Thursday, May 25, 2017

Doomsday Album #14 and Guilty as Charged: Cross pollination between Murray and Gredown

I still don't know the origins of this image, but it does appear in modified form on the cover of the Gredown magazine Guilty as Charged:

The Guilty as Charged image is courtesy of AusReprints. I came across it while I was searching for something else. All credit to James for establishing the connection first, but I did discover it independently too, so I'm patting myself on the back regardless.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Federal Comics' The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man #10

Federal Comics' The Amazing Spider-Man series differs from the other Federal Marvel series in two notable ways. Firstly, it doesn't have a bone fide #1 in the series, as it begins with Marvel Tales #1;, and secondly, the colour issues in the series begin much earlier than other series.

The Amazing Spider-Man was a 64-page, black and white bimonthly series as per the other Federal Marvel series, but beginning with #5 in February 1985 it converted to a 32-page "All Color" (sic)series. All the other Federal Marvel series converted to colour issues towards the end of 1985, typically for one or two issues (there are exceptions) before reverting to 64-page black and white editions with a cover price of $1.25. These colour issues had a glossy cover until #10 in December 1985. The final issue in the series was also a colour issue - this series did not revert to black and white.

To go back to #10 - I date this December 1985 based on the Funtastic Toy Offer advertisement on the rear cover.  My copy of #10 has 3 written on the cover. If these are bimonthly issues #10 would be dated January 1985, but I don't think this is the case - it's not plausible that the issue would be published after the expiry of the offer. It's possible - just very unlikely. But I'll be keeping an eye out for other copies of this issue for date markings. I also note that this early 1985 period has symptoms of some flux eg. format changes, so it's possible that issues were indeed published in a less orderly fashion than one was accustomed to from Federal.

The Amazing Spider-Man #9

I said above the black and white issues in 1985 were $1.25. This cover price was effective from The Amazing Spider-Man #9, which also has the Hanimax advertisement on the rear cover. I date this from October 1985, but it may be from September 1985. TBC.

Dating the Federal Marvel advertisements

Federal Comics published their Marvel editions over a two year period - May 1984 to April 1986, give or take a month at either end.

If you want to put a date to the Federal Marvels begin with the indicia dates which will give you the year. Newsagency markings will be two months previous to this date for bimonthly series such as The Mighty Thor. But of course, not all issues have such markings.

A very reliable alternate guide is the advertisements on the rear cover. The samples below also list the relevant issues of The Mighty Thor and Daredevil, as they are my representative complete series from 1984-1986:

Professor Teddy Woods ad, June-August 1984
(The Mighty Thor #1 and #2, Daredevil #1 and #2)

Culture Club Australian Tour Souvenir ad, October 1984
(The Mighty Thor #3, Daredevil #3)

Stars & Rockers ad, December 1984-April 1985
(The Mighty Thor #4, #5 and #6, Daredevil  #4, #5 and #6)

Battle of the Sounds ad, June 1985-August 1985
(The Mighty Thor #7 and #8, Daredevil #7 and #8)

Hanimex ad, October 1985-November 1985
(The Mighty Thor #9, Daredevil #9)

Funtastic Toy Offer ad, December 1985
(Daredevil #10)

Madonna ad, January 1986-April 1986
(The Mighty Thor #10 and #11, Daredevil #11)

Some of the advertisements - Battle of the Sounds, Hanimex, Funtastic Toy Offer - are especially informative as they include competition dates.

There are some gaps: September 1984; November 1984; May 1985; and September 1985. I could make a reasonable assumption on these, but I'd prefer to identify an issue with a date marking before claiming an ad date. I don't expect this will take too long as I go over my other Federal issues.

Update: See entries on Federal DC: Stars & Rockers, Federal DC: Comic Comments, Federal DC: Rock Video and Federal DC: Basic Electronics for an update on dates, in particular the missing months mentioned above.

Dating Federal Comics' Daredevil series

Daredevil #10

The publication dates for Federal Comics' Daredevil series match up precisely with those for The Mighty Thor - until the point they veer off on their own trajectories late in the piece. And of course, the exceptions prove instructive.

