There’s a non-comic book about comic book history that takes us all the way back “Before Watchmen” in my latest Mail Call.

The cover of the book The Charlton Companion by Jon B. Cooke from TwoMorrows Publishing.
The Charlton Companion
by Jon B. Cooke
TwoMorrows Publishing

I read a lot of Charlton comics as a kid – mostly horror comics – but almost all of them came in mystery packs, and I don’t remember ever seeing new Charlton comics on the stands along with books from DC, Marvel, Harvey, Archie, or even Gold Key.

There was a time – probably around the time Charlton actually went out of business – that my parents went away somewhere for a couple of days and when they came back my mom had a big box full of comics that she’d picked up from some secondhand bookstore.

They were almost all comics from Charlton, featuring colorful characters I’d never heard of before, such as Captain Atom, Judomaster, Blue Beetle, and E-Man.

There were probably more issues of E-Man than anything else, and those were probably the books I enjoyed the most. One of these days I’ll get around to rebuilding my collection of E-Man comics.

And maybe also my Doomsday + 1 comics.

I most likely missed/skipped over the Meanwhile…column by Dick Giordano that covered it at the time, or else forgot about it, but I was very surprised in early 1985 when I saw Blue Beetle making an appearance in DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, as I wasn’t aware that 1. Charlton had gone out of business or 2. DC had acquired the rights to many of the Charlton characters.

A bit after Crisis, some of those Charlton characters were properly introduced in the new DC Universe with their own books and/or as cast members in other books, and, of course, they would serve as the inspiration for some of the characters in Watchmen.

The plan was to actually use the characters in Watchmen, but as I understand it, the late Dick Giordano – who had worked at Charlton and was responsible for introducing their line of “action heroes” before becoming an executive editor at DC – intervened, as he felt there could be a place for the characters in the DC Universe and using them in Watchmen would make it impossible to incorporate them into the main continuity.

(This idea of keeping Watchmen entirely distinct from the main DC Universe is one that people like Geoff Johns and Giordano’s successors at DC would eventually toss out the window.)

Anyway, I saw this book in my recommendations the other day, so I decided I might as well snag it.

Born and raised in the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jon Maki developed an enduring love for comics at an early age.

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