A MODEST COMIC COLLECTION PART 3

COMIC BOOK CABINET 1

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I mentioned “Power Comics” before and I think their history  is well -covered elsewhere on this site.{http://www.harrymcavinchey.worldonline.co.uk/%232%20THE%20COMICS.htm}

These are my own  comics representing  those times .I bound  some of mine together into a set of hardback cloth -covered books some years ago when I was experimenting with bookbinding techniques. These comics  reside in cabinets and units throughout the house alongside many other kinds of  books , music, artwork, guitars and various paraphanalia .This format  and a variety of homemade collaged  boxes , folders and proper “comics consevation boxes,  has kept otherwise brittle, old comics and magazines  together in an easily accessible form.

Before we had the relatively “slick” “Terrific” and “Fantastic”, there was the “Super Beano” which  was how  “Wham” comic has been described,  featuring as it did ,the work of  DC Thompson’s Beano’s renegade “Bash Street Kids” artist Leo Baxendale ,in a large format with full- painted covers on better paper.

“Wham” made its appearance from Odhams Press in June 1964. I was eleven years of age  and was the perfect customer for this kind of irascible and crazy comic. It was the kind of mad schoolboy fun  that was full of gags ,in-jokes and violent comedy.Children love that kind of  slapstick thing. “Wham” was to run for some 187 weekly issues , but it was the first 100 that were the best.This was soon followed by “Smash” and “Pow” where superheroes were introduced into weekly UK comics . These  caught on in a big way as you, no doubt ,already know. I haven’t got the entire runs of these comics.At the time they were treated as a catch-up collection for Marvel fans . They have a loose and vibrant fanzine feel to them when viewed in retrospect, but that was part of their charm.

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I haven’t got “Wham” #1 , for example. It would be fairly expensive to buy these days. I do have the following ninety nine issues though. They were excellently produced comics but I think after the first two years their creators’ enthusiasm or finances were beginning to flag. The paper quality was the first thing to suffer around  about issue #100. They are a neat time -capsule of those mid 1960’s times.Bookbinding is a time -consuming process so I didn’t apply it to all my UK comics.I had few enough of these Power Comics to find them worthwhile candidates for this special treatment.There is a sample done like this but it is more usual that the old comics in my collection reside  tucked away from daylight in boxes. Sunshine is death to comics and any that have been exposed for prolonged periods show some fading .Others, if they have been  well-enough conserved,  still retain that colourful vibrancy  of the inks since the day they were first printed.These are about fifty years old now.

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These pages below show a strip called “Wack” and a “Zombies” fan page. At the time there was a complete nationwide and worldwide obsession with all things pop and rock music as part of the cultural explosion that the Beatles accidentally began. “Wack” was   Liverpool Scouser slang and seemed to trip off the tongues of John, Paul , George and Ringo at a moment’s notice in interviews . It came from “wacker”, which back then was deemed a good thing.Wacker this and wacker that ,as in “Alright, Wacker! ‘Ows it goin’, Lah?” The editors at these new comics were quick to tap into any of this  northern magic that had swept the world,  so  the character “Wack” was invented sharpish and a new pop  band was featured each week to pull in the music fans.Marvel Comics in America was doing something similar inveigling themselves  into prime position with the student dollar.

 

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Spider-man arrived in “Pow”, fighting the Beetle abetted by the  Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, Johnny Storm.

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Every time a new comic was launched in the UK it came with a free gift in the first few issues to get the readers interested . These are now very collectible  as their rarity increases. I can remember several gifts  given away in the various comics such as   balloons that squealed when released., cardboard and paper bangers that cracked  when swept through the air, secret squirt rings that concealed a water-filled bulb for the unwary,  little tinplate frogs that made clicking sounds and in Wham there was a little Batman figure that when secreted between the pages of some unwary adult’s magazine or book would leap out spinning , propelled  by a tightly wound elastic- band.

In the case of “Pow” the gift in the second issue featured below , was a large transfer of our hero Spider-man which appeared to be based on a Steve Ditko pin-up. Printed colourful T-Shirts were not easily available in the UK at the time and readers could only lust from afar at what their American co-conspirators were able to buy so easily from the inner pages of the American comics.This was the nearest we would all get to a Spider-man T-Shirt locally. It wasn’t nearly as colourful as we’d all hoped , of course.It was more a sort of traced outline , not unlike a spider’s web ,if I can recall properly. Still….. I ironed it onto a plain white T-Shirt with my mother’s hot iron and wore it proudly until the design disintegrated in the wash. 

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Below , as you can see, it was the norm to chop up the Marvel pages to suit the new and larger  weekly format.Odd spaces were filled in with either especially drawn panels or synopsis updates and the like.Given that there were several years backlog of Marvel monthly and bi-monthly  stories to draw on, this four times a month format fairly gobbled them up as it rattled along. Of course there was none of the original colour in the interior ages to worry about because some of the colourists working on the covers didn’t always get things right..

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“Smash” featured Batman  newspaper strips initially, which to Marvel fans was seen as almost a sacrilege, given that he was a DC National character and to most Marvel fans at the time ,was old-fashioned and staid compared to the wild world of Marvel. The newspaper strips were even more conservative than the comic book version of the character. Batman was to have some real success as a television series in the mid -sixties and in a couple of feature films , but it was at the expense of the darker mood of the character and had more to do with the de-fanged comic stories that appeared in the wake of Doctor Wertham’s purge in the 1950’s. This Batman was a tongue -in -cheek send up of the character . It worked well enough and is fondly remembered more as a  knowing ,comedy, pop art , subterfuge of the form  , rather than as a homage to the dark vigilante character. . The old 1940’s black and white  film serials  which we would watch at the Saturday morning cinema  in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s ,captured the mood much better in that respect. Of course Marvel characters eventually took over here too.At the same time it was also a fact that the superheroics went hand-in-hand  with UK comics’ usual fare ….that being the inclusion of many humourous strips such as Mike Higgs’  “the Cloak”.

 

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Below is an advertisment for some of the annual hardback Christmas books that these titles spawned.

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Below Ken Reid of the Beano’s “Jonah” strip was allowed to create a similar strip called “Queen of the Seas” in this larger format and in full colour. On the other page , the comic was already filling up behind the Batman cover with the likes of the the Hulk, , the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and Captain America ….thrills galore indeed!!!

 

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You always knew there was trouble afoot when one title swallowed another …so what were readers to make of it when “Smash” or “Pow”, became “Smash, Pow and Fantastic”? It was apparent that either one or more of them wasn’t selling as well as it should, so someone was attempting to cut their losses by producing a single package that would hopefully scoop up all the readers still on board all those titles.By the end of the 1960’s, Power Comics , like most of the comics industry in the face of television’s encroachment was all but dead. The logo actually disappeared sometime in 1968 and the line was all but dead or completely re-vamped by 1969.

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