Fewer of my Daredevil issues have newsagency dates than The Mighty Thor issues, but the ones that do have dates line up uniformly. Further, the advertisements on the back covers match up, and indeed, these advertisements provide a reliable guide to the publication dates of Federal Comics issues of the period in general.

Here's how they line up:
The Mighty Thor/Daredevil #'s 1-2: Professor Teddy Woods ad
The Mighty Thor/Daredevil #3: Culture Club Australian Tour Souvenir ad
The Mighty Thor/Daredevil #'s 4-5: Stars & Rockers Coming Soon ad
The Mighty Thor/Daredevil #6 Stars & Rockers ad
The Mighty Thor/Daredevil #'s 7-8: Battle of the Sounds ad
The Mighty Thor/Daredevil #9: Hanimex ad

To this point they line up perfectly.

The Mighty Thor #9 and Daredevil #9 are the first colour issues in their respective series. They also have glossy covers, unlike subsequent colour editions which have a matte finish. The advertisements on the inner covers also match. I have dated these as being published October 1985. The Hanimax competition closes 29 November 1985. I have also previously owned a copy of The Mighty Thor #9 which had 12 written on the cover, which corroborates this evidence.

Daredevil #10 is also a colour issue, and it has a Funtastic Toy Offer advertisement on the rear cover. The offer expires 31 December 1985. There is no corresponding colour The Mighty Thor #10, but as you can see on my The Mighty Thor gallery, I noted a delay in publication for this issue and some degree of disorganisation or confusion regarding the format. Daredevil #10 and the Funtastic Toy Offer advertisement fill this gap for December 1985.

Daredevil #11 is the final issue of the series and is also a colour issue. This issue has the Madonna advertisement on the rear cover, as does the delayed The Mighty Thor #10, and #11, the final issue. I expect this dates Daredevil #11 February 1986, but it may be January 1985.

In reviewing these two titles I have also briefly checked my almost complete runs of The Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, and they also line up accordingly (with one exception which I will detail in a future post).

I will also post samples of the Federal advertisements in a separate post shortly.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man: The complete Yaffa cover gallery

Here's a cover gallery of my complete run of Yaffa/Page Publications' Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man series, with notes following:

 #1, c. November 1977

 #2, c. April 1978

 #3, c. December 1978

 #4, 1979

 #5, c. June 1980

 #6, c. December 1980

 #7, c. May 1981

#8, c. June 1981

#9, c. November 1981

The first four issues are regular/magazine-sized issues, and the rest are 'short' digest-sized, apart from #9 which is a 'tall' digest-sized issue.


The dates are approximations based on available information.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Mighty Thor: The complete Federal Comics cover gallery

Here's a cover gallery of my complete run of Federal Comics' The Mighty Thor series, with notes following:

 #1, May 1984

 #2, August 1984

 #3, October 1984

 #4, December 1984

 #5, February 1985

 #6, April 1985

 #7, June 1985

 #8, August 1985

 #9, October 1985

 #10, January 1986

#11, March 1986

All issues are 64 pages (not including covers), except for #9 which is a full colour 32 page issue.

All indications are that these issues were published on a regular bi-monthly schedule. Six of my copies have newsagents' dates marked in pen or pencil, and the dates are corroborated on three of the issues by dates related to competitions on the rear covers. The exception is the one month delay after #9, which is the sole all-colour issue. Considering that The Amazing Spider-Man had seven colour issues in the 1985-1986 period, and that Federal's tenure ended early 1986, it would appear both the switch in format and the looming end of licence were factors in the delay.

The black and white editions carried three stories each, often modified eg. dropping the splash page, or reducing two pages to fit onto one.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Shock Stories: A second run on the racks?

Shock Stories is a recycled, retitled 'short' digest issue with a $0.75 cover price. It is one of many such recycled reprints of Yaffa's range of Marvel comics.

The point of focus on this issue this time around is the handwritten date on the top left hand corner which says 12/85. This is much later than any other record I have to hand regarding Yaffa's Marvel issues. Federal Comics were publishing the Marvel reprints in Australia from 1984.

So what to make of the date?

