In Review: This Was The Wizard

This Was The Wizard by Derek Marsden and Ray Moore

This Was The Wizard is a book I never expected to see. It is the definitive guide to a comic that is, in my mind, part of the bedrock of the DC Thomson’s output. To give you an idea of how highly I rate this book, as a reference guide, I believe it is on a par with anything written by Lofts and Adley.

The book is split into several parts. There is a synopsis of the output of The Wizard which includes such gold as short bios of the editors and every major artist that worked on the comic, the serials, the completes (defined as a story that was complete in a single issue of a comic), the free gifts ( a useful extract from Marsden’s previous book Free Gifts in The Big Five), the cartoons, the annuals, key characters and the index.

The four editiors of The Wizard
The four editiors of The Wizard

To break up what could have been a wall of text, there are also selections of illustrations of the covers, the flyers for the comic and even some in-house caricatures. The completes has a selection of the headers used whereas the serials has a complete run of the initial episode header illustrations that were printed.

From 1928, self-caricatures of DC Thomson artists when Arthur Oliffe left the company
From 1928, self-caricatures of DC Thomson artists when Arthur Oliffe left the company

This book also projects into almost every D C Thomson comic published as we have such characters as “Flying Officer Starr”, which was republished in 1960’s The Hornet as a picture story. And then it had the serial numbers removed and the bodylines changed to become “Killer Kane” in Warlord and Red Dagger in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

I had not realised that so many other characters that I read in the 1970’s and the 80’s had their start in The Wizard such as Bill Samson, The Wolf of Kabul, who first appeared in 1930 along with The Red MacGregor. Red Star Roberts, who became Red Star Robinson in 1970’s The Hotspur, J A Slade of “The Pony Express” and Bouncing Bernard Briggs are also characters that can be traced to the early years of The Wizard. And to have their early publishing history clearly outlined is a gift when you wish to talk intelligently about comics, rather than the nostalgia filled half-memories that seem to be the most common remembrance of comics when mentioned to anyone that is not a major fan.

One other character that received this facelift was Jimmy Allan who featured in “The Terror In The Skyscraper “(the Jack Glass illustration at the top right), which was originally published in 1935. Jimmy became Don Ballard in 1974 when the story became “Terror In The Tall Tower “which was published in the second iteration of The Wizard. The story took on an extra lease of life when it was republished as Red Dagger No 9.

A selection of 1930's The Wizard story headers
A selection of 1930’s The Wizard story headers

As an added bonus, at no extra cost, modern fans will enjoy seeing some of the early work of Ron Smith. I knew that he had drawn several illustrations for The Wizard, but had not realised how many he had done. You can even see the original cover for another story that featured in Red Dagger No 13 with issue 1881.

Wizard covers from the early 1960s
Wizard covers from the early 1960s

My only complaint is that it does not cover the Rover and Wizard period, but I suppose that is covered in Colin Morgan’s The Rover Index.

As a die-hard DC Thomson fan, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Even if your have no interest in DC Thomson publications, this book is worth picking up as a model of how to index a comic’s history.

This Was The Wizard by Derek Marsden and Ray Moore (ISBN 978-0955197819) is now available through all good bookshops | AmazonUK Affiliate Link | AbeBooks

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