Sunday, 31 October 2010

"THREE WEE WITCHES ON THE GREEN..."



 Just for the fun of it, here are some more frightfully fiendish images
suitable for Hallowe'en. First up, an AURORA ad from any number of
DC COMICS from the '60s - followed by the box art (painted by JAMES
BAMA) of ol' FRANKIE's and DRAC's plastic model kits by the selfsame
company. (AURORA, that is - not DC.)

Don't you just wish you had these two little beauties
in your collection? (I have.)


Okay, so I lied about the witches - sue me.

BRING ON THE BAD GUYS...TRICK OR TREAT?

 
"BOO!"

Hallowe'en - and
this cover by JOHN
ROMITA for the
FIRESIDE book,
BRING ON THE BAD
GUYS, is the perfect
image to illustrate a
blog about comicbooks
on this particular
day of October
31st - it's even got
a pumpkin on it.

One word of
warning 'though. If
you get a knock on
your front door and
open it to find this
assortment of
colourful characters
on your step, you'd
better have more than
a few monkey nuts
and an apple each for them. If not, slam it shut and get out the back door as fast as you can. These guys don't mess around.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT...

 
Inked with a Windsor & Newton #3 sable brush
This page was
pencilled by DOM
REGAN and inked,
dialogued and lettered
by myself. Dom doesn't
seem to use a ruler, so
his perspectives aren't
always as precise as
they could be, requiring
a bit of sorting out at
the inking stage. His
rendering is also a bit
vague at times ('though
not so much on this
page), which means
the inker isn't quite
sure exactly what he's
looking at on occasion -
but his artwork certainly
packs a punch.

As the page features a CAPTAIN AMERICA stand-in (MAJOR AMERICAN - a
name I coined), I tried to give it a CHIC STONE-type finish. I've probably over-
inked the machinery in the first couple of panels, which are far too laboured, but it
didn't come out too bad overall.

Monday, 25 October 2010

DID YOU EVER WONDER ABOUT SUPERMAN'S "U"?


Superman #233, featuring Ira Schnapp's logo.
(Art by Neal Adams) 
  
SUPERMAN's logo is as iconic as that of COCA COLA and is recognized
the world over, but it took a while before it was standardized by NATIONAL
PUBLICATIONS' ace designer and calligrapher IRA SCHNAPP (on the
cover of issue #6), based on JOE SHUSTER's original design. Did you ever
wonder, however, why it had that peculiar shaped angular "U" which didn't
match any of the other letters?

Superman Ashcan edition. (Art by Joe Shuster)

I thought I had solved the mystery when I first saw the cover of the Ashcan
Edition of Superman (SUPERMAN COMICS), and noticed that the "C" of
"Comics" cuts into the "U" of "Superman". Closer examination shows that the
"U" had almost the same squarish curve (if that's not a contradiction in terms)
as the "P" and the "R". Was it simply a case of this rough logo being relettered
for issue #1 with the word "Comics" omitted, and someone taking the easy
way out by angling-off the letter to complete the bottom line of the "U"?

Superman #6. 1st appearance of Ira's logo.
(Art by Joe Shuster)
  
  It would be easy to assume so, going by the cover (and centre pages) of
the actual first issue (which, legend has it, was originally intended as a one-
off - hence the un-numbered cover). It therefore didn't seem unreasonable to
suppose that, when Ira Schnapp came to letter the definitive version, he was
provided with a printed copy of the then-relatively recent SUPERMAN #1
for reference. It certainly couldn't have been issues 2-5, as each cover
logo featured a curved "U". (For the cover of issue #1, see previous
post.) So - mystery solved?

Well, no. Despite my fine speculations, after a bit more digging
I found that JOE SHUSTER had occasionally rendered the "U" in that
way from as early as ACTION COMICS #2 - which predates the Ashcan
and the first issue by quite a margin. (As that story was actually reprinted
in SUPERMAN #1, I could have saved myself needless hypothesizing by
simply reading the comic.) It seems entirely possible, therefore, that Ira
Schnapp was provided with a copy of the angular lettered logo for reference
instead of the curved one merely on a whim of fate. (Although I have to
concede that, with it's distinctive "U", maybe the editor - or Ira himself -
just preferred that version.) Just think 'though - comics history could
so easily have been different.
   
 Ira's logo lasted for over 40 years, until 1983, when it was relettered by
MARSHALL ARISMAN to more closely resemble the earliest regular
incarnations of the title. I actually think it's excellent, although I have
reservations about the top curve of the "S" overlapping the top of the
"U". Maybe one day I'll have a go at doing it.

(Note: An "Ashcan Edition" is an in-house, non-distributed publication
used for the purpose of securing copyright on a title.)

Now, be honest - did you ever wonder.....?

Superman #386, the 1st appearance of Marshall
Arisman's logo. (Art by Gil Kane)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A COMICS CONTROVERSY - CARE TO COMMENT?


Superman's first issue of his own comicbook
Consider, if you will, the
following scenario. A person
buys an ornament for £2 from
a charity shop. Later, upon
reflection, they decide that
they don't really like,it, so
when someone collecting for
a jumble sale chaps their door,
the ornament is handed over
to help raise funds to repair
a leaky church roof.

Ten years later, the
first person is watching
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW
and sees "their" ornament
declared as being worth
£20,000. Do they have a
moral or legal claim on any
of that money if the current
owner decides to sell?

Now consider this. Someone asks an artist to paint a picture of their
house and gardens. He charges them £300 and is extremely pleased at
the amount he has secured for himself. Five years later, a visitor to the
purchaser's house is so enamoured of the painting that he offers them
£5,000 for it. Over the years, it changes hands for increased amounts
until it's worth £50,000. Does the artist have a moral or legal claim
on any of the money it has changed hands for over the years?

The answer is surely "no" - isn't it?

So - what's the difference between those two examples and
what happened to SIEGEL and SHUSTER over SUPERMAN,
or JACK KIRBY and the many characters he created or co-created
for MARVEL or DC COMICS? Or the work LEO BAXENDALE
(or any artist you care to name) did for D.C. THOMSON or IPC/
FLEETWAY? I would suggest none at all.

If you consent to sell something outright for an agreed fee,
then it's really nothing to do with you what the purchaser does with
his purchase or how much he profits from it in the years to come. If you
buy a house for £80,000 and then sell it for £100,000, the previous
owner (even if he built the house) is neither legally nor morally entitled
to a share of your profit. And, back in the day, that's the way it was
done in the world of comics.

Batman's first issue of his own comicbook
That's not to say that
I have anything against
present- day creators'
rights, profit-sharing,
copyright ownership,
artwork return, or any-
thing like that - because
that's the way things are
done nowadays.

However, back in the
1930s (until the late '70s,
early '80s), comics were
just a job to the writers and
artists - 'twas the publishers
who took the financial risk
in launching a new comic-
book, so why shouldn't
their share of the profits
proportionately reflect
that risk?

When a publisher bought a character, they bought it outright - if it
was a success, they made money, if it was a failure, they didn't. It's a
safe bet that there were a lot more failures than successes in those
days. That was just the way the cookie crumbled.

Anyone got any thoughts on the matter? Let's hear them.

ODDS 'N' ENDS...


May I present a few logos I lettered relatively recently? Everything is done freehand - apart from a ruler for the horizontal pencil guidelines before inking.




Saturday, 23 October 2010

DO YOU REMEMBER THE ILLUSTRATED COMIC JOURNAL?


Can you name them all?

The accompanying illustration is a scan of a very poor quality colour
photocopy taken about fourteen or more years ago when I was preparing a
cover for THE ILLUSTRATED COMIC JOURNAL. The copier (in a local
garage, of all places) didn't have the right paper and was so badly in need of
toner that the resulting copy was unusable. However, it's the only one
I have to hand, so it will have to suffice for the moment.

The Illustrated Comic Journal was a fanzine created by ALAN
CADWALLANDER back in the early '80s (I think) and then taken over
by BRYON WHITWORTH some time later. At first it was a black and
white A5 publication, but when I became involved as assistant editor in the
early '90s or thereabouts, it became A4 with colour covers. Bryon picked the
articles and I proof-read and corrected them - 'though he always managed
to overlook some of my corrections and add a few new mistakes once the
edited version was returned to him. Such were the drawbacks of the
pre-computer "cut and paste" method he employed.

The late DENIS GIFFORD, celebrated comics historian and
collector (and compiler of the A.C.E. section of the mag), was much
taken with the new logo I designed, drew, coloured and lettered, as it
featured his STEADFAST McSTAUNCH character from WHIZZER &
CHIPS, saying at the time "What a find in Gordon Robson" (to be sung to
the tune of "WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS" - only kidding)
- despite me having been a professional comics contributor for quite
a few years by that time.

Denis didn't seem to remember that he had suggested I become a
letterer back in the '70s, after I had submitted a one page comic strip
to his short-lived (four issues) ALLY SLOPER magazine. Denis wrote to
me to say that he couldn't print it because the inking technique I had used
wouldn't reproduce too well, but adding that I could easily make a living
as a letterer in his opinion. He even supplied me with some names at
IPC (Jack Le Grand - and another, which I forget) and D.C.
THOMSON (W. Stirton) to contact.

Black and white photocopy of the original artwork

Anyway, I'm quite proud of the logo - everything on it was produced
by my own fair hand, with the exception of the words "Illustrated" and
"Incorporating", which were done with Letraset. Bryon eventually passed
the mag on to other hands and one further issue was produced - then
it unfortunately faded into comics limbo. Shame really.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

PRESENTING: A PULSATING PINNACLE OF PRACTICAL PERFECTION PERTAINING TO A PROFOUNDLY PERTINENT POWER-PACK PUBLICATION FROM THE PAST, PROUDLY PARADED FOR YOUR PARTICULARLY PASSIONATE AND PERSONAL PERUSAL...


Pencils by Werner Roth, inks by Dick Ayers, layouts by Jack Kirby

 Here's the comic that was on sale from October 21st (dated a week
ahead, naturally) 43 years ago. The cover art has been extended to ac-
commodate the different page size to the original U.S. dimensions and, to
be honest, hasn't been done too well. That was one of the problems with
the 'bodgers' of yesteryear (and no doubt some of today) - they just weren't
competent when it came to executing such tasks. Look at CYCLOP's arm
and neck - they're far too thin and out of proportion to the rest of the figure.
And ICEMAN doesn't seem much of a threat - on account of him being
'armless. That's what comes from merely extending the curve of a line
(or the line of a curve, even) without giving thought to what the
'missing' part of the picture should look like.
 
A Power-House Pin-Up by Barry (Windsor) Smith (?)

That said, FANTASTIC (published by ODHAMS PRESS) really
was a fantastic comic, and I've got loads of very happy memories from
when it was being published back in the '60s. It only lasted for 89 issues,
a Summer Special and three Annuals - and I've got a full set. (Nope -
they're not for sale. Getcher own!)

89 issues - only about a year and nine months. Funny how periods
from the past, once they've been dated and placed in their own little
compartments, don't seem to measure up in duration to our
perceptions of them.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

GADZOOKS! GORDIE'S GRUESOME AND GORY GALLERY OF GRIM AND GRISLY GHASTLINESS...


"Er...trick or treat?"
Okay, peeps - as it's almost
Hallowe'en, I thought I'd try
and put us all in the mood by
unleashing something suitable
for the occasion. This gruesome
goodie is a little pencil drawing
I did back in the '70s while I
was still a teenager. Of course,
when I look at it now, I can
only see all the mistakes and
imperfections - but back then
Icould still only see all the
mistakes and imperfections.
What can I say? I'm my own
fiercest critic.

Perhaps one day I'll do it again
properly - this time as an atmospheric painting. That'll be after I finish (or
should I say start?) the drawing I promised DAVID PERT back in 1973/
'74 when we were both only 15 year old schoolboys.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

THE SPECTACULAR SALMA...


"There's Kid over there - I hope he notices me."

