On The Editing British Golden Age Comics

I’m hoping that Ernesto Guevara does not mind that I’m using part of an email I sent him  to explain things.

…the problem was, as in the US, paper drives for the war effort. Even if kids never wanted to part with their comics their mum’s no doubt did!  I know Denis Gifford mentioned -in one of his books also I think- that he came home one day to find his mother had cleared out the pesky comics!

We have so much info via books and magazines like Alter Ego on the US Golden Age but the UK Golden Age seems to have been forgotten. Swan, Denis M. Reader, et al were the life blood of the UK GA and I was very depressed to have some scanarama and Spacevoucher members say they never considered these publishers or their books worth noting.  Yet, get a Dandy or Beano or Amalgamated Press book of that period and its song, wine and fireworks!

meh. We’re all comickers -different strokes for different folks.

I do know there are at least two collectors on one of my groups (they think anonymously ?!) who have Back From The Dead, Krakos The Egyptian and The Bat in their collections but won’t share.  The odd thing is that those who might not have a problem sharing are more likely not on the internet or haven’t found the yahoo group -its why I duplicated the British Golden Age blogs so its on Word Press and Blogger so one of them might stumble upon it!

In fact, through Denis Ray (an American) and Ernesto (I know there is another guy but my memory for names!) we’ve come up with 100% more on the small publishers of 1939-1951 than was available before.

Its odd that the Silver Age group, BritComics (set up in 2004) has over 150 members (157) while the British Comic Book Archives (set up in 2007) has…52!

Britcomics
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/britcomics/?yguid=192631557

BCBA
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/britishcomicsarchivesI/?yguid=192631557

I’ve done this before but, as I’m getting over a migraine and couldn’t draw or finish editing, I thought I would spend the day looking online for British Golden Age Comics or groups dealing with them.

With the odd break, after seven hours, every single image points me back to my own sites (there is a free servers site I’m just up-dating).  On Yahoo there are only two groups -Britcomics and the BCBA.

This, to me, is very, very depressing.  It might also explain why the British Golden Age collections I published hardly sell.  Having written that I do know scans of those books are widely distributed -illegally meaning I lose money.

Everyone cry now. NOW!!!!

After about three decades of looking there has been some headway made.

I’ll keep at this, as I’m sure will other members when they can, but I have this image of my funeral and someone running in breathless waving a comic -“Is it too late -I’ve found a copy of Swan’s Krakos comic!!”

In fact, though the completed collected book eludes us 2 sample pages from a William A. Ward Krakos strip plus a complete one have come to light in the last two weeks  -the latter features in the new Tales Of Terror 4 -see, we’re making headway!

We just need to keep letting people we know and on other groups know that we need scans!!  That 4Share account needs to be fit to bursting!  But I’m getting really weary of chasing Holy Grails.

I need to also find some way of making sure that if I pop off the Archive is still there.

And the Golden Age strips/books we find are usually in a heck of a state. Different qualities of paper were used -none of them of a high standard. Inks and the quality of printing varied and you’ll find orange inked pages, blue, green and even red inked pages. Now if you are converting that to black and white, or more accurately grey-tone, it’s a nightmare!

Oh lords of comics -then you get the foxing, mold or spattering of ink (from printing). And worst of all the pen scribbles and tears repaired using sellotape (AAARGH!).

Some people who have seen an original scanned page do not believe it is what the printed version comes from. I’ll demonstrate but I want to share a funny story first.

I posted the following page on a couple of my groups. “Stew” emails and asks how I got the page when he hasn’t scanned it yet -?!

Then Dave sends me an email with the same comment.

I’ve seen THEIR pages now and can tell you they are the same page, tear and the tape repairs are almost identical.

It could be that this particular book was damaged during printing and several copies were affected. Whatever, it’s weird.

Anyway, this is the sort of original page I get:

It’s dis-coloured and there is that tear and the yellowing-brown tape. First thing to do is get rid of the colour from the scan so I get this:

It’s a sort of off grey. So my next move is to up the contrast and get this:


Which means pushing up the brightness, saving that and then upping the contrast to get this:


You can still see the tear so a bit more fine tuning and….

