Williams Publishing was the short-lived European comics and magazines publishing division of Warner Communications in the 1970s. Headquartered at the Columbia-Warner House in London, Williams had European-language divisions in Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and West Germany. Comics titles were for the most part translations of American publications — many of them Warner properties — as well as some U.K. and European titles. Initiated in 1971, most of the Williams publishing divisions were closed or sold off in the period 1974–1979.
|Fate||Defunct, c. 1979|
Number of locations
|Roger Noel Cook, Dez Skinn|
Williams evolved from Gilberton World-Wide Publications, the European-language divisions of Gilberton, publisher of Classics Illustrated. In the period 1956–1957, at the height of Classics Illustrated's popularity, Gilberton established a number of Northern European branch companies — in Denmark (I.K. [Illustrerede klassikere]), the Netherlands (Classics), Norway (Illustrerte Klassikere), Sweden (Illustrerade Klassiker), and West Germany (Internationale Klassiker) — to translate Classics Illustrated into their languages.
In 1959, Gilberton acquired the British publisher Thorpe & Porter (T & P), ostensibly for the same purpose. In 1962, the production of new issues of Classics Illustrated shifted from Gilberton's New York offices to Thorpe & Porter in London, with the founder/publisher's son, William E. "Bill" Kanter, overseeing everything beginning in 1963.[a]
The first use of the Williams name began in 1965, when Gilberton's Swedish branch, Illustrerade Klassiker, was reorganized into Williams Förlags AB. (Bill Kanter was very involved with Gilberton World-Wide Productions, so one theory is that the name Williams Publishing was derived from William Kanter.)
In West Germany, Internationale Klassiker became Bildschriftverlag (BSV). BSV was acquired by National Comics Publications (i.e., DC Comics) in 1966. That same year, Thorpe & Porter, after going bankrupt, was also bought by National; this sale included all the Gilberton World-Wide Productions European branches.
In the summer of 1967, Kinney National Company acquired National Comics Publications and its sister publisher, E. C. Publications (publisher of Mad). Kinney acquired Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in the spring of 1969, rebranding it as Warner Bros. In 1971, Warner's international distribution operations merged with Columbia Pictures to form Columbia-Warner Distributors. At this point, in the summer of 1971, with Thorpe & Porter now part of Warner, the T & P U.K. brand was mostly replaced by Williams Publishing and Distributing Co. Ltd.. Following suit, the Williams name took over the former Gilberton branches in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway, with new Williams branches being founded in Finland, Italy, and shortly, in France. (On February 10, 1972, Kinney's entertainment assets were reincorporated as Warner Communications).
The various Williams divisions produced very little original comics, mostly focusing on translations of Warner/DC Comics properties like Mad magazine, Superman, Tarzan and Korak comics, and western and war comics; as well as Larry Harmon's Laurel & Hardy, an original British comic. There was some variation of titles in each country, depending on the tastes of the various European audiences.
The flagship U.K. branch of Williams, however, had some creative energy in the period 1976–1978. Comics editor Dez Skinn, who came to the company from UK publisher IPC, took over editing MAD UK, Tarzan, Korak, and Larry Harmon Laurel & Hardy. He revived Monster Mag and launched the horror-themed magazine House of Hammer. Skinn's comics were mostly published under Williams’ Top Sellers imprint.
The U.K. Williams also produced "saucy" books and posters, as well as a line of softcore pornography magazines with titles like Sex International News, True Love Stories, Cinema X, Cinema Blue, Parade, Game, Blade, Voi, and Sensuous. Many copies of those magazines were seized and forfeited in a series of British police raids in 1972 and again in 1975. In response, in 1976 Williams created the General Books Distribution (G.B.D. Ltd.) imprint for its "mature" comics and adults-only magazines.
Decline and sell-offsEdit
The Williams line of publishers didn't turn a profit for Warner Communications, and before long the company decided to forego the periodical publishing business in Europe. In 1974 it began closing and selling off the various branches, completing the process by 1979. The flagship U.K. branch was acquired by W. H. Allen & Co. in 1977, going defunct by 1979.
Although many of the Williams divisions — in France, Italy, and Norway — went defunct, a few continued publishing under new owners. In West Germany, the Williams branch was acquired by editor Klaus Recht in 1974, with his family keeping the Williams name in various forms until 1991 (with the publisher itself lasting until 1995). In 1975, the Swedish branch was acquired by Semic Press,[b] which was the dominant comics publisher in Sweden through the mid-1990s. The Danish branch was acquired by Interpresse in the summer of 1976; Interpresse was the dominant comics publisher in Denmark into the mid-1980s. The Dutch branch of Williams was acquired in 1979 by the publisher Kontekst, which continued a few titles, but which itself only lasted until c. 1984.
