Comic books had appeared long before 1922, but that was the year a comic book appeared on a regular periodic schedule as the appropriately named Comic Monthly began to be published on a monthly basis, with the first issue cover dated January 1922.
In January of 1922 Comics Monthly #1 appeared on the newsstands for 10 cents. Inside this issue were 1921 reprints of a successful comic strip called Polly and her Pals by Cliff Sterrett. The strip was printed in black and white, but the cover was done in two colors (red and black). The book was 8 ½ by 9 (or 10) and was 24 pages [emphasis added]. Each issue would focus on another successful comic strip. The publisher was also the distributor Embee Distribution Company of New York City. The company was owned by George McManus who did the Bringing up Father comic strip and Rudolph Block Jr. (Em for McManus, bee for Block.) Rudolph was also the editor of the magazine. The comic strips were from the King Features and Hearst Syndicate, the latter Rudolph had a family connection to. His father was the Comics editor for Hearst newspapers The New York Journal and The American. He was involved in developing some of the earliest newspaper comic strips, particularly The Katzenjammer Kids. Other strips to appear in Comics Monthly would be Rube Goldberg’s Mike and Ike and Foolish Questions, Billy DeBeck’s Barney Google, Spark Plug and New Bughouse Fables, James Swimmerton’s Little Jimmy, Russ Westover’s Tillie the Toiler, Jimmy Murphy’s Toots and Casper, and C. M. Payne’s S’Matter Pops? The series would only last 12 issues, ending in December of 1922.
The first periodical comic arrives in January 1922. The Comic Monthly was roughly square, like the post-1919 Cupples & Leon titles, but it sought inroads into venues unavailable to earlier comic books: “newsstands, railroad trains, book stores, toy stores, department stores, hotels, drug stores, everywhere” (see the inside cover of issue 6 of Comic Monthly, 1922). As the inside cover of #2 suggests, “Tell your newsdealer now that you want one. You will want the whole collection and it will be impossible to secure back numbers” (see the inside back cover in issue 2 of Comic Monthly, 1922). By issue #6, it was clear the venture was struggling, as the annual subscription price was lowered to $1. The series ended with issue #12. But this first newsstand comic forged the bridge between the first comic books of the century and the development of the modern comic book a decade later.
In addition to adopting the square format from the popular Cupples & Leon series, Comic Monthly printed a trompe l’oeil tape around its spine to imitate the binding of the earlier comic books. Periodical and saddle-stitched [emphasis added], the Comic Monthly looks at last like a modern comic book, but the magazine’s editors sought to maintain connections to their nonperiodical predecessors. If the “comic books” of the nineteenth century sought to capture in a lasting format the periodical energies of the first comic magazines, the first periodical comic of the twentieth century sought to transfer back to periodical form the pleasures and rewards of the new comic books.
The 8½ by 9 inch height and width would be the size of modern day Garfield paperbacks, though the Comic Monthly comic books were only 24 pages long and carried only one daily comic strip per page. All comic strips came from the Hearst stable.
The issues were distributed the month before the cover date
as this December 18, 1921 advertising announcement shows:
Embee Distributing Co., 1922 Series
Publication Dates: January 1922 – [December] 1922
Number of Issues Published: 12 (#1 – #12)
Color: color cover; black & white interior
Dimensions: 8 1/2″ x 9″
Paper Stock: newsprint interior ?
Publishing Format: was ongoing series
The Grand Comic Database entry also notes:
Embee went bankrupt in September 1922 and issues #8-12 were apparently never distributed. Information from “The American Comic Book: The Evolutionary Era, 1884-1939” by Denis Gifford.
Which corresponds with advertisements/notices about the comic books dropping off drastically in the papers found in newspapers.com. The last being this notice in the December 7, 1922 issue of The Honolulu Advertiser promoting the October issue: