Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bumper Western Comic #65: Another K.G. Murray variant

If you look closely at the top right hand corner of my copy of Bumper Western Comic #65 you'll find the numeral 4 printed. I've checked with other collectors, and sample cover scans available online, and it doesn't appear on those copies. So this is another K.G. Murray printing error variant - not as obvious as the printing errors on copies of Bumper Western Comic #1 or Superman Supacomic #87, but a variant nevertheless.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Young Love #17 and Love Song Romances #41: Covering the backup splash

Here's a curious thing I hadn't noticed about K.G. Murray romance comics - or rather, something curious about the US sources of the local romance comics. For example:

The cover to Young Love #17 originally appeared on Charlton's For Lovers Only #71.

The cover to Love Song Romances #41 originally appeared on DC's Young Romance #141

In each case, the cover is sourced from the splash page of the respective story. This was rather common practice for Australian reprint issues, but I wasn't aware it was a widespread practise in the US. Further, the Australian issues would generally source the splash page from the opening feature story. In other words, it was common to turn the cover and find the cover image facing on page 3 in black and white. What's curious about the US issues in this regard is that in each case above, the cover-featured story was the backup or support feature in the issue, not the lead feature. Was this consciously done to hide the double-dipping?

Now, this is admittedly from a minute sample of two issues. But they are samples ranging from the mid-1960's to the mid-1970's, and from two different publishers, which suggests it was not only common and longstanding but widespread. Presumably a cost-cutting measure - my understanding is that cover art page rates would be different to regular page rates. So there's a story therein which I haven't been privy to.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Federal Comics western one-shots: A logocentric perspective

Western Lawmen is an unnumbered one-shot western comic published by Federal Comics c.August 1984. By mid-1984 Federal Comics had transitioned to the black Australian Edition DC logo, so why does this issue carry the earlier FC logo? Well, because there are no DC comics in this issue - it contains a mix of Charlton and Spanish comics. Makes sense, right? 

A few months earlier c.April 1984 Federal Comics published another unnumbered one-shot western comic - The Fastest Gun Western:

This issue also contains a mix of Charlton and Spanish reprints - no DC reprints - yet it has the new black Australian Edition DC logo on the cover. Of course, The Fastest Gun Western had been a long-running K.G. Murray series, and I guess there was some DC content during its tenure, but by the end of the series even the Spanish material had dried up and it was predominantly if not wholly comprised of Charlton reprints. But hey, it's published in the transitional phase, so let's give Federal Comics a bit of leeway. Makes sense, right?

A couple of months earlier c.February 1984 Federal Comics published another unnumbered one-shot western comic - Scalphunter:

This issue collated a number of DC's Scalphunter stories, including a Batman team-up. Now, the Federal Comics logo had been in place for well over six months, and the new black logo had recently taken over the red logo. Just a month or two later Scalphunter would have had a legitimate Australian Edition DC logo. But hey, if you squint a little and hold the issue at a certain angle, the F under SC kinda looks like a D. Sort of. If you try. Makes sense, right?

Some eight months earlier c.June 1983 Federal Comics published another unnumbered one-shot western comic - Frontier Marshall:

This has the transitional Murray the Cat/Federal Comics logo. The transition began c.March/April 1983, and by July 1983 the fully-fledged Federal Comics logo was in place. This makes sense whichever way you look at it. Right?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Three Thunder Valley Chatto covers

Thunder Valley originally appeared in MV Features' Western Trail Picture Library #7:

The cover image was swiped by Keith Chatto for Page Publications' own edition of Western Trail Picture Library #1:

Page Publications recycled this story at least two more times, under new Chatto covers. The issues I have to hand are Maverick Western Library #2:

and Real Western Library #44:

No doubt more Page Publications editions will turn up.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Superman Super Library: The Junkyard protocol

Here's a nifty little comic that fell into my hands this week - Superman Super Library #37:

As per the established pattern for this series, the cover is cribbed from the splash page to the main feature:

Over the years I've paid scant attention to this series. Although it was published in the 1960's, a period of enduring interest for me when it comes to K.G. Murray comics, this is a series which never really piqued my interest the way other Superman comics did.

