Thursday, November 27, 2014

Martin Goodman : The Painted Cover True-Crime Detective Magazine Issues

A long, full look at the history of Martin Goodman's true-crime detective "flats" is long overdue, but this will not be it. I'm holding that off for the future when I have more time to devote to it. Instead, here is a teaser for you. For exactly one year, from cover date Nov/41 to Nov/42, Goodman utilized 11 painted covers across three different true-crime magazine titles. These covers are classic examples of period newsstand good-girl crime art, featuring gorgeous depictions of scantily clad women being menaced by unseen threats. They were produced by familiar pulp and pin-up cover artists working at that time.

Martin Goodman had a history throughout the 1930's publishing crime pulps. His second pulp magazine, (and second pulp issue) Black Book Detective Magazine Vol 1, #1 (June/33), appeared a single month after his publishing debut of Western Supernovel Magazine Vol 1, #1 (May/33). Both were co-published with Louis Silberkleit.

Black Book Detective Magazine Vol 1, #1 (June/33):

Black Book Detective Magazine was published by Newsstand Publications, Inc., listing Martin Goodman as President and L. Meisel as Secretary-Treasurer. This is Lillian Meisel, Louis Silberkleit's wife. Goodman and Silberkleit would publish 10 issues of the title before it was acquired by Lincoln Hoffman at the same time that Silberkleit sold his interest in Newsstand Publications, Inc., around June of 1934.

The issue contained the recently published novel "Yellow Men of Evil" by Walter C. Brown and two short stories, "Death Laughs" by Norman A. Daniels and "Singapore Poison" by Richard Merrifield.

For the most part though, while detective and crime pulps were very popular on the newsstands of the time, Goodman never really gave them more than a token presence, preferring to primarily saturate the 1930's market with western and sports pulps, both obviously better sellers for him.

Goodman Crime Pulps:

  • Black Book Detective Magazine (10 issues) (June/33-June/34) - sold to (or taken by) Lincoln Hoffman
  • Star Detective Magazine (11 issues) (May/35-Nov/38) - changes to shudder title Uncanny Tales
  • True Crime Magazine (2 issues) (July/36-Nov/36) - edited by Arthur Perles, brother of Goodman's business attorney Jerry Perles.
  • Detective Short Stories (26 issues) (Aug/37-Oct/47)
  • Complete Detective (6 issues) (May/38-Oct/39) - changes to Complete Detective Cases "flat" true-crime magazine (see below)
  • Top-Notch Detective (3 issues) (Sept/38-Mar/39)
  • Detective Mysteries (1 issue) (Nov/38)
  • Angel Detective (1 issue) (July/41)
  • All-Star Detective (2 issues) (Dec/41-May/42)
  • Best Detective (1 issue) (Dec/47) - morphed to Best Detective Cases "flat" in 1948 (see below)
With mostly one-shots and short-run titles, as you can see, the only real long-standing crime pulp newsstand presence Goodman had was Star Detective  Magazine and Detective Short Stories. The important pulp for us above is Complete Detective. Here is Vol 1, #1 (May/38). The cover art is by Norman Saunders, in his debut work for Martin Goodman.

By it's sixth and final Oct/39 issue, Complete Detective had for the most part been a shudder pulp, a companion to the satanic torture porn-like content found in Uncanny Tales and Mystery Tales, titles that were taking a lot of heat from the mayor's office. The cancellation of Complete Detective also coincided with the debut of Marvel Comics #1 (Oct/39), as Goodman was beginning to jettison books and formats that were losing money (or too much trouble), preferring to look for the next newsstand trend to copy and duplicate. This trend was the nascent comic book industry. Goodman saw the fortunes possible based on the incredible success of publisher Harry Donenfeld's Superman and Batman comic book characters, and preferred to put his money there.

But another proliferating newsstand format was the detective true-crime magazine, a format being used by all the major publishers. So following Complete Detective Vol 1, #6 (Oct/39) the pulp was shelved, changed to Complete Detective Cases Vol 2, #1 (Dec/39) and the format switched from standard pulp to over-sized "flat", meaning a slick cover but lower quality (not quite as low as pulp quality), non-slick paper inside.

