Tag Archives: S.J. Fried

Reprinting by Centaur Publications: Little Giant Comics By MICHAEL SANCHEZ & JEFF KEPLEY




Centaur Family of Comics Timeline (1935-1942)

Article in Progress…


Reprinting original comic book material did not begin with Marvel Comics.  Some people today think Marvel Comics was solely responsible for the rebirth of the super hero comic book and its comics are the only ones worth reading or collecting (not so).  With titles such as “Marvel Tales,” “Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics” and “Fantasy Masterpieces,” Marvel Comics certainly developed a knack for making money by reprinting previously published comic book stories (most likely didn’t pay royalties to the artist or writer).  BUT, Marvel Comics was not the first to do it!!  A little known comic book publisher by the name of “Centaur Publications” was the first to reprint previously published comic book material on an ongoing or monthly basis.


The owners of Centaur Publications were Joe Hardie, Raymond Kelly, (Fred Gardner) S.J. Fried and E. L. Angel (wife of Warren Angel who was head of Kable News and probably distributed the Centaur comic books).  They acquired Ultem Publications probably sometime in late 1937, as their first month of publishing (based on cover date) was March 1938.  Ultem Publications was formed by Irving.W. Ullman and Frank Z. Temerson but Ultem only lasted five (5) months publishing four (4) titles they acquired from Harry Chesler and Comics Magazine Company (see chronology spreadsheet).


Two of the titles Centaur acquired (Funny Pages and Funny Picture Stories) originated with Comics Magazine Company in 1936.  These two titles continued with original stories in the five (5) months that Ultem published them.  The two other comic book titles that Centaur began their publishing efforts with were Star Comics and Star Ranger.  These two titles were first published by Harry Chesler in February 1937 (cover date).  When Ultem acquired these two titles, Harry Chesler stayed on as Editor.  In all likelihood Chesler produced and packaged all four (4) titles for Ultem since he had, what most collectors consider, the first comic art shop studio that supplied ready-to-be-published comic book original material.  Other early comic art shop studios include Eisner and Iger, Funnies Inc (Lloyd Jacquet), Bernard Bailey and Simon and Kirby.


Since there was only a one (1) month gap between the last issues published by Ultem and the first issues published by Centaur (see chronology spreadsheet) it can reasonably be assumed that the same writers/artists or packaging studio continued producing new stories for the four (4) titles now under the Centaur-Banner.  It would take four (4) months (July 1938) before Centaur published their first new title (actually there were two (2) titles that month) Little Giant Comics and Keen Detective Funnies.  Moving forward, it was fortunate that Centaur acquired the inventory of material that was created under the banner of Comics Magazine Company (CMC) and Ultem, which allowed them to reprint the stories in future titles and issues.  With America still in the grips of the depression where money was hard to come by, Centaur was able to publish new titles, without paying writers/artists to create new stories and characters, by reprinting back inventory material.




Little Giant Comics (LGC) is appropriately named.  The size of the first three (3) issues was 6.75” x 4.5” and had 128 pages.  Issue four (4) was a larger format but contained 64 pages (see covers).  From the unique size, an unsuspecting buyer would have thought these issues contained new original stories, but actually the four issues were comprised of material reprinted from Funny Pages and Funny Picture Stories when CMC and Ultem published the titles.  The only new material may have been one (1) page puzzles, riddles, jokes, quizzes or activity exercises.  See listing for all four (4) issues of LGC.


To accompany LGC, Centaur published another new title on October 1938 (per the cover date) called Little Giant Detective Funnies (LGDF).  The first issue was the same size and had the same number of pages as the first three (3) issues of LGC.  And like LGC, it consisted of reprinted material, but this time from Detective Pictures Stories.  Then in January of 1939 (per the cover date), Centaur released the 2nd known issue of LGDF, but it was numbered as issue four (4) (see covers).  To add a little mystery, issues #2 and #3 have never been found, so either they were never published or have eluded collectors since 1938, but only the Shadow knows!!  Issue #4 of LGDF is the same size as issue #4 of LGC and like issue #1 of LGDF, was comprised of reprints from Detective Picture Stories.


Centaur also did one other title in the Little Giant format and size.  It was called Little Giant Movie Funnies.  The two issues of this run that were published in 1938 consisted of reprinting comic strips from the 1920’s, so no further mention will be made in this article.


