Wednesday, 15 August 2018

REFLECTIVE REPOST: ONE LAST WALK...


Zara Thustrasia

When I was much younger than I am now (a child in fact), I subscribed to the notion of 'best' friends.  There's an irony in the concept of course, because a best friend isn't someone who is necessarily 'better' than other friends, but is instead merely one whom we like more than the rest.  Over the years, I'm sure I've been a better friend to some people than those they'd regard as their 'best' pal, but I'm never going to be eligible for the position.  (Not that I'd want or even try to be.)

So I long ago abandoned the idea of best friends - as far as people go.  However, anyone who has ever had a dog will know that the only species on the planet fit to qualify for such an accolade is the canine one.  Dogs are always genuinely glad to see us, never bear a grudge for however many times we've scolded them over some doggy-misdemeanour, and their chief delight in life is to lie at our feet or by our side and simply bask in the  pleasure of our company.

My dog passed on to the great 'Kennel Club in the sky' twenty years ago come November.  ZARA was her name;  a black and gold German Shepherd of the most placid temperament imaginable.  She lived for twelve years, seven months, and I still remember the sound of her, near the end of her days, trying to drag herself up the stairs to my room simply to be with me. (When I heard her, I'd go downstairs and carry her up.)

What a poseur

She had cauda equina, a condition which 'fused' the nerves  in her spine together, making it difficult for her to walk.  I'd noticed it was getting worse and mentioned it to the vet when Zara was getting her annual booster jags.  "She'll be fine for years yet!" he'd said.  Seven or so days later, she could hardly walk, so I took her back and the first thing he said on sight of her was:  "That dog should be put to sleep!"  I reminded him that only a week before, he'd said she was in fine form.  "A lot can change in a week!" he muttered.  X-rays revealed that she'd also developed internal tumours, for which nothing could be done.

I explained that, as long as she wasn't in any pain, putting her to sleep wasn't an option I was prepared to consider at that time.  He gave her a course of tablets, but said that they'd only be of short-term benefit.  A fortnight later, for the first time, she had difficulty breathing.  It was the night of November 25th, 1998 and I'd hoped Zara might see one more Christmas at the very least.  I fetched the Christmas tree down from the attic and put it up in the livingroom, switching on the tree lights so that she could watch them twinkling in the gloom.

When morning came, I rang the vet and then carried Zara up to my room, and placed her on my bed to make her as comfortable as possible.  When the vet arrived, Zara lifted her head to look at him - then looked at me, licked my hand, and laid down her head with a sigh - almost of relief.  After examining her, the vet confirmed it'd be better to put her to sleep. Still clinging to some forlorn hope, I said that if there were any other options, regardless of expense, I'd prefer to explore them first.  He shook his head sadly.  "No, it's time" he said.

Zara as a pup

I signed for the lethal injection, which the vet then went out to his car to fetch.  When he returned, he said:  "Her circulatory system is 'down', so I'll have to inject it straight into her heart.  It isn't going to be pleasant - you might want to leave the room."  I was holding Zara's paw and stroking her head, determined to be with her to the end.  It was the least I could do - she'd always been there for me.  "I'll stay" I said.

The vet administered the injection, stood back and watched.  After a while, he said:  "I'm sorry, this has never happened before - she won't die."  Consumed with guilt, I protested that if she could resist a lethal injection, maybe something could've been done for her after all.  "No, she's got a strong heart, but she needs more than that to survive" he replied.  Finally, he'd no choice but to fetch another injection to administer.  Zara eventually breathed her last, to the sounds of 'Walking In The Air' from a wind-up Snowman doing its slow, circular dance close by.

I then had to help the vet put Zara in a bag and carry her out to his car.  I'd arranged with him to have her privately cremated in a place called 'Elysium Fields', but it couldn't be done until after the weekend.  On the appointed day, a friend, who was a minister, ran me through, and Zara was laid out on display before me.  She looked like she was sleeping, but she was frozen solid.  I stroked her fur for one last time, before my friend said a few words and read a poem over her, and she was then taken off to be 'attended' to.

Having fun in the back garden

I didn't know that the process would take two hours, so we sat in a cafe until it was time to collect her ashes.  I was struck by how long they retained their warmth - as if, in some strange way, life itself yet lingered.  Four years later, I finally scattered them in the back garden, where her spirit probably runs around snapping at wasps to this day.

