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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Heritage auctions Big Boy file copies

by John Jackson Miller

And speaking of advertising and comics...
About a decade ago, I interviewed Manfred Bernhard, the advertising executive who produced the Big Boy comics series for the famed restaurant chain — and there began my attempts to begin tracking down some of the unusual artifacts of this series of promotional comics. Now, Hertiage is auctioning a rare gem indeed: Bernhard's own file copies of Big Boy #1-233!

Filling in a couple of blanks for Heritage's listing: The "Timely" part of the run isn't defined by when Dan DeCarlo is working on the series; DeCarlo worked for it well into its run. The distinction is that before #13 (that's the issue, to the best of my recollection), Bernhard had been contracting with Timely to produce the comics completely in-house; afterward, Bernhard's own W.E.B.S. Advertising Group managed production, evidently hiring work out to DeCarlo. I spoke with Stan Lee about it some years back; he recalled writing the first issue and meeting Bernhard when Timely had the account.

And there definitely are "East Coast" editions with a blond Big Boy — redrawn for a splinter group of franchisees until at least issue #152. No doubt there; I've been tracking them intermittently here with Ray Bottorff Jr. — lately, with Ray doing all the work. As noted in the auction, only the West Coast, or traditional, versions of Big Boy are in these bound volumes. We had been tracking what Western copies definitely existed, too; I think we can take it from this auction that all the West Coast issues did indeed circulate!

Surely a fascinating artifact — I envy the one who wins it!
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