Friday, April 18, 2008

Battle Action Album #14: Paydirt Award April 2008

I’m not very interested in war comics in general (surely I've mentioned my barely defensible genre biases before...?). I pick up the K.G. Murray war comics in much the same way I might pick up other K.G. Murray genre material of only passing interest, such as a western or a romance comic. That is, partly as a representative sample to complement the main K.G. Murray collection, and partly in the hope of snagging a choice reprint by the likes of Alex Toth or Bernie Krigstein.

As such, Battle Action Album #14 gets the Paydirt Award for April 2008 for featuring Toth’s “The Tally” from Our Army At War #254, February 1973 (subsequently reprinted in Sgt. Rock Special #2, 1988). It’s the best value I’ve had for my $1.50 all year! I’ve come across a few more Toth reprints since my last tally, I hope to update it in the near future.

The other interesting thing is that, like other issues in this series, this issue reprints stories from early issues of All-American Men of War circa 1953, stories which, according to the GCD, did not appear in later DC reprints as one might expect. I’ve been coming across quite a few instances of unexpected reprints of this type in various K.G. Murray issues from the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, that is, reprints which don’t appear to have been sourced from contemporary DC issues. Too early to draw conclusions, but a pattern may emerge when all these issues are finally indexed.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who knows of DC war comics/series being reprinted in Australia in the 1950's or 1960's. I can't recall any such regular series in K.G. Murray titles, but in conceding my scant interest in the genre, I must also concede a possible blind spot in this regard. I'm aware of other war comics reprints in Australia eg Horwitz, I'm just curious whether these DC-sourced reprints in the late 1970's/early 1980's appeared in previous Australian comics.


Anonymous said...

I don't recall DC war reprints, either, except for Blackhawk -- and I think that is a special case.

There are other non-DC reprint war comics, but I'd need to do some digging to get the info -- I don't like the genre either...

I don't have time to double check at the moment, but the following are the only KGM issues in my database before 1970 that show stories tagged with the "war" genre:

* All Star Adventure Comic 8
* Century Comic 96
* The Hundred Comic 99
* Superman Presents World's Finest Comic Monthly 16
* Superman Presents Wonder Comic Monthly 18
* Superman Presents World's Finest Comic Monthly 18
* Superman Presents Wonder Comic Monthly 20
* Mighty Comic 56
* Mighty Comic 64
* Mighty Comic 65
* Superman Presents World's Finest Comic Monthly 43
* Superman Presents World's Finest Comic Monthly 45

I suspect most of them will end up being Blackhawk stories, once someone has time to check!

The reprints of US war comics may have been kept down by the endless supply of UK war comics (Commando, especially).

The series Don Winslow of the Navy also comes to mind, but it isn't a war comic in the conventional sense.


spiros xenos said...

I've checked the issues listed James, yes, almost all stories tagged "War" are Blackhawk reprints or non-DC preprints. The Century #96 repint is an exception, but that story is sourced from DC's My Greatest Adventure, not one of the war titles.

You may have a point about the genre being catered for in the Australian market by other publishers.

Anonymous said...

This issue has been in the back of my mind for a while and I thought I would add a few new observations about war comics and related Murray issues. Bear with me... this is a bit circuitous before I come to my conclusions.

I've recently uncovered a few historical facts about Mr Kenneth (KG) Muray.

Firstly, it appears that Mr Murray was aligned with official government policy during the war years. It looks to me that, at the very least, he realised that this alignment would be good for his publishing businesses. It was also likely a reflection of his own personal or political stances.

In October 1942, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) announced that the War Cabinet had approved an offer by the KG Murray Publishing Co to prepare a new monthly magazine for the Army, simply called "Army". All profits were devoted to the amenities fund for the benefit of the troops, and was publised under conditions set by the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land Forrces. Mr KG Murray gave an undertaking to portray the Army to a high standard, while providing entertaining reading for the troops. The newsprint for the publication was to be from the quota allocated to the company under war-time rationing.

The only information I've found so far on the "Army" publication (the generic title makes searches hard!) is at, which also reports a number of other official war-time publications. The page reports: "South West Pacific was a slightly altered version of Army, printed on better paper, designed to promote Australia's interests overseas - especially in America. It was circulated to influential Americans as part of a bid to promote the importance of continued US spending in the South West Pacific theatre of war, and also to demonstrate how hard Australia was striving to hold up its end of the fight. Murray also published Action, the digest-sized journal of the National Emergency Services."

In March 1944 toward the end of the second world war, Mr KG Murray received an honorary appointment as "Controller of Publications" in the Department of Information, after some twelve months providing voluntary support to the department.

In 1945, immediately post war, there were debates in Australia about reducing tariffs to permit some imports to resume. The inquiry was particularly related to the dumping of back issue magazines on the Australian market at low prices, undermining the Australian industry. It followed a long period of agitation, dating back as far as 1939. The concern was associated with protecting Australia from unfair competition and preserving Australian foreign currency exchange.

In November 1945, Mr Murray gave evidence before the Tariff Board that American comics had a bad effect on the minds of Australian Children. Given his later prolific publication of reprint US comics, It initially seems this was more a strategic business position than a personal belief. However, it is more complicated as his primary argument was that the publications conditioned children to a foreign way of life and sentiments.

As a side note, this may provide some insight into the long practice of making changes to DC's originals by adding Australian places, flags, money and spelling.

While I have no evidence that Murray raised concerns specifically about war comics, the debates on US comics that extended into the early 1950s seem to have taken a focus in Australia more on war and crimw comics. As an example, of ten publications banned by the Queensland State Literature Board of Review in 1954, nine were comics and most were war and crime comics -- not horror or even western and super-hero, which were more prolific at the time.

So what conclusions do draw from this? Well, it seems likely that Kenneth Murray had particular views about war comics that made him disinclined to reprint them. There was apparently a conservative social view against war comics at the time. At a bare minimum, he may have had political and personal associations that made him disinclined to rock the boat on war comics -- until much later when they were unquestioningly acceptable.

It wouldn't be the first or last time the media ran or didn't run with something because the publisher didn't like it!