Last July at the San Diego Comic-Con I was looking at a glass showcase containing some very early comics published by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, whose company was later taken over by Jack Liebowitz and Harry Donenfeld, eventually becoming DC Comics. NEW BOOK OF COMICS #1 was published in 1936, and reprinted five previous Wheeler-Nicholson magazines, NEW COMICS 1-4 and MORE FUN COMICS 9. It was essentially the first comics annual, a second number came out in 1938. I was initially looking at the logo, which I’ve written about HERE, but then I noticed something below it.
In very small type, as you can see, was a copyright symbol followed by Nicholson Pub. Co., Inc. and an address of 373 Fourth Ave., N.Y.C. I researched and wrote about all the DC Comics (and predecessors) offices in a blog article series a few years ago, and this address did NOT sound familiar! When I got home and checked THIS article, I knew it was an address for Wheeler-Nicholson I’d missed. My research partner Alex Jay and I have researched it, and I will soon add this information to that blog post. I also checked with the Major’s grand-daughter Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson, who told me:
I have that address in my timeline from a “Writer’s Digest” note of May, 1936: “Major Nicholson’s New Comics Magazine has moved from 49 West 45th Street to 373 Fourth Avenue. Bill Cook has severed connections with Major Nicholson, and is starting his own sheet called The Comics at 11 West 42nd Street.”
That helped pinpoint the move from the Major’s original office at 49 West 45th Street to this one at 373 Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue South).
Alex Jay found this depiction of the Zindel Building at that address from 1912, which was built not long before. Notice the L shape surrounding another much lower building on the corner of East 26th Street and Park Avenue South. Alex reports the owner of the Zindel Building, Miss Rosa Zindel, went bankrupt later in 1912 due to the high cost of fitting out and renting the property.
Many businesses and organizations had offices here, including the Wheeler Syndicate, whose star license was Bud Fisher’s “Mutt and Jeff” newspaper strip, as seen in the ad above, an interesting comics connection. There’s no family relationship between John Neville Wheeler, this syndicate’s founder, and Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson as far as we know.
The first issue of Wheeler-Nicholson’s NEW COMICS dated Dec. 1935 shows the 373 Fourth Avenue address. The publisher is still National Allied Newspaper Syndicate, Inc., as it was from the beginning of the Major’s comics business.
By issue two, a month later, the address is 432 Fourth Avenue, which remained the listed address for DETECTIVE COMICS until it was taken over by Donenfeld and Liebowitz the following year. Commenting on the frequent moves, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson writes, “I know he was struggling financially during this period so I’m sure this was all motivated by lack of funds.” By issue 14 of DETECTIVE COMICS dated April, 1938, Wheeler-Nicholson was gone, and the editorial address was 480 Lexington Avenue, long the home of Donenfeld and Liebowitz’s publishing business.
On a recent trip to New York City I took this photo of the building at 373 Park Avenue South, the tan one at center. Most of the façade decorations are gone, but it’s the same shape and size as the original Zindel Building.
Here’s the entrance today, with a small part of the original architectural details preserved, compare it to the 1912 illustration above. While the company that became DC Comics was not here long, it’s great to be able to add this address to my article and the company’s history.
NOTE: much of this material is now added to my earlier article on the DC Comics offices.