Denis Gifford - The International Book Of Comics (W. H. Smiths, 1988: originally Hamlyn, 1984)
He casts his net far and wide, does Denis Gifford, so individual entries are not as detailed as we would wish, but this is nevertheless an entertaining and exceptionally informative history of the not always funnies. Horror Comics and Comic Horrors are relatively well represented, the "Friendly ghosts and Good Witches" wisely keeping their distance from the rotting corpses of the notorious EC range and later, (it says here) "violent" "adult" entries like Creepy, Eerie, Crime Illustrated, Vampirella & Co. Major disappointment is that the girls' supernatural comics are scandalously overlooked.
The Victorians. Morbid bastards after our own hearts (Comic Cuts, Dec. 1897).
More substantial is the feature on 'Comics At War.' Very popular in their day, Jester's bumbling private eyes Basil And Bert enlisted early and continued a sustained attack on 'Ateful Adolph and his "Nasty Nazi's" for the conflict's duration. Comic Cuts' 'Big Hearted Martha' joined the ARP and the Daily Mirror's resident bright young thing, Jane, gamely endured spontaneous wardrobe malfunction for Britain. It would be over a decade before the "serious" battle strips came into vogue via the pages of such macho offerings as Warlord, Valiant, Commando and Fleetways Giant War Picture Library.
Jane celebrates VE Day in trademark fashion (Daily Mirror, 8th May 1945)
Sadly football barely merits a paragraph - rugby and cricket not even that. "The field is littered with the corpses of sporting comics." writes Mr. Gifford, who cites Roy Of The Rovers, as a rare exception to the rule. I'm not so sure this is true, and . According to the author, it was a similar story in the states where baseball-themed papers likewise invariably bombed within a month or two of the launch issue.
Now I like the look of this bounder. Captain Reilly-Ffoull (1946), as drawn by Bernard Grabbon.
The book runs to 260 pages, most of which are illustrated with cover reproductions and the occasional strip from the author's extravagent private collection. Other entries of likely interest to certain Vault regulars include the double-page spreads on 'Jungle Kings & Jungle Queens', Crime, Detection, Science Fiction, and 'Pop Go The Comics!' featuring Alice Cooper, David Cassidy, and, that nice Pat Boone (sadly, book came too early for Weird Tales of The Ramones).
Translation. " ...And that's another ****ing garbage dem non-review safely filed away."
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
It's interesting to hear about Gifford's work in the world of comics, and I had not realised he was into it so heavily. I have always associated him with the cinema and one of my prize possessions when I was in my early teens was a copy of his 1973 book 'A Pictorial History of Horror Movies,' though I think mine was a later edition. Back in those days, pre-internet and pre-video, all you could do was drool over the photographs and dream that one day some of those films just might turn up on TV. I seem to remember him being a little dismissive of Hammer, and the studio's output occupied only a very small portion of the book, text-wise, if my memory is correct.