1940 Leader Novelty : Superman Candy & Surprise


Created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, Superman debuted on newsstands in April 1938. In October 1939, Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz established Superman, Inc. to market the property outside of comic books and newspaper strips. Within a year, there were over 21 authorized Superman licenses, a radio show, and a cartoon deal.

In the spring of 1940, the Leader Novelty Candy Co., Inc. released a 36-card set affixed to the backs of Superman Candy & Surprise toy boxes. The red panels are the first Superman cards to be released, preceding the Superman Gum set from Bowman's Gum, Inc. The American Card Catalog reference is R146.
1940 Leader Novelty - Superman Candy and Surprise
Each one-cent box detaches into a picture card and a "Valuable Superman Premium Coupon." The perforated panels are approximately 2.375 x 3 inches, smaller than a standard trading card. Counter displays contain 80 boxes. The box art uses the telescoping logo from the cover of Superman #1 by Leo O’Mealia and Joe Shuster. The Superman logo was later refined by Ira Schnapp around June of 1940. The iconic image of Superman breaking chains is similar to the final story panel of Action Comics #1.
1940 Leader Novelty - Valuable Superman Premium Coupon

All images for cards 1-24 were published in Superman #5, on sale May 10, 1940. Card #16 also appears in the frontispiece for Superman #7. The comic book stories written by Jerry Siegel were changed for the card series. The author of the card text is currently unconfirmed. The artwork was produced by the early Joe Shuster Shop with Paul Cassidy handling much of the workload. The issue also features the debut of artist Wayne Boring on the Superman title. Boring began as a Shuster ghost by mail in 1938 and contributed to Superman features in Action Comics throughout 1939.
1940 Leader Novelty Superman - 6 - Fumes of Doom1940 Leader Novelty Superman - 16 - The Trap
Illustrations used for cards 1-24 were also printed in The Adventures of Superman 1940 board game produced by Milton Bradley and the Superman Paint Set from American Toy Works. Five of the panels appear on display boxes of Superman in Movie Style Ciné Vue film strips released by Acme Plastics.
1940 Leader Novelty Superman - 5 - A Lesson for Crooks1940 Leader Novelty Superman - 21 - Snatched from Death
The last twelve cards received a shorter print run. Cards 25-36 feature art and text that later appeared in the Superman Gum series illustrated by Fred Ray. The story text used for card #33 contains the first appearance of the name "Kal-el" [sic]. The same image and text was printed on card #1 in the Superman Gum set.
1940 Leader Novelty - Superman Candy and Surprise - 33

Comic book advertisements for Superman Gum appeared in Superman #8, on sale November 8, 1940, and Action Comics #32, on sale November 22, 1940. Leader Novelty was listed as an official sponsor of the Macy's "Superman Adventure" in November 1940, but the company logo is absent from solicitations that December.

Examples have been observed with blank backs or with numbering and text printed on the inside flap. Some panels are printed in black, blue, and red ink; others are only black and red. Early printings of cards 1-24 contain text on the back that is vertically oriented with no branding or copyright. The text uses the same font as the Superman Gum series.
1940 Leader Novelty Superman - 6 - Fumes of Doom (Vertical Back)
Later printings contain horizontally oriented text with the Superman, Inc. chains logo. The layout and font is the same as the Superman Junior Defense League bread cards and Superman Paint Set. The reverse of each card in the later printings state, "This is one of a series of 48 exciting adventures of Superman," but only 36 have been catalogued.
1940 Leader Novelty Superman - 6 - Fumes of Doom (Horizontal Back)

Leader Novelty Candy Co., Inc. was incorporated in Manhattan in April 1921. The company would later do business in Brooklyn as Leader Candies, Inc. and Kastin's Candy. Numerous candy and toy brands operated from Brooklyn lofts during this time period churning out products with similar contents and packaging. The first known card set distributed by Leader is a rare Baseball Stars series from 1929.

1940 Leader Novelty : Superman Candy & Surprise - Counter Display Box
The image of Superman is reversed on the counter display.

The checklist consists of 36 base cards and a Premium Coupon.

