Decline of Western / Gold Key

jtorci3511 at jtorci3511 at
Fri Apr 13 00:42:11 CEST 2007

Regarding the decline and fall of Western Publishing and Gold Key Comics.  Steven Rowe was correct concerning the damage caused by the difference of a 15 cent cover price vs. every other publisher's 12 cent price... though it seems absurdly laughable by today's standards.  And TV was a factor as well -- but that would have hurt all publishers.  Spotty distribution should also be added to the mix. 
But the real reason for the decline is sales was the decline in QUALITY -- in both story and especially art!  
In a recent UNCLE SCROOGE letter column, I said that the Gold Key Comics of 1964-1966 (not only Disney, but the entire line), were some of the best comics ever produced.  Certainly other comics, from other era and publishers, were better at times.  The Dell Four Color line pre-1953, and 1990s DC Comics are two examples -- again, in my personal view.  
But, as time progresses, watch the decline into oblivion take place in stages.  The GK comics of 1964-1966 were better than those of 1967-1968.  The GK comics of 1967-1968 were better than those of 1969-1972. The GK comics of 1969-1972 were better than those of 1973-1976.  (Though there was an uptick in the writing, mostly for Non-Disney titles by Mark Evanier and legendary animation writer Michael Maltese, and others -- but the art was, for the most part, still below previous standards).  The GK comics of 1973-1976 were better than those of 1977-1980. (As Evanier moved on and Maltese retired.) And even the GK comics of 1977-1980 were better than the Whitman comics of 1980-1984. (Though not by all that much, alas!)  
Had I become a comic book reader during the 1970s, except for the omnipresent Barks reprints, I would not have developed the strong affection for Gold Key Comics that I have held to this day.  The writing was weak, repetitive and generally unfunny, and the art was simply awful.  
Western also made a huge tactical error by not embracing the Comic Book Direct Market, as it literally formed before our eyes in the early 1980s - and steadfastly clung to the "reader-unfriendly" plastic bag/chain store distribution that took Western completely out of the public eye as a comic book publisher.  
It IS a shame little has been written on this subject.  You should check Mark Evanier's website, as he is one of the very few individuals to document ANYTHING on Western Publishing.
Joe Torcivia.       
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