Eastern color printing company
The Eastern Color Printing Company was a company which published comic books, beginning in 1933. At first it was only newspaper comic strip
Comic strip
A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions....

 reprints, but later on original material was published. Eastern Color Printing was incorporated in 1928, and soon became successful by printing color newspaper sections
Sunday comics
Sunday comics is the commonly accepted term for the full-color comic strip section carried in most American newspapers. Many newspaper readers called this section the Sunday funnies, the funny papers or simply the funnies....

 for several New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 and New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 papers. Eastern is most notable for its production of Funnies on Parade
Funnies on Parade
Funnies on Parade is an American publication of 1933 that was a precursor of comic books.The creation of the modern American comic book came in stages. Dell Publishing in 1929 published a 16-page, newsprint periodical of original, comic strip-styled material titled The Funnies and described by the...

and Famous Funnies
Famous Funnies
Famous Funnies is an American publication of the 1930s that represents what popular culture historians consider the first true American comic book, following seminal precursors.-Immediate precursors:...

, two publications which gave birth to the American comic book industry.

Eastern published its own comic books until the mid-1950s, and continued to print comic books for other publishers until 1973. Eastern Color Printing struggled financially from the 1970s to 2002, when the business closed, a victim of changing printing technologies.

Company history

In March 1924, a newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

 in Waterbury, Connecticut
Waterbury, Connecticut
Waterbury is a city in New Haven County, Connecticut, on the Naugatuck River, 33 miles southwest of Hartford and 77 miles northeast of New York City...

 purchased a Goss International single-width press to use in printing Sunday color newspaper comics sections
Sunday comics
Sunday comics is the commonly accepted term for the full-color comic strip section carried in most American newspapers. Many newspaper readers called this section the Sunday funnies, the funny papers or simply the funnies....

. The Knickerbocker Press of Albany, New York
Albany, New York
Albany is the capital city of the U.S. state of New York, the seat of Albany County, and the central city of New York's Capital District. Roughly north of New York City, Albany sits on the west bank of the Hudson River, about south of its confluence with the Mohawk River...

, and the Springfield Republican
Springfield Republican
The Republican is a newspaper based in Springfield, Massachusetts. It is owned by Newhouse Newspapers, a division of Advance Publications. It played important roles in the United States Republican Party's founding, Charles Dow's career, and the invention of the pronoun "Ms."-Beginning:Established...

of Springfield, Massachusetts
Springfield, Massachusetts
Springfield is the most populous city in Western New England, and the seat of Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. Springfield sits on the eastern bank of the Connecticut River near its confluence with three rivers; the western Westfield River, the eastern Chicopee River, and the eastern...

, approached the Republican about using the press to print their own color comics supplements. The Springfield Union soon afterward did as well. The Eastern Color Printing Company, incorporated in August 1928 with William B. Pape as its vice president and principal executive officer, acquired the press and replaced it with a Goss four-deck press. The company acquired additional presses in 1929 and 1931. During this time period, Eastern, headquartered at 61 Leavenworth Street in Waterbury, established itself in the pulp magazine
Pulp magazine
Pulp magazines , also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long...

 industry by being one of the few firms to print color covers for the pulps.

From 1928 to 1930, Eastern published 36 issues of a tabloid-format comics periodical, The Funnies
The Funnies
The Funnies was the name of two American publications from Dell Publishing, the first of these a seminal, 1920s precursor of comic books, and the second a standard 1930s comic book.-The Funnies :In 1929, George T...

, with original comic pages in color, for Dell Publishing
Dell Publishing
Dell Publishing, an American publisher of books, magazines and comic books, was founded in 1921 by George T. Delacorte, Jr.During the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Dell was one of the largest publishers of magazines, including pulp magazines. Their line of humor magazines included 1000 Jokes, launched in...

. This title was the first four-color comic newsstand publication. Dell, owned by George Delacorte, would later be closely associated with other landmark Eastern Color Printing publications.

Around 1929, Eastern became the first major institution to perfect an engraving process that allowed for the addition of color to black-and-white comics, proving a boon to newspaper syndicates just beginning to introduce full-page Sunday comics sections. From 1929 through 1932, Sunday comic pages were printed in both black-and-white and color. By 1932, Eastern Color Printing was printing comic sections for a score of newspapers, and by the following year, color for newspapers' Sunday comics section and black-and-white for the daily strips becomes the industry standard.

In 1933, Eastern's 45-year-old sales manager Harry I. Wildenberg reinvented the comic-book format when he saw the increasing popularity of newspaper comic strips and determined comics could be a successful medium for advertising. Sales offices at this time were located in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 (alternately listed at 40 or 50 Church Street in different sources).

In April 1933, Gulf Oil Company approved Wildenberg's idea and hired artists to create an original, promotional giveaway, Gulf Comic Weekly. Printed by Eastern, the comic measured 10 ½ x 15 inches and was advertised on national radio
Radio programming
Radio programming is the Broadcast programming of a Radio format or content that is organized for Commercial broadcasting and Public broadcasting radio stations....

. Each of its four pages contained a full-color single-page comic strip. The tabloid proved a hit at Gulf service stations. It was retitled Gulf Funny Weekly. Distribution rose to three million copies a week. The series ran as a tabloid until 1939 before adopting the standard comic-book format of the time; it ran a total 422 issues through May 23, 1941. Eastern also published another four-page tabloid, for Standard Oil
Standard Oil
Standard Oil was a predominant American integrated oil producing, transporting, refining, and marketing company. Established in 1870 as a corporation in Ohio, it was the largest oil refiner in the world and operated as a major company trust and was one of the world's first and largest multinational...

, titled Standard Oil Comics.
In early 1933, Eastern also began producing small comic broadsides for the Ledger syndicate of Philadelphia, printing Sunday color comics from 7" x 9" plates. Wildenberg and his coworkers realized that two such plates would fit on a tabloid-sized page, and later that year, Wildenberg created the first modern-format comic book when idly folding a newspaper into halves and then into quarters and finding that a convenient book size. In Spring 1933, Eastern printed one million copies of the first modern-format comic book, the 32-page Funnies on Parade, as a promotion for Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble is a Fortune 500 American multinational corporation headquartered in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio and manufactures a wide range of consumer goods....


The names of those associated with the project read as a who's-who of early publishers in what comics historians and fans call the Platinum Age and Golden Age of Comic Books
Golden Age of Comic Books
The Golden Age of Comic Books was a period in the history of American comic books, generally thought of as lasting from the late 1930s until the late 1940s or early 1950s...

: Max Gaines
Max Gaines
Maxwell Charles Gaines was a pioneering figure in the creation of the modern comic book. Born Maxwell Ginsburg or Maxwell Ginzberg, he was also known as Max Gaines, M.C...

 (founder of EC Comics), Leverett Gleason (publisher of Comic House and other titles, and creator of the Golden Age Daredevil), and many other future industry creators are all brought in to work under Wildenberg's supervision.

By late 1933, Eastern was publishing more giveaways: Famous Funnies: a Carnival of Comics
Famous Funnies
Famous Funnies is an American publication of the 1930s that represents what popular culture historians consider the first true American comic book, following seminal precursors.-Immediate precursors:...

, A Century of Comics, and Skippy’s Own Book of Comics. The latter was the first modern-format comic book about a single character.

1934 [Early]
Eastern prints Shell Globe, for distribution at 13,000 Shell gas stations. The series features cartoonist Bud Fisher
Bud Fisher
Harry Conway "Bud" Fisher was an American cartoonist who created Mutt and Jeff, the first successful daily comic strip in the United States....

’s popular characters Mutt and Jeff. The characters of Shell Globe are marketed wildly, through miniature figurines, posters, radio announcements, billboards, play masks, and window stickers.

Interest from advertisers tapers off a bit when advertisers doubt that children would be willing to pay money for comic strip reprints. Eastern Color Printing president George Janosik forms a 50/50 joint venture with Dell publisher George Delacorte to publish and market a comic book for retail sales. As a test to see if the public would be willing to pay for comic books, Famous Funnies: Series One, distributed locally, is published and sold for 10 cents each and sells out quickly. 40,000 copies of Famous Funnies: Series One are distributed in chain stores, featuring reprints from the newspaper reprints featured in Eastern’s earlier books. The comic book sells out completely.

1934 - May
Eastern employee Harold Moore proposes a monthly comic book series. Famous Funnies #1 appears with a July cover date. The title loses money at first, and George Delacorte sells his interest back to Eastern. Famous Funnies #2 marks the start of original material produced specifically for the book, and #3 begins a run of Buck Rogers
Buck Rogers
Anthony Rogers is a fictional character that first appeared in Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan in the August 1928 issue of the pulp magazine Amazing Stories. A sequel, The Airlords of Han, was published in the March 1929 issue....


