Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The British Superman from Australia

Back in the 1950s, when wartime import restrictions were still in place, American comics were not widely distributed in the UK. A few got through unofficially at portside cities but, for the most part, it was down to UK publishers to produce reprint editions for British kids. There were dozens of titles reprinting American material, mostly in black and white, from London publishers such as Len Miller. However, some reprint comics came from much further afield, such as the Superman family of titles that were imported to the UK from Australia.

Here's a few pages from Superman No.52, widely available in the UK in the early 1950s but actually an Australian comic. This was published in 1953 (October '53 I believe). The format was Golden Age U.S. comic size (ie: a bit wider than modern American comics) with 28 pages including full colour glossy cover, blue ink on inside and back covers, and black and white interiors on pulp paper.

The cover art is by J.Winslow Mortimer and was originally the cover to Action Comics No.179, February 1953. The lead story, Super Manor, is reprinted from that same issue, with artwork by Wayne Boring.

The 1950s and very early 1960s is my favourite era of Superman, when the strip featured a lot of humour and lighthearted plots. No grim and grittiness or universe-endangering crisis, just Superman in almost sit-com situations. Here's another page from the same story...

The same issue of this Australian Superman comic also reprinted The Search for the Bravest Woman from Superman No.83 (July/August 1953). Art by Al Plastino.

Other Australian reprints of DC Comics that made it to UK newsagents included Batman, Super Adventure Comic (reprinting World's Finest), and Superboy.

The Australian Superman comic also featured short back-up humour pages. Here's a selection. I'm presuming these may be originated Australian strips rather than U.S. reprint...

With a cover price of 6d it's likely that most British readers just assumed these Superman comics were produced in the UK, unless they read the small print: "Printed by Gale and Polden Ltd, for the K.G. Murray Publishing Co. Ltd., 56 Young Street, Sydney, Australia. Distributed by Atlas Publishing and Distributing Co. Ltd, 18 Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London E.C.4"

I've no idea how long this Austalian/British Superman comic ran for. Perhaps as long as 1959 when the U.S. editions began to be imported? If anyone knows, please post a comment.


Here's the original cover to that issue, from Action Comics No.179. Image from the excellent Comic Vine website:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Snap up those annuals!

With Christmas fast approaching it's time to grab your copies of this year's annuals while you can! My local WH Smith sold out of The Dandy Annual 2016 weeks ago and sadly shows no sign of restocking.

I know some of you wait until December to buy the annuals (or even wait until the January sales) but the books have been out since July so it's better to buy early to ensure your copies. 

Sainsbury are currently selling The Beano Annual 2016 for £3.49, which is an absolute bargain. They've sold out of The Dandy Annual in my local branch though. Fortunately I bought my copies back in July, and reviewed them here if you want a preview of the contents:

I'm currently drawing pages for the Dandy Annual that will be out next year, which inspired me to post this plug for the current books. Never Be Without A Beano (or Dandy) Annual! 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ken Reid's HUGH FOWLER (Scorcher, 1971 to 1972)

Continuing my look back at Ken Reid's Scorcher strips, here are a few examples of Hugh Fowler, The Man who HATES Football. This strip replaced Ken's previous series, Manager Matt, and Hugh ran in Scorcher from the issue dated 14th August 1971 to 6th May 1972.

Hugh Fowler and his hatred of soccer was a refreshing change from all the football-mad characters that populated Scorcher. However, in the final strip even he changed his mind in some sort of Road to Damascus moment. Ah well, it was good while it lasted.    

British Star Trek strips to be reprinted in 2016

Just a heads up for any of you who may have missed the news on Down The Tubes last week. Next year, American publisher IDW is to publish collections of the UK Star Trek strips that appeared in British comics almost 50 years ago.

Volume 1 of Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics will contain all of the Star Trek stories that appeared in Joe 90 Top Secret in 1969 and the strips that appeared in the merged TV21 and Joe 90 in 1969 to 1970. (Volume 2 will presumably reprint the strips from Valiant and TV21 from 1971 to 1973.) 
The first UK Star Trek strip from JOE 90 No.1 (1969).

A number of top British artists worked on the strip, including Harry Lindfield, Mike Noble, and Harold Johns. IDW have a great reputation for producing books of high quality so I'm sure we'll be in for a treat. 

Readers need to bear in mind that the the storylines and dialogue of the UK Star Trek strips are very much in the tradition of British adventure comics of the time. For example, Mr.Spock tends to be far more hot-headed in the strips, and the characters don't always 'sound' like their TV versions. The first two episodes (from Joe 90 Nos.1 and 2) even call the lead character Captain Kurt! It'll be interesting to see how American readers react to these stories but hopefully they'll accept them as the fast-paced fun strips they were intended to be. 

To read more about the project, see John Freeman's Down the Tubes website here:

(All the scans above are from my collection, not from the book.)

Saturday, November 21, 2015


There's a brand new issue of Spaceship Away out, and it's a cracker! Published three times a year, this quality independent comic is a must for fans of both the classic and 'new' Dan Dare. The issue kicks off with another chapter of the all-new serial Mercury Revenant by Tim Booth, complete with a festive cover in the style of classic Eagle...

Other strips include Episode 3 of the 1950s Jet Morgan serial The World Next Door, a Davy Rocket humour page (which I'm still not sure if it's new or reprint), more chapters of Tim Booth's other Dan Dare serial Parsecular Tales, and a great Nick Hazard strip by Phil Harbottle and Ron Turner...

Speaking of Ron Turner, there's a very informative article in this edition by Philip Harbottle recounting Ron's science fiction work, well illustrated with lots of perfectly printed cover images. Other articles in this issue cover the life and times of artist Eric Eden, and a retrospective of the Dan Dare stories from the 1980s incarnation of Eagle, with both features also accompanied with excellent artwork.

To top it off, there are a few new pieces by veteran artist Don Harley (including the cover shown above). The back cover shows the much-loved Dan Dare Radio Station toy, which was on sale in toyshops for many years. (Launched in the 1950s, I had one as late as Christmas 1969 or 1970! Same box design, same toy design.)

Spaceship Away No.37 has 40 full colour pages on quality paper and is available from the comic's website:
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