The Super-Duper Heroes

Please note that Black Tower Gold 1-5 has re-printed a number of lost British comic strips and you can see what is available at:

http://www.lulu.com/hoopercomicsuk

And check out Black Tower Comics And Books on Face Book and our blog!

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This page will show cover scans as well as a one page sampler interior page. Source credit Denis Gifford & Terry Hooper.

 The 1940s and 1950s saw many publishers try to emulate American comic heroes from comics that children could no longer get hold of because of the war. Gerald Swann and his fellow entrepeneurs did their best and came up with real gems. In 1950,as a reaction to all those “horrid” horror and violent comics,Frank Hampson published The Eagle,heralding the Silver Age of British comics.

In 1986,Black Tower revived many Golden Age heroes and some like Krakos,Streamline,both “THE” Bats and Maxwell have been appearing regularly ever since

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 Please note that,unless otherwise stated,all characters are [c]2005 Terry Hooper and Black Tower Comics Group [UK] and have been in use since 1986. Copyright infringements will result in legal action.

Dan Dare/Eagle,Garth,Marvelman [c] respective owners

MR MUSCLE from Dynamic Comics as drawn and written by Denis Gifford

Back From The Dead by William McCall,1940,1941 and 1952 -soon to be reprinted by Black Tower

Back From The Dead interior page….spooky!

Thrill Comics 1942,by William Ward,featuring Krakos the Egyptian

Krakos gets “involved” in the War -“heads up Fritz!”

Bumper Comic Capers,1942 -Nat Brand on Halcon Lord of The Crater!

Very little is known about Brand other than his superb work!

Super Duper Comics 1946. Powerman by Dennis M. Reader

Above:Powerman had a smashing time back then!

Crasho Comic 1947. Crewe Davies “Crash Britannus” stars!

above:crude artwork but….Crash goes into action!

Streamline Comics 1947. The speedster created and drawn by…Denis Gifford!

And Streamline is born!!

Above.Ensign Comic 1947. Not a costumed super hero…just A hero-Tola drawn by W. Forshaw

Above. You have to admit that is one superbly drawn tiger!

Above:Speed Gale Comics 1947. Anon. artist. Below:Super Duper 1947. Art by D. M. Reader

Above:It would be nice to know who the artist was -some superb form work here.

Above:Dennis M. Reader draws Electro-Girl

The 3-Star Adventures 1947 by Rex Hart

Super-Boyo is no push over…”up and at ’em!”

The Atom with Ju-Jitsu Jimmy by Rex Hart 1947

Above:Is a girl not safe on the beach? Lucky for Jimmy’s Ju-jitsu!

above:Prang Comic 1948 Maxwell The Mighty stars -artist anon.

Above:Maxwell in action –the professor avenged!

Marsman Comics 1948. The artist was Paddy Brennan a D.C.Thomson stalwart who later drew General Jumbo

The first episode of Garth written and drawn by Stephen Dowling 24th July,1943

Marvelman no.25 [first appearance of Marvelman the previous 24 issues featured Fawcetts Capt Marvel]1954 art Mick Anglo

The Comet 1949 featuring Thunderbolt Jaxon,drawn by Hugh McNeill..a boy transforms into a muscley,skirted man…ooh.

The Bat Magazine 1952-starring the Bat. Drawn and written by George McQueen was a supernatural hero:nothing to do with William Ward’s The Bat of the 1940s

Ushering in the Silver Age of British comics:Frank Hampson’s The Eagle no.1,14th April,1950-in Sweden Dan Dare became Dan Djarv in Falken from Sweden and Den Deri in Plavi Vjesnik from Jugoslavia

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Tom Browne 1870-1910

THE  ORIGINAL MASTER OF BRITISH COMIC BOOK ART

The following pages are from COMIC BITS no.5, Christmas, 2004.

To many the name Tom Browne will mean nothing. And yet,he was the original master of British comic strip art. So,how can I ignore him in a publication dedicated to the Golden & Silver Ages of British comics?

Thomas Browne was “born of humble parentage”,as the writers like to say,in the city of Nottingham,in 1870. There was a brief education,common in those days,until he was 12 years old at the St. Mary’s National School. Young Tom was then put out to carry hat boxes for a milliner. However,Tom was handy with a pencil and was apprenticed to a lithographer,which earned him the princely sum of one shilling a week -but that salary rose by 18 pence a year until he left in 1891.

