GREAT BRITISH COMICS
A Review By: Norman Wright & David Ashford
Norman Wright & David Ashford are noted British comics experts and contributors to the Book & Magazine Collector magazine.
A new book devoted to British comics is always something to celebrate and Paul Gravett’s & Peter Stanbury’s sumptuously illustrated book, Great British Comics, is a feast for the eye that will quickly have anyone who ever handed over their hard earned pocket money in exchange for a copy of Beano, Knockout, 2000AD or any one of a thousand such titles, wallowing in a warm nostalgic glow.
The eight chunky chapters cover most areas of comic history and genres from the Victorian era of Ally Sloper, through film and TV based titles such as Film Fun and Radio Fun and, of course, the myriad selection of funnies titles and characters. The various girl-orientated titles have a section to themselves, as do the adventure weeklies and monthlies of the Amalgamated Press and D.C. Thomson, and also the many newspaper related strips also get a mention. To our taste, there is perhaps a little more emphasis on the latter day more ‘adult’ style comics than on the earlier titles we prefer but, if this encourages younger readers to take an interest in the rich heritage of the British comic, then that is no bad thing.
The greatest joy of this book is, without doubt, the comprehensive selection of superbly printed illustrations found therein. As well as colourful images from the pages of the comics, the authors have also unearthed some wonderfully evocative photographs of comic shops, Victorian comic vendors and similar images that not only help to put the humble comic into its historical and sociological perspective but also offer an interesting insight into a bygone age. One evocative photograph, occupying a double page spread, depicts dozens of boys and girls on the sands at Worthing, in 1955, all waving their copies of Eagle, Girl or Swift. The period is perfectly captured in their demeanour, dress and haircuts.
In an age when editors demand world wide sales for a book it is not easy for a writer to persuade a publisher to take a book - particularly one with so much colour and so many illustrations as this one - on such a very British subject (we know: we have tried!!) and Paul and Peter are to be congratulated on persuading Aurum to publish this exciting picture-packed volume.