Today's Sunday Comic is wild west themed to keep in the spirit of Wild West e-Monday.
Our main strip, The Train Robbers was written by Keith Chapman in 1966 and
published late summer 1967 in Boys' World Annual 1968. Keith (best
known to us today as western novelist Chap O'Keefe) says, "It has
nothing to do with the 1973 John Wayne movie written and directed
by Burt Kennedy – except that the movie picked
up the same title."
The simple, four-page comic-strip was very much a late entry in a
tradition of UK-produced, boys' western comics that had been
dominant in the 1950s before they were all but swept away by the
growing popularity of World War II comics.
British kids and their parents in the late '40s and early '50s
probably were not ready to see war as something to read about for
fun. At worst,
the revived memories of war could involve the loss of loved ones,
homes, and property. At
best, war was associated with shortages and rationing, which
continued for luxuries like "sweets"
(chocolate and candy) years after the war was over. Even story papers, comics
and books had been affected by multiple closures and limitations
on new periodicals; all print-and-paper production had been shaped
by "authorized war economy standards".
The Wild West was a safer, mythical world of action and
derring-do; a removed and different kind of "bang and he's dead."
Among the new, post-war comics were the photogravure Sun and
Comet, originally published in 1946 by J. B. Allen in provincial
Cheshire but soon taken over by the London-based Amalgamated
Press. In their early years, they published serial strips printed
in distinctive green and red inks and sometimes based on Hollywood
movies. Examples we show here from 1950 were based on the
now-classic westerns A Ticket to Tomahawk and She Wore a Yellow
Elsewhere at the AP's Fleetway House in Farringdon Street, other
staff turned their attention to a new format: monthly pocket-book
comics of 64 pages containing complete stories, often featuring
heroes who also starred in serials in the Fleetway weeklies. The
digest size was probably chosen instead of US standard
measurements for monthly comics because the company's presses had
produced for years text-story "libraries" in the more compact,
Cowboy Comics was launched in April 1950 and its initial stars
were Buck Jones and Kit Carson. In mid-life, in 1957, the series
title was changed to Cowboy Picture Library. By 1962, with many
readers lost to War Picture Library and its like, the line was
struggling. It folded in September of that year after 468 issues.
Meanwhile, midget rival publisher Micron Publications was
launching a Western Adventure Library to fill the gap left by CPL.
Its storylines didn't feature stock heroes but reflected the
general run of adult western fiction. Under the editorship of
Keith Chapman, who joined Micron from Fleetway, the scriptwriters
for these new 64-page comic books included Vic J. Hanson (later a
prolific Black Horse Western author) and Jacques Pendower, a
veteran author of all kinds of genre novels, including westerns as
Penn Dower and T.C.H. Jacobs. Western Adventure Library was
quickly joined by a companion Cowboy Adventure Library, doubling
the publisher's westerns to four books a month, thus matching
output of its Combat Picture Library war series. Though the
artwork was commissioned from the beginning through Spanish
agencies, Micron's financial difficulties eventually led to its
sourcing, translating and reprinting Spanish-language western
comics produced by Barcelona publisher Editoral Ferma.
By late 1964, the ownership of Micron had changed, too, to its
comics' overall detriment, and Keith Chapman was working for
Odhams Books ... which brings our story back neatly to that
company's Boys' World and The Train Robbers.
And because the Archive is the place where you always get more please enjoy these two pages that are sure to delight western fans, and then scroll down to read The Train Robbers. Don't forget you can click each image for a larger version.
And now The Train Robbers