Thursday, March 15, 2007

Superboy #10: Another Ratty Beauty...

I was being just a bit coy when I mentioned last week that Batman #3 was just about my oldest my comic. The truth is that on the same day that I purchased Batman #3 I couldn’t resist also picking up a copy of Superboy #10, which dates from around November 1949, which makes it a good six months older than the Batman issue.

I did not check the contents when I purchased it, I was simply attracted by the cover, 'warts and all'. There’s something about Golden Age and Silver Age covers featuring multiple figures of the same characters which appeal to me on some unconscious level. One of my fondest comics-related memories is picking up a copy of Gigantic Annual #12, which features multiple figures of Superman (as does the preceding issue Gigantic Annual #11), so maybe I associate the motif with fun childhood comics. (I guess the Gigantic Annual/Hart Amos pop culture marker for this motif is the 1959 Elvis album cover 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong, although I expect there are antecedents to that image too. Or maybe it's just Warhol. File under Must Investigate Further). I also tend to like such space/moonscape scenes, so it was an easy sell.

To the comic:

Superboy #10, November 1949

Superboy The Adventures of Superman When He Was a Boy: Journey To the Moon!
William Woolfolk/John Sikela
(Adventure Comics #140, May 1949)

Aquaman: Undersea Big-Game Hunt!
Otto Binder/John Daly
(Adventure Comics #142, July 1949)

Superboy The Adventures of Superman When He Was a Boy: The Superboy Savings Bank
Bill Finger/Ed Dobrotka
(Adventure Comics #143, August 1949)

Aquaman: Marooned in the Deep!
Otto Binder/John Daly
Adventure Comics #138, March 1949

Plus a Jerry the Jitterbug 1 page filler.

All of the features in this issue are printed in the greyscale format, including the Jerry the Jitterbug filler on the back cover (which is actually blue rather than black ink, but Ill resist the urge to coin the phrase “bluescale”!)

I noted in the Batman #3 discussion that the main features were reprinted in All Favourites Comic Annual NN/#1, 1956 and later again in Colossal Comic #39, 1966 in the same greyscale format.

All the features in Superboy #10 have also been similarly reprinted, in The All Favourites Comic Annual #2 and Colossal Comic #41, May 1967. Indeed “Marooned in the Deep!” earns the distinction of appearing in consecutive issues of Colossal Comic, having also been reprinted in Colossal Comic #40, February 1967!

I do not have a copy of The All Favourites Comic Annual #2, but I believe it is also printed in the greyscale format, or at least some of it is, so I expect to find the features it reprints from Superboy #10 are also reprinted in the greyscale. However, it’s curious that the reprints in Colossal Comic #’s 40 and #41 are just in black and white, not in greyscale.

I first mentioned the greyscale reprints in relation to the first Mammoth Comic Annual. I related how when I first saw the greyscale format in the 1950’s anthologies I assumed it was due to the source prints, but had not been able to compare them to the previous prints side-by-side. I also said I no longer expected this was the case. This was based in part on my review of the 1956 period in which K.G. Murray was consciously experimenting with formats and presentation (see blog entry on Century The 100 Page Comic Monthly). That is, I though it was yet another experiment.

I also based my revised opinion on the Batman story “Ride, Bat-Hombre, Ride!” which I believed was originally published in Australia in Batman Comics #2, July 1950 as "Ride, Batman, Ride" based on the cover image, in which “Bat-Hombre” was replaced by “Batman”.

I have been corresponding with a UK collector of the pamphlet era K.G. Murrays. He informs me that the splash page of Batman Comics #2 does in fact reflect the “Bat-Hombre” title, and was also reprinted in greyscale.

So once again I find myself flip-flopping into believing the greyscale reprints appearing in the 1956 Colossal-style annuals were indeed sourced directly from the earlier greyscale editions, and further that they were likely done wholesale, that is, that whole issues were plundered for their contents. I also add the rider that this was probably done quite consciously to help the new formats compete in the market. At least that’s my working theory for the moment. I hope to be able to compare more of the greyscale reprints in the near future to their earlier counterparts and settle the issue to my satisfaction. I wonder when the initial greyscale format ceased?

But it doesn’t quite explain why the reprints in Colossal Comic #’s 40 and 41 from Superboy #10 are not in greyscale. As I often say, any neatlypressed and ironed theory regarding the K.G. Murray comics is almost certain to draw a wrinkle.

I’m also pleased to advise that my correspondent is able to confirm that the NZ/UK Mammoth Annual #2 was advertised in the UK, so I guess that answers that question too.

And if anyone has a spare copy of The All Favourites Comic Annual #2 lying around... you know the drill.

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