Thursday, March 08, 2007
Although the British representation of Marvel Comics in Odhams Fantastic and Terrific didn't meet with huge success in 1967/68 it didn't deter Top Sellers Ltd. from attempting a similar UK title in 1969.
Super DC was, like Fantastic, a 40 page anthology comic with full colour covers and black and white interiors. Its layout owed more to Odhams Smash! and Pow! in that it resized American pages to better suit a UK format. The logic being that British readers were used to seeing pages with 12 panels or more, not 5 or 6 like the American comics had, so layouts were re-jigged to accommodate two pages worth of US material on one Super DC page. This often led to noticeable results, with panels being cropped awkwardly or extra art added, sometimes poorly. Worse, the covers were usually sloppy composites of character poses that produced bizarre results, most infamously on the cover of No.3 which appeared to not only show Robin peering intently at Batman's crotch but also crouching down for a closer inspection!
If the reader could get past its flaws, Super DC was a good showcase for the DC heroes. The contents included Superman, Batman, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Superboy; all taken from a classic and much respected period of late fifties / early sixties DC comics. The issues also included new two page text stories (Superman or Batman), an editorial page using the DC Direct Currents logo (but being nothing like its American page), a centrespread photo-feature which usually covered tv shows of the period (anything from Doctor Who to Randall and Hopkirk Deceased or Please Sir!), a Denis Gifford strip Jolly Jack (in No.6) and "The Skipper's Mailbag" where in one issue a reader asked what a ship's captain had to do with DC comics. The question went unanswered.
The "Skipper" in question, the editor of Super DC, was Mick Anglo, more famous for the creation of Marvelman in the 1950s. His editorial pages were an eclectic mixture of info ranging from background snippets on DC characters to the rotary index of Scotland Yard's fingerprint system or the workings of London's Victoria Line.
No doubt Top Sellers intended Super DC to attract readers to the regular American titles, for Top Sellers were also the distributors of DC comics in the UK! This was pretty blatant by the advertisement that appeared on the back cover of every issue of Super DC, urging readers to "Get in on the action" and order World's Finest, Lois Lane, etc from their newsagent. (Inspired by this I tried to do so, but my newsagent told me he never knew which titles Top Sellers would sent him, so it had to be an unspecific order for "every American comic" or none. I chose none.)
Incidentally, your eyes aren't deceiving you; that DC comics ad (shown above) was indeed coloured by someone who clearly had no idea what Batman looked like, colouring him naked apart from green trunks and gloves. This was never corrected throughout Super DC's run.
Priced at 1/- (5p) and published monthly, Super DC should have worked but didn't. Perhaps the format of complete stories failed to hook the readers. (I think that's one reason I gave up on it after 7 issues. That plus the poor covers.) I understand there were 14 issues in all, although I only have 1 to 12 and have never seen any others. (Unsold copies of the monthly were later redistributed to newsagents with a 5p sticker added.) There was also a hardback Super DC Bumper Book which was an improvement on the monthly in that it featured full colour and the pages were not resized, but bizarre recolouring (such as a brown Krypto) let it down somewhat.
Today, DC comics are represented in the UK with Titan's Batman Legends monthly and its companion comic Superman Legends (coming soon); both featuring up to date strips in full colour and running to 76 pages each. Far better designed than Super DC, but at least for a short while in 1969 to 1970 Mick Anglo's publication was an interesting if sometimes offbeat home for the DC heroes.