The Ominous Octopus

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Richard Hughes

Richard Hughes was the editor of the American Comics Group. He also wrote most of their stories, although the credits pretended otherwise.

Richard E. Hughes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard E. Hughes, born Leo Rosenbaum (November 5, 1909 - January 15, 1974)[1] was an American writer and editor of comic books. He was editor of the American Comics Group through the company's entire existence from 1943 to 1967, and wrote most of that publisher's stories from 1957 to 1967 under a variety of pseudonyms. His best-known character is Herbie Popnecker, created under the pseudonym Shane O'Shea,[2] with artist Ogden Whitney.


Early life and career

Richard E. Hughes graduated from New York University in 1930 with a Bachelor of Arts degree as an English major and Economics minor.[3] He married his wife, Annabel, on January 19, 1935.[4] By 1940, Hughes was working in sales at Standard Mirror and Metal Products in New York City, writing catalog copy,[5] and had also begun writing for publisher Ned Pines' Standard Comics. There he and artist Alexander Kostuk created the superhero Doc Strange (no relation to Marvel Comics' much later Doctor Strange) in Thrilling Comics #1 (cover-dated Feb. 1940).[6][7]
The following year, Hughes was working for the Syndicated Features Corporation.[5] This was "one of the many branches of the Sangor Shop,"[8] the colloquial name for businessman Benjamin W. Sangor's studio of writers and artists that, like other such "packagers" of the time, created comics on demand for publishers testing the new medium. Hughes' resume at the time listed him as an editorial assistant; by 1943, he was an editor there.[8]
Through Syndicated Features Corp., Hughes and artist Dave Gabrielson created the superhero the Black Terror in Standard's Exciting Comics #9 (May 1941).[9][7] Also in 1941, Hughes edited and wrote the tabloid-sized satirical-humor magazine TNT for Sangor's Cinema Comics imprint, and at least edit the small 7 1/2 x 9 1/4-inch promotional comic book Cinema Comics Herald used to promote films including Mr. Bug Goes to Town, Lady for a Night and others through 1943.[10] By the following year Hughes was editing comics for Standard[7] and living with his wife at 120 West 183rd Street in The Bronx, New York City.[4] After Sangor founded his own comic-book company, American Comics Group, in 1943, Hughes edited the line, beginning with the funny-animal series Giggle Comics and Ha Ha Comics, and the teen-humor titles "Cookie"[11] and The Kilroys.[7] He created and scripted stories of the Fighting Yank, Pyroman, the Commando Clubs, and Super Mouse.[5] In addition to his ACG work, Hughes also edited Standard's Real Life Comics,[7] as well as comics for publishers Rural Home, LaSalle, and Leffingwell.[8] For Custom Comics, also called Culver Comics, an ACG division created in 1954, Hughes wrote promotional comics for the likes of police and fire departments, the Brown Shoe company (colloquially known as "Buster Brown Shoes"), Howard Johnson restaurants, the U.S. Air Force, and dozens of other clients.[12]
An October 1, 1952 "Statement of the Ownership, Management, and Circulation" published in ACG's Forbidden Worlds #15 gave the publisher's name as Preferred Publications, Inc., 8 Lord St., Buffalo, New York" and the owners as Preferred Publications and "B. W. Sangor, 7 West 81st Street, New York, N. Y." The editor was listed as Richard E.Hughes, 120 West 183rd St., New York, N. Y." and the business manager as "Frederick H. Iger, 50 Beverly Road, Great Neck, Great Neck, L. I., N. Y."[13] An October 1, 1950 statement published in ACG's Cookie #29 gives identical data, with the exception of the publisher and co-owner being listed as "Michel Publications, Inc. 420 DeSoto Ave., St. Louis 7, Mo..[14]

Later life and career

Hughes additionally wrote radio and television advertisements.[15] His final comics work was uncredited stories for DC Comics' Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Hawkman and supernatural-mystery anthologies.[15] His final job appears to have been for Gimbel's department store, composing response letters to customer complaints.[15]
A Richard E. Hughes was listed as publisher of Toy Market Research Inc.'s biweekly trade magazine Toy Reporter that was premiering October 2, 1961. It is unclear if this is the same Hughes.[16]
Hughes died on January 15, 1974, of myelofibrosis.[3]


After Hughes' death, his wife donated his papers to Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey.[8]

Critical analysis

In a review of the Dark Horse Comics collections Herbie: Volume One and Herbie: Volume Two, The New York Times described Hughes' Herbie Popnecker as,
...a corpulent kid with half-lidded eyes, thick glasses and a hideous bowl cut. His father calls him a “little fat nothing,” not realizing that Herbie is actually a colossus striding across the cultural landscape of his era. With the aid of his super-empowering lollipops, Herbie punches out Sonny Liston, confronts Fidel Castro and gets sent on a secret mission by U Thant. Hughes took a while to perfect his stories’ tone of deadpan absurdity, but Whitney’s slightly stiff, matter-of-fact artwork improves the gags by understating them.[17]

Hughes's pseudonyms

Pictures of Hughes' Pseudonyms

Drawings of Richard E. Hughes' Pseudonyms
In Unknown Worlds (ACG 1960-1967),[22] story and art credits for the first 22 issues were accompanied by drawings of the contributors. Because almost all stories were written by the same writer, the pictures for the story credit were mostly fictitious.