The October, 1939 issue of the trade magazine Author & Journalist announced the new magazine this way:

Complete Detective Cases, 330 W. 42nd St., NY, is announced as a new bi-monthly magazine handling fact-crime stories. It is issued by Postal Publications and edited by Gene Fornshell, who writes: "This book uses only cases in which convictions have been secured. We want plenty of sex, horror, and gore. Stories should range from 4000 to 6000 words, and official by-lines are preferred, but not essential. Old cases, going back forty or fifty years can be used, and I suggest that art for these older yarns be copied by camera from newspaper files which are available at most public libraries. We must have plenty of art for all stories. Rates are from 1 cent a word up, photos from $2 to $3 each. We pay on acceptance and report within two weeks." (1)

The October, 1939 issue of the trade magazine Writer's Digest announced the magazine this way:

Red Circle Magazines in the McGraw-Hill Building are increasing the list of magazines with something in the true detective field – Complete Detective Cases. This will follow the usual large flat format on smooth paper, all first-person write-ups, with plenty of art. The first issue is due on the stands around the first of October, so you can check up quickly on the type of material.

To start, the magazine will be a bi-monthly. Cases may be of any period – today or way, way back. The one requirement is that they must have been cleared through the courts and convictions made. No unfinished business here. An official byline is desirable, but not essential to acceptance. Like much of this field, there is a demand for sex and for gore. The readers like it strong! The best lengths are between 4,000 and 6,000 words. Reports are promised within a couple of weeks, and paychecks on acceptance. Rate of payment on manuscripts is to be one cent a word and up, with $3.00 for each picture used. The editor is Gene Fornshell, himself an experienced writer in the field. He makes the useful suggestion that when looking for pictures to illustrate older cases, you go to the newspaper files of the town where the crime occurred. Photostat copies can be made of suitable photographs found in the papers. Address of Complete Detective Cases: 330 West 42nd Street.  (2)

What's interesting to note above is that in the trade magazines, all of Martin Goodman's publications are being referred to as coming from Red Circle Magazines, a designation we usually save for his 1937 to 1942 pulp line exclusively. Most of these pulps (not all) had the trademark red circle on the covers, spines and contents page. Apparently, in the industry at that time, the entire outfit was known as Red Circle.

Abraham Goodman, interviewed by Robert Weinberg in Pulp #10 (1978), confirms, "Newsstand Publications, Manvis, etc., were the publishing companies. Red Circle Magazines the trademark, aside from the actual titles of the magazines."  (3)

What's equally notable is the call by editor Gene Fornshell for "sex, horror and gore"! Sensationalist crime stories were all the rage on the newsstands. While the era of the shudder pulp was waning due to societal complaints, turning out the same sensationalist "gore" material wrapped in a veneer of "true crime", rather than satanic-porn fiction, allowed the public to continue to consume it. Fornshell would edit this title for 4 issues and be replaced by Robert E. Levee.

Complete Detective Cases Vol 2, #1 (Dec/39):

Goodman would run with this format throughout the 1940's and  to a lesser extent 1950's, pushing his newsstand saturation to a high of 9 concurrent titles by 1948. (By 1945 the actual physical size would shrink about 1/2 inch in height). All the books featured photo covers, black and white initially, and color (or colorized) by the mid decade.

But for a 12 month period between cover dates Nov/41 to Nov/42, the decision was made to use painted covers, as he was on his pulp and girly/humor magazines. The results were spectacular!

