First published back in April of 2020, Shane P.D. Agnew’s book ‘John Spencer & Co (Badger Books) Illustrated Bibliography Volume 1 : Comics, Science Fiction and Supernatural’ is an oversized (8.5” x 11”) bibliography providing a catalogue of the Comics, Sci-Fi and Supernatural pulp books from the John Spencer & Co publishers.

Such a comprehensive bibliography, with colour cover artwork accompanying each publication, has never previously been compiled to such a degree.  The research and dedication to documenting this pulp history is quite simply phenomenal.  The book is the first volume in a proposed set of three and covers the digests from the early 1950s all the way to the 1970s.

If you’ve already picked up a copy of Agnew’s ‘Guy N Smith: Illustrated Bibliography’ (2018), then you probably know what to expect with the level of obsessive detail Agnew goes into in order to provide a full documentation of the history of the publications.  This, my book hording friends, is another pulp collector’s slice of heaven.

The book starts off with a one page introduction from Agnew, where he talks about the creation and compiling of the bibliography, the labour of love involved with such a project, and aspects where there could be potential inaccuracies due to the difficulties he encountered with tracking down some of the information.

Following this Agnew provides a wonderfully insightful five-page overview of the history of Samuel Assael and the formation of John Spencer & Co publications, through the evolution of the publishers, and the varying titles and series’ these pulp digests extended to.  Through Agnew’s summary of the publisher’s potted history, we’re given fact after fact detailing the progression of the books and cover artists, in order to provide a full picture of what could otherwise have become a lost or forgotten slice of the literary world’s past.

As with the aforementioned illustrated bibliography of Guy N Smith’s work, one of the absolute key strengths with this John Spencer & Co book is with its layout.  Agnew has utilised the same format as the Guy N Smith book, no doubt building the comprehensive catalogue using the exact same database model.

However, unlike the GNS bibliography, prior to getting underway with the illustrated catalogue of books and all-important checklist pages – which I’ll come on to shortly – Agnew provides a database-style visual chart of the history of the publications covered within this first volume.  Here we have spreadsheet-like visuals showing us which artists provided cover artwork, over which years this entailed, and the number of covers they produced.  We then have the same for the different authors, the different pseudonyms authors went under, and finally a list of the different series the books belonged to (with their respective code identifiers and number of known editions).

Obviously, the main bulk of the book is taken up by the illustrated bibliography section.  This is where each title is catalogued via the series and genre they fell within.  Within the overarching ‘Fiction’ part of the book, you first have the twenty-six comics that were published, then after this, the largest section is for ‘Science Fiction’, which is further broken down into the subsections: ‘Futuristic Science’; ‘Science Fiction’; ‘Science Fiction Non-Series’; ‘Tales Of Tomorrow’; ‘Wonders Of The Spaceways’; and ‘Worlds Of Fantasy’.  Following this you have ‘Supernatural/Fantasy’; ‘Miscellaneous’; and ‘Unverified’ sections, before the short non-fiction ‘Science Series’ section which documents the four non-fiction offerings that were released.

Each section and sub-section has been presented in the exact same format, almost identical to that of Agnew’s earlier GNS bibliography.  Here we have a 3.5cm x 5.5cm full-colour reproduction of each book accompanying the listings, along with the series number & title; year of publication; imprint (i.e. John Spencer/Badger/Cobra); the name of the cover artist, the book’s content, and a ‘Notes’ section (which often includes the month in which the title was published).

The ‘Unverified’ section contains just three possible titles which Agnew is unconvinced exist.  Two of these are for publications Agnew found listed in various places, but remains doubtful whether they were ever actually released.  The third is for a reprint which was mentioned in a separate John Spencer & Co title, but again, Agnew believes may not have ever seen actual publication.

The sheer scale of all this collecting, cataloguing and researching should not be underestimated.  We’re talking over 330 different titles, each with their respective publication details documented and provided for any collector to now lookup with ease.  In fact, one of the absolute joys this book provides is to simply flick through the pages, basking in the cover artwork, and following the glorious evolution of the books.

The final sections are the ‘Checklists’.  I previously stated that they were all-important to this bibliography.  You see, this is where Agnew’s bibliographies really excel.  It’s how user-friendly they are for collectors to use as a reference guide.  These two checklists collate and list the data which was within the preceding pages, in two easy to find indexes.  We have an alphabetical list of all the ‘Stories By Title’ and a second alphabetical list of the ‘Stories By Author’.  These lists then detail the publication, date, series and colour-coded section within the book to navigate to.

For collectors of John Spencer & Co. books, or indeed fans of these pulp genres, this really is an essential bibliography to own.  It’s designed for use.  Not just to be flicked through, but to be used as a reference guide.  In fact, each title listed within the book has a small ‘Collected’ box accompanying the listing, so that the user can tick off when they have a copy of the book in their collection.

If you have a passion for Badger Books, for early science fiction and supernatural publications, or for the glorious artwork of such pulp offerings spanning the 1950’s to the 1970’s, then this is an absolute essential bibliography and reference guide for you.

The bibliography runs for a total of 140 pages.

© DLS Reviews



Make a free website with Yola