I probably shouldn't divulge this, but on the day I scattered her ashes, I first looped her lead through the handle of the bag that the box was in, and took her for one last walk around the places she'd known and loved when she was alive.  I don't know whether anyone noticed me taking a carrier bag on a lead for a stroll - I'd have got some strange looks if they had, but it was something I felt compelled to do.  If you've ever had a dog, you'll understand;  if not, you'll think I'm completely bonkers.  (Not that I was dragging the bag behind me, mind you - it was by my side.)

Two best friends - in one last walk together.  What could be more fitting?

******

ZARA THUSTRASIA ROBSON

May 3rd, 1986 - November 26th, 1998

******

 "Well! I've seen men go to courageous death
In the air, on sea, on land!
But only a dog would spend his breath
In a kiss for his murderer's hand.

And if there's no heaven for love like that,
For such four-legged fealty - well!
If I have any choice, I tell you flat,
I'll take my chance in hell."

From "Rags" - by Edmund Vance Cooke.

Monday, 13 August 2018

RIP-ROARING REPOST: FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUTH THEY TRIED TO HIDE...



You're looking at old photos of a corpse unearthed in 1901 that proves the FRANKENSTEIN legend is true.  Apparently, MARY SHELLEY based her 1818 tale of horror on rumours of an artificial man, created by German resurrectionist and surgeon LIPAR OFLO in 1800.  In 1869, Hungarian KAJOK VASALAS, intrigued by the persistent assertions that the novel was based on true events, spent over 30 years investigating the claims and, with the financial backing of a group of sympathetic seekers after truth, finally tracked down the cadaver, which was preserved in an air-tight, salt-filled casket in the cellars of The Royal Czech Society of Sciences.

(The 'experts' could not dispute that here, indeed, was a being stitched together from the parts of other corpses, but doubted that such a creature ever actually drew the breath of life.  Until, that is, the remains of half-digested food were found in its stomach. )

It turns out that JACK PIERCE, credited with creating the make-up for BORIS KARLOFF's portrayal of the monster in 1931, actually used photos of the corpse as reference.  Pierce came originally from Greece and his real name was JANUS PICCOULA;  his uncle, DEMIS PICCOULA, was a high-ranking professor of the Society, and supplied him with copies of the photographs upon learning that UNIVERSAL were planning to produce the movie.  However, when the other members saw the success of  the horror classic, they threatened to sue Universal unless a substantial amount of money was donated to Society funds.  A deal was eventually struck, on the condition that no mention ever be made that the visage of Universal's monster was anything other than an original creation, and that the corpse's existence should not be revealed for at least 80 years.


But why would Universal be afraid of the truth becoming common knowledge?  Presumably because the film, despite its huge commercial success, came in for much criticism at the time from church groups, appalled by the suggestion that mere Man was capable of usurping the role of the one true Creator.  If it were ever to become known that the motion picture was based on demonstrably true historical events, the public backlash against the studio would have been immense.  It's also likely that the Society would have claimed copyright of the image and deprived the studio of millions of dollars in merchandising potential.

However, the truth is now out!  In order to meet the cost of preserving the DNA-tested and authenticated remains, the Society has gone public with the story, Universal's arrangement having only been legally enforceable until 2011.  A major television documentary is now in the works, telling the true story of  facts concealed from the public from as far back as 1931.

Truth, as they say, is often stranger than fiction.

******

The corpse is currently stored in refrigerated conditions in what is now known as The Academy of Sciences of  the Czech Republic, formerly The R.C.S.S.  A BBC documentary, FINDING FRANKENSTEIN:  The TRUE STORY Of A  MONSTER, will be screened in November.



*   *   *


And now, an important word from our sponsor:

Yes, you're right - it's complete and utter rubbish!

The photos are 'borrowed' from ROBBY's CLASSIC MOVIE MONSTERS blog.  The monster was made by MIKE HILL, and the photos were taken by STAN WONG (with a little tweaking from me).  So, did you fall for it?  Nah?  Oh well... next time.

INCREDIBLE HULK ANNUAL 1979...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

I only learned of this Annual's existence a few short weeks ago when I saw it on eBay, having absolutely no recollection of ever having seen it back in 1978/'79.  I've got the 1977/'78 Annual so I bought this one to keep it company on the shelf, but the one that arrived was not exactly the same as the one pictured in the listing.  Can you spot what's different about it?

