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Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Spider

One of the best things about running Bear Alley is that people send me stuff out of the blue. If more people send me illustrations like the one above, I'll be more than happy!

Comic art collector Vicente Busto sent me the above from Spain: "Enjoy it. It's really nice," he said in his covering message. Well, I'm enjoying it and I thought I'd share it with you all. It's the original artwork for the cover of the Fleetway Super Library Fantastic Series no. 2 (January 1967). I've discussed these in the past and argued that they have a good claim to being the first series of original British graphic novels since each issue ran to 122 pages comprising a single, complete comic strip. I guess it depends on how you define 'graphic novel' and whether you include in that definition collections of previously published material, in which case the claim might be made for the various Ally Sloper collections that appeared in the Victorian era. The definition has blurred over the years... can the recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier truly be called a graphic novel? That's how it's marketed, although I suspect it must be marketed that way to (a) avoid putting off customers who want to see a new graphic novel from Messrs. Moore and O'Neill, and (b) nobody could think of a nice, snappy descriptive for what it actually is. Dossier might, indeed, sum it up best.

To get back to the cover. Alessandro Biffignandi, the artist, was Italian, born in Rome in 1935. He had a long and glorious career as an artist, producing film posters, book covers, covers for comics (especially noted for his covers for erotic comics in Italy) and, in the UK, some 500 covers for various picture libraries and magazines from 1960 onwards. The Illustration Art Gallery has a number of original boards by Biffignandi for sale.

My thanks to Vicente for sharing the above. I wonder if any other Fleetway Super Library covers have survived? If you have one -- or you've seen one -- maybe you could let us know.


  1. Lovely piece. You have to wonder though whose idea it was to make the costume yellow -- you'd've thought black would be a better idea!

  2. The costume always looked black in the internal pages (which were, of course, printed in black & white so no real surprise) and I'm sure it was always black when they promoted the strip on the cover of Lion. However, I did notice that the Spider's costume was red on at least one cover of the Fleetway Super Library. Probably just to make the illustrations more colourful.