The 2nd title that Centaur published in July of 1938 was Keen Detective Funnies (KDF).  The numbering for KDF begins with Volume 1 #8.  So why did Centaur start this title with issue #8?  If you refer to the chronology spreadsheet, the numbering actually continues from where Detective Picture Stories ended when it was published by CMC, see article on Comics Magazine Company by Michael Sanchez for further details.  This first issue of KDF consisted mainly of reprints from stories published by CMC and Ultem.  Centaur certainly made effective use of their inventory of material from CMC and Ultem, which is why some collectors consider the issues published under CMC and Ultem as part of the Centaur family of comic books, even though they were distinct and separate companies with different owners.  The next few issues of KDF consisted mainly of reprinted material, but with each new issue Centaur gradually added a new story here and there (most likely provided by Funnies Inc – Lloyd Jacquet).  It appears by Volume 2 #’s 2 & 3 all the stories were new, but the next few issues reverted back to reprinting some inventory stories.  By Volume 2 #9 the 13th issue (cover date September 1939) it appears that all the stories were again new until the final issue in September 1940.  In all there were twenty-four (24) issues of KDF.


In August of 1938 Centaur released their 3rd new title, Amazing Mystery Funnies (AMF).  Just like KDF, the first issue of AMF consisted of reprints from several of the CMC and Ultem titles.  Unlike KDF, AMF begins with Volume 1 #1 but coincidentally it ended its publishing run on the same month as KDF (September 1940) with the same number of total issues twenty-four (24).   Similar to its sister title, AMF also began with all reprints in the first issue, but introduced a new story by comic great Bill Everett in the 2nd issue called Skyrocket Steele.  Gradually adding new stories each month, AMF appears to have all new stories by Volume 2 #’s 2 & 3, but lapsed back to using some reprints for the next five (5) issues (just as KDF did).  With Volume 2 #9 the 13th issue (cover date September 1939) there were all new stories until the last issue in September 1940.


While it seems the ongoing or monthly reprinting of back inventory material allowed Centaur to get a start at publishing new comic book titles, their demise at the end of 1940 appeared inevitable, but more on that later.  There were only a handful of comic book publishers in the mid 1930’s before the coming of Superman in June 1938 (cover date).  And Centaur, while adept at reprinting and repackaging original comic book material, was not the first to do so.  National Allied Publications (NAP), which evolved into DC Comics, has the honor of being the first to reprint original comic book material.  NAP’s first title with new original material was New Fun Comics which started in February 1935 (cover date) with Volume 1 #1.  Their first reprint comic book was Big Book of Fun Comics #1 published most likely in November/December 1935 and appears to have reprinted stories from the first four (4) issues of New Fun Comics.  Unlike the ongoing or monthly reprinting that Centaur did, Big Book of Fun Comics #1 was a one-shot annual.


NAP also had a 2nd reprint title called New Book of Comics.  There were two (2) issues, the first published in the first quarter of 1937 and the second published in the spring of 1938, both considered annuals, not ongoing or monthly issues.  The first issue reprinted stories from the first three (3) issues of New Comics and More Fun Comics Volume 1 #9.  The second issue reprinted stories from New Comics Volume 1 #11 and More Fun Comics Volume 2 #’s 3 & 4 (15th and 16th issues).


Even though Centaur wasn’t the first to reprint original comic book stories, they certainly owe their almost three (3) year existence (March 1938 to December 1940) to this cost saving measure.  It may be poetic justice that both KDF and AMF began as reprint books (before printing new stories), and then in a turn-about their new stories would be reprinted in the last titles Centaur published before going out of business.  These titles included Amazing Adventure Funnies, Fantoman, Masked Marvel, Super Spy, and Detective Eye, and all reprinted a few stories from KDF and AMF.  Another title released at the end of Centaur’s publishing run (November and December 1940) was Wham Comics, but these two (2) issues appear to consist of all new stories.


