Gold Key Comics

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This and Whitman Comics were imprints of Western Publishing, which had for some years packaged Comics for the old Dell Comics line. From 1962, Western began publishing its own line of comics under the Gold Key imprint. Several were of sf interest, including licensed titles based on popular Television programmes. Space Family Robinson began publication in 1963 prior to the Irwin Allen series Lost in Space (1965-1968), which bore considerable resemblance to the Gold Key comic. While the exact relationship between the two has never been made clear (but see Ib Melchior), the comic was re-titled Lost in Space and ran well into the 1970s. Gold Key also published the first comics Tied to The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), and to Star Trek (1966-1969); these titles lasted until the end of the 1970s. The supernatural anthology title Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery also ran into the mid-1970s, and occasionally featured sf among its occult-oriented stories.

Distinguishing features of most Gold Key titles were the painted covers, which compared well with sf Pulp magazine covers. In the 1960s these were generally wrap-around, leading to many copies being stripped of their rear covers for use as posters. The juvenile titles featured more traditional comics-style covers. Many were licensed properties based on animated characters from Hanna-Barbera, Warner Brothers and other sources.

A partial list of sf-related Gold Key comics includes The Mighty Samson, about a hero in a Post-Holocaust future after nuclear World War Three; Magnus, Robot Fighter, set in a future where most of humanity has been conquered by intelligent Robots; and Turok, Son of Stone. This long-running title was taken over from Dell by Gold Key, and featured the adventures of the Native Americans Turok and his younger brother in a Lost World within the Hollow Earth into which they fell; inhabitants includes Dinosaurs and hostile, prehistoric natives. Turok was mainly scripted by prolific comics author Gaylord DuBois (1899-1993). Later titles included Tragg and the Sky-Gods, created by Donald F Glut and based on the ancient-astronaut theories of Erich von Däniken. Tragg and his mate Lorn were Uplifted cavemen, possibly Cro-Magnons, who often fought against the humanoid Alien visitors. An attempt was made in this title to create a Shared World for Gold Key's original characters by showing that Tragg and Lorn were the ancestors of Magnus, the occult investigator Dr Spektor, and others. The sf anthology title Starstream appeared briefly in the mid-1970s; edited by Roger Elwood and of quite good quality, it adapted stories by Isaac Asimov, John W Campbell and Jack Williamson, among others.

Gold Key also published a number of titles based on or related to Tarzan, often scripted by DuBois. Comics creators who sold early work to Gold Key include Glut, Len Wein, Mark Evanier and Frank Miller, whose first comics artwork appeared in The Twilight Zone title in 1978.

By the 1970s, sales were declining and the company had lost most of its licensed properties to such companies as DC Comics. They still packaged comics for other publishers, mostly for DC under the Whitman imprint. By the late 1970s, the Whitman name had replaced Gold Key on their titles, which increasingly consisted of reprints of earlier issues. Having depended on newsstands for much of its distribution, Western was forced by the dramatic late-1970s loss of many of these to drastically cut back its titles in 1981; it ceased publishing comics altogether in 1984. In the 1990s, the short-lived Valiant Comics bought the rights to Turok, Doctor Solar and Magnus, issuing updated versions of these characters. Western Publishing and the original Gold Key characters are now owned by DreamWorks Animation SKG. Dark Horse Comics continues to reprint many Gold Key titles in hardback archive format, including Turok, Space Family Robinson, Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery and Star Trek. [GSt]

see also: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century; The Pink Panther Strikes Again.

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