Superman UK Annuals

May 31, 2008

K. G. Murray of Australia produced monthly black and white reprints of some DC Comics throughout the 1950s. The main titles were “Superman”, “Superboy”, “Batman” and “Superadventure”. These reprint comics were reprinted for UK consumption both as monthly editions and also hardbacked 160 page Xmas Annuals. These Annuals were published by a company called “Atlas” in the UK with no connection at all to the Atlas/Timely (later to be Marvel Comics) of the USA.

                            

                            

Above are some thumbnails of the Superman Annuals published between 1951 and the late 1960s. Below is the 1954-1955 Annual. “Daring new exploits” maybe. I’m sure many of the stories inside had already appeared in the UK/Australian monthly reprint comics.

The back cover advertises some of the many Western comics available in the UK at the time. “Cowboys and Indians” also dominated the evening TV schedules.

Most of the stories inside are at least 4 or 5 years old. For example this story was originally published in Superman 63 in 1950. Note how the title has been changed to the more contemporary date of 1954 for the Annual.

Contrast and compare with the original story splash page in the US edition Superman 63.

The cover of Superman 63.

Here is the cover of the UK Superman Annual of Xmas 1956. This year they call it an “Adventure Book” even though it was called an “Annual” the previous (and the following) year. The UK is introduced to Jimmy Olsen. His own comic had begun in the USA a couple of years earlier.

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It always amuses me how in the UK in the 1950s they would go to great lengths to remove all $$$$$$s and carefully replace them with £££££s. !! These were the days before the Signal Watch. But why burn the money to send a smoke signal to alert Superman ?? I would have burnt my Jacket first !!

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The above story originally appeared in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen No 3. I haven’t checked when Curt Swan first began drawing the Superman books, but here he draws Jimmy quite oddly, but does draw a cute Lois Lane.

Here is the cover of the 1958 Superman Annual. The price has increased and the page count has been reduced.

I like the “Superman Wallpaper” inside! Vigilante seems an odd choice to be paired with Superman however he had appeared regularly in Action Comics a few years earlier. This Annual was on sale for Xmas 1958. Most of the reprinted stories are from the mid 1950s. The first story in the book however was from Action Comics 111 originally published as far back as 1947.

Inside was an advert for the other Annuals available. I don’t think there were any Batman UK Annuals yet.

The interior pages of these books are on quite good quality paper. Later 1960s issues suffered from poor quality paper and were often printed in an odd red/black and white.(see my blog on the “Superboy UK Annuals” for an example.)

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A World of Comics

May 30, 2008

Marvel and DC comics from their earliest days have always licensed their material for reprinting in other countries. I have Marvel Comics in German and Spanish. K.G. Murray of Australia continued with their DC black and white reprints throughout the 1970s and well into the 1980s.

I recently purchased a book about the history of Australian Comics. It only covers home-produced comics though and dismisses these K.G. Murray reprints in a few words.

Only a tenuous link to the above, but one area of comic history I know nothing about is Mexican Comics. I have an old issue of the “Alter Ego” Fanzine from the 1960s. This contains an article by Roy Thomas where he mentions Mexican Comics. One interesting fact was that in the 1960s they cost a mere 8 cents. I understand that Conan appeared in Mexican/South American comics years before Marvel used the character. I also read somewhere on the Interweb that when Quality stopped producing “Blackhawk” the Mexicans ended the reprints and carried on regardless with their own version. I’d love to know more!

Crikey!

May 29, 2008

I’m sure you can order this magazine from www.crikeyuk.co.uk  . 

(No, I’m not referring to those issues from 1976/1977 where Marvel Comics experimented with charging some parts of the USA 25/30 cents and then 30/35 cents the following year.)

I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog how DC Comics had a UK price ink stamp on each and every cover in the 1960s and 1970s. (No one seemed to have thought of using sticky labels! Pricing “guns” were still to be invented!!)  However, right from the beginning of the Marvel Age, Marvel Comics had a UK price printed on the covers of the comics destined for us. Originally 9d (nine pence) by the time I bought this issue of X-Men a comic cost 10d (ten pence).

Now I’m not particularly interested in the values of comics. (I only buy the Overstreet Guide every year for the articles! ) But it does strike me as odd that these issues of Marvel comics with a UK price on them are considered inferior by collectors in the USA. Lets put things into perspective. These comics were printed on the same presses at the same time as the USA comics. They are NOT reprints. Perhaps 5% or less of the total print run of each issue would have the UK price. This makes these comics extremely rare. Collectors in the USA who have completed the runs of their favourite characters should perhaps consider adding a few UK issues to their collections.

In 1971 comics were one Shilling. Inflation in the 1970s saw the price increase rapidly. Between 1974 and 1977 whilst Marvel Comics in the USA increased from 20 cents to 30 cents here the price doubled from 6p to 12p. UK only prices on Marvel Comics covers continued until the early 1980s. The next time there would be variant covers would be the completely different artwork produced for variant covers from the mid 1980s through to today.

Actually its only now when I’m talking about these covers that I notice the heading  “MARVEL ALL-COLOUR COMICS”  across the top of the UK variants. That makes them even more obviously different to the USA editions. Nice to see “colour” spelled the proper English way too !! 

Perhaps Marvel made a point of announcing “ALL COLOUR COMICS” so they weren’t confused with the Marvel UK range of black and white reprint comics, magazines and digests which had begun in 1972 but were losing popularity by the 1980s. 

Nuff Said 2

May 27, 2008

Summers Coming

May 27, 2008

From the mid 1960s onwards many UK comics produced Summer Specials. On sale for two or three months each year with a much longer shelf life than the weekly editions they were incredibly popular.

The character “Buster” began as the son of “Andy Capp” (who had a comic strip in The Daily Mirror newspaper) but he soon just became another identikit comic figurehead like “Korky the Cat” in “The Dandy”. I like this story in the 1969 “Buster Holiday Fun Special” of “Galaxus” the alien trapped on earth.

The unique selling point of “Whizzer and Chips” was two comics for the price of one. “The Dandy” and “The Beano” Summer Specials were always the most popular but the concept of Summer Specials lived on until the 1990s.

I note that DC had yet to acquire Blackhawk from Quality Comics or the Prize/Crestwood Romance Comics at this point. But Showcase No 4 featuring a re-vamped Flash and the Silver Age of Comics was just around the corner.

The recent arrival of the comic book code hadn’t really caused many changes to National/DC. In the mid 1950s DC’s lineup of comics continued to veer from Funny Animals, Westerns, War, Mystery, to even a few SuperHero comics. The page count had  been reduced from 52 to 36 a year or two earlier so the price could continue at 10 cents (and the price remained at 10 cents until the early 1960s !!) Only 5 or 6 of these titles are still being published in 2008. (House of Mystery gets periodic re-launches. Does Superboy currently have a comic out ?) I think its time for a revival of Nutsy Squirrel and Dodo and the Frog.