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1922-05 Engraver
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1934-02 Thrill Western
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HAROLD C. DETJE

(1900-1963)

Harold Carl Detje was born November 12, 1900 in Portland, Oregon. His father, John Henry Julius Detje, was born in 1867 in Germany and came to America in 1883. His mother, Dorothea Jeanette Blum, was born in Wisconsin of Swiss ancestry. His parents married in 1899 and had four children, Harold (b.1900), Susan (b.1902), Dorothy (b.1907), and Richard (b.1909). The family lived at 685 Savier Street in Portland. The father was a butcher.

In June of 1914 Harold Detje completed the Eighth Grade of public school, after which he entered the work force. His first job was working for the local newspaper, The Oregon Exchange.

By 1916 he had joined the art department at the newspaper, where he drew designs and lettering for advertisements.

By the age of seventeen he had developed poor eyesight, which required him to wear glasses with heavy corrective lenses.

In 1918, during the Great War, Harold Carl Detje registered with his local draft board, where his poor eyesight made him unqualified for military service.

He continued to work on the art staff at The Oregon Exchange, and by 1920 he was listed in the Portland City Directory as a "commercial artist illustrator."

In 1922 The Oregon Journal published "Maddening Moments" by Harold Detje. The comic feature was copyrighted by the artist and ran for two years.

In 1926 Harold Detje left Oregon and moved to New York City, where he lived in a lodging house at 128 West 95th Street in Manhattan.

At Christmas time 1926 he sent a Holiday greeting to friends and family.

In 1927 he drew pen-and-ink story illustrations for the pulp magazine Clues. His work was also published in Danger Trail and All-Star Detective. All three of these magazines were produced by Clayton Publications.

On March 22, 1929 Harold Detje's father, John Henry Julius Detje, died at the age of sixty-one in Oregon.

On September 22, 1930 The Long Island City Star Journal reported that Harold Detje had rented a new apartment at 45-35 Forty-seventh Street in Queens.

On July 13, 1931 Harold Carl Detje married Selma Helen Berliner in Brooklyn Civil Court. She was born in 1906 on New York, and had graduated from the eighth grade. She worked as a bookkeeper at the Associated Press Wire News Service. The married couple moved to 82-01 Button Avenue in Queens, NY.

In 1931 the Associated Press began to carry the comic feature "Be Scientific With Ol' Doc Dabble" by Harold Detje. The panel gag cartoon continued for four years.

In December of 1931 the premiere issue of Thrilling Detective, published by Ned Pines, included a special two-page feature "Famous Crimes" drawn by Stookie Allen (1903-1971). That same artist also drew "Famous Soldiers of Fortune" for Thrilling Adventures. After six issues Stookie Allen was replaced by Terry Gilkison, who continued to draw "Famous Crimes"and "Famous Soldiers of Fortune" for the next six years. Terry Gilkison also drew "Thrills in Sports" for Thrilling Sports and "Wonders of the West" for Thrilling Western. All of these features imitated the format of the sensationally popular newspaper comic feature "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" by Robert Leroy Ripley (1890-1949), although Thrilling's comic pages were concerned with sports, crimes, and adventurers. The decision of Ned Pines to include these two-page features of original comic material started a trend in pulp magazines that influenced other publishers, such as Harry Donenfeld, Louis Silberkleit, Martin Goodman, and Street & Smith to also include comic adventures in their pulps. This innovation lead those pulp publishers to invent comic books that contained all original materials, which eventually changed the course of American publishing.

In 1932 Harold Detje drew pen-and-ink story illustrations for Thrilling Adventures and Thrilling Detective, but he drew his first multiple-page comic strip adventure for the first issue of Thrilling Western, which was dated February 1934. This pulp included a five-page "Adventure in Pictures" of "Billy The Kid" drawn by Harold C. Detje. Every page contained four sequential panels, and below each panel was a short explanatory paragraph. There were no dialogue balloons. This "Adventure in Pictures" was published one year before Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's New Fun Comics, which is renowned as the first American comic book that contained original material, instead of using reprinted newspaper comic strips. It is worth noting that these five-page "Adventures in Pictures" by Harold Detje were original material, but on top of that, the format was also innovative, since most newspaper comic strips and Sunday funnies did not produce comic stories that were five-pages long.

Detje's feature continued in the next five issues of Thrilling Western, and the subject in each issue was another famous Western character, Jesse James, Pat Garrett, and the Apache Kid. However, in the seventh issue of Thrilling Western, dated November 1934, the "Adventure in Pictures" was reduced to three pages, and instead of a famous outlaw, the subject was a new fictional hero, "Six-Gun Sandy." This character continued to appear in all issues of Thrilling Western for the next three years. Every episode of this early graphic novel was written and drawn by Harold Detje.

This innovation must have seemed successful to Ned Pines, because the same format was repeated when he introduced a new pulp magazine, Thrilling Ranch Stories, in November of 1933. The third issue of that new pulp included a three-page comic section with a story about "Annie Oakley." The next two issues had "Adventures in Pictures" about Calamity Jane and Belle Starr, and then in the sixth issue, dated October 1934, the subject was a new fictional character, "Sage-Brush Sally." She went on to appear in each issue of Thrilling Ranch Stories for the next three years. Again, these comic pages were all written and drawn by Harold Detje.

Ned Pines went on to include similar two-page, and three-page, comic features in his other pulps. In 1936 Thrilling Adventures included "Ace Jordan" by Bob McKay, the pen-name of Max Plaisted. That artist also drew "Public Enemies" for G-Men Magazine, and "Zarnak" for Thrilling Wonder, which also included "IF" by Jack Binder. Marcia Snyder drew "Modes and Manners" for Thrilling Love.

The first issue of The Comics from Dell Publications was dated March 1937. It included "The Arizona Kid," "The Shooting Sheriff," and "The Lone Marshal," all of which were unsigned, but appear to have been drawn by Harold Detje. These western themed features continued to appear in The Comics in the next five issues.

The freelance career of Harold Detje drawing for pulps and comic books ended in 1938 when he joined the art staff of the Associated Press News Wire Service, where he specialized in drawing maps.

On April 18, 1939 the Associated Press published a story about Harold Detje, which appeared in nationwide newspapers.

In 1940 he joined the art staff of PM, a sophisticated magazine concerning the related industries of graphics, printing, and publishing. His specialty of drawing maps became a vital aspect of reporting on the progress of World War II. Other artists who contributed to PM included David H. Moneypenny and Rolande Patenaude.

In 1942 he again registered with the selective service, although he was still disqualified for poor eyesight.

On May 23, 1943 PM Magazine announced that Harold Detje had been awarded a prize for excellence in map making by the National Headliners Club.

On February 16, 1944 Harold Detje's mother, Dorothea Jeanette (Blum) Detje, died at the age of seventy-one in Oregon.

In 1945 The Magazine of Sigma-Chi included a photograph of Milton Caniff posing with Mr. & Mrs. Harold Detje.

In 1945 Harold Detje joined the art staff of Magazine Digest, which was published by Farrell Publications in competition with Reader's Digest.

In 1946 the artist illustrated "An Intelligent American's Guide To Peace" by Sumner Welles for Dryden Press.

In 1948 Rutgers University Press hired Harold Detje to illustrate the historical "Gettysburg" by Earl Schenck and Richard A. Brown.

During the 1950s the artist and his wife lived at 139-29 Pershing Crescent in Jamaica, Queens.

The artist continued to work as a newspaper staff artist for the rest of his life.

Harold Carl Detje died in New York City on November 11, 1967, which was one day before his sixty-seventh birthday.

                   © David Saunders 2017

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