Goodman True-Crime Detective Magazines:
  • Complete Detective Cases - Dec/39 to Apr/53
  • Amazing Detective Cases - June/40 to Apr/60 (sold to another publisher)
  • National Detective Cases - Mar/41 to Apr/49
  • Expose` Detective - Jan/42 to Aug/48
  • Exclusive Detective - Sept/42 to Apr/43, Nov/47 to Sept/48 (?)
  • Leading Detective Cases - Mar/43, May/47 to Aug/48 (?)
  • 10 True Crime Cases - Dec/47 to May/50 (?)
  • Exposed Crime Cases - Mar/48 to June/48 (?)
  • Best Detective Cases - Apr/48 (sold to another publisher)
  • Complete Police Cases - Fall/54 to Apr/57 (?)

Here are all 11 true-crime painted covers. They spread across 3 titles, Amazing Detective Cases (7), Expose` Detective (3) and Exclusive Detective (1). For some strange reason, Complete Detective Cases, Goodman's flagship true-crime title, never sported one. Note that for the most part, the painted covers appeared on the titles at the end of Joe Simon's tenure as art director, his replacement being Mel Blum. In fact, Blum's long employment with Martin Goodman is solely thanks to Simon and Kirby's departure from Timely Comics following the Captain America royalty fiasco. 

Simon helmed the position in Complete Detective Cases from cover months Nov/40 to Dec/41, in Amazing Detective Cases from Dec/40 to Aug/41, and in National Detective Cases from Mar/41 to Oct/41.

Mel Blum, hard of hearing and a weightlifter, would keep the position on all of Goodman's non-comics publications up through 1957 and the notorious Atlas implosion, where Goodman lost his recent new distributor, The American News Company, forcing him to gut his line as he switched to the Donenfeld owned Independent News.

The editor of these titles during this period was primarily Robert E. Levee, except for Expose` Detective, where Joseph Alvin (Joseph Alvin Kugelmass, more about him in a future post "here") and E.B. Sherman (Robert Solomon) helmed before Levee would take over. Robert Solomon was Martin Goodman's brother-in-law, married to his sister Sylvia, and also Stan Lee's uncle. It was Solomon who brought Stan Lee to Timely Comics in 1940. Long thought to be nothing but a pest to the Timely comic book staff, Solomon actually edited several magazines for Goodman throughout the 1940's and early 1950's.

The three main artists used were veterans of the field, all already working with Goodman or worked with in the past (and will in the future). They were Peter Driben, Norman Saunders and Cardwell Higgins.

Here is the list:

  1. Amazing Detective Cases Vol 1, #7 (Nov/41) - Peter Driben
  2. Amazing Detective Cases Vol 1, #8 (Dec/41) - Peter Driben
  3. Amazing Detective Cases Vol 2, #1 (Feb/42) - Norman Saunders
  4. Amazing Detective Cases Vol 2, #2 (Apr/42) - Norman Saunders
  5. Amazing Detective Cases Vol 2, #3 (June/42) - Peter Driben
  6. Amazing Detective Cases Vol 2, #4 (Aug/42) - Cardwell Higgins
  7. Amazing Detective Cases Vol 2, #5 (Nov/42) - Cardwell Higgins
  8. Expose` Detective Vol 1, #1 (Jan/42) - Peter Driben
  9. Expose` Detective Vol 1, #2 (Apr/42) - Peter Driben
  10. Expose` Detective Vol 1, #3 (July/42) - Cardwell Higgins
  11. Exclusive Detective Vol 1, #3 (Nov/42) - Peter Driben

Amazing Detective Cases : Vol 1, #7 (Nov/41)

Publisher: Crime Files, Inc.
Cover: Peter Driben (unsigned)
Editor: Robert E. Levee
Art Director: Joe Simon

Crime Files, Inc. was a sub-publisher that was created for this magazine and was the publisher of record until Vol 8, #3 (Oct/48), where it switched to Comic Combine Corp. The only other time the entity was ever used was for 2 consecutive issues of the Timely crime comic book All-True Crime, #28 and #29.

This cover may be Peter Driben's earliest work for Martin Goodman. Beyond these true-crime covers he will paint covers for nine crime digest paperbacks (here) and contribute to the bedsheet issues of Stag and Joker, as well as the earliest post-war incarnations of digest sized girly/humor publications. Many of the 1940's covers will be reprinted in the early 1950's, including the cover to Georgie Comics #25 (Feb/50), which was later used as the cover to the Humorama digest Joker Vol 4, #28 (Apr/53).

In addition to a handful of Goodman pulp covers, the incredibly prolific Driben early on contributed to Harry Donenfeld's spicy pulp line of the 1930's, but would be best known for his titillating covers for Beauty Parade and Robert Harrison's Eyeful, FlirtTitterWink and Whisper from the mid 1940's through the early 1950's. They are classic American pin-up art and vintage Americana of the post-war years.

Inside this issue are also two full page crime illustrations by Timely artist Al Avison. If you ever wanted to see what "pure" Al Avison looked like, this is it!

Amazing Detective Cases : Vol 1, #8 (Dec/41)

Publisher: Crime Files, Inc.
Cover: Peter Driben (signed)
Editor: Robert E. Levee
Art Director: Joe Simon

This issue is Joe Simon's swan song as art director of the Goodman true-crime magazines.

Amazing Detective Cases : Vol 2, #1 (Feb/42)

Publisher: Crime Files, Inc.
Cover: Norman Saunders (signed)
Editor: Robert E. Levee
Art Director: Melvin D. Blum

Norman Saunders debuted for Martin Goodman on the pulp Complete Mystery Vol 1, #1 (May/38), seen above. For the next 18 years he would paint approximately 175 pulp covers for Goodman's pulp line, 3 crime digest paperback covers (here) and at least one Lion Books cover (#17). Interior illustrations by him can be found in the two bedsheet issue of Stag in 1942 and its successor Male Home Companion, as well as the singular issue of Read!, which appears to me to have been published solely as a way to burn up old Stag/Male Home Companion inventory. Saunders is one of the most celebrated pulp cover artists of all time.

This issue also has a full-page, apparently unsigned illustration dated Aug/41 that could have come from the comic book staff.

Amazing Detective Cases : Vol 2, #2 (Apr/42)

Publisher: Crime Files, Inc.
Cover: Norman Saunders (signed)
Editor: Robert E. Levee
Art Director: Melvin D. Blum

There is an unsigned double-page splash inside that likely came from the comic book staff.

Amazing Detective Cases : Vol 2, #3 (June/42)

Publisher: Crime Files, Inc.
Cover: Peter Driben (signed)
Editor: Robert E. Levee
Art Director: Melvin D. Blum

Another unsigned double-page splash inside.

 Amazing Detective Cases : Vol 2, #4 (Aug/42)

Publisher: Crime Files, Inc.
Cover: Cardwell Higgins (signed)
Editor: Robert E. Levee
Art Director: Melvin D. Blum

Pin-up, advertising and commercial artist artist Cardwell Higgins did quite a bit of work for Martin Goodman from 1942 to 1944. In addition to 3 true-crime covers, he painted 7 covers for Goodman's crime digest paperback series as well as having interior illustrations in the bedsheet Stag and Gayety in 1942, as well as painting the cover to Stag's successor, Male Home Companion.

This issue features a double page splash utilizing Timely's Human Torch  logo for a story about a pyromaniac titled "Amazing Case of the Human Torch".

Amazing Detective Cases : Vol 2, #5 (Nov/42)

Publisher: Crime Files, Inc.
Cover: Cardwell Higgins (signed)
Editor: Robert E. Levee
Art Director: Melvin D. Blum

Expose` Detective : Vol 1, #1 (Jan/42)

Publisher: Current Detective Stories, Inc.
Cover: Peter Driben (signed)
Editor: Joseph Alvin
Art Director: Melvin D. Blume` (sic)

The sub-publisher Current Detective Stories, Inc. was created for this very title and issue, later used by three other true-crime magazines, two crime-digest paperbacks and 15 different comic book titles up through 1957, including Adventures Into Terror, Black Rider and the first 9 issues of Venus.

