2 November 2022

Vintage Spinner Rack by James Zee

Vintage Spinner Rack

An image sourced from the National Archives of Australia shows a woman in an unidentified Melbourne newsagent. Next to her is a rack with comics on sale.

Based on the available issues, this was probably April 1978.

Here's what's been identified on the racks.

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29 October 2022

Hopalong Cassidy (remixed) by James

Hopalong Cassidy (remixed)

Through the 1950s, Hopalong Cassidy was all the rage in Australia. Perhaps even more than in the US. And for longer.

From 1948, Larry Cleland and then KG Murray reprinted the Fawcett and DC comic series. When DC stopped producing new Hopalong stories in 1959, Murray's dedicated title also ceased, but Hopalong Cassidy stories continued to appear in other KGM titles.

During this period, many DC western characters found themselves magically transformed into Hopalong Cassidy during their travels from the US to Australia. Read more

12 September 2022

Moira Bertram in Armidale by James Zee

Moira Bertram in Armidale

Moira Bertram (1913-1993) was one of the few Australian women working in comics during the peak period of the 1940s and 1950s, writing and drawing with a unique style and creative flair. She worked consistently in partnership with her older sister Kathleen Bertram (1909-1977), who provided the stories' distinctive lettering.

It's not clear when the sisters moved from Sydney to rural NSW. In 1928, Moira was in Tamworth sending art to the Sydney Sun's Sunbeams supplement, but it wasn't published. 'Pehaps your drawings were not quite up to the standard,' Sunbeams said.

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11 July 2019

'Irreverent Comments' Revisited by James Zee

'Irreverent Comments' Revisited
In January 1941, E.J. Francis satirised Australia's ban on US publications in The Home magazine. The comments provide an interesting insight into some American comics and pulp publications that were probably available in Australian newsagents at the time. Read more

15 March 2018

Topix announced by James Zee

Topix announced

A brand-new wholesome comic book hit the stands in early 1954, according to Sydney's Catholic Weekly on 11 February 1954 and Melbourne's Catholic Advocate on 25 February 1954. This is a product of its time, battling against the threat of comic books during the moral panic and censorship of the 1950s.

Topix was, the papers insist, a decent answer to the other rubbish on the bookshelves, with artwork of the highest quality and absorbing interest. "It's purpose is fivefold":

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1 October 2017

Who is Terry Powis? by James Zee

Who is Terry Powis?

Terry Powis is credited with nearly half of the comics published by the NSW Bookstall Company when it established its ground-breaking line of Australian comics. Yet there is virtually no information about him.

John Ryan in Panel by Panel acknowledges Powis and Will Donald as 'real pioneers of Australian comic books', before largely dismissing Powis' work:

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16 September 2017

NSW Bookstall by James Zee

NSW Bookstall

For a few years from 1940, the long-running NSW Bookstall Company engaged local artists to establish the first distinctive line of Australian comics, including some creators who would continue to produce comics and cartoons for many decades—especially Noel Cook and Brodie Mack.

It was probably in 1879 that Henry Lloyd (1847-1897) gained the rights to run bookstalls at train and ferry stations in NSW, established the N.S.W. Railway Bookstall Company, and modernised an operation previously focused on ticket sales.

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3 September 2017

1949 political propaganda by James Zee

1949 political propaganda

Thanks to a generous contributor, AusReprints has a full scan of The Road Back—political propaganda in comic form. The comic is undated, but released ahead of the 10 December 1949 Australian federal election when Labor lost power to a new Liberal Menzies government. It's clearly original work, but it isn't in the common lists of Australian comics and there are no credits in the issue.

John Ryan in Panel by Panel (p. 141) provides some information, but the way he describes the comics' origins is probably misleading. He reports:

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17 June 2017

Listing NSW publishers by James Zee

Listing NSW publishers

Censorship laws created a list of comic publishers in NSW between 1955 (when the Government substantially amended the Obscene and Indecent Publications Act) and the start of the 1970s (when the law was again reshaped).

The early 1950s saw restrictions on popular literature, driven by a mix of moral panic, international trends, cultural protectionism and vested corporate interests. At the opening of NSW Parliament in August 1954, the Governor told the legislators that “present legislation relating to the control of obscene and indecent publications is considered…inadequate and a measure to enable publications of this nature to be dealt with more effectively will be submitted to you.”

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7 May 2016

Thorpe & Porter by James Zee

Thorpe & Porter

To paint a broad picture of Australian comics history, AusReprints includes many comics published in the UK for Australians. One company in particular printed some separate editions with Australian pricing and advertising on the covers: the publishers of Classics Illustrated (distributed by Ayers & James) in 1950s and 1960s, and Tarzan and Korak comics in the 1970s.

The company is generally known as Thorpe & Porter or Top Sellers (common names on the comics), but it includes a cluster of publishers that ultimately became part of Time-Warner, the modern owner of DC Comics.

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