Thursday, May 25, 2017

Doomsday Album #14 and Guilty as Charged: Cross pollination between Murray and Gredown

I still don't know the origins of this image, but it does appear in modified form on the cover of the Gredown magazine Guilty as Charged:

The Guilty as Charged image is courtesy of AusReprints. I came across it while I was searching for something else. All credit to James for establishing the connection first, but I did discover it independently too, so I'm patting myself on the back regardless.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Federal Comics' The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man #10

Federal Comics' The Amazing Spider-Man series differs from the other Federal Marvel series in two notable ways. Firstly, it doesn't have a bone fide #1 in the series, as it begins with Marvel Tales #1;, and secondly, the colour issues in the series begin much earlier than other series.

The Amazing Spider-Man was a 64-page, black and white bimonthly series as per the other Federal Marvel series, but beginning with #5 in February 1985 it converted to a 32-page "All Color" (sic)series. All the other Federal Marvel series converted to colour issues towards the end of 1985, typically for one or two issues (there are exceptions) before reverting to 64-page black and white editions with a cover price of $1.25. These colour issues had a glossy cover until #10 in December 1985. The final issue in the series was also a colour issue - this series did not revert to black and white.

To go back to #10 - I date this December 1985 based on the Funtastic Toy Offer advertisement on the rear cover.  My copy of #10 has 3 written on the cover. If these are bimonthly issues #10 would be dated January 1985, but I don't think this is the case - it's not plausible that the issue would be published after the expiry of the offer. It's possible - just very unlikely. But I'll be keeping an eye out for other copies of this issue for date markings. I also note that this early 1985 period has symptoms of some flux eg. format changes, so it's possible that issues were indeed published in a less orderly fashion than one was accustomed to from Federal.

The Amazing Spider-Man #9

I said above the black and white issues in 1985 were $1.25. This cover price was effective from The Amazing Spider-Man #9, which also has the Hanimax advertisement on the rear cover. I date this from October 1985, but it may be from September 1985. TBC.

Dating the Federal Marvel advertisements

Federal Comics published their Marvel editions over a two year period - May 1984 to April 1986, give or take a month at either end.

If you want to put a date to the Federal Marvels begin with the indicia dates which will give you the year. Newsagency markings will be two months previous to this date for bimonthly series such as The Mighty Thor. But of course, not all issues have such markings.

A very reliable alternate guide is the advertisements on the rear cover. The samples below also list the relevant issues of The Mighty Thor and Daredevil, as they are my representative complete series from 1984-1986:

Professor Teddy Woods ad, June-August 1984
(The Mighty Thor #1 and #2, Daredevil #1 and #2)

Culture Club Australian Tour Souvenir ad, October 1984
(The Mighty Thor #3, Daredevil #3)

Star Rockers ad, December 1984-April 1985
(The Mighty Thor #4, #5 and #6, Daredevil  #4, #5 and #6)

Battle of the Sounds ad, June 1985-August 1985
(The Mighty Thor #7 and #8, Daredevil #7 and #8)

Hanimax ad, October 1985-November 1985
(The Mighty Thor #9, Daredevil #9)

Funtastic Toy Offer ad, December 1985
(Daredevil #10)

Madonna ad, January 1986-April 1986
(The Mighty Thor #10 and #11, Daredevil #11)

Some of the advertisements - Battle of the Sounds, Hanimax, Funtastic Toy Offer - are especially informative as they include competition dates.

There are some gaps: September 1984; November 1984; May 1985; and September 1985. I could make a reasonable assumption on these, but I'd prefer to identify an issue with a date marking before claiming an ad date. I don't expect this will take too long as I go over my other Federal issues.

Dating Federal Comics' Daredevil series

Daredevil #10

The publication dates for Federal Comics' Daredevil series match up precisely with those for The Mighty Thor - until they point they veer off on their own trajectories late in the piece. And of course, the exceptions prove instructive.

Fewer of my Daredevil issues have newsagency dates than The Mighty Thor issues, but the ones that do have dates line up uniformly. Further, the advertisements on the back covers match up, and indeed, these advertisements provide a reliable guide to the publication dates of Federal Comics issues of the period in general.

Here's how they line up:
The Mighty Thor/Daredevil #'s 1-2: Professor Teddy Woods ad
The Mighty Thor/Daredevil #3: Culture Club Australian Tour Souvenir ad
The Mighty Thor/Daredevil #'s 4-6: Star Rockers ad
The Mighty Thor/Daredevil #'s 7-8: Battle of the Sounds ad
The Mighty Thor/Daredevil #9: Hanimax ad

To this point they line up perfectly.

