Friday, 26 November 2010

RED-HOT NAKED WOMEN...


...would be nice - but here's a pic of SILVER SURFER #4 instead.
(Well, a fella has to do something to get your attention!)
 
Thor versus the Surfer
 
Seeing as you're here 'though, take the time to admire this fantastic
piece of artwork by BIG JOHN BUSCEMA. They sure don't make
artists like that anymore!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

THE POWER OF COLOUR (PART 2)...

 
Pencils by Jack Kirby
 
Following on from the previous post, here's a few more examples of what a
difference colour (or, to be more precise, choice of colour) can make to a printed
page. The example above is how the cover of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83
would've looked (more or less) back in 1962. Compare it with the much brighter,
recoloured version from the first printing of MARVEL MASTERWORKS Vol.
18, 1991/'92. (Note: A superior version, more faithful to the original, appears in
the recent softcover edition of THOR MASTERWORKS.)

Inks by Joe Sinnott

Now compare both of them to the magnificent TOM CHU coloured presentation
(below), reproduced in the TALES OF ASGARD hardcover volume, which also
reprints the origin tale from J.I.M. #83. (Unfortunately, despite the superb
colouring, the artwork has been retouched in places, having been restored from
the reprint in THOR #158. For a more faithful reprint of this classic story,
see the softcover MASTERWORKS edition, referred to above.)

Colours by Tom Chu

THE POWER OF COLOUR (PART 1)...


Art by Walter Simonson
 
What a difference colour makes. Not convinced? Take a look at these basic, flat-
coloured examples of JACK KIRBY & VINCE COLLETTA THOR stories from
the TALES OF ASGARD 1984 Special (Vol. 2, No.1). Alongside are the newly
coloured, multi-hued MATT MILLA pages from the deluxe, hardcover edition
of the same tales. (First available as a 6-part mini-series.) The pages are given a
whole new dimension, enabling them to go toe-to-toe with many contemporary
offerings available in comics shops today.
 
 
Not wishing to labour the comparison, but the difference is similar to that of
an old POPEYE or BETTY BOOP cartoon compared to the almost 3D effect
of the animation in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? Last year, I picked up
the computer-coloured reprint of MARVEL COMICS #1 and the effect was the
same. The pages seem to have become imbued with a vitality lacking in their
original printing and don't appear quite as dated in contrast to more modern
presentations.
 

A while ago, the U.K. magazine AVENGERS UNITED reprinted the Tales of
Asgard series in its original form, and it was generally met with an indifferent,
sometimes even hostile reaction. It seems that kids of today have been spoiled
by the photo-realistic, more complex colour-art in contemporary stories, and
couldn't quite take to the four-coloured classics of yesterday. I'm pretty sure
that, had MARVEL/PANINI been able to present the Matt Milla versions
(which hadn't yet been done), the reaction would have been more positive.
 
 
I think it can only be a matter of time before Marvel start colouring all their
stories from yesteryear in this same fashion and then re-presenting them as
"definitive versions" in deluxe, hardcovered volumes. As I said, it certainly
gives them a whole new dimension and might help them to appeal to younger
readers not yet steeped in the company's glorious history who seem to have
an aversion to older material. (Hard as it is to believe.)

ISBN # 9780-7851-3921-8
 
The Complete TALES OF ASGARD is available now from all good
comic shops (and has been for some time). And here, for completists,
is the cover to the original 1968 TOA Special. (Vol. 1, No. 1.) 

Art by Jack Kirby & Frank Giacoia

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

THE UNSEEN DESPERATE DAN...


Written, drawn, lettered & coloured by Kid Robson

Unseen 'cos I've only just drawn it. One or two people who responded
to a couple of my previous posts (and elsewhere) said that I should have a
go at drawing THE DANDY's DESPERATE DAN if I wasn't too keen
on a certain artist's controversial interpretation of DD.

So, first chance I got I did. What you're looking at is a hand-coloured
A4 photocopy, the result of some old acrylic inks I've had lying around for
10 years. I didn't take the time to properly erase the pencil lines from the
original before I got the page photocopied, so some are still in evidence.
When I have more time, I'll 'tidy up' the colours a bit.

Original black & white A4 copy
 
 I've deliberately avoided going for the DUDLEY D. WATKIN's
look, preferring instead a slightly more 'cartoonish' appearance - hence
my version of AUNT AGGIE looking nothing like the 'traditional' one.
It should go without saying that the 'devil effect' in frame 6 is merely
symbolic and not to be taken literally.

Drawn merely for my own amusement, the copyright of Desperate
Dan remains the property of D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd. The weekly
Dandy ceased publication in December 2012 after 75 years, but Dan
and all his comic chums live on in Annuals and Specials.

(Post updated on January 12th, 2014.)