This is close to the finished item but on this I would enlarge the page to around 400% and then deal with the tear in Paint Shop.

One page like this can take up to 2 hours to tidy.

One thing I will not do is re-panel. The whole point is to show the original strip and how it appeared.  Some artists draw crooked panels. I learned a long time ago to leave these! I ‘straightened’ a page in photo-shop to correct the tilt on a page but then realized something else was crooked. I corrected it…uhh, not that wasn’t right…I then stepped back and realized most of the panels were just very faint lines (as in the above page).  So I left it.

You have to remember that William Ward, Jock McCail, Glynne Protheroe and others were writing and drawing their own strips -a huge number of them.  As far as Gerald Swan was concerned the comics were throw-away entertainment for kids so as long as his books were filled and he raked in the coppers or brass or silver he was happy.

And the books end up battered or chucked in a box in an attic, a cellar or even under an old bed.  we’re lucky that not all “mums” threw out “those silly comics”!

When people say to me “These aren’t very good quality print-wise are they?” I say they should buy an original Swan comic and check the quality….oh, wait, very few appear for sell so they can’t. Also, I’ve had one purchaser of the Ultimate British Golden Age Collection write that he thought he would never see the comics he read as a kid again (he’s 75 years old) -“and in a lot better quality!”

THAT makes the work worth it.

Though I would still like to be rich!

ZIP-BANG! IT’S THE MOON MAN!

W. Forshaws (Liverpool) Zip-Bang Comic was published between 1946-1947 and, according to Denis Gifford saw two issues, though I have never found any second issue it’s safe to say Denis no doubt had a copy.

In his book Space Aces! (Greenwood Pub., London, 1991) Denis does not state which of the two issues Moon Man appeared in -the reproduced cover (below) carries no issue number as that was normal at the time).

As there appears to have only been one appearance of the character according to Denis, I’m going to guess at issue number 1 -but don’t quote me!

Judging by the quote Denis gives, this Moon Man appears to have been on Earth or watching it for a while.  Another common feature of comics back then was the lack of space (due to ink and paper rationing) to give a background story.




The paper printed on seems to be a rather dull blue (see below)

I have cleaned up the page to a degree to make it a bit crisper -if that’s possible!

The information given is:

“In a space-ship fifty miles above the Earth hovers the Moon Man, saying to himself, ‘It is some days since I was on the Earth. I will go down and see if I can find some adventure.’ As he flies through the skies, he remarks, ‘It’s good to flash through the clouds again!’.

“Scarcely has he landed when he hears a gunshot and the scream of a woman. A gang of crooks have kidnapped the inventor of a secret ray!  ‘Moon Man will soon destroy these criminals!’ he tells the distraught daughter, and flies after the crooks’ car.

“To get the professor’s secret, the crooks plan to ram a red-hot needle under his finger nails.  ‘Y-you devils!’ cries the prof. ‘Moan!’  But the Moon Man arrives, crying ‘I’m the Man from the Moon!’  The crooks are not nonplussed.  Indeed, they are plussed, for one replies, ‘Meet the ex-heavyweight champion of Ireland!’  After much hand-to-hand fighting and a struggle with a lady crook with short skirts and a neckline to match, Moon Man restores the prof to his daughter and flies home.

‘Great Scot!’ gasps a bobby, ‘th-th-they’re whizzin’ into space!’

And that was it.

There is no reason why Moon Man is watching Earth that we know of.  We know he flies, he has no problem with fisticuffs but that is it.  Today we have to fill in that back detail to a degree.

For instance, in the character’s Black Tower appearances we know he flies, he has to have a certain degree of invulnerability because he is in space and then flies down to Earth so he’s dealing with extreme cold and heat. Whether he can take small arms fire…that’s an open question though it seems likely.

In his more recent cameo in Black Tower Adventure -“The Cross Earths Caper”- we see he is part of one of the smallish communities living below the Moons surface -but his is another Earth version but there is no reason to doubt his counterpart comes from the same background.

I think it safe to say this was a one-off appearance since Denis tended to note “and in the very next issue….”

