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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Redefining The Ages Of British Comic Books...up-date





Let's be honest -I should not be re-posting this again.  However, despite giving the link to several people who are very off the mark, they persist.  It is important that anyone who is really interested in British comics get the correct information.

And no one has so far given Gerald Swan the credit for introducing the US comic book format to the UK which, in itself, is a very significant and important point and credit.  Now you know.
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Why re-post this article since it was first published back in 2000 and several times since then?  Well, despite the "serious comics history" pundits being given the link on a number of occasions it appears I am beneath their interest. I know this because they are now stating that the Overstreet Price Guide has published 'new' info.

Here is what someone wrote on Yahoos Platinum Comics group:

"But even that big news in Comic Book History has been overturned, with the discovery of an even earlier comic book, entitled The Glasgow Looking Glass, published in Scotland, in 1825."

Yes, well, Denis Gifford and myself both wrote about that (he WELL before me) back in 1984 and wrote about it in 1985.

Now I do realise that some "sequential historians" look down on us regular comic folk but seriously they are ten years behind the rest of us.

So here is the cranky old article but with new illos.

I thank you.
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Despite attempting to fill in the Lost Era of British comics from the 1940s/1950s since the 1980s it is only recently, with the invaluable help of  Dennis Ray, owner of The 3-Ds comic store in Arlington, Texas, that a small chunk of this period has been rediscovered.

Characters not listed even in Denis Gifford references have been found. These have started to appear in the Black Tower Golden Age Classics series.  As they are unlikely to be big money earners the cover prices were kept low for those interested in the subject.

Oh, and as I've proven previously, the myth of the Germans "never had comics during the war" is just that.
A myth.

And though some comics continued few survived.  Thomson's continue but in much poorer form and British comics as an "industry" are dead. 

 
Above: Dennis Gifford


Above: Comics Historian Alan Clark
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Here is a slightly up-dated version of my article defining the British ages of comics from my British Golden Age Comics web site and a couple years back on CBO.

 The late Denis Gifford spent many decades chronicling the history of British comics.  It was a never-ending task and at least we still have his books to rely on –these have been so plagiarised by new ‘experts’ that it shows just how valuable any Gifford book is. For this reason,I am relying solely on Denis’s and the “Tel’s From The Crypt” feature from vol.1 no.1 of COMIC BITS [1999].

Of course,there are some who would argue that comic strips go back further than the dates I give. This is debatable and,hopefully,one day the UK will have a symposium on the subject! 
 

Looking Glass was a tabloid sized periodical published by Thomas McLean and could be purchased as either a plain or hand-coloured edition. Some 36 issues were published starting on 1st January, 1830 until December, 1832 -but from issue number 13, that was published on 1st January, 1831, it suddenly got re-titled to McLean's Monthly Sheet of Caricature or The Looking Glass.

But this was not the first Looking Glass! John Watson published The Glasgow Looking Glass on the 11th June, 1825 and it lasted five issues up to August, 1825. From 18th August, 1825 and for twelve issues up to 3rd August, 1826 as Northern Looking Glass. Not to be confused with The Glasgow Looking Glass -no connection.

 THIS is the comic 'newly discovered' by the Overstreet Price Guide!

According to Denis, the first comic magazine was actually titled…The Comick Magazine!  The magazine appeared on 1st April,1796.  The publisher was Mr Harrison of 18 Paternoster Row,London who describe the title as “The compleat Library of Mirth, Humour, Wit, Gaiety and Entertainment”. 

Most purists would argue that The Comick Magazine was wholly text,however,it did come “enriched with  William Hogarth’s Celebrated Humorous,Comical and Moral Prints”. –one per monthly issue!  These prints formed the series “Industry and Idleness” and when put together in their “narrative sequence”, argued Gifford,”they could be described as an early form of comic strip”

 


 Above: Dr Syntax on Tour

Thomas Rowlandson  provided plates for The Caricature Magazine [1808].  On the 1st May,1809 came The Poetical Magazine and it was in this –Rowlandson the artist once more—that what is arguably the first British ‘comic’ super star was born:Dr Syntax!   The serial by William Combe,”The Schoolmaster’s Tour” was Dr Syntax’s first,uh,outing and in 1812 was reprinted in book form [graphic novel?] as “The Tour Of Dr Syntax in Search of The Picturesque”.  This featured 31 coloured plates.