The Mighty Thor #9 and Daredevil #9 are the first colour issues in their respective series. They also have glossy covers, unlike subsequent colour editions which have a matte finish. The advertisements on the inner covers also match. I have dated these as being published October 1985. The Hanimax competition closes 29 November 1985. I have also previously owned a copy of The Mighty Thor #9 which had 12 written on the cover, which corroborates this evidence.

Daredevil #10 is also a colour issue, and it has a Funtastic Toy Offer advertisement on the rear cover. The offer expires 31 December 1985. There is no corresponding colour The Mighty Thor #10, but as you can see on my The Mighty Thor gallery, I noted a delay in publication for this issue and some degree of disorganisation or confusion regarding the format. Daredevil #10 and the Funtastic Toy Offer advertisement fill this gap for December 1985.

Daredevil #11 is the final issue of the series and is also a colour issue. This issue has the Madonna advertisement on the rear cover, as does the delayed The Mighty Thor #10, and #11, the final issue. I expect this dates Daredevil #11 February 1986, but it may be January 1985.

In reviewing these two titles I have also briefly checked my almost complete runs of The Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, and they also line up accordingly (with one exception which I will detail in a future post).

I will also post samples of the Federal advertisements in a separate post shortly.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man: The complete Yaffa cover gallery

Here's a cover gallery of my complete run of Yaffa/Page Publications' Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man series, with notes following:

 #1, c. November 1977

 #2, c. May 1978

 #3, c. December 1978

 #4, 1979

 #5, c. June 1980

 #6, c. December 1980

 #7, c. May 1981

#8, c. June 1981

#9, c. November 1981

The first four issues are regular/magazine-sized issues, and the rest are 'short' digest-sized, apart from #9 which is a 'tall' digest-sized issue.

The dates are approximations based on available information.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Federal Comics' The Mighty Thor cover gallery

Here's a cover gallery of my complete run of Federal Comics' The Mighty Thor series, with notes following:

 #1, June 1984

 #2, August 1984

 #3, October 1984

 #4, December 1984

 #5, February 1985

 #6, April 1985

 #7, June 1985

 #8, August 1985

 #9, October 1985

 #10, January 1986

#11, March 1986

All issues are 64 pages (not including covers), except for #9 which is a full colour 32 page issue.

All indications are that these issues were published on a regular bi-monthly schedule. Six of my copies have newsagents' dates marked in pen or pencil, and the dates are corroborated on three of the issues by dates related to competitions on the rear covers. The exception is the one month delay after #9, which is the sole all-colour issue. Considering that The Amazing Spider-Man had seven colour issues in the 1985-1986 period, and that Federal's tenure ended early 1986, it would appear both the switch in format and the looming end of licence were factors in the delay.

The black and white editions carried three stories each, often modified eg. dropping the splash page, or reducing two pages to fit onto one.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Shock Stories: A second run on the racks?

Shock Stories is a recycled, retitled 'short' digest issue with a $0.75 cover price. It is one of many such recycled reprints of Yaffa's range of Marvel comics.

The point of focus on this issue this time around is the handwritten date on the top left hand corner which says 12/85. This is much later than any other record I have to hand regarding Yaffa's Marvel issues. Federal Comics were publishing the Marvel reprints in Australia from 1984.

So what to make of the date?

I believe it is by a newsagent's hand, and I do think it refers to a sell-by date, but I don't think it represents a publication date of late 1985. I think this is an issue the newsagent returned to the racks for a second round. If you look closely at the pencilled date you will see a 2 written before the 12/85. Could this refer to a 2nd run on the racks? It also appears to me as if that top left hand corner has been subjected to some rubbing, as if a previous pencilled date has been erased and replaced by the 12/85. This may also explain the incidence of the letter A I noticed on some other digests.

This is all conjecture on my part. For what it's worth I do have anecdotal evidence from friends who worked in newsagencies that such issues did find their way back onto racks and shelves long after their initial publication, but I haven't heard that they were marked in such a way.

What I'd like to see is another copy of this issue in order to crosscheck any dating details.

I have yet to pair this issue with an initial Yaffa printing, however I expect this is a reprint of Yaffa's Chamber of Chills #5. TBC.

Super-Villain Team-Up #5 and Black Panther #7: The final issues?

Super-Villain Team-Up #5, published c.January/February 1981, $0.60

Black Panther #7 published c.August/September 1981, $0.70

There is an interesting relationship between these two issues which I'll try to unpack with a bit of legwork and guesswork, and then sit back and see if I end up with egg on my face.

Yaffa issues carried three stories per issue (cropping and editing notwithstanding). Super-Villain Team-Up #5 reprints the main features from Super-Villain Team-Up #'s 13, 14 and 15 (the source for the cover of #5). Only two more U.S issues of Super-Villain Team-Up were published, which is not enough to fill a Yaffa issue, and as far as I know, Super-Villain Team-Up #5 was the last issue in the ongoing Yaffa series. This leaves two Super-Villain Team-Up stories unaccounted for: Shall I Call Thee Master? and Dark Victory.

As far as I know Black Panther #7 is the last issue in the ongoing series. Black Panther #7 reprints The Beasts in the Jungle! and Revenge of the Black Panther! from the last two issues of the short-lived  Black Panther (1977-1979) series. Again, not enough material to satisfy a complete Yaffa issue. But, in this case, the extra pages are filled by the 'missing' U.S Super-Villain Team-Up #17 story Dark Victory.

The Black Panther story continued in Marvel Premiere #51. It's possible that Yaffa reprinted it, but given the filler backup in Black Panther #7, I doubt it was in a Black Panther #8.  

This still leaves Shall I Call Thee Master? out in the cold. I'm assuming it was reprinted, but I don't know where.

It's possible there is a Super-Villain Team-Up #6 comprised of Shall I Call Thee Master?, Dark Victory and another backup story, but I strongly doubt it. The next instance of a Yaffa Super-Villain Team-Up issue that I'm aware of is this unnumbered $0.75 digest-sized reprint of #1:

I suppose I should confirm that Super-Villain Team-Up #5 and #NN are both 'short' digests and Black Panther #7 is a 'long' digest, but given the dates and cover prices and # information above, I figure we're all au fait with that now.

Anyway, it's now a matter of sitting back and seeing if and where Shall I Call Thee Master? turns up, and whether there are such things as Yaffa editions of Super-Villain Team-Up #6 and Black Panther #8.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Spider-Woman cover gallery

Here's a gallery of my complete run of Yaffa/Page Publications' The Spider-Woman, with notes below.

 The Spider-Woman #1, c. 1978, $0.60, 52pp, regular size

 The Spider-Woman #2, c. October 1980, $0.60, 52pp, 'short' digest size

 The Spider-Woman #3, c. March 1981, $0.60, 52pp, 'short' digest size

 The Spider-Woman #4, c. [June/July] 1981, $0.60, 52pp, 'short' digest size

 The Spider-Woman #5, c. October 1981, $0.70, 52pp, 'long' digest size

The Spider-Woman #6, c. April 1982, $0.70, 52pp, 'long' digest size

I believe this is the complete run of Yaffa's The Spider-Woman. I'm unaware of further issues in the series, nor of any recycled reprints beyond April 1982.

A few points:

1. The Spider-Woman #2 is a digest-sized reprint of the first issue. Typically Yaffa recycled issues of an ongoing series at the end the series, say with a $1.10 facsimile edition, or as a $0.75 digest edition. However it is not unprecedented for recycled issues to be issued with a legitimate issue number and to take their place in a series. The fact that there is a 2-year gap between the two issues means #2 is printed under the ruling format of the day for Yaffa.

2. All issues have a Yaffa copyright date except for #6, which is not unexpected for a 'long' digest issue, especially if it's the second of two 'long' editions in a series.

3. It's a bit surprising to find 6A pencilled on the cover. As I've said before, I don't know what the A represents, but assuming the 6 refers to June, this designates a publication date of April 1982, maybe March 1982. This is one month later than the May 1982 stamp on my Ghost Rider #10 digest, which has been my benchmark date for the end of the 'long' digests, and indeed for the 'new' licensed material for Yaffa. For the moment I'm going to stick with May 1982 as the last on-sale date for the $0.70 'long' digests - the stamp is more authoritative to my mind than the pencilled 6A, partly because I don't know what the A means, and partly because there is also a 70 marked on the cover in pencil, presumably a price - which is redundant. Further, there is no currency symbol alongside the 70, all of which mitigates my confidence in the information. But if more such indicators turn up re: June 1982 I'll happily revise my schema accordingly.

4. Note I've placed the date for The Spider-Woman #4 in brackets. This is because the newsagency markings for #3 and #4 are out of sequence. As I've said before the newsagency markings are the best guide for gauging the sell-by date but they are not always reliable. So, assuming the 5 marked on #3 is accurate, and assuming the 12 marked on #7 is also accurate, I've just placed #4 midway between the two.

5. I have some compelling evidence that the on-sale date is 2 months after the publication date, but the same evidence can be interpreted as being the purchase date, not the publication date. I accept that there's strong anecdotal evidence that the shelf life of the Yaffas is 3 months, maybe even 4 months, and that it can vary. This is appealing inasmuch as it would go some way to mitigating the confusion in this early/mid-1982 period of flux. It is also quite plausible that newsagents may have purposely extended the shelf life of their Yaffa stock given the apparent long lag between issues.

Postscript: Re: purposely extending the shelf life of issues - a friend has just noted that the newsagents would be dictated to by the distributor in this regard as they had to return covers for unsold comics. This makes sense. Consider that little theory retracted.

