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Tuesday, 18 September 2007

In Review : The War Libraries

To give it its full title The Fleetway Picture Library Index Volume 1: The War Libraries makes this reference book sound very grand, perhaps a little foreboding and even rather dry. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Compiled by Steve Holland and David Roach over many years, the book indexes the quite incredible extent of Fleetway’s war digests -
545 Air Ace Picture Libraries,
1706 Battle Picture Libraries,
76 Giant War Picture Libraries,
2103 War Picture Libraries,
36 War At Sea Picture Libraries
plus all the Air Ace, Attack, Battle, Battler Britton and War Picture Library Holiday Specials and last but not least the War Picture Library Special Extras.

Crammed into its flexi-covers are 194 pages of information. The introduction by Steve Holland is 11 pages long, a major article in itself, tracing the behind the scenes stories of the Picture Library staff and artists culminating in a staff listing with dates and, remarkably, several staff photos. The listing pages are punctuated by many black and white covers with some interior art also, yet the highlights are the colour pages which are given over to printed covers and even some original cover art.

The information for each issue includes the title, issue number, date, interior artist, cover artist and in some exceptional cases even the scriptwriter. The short backup stories are detailed as well. Familiar names such as Ian Kennedy and John Ridgway rub shoulders with the less familiar such as Annibale Casabianca and Aldoma Puig. It shows that today’s Commando with its 50% reprints is nothing new. The listings of the later issues of War and Battle show how many reprints Fleetway were producing at the time and that the reprints in one title were often from another, while the unusual double height Giant War Picture Libraries often reprinted from Super Detective Library and Thriller Picture Library.

The book is published by The Book Palace and is the first in a set of three, with Volume 2 advertised at the back and entitled The Thriller Libraries and covering Super Detective Library, Thriller Picture Library and Cowboy Comics Library. At around £30 from Amazon or direct from The Book Palace it is not cheap but to the collector the information in it is so valuable that it really makes the book itself invaluable. Since it is a limited print run don’t miss out on this mine of information.

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