Dr Syntax spawned merchandise spin offs,as any comic star does,such as Syntax hats,coats and wigs!!
 

Figaro 31st March, 1832

Inspired by the French funny paper Figaro,on 10th December,1831,the four page weekly Figaro In Londonappeared.  Cover and interior cartoons were by Robert Seymour.  This first funny weekly went on for eight years and was to inspire [imitation] spin-offs such as Figaro In Liverpool and Figaro In Sheffield.    We can see the future shape of the comic industry appearing here!

Punch In London  appeared on 14th January,1832 –this weekly lasted 17 issues and the last featured  17 cartoons! 

The longest lived comic magazine,of course,was Punch from 17th July,1841 until its demise in 2002!
It is a fact that Punch,on 1st July,1843,introduced the word “cartoon” into the English language;on that date the magazine announced the publication of “several exquisite designs to be called Punch’s Cartoons”.   Two weeks later the first appeared,the artist being John Leech.  [for more info on Punch see http://www.punch.co.uk/]

 

Punch number 1

Leech also drew “The Pleasures Of Housekeeping” [28th April,1849] –described as a slap-stick strip about a suburbanite called Mr Briggs which,ten years later,was published in book form as Pictures Of Life And Quality.
In 1905 Mr Briggs was still being reprinted in six penny paperbacks.  
  
Judy~The London Serio-Comic Journal started on 1st May,1867 and,on 14th August of the same year introduced a character  who became one of the greatest comic heroes of the day…….Ally Sloper!
Ally Sloper [so called because,when a debt collector turned up he Sloped off down the Alley!] was a bald headed, bulbous nosed figure with a rather battered hat. ..often described as a Mr Micawber type [as played by W.C.Fields and others over the years].  Ally was constantly trying to make money but more often than not never quite succeeded.

 Merchandise abounded, Sloper Pewter mugs, figurines, bottles and much,much more.  And you can learn a great deal more on a wonderful web site –

There was an Ally Sloper comic in 1948 and some might think that was it.  However, Walter Bell drew the old lad inAlly Sloper, a British comics magazine published by Denis and Alan Class in the 1970s.

Note: since this was first written the Ally Sloper's Comic Bits was shelved and also, in an interview with Alan Class, he told me he was NOT publisher of the 1970s fanzine!
 

Above the 1948 Ally Sloper comic.

Ally has certainly lived longer than his creator, Charles Henry Ross, could probably ever have imagined!
Into the 20th Century and there was the rise of many illustrated text stories and comic strips with text under each panel.

D.C. Thomson had titles like ADVENTURE and ROVER.  Alfred Harmsworth’s, and later his Amalgamated Press’,COMIC CUTS was the first comic though.  Issue 1 was published on 17th May,1890 and the final issue was published on 12th September,1953 with issue number 3006!    
 

But the 1930s saw a virtual explosion in comics from small publishers outside London.  These included Merry Midget, no.1 dated Saturday,12th September,1931 and published by Provincial Comics Ltd.,Bath –and the other  title from this publisher was Sparkler.  Also publishing from Bath were Target Publications who produced Rattler and Target
Above:The Illustrated Chips, 1933
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Now these were traditional humour strips and gags along with text adventure stories.  But in 1939 something happened that ended the Diamond Age and saw the beginning of the Golden Age. 

On the 8th July,1939,the Amalgamated Press published, in Triumph, the strip “Derickson Dene”, drawn by that "mysterious" comic great 'Nat Brand' (Len Fullerton).  Gifford described the strip as “a four page serial strip that established him [Dene] as the first British super hero in the American comic book style”.  



 
And then,on the 5th August,1939, in Triumph no.772,compilations of the Siegel and  Shuster Superman newspaper strips started.  On the front cover,flying through space and drawn by John “Jock” McCail was The Man of Steel.   

