Bulls Presstjänst (or Bulls Press) is a Swedish comics syndicate, and the current holder of the Swedish rights to license publishing of Mandrake the Magician (as well as several other characters including The Phantom, Popeye, Moomin, The Smurfs, Beetle Bailey, Modesty Blaise and Flash Gordon, among others)
In USA the Norwegian broker and shipowner Cornelius Bull (1878-1931) developed an interest in comic strips and other features. In 1929 he met the Norwegian journalist and businessman Bjarne Steinsvik (Kristiansen). Together and with Cornelius Bull's nephew, Einar Wyller, they founded "Cornelius Bulls Presstjänst" in Halden (Norway). The business idea was sales to the press and publishers of text, images and advertising material, as well as to conduct other business compatible with this. Same year, in October, the headquarters were transferred to Stockholm (Sweden). At the establishment in Stockholm, the staff consisted of: Cornelius and Laura Vilhelmina (née Norris) Bull, Bjarne Steinsvik (Kristiansen), Gunhild Strömer (secretary), Einar and Ruth Wyller, and Bengt Sjökvist. In January, 1931, the company changed its name to "Bull's Presstjänst" (= "Bull's Press Service").
As the representative of the Hearst Group's KFS in Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Poland and Czechoslovakia "Bull's Presstjänst" started to sell comics.
Mandrake the Magician
In 1937 the Mandrake Sundays started in the weekly magazines: "Świat Przygód" (Poland as Alex, król magików) followed by the weekly magazines "Tempo" (Denmark as Dragos, manden med den hemmelighedsfulde magt) and "Apu" (Finland as Taika-Jim) in 1938.
In 1940 the weekly magazine "Allers" (Sweden as Mandrake, den mystiske hjälperen) started printing Mandrake dailies, reformated to fit a page. These stories were translated into Norwegian and printed in "Spøk og Spenning" (Norway as Mandrake, den mystiske hjelperen). About the same time also "Apu" and "Tempo" printed daily strips. "Allers" returned to Sundays in 1942, when the Swedish newspaper "Nya Dagligt Allehanda" started printing the dailies.
It seems like "Allers", "Apu" and "Tempo" in the beginning had exclusive rights to the Mandrake title (Mandrake, Taika-Jim and Dragos). Since when Mandrake in addition started as regular daily strip in the newspapers, the strip appared with an other title. Like in "Expressen" (Sweden, 1944) as Mandraken. In "Nationaltidende" (Denmark, 1946) as Dragemanden, both in the title and as name in the stories. In Finland the Mandrake dailies appared under two different titles: Mandrake(n) Taikuri and (Salaperäinen) Mr. Jack.
In Sweden something similar as in Denmark (Dragos - Dragemanden) can be seen for Lee Falk's other strip, "The Phantom". It started as Fantomen in the weekly magazine "Vecko-Revyn" in 1940, printing pages with dailies. In 1942, "Vecko-Revyn" start printing the Sundays, while the newspaper "Svenska Dagbladet" start to print the dailies. But in "Svenska Dagbladet" the Phantom was not named Fantomen, but Dragos - den mystiske mannen[footnotes 1]. Same name as Mandrake in the Danish "Tempo" magazine, and with similar sub-title as Mandrake from the Swedish "Allers" magazine.
In Denmark Mandrake changed the the name and title in the newspapers to Dragos in 1948, same as in the weekly "Tempo" magazine. But when entering the comic books "Fantom-hefte" (1952) and "Skipper Skræk" (1959) he was named Mandrake. In Finland he appared as Maaron in the comic book "Kippari Kalle" (1952) and later Mandrake in the comic book Sarjakuvalehti (1959). Unlike the situation early 1940s it seems like the new name for Mandrake in the comic books in Denmark and Finland was due to the translation. Comparing panels from both comic books and newspapers/magazines the translation and lettering is different. Indicating that the comic book version was made by other than the staff at Bulls.
Phil Davis delivered the strips to KFS in high contrast (ink on white paper), and with inked handwritten text. At KFS they added the label "Copr. 19xx, King Features Syndicate, Inc., World right reserved", glued at the bottom of a panel in the strip. They also inked in the publishing month and day (like: 8-5, and on) and gave each strip a short title (like: Fraidy Cats!, and on). The strips were mounted on sheets, with one week on each, and formed the basis for printing of proofs. In the 40s KFS also offered a smaller variant of the strip. It was about 2/3 of the original strip, cropped at the bottom. The copyright label was often, but not necessarily, pasted on the same panel in the two variants.
The early dailies with Mandrake distributed by Bulls was the cropped version. When Bulls (in Stockholm) received the proofs form KFS they glued the label "Copyright Bulls Presstjänst" over the KSF copyright label and replaced the original text with their own translated text. By 1947 the Mandrake strips in Sweden, Denmark and Norway have small differences. The copyright label is differently placed in the different countries, and the Bulls numbering of the strips is unique to the individual country. In addition some speech bubbles in the same panel are sometime different. This indicates that the editing of the original KFS was done in the country where the strips were printed.
A curiosity is that the strips of the US week of September 2-7 of the "Felina" story is different in the countries. In Norway it is the cropped version, but in Sweden and Denmark this week is the larger original version of the strips. An other curiosity is "The Monsters" in Norway, with no speech bubbles and where the Norwegian is written below the strips. A curiosity early 60s is two different translationes of the "Narda's TV Show", with different numbering, in Sweden.
Starting with the The Deep Sea Mystery story Bulls distributed the original sized strips.
"The Jinx", proof first week, cropped
"The Jinx", first strip US, US cropped, Sweden, Denmark and Norway
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- According to Lars Lagerstedt the managing editor in "Svenska Dagbladet" (Edgar Malmström) knew that their new comic was printed in a Swedish weekly magazine. When the strip was brought into the newspaper he worried that the newspaper might be associated with a weekly magazine. Someone did mentioned that in Denmark, they used a different name for the figure: Dragos. (did this someone mistook the Phantom and Mandrake ?)
- Lagerstad, Lars "Dragos inspirerat av dansker", Svenska Dagbladet (Stockholm, Sweden) 12 Oct 1990, Svenskan del två p.1