A visit to a car boot sale would not usually rate high on people’s idea of a pleasant valley Sunday but for me it does. Wandering around the traders, I was astounded to find this little gem and it acts as a little bit of a missing link when we are looking at the small publishing houses of the UK from the 1950s to the 1980s.
This being the GMS Combat Picture Annual 1962 published by G M Smith Publishing Company Ltd from their address at Micron House, Mitcham, Surrey and it’s a little beauty. The back cover is a lovely illustration done by an artist that signed most of his work for Micron Books as P Mar. The signature has now been identified as that belonging to Primo Marcarini, who also drew the cover for this book. And if you look around the internet, you will some beautiful examples of his work.
Now there are several reasons that this is an intriguing addition to any Picture Library collection. The first reason is that it had a dust jacket and while I am sure that a bit of net surfing will find one in a better condition than mine, I don’t care as I got this one at a knock-down price.
The second reason that I think that this adds to any Picture Library collection is that it is the only picture library that I have seen that is a hardback.
A third reason is that the G M Smith Publishing Company Ltd disappeared at some point in the 1960s and by the early 1970s, all you had was Micron Publications Ltd working out of Faygate, Horsham which meant that the whole operation had moved 60 miles south from South London down to West Sussex. And this book helps to trace the evolution of the company.
Now the only other picture library annuals that I have seen are the 1989 and 1990 Commando annuals. Both of those were softback so finding this hardback is really quite an amazing find.
The fourth reason this is intriguing is that it is the first time I have seen a picture library with text stories in it. The index even tells you which are text and which are picture stories.
To break it down a bit, the picture stories are short stories more in line with the stories you would get in any other annual of the day. Long enough to get you interested but not so long that you can get lost in it. One bonus for me was that HMS Jinx is illustrated by Spanish artist Josep Marti as is the final story Dakota!
The stories and the Jeff Curtiss adventures are text stories and each features a spot illustration, so that they are not walls of text. After all, if I want a wall of text, I will read a book not a picture library!
The features are very similar to any feature that you can find in any annual. These ones are unusual in that they are mainly text stories. While this is unusual for an annual of the modern era, many articles in the 1950s and 1960s annuals were text based with a smattering of pictures to lift the article. And as this is a picture library annual, I think that all the rules went out the window for this one!
The one thing that I do regret about the annual is that I don’t recognise more of the artists. However, here are samples of the other stories for you all to enjoy.
A Russian flying squadron known as The Falcons. I wonder where I have heard that before…
This is the only story of picture library length in the entire book. And the art puts me in mind of Peter Ford. I wonder if anyone can confirm this.
The story of the three Gladiators that fought as part of the Air Force in the defence of Malta are almost legendary now, but this is another neat retelling of it.
The final story is an every man adventure featuring the enduring qualities of the Dakota workhorse that did so much during the war in maintaining supply lines which contributed to the success of the Allied Forces during the Second World War.
And at 253 pages of comic goodness, that must have pleased the 10 year olds back in 1961. And at 6/-, it probably pleased the parents too.
I hope you have enjoyed this look at a very unusual picture library.