1940 Leader Novelty : Superman Candy & Surprise
1 Through the Flames Campaign Against the Planet Paul Cassidy
2 Smashing the Gangsters Campaign Against the Planet Paul Cassidy
3 The Race in the Sky World's Greatest Adventure Character Joe Shuster, Wayne Boring
4 The Armored Car Holdup Luthor's Incense Menace Joe Shuster, Wayne Boring
5 A Lesson for Crooks Campaign Against the Planet Paul Cassidy
6 Fumes of Doom The Slot Machine Racket Paul Cassidy, Wayne Boring, Paul Lauretta
7 Saving the Workmen The Wonder Drug Racket Paul Cassidy
8 Breaking the Racket The Slot Machine Racket Paul Cassidy, Wayne Boring, Paul Lauretta
9 Rescue of the Mayor Campaign Against the Planet Paul Cassidy
10 Human Tenpins Campaign Against the Planet Paul Cassidy
11 The Toppling Smokestack The Wonder Drug Racket Paul Cassidy
12 Peril in the Air Luthor's Incense Menace Joe Shuster, Wayne Boring
13 The Bank Robbery The Wonder Drug Racket Paul Cassidy
14 The Yellow Mask Luthor's Incense Menace Joe Shuster, Wayne Boring
15 The Bursting Bomb The Slot Machine Racket Paul Cassidy
16 The Trap Luthor's Incense Menace Joe Shuster, Wayne Boring
17 Millions in Gold Campaign Against the Planet Paul Cassidy
18 The Fight for Peace Luthor's Incense Menace Joe Shuster, Wayne Boring
19 The Shattered Press The Wonder Drug Racket Paul Cassidy
20 Through Granite Walls The Wonder Drug Racket Paul Cassidy
21 Snatched from Death The Slot Machine Racket Paul Cassidy, Wayne Boring, Paul Lauretta
22 Twisted Steel The Slot Machine Racket Paul Cassidy
23 A Shot in the Night The Wonder Drug Racket Paul Cassidy
24 Cracked Skulls Luthor's Incense Menace Joe Shuster, Wayne Boring
25 Fight in Mid-Air Fred Ray
26 Trapped in the Glacier Fred Ray
27 Trapped in the Air Fred Ray
28 Capture of the Kidnapers Fred Ray
29 The Averted Train Wreck Fred Ray
30 Roller Coaster Rescue Fred Ray
31 Superman at the Circus Fred Ray
32 Disaster at the Circus Fred Ray
33 Superman Fred Ray
34 Attacked by Sharks Fred Ray
35 The Runaway Ship Fred Ray
36 Mountain Tragedy Fred Ray
Valuable Superman Premium Coupon Joe Shuster



The history of Leader Novelty Candy, Co. includes legal troubles. In 1924, the Boy Scouts of America listed Leader's "Scout Leader" candy for unauthorized use of a Boy Scout title. In 1936, the Federal Trade Commission brought charges against Leader Novelty for "unfair methods of competition in commerce." The court decision states that the company misrepresented itself as a candy manufacturer in order to deceive dealers. Leader controlled "business stationary, billheads, invoices, catalogues, labels, and other trade literature."

From the 1940s to the 1960s, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station conducted multiple studies that found products from Leader were misbranded. In 1944, federal injunction proceedings were brought against Leader, Novel Package Corporation, and 10 other Brooklyn candy concerns. Complaints included gouging the consumer, lowering the quality of candy, failing to keep proper financial records, and unsanitary manufacturing conditions. The Office of Public Affairs reported that candy molds from established firms were altered and rebranded as a more expensive product. Some candy products were being manufactured alongside straw brooms in an open loft. OPA investigators witnessed perspiring workers stirring candy mixture by hand.

On November 15, 1971, Leader was charged by the Eastern District of Michigan for shipping candies that "contained dirt, human hair, and rodent filth." In 1974, company officials were fined $500 by the U.S. District Court of Brooklyn "for manufacturing candy under insanitary conditions and shipping adulterated candy in interstate commerce." The Boy Scouts were again involved after receiving a contaminated batch of candy.

After almost 80 years of operation, Leader and Kastin's were purchased by Sherwood Brands and "dissolved" on June 25, 2003.



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