Peeps at foreign comics 1: King

If I won the Euro Millions, I’d bring back British comics by brute force – by starting my own publishing company producing an Amalgamated Press-style range of weeklies, monthlies and annuals aimed at all age groups, and starting my own chain of newsagents / corner shops with the express purpose of selling them (for £1 an issue as I wouldn’t charge myself shelf rental fees!). As a mere side project I’d build a vast museum dedicated to the history of comics of all nations, from early experimental magazines for children right up to the gift shop selling the latest issues of titles from all around the world (even in languages very few visitors to the museum will be able to read, like Kyrgyz).

But as I haven’t won the Euro Millions, and maybe only buy one ticket a year, I’ll just have to relegate myself to collecting items for the museum one by one and displaying them here.

King – Volume 15 (Shōwa 14 / 1939), issue 3 (March).

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Rather unassuming cover. Horizontal Japanese was read right-to-left at the time, but is left-to-right (キング) today.

King was first published in Taishō 13 (1924) and was a monthly of about 520 pages. In common with British adventure comics of the same era, it was mostly illustrated text stories with a few comedy strips and articles. Judging from the illustrations, the text stories were mostly serious, but some were comedy. The illustrations themselves are in either line or wash, and are almost entirely black and white. A few of the comedy strips have light colour tones, and a photo article near the front has the photos reproduced in a strange blue/green tint. Unlike a lot of British comics of the era, it’s absolutely awash with adverts, and even has a couple of colour insert “postcards” with ads on them.

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Incidentally, here’s an older issue seen in the Tokyo-Edo museum in 2009.

Like several Japanese comics today, the issue opens with colour pages, however these are just illustrations and plates, rather than strips. There’s a large fold-out section at the front (with ads on the back of the flaps – cram ’em in!) with nice illustrations along the top, matching the theme of the cover. This appears to be the contents page, or at least the lines all end with numbers.

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If each vertical line is one story / article, it would appear there’s credits too!

Then there’s a wonderful full-colour plate, the title of which appears to be “parting from the breast”. The woman seems to be stopping her baby breastfeeding so that he can be given a Japanese flag, at a train station. Before I translated the title I assumed it was a picture of a welcoming ceremony for army medical officers coming home from the front. Anyway, in the 19th and early 20th centuries the Penny Dreadfuls, as well as papers like Chums and Chatterbox, would give away free full-colour plates occasionally. This one is actually printed on the pages themselves, I wonder if every issue included a painting?

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A 520 page wedge of 75 year old paper can’t be folded right back for decent photos, mind you.

Following this is “Celebrity Success Album”, which has pictures of men at home with their children or reading big scrolls. I think the big scrolls may be awards from the Emperor, or maybe university degrees. According to my dictionary the word used for “Success” in the title means “Success in life”, so perhaps it’s showing readers the comfortable home life they can have if they work hard.

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Had to hold the pages open with a torch. I normally use a really heavy weight, but didn’t want to damage this, it’s very possibly the only one in Europe!

Following this is another article, called something like “Situation Photo Sketch Report”. Basically news photos. The only news in Japan at that time was their battle to establish an area of influence in Manchuria, in northern China. They called this Manchuko, and it was unpopular with most of the Chinese people, and also with the other colonial powers who had already established their own areas of influence there. Guerrilla attacks on Japanese soldiers led to escalating reprisals on both sides, which resulted in what is euphemistically called “The Manchurian Incident” (because war was never formally declared).

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The air force parading over Tokyo, with Mount Fuji in the distance

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Northern China can be very cold! Though to us Commando readers we only really imagine imperial Japan fighting in steaming jungles.

After these articles we come to the first set of comic strips, of which there’s several ‘batches’, most of the strips are only single pages of 5 panels, often numbered (though that wasn’t unheard of in British comics at the time). From the artwork and overuse of a small katakana TSU, a ‘sound extender’ for making screams and shouts, at the end of each line, I gather they are all comedy. Most appear to revolve around family life and naughty children doing the unexpected.

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This one appears to be about a sumo wrestler?

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Mischevious kid doing… something.

Of course, most of the issue is filled with the text stories. These are in two or three “columns”, which are horizontal, as the writing is read vertically. Each story is introduced with a large picture accompanying the title, and has other illustrations throughout. Some, on their first full page of text, have a large amount of writing in a box. This is presumably a “story so far” section for serials. Others don’t have this, so the comic must have had a mixture of both complete stories and serials, just like British contemporaries such as Detective Weekly and Thriller.

