Posted in: Comics, Vintage Paper | Tagged: blue beetle, Fox Feature Syndicate, victor fox
It’s clear from the cover of Big 3 #1 that this title combining Fox Feature’s top heroes was inspired by DC Comics’ New York Worlds Fair 1940.
While he didn’t have the newsstand publishing experience that many Golden Age comic book publishers had acquired by the late 1930s, Fox Feature Syndicate publisher Victor Fox was highly interested in copying what seemed to be working for others. Emulating the likes of DC Comics publisher Harry Donenfeld among others, Fox had launched a magazine and comic book line by 1940, along with his own distribution company to help get those publications on the newsstands. Of course, Fox more famously mimicked other publishers’ characters and titles. There are two known legal conflicts with DC Comics, involving similarities between Fox characters and Superman and Batman & Robin. It’s also likely that Rex Dexter was largely inspired by Ultra Man and Adventure in the Unknown from All-American Comics.
It didn’t stop there. It’s fairly obvious from the cover of Big 3 #1, which combined the top Fox superheroes in one title, that it was inspired by the combination of Superman, Batman and Robin on the cover of New York World’s Fair 1940. Victor Fox did not shy away from these conflicts, and seemingly accepted the risk associated with mimicking the successes of his rivals. And while this particular instance didn’t result in any legal action (as far as we know), Big 3 #1 is another clear-cut case of Victor Fox mimicking a DC Comics release. There’s a complete run of Fox Feature Syndicate’s Big 3 up for auction in the 2023 September 28 The Fox Comics Showcase Auction #40239 at Heritage Auctions.
Although titles combining the most popular superhero characters picked from other titles in the publisher’s line would become a standard practice in the comic book industry, the idea didn’t truly get started before 1940 for obvious reasons. With the industry exploding in Superman’s wake in the second half of 1939, no Golden Age publisher had built up an entire line of ostensibly popular superhero-centric titles until then. While DC Comics had published New York World’s Fair 1939 in conjunction with the debut of that event, it didn’t even feature its superhero characters prominently on its cover. But when they did it again with New York World’s Fair 1940, and DC’s sister company All-American Comics published All Star Comics #1 in the same month, Victor Fox spotted the trend. Five months after those two comics had been published, Fox had his own version on the newsstands with the launch of Big 3 #1, with its cover clearly patterned after New York World’s Fair 1940 right down to the color scheme, composition and the waving superheroes. Like many such titles, Big 3 featured its star characters in separate adventures.
Interestingly, while All Star Comics was of course a continuing series from the beginning, New York World’s Fair wasn’t truly an ongoing series, and the fair closed on October 27, 1940. But the next year, DC Comics launched World’s Best Comics, featuring Superman, Batman, and Robin, renamed it World’s Finest Comics with issue #2, and it’s possible they “returned the favor” to Fox early on in that series. World’s Finest Comics #5 featured its three heroes saluting on its cover, just as Big 3 #3 had several months prior. A common enough concept during wartime, but an interesting similarity nonetheless.
The cover of New York World’s Fair 1940 was the first published cover by Golden Age great Jack Burnley. Burnley would go on to do extensive work across the DC Comics line, including both Superman and Batman material. He is perhaps best remembered as the co-creator of Starman with Gardner Fox. The artist of the cover of Big 3 #1 is unknown. Artist Edd Ashe created the cover of Big 3 #2 and possibly other issues of the series. An early example of featuring all of a comic book publisher’s superhero stars in a single comic, there’s a complete run of Fox Feature Syndicate’s Big 3 up for auction in the 2023 September 28 The Fox Comics Showcase Auction #40239 at Heritage Auctions. If you’ve never bid at Heritage Auctions before, you can get further information, you can check out their FAQ on the bidding process and related matters.
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