Here’s something of a rarity for you to enjoy – some of the covers for Pluck and Courage, two monthly story papers launched in the 1950s by Marvelman publisher L. Miller & Son Ltd. Collector Peter Hansen, who kindly provided some of this imagery, tells me they were intended to rival DC Thomson’s story papers of the 1950s such as Adventure and The Hotspur – but they were quickly cancelled and, largely, forgotten.
With covers believed to be the work of Marvelman creator Mick Anglo, Pluck and Courage have barely had mention among comic fans in recent years – Denis Gifford, who detailed so many titles in his time, gave them only passing mention, in his British Comics and Story Paper Price Guide, published in 1982 – and he worked for the company, in Anglo’s Gower Street Studios. Steve Holland’s invaluable British Juvenile Story Papers and Pocket Libraries Index also mention a title called Pluck, but it’s in reference to the title published between 1894 and 1914 of the same name.
However, it’s hardly surprising little is known about these L. Miller titles: both Pluck and Courage, it appears, ran for just three issues apiece, launched in 1956.
At the time, while picture strip led comics such as Eagle and Lion were clearly on the rise, text story intense titles, which also included Rover and Wizard, were still being published, but their time in the sun was clearly almost over.
Pluck ran just one back page picture strip, “Tales of Pluck and Courage”, but only in its first issue).
Quite why L. Miller, best known for publishing Marvelman, abandoned these titles so quickly is a mystery, but at 6d an issue they were more expensive than their DC Thomson rivals, even if they were monthly. In comparison, a copy of a weekly title like Adventure cost just 3d (2p in decimal money) in the mid-1950s, for almost the same number of pages.
However, it’s more likely that the monthly frequency was the reason the titles were abandoned. Discussing Pluck back in 2008 on the ComicUK forum, cartoonist Lew Stringer noted mainstream British publishers tended to avoid monthlies because, “as a senior editor told me, a month is too long a wait to retain the loyalty of a young reader.
“They felt that a weekly would hold their interest more,” he adds “(And truth be told, a month does seem a very long time when you’re a kid.) Plus, comic sales were so good back then that it made more sense to do 52 issues a year of course.”
Perhaps it was the fate of L. Miller’s story papers that shaped that policy, or that of Charles Buchan Publications fortnightly title School Cap, launched in 1953 priced at 6d, which folded after ten issues?
Whether their frequency or out dated content, even avid readers did not take to Pluck and Courage, leaving the field clear for DC Thomson’s Adventure and The Wizard (on sale every Tuesday), The Rover and The Hotspur (out every Thursday)… for a few more years, at least.
With thanks to Peter Hansen and Philip Rushton for some images used here