King Conan #1 and #NN: More follies and anomalies and stains...

Anomalies are like stains you can't remove, and as much as you may try to ignore them, they catch your eye even as you try to look away. So instead of ignoring them you deal with them the best you can and try to make some sense of them, and with a little luck the frame shifts just enough to make a virtue of their presence. 

When I first presented my two editions of King Conan I avoided the temptation to muse on possible publication dates. I knew I didn't have enough information, the indicia was unhelpful, and they presented a new Yaffa conundrum to me which I knew I was ill-equipped to deal with at the time. One was a $0.70 issue designated #1, the other an unnumbered facsimile reprint with a $0.75 cover price, so all I really knew was that, based on the cover price, the #1 was published before the #NN.

With my profile of Yaffa's Marvel editions to hand I was able to make sense of a parallel scenario concerning the two editions of What If Spider-Man Joined The Fantastic Four? In both instances there were two digest editions of the same issue, the first being a $0.70/#1 digest issue of a suspended series, and the second issue being a $0.75/#NN facsimile recycling of the respective #1 issue.

So it should have been a relatively straightforward exercise to apply the same criteria to the King Conan issues and come up with a sensible solution as per the What If... issues. Ah, the best laid plans... For this is when the dreaded anomaly struck!

As per the What If... #1, the $0.70/#1 issue of King Conan conforms to the schema I've been outlining. There is a 4 pencilled on the cover, which suggests it was published c. February 1982, after the 'long' editions had superseded the 'short' editions in late 1981, but before the 'short' recycled editions returned mid-1982 with a $0.75/#NN designation.

'By rights', the $0.75/NN King Conan 'should' be a 'short' edition, but it's not - inexplicably it is a 'long' edition! Further, it has a 9 written on the cover, suggesting a publication date of July, but which year? 1982? 1983? Neither make sense according to my schema.

If you've been following this drama you'll recall a similar anomaly regarding formats occurred in my review of Daredevil #5 and Iron Man #5, in which the most feasible and palatable resolution appeared to be to concede that there may have been some degree of overlap between formats.

So let's step back a bit and consider what we know about Yaffa's Marvel issues between early-1982 and mid-1982. This was evidently a rather concentrated period of extreme flux: 'long' $0.70 digest editions at the end of the licence expiring c. May 1982, overlapping with $1.10 regular size recycled editions, before finally settling into a sustained period of  'short' $0.75 recycled editions by mid-1982. Now consider that there is the odd 'long' $0.75 recycled edition slipping in and overlapping the $1.10 and 'short' $0.75 issues - what might be deemed both a remnant of the $0.70 era and a transitional object towards the $0.75 editions.

And lets consider that if my schema for January-June 1982 is starting to look a bit rickety, maybe it's symptomatic of the indecisive - if not desperate - state of Yaffa's Marvel office at the time, a desperation and lack of direction likely instigated by a perfect storm of rising costs and end of licence panic or neurosis.

Let's also consider that the 'long' $0.75/NN King Conan is truly anomalous - I don t have, nor have I seen another such issue. This doesn't mean there are no others at all, but it does suggest to me that they are very few and far between, which again implies a short-term flux before a settling.

It's confusing, and it's frustrating, but in the end, some semblance of sense out of disorder is established.  

I'm going to run with this theory until further evidence turns up. If I find a few more scattered samples of 'long' $0.75 recycled editions I'll deem them transitional editions in the flux of mid-1982. If a rash of them start appearing I'll have to rejig my schema accordingly. 

My conclusions on dates largely rest on deeming newsagency markings reliable. They are all I have to go on to designate a month of publication. My suspicion is that some are more reliable or genuine than others. The  next step is to verify as many as possible by checking them against other copies. 

Another thought occurs to me regarding the recycled $0.75 editions. From my sample of recycled digests I note that roughly half of them retain their parent titles, whilst the other half are retitled with contrived designations such as Sorcerer Supreme and Creatures Attack, with the occasional partial concession to the parent title such as Spider-man the Invincible. I wonder whether retitling was a conscious post-licence strategy to mask the continued publication of material which Yaffa no longer had the rights to. At this stage the indicia still reflected the Marvel copyright but had long dispensed with asserting the Yaffa copyright authority for publication. I note that the $1.10 recycled editions were not retitled. Could it be the recycled editions started with the original titles and then transitioned to the retitling strategy? I don't know, it's just a hypothesis, but I think it's worth following up. 

Oh, and before we settle comfortably, allow me to make one more observation: The $0.75/NN King Conan is slightly - just slightly - wider than the $0.70/#1 issue. Maybe by a millimetre. And the image on the $0.70/#1 issue has a bit more detail represented at the bottom. Just a little. Just enough to cause a tiny stain...

Update: Mark Cannon's copy of King Conan #1 also has 4 written on the front cover.