  1. ^ Vance, Michael. "'Something...? A Study of Comics Pioneer Richard E. Hughes". Alter Ego (TwoMorrows Publishing): pp. 46-47.
  2. ^ a b Herbie and The Fat Fury at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived (Herbie and The Fat Fury) from the originals on December 14, 2012, and April 16, 2012, respectively.
  3. ^ a b Vance, Michael (1996). Forbidden Adventures: The History of the American Comics Group. Greenwood Press. p. 43. ISBN 0-313-29678-2.
  4. ^ a b Vance, Alter Ego, p. 47
  5. ^ a b c Vance, Forbidden, p. 44
  6. ^ Thrilling Comics #1 at the Grand Comics Database
  7. ^ a b c d e Richard Hughes and Richard E. Hughes at the Grand Comics Database
  8. ^ a b c d Vance, Forbidden, p. 45
  9. ^ Exciting Comics #9 at the Grand Comics Database
  10. ^ Vance, Alter Ego, p. 50
  11. ^ "Cookie" at the Grand Comics Database. "Notes: Titled "Cookie" on cover (including quotations)."
  12. ^ Vance, Forbidden, p. 49
  13. ^ "Full text of Forbidden Worlds 015". American Comics Group via Internet Archive. http://www.archive.org/stream/ForbiddenWorlds015/ForbiddenWorlds015-036_djvu.txt. Retrieved December 23, 2012.
  14. ^ "Full text of Cookie 029". American Comics Group via Internet Archive. http://www16.us.archive.org/stream/Cookie029/Cookie_29Cook2901_djvu.txt. Retrieved December 23, 2012.
  15. ^ a b c Vance, Forbidden, p. 50
  16. ^ Addenda to Bart, Peter (September 15, 1961). "Advertising: Dr. Toynbee Is Upset by Madison Avenue". The New York Times. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F40F12F8395F147A93C7A81782D85F458685F9. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  17. ^ Wolk, Douglas (December 5, 2008). "Holiday Books: Comics". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 15, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/books/review/Wolk-t.html. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Vance, Forbidden, p. 119
  19. ^ Vance, Forbidden, p. 54
  20. ^ Vance, Forbidden, p. 118
  21. ^ Vance, Forbidden, pp. 90, 119
  22. ^ Unknown Worlds at the Grand Comics Database

Really Hughes was a sort of another Stan Lee, albeit less successful and prone to a different sort of pretense, masking his work as the work of a variety of different men rather than taking credit for everything that was done in his line of comics. In Hughes' case, the idea seems to have been that it would sound more impressive to pretend that there were more writers at work than there really were. Some of the old pulp magazines used to publish different stories by the same author under different pen names, so it was something that had been done before.

It might not have been coincidental that one of Hughes' pen names was "Lee".  Like Stan Lee, Hughes sought to establish a rapport with readers through editorials and the letter column. "Lee" also was not Stan Lee's real last name. Stan's real last name was "Leiber", which is why his brother Larry was credited as "Leiber" when he worked on Marvel comics.

I remember it being said on the letters page of one of the ACG comics that some of their writers also wrote for television programs, the implication being that "they" had worked on something like THE TWILIGHT ZONE or ONE STEP BEYOND that bore some resemblance to the kind of material they had in their comic books. Evidently that was another fantasy, although the wikipedia entry does say that Hughes wrote television commercials.

Another issue had it that the writers of early issues, who had relied too much on gore and horror, were not really up to snuff and would not have been able to do the fine work that was featured in the current versions of their magazines. Unless this was a reference to people who were no longer writing for their comics, this sounds like another fantasy, as Hughes seems to have been their principal writer from the beginning. Still, there was something to be said for what he said. A number of people who had been working on comics in the pre-comics code era later complained about some of the excesses of the old horror comics, including Harvey Kurtzman. I myself prefer the comics code approved fantasy stories that the American Comics Group published to the older horror comics which some people seem to like. And they did seem to involve more ingenuity than merely piling up corpses.

The American Comics Group was somehow associated with DC comics, so it shouldn't be too surprising that Hughes also did some work for them. Kurt Schaffenberger, who was probably the best-known artist for ACG, is himself probably best known for drawing DC's Lois Lane.

 Richard Hughes appeared as one of the characters in this story from FORBIDDEN WORLDS #6, which was originally published in 1952. Re-
blogged from http://pappysgoldenage.blogspot.com/2012/12/number-1287-and-featuring-editor.html

 I thought the way Richard Hughes was drawn in this story bore some resemblance to some of the cartoon characters that were used to represent him under different pen names in the other comics.

American Comics Group - DC Comics History:

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