I believe it is by a newsagent's hand, and I do think it refers to a sell-by date, but I don't think it represents a publication date of late 1985. I think this is an issue the newsagent returned to the racks for a second round. If you look closely at the pencilled date you will see a 2 written before the 12/85. Could this refer to a 2nd run on the racks? It also appears to me as if that top left hand corner has been subjected to some rubbing, as if a previous pencilled date has been erased and replaced by the 12/85. This may also explain the incidence of the letter A I noticed on some other digests.

This is all conjecture on my part. For what it's worth I do have anecdotal evidence from friends who worked in newsagencies that such issues did find their way back onto racks and shelves long after their initial publication, but I haven't heard that they were marked in such a way.

What I'd like to see is another copy of this issue in order to crosscheck any dating details.

I have yet to pair this issue with an initial Yaffa printing, however I expect this is a reprint of Yaffa's Chamber of Chills #5. TBC.

Super-Villain Team-Up #5 and Black Panther #7: The final issues?

Super-Villain Team-Up #5, published c.January/February 1981, $0.60

Black Panther #7 published c.August/September 1981, $0.70

There is an interesting relationship between these two issues which I'll try to unpack with a bit of legwork and guesswork, and then sit back and see if I end up with egg on my face.

Yaffa issues carried three stories per issue (cropping and editing notwithstanding). Super-Villain Team-Up #5 reprints the main features from Super-Villain Team-Up #'s 13, 14 and 15 (the source for the cover of #5). Only two more U.S issues of Super-Villain Team-Up were published, which is not enough to fill a Yaffa issue, and as far as I know, Super-Villain Team-Up #5 was the last issue in the ongoing Yaffa series. This leaves two Super-Villain Team-Up stories unaccounted for: Shall I Call Thee Master? and Dark Victory.

As far as I know Black Panther #7 is the last issue in the ongoing series. Black Panther #7 reprints The Beasts in the Jungle! and Revenge of the Black Panther! from the last two issues of the short-lived  Black Panther (1977-1979) series. Again, not enough material to satisfy a complete Yaffa issue. But, in this case, the extra pages are filled by the 'missing' U.S Super-Villain Team-Up #17 story Dark Victory.

The Black Panther story continued in Marvel Premiere #51. It's possible that Yaffa reprinted it, but given the filler backup in Black Panther #7, I doubt it was in a Black Panther #8.  

This still leaves Shall I Call Thee Master? out in the cold. I'm assuming it was reprinted, but I don't know where.

It's possible there is a Super-Villain Team-Up #6 comprised of Shall I Call Thee Master?, Dark Victory and another backup story, but I strongly doubt it. The next instance of a Yaffa Super-Villain Team-Up issue that I'm aware of is this unnumbered $0.75 digest-sized reprint of #1:

I suppose I should confirm that Super-Villain Team-Up #5 and #NN are both 'short' digests and Black Panther #7 is a 'long' digest, but given the dates and cover prices and # information above, I figure we're all au fait with that now.

Anyway, it's now a matter of sitting back and seeing if and where Shall I Call Thee Master? turns up, and whether there are such things as Yaffa editions of Super-Villain Team-Up #6 and Black Panther #8.

Update 14/5/2019: I can confirm Shall I Call The Master? was published by Yaffa c.July 1981 in The Champions #6.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Spider-Woman cover gallery

Here's a gallery of my complete run of Yaffa/Page Publications' The Spider-Woman, with notes below.

 The Spider-Woman #1, c. 1978, $0.60, 52pp, regular size

 The Spider-Woman #2, c. October 1980, $0.60, 52pp, 'short' digest size

 The Spider-Woman #3, c. March 1981, $0.60, 52pp, 'short' digest size

 The Spider-Woman #4, c. [June/July] 1981, $0.60, 52pp, 'short' digest size

 The Spider-Woman #5, c. October 1981, $0.70, 52pp, 'long' digest size

The Spider-Woman #6, c. April 1982, $0.70, 52pp, 'long' digest size

I believe this is the complete run of Yaffa's The Spider-Woman. I'm unaware of further issues in the series, nor of any recycled reprints beyond April 1982.

A few points:

1. The Spider-Woman #2 is a digest-sized reprint of the first issue. Typically Yaffa recycled issues of an ongoing series at the end the series, say with a $1.10 facsimile edition, or as a $0.75 digest edition. However it is not unprecedented for recycled issues to be issued with a legitimate issue number and to take their place in a series. The fact that there is a 2-year gap between the two issues means #2 is printed under the ruling format of the day for Yaffa.