Saturday, 20 November 2010

THIS LITTLE ROBOT LEFT ITS MARX...

 

I recently acquired this LOUIS MARX clockwork robot as a
replacement for the one I had as a kid. Interestingly, it was originally
manufactured in two sizes - a small and slightly larger version. It also
came in different colours - red, blue or gray (and maybe even black -
I'm not sure). Sometimes the red one had gray arms and blue or black
legs, and I'm sure the others had variable colour schemes as well.
A little beauty, ain't it? Hands off - it's MINE!

A JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY - SOLVED?

 
Art by Jack Kirby
Back in 1973, I was
surprised to see quite
a number of copies of
JOURNEY INTO
MYSTERY WITH
THOR #1 gracing
the spinner-racks of
various newsagents in
my home town.

This Annual was dated
1965, which - in 1973 -
was more than half my
life away. Furthermore,
I had first read the main
story (THOR Versus
HERCULES) in the
FANTASTIC Holiday
Special published by
ODHAMS PRESS
in 1968.

Anyway, even as a mere callow youth - I recognized that this
mighty MARVEL masterpiece was a genuine collector's classic
and well-worth buying. Why had it taken eight years to make an
appearance in shops 'though?

As most of you will know, American comics came over to this
country as ballast, so could potentially lie about in the holds of ships
or darkened warehouses for months or even years before finding their
way to newsagents' outlets - hence the occasional  spotty distribution
of  some issues. If that is what happened in this case ('though it's by
no means certain), then, ironically, the black and white reprint of
this story was on sale a whole five years before the original
colour publication.

However, regardless of whether it was the first U.K. appearance
of this issue or simply the discovery of a few misplaced copies, it
was a welcome addition to my growing collection of U.S. comics
and I was glad of the delay.

Strange to think that erratic distribution
sometimes had its advantages, eh?

Friday, 19 November 2010

PEBBLE MILL AT ONE...

 
Pebble Mill Studios, Birmingham

About six years or so ago, I accompanied a friend on a business
trip to Birmingham and, whilst there, took the opportunity to visit the
famous BBC PEBBLE MILL studios. PEBBLE MILL AT ONE was a
daily lunchtime show that originally ran from around 1972 or '73 until
1986. (It was revived in 1991 to 1996 - simply titled "Pebble Mill" -
with a new cast of presenters).

Donny MacLeod
I remember watching the original
incarnation back in the '70s, either
on my dinner-break during school or
work, and there was usually at least
one feature or interview which  was
interesting enough to delay me from
stirring from my chair when I should
have. The original presenters (I think -
no research spared) were MARION FOSTER, BOB LANGLEY, DAVID
SEYMOUR and DONNY MacLEOD. In fact, big Donny once presented a
programme about the MOD (a huge festival about Scottish and Gaelic music)
from my home town, and - if memory serves - I think I actually saw him
wandering about my local shopping centre at the time.

Anyway, there I was, sitting in my friend's car, outside the now
nearly deserted studios. (Although there still seemed to be a trickle of
traffic in and out the main gates, suggesting that it was not yet completely
abandoned.) Parked in the very street that I (and a significant portion of
the population) had hitherto only ever seen through the studio windows
as Marion, Bob, Dave or Donny interviewed some second-rate celebrity
eager to plug his or her latest book or record.

The famous lunchtime logo
 I couldn't miss the opportunity.
Leaving my friend in the car (he was
too scared to accompany me), I got out
and wandered over to the unmanned
security booth outside the main gates
of the entrance to the car park. I smiled
into the camera, gave a thumbs-up, and -
open sesame - the gates swung inward
to allow me access. I was in.

I spent the next 20 minutes wandering around the back of the studio,
exploring the famous gardens from which PETER SEABROOK had
presented his segment of the show. (I now wish I'd lifted that
abandoned plastic watering jug.)

Emboldened by my easy invasion of the Mill, I made my way around
to the front of the building, just in time to see a security guard returning
with his lunch from a nearby cafe or snack van. "Any chance of seeing
inside, mate?" I ventured. "Sure, c'mon in", he replied. (Friendly lot, those
Brummie natives.) And so it was that I found myself in the actual reception
area of those iconic studios - the same reception area that absolutely every
major star (and quite a few minor ones) who had ever appeared on the show
would have had to pass through on entering the building. I spent the next 10
minutes chatting with the guard and his colleague, and then - remembering
that my friend would probably be wondering what had happened to me -
prepared to take my leave. However, not for nothing am I known as
"Gordie the Bold" amongst my compatriots - I wasn't finished
pushing my luck yet. "Any chance of a souvenir?" I asked.
 