Obviously,a young man needed more than that to live on and so,while an apprentice,Tom moonlighted as a freelance cartoonist for the London comics. The first eight-pager from the 18 year-old was titled “He Knew How To Do It” and was published in Henderson’s SCRAPS and one night’s work had earned him over six months wages -some thirty shillings!

As soon as his apprenticeship was over,young Tom moved to London where he intended to tackle the ha’penny comics and earn a real living.

Phil May was a brilliant cartoonist who took all the overloaded cross-hatching out of Victorian cartooning,as seen in periodicals such as PUNCH. May was able to capture characterisations in a few smooth strokes,it was modern cartooning no doubt hated by the traditional illustrators!

Naturally,May was Tom’s favourite cartoonist. Tom applied the “May method” to his own work;crisp line work with carefully spotted areas of solid black. This style was perfect for Harmsworth’s ha’penny comics:they consisted of cheap printing,low quality newsprint paper,Ill-etched blocks and cheap,near grey,Ink. Now you know why old comics were not designed to last!

All of Tom’s early work were one-off sets,but slowly,over a period,the ideas crept in;the first being “Squashington Flats” in COMIC CUTS in 1895,but his greatest creations were soon to appear. Browne’s favourite fictional heroes were Don Quixote and Sancho Panza -and there was his inspiration! On the front page of THE ILLUSTRATED CHIPS no.298,16th May,1896,appeared a six panel picture strip entitled “Innocents On The River“. It featured two tramps,a thin one called Weary Waddles,and a rather stout chap called Tired Timmy. Something about the pair clicked [rather like film funsters Laurel & Hardy years later] and editor G. H. Cantle called for more -how could Tom refuse?

The characters were re-named as “Weary Willy & Tired Tim” and their adventures continued for a staggering 60 years! Only one other artist ever drew the dynamic trampsters;that was Percy Cocking who drew in Tom’s style but never once had his name credited [typical of British weekly comics]. Cocking’s run lasted 40 years until the pair retired to the plush mansion of Murgatroyd Mump,millionaire,in the last issue of CHIPS on 12th September,1953.

The two tramps shot the circulation of CHIPS to 60,000 copies per week! Obviously,this could not go unchallenged by other publishers. Tom was to create similar characters for many such as “Airy ‘Alf And Bouncing Billy” for THE BIG BUDGET,in 1897;”Lanky Larry And Bloated Bill” for COMIC HOME JOURNAL,in the same year and,in 1898,”Don Quixote de Tintogs” appeared in COMIC CUTS. Still a record in British comics,for six months Tom drew five front pages each of six panels every week! This increased his earnings to,for that period,an incredible £150 per weeks. By 1900 the workload had tired Tom out and he left comics to do other things such as paintings,posters,postcards and in 1906 even went to the United States as cartoonist on the CHICAGO DAILY TRIBUNE. Later,Tom even helped found the London Sketch Club.

For 50 years comic artists would imitate and emulate the “Browne style”. Rather like editors did years later with Dudley Watkins,during and after Tom’s time,artists were urged to draw “in the style of”.

Tom Browne died at the very early age of 39 in 1910.

As Denis Gifford pointed out in THE INTERNATIONAL BOOK OF COMICS [1990]:~

“…his true living legacy may be seen in any

copy of almost any British comic.”

One has to wonder,had Browne lived to see the explosion of comics in the 1930s,just what might he have produced? Perhaps somewhere,in a parallel dimension,he went on to even greater things!

Most people seem to think that Browne only did black and white work -wrong!  He is also noted as an artist on early postcards,particularly of Rugby -as shown here.

more links to Tom Browne information can be found at

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/britishcomicarchivesI

Defining The Ages Of British Comics -plus up-date.

Despite attempting to fill in the Lost Era of British comics from the 1940s/1950s since the 1980s it is only recently,with the invaluable help of  Dennis Ray,owner of The 3-Ds comic store in Arlington,Texas,that a small chunk of this period has been rediscovered.

Characters not listed even in Denis Gifford references have been found. These have started to appear in the Black Tower Golden Age Classics series.  As they are unlikely to be big money earners the cover prices were kept low for those interested in the subject.

Here is a slightly up-dated version of my article defining the British ages of comics from my British Golden Age Comics web site and a couple years back on CBO.

gifford_stonehenge.jpg

The late Denis Gifford spent many decades chronicling the history of British comics.  It was a never-ending task and at least we still have his books to rely on –these have been so plagiarised by new ‘experts’ that it shows just how valuable any Gifford book is. For this reason,I am relying solely on Denis’s and the “Tel’s From The Crypt” feature from vol.1 no.1 of COMIC BITS [1999].