2. All issues have a Yaffa copyright date except for #6, which is not unexpected for a 'long' digest issue, especially if it's the second of two 'long' editions in a series.

3. It's a bit surprising to find 6A pencilled on the cover. As I've said before, I don't know what the A represents, but assuming the 6 refers to June, this designates a publication date of April 1982, maybe March 1982. This is one month later than the May 1982 stamp on my Ghost Rider #10 digest, which has been my benchmark date for the end of the 'long' digests, and indeed for the 'new' licensed material for Yaffa. For the moment I'm going to stick with May 1982 as the last on-sale date for the $0.70 'long' digests - the stamp is more authoritative to my mind than the pencilled 6A, partly because I don't know what the A means, and partly because there is also a 70 marked on the cover in pencil, presumably a price - which is redundant. Further, there is no currency symbol alongside the 70, all of which mitigates my confidence in the information. But if more such indicators turn up re: June 1982 I'll happily revise my schema accordingly.

4. Note I've placed the date for The Spider-Woman #4 in brackets. This is because the newsagency markings for #3 and #4 are out of sequence. As I've said before the newsagency markings are the best guide for gauging the sell-by date but they are not always reliable. So, assuming the 5 marked on #3 is accurate, and assuming the 12 marked on #7 is also accurate, I've just placed #4 midway between the two.

5. I have some compelling evidence that the on-sale date is 2 months after the publication date, but the same evidence can be interpreted as being the purchase date, not the publication date. I accept that there's strong anecdotal evidence that the shelf life of the Yaffas is 3 months, maybe even 4 months, and that it can vary. This is appealing inasmuch as it would go some way to mitigating the confusion in this early/mid-1982 period of flux. It is also quite plausible that newsagents may have purposely extended the shelf life of their Yaffa stock given the apparent long lag between issues.

Postscript: Re: purposely extending the shelf life of issues - a friend has just noted that the newsagents would be dictated to by the distributor in this regard as they had to return covers for unsold comics. This makes sense. Consider that little theory retracted.

King Conan #1 and #NN: More follies and anomalies and stains...

Anomalies are like stains you can't remove, and as much as you may try to ignore them, they catch your eye even as you try to look away. So instead of ignoring them you deal with them the best you can and try to make some sense of them, and with a little luck the frame shifts just enough to make a virtue of their presence. 

When I first presented my two editions of King Conan I avoided the temptation to muse on possible publication dates. I knew I didn't have enough information, the indicia was unhelpful, and they presented a new Yaffa conundrum to me which I knew I was ill-equipped to deal with at the time. One was a $0.70 issue designated #1, the other an unnumbered facsimile reprint with a $0.75 cover price, so all I really knew was that, based on the cover price, the #1 was published before the #NN.

With my profile of Yaffa's Marvel editions to hand I was able to make sense of a parallel scenario concerning the two editions of What If Spider-Man Joined The Fantastic Four? In both instances there were two digest editions of the same issue, the first being a $0.70/#1 digest issue of a suspended series, and the second issue being a $0.75/#NN facsimile recycling of the respective #1 issue.

So it should have been a relatively straightforward exercise to apply the same criteria to the King Conan issues and come up with a sensible solution as per the What If... issues. Ah, the best laid plans... For this is when the dreaded anomaly struck!

As per the What If... #1, the $0.70/#1 issue of King Conan conforms to the schema I've been outlining. There is a 4 pencilled on the cover, which suggests it was published c. February 1982, after the 'long' editions had superseded the 'short' editions in late 1981, but before the 'short' recycled editions returned mid-1982 with a $0.75/#NN designation.

'By rights', the $0.75/NN King Conan 'should' be a 'short' edition, but it's not - inexplicably it is a 'long' edition! Further, it has a 9 written on the cover, suggesting a publication date of July, but which year? 1982? 1983? Neither make sense according to my schema.

If you've been following this drama you'll recall a similar anomaly regarding formats occurred in my review of Daredevil #5 and Iron Man #5, in which the most feasible and palatable resolution appeared to be to concede that there may have been some degree of overlap between formats.