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This one is called “Love and Hate’s Writing”. Less literally, it’s probably “Love and Hate Letters”

There appears to be two basic kinds of stories, those set in the Edo period, when Japan was all samurai and ninja and isolated from the world, and those set in modern times. Romantic stories appear to be set in both periods, while other modern stories look like they’re about detectives, comedy or war. The stories set in the past look like they’re all quests to satisfy ones honour, fighting loyally for your lord and so on.

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The would-be suitor gets advice from his friend? Those boxed out bits are probably adverts, they’re on almost every text story page!

The most obvious detective story is Hiyauban Tantei Jitsu Wa Shifu, two of the characters (Jitsu and Shifu) appear to be obsolete in modern Japanese (the Wa is “speak” or “story”, and may be in a compound with either or both). Hiyauban Tantei means “Reputation Detective Work”. The story seems to revolve around a house burning down and the masked detective investigating, finding a glove near the crime scene. Later on a submarine is involved!

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This is a clue in any language

There’s also a war story, from the illustrations it appears to be about base camp life / wounded soldiers in hospital, rather than battle. Or maybe the illustrators just didn’t draw a battle scene. It’s actually pretty short, and is called Two Soldiers. Now that I look it actually appears to be a bedtime story told to a kid!

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He’s not a ghost, it was the flash!

A more general adventure story is called Chikahi No Hayashi. Hayashi is “Forest”, but it’s spelt with wierd kanji (Chinese characters with both a sound and a meaning) here. Chikahi is “Vow”, so the story may be called Vow in the Forest. Either way it appears to involve a man and woman walking about in a forest and witnessing at least one murder.

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All she seems to do is watch people get killed and cry. At least it’s a memorable holiday!

As well as grim and grimy stories like that, there appears to be more light hearted, comedy ones. You can usually tell by the illustrations. In the Edwardian period Union Jack would often use a certain artist when they did a comedy story, for instance in Butler and Page Boy from 1905/6.

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Moving on to the historical stories, which all appear to be set in the Edo / Tokugawa Shogunate period. This was a span of around 250 years in which Japan was isolated from the world, any foreigners (with the exception of, apparently, some “Mexicans” from the very early history of “Mexico”, which was actually just a Spanish colony at the time) who went there would be killed, and it was also punishable by death to try and build an ocean-going ship. During this period the Emperor lived in the capital, Kyoto, but was powerless while the Shogun, the real ruler (though technically the Emperor was still called the ruler) lived in Edo, or Tokyo. At the time Japan was at peace with itself, and most people worked as farmers, merchants or artists. But it was still a highly-stratified, class-based society with the samurai as protectors of their feudal lords, and upholders of the law. Of course, the Shōwa Nationalist period was awash with stories harking back to this day of a “Japanese Japan” with a strict code of honour and everybody knowing their place.

…even though “Bushido” as we know it today was actually invented in the 19th century, and was heavily inspired by the honour code of British Victorian gentlemen.

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This story is called Gokunan, or “country difficulty”. Presumably it’s about a rebellion.

Another historical story, with fantastic illustrations, is Wori Zuru Hi Henge. I can’t make head nor tail of the title, one of the kanji is fantastically complicated and has probably been taken out of use. Words I can work out are “Crane” (as in the bird) and “Transform / Become”. Mind you it’s possible part of the title is somebody’s name.

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A wandering warrior with a baby, just like Lone Wolf & Cub (or Shogun Assasin). With less flying body parts.

There’s also historical comedy stories. Or at least this is the universal image for “toothache”, “you made those rock cakes out of real rocks” or “I’ve found the sixpence in the Christmas pudding!”.

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Don’t think a Japanese story would have that last one, though.

 Oh, and also apparently revolvers and guys able to quickly draw and shoot them were not unknown in the Edo period. News to me.

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The sundial struck noon

King also contains plenty of articles, with a greater or lesser degree of illustration. This one appears to be “moral lessons” of some kind. The first image (top right) is probably about showing reverence to the Emperor. On the next page there’s a guy giving up his train seat for a wounded soldier, and a crowd seeing the marching soldiers off from a temple.

