Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Captain Atom - The First Million!

Following on from my previous post about the Captain Atom power ring, I thought I'd post this scan of an advertisement from the Australian newspaper & magazine publishing industry's trade journal, Newspaper News, dated 1 November 1948. The statistics mentioned in this advertisement - that Captain Atom had sold 1,000,000 copies within its first 11 months of publication - indicate not only the popularity of Captain Atom himself, but also gives some indication of just how popular comic books once were in post-war era Australia.

The advertisement is intriguing for other reasons, as well. Not only does it claim that separate daily and Sunday comic-strip versions of the Captain Atom series were under preparation for Australian newspapers (but clearly did not eventuate), but the advertisement also cites "research statistics" which claimed that not only were comics read by 95 per cent of children, but that 85 per cent of adults also read them as well! (Which leads me to wonder whether the publisher, Atlas Publications, had commissioned such market research, or was citing overseas studies of comic-book readership)

I was also bemused by the company's efforts to distinguish Captain Atom from other, perhaps more "disreputable" American superhero comics, by insisting that the seires would be drawn to "international standard(s)", and that the company would "continue to publish the best British comics". (Never mind that, as the character's creator, Arthur Mather, pointed out, Atlas Publications clearly wanted a superhero character modelled on such American series as Superman or Batman). Leaving aside the publisher's hyperbole (in order to drum up interest from prospective advertisers), this advertisement is a fascinating historical document, which provides a rare insight into the commercial dimensions of Australia's post-war comic-book industry (Image courtesy of Newspaper News/National Library of Australia)

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