And that, dear readers, is how a magnificent, two foot long BBC
RESOURCES magnetic-strip sign came to adorn the door of my fridge.
I came, I saw, I conquered - and I left with a trophy. A trophy, I might add,
which now resides in the very house in which I originally viewed the show
back in the '70s. Anyone who regularly watched the programme was as
familiar with that Birmingham street (a cul-de-sac) as the one outside
their own window - unlike most viewers, however, I was actually there.
Sadly, the building was demolished in 2006 - and thus vanished
yet another iconic landmark from the '70s.

The Pebble Mill site as it is today

WHO CREATED THE SURFER? (OR...THE SIMPLY SENSATIONAL SILVER SURFER SOFTLY AND SMOOTHLY SOARS AND SKIMS O'ER THE SUPERBLY SPARKLING STARRY SKYWAYS OF STARTLINGLY STUNNING AND SPECTACULAR SPACE...)



Who created the SILVER SURFER? If you know anything about comics
you'll probably reply "JACK KIRBY" - but you'd be wrong! Well, you'd be
right - but you'd also be wrong. Confused? You soon will be!

Truly it was Jack who originated and introduced the idea of
GALACTUS having a silver-skinned herald on a surfboard who searched
for suitable planets to supply his master's need to feed off their energy - no
argument there. However, a character does not really come to "life" until he
is presented in his fullest and final form to the panting public. In other words,
it's not necessarily the initial, basic idea in someone's mind which defines
a character (or concept) - it's what appears on the printed pages of the
published magazine which establishes how he (or it) is perceived
by the world at large.  


So - who is the Surfer? The Silver Surfer, formerly NORRIN RADD of
the planet ZENN-LA, sacrificed himself to Galactus by swearing to serve
him if he would only spare the Surfer's home planet from destruction. That
was all STAN LEE's idea - even the name "Silver Surfer" is said to have
sprung from Stan's fertile mind. (Apparently Jack had only referred to
the character as "the Surfer" in his margin notes.)

Jack obviously envisaged the Surfer as having had no prior existence
before Galactus created him by means of his "power cosmic". That's why
the Surfer had seemingly never considered the consequences of his actions
on the millions of beings who had perished as a result of him serving "the
big G". It wasn't until his encounter with BEN GRIMM's blind girlfriend,
ALICIA MASTERS, that he developed a sense of empathy for other
living creatures - it was only then that he discovered he had a "soul".
 

Stan, on the other hand, thought that the Surfer would work better as
a noble, tragic figure if he had made some kind of heart-rending sacrifice
on a quasi-religious scale. Norrin Radd had essentially "died" in order to
save every living person on his world - the comparisons to CHRIST are
obvious - and serve to elevate the Surfer to an almost saint-like
status - a "saviour" even.

True, there is an inherent dichotomy in this concept of the Surfer's
origin. Surely someone who cared enough for the inhabitants of his own
planet would not so randomly and recklessly doom countless billions of
other intelligent life-forms to cosmic destruction? We are left to assume
that Galactus has exerted a subtle influence on the mind of his herald,
clouding his conscious mind to the fate he inflicts on hapless planets as
he scours the cosmos. Galactus has caused the Surfer to forget his past,
and in so doing, enables him to act as his official "food-finder" with a
clear and untroubled conscience. Until, of course, Alicia's tenderness
helps reawaken his former and forgotten "humanity".

Well, it's arguable, I suppose, as to what version of the Surfer works
best, but it's Stan's concept of the character which has permeated and
defined the comic-buying public's perception of who the silver-skinned
sky-rider is and how he came to be. So, who created the Silver Surfer?

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby - but not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

TALES TO ASTONISH - BUT 100% TRUE NONETHELESS...


Duncanrig Senior Secondary School when it opened in the 1950s.
Designed by Sir Basil Spence. Mural by William Crosbie

Well, you've read about DUNCANRIG art teacher Mr. BOB BELL
in a previous post - now let me tell you about Mr. SLOSS. Funny thing
about teachers, isn't it? Most of the ones you liked, you somehow knew
their Christian names; the ones you didn't like or who were unremarkable,
you only seem to remember their surnames or the fact that they were
called "Sir" or "Miss".

A close relative of Mr Sloss
Without meaning to be un-
kind, Mr. Sloss looked like a
neanderthal: thick, greasy hair, a
permanent 5-o'clock shadow of
which FRED FLINTSTONE
would've been proud, and dense,
bushy eyebrows from under which
he would fix you in a Karloffian
stare as if he was wondering what
you'd be like to eat. That was the
other thing about Mr. Sloss. His
enormous girth (shirt hanging over
his belt to complete a dishevelled
appearance) was ample testament
to the fact that he loved his grub
and had never gone without a
good meal in his life.
 