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Bit o colour again

There’s also an article which appears to be about religious observances, which at the time was “State Shinto”, a nationalised version of the indigenous Japanese religion. At the time they’d even banned Buddhism as “foreign”, even though it had been in Japan well over 1000 years by then!

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Kids lined up with traditionally-shaved heads

There’s also what appears to be profiles of historical figures, with ukiyo-e style pictures or paintings.

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With one old photo

There’s also, inevitably, articles about the army, with pictures (and probably profiles) of soldiers, as well as photos of actions and equipment.

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Some mortars being fired at the bottom… are those white helmets?

There’s also some profiles of more modern figures. Most of them Japanese, but there’s also a picture of a future ally…

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At the time quite a celebrated leader, actually. He reined in the mafia and Studebaker named a car the Dictator after him.

I make a policy of not going on about the adverts in old comics, mainly because people who have apparently never heard of inflation constantly waffle on about how Corgi cars used to “only” cost 2¾p, and other such nonsense. But I’ll make an exception here, mainly because a lot of the ads have really good artwork.

This one appears to be about becoming a railwayman or sailor. They’re the same style, no doubt the railways were nationalised at the time. Both ads have a box saying “Nippon Daiichi”, which is either “Japan’s best” or “Japan is best”.

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Puff puff puff

The well-known Japanese love of photography is evident, that camera looks years ahead of ones I see advertised in British comics of the same time. There’s also a nice quack remedy – a magnetic headband?

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Look at that thing! Other countries were still using wooden accordions.

This appears to be an advert for an upcoming story, or perhaps a seperately-published book. The big characters roughly translate as “Flame of Battle”.

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Also used as the title of a Commando, many years later

And here’s one of the coloured postcards, advertising face cream. Another one advertises Club “dentrifice”, which appears to be the name they used for powdered toothpaste at the time.

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Actually that’s called Club Cream

The back cover has an advert with a baby – just like the Pears Soap ads which graced the back of The Boys Friend Library for many years. It also has a small English section with the US copyright notice, date and issue number.

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Oh and it’s orange.

Aand finally, here’s an image of King next to some more modern Japanese comics – Boys’ Monthly Magazine, and the weeklies Morning and Shonen Jump. It’s page size is a bit smaller, but then again it was mostly text. A much better comparison would, of course, be to the text story paper Lynx Library. But that’s still in a box on a ship somewhere!

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EDIT: When I originally wrote this post I thought King was basically “The Shonen Jump of the 30’s” (though, of course, mostly text stories). But later learned that it was actually aimed at an adult audience (adults of the time though, so it’s not full of t*ts and innards). It’s probably closer in style to British magazines of the 1900’s – WW1, such as The Penny Pictorial (which I have the first volume of, and will one day review!)

Curtis Hoffman, who lives in Japan and who runs a great blog about mangæ, has made a series of 3 posts about King. It was the first Japanese magazine to sell a million copies, and was the subject of a museum exhibition in late 2009:

http://threestepsoverjapan.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/birth-of-million-seller-part-1.html

http://threestepsoverjapan.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/birth-of-million-seller-part-2.html

http://threestepsoverjapan.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/birth-of-million-seller-part-3.html

Misleading covers!

The old adage “never judge a book by it’s cover” certainly held true for two i recently read. Both of them were bought in Lincoln, where i went to university and recently had to return to to sort out some odds and ends. Lincoln has many great book shops but, unfortunatley, the best one is closed on Wednesdays and i completely forgot until i was about 5 steps from the door. I also discovered another good one has been replaced by a kitchen shop. Between that and the loss of BMC this recession hasn’t been a good time for old book lovers… but the show must go on!

The Fellow Who Won

This book is from “Nelson’s Travel Series” and has a cover depicting a Canadian mountie or Australian bushman…

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“You forgot about the Kiwi’s, mate”

So obviously the story is about… a public school, in England. To be fair there is a small amount of “travelling” done in the first few chapters.  The heroes of the tale, kept in detention for not paying enough attention to their latin, escape from the window and ‘borrow’ a boat belonging to a nearby baronet, only to be left stranded on an island in the middle of a river that runs through his estate.

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Not much enforcement of uniform rules at this school, clearly. And is that a beehive haircut?

