American TV Comic Books: 1940s-1980s To The Printed Page by Peter Bosch (book review).

May 23, 2022 | By | Reply More

With a lengthy title of ‘American TV Comic Books: 1940s-1980s To The Printed Page’, you would think Peter Bosch’s book would be purely about the comicbooks. Actually, it presents a lot more about the TV series they are based on. He’s focusing on live-action than animation with him noting that it would double the size of the book to cover them as well, although I hope he could do a follow-up book on the subject.

As many of the TV series didn’t get shown in the UK, it means you get a lot of gaps in your American culture education starting from the mid-1950s and the first begin a comicbook run based on ‘Hopalong Cassidy in 1953. Oh, throughout the book, there 20 Artist Profiles for those known to do these tie-ins and most are not minor league but some of the best from the American comicbook industry. They all include photographs, although oddly Neal Adams has the worse one.

Looking at the dates of many of these TV tie-ins in the 1950s, I had a strong realisation that so many coming out had much to do with the rise of the Comics Code and a replacement for crime and horror comics and the absence of most super-hero comics.

With the exception of ‘Circus Boy’, most of these series weren’t shown in the UK as far as I can remember. A lot of surprising facts and pictures came out. I finally had a look at ‘Captain Kangaroo’ and learnt his name was from having big pockets than anything to do with marsupials.

The 1950s had many comics based off westerns. I do wish Bosch had given comment on why some were more successful than others, more so as some went on longer than their source material. Many were lucky if they had a couple issues so they had no way to gauge if they were successful or not. I was interested in noting that UK’s ‘The Adventures Of Sir Lancelot’ and ‘The Adventures Of Robin Hood’ both briefly had US comics, indicating some popularity over there.

It was a prolific decade and you’ll wonder what happened to that Clint Eastwood fella who dominated a ‘Rawhide’ cover. From a collector’s point of view, with so many of them having photo covers and odd photos inside, if you have a particular favourite series, you might end up needing this book for the info it contains on them.

As I read the 1960s chapter, there is also an awareness of seeing various actors careers develop across different series. Only a fraction of many of these series reached the UK, so there was less awareness of this happening. Again from the UK, only ‘Danger Man’ (US title: ‘Secret Agent’), ‘The Avengers’ as ‘Steed And Peel’ and the Anderson shows, specifically Supercar got exported and got a comicbook but none of the other Anderson shows. To be fair, Bosch gives a two-page spread to their material from ‘TV Century 21’ with praise. Oh and I finally know Dr. Kildare’s forename.

I did stop to think if there was any series not touched by a comicbook and I would think that had to be the majority of the soaps but with their continual storylines that might have been a problem than audience age. After all, ‘Dark Shadows’ had success across all mediums.

Something that make me think but wasn’t covered is the time between the TV series on the screen and the release of the associated comicbook. Considering it takes a minimum of 6 months to release one comcbook and many of these shows were off the air by then, it must have been an uphill struggle to get them one issue done quickly and on minimum reference which would explain the frequent comment about poor artwork. I wish there had been writer profiles, especially for Paul S. Newman who seems to be the most prolific in this medium. I suspect the persistence of publishers releasing these tie-ins was the success if a series was on-going and they could do a run of issues.

The entry on ‘Star Trek’ is interesting although I did wonder if the Spanish artist version ever got reprinted in the USA. Through lack of reference at the time, the crew on planet were given backpacks and Janice Rand’s high hairstyle was thought to be a hat.

Bad points. This book really could do with an index or you’ll have to do a page flick or have a good memory for a series you want to look up. From a statistical point of view, it would also be handy to have seen any sales figures with maybe a comparison to viewing figures to see if there was any corelation but that’s more my geeky nature kicking in. Bosch has done a lot of research here.

There is a lot to digest in this book but, even though many of the shows didn’t appear in the UK, let alone their comicbook counterparts, there is also a lot of nostalgia as well. It would be interesting to see if someone will do a UK equivalent one day although I suspect it would need someone with an extensive collection of particular titles. The fact that comicbook publishers saw TV productions as tie-ins for children and young adults is clearly a demonstration of their influence. The fact that their number diminished over the decades has probably got more to do with TV repeats and availability on DVD as much as anything. A worthwhile addition to your collections.

GF Willmetts

May 2022

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 191 page illustrated softcover. Price: $29.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60549-107-5. Direct from them, you can get it for $29.95 (US))

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Category: Books, Comics, TV

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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