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Saturday, February 27, 2010

British Comic Facsimiles (Updated)

Back in the 1970s there were several full size facsimiles of old pre-war British comics published and available in two collections. The comics were presented full tabloid size, and loose leaf with no staples, just as they had been in their original form. The facsimiles were so convincing that today they're often seen on eBay and the like, sold as original comics.

To be fair, some sellers are completely innocent of the fact that the comics are reprints and not originals. Furthermore as the reprints are now over 30 years old they're collectible in their own right, albeit not as valuable as the original editions. Even so, I'm sure collectors would prefer to know if what they were buying were genuine items or not.

As a guide to help collectors know which comics were reprinted, here are the issue numbers and covers of the comics in question.

The first collection was part of a series published by Peter Way Limited called Great Newspapers Reprinted which, as the title explains, reprinted key issues of old newspapers. In 1972 Peter Way released the second Great Newspapers Reprinted Special, priced 20p, sub-titled Six Comics of World War One. (Cover above). The comics were reprinted from the collection of Denis Gifford and Denis himself provided an article inside the wraparound cover about the comics. The six comics it gathered within its outer cover were as follows...

The Rainbow No.168 April 28th 1917.

Illustrated Chips No.1477 December 21st, 1918. (First peacetime issue after the end of the Great War.)

The Funny Wonder No.72 August 7th 1915. (First Charlie Chaplin comic strip.)

Lot-o'-Fun No.453 November 14th, 1914.

Picture Fun No.307 December 26th, 1914. (Christmas issue.)

Comic Life No.893 July 31st, 1915.

Three years later, in 1975, Denis Gifford compiled another collection, this time for the New English Library, publishers of the seventies Target magazine and the notorious skinhead paperbacks. Under the title Collectors Comics, the hope was for it to be a regular series but a second edition never surfaced. Priced at 40p, Collectors Comics No1: Penny Comics of the Thirties followed the format of its predecessor; full size facsimile comics inside a new outer cover, again with sleeve notes by Denis Gifford.

This time the comics were even closer facsimiles by being printed on coloured paper just as the originals had been. However the print quality was murkier than the other collection, resulting in some detail looking clogged up in places. The four comics in this collection were...

Merry Midget No.1 September 12th 1931.

Sparkler No.20 January 23rd 1932.

Rattler No.105 August 24th 1935.

Target No.53 June 13th 1936.

Several years afterward, (late 1970s or early 1980s) yet another collection of old British comics appeared. However there is no danger of these being confused with the originals. Known as the "Tiger Tim Collection" these 16 comics were all printed on heavier quality paper, had staples, and were reduced to a size of 330mm x 240mm. The coloured paper used was also more garish than the original subtle tones. The 16 comics were issued within a dark green slipcase but I understand they were also bound into a book, so there were two versions available. The reproduction was mostly excellent and they're well worth seeking out.

The issues in this collection were:

Funny Wonder No.839 April 26th 1930
Kinema Comic No.547 October 18th 1930
Playbox No.306 December 27th 1930
Larks No.188 May 30th 1931
Tiger Tim's Weekly No.507 August 8th 1931
Puck No.1,430 December 26th 1931
Merry & Bright No.851 July 29th 1933
Jester No.1.692 April 14th 1934

Film Fun No.753 June 23rd 1934
Tip Top No.69 August 10th 1935
Comic Cuts No.2,371 October 26th 1935
The Joker No.431 February 1st 1936
The Rainbow No.1,277 August 6th 1938
The Jolly Comic No.197 October 22 1938
Illustrated Chips No.2,514 November 12th 1938
Butterfly No.1,162 July 15th 1939

Last year saw the publication of seven facsimile comics given free in The Guardian and The Observer, which I covered on my blog here:

Sadly, some of those Tammy No.1 reprints immediately went up on eBay by unscrupulous sellers as original comics, but as far as I could see they fooled no one and remained unsold. Recently, more honest sellers are currently advertising them as facsimiles which is an improvement.

The older facsimiles listed above still continue to turn up on eBay, often listed as genuine originals, so I hope today's blog will be a helpful guide for collectors to bid accordingly.

UPDATE: Reader Dave Whitwell has reminded me that there were facsimiles of six first issue D.C. Thomson comics published in 1978. These appeared as both separate comics and all bound into one book: D.C. Thomson Firsts. Covers below, courtesy of Dave. (I have this book but I've misplaced my copy.) More details about the book are in Dave's comments to this blog.


John Freeman said...

Thanks for this, Lew - given that most of the original comics listed were published before 1024, I'm sure some enterprising soul must be thinking what a great source of content these could be for the iPad, since they're out of copyright. Digital versions wouldn't have the same problems as print and could avoid 'murky' reproduction.

Kid said...

I've still got my "Penny Comics of the Thirties" from 1975 - I well remember looking forward to the next issue and being disappointed when it never appeared. 1975? 35 years ago? Only seems like yesterday to me.

crispynev said...

Same as Kid - I waited and waited for No.2! I loved Penny Comics of the Thirties and remember pouring over the facsimilies time and time again. Happy Days! (as Dennis Gifford would no doubt say)

irishpete said...

what would be good if a lot of these classics, including early beano and dandy being brought out in bound book forms, that would be worth collecting each xmas too.

Lew Stringer said...

I don't think there's a large enough market for such bound collections to be feasible, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

Dave Whit said...

