Monday, December 28, 2009
Vintage colour comics: GOLDEN No.125 (1940)
When one sees articles on the British pre-war and wartime comics, with their simple format of black ink on coloured paper, it's easy to forget that there were also some comics that had full colour covers. Dandy and Beano were not the leaders in that field as sometimes thought, as we'll see with this occasional look back at some of the colour comics from Amalgamated Press.
This issue of Golden, dated March 9th 1940, shows the weekly towards the end of its short life. The comic only ran for 135 issues, and this is issue No.125.
Originally, Golden had started out as a comic printed in black ink on orange paper, then switched to two-colour printing (black and orange on white paper) before upgrading to a full colour cover with issue No.116. It seems that A.P. tried everything they could to attract readers before its merger into Jingles in May 1940.
Why did it fail? The easy answer is wartime shortages probably killed it off and it would have been a relatively expensive comic to produce, so merging it with a cheaper quality comic may have been the best option. A great pity, as Golden would have certainly stood out in newsagents, as this bright and lively Roy Wilson cover demonstrates. (Readers of Alan Moore's new Dodgem Logic magazine will perhaps have noticed that this is the comic that inspired the masthead for Alan's first issue.)
The cover is busy and well designed, with the Golden Picture Palace side strip being a nice bonus alongside the main Lieutenant Daring strip. Daring was a character that had started out on the front cover of Sparkler comic, but A.P. moved him to Golden from the first issue, I assume to try and attract Sparkler's readers to the new comic.
Even to this day Roy Wilson remains one of the most influential humour artists to ever grace British comics. However, to my eye, the semi-realistic style used for Lieutenant Daring himself seems to clash with the bouncy inkline of the supporting characters. This is particularly evident when extreme caricatures (such as the cannibals in this strip above) appear in the same world as the perfect mannequin features of Daring.
Inside the 8 page comic, there's a traditional mixture of text stories and comic strips. However the tone of Golden was slightly younger than that of most other A.P. comics of the time. It seems that Golden was created to bridge the gap between nursery comics such as Rainbow and comics for an older age such as Comic Cuts.
Time for a cheap laugh. Yes, this character's name is funnier than his story...
Other than the cover, there aren't any slapstick strips in the comic. Golden was trying to be a light adventure title rather than an out-and-out "funny". The few humour strips in the comic are quite gentle, and, well, not exactly comedy classics, as shown by this extract from Brother Bill and Sister Sue...
Harbour Pirates is a simple but solidly drawn serial showing plucky youngsters having exciting and dangerous adventures, - the sort of theme that rivals D.C. Thomson would excel at for decades.
For me, Kings of the Air is the standout strip in the comic. The artist is Reg Perrott, a huge talent in adventure strips of the era whose style was far ahead of many of his contemporaries. Sadly Reg died in 1947, before British all-adventure comics really took off, but what a great addition he would have been to comics such as Eagle.
On the back page of this issue is Kaloo, King of the Tigers, an obvious Tarzan copy even down to the logo design. Artwork is by Arthur Mansbridge, father of Norman Mansbridge the humour artist responsible for Fuss Pott and Mummy's Boy in the IPC weeklies.
The war certainly damaged Golden's chances of success but I'm sure that wasn't the only reason for its short run. One would think that a comic featuring talents as strong as Roy Wilson and Reg Perrott, with a full colour cover, would be bound to succeed, - but the appetites of readers aren't always easy to judge. Perhaps the younger tone of Golden was to its disadvantage? Perhaps the more value-for-money (and funnier) Dandy and Beano were just too strong for Golden to compete with?
There'll be a look back at another vintage colour comic soon.