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The DC Alphabet

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on February 17, 2007 at 7:31:11 pm

The DC Alphabet


Arthur Lortie



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.


Published sequentially over 25 months, from 10/1945 to 11/1947, 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].


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


Well, yeah, but DC stopped just short of Z at "Y is for Yak". Since they had already used the Quagga, a Zebra sub-species, and admitted they were stumped at "X is for Unknown", they apparently ran out of options, hoping noone would notice.


Clearly they didn't anticipate the internet!


Z would have been scheduled for 12/1947, 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.


Concurrently, there was a Penniless Palmer story in All Funny Comics #14 [11-12/1946], drawn by Thurston Harper, with the VERY appropriate 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 are selecting specimens from earth for their zoo, using the fictional "Children Picture Book Of Alphabetical Animals" as their guide. The unknown writer here even managed to find an animal beginning with the letter 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, 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 Warner Bros. cartoon characters instead of real 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


Here, then, is the DC Animal Alphabet:








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