Any Colour you like

Jan 24, 2011

As long as it’s black and white apart from the covers. There was a time when British black and white reprints of american comics were seen as perfectly acceptable reading matter. But we still considered them pale imitations of the real thing. Now I’m surprised to see that there are comic fans in the USA who avidly seek out old British, Australian and South American reprint comics as an opportunity to see uncoloured Ditko or Kirby etc artwork in its original state. All the better to examine the detail of the linework I suppose. For me, the worst of all worlds was when the Annuals used that strange green and black or red and black duo colour artwork inside.

When they did decide to colour the reprinted Marvel Comics stories in the UKs “Power Comics” Annuals of the late 1960s the results could be wildly unpredictable. The digital files of today must make such things a doddle, but in 1969 they evidentally only had black and white artwork to work with. The colourist had probably never seen, or even bothered to see an original US comic and relied on guesstimation rather than a detailed colour chart. Consequently the 1970 Pow Annual is the best place to visit if you’d like to see a red-garbed Fantastic Four and an almost-transparent Thing.

The 1969 Fantastic Annual gives us a completely different take on The Uncanny X-Men No 24 with changes in costume colour from panel to panel. Thor is barely recognisable in the 1970 Fantastic Annual. I don’t know why it annoyed me so much at the time though……

Before my thoughts wander back to more sensible subjects (?!?) like crap 1970s pop music or offshore radio there is one more series by the Atlas Publishing and Distributing Company Ltd (to give them their full title) from the 1960s that at least deserves a mention.

In 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966 Atlas published a book presumably for teenagers and presumably on sale in time for Xmas (sorry I’m supposed to say “Christmas”) titled “The Book of Space Adventures” and subtitled “The latest developments in the world space programmes” which was quite a lofty claim !!

The 1963 edition must have been published in late 1962. It contained a number of factual articles and photographs of rockets and jet planes along with “Space Ace” adventure strips. The 1964 and 1965 editions followed a similar format only with “Ace Jordan” strips. Actually, thinking about it, these were probably Space Ace stories too. I don’t own a copy of the final 1966 book but I have found a picture of the striking and quite modern-looking cover.

As was usual for the times half the strips were in duo-colour (an odd yellow/blue in the case of the 1965 No 3 Annual) and the other half were “fully coloured”. Now their idea of colour and mine doesn’t quite correspond. They could well have been coloured by an infant class in school at break time using a combination of spit and blunt crayons such is the strange finished results !! This page is perhaps the best of the bunch. The rest have “scribble” backgrounds.

Space Aces

Jan 20, 2011

Todays post has the chance of pushing my little spot on the web to the pinnacle of “The World’s most boring Blog” listings. I’m even yawning myself, and I’m the one typing this. Surprisingly I managed to locate my copy of “Space Aces” as it was actually on a shelf rather than in a box like most of my stuff.

Mr Gifford’s “Space Aces” from 1991 was a wasted opportunity to provide a detailed history of those odd 1950s British Comics. 40 or so pages are taken up with full page oversized cover reproductions. The facing pages give us a potted history of the character featured in the comic and sometimes sketchy details on the company that produced the comic but always leaving at least half the page blank. It wouldn’t have taken Mr Gifford long to write this book. So I’m afraid I’m still no wiser about the history of Atlas Publishing. If anyone can point me in the right direction please let me know. It’s possible that there is more info in his companion publication entitled “Super Duper Supermen.Comic Book Heroes from the Forties and Fifties” if I can find it…..

Interestingly, although this book is arranged chronologically, half of the comics/characters featured inside are from 1952/1953. That must have been the pivotal time when the popularity of Science Fiction really headed off into space….. ace.


Jan 18, 2011

In “Google Sky” somewhere between Capricornus and Sagittarius you can find this peculiar sight. Is it just a fingerprint smudge or something more sinister ??

More Red Comet

Jan 17, 2011

The more adventurous Newsagents shop in the UK of 50 years ago may have contained a few copies of the flimsy monthly comics from the smaller companies like Miller and Atlas along with the usual Fleetway and D.C Thompson weeklies. The more adventurous comic buyer of 50 years ago may well have purchased the odd issue of “Red Comet”. I wonder if they would have realised then that the material contained within was already 20 years old.

