Thorpe and Porter
March 1, 2008
As a child in the 1960s it never occured to me how DC and Marvel comics evidently printed in the USA found their way to my local newsagents in the United Kingdom. In 1966 I was oblivious to the financial problems faced by the importers of my favourite comics that could have left empty spinner racks spinning emptily.
I was unaware until years later that American Comics were only officially imported into the UK from 1960 onwards. The company that brought in the majority of DC Comics and others were Thorpe and Porter of Oadby Leicestershire. I understand they were already importing paperbacks (Western paperbacks were still massive sellers in those days) and other magazines such as the SF digests and other pulps like True Detective etc etc.
Throughout the 1950s Thorpe and Porter had printed their own range of comics in a similar shape and size to the american comic books rather than the larger size favoured by our home-grown comics such as Knockout, Beano, Eagle etc.
Thorpe and Porter comics were mostly black and white reprints of US material. Numerous titles were printed through the 1950s. I own issues of Blackhawk, Flash, Mystery in Space, Mr District Attorney etc. (But they never reprinted any Superman or Batman family comics. Probably due to an earlier agreement National DC had made with K.G.Murray of Australia who imported THEIR Superman and Batman reprint comics into the UK throughout the 1950s. Thats another story for a future blog.)
T & P also produced UK versions of ACGs Forbidden Worlds, Classics Illustrated , Lone Ranger and Mad along with humorous titles like Charlie Chaplin.
To help the poor newsagent know what price to sell the magazines at, Thorpe and porter put an ink stamp UK price on the cover of every magazine. This price stamping was evidently and mind – bogglingly done by hand. A relatively clear spot of the cover (sometimes the hero’s face) was used for the price stamp.
I watched these prices increase through 9d, 10d, One Shilling and as decimal currency came in at the beginning of the 1970s the prices quickly escalated. 5p, 6p, 7p, 10p and upwards. By the time comics were 12p variant covers were being printed in the USA with UK prices already on. (Another story for another blog.)
In the summer of 1966 Thorpe & Porter filed for bankruptcy. The crisis must have been averted somehow as they continued importing comics into the UK well into the 1970s. They were still publishing a few of their own titles in 1973 such as Laurel and Hardy and Korak.
By the late 1970s other, more direct means of distribution had been arranged by the Comic Book publishers and the Thorpe and Porter spinner racks began to fade away from the UK’s newsagents.