Having said that, there is one issue in this series that I can recall coveting, and that is Superman Super Library #23:

It's a striking cover with bold primary colours contrasting with the dark shadows, an atypical Superman cover, and a rather poignant image for a key story which had been recycled in the Silver Age, and has been a touchstone for latter Superman stories by the likes of Grant Morrison and Alan Moore. In fact, I've often wondered whether it was this image which partly inspired the framing sequence of Moore's last Miracleman arc in which the hero inscribes his journal of steel pages with a stylus of bloody light. At any rate, it's certainly a worthy cover for the story - it was originally published behind a generic cover as it was a backup story, not the lead feature.

Nevertheless, quite despite myself,  I've amassed a shoebox worth of Superman Super Library issues - to the point that a complete run of all 44 issues is well within reach. That's just how things roll sometimes in the Junkyard. So I guess the right thing to do is to put my custodian's hat on and pull together a bone fide full run. I mean, someone's got to.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Collecting The Amazing Spider-Man: The Australian editions

Between 1975 and 1986 there were 59 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man published in Australia. These 59 issues were published by three different publishers: Newton Comics (17 issues, 1975-76); Yaffa/Page Publications (32 issues, 1977-1981); and Federal Comics (10 issues, 1984-86). I recently secured two issues in the one day completing my runs of all three series.

The Amazing Spider-Man (Newton) #17

The Newton Comics series has been complete since August 2017. I daresay Newton collectors will sigh with recognition when I say all 'complete' Newton Comics series have an asterisk beside them because there's always an issue or two that needs to be upgraded to include the missing poster or swap card, and mine is no different - there are a couple of issues in this category for me. But I still deem the run to be complete. It has taken me a little over 10 years to put this lot together. Many of the issues have been replaced and upgraded over the period, but it was a single purchase of 6 issues in VF/NM condition in 2010 which set me on the proper path to putting this batch together.

The Amazing Spider-Man (Yaffa) #216

The Yaffa series is quite idiosyncratic, with three distinct phases, varying physical dimensions and page counts, and a rather awkward issue numbering regimen in one of its phases. Indeed, it's a rather awkward run to store with any effective cohesion, the magazine-size issues hardly fitting alongside the regular-size issues - let alone including the many digest-size issues featuring Spider-Man. But that's just part and parcel of the Yaffa collector's lot. This lot was put together over a relatively short 26 months, bar a couple of issues I'd had sitting around the Junkyard doing nothing but taking up space, before I became interested in them. As you might expect given the short timeframe, it was four separate batches of half a dozen high quality specimens which set the pace for this batch

The Amazing Spider-Man (Federal) #7

A special mention is warranted for the Federal run as the first issue in the series was actually titled Marvel Tales Starring Spider-Man, which brings the tally of Australian issues of The Amazing Spider-Man to a neat and even 60 - but again, we're left to resorting to a qualifying asterisk to make the even number. The Federal issues really took no time at all - I already had 4 issues lying around before I decided to round up a complete set, and within 6 months or so the deed was done. Only one issue cost me double digits, but it's so well preserved it looks like it was printed yesterday.

Of course these weren't the only Spider-Man issues published during this period by Australian publishers. Ongoing series such as Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man and Marvel Team-Up kept Spider-Man's profile prominently displayed amongst newsagency shelves, as did quite a number of one-shot issues - notably from Yaffa and Newton Comics - but these 59 issues bear the iconic title and masthead of the premier Spider-Man title which is inching its way towards its 800th issue in the US series.

