Sunday, 26 December 2010


Steve & Zoonie - but how did they fit in the box.  (I know.)

Here's a nice little Christmas present for you - a picture of toy firm
on a FIREBALL XL5 JETMOBILE.  The copyright date on the box
is 1962, so it must have been released to toyshops no later than 1963, as
it wasn't unusual for a toy to carry a copyright date of the year before it
came out.  (Another example is MATTEL's MAJOR MATT MASON -
it came out in 1967, but bears the date 1966.)  Of course, it may well
have come out in 1962 just like the box says.

I didn't actually didn't get my hands on this friction-drive toy until
1968, in the Scottish town of Millport (just across the water from Largs)
on the Isle of Cumbrae, so it was old stock when I purchased it.  Good as
it was, I'd have loved to get one of Steve and ROBERT The ROBOT
on a jet-mobile, but - alas - such a toy never existed.

Gordie, Steve, Zoonie & Paul
Here's me as a 9 year
old lad somewhere in
Largs (or Millport), with
my original jetmobile toy
on my lap.  (Taken a day
or two after purchase, if
memory serves.)  I'm also
holding a bendy CAPTAIN
SCARLET figure bought
at around the same time
(a day or two either way).
You'll need really good
eyesight, but if you focus
hard, you can just about
make them out.  (Now all
I have to do is track down
a replacement Captain
Scarlet figure.)

Sometimes I look at these old photos and wish I were a lad
again.  Life was so much simpler then.  Anyone else agree?

Thursday, 16 December 2010


'Mr Velvet' - Jim Reeves
If you're looking for a way
to relax, unwind, and get into 
the Christmas spirit, here's
probably the best way to do it.
Find yourself a copy of the
kick back your feet and let
the velvet-voiced King of
Country crooners melt your
worries away.  Described as
having a voice like "someone
who walks through snow but
leaves no footprint" , this is
absolutely the best Christmas
album of all time.  Released in
1963, it's been a perennial
favourite ever since.

You'll probably have to track down the original CD on the internet,
but the 12 Christmas songs are on an album called THE JIM REEVES
CHRISTMAS SONGBOOK, which mixes them with some of his gospel
songs (slightly diluting the pure Christmas effect in my opinion).  Never
mind, this can be overcome by programming your CD player to play only
the 12 Yuletide tracks - available now at your local HMV store.

Sunday, 12 December 2010


Copyright: Raymond P. Cusick & Terry Nation
Back in 1989, RAYMOND CUSICK, the designer of the original
DALEKS, was invited by DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE to design a
new version of the classic menaces - what you see is the result.

Mr. Cusick explained, "The original Dalek design was governed by cost. I
think we produced the original three for something like £250. I visualised
the surface of the new Dalek as textured, some metal or substance quite
unlike anything found on earth. The original Daleks were very smooth and
polished. It (the new version) would be dark green or blue in colour. Also,
 I didn't want to make them any smaller - they should have menace.
Generally, small objects lack that. But they still wouldn't be as big as
humans. I imagine my design would be film-scale budget, but it could
be modified for television. I'd like to develop it further..."

And there you have it - yet another fascinating glimpse
into the world of "what might have been".


Century 21.  Art by Derek Meddings

Two posts back, I referred to the fact that, when FIREBALL XL5
was first envisaged, it was called CENTURY 21.  In the accompanying
illustration by the late DEREK MEDDINGS, we can see what the craft
was originally intended to look like.  Why did they change it?  At this
point I don't know - the original design was certainly more futuristic,
so one can only wonder as to the reasons for the revision.

Century 21/Fireball XL5 hybrid by
Neville Main
In the 2nd pic (by NEVILLE
MAIN), we see that this is the
Century 21 ship with Fireball XL5's
colour scheme.  This comes from the
1963 TV COMIC Annual, published
before the series premiered on TV, so
presumably Neville was supplied with
the original design as his primary source
of reference.  Perhaps the XL5 colours
were added at the last moment before
the strip was shipped to the printers -
any further information from anyone
knowing the facts will be welcome.
However, going by the shape of the
ship, my speculation seems like a
reasonable one, as there's no other
scenario I can think of which
would explain the results.

