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BONANZA Dell FC #1110 (#1) cover.“BONANZA”

“Bonanza”, the second longest running western TV series, began September 12, 1959.

Dell, the biggest proponent of TV-based western comics, rode onto the Ponderosa in June/August ‘60 with Four Color #1110. However, another BONANZA issue didn’t hit newsstands until over a year later, FC #1221 for Sept./Nov. ‘61, just as “Bonanza” moved to Sunday night on TV. Why the year long wait between issues remains a mystery.

Dell maintained a quarterly publication schedule with FC 1283, and the oddly numbered 01-070-207 and 12-070-210 through Aug./Oct. ‘62 at which time Gold Key took over publishing BONANZA with 10036-212 (#1). Gold Key’s first four issues (through Sept./Nov. ‘63) were quarterly. With #5 (Dec./Jan. ‘63/‘64) publication switched to bi-monthly and remained so through #20
(June/July ‘66). #21-#37 were once again published quarterly—ending in Aug./Oct. ‘70 just as season 12 of “Bonanza” began. However, readers could see the end coming as issues #25 (Aug./Oct. ‘67) through #34 consisted of reprint material, often retouching the art to eliminate Adam from the original artwork, or sometimes adding a mustache to the original art and changing Adam’s name in the text balloons. This was of course due to the fact Adam (Pernell Roberts) left the TV series in ‘65. For more evidence of this chicanery, check the covers of FC 1283 and Gold Key #23 below. It’s the very same photo but Pernell Roberts is removed from the picture on the latter cover. Dell’s BONANZA reverted back to original stories as a last resort to save lagging sales with #35-#37.

Stories for most of BONANZA’s total 42 issue run were primarily written by the equally prolific Gaylord DuBois and Paul Newman. Much of the satisfactory but never stimulating artwork was by Tom Gill (1913-    ) and inked by Herb Trimpe (1939-    ).

Photo covers on all 42 issues with back cover photos as well on Gold Key 1-9 and 11.

The first Dell issue (FC 1110) will cost you about $90 in Fine with the other four Dells running about $50 each. Gold Key #1-#10 are around $25, #11-#20 $18 and the rest of the run (including the reprint/altered art issues) bringing about $15 each.

There was an obscure attempt at a BONANZA daily comic strip from Chronicle Features, the syndicate arm of the San Francisco CHRONICLE but little information about its apparently brief run was known until reader Tim Marsh tracked down the elusive strip’s artist, Chris Kenyon, who told Tim, “In 1966 I was hired by Lorne Greene to draw the ‘Bonanza’ adventure strip. However, since they had to pay me, Greene, NBC (who owned the rights to ‘Bonanza’) plus the writer—who rewrote a television script for me to have more action for each three to four panel daily strip, meant a lot of papers had to buy it! The idea for the strip was Greene’s and he wanted a big piece of the pie; so, it meant selling a lot of newspapers initially worldwide. Also, my wife didn’t like the idea. I was flying to the Paramount lot to take a lot of shots with my camera during the filming of the series to use as scrap shots. I always did well illustrating and she thought I would be working too hard on the strip at the expense of my regular work. (She was right on that.) Also, King Features and other syndicates who are much bigger than Chronicle Features should have handled it. But, Greene insisted since the Ponderosa Ranch setting was in Nevada by Lake Tahoe, and the Cartwrights rode down to San Francisco so much, that the Chronicle syndicate should handle it. (A good actor but not so hot at business.) Anyway, they had to sign up at least 140 newspapers to begin, and I understood they only used two salesmen! They were up to 90 or so, but found many newspapers in Europe, where ‘Bonanza’ was the #1 TV show, were waiting for that many U. S. sales before they would sign on. I could see this wouldn’t work for me, and after talking it over with Greene we called it off. They only printed a few large spiral bound folios of the strip, for the salesmen to take around. So it never appeared in newspapers.”

A prepared daily strip for BONANZA.


Covers to BONANZA Gold Key #2 and #8.

Covers to BONANZA Gold Key #15 and #17.

Covers to BONANZA Gold Key #21 and #32.

Covers to BONANZA Dell FC #1283 and Gold Key #23. Notice the same picture is used except on the Gold Key cover Pernell Roberts has been removed.