Friday, November 18, 2016

Retro Foreign: South African Star Wars

The first official television broadcast in South Africa occurred on January 5, 1976.  While the rest of the world was embracing this new visual media in the 1950s and 1960s, Hendrik Verwoerd, the South African Prime Minister from September 2, 1958 until his assassination on September 6, 1966, and Albert Hertzon, the South African Minister of Posts and Telegraphs from August 24, 1958 to February 7, 1968, were firmly opposed to television being brought to South Africa.  They felt if South Africa had television, importing foreign programming was inevitable which would make [non-white] Africans unhappy with their position in society.  This was during South Africa's period of apartheid and the ruling class was doing everything in their power to maintain the status quo.  It is in this environment that radio flourished and the popularity of the South African photo comic was born.

The almost 3 decade success of photo comics (comics with photographs instead of art married with word balloons) in South Africa can be traced back to Hint Hyman and Sep Schmidt's earliest photo comic, Kyk or Look, in April 1960.  Their publishing company, Republican Press, acquired a German printing press in Durban which allowed them to publish many photo comics, upwards of 20 a month, which they shot using locals.  The success of photo comics would allow Republican Press to branch out into other non-comic magazines where they were a major player.  But it is with another of their comic enterprise, Supercomix, where we would get South Africa's first Star Wars comic.

From 1976 to 1984, Republican Press printed American comics for South African readers under their Supercomix imprint which was dubbed South Africa's Own Comics.  The stories were from publishers DC, Marvel, Charlton, Harvey, and Gold Key.  These would include the first Marvel stories published in South Africa.  It is only natural during this era where U.S. pop culture was invading South African televisions, movies, and comics, the Star Wars comic adaptation would be published for South African readers.

Star Wars - Republican Press (Supercomix), South Africa (1977)
contains Star Wars #1 - 6
The indicia says the comic is published by Super Comix and printed by Republican Press.  It is not clear why this comic uses the two-word "Super Comix" while other Supercomix titles I've seen use the one word "Supercomix" name and familiar logo.  This is an early comic in the line, so it is possible they had not yet settled on the exact name and logo they would use for the imprint.

The cover is the same as the U.S. cover for Star Wars #1.  The UPC box has been replace with a blurb that reads The Complete Film in One Fabulous 116 Page Comic! and the blurb on the U.S. cover that reads Fabulous First Issue! reads Special Souvenir Issue! on this issue.  My understanding is the comic was expensive for the time with it's price of 1,50 rand and subsequently had low sales.

I would be remiss if I did not mention my sources for this posting.  Along with Wikipedia much of the information came from the article The evolution of African pulp fiction, the incredible blog by George van der Reit South African Comic Books, and George's article Supercomix! A History of Comic Book reprints in South Africa in Foreign Comic Collector Magazine #3.  George is doing a terrific job of research and documenting South African comic books and his post Supercomix Star Wars is what first brought my attention to this comic.

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