archives

Who was Victor S. Fox?

John Berk responds:

Hard to say in that very little is recorded about the man. It appears that Fox, even before his infamous behavior in comics, was a scoundrel. The report that Fox was an "ex-stockbroker" is an understatement. Fox was indicted on November 27,1929 for mail fraud and a boiler room "sell and switch" stock scheme - a scheme where good stocks were sold for bad and purchases made of "unissued" stocks which were not delivered. With this fine resume, somehow he wound up as an accountant/bookkeeper for Detective Comics, Inc. after which he set up his own comic business.

To the extent that any contemporary commented about Fox, no one had anything nice to say. Fox clearly was interested strictly in making a buck from comics. Copying others work (hardly novel at the time), paying low rates or not paying at all appears to be his trademark. Ostentatious, surrounded by a large office, Fox proclaimed himself to all that would listen that he was "The King of Comics." Eisner commented that "Fox was a very, very shifty, fast-footed business man who would create fictitious names because he was always afraid of being sued." Joe Simon recounted, "The man was insane, absolutely insane. He would go off on a speech like, 'I’m the King of the Comics, and I’m not playing school here with chalk on the blackboard, I’ve got millions of dollars tied up in this business!' The man was mad." Simon described Fox as a "short, round, nattily dressed man in his late forties, with a rasping voice that would shrill to frightening crescendos when he was excited. And he was excited often." Kirby described Fox as an Edward G. Robinson [type] character. He was the ultimate promoter and huckster. He ran the business with associate Robert Farrell.

The recollection of Al Feldstein, who was just a kid at the time when he worked briefly for Fox in the late 1940s, paints a remarkably similar (negative) picture of the man:

"I remember doing art work for "The Blue Beetle" (1945-46) when I was at the Jerry Iger Studio. When I first started to "freelance", after leaving Jerry Iger's sweatshop (1946-47), one of the several people who gave me work was Bob Farrell.

"In fact, Bob also gave me a place to work...mainly his terraced apartment overlooking Gramercy Park...because my working at home had become rather difficult for me... what with a new baby in a 3-room apartment...and a doting mother-in-law living down the hall. Bob Farrell used to drive a convertible Cadillac, which, I thought, was the Cat's Meow! He was definitely a wheeler-dealer, and he did have some sort of business association with Fox.It was Bob Farrell who introduced me to Victor Fox- in return for a commission" on all moneys paid to me by the Fox outfit. Farrell was aware that I was re-writing his own scripts and doing a good job on his own art needs. Bob somehow knew that Victor Fox was looking for someone to "package" a teenage book for him, "Archie" being a hot-seller, and so he arranged the introduction and, in return, the agent fee.

SOURCE

SOURCE

Crimes By Women 8

SEXY, SADISTIC and VIOLENT

If Crime Does Not Pay was infamous as the bloodiest and most realistic of the crime comics, some of the other publishers gave the title a run for its money. Competing well the “most sexy, sadistic, and violent” category, Victor Fox’s Murder Incorporated and Blue Beetle are noteworthy, historic, and very collectible titles. As many CBM readers know, Fox Features comics were printed on poor quality paper which didn’t do much for the reproduction (and makes surviving high grade copies very scarce and sought after in today’s comic book marketplace). When historians describe sleaze, sex, and violence as Fox’s obsession, they are masters of understatement. His best artists, Jack Kamen and Matt Baker, are much revered and collected for their good girl art. (Of special note is the company’s breasty crime-fighter-in-bedroom-lingerie, Phantom Lady...along with the wild and scantily attired Rulah, Jungle Goddess.)

In Victor Fox's early years, Blue Beetle was a superhero in the familiar mold. In the late '40s, Fox added liberal helpings of sex combined with violence so that the title would sell at newsstands flooded with crime books. In Blue Beetle #56 (May 1948), is a classic example of sex and crime. The book begins "'Deliver me from crazy women,' So said Dan Garret, alias Blue Beetle, many a time in jest. Then he tangled with a paranoiac female to end all females... and she was doing just that... ending all females... until the greatest crook killer of all solved the case of the 'Sinister Sphinx.'"

First, a panel shows a sexily attired blonde looking through a window where we see a bosomy girl in silhouette undressing. "Murder on stealthy feet stalks the Debutante of the Year"... says the opening caption. Next we see the girl at her mirror saying goodnight to the maid. Once the maid has gone, the blonde leaps through the window. "It’s goodbye Miss Marsh, not goodnight!" snaps the blonde. "Ooh! Help!" Then the blonde with the naked midriff grabs the luckless debutante and stabs her in the throat. Blood oozes over her ample breasts and the blonde places a tiny sphinx on her chest. The killer is described as 'paranoiac' because she leaves the sphinx models on the bodies.

