Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Laughs of a Nation by Alan Clark

Alan Clark's latest (eighth!) book in his series about British comics' history is subtitled "the publications of Gerald G. Swan" and that's just what you get—294 pages dedicated to one of the most amazing publishers to have ever published comics... and magazines... and annuals... and books ranging from hardboiled crime fiction to books on sex education and learning to dance.

After a brief look at Swan and his background, the bulk of the book is dedicated to images, mostly colour covers with chapters dedicated to various genres of magazines, from Weird Story Magazine to Detective Shorts (as in short stories, but the abbreviation does give us entertaining and puerile titles like Occult Shorts and Yankee Shorts, although Swan avoided any "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" by publishing Schoolboys Short Stories and Schoolgirls Short Stories.

Swan's annuals were his best sellers for many years, and the book dedicates fifty pages to them before giving some coverage to novels and Swan's authors (amongst them my favourite, William J. Elliott, and the most famous, Elleston Trevor). The book includes a handful of brief biographies of artists before concluding with a reprint of David Ashford's long out-of-print Golden Fun article, 'Funnies and Thrills'.

There is a lot more to be said about Swan, and readers with long memories will recall that Swan was one of the wartime publishers I was writing about during last year's lockdown for an upcoming project. In the meantime, The Laughs of a Nation is a fantastic introduction to Swan and his fascinating and occasionally bizarre output.

As usual, the book is available directly from its author, now based in Italy, via Ebay as are a couple of Alan's earlier books which can be found on his seller's page.

The Laughs of a Nation by Alan Clark.
Alan Clark, no ISBN, [May] 2022, 294pp, £23.00. Available via Ebay.

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