The art classrooms were at the back of this part
of the building
I should perhaps here
explain (in case things
are done differently
nowadays) that we had
several double periods
of art throughout the
week at our school.
One day it would be
one art teacher and
another day it would
be a different one, and
so on. On this particular
day, it was the turn of
Mr. Sloss to have the
unbridled joy of teach-
ing our class absolutely nothing about art. We were given the task of drawing a
still life (various boring, inanimate objects which usually included an orange
and a vase amongst them) and we dutifully applied ourselves. 

Because I was particularly good at art (I always got a double "A" in
exams) I would invariably finish before anybody else, and such was the
case on this occasion. Mr. Sloss came over to view the result, and noticing
a miniscule hole in the paper from a sliver of wood on the lid of the desk (a
hole which would have been rendered invisible with the slightest pressure
from a fingertip), said, "Can't you even draw without getting a hole in the
paper?" - and promptly ripped up my drawing. "Start again", was all he
said. So I did - but even given my speed, my picture was not quite
finished before the end of the lesson.

The next art class I had a day or two later was under the auspices of
Mr. McLEAN, the head art teacher. As I was getting on with whatever I
was doing, he suddenly said, "Gordon, I've been getting complaints about
you from Mr. Sloss." Noticing my puzzled look, he went on, "Don't worry -
he isn't accusing you of swinging from the lightbulbs or anything, but he says
you haven't been applying yourself and are well behind the other pupils."
Surprised, I explained to him what had happened and assumed that
would be an end to the matter.

Cut to the next time I was in Mr. Sloss's class. I was just applying the
finishing touches to the drawing I had started previously when along comes
the man himself - who takes a quick look - then grabs it and rips it up. "That's
nothing like it!", he says, indicating the collection of objects on the table in
the middle of the room. You guessed it - the next time I'm in Mr. McLean's
class, he informs me that once again Mr. Sloss has been complaining that I'm
still lagging behind the others. I was astounded - and could only mutter
"Well, I wouldn't be if he didn't keep ripping up my drawings."

Another view of the famous mural by William Crosbie

Now, the usual procedure upon entering Mr. Sloss's class was this: the
pictures we had previously worked on were left in a pile on a desk near the
door - for each pupil to search through for their own before assuming their
seat. (Each picture had the pupil's name on it. Other teachers preferred to go
'round the class, placing the pictures on the appropriate desk.) The next time
we entered his class, the pictures were conspicuous by their absence. For a
moment we wondered why, but the mystery was soon solved. "Take your
seats and I'll call you out to collect your picture", he said. This was
a first - he had never done this before.

He then proceeded to call out each pupil in turn to the front of the
class to collect their picture. "Gordon Robson", he eventually announced, so
out I went to claim my pencilled masterpiece. As I approached, he held out the
sheet of paper for me, and, naturally enough, I reached out my hand to receive
it. Suddenly, he yanked it back, ripped it up and threw it on the floor behind
his desk. "Absolute rubbish," he bellowed - "start again."

That did it - I'd had enough! I told Mr. Sloss exactly what I thought of
him in no uncertain terms, interrupting him as he was trying to address the
class. The fury of my outburst must have taken him by surprise because he
didn't know how to deal with it - so he simply ignored it, as I continued my
outraged vent about victimisation in my best "CALIMERO" fashion. Surely
I don't have to mention what Mr. McLean's topic of discussion was when
next I saw him? Yup - Mr. Sloss's unhappiness with my work in his class.
Curiously, there was no mention of me having "spat the dummy".

View from one of the art classes
Hard to believe? Wait -
that's not the end of it.
There was an art class
exam, held across all
the different art classes
we had. In other words,
part of our exam would
be in one class on one
day, part of it in another
class on another day,
and yet another part in -
well, you get the idea.
Because I had been off
ill on one of the exam
days, myself and some other pupils who had also been absent, were allowed to sit
the part we had missed on the first available occasion. I had already received the
results of the previous portions of the exam, and they were extremely respectable.
I fully expected a top score when I had completed the remaining session, so I
was looking forward to it.

Mr. Sloss oversaw the exam that day, although he must have been filling
in for another teacher, because it wasn't his usual classroom - it was Mr.
McLean's if I remember correctly, but I'm not 100% sure. Anyway, myself
and the few other pupils were taken into the room next door, where we were
left to draw a girl posing for us on a stool. (A wooden stool - behave your-
selves.) As usual I produced not only a good drawing but also an accurate
likeness of the girl herself. When the time was up, we trooped back into the
room whence we had come. Mr. Sloss looked through the drawings, then
held one up - "This one's good, whose is it?" I recognized it immediately -
"Mine, Sir", I said. Without looking up or saying anything, Mr. Sloss
quickly dropped his hand as if a wasp had stung it.

Now comes the part that still rankles, nearly 40 years later. When
I received the "final" results of my exam, the revised marks were the
exact same as they had been before - that part of the exam had not been
included. It's obvious that my drawing from that day had "mysteriously"
disappeared and was never seen by anyone other than Mr. Sloss. Now,
who could have been responsible for that, I wonder? Answers on a
postcard please.
    
