A Review of the Distribution of US Published Comics in the UK (1959~1982)
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4 hours ago, Get Marwood & I said:

A quick recap then :)

By cover date alone, Charlton have the earliest known comic with a UK distributor stamp, Archie are in hot pursuit in second and DC take the Bronze medal publisher position. The next publisher in line is the American Comics Group (ACG).

 The earliest example I have of an ACG comic with a UK price stamp is the November 1959 cover dated Adventures into the Unknown #112 – here’s my copy:

 

ACGs are often dual monthed (is that a word?) but this copy is a singular November. The distributor is again Thorpe & Porter, and the number of the stamp is ‘1’. Make’s you wonder if there is a connection there doesn’t it, the ‘1’ and the fact that it appears to be the first imported copy for the title.

According to Mike’s Comic Newsstand ACG were producing these four titles around the time:

 

I have T&P stamped examples for all of them ranging from November 1959 to January and throughout 1960, indicating that all their books found their way to Englandville. Here’s a particularly nice example of Romantic Adventures #114, cover dated October 1960:

C.thumb.jpg.6535af5d17375582e93f9cc3d1ad8d54.jpg

A nice, inconspicuous Thorpe & Porter stamp on this copy along with what may be a handwritten arrival date (8th of October possibly?):

D.thumb.jpg.18ba0b53129b2ccd703fc342f5d39cd7.jpg

I haven't got too much more to report on for ACG unless anyone can post an earlier example. But I wanted to post this final example – the dual monthed Unknown Worlds #4 cover dated Dec 59/Jan 60 – for no other reason than I think it is the most stamps I have ever seen on a comic book!

 

We have two Miller 6d stamps (and not the usual kinds), a T&P 9d stamp, a Miller 6d book exchange sticker....

 

....and, on the back cover (no, they didn’t give up) another Miller 6d stamp along with a date of 1761:

 

So Miller got in first by 200 years. How cool is that! :bigsmile:

Marvel are up next!

Hi Steve.

Just a few incoherent ramblings from me for no other reason than to prove that I still read your posts.:bigsmile:

I wonder if the above handwritten date was done in the American style? This would make the date 10th August (or 16th August) and ties in with the fact that US comics were on the newsstand several months before their cover date. It also reinforces the fact that these were then remaindered and sent overseas.

Dos the "AM Co" stamp possibly refer to Arnold Miller (The father of Len)?

As to the Miller 9d UKPV being overstamped with a Miller 6d rubber stamp I wonder if it were because the comics were received after the cover date and so the price was reduced because they were now "old"?

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39 minutes ago, Redshade said:

Hi Steve.

Just a few incoherent ramblings from me for no other reason than to prove that I still read your posts.:bigsmile:

Incoherent ramblings in response to my incoherent ramblings are always welcome Stephen, you know that :)

39 minutes ago, Redshade said:

I wonder if the above handwritten date was done in the American style? This would make the date 10th August (or 16th August) and ties in with the fact that US comics were on the newsstand several months before their cover date. It also reinforces the fact that these were then remaindered and sent overseas.

Could be. August would be about right in the US for an October cover dated book. But so could October in the UK for an October dated book - printed in July, 3 months shipping, lands in the UK in October. 

Or it could be 816 - some blokes 816th comic.

We may never know.  

39 minutes ago, Redshade said:

Dos the "AM Co" stamp possibly refer to Arnold Miller (The father of Len)?

Almost certainly, yes

39 minutes ago, Redshade said:

As to the Miller 9d UKPV being overstamped with a Miller 6d rubber stamp I wonder if it were because the comics were received after the cover date and so the price was reduced because they were now "old"?

I don't think so Stephen, no. The books were specifically solicited by Miller with a 9d cover price for the UK and were not old on arrival in the UK - assuming 3 months shipping from production, they'd arrive and go on sale in the actual cover month (probably why the cover months were later dropped from the UKPVs). My guess is that Miller, who was competing with T&P at that point, decided to try to undercut them by selling their comics cheaper. Miller went on to have their Charlton UKPVs priced at 6d initially though, so maybe the US printers just got it wrong and were supposed to price the early Miller Marvels at 6d too (getting confused perhaps by having to print 9d copies for T&P). Interesting isn't it.