Art by Reg Hill

Next up is a presentation illustration of the Century 21 logo,
as well as a couple of pics of, again, far more futuristic-looking (in
my opinion) jetmobiles.  These illos are by REG HILL, who was
joint designer - along with Meddings - of the Fireball XL5 ship.

Steve on jetmobile.  Art by Reg Hill

Art by Reg Hill

A fascinating look at what could have been, don't you think?

Thursday, 9 December 2010


Delbert Dalek
This poor, unwanted
DALEK was left abandoned
in a state of neglect at the side
of a busy road, along with some
rubbish awaiting collection.  He
was in a sad and confused state,
not understanding what was
happening, and totally unaware
of the fate which awaited him.
Obviously his owners had got
bored with him and could no
longer be bothered looking after
the affectionate and friendly
alien.  Fortunately, a kindly
passer-by noticed his distress
and rescued him (and his
control unit) from the street,
and passed him into the hands
of a "rescue shelter" for
unwanted toys. (Everyone
say "Aaahh!")

With a bit of love and attention (his missing half-sphere was recreated
and replaced, and he received a two-battery transplant), he was restored
to fully-working condition.  He merrily screams "EXTERMINATE!" and
other catchphrases at the drop of a hat, doubtless having learned them from
his previous cruel and heartless owners.  "Staff" have named him DELBERT
and have grown so fond of the lovable scamp that they've decided to
adopt him.


(Amazing, isn't it?  A £100 toy, discarded because of two dead batteries.
Wish I had that kind of dosh to throw away!  Well - their loss is my gain.
Thanks to Tom C  for 'phoning to ask if I wanted a deserted Dalek that
someone had dumped in his street.)

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


Hard as it may be for you to believe, the original name for
FIREBALL XL5 was CENTURY 21 - and 'though remarkably
similar to the shape we all know and love, was a silver, sleek and shiny
futuristic sky-craft which really did look as if it was a product of the 21st
century.  In fact, if memory serves, FIREBALL appeared (or was pre-
pared) as a comic strip in TV COMIC (might've been an annual) before
it was broadcast on TV and, although the colours were accurate, the
shape of the ship was more in accord with the original Century
21 design by DEREK MEDDINGS.

So why was it changed?  Honest answer -  I don't know, but
the first version of the craft looks as if it had been designed today,
not back in the early '60s - it hasn't dated at all.  However, you'll just
have to take my word for it until I can dig out the relevant source
material and scan it for your perusal.

But that's a post for another time.  For the moment, you'll
just have to be satisfied with the covers of the four annuals and the
GOLD KEY comic from back in the '60s.  Fireball XL5 was the only
GERRY ANDERSON programme to be broadcast on network TV
in America (the others were syndicated), and consequently was the
most successful of all the AP/CENTURY 21 productions in
that country.

Remember - click on an image to enlarge, then repeat to enlarge
again.  As a bonus, here's the box art illustration from the 1963/'64
QUERCETTI parachute toy.  (Perversely, this one will actually
reduce when you click on it.)

Monday, 6 December 2010


Back around 1994, MARVEL UK did everyone a favour by gathering
together all 104 back-page episodes of TV CENTURY 21's THE DALEKS
comic strip in one handy collectors' item package, with a brand-new cover by
artist RON TURNER.  True, they did get one page out of sequence, but we
won't hold that against them as, in every other respect, it was a superb
package and well worth the money.

However, I think
the time is right for
a deluxe, hardcover
presentation of these
classic stories (often
referred to as THE
ICLES), which would
also include the six-part
follow-up adventure first
published in DOCTOR
(again illustrated by Ron
Turner) and continuing
from the last TV21
episode.  With the re-
surgence of interest in
all things WhoI'm
sure it'd sell well
enough to justify
the endeavour.

Anybody out there listening?