The story mainly concerns the ups and downs of two boys at the school, John Richard Duncan – Ned to his friends – and Edwin Field. Ned is the adopted son of the headmaster, and expected to take over the school one day – a prospect that doesn’t fill him with joy, as he is no good at “books” and much prefers sport, being captain of all the school teams. Field on the other hand is distantly related to the head.

Over the course of the story’s fifty chapters, they- yes, fifty.

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Though most of them are only a few pages long.

Anyway, over the course of the fifty chapters Field is determined to get his revenge for a prank Ned plays on him right at their very first meeting, when he and his friends throw Field into a tree. Soon field is overtaking everybody in their studies, annoying the headmaster even more with the contrast to Ned. Ned remains popular with the school in general, and nobody can touch him at sports, so Field resents him even more and tries various plans to ruin him… including throwing a sheet of notes with forged handwriting onto Ned’s desk at exam time, causing the teachers to think he is “cribbing”. Ned escapes this charge and narrowly passes the exam, however.

Most of the chapters deal with this rivalry between the two boys, but there are also some extra amusing short stories thrown in, such as Ned and a friend called Ranger getting lost during a “fox chase” (a fake hunt after human ‘foxes’ laying a trail with paper) and falling in a canal, Ned’s determination saves both their lives. There’s also a chapter about a young boy with toothache being too scared to see the dentist (the waiting room is described as having paintings of battles on the walls “to prepare the patients for the horrors to come”!), so some others attempt to extract his tooth themselves using home-made chloroform! But it is too diluted and has no effect, so he decided to go and see the real dentist after all.

The story then jumps forwards two years, and Field has become a terrible bully. Ned finally snaps and gives him the caning of his life… despite the fact Field is in fact in the form above! Ned escapes expulsion simply because he has nowhere to go, but a fake letter and other circumstances arranged by Field makes him decide to run away from the school and consider emigrating to Canada – which is as close as the story comes to what is on the cover!

The baronet from the beginning of the story steps in at the last minute and Ned returns to the school, in time to save Field’s life during a gale. After this he convinces the head to hand over the school to Field, who is much more intelligent, and let him start out on his own in the world. The tale ends with Ned and Field meeting again on a ship ten years afterwards… and that’s all i’ll say about the ending should anybody out there be interested enough to want to seek out this book for themselves.

Anyway i was actually originally going to blog about this book for an entirely different reason to the misleading cover. In fact for the reason i bought the book in the first place, just look at this:

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Inscriptions from both world wars!

And people say those things “devalue” books!

The Schoolboy Speed Kings

After reading that book, i started on this one. As i read it i discovered that again the cover was barking up the wrong tree…

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A speedy-looking aeroplane…

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And a Mountie again, this time dropping by parachute!

So clearly the story is about… a public school in England. But with boys that are interested in… er, racing cars. Not a flying machine in sight! This time it is a school called Spandrels, located a few miles from the real-life racing track Brooklands (which is now, ironically, an air museum). Some senior boys, including the prefects and a boy called Slade, who figures heavily in the story to follow, break bounds and sneak into the circuit by an overhanging tree to watch the racing.

As they watch one of the cars flies off the track and right over them, to crash nearby. All pretence of secrecy forgotten they rush over to help the driver, but he is OK.

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Nice soft heather to land on! The binding is still pretty good so i needed to hold the pages open with something.

To their horror they see the headmaster and some strangers in the milling crowd around the crashed car, but luckily they sneak away. However on the way back the strangers, in their fine sports car, stop and ask directions to the school.

One of the strangers turns out to be a new boy named Herman. He is of some sort of mixed race and doesn’t ‘think’ like a Briton, though most of this is down to the influence of his father and an Italian gangster named Mocatta who appears later. In one part, however, he laments the fact that he, a citizen of the empire, has been refused service in London resturants because of the colour of his skin.

Later various people, including a pair of adventurous junior boys and later on Slade, follow him as he sneaks out of the school at night. His father and Mocatta have hidden a racing car in a cave near the school and he test drives it around the local roads at night! The car is to be entered in “The Gold Cup”, an important upcoming race. Further inside the cave, as the juniors and later Slade discover, is a factory for dismantling stolen cars, printing fake money and various other illegal practices.