Even though Centaur Publications ceased production at the end of 1940, the Centaur family of comic books had another chapter to go.  A distinct and separate little know comic book publisher know as Comic Corporation of America (CCA) is actually included in the Centaur family of comic books.  The owners of CCA were virtually the same individuals indentified as owners of Centaur, in particular Joe Hardie and Raymond Kelly.     But there were two (2) things that gave readers in 1939/1940 a hint that Centaur and CCA were connected somehow.  The most obvious hint was the ads for each other’s titles.    The less obvious hint was the comic book The Arrow.      This title had a three (3) issue run, the first two (2) published by Centaur (October and November 1940) and the third issue published by CCA in October 1941.  The first issue reprinted a couple inventory stories but most of the issue contained new stories.  It appears issues #2 & #3 had all new stories.


If one were to guess, the owners created CCA to be independent of Centaur, meaning they would be free from any financial troubles that Centaur was having, thus allowing CCA to continue publishing if Centaur had to fold up shop.    Besides poor distribution and the struggles to survive during the depression, Centaur may have taken on the outstanding debt and liabilities that CMC and Ultem might have had when Centaur bought them out, thus leaving them in financial trouble from the start.    CCA started publishing in September 1939 (cover date) with their first title Amazing Man Comics (which started with issue #5 and ended with #26 – January 1942).  Bill Everett created John Aman the Amazing-Man and all 22 issues of the run contained new stories.  CCA didn’t come out with any other titles until Centaur ceased production in December 1940 (cover date).



Besides publishing Amazing Man Comics and issue #3 of The Arrow, the titles that CCA produced were Stars & Stripes Comics, Liberty Scouts, World Famous Heroes Magazine and Man of War.  Each title was short lived (see chronology spreadsheet) and was published from May 1941 to April 1942 (cover date).  All issues appear to consist of new stories.


Before we close the door on the Centaur family of comic books, CCA got involved with Chicago Mail Order (C-M-O) company in 1942.  Back in the late 19th century Americans bought a lot of their necessary goods from mail order companies, as there weren’t huge shopping centers and strip malls (until after World War II) to buy whatever was wanted or needed.  C-M-O was one of those mail order companies (see example of catalog).  Today Amazon has taken the place of those long forgotten mail order companies.  There were two (2) issues of a comic book entitled C-M-O Comics released in 1942 that CCA produced for the C-M-O company.  These were give-away comics that contained many ads of various items that one could order from the C-M-O company.


The last title to mention is Liberty Guards.  There are questions whether CCA produced this book or the C-M-O company did it on its own, but there are C-M-O ads on the inside front cover and both sides of the back cover.  It was supposed to be the 3rd issue of Liberty Scouts, but the Boy Scouts of America forced them to change the name.  All the stories were reprinted from Man of War #1 and the cover was reprinted from Liberty Scouts #2 (see covers).  So with a new cover banner, no price and no indicia, it appears to have been another give-away comic for the C-M-O company.  The cover shows the Liberty Scouts fighting the Nazis, so perhaps all the Centaur family characters went off to Europe or the Pacific to help in the war effort and were not heard from again under the banner of Centaur.


Future upcoming notes for this article:     (1) Digest size comics produced by Hardie and Kelly under the name of H-K publishers. (2)Harle Publications, Inc     and    H-K Publications      Cartoon and Humor periodicals



Stories consist of reprinted material

By Michael Sanchez


1st ISSUE Volume 1 #1: – July 1938 – all stories reprinted from Funny Picture Stories (FPS) under the Ultem Banner.  If “Original Appearance” is blank, then most likely it is new or not previously published and consists of puzzles, riddles, jokes, quizzes or activity exercises.


TITLE OF STORY                    # OF PAGES              ARTIST/WRITER

Original Appearance               Date of Original Printing                    Original Publisher



“Goofy Gags plus extra panel”                   1 page             Bob Wood

FPS Volume 2 #2                                     October 1937      Ultem


“Gil Galen G-man”                                      5 pages             Craig Fox

FPS Volume 2 #3                                   November 1937     Ultem


“Rough House Annie”                                1 page

FPS Volume 2 #1                                   September 1937     Ultem


“Rustlers from the Sawtooth”                    7 pages             Ross Martin & W.M. Allison

FPS Volume 2 #1                                  September 1937      Ultem


“Spider Legs”                                             1 page

FPS Volume 2 #3                                 November 1937       Ultem


“Flood Valve “5””                                      5 pages             Frank Frollo

FPS Volume 2 #3                                 November 1937      Ultem


“Can you find at least thirty mistakes”     1 page        Martin Filchock


“Pot o’ Gold”                                              3 pages             “By KF” (Ken Fitch)

