Wednesday, January 18, 2012
60 Year Flashback: TV COMIC 1952
This is the issue of TV Comic that would have been on sale exactly 60 years ago this week. Those of you who knew the title in its later years will immediately notice that in its early days (this is issue No.12) TV Comic was pitched at a younger readership, perhaps just above the nursery comics age group.
Published by News of the World Ltd (long before that paper dragged itself into the gutter towards oblivion) the early TV Comic only had 12 pages, but 8 were in glorious full colour thanks to the slick photogravure printing. Even in the early 1950s, such lavish production standards were rare, reserved for such comics as Eagle and Mickey Mouse Weekly, whilst the majority such as Chips, Beano, Film Fun, Knockout etc had to settle for common newsprint and limited colour.
As you can see, the cover strip in 1952 was the hugely popular Muffin the Mule, based on the puppet that the nation's children had taken to their hearts. (These old comics offer a fantastic snapshot into history. Just look at that 1950s TV set!)
The artwork on Muffin the Mule was by Neville Main, who would become a regular on TV Comic, later illustrating the Hartnell Doctor Who strips and other features. The Muffin cover strip continued on the centre pages alongside strips by other artists.
Mr.Pastry appeared on page 2 of TV Comic back then. (Pastry was a comedy performer, - real name Richard Hearne, - in case you were assuming he was a TV chef.) The artwork is by Lunt Roberts (according to Denis Gifford's Encyclopedia of Comic Characters), providing a nice bit of slapstick sequential art here.
There were also text stories and articles in TV Comic back then, such as this activity feature. No snickering at the back there please...
This Tusker & Tikki strip has some very nifty artwork by someone calling himself "Spike".
With 8 pages of colour you'd have thought they'd have reserved one for Prince Valiant as they were reprinting the American Sunday pages. Sadly not, and Hal Foster's top quality work was reproduced in murky black and white instead, with an instruction for "young artists" to colour it themselves. (Luckily I managed to pluck this issue from the time vortex before any 1950s freckle-faced urchins with compulsory sticking-out ears had crayoned on it.)
The Tom Puss strip opposite Prince Valiant is another reprint, this time of the Dutch strip Tom Poes by Marten Toonder. I assume this is a chapter of a longer story that was serializing one of the Tom Poes albums.
On the back page was Hank which, like Muffin the Mule, was also based on a puppet series. The lively artwork was by Ron Murdoch.
For better or worse TV Comic underwent several changes over the years but this early issue shows what a quality product it was in its early stages. Even its logo was clearly designed and contemporary for its time, and the whole comic must have seemed very modern and exciting compared to most comics of the 1950s. Also, with television being in black and white back then imagine the impact the stunning colours of the TV Comic strips must have had on the readers.
A year later in 1953, Amalgamated Press launched a rival in the form of TV Fun, which had charms of its own but failed to last beyond 1959. In the meantime TV Comic continued its steady progress and managed an impressive run of 33 years, ending in 1984.