About the Major

In the mid-1930′s, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson created what has become one of the most enduring icons of modern American culture–the comic book featuring original scripts and artwork. Much of what has since been written about “the Major,” as he was called, has been based largely on hearsay and what we might call creative caricature, with a small amount of factual knowledge thrown into the mix.

Before the Major came along, such “comic books” as existed were nothing more than reprints from the daily newspapers. This changed in 1934 when the Major began publishing his innovative comic books, Fun Comics and New Fun Comics, which featured original artwork and stories. What could possibly motivate someone to launch an untested new idea at the height of the Great Depression when a staggering 25 per cent of the American populace was out of work, and furthermore to do so in a new and unfamiliar medium–comic books–that had yet to reveal its potential? It was an enormous risk, and it would take its toll on the Major and his family.

The Major’s inspiration to create the modern comic book was the result of the combination of a unique moment in history, his own natural gifts as a successful writer of adventure stories, his education and unconventional background, his early military exploits and his marriage to his aristocratic Swedish wife who encouraged and inspired him. All of these elements would come together in a fateful “aha!” moment. And just as the Major was lighting the spark, fate appeared in the form of a crude drawing of a male figure on brown paper, signed by two young men from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The drawing was the first appearance of a character who would go on to become one of the great fictional creations of the 20th century: Superman.

This was just one of the events that made up the life of this visionary man who was also one of the most popular pulp adventure writers of his day, started several publishing concerns including DC Comics, had a distinguished military career, wrote books and hundreds of articles on military strategy and politics and in the last years of his life taught himself basic chemistry and developed several patents for industrial applications that are in use today. Born in 1890 in Greeneville, Tennesse, MWN died in 1965 on Long Island, NY. “The Major” had a truly adventurous life.

In 2008 Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson was awarded an Eisner for his contributions to the comic book industry and inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame.

In 2011 he was inducted into The Overstreet Hall of Fame in Robert Overstreet’s 41st Guide to Comic Books.

© 2008-2017 Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson

10 Responses to About the Major

  1. Nicky: this is absolutely fascinating. I cannot wait to read the complete biography.

  2. Matt Dyer says:

    Thanks for this information on one of the founders of the art form I love! And great to know that you’re friends with Jason Goodman, I always loved Atlas comics for their of centre creativity (as well as Marvel, DC, Charlton and the rest) and I’m thrilled just as I was at 15 to see Atlas back on sale

    • Nicky Brown says:

      Thanks Matt, I appreciate your interest. And I’m a big fan of Jason’s. He has the same visionary concepts of the best of the comic book pioneers!

  3. Zetta Brown says:

    Nicky, you are a woman on a mission! I’m so glad you’re doing this because I love comics and all of this is new info to me :)

  4. Nicky Brown says:

    Hey thanks, Mz Zetta,
    Coming from you that is high praise, indeed. It’s been an uphill battle in some ways but things finally seem to be coming together! I get a lot of support from the wonderful guys in comics and pulps and a few ladies as well. I’m very proud of my grandfather’s accomplishments and I have a great time promoting him and his work!

  5. Robin Bollinger says:

    Hi Nicky,

    The mother of my children is Kim Harley. She is Antoinette’s daughter. I adored Mac. He was like a father to me. We spent many wonderful hours, days, times with him in Cold Spring Harbour, and with his brother Douglas in Syosette. I know Mac has passed. Toni passed last year. Is Doug still alive. Finn? How about Marie?

    I look forward to your reply.

    Warm Regards,

    Robin Bollinger : rjbollinger@gmail.com 510.220.0274

  6. Allen Shock says:

    I have in front of me a copy of Adventure dated February 1st, the interior date is 1932. It has your grandfather’s name on the front :) The table of contents list a story called The Criminal. I don’t know if it’s all there – there are some pages missing and the back cover is gone- but I’m glad I own it, and glad to learn more about the man who essentially created my lifelong hobby of comic books. Thank you!

  7. Nicky Brown says:

    Hi Allen, Sorry to be so slow in replying but we’ve been in the process of revamping the website and the blog and there are still a few glitches! Funny coincidence I was just reading “The Criminal” for the first time this past month. I love this story. It’s not the standard format for many of the Major’s stories about the West. I like the twist and that it is written from the doctor’s point of view. Be sure and check out the website which has been updated and seems to be working these days!

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