The British publishers T.V. Boardman Ltd are well known for having published comics such as Swift Morgan, Roy Carson, Buffalo Bill (and of course the brilliantly plotted Buffalo Bill Annuals). However, their total publishing efforts far exceeded this rather minor output. The company was started in the 1930's by Thomas Volney Boardman, and like many other small publishers of that time Boardman sought to have as great a field of activity as possible. Apart from pulps (including detective, western and science fiction), they also released various novels (paperback and hardback) across all genres, and a fair number of non-fiction fiction titles ranging from biography to politics. They are probably best remembered today for their long running Bloodhound Mystery series, which were beloved by many of Britains public lending libraries.
Boardman quickly learnt the value of republishing and repackaging original American material for the British market, and one of their earliest deals was with the US publisher Gnome Press, itself a small publisher specialising in science fiction and fantasy works. It was through Gnome Press that Boardman was able to published the first British hardcover edition of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Conqueror.
No doubt inspired by this trans-Atlantic achievement, Boardman next pioneered the reprinting of American comics. Commencing with Okay Comics Weekly which first appeared on October 16, 1937 - this was produced as a traditional British comic tabloid, with material taken from the standard sized US comic book format. The content was mostly American newspaper strips and the first issue sported a cover strip by Will Eisner of The Spirit fame. Okay Comics Weekly lasted only until February 26, 1938 - a total of twenty issues. A short life perhaps, but it proved that there was a market in Britain for American comic strips, and that market was about to expand.
With the outbreak of war in 1939, and despite the Government ban on new publications, Boardman entered into an agreement with US publisher Everett Arnold of Quality Comics to produce British editions of two titles, Feature Comics and Smash Comics all appearing in 1940-1941. These were released primarily through Woolworths Department Stores who would remain a good customer of Boardman material well into the late 1950's.
In 1942 Boardman also introduced the first of their TVB paperback mystery novels. Priced at 1/- (about 5p) these bore no illustrated covers, and no numbers either uptil 1947, simply the TVB monogram. There were 40 un-numbered issues published between April 1942 and July 1947. From November 1947 this series sported new illustrated covers by Denis McLoughlin and were numbered from 41 onwards: the price also increased to 1/6 each. This series went on until December 1955 ending with number 182. For some odd reason in 1945 Boardman published a one-off mystery, Basil Tozer's Roving Recollections, as an un-numbered T.V. Boardman paperback rather than as part of the TVB series. See TVB Gallery.
Much of the credit for this war-time growth can be laid at the hands of Audrey Weir ( a Tasmanian) who was running T.V. Boardman while Thomas Volney Boardman sat out the war in the Argentine: she it was who had the innate good sense to hire Denis McLoughlin.
The period immediately following the war was a busy period of expansion for Boardman in which they started a lot of new series'. Their paperback releases included:
During 1946 a young man, then working as an editor on Fleetway's Knockout comics, achieved a degree of success with two childrens books published by Boardman: the young man was called Leonard Matthews. One book was written by Matthews (Highway to Yesterday) and introduced the figure of Moll Moonlight (later to become Dick Turpin's female companion in many comic adventures), and the other was The Bouncing of Big Ben Small by Hagar-Marvell, this time illustrated by the talented man that would, with time, become the childrens editor of Fleetway, and be instrumental in launching such comics as Jack and Jill, Playhour and Look and Learn.
In 1948 Boardman recontinued their comic book production after a seven year hiatus with a series of monthly rotogravure comics priced at 3d (about 1 new penny). These featured the adventures of Swift Morgan, Roy Carson, Buffalo Bill, Blackhawk and The Spirit. The Spirit and Blackhawk stories were Quality Comics reprints, however the real stars of the line up were Swift Morgan and Roy Carson created by Denis McLoughlin.
1949 saw the introduction of the New All Action Stories series (1949-1952) of rather thin pulps that featured detectives, westerns, romance and their only science fiction title, Cosmic Science Stories: the only thing in common that this series of just 18 different titles had was some evocative McLoughlin cover art. (see Pulp Gallery)
Between 1951 and 1952 they continued their liaison with US Quality Comics by reprinting Crack Western with (happily) only 4 issues. These were all US reprints.
Starting in the late-1940s, they introduced a number of children's annuals including the Buffalo Bill Annual and Adventure Annual, starting with the Holy Grail trinity for collectors, the Super Coloured Comic Annuals, which were in fact re-published remainders of their rotogravure series. From 1950 onwards these were published under their Popular Press imprint, intended primarily for the Christmas market and sold almost exclusively through the Woolworth's Department Stores.
All of these annuals contained a mixture of text and comic strip stories. With the exception of the Buffalo Bill Annuals (which were all UK material), the majority of these contained both original British material and reprints from America's Quality Comics. In the late-1950s, increased pressure from American comic book imports caused Boardman to drop their comic annual line. The last, Buffalo Bill's (True West) Annual was issued in 1961.
Somewhere around 1958 - to judge by the Buffalo Bill Annuals - T.V. Boardman / The Popular Press handed the publishing rights to Dean & Son who continued publishing the annuals until 1961, although they were still copyrighted to T.V. Boardman. Interesting to note, that Dean & Son were bought up by Purnell in about 1963, and Purnell still continued with the services of Denis McLoughlin as their artist of choice for some of their TV based western annuals including: Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and the Dakotas.
The Bloodhound Mystery hardback series started in 1951 and was in effect a natural progression from the TVB paperback series, and the non-series hardback novels such as the easy to find Death Plays Solitaire. Many notable American writers were reprinted in the Bloodhound series, including: Frederick Brown, Henry Kane, Harold Q. Masure, Ed McBain and many others. Denis McLoughlin's' artwork matched the story content brilliantly (he always insisted on reading the book before he designed the cover). The sleuths were many and varied: amateur detectives, wise cracking private eyes, insurance investigators, weary and sometimes crooked police detectives, sleuths of every stripe. And then there were The Dames: blondes, brunettes and red-heads, clients, murderers and victims, and each with more curves than the Monte Carlo racetrack.
The US digest magazine Manhunt was billed as "the world's greatest detective magazine" and it was certainly the yardstick by which to judge other magazines of the genre. It had already been reprinted in the UK (as Manhunt) and three times in Australia under various titles. In May 1961 Boardman started to reprint the original US detective magazine Manhunt under the title Bloodhound Detective Story Magazine and it ran for 14 issues. The cover illustrations were the same as those in the US original but McLoughlin graced every story title with his spot art.
T.V Boardman ceased operations entirely in 1967.
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