Murray

Other AusReprints

Reprint sources

A History of Australian DC Reprints

Australian access to original US comics was severely restricted until the 1980s, resulting in a relatively strong local comic industry, including Australian DC comics reprints.

From 1947 until 1983, American DC comics were reprinted by KG Murray Publishing Company/Murray Publishers Pty Ltd under a range of imprints—Colour Comics, Planet Comics and finally Murray Comics.

Between 1983 and 1986, the Federal Publishing Company Pty Ltd released reprints as Federal Comics and finally, Australian Edition DC.

British dominance: British import comics were readily accessible on newsstands in Australia. (2000AD Prog 30, 14 September 1977)

Exact publication dates are uncertain because few Australian comics were dated. I suspect that this was intended to give the comics a longer shelf-life, although this aim was routinely thwarted by News Agents who penned arrival or sell by dates on the covers. I have developed some general guidelines based on the cover price, imprint/logo, and original publication date to determine the general period of DC reprints.

Import Controls

Up to the mid-1930s, Australian newsstands were dominated by British material. England was perceived as the "Mother Country" and Australians were keen for their regular "messages from home".

During the 1940s and 1950s, the distribution of UK/European periodicals and the publication of home-grown versions continued to be favoured. US comics were kept out not just by the continuing cultural bias, but also an entrenched territorial agreement between British and American publishers, and import regulations.

A Climax Color Comic 8, 1947
Early DC Reprint: Amid Australian originals, Murray reprinted Zatara in "Twin Magic" from Action Comics 111, August 1947 (A Climax Colour Comic 8, 1947).

The "Golden Age" of US comics (1938 to 1945) was virtually unknown in Australia. Although some US comics were available in Australia for 6d in the 1930s, this ceased by the end of the decade and the characters were known only through later reprints.

In Federal Parliament in December 1939, Senator D Cameron railed against US periodicals being dumped in Australia, affecting local writers and artists. The problem was soon solved with the start of the Second World War, when the Australian Government enforced the Import Licensing Regulation to control the spending of US dollars. From June 1940, the import of US comics was banned.

The dominant comic distributor in Australia, Gordon & Gotch (A/sia) Ltd, may have also limited access to US comics. The company had monopolistic control over British comic imports and benefited from the cultural and institutional bias against the US market.

Captain Triumph 5, 1948
A tradition of reprints: The DC reprints followed KG Murray's existing comic format, including reprints of other companies' stories. (Captain Triumph 5, 1948)

In the 1950s, Gordon & Gotch established a censorship board and stopped distribution of some publications in response to censorship in Queensland and threats from other Australian states. The Queensland Literature Board of Review had banned some 45 publications in the first year after being established by the Objectionable Literature Act 1954. As with the creation of the US Comics Code Authority, self-censorship was most likely a means of self-preservation.

Distribution Arrangements

Some casual readers of Murray reprints believe the comics to be published by "Gordon and Gotch", the dominant Australian distributor throughout most of the 40 years of Australian DC reprints. The distributor's name was clearly printed in the indicia of most, if not all of the reprints.

In the later years of the reprint program, distribution arrangements frequently reflected ownership of the reprint franchise. In the 1980s, some comics were distributed by Network Distribution Company (a subsidiary of Packer's ACP and owners of Murray Publishers during the Planet Comics and Murray Comics periods) and Newsagents Direct Distribution (owned by Eastern Suburbs Newspapers, which owns Federal Publishing Company).

The Emergence of KG Murray

In December 1936, a young advertising man, Kenneth G Murray began publishing the 100-page Man Magazine, priced at 2/-. Despite industry scepticism at the price and format, it led to the first successful chain of magazines in Australia.

Blue Star All Australian Comics
Early KG Murray: The short-lived "Blue Star" logo gave Australians high quality, original Australian comics. (Blue Star All Australian Comics, 1947?)

After the end of World War Two, paper rationing was eased and US publication embargoes lifted. In 1946, KG Murray took advantage of new opportunities to begin publishing original Australian black and white comics. Kevin Patrick, in his Collectormania article on Murray, reports:

"Between 1946-47, KGM published several one-shot comics written and illustrated by Australian cartoonists. These included Flameman (c.1946), a superhero strip by Moira Bertram, High Compression (c.1947), an Italian Grand Prix mystery drawn by Albert De Vine and The Lost Patrol (c.1946), an adventure set in postwar New Guinea, written & drawn by Hart Amos.
"Several of KGM's early comics appeared under the short-lived 'Blue Star' logo, including Vernon Hayle's sci-fi comic, Man Out of Space (1 issue/1946), Noel Cook's Treasure Planet (1 issue/c.1947) and Royce Bradford's Valley of Doom (1 issue/c.1947). These early KGM titles are extremely rare and today are worth upwards of $100 each." [Patrick 2003]

In 1947, Murray introduced full colour content to Australian comics with Climax All Color Comic. The format was costly, but it established KG Murray and put pressure on its competitors. Early issues of Climax included Zatara tales (from US Action Comics), which appear to be Murray's fist DC super-hero reprints.

KG Murray also began publishing other US reprints such as Blackhawk and Captain Triumph (a cover feature from Crack Comics). These Quality characters are now associated with DC, but National Periodical Publications only acquired the characters after Quality folded in 1956.

In mid-1947, Murray launched its first full DC reprint title, Superman All Color Comic, and went on to dominate the Australian comic reprint field. Within two years, the "Color Comic" description became the legendary branding for Australian black and white DC reprints.

  1. Colour Comics: Beginning: 1947-1960
  2. Colour Comics: Big Anthologies: 1958-1973
  3. Planet Comics: 1973-1978
  4. Murray Comics: 1979-1983
  5. Federal Publishing: 1983-1985

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