Red Comet appeared in approximately the first 20 issues of Fiction House’s famous Science Fiction anthology title “Planet Comics” circa 1941. It was only here in the UK 20 years later however that he got his own comic. The UK Atlas Publishing (no relation to the Timely/Marvel Atlas) produced at least 9 monthly issues in 1961/1962. They contained 28 pages of black and white reprints featuring Fiction House characters such as Red Comet, Auro Lord of Jupiter and Gale Allen at 6d a throw. (Although oddly, issue No 5 doesn’t contain a single Red Comet story despite him being the title character !). The covers are unique to the UK even though the original American Planet Comics covers were usually far better, often showing mini-skirted girls of the future (with 1940s hairstyles) being carried away by gruesome aliens. Looking at the back page advert there were at least six different Atlas monthly comics still being published in early 1962. Space Ace continued until 1963 and may have been their final comic although books continued to be published by Atlas later into the 1960s. I have a few copies of Space Ace and some of the Westerns along with the more well-known Superman/Superboy/Batman/SuperAdventure comics and Annuals I have mentioned in previous blogs. Space Ace was an interesting title as it was one of the few UK Atlas comics that wasn’t full of reprints from the USA. Although it began with UK sourced stories and art after a dozen issues it transformed into an english language version of the Spanish Johnny Galaxia. See here. I’ve never seen a copy of Atlas’ Planet Stories but I presume it would have been similar in appearance and content to the Red Comet ones containing Planet Comics reprints but who knows, it was all before my time. The best (nay, the only) book on this subject is Denis Gifford’s “Space Aces” from 1991. I may have to drag it out and re-read it to remind myself about this forgotten era.

Nuff Said 26

Jan 13, 2011

Who is this strange man and what has he done with the real Superman ?

I mention UK Annuals more often than the comics they are based on for the simple reason that the durable books have survived in greater numbers than the weeklies …at least in this household. Atlas UK Superman Annuals are often advertised for sale (although at increasingly silly prices). Atlas UK Batman Annuals from the early 1960s seem to be the rarest as he then had yet to become a household name. The flimsy sixpenny Superman/Superboy/Batman/SuperAdventure Australian weekly black and white reprint comics are getting quite rare in the UK now. I’ve saved perhaps two dozen for the simple fact that when I was a teenaged comic trader I never sold them because I couldn’t find anyone who collected them. Although I have 30 or 40 Dandy Annuals, some going back to the early 1950s when it was called The Dandy Monster Comic, I know for a fact that I only own precisely 6 Dandy Comics as I’ve just kept one representitive issue from each of the last six decades !!

Rover and Wizard

Jan 7, 2011

You have to feel sorry for all those comic book readers in the USA in the 1960s and 1970s. They really missed out on a lot of comics whilst here in the UK we enjoyed the best of both worlds. Along with a plentiful supply of imported Marvel and DC comics we had hundreds of our own weekly and monthly comics and magazines ranging in size from the newspaper-sized Big One to the umpteen pocket digests. And our comics had a much more diverse subject matter than the Superheroes and Funny animals that by then once more dominated the american market. We had many comics that concentrated on sport in all its many forms. Some pocket digests, and the odd comic such as Rover and Wizard still contained text stories rather than sequential strips.

I really ought to read the cover story to see what the significance of the bow and arrow is. Perhaps all their “ray guns” needed a recharge and good old british ingenuity saved the day ?? Seeing this cover again jogs my mind back to when I used to get this comic delivered every monday by the local newsagent along with my parents’ Daily Sketch. Being full of text stories it was a comic my father approved of unlike those trashy american ones.

Both Rover and The Wizard were long-running D.C.Thompson comics that had amalgamated in 1963. By 1969 the “Wizard” part of the title disappeared ready for its re-launch as a seperate title in 1970. Just to confuse things even more, when the Rover finally folded in early 1973 it re-re-merged with The Wizard this time being called The Wizard and Rover until its final demise in 1978.

At the time I didn’t find it the least bit strange that I was buying such chalk and cheese comics as Not Brand Echh, Marvel Collectors Item Classics, Jimmy Olsen, ACG’s Forbidden Worlds, Alan Class comics, Commando, The Eagle, TV21, Rover and Wizard, The Topper or Tornado etc ad infinitum sometimes all on the same day in the 1960s. I guess you really had to be there……


Jan 5, 2011

I just noticed those red cassette tapes up on the shelf. They are the “Afterhours” set from the VUAS (Velvet Underground Appreciation Society) from circa 1990. In those days 30 or so tapes covered all known VU material that wasn’t already available as legitimate releases including most of the known cover versions of VU songs. Of course in the last 20 years there must have been thousands more cover versions including the ultra-rare drunken karaoke version of “Pale Blue Eyes” by me. Oh and I’m sure every moment of the VU’s unexpected 1993 reunion tour would have been recorded as well.

I’m not an obsessive completist even regarding singers and bands I love dearly but I do pick up things if my curiosity is piqued. So when that String Quartet version of the Banana Album was released I had to get it. Ditto the live Zeitkratzer version of Lou’s Metal Machine Music. Consequently today I broke my rule of not buying mp3 downloads by getting Puttin’ on the Ritz’s version of Sister Ray. I guess 79p for a 17 minute-long track isn’t too bad a deal. Although you really need to be a fan of atonal jazz or a VU completist to appreciate it or to want to buy the whole LP (It’s available in just two formats… either on vinyl or as a download). Puttin’ on the Ritz have released a whole cover album of the VU’s White Light White Heat currently available (on Hot Cup Records) from the usual sources. Instead of screaming guitar feedback, a solid backbeat and Maureen’s metronome drums you get screeching horns and freestyle jazz drumming. It make’s the VU’s original cacophony sound quite comforting in comparison.