Later, the blonde killer drives through the night in an expensive roadster on her way to kill a strip teaser. (Yes, even strip teasers got into Fox comics.) The Sphinx killer, replete in her Frederick’s of Hollywood costume, eventually arrives at the strip club. In her skimpy costume with 5” heels, she plunges her knife into the stripper’s chest who cries out uselessly, "Help! No! Don’t!" To which our maniac replies: "Got to, sister! You’ll make headlines... for the last time." There’s plenty of headlight art here... even on the dead girl... pouring from her chest wound. Another girl gets a knife in her throat, and eventually Blue Beetle catches the Sphinx, beating her to a pulp in the final panels.

SOURCE

Blue Beetle 56

The Fairly Flimsy Fox Financial Empire

At first, Fox got the material he published from the Will Eisner/Jerry Iger studio, which is remembered for Sheena (Fiction House), Doll Man (Quality Comics) and much more. Later, unhappy with Eisner for testifying against him at the Wonder Man trial, he dropped the studio (owing it $3,000) and hired his own creative staff to produce Rex Dexter of Mars, Samson, Zanzibar the Magician, Cosmic Carson and his many other series. Many industry pioneers who worked there have described him as short, bald and well dressed, venturing forth from his palatial private office, chomping a cigar and declaiming about being the king of comics, with millions invested. Nobody reports having snickered openly, but their private attitudes became apparent later.

But the comic books, unlike the business, had brushes with quality. That's where Joe Simon met Jack Kirby, for example; and while the pair never actually collaborated for Fox itself, they did go on to a stellar career in comics (Captain America, Young Romance etc.). Dick Briefer (Frankenstein), George Tuska (Buck Rogers,), L.B. Cole (covers throughout the industry) and others contributed, tho their best work tended to be done elsewhere. Still, the great bulk of the Fox comics content, produced for minuscule page rates, was somewhere between poor and execrable, as even talented creators cut corners to make ends meet.

For all the "millions" he claimed to have invested, Fox's financial empire seems to have been fairly flimsy. It may have been a distributor failure that led to his being forced into bankruptcy in 1942. On the other hand, the fact that Fox's base of operations had very recently moved to Holyoke, MA, combined with the facts that Holyoke Publishing Co. (Catman) started up right then, and Holyoke wound up taking over his titles, may or may not indicate advance planning for the crisis. Fox's financial shenanigans, which sometimes got fairly complex, aren't very well documented.

SOURCE

Crimes By Women 6

Exploiting sex and violence

Whatever may or may not have been going on behind the scenes, Fox emerged from bankruptcy two years later, reclaiming its titles from Holyoke. It went on to revive Phantom Lady, create new characters such as Cosmo Cat (a funny animal superhero in the tradition of Super Rabbit and The Terrific Whatzit), Junior (one of the publisher's several Archie clones), and otherwise appear to thrive in the comic book industry. But as it did, the more canny creators were making sure what the company owed them didn't get out of hand.

The comics industry as a whole was under attack in the late 1940s, as a corruptor of youth. Fox, which was heavily into exploiting sex and violence (typified in its title Crimes by Women, which it published 15 issues of), was a prime target. Comic book sales were way down, and this particular company's debts were way up. Fox declared bankruptcy again in 1950.

There was an attempt to reorganize, with titles continuing in publication for a few months. But this time, there was no emerging. The company's remaining properties were scattered among several smaller publishers, with a large block of them going to Fox's long-time business associate, Robert Farrell (Ajax Comics, Farrell Publications). Many of them eventually wound up in the hands of Charlton Comics, which was to become the beneficiary of several small publishing failures of the 1950s. Victor Fox himself declared personal bankruptcy in 1952. His subsequent activities are unknown, but they didn't involve publishing comic books.

Junior

"Sorry, baby. I gotta split."


Inasmuch as the comics field is often one-tenth innovation and nine-tenths imitation, a whole bevy of other bikini-clad jungle gals appeared. Camilla was one of Fiction House's own spin-offs (Jungle #1, January 1940) along with Tiger Girl (Fight #32, June 1944). Other publishers of that era produced at least fifteen jungle princesses, queens, and empresses. There were Nyoka, Kara, Vishnu, Pantha, Tegra, Jun Gal, Fantomah, Zegra, Lorna, Jann, Leopard Girl, Judy, Taanda, Saari, and Rulah. Of this crowd, Rulah of Victor Fox's All Top Comics is considered Sheena's chief competitor, if only for the excess violence and minimal leopard skin.

Although comics great Lou Fine created some spectacular covers for Fox's comics, the publisher's policy of paying the cheapest rates in the field (and often reneging) resulted in some truly shoddy comics.

All Top 8

Power fantasy of the Girl-Wonder editors?


BACK

© 2008 OrpheusEnd Inc. This archive is maintained to ensure the integrity and preservation of Fredric Wertham's published writings. It is strictly non-profit and its sole purpose is the advancement of education and scholarship. And remember: If wiki says it, it MUST be true.