Sunday, 21 December 2014


When I was a little lad, I used to quite fancy
SUPERGIRL (drawn here by JIM MOONEY).
Now that I'm no longer a little lad, I still do.

Saturday, 20 December 2014


Missing the comics of your youth?  Longing for the happy, innocent,
carefree times they represent of a timeless time in your life?  Then here's
the post for you!  By no means comprehensive, but with enough covers of
famous first issues from the past to allow you to relive those halcyon days
of your childhood and bask in the glorious, golden glow of yesteryear!

Just how many did you have, and what memories to they stir in your
heart?  Go on, tell us about it in the comments section.  Your nose will fall
off if you don't.  (And I'd never I lie to you about something like that.)


was gazing at a framed picture of the cover to FANTASTIC
FOUR #1 on my wall the other day and it got me to thinking.  The
comic came out in 1961, but I was too young to know about it then
and didn't discover the FF until '66, when their adventures were
reprinted in the pages of British weekly, WHAM!

Back then, of course, U.S. monthly magazines were stacked in
spinner-racks over in a corner somewhere, while U.K. weekly titles
were usually displayed on newsagents' counters right next to the daily
papers.  That probably accounts for why I was largely unaware
of MARVEL and DC comics 'til around the mid 1960s.

Know what 'though?  I'd love to be able to go back into the
past and observe my younger self buying whatever comics I bought
at the time - just to see what monthly superhero mags, unobserved by
myself, were on sale in the same shop while I was making my purchase.
Imagine being able to see yourself as a kid, standing a few feet away
from classic first (and subsequent early) issues of FF, THOR,
HULKSPIDEY, etc., but totally oblivious to them.

Well, okay - not just to see, now that I think about it.  Obviously
I'd take back some old currency to buy and bring them back to the
present with me, all in absolute pristine condition.  I could also buy a
few spare issues to sell to modern day collectors  for astronomical
sums, thereby ensuring a comfortable old age for myself.

I find it fascinating to ponder the many goodies I may have
stood next or near to in my youth and simply never noticed what
'treasures' perhaps lay only a few feet away.  Hitherto, I've always
sort of assumed that if I didn't see or know about some item at the
time, then it was likely never available in my neck of the woods,
but that's too simplistic an assumption when I think about it.

Anyone else ever nurture such nutty notions?  Do tell!


Incidentally, I do the same thing with people.  When I attended
a new school in a new neighbourhood back in '65, it transpired that
the boy sat at the desk behind me used to live just around the corner
from my previous home.  We'd never met before, even 'though I used
to go by his house every day on my way to my old school.  I later found
myself wondering if we'd ever passed in the street or waited in the same
bus shelter, or perhaps stood next to one another in the same queue
in our local newsagent's - without ever noticing (or remembering).
 Of course, it doesn't matter a whit to the price of cheese, but
such things fascinate me for some strange reason.

Friday, 19 December 2014


SILENT NIGHT is one of my very favourite Christmas
carols, and there are quite a few versions available.  BING
CROSBY sings the first verse three times, and other singers' 
versions usually only have two verses; either the first two or the
first and the third.  JIM REEVES' rendition, however, contains
all three verses, and there's a 'quiet power' in the way he sings it,
especially in the third verse, which is like an energy wave sweep-
ing over the listener's very being.  (I'm not even talking about
the message of the carol, but simply the way it's sung.)

At least, that's how it seems to me, but what do the rest
of you think?  Do yourself a favour 'though - link up your
computer to your hi-fi, or plug in some headphones to
hear it in all its majesty.  Take it away, Jim!


I first saw this particular movie back in 1967 - and again in '68
& '69.  I don't know if I ever saw it from start to finish at one sitting,
but if not, I probably saw the complete movie over the course of those
three yearly broadcasts.  I remember coming in after playing at THOR
(with my home-made hammer) in the field across the road from my
house on one occasion and it had already started (this was probably
in '68) and, remembering that  I'd enjoyed it the year before, sat
down in front of the telly and watched it again.

As you can see, the movie was JACK & THE BEANSTALK,
starring ABBOTT & COSTELLO (who, at that time, I didn't know
were an iconic double act from years before), and the duo themselves
described it as "one for the kids".  It wasn't until it was shown again in
1989 (the BBC then having just recently re-acquired the rights to show
it again after 20 years) that I discovered it was shot in 'sepia' and
colour, just like THE WIZARD OF OZ.

