Tuesday, January 30, 2007

All Star Adventure Comic Volume 1: The First 1200 Pages

The K.G. Murray line of comics amounts to a massive reprint program of vintage DC material.

K.G. Murray also reprinted some non-DC comics in the 1970’s, in series such as Super Giant and Johnny Galaxy; the short-run Charlton series reprints such as Blue Beetle, Judo Master and Scary Tales; the horror titles Haunted Tales and Doomsday; the romance titles such as Magic Moment Romances; and various genre one-shots grouped under the Planet Series umbrella.

Ask an Australian comics collector about earlier pre-decimal non-DC reprints from the K.G. Murray stable and the first series to come to mind is likely to be Climax Adventure Comic, which popped up in 1962. This is a very interesting title with quite an eclectic resume of contents. It looks like a regular 100 page monthly title, but was actually published on an annual basis for approximately 10 years. A further dozen or so 48 page issues were issued between 1972-1976 before it was cancelled altogether.

However, in the late 1950’s-early 1960’s, before Climax Adventure Comic, K.G. Murray published a treasure trove of non-DC material in what was to become one of its long-standing core titles, All Star Adventure Comic. Beginning with the first issue published circa July 1959, the first 12 issues are comprised exclusively of non-DC reprints from publishers such as Charlton, Marvel (Atlas), Novelty Press, ACG, Star Publications, Fiction House, St. John Publications and Ziff-Davis.

Consider that the roster of artists in these 12 issues includes the likes of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Bernard Krigstein and Basil Wolverton, as well as Dick Ayers, Don Heck, Maurice Whitman, Bob Powell, Joe Maneely, Syd Shores and Jay Scott Pike. Consider also the range of genres such as science fiction, adventure and jungle stories, mystery and suspense, spy stories, monster stories – not to mention the odd superhero story - that’s almost 1200 pages of vintage comics presented in a single title over 12 consecutive issues, much of it not reprinted to this day. Not too shabby at all!

I would like to list the complete contents of each issue but as there are still quite few stories yet to be identified, I’ll reserve that option for future blog entries, and for the moment just briefly review some highlights from the first dozen issues.

All Star Adventure Comic #1 is a Ditko bonanza featuring “The Dancing Cat” from Strange Suspense Stories #37, July 1958, and 5 stories from Strange Suspense Stories #39, November 1958: “Mystery From Mars”; “Doorway Into Tomorrow”; “ Glow Of Woe”; “Orgo Serves!”; and “They Say It's Haunted”

All Star Adventure Comic #2 features a swag of Robin Hood reprints, including Ditko on “Lure of the Maiden” from Robin Hood and his Merry Men #38, August 1958. The cover image to Robin Hood and his Merry Men #38 is used as the cover image for All Star Adventure Comic #1 rather than for this issue, which is a bit perverse, but I must say quite fortuitous as it allows for the cover from Strange Suspense Stories #38, September 1958 to be used on All Star Adventure Comic #2, and it’s a ripper! (see image above)

All Star Adventure Comic #’s 3 and 4 are predominantly Yellow Claw/Jann of the Jungle issues featuring Yellow Claw chapters by Joe Maneely and Jack Kirby from Yellow Claw #’s 1-4, and a swag of Jay Scott Pike reprints from Jann of the Jungle #’s 9-11. All Star #4 also features a few more Ditko stories.

All Star Adventure Comic #5 reprints the entire main feature contents (sans text-only stories) of Uncanny Tales #42, April 1956; Spellbound #34, June 1957; and Mystic #52, October 1956. Ditko, Krigstein, Williamson, Kirby, Morisi, Wood, Reinman, Drucker and even Infantino contribute to the roll call in this issue.

All Star Adventure Comic #6 reprints the entire main feature contents (sans text-only features) of Spellbound #24, October 1955; Spellbound #25, December 1955; and Mystic #49, July 1956 (apart from "The Pushovers!"), with art contributed by Orlando, Reinman, Stallman, Ayers, Berg, Morisi and others.

All Star Adventure Comic #7 is notable for reprints from Dick Cole #7, January 1950, and a few stories from Mystic #51, September 1956, interspersed with some reprints from Jann of the Jungle #11, May 1956 by Shores and Heck.

