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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Yes, The British Comic Book Archive...Dead.

 I have to say that I really am disappointed with online British comic fandom.  It is over 14 years since I tried to establish a real British Comic Book Archive (BCBA) centred around many of the lost and forgotten publishers and creators of the British Platinum and Golden Ages.

The response was zero  The idea was shelved.

So I thought a BCBA based online might work.  I know that many members of the various Yahoo groups I was on or had set up, were collectors of UK Golden Age comics. I appealed for scans of any of the lost strips or comics.  Was that too much to ask since those I had provided had been snatched up and used by members for their own purposes -not even crediting me as the scan source but "scanner unknown.

How insulting can you be?

So I set about tracking down and buying old UK comics.  I offered scans or made them accessible through the Black Tower Golden Age collections.  I had two emails, initially, from members of two groups (not mine)  who demanded to know whether I had credited them as the scanners of certain comics?

Firstly, these people had NEVER purchased a copy of any of the collection. They were going by the fact that I had listed the title in the contents.  Secondly, they were egotistical enough to believe that only they had the single existing copy of the said titles.

I've been tracking trhis stuff down well before there was an internet let alone Yahoo groups!

Also, how do you credit someone who only uses an internet pseudonym -the legal problems from doing so could be a nightmare since anyone -ANYONE- could jump up and say "I am 'blobbyhead"!

The biggest help has come not from the UK but from people outside it.  Denis Ray from Texas, USA and Ernesto Guevara -I think from Australia.

 The problem is that, several times, I have had it made clear to me  that publishers such as Gerald Swan were of no significance.  Angry denials when criticised do not delete those group emails.

Dandy, Beano or an Amalgamated Press title or Marvel UK queries result in a good few ongoing responses. I think it easy to tell where interests lie.

What I find odd is that some of those "not interested"  are listed as downloading files I've offered and often pass the scans along as their own work or from "Scanner unknown".  I also know, because I know people who know the members in question by name and have seen their collections, that they possess titles and strips that have been requested.  They will not share.

This seems typical only of UK comic collectors.  A very small-minded attitude.

I would like to thank everyone who has helped by providing scans -or who might do so in the future- but it is now..30+ years and I do not see the BCBA ever becoming a reality.

My future books will speak for me.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Denis Gifford And The Birth Of The British Super Hero

I have written a number of times about one of the Founding Fathers of British comic book history, Denis Gifford (the other Founding Father is, of course, Alan Clark).

Denis worked on many comics as a scripter or artist -or both.  He also created many comic book characters. He should also be credited as being creator of the first British super heroes. 

The first of these, of course, was Mr. Muscle (no, not that advertising character from TV). Mike O'Leary stumbles across a body in a dark alley -the man speaks:"Quick! Car BOL 1570 ohhhh!"  The man is dead. Mike sheds his every day clothes to reveal "the famous uniform of Mr. Muscle!"   it doesn't take the costumed hero long to track down the Japanese saboteurs in "The Invasion Plans"

"Britain's Superman" was the work of a seventeen years old Gifford in 1945 and appeared in a tuppeny (2d or two pennies) eight-pager titled Dynamic Comics.

"Mike O'leary drinks the essence of strength" is something I have read.  This is odd since when I asked Denis his response was "No origin. He just appeared and went into action!"   That was the norm in those days  It was produce an action story.  No time for long convoluted explanations.  Unless Denis forgot (!) I think this is a mistake on someone's part.  I know Denis had a copy of the comic but he never ever let anyone borrow or take anything away to copy. 

The intention had been that this was "Britain's Superman"!

In 1947 appeared Streamline Comics.  The hero was...guess? Streamline who was billed as "The Fastest Man Alive!".  The first of the four issues was drawn by AC1 (Air craftsman 1) Denis over a weekend as a Duty Clerk in the Royal Air Force.

Denis designed the costume and gave scientist Keenan King an origin: he injected himself with Elixir-X and became a speedster.  "The first thing to do is to get a skin-tight uniform" says Keenan.  What else?

