Sunday, November 18, 2007

Five-Score #48: The Only Big Town Cover?

DC’s 1950’s series Big Town was a licensed property based on a radio drama. It ran for an even 50 issues, the last issue cover-dated March-April 1958

Big Town was reprinted in Australia in issues of Mighty Comic, All Favourites Comic, Five-Score Comic Monthly and The Hundred Comic Monthly.

The last few issues of the US title were reprinted in various K.G. Murray titles in 1958, shortly after their US publication, as expected. However, what is curious is that the US series continued to be published in the Australian titles for quite a few years afterwards. That is, the US back issues provided the material for the series to continue in Australia long after it had ceased publication in the US.

I guess the timing is the reason why there are no DC Big Town covers on the K.G. Murray titles. It's a shame, given Alex Toth drew 6 consecutive covers for issue #'s 8-13 in 1951-52.

And I guess timing is also the reason why the only Big Town cover I can recall is the one above for Five-Score #48, circa April 1962, which as James points out, is an Australian adaptation of an interior panel, probably by Hart Amos.

It’s possible there are other Big Town covers, whether original DC covers or locally adapted images, but I just don’t recall seeing any.

I also don’t recall seeing any DC reprints of Big Town, not even in compilations such as The Greatest 1950’s Stories Ever Told. I wonder whether the licensing agreement is prohibiting this.


mcannon said...

I agree -I’ve never seen another “Big Town” cover on a KGM. That may well be the only one – though ther may be others to there. During its early years, “Big Town” was the closest thing DC had to a crime comic (though pretty mild by pre-Code standards!), and in the aftermath of the anti-comics paranoia of the 1950s, it may well that KGM were reluctant to depict gunplay and “ordinary” brawling (as opposed to superhero violence) on covers other than westerns.

“Big Town” was indeed based on a long-running radio series (1939-52), as was “Mr DA” (1937-45), which also featured heavily in KGM magazines in the late ‘50s-early ‘60s. Some of the surviving episodes of both series can be found pretty easily on the internet via the many Old Time Radio sites. The main character in “Big Town”, crusading newspaperman Steve Wilson, was played on radio for the show’s first few years by none other than Edward G Robinson.

The DC comics adaptations seem to have outlasted the radio shows on which they were based by several years; both shows were probably victims of the increasing popularity of television in the US, which saw the death of many long-running radio dramas and comedies in this period. However, there was also a “Big Town” TV series that ran from the early to the mid 1950s, as well as some 1940s “B” films based on the radio series. I’ve no idea if the series ever screened on Aussie TV.

Even thought these old shows now appear to be in the public domain, the fact that the comics were originally based on licensed properties probably created enough uncertainty about their legal status to ensure that DC never reprinted any examples. A pity – like a lot of the licensed books of the ‘50s and ‘60s, they’ve been largely forgotten and their history neglected. There was, however, a decent article on “Big Town” in an issue of “Comic Book Marketplace” a few years back, written by Michelle Nolan.

Cheers - Mark

spiros xenos said...

Nolan's article was in the March 1999 issue (bet you forgot you photocopied that article for me ages ago...), and it's a good one, as most of her articles are. She also confirms the comic book was "one of the few... designed to hit the stands almost concurrently with the debut of the television show." I'm missing the last page of the article, so I'm not sure if it goes on to say anything about the reprints, but I recall she has said that she is one of the few people to own a full run all 50 issues. Wonder if she's interested in a copy of Five-Score #48....? Maybe there are other non-US editions from the 1950's, say UK copies...?

mcannon said...

You're right - I had forgotten I'd sent you the article! I'll have to find my original and get you the last page.

RE Nolan's claim to have the only full run of "Big Town" she knows of; either it was a relatively low seller (and in those days, a quarter of a million would have been low sales!), or this could be further evidneece of "Big Town" being a largely forgotten book, mostly ignored by collectors. Though I suppose that some fans of Old Time Radio and TV might be interested in it.

Cheers, Mark