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Saturday, May 03, 2014

Mickey Mouse Weekly (Coronation issue 1937)

Comics have often commemorated various points in history which adds to their interest as they become social documents of the times. This 66th issue of Mickey Mouse Weekly was no exception. Published on May 7th 1937, it celebrated the upcoming coronation of King George VI which took place on May 12th. (George's brother, Edward, had abdicated in order to marry divorcee Wallace Simpson. Different times back then, with Edward's actions making him unsuitable for the throne.)

Inside, an editorial claimed that the cover to this issue had been "specially drawn for ALL of you by Mr.Disney". It certainly bears Walt Disney's signature, but the likelihood is that it was drawn by Wilfred Haughton, a British artist who was the regular cover illustrator. Unless any of you know differently? 

Mickey Mouse Weekly was a splendid comic. Published by Odhams, it was tabloid size with glossy paper, quality printing, and four of its 12 pages in full colour. Compared to its rivals, which were mostly 8 pages in black ink on on cheap coloured paper, Mickey Mouse Weekly must have seemed really special.

The contents were a mixture of Disney newspaper strips and originated British strips and prose stories. Here's one of the pages by British creators: Elmer and Tillie sharing a page with Skit and Skat. Basil Reynolds was usually the artist but this page looks a little rushed in places for his style. Perhaps it's just not Reynolds at his best, or perhaps he was a bit down because this was the last time these characters would appear for a while.

There's a myth in UK comics that all British comics featured text beneath the panels until The Dandy came along in December 1937 and started featuring speech balloons more regularly. I disproved that tale two years ago with this post:

As you can see, Mickey Mouse Weekly, which predates The Dandy, also proves that claim is untrue, as speech balloons appear throughout the strips, none of which are burdened with text under the pictures. It's time to rewrite the history books.

The full colour centrespread of this issue featured a mixture of American Sunday newspaper strips, although the 'pirates cave' vertical strip is very British in style so is presumably original.

A British adventure serial in the issue was The City of Jewels, illustrated by John McCail...

Being the coronation issue, a photograph of the royal family was expected, - appearing after a text adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper. That's the current Queen in the bottom right there, as a young princess, which gives you some scale of the age of this comic. 

On the back page, Mickey Mouse in the Foreign Legion; reprinting the US newspaper strip serial by the great Floyd Gottredson. 

I recently bought this comic on eBay and I'm very pleased with the purchase as the condition is excellent. It just goes to show that paper will keep in top shape for decades if stored in the right conditions and isn't treated roughly. 


John Freeman said...

That's a wonderful purchase, Lew. Terrific art on the strips. Don't know much about Mickey Mouse Weekly other than the covers I've seen on ComPal Auctions so your article is very interesting, especially about the note on the use of word balloons. Thanks.

Lew Stringer said...

MMW must have seemed like the Eagle or TV21 of it's day, compared to the other comics of its time.

I don't know when the myth about speech balloons started but it's been used to dismiss comics prior to 1937 on several occasions, including that Comics Britannia documentary.

Steve Marchant said...

Talking about myths...
I had dozens of MMWs when I was a kid – for about 2 days… along with Eagles and Beanos with Eggo on the front.
In the mid-70s in Wolverhampton, where I grew up, great swathes of Victorian terraces were earmarked for demolition and abandoned. Me and a friend would go mooching about in them, gaining access through unlocked doors or broken windows. Naughtier boys than us had usually been there first, or homeless people; a few times we’d come across a room strewn with used condoms, which meant either prostitutes used the place or the previous tenants had had one hell of a leaving party. We never found much, sometimes there’d be empty pop bottles that we could gleefully smash in the back yard or old porn magazines that we’d giggle at in pre-pubescent stupidity.
But once, we hit the mother lode. In an old attic, we opened a chest filled with comics – all those mentioned above and more. Even at the tender age of 12, I knew what an incredible find this was (I’d devoured the Penguin Book of Comics some years before). The larger comics were folded in half but otherwise in great condition thanks to being stored in a fairly airtight container. My friend’s interest in comics was virtually nil, but even he could see that this was an amazing find – so much so that he demanded he got half of them so he could sell them to the local second-hand shop. I had to reluctantly agree, so we piled the comics up in two empty boxes to take them to our respective homes. Already, I was cooking up a scheme to get his pile off him in the week (I think I was going to threaten to reveal to a girl at school that he fancied her).
Getting home, I excitedly showed off my haul to my mom, who said the comics would be ‘full of germs’ and I couldn’t keep them in the house (there was an urban myth at the time that old papers, books, etc, harboured some of the deadliest diseases in the developed world – I had friends that weren’t allowed to join the library). After much cajoling, mom said I could keep them in the out-house, and that I had to wash my hands after reading them. That night, I managed to read a few and snuck a Miller reprint Marvel Family upstairs under my jumper; that mission accomplished, I figured I could get the rest of the comics to safety in a few days.
The next day at school, my archaeological accomplice told me that his mom had said much the same thing, but that he could keep them… on the bonfire that his dad had going at the end of the garden. I was mortified (he wasn’t that bothered, saying that they’d ‘gone up great’ when he threw them on the fire).
I dashed home at four o’clock, determined to escalate my safety-plan. I found the comics piled up by the dustbin outside. Mom had conducted some in-depth research with a couple of old ladies on the bus, and ascertained that we were indeed harbouring a ticking bio-hazard that would lay waste to the neighbourhood. They had to go. A prolonged argument ensued, but I was defeated by the scientific expertise proffered by Lil and Nell from up the road.
After tea, I crept outside for a last look at my paper refugees by the bin and spotted salvation. An older lad I vaguely knew that lived opposite was walking by, so I asked him to ‘steal’ them when I went in, keep them safe at his house, and I’d get them back on Saturday when mom was out shopping. He said it’d cost me, and a fee of 25 pence was agreed. ‘Someone’s took them old comics’ mom announced later. ‘They’ll probably be dead by the weekend’ said dad. Saturday came – mom had gone into town and dad was at work. My younger brother was happily watching Tiswas. I crossed the road and rang the bell of my mercenary aide. He came to the door and informed me that his mom had said… oh, you can guess the rest. They’d gone in the bin, and the bin men had just been the day before, so that was that. All gone.
Fast-forward 38 years: I work at the Cartoon Museum in London where I often find myself collating and perusing Mickey Mouse Weeklies, Eagles, 40s DCs, 60s Marvels and so much more. And I’m almost constantly ill! Go figure!