Friday, 3 December 2010



Forget all the pretenders who have impersonated him since, 'cos there's
only ever been one DOCTOR WHO in my book - and that's the real one -
WILLIAM HARTNELL. Which is not to say that some of the many other
actors who assumed the role down through the years didn't do a creditable
job, but - for my money - the definitive version of the Doctor was
portrayed by dear old Bill.

Was his Doctor a goodie or a baddie? In the early episodes it wasn't
quite clear which side he was on - apart from his own, of course - and
this only added to the mystery and intrigue of the character.

The Doc made his debut on Saturday, 23rd November, 1963 - just
over 47 years ago. So, as a special treat, here's the cover of the very first
DOCTOR WHO ANNUAL from 1965 (for 1966). The artist, WALTER
HOWARTH, obviously worked from a photo of Hartnell for reference
because the likeness is spot-on. It's just a shame that he wasn't also given
a photo of a police box, as that's the worst looking TARDIS I've seen
in my life. You could ski off that roof - and where's the flashing light?
And there should definitely have been a DALEK on that cover!

Oh well, never mind - can't have everything I suppose.

Thursday, 2 December 2010



One day I'll maybe learn the reason why there's no longer a British edition of
the long-running MAD MAGAZINE, but, up until its inexplicable and sudden
disappearance, for quite a number of years it managed to hold its own amongst
a myriad of other publications on newsagents' shelves and spinner-racks across
the length and breadth of the country.  Let's now take a look at a couple
of my personal favourites of this classic and iconic magazine.


Back in the early '70s, "8 JAMES BOMB BOMB MOVIES" appeared in
issue #146, affectionately ripping the p*ss out of DR. NO to LIVE And LET
DIE.  I might be wrong, but I think this may have been the first time that Mad had
parodied the JAMES BOND movies, and with superb art from the magnificent
MORT DRUCKER, they couldn't fail to strike comedy gold.


 Another copy of Mad I got in the early '70s was issue #59, 'though this comic
was actually published in the '60s.  I only got my paws on it because one of my art
teachers (Mr. BOB BELL) brought it into school one day amongst a box of other
comics.  Good bloke that he was, he let me keep it when I mentioned how much I
liked it.  This one features a parody of the ADAM WEST/BURT WARD BAT-
MAN TV show, and once again features the superlative art of Mort Drucker.


I can't remember the last time I saw a copy of the U.S. edition of Mad outside
of FORBIDDEN PLANET, and I've certainly never seen one in years in my
local W.H. SMITH's - which makes me wonder why this magazine isn't more
readily available in Britain?  And why, after so many presumably successful
years, did the U.K. edition cease to be published?

Anyone know the answers?

FOOTNOTE:  Yup - the mighty DEZ SKINN knows the answers.
Read what he has to say in the comments section.

The first British edition, 1959.  Art by NORMAN MINGO


...SURFBOARD!  Well, almost naked.  Seems that MARVEL
couldn't quite make up its mind about ol' NORRIN RADD.  When
he first appeared (in THE FANTASTIC FOUR #48) he was trunkless,
but shortly thereafter he started sporting a natty pair of swimming trunks
to hide his - what exactly?  Couldn't have been his modesty because he'd
nothing on display (thank goodness) and, apart from a barely discernible
outline around his nether-regions, trunks made absolutely no difference
to his appearance.  (And, when he did wear them, were they supposed
to be over or under his cosmic coating?  We deserve to know.)

Anyway, here's three more cataclysmic covers from ol' Surfie's
magnificent mag back in the '60s - enjoy!  Only another eleven
SILVER SURFER covers to go for the full set - stay tuned.

(And, for those of you who thought you were visiting some other
kind of site - SHAME ON YOU!  What would your mother think?)

Wednesday, 1 December 2010



Speaks for itself, doesn't it?


