Our third cover gallery this week features the Dutch reprints of The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire. The strip was hugely popular in Holland, perhaps even more popular than it was in the UK as it appeared in the leading Dutch weekly comic, Sjors, rather than in an educational magazine as it did in the UK—although I've often heard it said that many readers of Look and Learn were only getting it for the Trigan Empire strip.
The innovation in Europe that never appeared in the UK was the comic album. Here in Britain, a comic strip appeared on the newsstands for a week and was usually never seen again unless a story was adapted for an annual or summer special. Comparatively few stories were ever reprinted. In Europe, however, many stories were gathered together in albums, usually around 48 pages, so that newcomers to a strip in the weekly could find older stories in bookshops; similarly, if you read the books, readers would often then pick up the weekly comic to read the latest episodes as they came out. It's a system that has been adopted now in the USA where 'graphic novels' now make up a substantial proportion of comics' sales, although most of these novels are, in fact, gatherings of 4-6 issues of a regular monthly comic book or a mini-series designed to be released in monthly parts and then collected.
But we never had this in the UK and it's a relatively new phenomenon in the States. Comic albums were being published regularly in Holland in the 1960s (as I mentioned in the column on Robot Archie the other day).
Below are a selection of covers from the Trigie album series—I never did have a complete set. The first album was, I believe, first published in 1973 by Amsterdam Boek, who followed up with a second volume in 1975. Oberon then took over with the third volume in 1976 and eventually published 35 volumes, the last appearing in 1985. They had, of course, kept most of the other numbers in print (the scan of the first album below, for instance, was from a 1982 edition, the second from a 1977 edition).
Many of these albums had original covers by Don Lawrence, drawn directly for the Dutch album market. He stopped doing the covers after 21 volumes and a new artist, Nic Van Dam drew covers for volumes 22-28. Van Dam—whose name was short for Nico rather than Nicholas—worked alongside Bert Bus and another famous Dutch artist, Harry Balm, at Spaarnestad Studio. Bus drew the covers to volumes 29 through 31. I'm not sure who did the next few covers but Gerry Wood did the cover for volume 35, although it reprinted strips drawn by Philip Corke. I do know that the volumes reprinting Wood's work wrongly credited Mike Butterworth as the author of the strips—Wood's regular writer was Ken Roscoe.
Some of these covers were reused on our recent 12-volume set of Trigan reprints, published by Don Lawrence Collection in 2004-09.
(* Trigan Empire © IPC Media)