25/11/2023 General News
Movie franchises such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe have done much in recent years to popularise superhero comic books, with publishers such as DC and Marvel itself seeing demand soar in the saleroom, writes Emily Ayson.
But these post-war comic books (in fact DC Comics launched in 1938 with the creation of Superman) didn’t have the attention of children all to themselves. Alongside such fantasy themes were comics books very much rooted in a rather more familiar world.
Boys adventure comics were equally popular, if not more so. Often set in historic times (whether those of the Three Musketeers or the Wild West of cowboys), they adopted the same combination of strong narrative and quality artwork for which Marvel and DC are rightly renowned. It is easy to forget that for many years, title such as Boys Friend, Sun and Buck Jones were eagerly awaited by small boys throughout the country.
Because they appear at auction less frequently, these kind of boys adventure comic books are always of great interest to collectors, and next week Norfolk sees one of the biggest sales of such titles for a long time.
The John Barber Collection of mid 20th century British Boys Adventure Comics and Digests was amassed by Norfolk collector John Barber over many years, and it is that collection which goes under the hammer in a special sale at Keys next weekend.
The thing that sets this collection apart is its completeness. Whole series of titles from the very start are up for sale, and almost all are in incredibly good condition – something which is very important to collectors.
The sale includes all 188 editions of Super Detective comic books, which were published between 1953 and 1960; 405 of the 450 editions of Thriller comic, published between 1951 and 1963; and all 468 editions of Cowboy Picture Library, published between 1950 and 1962; and many more besides.
A star lot is a complete collection of all 551 editions of Sun comic book, published between 1947 and 1959. This series predominantly features Westerns and other historical adventure stories, with the title’s best known character being Second World War fighter pilot Battler Briton. It is extremely rare to see a complete collection like this, which accounts for its pre-sale estimate of £1,000-£1,500.
Alongside the comic books themselves are 17 pieces of original cover art by artists such as James Edwin McConnell, Jordi Penalva, Septimus E Scott, Derek Charles Eyles, Eric Parker and George Cattermole.
Generally painted in gouache or watercolour, these were the images which were designed to attract the eyes of boys at the newsagent. Even though the subject matter may be dated today, the dynamism of the art still shines through.