Western Printing File copies, also known as Dell File copies, were sold as “The Random House Archives” by Heritage Comics in its Signature Auction #816 May 20, 2005 in New York City.
The auction included many bound volumes, some comics with no stamp markings, and others stamped “Office Copy,” “File Copy” or like my copy of Wild Bill Elliott Comics #7 (November 1951) “Return to: Editorial Department Western Printing & Litho. Co. Racine, Wisconsin.”
The corporate names Western, Dell and Random House are reflective of a complex business history, one that is well told by Mark Evanier on his blog “News From Me.” The short story is Dell Comics from 1938 to 1962 outsourced comic creation (artists, writing) and printing to Western Printing.
While Dell’s name is on the comic, it was only involved in the financial part of the operation. In fact, it was Western Printing that owned the publishing rights to the classic Disney, Warner Brothers and Walter Lantz characters (among other characters like Tarzan and Wild Bill Elliott). The Dell/Western partnership was a powerful combination. In 1953 they were the world’s largest comics publisher – owning a 37% share of the comic book market (selling 26 million of the 70 million comics printed each month).
Dell also had its own publishing company that produced a variety of magazines and books, while on the other hand Western had its own separate lines including March of Comics and Little Golden children’s books.
After 1962, Western Printing canceled its relationship with Dell and continued to publish the exact same characters under the name Gold Key and Whitman comics. Western Printing stopped publishing comics entirely in 1984, and by 1997 was absorbed into Golden Books Family Entertainment – which was acquired by Random House in a bankruptcy auction on August 16, 2001. On July 1, 2013, Random House merged with the Penguin Group, forming a new company called Penguin Random House.
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