These two very significant strips, in my opinion, ushered in the British Golden Age. 
Above: two 1943 comics still surviving in my collection.
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There was only one little problem.  Across the English [or French] Channel,a little twerp with a silly moustache started a “bit of a tiff” we know as World War Two.  Paper restrictions and the banning of imported goods such as comic books,meant that British publishers had to use whatever they could. Comics were printed on brown wrapping paper,silver paper[!] and other inferior stocks. Many comics simply vanished. 

No new ongoing titles could be published so smaller publishers began to issue one-off eight pagers. 
 
The best known publishers  remembered today are the Amalgamated Press and D.C.Thomson,at the latter not just Lord Snooty and his Gang but also Eggo and Desperate Dan took on the Germans.

 
But Gerald G. Swan deserves a mention for books such as War Comics, Topical Funnies Special Autumn Number, Thrill Comics, and Slick Fun. .  Swan gave us Krakos the Egyptian and Robert Lovett:Back From The Dead. 

A. Soloway produced All Fun and after the war Comic Capers [1942] and  Halcon Comics [1948].  R & L Locker published Reel Comics and Cyclone Illustrated Comic.  Newton Wickham published Four Aces and Martin & Reid produced Grand Adventure Comics.
 
Gifford himself, later to work on Marvelman -and there are VERY strong rumours Marvel comics will be reprinting the 1980s series*, produced Mr Muscle.  Cartoon Art Productions of Glasgow published Super Duper Comics [1948]. W. Daly gave us Crasho Comic [1947].  Cardal Publishing of Manchester gave us the Gifford drawn Streamline Comics [1947]…….. 

There were so many publishers and titles and these titles included Ally Sloper, Ensign Comic, Speed Gale Comics, Whizzer Comics, Super Duper, The Three Star Adventures, The Atom, Prang Comic, Marsman Comic, Big win comic, Big Flame Wonder Comic, Evil Eye Thriller, The Forgers and many,many more –super heroes,science fiction, humour, detective,war comics the lot.  

However, there was soon to be a revolution.  Publishers started declining and the big companies continued on. Then,on 14th  April,1950, ”launching British comics into the new Elizabethan Age,and the Space Age” appeared The Eagle, starring Dan Dare.  This date can be seen as the start of the Silver Age of British comics. 
 
New characters would appear who would engrave themselves on the new generations of comic readers.
In the Amalgamated Press’  Lion no.1,23rd February,1952 Robot Archie made his debut.  In 1953, rivals D. C. Thomson featured General Jumbo in The Beano.  Miller, of course, brought us Marvelman and his family of comics.

More uniquely British characters followed and into the 1960s we saw “The House of Dollman”, ”The Spider” (created by Jerry Siegel despite what some UK pundits write. I spoke to the man in charge at Fleetway who when younger handled the scripts with Siegel's name on and told how the office was a-buzz about "the character -created by one of the men who created Superman"), ”Steel Claw” and ”Rubberman” appear.

In the mid –to- late 1970s titles began to get cancelled more and more frequently with Thomson and Fleetway/IPC seemingly not sure just where they were going comic –wise. In February,1977, 2000 AD made its debut and it was a pivotal point for British comics [not to mention for the US industry which later  recruited many of the talents involved to help its rapidly sinking comics in the mid-1980s.

 From all of this we can define the ages of British comics.

The Platinum Age                     ~ 1796-1938
The Golden Age                       ~ 1939-1949
The Silver Age                          ~  1950-1976
The Modern [Bronze Age]      ~  1977-1995

And there you have it;a brief  break-down and definition of the Ages. of British comics.  What we see today are little cliques of Small Pressers who come and go by the dozen every few months. Those who continue to declare there is an industry are rather sad as they depend on a non-existent thing to boost their ego and "be someone".

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Black Tower Super Heroes -a snippet on contents



The final covers for Black Tower Super Heroes 2-7 have now been completed. The reason for the slight delay is simple: it has always been Black Tower policy that no title gets published unless all parts of any multi-part serial are completed.   That has now been done.

All issues are 80 pages, Black & White, A4 (Comic Album) format and will feature British Golden and Silver Ages strips as well as newer material and strips from the old Adventure (vol 1) zines of the 1980s.