All Star Adventure Comic #8 reprints the entire main feature contents (sans text-pieces) of Journey Into Unknown Worlds #42, February 1956, and Journey Into Unknown Worlds #47, July 1956. It also features stories from Blue Bolt #110, August 1951, including the cover-featured The Target and the Targeteers, and Wolverton’s “Spacehawk and the Blazing Death”, as well as a 4-page Kirby feature, “My Neighbor's Secret!”, from Journey Into Mystery #55, November 1959.

All Star Adventure Comic #9 reprints the entire main feature contents (sans text-only features) of Astonishing #53, September 1956; Journey Into Unknown Worlds #41, January 1956; and Journey Into Unknown Worlds #59, August 1957 (apart from “I Wake Up Screaming” which is reprinted in All Star Adventure Comic #10). Williamson, Ayers and Ditko are the main drawcards in this issue.

All Star Adventure Comic #10 is a Jungle Comics special featuring a selection of stories from Jungle Comics #159, Summer 1953 and
Jungle Comics #160, Fall 1953, including some Matt Baker art. Also of interest is a reprint from Dick Cole #9, April-May 1950.

All Star Adventure Comic #11 is another Jungle Comics-centric issue featuring reprints from Jungle Comics #152, August 1952; Jungle Comics 155, November 1952; and Jungle Comics #158, Spring 1953 with more Matt Baker cameos.

All Star Adventure Comic #12 contains even more jungle stories from Jungle Comics #152, plus Jungle Comics #161, Winter 1953 and Jungle Comics #162, Spring 1954, and is rounded out with space adventure stories from Planet Comics #73, Winter 1953. Of special note is a printing of Star Pirate by Murphy Anderson (as ‘Leonardo Vinci’).

As I said earlier – a pretty impressive 1200 pages of vintage comics!

The complexion of the series altered with the next 12 issues. There was no announcement of any such change – no New Direction! exclamation - and it may not have dawned on the reader at the time that something akin to a new editorial mandate was being enacted. But I consider the changes instituted with #13 to be substantial enough to validate designating the first 12 issues as All Star Adventure Comic “Volume 1”.

For one thing, All Star Adventure Comic #13 is the first issue in the series to feature a DC cover, as would all subsequent issues. A subtle change in one respect, but a portent nevertheless.

For another thing, whilst the following 12 or so issues (between #13 and #23) also contain non-DC material, the mix is refined so that the non-DC material is exclusively from ACG, published alongside a smattering of DC material. For example the DC content in All Star #13 accounts for about a third of the issue, the rest of it is all from ACG. Some issues such as #14 and #19 have an even higher ratio of ACG to DC content, yet the cover and lead feature is invariably a DC story – even if it is the only DC story in the issue!

This second batch of a dozen or so issues typically begin and end with DC features, including the cover feature, but sandwiched in-between for the bulk of the magazine are ACG reprints. To be uncharitable about it, at times the ACG material appears to be treated as the ‘seafood extender’ of the K.G. Murray line! Indeed it is not until All Star Adventure Comic #24 that the magazine consists of almost 100% DC content.

I say “almost 100%” for the following reasons:

1. There is one story in #24 I have yet to identify - but the rest are definitely DC reprints;
2. Of the first 45 issues I do not have a copy of #26 to test the tracking I have laid out, but I expect it will conform to this pattern. (If anyone has a copy they would like to loan, trade or sell to me, please send me an email);
3. There are still some non-DC stories which appear intermittently in later All Star issues, and I will detail them in a later post.

These points notwithstanding, it is fair to say that an overview of the first 24 issues reveals a substantial change in the complexion of the series - dramatically so after the first 12 issues, and subtly and incrementally over the following 12 issues - so that for all intents and purposes, by the 24th issue, All Star Adventure Comic has fully morphed into another conventional mainline DC reprint comic in a stable of other such titles.

But to my mind, considering the range and source of comics reprinted in the first 12 issues - and the conspicuous absence of DC content - All Star Adventure Comic #'s 1-12 constitute "Volume 1" in all but name.

In the next blog entry I will discuss the ACG/DC issues of All Star Adventure Comic in a bit more detail, including some theories and speculation as to how this particular mix came to be, along with a more detailed look at the launch of Climax Adventure Comic, and the possible role played by Transworld Features Syndicate in each of these titles.

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