exposed to more current science fiction artwork in the intervening months since her "Stratosphere Special". The spacefaring balloon is gone, replaced by a more acceptable spaceship that would have been comfortable on the cover of AMAZING STORIES. The women and children that populated her first feature stayed home. Instead, space-suited Earth men encounter more sinister looking Moon men led, apparently, by Diane, "The Goddess of the Moon", fashionably dressed in Thirties chic. The storyline makes little sense and the strip dies with the magazine, ending with issue #4 dated November, 1936.

What then? Did Summerfield linger and become part of the Eisner & Iger shop that rose from the ashes of WOW? The online WHO'S WHO OF AMERICAN COMIC BOOKS suggests that she did, although no specific credits are named. Lacking a definitive attribution, it's quite possible these few efforts constituted her entire comic book career.

Outside comics, only fleeting glimpses of Serena's life are to be found, and then usually tangentially. An August 7, 1937 NEW YORK TIMES article, topped with a photo of an elderly man and woman dressed in 1880's garb, tells of the yearly trip made by the couple on the anniversary of their marriage.

Maurice and Annie Summerfield
NEW YORK TIMES (August 7, 1937)

The couple, "The Maurice Summerfields of Brooklyn" (note the newly adopted French spelling of Morris' first name--quel bourgeois!), were making their 53rd "sentimental journey" back to Norfolk, Virginia, accompanied by their son Jerome. Neither Serena nor her sister Priscilla get a mention.

Serena does make the papers, though, on the Letters to the Editor page of the Oct. 31, 1943 issue of the NYT:


Answering the poem in THE NEW YORK TIMES Magazine by Berton Braley, entitled "We Keep 'Em in the Air"---

...and we're the folks at home,
The little everyday guy,
Who helps the "greasy ground-
Keep 'em in the sky!
For without our STAMPS and
That we little Main-Streeters
They couldn't purchase the planes,
To put 'em in the sky!


This outburst of enthusiastic patriotism is the final "credit" found for the now middle-aged Serena. When her mother, Annie, passes away in 1949, it's noted that she leaves behind, "...two daughters, Miss Serena Summerfield and Mrs. Priscilla Manning". At age 64, Serena had apparently never married.

According to Social Security records, Serena Summerfield died in July 1966 in Brooklyn, New York. She was nearly 81 years old.

Having died before she could ever be interviewed, the fact is that many details about the life of Serene Summerfield remain unknown. Her career as an illustrator seems to have been relatively unsuccessful or at least undistinguished enough that few examples of her work survive.

As an unmarried woman in the early Twentieth Century, it's likely she didn’t have any children, nobody to tell her story. Much, if not all, of her life seems to have been spent within the comfortable confines of her family's embrace, with her poetry and her artwork. Despite the fact that she defied societal conventions of the time by going to college and pursuing a career, as the daughter of a successful businessman she probably never wanted for money, never ventured far. More's the pity, she never knew she was a pioneer.

But we do.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mirth, Mockery & Mayhem

Hi folks!

Just checking in to let you all know that I'm finishing up a long article for a well-known print publication, but I'll be posting back here soon with a new piece that I hope you will enjoy. Meanwhile, let me share with you the contents of an email I just received from my old friend, Professor Richard Rubenfeld. Rich is a professor of art history at Eastern Michigan University and a longtime comic fan and historian. He has hosted several outstanding exhibitions of comic art at EMU in the past decade and I am very pleased to hear about his latest presentation:

The Michigan Comics Show opens this Thursday, August 12th. The opening reception will take place between 6:00 and 8:30. There will be live music and food. There is an admission fee for members and non-members.

An update on some dates and events:

First the show will run an additional day (till October 31st) to accommodate visitors to the Detroit Fanfare being held that weekend. I don't have the particulars, but attendees of that convention will be able to see the exhibition at a reduced cost. Information on this will be in the convention program.

September 19th, 2:00 p.m. I will give a gallery talk at the museum.

September 24th: Student Symposium; will include a panel of professionals. So far, Mike Thompson and Aaron Warner have indicated interest in participating on the panel.

October 3: Fall Harvest: free admission that day and book signing of THE BURGH, a collection of comics about Jackson, Michigan, by Jackson natives, Joe and Jon Hart. Trust me. Their work is really edgy and very contemporary.

October 14th, evening : Local Comics Panel, moderated by Jon Hart.

October 16th, 2:00 p.m. I am lecturing about comic and cartoon in history at the Jackson District Library.

October 22: Book signing of STITCHES, a new graphic novel by Michigander David Small. This will take place at the Jackson District Library. We had hoped to get David to participate in the exhibition, but are looking forward to seeing his book.

There is some new work in the show by Dave Coverly and Katie Cook. Work by the Brothers Hart and Jackson artist, Jason Howard (best known for his work on Marvel's Astounding Wolfman) has also been added.

Visit the Ella Sharp Museum website for additional information.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

DC VS VICTOR FOX: The Testimony of Harry Donenfeld

This is the sixth and final 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.

Finally, it came down to the testimony of Harry Donenfeld. His presence loomed over the entire proceedings as every one of the case's participants knew him and most had reason to fear him. To even casual observers, Donenfeld's long, disreputable past was well-known:

"Last week the new owner and the future of the Police Gazette were revealed. The owner is Merwil Publishing Co. consisting of Irving & Harry Donenfeld and Mrs. Merle Williams Hersey. Merwil Publishing Co. issues five of the smuttiest magazines on the newsstands..." [TIME MAGAZINE, "Barber's Bible", July 31, 1933]

Victor Fox makes a brief reappearance on the stand after Donenfeld in rebuttal to conclude the testimony. I have included that here as well.

-- Harry Donenfeld, plaintiff witness herein referred to as The Witness
-- Victor S. Fox, defense witness herein referred to as The Witness
-- Asher Blum & Raphael Koenig, attorneys for defendant Brun Publications (Fox)
-- Samuel Fried, attorney for co-defendants Kable News Co. and Interborough News Co.
-- Horace Manges, attorney for the plaintiff Detective Comics, Inc.
-- Judge John Woolsey, herein referred to as The Court


pg. 1

pg. 2

pg. 3

pg. 4

pg. 5

pg. 6

pg. 7



Although brief, Donenfeld's testimony was--like the man himself--direct and uncompromising:

Manges: Mr. Donenfeld, you are president of the plaintiff corporation?

Donenfeld: I am, sir.

Manges: Did Mr. Fox ever submit to you a dummy for a magazine Kid Comics?

Donenfeld: No, sir.

Manges: Did Mr. Fox ever submit to you a any dummy with the "Wonderman" character on it?

Donenfeld: No, sir.

While much of his testimony is devoted to detailing--and apparently proving with canceled checks--that he was not in New York City at the time Fox claimed to have met with him to propose KID COMICS, it is during cross-examination on another matter that Donenfeld shows some anger:

Blim: Haven't you pleaded guilty in the Federal Court recently for sending obscene matter through the mails?

Donenfeld: No, sir, I was never involved in any Federal Court action.

Blum: I would like to have you search your memory because I want the correct answer, if you remember it. Haven't you pleaded guilty in the Federal Court recently?

Donenfeld: Do you think I'm going to perjure myself?

Blum: I don't know.

Donenfeld: I have made a definite statement that I was never indicted, never had any business with any Federal authorities or any Federal courts; never been indicted and never pleaded. Is that clear?

Blum: That is clear.

Donenfeld: O.K., sir.

The simmering animosity between Donenfeld and Fox is laid bare when the latter takes the stand briefly in an attempt to rebut Donenfeld's words:

Manges: Have you any proof at all besides your word that you saw Mr. Donenfeld in New York between January 10th and January 20th, that those dates are correct, in 1938?

Fox: I was unprepared for the question, but if I have the time--I keep memorandums of all my conversations with Donenfeld as I found that they were not always according to Hoyle.

With Fox's testimony, the trial ends. We have the advantage afforded by time to know the outcome of the case in Detective Comics favor. Despite several appeals, the decision stands.

The ironies surrounding this case abound. The chilling effect DC hoped the decision would have on any other potential imitators didn't materialize. Even while the case was being heard, new super-powered characters were hitting the newsstands. By the time all appeals had been exhausted, the floodgates had been irrevocably opened. Even Victor Fox never visibly hesitated, as his comics featured one super-hero after another.

Within a decade of this 1939 case, the alliances involved had drastically changed.

Although Victor Fox had stiffed Eisner and Iger the $3,000 he owed them at the time of this case, they continued doing business with him. In fact, Iger, long after Eisner had split from the partnership, would be producing material for Fox's comics virtually until he stopped publishing in the 1950s. The aforementioned Eisner-Iger split left the former partners at odds, particularly evident in Iger's bitter memories later in his life.

