Odds ‘N Ends

Sorry I haven’t made any decent updates lately. I have a few ideas in the pipeline including some more reviews of serial stories (I have in fact taken the necessary pictures for a review of a 1930’s Girls’ Crystal serial and had them sitting around for ages!) and more looks at classic science fiction.

Anyway, for now here is an inspirational poem from The Juvenile Magazine for July 1886. Which also gives me an excuse to start an 1880’s category!

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No mention of Jesus, unlike almost everything else this comic printed.

Well the gap between 1870’s and 1890’s was annoying. The 1890’s is the start of my “normal” collecting era, so I won’t feature much from before then (well from before 1892 when Chums started, really). The broad type of comics I collect started in the 1860’s but I don’t own anything from that decade yet!

Today I got this, though. An issue of my favourite comic from my favourite decade… with appropriate jingo:

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New Series no. 56, June 14th 1902.

This is a special number to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII. It is also twice the size of a normal issue (and twice the price). Most issues of this era had black and white covers with part of a story on them, too.

This issue see’s the launch of two new serial stories – both with extra-long opening installments of several pages (tabloid sized pages with tiny print, the serials in The Boys’ Friend were truly “book length” ). It also has the usual installments of already-running serials, articles about the King, coronation ceremony and Britain in general. There is also an advert for issue 2 of The Boys’ Realm – which was a very similar story paper launched that year. In 1903 these two would be joined by The Boys Herald making a “big three” of tabloid-sized story papers.

Red, White & Blue to be re-launched!

Having produced four issues of my self-published comic The Red, White & Blue, plus one of The Trident storypaper, I thought it was high time I looked into selling them online. I’d also “recently” discovered that the character of Sexton Blake was not public domain, as originally thought, but was owned by IPC. I decided to contact them and ask for permission to use him in my own comics… and got turned down!*

Anyway, the upshot of this is that I will need to re-launch the Red, White & Blue and Trident with my own characters. I have some ideas that I’m currently putting together. One advantage of starting from scratch with my own character is that the continuity issues of 70-odd years of constant publication Sexton Blake had behind him no longer exist – so my own detective(s)** can have a cohesive background and the stories can all link together. This isn’t going to turn into a serial, though – the long text story in each issue will still be complete, just like it was in the Union Jack!

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 The covers of the old series…

Of course, I need to dispose of the old stock of printed comics, but I can’t sell them. Instead I’ll just chuck them in the recycling. Mind you, though, I wouldn’t want to overwhelm Cambridgeshire recycling with one huge lump of paper all in one go. So I’ll distribute the comics to people for free at some event, they can then take them back to all different ends of the country/world and dispose of them there. Of course I’m not sure which event I can dispose of them at yet.

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Picture unrelated. It is especially unrelated to Saturday May 28th.

In order to dispose of the comics I’ve been putting them into “packs”. Most of the packs, for the people who get to me first, will contain issues 1-4 of the Red, White & Blue and issue 1 of The Trident. Then a few with issue 3 missing. Then a few with issue 3 and The Trident missing. Then many with just issues 1 & 2 and then finally a few issue 2’s on their own.

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Pilez O different sizez

There’s no suitable comic events coming up before my planned emigration time that I can reasonably get to and/or get a table at. So whatever I distribute them at I’ll have to have them in a backpack and wear a T-shirt with “Free Comics!” written on it. Events such as the MCM Expo May 28th at the Excel Centre, London usually have “Free Hug” people, so it will just be an extension of that with something you can read on the bog.

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Like this but in T-shirt form.

As an aside I did take that box to work to see if anybody there wanted the lure of free Jingo. I think I only gave away 3 packs at most. Yep, I literally can’t give it away! …so when the re-launch comes (earmarked for August, hopefully issue 1 of the new Trident will be sooner) and the comics are available online, make sure you form an orderly line to pay £1.50 for something people didn’t want for free!

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Tempted?

 * – They also mentioned that a certain large US comic company owns “exclusive print rights” …which possibly explains the non-appearance of the next Snowbooks compliation. It’s also a worrying development as we’ll quite possibly see some full colour version of Sexton Blake fighting against the British government and Empire after uncovering unjust conspiracies. Doubtless set in 1895 but showing him being assisted by Tinker who didn’t appear until 1904 in the proper stories. Or at least that’s the worst-case scenario. Hopefully the big US comic company will just be content to sit on the character and not do anything with him – staying out of print is far better than the wringer they’d put him through in the interests of “updating”.

** – *devious grin*

An unusual book…

I was doing a general search for “Boys Illustrated” or something on Ebay when I came across a strange-looking book. It is primarily full of text stories illustrated in line:

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Is the sea supposed to be covered in trees and racing towards us?

Though it does also have one comic strip, which is in the “picture story paper” style of images with large captions underneath:

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It’s not all sailing stories the pictures just ended up that way XD

Ah so it’s clearly one of those generic Dean annuals from the 30’s – 50’s, then? Well you’re half right!

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One of those fonts looks more like it’s from the 1830-50’s!

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that it features a Ford Anglia and a Mini Clubman being banger raced… because this book is actually from 1973! It doesn’t appear to be reprints, either, as stories of jungle adventures are about people writing a book rather than people building an empire. Also a story involving an Austin 7 describes it as “40 years old”. Still it’s strange to think that kids who may have got this for Christmas were reading Action only 3 years later!

Starscape Storypaper

Story Papers have virtually vanished from cultural history. A lot of people are aware of “Penny Dreadfuls” and “Comics”… but what came between? Far too many people (including me back in 2005/6) just assume that anything which costs aroundabout a penny and contains text stories is automatically a Penny Dreadful.

Story papers actually pre-date the Penny Dreadfuls too, I doubt The Young Gentlemen’s Magazine of 1777 featured many pirates or highwaymen. It was “The Young Gentlemen’s Magazine” because, of course, most working class boys and girls were illiterate! Compulsory schooling in the 19th century saw the rise of the Penny Dreadful as dodgy publishers vied to produce the most gruesome horror stories. By the 1860’s a moral backlash resulted in some more “worthy” publications (many of these early ones from the presses of Edwin J. Brett – formerly a leading Penny Dreadful publisher!). Then the Boys’ Own Paper of 1879 and Chums of 1892 put the Dreadfuls into retreat.

In the 1890’s the Alfred Harmsworh (later Amalgamated Press) story papers The Halfpenny Marvel, Union Jack and Boys’ Friend, all initially priced a halfpenny, decimated the dreadfuls and by 1910 (the Harmsworth papers having increased greatly in quality over the 1900’s, and gone up to a penny themselves) they were virtually forgotten. Amalgamated Press pretty much had the field to themselves until the 1920’s when Scottish upstart DC Thomson appeared, launching “The Big Five” throughout the decade. Most of AP’s story papers were killed off in 1940 by severe paper shortages. After the war it was DC Thomson who dominated the story-paper market (they had reduced the schedule of their papers rather than wholesale cancelling) until the comics took over and the DCT papers gradually converted to comics, merged or closed. The last, The Rover, finally vanished in 1973.

…At least, that’s the story papers aimed at the working class Boys’ market. Three story papers survive today, all aimed at middle-aged women. The People’s Friend Library, My Weekly Library and The People’s Friend itself. If you consider Story Papers to “count” as comics (and I do) then The People’s Friend is easily the longest running one ever – going on 150 years! the Dandy, Detective Comics and, er, that Italian one don’t even come close.

But now there’s a new story paper on the scene, and this one is aimed at the typical comic readership of today. The Starscape Storypaper.

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The cover wouldn’t have been seen on Chatterbox

For some reason it’s a tiny A6 size, and begins with an introduction by somebody who doesn’t seem to have seen a story paper and is under the impression they were “pocket book sized”. Mind you at least he does realise that story papers and penny dreadfuls were different things! He laments the decline of British adventure comics and wonders if a story paper could fill the gap between 2000AD and Harry Potter, a noble idea and one that’s worth a try!

He does seem under the impression that a paper with science fiction, superheroes and horror stories would be “modern”, though. Comics seem to have stopped at 2000AD, by way of 1977 XD. Mind you that’s the prevailing attitude in the British comics profession (such as it is – most of them working for American companies) anyway. 2000AD is good and anything that came before it is worthless, you only need to look at Comic Heroes!

Then again my own story paper, The Trident (re-launched, er, sometime in an A4 format with two complete stories and two serials) is going to be filled with early 20th century style jingoism, so what do I know?

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Starscape alongside the next smallest story paper I know of (The Boys’ Friend Library) and the more typical “half tabloid” size

The first story is excellent, it features the assistant to the great wizard, Merlin, murdering him and stealing the ankh of eternal life that Merlin was preparing. But Merlin is not dead and returns to the assistant, Seth, as a ghost. Seth is incapable of dying so long as he has the ankh with him (and if he is separated from it suffers the pains of death without dying!). Merlin whisks him through time and forces him to fight in various wars or participate in various atrocities through history – usually on the losing side!

Eventually, though, Merlin needs his help – for some great evil is threatening “all realms”, including earth and the afterlife. Seth must travel through time and enlist the help of great heroes, starting with Beowulf!

The next story is about “exterminators” on a colony planet called variously Redworld or Dustworld. This planet is infested with giant insects called Earwigs (giant spiders, ants and scorpions are too predictable XD). The hero is the nerdy Stoss, who wanted to study the insects after they were exterminated, but his father has forced him to get the more ‘glamorous’ job at the sharp end!

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Once a comic illustrator, always a comic illustrator!

This story is also a serial, and sets the scene, really. There’s no battles – but the main characters are crawling around in a dark, deserted and crumbling old building (evidently the lessons of a thousand horror movies still haven’t been learned in the future!) so the next part will doubtless be carnage.

Then we have the short, complete story. This has a some futuristic cyborg weaponary and an unexpected twist ending. A “future” with a “shock”, if you will XD.

Actually it’s a superhero story with two main heroes. One of them has the power of punching people, and the other has a power-suit that’s bulletproof and lets him leap long distances and smash people’s skulls in.

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Which is better against armed mobsters, if we’re being honest

The rest of the heroes have the power of being killed by the henchmen of a criminal called “The Big Boss”. Somebody has sold them out… but who?

In all it’s a publication with it’s faults, but it’s well worth supporting… especially for the Merlin story! A kind of Justice League of middle ages Britain sounds awesome… even if that’s kind of already been done in the Arthurian legends XD.

This would be the bit where I give you a way of buying it, but Starscape’s website is, ahem, ‘quirky’ to navigate, so I’ll instead say go to a small press convention and hope they are there. Not much use for those of us that want to emigrate, mind you!