Slade is caught prowling around by Mocatta and is forced to join the gang eventually. They have built another car and enter both of them in the Gold Cup – Herman in the Speed King and Slade in the Speed Queen. The other boys break bounds to watch the race and all are caught by the headmaster this time. However Mocatta and Herman SR are on the scene and placate him. Then later Slade is asked by the gangsters to pick up and drop off ‘certian packages’. Another boy called Price is in on the secret (slipping in and out of the school and spending whole nights roaming around outdoors seems to be a common practice by this point!) and rides with him in the car. On the way back they are chased by a policeman for speeding, so Price throws the packages out, the larger one explodes with an earth-shattering roar and leaves a huge crater in the road!

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Boom

At this point the story rather abruptly ends, as some Scotland Yard men show up at the school, and helped by some of the other boys who have decided to stay in bed and not prowl around the countryside (fancy that) round up the Mocatta gang and the Hermans, who they have “been watching for some time” and who prove to have their fingers in nearly every dirty pie.

The ending then briefly explains that Slade became the head prefect of the school (somehow escaping prosecution for speeding, handling stolen goods, drug trafficking and throwing a bomb at a policeman!). The headmaster retires and somebody else takes over the school, who puts Brooklands within bounds and introduces driving and motor engineering into the school’s lessons. Mocatta is deported and the Hermans leave the country voluntarily. A better ending might have been for Herman JR to stay at the school,  shake off the criminal ways he was bought up to follow, and become a decent member of society. Oh well, this was the 30’s! (well the book is undated but motor-cars seem commonplace in it, and it’s certainly pre-war, so that decade seems a good bet).

Hilgay Haul

Today i went to a book fair at a village in Norfolk called Hilgay. The village is just off the A10 but the road leading to it is very narrow and bumpy. When i got into the village itself there seemed to be people out and about everywhere, not all just for the book sale but also for various sales of household stuff people had set up in thier front gardens… apparently this was an unrelated event to the book sale, what a community spirit!

Having winded my way down the long narrow road that ran through the village i found a small makeshift car park on a bit of muddy waste ground. Equally old fashioned and wonderful. The sale itself was in the village hall and packed with endless rows of books in plastic boxes on tables with very very narrow walkways between (made the UK Webcomix Thing – of which there will be no more, by the way 🙁 – look like Pyongyang!). It was also very well attended. A lot of the books i bought didn’t have prices on, but i’d taken £100 so wasn’t too worried. Here’s what i bought:

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The total for that little lot? £8!

The big red book is called Fifty Enthralling Stories of the Mysterious East which, I can now report thanks to a helpful comment, dates from 1937. The first story in it is by Sax Rohmer, famous for the Fu Manchu stories. The tales are mainly about Arabs or Chinese, with the odd Indian one (as India was controlled by Britain it was perhaps less ‘mysterious’!).

The Chatterbox annual, still with a similar covers to the first official Chatterbox annuals from the 1870’s (the paper started in 1866) is from 1921 and must have looked very dated by then. The content is pretty Victorian in tone too, with the usual mixture of a long serial story running through the whole volume (and thus a whole year when the papers were published weekly) as well as shorter stories in 1-3 instalments, pictures (no comedy cartoons), informative articles and poems. Chatterbox was aimed at younger readers than the ‘similar’ paper Chums was… and lasted (though by the end only in yearly annual form) right through until 1955! So they must have been doing something right.

There’s also Our Own Schoolboys Annual which is fairly predictable fifties stuff of adventure stories revolving around detectives, sport, boys on scouting trips falling into adventures and mild sci-fi. It’s mainly text stories with lots of line drawings but there’s also a comic strip.

The other thing relevant to the blog is Stories for Boys which dates from 1961 (the first edition anyway, i have a fifth edition from 1967). The inside of the dust jacket promises stories set all over the world from “the stirring days when Englishmen and Spaniards battled for supremacy on the high seas” to “the sky lanes of the future“. (I’ve been to the sky lanes of the future and they’re pretty boring really… and the food is horrible). The back cover promises “many exciting sketches” but there’s really only a few full-page illustrations which aren’t all that good.

The other stuff i got includes a few Edge novels by George G Gilman, these addictive and fun westerns are shot through with black-as-night humour and extreme violence. Apparently there was comics based on them made in Italy… if the “fan subbers” can tear themselves away from Japanese stuff for a minute i’d love to read one of those! Gilman also created a character called Adam Steele but i only got one of those… one thing at a time! There was also at least two Edge Steele books in which the pair teamed up to dispense lead-flavoured justice.

