Lucy Thomas was a woman author and columnist in the heavily male-dominated comics industry of the 1950s. Born on June 19, 1920, in New Jersey, Lucy Thomas later resided in Colorado in the 1950s where she was heavily involved in her local church and volunteered for the Red Cross during World War II. She documented stories while volunteering abroad though freelance writing but was primarily employed by comic book writers Charlie Brio and Bob Wood and by extension, their comic book publisher Lev Gleason.
Thomas ran an advice column called Lucy Thomas Tells, which was geared towards giving romantic advice as filler in romance comics, which she also helped author. “How to Get Your Man,” “Great Lovers of History,” and “What Gifts Should a Girl Accept?” are some of her column headlines.
In addition to dispensing advice to the lovelorn, Thomas authored features for comics geared towards boys, though it was unclear why she was not credited as the author. The features were “type” (filler stories), approximately two pages in length that separated the two main stories of the comic. Both the comics and the features were held liable by the Comics Code, which was issued in 1954 and comics adhered to it in order to be a respectable publication. Comic book publishers did not necessarily have to adhere to the code as it was voluntary, but Lev Gleason worked to ensure that his comics did.
The cover of each comic published by Gleason has a sign: a star with a rectangle, both with text on the top point, to show that the comics were adhering to the code and were safe for children to read, and that they would not be a bad influence on the child’s psyche. Comics like Daredevil, Black Diamond, Uncle Charlie’s Fables, Crime Does Not Pay, and Boy all attempted to promote positive behavior as dictated by the Comics Code, and discourage delinquent activity such as vandalism, petty theft, loitering, and other crimes. The code also discouraged explicit gore, extreme violence, or depicting authority figures such as the military, police, or government as corrupt.
The Comics Code was also used to promote traditionally American ideals, such as being anti-communist and anti-Nazi, as seen in Crime Does Not Pay and Daredevil, and to promote American exceptionalism, which can be seen in Black Diamond and Boy. While she did not pen the main stories of the comics, Thomas followed similar guidelines in her features. Both the comics and the features slip in subtle promotions of “ideal” behavior in children regarding how they should behave in school, with their parents, and with other authority figures. Brio-Wood did not have to alter their story lines to any major extent to adhere to it.
Lucy Thomas, while an established and accomplished short story author, still encountered problems navigating the comic publishing world. She received credit for authoring her advice column, and for co-authoring romance comics written for young women, such as Boy Meets Girl and Lover’s Lane. Her features that appeared in comics meant for young boys, however, did not acknowledge her as the author. She also experienced multiple problems regarding payment for her stories, as well as the use of her. This also happened to another female writer on the Brio-Wood payroll.
The problems regarding the use of Thomas’ name arose due to a shift in management and editorial staff, which she and her co-author Ada Nevill strongly disagreed with. The problem arose after Brio-Wood and Lev Gleason Publications partnered to continue to publish stories. Brio-Wood, who were Thomas’ initial editors, were the editors in name only. The actual editor of the advice columns, stories, and features was Henry Lieferant, an employee of Gleason. After the merge, Nevill removed herself from writing for the magazine, but Gleason continued to use her name. Thomas took over her work, which increased sales for both Boy Meets Girl and for Nevill’s comic, Lover’s Lane. This increase in sales incentivized Lev Gleason Publications to move the comics to a monthly release. Because Thomas had taken over Nevill’s work, both her and Lieferant’s work doubled.
Lieferant and Thomas did not get along, which only increased tensions as fan mail and advice letters were being signed as “Ada Nevill” or “Lucy Thomas” without the knowledge of either woman. According to Thomas’ correspondence, the editorial staff was switched to Lev Gleason without their knowledge as well. More problems arose when Gleason was accused by the New York World-Telegram for aligning with communists in 1950. This suspicion was reinforced by the fact he had been a member of the party in the 1930s, and that he was a member of an anti-fascist league.
Thomas was concerned that she would be associated with a publisher who promoted communist ideals to children, and that her name would be slandered thereafter. She was also displeased with the use of Nevill’s name over her own, as Nevill had larger impact on Lover’s Lane as an author than Thomas did on Boy Meets Girl. Adding to the issues was that Lucy Thomas was in habit of using her given name when authoring comics while ‘Ada Nevill’ was a pen name, thus protecting the real author – Ada Fisher. Thus, Fisher, would have relatively more protection if Lev Gleason was accused of promoting communism.
Thomas did eventually relent in January 1950 and gave Lev Gleason permission to use her name and likeness, even in the event that Brio-Wood withdrew their own permissions. Thomas moved to Denver from New York City in 1952 following her marriage to J. Clark Blickensderfer, where she became involved in local opera and symphony clubs.
She still wrote filler stories for comics following her move to Denver, electing to mail them to the publisher rather than work in the office. To learn more about Lucy Thomas and her work, see the Lucy Thomas Blickensderfer papers at the American Heritage Center.
Post contributed by AHC Archives Aide Jade Vandel.