Tiger Tim’s Weekly – No 958

I have been in other Oxfam Book shops up and down the land, but i can confidently say Lincoln’s is amongst the best. Where others will provide you with endless novels for middle-aged women, most likely with beige an overpowering theme to the covers/spines, old poetry books or Beano and Dandy annuals that are scarcely 4 years old, Lincoln’s never fails to supply interesting paperbacks from the 60’s and 70’s, old “Nelson Reward” books (an entry on which is forthcoming) and adventure comic annuals from the golden age. (That’s Britain’s golden age, which isn’t set in stone but 1955 to 1985 tends to be the boundaries people will agree on). Even more amazingly, they sometimes have actual issues of comics! and that is what i bought yesterday.

It’s Tiger Tim’s Weekly, a “nursery comic” intended for very young readers, and (cover*) dates to March 30th 1940. Of course, them being better times it’s highbrow literature compared to comparable titles today. Paper shortages where obviously beginning to bite, for it is a mere 12 tabloid sized pages on thin newsprint. Still the cover is very colourful and other pages are two colour “black, white and red”. The content is a mixture of short instalments of serial stories, and some other serial adventure comic strips. The centre pages are filled with short ‘humour’ strips in the old-fashioned style of blocks of text under the picture to describe the story, as well as speech bubbles. Pretty borders and little ornate pictures in the margins abound throughout the pages.

The issue isn’t in the best condition, and a large chunk has been torn from the cover. It has also been folded for many years and the ‘spine’ of the cover page is more air than paper… but considering the drive for paper recycling during the war, and the “worthlessness” of comics and storypapers, it’s amazing it has survived at all.

*-British comics often had ‘odd’ attitudes to cover dating, some dated the first day the issue would be sold, others the last. And seemingly some companies dated an issue to the day after it would first go on sale, for reasons best known to themselves.

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The colourful front cover, with a serial strip instalment and also a small “funny picture” with different jokes in it. Note all the fancy borders and little details, this is something they had in the olden days called “pride in your work”.

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A mixture of text story and comic strip. With other little strips thrown in wherever they will fit! Adding in little comic strips all over the place is, incedentally, how they used to be presented in the “proper papers” too. Nowadays they are all on the “funny page”, often with the stars. Wonder why the astrologers haven’t picked up on that little detail and complained…

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The centre pages, a large spread of short comic strips. The “black, white and red” helps to give them a little more life and detail but save the all-important ink for the war effort. This type of colouring on the centre pages would last much longer, though. I have some 70’s Victors with exactly the same thing being done! Again, notice the little borders and details.

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In these days of the tie-in “advertainment”, corporate execs would reel back in shock and seeing 12 large pages of paper being read by children containing only two adverts! and one of those is for a another publication by the same company. Playbox was a companion to the venerable Chatterbox, a publication which ran for many years. An entry about that will also be added in the future.

The School Friend annual 1957

Discovered in Oxfam’s “please read me one more time” box for a mere 50p (i wish the Bury branch would do the same thing!) this is a proper gem of a late 50’s comic/storypaper annual, with the strips and text stories alternating. I’m not too sure of the history of the School Friend, but i’m pretty sure it originated alongside the Gem and Magnet, so by the time the 1960’s where coming knocking it probably looked well out of date, even with strip content. The stories themselves are mostly the typical “Girls’ Own” fare that revisionists (some of them even self-professed “fans”!) would have you beleive entirely made up the girl’s comics of the time, however there are a few surprises. Another surprise is the prescence of not one but TWO colour strips! There is also a painted “coloured plate” on different paper in the front of the book, but the coloured strips are on the same thick pulp paper as the black and white pages, just with “dotty” colouring added. I actually like the look, and find myself wondering if it can be replicated for my own comics in photoshop.

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The cover, with one or two “improvements”. Probably added by Susan White, it’s evident second owner (the name is in biro) after Judith Fox, who’s name is on the title page in rather ornate handwriting. I beleive “The Millers” are a football team.

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“The Silent Three” appear to be the most famous characters of the School Friend’s comic strips (they are in that British Comics book with Korky on the cover, dontcha know). I think that in it’s earlier days the paper also contained Charles Hamilton stories, but there’s none of that in this book. The Silent Three themselves belonged to a secret society in their boarding school who put on robes and masks and fought against injustice (Kind of like a genteel version of V for Vengeance?)  Here they are on their summer holidays, but another school is still in session and Betty’s cousin, captain of the fourth, is upset at her form being framed for a series of pranks. The pranks turn out to be the work of a corrupt prefect who has found a clue to a treasure hidden within the school and wants to keep it for herself. Whilst this may not be by Charles Hamilton it isn’t straying too far from his territory! (Nb. British girl’s comics, and probably storypapers before them, where almost entirely written by men)

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This story is about Princess Anita. The young apparent monarch (presumably the actual King or Queen is “away” for extended periods) of “Sylvanberg”, a kind of idealised swiss/bavarian type country. She dresses up in peasant garb and goes amongst her people in order to discover their problems and then solve them using her powers as monarch. Here she is coincidentally saved by a “no good” man that a “well to do” woman wants to marry (against the wishes of her father). One awarding of a Legion d’honneur-style medal later and the lovers can live happily ever after.

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One of the colour strips, Jill Crusoe. In this her and her native friend M’lani live on “Paradise Island” in the 1890’s. A hot-air balloon accidentally descends onto a nearby island where cannibals keep the idol of their fire god. As the girls move to rescue him they use the exploding gas in the balloon to convince the savages that the fire god is angry with their plan to sacrifice the “sky demon”. Later on the airman is rescued by a passing ship but Jill and M’lani decide to stay on the island. How they avoid being eaten by cannibals is not adequately explained.

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A more tomboy-ish character, with a strange Irish accent. Her name is Paddy McNaught and she assists the detective Terry Brent. Here, believing crooks to be after him, he sends her out in his car with a waxwork model of him which happens to be laying around the office to throw them off the scent. She then realises they want to “settle for him”, but later finds out they knew the waxwork was a model all along. However a quick switch of the waxwork left sitting on a log with the real thing see’s the crims rounded up. It turns out some recently stolen

Two interesting Commando’s…

Commando comics almost entirely concentrate on World War 2, and with good reason, as there’s such a huge range of stories and scenario’s that can be derived from such a large conflict. However at over 4100 issues (with a lot of reprints, mind) diversification becomes increasingly nessescary. This usually results in stories set in World War 1, Korea or small civil wars set in made-up countries. Science Fiction and Westerns are two much rarer Genre’s, the former last being seen in “War Games” from 2007 (and that was a reprint, and the story was ‘framed’ by WW2) and the latter in “Devil Canyon”, also from last year, which featured some ex-Yankee soldiers looking for lost gold.

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In the current batch of issues is another Western, issue 4139, titled “Rebel Army”. This time following an ex-Confederate (the politics of the confederation are completley left out, naturally. Though i suspect for the average trooper on the ground they meant little anyway… slaves still cost money that the poor people didn’t have!) officer called Samuel Watts and his former sergeant and business partner Nate Bridges. The story takes them to Argentina after a double-cross by another passenger. Searching that passenger’s cargo they discover he is a gun-runner and decide to sell the weapons to the Argentian government. Told the army already have enough weapons, the two are sent inland to link up with a militia that is suppressing Indian revolts. However after another betrayal and witnessing several acts of brutality, switch sides and defeat the militia. Finally collecting the money they are owed, they ride into the sunset, unable to decide between owning a farm or saloon.

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The “slight wrap around” cover is normal for Commando. The area the other side of the knife used to be black, but in recent times has had a photograph or other art used to liven it up. Ian Kennedy drew the cover, and is far and away the most prolific Commando cover artist. 

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The background to the story told in four quick frames. The way comics should be done! “Garijo”, one of Commando’s stable of Spanish/South American artists (i’m presmuming) has done the interior art. There’s a lot of detail packed in.

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Sam and Nate are enticed into the Militia, by being asked to deliver thier weapons in person 

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But they later switch sides, demonstrating the deadly power of one of the main weapons they found in the gun-runner’s stash, a four-barreled Nordenfeld machine-gun.

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…and battle commences! 

Meanwhile, an interesting science fiction Commando from 1994, which i have wanted to read for a long time since seeing it on http://britishcomics.20m.com (currently down) is issue 2774 – “Space Watch”. Today i was wandering Lincoln and decided to look at a book stall on the indoor market which sells Picture Library comics on and off for 40p. Imagine my delight when i discovered this issue! However, it became a proper “Never meet your heroes” moment when i discovered that the story was, in fact, terrible. I’ll let the scans do the talking here…

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Nice cover, Commando has only recently (within the last year) started to include credits (though for a time before that allowed the interior arists to sign the first or last frame). As this is well before the crediting era at DC Thomson i have no idea who did this, but other people can probably make identifications. 

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A nice wrap-around cover and a rather brief and confusing description of the story in question. This issue is from a ‘short’ period when the barcode was located on the front of issues rather than the back.

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The story is set in “the twenty-first century”. Japan wants to bring back whaling, and sometimes ‘pirates’ kill whales anyway. In order to get thier own way, Japan decides to go to war with the “World Environmental Council”. Except wars in the future are fought on computers in virtual reality between small teams of experts. So far so never-going-to-happen. The story reeks of early 90’s which will presumably put paid to it’s chances of being reprinted, when the reprint cycle reaches 1994. You won’t be missing much.