One of my old art classrooms in 2007 - then being used for English

I remember once mentioning this bizarre behaviour to Mr. Bell,
whose response was simple - "Some of the art teachers are jealous
of you, Gordon", was his frank reply. He looked embarrassed by the fact -
embarrassed for them, that is. This cast my mind back to the first time I
had encountered animosity from Mr. Sloss. The class had been instructed to
acquire sketch pads, and - due to financial constraints - I had been a bit slow
in obtaining one. My solution, after much bullying and threats of corporal
punishment from Mr. Sloss, was to remove the cover and slit the spine of a
spare, blank-paged jotter I had, fold it in half (to A5 size) and insert a couple
of staples into its new spine. Then, one night at home, I drew a futuristically-
clad figure amidst some Kirbyesque-looking  machinery (conjured up
from the depths of my fertile imagination), lettered "sketch pad" along
the top, breathed a sigh of relief and rested from my labours.

A day or so later, in art class, Mr. Sloss asked if I had got myself a
sketch pad yet. "Yes, Sir", I answered quite truthfully. He looked disap-
pointed. "Let me see it", he demanded. I handed it across. He studied the
cover for a moment, and then said "Who drew this?" "Me", I replied. Mr.
Sloss was having none of it. "Nonsense," he raged, "if you can draw like
this, you should have left school ages ago and got a job." It wasn't meant
as a compliment, and at 14, leaving school wasn't an option available to me.
"I repeat, who drew this?" he demanded. "Me - if you don't believe me,
you can ask my dad", I said. (I had drawn it in the livingroom in front
of the TV, and my family had been present at the time.)

"Ask my dad," mocked Mr Sloss - "that's what children say!" (As
I said - I was only 14.) "I'll send it over to Mr. McLAUGHLIN at the
technical block and see if he recognizes what technical manual you copied
this from", he threatened, as if he expected the fear of discovery to make me
throw up my hands and confess to the crime of plagiarism. "Fine", I replied,
quite unconcerned. He gave me a dirty look in return. "Go and sit down!"
he ordered in defeat, tossing my sketch pad to me contemptuously.

Now, as you sit there reading this, perhaps you're wondering if an
adult teacher could really be so spiteful, mean, bad-minded, petty and
contemptible, but I can assure you that, in relating the above events, I
have not engaged in the slightest bit of hyperbole or distortion of the facts
whatsoever. It's all 100% true and accurate, and when I read nowadays of
all the trouble that teachers have to put up with from pupils, I'm reminded
that, back in my day, the shoe was often very much on the other foot.
Two wrongs don't make a right, of course - but you have to marvel
at the irony, eh?

 So - just like Mr. Bell, Mr. Sloss also left an impression on my youthful
psyche. Unlike Mr. Bell, however, it was for all the wrong reasons. Poor Mr.
Sloss - I hope he finally came to terms with whatever demons tormented
him and found a measure of peace. I have no idea whether he's still alive
or not.

A couple of years ago, a newly-designed Duncanrig school (now
referred to as a High School rather than as a Senior Secondary) opened
next to the old one, which was then demolished to make way for houses
and flats. However, 'though the original building may be gone, the memories
still remain - and, despite any impression to the contrary you may get from
reading this post - most of them are pleasant ones. Handy thing, rose-
coloured spectacles.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

IN HALCYON DAYS OF YORE...


Thor the Mighty - from the cover of Fantastic
Annual 1968
  Perhaps I'll get some
stick for this, but believe it
or not, when I was a young
lad at primary school, I was
regarded as the best artist in
my class, if not the whole
school. Now before you fall
about laughing, that wasn't
(and isn't) a figment of my
imagination - it just happen-
ed to be the consensus of
opinion amongst  teachers
and pupils alike.

Naturally, there must've
been a few artistically
inclined individuals who
resented and disagreed
with this generous assess-
ment of my abilities, but -
if so - they remained
the (silent) minority.

However, I couldn't really take credit for my place atop the heap. After
all, I was merely regurgitating the styles of artists of the calibre of KIRBY,
BUSCEMA, DITKO, COLAN, SWAN, ANDERSON - and a whole host
of others. Because of that, my drawings tended to have more impact and
therefore made a lasting impression. What follows is an example of
what I'm talking about.

One day I and two other pupils (JULIE CUNNINGHAM and
BILLY McCLUSKEY) had each produced a drawing or painting which
were regarded as so good that we were taken 'round the school to show
them to the other classes. Billy had drawn (in pencil) a scene of two boxers
pounding it out in the ring (he was a big fan of, or maybe even related, I
think, to a famous boxer of the same surname), and Julie had  drawn (also
in pencil) a lake scene with swans gliding over the surface. Both were
very nicely done, if I remember correctly after 40-odd years. As for
myself, I had painted a picture of THOR, standing on a mountain
top and holding aloft his hammer to the heavens. 