Famous Funnies turns a profit beginning with issue #7. It gains popularity quickly, and the title lasts about 20 years. The success of Famous Funnies soon leads to the title being sold on newsstands alongside slicker magazines, and inspires at least five other competitors to begin publishing their own comic books. Eastern begins to experiment with modifying the newspaper reprints to be more suitable to the comic book format. Lettering, reduced in reproduction to the point of illegibility, is reworked for the size of the comic book page. Adventure strips, reprinted in several weeks’ worth of strips at a time, is trimmed of panels providing a recap of previous events, contributing to a concise and more smoothly flowing version of the story.

Eastern executive Max Gaines
Max Gaines
Maxwell Charles Gaines was a pioneering figure in the creation of the modern comic book. Born Maxwell Ginsburg or Maxwell Ginzberg, he was also known as Max Gaines, M.C...

 leaves Eastern Color Printing to work for Dell Comics
Dell Comics
Dell Comics was the comic book publishing arm of Dell Publishing, which got its start in pulp magazines. It published comics from 1929 to 1973. At its peak, it was the most prominent and successful American company in the medium...

. In 1945, Gaines sells all of his comic book properties to Dell with the exception of two. These two titles (Picture Stories from the Bible and Picture Stories from World History) are launched under a new publishing venture in 1946 under the name of EC
EC Comics
Entertaining Comics, more commonly known as EC Comics, was an American publisher of comic books specializing in horror fiction, crime fiction, satire, military fiction and science fiction from the 1940s through the mid-1950s, notably the Tales from the Crypt series...

. Although officially EC stood for "Educational Comics", it has also been speculated that the initials were a tribute to the first comic book company Gaines worked for, Eastern Color [Printing]. In 1947, Max Gaines dies in a boating accident and EC is taken over by his son William M. Gaines. William changed EC from Educational Comics into Entertaining Comics, and focused production on lurid crime and horror stories. EC was a primary target for Fredric Wertham
Fredric Wertham
Fredric Wertham was a Jewish German-American psychiatrist and crusading author who protested the purportedly harmful effects of violent imagery in mass media and comic books on the development of children. His best-known book was Seduction of the Innocent , which purported that comic books are...

’s Seduction of the Innocent
Seduction of the Innocent
Seduction of the Innocent is a book by German-American psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, published in 1954, that warned that comic books were a negative form of popular literature and a serious cause of juvenile delinquency. The book was a minor bestseller that created alarm in parents and galvanized...

, and the focus of the senate hearing that followed; the end result was that eventually EC cancelled all of its publications except for Mad Magazine.

1936 - October
In May 1936, J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

 contacts cartoonist Rex Collier and proposes a comic strip based on true stories of FBI Agents. Collier’s strip, "War on Crime", is reprinted in the October issue (#27) of Famous Funnies — the first "true crime" story in comic books.

1936 - December
Eastern publishes the first issue of The John Hix Scrapbook, reprinting McNaught’s syndicated strip "Strange as It Seems", a "Ripley’s Believe It or Not"-style collection of illustrated cartoons describing odd historical facts and scientific phenomena. In 1937, Eastern releases a second volume under the name The Second Strange as It Seems Scrapbook.

1937 - May
Famous Funnies #32 features the first appearance of the Phantom Magician as a supporting character in the comic strip, “The Adventures of Patsy.” The Phantom Magician is an early costumed hero pre-dating Superman
Superman is a fictional comic book superhero appearing in publications by DC Comics, widely considered to be an American cultural icon. Created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Canadian-born American artist Joe Shuster in 1932 while both were living in Cleveland, Ohio, and sold to Detective...


1937 - July
Famous Funnies #39 begins reprints of newspaper comic strip Eagle Scout
Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America)
Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America . A Scout who attains this rank is called an Eagle Scout or Eagle. Since its introduction in 1911, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than 2 million young men...

 Roy Powers. Penned by artist Paul Powell, himself a former Boy Scout
Boy Scout
A Scout is a boy or a girl, usually 11 to 18 years of age, participating in the worldwide Scouting movement. Because of the large age and development span, many Scouting associations have split this age group into a junior and a senior section...

, this strip becomes the official symbol of the Boy Scouts of America and is instrumental in the promotion of its Eagle Scout rank. Roy Powers runs as a regular feature in Famous Funnies for ten years.

Having filled up the maximum floor space at their old American press-room at Printers Court, Eastern constructs a separate and new plant on Commercial Street. The new plant includes two new Scott presses.

1939 - September
Famous Funnies #62 features early work by artist Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby , born Jacob Kurtzberg, was an American comic book artist, writer and editor regarded by historians and fans as one of the major innovators and most influential creators in the comic book medium....

 under the pen name Lance Kirby.