The final item is pretty interesting, it’s a nuclear conspiracy thriller with elements of small boat sailing… a 1990’s Riddle of the Sands? I was reading the foreword which, setting the scene for the story, implied that the striking coal miners, anti nuclear environmental protesters and Middle Eastern oil pipeline saboteurs were all one organised body in the pay of the Soviet Union… i like this guy’s style! (especially as the Mark Trant stories in my own comics will work on a similar idea, though in those the organisers will be British-based socialists).

Chums: 1906/7 and 1932/3

Announcement:

The British Comics Wiki is launched! Go to www.crystal-knights.co.uk/
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The Post:

Having built up quite a collection of food, i was able to save some money recently. And, trying to ignore my need of new shoes (“the weather’s warming up anyway, it won’t rain much”) i decided to buy a Chums volume i’ve had my eye on. It was £45 (well, 40 as the woman very kindly gives a student discount), as opposed to £2.99 (and £10 delivery) for the 1906/7 volume… but then again that was from Ebay, which is often cheaper, and in horrendous condition. It even smells like it’s been near a fire at one point, my more adventruous nature would like to think it narrowly escaped the blitz, but more likely it was in an attic near where the chimney went up for many years.

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Anyway, Chums was initially started by Cassell & Co. in 1892, pre-empting the perhaps better-remembered Boys’ Friend for a large-format story paper with serial instalments, in addition to a complete story of decent length, and the odd factual article. Then again Chums was most likely a penny when it started, whereas the Boys’ Friend was a halfpenny in the 1890’s, that would have accounted for sales success.

Following the style of the times, the size of the paper was what we’d today call arbitrary. Or perhaps “two thirds tabloid”.

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Volumes of The Boys’ Friend 1903-4, Chums 1906-7 (the covers are only very slightly bigger than the comics within)  and a typical “half tabloid” (roughly A4 give or take a few mm’s – though older ones described as the same were actually a little bigger, especially in height, due to cheaper printing quality needing more ‘run off’ room.) comic.

The 1907 (i’ll call them by the later year now to save myself so much typing!) volume, despite being very rickety (it needed repairs i may cover in another post), contains a lot of fascinating material. The typical content of an issue seems to have been longish instalments of at least two serials, a complete story, sometimes a second complete story, as well as an “editors chat” (sometimes a page, sometimes two columns). At least one humourous comic strip, usually with it’s panels “scattered” on a text page and miscellaneous oddments of knowledge or snippets of interesting news and events.  A bit like a less-childish Chatterbox, really. Some issues would include a longer article in place of the second complete story, these articles usually profusely illustrated with photographs and related to some subject of direct interest to the readers, such as scouting.  Still more issues didn’t feature either, though, simply taking up the room with a lot of small articles or jokes.

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The 1907 volume also reproduces the covers and adverts, in fact it’s just the same as the paper that was sold individually in the shops. There is, actually, the possibility that this is a bound volume of the paper that was bought every week by somebody and then bound together using the “official covers” that could probably be bought seperately. However the beginning of the book (mainly the bit of ‘tracing paper’ over the contents, as was the style of the times) suggests otherwise. I’m sure the advertisers and cover illustrators didn’t complain about the extra exposure anyway.

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Two typical spreads from the 1907 volume. Note the comic strips (and the sometimes “scattered” layout of them), the short articles with bold headings and the adventure stories. Aside from the comic strips, covers and heading pictures for the stories (in a lot of serials this seems to have been the same each instalment) illustrations of the text stories are actually quite few and far between. The odd complete story seems to have quite a few, though. Perhaps it was just what would fit in once the story was done… or if the illustrators had time to provide any!

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Photographs are actually a more common sight in the older volume than the new. Several articles on ships (this the HMS dreadnought, the insitigator of a whole era of naval warfare) and monarchs / heads of state feature them. The reproduction is actually quite good compared to the high-contrast, murky reproduction in some other papers. (It’s certainly better than the flash makes it look in this picture!)

Onto the newer volume now, covering 1932 to 1933 (the volumes start from roughly September). This one features no covers or adverts reproduced, and judging by the contents the quantity of factual articles, sage editorial advice, comic strips and amusing snippets had been reduced to almost nothing, a whole issue could seemingly pass without any of those. To make up for this, the quantity of exciting adventure stories was greatly increased. Serials were still the norm, with complete stories appearing in every issue. The number of illustrations, especially in the complete stories, was greatly increased too.