Every class we visited, the result was the same. We would stand in a
row whilst the teacher indulged in a bit of preamble, and then raise our
pictures for the class to see - only to be met with cries of "Look - it's Thor -
Wow!" and similar exclamations of awe and wonder. Now, truth to tell, my
picture was probably not much better-rendered than Julie's or Billy's - but
the subject was more dynamic (and in colour) and, consequently, almost
guaranteed to draw the attention of everyone in the room. Hardly anybody
took a second look at the the pictures of my two despondent classmates -
some never even took a first.

Poor Julie and Billy - they must have hated me.

Anyway, what's the point of the story? Merely that I often look back on
those days and wish that I was as good an artist now for my age as I was
then. For a 9 or 10 year old I was "hot" - as an adult I barely qualify as
lukewarm. What's the old saying? Ah, yes, I remember.

"NEVER REST ON YOUR LAURELS."

'Nuff said.

Monday, 15 November 2010

NOT FIREMAN SAM...HONEST!


Enlarged, cropped scan of image below
 
First of all, you'll have to forgive the quality of this painted
cartoon - on account of it being enlarged from a two inch image
in a photograph taken at an angle through glass, resulting in it being
slightly distorted, stretched, and not too clear. It didn't help that I used
shiny gold acrylic ink to paint the helmet, buttons and belt-buckle, as
it reflected the flash, but the actual framed picture is really quite nice.
It's a caricature of a friend's kid, and the proud parents were as
pleased as punch with the result. In fact, I was too.
 
Framed & mounted original

A TRIBUTE TO MR. BOB BELL...

    
A real Boy Wonder. Everyone wonders if
he's a real boy
There's an old
saying - "Those who
can, do; those who
can't, teach." Before
we get to the main
point of this post, let
me now relate the tale
of how I found this
saying to have a fair
amount of truth to it.

More years ago
than I care to recall, in
art class at school one
day, our appointed task
was to paint a portrait of
the person sitting next to
us. The person sat next
to me was a fellow by
the name of MORRIS
ORR, so he consequently
became the wholly dis-
interested beneficiary of my artistic aspirations (and I his) as I duly set about
immortalizing him in watercolours, via those circular and curiously pungent
tablets of which schools were once so fond (and may still be).

It was a perfect likeness (if I say so myself - and I do), but I was
unhappy with my attempts at Morris's lips, which I had painted in an
almost comicbook style. That is, the line of the upper lip with the shadow of
the lower lip underneath it, rendered in slightly darker flesh tones. However,
I was stricken by a desire to emulate the 'Old Masters' and portray every
crook, cranny, crevice and crack of Morris's gob in vivid detail, so I
painted over my first attempt and sat back to wait for it to dry
before having another go.

As the teacher (Mr. McLEAN) made his way around the class gazing over
our shoulders, he mistook my temporary lack of activity for uncertainty on
how I should proceed. Looking at my painting, he said, "Having trouble with
the mouth, Gordon? Here, let me show you a little tip." (Behave - it's not that
type of story.) Taking my brush, he then proceeded to paint an inferior version
of my initial attempt at little Mo's mouth. "There, that's how you do it," he
said, in a rather self-satisfied tone as he made his way back to his desk.

It was at that point I realized that this teacher had nothing to
teach me. Here was I, eager to ascend to a higher plateau of artistic
accomplishment, only to be hindered by someone who was content
to keep me at the level from which I was trying to advance. 

Fortunately, however, not all art teachers were like that - which
now brings us rather neatly to the Mr. BOB BELL mentioned in the
title of this rather nostalgic - if self-indulgent - "little" piece. (Feel free
to marvel at the skill with which I cleverly contrived to craft the
consequent comparison.)

Mr. Bell was a different box of spiders altogether; cheery, rotund,
enthusiastic and friendly - not unlike one of those jolly uncle figures in
RICHMAL CROMPTON "WILLIAM" book. What's more, Mr. Bell
thought I was a 14 year-old artistic genius - which elicited no protest from
me as, quite frankly, I was of the same opinion. (Much like BENJAMIN
DISRAELI, who once said, "My idea of an agreeable person is a person
who agrees with me.") Mr. Bell had arrived at his elevated evaluation of
my abilities after watching me draw a figure of a musclebound superhero
in class on one occasion, prompting him to pronounce my picture
as "anatomically perfect."