The 1940s

In addition to publishing its own comic books, Eastern continues to do printing for the majority of publishers in the comic book industry. An article in the Hartford Courant dated Feb. 15, 1954 states that “An executive of one of the largest comic book printing firms in the nation, located in Waterbury, Conn. said 65,000,000 issues are printed each month. Of these 65 million issues, more than 40 per cent are printed in Connecticut.” Eastern Color Printing prints comics and advertising for other publishers through the 1960s, including comic books for Timely (Marvel), EC, and Big Boy restaurants. Eastern also printed the Sunday funnies for a number of newspapers, including the Waterbury Sunday Republican, New Haven Register, Hartford Courant, and newspapers in Boston, Providence, and Worcester.

Eastern introduces its second monthly title, Reg’lar Fellers Heroic Comics. The title is the official publication of Reg’lar Fellers of America, a junior athletic organization dedicated to developing wholesome summer recreation for teens. The title lasts until 1955; it eventually shortens its title to simply Heroic Comics beginning with issue #16 and changes again with issue #41 to New Heroic Comics.
Properties owned by the McNaught Syndicate
McNaught Syndicate
The McNaught Syndicate was an American newspaper syndicate founded in 1922. It was established by Virgil Venice McNitt and Charles V. McAdam. Its best known contents were the columns by Will Rogers and O. O. McIntyre, the Dear Abby letters section and comic strips, including Joe Palooka and...

 and published by Eastern Color Printing are transferred to Columbia Features, publishers of Big Shot Comics and other titles. Eastern appears to have retained a close relationship with Columbia, running advertisements for Columbia books in their own comic book titles.
Eastern Color Printing purchases a new Goss press, its sixth one.

Eastern publishes Dickie Dare, featuring reprints of the newspaper strip of the same name. Dickie Dare features artwork by Bill Everett
Bill Everett
William Blake "Bill" Everett, also known as William Blake and Everett Blake was a comic book writer-artist best known for creating Namor the Sub-Mariner and co-creating Daredevil for Marvel Comics...

 and Milt Caniff, two influential illustrators of golden age comic books. The series lasts 4 issues and runs until 1942.
Eastern acquires a seventh press. Finding it necessary to do own cover printing and binding for its successful comic books, Eastern acquires the Curtiss-Way plant in Meriden. Curtiss-Way was a Meriden printing facility dating back at least as far as 1895, when it was known as the Converse Publishing Company.

1941 - April
Inspired by the popular trend of superheroes, Famous Funnies #81 introduces Invisible Scarlet O'Neil
Invisible Scarlet O'Neil
Invisible Scarlet O'Neil is an American comic strip written and drawn by Russell Stamm. Published by the Chicago Times, it ran from June 3, 1940 to 1956....

, one of comics’ earliest super-heroines, authored by Russell Stamm. This issue marks a change in mood for Famous Funnies, as the covers switch from whimsical gags to more serious adventurous fare.

1941 - November
With the outbreak of World War II, the publishing industry participates in national drives to conserve paper. As a conservation measure, syndicates reduce the size of full-page Sunday comic strips to ¾ or ½ the size of the newspaper page. As a result of this size reduction, newspaper strips are no longer suitable for further reduction in the comic book format, and Eastern is forced to commission new work rather than reprint material. Famous Funnies #88 carries the last sets of reprint material from the full-size newspaper page. Beginning with the following issue, Eastern Color Printing starts to commission new work for their comic book publications. Many features from the original Famous Funnies format are continued by the same artists. These artists now turned their strips into dual features – one for newspaper syndication with an emphasis on adult appeal, and the other to fit the new comic book page size and an emphasis on juvenile appeal.

Eastern, needing to expand again, begins construction of an addition to its Commercial Street plant. The addition is completed and operational in 1946. The paper shortage of WWII forces publishers to drop from its standard 64-page format to a 52-page format, and in some cases a 48-page format. Eastern publishes the humor comic Jingle Jangle, which runs until 1949.

1943 - January
Eastern Color Printing alternates publishing Reg’lar Fellers Heroic Comics and a second edition of Heroic Comics on alternate months, switching between stories of everyday heroism and true war stories, respectively. The alternating format continues for a year, then Reg’lar Fellers… is terminated in favor of the more adult-oriented war comic book.

The 1950s

Eastern Color Printing prints comic books for Export Newspaper Services, a New York-based company producing Spanish-language reprints of American comic books for distribution in Mexico.

