Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Advertising the launch of Newton Comics in the Sunday Observer

In June 1975 Maxwell Newton's tabloid rag the Sunday Observer heralded the new line of Australian Marvel Comics published by Newton Comics. For the duration of the month a number of advertisements related to Newton Comics titles would be prominently featured, however the first hint of this was in an advertorial in the 25 May 1975 edition:

It advertises the Sunday Observer Planet of the Apes Special supplement, referred to as a "bonus color (sic) magazine" which appeared the following week on 1 June 1975 and was referenced on the front page:

Here's a close-up:

At this stage there was no direct reference to the comic books. The advertising was leveraging the popularity of the Planet of the Apes tv series. However, the imagery in the advertisements was related to the forthcoming comics, and the supplement itself advertised the launch of the comic book series. The second supplement is also advertised as forthcoming.

Planet of the Apes #1 was published the following week on 7 June 1975, and the next day the Sunday Observer published this full colour advertisement:

It is clear from the text in this advertisement and the pre-launch notice that the intention and hope was for the comic book series to piggyback onto the success of the franchise in other media.

The franchise was also present in the newspaper in advertisements for the Planet of the Apes Survival Kit. A familiar ad to Newton Comics readers, this advertisement appeared the following week in the 8 June 1975 edition:

Apart from being Payable to Newton Comics, there is no other mention of the comics book series. The kit was advertised in at least the next three editions of the newspaper in a smaller advertisement:

Given the widespread advertising for the kit - and by wider I mean advertised beyond the comic books themselves to, you know, civilians - it's a surprise these kits haven't turned up in the interim in collector's circles. One would expect to see writing pads or note pads or stickers show up as individual pieces if not as a kit per se.

Given the profile of the Planet of the Apes franchise, and the comics in particular in the Sunday Observer, perhaps it's understandable that many consider Planet of the Apes to have been the flagship title in the Newton stable. However, strictly speaking, the first comic book title launched by Newton Comics was The Amazing Spider-Man. The Amazing Spider-Man #1 was published one week earlier than Planet of the Apes #1, and was afforded a considerable share of publicity muscle via the Sunday Observer. For example, the following advertisement appeared in the 1 June 1975 edition:

The Comics Are Back! headline presumably refers to the comics supplement which appeared in the newspaper before the comics were launched. These strips included Marvel properties such as The Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange, Conan the Barbarian and Spider-Man. Here's a few sample pages from the 16 March 1975 supplement:

Indeed, the Spiderman (sic) series was advertised in the comics supplement as forthcoming "the following weekend" in the 25 May 1975 edition:

It would appear that as far as Newton was concerned there was a degree of brand recognition, if not direct synergy between the comics supplement and the comic books themselves. Other titles would also be afforded full page advertisements in subsequent editions of the newspaper.

The Amazing Spider-Man series was advertised with the cover to the first issue again on 22 June 1975:

This advertisement was modified a week later to advertise The Amazing Spider-Man #2:

They may have misspelt him as Spiderman but the series was certainly given column inches in the newspaper.

So, we learn a few things from the Sunday Observer about the launch of Newton Comics and, key for me, given my interest in publication dates, is that The Amazing Spider-Man #1 was published 31 May 1975, and that it was published a week before Planet of the Apes #1

Other titles were also advertised in June 1975, which I will cover in future blogs.

Update 5/2.2019: Thanks to Robert Thomas, I present a scanned image of a sticker from the Planet of the Apes Survival Kit:


Robert Thomas said...

How utterly wonderful to see these Sunday Observer snippets! I had made a weekend visit from Sydney to the National Library in Canberra in 2003 and perused through editions of The Sunday Observer but was unable with limited digital technology at the time to get good camera or scan copies. Just thrilled to see them here for fan posterity - well done!

Robert Thomas said...

Fantastic detective work and research of the topic and the actual pinning down of the very weekend date 31st May 1976 as the release date for Amazing Spider-Man #1! This is something I had never confirmed in my own research on the topic. Good work!

spiros xenos said...

Thanks or the comments Robert. So we both made a pilgrimage to the National Library - a Newton rite of passage! I started by seeking out the Sunday Observer holdings in the State Library of Victoria, which is where the 1975 pics come from. Unfortunately they have lost(!) their copies of the 1976 Sunday Observer, so I took a trip last weekend to the National Library with my friend Mark Cannon to access that batch and we had a great time poring over the newspapers and checking out the John Ryan collection.

Mark Cannon said...

And a lot of fun it was, too!