Editor Joseph Alvin was in reality Joseph Alvin Kugelmass, a Goodman magazine editor who will later get into a lot of trouble for signing and cashing other writers' checks. I will go into detail about that story in the future. (here)  Presently though, I turned up a very funny preview of Kugelmass' ineptitude in the company. You will recall Complete Detective Cases' editor Gene Fornshell soliciting for contributors to give him "sex, horror and Gore". Well after 3 years of such material being published, Joseph Kugelmass writes to the trade publications rescinding that order, in a manner that leaves even the editor of Writer's Digest aghast.

October 1941 Author & Journalist:

Postal Publications, Inc., 330 W. 42nd St., NY, J.A. Kugelmass, editor, informs: "We are swerving sharply, from the routine facets of the more sensational types of true detective material. Stories which bear with them murders based
on purely sex motives, or where the treatment interlards sex, or where sex may be impugned, lust, rape, and all other complementary manifestations, are barred. Strict avoidance of macabre, gruesome, and bloody details; the stronger swear words, though they may be amoral in certain geographical areas; phrases which tend to color, magnify, glorify, or step-up crimes of passion or scenes from such crimes; all these are likewise barred. A good general rule would be for writers to delete when in doubt, rather than to substitute."  (4)

October 1941 Writer's Digest:

                We are swerving, sharply, from the routine facets of the more sensational types of true detective material. I would be personally grateful if you would highlight this in your next issue inasmuch as it will serve as a guide to the scores of writers to whom we are a market.
                Stories which bear with them murders based purely on sex motives, or where the treatment interlards sex, or where sex may be impugned, lust, rape, and all other complementary manifestations are barred. Strict avoidance of macabre gruesome and bloody details; the stronger swear words, though they be amoral in certain geographic areas; phrases which tend to color, magnify, glorify, or step-up crimes of passion or scenes from such crimes.
                A good general rule would be for writers to delete when in doubt, rather than to substitute.
                Postal Publications, and its sister publications, are very cognizant of the desirability of being a spearpoint within the tendency to more wholesome newsstand magazines. Long range thinking has evolved the above.
                I will be very happy to elaborate if you so wish.
                                                                                                                                                Cordially yours,
                                                                                                                                                J.A. Kugelmass, Editor,
                                                                                                                                                Postal Publications, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                330 West 42nd  Street,

                                                                                                                                                New York City  (5)

This was such a shock to Writer's Digest that their editor actually followed the Kugelmass letter with simple response:

  • Good God! –Ed.
The very next month, the November 1941 issue of Writer's Digest printed an immediate retraction to the Kugelmass letter by Robert E. Levee, Goodman's main editor of his true crime magazines:

Very sorry to have to ask you to make this retraction for us but through a misunderstanding Mr. Kugelmass, who was to assist me in editing the detective books wrote in and told you what was in our hearts, but which alas we found would not be good business if we were to consider present competition in the factual detective field.
We do want stories with sex angles but the detective slant must be pointed up at all times. We want above all good detective yarns. If the story should lend itself to an interesting sex angle, by all means do not cut it out. If it needs toning down, we'll do it. A little gruesomeness does not frighten us at all.  We do not, however, want stories dealing with out and out rape cases. If there is a rape angle, it must be incidental.
Mr. Kugelmass has returned to his first love, our pictorial magazines, so please direct manuscripts as usual to the undersigned or the respective magazine aimed for.

Robert E. Levee, Editor
Complete Detective Cases
Amazing Detective Cases
National Detective Cases
330 W. 42nd St., New York City  (6)

With that, Kugelmass was kicked off the true-crime detective magazines and continued editing Snap, a bedsheet humor/pin-up magazine. Shortly he will be assigned to Goodman's most ambitious venture of the 1940's, a magazine to compete with the Esquire market. That's a tale for another time. (here)

Expose` Detective : Vol 1, #2 (Apr/42)

Publisher: Current Detective Stories, Inc.
Cover: Peter Driben (unsigned)
Editor: E.B. Sherman (Robert Solomon)
Art Director: Melvin D. Blum

Although unsigned, this looks like Peter Driben to me. Inside are full-page illustrations by comic book artist Jack Alderman and Attilio Sinagra.