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The virtual reality war is set even further in the future, in 2442 to be precise. Once in the VR world the characters (the WEC team are made up of British, American, French and Russian men… to fight against Japan. So far so WW2) take on the personality of characters in the world. Note the commander of the Zakrun battle fleet (Japan) claiming his fictional space navy on a fictional planet have “never lost a war”. Also they have a huge starship which “is not finished yet”. This only adds more unessescary complexity to the story, if you ask me they should have done away with the VR, Whale-saving guff and just made it a straightfoward story actually set in 2442.

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Weather the participants in the space battle (which is so confusing and messy it’s not worth describing, though it is fought much like WW2 air battles) can actually die in real life if they die in Virtual Reality is none too clear. The Russian doesn’t and the American isn’t mentioned. Neither are any of the Japanese. The Frenchman is killed for real though, but that is because of attacks by hackers who are trying to murder the British man (who is the last remaining ‘real’ player in the game by the end).

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The hackers, paid by some kind of Arabic Mafia boss, ‘complete’ and send in the massive space battleship, Satori, against the sole surviving Earth ships, the Pennsylvania and a single space frigate. Satori‘s powerful laser cannons narrowly miss the escape pod from the other large Earth ship, Ark Royal, and it is the shock of these near misses which kills the frenchman in real life as well as the VR world. But still the Earth fleet manage to outwit Satori and win the game, keeping Whaling illegal.

At the end of the story we re-join the pirate whaling ship in time to see the crew arrested. The Mafia boss is also unimpressed with the hackers and has them killed. What a dissapointment after wanting to read this story for so long. I wonder what Starblazer is like…

Comics in the Union Jack

The Union Jack was a popular storypaper from 1894 up to it’s end in 1933, for most of it’s life it contained Sexton Blake stories, and serials, articles and editorial focusing on crime and punishment. However in it’s early days it experimented a great deal, and the editorial often revolved around the Royal Navy, or else “fascinating facts”. In this issue, number 24 from 1894, they have even printed a comic strip! albiet a very short one.
Sandow comic in the UJ

NB: “Sandow” was a strong-man of the time who repeatedly advertised his muscle-building books in the Harmsworth/AP papers. In the UJ of 1906 there was even a series of short articles about (no doubt greatly exaggerated) events from his life, such as going to every gym in Paris and wrecking the weight-lifting machines as he was too strong for them to handle.

Two new items…

I finally got around to going book/comic shopping in Lincoln after i came back, it’s a real gold mine for antique/second hand bookshops (though apparently there was a brillaint place for comics that closed down 10 years ago!). My wallet was decidedly light, though, but i still found a couple of interesting things…

Look-In, Best of the Seventies

Look-in best of the seventies

Bought from The Works, a bargain bookshop which has sprung up in ‘recent’ years. Some of the books it has has alternate “cheaper” (though usually barely any difference in quality) designs. This being one example (the normal version was yellow and actually said “Best of the Seventies” on it), the Commando books being others. Still they where evidently fed up of tripping over these (and had a huge amount of new stock in, sat all over the shop still in it’s boxes) so have reduced it to the “you can’t say no” price of £1.99!

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The book reproduces both features (which where (I)TV and pop music related) and comic strips. Obviously the comics are what i care about, but here is a look at a feature, about the saturday morning shows, namely Tiswas, hosted by one Chris Tarrant (shown here, with hair, pouring some tea), who later became famous for hosting “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”. In those days “Regional TV” really was regional, and a guide right at the back of the book (or ‘from 8 years later’ as this covers a whole decade) only shows Tiswas being available in certain areas. One region didn’t get any programmes on a Sunday!

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Several comic serials are reproduced in the book, mercifully with a full storyline intact. This one is Black Beauty, with gorgeous artwork. It remains uncredited but resembles the art used on The Trigan Empire (by Don Lawrence). However it also puts me in mind of Frank Bellamy, who worked on Thunderbirds for an older TV related comic called TV21. Both are amongst the finest comic artists that ever held a pencil.

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Look-In was, due to rights issues, restricted to talking about ITV shows in the main. But this extended to foreign shows which appeared in ITV, such as this Bionic Woman strip. 

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There where shorter 1-2 page humour strips based on comedy shows of the day too. On the Buses was hardly intended as a kid’s show, but kids watched it and this is reflected in the comic. However the bawdy humour of the show is replaced by lighter slapstick here.

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I also found this for a mere £4. It’s an un-dated adventure story book, but the stories about foiling Nazi spies suggests it is from the 1940’s. A previous owner has decided to draw mustaches on every single person in the illustrations which probably helped to reduce the price. The stories are typical boy’s own fare about spies, secret passages, motor racing and boarding schools.

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The book has just over 150 pages which are on rather thick paper, there is also a single coloured plate and several full-page line illustrations.Birn Brothers” is the only publishing information given. “Dean & Sons”, who took over Chatterbox annuals in the mid 30’s, where similarly enigmatic with regard to dating thier books.