Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

June 14, 2020

COMPLETE PICTURE NEWS, Volume 1 (Gwandanaland Comics #243)

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The 1940’s were a rich  period for comic books, the pre-television period when comic books were at their deepest saturation point in popular culture and when there was the widest variety of comics from a wide variety of publishers. Truly, it was a kind of Wild West period in comics history, when the rules were not yet established and publishers could try anything to see if it would stick.

It also featured many small, independent publishers, or ventures into comic publishing by businesses whose focus (and profit) was elsewhere, but who saw comics as a business possibility. One of those was Lafayette Street Corporation, who issued a total of fifteen issues of two magazines in 1946-47. The Grand Comics Database describes LSC as “an attempted new line initiated by the printer which printed DC (National)’s comics, The Bridgeport Herald.” They released 10 issues of PICTURE NEWS between January 1946 and February 1947, and then 5 issues of THE GUMPS (based on a long-running—–1912-1959!—- newspaper comic strip, see pic) between March and December 1947 (GCD), and that was it.



PICTURE NEWS IN COLOR AND ACTION (an exciting title!) is a fascinating non-fiction comic book covering a wide variety of topics, describing itself as a comics version of a newsreel….kind of like a Sunday newspaper supplement come to life in comic form!

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Consider what’s in the first issue: playwright George Bernard Shaw on the atomic bomb; the story of much-married heiress Barbara Hutton; a look at the post-WWII economic revival, as filtered through the US Secretary of Commerce; the story of a dog who followed its owners from Tennessee to California; a science-based narrative of an invasion of black ants in Michigan; the story of composer-pianist Hoagy Carmichael; a presentation of why WWII service nurses should get first crack at nylon stockings when they are available; a rat trap as designed by eccentric inventor Rube Goldberg; the inspirational example of boxer-turned-Hollywood supporting actor Freddie Steele, who is discovered by director Preston Sturges (!!!), who is depicted in comic form in the story; a love story between a trans-Atlantic blind couple who communicate by braille; and each issue also offers 3 or 4 pages of cartoons from the legendary Milt Gross.

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That’s typical of the wide variety of material found in each issue. The art is full of action and character, and the stories are both informative and breezy. Also, the ones in the areas I’m knowledgeable about (Benny Goodman’s life and career, for instance) are surprisingly accurate and full of well-chosen details. A number of pieces are of educational value in different areas (agriculture, economics), and the celebrity coverage ranges from beauty secrets from actress June Allyson to the life story of Cardinal Spellman!

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While there is nothing here offensive or of an adult nature, the magazine is probably not aimed primarily at children, though they could read it easily and would find some of the pieces entertaining. As with the newspaper Sunday supplement or a newsreel, PICTURE NEWS could be left sitting on a table in the living room and could be enjoyed by all the members of the family. It could also be used as an example of how comics could be used in an educational and uplifting manner, as evidence against the moralists who came down on comics as a corrupting medium.

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Most importantly, it’s very entertaining reading….that is, if you’re the kind of person who would be fascinated by a 1946 newsreel!

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Gwandanaland Comics has compiled the first five issues of PICTURE NEWS into this attractive softcover book, and they promise to finish the series later with a Volume 2. Check Amazon for ordering information.

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Unfortunately, the “newsreel comic” never really took off after PICTURE NEWS, though one can still find some “educational comics” in pamphlet form, especially about health issues (look around the next time you’re at a health clinic or pediatrician or dentist), although the advent of universal cell phones and the proliferation of You Tube videos on every imaginable subject has made hard-copies of informational comic pamphlets much less common in the last ten years.

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You can read ALL TEN issues of PICTURE NEWS for free at Comic Book Plus:

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