 

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In an old copy of "Paperbacks Pulp and Comicbook Collector" magazine  back in the 1990s there was an article entitled "The sign of the Tee Pee" by Steve Chibnall. This may be the same Steve Chibnall who is currently a professor at Leicester De Montfort University (who states one of his interests as "Sociology of collecting". The article is all about the Leicester based company created by a Fred Thorpe and a Mr Collis of Porters Building merchants (!?!) responsible for those ink stamps on those musty old comics you love.

Most of the article concerns paperbacks.pulps, magazines. "gentlemen's magazines" like Razzle etc. One interesting passage says;

"The breakthrough came when the ban was lifted on imports. Comics publishers in the US expected 40% returns which would normally have been pulped; but export offered an alternative to "burndown". We were able to buy copies at less than the original wholesale price." Thorpe and Porter were soon distributing a million comics a month.

How were the comics stamped? By machine, moving the stamp around to find a clear area on the cover of different titles? Or was it done manually?? I often think so when you see some of the smudged stamps. Does the number above the price relate to the individual operative doing the stamping?

PS: My deleted post the other day probably didn't fit into this thread anyway. It was about my purchasing DC comics (and my not purchasing Dell or Charlton comics) dated 1957,1958 and 1959 in Woolworths in 1964. 

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32 minutes ago, themagicrobot said:

In an old copy of "Paperbacks Pulp and Comicbook Collector" magazine  back in the 1990s there was an article entitled "The sign of the Tee Pee" by Steve Chibnall. This may be the same Steve Chibnall who is currently a professor at Leicester De Montfort University (who states one of his interests as "Sociology of collecting". The article is all about the Leicester based company created by a Fred Thorpe and a Mr Collis of Porters Building merchants (!?!) responsible for those ink stamps on those musty old comics you love.

Most of the article concerns paperbacks.pulps, magazines. "gentlemen's magazines" like Razzle etc. One interesting passage says;

"The breakthrough came when the ban was lifted on imports. Comics publishers in the US expected 40% returns which would normally have been pulped; but export offered an alternative to "burndown". We were able to buy copies at less than the original wholesale price." Thorpe and Porter were soon distributing a million comics a month.

That seems logical, that the DCs shipped to the UK were the returned copies that were unsold in the US. 

32 minutes ago, themagicrobot said:

How were the comics stamped? By machine, moving the stamp around to find a clear area on the cover of different titles? Or was it done manually?? I often think so when you see some of the smudged stamps. Does the number above the price relate to the individual operative doing the stamping?

The erratic placement suggests by hand doesn't it - they're not always in the same place on the same cover. Interesting theory on the operative numbering - if true, operative number 5 was rubbish. They're very scarce compared to the other numbers. 

32 minutes ago, themagicrobot said:

PS: My deleted post the other day probably didn't fit into this thread anyway. It was about my purchasing DC comics (and my not purchasing Dell or Charlton comics) dated 1957,1958 and 1959 in Woolworths in 1964. 

Predating the import ban? Call the Police!

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Those "statement of ownership" things printed annually in the comics once upon a time make interesting reading. Every Charlton one I saw showed at least 50% unsold and returned. The same title the following year would show similar figures. You'd think they would have adjusted the print run to reflect how many they could actually sell wouldn't you? I'm sure those returned issues would end up here. Hence there were as many Charltons distributed here as in the States?

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16 minutes ago, Mr Thorpe said:

Here's a couple more early T&P Charltons I've found that aren't on your list, Steve -Space Adventures #28  April 1959 and Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #13 June 1959

Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #13 June 1959.jpg

That's our first June 1959 Charlton Mr Thorpe, thank you  :headbang:

I'm going to have to come up with a new format for this table now which is filling up fast:

Capture.thumb.PNG.87bc9b6fa9f5102ec7b161f81cb5c492.PNG

 

Our two current 'outliers', not listed for now:

  • Fightin' Air Force #12 (Charlton) - October 1958
  • Spooky #30 (Harvey) - April 1959

 

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20 hours ago, Mr Thorpe said:

This one's another 'outlier'. Its implied cover date is October 1958 if you look at Mike's Amazing World. Probably one too many outliers for the Charltons. It may be worth extending the table back to October 1958.

