Ah, King Comics.

For a year or so in the mid-60s King Features Syndicate put out a line of comics featuring its well-known newspaper strip characters. As seen in this house ad, these included Popeye, Blondie, Beetle Bailey and the adventure heroes the Phantom, Mandrake the Magician and Flash Gordon. For this fan the best of the bunch is the last of those. Flash Gordon was a brilliant comic in the hands of Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson. Sadly, they only lasted for three issues (#1, 4 and 5), but what issues they are! After that Reed Crandall drew a trio of lovely issues, but they were interrupted by frequent reprints from the newspaper strip. True, with art by Mac Raboy and Alex Raymond, even the reprints ain’t bad, but comic books weren’t the right format for his work.

King Comics ad

I haven’t read the Mandrake issues at all, so I can’t comment on them, but I do have some of the Phantom. The numbering began with #18 (Sept 1966) — following on from the Gold Key run — and the first three had a continued Flash Gordon story drawn by Wally Wood and Gil Kane. Beautiful stuff it was too, well worth searching out. Interestingly, a lovely Gil Kane image was used as the cover for Flash Gordon #2, although it appears to depict the story in Phantom:

Flash Gord #2, Gil Kane

The comics based on King’s humour material are not ones I have much interest in, but here they are in another house ad:

King Comics ad 2

By the end of 1967 presumably the comics weren’t selling in sufficient numbers to satisfy King’s accountants and they were sold off. Charlton Comics was the happy recipient and they ran the titles well into the 1970s.

King Features Syndicate is still going strong, and you can check out the ongoing adventures of Flash Gordon, Mandrake and the Phantom on their site:

http://kingfeatures.com/comics/comics-a-z/

Images © 2014 King Features Syndicate, Inc