In 2014 it is planned that Moon Man, along with his other planetary pal, Mars Man, will take a much bigger role in Moon War.

It really is a pity that the artist did not sign his work -despite the idea that it was the companies that did not allow this, many artists did not sign work because it was comic work. Oh, and quite a few moonlighted from AP or Thomson so if they were found out the sack beckoned (they got fired).

Hopefully, one day we’ll find out who the artist is. I hope so.

Professor Crackpot by Protheroe…

Another of those Golden Age British nightmare pages to share.
Firstly, thanks to smoky1980 for scanning/forwarding this and its from a batch of loose pages marked “Swan 1948/49”.
Even had this not been signed the art style is a dead give-away.  This is the work of Glyn Protheroe who was born in Swansea, Wales, on the 3rd July, 1906.  Sadly, I can find no record of when he died. After leaving school, Protheroe went on to study art under Walter Fuller.
In the 1920s he moved to London and became a professional cartoonist and press artist.  At that time he had a studio in  Shaftesbury Avenue but also worked from Southampton Row. His work appeared in Sports Post, The Journal, Sporting News and The Leader -all well known national publications.
His comics work took off in the 1940s when Soloway, Amex and Gerald Swan used his work.  His first work for Swan appeared in 1942 and titles he contributed to included War Comics, Cute Fun, Topicaol Funnies, Slick Fun, Thrill Comics and New Funnies.  Work was also contributed to a number of albums from Swan -Albums were collections of reprint strips with more pages than weekly comics -more like the yearly annuals but soft covered not hard cover.
For Soloway, starting in 1943, he contributed to Comic Capers, All Star and Comic Adventures.
For Amex, Protheroe contributed to Merry Midget, Midget Comics, Bantam Comics these were all from 1943.
The sets (strips) that Protheroe provided were usually a collection of jokes strung together in a “talking heads” format.  According to Alan Clark, from whom most of the data is culled: “His style was instantly recognisable; his characters looked like clowns…a distinctive ‘morose’ quality.”
And the artist signed himself as either “Glynne” or “Protheroes”.
The below Professor Crackpot strip is a typical nightmare and the orange ink might have looked bright and fun to war time kids but….oy.
I had to remove the colour and alter brightness and contrast four times to make it a mere black and white page.
So, here is your example of Glyn Protheroe at work!

 

An extra treat for you all!

No “Point Scoring” Allowed.

COMICS ARE FUN!!!

In the old days you had the fan press that used to have LOCs -Letters of Comment”.  There were articles by fans on characters and or specific comic titles or artists. You would get the odd “nasty” letter but once the moron responsible realised he would be getting no publicity he stopped.

The advent of the internet has put pay to that.

Trollers and flamers abound not just attacking via peoples’ personal blogs but on “comic forums” (where for the most part they seem to be allowed to write whatever they want and get away with it -the moderator/owner having a spine of jelly).

I have been the victim of name calling, lies, slurs on my reputation and skills and knowledge.  I have had this every week, sometimes as many as ten mails a week.  Now I note ISP numbers and report them. They seem to think that they and their snide little pals can hide behind anonimity. That shows how dumb they are.  Even posting from cyber cafes or, of all places, public library computers, you leave a signature.

Those people, they know who they are, have mental health problems. It is as simple as that.  They contribute nothing.

But the type I really do hate are those who set themselves up as “comic experts” and who try, continuously, to demean other comickers.  They waste your time as you try to be helpful and then do not reply via email, where they set you queries, giving you all the information they asked for, but on publiv comments on blogs.

WHY would someone ask for information on characters and then tell you they have the information already having wasted hours of your time?

These are not true comickers. Not fans. They are trying to score points against you -“Nyah-nyah -HE doesn’t have the information I asked for but I do!”

Sadly, these people get onto internet You Tube communities where it is easy to set up fake email names. Or they join your groups under THREE different names so if you kick them off once for misbehaving they are still there with two more chances.

All we can do as an online comic community is cold shoulder these people. Ignore them.

Comics are fun and some of us enjoy them!

The British Golden Age, Collectors And The British Comic Book Archive

 

 

A re-posting from the old CBO site.