Williams' European branchesEdit
|Country||Williams name||Years of operation (as Williams)||Original name (year founded)||Popular comics||Fate|
|Denmark||Williams||1971–1976||I.K. (Illustrerede klassikere) (1956)||Classics Illustrated, Laurel & Hardy, Mad, romance, Starlet (Swedish girls' comic), Superman, Tarzan/Korak, Western||Acquired by Interpresse in the summer of 1976|
|Finland||Kustannus Oy Williams||1971–1976||—||Rin Tin Tin||Acquired by the Swedish Semic Group; became Kustannus Oy Semic|
|France||Williams France||1973–1974||—||Autocat and Motormouse, Benjie (European children's comic), Calimero, Classics Illustrated, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, Laurel & Hardy, Pellefant||Went defunct|
|Italy||Edizioni Williams Inteuropa||1971–1974||—||Superman||Went defunct|
|Netherlands||Williams||c. 1971–c. 1979||Classics (1956)||Adventure comics, Batman, Classics Illustrated, fairy tales, HIP Comics (Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four), Laurel & Hardy, Mad, Superman, Tarzan/Korak, Tex Willer, war, Western||Acquired by Kontekst; lasted until c. 1984|
|Norway||Williams Forlag||c. 1971–1977||Illustrerte Klassikere (1957)||Classics Illustrated, Junior Adventures, Laurel & Hardy, Superman, Tarzan/Korak, war, Western||Went defunct|
|Sweden||Williams Förlags AB||1965–1975||Illustrerade Klassiker (1956)||Classics Illustrated, Starlet, Laurel & Hardy, Mad, My Horse, Pellefant, Superman, Tarzan/Korak, war||Acquired by Semic Press|
|United Kingdom||Williams Publishing and Distributing Co. Ltd.||1971–c. 1978||Thorpe & Porter (1946)||Benjy and His Friends, Fox and Crow, Golden Hours, Fun-In (featuring Motormouse and Autocat), House of Hammer, horror, romance, Tarzan/Korak, Toytown, war, Western, Yogi and His Toy / Hanna-Barbera's Fun Time||Acquired by W. H. Allen & Co. in 1977 and went defunct shortly thereafter|
|West Germany||Williams||1971–1974||Internationale Klassiker (1956)||The Avengers, Classics Illustrated, fairy tales, Fantastic Four, Hit Comics (Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four), horror, Laurel & Hardy, Mad, Spider-Man, Tarzan/Korak, Western||Acquired by Klaus Recht;[c] publisher lasted until 1995|
- Bill Kanter had become an editor at Gilberton in 1946. He was instrumental in getting Classics Illustrated distributed nationally in the U.S. through Curtis Circulation, alongside magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal, Holiday, The Atlantic, and Esquire.
- Former Williams employees in Sweden immediately formed Atlantic Förlags AB.
- Publisher names under Klaus Recht:
- Bildschriftenverlag / Williams Department (until Sept. 1973)
- Williams Verlag (Oct. 1973–Sept. 1974)
- Klaus Recht Verlag (Oct. 1974-June 1975)
- Williams Verlag (July 1975–June 1989)
- Delta Williams Recht Verlag (July 1989–Nov. 1991)
- Skinn, Dez. "Warner Bros. (Williams)," DezSkinn.com. Retrieved Dec. 19, 2020.
- Jones Jr., William B. Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, 2d ed. (McFarland & Company, 2017).
- Williams Förlags AB, Grand Comics Database. Retrieved Apr. 27, 2021.
- Chibnall, Steve. "The Sign of the Tee Pee: The Story of Thorpe & Porter," Paperback, Pulp and Comic Collector Vol. 1: "SF Crime Horror Westerns & Comics" (Wilts, UK: Zeon Publishing / Zardoz Books, 1993), pp. 16–29. Archived at Box.com. Retrieved Dec. 28, 2020.
- "Kinney Changes Name," Des Moines Tribune (February 11, 1972).
- Dakin, John. "'Marvel Revolution' in England," The Comics Journal #45 (Mar. 1979), p. 14.
- Skinn, Dez. "The End of HoH," DezSkinn.com.
- Atlantic Förlags, Grand Comics Database. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
- Kontekst, Grand Comics Database. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
- I.K. [Illustrerede klassikere], Grand Comics Database. Retrieved Apr. 27, 2021.
- Classics/Williams (Netherlands) at the Grand Comics Database.
- Illustrerte Klassikere, Grand Comics Database. Retrieved Apr. 27, 2021.
- Illustrerade klassiker, Grand Comics Database. Retrieved Apr. 30, 2021.
- BSV - Williams, Grand Comics Database. Retrieved Apr. 30, 2021.
- Williams Publishing (U.K.) at the Grand Comics Database
- BSV - Williams (West Germany) at the Grand Comics Database
- Classics/Williams (Netherlands) at the Grand Comics Database
- Edizioni Williams Inteuropa (Italy) at the Grand Comics Database
- Kustannus Oy Williams (Finland) at the Grand Comics Database
- Williams (Denmark) at the Grand Comics Database
- Williams France at the Grand Comics Database
- Williams Forlag (Norway) at the Grand Comics Database
- Williams Förlags AB (Sweden) at the Grand Comics Database