Here she is, you lucky people, you - the stunning SALMA HAYEK.
No words can do justice to this perfectly-proportioned pocket Venus, so
there's no point in me even trying - especially as one picture is supposed
to be worth a thousand of them. So, just sit back and feast your eyes
on the vision that is The Mighty Salma.

We are not worthy. (Well - I am - you're not.)

Friday, 15 October 2010

MY WORD IS MY BOND...

  
"My name's Bond - James Bond!"
I posted this photo for no
other reason than I quite fancy
myself as JAMES BOND 007.
And it's my blog so I'll pose if
I want to. And unlike SEAN
CONNERY, my hair and  teeth
are all my own. And I've got
an ASTON MARTIN DB5
(even if it is only a CORGI
TOYS one from the '60s).

 (And because you never
know when the absolutely
gorgeous SALMA HAYEK
might be looking in.)

 "But James Bond doesn't
have a beard", I hear you cry.
Aha! I was on a secret mission and impersonating a Russian SPECTRE
agent, GETYA KNICKERZOFF - and as everyone knows, all Russians
have beards. (Even the men!)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

THE SOUND OF THUNDER...

 
Black Max
It's funny what you think
about when you look at the
cover of a book or comic
from your past, isn't it?
When I cast my gaze over
the cover of THUNDER
 ANNUAL 1972, my mind
jumps back to a snowy day
in December 1971 when I
was given a Christmas tip
of 50 pence by one of the
households on my paper
round. It was presented to
me in an envelope marked
"milk-boy", and to this day
I fervently hope that the
envelope meant for me had
the same amount as the one
I was actually presented
with, lo, all those many
years ago.

(I'm not quite sure what bothers me more - the thought of the milk-
boy's disappointment at possibly finding only a couple of 10 pence coins,
or his triumphant jubilation at perhaps discovering a £1 note - but I still
find myself hoping that the kindly couple on the top floor of that block
of flats held us both in equal esteem and didn't play favourites.)

And why does that particular memory spring to mind, you may be
wondering? Well, that 50 pence took care of most of the cost of the book
(60p), which I bought in the newsagents I worked for when I had completed
my round for the day. (Incidentally, I was paid £1 per week for morning and
afternoon deliveries - before and after school - Monday to Friday, plus a
single delivery on Saturday and Sunday - so that tip was an extremely
generous one.)


The Steel Commando
The weekly THUNDER
was launched on the 10th
October 1970 (dated 17th)
and survived for only
22 issues, the last being
on the 6th March 1971
(dated 13th) - so it had
been absent from news-
agents' shelves for several
months before the Annual
hit the shops. Work on the
book probably started
towards the end of 1970
or the beginning of '71,
so obviously IPC were
hoping the comic would
have a good long run.
Unfortunately, such
optimistic aspirations
were doomed to
disappointment.

The comic was absorbed by LION, and two of the most popular strips -
ADAM ETERNO and THE STEEL COMMANDO (as well as others) -
continued for another few years and are still fondly remembered today
by readers of the time.


Adam Eterno
I didn't obtain the '73 &
'74 Annuals until many
years later (probably
around 25 years later,
in fact), being unaware
of their existence at the
time (my attention was
probably distracted by the
arrival of the MARVEL
annuals), so their covers
don't have quite the same
significance for me as the
1972 one. (Obviously the
first Annual sold well
enough to warrant
further editions.) How-
ever, for the sake of
completion for all you
hungry collectors, here
are all three of them
anyway - enjoy!

See also here and here for more about Thunder.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A GHOST FROM THE PAST...


Art by Ernie Colon, written by Michael Fleisher

Way back in 1974/'75, the newly launched ATLAS COMICS released
a plethora of titles to compete with the company that first bore its name -
Marvel. When MARTIN GOODMAN sold MARVEL COMICS in '72,
he anticipated that his son, CHIP, would be given the role of publisher - but
he was passed over in favour of STAN LEE. So, in what many people saw
as an act of revenge, Goodman Senior revived Marvel's previous name
(after TIMELY) and launched an all-out assault on the comics market.