____________________________________________________________________________
 
 

Denis Gifford in his The Complete Catalogue Of British Comics (Webb & Bower, 1985) notes that the 1930s was the UKs Golden Age.  The 1920s had seen comics develop  so that by 1930 the creators/editors were producing quality entertainment for children.

The 1930s also saw the creation by D. C. Thomson of The Dandy 4th December, 1937), The Beano (30th July, 1938) and Magic (22nd July, 1939).  Radio Fun 15th October, 1938) and Knockout (4th March, 1939) came from the Amalgamated Press. These were the new look comics.

Unfortunately, some former Austrian Corporal decided to go and start a “bit of a tiff” in Europe that became World War II.

This ushered in what Denis called “The Dark Ages.”

After the Germans took Norway the paper shortages really kicked in.  Puck, Tiger Tim’s Weekly, Joker and other titles began to disappear.  However, even if new comics were not really allowed the law did allow for unconnected one-shots which was a god send to many.  Philipp Marx, a refugee, issued two undated and un-numbered editions of The New Comics.  These sold out.  Kids were starved for comics in the UK while their US counter-parts were enjoying the four colour Golden Age.  So, Marx issued a new title each week (almost –no dating means it is hard to tell!).

Gerald Swan and many others tried their hand at comics, even if Swan did later consider his comics a non-topic for discussion but would only talk in depth about his pulp sci fi/horror books.

These comics were printed on any type of paper.  That is no exaggeration –any kind of paper available was used.  Stiff beige cardboard, silver paper in fact, if it could take ink it was used.  The print quality was also poor at times.  This all led to easily torn pages, fading ink and even problems you might not really expect with paper and ink.

My favourite is orange or purple –even a sort of blue- ink.  Little solid black so you got black, white and orage but with faded blue text in speech balloons.  The low quality paper stock also meant that “foxing” (the brown spotting you find in very old books) kicked in very early.  Low quality stapling created its own problems since no one was going to use good quality staples when any and all metal was scarce.

Many, many comics never even reached the British Museum, supposedly deposited for copyrighting.  Books in Denis’ collection did not exist in the British Museums collection.

Of course, as in the US, there were all sorts of drives going on –metal shortages led to dust bins, park railings and much more being collected.  Paper rationing led many parents to throw out the kids’ comics.  Many kids feeling that “war spirit” were all too keen to hand in old comics.

The poor quality of printing, the paper stocks used and trashing of these old comics mean that, as with the US Golden Age comics, many became very very rare.  In fact, probably rarer than US GA comics.
There are collectors who have these books and I know of several who have scanned their collections.  However, they will not share or even help with projects such as the British Comic Book Archive for one main reason.  The reason, they give is that “sharing scans of the books will make my comic collection less valuable!”

That in itself is rubbish.  You can have the internet flooded with these Golden Age British comics but they are just scans.  An actual book you can touch is far more valuable to a collector or prospective buyer because it is a real, actual object. True, even these rare GA British books are not that valuable –some on ebay recently were going for £1.99 and £3.99 ($2-4).

Also, the collectors I spoke to had no intention of selling their books which makes the whole argument even more pointless.

As collectors in the US and elsewhere have found out, scans can tend to peak interest and make printed books more valuable.  As it stands, only a few old farts like me know or remember the characters and publishers from this period –it kills any potential interest.

Even my Black Tower Gold Collections do not attract great sales but, as I think I’ve written before, these were pet projects intended to keep interest in the characters going and offering comic fans the chance to see these lost strips.  Also, the collection is all black and white reprint so the collector/hoarder has the advantage of colour original books.

I never expect collectors in the UK to share as Australian, New Zealand, German and US comic collectors do. It’s just how British collectors are.  After 20+ years of trying I’ve frozen the BCBA.  I would like to see it grow but….

If you have non-Amalgamated Press/Thomson comics you want to add to the few meagre examples forwarded mainly from the United States (!) please feel free to get in touch and maybe, one day, a fully British Comic Books Archive can be re-launched.

What Price British GA Comics?