One day, around Christmas of 1970 (I have a feeling it was
Boxing day), I saw the title advertised in the TV listings for that
evening, and made a point of rushing home from the town centre
(where I'd bought a Santa in a sleigh being pulled by reindeer from a
flower shop), only to discover it was the HANNA-BARBERA version
with GENE KELLY.  I watched it anyway, but was disappointed that
it wasn't the one I'd expected.  As I said, I had to wait until 1989
to see the A&C film again, and I now have it on DVD.

The movie is strictly a 'B' feature I suppose, but is inextricably
linked to my childhood and therefore regarded by myself in a some-
what rose-coloured hue.  It does have some funny moments 'though,
and is an entertaining enough little movie, so give it look-see if it ever
comes on the telly again.  No great insight or behind-the-scenes info
to offer with this post, I'm afraid - it's just a shameless, self-
indulgent exercise in personal nostalgia.


Thursday, 18 December 2014


Wow, lookee here - it's JACK KIRBY's BIG
BARDA, as rendered by BRUCE TIMM.  NEW
GENESIS, here I come!  (Anyone know when the
next BOOM TUBE's due?)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


Someone I know still has the Christmas candle he made at our
Primary school way, way back in the 1960s.  At least, he did when he
told me this around a quarter of a century ago.  You may be wondering
whether his informing me of this fact is what inspired me to re-create my
own candle, or it was seeing my 'replica edition' which prompted his
revelation; or at least you would be if you had the same interest
in trivial detail as myself.  (It was the latter, actually.)

I used a toilet roll tube as the basis for the candle, which I
wrapped in red cellophane and then added a flame effect to the top.
Next, I smeared a polystyrene ceiling tile with POLYFILLA, sprinkled
it with glitter, and then fixed the candle and some fir cones (bought from
WOOLWORTH'S, as they were bigger than ones I'd picked up from the
street) in place until the Polyfilla dried.  I finished it off with some cake
decorations, and later added laminated, colour laser copies of two
Santas, taken from ones I acquired in my Primary school days.
(That's my best BLUE PETER audition attempt.)

Off course, it's of a far better quality than the one I made as
a kid all those years ago, but it's constructed in the exact same way,
with one minor exception.  Namely, the flame effect, which, back then,
would've been drawn with wax crayons, whereas I used inks, paints
or marker pens on this occasion.  (Maybe even a combination
of all three - can't quite remember now.)

Anyway, so proud of it am I that I thought I'd show it here.
I won't mind in the slightest should any of you be consumed with
an overwhelming desire to tell me how creative, multi-talented or
wonderful I am.  Go on - one little lie isn't going to kill you!

UPDATE:  Aha!  I knew I had them somewhere.  Here are
a couple of snaps I took not too long after I first made the candle,
but before I added the two Santas.  And yes, that is real snow it's
sitting on - out in my back garden.  I reckon around 1988.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


JINGLE BELLS, as most (if not all) American
readers will know, is not actually a Christmas song.  Well,
it is now, of course, but didn't start out that way.  Originally
(and this is for British readers), it was a Thanksgiving song
called ONE HORSE OPEN SLEIGH.  We don't observe
that celebration on this side of the pond 'though, so we've
always associated it with the Yuletide season.

The original version had five verses, two of which
are now commonly ignored as they don't really lend 
themselves to the song's adopted Christmas theme.

Anyway, here's the velvet-voiced JIM REEVES
with his rendition.  Everybody sing along now. 


Credit where credit is due dept:  I saw this over on
MARK EVANIER's blog (link in sidebar) and it's so
good I thought I'd share it with you.  I wonder what
THE KING'S SINGERS could do with it?

Monday, 15 December 2014


Incredibly, in my advanced state of age and decrepitude, I some-
times find myself looking back on my schooldays with a certain amount
of wistful yearning.  I'm not quite sure why, because I never much liked
school at the time, being an inveterate daydreamer who gazed through
the classroom windows at the wider world beyond with a longing
to be out there and enjoying myself.

My least favourite subject in school was PE (physical education
- or exercise), and I was forever 'forgetting' my shorts or gym-shoes in
order to avoid what I saw as pointless exertion.  A healthy life may be
a happy life, but I was unconvinced of this philosophy, much prefer-
ring a state of restful inactivity and thoughtful contemplation.

The PE teachers were an odd mix, the chief perpetrator of officially
sanctioned child torture being an overweight baldie by the name of Mr.
MacDOUGAL, who had a stogie permanently protruding from his facial
orifice.  He wore a blue tracksuit which showcased his distended stomach,
ample and ironic testimony of his own far from ideal physical condition.
(He bore an uncanny resemblance to actor WILLIAM MERVYN
from ALL GAS AND GAITERS, a once popular TV sit-com.)

Mr. MacDougal's favourite 'sport' was sadistically tweaking the
nipples of any pupil who incurred his disfavour -something he seemed
to take perverse delight in.  Nowadays, of course, this cruelty wouldn't
be tolerated and he'd be fired faster than a fart from the FLASH, but
things were different back then.  Such behaviour tends to confirm the
long and commonly-held suspicion that all PE teachers are perverts
of some description anyway (allegedly). 

There were two other guys (and at least one woman - to teach
the girls, presumably), one of whom had a perm and moustache that
HARRY ENFIELD's Scousers would be proud of.  (The other one
may well have been similarly styled - they tended to conform to the
same 1970s pattern of what was then considered the epitome of
manliness, but now seems overwhelmingly 'camp'.)

On the particular occasion which I am now about to relate,
I had recently been legitimately excused from a few PE periods
on account of a sprained ankle.  One afternoon, I was limping along
the corridor outside the changing rooms on my way to another class,
when I was suddenly sent sprawling onto the floor by the extended
foot of the moustachioed instructor - who'd quite deliberately
tripped me up, the b*st*rd.

He then proceeded to berate me for wearing gym-shoes (ironic
or what?), proclaiming that they weren't suitable footwear for school
(outside of the gym hall, obviously), nor part of the approved school
uniform.  I explained that I was wearing them because of a sprained
(and bandaged) ankle and they were more comfortable to wear
in my less then flexible state.

That night at home, I recounted the event to my father, who
visited the school the next day to speak to the headmaster about
the instructor's behaviour.  When the teacher next saw me, he sum-
moned me over and snarled "Next time, tell your father to come
and see me, not the headmaster!"  What a pr*ck, eh?

My father originated from a rough area of Glasgow, so it must
have been an effort of will on his part to resist taking up the offer,
but he registered his annoyance at the school.  Whether the instructor
was ever spoken to about his second misdemeanour I never found
out, but I don't recall any further incident from him.

I think it's obvious that much of the trouble which teachers
have encountered over the last couple of decades can be traced
back to incidents similar to my own (which were by no means unique),
which started a trend of resistance to any perception of unfair discipline
in the minds of then-future parents, who'd be automatically inclined to
take their kids' side in any confrontation between pupils and staff,
due to their own experience of injustice at school.  Now, of
course, things have gone too far the other way.

So what have I learned from looking back at my schoolboy
escapades?  Merely that I still hate any form of physical exercise -
unless it involves a nubile nymphomaniac with a penchant for old
middle-aged men who look remarkably like myself.  (Although
I'd probably settle for a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.)

Any schooltime scandals of your own that you'd
care to relate?  The floor is all yours.


Let's be honest, lads - if you had a woman like
HEATHER THOMAS at home, you'd never
leave the house, would you?  (Sigh!  I'd better go
out and get the shopping in then.)


If you're a BAT-FAN of a certain age and looking to treat your-
self for Christmas, here's an idea.  Why not pop along to your local
FORBIDDEN PLANET and nab these key chains (remember to pay
for them of course) of ADAM WEST's and BURT WARD's BATMAN
& ROBIN figures?!  They're just the sort of collectables that all true fans
of the 1966 TV show will love.  I won't be using them as key chains of
course - I'll be hanging them on the wall to remind myself of my
childhood whenever I look at them.

Also available are the BATMOBILE, THE JOKER, THE 
PENGUIN and CATWOMAN.  Don't miss out - trot along to
your local FP today!

Sunday, 14 December 2014


Image copyright Marvel Comics

 Christmas has come early to Castel Robsono, as Bashful BARRY
PEARL has selflessly sent me some Yuletide presents from the good ol'
USA.  Barry is one of the men behind the ROY THOMAS/JOSH BAKER
book, 75 YEARS OF MARVEL, released not long ago by TASCHEN.
being the other two contributors.)

#30, from the '60s, drawn by DICK AYERS.  The cover-layout is a bit
'all over the place' (figures on different levels), but the mag is a real slice
of early Marvel, and one I'm looking forward to reading soon.

Next (above) is STEVE DITKO'S 160 PAGE PACKAGE, published
by ROBIN SNYDER.  The contents are from 1999, and it's interesting to
see how Ditko's work has evolved over the years - not really for the better,
it has to be truthfully ('though sadly) said.  It's hard to believe that this is by
the same hand as the creative and artistic genius behind SPIDER-MAN
and DOCTOR STRANGE.  Not that the artwork is bad as such, but
it's not in the same league as Steve's earlier work.