Jerry Siegel, already angry over DC's shady accounting practices denying him and Shuster any profits from their creation, would--with Shuster--eventually sue the corporation. The first suit, initiated in 1947, ended not only with DC prevailing, but the ostracizing of both creators from DC for years.

By 1944, M.C Gaines ended his relationship with DC with the sale of All-American to Donenfeld's emerging National Comics. This too was an acrimonious split that had been exacerbated by tensions between him and his partner, Jack Liebowitz. Even Gaines' editor and protégé, Sheldon Mayer, switched his allegiance by staying with DC when Gaines went on to form Educational Comics.


Having the opportunity to present this extraordinary historical document has been a true privilege. I don't question whether it was luck or something I did that prompted the finder of this transcript to contact me and then to allow me to publish it online, I'm just thankful that he did.

And to answer all those who wondered where this document had been found...

it is available to us all, where it has always been, in the National Archives.

--Ken Quattro

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.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

DC VS VICTOR FOX: The Testimony of Jerry Siegel

This is the fourth 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.

Jerry Siegel needs no introduction--to us. But in 1939, he was just a young Midwestern writer-for-hire who had come up with the costumed character that was the bone of contention in this courtroom. Although he was likely intimidated by the proceedings, Siegel suspected what Liebowitz and Donenfeld already knew: Superman was a money-maker. Getting his fair share of that money would be another matter.

"Now in reply to your letter. Frankly, when I got through reading it, it took my breath away. I did not anticipate that when I asked you to come to New York to discuss this matter of newspaper syndication, that you would want to take advantage of this visit and try to boost up your price on "Superman". You must bear in mind, Jerry, that when we started Action Comics, we agreed to give you $10.00 a page, which is $4.00 a page more than anyone else is getting for any feature in any of our four books." [Jack Liebowitz in a letter to Siegel, Sept. 28, 1938]

-- Jerome Siegel, plaintiff witness herein referred to as The Witness
-- Asher Blum & Raphael Koenig, attorneys for defendant Brun Publications (Fox)
-- Samuel Fried, attorney for co-defendants Kable News Co. and Interborough News Co.
-- Horace Manges, attorney for the plaintiff Detective Comics, Inc.
-- Judge John Woolsey, herein referred to as The Court

[note: I've also included the brief testimony of Warren Angel, Vice President and General Manager of Kable News. While his testimony has little, if any affect on the case's outcome, I have included it for the completists out there.]


Siegel, pg. 1

Siegel, pg. 2

Siegel, pg. 3

Siegel, pg. 4

Siegel, pg. 5

Siegel, pg. 6

Siegel, pg. 7

Siegel, pg. 8

Siegel, pg. 9

Siegel, pg. 10

Angel, pg. 1

Angel, pg. 2

Angel, pg. 3

Angel, pg. 4



Siegel's role in testifying was, by design, very specific.

Manges: I only bring on this witness because they plead as a separate defense lack of originality.

Despite being the creator (along with Joe Shuster) of Superman, Siegel suffered the ignominy of knowing he was just the hired help. Instead of being the aggrieved parties, the ones suing for damages for copyright infringement, Siegel and Shuster had signed away all rights to the character. Siegel sat in the courtroom as Liebowitz and the attorneys detailed the copyright transfer, the phenomenal success of the comic and the potential licensing possibilities.

And he was here only to speak to the originality of his creation.

The defense attorney tries to imply that Siegel copied the currently popular comic strip, The Phantom, thereby making it the common source for both Superman and Wonder Man. After getting Siegel to acknowledge familiarity with The Phantom, the defense attorney tries to pin him down:

Blum: How was that character, "The Phantom", dressed; in what costume?

Siegel: Well, when I first saw the book
[a "Phantom" Big Little Book] I was startled to see how similar it was to the "Superman" features.

What seems to be an admission of imitation, soon proves to be something else entirely:

Siegel: However, there is one other thing I would like to mention--I mean in connection with my having seen this book.

Blum: Go ahead.

Siegel: When I saw this book I went over to the artist's office, and I wondered whether our "Superman" had been lying around the King Features Syndicate.

Siegel's (obviously rehearsed) implication that The Phantom may have been copied from his submission of Superman to King Features, briefly rattles the plaintiff's attorney before they move on.

