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.
(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!
“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.
“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.
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.
AMERICAN VARIANT COVERS
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. 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 “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.