CONTINUING A BROWSE THROUGH MY COMICS COLLECTION :
These following comics are the contents of another one of those comic longboxes , used for snug archival storage. Collectors who want their comics to last , given that many of the older ones were viewed as throwaway ephemera ,printed on shoddy wood-pulp paper ,chock- full of all manner of destructive chemicals, usually bag them in clear mylar acid- free bags , or at least in some kind of clear plastic bags, in an attempt to hold back the ravages of time and consign them to one of these boxes. Most plastic bags are made from unstable eleements and might even help the comics degenerate quicker , of course, but they might also keep that odd little bug from finding your treasure and snacking on it.It’s something of a balancing act.It’s best to use mylar on your most valuable papers if you want to give them any real longevity. Daylight…. and in particular direct sunlight , are comics’ nemesis. That’ll leech out the colour , brown the paper and it makes them disappear right before your eyes.I do my best to maintain some kind of balance in this respect.This is another mixed bag of goodies but I’ll start off with a selection from a company which was much-loved by comics fans in Ireland and the UK and which was a staple in newsagents when other fare might have been scarce.I’ve included these videos before on another page but they are excellent for background detail about the specific company and the economics involved in producing comics in the mid-1950s.
Alan Class was a UK publisher who ,between 1959-1989, produced a line of excellent value- for -money reprints of hard- to-find earlier American comics . Many American comics were not distributed in the UK or ireland until the late 1950s or early 1960s ,which is probably why they seemed so exotic to us comic fans when we first came upon them amid the usual UK fare. Alan Class had a list of titles, as you can see below , usually utilising the contents of several diverse American companies, printing stories from mostly Marvel/Atlas and Charlton’s earlier days, but also including materials from other publishers such as Archie/MLJ Mighty Comics, King Comics and others. There was an excellent span of stories and artwork in many diverse styles.Not all of it was brilliant , but there were gems enough. The covers were well -produced and the sixty plus inner pages were in black and white , avoiding some of the colour -coordinating mistakes that could otherwise be rife from other publishers.Some errant publishers were notorious for getting certain colour elements hopelessly wrong….Superman’s costume in red, anybody? … the Hulk with yellow skin ?Or Captain America in yellow tights? There were some howlers at times, but Alan Class ,for his part ,managed to get it right mostly. For the most part the inner black and white printing was quite legible although the paper was not of the very best quality. Titles such as Suspense, Uncanny, Astounding, Sinister , Creepy, Secrets of the Unknown, Out of the Unknown were his stock in trade.There were even Westerns and war stories .When I started buying comics in the early 1960s these were seen as second -string comics (being reprints) but still very good value for money, selling at one shilling (1/-)which was about 5 pence in those pre-decimal days. Any titles priced after that magical date in 1971 would be in “new pence” (P) so as a means to put any kind of date on these things , the rising pence price thoroughout the following years until the early 1980s when they ceased to appear in newsagents ,can only be a loose , basic guide. Now the ” 1/- shilling” ceased to exist after February, 1971 and became 5 p(ence) (New Money!). So early 1971-1972 would be 5p but then the price gradually increased throughout the following years to -6p, 8p, 10p, 15p and eventually when the business sadly folded at 55p. There is no publishing date on any of them for very deliberate business reasons to do with seasonal supply and demand, which Alan explains elsewhere. This was a way of extending “shelf-life”.
These were an excellent way to see some of those rare Marvel comics that had been missed and they were full of excellent storytelling and artwork about monster ,suspense and sci-fi stories of the “Us and Them” variety of those Cold War years, by pre-super hero Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko at their best as well as a plethora of other artists and writers . They have lately become collectible in their own right , given some of the prices of the original offerings that they copied, but should still prove to be modestly priced if you can locate good solid copies.These ones in my collection are good tight copies for the most part and there are quite a few from the 1960s with that magical “1/-” price mark. .The covers were mostly straight “lifts” from specific comics and are tidily and accurately coloured and sharply printed on glossy cover stock. Spider-man can be seen on the covers of both Uncanny and Suspense, for example.The contents in cases like this will then likely be a complete issue of that specific original comic(without its original “masthead” but with another 40 pages of material from another title to fill the page quota.All of these were squarebound with glued spines and only slightly shorter in height than the popular American comics of the day.Neat…in other words. I already had a small collection of these but was fortunate enough years ago to bid on a substantially larger collection which makes up the bulk of these comics now.
If you are interested in these reprint comics , especially those by Alan Class, you should also check out this excellent page..
Alan Class wasn’t alone in the business of reprinting comics.As you can see below , Marvel Comics and DC were in on that act from the early 1960s.As far as I can tell it began with DC National comics and their Superman , Batman,The Flash, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen Annuals and 80 page Giants which usually comprised various super-hero reprinted stories from the character’s monthly title , possibly on a few different themes and Marvel gradually followed suit, first with several annuals of their own . These usually comprised an “event” story such as the wedding of Reed and Sue in the Fantastic Four Annual #3 followed by some reprint filler material .These had a higher page-count than the usual monthly issue and were squarebound. DC National specials were slightly thicker than Marvels who gave 72 pages to DC’s 80.For fans and readers these compilation packages proved good value, especially for completists and fans of hard to find material. Marvel brought out Marvel Tales, Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics and Fantasy Masterpieces.Each of these tittles reprinted specific Marvel titles in ongoing sequences from the beginning.Thus MCIClassics from 1-22 brought together in episodic sequences the early Fantastic Four,the Hulk , Doctor Strange and Iron Man and even Spider-man stories featured in the earlier issues, before the character settled in as the main sell in Marvel Tales….of which more later.
Later in 1969 “Marvel’s Greatest Comics “continued the MCIClassics trend by continuing reprinting the Fantastic Four comics sometimes complete with the original cover artwork though not all the time . some classic covers by Jack Kirby seemed to have fallen off the radar for whatever reason.In many respects these are much like the original comics and are superior in flavour and feel to many of the later hardback “art-book” reprintings of the Marvel line ,which lose the original comic book colour to the vagaries of harsh digital printing.These compilation reprints are a great inexpensive (comparatively) way to collect versions of the old originals without re-mortgaging the house or buying all the newer but sometimes less -satisfactory hardback volumes .In some cases I have managed to acquire doubles of some issues.
Next to spill out are a few old “Herbie” comics from the early 1960s. These are fondly remembered by many readers from the 1960s.Alan Moore has been quoted as saying that “Herbie” was his favourite….a bit of a cult then…
…Then a clutch of the aforementioned DC annuals/ 80 Page Giants…Superman and Batman were probably the most popular titles but the Secret Origins series were also much sought after as they usually reprinted first appearances of later well-known characters.
Below , Flash Gordon remained popular from the 1930s into the 1960s.The artwork in these was especially good….artists such as Al Williamson and Gray Morrow contributed to this “King” comics line for about a year in 1966-7 ..The King Comics Flash Gordon title was well-received, winning three “Alley “Awards in 1966 and another in 1967 …and the cult black and white “Twilight Zone” sci-fi TV programme was transposed into comics form, appearing as a “Gold Key” title.Plastic Man continued a 1960s revival in DC comics long after it’s creator Jack Cole’s death.Titles from DC comics such as the Atom and Green Lantern were also interesting additions at the time.
Then there was a run of Jack Kirby’s “Thor” title up next.Thor and the Fantastic Four were the two comics that Jack Kirby put most of his Marvel effort into before leaving the company.
Next is a hotchspotch of titles from independent publishers from a time when artists and writers were expanding beyond the the “overground” publishers, embracing some of the ethos of the underground comics and striking out on their own without the former restraints.The late Dave Stevens’ “Rocketeer” was later made into a well-received superhero film.
“American Flagg” by Howard Chaykin enjoyed a long run , selling most through the newly appearing specialist comic shops.
The Marvel Tales title began as an “origins annual” but soon developed into a fine reprint title alongside the MCIClassics/Marvel’s Super Heroes title . it’s an excellent place to find those early Spider-man issues as well as those more peripheral characters such as Ant Man / Giant Man, Thor and the Torch /Thing crossovers.
The “Fox and Crow” title was a beautifully realised 1950s humour title.The Fox and the Crow were a pair of anthropomorphic cartoon characters which were created by Frank Tashlin for the Screen Gems studio.The characters were the refined but silly Fauntleroy Fox and the streetwise, wisecracking Crawford Crow; they originally appeared in a series of animated films. They were Screen Gems’ most popular characters and became an excellent comic series running from the 1940s to the 1960s.
OTHER RELATED PAGES TO MY COLLECTION CAN BE FOUND HERE :