July 2022 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web 24 years...
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Previous Back Page and other features (Click on the links below):
DECEMBER 2021 - Enid Blyton's Little Noddy
JANUARY 2022 - The Whiteoaks of Jalna
FEBRUARY 2022 - Leslie Charteris's The Saint
MARCH 2022 - The Passion Flower Hotel
April 2022 - The Tiger Comic
June 2022 - Jeff Lynne's ELO
July 2022 - Knockout Annual

The year is 1954 and I've just returned from visiting Uncle Les and Aunty Grace in Hucclecote and brought away a huge bag full of American and English comics. 


...In 1954 I was eight years old and hugely into comics. I always knew my Dad didn't really approve of comics or even comic strips - most newspapers carried comic strips of one sort another; in the Daily Mirror, which two of my other uncles read, there was the Jane cartoon and Garth, for example. I always liked looking at the Jane cartoon even though I had been told I shouldn't really look because it was intended for adults really. Were the stirrings of puberty beginning when I was just eight years old? I loved the girls' school story strip cartoons that I read every week in my sister Jean's Schoolfriend and Girls Crystal comics, and the sight of the female form in the Jane cartoon, often scantily clad or even naked, really excited me. I loved playing with the girls at school, and my best friends at primary school were all girls - Brenda Offer, Joan McLaren - I loved country dancing and got a particular thrill when we held hands. Anyway, back to comics, which played a really important part in my life, much to my Dad's dislike - he thought I should only read books, but each week I had my Tiger and Lion comics (infinitely preferable to the Eagle comic, although if someone offered one to me I would gladly read the Dan Dare strip...) and I always "borrowed" my sister Jean's School Friend and Girls Crystal comics. Indeed, I would also covet her annuals at Christmas, so that I really ended up with four annuals to read, and in 1957 came the first of the Commander Books for Boys and the Coronet Books for Girls, all of which I still have in my collection today. But in 1957 there were a huge number of decent quality comics for both boys and girls. Some were aimed at both boys and girls, but mainly they were aimed at one or the other, and I loved them all.

In this package of comics given to me by my Uncle Les, there were Tarzan comics, Superman, Batman, Superboy, Supergirl, and many other American comics - I have no idea how he came to have them, but there were always loads of them, every time I visited, and he gladly passed them on to me, having finished with them. As well as the DC comics from America, there were many British comics with titles like Film Fun and Radio Fun, and there was a comic entitled Knockout. I remember reading the Knockout comics avidly, because they contained three of my absolute favourite comic heroes, Johnny Wingco, who bore a strong resemblance to my Uncle John when he was in the RAF in WWII, Lucky Logan, a favourite western strip, and Sexton Blake, a detective who always triumphed over the baddies. I recently came across a 1950s Knockout Annual at a car boot sale, and bought it for £2, probably more than it cost in the 1950s, I'm pretty sure it would have been around 7/6d (about 33p). When I got it home and opened it up, I was amazed to discover that it was a couple of pages short of 200! I knew that my Lion and Tiger annuals, and Jean's Schoolfriend and Girls Crystal annuals were all in the region of 154 pages, but 200 pages in the Knockout Annual was simply amazing, and when I also discovered that it contained my beloved Johnny Wingco, Sexton Blake, Lucky Logan and Billy Bunter strips as well as a few word-only stories too, I was absolutely thrilled. I don't know if I ever had Knockout Annuals in the 1950s - to be honest, there were so many brilliant comics and annuals, you simply couldn't collect them all. I now have three 1950s Knockout annuals in my collection, with another on the way, and they are absolutely crammed with brilliant stories.

As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, UK annuals changed. Firstly, the number of pages was cut from 198 to 160. And with that change, Knockout Annual also changed its contents. Johnny Wingco made way for Battler Britton, Lucky Logan made way for Buffalo Bill, and Sexton Blake made way for Martin O'Leary. The Billy Bunter strip was still there, and in the 1960s prompted me to investigate Greyfriars further, following which I discovered the novels by the prolific FRank Richards, and started to ciollect them. There was a healthy balance between comic strip stories and word stories, which still included the adventures of Jimmy Silver and his chums at Rookwood School, PIrate adventures etc., and the annuals were still amazingly good collections of the kinds of stories young schoolboys like me wanted. I think I may have had one or two of these splendid annuals - I could never have enough annuals at Christmas - reading was what I liked to do best of all in my leisure time - and Uncle Les still passed on the comics to me on a weekly basis, so I knew what to expect when the annuals were published. Knockout was a brilliant annual - in later years it went a bit mad, more jokey, and for me the Golden Age of British Boys' Annuals and comics was confined to the 1950s and 1960s. My 1962 annual was just arrived through the post and it looks awesome - plenty of reading in it!

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at paulenorman1@gmail.com and I'll let you know where to send it.