The character was a collaboration between Denis and Bob Monkhouse (creator of The Tornado and Pat Peril).  Issues 2-4 were drawn, badly compared to Gifford's work, by Bryan Berry who was to go on to become a top Sci Fi auther.

 Below: some sources (who have NOT done their work) claim Berry "drew the cover to #4"  whereas he was the artist of interior art as well.

 Cardal Publishing is said to have gone out of business due to court cases over the "erotic" books they published -UK obscenity laws were very draconian at the time and even saw "saucy seaside" postcard artists such as Donald McGill prosecuted.  In fact, Denis very strongly hinted at the publisher being "very shady" and taking the money and running.  That does seem far more likely!

In 1949 appeared issue number 1 of Ray Regan. Regan was a hard nosed 'tec and you'll notice from the cover the banner reads: Ray Regan -Also Tiger Man!  I used to have a full colour image of this but everything saved to 3 inch floppy disk was lost back in the 1990s!  Still better than nothing.  Find a scan anywhere else if you can (if you do please let me know!).
 Denis Ray, an American comic fan sent me scans of the Tiger Man strip and I thank him!  I should have asked for a cover scan!

Basically, the origin of "The mightiest man of action"  goes as follows.  Phil Britton and Professor Beauclerc are in deepest, darkest Africa when Britton is attacked by a sabre-toothed tiger.  Yes, a tiger.  Go with the flow.  The tiger dies and Britton develops great strength.  The Prof. not really qualified in my opinion, believes to tiger died after its power flowed through its sabre teeth into Britton.   Hey -Timely (Marvel) Comics character The Whizzer got his powers after a "transfusion of mongoose blood"  Go figure.

There seem to have been a few tigers in deepest and darkest Africa according to UK comics.  And, yes, I came up with an explanation linking them all.  But that's another matter.

Britton is shown in tiger-skin pants (yewch!) so the assumption is that he was to be one more jungle lord (there was one every 5 square miles back in the day).  But when I asked Denis about this I was told that had there been a second issue, Britton would have been back in the UK in a Tiger Man costume that Monkhouse had sketched out. 

That was it.

Denis was quite happy to see his characters get a new lease of life and thought Mr. Muscle and Streamline running around after Robert Lovett (Back From The Dead) was "a hoot!"

Now there were heroic characters before these three -but they all conformed to the British norm for powered action heroes: civviy- clothes.  TNT Tom is a prime example.

Dennis M. Reader was to later bring forth more costumed characters but Gifford was first in 1945.

Today all of this seems to have been forgotten.  After all, if it isn't in full colour or after 1998 and Marvel or DC it doesn't seem to matter.  But let's give credit where it is due!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A "Warm-Up" Drawing -Mr Muscle Created by Denis Gifford

Head and eyes needed adjusting and since I've not drawn him for a few years now (when he and Streamline were on the trail of Robert Lovett) I did a quick "warm up" of the Denis Gifford created (one of the FIRST UK super heroes) Mr Muscle

I know, not even passable but I was bored!

Created by Denis Gifford and appeared in Dynamic Comics (International Publications), 1945

Monday, 9 March 2015

TNT Tina -The Mystery Solved!

Unless you are one of those fans of rare British Golden Age comics then TNT Tom will mean nothing to you. However, as most of us old farts know, a similarly named character was used by Grant Morrison in the 2000 AD series Zenith. With TNT Tom in Zenith was TNT Tina.
That is where the mystery begins.
You see, in over 25 years of searching I never ever found an example of a TNT Tina strip nor anyone who had seen one.  Even the, uh, ‘experts’ on British comics had no idea. The best I got was that “Morrison made her up to add something to Tom’s appearance.”
My conclusion, about a year ago now, was that there was no TNT Tina.
A few weeks ago I was transferring old comic stuff from disc to flash drive and there was a scan of Coloured Slick Fun number 86, dated as 11th November, 1950. Scrolled through it and did a double take. A page I had just transferred with a heading “The Jungle Pals” was in this CSF as TNT Tom. In my rush I had miss-filed the page.
So what?
Well, take a look…..
Oh yes. That is TNT Tina.
The scan was sent to me around 1999 so this means I KNEW that there was a TNT Tina. It’s my age.
Holy Cow! Yep, Tina can fly just like Tom. Tom does all the rough stuff here but there is no doubt that Tom’s cousin has the same abilities.  In fact, the duo even featured in The Return Of The Gods -our Earths counter-part to the Golden Age duo.