Attack #54 Oct 1958.jpg

Mike's ref -Attack #54 Oct 1958.jpg

I have that issue but its not a Pence stamp, it also doesnt have the usual publishing blurb, is your copy the same on the inside Mr Thorpe ?

1620.thumb.jpg.15dfef2a06f426d24da85e2fdcd607dc.jpg

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Hi Kevin,

      Exactly the same as yours inside. What I have got in mine is a mystery date stamp for 27 Aug 1969. Was this sitting in a warehouse until 1969? It might just be a kid with a date stamp.

      Also noticeable is the state of both our copies' staples. They are as good as new. Is this a comment on our good stewardship of our copies, or is it Charlton using good quality staples but cr@p paper? I'll have to check the state of my other staples now as I'm going through the rest of my Charlton collection!

 

                         Mr T

img486.jpg

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That's interesting @Mr Thorpe, the Attack there with the one and three stamp.

Here's a second copy of @Kevin.J's FAF #12, also with a 'one and three' stamp:

1226949536_1958Attack54TPStamp.thumb.jpg.6e8002dc237834d4c80c48378eb98b6f.jpg  466465632_1958.10FightinAirForce12TPStampExampleB.thumb.jpg.f16261c7c158544bd0793c1303d7879e.jpg

One and three would be right for these oversize 25c books of course - which makes Kevin's original FAF #12 a bit of an anomaly, stamped as it is at 9d:

466465632_1958.10FightinAirForce12TPStampExampleB.thumb.jpg.f16261c7c158544bd0793c1303d7879e.jpg887045724_1958.10FightinAirForce12TPStamp.jpg.02075da3e40c5f94392d7291cbb50585.jpg

The date stamp in the Attack adds to the unease, and leaves me thinking we should note these books as outliers still, until a more consistent pattern emerges. The Feb 1959 Charlton is part of a clear pattern, with books for each successive month in evidence in multiples. One Attack with a suspicious internal date stamp and two FAFs with differently priced stamps aren't enough to convince me - yet. They can clearly hold the title for 'earliest T&P stamped cover date' on paper, but I'm not yet convinced that they were shipped and stamped in line with those cover dates - much more likely that they were done later.

What do you boys think?

Meanwhile, here's a cool 'Out of This World' #8, indicia dated May 1958, with a cool one shilling sticker from 'S.B.S.': 

1513775679_1958.05OutofThisWorld8SBSShillingSticker.thumb.jpg.571a06ff7ce6f8d6a4b30ef6af855737.jpg

It's always Charlton isn't it, giving us more :grin:

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I mentioned in a previous post how difficult it was to add any meaningful entries to the table for I.W. Publishing / Super comics.

I used to own quite a few of these with 6d LM stamps on which I picked up during my early research into Miller Charltons. Here are two examples - Blazing Sixguns #8 and Love and Marriage #2:

858540144_BlazingSixguns8LMStamp.thumb.jpg.5f90ccb53dde588d5341018dc24042e1.jpg 1789156621_LoveandMarriage2LMStamp.thumb.jpg.cb99e6d2362be83bb3e9420c9f7192b4.jpg

Both have standard (for the time) L Miller 6d cover stamps...

485819728_BlazingSixguns8LMStampCrop.jpg.0226e4354ade47322012e7f0f20fed74.jpg509478952_LoveandMarriage2LMStampCrop.jpg.52ddac1425d623b079d49218abd4bd99.jpg

...and neither, annoyingly, have cover dates or indicia dates:

1695374335_LoveandMarriage2LMStampIndicia.thumb.jpg.cd4026dfcae1bdc5642dab03a2de9e2f.jpg

Mike's Comic Newsstand does not have any books by I.W. on their site, probably for the same reason I am experiencing here - you can't date the damn things!

The GCD has a go though...

