The wartime Big Comic

Inflation moved pretty slowly until the Second World War. A penny bought you one of the earliest Penny Dreadfuls in the 1830’s and could still have bought you one of the cheaper comics almost 100 years later, too. Towards the end of the 19th century, as Alfred Harmsworth was making waves with his “Halfpenny Dreadfullers”, he was doing so on the back of a series of halfpenny humour comics.


While most of the adventure story papers (such as Union Jack and The Boys’ Friend) went up to a penny and gained pages in the early 20th century, the humour comics stuck to a halfpenny, so children could afford them. The Boys’ Realm Sports Library was one exception, being an all-text story paper of 24 (very thin) pages which still cost a halfpenny in 1911! Once the First World War came around, prices began to rise due to shortages and increased taxation. Many smaller publishers went to the wall, swallowed up by Amalgamated Press. In 1918 even that juggernaut was forced to increase it’s penny comics to a “War Time Price” of 1½d.

bcom03But the shortages didn’t stop a publisher called James Henderson & Sons launching their tabloid-sized Big Comic in “1917” (see below). Priced at a halfpenny, it consisted of just 4 pages (or one sheet of paper folded over). The pages were packed full of single-panel cartoons and strips of no more than 6 panels in length. There was also a text adventure serial about Buffalo Bill, a real Wild West “character” who later started a famous travelling show. Of course, all the adventures he was later ‘credited with’ in story papers from both sides of the Atlantic would have filled about 10 lifetimes!

According to the UK Comics Wiki, Big Comic began in 1917, however this issue, from late 1917, is No. 204, meaning it should actually have started in late 1915, surely? The Wiki goes on to say that James Henderson & Sons were bought out by Amalgamated Press early in 1918. Big Comic was merged with another Henderson comic called Sparks, after a run as Big Comic and Sparks it was renamed Sparks and Big Comic. Presumably the Big Comic logo then quietly faded and Sparks continued alone.

Comments update

As I mentioned in a previous post, the “upgrade” to the blog vastly increased the number of spam comments it received (it has also made it much harder to create “3 across” image “galleries” like I used to do. Now inserting an image automatically creates a new line, and you can’t format ‘around’ an image, because the software treats images differently. Of course, in the old version, the image was treated as if it was a character, so you could simply type dashes and insert more images after an image, like so:

[image] – [image] – [image]

Trying to do that in this “improved” version results in:

[image][image]                  – –

|                           [image]

Or worse!)

Ahem, where was I? The “upgrade” also comes with a supposed “best spam comment blocker in the world”, for which you need to register and get a key code. Except to register and get a key code, you have to be a member of WordPress. I don’t suppose the monkeys in charge of 1&1 Blogs have noticed that THEY ARE NOT WORDPRESS. They use WordPress software, but host the blogs themselves. Anyway, as I have no intention of creating a ‘blank’ WordPress blog just to get a key which I can then apply to this one, I have re-allowed comments, but they will all be moderated. I can’t monitor this blog 24 hours a day (and in some cases may go days or weeks without looking at it), so please be patient if you have posted a comment and it isn’t showing up. I have set it so that “previously approved” people will have future comments auto-approved, but I don’t know how reliable that will be.

The new press regulations

New press regulations going through parliament will apparently force newspapers to make their stories “factually accurate”. While some may see this as a blow to free speech (opinion-as-journalism is a long, if annoying, tradition that’s almost as old as British newspapers), we may be able to turn it to our advantage. On what subject are the papers, even (sometimes especially) the “quality” papers, constantly spouting ill-researched, lazy nonsense, safe in the knowledge they will never be challenged?

bcomicoverI took this picture ages ago, for a totally different purpose, but it will suit…

Apparently papers found to have been lazily mouthing off with the first thing they thought up will be fined up to a million pounds (though no doubt that will only happen in severe cases of “he hasn’t been convicted of anything, but look at him, he’s probably capable of it…”). No doubt the money will just go straight to the government, but it would be nice if a paper jabbering “The Dandy cost 2p and was the first comic with speech bubbles” was forced to pay a million quid to The Phoenix, allowing them to launch a second title (if only to run it for 22 issues then do a “Great news inside, chums!”).

But enough jokey wishful thinking, every fan of British comics ought to rally around the flag, and start going through any comic related articles with a fine tooth comb. And as for any tabloid journalists who end up here in the course of their Googled-during-tea-break “research” (try looking at the original comics themselves, eh?), I have only this:


Blog update 2

Well, the “upgrade” to the blog has been completed. It now has an ugly design and less customisation options. Also, the old version of the blog recieved maybe 10 spam comments ever, allowing open comments on this new version attracted about 50 spam comments in less than 24 hours. So unfortunately people will now need to register an account and log in before they can post comments… which really ought to improve the tiny numbers I’ve been getting, eh?

Edit: I discovered that a (very) wide range of new themes can be installed! Of course, I chose and customised one to look as much like the old blog as possible… preferred red to brown, though. If and when my other blogs “go” they can still be blue and green.

Now I need to see about some sort of anti-spam addon/plugin/app, so I can have open comments again and not force people to have to register.

Edit 2: I just discovered there’s not actually a way for people to “register”. Just treat comments as temporarily disabled

Peeps at foreign comics 3: Novel Lynx

Right then.

I mentioned Novel Lynx before, when I reviewed the first (and only, it turned out) issue of Pulp Detective. More recently, my sea-mailed package of goodies from Japan actually arrived, and a google search lead me to a big manga database site with a tiny bit of extra information on it (well, the name of the publisher and a tiny cover scan).