The Golden Age material features The Iron Warrior,Madame Foretell, Dene Vernon, Halcon Lord of the Crater Land and many others.
All contents conform to the law as laid down by HM Copyright Office.

The cover price as well as publication dates (monthly) have not yet been decided upon.

There is an issue 8 and that is designed to lead straight into The Green Skies.  It should also mark 34 years of publishing and an end to BTCG anthology titles

It is hoped that BTSH 1-8 and The Green Skies will see publication in 2017.  All books will then remain available at the online store until December 2018 which will see the store terminated.









































Tuesday, 27 December 2016

More Golden Age?

Folks, if you want to see more British Golden Age material on this blog then you'll need to show your support because, financially, its easier for me to just close the blog and concentrate on trying to get work that pays because I have gone past the crisis point.

There are individual British Golden Age collections as well as the Ultimate collection that you can find at the online store.

Freely giving out material that others use while I sit here wondering what I'm going to eat next is no longer an option.

If you support the work and effort PLEASE check out the books and you can buy and hold a real collection of GA British strips in your hands!

Thanks.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

If I Say Abra and Cadabra Will My Freddie Fluence Work?

You want nonsensical post headers you got 'em!

Hello All!

 Still alive, barely, and I've gotten to a computer that works.  Now,  based on past experience I expect nil responses but this is Christmas! Wishes may come true...or not but you gotta try, right?

I've totally given up on trying to get scans of William A. Ward's The Bat artwork and the original Krakos the Egyptian book -though I have samples of the various Krakos strips. So I'm not going to ask for the impossible.

I know some of you belong to old Boys Papers groups, etc., so here is the list of old comic strips I'm looking for and if you can find any examples PLEASE let me know.

Abra and Cadabra -Puck 1926-1935

Bob The Pet Navvy -Jester and Wonder 1903-1906

Freddie Fluence  -Favourite 1912

Ronnie Roy -Funny Wonder 1940-1950

Professor Radium -Puck 1904-1916 (the image at the top is all I have and is VERY low res)

Merry Margie -Knockout 1939-1940

That's it.

Now, have a good Christmas and READ COMICS!!!
Up-date: it took a week but Merry Margie can now be ticked off the list but I've no objection to further sample strips!
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Monday, 17 October 2016

"So, Did that huge upsurge in views of Black Tower books help?"

The answer is, as I suggested it would be, no.

Incredible that such a huge number of UK views of BTCG comics and books took place over the weekend...and even today it seems by looking at stats. But nothing selling?

The UK market is dead. I can list example after example but why bother?

Keep looking while it's all still there and remember the price increase stage 3 this Friday.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Dead Shot Man by"Stim"


We know "Stim" or "Murdock" was Murdock Stimpson a comic artist, funny postcard illustrator -and illustrator of childrens (non-comic) books.  He was active from the 1920s to 1950s according to comics authority Alan Clark. However, there are (like many others) no known photographs of Stimpson and we do not even know when he was born or in what year he died.

However, here is some of his Swan Comics work.  Enjoy.


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Editing British Golden Age Comics

