It's interesting how different art styles come in vogue over the years. This annual cover is very much in the style of the late 1940s but to modern eyes I think it'd terrify some kids today with its characters bursting out of a big leering face. It's supposed to represent international characters on a globe of course but the execution is a bit weird. Equally alarming are the racial stereotypes but in the context of 1948 when this was published that was the norm I'm afraid.
The publisher was the enterprising Gerald G. Swan, who was very prolific in the 1940s and 1950s. His comics were crude and cheap looking compared to those by the major publishers but Swan definitely made his mark as an independent, and his titles are still collectible today.
Funnies Album 1949 has 96 pages including its thick card covers. It's a busy mixture of humour and adventure strips, none of which exceed four pages. The standard of the scripts and artwork isn't high on most strips but Swan regular Harry Banger is excellent and stands out with his distinctive Stoogie character.
Some of the strips have a bleak and eerie tone about them, particularly an adventure with Krakos the Magician which features several deaths as our hero fights the devil himself.
There's a scene in Micky's Magic Mirror that's a little bit unsettling too, with the razor blades growing out of the store manager. "Ho ho! That's made him all cut up!" Blimey.
That said, it's surreal elements such as those that may explain why the Swan comics had such appeal. Perhaps the attraction was that they didn't feel as safe as the comics from the big two publishers D.C. Thomson and Amalgamated Press? Even a more traditional strip, Miss Whackem, seems more brutal than the usual school strip, with her cane permanently at the ready, waiting for any excuse to punish the children.
On the back cover was an advert for the range of Swan albums for that year. The perfectly innocent Kiddyfun Album sounds far too dodgy a title now, and the cover of Cute Fun Album features stereotypical cannibals. It really was a different era.
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