Monday, March 26, 2007

Color Giant # 2

I have discussed K.G. Murray’s format experimentation in 1956 a few times - the 100-page black and white anthologies, the special 148 page Annuals, the colour pamphlets.

There were also two special colour comics issued by K.G. Murray in this period – Color Giant #’s 1 and 2. These were 100-page comics priced midway between the 100-page periodicals and the 148-page Annuals.

I’d seen these now and again in my travels but didn’t manage to pick one up until a few months ago. They intrigued me as much for their covers and novelty value as they did for their elusiveness - they always seemed to be snapped up for megabucks so I figured there must be something special about them that only collectors who’d seen them up close were privy to. So of course when I saw this one at a reasonable price I jumped at the chance.

There’s something about these covers I find utterly charming and quaint. This one appears at first glance like any other Hart Amos cover of this period, but it is in fact by another Australian artist, Peter Chapman (thanks to Kevin Patrick for the id).

Onto the contents:

Color Giant #2, circa 1957

Vigilante: Two Dead Men!
Gardner Fox/Dan Barry
(Action Comics #144, May 1950)

Superboy The Adventures of Superman When He Was a Boy: The Crazy Costumes!
William Woolfolk/Curt Swan
(Superboy #33, June 1954)

The Secret of Hill 141
Bill Ely
(House of Mystery #44, November 1955)

Blabber Mouse: Up in Smoke!
(Original unidentified, 4 pages)

Roy Raymond TV Detective: Hercules Lives Again
Ruben Moreira
(Detective Comics #223, September 1955)

Aquaman: The Boy Who Refused to Swim
Ramona Fradon
(Adventure Comics #221, February 1956)

John Jones Manhunter from Mars: The World's Greatest Magician
Joe Certa
(Detective Comics #235, September 1956)

Congo Bill with Janu The Jungle Boy: Jungle King For A Day
(Original unidentified, 6 pages)

Wonder Woman: Three Secret Wishes!
Robert Kanigher/Harry G. Peter
(Wonder Woman #81, April 1956)

Captain Compass: The Ocean Pest!
Otto Binder/Joe Certa
(Detective Comics #222, August 1955)

Secret of the Scientific Doodads!
Joe Samachson/Carmine Infantino
(Mystery In Space #31, April-May 1956)

The Adventures of Rex The Wonder Dog: Four-Footed Circus Daredevil!
Bob Haney/Gil Kane/Bernard Sachs
(The Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog #28, July-August 1956)

The House Where Dreams Came True
(Original unidentified, 6 pages)

The Green Arrow: The Scarlet Bowmen
Ramona Fradon/Charles Paris
(Adventure Comics #226, July 1956)

And a couple of black and white 1-page fillers on the inner front and rear covers - Spy Catcher - Joe Palma and Casey the Cop.

This issue was printed by The Argus and Australasian Ltd. in Melbourne (the Argus of course being The Age newspaper) as were the colour pamphlets in this period (the regular K.G. Murray comics were printed in Sydney).

Every era has its fashionable colour tones and palettes. One of the pleasures of looking through old comics – especially from the 1940’s and 1950s - is being reacquainted with tones not commonly seen any more. For example, even though I don’t read Captain Marvel/Marvel Family comics, I do enjoy browsing through a friend’s copies now and then precisely for this reason – the yellows and greys and reds in those comics are so deep and rich they remind me of the light contrasts encountered on overcast days.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of K.G. Murray’s colours. I have always found the colour reproduction in the pamphlets to be too crude and garish, an eyesore. And so it is with this volume. I would go so far as to say it falls in the unintentionally “so bad it’s good” category. It’s like looking at a colour 3-D comic without the glasses! OK, I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea – it’s just that it looks so cheap and nasty I wish it had been reserved for some suitably schlocky SF or horror comics. As it is, it’s just regrettable.

Fortunately the colour on K.G. Murray’s covers was substantially better – even the colour pamphlets which were printed on non-gloss paper appear to have fared better than the interior pages, but that may be due to the different scale too ie: a single large image.

The contents are also a bit odd insofar as they appear to be basically contemporary material with an additional one or two earlier pieces. Also they avoid reprints of Superman and Batman and feature instead a range of third-tier characters with an occasional top-up of Superboy or Wonder Woman. Most of these features could have been reprinted in either Century or The Hundred, but as they are they mostly resemble a collection of unused backup features which might have originally been slated for the colour pamphlets.

I guess to sum up I’d say these Color Giants are curious and interesting items which have their own little place in the history of K.G. Murray’s DC reprints, and as such earn their niche in collections of Australian Silver Age reprints.

But I cannot say why these issues in particular are fetching hefty prices in collector’s circles, apart from the obvious potent ingredients: nostalgia and scarcity.

No comments: