While looking for a comics cover for a sick alert, I realized that the heyday era of the doctor comic was definitely the early ’60s. Licensed comics were such a big deal then, especially for Dell/Western. They licensed just about anything. The BEN CASEY and Dr. KILDARE comics were based on popular TV shows of the time. Dr. KILDARE lasted about 9 issues, BEN CASEY 10, although it did spin off into a comic strip which was written and drawn by Neal Adams.
Doctor comics were, as we mentioned part of a larger licensing boom, and their main appeal seems to have been the opportunity to publish large images of impossibly dreamy actors Vince Edwards and Richard Chamberlain.
Led by visionary publisher Helen Meyer, Dell licensed just about anything in the ’50s and ’60s. like Westerns and comedians, leading to such immortal comics moments as this:
but lots of other stuff:
DC was also open to a wide range of comedy titles:
That even ran into the ’70s:
Dell’s spurt of TV comics in the early ’60s was due to need more than anything else: Western moved their best comics licenses, including Disney to its own Gold Key line of comics. It seems that Meyers was flailing about for a successful formula…one which Dell never found, phasing out its comics to remain in the immensely lucrative paperback and magazine businesses which it then dominated.
Anyway, these explorations into non-nerd-friendly licenses are a relic of a time long before the direct sales market. While today licensed comics remain as popular as ever—with such staples as Godzilla and PLANET OF THE APES making yet new appearances—they are very genre reliant.
Which is to say, you aren’t very likely to see anyone publishing Grey’s Anatomy or House comics any time soon.
Even if the doctors are still dreamy.
Of course none of them can compare to the dreamiest doctor of all times, Darkplace’s Dr. Lucien Sanchez:
And the greatest comics doctor of them all, Tezuka’s Black Jack:
Please note, these notes are fever-induced, and if the late Don Markstein were still around, I’m sure he could actually explain what I’m talking about with knowledge instead of just funny covers. The short version, however, is that nerd culture for comics won out.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.