Ah, but there's more. It had long been Mr. Bell's ambition to draw for
comics, and he had even once submitted some samples of his sequential art-
work to D.C. THOMSON in an attempt to find favour and approval. Sadly, it
was not to be and he was met with polite rejection (if such a thing is possible).
He brought the pages in to school to show the class (or perhaps just show me,
because I was also a comics geek) and he could certainly draw, so it wasn't a
lack of ability which had led to DCT declining his services. More likely was
the fact that the influence of  DUDLEY D. WATKINS - and other artists -
was too pronounced (perhaps giving editors the impression that he was
a mere 'copyist'), rather than because his pages weren't any good.

One day he brought in a box containing a pile of comics, including
quite a few British editions of MAD magazine. He kindly let me take one
home with me to read at my leisure, and - when I evinced my liking for said
magazine - even more kindly said I could keep it. Wotta guy! The magazine
in question was the one illustrating the top of this very post, and contained
a witty parody - drawn by the superb MORT DRUCKER - of the
BATMAN TV show from 1966.

He was also a great admirer of the GERRY ANDERSON programmes -
and I remember him once telling me that, whenever he saw art director BOB
BELL's name in the closing credits, he always felt a pang of disappointment
that it wasn't him. What a difference to his staid, stuffy, and static "arty-
farty" colleagues, whom he effortlessly outclassed and outshone.

About six or seven years after leaving school, I ran into another
(former) art teacher from the same period, who - when I enquired after
Mr Bell - informed me that he had died two or three years before. Although
it's been about 30 years since I learned this, I still sometimes find myself
hoping that he was mistaken and that Mr. Bell is still very much alive
somewhere, drawing comic strips to his heart's content.

Sadly, I never got to tell him just how much I enjoyed being in
his class, or how much I appreciated his lavish praise, encouragement,
and enthusiasm - but, whenever I look at that terrific NORMAN MINGO
illustration adorning that particular cover of MAD, I can't help but think
of DUNCANRIG's very own Mr. BOB BELL. He was just what a
teacher should be.

Here's to you, Mr. Bell (or can I call you Bob?) - wherever you are.
You made a difference.

Friday, 12 November 2010

ANOTHER KRACKING KOSMIC KIRBY (RE) KREATION BY KID...


It's commom knowledge
that STAN (The Man) LEE
sometimes rejected JACK
(King) KIRBY's initial cover
ideas and asked him to come
up with another approach.
Such was the case with
FANTASTIC FOUR #20,
perhaps on the grounds that
the good ol' FF - being
covered with a coating of
plaster - were not quite as
dynamic (or recognizable)
as Stan felt they should
have been. (And a stunted
ALICIA MASTERS
seemingly sprouting from
the menacing MOLECULE
MAN's back wouldn't
have helped.)
 
A few years back (1997
 to be precise), THE JACK
KIRBY COLLECTOR printed
a stat of the pencils of the
unused cover, and I was
consumed with a desire to
see it in finished form. I
enlarged the THING slightly
(Jack often drew him too
small, compared to his
original towering stature in
FF #1) and "fixed" Alicia's
position in the background. I
also decided to render the
foursome without the plaster
coating, the better to be
able to see them. TJCK
printed it in one of their
issues, but I forget which
number. Once again, there
are a few areas which could
stand improvement (the MOLECULE MAN lettering in the cover blurb for
example) and maybe one day I'll eventually get around to doing it.
 
Anyway, I thought you might like to see how FF #20's cover could have
looked. (And maybe even does, in an alternative reality somewhere.)

"HEAD FOR HOME, ROBERT..."



Don't you just love it when someone does something really clever?
Here's an example of what I mean: feast your eyes on the cover of the very
first FIREBALL XL5 ANNUAL for 1963/'64 (above). Now cast your orbs
on the cover of the DVD collection containing all 39 episodes which was
released a year or so back (below) - see what they've done? I think it's
really cool, and a nice way of bringing things full circle.


This is the second DVD release of this cult programme; there was one
a few years back which, rather nicely, had the XL5 logo on the discs, but
contained no extras. This time it's been done right - extras galore, plus a
fantastic TV CENTURY 21 booklet by ANDREW PIXLEY, detailing
the history of this GERRY ANDERSON 1960s' classic.
 

If you don't already have it, add it to your Christmas list now.

(And it might be wise to start saving for the colourized collection -
there's bound to be one eventually.)

DON'T ASK - JUST BUY IT!


Pencils by Kirby, inks & colours by Robson

 Thirteen years ago, THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR printed a stat of a pencil drawing of ORION - and asked readers to send in their inked version of the pic. I never got around to it at the time, but later - and for my own amusement - I used a sheet of tracing paper to ink the piece and then decided to have a go at colouring it as well. I only had some acrylic inks and felt-tipped pens, so that's what I used. So here it is (above) in all its glory.

For good measure, shown below is the black and white inked version. When I get a chance, I'll dig out the issue of JKC and post the copy of the pencils.