When I broke the news on some of my groups some were quite excited. We get like that.  The rare and forgotten UK Golden Age comics and characters when discovered are a breath of fresh and exciting air.

So here is the TNT Tina appearance -exclusive!

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

 a re-post

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.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Jimmy Jingles Time Machine....Better Than "Jimmy Jingle Bells" I Suppose!

Jimmy Jingles Time Machine was another superbly drawn comic strip from Knockout -this sample from the issue dated 22ndAugust, 1942.  The artist is Eric Parker.  Now I know Parker's career spanned almost sixty years

I began writing up notes and I found a scribbled URL (normally I bookmark these things on the computer!) but it took me to a wonderful article on the artist by Norman Wright and David Ashford that I recommend!

A question -Jimmy Jingles -a suitable character for "resurrection"?

Thursday, 5 March 2015

This COULD Decide The Fate Of UK GA Groups: Some Very Interesting Statistics

Says the man with dyscalculus.  I don't really bother with view stats but I do find them interesting because of what they reveal about people who are "interested" in comics these days.  The idea of a comic fandom is almost out-dated now and it seems as though the "can't troll then won't bother to comment at all" attitude prevails!

 What this might entail for the UK Golden Age groups/blogs should not be ignored.

Anyway, I took down figures for views of my blogs on the 7th February, 2015 and today is almost a month so let's see.


British Golden Age Comics
7/2:     9,277        22/2: 9,669         24/2:  9,861      27/2: 9964        4/3: 10,009

UK GA Comics
7/2:   408            22/2:  549           24/2:  585          27/2: 642          4/3: 665

T Hooper-S/BTCB
7/2:  3,575         22/2:  3,754        24/2: 3,831       27/2: 3,873       4/3: 3,892

Anomalous Observational Phenomena

7/2: 22,502      22/2:  23,090       24/2: 23,421    27/2: 23,628     4/3:  23,788

Maakika Art

7/2:  890          22/2: 932             24/2: 961          27/2:  969          4/3: 977

Black Tower Comics & Books

7/2:   NA          22/2:   10,628      24/2:  NA         27/2: 10,946      4/3: 10,974

Alan Class

7/2:  9,918      22/2: NA             24/2: 10,010      27/2:  10,047    4/3: 10,087

One thing you'll note is the odd "NA" and this is down to the fact that numbers are so jumbled to me that I thought I had noted view figures on those dates but had not!  Still, it does not affect the total overview.

It is important for the point that I am about to make so I need to note that all postings on Google+ have received (as of 4th March)  1,236,739.

I am not including CBO views for the incredible number of views posting have gotten on other sites via "spiders" and what not.   

That is.....1,286,157 and from all those view there have been 5 comments

Seriously. That is one hell of an awful statistic -not eve a "fun posting!"  or "Really enjoyed that!"  or even a "Thanks for promoting my book!"   The total lack of wanting to even say "I'd like to read more about this" while, obviously, reading postings and, yes, downloading items (I can see how many pieces of art are downloaded and THAT is why they are never high resolution!).

Don't you think Ben R. Dilworth or Stransky & Labbat might be interested in what you thought of their strip-work/illoes posted on CBO?  

