Sentinel Comics: the untold story

since some listeners do not recognize Guy Hampton or Sk8blyd I figured we should repost the old Videos that came out during the Kickstarter.
RIP Darren Watts

Sentinel Comics: The Untold Story Part 1 - YouTube

Sentinel Comics: The Untold Story Part 2 - YouTube

Sentinel Comics: The Untold Story Part 3 - YouTube

Sentinel Comics: The Untold Story Part 4 - YouTube

Sentinel Comics: The Untold Story Part 5 - YouTube


And for those who prefer reading to listening, I did not have time for a proper transcript, but here is a short summary of each video. But you should look at them! There is more detail in there than I listed.

Part One (1920-1942)

Sentinel Comics was founded in St. Louis in the 1920s during Prohibition by the Cataneo Mob family. Dominic Cateneo, the head of the family, welcomed Roberto Tucci into the family when he married Cateneo’s daughter in 1936; Bob was placed in charge of the newstands to keep him out of trouble, and ended up in charge of a pulp magazine, which he turned into a comic publisher. So suddenly the mob was in charge of a comics company!

Early Sentinel Comics titles were based on the publishers’ former pulp magazines, and succeeded through a mixture of modest success and money laundering. While expanding into crime stories, one writer submitted a superhero, “Legacy”. Legacy was not the first superhero - apparently GR Comics had opened the door with “Centurion”, and another compnay had “Optimus”. But Legacy was different, being a soldier and not a vigilante, with no formal secret identity (although his civilian identity half stood in.) Justice Comics became a huge success, and the Cataneos helped get a Legacy serial off the ground, leading to even more popularity (and a villain, Admiral Zhan, that I’ve never heard of before!) There is some absolutely amazing fake footage from this serial if you want to check it out.

Part Two (1942-1954)

During World War II, Sentinel Comics lost a bunch of people to drafting, including the creator of Legacy, Harvey Brooks. While at war, Brooks served with a Maori detachment from New Zealand, leading to the creation of Haka post-war. Post-war, superhero title sales were falling off, and the new titles were true crime and horror, leading to the creation of Criminal Element, Shudder, Mystery Comics, Arcane Tales, and Tome of the Bizarre.

Then Senator F. Morton Selinker started a campaign against comic books and other objectionable “children’s materials”. After a series of open feuds between Selinker and Tucci, committees were formed in the mid-50s, culminating in Bob Tucci being called to testify in 1954. At that meeting, Selinker confronted Tucci with the knowledge that Sentinel Comics was literally owned by the mob.

Part Three (1947-1968)

This one actually starts in 1954 despite the title screen. After the disastrous 1954 hearings, the Cataneos sold the company to avoid government scrutiny. The new buyer, “Sir” Douglas St. John-Dewberry, was a publisher and UFO enthusiast who pretended to be British and a lord, and who appointed a veteran editor to oversee things. The new editor ended the crime and horror lines, turning Mystery Comics into the Wraith’s playground and turning the horror lines into superhero stories. The Wraith in particular proved amazingly popular, leading to a 1965 TV show.

These timelines don’t line up with the current listed first appearances of several characters; the video says that Haka, Scholar, and Black Fist are all post-sale creations, as was the creation of the Freedom Four comic. That doesn’t quite work timeline-wise; those heroes were introduced between 1948 and 1952, and Freedom Four started in 1950. History of Sentinel Comics will likely address this.

Part Four (1968-1989)

During the 60s and 70s, Sentinel Comics grew into one of the top four comics publishers. Popular new characters like Nightmist, Ra, Tempest, Captain Cosmic, Argent Adept, and Fanatic became popular stalwarts. (Once again, there is a minor timeline issue here, as Ra was a Golden Age hero.) In the early 1980s, Tome of the Bizarre began doing horror again, and popular writer Guy Hampton (who is definitely not Alan Moore) invented Man-Grove as a dark and gritty title. Hampton ultimately created a religion based around his belief in his magical powers and a badger puppet that he declared was his god. Hampton ultimately left Sentinel Comics after threatening to blow up his editor.

In 1985, Sentinel Comics was sold to a foreign industrial company who then sold it for quite a bit more in 1989 to billionaire industrialist Owen Timothy, who planned to take it public in the early 1990s.

Part Five (1990-2019)

In the early 90s, Sentinel Comics was in a collector’s boom. They did variant covers, crossovers, and created a number of “hot characters with guns”, including the notoriously unpopular hero Sk8Blayd. Ultimately, the company set up a poll on whether he would live or die; he lost the vote and died in the pages of Rook City Renegades.

Another note! Sk8 has been since clarified to have been created in 1986 and died in 1991 in Rook City Renegades #100, pushing this fictional event much closer to the real event it’s based on, and removing Sk8Blayd entirely from the early 90s boom that he was meta-fictionally created to be a part of. Ironic.