Buck Rogers returns to Famous Funnies in issue #209, having been dropped from the title two issues earlier. The event is celebrated by the first of a series of eight covers by science-fiction artist Frank Frazetta
Frank Frazetta
Frank Frazetta was an American fantasy and science fiction artist, noted for work in comic books, paperback book covers, paintings, posters, LP record album covers and other media...

, and these issues are among the most sought-after among collectors today.

1955 - June
Eastern Color Printing clashes with the Comics Code Authority
Comics Code Authority
The Comics Code Authority was a body created as part of the Comics Magazine Association of America, as a tool for the comics-publishing industry to self-regulate the content of comic books in the United States. Member publishers submitted comic books to the CCA, which screened them for adherence to...

 over Heroic Comics. The CCA charges that Heroic – a war-themed comic book – contributes to juvenile delinquency by promoting violence. Eastern defends the title as an illustrated magazine of military history, but makes the decision to suspend publication.

1955 - July
Famous Funnies ends publication with issue #218. Eastern constructs a new modern plant in Meriden that is not closely identified with comic book production. With the declining comic book market, Eastern begins to phase out publication of its own comic books, offsetting the shrinkage by printing more advertising circulars. Sunday newspaper comic supplements continue to be a standard product for Eastern.

Eastern Color Printing, continuously installing and modifying its equipment, acquires its fourteenth press.

The 1960s

Eastern adds a fifteenth press, which is modified in the mid-1960s.

1960 - June
Eastern Color Printing sells its Curtiss-Way subsidiary to the New York-based Hughes Corporation, owner of several printing plants throughout Connecticut.

After serving about three years at the Curtiss-Way division, Richard J. Pape, William B. Pape’s son, is put in complete charge of Eastern’s mechanical operations.

Plans are formulated for a new building. Several new presses are purchased over the next couple of years.

The 1970s

Eastern Color Printing closes its Waterbury plant and moves to Avon. Around the same time, Eastern sells many of its comic book file copies and cover proofs.

By this time, Eastern phases out its comic book printing business in favor of printing Sunday comics supplements. Sears-Roebuck remains its largest customer.

The 1980s

1987 - January
Eastern Color Printing recruits CEO Robert Palmer. The following September, management of Eastern passes from the Pape family to Palmer.

1987 - February
Eastern suffers the loss of a Goss press valued at over $1 million in a fire at the plant.

Eastern suffers a significant setback with the loss of its longtime customer, Sears Roebuck and Company. Sears-Roebuck converts all print advertising to heatset, a process Eastern is not equipped to produce. Within 6 weeks, Eastern loses approximately 40% of its sales.

Eastern embarks on a rebuild program to replace the lost Sears business. The company experiences financial hardships compounded by the recession. After losing more customers to heatset printers, Eastern approaches Rockwell Graphics System (Goss) in 1993 about installation of a heatset press, which is installed the following year.

The 1990s

Eastern incorporates digital technology into its pre-press processes. Eastern stays in business by printing advertising for corporations such as Circuit City, Michael’s Craft Stores, and Media Play.

Titles published by Eastern Color Printing (selected)

  • Amazing Willie Mays (1 issue)
  • Buck Rogers
    Buck Rogers
    Anthony Rogers is a fictional character that first appeared in Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan in the August 1928 issue of the pulp magazine Amazing Stories. A sequel, The Airlords of Han, was published in the March 1929 issue....

  • Buster Crabbe
    Buster Crabbe
    Clarence Linden "Buster" Crabbe was an American athlete and actor, who starred in a number of popular serials in the 1930s and 1940s.-Birth:...

    (12 issues)
  • Big Chief Wahoo
    Chief Wahoo
    Chief Wahoo is a trademarked logo for the Cleveland Indians baseball team. The illustration is a Native American cartoon caricature.Although the club had adopted the name "Indians" starting with the 1915 season, there was no acknowledgment of this nickname on their uniforms until 1928...

  • Century of Comics
  • Club "16"
  • Conquest (1 issue)
  • Dickie Dare
  • Dover the Bird (1 issue)
  • Famous Funnies (Carnival of Comics, Series One, monthly series)
  • Funnies on Parade
  • Gulf Funny Weekly/Gulf Comic Weekly
  • [Reg’lar Fellers] [New] Heroic Comics
  • Jingle Jangle
  • John Hix Scrapbook/Strange as it Seems
  • Jonny and The Monkey Nuts
  • Jukebox Comics
  • Movie Love/Personal Love
  • Shell Globe
  • Skippy’s Own Book of Comics
  • Steve Roper
  • Strictly Private
  • Sugar Bowl
  • Tales from the Great Book
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