How Panther Books, an SF publishing success story, survived the era of “mushroom publishers”

1950s British Science Fiction Episode 29 - Panther Books

Clearly on a roll with a fascinating subject – the origins of British publisher Panther Books, best known for their SF line – author Philip Harbottle delivers another new episode of his 1950s British Science Fiction mini documentaries, titled “Panther Books – Metamorphosis”, bringing this “origin story” to a delightful close.

Philip recounts how developments in 1953 were to create publishing history, starting with the launch of the “Panther Library”, both paperbacks and hardback releases released simultaneously; and lest anyone thinks “variant covers” are a wheeze exclusive to comics, he reveals how Panther made the most of them!

1950s British Science Fiction Episode 29 - Panther Books

As ever, it’s fascinating to see so many SF rarities in one place, and Philip’s off the cuff narration, clearly revelling in the subject matter, is a joy. Once again, he also offers information often overlooked by both collectors and sellers of these SF books, his knowledge of the “variant covers” often sadly ignored.

Unlike other “mushroom publishers” of SF (publishers here today, gone the next in the 1950s), Panther Books survived thanks to its canny commercial acumen and sometimes brutal editorial decisions… but you should watch the documentary to find out what they are!

Philip Harbottle is a life-long science fiction fan, regarded as a world authority on the works of John Russell Fearn, whose credits encompass writing “Garth” for the Daily Mirror, and the “Golden Amazon” for Spaceship Away (adapting Fearn’s stories). 

He’s also very kindly contributed a number of synopses of early “Garth” stories to downthetubes, which we are adding as time permits.

Back in the 1950s, he adapted some of the Radio Luxembourg Dan Dare radio shows into comics at a young age – the only record of some of these tales known to exist, since very few recordings survive.

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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.

Categories: Books, downthetubes News, Other Worlds, Science Fiction

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