E.B. Sherman was a pseudonym for Robert Solomon, Martin Goodman's brother-in-law and Stan Lee's uncle. Inside the actual magazine the editor listed is E.B. Sherman. Both December 1942 trade magazines tell a different story!

December 1941 Author & Journalist:

Current Detective Stories, Inc., 330 W. 42nd St., NY, pays good rates on acceptance for fact detective cases - and is much in need of material. Robert Solomon is editor.  (7)

Hint: Current Detective Stories, Inc. was the sub-publisher of Expose` Detective.

December 1941 issue of Writer's Digest:

Mr. Kugelmass recently announced that he was editing a new fact-detective magazine for this same company. The title has now been released. It is Expose` Detective. There has been, however, a change in editors. Mr. Robert Solomon  now wields the blue pencil over this publication. Stories may be from any time, provided dramatic pictures are available and it has not been used in other fact-detective magazines. A woman angle is desired. But remember that it must be handled discreetly, and not dragged in for its own sake. Lengths preferred are 4,000 to 6,000 words. Rates are on acceptance, varying according to quality and reader-interest, with a minimum of $4 each for pictures used. Both first and third person are used. Address – 330 West 42nd Street. (8)

Finally, a letter from Robert Solomon himself to the January 1942 Writer's Digest:

                Robert Solomon will substitute as editor for J. Alvin Kugelmass in running Expose Detective. This magazine needs true detective cases and writers will find a ready market here.
                The word rate is good and depends on quality. Stories, if possible, should be confined to 4,000 words. I cannot emphasize too much the need for good manuscripts. Payment is prompt and on acceptance.
                                                                                                                                                                Robert Solomon, Editor
                                                                                                                                                                330 W. 42nd St.,
New York, N.Y.  (9)

At one time or another, Robert Solomon edited Expose` Detective, Exclusive Detective, Gayety (bedsheet), Joker (1940's version), Comedy (1940's version),  Foto Parade of People in 1950-51, and Marvel Mystery ComicsSub-Mariner and Human Torch (according to Writer's Yearbook 1944, meaning that he was in charge of editing the Jacquet material still being utilized).

Expose` Detective : Vol 1, #3 (July/42)

Publisher: Current Detective Stories, Inc.
Cover: Cardwell Higgins (signed)
Editor: E.B. Sherman (Robert Solomon)
Art Director: Melvin D. Blum

Here is the original cover painting to this issue, courtesy of Heritage Auctions. Gorgeous!!

On pages 30-31 is a Norman Saunders double page splash!

Exclusive Detective : Vol 1, #2 (Nov/42)

Publisher: Current Detective Stories, Inc.
Cover: Peter Driben (signed)
Editor: E.B. Sherman (Robert Solomon)
Art Director: Melvin D. Blum

This title only lasted 3 issues before cancellation. It was revived briefly in 1948.

The August 1942 Author & Journalist:

Exclusive Detective (Martin Goodman), 330 W. 42nd St., NY, is a new fact detective magazine in need of material. Stories should run to approximately 5000 words, and should have considerable element of mystery and action, with good characterizations. Photos of both killers and victims should be obtainable. Payment is on acceptance, except for photos, which are paid for on publication, at good rates. Miss E.D. Sherman (sic) is editor.  (10)

Also inside is a full-page illustration by Timely artist Syd Shores.

And a very funny anti-Hitler cartoon by Goodman magazine cartoonist Joey Oakes.


All scans taken from my own collection. In addition, these sources were used:

  1. Author & Journalist, October 1939
  2. Writer's Digest, October 1939
  3. Pulp #10, 1978
  4. Author & Journalist, October 1941
  5. Writer's Digest, October 1941
  6. Writer's Digest, November 1941
  7. Author & Journalist, December 1941
  8. Writer's Digest, December 1941
  9. Writer's Digest, January 1942
  10. Author & Journalist, August 1942