Sadly it was short-lived, but one of the titles I particularly enjoyed
was THE GRIM GHOST, about a hanged 18th century highwayman
(Matthew Dunsinane) who makes a pact with ol' Nick and returns to
20th century Earth to despatch evil-doers to his new master's domain.

Art by Ernie Colon, written by Michael Fleisher

I only ever bought two issues before it disappeared from the face of
spinner-racks everywhere, and some months after purchasing them
I passed them on to one of my friends, a guy named Joe. (Spot the
clever Spidey reference.)

Cut to nearly 35 years later, when afore-said friend visits me one
night with a bag of comics. "Here," he says, "I thought you might like
these back." Amongst the pile is - you guessed it - The Grim Ghost
#s 1 & 2. Now, anyone who has ever re-acquired a replacement comic
from their past knows the feeling that accompanies the achievement.
The replacement, in some mysterious, mystical, magical way, actually
becomes the very one which was lost or relinquished years before.

Art by Ernie Colon, written by Tony Isabella

Imagine then, if you can, how this feeling is magnified when one
manages to obtain the actual, original issue from the dim and distant
days of one's teenage years. It's a sensation that is almost impossible to
describe. Not long after this I discovered that there had only ever been
three issues of The Grim Ghost, and this third issue I obtained - quite by
chance - at a Glasgow comic mart not long after for a mere two quid.

It may have taken me 35 years, but I finally managed to complete
the set. Ah, the sense of accomplishment that fills my soul.

Art by Qing Ming Pui

However, there's more: not long after re-reading the comics in
sequence and lamenting that the title didn't last longer, I learned that
ol' Ghosty is being revived. What's the old saying? "All things come to
he who waits." Let's just hope that the new series (if it takes off) is as
entertaining as the short-lived original run.

(Little did I realize when I first bought issues 1 & 2 that, 15 or 20
years later, I'd be lettering writer MICHAEL FLEISHER's scripts
for ROGUE TROOPER in 2000 A.D. Talk about fate, eh?) 

Sunday, 3 October 2010

IT'S A MARVEL-OUS WORLD...


Art by John Buscema

Thirty-eight years ago, on September 30th, 1972, THE MIGHTY
WORLD OF MARVEL #1 (cover dated October 7th) burst onto news-
agents' counters all over Britain. I hadn't seen the STAN LEE-voiced TV
ad (although I did later), so it came as a surprise when I spotted the
comic on a wall-rack outside a newsagent's along from Glasgow's
famous BARROWLAND market (aka THE BARRAS), where I and
my parents were heading on that particular Saturday morning.

Art by Jack Kirby

I couldn't talk my folks into
buying it for me on the way in,
but I had managed to wear
them down into submission by
the time we were on our way
out an hour or so later. We
were soon ensconced in the
cosy confines of a comfy cafe,
and it was with great joy that
I pored through its contents
over a glass of cola and re-
acquainted myself with the
friends I had first met in the
pulsating pages of ODHAMS'
range of POWER COMICS,
way back in what even then
seemed like the dim and
distant days of the '60s.
Suddenly life was exciting
again.

DEZ SKINN once revealed that Stan had told him the comic's original title
was going to be The WONDERFUL World of Marvel (after the Disney
TV programme of almost the same name), but thankfully 'twas not to be.
Besides, MIGHTY and MARVEL go so well together it seems the obvious
choice, so I'm amazed that any other name was even considered.
 
Art by Jack Kirby
Forty pages, some in full-
colour (the rest with green
'spot' colour), for only 5
pence - containing the
origins of THE INCREDIBLE
HULK, THE (FABULOUS)
FANTASTIC FOUR and
THE AMAZING SPIDER-
MAN - plus a Hulk iron-on
transfer (left) - WOW! I wish
they still produced comics
like that today!

Well, in a sense - they do!
I'm still buying MWOM
today, although it's now
published monthly, has
seventy-six full-colour
pages and costs £2.95.

The Mighty World of Marvel - I hope it's still around in another
thirty-eight years. In fact, I hope I'm still around also.