Back in the dark ages, when comic books were a threat to America’s youth and not a multibillion-dollar multimedia merchandising empire, children (because comics were for children back then) kept their copies of Ghostly Weird Stories and Exciting War in shoeboxes under the bed, if at all. As a result, few copies of these obscure Golden Age titles have survived into the present day.
Luckily, the Digital Comic Museum has a mission to preserve these lost pieces of pop-culture history, scanning and archiving over 15,000 comics published before 1959. Even better, anyone can now download these comics from its website. Here’s the catch: Everything in the Digital Comic Museum’s collection has to be copyright free and in the public domain. That means no Disney, no Marvel, and no DC.
Still, there’s plenty to explore among the Digital Comic Museum’s large collections of Western, romance, crime, war and fantasy comics. (Fans of Tales from the Crypt will be especially interested in their collection of gruesome “pre-Code” horror comics). Many of the titles have a decidedly Cold War slant, like the issue of Atomic Attack that invites readers to “See how the war of 1972 will be fought! The war that YOU, yourself, might have to take part in!”. On the lighter side of the Atomic Age, there’s also Atom the Cat, Atomic Mouse, Atomic Rabbit and Atomic Bunny, all published by the Charlton Comics Group (perhaps best known for their originally intended use in Alan Moore’s Watchmen). Registration is free at the Digital Comic Museum website, and there’s no limit on the number of titles users can download.