The reason for the apparent vanishing of the factual articles and such-like may be down to the fact this is a bound annual sold by the publisher, and not the individual issues. The articles may have been left out, providing only the stories. Or else the page count of the issues themselves may have been drastically reduced. The reasons for this are not too hard to work out – by this time Chums was published by the Amalgamated Press, presumably they had bought Cassell & co. out, and they wanted to run this “rival” into the ground. Or else sales were just dropping off anyway. That said the paper did seemingly continue into 1941 (so says a book i have), so perhaps it avoided “Graveyard week”. I bet the final volume, with inevitable war stories, makes fascinating reading! Another interesting note is that Chums’ seeming ‘main rival’, the Boys’ Friend, had actually vanished in 1927 (though if you ask me, from the limited exposure i have had to both, the Boys’ Friend was better!).

(Also – from the brief flick i had it appears that none of the AP staple characters of Bunter & co., Sexton Blake, Nelson Lee etc appared in Chums. I did notice the familiar styles of Eric Parker, illustrator to Sexton Blake’s golden age, illustrating a story though)

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The spines. Actually a terrible pic but you can just make out the publisher’s names – as well as the shiny new card of my home-made repairs to the 1907 volume. The spine was just a sheet of cloth and some very crumbly 101-year-old card when i recieved it.

chums3302

chums3303

Two typical spreads, the short factual articles and anecdotes are now reduced to tiny box-outs that can be ignored. Comic strips are replaced by single “gag panels” too (not that the 1907 volume didn’t feature those in great number too, but in the 1933 one they are rarely seen at all). The rest of it is wall-to-wall swashbuckling adventure! The choice of these two spreads was actually not brilliant, as there’s hardly any pictures. They are a lot more common in this volume though – honestly!

chums3304

Another thing that is a great deal more common in the 1933 volume is coloured plates. Some do appear in the 1907 volume though, and not in an “even pattern” either, so it’s probable that they were lost (i’m sure there’s the odd page missing too, i havent read a great deal of it yet. Despite immense quantites of PVA glue not all the pages are attached). In the 1933 volume though they are all present. I don’t know if they were sold with odd issues of the weekly paper (Chatterbox was apparently often sold with an optional plate – and only some of these plates appeared in the published annuals, meaning private-bound volumes had more) or just specific to the annuals. Photographs seem to only appear on the rear of the coloured plates too, and not in the actual comics. 

The content of the adventure stories in the 1933 volumes has two overriding themes when you turn to a random page. Flight is the first, the 20’s and early 30’s being a golden age of aerial navigation, without ground control or radar anybody who could afford a flying-machine could take to the skies whenever the fancy took them, and charge about at leisure. A close encounter with another aeronaut being the occasion for a friendly wave and maybe a little stunt display – and not terrified screams from air-traffic control, perhaps the scrambling of fighters and a front-page headline “NEAR MISS DEATH MANIAC! – It wouldn’t have happened if we all had ID cards” on every paper the following day.

The other common theme is war, most especially “The World War”. The stories are somewhere between later reflections on the horrors of the trenches, and the stories of “Let’s get ’em! hurry up it’ll be over by christmas (notice we don’t say what christmas)!” that appeared during the conflict. So whilst the stories still provide the right amount of thrilling adventure and characters devoted to duty and doing everything they can to fight the enemy so long as they have breath in thier body, the tales still muse on the horrible toll, and the fact that not all of your friends, or you, will ever return home. Which if you ask me is the perfect balance – because if you want realism, go outside.

As an aside, just look at the picture below, taken from the very last complete story in the book – wouldn’t look out of place in Charley’s War, would it?

charley

A final oft-seen theme in the book, primarily in serial form, is the boarding school story. This was, after all, the age of the Magnet and Gem. No obvious Charles Hamilton spotted… but he had his hands full writing for the Magnet, Gem, Penny Popular and who knows what else each week. So i doubt there is any.

Another interesting thing that appeared in the 1907 volume is this fold-out coloured plate, that was just tucked in near the back. It appears to be from the Boys’ Own Paper? I might frame it one day, even with that crease.

bopchums