1348605122_BSGGCD.thumb.PNG.78e9b0c310ac077a0bb64f64d3abf455.PNG

876735391_LMGCD.thumb.PNG.1b971c12c2cafe929ed1c3d6bef2391e.PNG

...but places both books as 1958 copies.

One of the most knowledgeable people I know about I.W. Publishing is Jon McClure who has studied them in some depth. I asked his opinion on dates a while back and he advised as follows:

"All #1-6 IWs were published in 1958, #7-9 were published in 1959, 10-11 in 1963 and #14-18 in 1964. This is true of all IW comics, although a couple of indicias accidentally read 1963 during the 1964 period"

If true, this would place our Love & Marriage #2 as 1958 and our Blazing Sixguns at 1959. However, the Miller cover stamp in evidence does not appear on the Marvel UKPVs until May 1960 and the Charltons until the back end of 1960 - example below, of the November 1960 Brides in Love #21:

1692047224_1960.11BridesinLove21LMStamp.thumb.jpg.bb874521597ce584a56f0ea76e12cb16.jpg

I think it is therefore likely that the I.W.'s came over in bulk, around 1960, and were stamped up and sold in that year. Otherwise, as 1958/1959 books, the stamp would presumably be an Arnold type, not a Len type, and more like our 1958 Harvey Spooky - wouldn't it?

594241992_1959.04Spooky30LMStampcrop.jpg.2d6983b07bde0544bbdec75b98dc3ecb.jpg

For the time being, I.W. / Super will have to sit it out. Even with pretty stamped copies like these doing the rounds: 

308743498_FrontierRomances1LMStamp.thumb.jpg.caf4f086b7182f350b82d8b20f29b934.jpg 200165556_TopDetective.thumb.jpg.db516d068de8ce9c522bc8e3370ec773.jpg

:cloud9:

 

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The problem with IW/Super is most of the things they put out were illegal reprints, I think they were purposely vague, the printing quality was poor and the numbering was all over the place.

Another problem is those selling 2nd hand knowingly or otherwise sold them at prices that matched what the original would be and it could be easy to get sucked in thinking you were getting something you were not.

I avoided them back in the day at anything more than very cheap, preferring to wait and try to get the original material, that is not to say I dont have a box of them somewhere that I absorbed :) 

TBH, even with dates months etc on these I still wouldnt trust it to be true 2c

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4 minutes ago, Kevin.J said:

The problem with IW/Super is most of the things they put out were illegal reprints, I think they were purposely vague, the printing quality was poor and the numbering was all over the place.

Another problem is those selling 2nd hand knowingly or otherwise sold them at prices that matched what the original would be and it could be easy to get sucked in thinking you were getting something you were not.

I avoided them back in the day at anything more than very cheap, preferring to wait and try to get the original material, that is not to say I dont have a box of them somewhere that I absorbed :) 

TBH, even with dates months etc on these I still wouldnt trust it to be true 2c

Yeah, shady past they have, as Yoda might say.

In the absence of being able to prove anything for them, I think I'll stick with the general 'circumstantial' evidence of the Miller stamps and place them landing in the UK sometime in 1960. 

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Kevin,

      I'm sure I've read somewhere that the IW's/Super's weren't illegal and it's just been an urban myth. I'll see if I can find the reference for you.

 

Meanwhile here's a couple more entries into the 'pre-distribution' stakes.

Freddy #17 June 1959

and, a huge drum roll please ....

Giant Comics #3 dated 'Winter 1957'! According to Mike's an on sale date of Nov 1st 1957.

That shilling stamp looks remarkably similar to the Len Miller stamps of the mid/late 1960's. So was this in a warehouse for years and released to the great unwashed 10 years or so later?

 

Freddy #17  June 1959.jpg

Giant Comics -Christmas Book #3  Winter 1957 on sale date Nov 1957!.jpg

Outlaws of the West #72 Nov 1968.jpg

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On 6/28/2020 at 6:31 PM, Get Marwood & I said:

A brief interlude, before we dive into ACG and then Marvel.