So let's step back a bit and consider what we know about Yaffa's Marvel issues between early-1982 and mid-1982. This was evidently a rather concentrated period of extreme flux: 'long' $0.70 digest editions at the end of the licence expiring c. May 1982, overlapping with $1.10 regular size recycled editions, before finally settling into a sustained period of  'short' $0.75 recycled editions by mid-1982. Now consider that there is the odd 'long' $0.75 recycled edition slipping in and overlapping the $1.10 and 'short' $0.75 issues - what might be deemed both a remnant of the $0.70 era and a transitional object towards the $0.75 editions.

And lets consider that if my schema for January-June 1982 is starting to look a bit rickety, maybe it's symptomatic of the indecisive - if not desperate - state of Yaffa's Marvel office at the time, a desperation and lack of direction likely instigated by a perfect storm of rising costs and end of licence panic or neurosis.

Let's also consider that the 'long' $0.75/NN King Conan is truly anomalous - I don t have, nor have I seen another such issue. This doesn't mean there are no others at all, but it does suggest to me that they are very few and far between, which again implies a short-term flux before a settling.

It's confusing, and it's frustrating, but in the end, some semblance of sense out of disorder is established.  

I'm going to run with this theory until further evidence turns up. If I find a few more scattered samples of 'long' $0.75 recycled editions I'll deem them transitional editions in the flux of mid-1982. If a rash of them start appearing I'll have to rejig my schema accordingly. 

My conclusions on dates largely rest on deeming newsagency markings reliable. They are all I have to go on to designate a month of publication. My suspicion is that some are more reliable or genuine than others. The  next step is to verify as many as possible by checking them against other copies. 

Another thought occurs to me regarding the recycled $0.75 editions. From my sample of recycled digests I note that roughly half of them retain their parent titles, whilst the other half are retitled with contrived designations such as Sorcerer Supreme and Creatures Attack, with the occasional partial concession to the parent title such as Spider-man the Invincible. I wonder whether retitling was a conscious post-licence strategy to mask the continued publication of material which Yaffa no longer had the rights to. At this stage the indicia still reflected the Marvel copyright but had long dispensed with asserting the Yaffa copyright authority for publication. I note that the $1.10 recycled editions were not retitled. Could it be the recycled editions started with the original titles and then transitioned to the retitling strategy? I don't know, it's just a hypothesis, but I think it's worth following up. 

Oh, and before we settle comfortably, allow me to make one more observation: The $0.75/NN King Conan is slightly - just slightly - wider than the $0.70/#1 issue. Maybe by a millimetre. And the image on the $0.70/#1 issue has a bit more detail represented at the bottom. Just a little. Just enough to cause a tiny stain...

Update: Mark Cannon's copy of King Conan #1 also has 4 written on the front cover.  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Yaffa's Marvel digests: The long and the short of it

One of the format changes that helps to date the Yaffa Marvel comics is the switch from a 'short' digest size to a 'tall' digest size, and the subsequent reversion to the 'short' digest size.

The 'short' editions are approx. 19cm long and 13.5cm wide. The 'tall' editions are approx. 21cm long and 13.5cm wide - although there appears to be some variation in this with some 'tall' editions approx. 20cms long.

The 'short' editions - the standard size for digest comics - superseded the regular/magazine-sized Yaffa Marvel comics which were published between late 1977 and early 1980.

The 'tall' digests appear late in 1981 - all the ones I have in my collection appear to have been published after August 1981 - and coincide with the price increasing from $0.60 to $0.70. This is the digest format which remains in force until the 'short' editions return in 1982 with a $0.75 cover price, and the post-licence recycling phase begins. 

It's interesting to compare a couple of issues. Here's a scan from of the 'long' What If Spider-Man Joined The Fantastic Four? #1:

Compare this to my copy of the 'short' What If Spider-Man Joined The Fantastic Four? #NN:

Note that the 'short' edition has the art cropped at the bottom. Note also that the 'long' edition appears to be cropped on the right hand side. I'm not sure if this is true, or whether the scan on is cropped. Given both editions are 13.5cm wide I wouldn't expect such a difference, but I can't say for sure as I don't have to hand any such pairings of 'short' and 'long' to compare.