In the mid-90s, the market began to struggle, and Sentinel Comics declared bankruptcy in 1996. In the aftermath, investors formed Greater Than Industries, led by Christopher Badell and Adam Rebattaro (lolol), creators of some of the company’s recent popular titles, and took over Sentinel Comics, pulling it out of financial ruin over the course of several years. Sentinel Comics recovered and developed animated TV and movies, plus merchandising opportunities. This culminated in the grand company-wide OblivAeon storyline, which finally pushed Sentinel Comics to the number one company in the world.


Instead of the Adam West Batman the Sentinels Publishing universe had a campy The Wraith show staring Barbera Feldon.

Sentinel publishing Christopher and Adam were the team on Baptism by Fire, War of Heliopolis, Horace of Two Horizons.

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The faux TV show in one of the Untold Story episodes was unironically the best.

Honestly the whole thing is great; it should be pimped more, it has far too few views for how hilarious and fun it is.

And I’ve always been vaguely amused ever since we found out that out of all the canon ships in the 'verse, it’s specifically Ra and Fanatic that’s C&A’s fave. (As they also mentioned in one of the Letters Page episodes their counterparts being the one who created that ship.)

P.S. Also how did my mind miss before that they specifically had Agent 99 be Wraith. I love it.

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Wow, what a cast of strange characters have owned Sentinel Comics…

This makes me think that the owners must have had ideas for the direction of Sentinel Comics storytelling, and I wonder whether Christopher and Adam (IRL versions) consider this as they populate the back catalog. Thus far, I have the impression that they mostly approach the in-comic narratives from a storytelling point of view, as if the editors are competely independent of the ownership and even mostly independent of business needs. The main examples I can think of where we’ve seen directions from the top getting into the story are the recent Legacy/Nightmist team up vs. General Geist being driven by a desire to push sales of the Nightmist book, and the Christopher and Adam (Metaverse versions) being credited with the animated series and OblivAeon arc, but it still seems like the exception rather than the rule.

So, like, when the mob was in charge, did they affect the direction of stories? Did they want to see less focus on crime stories, specifically or in general? Did they want to see negative portrayals of law enforcement, to win sympathy – or positive portrayals, to distract and obfuscate? Or did they really let the comic editors and writers act completely independent in order to give themselves cover for the money laundering?

(And yes, I’m aware that IRL publishing houses had mob connections, but I don’t know how that affected storytelling, either.)

Then, when Lord Buckethead takes over, I can’t believe he wouldn’t have strong ideas for what to see in the pages of Sentinel Comics!

Regardless, I’m glad it ended up in Christopher and Adam’s hands in the end. :wink:


It really didn’t. The mob used publishing and distribution (mostly the latter) for money laundering more than anything else, with a sideline in porn when that was more illegal and profitable. They weren’t pushing an agenda and running pro-Mafia propaganda even if loons like Wertham thought they were. What the businesses actual did (or didn’t) publish didn’t matter to the crooked owners as long as they let them turn enough dirty money into cleaner funds. It’s one of the reasons that organized crime doesn’t really mess around with distribution on the scale they once did - magazine and comic sales are down so far in the 21st century they don’t provide enough “cover” for the volume of shady accounting required.

Of course, that might be very different indeed in the metafiction of Sentinel Comics. It would be pretty funny if some mid-tier mobster actively interfered to get their barely-disguised name and face in the books as a big-time crime boss solely out of vanity. Or more plausibly, to smear his rivals by giving them page time making them out to be chumps as well as drawing unwanted police attention.


This just makes me want to headcanon that every person who IRL got their face in the game due to a KS, in the metaverse they got their face in due to some mob boss wanting to do a favor for some favorite person.

The sole exception is Thiago who was just a completely innocent kid who won a contest that was held to try to give everything a veneer of being legit (which is why he’s a Legacy fanboy versus a villain minion).


The implication in the video, at least, seems to lean towards the idea that the mob didn’t have that heavy a hand on the creative side, for all the reasons discussed above - although they did use their influence to help get the Legacy serials made.

Given the timing, though, it would not surprise me if early depictions of the Organization and the Chairman were unusually accurate to actual mob behavior in the 1940s simply due to the experience of the senior editors. The Chairman is introduced in 1947, after Guilia has had time to do a lot of ghostwriting and had influence, and Bob’s still there throughout early Organization stories.


I can practically hear her dad yelling at her about airing their laundry in print even with the names changed. :slight_smile:


That’s kind of what I was thinking, that it wasn’t going to be the mob shoehorning themselves into the narrative as heroes so much as it would be, “hey, we don’t really want the general public being this well-informed about the details of how extortion schemes work because we don’t want people noticing that the things we’re doing are reportable crimes.”

But, really, I would believe that St. John-Dewberry would be much more inclined to get involved with editorial direction in funky ways, and I kind of wonder more about that.

(P.S.: my reference earlier was to this: Lord Buckethead - Wikipedia)


It would be amusing if the rise of proper supervillains in supers comics was the direct result of mobsters in the management pushing creators to stop having their heroes beat up mundane criminals all the time. Not great for their image, y’know - and bad for morale.

“Hey, don’t we own this mag? How come Superguy is always punching wise guys?”

St.-John-Dewberry would explain the surge in alien invasions during the Silver Age. I swear it felt like there was a new invasion every Tuesday in the early JLA books.

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