Of course,there are some who would argue that comic strips go back further than the dates I give.  This is debatable and,hopefully,one day theUK will have a symposium on the subject!   In the meantime,if you want to learn more there is an excellent and highly recommended site worth visiting

~ http://bugpowder.com/andy/

You will find some great treats there! According to Denis,the first comic magazine was actually titled…The Comick Magazine!  The magazine appeared on 1st April,1796.  The publisher was Mr Harrison of 18 Paternoster Row,London who describe the title as “The compleat Library of Mirth,Humour,Wit,Gaiety and Entertainment”.

above:Comic historian Denis Gifford and a fraction of his collection.

Most purists would argue that The Comick Magazine was wholly text,however,it did come “enriched with  William Hogarth’s Celebrated Humorous,Comical and Moral Prints”. –one per monthly issue!  These prints formed the series “Industry and Idleness” and when put together in their “narrative sequence”,argued Gifford,”they could be described  as an early form of omic strip”  –again,check out Andy’s Early Comics.

Thomas Rowlandson  provided plates for The Caricature Magazine [1808].  On the 1st May,1809 came The Poetical Magazine and it was in this –Rowlandson the artist once more—that what is arguably the first British ‘comic’ super star was born:Dr Syntax!   The serial by William Combe,”The Schoolmaster’s Tour” was Dr Syntax’s first,uh,outing and in 1812 was reprinted in book form [graphic novel?] as “The Tour Of Dr Syntax in Search of The Picturesque”.  This featured 31coloured plates.

above: Ally Sloper tobacco  container

Below:Dr Syntax statuette

Dr Syntax spawned merchandise spin offs,as any comic star does,such as Syntax hats,coats and wigs!!

Inspired by the French funny paper Figaro,on 10th December,1831,the four page weekly Figaro In London appeared.  Cover and interior cartoons were by Robert Seymour.  This first funny weekly went on for eight years and was to inspire [imitation] spin-offs such as Figaro In Liverpool and Figaro In Sheffield.    We can see the future shape of the comic industry appearing here!

Punch In London  appeared on 14th January,1832 –this weekly lasted 17 issues and the last featured  17 cartoons!

The longest lived comic magazine,of course,was Punch from 17th July,1841 until its demise in 2002!  It is a fact that Punch,on 1st July,1843,introduced the word “cartoon” into the English language;on that date the magazine announced the publication of “several exquisite designs to be called Punch’s Cartoons”.   Two weeks later the first appeared,the artist being John Leech.

For more info on Punch see

http://www.punch.co.uk/

Leech also drew “The Pleasures Of Housekeeping” [28th April,1849] –described as a slap-stick strip aboutr a suburbanite called Mr Briggs which,ten years later,was published in book form as Pictures Of Life And Quality.

In 1905 Mr Briggs was still being reprinted in six penny paperbacks.

Judy~The London Serio-Comic Journal started on 1st May,1867 and,on 14th August of the same year introduced a character  who became one of the greatest comic heroes of the day…….Ally Sloper!

Ally Sloper [so called because,when a debt collector turned up he Sloped off down the Alley!] was a bald headed,bulbous nosed figure with a rather battered hat. ..often described as a Mr Micawber type [as played by W.C.Fields and others over the years].  Ally was constantly trying to make money but more often than not never quite succeeded.

Merchandise abounded,Sloper Pewter mugs,figurines,bottles and much,much more.  And you can learn a great deal more on a wonderful web site –

http://www.imageandnarrative.be/graphicnovel/rogersabin.htm

There was an Ally Sloper comic in 1948 and some might think that was it.  However,Walter Bell drew the old lad in Ally Sloper,a British comics magazine published by Denis and Alan Class in the 1970s and soon to reappear in Ally Sloper’s Comic Bits [successor to Comic Bits].

Ally has certainly lived longer than his creator,Charles Henry Ross,could probably ever have imagined!

Into the 20th Century and there was the rise of many illustrated text stories and comic strips with text under each panel.

D.C. Thomson had titles like ADVENTURE and ROVER.  Alfred Harmsworth’s,and later his Amalgamated Press’, COMIC CUTS was the first comic though.  Issue 1 was published on 17th May,1890 and the final issue was published on 12th September,1953 with issue number 3006!