While Siegel never does produce a drawing of Superman that pre-existed its publication in ACTION COMICS--odd, since such drawings have turned up since--he does satisfy the Court with a letter submitting the strip to Frank Armer, editor of Super Magazines, Inc, dated June 20, 1934. Not stated, but known to at least some of those in court that day:

Super Magazines was a company owned by Harry Donenfeld.

Next up: Max Gaines and Sheldon Mayer

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

DC VS VICTOR FOX: The Testimony of Jack Liebowitz

This is the third installment of testimony from Detective Comics, Inc. vs. Bruns (Fox) Publications. As in the two previous, I’ll present the scanned transcript pages and leave my comments to the end.

Fittingly, Jack Liebowitz leads off for the plaintiffs. The former accountant had worked his way up through Harry Donenfeld’s organization, from business manager, to secretary-treasurer, to Max Gaines partner in the Donenfeld-funded All-American Comics venture. He was also chief guardian of the Superman franchise:

“He (Liebowitz) was ferocious within the industry, though. As Superman imitations poured from cheap printing presses in 1939 and 1940, it became almost habitual for the company to toss around lawsuits and threatening letters.” [Gerard Jones, MEN OF TOMORROW, pg. 165]

-- Jacob S. Liebowitz, plaintiff witness herein referred to as The Witness
-- Asher Blum & Raphael Koenig, attorneys for defendant Brun Publications (Fox)
-- Samuel Fried, attorney for co-defendants Kable News Co. and Interborough News Co.
-- Horace Manges, attorney for the plaintiff Detective Comics, Inc.
-- Judge John Woolsey, herein referred to as The Court


pg. 1

pg. 2

pg. 3

pg. 4

pg. 5

pg. 6

pg. 7

pg. 8

pg. 9

pg. 10

pg. 11

pg. 12

pg. 13

pg. 14

pg. 15



Liebowitz's testimony is remarkable.

Not just because it establishes Fox's opportunity and means of acquiring the sales figures of--and consequently, the motivation to copy--ACTION COMICS, but it peels back the layers of incestuous relationships between the participants. From a historical perspective, Liebowitz's words may be more revealing, if not as shocking, as Eisner's.

To begin with, he puts to rest this apocryphal tale:

"…Harry Donenfeld's accountant, Victor Fox came in to work at 10:00 AM, saw the sales figures for Action Comics #1, he quit his job at 11:00 AM, spent the noon hour finding some office space to rent, and by 2 PM he was interviewing people to do superhero comics for him." [Jamie Coville, "Siegel, Shuster and Superman"]

The truth is more involved and more intriguing. After establishing the close proximity of Bruns to DC (both were in the same building, two floors apart), the plaintiff's attorney reveals a deeper relationship:

Manges: Is Mr. Donenfeld the president of your company?

Liebowitz: He is.

Manges: And did Mr. Donenfeld at one time have a 50 percent interest in the Bruns Publications?

Liebowitz: Yes.

Wheels within wheels. Not only was Donenfeld owner of Detective Comics and distributor, Independent News, but was also Fox's one-time partner in Bruns. Meanwhile Liebowitz, secretary-treasurer of DC, served in a similar capacity for Independent News, of which, Fox was a customer.

It was as a client of that distributor that Fox had access to the sales figures of ACTION COMICS. It seems that he would make a daily trip to the offices of Independent News to check the sales of his own WORLD ASTROLOGY MAGAZINE. While flipping through the unsorted "pick-up" cards, Fox had the opportunity to see the astounding sell-through rate of ACTION compared to the meager sales of WORLD ASTROLOGY.

Liebowitz also makes reference to a comic book proposed to him by Fox in February, 1939:

Manges: Will you tell his Honor what was said by Mr. Fox and what was said by you, to the best of your recollection?

Liebowitz: Well, he was up to see me at one time at the office, I think it was around five o'clock. A part of the conversation was to inform me he was going to publish a comic magazine and that the issue was being prepared in about two weeks.

Was this WONDER COMICS or the KID COMICS mentioned by Fox? If so, their stories, not surprisingly, vary wildly. Fox claimed he had this conversation with Donenfeld and a full year earlier, in January, 1938. As is frequently the case, timing is everything, and proof of it becomes central to this case.

Next up on the stand: Jerry Siegel.