Saturday, November 08, 2008

Marvel In Australia Part I: Horwitz & Bramley Sources

While we have a few minutes to spare I thought I'd share some covers and information, along with an oddity, on the Horwitz line of Marvel Comics in Australia. Along with Kevin Patrick, the Horwitz company has been covered in detail, so anything you might need can be found here, here and here.

Horwitz published a variety of Marvels in Australia, focusing mainly on the western and war titles dating back to the original Timely/Atlas pre-code period. Books such as Kid Colt, Outlaw Kid, Rawhide Kid and others (eventually I'll throw all the covers up of the books I have on hand) along with several Charlton titles, also predominately war and westerns. However it appears that Horwitz did dabble in superhero books publishing all too few titles from the Marvel range. Sadly, as with the bulk of comic books issued in Australia in the 1960s, details and actual copies of these books are scarce at best, however what does remain brings forth more questions than answers.

The Avengers #1, Cover art by Maurice Bramley.

Swiped panels to make portions of the cover.

Date: 1965
Contents: The Coming Of The Avengers by Lee, Kirby & Ayers (22pgs)
Spaceglider by Bramley (2 pgs)

Bramley remains one of the more elusive figures in Australian comic books. He came from a background of commercial art and it appears that he went to work for Horwitz sometime in either the late 1950s or early 1960s. For a time there Bramley was drawing virtually every cover for every Horwitz title, resulting in some amazing scenes, what is at times overlooked is that Bramley often did one to two page stories/strips in several titles, these books are no exceptions.

Much has been written about Bramley's penchant to swiping images when it came to covers. This is true, to an extent. With an output as prodigious as Bramleys it comes as no surprise that he mined the contents of the comic books that were coming in for ideas, designs and outright swipes. This is nothing new. Many artists use variations and adaptations on interior splash pages and/or panels in order to create a cover that reflects the contents of the comic book in question. As with a lot of artists who aren't alive to defend their actions, and didn't appear to have recorded their memories, it's easy to attack without putting anything into context.

It's easy to make the claim that Bramley just swiped because it might have been easy, or that he had less talent than most. However one look at his non-swiped work puts both claims to the lie. Bramley was an extremely talented artist, albeit it a bit stiff at times, and I've often suspected that the swiping on certain covers - especially the Marvel superhero covers, was done on demand by the editors of the line. Familiarity would have been the key for this books, and they do mark one of, if not the, first time that Silver Age Marvel comics were reprinted within Australia, as opposed to the UK tabloid magazines that were on sale at the time.

Swiped or not, I love looking at them. Bramley was able to take an image and fill it with a richness of detail not often found in the original. His use of a very fine ink line makes the art come alive, and if you doubt me then look at something as simple as Jack Kirby's original drawing of the Hulk's leg and compare it with Bramley's swipe on the cover of Strange Tales #4. I don't recall seeing Kirby putting that many hairs on that leg!

Bramley's original cover.
The original splash page and a panel from the story.

Bramley's original cover.
The original splash page.

Bramley's original cover.
Panels from various stories.

Bramley's original cover.
The original Kirby/Ayers splash page, plus a panel from the story.


spiros xenos said...

Danny, why are there two Strange Tales #4 - two series? Or is one of these mis-numbered...? Differing title type too...

I have a copy of Horwitz Strange Tales #6 (Thor and Loki cover by Bramley) if you need a scan.


Robert Thomas said...

I only became aware of these Aussie Marvel rarities a few years ago.

In my copy of Avengers #1 I have noticed that some seemingly random panels have been replaced by Bramley-drawn head-shots. Have you noticed this?

Very curious to see what other Marvel stories are reprinted in the other Strange Tales issues. Any idea how many issues were released?

Looking forward to part 2!