Superman and Batman variant covers (sort of) – from the 1950s!

KG Murray’s Super Adventure Comic

Most comic fans could be forgiven for thinking that variant covers are a modern invention of the US comic industry – but many an international reprint has offered a different take on the American original, the first as far back as the 1950s.

Earlier this week, thanks to collector Gerald Edwards, we shared the 1950’s British cover of Australian publisher K.G. Murray’s Super Adventure Comic 36, clearly based on the cover of DC Comics World’s Finest #28, with Superboy replacing Robin.

KG Murray’s Super Adventure Comic 36, clearly based on the cover of DC Comics World's Finest #28
KG Murray’s Super Adventure Comic 36 and DC Comics World’s Finest #28

(As we noted, K.G. Murray created different covers of editions of some of their comics imported into the UK, with British cover prices, but the interiors were exactly the same as the Australian releases).

Perhaps a publisher anxious to make the most of a good cover idea, it turns out K.G. Murray milked this one more than once, as Super Adventure Comic 13 had previously been the company’s very obvious take on the same issue of World’s Finest, although again with Superboy supplanting Robin!

K.G. Murray’s UK take on World's Finest #28 for Super Adventure Comic 13
K.G. Murray’s UK take on World’s Finest #28 for Super Adventure Comic 13

“This was a fairly regular occurrence back in the early 1950s,” notes collector Gerald Edwards. Many of these series are documented on the exhaustive Aus Reprints web site.

“I think that K.G. Murray had more DC comic stories to reprint than they had the original covers for so employed their own Australian artist, Hart Amos, to do alternative covers.

“The idea of having Superboy replacing Robin was because these Super Adventure Comics featured Superman, Batman and Robin and Superboy stories in each issue.

DC Comics Adventure Comics #150 featuring Superboy.Image: Heritage Auctions
Super Adventure Comic (Colour Comics, 1950 series) #17 ([November 1951])
The US and Australian versions of Adventure Comics #150
Batman (Colour Comics, 1950 series) #44 ([January 1954])
This Batman/Penguin cover (for Batman (44 , January 1954]) is believed to be unique to K.G.Murray and has no DC alternative

“Some covers were closely based on the DC originals, but others were pure flights of fantasy like their Batman cover for No’ 46, which only reprinted Batman and Robin stories.

“Variant covers are commonplace nowadays, but are these gems most likely the first?” Gerald wonders.

The Adventures of Congo Bill, published by KG Murray, 1951. Cover by Hart Amos
The Adventures of Congo Bill, published by KG Murray, 1951. Cover by Hart Amos

Born 2nd December 1916, writer and artist Hart Amos studied drawing and painting at East Sydney Technical College between 1933 and 1937, joining the army in 1938 due to a shortage of work, enlisting as a signaller in the 7th Field Artillery but eventually becoming the unit’s camouflager, serving in New Guinea and Borneo.

After the war, he started working as a freelance comic artist for the K.G. Murray Publishing Company. first on the The Lost Patrol, a strip dealt with Australian soldiers fighting in New Guinea against the Japanese, for which he was able to call upon his own first-hand experience; then stories such as Moon Mirror and Stark the Stoneage Man.

He’s best known for the numerous covers on K.G. Murray’s DC reprints and the Australian series Devil Doone, which he worked on from 1946 to 1969, with writer R. Carson Gold.

After leaving K.G. Murray, Amos worked on John Dixon’s strip, Air Hawk and the Flying Doctors, from March 1970 until June 1977, when he retired. He died on 8th June 2000, aged 83.

WEB LINKS

Aus Reprint Series Guide – Super Adventure Comic

Aus Reprint Series Guide – Batman

Aus Reprint Creator Guide – Hart Amos | Wikipedia

AMERICAN VARIANT COVERS

For a history of modern US variant covers, check out this three-part article by Drew Bradley charting their use from the 1970s onwards, on Multiversity

Wikipedia has an article on variant US comic covers here

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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