Superman UK Annuals

May 31, 2008

K. G. Murray of Australia produced monthly black and white reprints of some DC Comics from the late 1940s until the 1970s. The main titles throughout the 1950s 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.)

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  . 

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post 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.

Nuff Said

May 15, 2008

Once there were dozens and dozens of weekly comics catering for all age groups available in the average UK newsagents. All that remains is The Beano, The Dandy, 2000AD,  Judge Dredd Monthly and the various (usually TV related) magazines for infants with titles like Thomas the Tank Engine and Shaun the Sheep. There might still be a Spiderman comic for youngsters also. Yes there are other magazines like Dr who, Torchwood, Charmed etc etc but they are magazines with photos and articles and although they may contain an odd comic strip I don’t class them as comic books. Yes I know there are other publications (usually reprints only) such as DC Thompsons Classic Comics and Commando, and fanzines such as “Crikey” but you have to really search them out. They are not available at every corner shop. Yes, I know there are a dozen or so monthly books from Titan and Panini such as Batman, Superman, X-Men, Spiderman, The Avengers, Fantastic Four, Wolverine etc, but they are reprints also. Perhaps the current UK version of “Transformers” features  some new stories but compared to the second half of the 20th Century the amount of new material in UK produced comics is now virtually zero. And yet it doesn’t seem so long ago that there was a thriving industry.

When The Beano celebrated its 60th birthday in August 1998 even adults who had purchased it as children in the 1950s through to the 1970s would have still recognised the characters inside such as Dennis the Menace and the Bash Street Kids.The back cover of this issue had a homage to the first ever issue from 1938.

The Eagle had numerous relaunches over the years. Although it never managed to recapture the glory days of the early 1950s it was still available in the 1990s. The Eagle is no more but Dan Dare survives to this day.

Captain Britain is another character that despite great art and stories never really became a household name like Captain Marvel/Marvelman before him.

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 After featuring in his own weekly comic in the 1970s and cropping up in many other Marvel UK comics subsequently he finally received his own UK monthly. Sadly it only lasted for 14 issues. Happily he still appears in the Marvel USA Universe to this day.

In the 1980s and 1990s there were a number of Adult Comic Books such as “Warrior”, “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Deadline”. In its earlier days “Deadline” introduced the world to “Tank Girl” (and my particular favourite “Hugo Tate”). By the time No 64 appeared it was turning into more of a music magazine with added comic strips. It ended shortly after this issue.

Oops I’ve just remembered one British Comic still being published today. Although “Viz” hasn’t the huge circulation it once had, it is still on the (top) shelves. Its “adult” content also contains affectionate pastiches of Beano and Dandy type comic strips of old. Although “Sid the Sexist” and “The Fat Slags” being all thats available today probably sums up just what the UK comic industry of the 21st Century has come to !!!

Out of this World

May 6, 2008

Alan Class Comics’ UK science fiction anthology comic “Out of this World” ran for 23 issues in the mid 1960s. If you look the title up in the Grand Comics Database Cover Gallery they claim that issue No 1 came out in 1962. I believe it was later than that.. possibly 1964 or 1965. I bought these comics new off the spinner racks in 1966 and 1967. In fact I continued to buy similar Alan Class reprint comics with titles like “Suspense” and “Uncanny” until the company ceased publishing in 1989. “Out of this World” consisted of 68 black and white pages for a Shilling. (That was 5p in pre-decimal money.) That was also the same price as a 36 page Marvel or DC comic…but the US comics did have the luxury of colour.

Matters are complicated by there being no date EVER on any Alan Class book. And without  the problems of a date on the cover there was always the possibility of repeat printings or even unsold warehouse stock appearing in the shops a few years after the original print runs. With Alan Class comics anything is possible.

You’d  think Alan would have reprinted the Charlton books in order using the Charlton covers, but no that would be too logical. These books contained a mixture of Charlton SF stuff, Captain Atom, Marvel monsters…even early adventures of the Mighty Thor with the covers often giving no clue to what was to be found inside.

For example what is most interesting about Alan Class Comics “Out of this World” No 17 is that it contains (for possibly the first time in the UK) a reprint of Spiderman’s Origin story from “Amazing Fantasy” 15.

Lets just enlarge that last panel. I wonder if Stan Lee and Steve Ditko realised quite what an impact Spiderman would have. Still, its a powerful line for a then obscure story in an obscure “Fantasy” Comic Book.
     “With great power there must also come – – great responsibility!”                           
A few Politicians should heed that!

Postscript. There was a second series of “Out of this World” that ran for 10 issues. The GCD have definitely got their dates mixed up here. They have No 1 being published in 1964 and yet the cover clearly shows a price of 20p. That places the comic AFTER 1971 when decimal currency began. I think 1974 is more likely the correct date for these.


In the 1970s I purchased all the weekly Music Newspapers then available in the UK. In those pre-Internet days weekly Music Newspapers were the only way to find info on your favourite bands.To make some very broad generalisations, “Melody Maker” was slightly serious and upmarket, having gone through Jazz and Folk Music phases. “Disc and Music Echo” and “Record Mirror” concentrated more on the Pop Singles Charts. “The New Musical Express” eventually re-invented itself as a champion of Punk and then Indie Music. “Sounds” seemed to feature more Rock and Heavy Metal. I favoured “The New Musical Express”  (which incidently is the only title of the above still being published as I write this but rumour has it that its days are numbered) yet I still bought “Sounds” each week just to read the half-page cartoon strip written and drawn by the yet to be famous “Curt Vile”.