I’m hoping that Ernesto Guevara does not mind that I’m using part of an email I sent him  to explain things.
…the problem was, as in the US, paper drives for the war effort. Even if kids never wanted to part with their comics their mum’s no doubt did!  I know Denis Gifford mentioned -in one of his books also I think- that he came home one day to find his mother had cleared out the pesky comics!
We have so much info via books and magazines like Alter Ego on the US Golden Age but the UK Golden Age seems to have been forgotten. Swan, Denis M. Reader, et al were the life blood of the UK GA and I was very depressed to have some scanarama and Spacevoucher members say they never considered these publishers or their books worth noting.  Yet, get a Dandy or Beano or Amalgamated Press book of that period and its song, wine and fireworks!
meh. We’re all comickers -different strokes for different folks.
I do know there are at least two collectors on one of my groups (they think anonymously ?!) who have Back From The Dead, Krakos The Egyptian and The Bat in their collections but won’t share.  The odd thing is that those who might not have a problem sharing are more likely not on the internet or haven’t found the yahoo group -its why I duplicated the British Golden Age blogs so its on Word Press and Blogger so one of them might stumble upon it!
In fact, through Denis Ray (an American) and Ernesto (I know there is another guy but my memory for names!) we’ve come up with 100% more on the small publishers of 1939-1951 than was available before.
Its odd that the Silver Age group, BritComics (set up in 2004) has over 150 members (157) while the British Comic Book Archives (set up in 2007) has…52!
I’ve done this before but, as I’m getting over a migraine and couldn’t draw or finish editing, I thought I would spend the day looking online for British Golden Age Comics or groups dealing with them.
With the odd break, after seven hours, every single image points me back to my own sites (there is a free servers site I’m just up-dating).  On Yahoo there are only two groups -Britcomics and the BCBA.
This, to me, is very, very depressing.  It might also explain why the British Golden Age collections I published hardly sell.  Having written that I do know scans of those books are widely distributed -illegally meaning I lose money.
Everyone cry now. NOW!!!!
After about three decades of looking there has been some headway made.
I’ll keep at this, as I’m sure will other members when they can, but I have this image of my funeral and someone running in breathless waving a comic -“Is it too late -I’ve found a copy of Swan’s Krakos comic!!”
In fact, though the completed collected book eludes us 2 sample pages from a William A. Ward Krakos strip plus a complete one have come to light in the last two weeks  -the latter features in the newTales Of Terror 4 -see, we’re making headway!
We just need to keep letting people we know and on other groups know that we need scans!!  That 4Share account needs to be fit to bursting!  But I’m getting really weary of chasing Holy Grails.
I need to also find some way of making sure that if I pop off the Archive is still there.
And the Golden Age strips/books we find are usually in a heck of a state. Different qualities of paper were used -none of them of a high standard. Inks and the quality of printing varied and you’ll find orange inked pages, blue, green and even red inked pages. Now if you are converting that to black and white, or more accurately grey-tone, it’s a nightmare!
Oh lords of comics -then you get the foxing, mold or spattering of ink (from printing). And worst of all the pen scribbles and tears repaired using sellotape (AAARGH!).
Some people who have seen an original scanned page do not believe it is what the printed version comes from. I’ll demonstrate but I want to share a funny story first.
I posted the following page on a couple of my groups. “Stew” emails and asks how I got the page when he hasn’t scanned it yet -?!
Then Dave sends me an email with the same comment.
I’ve seen THEIR pages now and can tell you they are the same page, tear and the tape repairs arealmost identical.
It could be that this particular book was damaged during printing and several copies were affected. Whatever, it’s weird.
Anyway, this is the sort of original page I get:
It’s dis-coloured and there is that tear and the yellowing-brown tape. First thing to do is get rid of the colour from the scan so I get this:
It’s a sort of off grey. So my next move is to up the contrast and get this:

Which means pushing up the brightness, saving that and then upping the contrast to get this:

You can still see the tear so a bit more fine tuning and….
This is close to the finished item but on this I would enlarge the page to around 400% and then deal with the tear in Paint Shop.
One page like this can take up to 2 hours to tidy.
One thing I will not do is re-panel. The whole point is to show the original strip and how it appeared.  Some artists draw crooked panels. I learned a long time ago to leave these! I ‘straightened’ a page in photo-shop to correct the tilt on a page but then realized something else was crooked. I corrected it…uhh, not that wasn’t right…I then stepped back and realized most of the panels were just very faint lines (as in the above page).  So I left it.
You have to remember that William Ward, Jock McCail, Glynne Protheroe and others were writing and drawing their own strips -a huge number of them.  As far as Gerald Swan was concerned the comics were throw-away entertainment for kids so as long as his books were filled and he raked in the coppers or brass or silver he was happy.
And the books end up battered or chucked in a box in an attic, a cellar or even under an old bed.  we’re lucky that not all “mums” threw out “those silly comics”!
When people say to me “These aren’t very good quality print-wise are they?” I say they should buy an original Swan comic and check the quality….oh, wait, very few appear for sell so they can’t. Also, I’ve had one purchaser of the Ultimate British Golden Age Collection write that he thought he would never see the comics he read as a kid again (he’s 75 years old) -“and in a lot better quality!”
THAT makes the work worth it.
Though I would still like to be rich!