As comic fans, it’s often easy to forget that publishing them is very much a business as far as companies such as DC Thomson, Rebellion and Titan Comics are concerned, and syndicating or re-using comics published is a major part of their operation. Even smaller companies such as Improper Books have achieved success in this arena, with their stunning Porcelain saga.
But a few decades ago, Fleetway Publications had maximising syndication and re-use of their massive library of comics down to a fine art, down to the hard work of men such as the late Gil Page and many others, with British comics re-published the world over.
This article was prompted by downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf’s discovery of a what was clearly a British air war comic published in Rapaces during a visit to France, a title published by Imperia from March 1961 to June 1986, running for 425 issues . (There’s a catalogue of the title here, in French).
Rapaces Number 45,published in 1963, features this dramatic cover and story…
“What stood out for me was that the art was that the art was clearly by Joe ‘Charley’s War’ Colquhoun,” Richard notes over on his Boys Adventure Comic blog. But which of the many war comics published by various British publishers was it a reprint of?
“An advert in the back for a reprint volume dated 1963 gave me my first clue for helping identify where the story came from originally,” Richard reveals.
Aided by fellow Commando fan and downthetubes contributor Colin Noble, the pair narrowed it down to, basically, one possible Picture Library – the quest in this case al, the easier because Joe didn’t do much work for the picture libraries in the early 1960s.
The only fly in the ointment that slowed them down was that the French title, Point d’appui, means ‘fulcrum’ rather than Flashpoint, which was the original title of Air Ace Picture Library #35.
It was Colin who helped identify that the Flashpoint story had been reprinted a few times over the years, and serves as a perfect model for the success of British war comics – and an illustration of how British comics material has often been re-published. (Sadly, of course, with little or no recompense for the material’s original creators).
Here’s the original Air Ace Picture Library #35.
Which was then reprinted as Battle Picture Library #814…
— and then reprinted again as War Picture Library #1639…
Colin’s information was coming via the Fleetway Picture Library Index Volume 1 (The War Libraries) by Steve Holland and David Roach.
This excellent volume also credits War Picture Library #1342 as being a reprint of Air Ace #35
However, that cover makes it look more like a naval story than the desert based story that Joe had illustrated. Instead, War Picture Library #1342, as we discovered, is a reprint of Battle Picture Library #611…
… Which is a reprint of War Picture Library #95, with art by Gino D’Antonio, script by RP Clegg and cover by Nino Caroselli. (Image below taken from the War Libraries index).
So, in a nutshell, the War Libraries index entry on page 164, where War Picture Library #1342 is credited as being a reprint of Air Ace #35 [a story entitled “Flash Point”] is actually a reprint of War Picture Library #95 [a story also entitled “Flash Point”]. It’s a minor error in a great resource, and it’s pretty obvious how the mistake has arisen.
Interestingly, the cover for Rapaces #45 is actually from War Picture Library #868…
which reprints Air Ace #62…
— which features Interior art by Solano Lopez and a cover by Nino Caroselli.
And all that from just one comic!
Oh, and if you’re a fan of war comics, then during this research we discovered the Illustration Art Gallery has the original art for the cover of Battle Picture Library #611 here.
This is the original painted art by Graham Coton, used on the cover published by Fleetway Publications in April 1972. Depicting a scene from World War Two showing a German Battle ship commander ordering all guns fire. The art was used again on Battle Picture Library cover #1441.