No less messy than any other Japanese comic cover

Novel Lynx is a “Light Novel”, or “Raito Noberu”. This is a recently-invented Japanese term, used to describe what we would call a Story Paper. Though after the stories have appeared in weekly or monthly papers, they are then reprinted as complete books, which are also called Light Novels. Here we would just call them books XD.

Novel Lynx is a monthly story paper, with a few comic strips, of about 500 pages, and roughly A5 sized. It costs ¥760, which is pretty steep, actually (a ‘full size’ monthly called Boy’s Monthly Magazine is only ¥450, as is Nekopanchi). But then again Novel Lynx has quite an, ahem, “niche” interest.


Presented by Hello Kitty

It’s a “Boy’s Love”, or BL, story paper. Boy’s Love is a genre of gay romance stories, generally with pretty boys, which are mainly read by teenage girls. It’s also known as Shonen-Ai, and the more pornographic end of the genre is called Yaoi. In English-speaking countries, the term “Yaoi” is a catch-all which can also be applied to purely romantic stories. There’s an American company called June Manga which publishes completely harmless romantic stories as “Yaoi”, which I found a bit disappointing XD. Still, at least it was safe to read them at work.

Though BL may be considered a niche genre, it’s an incredibly popular one. A lot of totally ordinary bookshops (like Japanese equivalents of Waterstones) have at least one whole row of shelves dedicated to BL novels and comics, as well as several of the monthlies on sale near the tills. In addition, one of the two Comic Toranoana shops in Akihabara (a pilgrimage there is the geek’s version of Hajj) is “for girls”, which these days means it’s crammed with BL comics. There’s also a mini-Akihabara in the Ikebukuro district, which has several 8-storey BL “superstores”.


As usual, the first few pages are on glossier paper and in colour. The writing is still vertical, and in three “columns”, just like King was 70-odd years ago.  This is one of a few short, complete stories, with the colour used for a cute illustration. It reminds me a little of The People’s Friend… though I doubt they’d run stories on this theme XD.


After that, the first of the main stories gets a big splashy full-colour introduction page. All of the (text) stories in this issue appear to be complete, though they may be in series, like the regulars in The Champion were back in the 40’s. The main stories are around 40-50 pages long


Each of the other main stories is introduced with a full-page title illustration, with the main characters in romantic poses and credits for the writer and illustrator. These sorts of stories seem to nearly all follow the cliche of one character being unsure of his sexual orientation, and the other trying to attract him. Most of the stories in this issue seem to be divided up between real-world high school or business relationships, and fantasy worlds. There’s also numerous adverts for books from the same publisher (Gentosha). Presumably those stories once appeared in Novel Lynx themselves.


Itsoshisa no …something

Most of the rest of the pages look like this, 3 blocks of text with a mini title illustration in the top corner (just like The Boys’ Friend in the mid 1900’s… ahem).



The text story illustrations are all full pages, well it is A5 sized. Some are more explicit than others, I’ve stuck to the clean ones for a “family” blog XD. These pictures also show the changing ink colour. While Shonen Jump uses different coloured paper, and black ink, many other Japanese comics use white paper throughout, but different coloured ink. Here including slightly red and slightly brown tones. I Wonder if it’s to help readers find the page they were on more easily, or something…


As well as the long, “main” stories, there’s a few short ones of roughly a page and a half. These ones all seem to have a fancy border.


The three comic strips are in sections of around 20-30 pages. Unlike the text stories, at least one of the strips is a serial! Well, with Japanese comic techniques, 20-30 pages is about average for a “chapter”, not a whole story. As with the text stories, this one is set in a fantasy world, while another one is set in a modern school.



As I mentioned, many of the adverts are for other Gentosha books, probably reprints of stories that originally appeared in Novel Lynx (or at least, some of them are part of “The Lynx Collection”). Here’s a whole list of “back numbers” for sale.


There’s not many feature pages in Novel Lynx, but towards the end there’s a short “Comments” section with text message style notes about the stories, illustrations or comics.


There’s also a double-page advert for “Comic Magazine Lynx”. No doubt a similar publication dedicated to comic strips. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it on my next visit to Ikebukuro! Now that I look, it says it costs ¥680, cheaper than it’s text-based cousin! I can only assume it sells more copies. That or ¥680 is the pre-tax price, and you actually pay more.


In keeping with Shonen Jump and Nekopanchi (and most other modern Japanese comics, it seems), the contents section is at the “back” of the issue. Though western readers might turn to that page first, as Japanese books are read “backwards” XD. As well as the contents, there’s credits for the cover illustration (presented without loads of clutter all over it) and a message from the editors.


Mind you, I don’t see how that postage-stamp-sized black and white picture is a “pin up”

On the back cover, there’s an advert for something called BL Diary, which appears to be a book where BL fans can record and rate their favourite couples. No doubt it also gets used for rating the chances of straight guys who the owners think ought to be couples XD.


And finally, here’s a look at one of the many (many, many…) Light Novels on sale. It’s also a BL one, which I bought just because it had a “funny” title that jumped off the shelf at me. Unfortunately I had to censor the title before posting it on here! As you can see, they’re slightly smaller than manga reprint volumes, and usually have a ‘loop’ of paper with adverts and blurbs wrapped around the covers (very common on Japanese books). The text inside is no longer in columns, and the images are still full-page. No doubt stories from this issue of Novel Lynx now exist in book form, with new coloured covers.