The late forties was an interesting time for British comics. Much of the “old guard” had been swept away by Graveyard week in 1940 and the American “slicks” had become incredibly popular among kids lucky enough to get some from a friendly G.I. Any wheeler-dealing spiv who could get his hands on a load of paper would hastily set up a “publishing company” and produce a comic, it was the one thing guaranteed to sell out (sadly that’s far from the case today). The small print runs, irregular schedules and lack of respect for comics in Britain have all contributed to making these comics incredibly rare today.
But they are also one of the most important parts of British comic history, marking the point where adventure strips really started to take over from text stories. The process had been going on since Rob The Rover in 1920, but really got underway at the end of the war. Even DC Thomson began to put simple strips on the covers of Adventure. Many artists who would go on to become legends of the fifties and sixties got their first ‘break’ in these small comics too.
Because of the huge array of small, obscure companies producing these things, tracing copyrights is virtually impossible. This prevents them from being reprinted in large numbers. They were also all different sizes, making a comprehensive book a difficult thing to create.
BUT then the internet was invented. Working on the assumption that the owners of the copyright on these two comics either:
– No longer care about the comics
– No longer remember the comics
– Are no longer alive
I’m just going to post up full scans anyway. It’s possible that these are the only copies in the world, not even the British Library has a full collection of these short-runs and one-shots. I think it’s far more important to make these stories available for people around the world to read and remember, that to “protect the livelihood” of some anonymous person who is probably long dead.
The Tornado in OH BOY! No. 5 – 1948/9 – Paget Publications
The main story in this comic is about The Tornado, a superhero who in his day-to-day life is journalist Steve Storm. He becomes The Tornado by “exerting his mighty will”. The story manages to pack in three fights against giant creatures in only 4 pages! Oh, it’s also drawn by somebody called Mick Anglo.
The second story is called Post Atom, and is about a man called Jungle Jim, who is a super-strong adventurer. It’s actually the first part of a serial, so if you own the other part and despaired of ever reading the first, this is your lucky day, eh?
Secret Service Series No. 4 – The Forgers (A Headline Halliday Story) – 1948 – Hotspur Publishing
This comic is slightly smaller, and is also printed in blue and red (maybe there was an abundance of those inks around?). The seller on Ebay said that this was really number 1, though I have since found a website selling Secret Service Series No. 3. In addition the comics.org “grand comics database” lists three issues of this. Also the lead story begins with the heroes talking about a case they had solved before. The whole comic is drawn by Bob Wilkin, who might very well have been the writer and publisher too!
As you can see, both comics were just 8 very thin pages. The use of red and blue an attempt to look more “colourful” and thus “American” than the black and white fare from DC Thomson and Amalgamated Press. Though full colour comics would not become the norm in Britain until the nineties. As an aside, here’s a size comparison against comics available in Britain today.