I guess that such pairings are thin on the ground as the 'long' editions were published at the end of series and the 'short' recycled editions were primarily reprints of the earlier issues of a series. What If Spider-Man Joined The Fantastic Four? #1 appears to be the only issue in a projected series, so I'm guessing this is why it earned the honour of being recycled. I'd like to compare the contents of such a pairing to see if the interior art is affected. A random comparison between a 'short' and 'long' edition does suggest there is a difference.

A note about the term "digest size". Collectors often refer to them as pocket-size. I have no issue with that, but I note the Grand Comics Database uses the term "digest". I also note that at least one brand of digest backing boards measures their boards as 189mm x 143mm.

Update: Mark Muller has confirmed his 'long' copy does not have a Yaffa date in the indicia, only the Marvel date 1977, which is what I expected. He also confirms the scan above from is true and has not been unduly cropped on the right hand side. His copy has 5 written on the front cover, which accords with my 'long' copy of Ghost Rider #10, all of which indicates to me a publication date c. February/March 1982.

I also note there is a copy of the unnumbered $0.75 edition scanned on which has an 8 written on the cover. This indicates to me a publication date of May/June 1983 - 1982 is unlikely so soon after the first edition, and the Yaffa Marvels had ceased by mid-1984 when the Federal editions were being published.

Daredevil #5 and iron Man #5: The folly, the anomaly, and the temptation of confirmation bias

Because I'm perverse and find comfort in folly, rather than proceeding with a resume of the evidence for my Yaffa dating exercise, I'd like to firstly outline an example of the type of anomaly which I've had to deal with.

In reviewing the formats and cover prices of a number of Yaffa series I have established this reliable pattern:

1. The first issue would be a regular/magazine size edition with a cover price of $0.50, with an indicia date of 1977;
2. The next two issues - #s 2 and 3 - would be regular/magazine size editions with a cover price of $0.50, with an indicia date of 1978;
3. #4 would be a regular/magazine size edition with a cover price raised to $0.60, with an indicia date of 1979;
4. #5 would be the first digest-sized edition with a cover price of $0.60, with an indicia date of 1980;

This pattern is confirmed by series such as Conan the Barbarian, The Avengers and The Tomb of Dracula.

The Daredevil series bucks this trend as #5 is a regular/magazine-sized edition, and has a 1980 indicia date. In other words, instead of being a digest-sized issue it is a regular edition.

I'm pretty sure the $0.60 digest comics first appeared in mid-1980, possibly a month or two earlier in March or April 1980. Apart from the indicia, I can confirm at least two - likely more - digest editions in ongoing series carry advertisements for The Incredible Hulk: The Movie, which places them mid-1980. Working on the assumption that the digest format was instigated as a cost-saving measure - maintaining the price and page count but compromising on the paper size - I've assumed the shift to digest-size was permanent and that there was no overlap between the regular and digest editions in terms of printing (although of course there may have been some overlap on the stands).

Given this, it appears Daredevil #5 was published very early in 1980, before the #5 issues of series such as Conan, The Avengers and Dracula. All well and good.

Another series which closely follows the  schedule set by Daredevil is The Invincible Iron Man. It conforms in terms of format, issue numbers, cover price and indicia dates, including a #5 in the regular size.

The anomaly with Iron Man #5 is that my copy has a pen marking on the rear cover 11A. My understanding of handwritten numeric notations by newsagencies is that they indicate sell-by dates 2 months - possibly 3 months - after the on-sale date. If the 11 indicates November, it places Iron Man #5 on the stands in August or September 1980, after the first digest editions replaced the regular editions in mid-1980. The other anomaly is the A after the 11 in the notation. I don't know what this means. I have seen it before, but I don't know if it is significant in terms of qualifying the date or not. I suspect not, but it may. Which still leaves me with the question of when in 1980 Iron Man #5 was published.

Invincible Iron Man #4 conforms to the pattern established so far. It has an indicia date of 1979, a $0.60 cover price and 60pp. My copy has 2 written on the cover. Assuming this indicates a February 1980 sell-by date, it would suggest there was an 18-month gap  between Iron Man #4 and #5.