As you can see from the picture below, my copy is missing the words 'Annual 1979', which means that it was doubtless printed for sale abroad.  This was quite a common practice for IPC Annuals, as they were shipped abroad at a later date than they were sold in this country, but it's the first MARVEL Annual I've seen amended in this way.  Unlike IPC Annuals though, which merely deleted the year while leaving the word 'Annual', the whole line has been removed and a clumsy 'add in' has replaced it.

If nothing else, it makes for an interesting curio, but I'd have preferred to have received the original version.  Any Criv-ites got any other Marvel UK Annuals that have been amended in this way?  Tell all, folks! 


As you can see below, the contents page was also amended.  The book could possibly remain on sale for years without the date on it.


And below is the back cover of both versions, sans title.  Wouldn't make a bad pin-up, would it?

Sunday, 12 August 2018

THE 'MYSTERY' OF THE MARX BUMP'N'GO DALEK...



When the MARX TOYS 'TRICKY ACTION' DALEK (more commonly referred to as the Bump'n'Go) was first released in 1964, it wasn't too long before its shape was refined slightly and a few changes instituted.  The first version had a wider 'midriff', the eye stalk was longer and had a red ball at the end of it, and the casing was sprayed silver.  The earliest incarnations of the first version had a blue base and silver appendages, but this was very soon changed to a black base with black appendages, and there wasn't any great length of time between the two.

At some point, and I'm unable to determine exactly when, the shape of the Dalek was amended to a slimmer midriff with thinner bands, and the appendages were altered, with the eyepiece being slightly more accurate and in scale, and the plunger having a 'crink' straightened out.  The gun was also slightly amended and the Dalek colour was now a silvery-grey plastic instead of sprayed.  It may be that these changes were only instituted to distinguish the later large friction-drive model from its Bump'n'Go companion, but the redesigned chassis was soon pressed into service for the Bump'n'Go as well.      


However, it could be that the BBC requested the changes to make the model more accurate, although possibly it was because (and I'm speculating here) Marx thought that the slimmer version was easier for kids to grip with their small hands.  The lines of the thinner bands were sculpted a little smoother than the previous wider ones, and it has to be admitted that the streamlined version is a tad more reminiscent (head excepted) of the way the Daleks were first illustrated in the TV CENTURY 21 back page comic strip.  In profile both models look pretty much the same, though you can see in the photo below that the space between the bands on the first Dalek isn't quite consistent.

If there's anyone reading this who knows the facts behind the changes in the second version, feel free to enlighten me, as I'm sure my fellow Criv-ites would be interested as well.  I've never yet read a definitive explanation for the revisions (though the reasons for the appendages being altered are obvious), so perhaps nobody knows for sure and it's all down to guesswork.  Did you have this toy as a kid, readers, and what are your memories of playing with it?  (Incidentally, the second Dalek in the photos is a DAPOL reissue, but apart from the Bump'n'Go mechanism and the interior lighting, the shape and appendages are the same as the original revised version.)   

THE RETURN OF THE FABULOUS FANTASTIC FOUR...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

So the FF are back - and it seems as if they've never really been away.  An enjoyable first ish, but pretty much same old, same old.  SARA PICHELLI's art is nice, and it's good to see The THING portrayed as the huge, er - 'thing' - that he was way back in 1961, but I'm not too keen on the amiable, friendly-looking, 'teddy bear' face, much preferring the heavy-browed, glowering Thing of FF #51.  There are several variant covers, but I plumped for the SUE STORM one as I've fancied her since I was a boy.  (Note the clever way I avoided saying I carried a 'torch' for her - oops, ruined that, didn't I?)

Available now - be sure to pick up a copy.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

BORISOPHOBIA...



Let me start this post by saying that I'm not a fan of BORIS JOHNSON (or any politician come to that).  He often comes across as a buffoon, though maybe that's a role he plays on purpose so that his political opponents will underestimate him (or for some other undetermined reason).  However, I believe the manufactured stushie over his comments about burkas reveals just how sorry we've become as a nation in recent years.

We Brits have always had the ability to laugh at (and among) ourselves.  The 'Englishmen, Irishman, and Scotsman' jokes that were once so popular were testament to the fact that we didn't take ourselves too seriously.  If an Englishman referred to a kilt as a 'skirt', there were no accusations of 'Celticphobia' suddenly flying around, with calls for an investigation.