Inked completely with a Windsor & Newton #3 sable brush

Thursday, 11 November 2010

SUPERMAN VERSUS MIGHTY MOTH...



Art, logo & lettering by Kid Robson
Here's yet another unseen page
from the archives. This one's 25
years old and is scanned from a
photocopy rather than the original
art. (Most of the stuff in my files
is from photocopies, the originals
having been given away or mis-
placed over the years.) Conse-
quently, it's not quite as sharp or
as detailed as it otherwise would
be. This was intended for a fanzine
produced by the famous (and now
defunct) Glasgow comics shop
A.K.A. (Also Known As), run
by JOHN McSHANE, the late
PETE ROOT and BOB NAPIER,
three well-known and respected
luminaries in the Scottish comics
scene. (I think little STEVIE
MONTGOMERY was also
involved at a later date.)

The cover was produced in a hurry between lettering assignments
for 2000 A.D. and other IPC publications, so it's not quite as "finished"
as I would've liked. (The floor and cape are deperately in need of some
shadows.) In the end, the issue this cover was intended to adorn was
never printed - simply because there wasn't enough material to fill it,
so it's languished in my files until now. 

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

WILL YOU ALWAYS KEEP A DANDY HANDY?


A more polished version of Jamie Smart's Desperate Dan

As regular readers will know, there are certain aspects of the new DANDY
I'm not too keen on. JAMIE SMART's DESPERATE DAN strip has come in
for a bit of a kicking elsewhere on the internet, and I have to admit that I'm
not its biggest fan either. It's all just a little too rushed-looking and roughly-
finished to suit my tastes. (Although not in the above pic - read on.)

However, intrigued by those who claim to like his artwork, I had a look at
his website - http://www.fumboo.com/ - and I was surprised to see that his
style seems less jarring on characters I haven't seen before, and even has
a certain rough-hewn charm. In fact, even his Desperate Dan strips on his
site appear to have had a bit more care and attention lavished on them.
(The illustrations on this page are "borrowed" from over there. Let's hope
he won't mind.) 

So I had another look at the first couple of issues and - guess
what? That's right - they still didn't work for me. Perhaps he was under
pressure and had to produce his Dandy pages in a hurry; perhaps he's
experimenting with a rougher, more organic look - who knows? He does,
but he's hardly likely to tell me.

Another slightly smoother look

What I will say, however, is this. To all those old-timers who aren't too
keen on his Dandy pages, take a look at his website. Divorced from
traditional, familiar characters we all know and love (and let's face it -
who - with the possible exception of KEN H. HARRISON - could compete
with DUDLEY D. WATKINS?), his pages don't seem as jarring and as
shocking as they do in DCT's relaunched comic.

If DAN had to have a new look, I think I would have preferred to see
TOM PATERSON or HUNT EMERSON (I liked his LITTLE PLUM - ooer,
missus) have a go at him. I still don't think Jamie's style (or, to be more
precise, the version of his style that he uses on DD) quite works. However,
if he just shaved off some of the rougher edges from the strip and it had a
more consistent lettering font, I feel that much of the criticism it has
received might be dissipated somewhat.

I'm sure Mr. Smart cares not a jot for my opinion - and that's perhaps
how it should be. However, I'm also sure I'm not the only one who hopes
that he may yet see the wisdom in aiming his strips not only at new readers,
but the older ones as well. That way everybody's happy. Have a look at
his website anyway. 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

TOYBOX TIME MACHINE...


One of the "must-have" toys of the '60s

Surely there can't have been a kid in the '60s who didn't have
this fantastic battery-operated HYDRO PLANE speedboat. As well
as playing with it in ponds, baths and sinks, it also came in useful as
a handy fan on hot summer days at the seaside. They just don't
seem to make toys like that anymore.

AND TIME TICKS ON...


He's going to have some wait

And another quickie. Basic, but effective. (Hey, I was working
for chips - I wasn't going to knock myself out!) Again, everything
produced by my own fair hand. The shop is no longer there, so
it looks like that guy could be waiting for quite some time.

P-P-PICK UP A - PIZZA?




This was an A5 flyer for a local business which I knocked up a few years back (the flyer, not the business). Of course, when one is doing stuff which isn't going to be printed in a comic, one can afford to relax about the finishing on a piece of work. Nevertheless, it's not too bad, every aspect of it being hand-lettered and drawn to quite a high standard (if I say so myself).

WHO'S A HAPPY CAMPER?


"Yaaawn! I wonder what kind of day it's going to be, Fred."
Here's a little amateur cartoon I did back around 1977-'78 for a church camping poster. Looking at it now, I can see where it could be improved - but, overall, it's really not too bad for a teenager. I coloured it up for the poster, but unfortunately that's been lost to the mists of time. One day I'll tidy it up and recolour it, just to make it as good as it could be.