L.B. Cole, American (1918 - 1995)

Before entering the comic book industry, Cole worked as art director in the lithography industry. His comic book career started in the early 1940s, mainly as a cover artist for titles such as Suspense Comics and Contact Comics. Some of his boldest covers featured what he referred to as "poster colors", the use of primary colors, often over black backgrounds. Examples include the covers to Mask Comics #1, Mask Comics #2, Contact Comics #12 and Captain Flight #11.

Over the course of his career Cole created work in a number of genres, including science fiction, romance, horror, adventure, mystery, sports and humor. An avid science fiction fan, Cole was known for slipping in sci-fi elements even when they weren't appropriate. Cited examples are rocket ships and ray guns appearing on the covers of Captain Flight Comics and Contact Comics. Both titles were supposed to be devoted to contemporary aviation.

L.B. Cole gained further recognition when comic fandom grew in the late 1960s and through the 1970s. In 1981, he created a new painting that was featured on the cover of the 11th edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. During this same time, he began selling re-creations of his classic covers, which were available in three different sizes (1x, 1.5x and 2x).

In the early 1990s, Ernie Gerber published his two-volume Photo Journal Guide To Comic Books which featured on its covers a number of Cole's covers. As a result, the demand for Cole's work increased dramatically.

One of the earliest comic book private detectives to appear after the fading of the superheroes was Young King Cole, who debuted in his own title with a cover date of Fall, 1945. The publisher was Novelty Press, aka Premier Group, which also did Blue Bolt, Sgt. Spook and more. Other detectives appeared in his back pages, including Toni Gayle, who doubled as a glamorous model; Doctor Doom, a professor of criminology; and Larry Broderick, a police detective.

King was a "junior", meaning he wasn't even the first in his family with the same name as the famous nursery rhyme character. His father, "Old" King Cole, was enough of a supporting character to justify the "Young" part of the comic's name. Another regular supporting character was his secretary, Iris, the "girl Friday" without whom no detective series would be complete.

In the spectrum of fictional detectives, King leaned more toward the Rip Kirby end rather than that of Johnny Dynamite. That is, he did more brain work in tracking down his quarry, as opposed to concentrating on violent brawls. Not that it wasn't occasionally necessary for him to do some physical fighting, which he was good at, but he tended not to get his suit wrinkled too often.

After 23 issues, with Crime Does Not Pay and its host of imitators becoming a large part of the comics industry, the Young King Cole title was changed to the more generic-sounding Criminals on the Run. The first issue with the new title was dated September, 1948. Unlike the typical crime comic of the time, it continued to feature its series, rather than stories about the criminals themselves, who would always get killed in the end. But that changed in 1950, when the title became Crime-Fighting Detective, and King's stories appeared only in a couple of issues. By '52, when it became Shock Detective Cases, he'd been dropped completely.

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