Now look at the above little beauty - containing the first 125 pages of
art and story by JACK 'KING' KIRBY.  It's interesting to see Kirby at
the start of his career, and tracking how his talent developed into what later
became the 'Marvel style'.  Art restoration has come on in leaps and bounds
since GREG THEAKSTON originated his 'bleaching' process, and no doubt
better reproductions of these pages now exist, but it's still a great book
to have, containing as it does an interview with Jack himself.

So thanks to Barry for helping me fill out my Christmas stocking.
I, being Scottish, am by nature a complete Scrooge - but I might send
him a single MALTESER - if I'm able to find a stamp small enough to put
on the wrapper.  On second thoughts, there's no point - someone would be
bound to smell the chocolate and scoff it before it got there.  I'll close with
the illustration from Barry's Christmas card -  the sentiments of which
would make the world a better place if only we could all live by
them, I'm sure you'll agree.  'Nuff said!


While we're all here, I  might as well show you the cover of the
very book that Barry and his chums helped Roy & Josh produce,
so here it is.  Available now in FORBIDDEN PLANET - and
other comicbook stores and bookshops as well, of course.


Memories, memories.  When I was a kid, I was a member of the
Boys' Brigade for a time, who met in the hall of the church across the
road from where I then lived.  One year, we were shown a catalogue from
which we could order various Christmas goodies, and I chose a chocolate
Advent calendar with an illo of Santa on it.  There was something about
that picture that appealed to me, and I eagerly awaited its arrival.

Imagine my disappointment then, when I received a different one
to what I'd been expecting and paid for.  "They must have been out of
them, so they've sent another!" was all the female Brigade leader said by
way of explanation.  However, I never quite forgot that Santa, and many
years later (at least 20 I'd say, perhaps more), I saw a pack of three plastic
hanging Santas, identical to the one on the Advent calendar from so long
before.  (I think I obtained them from another mail order catalogue,
but it could've been from a local shop.)

That's one of them illustrating the top of this post and, as I said, it's
a dead-ringer for the undelivered one from my childhood.  I've also got
a much smaller one, a cake decoration, which I acquired too many years
ago for me to recall exactly when (although it was after the larger ones).
Every Christmas, when I'm hanging them out, a mere glance transports me
back to that church hall (demolished around 22 years ago) and I'm once
again a ten year old boy with practically my whole life ahead of me.

To borrow (and tweak) some lines of verse from
Iain Osborne's poem, HALCYON DAYS:

"Remembering with poignant joy,
the happy lad I was at ten -
And wishing I could be that boy,
if only for one day again."

Do you have any recollections of Christmases past
which you'd like to share with your fellow Criv-ites?  If
so, the comments section awaits.

Saturday, 13 December 2014


In 1982, THE DAILY RECORD started running a new comic
strip - SMALL WORLD by DON ROBERTS.  I cut out the first
one they published and put it on my bedroom wall, where, over the
course of 32 years (and two houses), it has been ravaged by age
and is now faded, crinkled, and at the end of its shelf life.

However, I'm determined to preserve its image, so earlier tonight
I removed it from my wall and scanned it, removing as many of the
crinkles and age spots as I can via the aid of computer technology.
What you see above is the result of my efforts so far.  The next stage
is to 'bleach' it, then re-ink and re-colour it so that I can then print
out a new copy to take its place on the wall.  The bleached
version is below.

I'll keep you updated when I can find the time to finish what I've
started.  If, however, you have (or know where I can get) a pristine
copy of this strip somewhere, then do me a favour and let me
know, will you?  It'll save me some work.


No, don't worry, JAMELIA isn't naked - she's
got something on.  (A rabbit, to be precise.)


Continuing our series of JIM REEVES' Seasonal
songs, here's the tall Texan with a rendition of BLUE
CHRISTMAS that actually fits the mood of the song.
(ELVIS PRESLEY's version is too much of a 'toe-
tapper' for my tastes, good as it is.) 


Image copyright Marvel Comics

Back at the end of October, reader DUNCAN MACKINTOSH
reminded me that I'd had a letter printed in SUPER SPIDER-MAN
THE TITANS #206.  Well, you could've knocked me down with
a feather 'cos I'd clean forgotten about it.  I wasn't long in acquiring a
replacement (although, now that I think about it, the person to whom
I gave my original copy back in the '70s still has it), so I thought I'd
share my Mighty Marvel Missive with those of you who didn't
see Duncan's comment a couple of months ago.  Read on...