My copy of Iron-Man #6 is a $0.60 digest-sized issue with an indicia date 1981, and has a 6 marked on it. This indicates a 7-month gap between #5 and #6. In other words, three consecutive issues are stretched over an 18-month period with the middle issue published close to the middle of this period.

So, what to make of this information? The temptation - the confirmation bias protocol - is to ignore the 11A on Iron Man #5, assume there was no overlap between the regular editions and the digest editions, and deem it most likely published very early in 1980, as per Daredevil #5.

Another possibility is that it was indeed printed before the digest editions became the standard format, but wasn't distributed until much later. Tempting, given it fills a publishing gap neatly and evenly between Iron Man #4 and #6. But I don't think I can presume that much forethought on behalf of Yaffa.

The best I can do for the moment is to accept the evidence that there may have been some overlap between the two formats, and concede that if Iron Man #5 was published in August 1980 rather than September 1980, an overlap in the second trimester of 1980 is not out of the question.

I note also that the price box on Iron Man #5 resembles the price box which appeared on many - not all - of the digest-sized editions. Daredevil #5 doesn't have a price box (neither does Iron Man #6 for that matter), but it does suggest some small connection to the digest editions inasmuch as it is an editorial intervention, which I do not offhand recall on earlier regular-sized editions.

I'd like to inspect other copies of Iron Man #5 to check if they have a different date pen marked - say a 3 or a 4, or if they also have an 11 marked. This would settle the question for me. In due course I'll check for any other issues which may shed light on this, for example other #5 regular sized editions published in 1980.

The Yaffa/Page Publications Marvel series: A profile

When I pick up one of my K.G Murray comics I have a fair idea of when it was published. I can tell by looking at the price, the size and page count, or the logo, whether it was published in the late 1950's, the mid-1960s', the early 1970's, or the early 1980's. If I look closely at it I can often tell the year, and if I'm keen enough to research further, I can often come up with a pretty firm indication of the month it was published.

Not so the Yaffa/Page Publications comics. If I pick up an issue I often can't tell where it fits into the Yaffa schema. Some are regular/magazine-sized, some digest-sized. A series may have both formats. Some issues have an indicia date, which is helpful, and some have an indicia date which is perplexing. Some are reprints of previously published issues and are counted as part of an ongoing series, and some are independent and unnumbered and random. Cover prices change often. And there is no checklist or guide to indicate what a complete catalogue of series, let alone standalone issues may look like.

If you search for Yaffa or Page Publications on this blog you'll find many old entries on issues which I've detailed contents-wise, but have left me scratching my head regarding their publication history. Some of the latter entries have Eureka! moments in which some insight or pattern has emerged, which seems obvious in retrospect but confounding at the time out of context.

So I've taken it upon myself to have a close look at Yaffa's Marvel series - a distinct subset of the Yaffa publishing catalogue - and see what details and patterns and conclusions emerge.

I thought I'd outline in summary form what I have gleaned so far. Most of the information is based on issues in my own collection, which is admittedly far from complete, but I think represents a substantial enough sample size on which to base assumptions and conclusions. I'll leave the supporting details for later posts, but in summary, this is what I have so far:

