Friday, July 20, 2018

Another trio of Chatto covers for the one comic

By the time Range War Westerns #2 was published by Page Publications c.1973, two previous editions of this comic had appeared under their direction- as Gunman's Western #2:

And as Gunshot Western Library #29:

There are probably more editions that will surface.

All three covers are by Keith Chatto.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Murray/Federal Tarzan: Dating the 100-pagers

I don't profess any expertise when it comes to Tarzan comics. I read some as a kid, and at some point I understood that 'jungle comics' weren't for me. Same with The Phantom and Black Panther. I prefer Heart of Darkness.

Having said that, the Murray/Federal Tarzan series, published between 1980-1983, interests me greatly for the simple reason that the indicia indicates an on sale date. For example, see below:

This is page 3 of Tarzan #4. The indicia states in part "Available week ending 24. 4. 81". That's right - a fully fledged publication date, down to the week, is recorded in the indicia. If only all the Murray comics were dated thus.

I'm sure there's some reason for this, likely concerning the licensing, but that doesn't concern me. What does interest me is that all 23 of the Murray/Federal Tarzan issues contain such information, and given they range from the  $0.90/100 pages Murray issues in 1980 to the Federal comics incarnation in 1983, they provide a guide as to when the price and page count altered. and, of course, this provides a guide to the rest of the Murray/Federal stable.

This how they slice up:

Murray $0.90/100 pages ends April 1981
Murray $0.95/100 pages begins May 1981
Murray $0.95/100 pages ends August 1982
Murray $0.99/100 pages begins September 1982
Federal begins March 1983

I consider this a reliable guide - a ready reckoner - to dating the 100-page Murray/Federal comics between 1981-1983. 

This is not to say that there aren't anomalies or outliers. Even some of the Tarzan issues have some discrepancies eg. newsagency dates which don't quite tally with the indicia dates. But on the whole, having crosschecked some two dozen or more comics from this period, the dates are firm. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Second-guessing the Second Release Murray comics

Collectors of early-1980's Murray comics will be familiar with the Second Release sticker which could be found on magazine-size issues such as Carnival of Fear:

This sticker was applied to a range of magazine-size issues, samples of which may be found on the  AusReprints gallery

The initial publication of these issues appears to be from mid-1981 until late-1982, possibly even early-1983. 

A number of my copies have a newsagency date 11 pencilled on them. My copy of Carnival of Fear above says R11/83. The rule of thumb on such newsagency markings is that they designate a final on-sale date, and an initial publication date three months prior, which suggests that the Second Release issues were available for purchase c.August 1983. 

By my reckoning the transition period between Murray and Federal - based on the transitional logo - was March-June 1983, so timing a re-release program of inventory stock c.August 1983 seems about right.

Some time early/mid-1984 Federal released coverless rebound editions of these magazine-sized Murray issues in volumes such as Scary Stories Annual and All Love Romantic Stories. These would appear to be the coverless returns of the Second Release issues - in effect, they are Third Release titles.

To this point I'm pretty happy with the data and analysis. However, as is often the case with these endeavours, questions beget answers which beget further questions...

If you take a closer look at the cover to Carnival of Fear above, you can clearly see a 6 marked in the C of the title. If this is a newsagency marking on the Second Release issue it conflicts with the R11/83 marking. However, if this is a newsagency marking on the initial release of the issue, it would date the original publication of Carnival of Fear to c.March 1982. This date is possibly correct, but it is not certain. The rear cover of Carnival of Fear carries an advertisement for Murray's tabloid-sized Batman Family, which was likely published in December 1981 and which, on the face of it, would suggest a similar publication date for Carnival of Fear. However, I have noted other issues carrying this advertisement which are dated early 1982, and it wouldn't be out of the question to find such premium one-off issues having an extended shelf life. Therefore, pending further data, it is quite plausible to date Carnival of Fear c.March 1982.

Such conflicting dates are not isolated to my copy of Carnival of Fear. Other issues, such as The Witching Hour also exhibit this anomaly. The conflicting newsagency date markings suggest that the Second Release issues may have been on sale on the stands before their Second Release incarnations, and as such were returned stock to Murray which Federal inherited, rather than overstock, which was my presumption. 

I don't want to overstate the last point. It's guesswork based on an anomaly based on a small sample. As more data comes to hand I'll be happy to revise and amend my position.

Monday, July 9, 2018

1979 and the Murray Publishers imprint

For quite a while now I've known that K.G. Murray comics with the Murray Publishers logo as per the inhouse advertisement above were published in 1979. This logo superseded the second Planet Comics logo, and on the back of reviewing the Murray comics c.June 1980 I thought I'd dig into the issues bearing this Murray Publishers logo and see if I could identify a start and end date. I think I've accomplished that goal and in the process I've unearthed some other interesting information.

The earliest issues with confirmed dates that I have found with this logo date from July 1979. These issues include Super Adventure Album #11, Bumper Western #72 and Superboy #116.

Superboy #116 is of particular interest as it has the Planet Comics logo as well as the Murray Publishers logo, and is therefore a transitional issue:

The latest issues with confirmed dates that I have found with the Murray Publishers logo date to January 1980. These issues include The Fastest Gun Western #38 and Bumper Western Album #73.

In other words, based on the sample I have examined, the first Murray Publishers logo was active for a period of no more than 7 months, from July 1979 to January 1980. 

There are some issues published in July 1979 which still carry the Planet Comics logo, such as Mighty Comic #127 and Super Heroes Album #13, but certainly the rest of the 1979 K.G. Murray catalogue is branded Murray Publishers for the duration. The exceptions to this rule are discussed below.

The Murray Publishers branding brought the non-superhero titles under the one umbrella. Titles such as Bumper Western Album, The Fastest Gun Western, Battle Action Album, Savage Tales, Magic Moment Romances, For Lovers Only, Young Love, Secret Romances, All Love Romantic Stories, Terror Tales Album, Doomsday Album, Haunted Tales and Weird Mystery Tales had no branding as such before this point, and they all picked up the Murray Publishers logo without transitioning from the Planet Comics logo. Ghostly Tales and Career Girl Romances are exceptions to this rule, each bearing the Planet Comics logo before joining the Murray Publishers fold. 

Titles also experienced a price hike in this period. It appears the rise was effective September 1979. Examples of the September 1979 price rise include Giant Superman Album #37, Batman Album #44 and Planet Series 2 #6 Strange Suspense Stories, each of which had a cover price of $0.80 up from $0.75.

When this Murray Publishers logo expired the titles transitioned to the Murray Comics logo with the Murray the Cat mascot:

However, there were some exceptions. For example, Doomsday Album donned a modified Murray Comics logo which looked very similar to the Murray Publishers logo:

Indeed, Doomsday Album #18 has a blank space where this logo was mistakenly omitted:

The non-cat Murray logo carried on deep into 1981.

Super Heroes Annual also bears this modified Murray Comics logo:

This issue dates from 21 December 1979 - the precise date is courtesy of a newsagency sticker on my copy. I have seen a copy with a newsagency date marking 5, suggesting that as a premium product, this issue had an extended shelf life until May 1980.  

Another variation of the Planet Comics/Murray Publishers logo could be found on the 32-page colour issues of series such as Batman and Robin and Superman:

As you can see, Batman and Robin #13 has the distinctive  All Color Planet Comics logo placed beneath the Murray Publishers logo, and by the next issue, the Planet reference has been removed so that it reads Murray Publishers All Color Comic:

Batman and Robin #14 appears to have been published c.November 1979. The next issue would carry the Seven Seas Stamp Contest c.April 1980. 

Note that Superman #13 appears to date after July 1979 but the series doesn't include the Murray Publishers logo until #14 c.November 1979. Superman #13 may have shipped late, or my data is incorrect on this issue.

The Planet Series comics are a conspicuous variation on the theme. Planet Series comprised of unrelated one-shot issues numbered as a series.

The first issue in the series to bear the Murray Publishers logo was Planet Series 2 #5 Love 1979:

The Planet Comics logo was dropped for this issue, but reappears on the next issue, Planet Series 2 #6 Strange Suspense Stories:

The combination of the Murray Publishers branding and the Planet Comics logo was maintained for the duration of Planet Series 2 through Planet Series 2 #10 World of Speed. On the data to hand I date this issue February 1980, but I expect to eventually find a copy which confirms an on-sale date of January 1980 as per James' entry.

Curiously, it was not until Planet Series 3 that the series technically attributed the series name in the number box - and this was done with the advent of the aforementioned Murray Comics cat logo! In other words, Murray committed to the Planet Comics-inspired attribution over the course of two logo and imprint changes.

As the Murray Publishers branding expired a new imprint was born - the Murray Romance Library imprint. Romance series such as Love Song Romances, Magic Moment Romances, For Lover's Only, Secret Romances, All Love Romantic Stories and Young Love all began with an issue or two with the Murray Publishers branding before transitioning to the new dedicated romance imprint effective January/February 1980. This was reflected in modifications to the advertising of the romance stable:

When I began this research I anticipated I'd find that that the Murray Publishers branding ran for the better part of a year. It's quite possible that earlier issues with the Murray Publications logo will be identified, maybe as far back as May 1979, but I'll be surprised to find any earlier than that. I also  suspect there is another transitional issue like Superboy #116 to be unearthed. We shall see.

Update 22/9/2018: I've been keeping tabs on books turning up in the last few months with the Murray Publishers logo. All of the issues I have seen since then accord with my schema. I have spotted a copy of Superman the Comic #2 which has a newsagency date marking 9 on the front cover, which suggests it was on the stands in June 1979. This is the only exception I have found to this point. I await further data in this regard.

Update 15/1/2019: I have spotted a copy of World's Finest #128 which has MAY written on the front cover. AusReprints confirms a copy with this date. This suggests there was an issue with the Murray Publishers logo as late as February 1980. I'm not yet sure if this is an outlier - that is, that copies will turn up with an April newsagency marking, suggesting the samples found to date represent remote distribution  - or whether it means the logo was genuinely active in February 1980. TBA. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Federal Comics' Alpha Flight: The complete cover gallery

Here's a cover gallery of my complete run of Federal Comics' Alpha Flight:

 Alpha Flight #1, December 1984

 Alpha Flight #2, January 1985

 Alpha Flight #3/NN, February 1985

 Alpha Flight #4, May 1985

 Alpha Flight #5, June 1985

 Alpha Flight #6, August 1985

 Alpha Flight #7, November 1985

Alpha Flight #8, January 1986

I believe the publication dates are accurate. There are one or two which may be tweaked a month earlier or later, and the last two in particular may be revised pending further information and analysis, but otherwise I'm happy to deem them dated.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Murray comics c.June 1980 and the Seven Seas Stamp Contest

If you were buying Murray Comics off the shelves in in 1980 you would have come across an array of genres, titles, formats and price points. 

Splashed over the top right hand corner of some of the issues was "200 prizes to win", and cutting across the bottom of those issues was a banner emblazoned with "Detail Inside Super Easy-To-Win Contest 200 Great Prizes". For example:

Batman and Robin #15

The contest in question was the Super Seven Seas Stamp Contest, and the details were offered in the middle four pages of the issue concerned:

 Page 1

 Page 2

 Page 3

Page 4

These advertisements provide a link between disparate titles, genres and formats, and also provide baseline dates of interest to those of us trying to make sense of this period in Murray's publishing history.

The first date of interest is on page 2 - "Contest closes June 30, 1980". Any Murray comics issue with this contest was published on or before this date. 

The second date of interest is on page 3 - "Prizewinners will be notified by mail in July. results will appear in Batman Comic No. 18 (Oct. Issue)". Sure enough, in Batman and Robin #18, the following appeared:

So let's examine some of the comics which were published with the Seven Seas Stamp Contest. As we shall see, this was a period of flux within the Murray office. 

