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The DC Alphabet

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on February 16, 2007 at 12:03:54 pm
 

The DC Alphabet

by

Arthur Lortie

02/15/2007

 

Back in the 1940s, presumably to comply with new mailing regulations, National Periodicals began to carry numerous educational features scattered in 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 sporting a humorous animal paired 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 is from a Milt Gross illustrated strip identifiable.

 

These were published sequentially over 25 months, from 10/1945 to 11/1947, presenting one letter and animal combination in each, usually on the inside front cover in black and white.

 

But ... ummm ... aren't there 26 letters?!

 

Well, yeah, but DC stopped the series just short at "Y is for Yak". Apparently since they had already used the Quagga, a distant cousin of the Zebra, and admitted they were stumped at "X is for Unknown", they ran out of options, hoping noone would notice.

 

Hah! Gotcha!

 

The letter Z would have been scheduled for the 12/1947 issues, obviously. The DC Chronology spreadsheet lists Action #115, Adventure #123, Detective #130, Superman #49, World's Finest #31, Wonder Woman #26, Big Town #11, All Funny #11, and Buzzy #16 as possibilities. Bob Hughes had kindly checked at least half of these without finding anything.

 

Preceding this series was a Penniless Palmer adventure in All Funny Comics #14 [11-12/1946], drawn by Thurston Harper, the VERY appropriately titled "Twenty-five Letter Alphabet". Unfortunately I haven’t read this story yet, so I cant offer any insights.

 

This idea continued in the Superman story "The Alphabetical Animal Adventure" in Worlds Finest #42 [09-10/1949]. In this adventure, aliens are selecting specimens from earth for their zoo using the fictional "Children Picture Book Of Alphabetical Animals" as their guide. The unknown writer here managed to find an animal beginning with X that eluded the DC marketers: the African Xerus.

 

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, there were four on the market, and it might be interesting to see which one came closest to matching this series!:

 

  • "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 one I recall from my youth was "Animal Alphabet From A to Z" by Elizabeth Beecher [Simon & Schuster, 1950], which featured Warner Bros. cartoon characters.

 

I found 5 of the DC letters in both black and white and color versions [K, L, O, Q, S], but three appeared just in color [N, P, V]. The rest were black and white only. 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

 

Here, then, is the DC Animal Alphabet:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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