Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Johnny Galaxy and the Space Patrol

I think the first time I came across Johnny Galaxy in a K.G. Murray comic was in an issue of Climax Adventure Comic. It wasn’t until much later that I was amazed to find there was a series of four issues preceding the Climax instalments (I think Mark Cannon first mentioned this to me). I don’t know much about the publishing history of Johnny Galaxy, but here’s a few tidbits I’ve come across.

Johnny Galaxy and the Space Patrol was published in the UK as Space Ace by Atlas. I understand it also appeared as a back-up feature in various Marvelman-related titles published by L.Miller &Sons Limited

Many instalments are signed/credited to Jose Bea, a Spanish artist. According to various internet sites Bea co-created Johnny Galaxy (“Johnny Galaxia”) and worked for the Spanish agency Selecciones Ilustradas (SI). As we know this agency provided comics to English-speaking markets such as Australia.

I believe some of the chapters are illustrated by Fernando Fernandez (they appear to be signed “Fernando”). Ramon Escolano Metaute is another artist who also worked on Johnny Galaxy.

It’s curious that as early as 1968 K.G. Murray was publishing material which appears to have been sourced direct from SI, which we associate with the Gredown horror magazines of the 1970’s. I assume they dealt directly with SI because the series is not called Space Ace as it may have been had it been sourced via a UK publisher. It begs the question: Why would SI distribute the series under two different English names?

As Kevin Patrick says: “KG Murray, which used to rely almost solely on DC Comics material for its editorial content, began using European/Spanish material in its non-superhero titles, such as Super Giant, and their various Western comics including Bumper Western Comic and Fastest Gun Western…. While SI was by no means the only Spanish agency syndicating comic strips worldwide throughout the 1970s, they were arguably the largest - and could well have been responsible for the lion's share of translated Spanish/European comic strips appearing in Australian comic magazines during that decade, including those published by KG Murray and Gredown…”

Given Johnny Galaxy predates K.G. Murray titles such as Super Giant and the horror titles such as Creepy, it may be that Johnny Galaxy was K.G. Murray’s proverbial toe-in-the-water in dealing with SI. As far as I know neither Johnny Galaxy nor Space Ace nor Johnny Galaxia were published in the US, so presumably there was no conflict in dealing with a European agency at the same time as the agency which provided the DC material to K.G. Murray.

But again, this is all speculation. It’s just bits and pieces of information loosely held together by guesswork and deduction.

What I can confirm is that instalments of Johnny Galaxy appeared in Climax Adventure Comic #’s 7,8,9,10 and 13. (Something tells me that Johnny Galaxy may have also appeared in early issues of Super Giant, but file this under TBC for the moment).

In fact the cover for Climax #10 is a reprint of the first panel of the Johnny Galaxy story reprinted in that issue. It works quite fine, but it certainly doesn’t match the painted SF Pulp images on the covers of the self-titled issues. In my opinion if nothing else these covers warrant seeking out the issues - they are the main attraction for me, and I now have copies of all four issues, which is quite a feat really as they are not very common, especially in reasonable condition.

Which also says two things to me – 1. They were not big sellers, and 2. Those who bought them read them over and over.
Postscript August 2009: See James' article on Johnny Galaxy.


mcannon said...

Ah, Johnny Galaxy! Great to see you covering this unusual KGM, Spiros! As we’ve discussed privately, “The Mystery of Johnny Galaxy” was something that intrigued – and occasionally slightly obsessed - me for quite a while.

In a nutshell - as a kid in the late 60s, circa 1968, I obtained an issue of "Johnny Galaxy", an 80 pager issued by KG Murray / Colour Comics. I believe I may have gotten it in a show bag at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show. The title character was an interstellar adventurer / do-gooder, a sort of Flash Gordon type, zipping around the Universe with his alien sidekick (and a good thing, too; with a name like "Johnny Galaxy" he'd have felt pretty silly as an insurance salesman or accountant), and starred in 5 or 6 page stories. Even then I could tell this wasn't the DC material that made up the bulk of KG Murray’s product. It didn't even look particularly American, though as an adult I always remembered the art as looking vaguely Al Williamson-ish.

That particular comic vanished, as they so often do when you’re a child, but I always remembered, and was slightly perplexed, by “Johnny Galaxy”; where had it originated, and how did KGM come to reprint it? As an adult I was unable to find _any_ info on Johnny Galaxy, even on the internet and from overseas correspondents. At that stage I had no actual JG stories, and I sometimes wondered if I'd dreamed the whole thing!

In 1999 I got my first real clue - in, of all places, an issue of "Comic Book Artist" that focused on the Warren horror magazines! It contained a lengthy article on the many Spanish artists who had worked for Warren, and also covered their other work, much of it for British publishers. There were a couple of panels from a story by an artist "Bea" (Josep M Bea). The character was called "Space Ace" in the British publication from which the panels were taken. I'd previously heard of "Space Ace", and thought it might be JG under another name, but dismissed the idea after an English correspondent sent me some scans and the art didn't look anything like I remembered. But I looked at _these_ panels, by "Bea", and thought -" that's Johnny Galaxy!" I was sure of it.

Not long afterwards, David Studham, who had heard my “Mystery of Johnny Galaxy” story, found a 1970s "Climax Adventure Comic" with a "Johnny Galaxy" story in it and forwarded it to me. Here at least was proof that I hadn't imagined the whole thing! I compared the art, and was sure that "Space Ace" was indeed also JG. Not long afterwards, Mark Muller obtained an actual 1960s issue off "Johnny Galaxy" and loaned it to me. As well as enjoying the stories, it gave me the final proof I need that “Johnny Galaxy” and “Space Ace” were the same feature – the issue included the very story that was sampled as "Space Ace" in the aforementioned “Comic Book Artist” article.

So now I knew that (1) "Johnny Galaxy" existed. (2) The feature had been published in English, in the UK, as "Space Ace" (3). It had been worked on by artist Bea. At last, after 30-odd years, “The Mystery of Johnny Galaxy” was solved.

I’ve since obtained most of the short Aussie run of “Johnny Galaxy” and a couple of KGMs with single JG stories, and I recently obtained an issue of the early ‘60s British “Space Ace” comic.

However I still don’t know how there came to be _two_ English language versions of the feature, whether the two versions were completely separate translations of the Spanish originals, or a single translation with a slight name change for different publications, and, most importantly of all, just how the stories came to be published here in Australia by K G Murray!

So perhaps it should still be considered "The Semi-solved Mystery of Johnny Galaxy" – though your comments and speculations, such as noting the Selecciones Ilustradas connection, certainly provide further clues. We’ll get to the bottom of this eventually!

Anonymous said...

On some of these books -- especially the ones that originated in other countries besides the US -- you may wish to produce some sample scanss of interiors.

Hope all is doing very well, Siros. This in my view also applies to the Carlos Giminez Delta 99 works.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm from latin America, and I was researching about this comic book artist named Sealtiel Alatriste B. because I bought a book of his in which he gives tutorials to draw. I saw a few pages with Johnny galaxy and decided to look up in the internet. In the spanish sites they say that he did create Johnny Galaxy but now that I read what you guys say I am a bit confused. The book says he created Johnny Galaxy as well. This is a Mexican book so I guess he did but I am not sure, coudl you get back at me? my address is originalgirl182@gmail.com