1.  The Yaffa Marvel reprints begin circa October 1977 eg. Conan the Barbarian, The Tomb of Dracula, The Avengers. This is after the expiry of the Newton Comics licence
2.  They begin with a $0.50 cover price and 60pp (incl. covers, with some variance)
3.  They are a regular/magazine size
4.  They increase to $0.60 in early 1978 (typically with #3 if the series began c. October 1977)
5.  At this stage they appear to be published on a bi-monthly schedule
6.  The 4th issue in the series is published in 1979
7.  The first digest-sized issue is published in mid-1980, possibly early 1980 (typically #5 in the series, but there are exceptions eg. Daredevil #5 which is regular/magazine size)
8.  The digest issues begin with a $0.60 cover price
9.  At this stage the page count still varies but typically they are 60pp
10.The cover price rises to $0.70 on or after August 1981 (typically with #8 or #9 in the series if the series began c. October 1977)
11.This price rise coincides with a change in size from the 'short digest' format to the 'tall digest' format
12. At this stage the page count for most issues is either 52pp or 60pp, with some 68pp issues
13. These issues may have an indicia date 1981, or no indicia date
14. It appears if the indicia date is absent it was published late 1981, or more likely early 1982
15. Indicia dates can be perplexing and manifestly incorrect at this stage of the game
13.After two 'tall digest' issues late 1981/early 1982 the license appears to end and the next phase begins
14.For many series the end is capped by recycling and reprinting the first issue in the series in the original regular/magazine format
15.These issues carry a $1.10 cover price
16.These issues do not have an indicia date
17.These issues appear to have been published early 1982, but possibly even mid-1982
18.The 'short digest' format returns
19.This format is accompanied by another price hike to $0.75
20.The $0.75 digest issues are unnumbered - and often retitled - recycled reprints of previously published issues
21.These $0.75 issues most likely started mid-1982, possibly early 1982 - on the heels of the $1.10 cover price editions
22.These were published as late as January 1984 and on sale until at least March 1984
23.As per the $1.10 editions the $0.75 issues are unlikely to have a date in the indicia but they do pay lip service to being published under license from the Marvel Comics Group.
23.The Federal Comics Marvel editions were on sale by May 1984, possibly a month earlier.

The above schema is a profile of series which began in late 1977 and had representative editions in all the formats and price changes. It may not apply to every Yaffa series or one-shot. For example, it clearly does not apply to series such as The Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, which have their own particular profile, but is what you can expect from series such as The Avengers, Conan the Barbarian, The Tomb of Dracula etc. It doesn't quite account for non-Marvel Yaffa comics published during this time, nor does it quite account for comics with a $0.65 or $1.00 cover price. And there are exceptions which the above series do not quite model, such as recycled reprints occurring mid-term rather than at the end of a series.

Since I drafted this I've been checking random Yaffa Marvel issues to see whether they conform to this schema and so far so good. There are one or two anomalies but nothing so far to suggest I'm way off-base. Indeed, the anomalies often provide opportunities for fine-tuning rather than exasperation, and I find myself seeking anomalies more keenly than the those inducing confirmation bias. As more issues find their way into the Junkyard, and with the ongoing sharing of data and advice by Mark Cannon and Mark Muller, who contributed quite a bit to my research, and the AusReprints database, I expect some of the guesstimates of dates to become even clearer over time. 

For now, what I think the above information provides for me is a clearer understanding of when the Yaffa/Page Publications editions of Marvel comics were published, especially in reference to the changes signalled by format changes and price changes, which means I now feel much more confident picking up an issue at random and being able to guess which year it was published, and sometimes to also guesstimate whether it was published early in the year, mid-year, or in the last quarter.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Kid Colt Outlaw #5: Unintentionally unnumbered

This digest-sized Yaffa issue of Kid Colt Outlaw does not have an issue number, nor a cover price, so I have always deemed it an unnumbered issue similar to many one-off recycled digests issued by Yaffa after the original run of the series expired.

I now believe it is #5 in the series, incorrectly unnumbered and also missing the cover price due to a printing or editing error.

The first indication of this is the 1981 indicia date, which sets it in the first phase of the Yaffa Marvel digest editions,

The second indication is that it fits in the gap in the cover gallery between #4 and #6. Kid Colt Outlaw #4 is a $0.60 issue, Kid Colt Outlaw #6 is a $0.70 issue. And assuming these issues were published in sequence, then a comparison with the Grand Comics Database cover gallery for the Kid Colt Outlaw series confirms this issue belongs between the covers selected for the Yaffa issues #4 and #6.

I'll be on the lookout for a legitimately unnumbered $0.75 recycled edition.

Speaking of which, I expect that the digest-sized Wild West Action is the unnumbered retitled edition of Kid Colt Outlaw #3 which is also missing from the cover gallery. I assume that this is a regular-sized issue but it's possible that it is a digest-sized issue. I look forward to pairing Wild West Action with Kid Colt Outlaw #3 and adding them to my Yaffa gallery of such pairings, which does include Kid Colt Outlaw #2 paired with Kid Colt Evens The Odds .

Update: I can confirm Wild West Action is indeed a reprint of Kid Colt Outlaw #3, a digest-sized issue.