Reading Irishpete's comments reminded me of the facsimiles of the first issues of the Beano, Dandy and Magic Comic, which were published in the late 1970s. The paper quality was better than that used on the Beano comic at the time and the comics were clearly dated and marked with the publisher's name, Chimera-Posner. I haven't seen any ebay dealers trying to sell these as originals, as nobody could be fooled once they looked at the comics.

I'm pretty sure that the first issues of Skipper,Hotspur,Rover, Wizard and Adventure were produced at that time too, but as they were story papers and not comics they didn't interest me at the time.

Many years later on I found a hardback collection of all eight DC Thomson 1st issue comics. It's called 'DC Thomson Firsts' (Chimera-Posner 1978).

Personally, I'd love to be able to read reprint collections of many British comic strips, including classic Baxendale Bash St Kids and Reid's Jonah etc. DC Thomson are producing some interesting reprint annuals each Christmas, so I suppose it could happen one day.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for reminding me of that book Dave! I bought a copy when it was published and can't believe I forgot about it.

John Freeman said...

There does seem to be some indication, from talking informally with several DC Thomson staff, that editors there would love to see more re-publishing of classic material. Fingers crossed, that might happen.

As Lew says though, there would be a very limited audience for some titles as far as print editions are concerned, which might mean any such collections would have a high price point.

With online publication - making a collection available as an ebook, but also offering a print on demand option - both potential audiences could be satisfied. The fan who prefers paper, and the fan who simply wants to read more of some classic material, but can't afford a high price point.

By offering e-editions, DC Thomson could reach a world audience, their fans not just in the UK but also where their stories have been republished.

This would actually make print collections more viable - the 'long tail effect', where even a little known creation can achieve good sales because of worldwide, not regional availability.

Lew Stringer said...

Very interesting John. Just thinking; disregarding the p.o.d. option for a moment, if it was only available as an e-book I presume pages wouldn't need much cleaning up? Scanning directly from the comics would retain that authentic look and, I would guess, that without cleaning it up for print, there'd be no worry of fine lines dropping out?

That said, a nice clean p.o.d. version would be good, and would help bring in more money for the publishers.

Better still, perhaps they could invest in a brand new eBook comic so we can keep working!

irishpete said...

my revived interest in comics stems from "classics from the comics" but would love a hard copy in book form from the early days, maybe if a complete year was issued each xmas of Beano and a Dandy, they would become collectable

I found my copy of Thompson Firsts, which reminded me of this.

yes that Firsts book had Wizzard, adventure, Hotspur, Magic, Dandy and Beano

love the Happy Days and the War years books, would love more from this era and beyond

there's nothing like the originals though, I have a complete run from 1977 thru 1981 (4p to 12p) you couldn't get much for that now.

John Freeman said...

Hi Lew

If I was going to properly exploit my comics archive for posterity (and retail) I would ensure the following:

1) Scanning at 600 DPI for archive and re-use purposes across all media (300 dpi is standard for print, 72dpi standard for web)

2) I'd agree - it's probably best to publish 'as is' in terms of material and then if people want to 'clean up' they can. A comics page on an e-reader (like the upcoming iPad) would look brighter than it ever could in print

3) By re-marketing and exploiting your archive at little cost online, you'd build a treasure chest to hopefully publish new work. Although of course a commercial publisher will say if "I can make money from reprint why should I do new stuff?" But no change there, then!

Anonymous said...

Surely those classic reprint books of Dandy and Beano comic strips though are targeted at the same people who used to buy the Eagle annual each year even while the comic itself had stopped being published eons ago - parents who remember the paper fondly and then buy the book for their own kids?

The reprint hardbacks have a heavy nostalgia element to them (or at least the first one did, which is the only I've got) so the appeal might be a bit more widespread that your typical hard core comics fan - I certainly hope so.

The ultra-gory "Action" reprint book, released at Christmas just to get us all into the festive spirit - it'll happen one day (perhaps)....

Robbie Moubert said...

The DC Thomson Firsts book was published by Danny Posner, at that time the owner of The Vintage Magazine Shop in Earlham St (now Brewer St). I had a Saturday job there at the time and, IIRC, the book came first and the individual copies were just surplus sections of the book.

Anonymous said...

Earlier this year the Northern Ireland evening paper, The Belfast Telegraph also gave away a set of Beano and Dandy Facimilies over a week.

Have any other regional papers done the same I wonder.

kat said...

Hi, Could you please tell me the value of these without the front cover and one comic missing? thankyou

Steev said...

I have got all of the original great newspaper collection in the special plastic folders that were sold at the time. If you want a list of the titles i can post that up

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip-offs on these books, Lew. I've managed to hunt them all down apart from the Great Newspapers reprint.

I'm fascinated by older comics, so I've enjoyed pouring over these. There is always so much work put into the art and the writing, and with filling up every space. I'd love to see more, but as you say it seems unlikely.

Unknown said...

Hi I have picture fun and some not shown on here was want know a bit more about them can anyone help me
Many thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi what is the value of the comic .... six comics of World War One.


Lew Stringer said...

No idea, sorry. I don't follow values. I'm interested in the craft of comics.

Unknown said...

I have the 16 comics that you called the Tiger Tim Collection. I have tried to find out if they still have a value, but can't find who to ask. Please can you tell me where l can go? Many thanks, Carol

Lew Stringer said...

I don't think those reprints would be worth much. No more than a fiver each really, probably less.

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