GA HEADER

Over the weekend I met up with two fellows who I have mentioned before.  They valuate items for auction houses –no, don’t ask as I can’t say but the big ones.  They had been travelling around the UK observing auctions and talking to collectors. I was asked if I was free to chat “because you know more about these rare and obscure British comics of the 1930s-1950s”…After flattery like that what could I say?

 

Here is the conclusion they made after a three week trip –D.C. Thomson titles such as Beano and Dandy or certain Amalgamated Press (AP)  titles of the 1930s to early 1950s: VERY much sought after.

 

So I asked what sort of price they were estimating –apparently the first issue of Beano or Dandy and there was no fixed financial price.  “Idiots will pay ridiculous prices and for a first issue of either of those…who knows!”

 

It seems that not even an Eagle first issue would command the price of a first Beano or Dandy…yeah, I found that surprising.

 

Apparently, no AP title commanded anything similar.  I rattled off a few titles –no. Nothing.  What??  I asked what sort of price various titles might get.  A first issue of Battle Weekly…£2-£4…..Action Weekly….£6.00 because of “notoriety”  and one of the men had privately auctioned off a full (first to last issue) run of Radio Fun for £100 –his colleague laughed at this and pointed out that auction houses had refused to sell that particular run because there “was no interest”.

 

Most weekly UK comics from the 1930s-1980s were valued at between £1 to £4 (“loony price”) but the Beano and Dandy’s could go as far as £5-£6 each because of “potty collectors”.

 

I pointed out ebay prices and got two very loud howls of derision: “If you pay more than £4 for any UK weekly you are absolutely mad –and no one sane pays the fixed prices asked for on ebay!”  It was pointed out that one of my 1980s zines had sold on ebay in May for £25 –I can’t even sell these old books at their original price but it was called “rare” and “highly sought after”….what *******!

 

So we came to why I was contacted –comics from Swann, Fouldes, Comic Art Productions and so on. I was asked what sort of prices I had heard these comics going for?  I pointed out that finding them for sale tended to be rare  and I thought I was now going to be told they were worth a fortune.

 

I was kidding myself.

 

Both had copies of Gifford’s 1980s UK comics guide which included price estimates if you wanted to buy those books now.  Prepare for a major shock –apparently my jaw dropped and I looked “quite pale”!

 

It seems there was really no increased value to the books since Gifford wrote the guide. I pointed out the rarity of certain titles and suggested they must be more valuable now?

 

No.

“We are not talking American Golden Age comic titles here –we are talking British, mass and very cheaply produced comics with quite poor printing and paper a tramp would not put in his boot”  To which I tried to counter with various points. Even as I made those points I could see the problems.

 

No one has a vested interest in obscure characters.  Or as one of the men put it: “Often badly drawn and one dimensional characters” that, it seems, do not compare in any way to the glories of Eggo, Desperate Dan, Lord Snooty, etc..  “Most auction houses will not even consider selling single issues or even collections because their commissions are usually more than the comics make” –the usual commission being around 17% I was told.

 

I was told of an old tea chest (which are big) that was full of Swan comics –all wrapped in grease proof bags (nostalgia there!).  Approximately 100 comics plus a few from other publishers.  The owner had died and the house contents were sold but not the box of comics that were, apparently, advertised online but got no interest. Rather than cart the box to storage it was dumped at the back of the auction room by the bins.

 

DUMPED BY THE BINS??!!!

 

Another set of 1940s comics had been used by one auction house to wrap fragile purchases to send to people in the US and Europe.

 

I pointed out here, VERY quickly, that if they put the word around I would certainly buy any boxes or comics that were of “no real interest or value” but was told for single issues it was doubtful anyone would contact me –postage would probably cost more than the comic itself.  Collections –“It just isn’t worth the auction house’s time” BUT they did promise to pass on my details.

 

Of course, this lack of interest might explain why group membership numbers (British Comic Book Archives) have not increased and why no one seems that…interested.

 

This was all depressing.

 

So, you see high prices for any books on ebay…remember anything over £4.00 is a “rip-off”

 

Well, I’ll still look out for Krakos The Egyptian or The Bat…and I’ll still accept scans of books. I like them any way!!