You'll hopefully note that I purposely titled the thread 'A Review of the First Official Distribution...' and noted in the early posts that I have concentrated on what can be proven to have been distributed by way of an 'official' distributor cover stamp being present. And, for now, Charlton will hold the crown for earliest known cover dated US comic with such a stamp - our 'War at Sea' #29 dated February 1959 - until someone comes along and beats it. But it is common enough knowledge that US comics found their way to the UK unofficially prior to the above date. The difficulty with any research into that is the inability to prove anything retrospectively without any physical evidence that is, say, comparable to the cover stamps that Thorpe & Porter and L Miller began using from 1959/1960.

The above said, there are scenarios here and there that can lead to some reasonable conclusions. One thing I am used to as I scroll the internet looking for price variants and such is the 'same book' phenomenon, i.e. the scenario where the same issue turns up all the flipping time, often in total isolation of its surrounding issues. One such book is 'Li'l Genius' #17, cover dated April 1958. Every time I search that title looking for new pence copies I see multiples of that book. There are no UK Price Variant printed pence copies of course and, over time, its appearance in every search starts to grate, so many of them there seem to be over here.

At any given time, you could expect around ten results from the eBay.co.uk search "Li'l Genius" and, typically, over half of them will be for issue #17. Here are three copies from three different sellers all taken from eBay UK:

1006351446_LiLGenius38Sticker.thumb.jpg.715a3d4ff5bfeae0260c38afec22c663.jpg22693354_LiLGenius38Sticker2.thumb.jpg.d1b9fdb5e09aefb98d13e372ab88e24c.jpg614750410_LiLGenius38Sticker3.thumb.jpg.8c29f237ed5e0ce1bb7b3f7b82cfdbea.jpg

Look closer, and you'll see the copies above all have this same small one shilling sticker on them:

1694256545_LiLGenius38Sticker.jpg.dd7a4864f5617f4b2c543a75172e05b7.jpg 487549397_LiLGenius38Sticker2.jpg.a197acd1732d5d2c1df5488dffaee6d8.jpg 1951926455_LiLGenius38Sticker3.jpg.f4b90aef3f9077a25d629a97d83ca908.jpg

Could this be taken as evidence that this book was imported to the UK around the date of its cover? Later copies with T&P stamps would tend to be one shilling and sixpence (1/6) for an issue that size - could the lower price be indicative of an earlier import date? Or perhaps a load of excess copies came over much later and one UK dealer decided to sell them? It wouldn't be the first time that one regional sellers' books turned up all over.

But there is no way of knowing now is there. So all we can do is speculate and guess. 

Meanwhile, back to the 'provable' first arrivals. Some cool stuff from ACG to follow...

Thanks Steve. Amazing research from someone I see as a champion of the UK Variant. I'm waiving my Union Jack reading your editorials.

My collection is 100% 1960's, UK price variant, as you know, with 30% price stamped. The history of US comic importation into the UK is revealing new facts and figures, thanks to you.

This, I hope, will make comic collectors in the US and UK think again about the validity and historic relevance of such comics. I feel passionately about UK issues. I grew up with them and UK pence price, or price stamp on the comic should be seen as an attribute giving it provenance and rarity value, and not something that degrades it. Its historic and unique and should be celebrated as such.

Keep it going please.

Colin

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2 hours ago, Mr Thorpe said:

Giant Comics #3 dated 'Winter 1957'! According to Mike's an on sale date of Nov 1st 1957.

That shilling stamp looks remarkably similar to the Len Miller stamps of the mid/late 1960's. So was this in a warehouse for years and released to the great unwashed 10 years or so later?

Giant Comics -Christmas Book #3  Winter 1957 on sale date Nov 1957!.jpg

Doubletake GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

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2 hours ago, Mr Thorpe said:

Kevin,

      I'm sure I've read somewhere that the IW's/Super's weren't illegal and it's just been an urban myth. I'll see if I can find the reference for you.

 

 

 

 

I dont think IW was maliciously bad, I think of him more of a chancer, say like Del-boy

http://www.jonmcclurescomics.com/iw.html

http://www.toonopedia.com/iw-super.htm

 

Edited by Kevin.J
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