In fact, that brings me to the comments I mentioned.  One was positive regarding the Ultimate British Golden Age Collection but two complained (sort of) that Slicksure was not drawn the same way as he was in the afore mentioned collection.  Well, d'uh!  Slicksure in the 1940s was drawn by Harry E. Banger (pronounced  as in "Ranger") who was, primarily, a humour strip artist.  The 2014 version remained true to the Banger style Slicksure but was NOT drawn by Banger.  Still made me chuckle out loud.

Black Tower does NOT alter or "modernise" or "reboot" Golden Age UK characters. We stay true to the characters and I think any artist who has worked with me ore drawn these characters for me, will tell you I am on any negative change like an avalanche of bricks.  But Ben Dilworth, Stransky & Labbat seem to have immediately understood the characters and what they are about.

On CBO the comments are usually continued conversations between myself and..."the four usual suspects".  That means the "comments" count is higher even though they are part of drawn out internet chat!  Exclude those and CBO is in the same position.

WHY do people visiting the blogs never comment?  Yes, we have a VERY large overseas audience where English is not the first language but we are in the age of Google Translate and even if someone does not use online translation, if the English is not great, I don't care.  That they took the effort means far more that how it is written.

In the pre-internet age (yes, the internet ruined a great deal) we had LOCs or letters of comment. I used to get them all the time from Russia, Poland the old Czechoslovakia, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland (I still get fan mail from there!) and so on.  Now you do not even have to go to the post office to send a written letter -you just type and send -and that is too much??

But these stats show that the UK Golden Age blog, despite having some content different to the British Golden Age blog, gets far fewer views.  Is just one such blog all the internet fandom can take or does it show there is little interest?

The 10,0009 views show that there must be some interest.   But comments are so rare that I think it far more likely that I'll find a copy of William A. Ward's The Bat today.  

Why?  Are people looking and thinking "crap!" -do they like seeing the old strips (I know certain people download them and pass them off as "scanner unknown"!) but I am not interested in that.  Snide people like that are just trying to score points and get all the thanks.

Do visitors NOT like the GA strips?

Do visitors not like the new strips featuring GA characters?

Are people just hoping to find downloads (it'll never happen)?

Am I merely wasting my time?  Am I the only one passionate about the old creators/creation??  Surely not!

But you may ask WHY two GA blogs?  Simple.  I found that there are two search results for two different search terms.  "UK Golden Age comics" produces different results -initially (even now it seems) the British Golden Age Comics blog never showed.  But search "British Golden Age Comics" and you get a lot of things NOT relating to UK published comics.

So, one search term does draw people to UK GA comics and another to BGACs.  So they filter through eventually.  I know it sounds convoluted but this is the net!  It is also why content can vary.

Close UKGACs since it gets fewer views and just leave a re-direct message on the home page?  Who knows -I've not decided yet and being honest I have to say I'm in a mind to just not update them.  We'll see.

I was not joking when I wrote fandom was dead.  And now not even a Bristol comic event to go to and talk to comic folk!

Retirement is looking like a nicer prospect every day.  

One thing that has never changed: I still love comics!


Sunday, 1 March 2015

A Request

Hello, All!
  In my ongoing quest to run into a brick wall as many times as That's not right.  In my ongoing quest to find out more about obscure UK comic creators of the past I have needed my nose and teeth fixed several times.....oh, there, see -THAT is where I should have typed "running into brick walls" but the moment has gone!
  Anyway, being far more serious: I have looked and dug around the internet and written letters far and wide but still have not been able to find photographs of most of these creators.
 Gerald Swan and Denis M. Reader you might think had photos taken by someone -apparently, Denis Gifford thought it was "a bit impolite" to ask if he might take a photograph (oh, Denis!!) and Jock McCail and his brother, William A. Ward Harry Banger -you'd think family at least might have a page or online images. Nothing.
 Now I know that there are quite a few knowledgeable comickers out there with all sorts of journals, books, etc.  So, my big request is this: if you have any photographs of these people or others who worked for Swan -even if only "cartoon portraits" could you please get in touch or pass the word around?
 My sincere THANKS to anyone who can help!