But the 1930s saw a virtual explosion in comics from small publishers outside London.  These included Merry Midget,no.1 dated Saturday,12th September,1931 and published by Provincial Comics Ltd.,

Bath –and the other  title from this publisher was Sparkler.  Also publishing from Bath were Target Publications who produced Rattler and Target.

Now these were traditional humour strips and gags along with text adventure stories.  But in 1939 something happened that ended the Diamond Age and saw the beginning of the Golden Age.

On the 8th July,1939,the Amalgamated Press published,in Triumph,the strip “Derickson dene”,drawn by that mysterious comic great Nat Brand.  Gifford described the strip as “a four page serial strip that established him [Dene] as the first British super hero in the American comic book style”.

And then,on the 5th August,1939,in Triumph no.772,compilations of the Siegel and  Shuster Superman newspaper strips started.  On the front cover,flying through space and drawn by John “Jock” McCail was The Man of Steel.

These two very significant strips,in my opinion,ushered in the British Golden Age.

There was only one little problem.  Across the English [or French] Channel,a little twerp with a silly moustache started a “bit of a tiff” we know as World War Two.  Paper restrictions and the banning of imported goods such as comic books,meant that British publishers had to use whatever they could.      Comics were printed on brown wrapping paper,silver paper[!] and other inferior stocks.  Many comics simply vanished.  No new ongoing titles could be published so smaller publishers began to issue one-off eight pagers.

The best known publishers  remembered today are the Amalgamated Press and D.C.Thomson,at the latter not just Lord Snooty and his Gang but also Eggo and Desperate Dan took on the Germans.

But Gerald G. Swann deserves a mention for books such as War Comics,Topical Funnies Special Autumn Number,Thrill Comics,and Slick Fun. .  Swann gave us Krakos the Egyptian and Robert Lovett:Back From The Dead.

A.Soloway produced All Fun and after the war Comic Capers[1942] and  Halcon Comics[1948].  R & L Locker published Reel Comics and Cyclone Illustrated Comic.  Newton Wickham published Four Aces and Martin & Reid produced Grand Adventure Comics.

Gifford himself,later to work on Marvelman,produced Mr Muscle.  Cartoon Art Productions of Glasgow published Super Duper Comics [1948].  W. Daly gave us Crasho Comic [1947].  Cardal Publishing of Manchester gave us the Gifford drawn Streamline Comics [1947]……..

There were so many publishers and titles and these titles included Ally Sloper,Ensign Comic,Speed Gale Comics,Whizzer Comics,Super Duper,The Three Star Adventures,The Atom,Prang Comic,Marsman Comic,Big win comic,Big Flame Wonder Comic,Evil Eye Thriller,The Forgers and many,many more –super heroes,science fiction,humour,detective,war comics the lot.

However, there was soon to be a revolution.  Publishers started declining and the big companies continued on.  Then,on 14th  April,1950, ”launching British comics into the new Elizabethan Age,and the Space Age” appeared The Eagle,starring Dan Dare.  This date can be seen as the start of the Silver Age of British comics.

New characters would appear who would engrave themselves on the new generations of comic readers.

In the Amalgamated Press’  Lion no.1,23rd February,1952 Robot Archie made his debut.  In 1953,rivals D. C. Thomson featured General Jumbo in The Beano.  Miller,of course,brought us Marvelman and his family of comics.

More uniquely British characters followed and into the 1960s we saw “The House of Dollman”,”The Spider”,”Steel Claw”,”Rubberman” appear.

In the mid –to- late 1970s titles began to get cancelled more and more frequently with Thomson and Fleetway/IPC seemingly not sure just where they were going comic –wise.In February,1977,2000 AD made its debut and it was a pivotal point for British comics [not to mention for the US industry which later  recruited many of the talents involved to help its rapidly sinking comics in the mid-1980s.    And though some comics continued few survived.  Beano and Dandy continue but British comics as an industry seem almost dead.

From all of this we can define the ages of British comics.

The Platignum Age                   ~ 1796-1938

 

The Golden Age                       ~ 1939-1949

 

The Silver Age                          ~  1950-1976

 

The Modern [Bronze Age]      ~  1977—– 

And there you have it;a brief  break-down and definition of the Ages. of British comics.

Since writing the above I have decided to go with the norm and change “Diamond Age” to the “Platignum Age”.