Saturday, February 20, 2010

Comic Library Extra!

Okay, we get an extra bonus blog post tonight, because I've just noticed something weird about that Comic Library I bought today. It's something that will only be of interest to roughly three other comic fans in the world, none of whom read my blog and all of whom probably know about it already, but I thought I should share it with all of you anyway. I'm generous like that.

For the benefit of the 99% of my readers who don't know what a Comic Library is and wonder what the flip I'm talking about, they were mini-comics produced by D.C. Thomson and featuring characters from the Dandy and Beano (for the benefit of the 50% of my readers who don't know what the Dandy and Beano are, they're popular weekly British comics, featuring about a dozen regular comic strips, each of them one or two pages in length every week). Two Beano and two Dandy Comic Libraries were published every month, starting around 1981 or thereabouts, and they contained a 64-page adventure for just one of their regular characters. Some were brilliant, some were frankly rubbish, but they cost 20p and were a highlight of my month every time.

The inside front cover of each Comic Library would normally contain a full-page advertisement for the weekly Beano, the inside back cover had an advertisement for the two Beano Comic Libraries that would be out next month, and the outside back cover had an advertisement for the other one that was out this month. This was the days before the Beano ran ads from outside companies. It's sad, really, that not enough kids buy the things nowadays.

However, Comic Library no. 36, Baby-Face Finlayson in "Gold Robber" (which for some reason I never had in 1983, although I did have the hugely inferior "Count Whackula", starring Dennis the Menace, which came out in the same month), has this on the inside front cover:

And this on the inside back:

This is weird. No 'See Baby-Face Finlayson every week in the Beano!' and two 'next month' ads, promising different stories next month! The inside front cover is the correct one, except that the Bananaman story was actually called "It's A Knockabout" (and it was BRILLIANT, by the way, one of the best Comic Libraries ever, up there with the Baby-Faces), while "Castle Capers" didn't see print until the following year, in Comic Library no. 50 (it wasn't all that good, either). And the picture of Minnie the Minx on the inside back cover ad is by the artist who normally drew the Minnie Comic Libraries (I think it's lifted from "Min's Best Friend", but I haven't checked), while the picture on the inside front cover is by the different artist (I wish I knew their names, but the Beano never credited its creative talent in those days) who drew "Min's Pest Show".

Apparently they created the original ad, then rescheduled "Castle Capers" and drew up a replacement ad, but accidentally printed it on the inside front cover instead of the back, meaning that two contradictory ads went into the finished publication! I like finding things like this in my comics. I do wonder why the Lord Snooty story was held back for a whole year, too.

Anyway, since I had the scanner up and running again, let me show you why Ron Spencer's Baby-Face Finlayson Comic Libraries were the absolute high point of 1980s comics throughout the universe with just a couple of examples from "Gold Robber":

Baby-Face and friends have just stolen a shipment of butter, mistaking it for gold, but decide to make the best of it by having a feast. Ron Spencer loved his feast scenes.

Note the whole roast chicken in the background. Every Baby-Face story featured at least half a dozen whole roast chickens - it was Spencer's signature, in lieu of actually being allowed to write his name on his works.

It's the little things I love - Mayor Orless naturally has a framed picture of himself hanging on his wall.

And the complete non-sequitur of one of "Marsh" Mallow's horses thinking "Funny! I keep thinking it's Wednesday!" totally cracks me up.


Chris D. said...

I had that one! I remember it distinctly Sadly I don't have all my old comics, which is annoying. If I had as few as three or four clones, I would devote one of them to trying to scan old comics - or, more precisely, their adverts. Sadly I got rid of all my old comments in, probably, the late '80s.

Do you remember when Comic Libraries went up from 20p to 22p and then further? To be honest I would have placed them a little bit later than you do, noting of course that - this being number 36 in the series - this would have come about a year and a half after the start.

Zoomy said...

I did guess the start date based on the numbering - I didn't read them right from the start, I started getting Comic Libraries at around the time that this one came out (I turned seven in October 1983). "Count Whackula" seems to be the earliest one in what remains of my collection, although it's missing the front and back covers, so I can't see whether it also had these 'next month' ads. I wish I still had "The Beano Marathon", from a couple of months later, because I really liked that one, but it seems to have got lost over the years.

And yes, they went up by 2p every couple of years, a lesson in inflation for all the young comic-readers out there. The modern equivalent, Beano Fun-Size, costs £1.40 nowadays...

Chris D. said...

Do you do the BitTorrent thing? At your own risk, this purports to be a link to scans of the first Beano Comic Library and suggests it comes from 1982, though no more precisely than that. The Beano Project has scans of comics aplenty, mostly distributed by BitTorrent. This may have to be a new obsession, and I'm glad that other people are doing the work of a would-be clone of mine for me, and very probably rather better than I would have been able to do. Hurrah!

James Spiring said...

Castle Capers is issue 50, so it was delayed by six months, not a year.

Zoomy said...

You're quite right, of course, my mental maths was obviously faulty. It's still a bit funny, though, isn't it?