FPS Volume 2 #1                                September 1937       Ultem


“Phoney Crime”                                         5 pages             Bob Wood

FPS Volume 2 #3                                 November 1937       Ultem


“Cheerio Minstrels”                                   2 pages             Paul Gustavson

FPS Volume 2 #3                                 November 1937      Ultem


“Dormitory Daze”                                       1 page

FPS Volume 2 #1                                September 1937      Ultem


“Ma and Pa”                                               1 page

FPS Volume 2 #3                                November 1937        Ultem


“Cutter Carson”                                         3 pages             Creig Flessel

FPS Volume 2 #2                                  October 1937         Ultem


“Cop Killer”                                               2 pages             Jack Binder

FPS Volume 2 #1                                September 1937      Ultem


“High Pressure Preston”                          1 page              Paul Gustavson

FPS Volume 2 #3                                   November 1937     Ultem


“Tin Mule”                                                  4 pages

FPS Volume 2 #2                                October 1937           Ultem


“15 Errors, 33 Dots”                                   1 page              Martin Filchock



“Out on the farm, minus 1 gag”                1 page              Paul Gustavson

FPS Volume 2 #3                                   November 1937      Ultem


“Jack Strand in the 4th Dimension”          18 pages           Frank Frollo

FPS Volume 2 #1                                    September 1937       Ultem


“Tim and Tom”                                          1 page

FPS Volume 2 #1                                September 1937           Ultem


“Echo”                                                        1 page

FPS Volume 2 #1                               September 1937            Ultem


“Boomerang”                                             3 pages

FPS Volume 2 #2                                  October 1937               Ultem


“Funny Fables”                                           1 page              Dick Ryan

FPS Volume 2 #1                               September 1937        Ultem


“The Little Black Bag”                               5 pages             Bob Wood

FPS Volume 2 #2                                  October 1937         Ultem


“Bear Facts”                                               1 page              Dick Ryan

FPS Volume 2 #3                                November 1937      Ultem


“Top-Guy, A G-Man Action Story”            12 pages           Ken Fitch

FPS Volume 2 #1                                  September 1937    Ultem


“Fangs of the Cougar”                              3 pages             Jim Chambers

FPS Volume 2 #1                     September 1937                                   Ultem


“Tom o” Shanter”                                      1 page              Fred Guardineer?

FPS Volume 2 #1                              September 1937       Ultem


“Jig-Saw Trail”                                         4 pages             Bob Wood

FPS Volume 2 #1                                 September 1937    Ultem


“Riddle Rebus”                                        1 page



“Ticklers”                                                   1 page

FPS Volume 2 #1                                September 1937      Ultem


“Sonny Darling”                                         7 pages             Claire S’Moe

FPS Volume 2 #3                                November 1937        Ultem


“Magic Money”                                          1 page              Martin Filchock



“Vacation Cowgirl”                                    5 pages             Bob Wood

FPS Volume 2 #2                                  October 1937         Ultem


““Puzzle” page”                                         1 page              Martin Filchock



“Sweet Revenge”                                      5 pages             Dick Ryan

FPS Volume 2 #1                               September 1937        Ultem


“The Firehouse Gang”                               1 page              Paul Gustavson

FPS Volume 2 #3                                   November 1937    Ultem


“Lucky Coyne A Slight Error”                   3 pages             Creig Flessel

FPS Volume 2 #1                               September 1937        Ultem


“‘Find’ Puzzle”                                          1 page              Martin Filchock



“Bear Facts”                                              1 page              Dick Ryan

FPS Volume 2 #2                                   October 1937         Ultem


“Arizona’s Ace Trick”                               3 pages             Jim Chambers

FPS Volume 2 #2                                   October 1937        Ultem


“Draw Cartoons! Ad”                                1 page              House Advertisement


“Super Magic Ad”                                     1 page              House Advertisement


“Magic Money Ad”                                    I page               House Advertisement



Michael Sanchez is a platinum age comics collector and historian who specializes in 1930s comics, and has been published in Comic Book Marketplace.

Jeff Kepley is a Big Little Books, Lone Ranger, Zorro and comic book collector and completist.  He is a foremost expert in the history of radio and comic book pop culture.


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