Johnson's comments about pillar boxes and bank robbers were an attempt at humour, and however misjudged some people might consider his remarks, their response should surely be "T*sser!" and then to dismiss it from their minds.  I'm bound to say though, that in the pursuit of comedic comparison, the opening in a burka surely can be said to be reminiscent of the slot in a pillar box, and people who cover their faces could humorously be said to resemble bank robbers (but that's not the same thing as saying that they are bank robbers - or pillar boxes for that matter) - in much the same way that nuns are sometimes compared to penguins.  We don't hear nuns (or penguins) making a fuss about that though, do we?

There are two agendas at play here.  The first is a political one, where those scared of Johnson's alleged eye on the top job are exploiting the situation to try and kick the legs out from under him and scupper his chances, and the other is a cultural/religious one, where certain people within a minority section of our society, who are determined to take offense at everything, claim that they're the victims of Islamophobia - or any other ethnic/social/religious-phobia you care to mention.

It's a way to force us to bow the knee to them and elevate their 'sensitivities' (and demands) above everyone else's.  Ordinary, everyday British people are on the defensive, afraid to question, criticise, or even comment on any aspect of immigrant or ethnic cultures that isn't in accord with what have long been regarded as 'traditional British values'.  (And there's a phrase I never thought I'd type.)  We've now been manipulated into being so scared to cause offense to certain groups (and the current 'Gingerbread Man' controversy is a prime example) - even when none is intended or anticipated - that strange customs and practices, at one time foreign to our shores, are allowed to take root and grow unchallenged.

So some people claim to be offended by Boris's remarks and, sensing blood, they now circle like vultures - not just waiting for the victim's expiration, but pecking at its flesh in an attempt to hasten its demise.  It's time this nonsense stopped!  There's one right that no one has - or should have - in this world, and that's the right to be not offended.  (Yes, I typed that right - read it again.)

Do the English think kilts look like skirts?  Then let them say so and we'll all have a laugh about it.  Do Scots think that the English are snooty snobs?  Then let them proclaim it and we'll all chuckle over it.  If immigrant or ethnic communities want to feel integrated (and perhaps many don't), then the chief British characteristic they should adopt is a sense of humour and the ability to laugh at themselves - and to allow others to laugh at (and with) them.

Remember the movie LIFE Of BRIAN?  Some Christians took offense, but it sparked an interesting and (mainly) civilised discussion.  You'll never see an Islamic equivalent of 'Brian' in today's Britain (for fear of giving 'offense' obviously, and the stushie that would ensue), and surely that should be regarded as a step backward.  No minority within our society should be allowed to exercise that type of control (through fear of how they might 'kick off' as a result of any perceived insult) over the majority, but our 'leaders' are too scared to say so, never mind do anything about it. 

The agenda is control, readers.  Certain people in pursuit of that agenda are trying to exert influence over what we can think and say, and the method they're using is the claim of being offended whenever they hear something they don't like, or don't want others being able to say.  We shouldn't let this current situation with Boris become a weapon for those who wish to impose their ideas of how society should be on the rest of us.

Any thoughts on the matter?  I now declare the comments section open.  Who's going to be the first person brave enough to raise their head above the parapet?           

REMINISCING REPOST: WHEN TITANS CLASH, ETERNITY BECKONS...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Picture the scene:  The living-room is lit by a standard lamp in the far corner, which casts its soft, warm glow over the fixtures, fittings and furniture - as well as the inhabitants, of which I am one.  Adding to the gentle light are the diffused rays from the coal-effect fire and the flickering images from the TV screen.  Father sits reading his paper, whilst mother stands behind him, ironing, and glancing occasionally at whatever's on 'the box'.  Sibling is out somewhere, either visiting friends or perhaps even working on his car in his lockup across the road.


As for myself, I'm sat beside a large brass 'log-box' in which was once stored coal for a 'real' fire, both in our present house and in the previous one.  On the floor, at my feet, sits a collection of comics, some of which were purchased, mail-order, from DAVE HERN of Bournemouth's WONDERWORLD COMICS, which, as far as I know, is still going strong (hopefully).


It's around 7 or 8 o'clock on a dusky Autumn evening and, outside, the 'tang' of the season permeates the air with its distinctive aroma peculiar to the time of year.  Inside, peace and tranquility reign supreme, and all seems right with the world.  It's the year 1981 - or perhaps even '82 - and in my blissful state of ignorance, I'm unaware that, in a year and a half or so, my family will once again be moving to yet another house in another neighbourhood, with all the inconvenience, turmoil and trauma that such events always bring.  (Regular readers will know that we returned to our previous abode four years later.)


But for the moment, all is as it should be.  Contentment and harmony are the order of the day as I leisurely peruse some of my recent four-colour acquisitions.  It's entirely possible that I may be compressing separate-but-similar evenings into one, but it seems to me, looking back from this distance in time, that amongst my comics stash that night were the very ones whose images adorn this hopefully poignant post.


Sometimes, nowadays, I'll try and re-create and recapture a hint of that narcotic night so many years ago - and, occasionally, I even succeed.  However, it's only ever a brief taste, self-consciously indulged in (like a guilty pleasure) before the moment fades like a phantom's fleeting passing in the mist.  I still have the comics, but not all of the other participants of that long-ago picturesque presentation have survived to reprise their previous roles in the play.  One by one they fell by the wayside, victims of Time.  (As we all must do one day, difficult as the idea is to accept.)


And so I take my leave of you for now, in the hope that my reminiscence, accompanied by such valiant visual images, has helped to summon some memorable memories from your own dim and distant days of yesteryear.  The ghosts of the past are always present - but sometimes we must strain to see them, or hear their siren call.



BABE OF THE DAY - LYNDA CARTER...



The stunning LYNDA CARTER in her role as the wondrous
WONDER WOMAN often has one of those days when it feels
like the walls are closing in on her.  Luckily for her, she has the
power to do something about it - and in style, too.

Monday, 6 August 2018

'BEAM' ME UP, SCOTTY...


Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

One thing that's always niggled me about the X-MEN's CYCLOPS is that his supposedly uncontrollable power beam, which can slice its way through walls (and presumably humans) could be held in check by a pair of sunglasses - or in the case of his costume, his visor.  The visor I can just about accept, but surely the sunglasses would simply be propelled from his face by the force of the beam?  And that mask would need to be reinforced to prevent it eventually splitting from the power of the beam behind it.

Both visor and sunglasses are, I believe, made from 'ruby quartz', which would have to be able to absorb the beam rather than just hold it in check, but I don't know if this has ever been fully explained in the comics.  The impression given is that Cyclops' beam cannot penetrate ruby quartz, in a similar sort of way to SUPERMAN's X-ray vision not being able to penetrate lead (not an exact comparison I know), but as every action has an equal and opposite reaction, surely the sheer power of the beam would propel his sunglasses away from him?  Two thin semi-curved bits of plastic or metal looped over his ears are not going to be enough to secure his glasses in place.

(Another thing that occurs to me is that villains would surely be curious as to what that visor was made of, as the knowledge would enable them to come up with a way to negate SCOTT SUMMER's power.  "Here's your ruby quartz-laced uniforms and shields, men - now go get the buggah!")

So tell me, captivated Criv-ites, has it ever been specifically explained in the comics that ruby quartz absorbs the power beam as opposed to simply stopping it, or are we merely meant to assume that such is the case?  If the former, and you can remember what issue of The X-Men's comic in which it was explained, share that info here - and save me the bother of having to trawl through my collection of mutant tales.  Or is it just another Mighty MARVEL boo-boo?  

Friday, 3 August 2018

TOY BOX TREASURES OF THE PAST: CORGI TOYS CONCORDE...



It was December 1970, and I have a feeling it may have been Boxing Day when I bought my original CORGI TOYS CONCORDE.  A few shops were sometimes open on Boxing Day depending, perhaps, on what day of the week it fell.  If it wasn't Boxing day then it was the day after Boxing Day, and having now said Boxing Day five times, I'll try and avoid saying it again.  However, I definitely do remember that I got it from R.S. McCOLL's in the main shopping centre of my town.  (I also seem to recall watching The 7th VOYAGE Of SINBAD [I think] on TV while handling the model, but that may have been on a later day.)

Corgi still manufacture this model today, though it no longer says 'Corgi Toys' or 'Made In Great Britain' on the base, sporting instead the Corgi dog symbol and the single word 'Corgi'.  I bought another Corgi Concorde in the late '80s or early '90s while it yet sported the original unamended base and the livery and windows were still adhesive stickers, but another one I purchased a few short years ago has these visual 'features' printed on the actual model itself, and the base is the amended version.  Both have British Airways livery and white nosecones.

However, there's something about the original BOAC livery with the dark nosecone that is extremely attractive, so I managed to track one down on eBay a year or so back and added it to my collection.  It's good to have replaced yet another item that conjures up memories of my childhood and makes it seem less far away than the aeons it so often feels it was.  If you had this item as a kid, then I'm sure you'll appreciate seeing it again too.  (Whenever I find where I've stashed them, I'll add pics of the other two mentioned in the previous paragraph.)

******

Incidentally, the rear wheels (non-turning, as is the front one) tended to come off rather easily and this has led to some ignorant or dishonest dealers who sell wheel-less Concordes claiming that the early versions of this model were produced without rear wheels.  You can reliably take it from me that this claim is without foundation and is, in fact, complete b*ll*cks - they always had rear wheels from day one!

Monday, 30 July 2018

RAMPAGING REPOST: LITTLE-KNOWN "THIRD" FANTASTIC FOUR #1 COVER...

 
Published cover.  Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

As most readers will know, there are two FF #1 covers;  the cover that was published in 1961 (above) and the cover as it was originally drawn (below - known as the "missing man" cover - though that should really be in the plural), which was the version most often utilized in MARVEL reprints up until the recent MASTERWORKS, OMNIBUS and Trade Paperback editions.

The published version featured the addition of a policeman at the end of the street - and some alterations and additions to the passers-by on the right-hand side of the cover.  Exactly who was responsible for the amendments is, at present,  unknown.

Stat of original art by JACK KIRBY & GEORGE KLEIN

Was it Jack Kirby or Dick Ayers who drew them?  Perhaps Ayers inked over Kirby pencils, which would explain why he was credited as inker of the complete cover for many years, until George Klein came to be regarded as the man behind the embellishment duties.  Perhaps one day we'll find out for certain.
 
What most fans don't realize however, is that there is also a third, hybrid, version (below).  This was the reprint of FF #1 used for the GOLDEN BOOK & RECORD Set in the mid or late '60s.  This cover had the original, unaltered passers-by as originally drawn by Kirby, but the policeman (a redrawn version) had been added to make it look like the original printed version from 1961.  (The price, number and date had been removed though.)  Interestingly, considering the debate about who inked the first issue, Dick Ayers is credited as inker on the back of the record sleeve - although his surname is misspelled as "Ayres".)

GOLDEN BOOK & RECORD FF #1 Reprint

Side-by-side comparison

Sunday, 29 July 2018

YOGI BEAR - HE'S ALL SHOOK UP...



Here's a pair of items I acquired a short while ago that will be of interest to YOGI BEAR fans - a salt and pepper shaker set in the image of the HANNA-BARBERA bruin.  I don't know anything about their history, but I'd guess that they're early items of merchandise going by the colour.  Some Yogi merchandise from the early 1960s was often of a darker brown than its cartoon counterpart, and sometimes even had a 'shirt-front' under the tie.  It took a while before any kind of consistency was introduced to the various Yogi items available to '60s shoppers.  As you can see, Yogi's nose hasn't been painted on the shakers, leaving me with a dilemma - to paint or not to paint?  I've decided to leave off for the moment, but I may yet succumb to the temptation.  (You may have to strain to see his tie due to the camera flash, but it's there sure enough.) 

Know anything about their history, like year of production, manufacturer, or country of origin?  If so, feel free to enlighten me in the comments section.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

BABE OF THE DAY - LYNDA CARTER...



Probably the most stunning woman of
the '70s - LYNDA CARTER.  She truly is
a wonder.  (I wonder when she's going to
call and ask me out on a date.)

REFLECTIVE REPOST: "WITHOUT TIME AND WITHOUT END..."



I was gently brushing the dust from one of my classic collectables earlier today, when something occurred to me.  I had originally owned this particular item back in 1967 or '68, but the one I currently have is a replacement I obtained in the mid-'80s.  I probably owned the original for no more than two or three years at the most, while its present-day stand-in I've now had for around 33 years.  Strange, because it still feels like a fairly recent acquisition, while the one I had as a kid seems to have been part of my childhood for far longer than it actually was.


It's the same with comics.  I remember buying the first issue of the 'new' SMASH! in March of 1969, but before the week was out I'd sold it (along with its free gift) at cover price to one of my classmates, BILLY MONTGOMERY, who'd missed out on buying his own copy earlier.  I sold it to him mid-week, intending to buy a replacement before issue #2 came out on the coming Saturday.  As it happens, I didn't manage to obtain one 'til over 15 and a half years later (October 13th, 1984, from an Edinburgh comics shop, to be exact), but I remembered practically every page as if I'd seen it only the day before.

Amazing, isn't it?  I'd only owned the original comic for three or four days at most, yet it had made such an impression on me that when I think back, it seems that I had it for far longer.  And, just like the previous item to which I referred, those few days don't seem any less than the nearly 34 years I've owned its successor.

Which brings me closer to the point.  "Hurrah!", cry countless thousands of rabid readers.  (If only.)  I was listening to a radio play a number of years back, in which someone quoted a line very close to the following one:  "The memories of childhood are without time and without end."  Or it may've been "...without end and without time."  (I've tried to trace its source, but to no avail.  If anybody knows its origin, feel free to let me know.)

Regardless of the exact wording, I know exactly what it means.  When I recall my childhood, it's often difficult to remember events in their proper sequence, or the exact duration of certain periods of time.  Whether I had a comic or toy for six days or six months, it all seems the same to me in retrospect.  Same goes for houses.  As a child, I once lived in a house for just over a year, but when I think back on it, my time there doesn't seem any less than the four years I spent in the house before, or the nearly seven years in the one after.  Don't get me wrong - I know there's a difference - I just don't feel there's a difference.

According to the Good Book, "One day is as a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years as one day."  When I think back to the days of my youth, I kind of know what that must feel like - although obviously on a much smaller scale.

"Without time and without end" - if only life  itself were like that.  Wouldn't it be great?

Friday, 27 July 2018

RUMINATING REPOST: ONE FOR THE 'LOG' BOOK, PERHAPS...?



Looking back and trying to place events in their proper time frame years after the fact can sometimes be a difficult task.  When we're able to associate a particular incident with a specific, cover-dated periodical (for example), the job becomes a lot easier;  however, without such an aid, accurate attribution of when things occurred can seldom be an exact science.  Unless one has a meticulously recorded diary, that is - and all too few of us do.

The event I am about to share is insignificant in the great scheme of things;  as is so much of what we regard as important to ourselves, and which we often imagine, in our vanity, to have far-reaching implications of immense profundity beyond our own finite sphere of influence and existence.  Don't we all consider ourselves, subconsciously (unconsciously even), to be the centre around which the entire universe revolves?  Of course we do.  And it's the occasions when we're reminded that such is not the case which often cause the biggest frustrations in life.

The following recollection is one of immense triviality.  (If such a stark contradiction in terms can be permitted.)  It is a tale of no consequence, banal, mundane, uninteresting - to anyone but myself, that is.  I offer it in the hope that you may be able to relate to it, inasmuch as it may remind you of a similar circumstance in your own life, and that you may take comfort from the fact that you are not so removed from the common condition of humankind as you may sometimes think (or fear).

******

When I was a boy, my parents had a porcelain ornament which I took note of almost as soon as the power of sequential thought and memory first dawned within me.  It was a little log, on which pink and yellow petals, underscored with green leaves, were arranged in a splendoured-display along the glazed brown bark which gave home to them.  I was probably only about 3 years old when it first introduced itself into my consciousness.

The seasons passed with regular inevitability, so let's now jump to either 1970 or '71, when I was in my first year at secondary school and aged about 11 or 12.  I was also two houses removed from the one in which this particular ornament had first come to my attention.  Even at that young age, it represented a link to my cherished past which I was reluctant - nay, unable to relinquish.  I lived in and for the past;  I 'looked back' to such an extent that I should have turned into a pillar of salt long before ever reaching the age I then was.

One night, by prior arrangement, two classmates (who'd invited me to a youth club in the school across the road from the one we attended) called in for me.  I'd previously been a member of the Boys' Brigade in this school some years before, and was looking forward to reacquainting myself with its interiors.  The two lads were STUART MacDONALD and AIDEN DICK (whose nickname was probably 'Tiny'), and when they rang the front doorbell, in my haste to put on my jacket, a flapping sleeve knocked the small ornament from its place atop the wooden fire surround, whereupon it smashed to pieces on the tiled surface below.

I was dismayed and my parents were understandably annoyed, but with the callousness of youth, I suppressed my guilt (a temporary condition) and made my way with my two companions to our destination.  As it turned out, I didn't stay long at the club;  a combination of melancholy at unwittingly destroying the glazed log, dissatisfaction with the club itself, and anger at finding that the dastardly-duo had only invited me along in order to try and swindle me out of my entrance fee.  (An attempt that was doomed to failure.  They would have needed the A-TEAM to accomplish that - and they weren't around back then.)

I never forgot that ornament.  The years passed and I grew to adulthood, but, periodically, I would recall that night and cringe with shame at my part in the little log's destruction.  If ever I was at a Jumble Sale or Christmas Fayre, I would keep an eye out for one to replace it - but I was never successful in my aspiration.  It must have been about 32 or 33 years later that I saw its double in a charity shop, and - despite the unrealistic price that such establishments seem to place on much of their stock these days - I readily handed over my cash.

Well, I've had that replacement for around 15 years now.  I look at it every so often and my guilt at the murder of its twin is assuaged somewhat - though never completely.  It's strange to think that most of my life has been lived in its absence, because now that its doppelganger graces the same shelf-space the original would have occupied had it survived, it's almost as if history has been magically rewritten to include it in my memories of the time when it wasn't around. 

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), it's a good feeling to be reunited with a familiar object from childhood and I derive a mixture of comfort, pleasure, and satisfaction from its presence.  It's as if I've redeemed myself (however slightly) for some heinous sin, the shame of which has haunted me for most of my life and from which I thought I'd never be free.

Is there a moral to this story?  Or even a point to it, as some of the more critical amongst you may be wondering.  I'm sure there is, even if it's as difficult to articulate as providing precise dates for the foregoing events is elusive.  However, my work is done.  I've given you the clay;  'tis now your task to reflect, to ponder - then fashion it into whichever shape you think may serve you best.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

NOT THE GENUINE ARTICLE (UPDATED)...


Facsimile of 1939/'40 edition

I'm a sucker for facsimile editions of classic annuals, comics and books, the originals of which would doubtless be far beyond my meagre financial resources to obtain.  My latest acquisition is a facsimile of the very first BEANO book for 1940, which now joins the ranks of my replica editions of the first DANDY, BROONS and Oor WULLIE books.

However, the word 'facsimile' is often misapplied, because unless the item looks more or less exactly like the original (with a discrete distinguishing note that it isn't), it's arguable as to whether the description is an apt one.  Take the recent 'replica' of the first issue of the Beano:  it's four pages short, PEANUT the mascot has been removed, and its held together by staples instead of glue.

The facsimiles of the RUPERT BEAR books are probably the best examples of a true replica.  In making the books, every effort was made to reproduce not only the appearance but the very feel of the originals, and they really are top class.  In the case of the Beano and Dandy books, D.C. THOMSON produced them in collaboration with different publishers two years apart, and they're different sizes.  The Beano is an inch or so shorter than The Dandy tome, though the image-size on the pages of both books is exactly the same, with only the margin around the image being larger in The Dandy's case.

So which, if any, is the closest in size to its original incarnation?  I'm looking into it and will let you know when I find out.  Of course, if you've never seen or owned the original book, it's probably more the content you're interested in than the presentation, so the fact that a facsimile doesn't capture the exact appearance or dimensions of the original won't much matter to you.  However, in the case of the Rupert books in particular, certain aspects are extremely important in conjuring up childhood memories to those who read them when young.  The paper, the feel, the smell, the size, the look, etc., are essential ingredients in re-creating accurate impressions of the past.

Personally, the only difference I don't mind is when an old book had shoddy binding and was prone to fall apart - if publishers want to improve that aspect in a replica edition then I won't object at all.

Anyway, what follows is a variety (from my own collection) of authorised, official facsimiles, replicas and reissues which were intended to capture the spirit of their originals to some degree or other.  Hope you enjoy them.  (I'll add any that I've forgotten or temporarily mislaid at a later date.)

Oh, and here's a question for you.  Would you be happy with a facsimile of a book or annual you wanted, or would you prefer to do without if you couldn't have the original?

(All images copyright their respective owners.)

Facsimile of 1938/'39 edition

Facsimile of 1938/'39 edition

Facsimile of 1939/'40 edition

Facsimile of 1936 edition

Facsimile of 1937 edition

Facsimile of 1938 edition

Facsimile of 1939 edition

Facsimile of 1949 edition

Facsimile of 1922 edition

Facsimile of 1923 edition

Facsimile of 1964 edition

Facsimile of 1965 edition

Facsimile of 1965 edition

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland
Facsimile of 1866 edition

Alice Through The Looking-Glass
Facsimile of 1872 edition

Facsimile of 1896 edition

Facsimile of 1921 edition

Facsimile of 1921 edition

Facsimile of 1921 edition

Facsimile of 1921 edition

Facsimile of 1942 edition
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