WebFind: The Modern Boy, a fantastic resource for Biggles fans and more

First launched in February 1928, The Modern Boy magazine initially ran for 523 weekly issues, until February 1938.

The first issue of The Modern Boy with its tin plate free gift, issue cover dated 11th February 1928. With thanks to John Pollock
The first issue of The Modern Boy with its tin plate free gift, issue cover dated 11th February 1928. With thanks to John Pollock

While the title may look dated, it’s of huge interest to fans of author W. E. Johns, the creator of air hero Biggles, so you won’t be surprised to learn that there’s a web site solely devoted to the publication.

The Modern Boy No. 7, cover dated 24th March 1928
The Modern Boy No. 7, cover dated 24th March 1928

The dedicated work of Roger Harris, who also runs a number of other W.E. John’s-related web sites, the site features all 610 covers of The Modern Boy and information about content by W. E. Johns, plus information on the annuals, too.

The Modern Boy - Various Annuals

Initially submitting artwork –W.E. Johns first painted the cover for the 21st December 1929 issue (No. 98) – his first credited article, “The Plane Smashers”, was published in the No. 148, cover dated 6th December 1930, but it’s believed that he wrote articles prior to that, as “Our Air Expert”.

The Modern Boy No. 98, cover dated 21st December 1929. Cover by Biggles creator W.E. Johns
The Modern Boy No. 98, cover dated 21st December 1929. Cover by Biggles creator W.E. Johns

He then contributed various articles until No. 257, when his “Biggles” stories commenced publication in serialised form, beginning with all the individual stories from The Camels are Coming, until, eventually his new books were first published in The Modern Boy in episodic format. The true first editions.

The Modern Boy No. 257, cover dated 7th January 1933. W. E. Johns content includes the very first appearance of Biggles in The Modern Boy -“Biggles and the White Fokker”
The Modern Boy No. 257, cover dated 7th January 1933. W. E. Johns content includes the very first appearance of Biggles in The Modern Boy -“Biggles and the White Fokker”

In addition to work by Johns, The Modern Boy also has the earliest cutaway artwork by L Ashwell Wood, best known for his work for Eagle comic, so far discovered, both in the weekly and in one of the annuals.

After its initial run, The Modern Boy, published by Amalgamated Press, the title now owned by 2000AD publisher Rebellion (but not Biggles), was re-launched with the issue cover dated 19th February 1938 in a new size and re-numbered from issue one again.

The Modern Boy No. 1 (Volume Two, cover dated 19th February 1938
The Modern Boy No. 1 (Volume Two, cover dated 19th February 1938

This second volume ran until No. 87, cover dated 14th October 1939. Production then ceased due to wartime paper shortages.

Roger notes that in the last issue of Modern Boy, cover dated 14th October 1939, readers were told that Biggles stories would continue with “BIGGLES’ SOUTH SEA ADVENTURE” in The Gem next Wednesday, 11th October 1939. This would be issue 1652 dated “week ending 14th October 1939” and The Gem itself would only last until the issue cover dated 30th December 1939,before it merged with The Triumph.

Roger’s site offers an impressive and fascinating look at this early title for boys and the gallery of covers is a delight. Well worth a visit.

Let’s hear it, too, for Captain Justice

On last note. While Biggles is a separately property, comics archivist Philip Rushton has drawn our attention to another hero who frequented the pages of The Modern BoyCaptain Justice, best described as a sort of British Doc Savage, whose science fiction stories were initially written by Murray Roberts, (Robert Murray Graydon, 1890 – 1937, who wrote under a number of pseudonyms); and, following Roberts death, by John Garbutt. The character became Biggles’ main rival in the title during the 1930s.

The Modern Boy No. 423, cover dated 14th March 1936, featuring Captain Justice

The Science Fiction Encyclopaedia notes the very British, Captain Justice “wore white ducks, smoked cigars and worked out of Titanic Tower in the mid-Atlantic. In the course of battling for good he survived robots, giant insects, runaway planets and an Earth plunged into darkness.”

As well as being serialised in Modern Boy, most of Captain Justice’s adventures were subsequently collected in the Boys’ Friend Library.

The Boys’ Friend Library No. 537, cover dated 5th May 1937

“Apparently these were a big influence on the young [SF author] Brian Aldiss,” Philip tells us, “and unlike Biggles, the character must now be owned by Rebellion, which presents the intriguing possibility that Captain Justice could someday be revived in the pages of 2000AD.”

Or perhaps as some precursor to any new stories featuring The Vigilant? Who knows?

Check out The Modern Boy web site at www.themodernboy.com

• Visit Biggles.Com and W. E. Johns.Com for information about W. E. Johns books

Boys’ Friend Library is indexed here in the Friardale site

The Modern Boy copyright Rebellion Publishing Ltd

The copyright in all of W.E. Johns work is owned by the estate of W.E. Johns as represented by his literary agent, Ms Linda Shaughnessy of A. P. Watt.

With thanks to Jeremy Briggs and Philip Rushton

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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