A Brief History of Harvey Comics
Mark Arnold lays out the titles and tribulations of Havey history. Originally published in the Harveyville Fun Times!
Harvey Comics was founded by Alfred Harvey. His first title was Pocket Comics #1, cover dated August 1941. Though the current Harvey Entertainment Company claims its origins as 1939, it has been confirmed that Harvey did not start his company until 1941. The confusion has arisen due to the fact that Harvey Comics assumed publication on various titles such as Speed Comics that had debuted in October 1939. Harvey did not publish Speed until its 14th issue in 1941.
Meanwhile, Sergeant George Baker was drawing a silent comic strip that appeared in the pages of Yank Magazine called “The Sad Sack.” After World War II ended, the strip continued in the regular Sunday papers with Sack as a civilian.
By 1949, Baker and Harvey had become friends and worked up a deal to publish a comic book version of Sad Sack, which premiered as Sad Sack Comics in September 1949. Sad Sack continued to be published until the original Harvey Comics company folded in 1982.
Also, Paramount Pictures was producing animated cartoons during the 40s under the Famous Studios banner. They produced animated versions of Popeye, Superman and Little Lulu, before deciding to create their own characters. They created future Harvey stars Casper, Little Audrey, Baby Huey, Herman and Katnip, and Buzzy.
But Harvey wasn’t the first publisher of the Famous/Paramount characters. That distinction belongs to Dell Publishing, who published Famous/Paramount characters in Animal Comics.
Later, St. John, who was best known for publishing comics featuring Terrytoons stars like Mighty Mouse, published Casper and Little Audrey.
Casper, the Friendly Ghost first appeared onscreen in 1945, but made his comic book debut in September 1949. Meanwhile, Little Audrey first appeared onscreen in 1948 and made her comic book debut in April of that year.
Baby Huey, the Baby Giant, also appeared in the first Casper issue and then appeared onscreen in 1950.
By 1952, Harvey picked up the rights to publish these characters, and started to create some of their own. Little Dot first appeared in different form in the first issue of Sad Sack Comics, but was redesigned by the time her title debuted in September 1953.
This first Little Dot issue featured the debut of Harvey’s most famous in-house creation, Richie Rich, the Poor Little Rich Boy, and also of Little Lotta.
Lotta graduated to her own title in November 1955, but Richie held out until November 1960 to make his solo debut.
Other Harvey-created characters to make their debut around this time were Hot Stuff, the Little Devil, and Stumbo, the Giant. They both were to eventually star in Hot Stuff, which debuted in October 1957.
Stumbo appeared in numerous issues of Harvey Hits and finally appeared in Stumbo Tinytown in August 1963.
Meanwhile, Harvey purchased the rights to the Famous/Paramount characters and now owned characters they had helped create for the animated cartoons such as Spooky, the Tuff Little Ghost, and Wendy, the Good Little Witch. Spooky premiered in November 1955 and Wendy in August 1960.
Though assumed to be part of the purchase, a strange coincidence having to do with second class mailing permits forced Harvey to cancel and restart three of their titles. Thus, Paramount Animated Cartoons became Baby Huey; Little Audrey became Playful Little Audrey; and Casper, the Friendly Ghost became Friendly Ghost, Casper, causing great confusion.
So, with the Harvey World now firmly established in the late 50s, expansion was inevitable, and so various titles were introduced until 1964.
A brief super-hero resurgence in the mid-60s put the Harvey World characters on the back burner, but by 1971, more spin-offs were created, with the most appearing around 1973.
Also in 1973, was the premier of the final Harvey World character title, Jackie Jokers, debuting in March. After four issues of his own title, he settled in at Richie Rich and Jackie Jokers.
The mid-70s signaled change at Harvey as many, many titles were canceled in favor of just as many Richie Rich titles. So much so that at the end of the decade only Sad Sack, Hot Stuff and Casper had regular titles.
Lawsuits, death and mismanagement finally did in the original Harvey, who “temporarily” ceased publication in late 1982.
Though Harvey continued publishing paperback reprints until 1985, the company was effectively dead.
Marvel Comics expressed interest in purchasing the company, but when the deal fell through, they decided to press on with their own “children’s” line, Star Comics, which boasted some comic books written, drawn and edited by former Harvey employees. The most significant examples were Planet Terry, Top Dog and Royal Roy. None of these titles lasted for more than a year.
Harvey Comics reemerged in late 1986, this time published by Alfred Harvey’s son, Alan. Harvey published until 1989, when all of the Harvey World characters, excepting Sad Sack, were sold to Jeff Montgomery.
Sad Sack was kept by the Harveys for sentimental reasons and a few new issues were published by their new company, Lorne-Harvey Publications.
Meanwhile, Montgomery renamed the original company The Harvey Entertainment Company, and continued to publish comic books on a regular basis until 1994.
Harvey Entertainment refocused its energies in 1995 towards movies and TV and had success with Casper, Richie Rich, Casper: A Spirited Beginning, and a new Casper and a new Richie Rich animated series.
Marvel Entertainment had finally assumed publishing rights to the comic books, but did not issue more than a handful of issues, and the rights reverted back prematurely to Harvey.
Currently, there are no Harvey Comics on the horizon, although Lorne-Harvey publishes sporadically and there was an adaptation for Casper: A Spirited Beginning, published with the cooperation of Harvey Entertainment by Illustrated Communications Corp.
Classic Media took over the ownership of the Harvey World characters in 2000 and has claimed that Harvey Comics will return to the shelves someday. Stay tuned…
Mark Arnold is a comic book and animation historian and a writing, art, and film/video production professional. He writes comic books and articles on comic books and animation for various publications in addition to scripts, short stories and novels. He is also skilled in sales, marketing and promotion, and has film and TV production experience with digital video, video tape, and film. He has many online websites including Fun Ideas, Mark's Rare Comics, The Harveyville Fun Times!, So Rare!, and Food Shop. He also writes an (almost) daily blog and writes and draws a weekly comic strip called Protecto, the Little Robot. For the curious, Mark can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whew!