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The DC Alphabet

Page history last edited by Arthur Lortie 15 years, 7 months ago

The DC Alphabet

by

 Arthur Lortie

alortie4@aol.com

 02/15/2007

 

Back in the 1940s, presumably to comply with new mailing regulations, National Periodicals began to carry educational features scattered throughout the pages of its comics.

 

This created several mini-series of related factoids, often tied together under an umbrella title. One such feature, written and drawn by unidentified creators [and likely consisting merely of pasted up art by the production department], was the always interesting "Animal Alphabet". These were half vertical pages pairing a cartoony animal with a short rhyme -- and a plug for a current comic thrown in for good measure. The animals themselves were often DC characters as well, with Fauntleroy Fox, J. Rufus Lion and a cat from a Milt Gross illustrated strip identifiable. And -- as far I can tell -- every DC comic received at least one plug except for Superman, All-Flash and Wonder Woman.

 

Published sequentially over 26 months, from 10/1945 to 12/1947, these were usually found on the inside front cover in black and white. I found 5 entries with an alternate color version [K, L, O, Q, S], plus three published in color only [N, P, V].

 

Concurrently, there was a Penniless Palmer story in All Funny Comics #14 [11-12/1946], drawn by Thurston Harper, with the puzzling title of "The Twenty-five Letter Alphabet". Unfortunately I haven’t been able to read this yet, so I can't offer any insights.

 

This idea continued in Superman. In "The Alphabetical Animal Adventure" from Worlds Finest #42 [09-10/1949], aliens from Uranus [in reality the equivalent of prototypical Cyclons] are selecting specimens from earth for their interplanetary zoo, using the fictional "Children Picture Book Of Alphabetical Animals" as their guide. The unknown writer -- likely William Woolfolk according to Bob Hughes -- even managed to find an animal beginning with the letter X that eluded the DC marketers: the African Xerus. [for the record, Superman's incomplete -- and often exotic -- choices are Alligator / Aye-Aye, Bear, Cat / Coati-mundi, Dog / Dinosaur, Elephant / Echidna, Fox, Giraffe, Horse, Ibex, Lemur, Man, Nilghai, Potto, Saiga, Uakari, Woman, and Xerus]

 

You can read the Superman story here 

 

In real life, this is a common and obvious theme for children's books, dating at least as far back as 1842 with "The Scripture Alphabet of the Animals" by Harriet N. Cook, published by the American Tract Society.

 

Just prior to the DC series, in fact, four books were published, and it might be interesting to see which one might have been cribbed by the comic book writers:

 

  • "Beast, Bird and Fish: An Animal Alphabet" by Elizabeth Morrow [A.A. Knopf, 1933]
  • "The Ark and the Alphabet: An Animal Collection" by Nathalia Crane and Leonard Feeney [Macmillan, 1939]
  • "Animal Alphabet (Learning to Read)" by Bobbie Craig [Penguin, 1940]
  • "The Alphabet Book of Animals" [Samuel Lowe Co., 1944]

 

The book I recall from my younger years was "Animal Alphabet From A to Z" by Elizabeth Beecher [Simon & Schuster, 1950], which featured cuddly barnyard and jungle creatures.

 

This is where I found the panels posted below:

 

  • A - Adventure #100
  • B - Action #90, More Fun #106, Real Screen #3
  • C - Action#91, Buzzy #5
  • D - All Funny #9, More Fun #107
  • E - Batman #33
  • F - Star Spangled #54
  • G - Adventure #103, More Fun #109
  • H - More Fun #111, Sensation #54
  • I - Action #98
  • J - Action #99, Batman #36
  • K - Buzzy #9, Leading #21, World's Finest #24
  • L - Batman #37, Real Screen #8
  • M - Action #102, Adventure #110
  • N - Real Screen #9, World's Finest #25
  • O - Animal Antics #6, Superman #44, World's Finest #26
  • P - Action #105, Detective #120, More Fun #119
  • Q - Animal Antics #7, Boy Commandos #20
  • R - Adventure #115
  • S - Action #8, Animal Antics #8, World's Finest #28
  • T - Real Screen #12
  • U - Buzzy #14
  • V - More Fun #125
  • W - Adventure #120, Detective #127
  • X - Batman #43
  • Y - More Fun #127
  • Z - Detective #130

 

Here, then, is the DC Animal Alphabet:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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