For example, the Batman and Robin series and the Superman series had just begun their short-lived runs as part full-colour, part black and white oversized issues. Batman and Robin #15 was the first such instalment, and Superman #16, which also carried the Seven Seas Stamp Contest, was preceded by the oversized Superman #15. These were 64-page issues with an $0.80 cover price. Other non-superhero series, such as Teen-Age Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm and The Flintstones' Neighbours Barney and Betty Rubble were also published in this format.

Other issues such as Aquaman Album #5, Bumper Batcomic #17,  and Giant Superman Album #40 were regular-sized 96-page editions with a $0.90 cover price. Each of these issues registered a price hike of $0.10 for the occasion. I date these issues to June 1980

Haunted Tales #39 was also 96 pages for $0.90. This issue rose in price by $0.30 from 64 pages. On this basis it would also appear to date from June 1980, but there is some evidence to suggest it may have appeared earlier. TBA.

Weird Mysteries #43 experienced a change in title from Weird Mystery Tales, and rose to $0.60 with 64-pages - oddly, matching Haunted Tales #38. This issue also appears to date from June 1980.

Doomsday Album #16 also has the $0.90 cover price and 96 pages, but is interesting as it follows Doomsday Album #15, which was the only oversized edition n the series. However, unlike the Batman and Robin or Superman series above, this was an all black and white issue with no full colour section.

Savage Tales #18 was also $0.90 for 96 pages, and was the first large format issue in the series. It would maintain this format until the end of the series, including the unnumbered #19.

And speaking of unnumbered and retitled issues coinciding with this contest period, a number of 'missing' issues such as Super Action Album #18 and Adventure Comics #5 and Supergirl #37 all date from this general period mid/late 1980.

Some issues with the contest appear to date earlier than June 1980 - possibly as early as April 1980. And some issues are a bit too ambiguous data-wise to make a call at this stage. As more data comes to hand, a clearer picture will emerge in this regard.

I wasn't buying comics in 1980, so this period of Murray publications - transitioning from Planet Comics and heading towards the Federal Comics era - has always been somewhat amorphous in my mind. The variety of formats at the time means they don't even settle in the one place storage-wise - throw in digests and you see what I mean - so examining them from the perspective of a baseline has been interesting and revealing, if only to confirm that there was indeed a rather bewildering range of formats and widespread chopping and changing of titles c.June 1980.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Jungle Warfare #1: Chatto's Survival swipe

Survival was first published in MV Features' Action War Picture Library #14:

The cover was swiped by Keith Chatto for Page Publications' Jungle Warfare #1:

This suggests that Jungle Warfare #1 was the first printing of Survival by Page Publications. I don't know of any subsequent printings, but I'm sure they will turn up.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Whitewashed and recycled and made for loving: Wonderful Love Stories

Page Publications' wonderful Love Stories 34 features a Keith Chatto cover and contains the story A Stranger Called Love, which originally appeared in MV Features' Dream: A Romantic Picture Story #18. It also appeared in other Page Publications issues such as Romance and Confessions Library #86 and Best Love Stories #2

The cover was recycled for the following issue, Wonderful Love Stories #5:

Wonderful Love Stories #5 contains the story Girls Are Made for Loving. this had been reprinted by Page Publications at least three times before, in the following issues:

 Best Love Stories #3

 Confessions & Love Library #10

Romance World Library #3 is an interesting case. According to AusReprints, the title on the splash page was removed. In Confessions & Love Library #10 and Wonderful Love stories #5, the title is intact, but the page numbers and original source information is whited out. The story originally appeared in MV Features' Dream: A Romantic Picture Story #11. It was subsequently printed in another UK comic, Sabre Romantic Stories in Pictures #45

Update 24/10/2018:
A Stranger Called Love was also published in Romance and Confessions Library #78:

I referred above to the original publication of A Stranger Called Love being in Dream: A Romantic Picture Story #18. This was based on the page reference D18 on the bottom of each page. This is further supported by the note on the GCD index to Dream #16 which notes an advertisement promoting the forthcoming release of A Stranger in Love in #18. However, the GCD index to Dream #18 claims the story is Love So Blind. I note there is not cover image to this index, and that Love So Blind is the story in Dream #16. I expect to be able to confirm A Stranger Called Love did indeed originally appear in Dream #18 at some point.