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for that great anecdote, Steve. I'm sorry to hear the comics ended up like that though.

My situation was the opposite. I was very lucky in that my mum didn't mind me saving comics at all, new or second hand. In fact, when I was 6 or 7 I wanted to throw out my comics and I remember my mum encouraging me to save them. "You might want to read them again one day" she said. But I was adamant I didn't need them, so a pile of 1960s Dandy, Beano, Sparky, and early issues of TV21, Smash, went onto the bonfire.

I regretted it years later, but I was fortunate enough to regain the ones I really wanted (TV21, Smash, Dandy) in the 1980s, - in excellent condition.

It was something my mum and I often smiled about, and when I started collecting comics properly in 1967 I'm pleased she let me save them from then on. (I have a clear out every few years though, of new stuff, but I keep hold of those 1960s comics.)

Lew Stringer said...

By the way, I also remember that scare story about paper carrying germs. I think that's why most of my friends had to dispense with their comics.

I wonder if the myth started because of someone having a dust allergy or something, mistaking it for a virus?

Steve Marchant said...

I should add that a year or two later, my mom had a Damascene conversion, and has been nothing but supportive of the whole 'comics' thing ever since. We once saw some MMWs on the wall in Nostalgia & Comics, going for silly money. 'We'd still have them if I hadn't been so bloody stupid' she said.

Anonymous said...

Paper carries germs? I've never heard that one before - honestly, the nonsense that some people believe !

Lew Stringer said...

Yep, that scare story is up there with the tales of comics corrupting children.

I suppose it depends on where paper is kept though. If comics are stored in the shed and start to grow mould, then they're probably not too healthy. :)

Anonymous said...

My mother loved that blue veined cheese which is basically just mouldy cheese so mould can't be that harmful even though it's not very appealing I admit. As for Mickey Mouse, there was a MM comic in the late '70s which I remember because one of my school-friends had a letter printed in it and he brought it in to show us.

Lew Stringer said...

Mold in blue veined cheese won't hurt you but that's not the same sort of mold you'd find growing in a damp shed.

Yes, IPC published a Mickey Mouse comic in the 70s. It began as 'Donald and Mickey'. Enter the name in the search window of this blog and you'll find it.

Manic Man said...

I'm not sure about that cover art.. possible to be Disney, noting that ... badly drawn micky hand.. he seam to have a habit of that at times.. but personally, I wouldn't have said so..

I only knew about the 'myth' about captions when I decided to read a couple of articles on the history of british comics some time back and just thought it was rubbish cause it've seen comics from before that time without the text under them.. mostly it's just a couple of idiots, and other people think that 'one idiot' makes a refrence worth listening too.. of course, now with Wiki... etc etc..

I find articles like 'Through a glass, Darkly - the revisionist History of Comics' by John McShane worth a read.. no very large or anything, but worth a read for information on 'The Looking Glass' and a more correct history of comics, correcting the errors of 'William Heath'.

Lew Stringer said...

I wouldn't say anything in that cover image is badly drawn, Manic. That hand is stylized in a certain way seen in many comics back then.

I think the first time I heard about the myth of textless strips starting in 1937 would have been in one of Denis Gifford's books or his contemporaries. So certainly not idiots. It's not always easy piecing together the 130+ year history of British comics from the odd issues you find, so it's a constant learning process for all of us.

What is annoying of course is when current historians completely ignore the evidence and continue the myth.

Manic Man said...

possible on not being badly drawn but it just seams stylised in a different way to the other hands to me.. that being said, it is a glove after all, just remins me of some times when Disney had done that and it always seamed odd (On a minor related note, Plane Crazy was the first Mickey Mouse Cartoon made.. sure, Steam Boat willy was the first AIRED but Plane Crazy is far better anyway (more so if you get pasted the bit where the early trouble maker micky tries to rape Minnie.. even if it is what has been described as the 'Disney version' of rape.) still a good cartoon

Manic Man said...

Just noticed, on that last page, you can see where the Text has been touched up before printing on the Mickey Mouse comic.. I can't see what words might have been changed on a couple of bits, but at lest one has a large space.. I would suggest the terms have been changed from American to English but I can't see any terms I would say are English like that.. maybe just damaged copies were sent to the UK?

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