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Cowboy Picture Library History

Cowboy Picture Library - six-guns blazed, varmints bit the dust, Injuns whooped around - the background to this splendid comic book series.

Cowboy Comics were first published in Australia and New Zealand in the normal American comic book format in the 1940s a series of episodic strips based on wild-west heroes.

Two editors of Amalgamated Press, Edward Holmes and Leonard Matthews saw the opportunity to lift this artwork and the completed stories and produce them for British children.

They had only one printing machine available for the job and that could only produce the small, pocket book size that we know so well today.

While they would have preferred to produce them in the standard American size format, they decided to press ahead with the small size as a 64 page story book devoted to a range of well known heroes.

Thus the pocket book format was born and the first Cowboy Comics issue was published in April 1950 entitled Buck Jones, The Fighting Sheriff and cost 7 pence. Buck Jones was a popular cowboy film star of the 1920s and ‘30s who was killed whilst heroically trying to rescue people from a night club fire.

The characters of Jones and Kit Carson were familiar to young readers through the pages of Amalgamated Press’ Knockout and Comet comics and became the mainstays of the Cowboy Comics series.

The quality of the artwork and the crisp writing style ensured that the series would be very popular throughout its 468 issues up to September 1962 - indeed, it is widely accepted that the artwork was far superior to any appearing in American western comics at that time.

More characters appeared as the series progressed including Lucky Lannigan, Buffalo Bill, Davy Crockett and Billy the Kid. From issue 1 to issue 204 the series was simply known as Cowboy Comics but was then changed to the more widely used Picture Library title and became Cowboy Picture Library.

From issue 221 to 250 it carried the strap-line All in Pictures (also used for a period within the Super Detective Library series (see www.superdetectivelibrary.co.uk).

So it can be referred to by three different names and is - you may well have your own favourite, but I have covered all names within my websites and a Google search should have brought you to www.cowboypicturelibrary.co.uk whichever name you typed in.

In 1962 the series was wound down; in its later years it had positioned itself towards a young adult clientele rather than children and the stories became more sophisticated but no less professional and exciting.

Perhaps there was a waning of interest in the western by that time - Wagon Train, Bonanza and Rawhide had enjoyed their best years on TV (although can still be seen on American and British TV on occasions to this day).

As we look back on this series and those times, we remember a gentler age, much less complicated and frenetic than today and, in collecting these lovely comic books, we perhaps seek to remind ourselves of an era which framed our lives and futures and inspired our imaginations and creativity.

I hope you have found this brief history of value - for a much more comprehensive background to this series click on the Reference Book link to the left.
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