               Dear Bullpen,

               In a recent letters page, in reply to an enquiry about "The Missing
               Link/Johnny Future" saga, you said that earlier you had considered
               reprinting this series but had decided not to at present.  I'd just like
               to say I really enjoyed these stories when they first appeared in "Fan-
               tastic", so I'd just like to say you've got my support if you ever decide
               to publish this strip.  I was privileged only to read a few stories, so I
               look forward to reading the complete set at some future date.  You
               could even arrange a battle between the Hulk and the Missing Link
               as a fill-in, because they're similar in appearance and it would
               provide an interesting story.

               G. I. Robson,

               We're particularly gratified to receive your approbation of the
               Missing Link/Johnny Future saga because we had a big hand in
               the production of it. (Yep - all those years ago!)  Those Marvelites
               currently showing such fantastic interest in Cap. Britain might like
               to know that the artist was British produced (well, apart from the
               fact that the artist was a Spaniard!)  There are no present plans
               for re-publishing the series in British Marvels...but who knows
               what the future (and no pun intended!) may hold...


The Spanish artist, of course, was and is LUIS BERJEMO,
still going strong today (as far as I know).  I'm puzzled as to why
I said I'd only read a few of the strips, because when I eventually
acquired back numbers of FANTASTIC years later, I seemed to re-
call the majority of the weekly instalments.  I can only assume that, in
between having my memory refreshed, I'd simply forgotten reading
most of them at the time of my letter.  Or perhaps, devious teen-
ager that I was, I thought that Marvel might take pity on me
for having missed these classics and republish them.

What's interesting about the response is that it's probably
by ALF WALLACE (of ALF, BARTCOS fame) who was
the editor of ODHAMS PRESS POWER COMICS back in the
'60s, and who, in the '70s, was working for MARVEL U.K.  (What's
more, it's thought that he wrote at least some of the Missing Link/
Johnny Future strips back in the day.)  So things had come full
circle for him in being once again connected to Marvel.

From my point of view, as I had gotten into Marvel stories
through the Power Comics reprints, it gives me a little thrill to
think that Alf himself answered my letter to British Marvel way
back in '77.  What puzzles me is why I ever gave the comic away
- I must've forgotten that letter pretty quickly.  (Got it back now
'though, so a big thanks to Duncan for taking the time and
effort to remind me of its existence!)

Anyway, so far I've managed to account for four letters
I had printed in British Marvel mags of the '70s.  If anyone
uncovers any others, please let me know.

Thursday, 11 December 2014


I posted a link to this song a couple of years or so
back, but it's so good that it's deserves another airing.
The song first appeared in the BOB HOPE 1951 movie,
believe, was the first singer to release it on record.  Then
JIM REEVES eventually lent his golden voice to the
Yuletide lyrics and did the best version available.
Give it a listen and see if you agree. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


Are you old enough to remember THE FALL
GUY starring LEE MAJORS?  Then you'll likely
also recall HEATHER THOMAS, who was  the
best thing about the '80s show.  "Can I fold that
towel for you, Heather dear?  Oh, go on!"

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Here's the late, great JIM REEVES with a song that
sums up the spirit of Christmas.  Just listen to how long
he holds that note at the end - amazing!


The goalposts are shifting again, it appears.  The disabled,
whose plea was once that they be treated the same as more able-
bodied folks, now seem to expect preferential treatment.  The cause
of the most recent stramash is that a woman with a pushchair on a bus
refused to relinquish her seat in response to the demands of a man in a
wheelchair who wanted to board the vehicle.  As far as I understand,
the woman was already on board (in an area usually available for
prams, pushchairs and wheelchairs) when the bus pulled into
a stop where the wheelchair user was waiting.

The woman's baby was asleep, but presumably her refusal to
move was because there was no space to relocate to, rather than
from a lack of empathy for her would-be fellow passenger.  Or per-
haps his manner in 'requesting' her to move was overbearing
and ruffled her feathers somewhat.  

Regardless of the precise details in this particular case, it gives
rise to an interesting question.  If you've paid your fare, should you
be obliged to give up your seat or leave the bus to allow someone else
a space who feels that their need to get to the shops (or return home)
is greater than yours?  I seldom use a bus, but I have a congenital liver
disorder that leaves me constantly fatigued, meaning I often have to
sit down when I'm out and about.  Should I be compelled to give up
my seat to an older person who might be far fitter than me, just
because it superficially appears that they're more in need
of it - or simply just want it?

If you're able-bodied and there are no seats on a bus, surely
you just wait for the next one?  Shouldn't it be the same for those
who are disabled or impaired in some way?  Or are they within their
rights to demand that everyone else should give way to accommodate
them?  Am I being too harsh in thinking that being 'treated the same
way as everybody else' entails having to put up with the same in-
conveniences and disappointments that the able-bodied do?

What are your thoughts on this controversial subject?