What can I say?  VENUS - in Roman mythology
the goddess of love;  in the 21st Century the well-fit burd
from FIREBALL XL5 that lucky pilot STEVE ZODIAC is
probably...well, you know.  Yeah, probably.  I don't think I like
Steve any more, but I have to admire his taste.  Although, for
all I know, she might have had a thing for PROFESSOR
MATTHEW MATTIC - but that's just sick!  (Venus -
h'mm.  Well, I would - wouldn't you?)

FROM THE '30s TO THE '70s...

Art by Wayne Boring (main figure) & Joe Shuster

 A book I absolutely loved when it came out was SUPERMAN -
From The '30s To The '70s, published in the U.K. by SPRING
BOOKS.  (CROWN BOOKS in the States.)  I first saw it in W. & R.
HOLMES (a bookshop, stationers, toyshop, artstore and newsagents)
back around October 1972, alongside its companion volume, BAT-
MAN - From The '30s To The '70s.  (Okay, so they had the
apostrophes in the wrong place, but hey - nobody's perfect.)

For 'Atomic Comics' read 'Action Comics'

These two books were the bees' knees, being over an inch thick
and containing what was purported to be the milestone adventures
of DC COMICS' top heroes, SUPERMAN and BATMAN.  I bought
the Superman volume and pored over its pages, absorbing every word
of E. NELSON BRIDWELL's informative, well-written introduction.
Oddly, the back cover claimed that Supes first appeared in ATOMIC
COMICS, whereas, as we all know, it was ACTION COMICS
#1 that contained his momentous four-colour debut tale.

Art by Carmine Infantino & Murphy Anderson

I didn't obtain the Batman volume 'til its second printing in 1979
(although I now have 1st and 2nd editions of both volumes) and it's
also a highly commendable publication.  There were also WONDER
WOMAN and CAPTAIN MARVEL (SHAZAM) volumes, but I've
never seen the Wonder Woman one - 'though I managed to get a hard-
back U.S. edition (complete with dustjacket) of Captain Marvel
from a church jumble sale around 1985.

Only £1.25 - wotta bargain!

The one drawback to the Batman book is that Batman's first ap-
pearance from DETECTIVE COMICS #'27 (and one or two other
tales, I suspect) is a re-created version and not the original.  The pages
were taken from an anniversary presentation of the tale from an issue of
Detective Comics in the '60s and has been reprinted several times - even
in the deluxe hardcover ARCHIVE EDITIONS from a few years back.
The good news is that proofs from the original 1939 version were used
in the MILLENNIUM EDITION of DC #27 ten years ago, so that's
the one collectors should look out for.  (I'll have to check to see
which version was used in the 1970s Treasury Edition.)

These books are well worth having 'though, and shouldn't be
too difficult to obtain on eBay.  There was aan updated version
of the Superman volume, entitled SUPERMAN - From The
'30s To The '80s, and that is also worth seeking out.

FOOTNOTE:  The second printings of these books (in '79)
weren't quite as thick as the earlier editions, but this was merely
due to being printed on slightly thinner paper - the page count
and contents weren't reduced in any way.

like to marry.  However,
while I'm waiting for her
to discover I even exist,
let's travel back in time
and space to a winter's
evening in Glasgow in
1967 or '68.  The precise
location is under a bridge
(now gone) in Stockwell
Street, where I'm looking
in the window of a shop at
the cover of a BATMAN
colouring book which was
simply crying out to me.
The shop was closed, so
I pleaded with my mother
to promise to buy it for me
at a later date for my fast-
approaching birthday.
She did, but I have no
idea whether she obtained the book from another source or had to go back
to that particular shop to obtain it.

I recall once taking it
to school and colouring
various bits in during the
break, and letting ROSS
CAMPBELL colour-in
one of the pages in return
for allowing me to do the
same in his different Bat-
man colouring book.  His
book may well have been
the other one featured here
- but then again, may well
not have been - so don't
go betting your house on
it.  You wouldn't want to
have to live in a cave,
would you?  (Unless it
was the BATCAVE
of course.)

 Ah, many happy hours of innocent fun, to be had from the mere
application of some coloured pencils or wax crayons - why aren't
kids today so easily pleased as we once were?