Famous First Edition New Fun #1 Review

By | Monday, May 11, 2020 Leave a Comment
Famous First Edition New Fun #1
New Fun #1 has had something of a legendary status as the first American comic book with completely new material. It was big enough that I even knew of it back when I was in high school a zillion years ago, when I was a stupid teenager and years before the world wide web was even invented! The Funnies did beat New Fun by several years, but there's something of an argument on whether or not The Funnies really constitutes a comic book as we might think of it -- it was only sixteen pages, entirely printed on newsprint, and was only published for about a year. New Fun, by contrast, was 36 pages with a card stock cover, and ran (with some name changes) for over a decade.

I've largely accepted New Fun as the "first" comic book with all new material because I didn't have any way to examine either. Everything associated with either book -- the creators, the characters, the contents, etc. -- was all strictly theoretical. I couldn't get my hands on anything to allow me to form my own opinion. But now DC has, for the first time, reprinted New Fun #1 in their classic treasury-sized Famous First Edition format.

The book reprints, in its entirety, New Fun #1 including all of the original ads and a reproduction of a letter that editor Lloyd Jacquet inserted into advance copies that were sent out (presumably to some potential distributors). The book itself is actually even a little larger than previous Famous First Editions to more closely match the original comics' dimensions. I'm pretty sure the paper stock is considerably improved over what was originally done, but otherwise, it bears a remarkable likeness to the original.

I was surprised by the content. There are a wide variety or genres and styles on display and each comic is given only a single page, much like the comics section in newspapers at the time. Which makes sense if you think about it -- the novelty and selling point of the comic was that it was just like reading the newspaper comics but the comics were all new. So naturally, all of the comics within would follow that format. With the exception of a couple of prose pieces, there's a new feature on every page! Granted, much of it is pretty unremarkable -- nothing bad, mind you, just nothing in particular that really stands out -- but if you got 30 new features for a dime, that seems to me like it would have been a great deal in 1935! And the series would later go on to introduce the likes of Aquaman, Green Arrow, The Spectre and Doctor Fate, among other long-lasting characters.

The reproduction quality is excellent. Much better than I would have anticipated, frankly. It did help that the interiors were all black and white, certainly, but even the color cover reproduction is very impressive. (The book also includes a more raw scan of the cover from the copy of the book they pulled all this from, so you can see what they had to work with!) Everything is eminently readable and the off-white paper they used gives readers a sense of what the contrast would have been against newsprint without resorting to such flimsy material.

The book also includes an introduction by Jerry Bails (originally written for a planned-but-cancelled version of this from back in 2000) and a second one by Roy Thomas providing a few more contextual details. There's a short history of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson by his grand-daughter Nicky, and some shorter paragraph-length bios (also by Nicky) of the book's original creators. Finally, there's a short text piece by this edition's editor on how this fits in with DC's previous Famous First Editions, which I hadn't realized hadn't been done since 1979!

I think you all know me as someone who appreciates and enjoys comics history, and that I try to read as much about the medium as I can. I've bought more than my share of reprint collections and facsimile editions over the years, and this is one of the biggest bang-for-the-buck books I've seen in quite a while at only $20. I'm definitely glad to have Famous First Edition: New Fun #1 on my bookshelf!
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