Obituary: Alfred Harvey

Alfred Harvey, publisher: born 1914; married (four sons, one daughter); died Larchmont, New York 3 July 1994.

HARVEY Classics, Harvey Hits, Harvey Pops, Harvey Toons - the name of Alfred Harvey is enshrined in the history of American comic books, hundreds and hundreds of titles having issued from the house of Harvey Publications since Pocket Comics No 1 came out in 1940. One of his several subsidiaries, Family Comics, describes both his style and his setup: Alfred Harvey, President; Leon Harvey, Editor and Vice-President; Robert Harvey, Vice-President and business manager.

Alfred Harvey was 25 years old when he and his brothers entered the comparatively new world of comic-book publishing in 1939. This 10-cent picture-book business was barely six years old and had only recently, with the creation of 'Superman' and 'Batman', burst into the big time.

Hoping to crash the market with something different, Harvey produced the first issue of Pocket Comics, a half-size booklet bursting with 100 pages of full-colour strips. Despite a shoal of super-

heroes, ranging from 'The Red Blazer' to the super-woman 'The Black Cat', Harvey had, by breaking a popular format, made the same mistake as other, earlier, pioneers in the business. Tabloid-size comics such as The Funnies (1929) and oblong comics, such as Nickel Comics (half size, half price) in 1938, had been among the many failures. The lesson to be learnt was that the standard half-tabloid comic book, virtually unchanged to this day, was the one the children wanted. It was comfortably thick (68 pages) and rolled up nicely in the back pocket.

Abandoning novelty value, Harvey took over a fairly successful title, Speed Comics, and after a tryout in his pocket format, relaunched it with a starring spot for his beloved 'Black Cat'. The comic was a success, and a few years later the black-clad glamour girl was rewarded with her own title. Black Cat Comics began in 1946, and followed the market trends of the times by converting to Black Cat Western in 1949, and in the era of the horror comic, Black Cat Mystery in 1951.

Harvey's most successful comic of the Forties was Sad Sack, a series based on the famous wartime strip created by an ex-Disney animator called George Baker. 'The Sack', a wonderful strip told in pantomime (without dialogue) every week in the US Army magazine Yank, featured the nation's most hopeless, useless and witless GI, virtually permanently on 'KP' ('Kitchen Police'), the lowest form of life in the Army. Baker drew the strip from 1942 to demob, then revised his Sack as an equally worthless civilian for syndication as a Sunday strip. He was no world-beater in civvy street, however, but Alfred Harvey, who loved the character, saw its potential as a comic book. He published Sad Sack Comics No 1 in September 1949, with the 'hero' back in the Army, and George Baker himself drawing the cartoon cover. The success of the comic brought no fewer than 14 other titles ranging through Sad Sad Sack World (a nod to the hit movie, Mad Mad Mad World), and a variation for feminists, Sadie Sack.

After the so-called Horror Comics Scandals of the Fifties, Harvey concentrated on family reading, and took on comic-book versions of the only truly junior-orientated cinema cartoons then being produced. These were the 'Noveltoons' of Famous Studios, who released through Paramount Pictures. The characters included 'Little Audrey', and their most popular of them all, 'Casper the Friendly Ghost'. The first Casper animation had been made in 1945, but an official revival of the character in a series of shorts inspired Harvey to buy the rights in 1952. No fewer than 23 different regular titles ensued, starring Casper and his supernatural pals, the Ghostly Trio, Spooky the Tuff Ghost, and Wendy the Good Little Witch.

Inspired, Harvey ended up by purchasing the whole Noveltoon collection from Paramount. Removing the familiar logo, a jack-in-the-box holding the title lettering, he had a new animated logo added, calling them 'Harveytoons', packaging them into half-hours for children's television. As if this was not enough, one of his own original characters, 'Richie Rich', the Richest Boy in the World, was now made into his own animated series. Harvey had made himself the uncrowned king of cartoons in all their forms.

Alfred Harvey retired in 1977, finally selling his empire in 1989 to Jeffrey Montgomery. Montgomery still calls the company Harvey Comics, continues to publish books that are ideal for youngsters, and package cartoons that now entertain British audiences on cable and satellite. Following Harvey's policy he has introduced comics starring such old-time but still popular characters as 'Popeye the Sailor' and 'Felix the Cat'. It seems that the hallowed name of Harvey will continue as long as children love comics.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there