There is one Australian Spider-Man-related issue which has eluded me lo' these last 20 years or so. When it is secured it will complete another Australian series for me. And when it happens, you can be assured you'll hear of it here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Lois Lane Comic: Two in-house covers

The cover to Lois Lane Comic #124 is reprinted, with some modifications, from the splash page to the story Death Rides The Wheels!:

This story was originally published in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #125:

One might think, given the proximate issue numbers, that these two issues were issued contemporaneously, but they weren't. In fact, the cover and lead story appeared earlier under the original Planet Comics logo in All Favourites Comic #102: 

To the best of my knowledge (ie: a quick check on GCD) Death Rides The Wheels! wasn't reprinted by DC, so the reprint by K.G. Murray in Lois Lane Comic #124 was a conscious decision to recycle material - and hence the splash page as front cover.

Lois Lane Comic was the new title for the All Favourites Comic series, picking up the numbering from #112 onwards with the new Planet Comics logo. This change from a generic, all purpose title to a character-based title occurred for many series at this time - for example, Tip Top Comic Monthly converted to Batman with #128. But, whilst Batman continued presenting new Batman stories and covers based on the US series, without missing a beat from the Tip Top series, the Lois Lane issues had more instances of such in-house production decisions.

For example, the cover to Lois Lane Comic #125:

This image is a composite of art appearing in the first two pages:

The story, Superman Marry Me, originally appeared in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #131:

To the best of my knowledge, this cover didn't appear on a previous Planet Comics issue.

However, Superman Marry Me did appear as a support feature in an earlier Planet comics issue - All Favourites Comic #107:

As you can see, this cover is not based on Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #131 (it's from Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #130).

So what happened to the local cover print of Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #131? Was it misplaced? Was it not offered to K.G. Murray?

Obviously there were so many US covers which did not appear in Australia, due to discrepant page counts which resulted in  many headline cover stories appearing as backups in the local editions. But were they offered and necessarily ignored? Or did the local publishers only receive the requisite amount of material for the local productions? The latter theory doesn't seem likely - but based on the sample of Superman Marry Me, it does appear possible.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Ghoul Tales #8: A welcome little surprise

Page Publications' Ghoul Tales #4 is based on Ghoul Tales #5 published by Stanley Morse in 1971.

A UK edition was published by Portman Distribution in 1980:

Whenever I detail a Page Publications issue with a Portman Distribution counterpart I get sidetracked by the question of which came first, the Page or the Portman? I don't have a firm answer yet, but I will point out in passing for the moment that the Portman edition above does mirror the Stanley edition more closely by replicating the typeface on The Ghostly Destroyer on the top of the cover, contra the Page edition.

But my focus today is not on the Page v Portman debate, but rather on this unexpected little specimen which dropped into the Junkyard this week - Page Publications' Ghoul Tales #8:

The recycling of Stanley issues by Page Publications is not news, but I have not seen a digest-sized edition before. It appears to have been published c.1980, by which time Yaffa had converted their Marvel line to digest-sized issues.

Until now I thought there were eight issues in the Ghoul Tales series including the anomalous unnumbered issue, but clearly, there are nine issues at least. 

So there are probably more digest-sized editions of Page Publications' Stanley Morse comics.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Secret Service Picture Library #4: The Verdict

Secret Service Picture Library #4 is a Page Publications edition of MV Features' Secret Service Picture Library #22:

The Page Publications edition features a Keith Chatto cover. It is not based on interior art. I'm betting there's an earlier issue in this series with a Chatto cover swiped from the UK cover above - that's my verdict! TBC.

Love the vintage headphones and the reel to reel tape player on the Chatto cover. And the balding bureaucrat with the red tie. Wonder whose side he's on...?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Gunfighter Library #1 and Gunshot Western Library #26

Gunfighter Library #1 has a proxy cover date of November 1970, and was recycled by Page Publications a couple of years later as Gunshot Western Library #26:

Naturally both covers are by Keith Chatto. And naturally I expect there is yet another reprint of this issue by Yaffa to be unearthed. You get the drill by now...