Thursday, 24 February 2011

IT'S BETTER THAN THE AVERAGE MOVIE...


Forget any lukewarm reviews
you may have read about the new
YOGI BEAR movie - it's a belter!
I was expecting to be disappointed
after seeing a few indifferent and
even negative responses to the film
featuring everybody's favourite
bruin, but I needn't have worried -
it's funny, it's daft, and it's thor-
oughly entertaining. I just can't
understand what some critics were
expecting from a movie based on a
cartoon bear, but it does exactly
what it says on the tin. It's called
YOGI BEAR - and that's precisely
what you get. What more could
anyone want?

Go and see it NOW! And don't
take your eyes off Yogi.

Yogi and Boo Boo from the movie


Above: The poster and comicbook adaptation of
Yogi's first big screen adventure. (1964.)

Sunday, 20 February 2011

REGRETS? I'VE HAD A FEW...



You're looking at a letter from the late, legendary ALAN FENNELL,
the editor of TV CENTURY 21 and LOOK-IN, as well as the writer of
various GERRY ANDERSON programmes and numerous other projects.
Alan's eight issue run of THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO, the follow-up to
EGMONT/FLEETWAY's eighty-nine issues of THUNDERBIRDS
THE COMIC, had just limped to an end, no doubt losing him quite a
bit of money in the process.

I had missed the last issue and 'phoned Alan about obtaining a
back number, which he genrously said he'd send me for nothing.  My
conscience wouldn't permit me to take advantage of his good nature, how-
ever, so I forwarded him a note with enough money to cover the cost of the
comic and postage.  The above letter was his response, and I couldn't help
but notice the air of melancholy which ran through his thoughtful missive.  I
'phoned him shortly afterwards to inform him that, athough I didn't know
when it would be, I'd take him up on his kind offer the next time I was in
London ('though, as a non-drinker, it would've been a few jars of
Coke in my case), but, alas, it was not to be.

One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to sit down with the editor
of one of my favourite comics and writer of some of the best-loved TV
shows from my from childhood and "shoot the breeze", but at least I have
the memory of a few telephone chats, and two or three letters from him
which I still treasure.  Another time, another place perhaps, Alan - and
the first round's on me.

Remind me to tell you my other Alan Fennell story sometime soon.

******

Transcript follows:

19 September 1995


Dear Gordon

Thank you for your letter and the "donation" to the Fennell benevolent fund.

You are right, it is frightening to think that all our ideas about the next century look
as though they are going to be wrong.  Far from the exciting, glamourous new world,
it looks as if we get something similar to the twentieth century, but perhaps less of it! 

I need to get away from the Thunderbirds past for a while - this evening I have just
returned from the funeral of Derek Meddings, the man who put the word special into
special effects.  Derek was a monarch in the film business and when I remember that
we worked together on more than fifty films, I realise what a privilege it was for me
to have rubbed shoulders with an Oscar winning great.

The occasion was less sombre than expected, for I met up with a whole team of old
Century 21 acquaintances, but it was sad to see the ranks dwindling.

Let me know when you are paying a visit to Fleetway, and perhaps we can meet in
London and have a few jars.

Best wishes
Alan

******

For that other story mentioned above, click here.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

"LETTERS OF NOTE"...



Regular readers of my humble posts will have noticed the excellent
LETTERS OF NOTE website in my blog list on the right-hand side of
the page. Taking a leaf out of its book, here's a letter which cartoonist
TERRY BAVE sent to me in response to an inaccurate (obviously) report
of his demise in an issue of CRIKEY!, a magazine mainly devoted to
British comics and strip cartoons.

It demonstrates Terry's wonderful sense of humour in even the
most morbid circumstances, and I'm (fairly) sure he wouldn't mind
me sharing it with you here.

Incidentally, Terry is still with us - Crikey! isn't.

***

Transcript follows:

Hi Gordon,

You are not the first to be taken
in by that stupid 'CRIKEY' story I'm afraid.
At least it's nice to see what people say about
me 'after I'm gone!'

All good wishes,
Terry & Shiela

Friday, 18 February 2011

"GHOSTING ALONG WITH SAM'S SPOOK!"


B&W copy of colour cover (sans logo) of the ICJ, in which
the Baves' article was originally intended to appear

Back in 2004, famous cartoonist TERRY BAVE responded to my
request for a submission to THE ILLUSTRATED COMIC JOURNAL
by writing the following article. The ICJ, alas, languished in limbo, so I then
passed it on to CRIKEY!, who were going to print it, but ceased publication
before they could. Since Terry was kind enough to write it, it seems only fair
that others get the chance to read it; so here for the first time anywhere, are
Terry and his wife Shiela's reminiscences about 'ghosting' for comics. All
the illustrations from this point on were provided by Terry himself.

******

SHIELA and I have been creating, writing and drawing many,
many children's comic strips since way back in 1967.

Our break came via ALBERT 'COS' COSSER, the editor of
WHAM!. He bravely handed me SAMMY SHRINK, "The Smallest
boy in the World" - my 'first' of many 'ghosted' features, and one we were
able to make our own. In fact, over the following years, we supplied many
of the weekly scripts and drew the strip for over 20 years. SAMMY
SHRINK appeared in WHAM!SMASH!, POW!, KNOCKOUT
and WHIZZER & CHIPS.

Terry's version of Danny Dare, from Wham! Annual 1971

Now and again a comic artist would be called upon to 'ghost' (copy)
another artist's strip on a weekly basis for a while when, for example,
the regular artist was either sick or perhaps found himself in the rather
enviable position of having far too heavy a workload.

As each artist has his own individual style of drawing, it was important
to 'ghost' that particular style as closely as possible. With luck, and if the
Editor showed willing, over a period of time it would be possible to 'make
the strip your very own' by gradually introducing your own distinctive
style of drawing. This didn't happen too often, and certainly not in
the short term.

I was very lucky - I found it a reasonably easy task to copy LEO
BAXENDALE's basic drawing style, which appeared in WHAM!,
SMASH!, and POW! at that time.

Shiela & Terry Bave 

Being particularly keen to make my way in this FUN business, I
jumped at the chance when 'COS' offered me the chance to create
a brand-new comic character of my own.

He wanted a wicked 'baby' fun character as a mascot for WHAM!, so
Shiela and I came up with BABY WHAMSTER. This was very quickly
followed up by BABY SMASHER, the new mascot for SMASH!. We
supplied scripts and artwork. Both babies were very successful, appearing
in their respective comics, then later appearing in both WHAM! and
SMASH!. Each baby made a perfect foil for each other.

Sam's Spook, from Smash! Fun Book 1971

To date, Shiela and I have created, written and drawn many original
comic strips. At the same time, we have been called upon to write and
'ghost' many others. In 1968, we scripted and drew GRIMLY FEENDISH
and PERCY'S PETS for SMASH!. At the time, these strips were being
drawn (also 'ghosted') weekly by STAN McMURTY, one of our
favourite and most respected cartoonists.

In November of 1969, we got another wonderful break. GIL PAGE,
then Editor of the 'new' SMASH!, invited us to contribute to the 1971
SMASH! FUN BOOK, a 96 pager full of favourite fun characters.

We scripted and drew a SAMMY SHRINK 2-pager, scripted and
'ghosted' two 4-page strips of THE SWOTS & THE BLOTS, and again
for a 2-pager of SAM'S SPOOK. Scripts were supplied by the editorial staff
for a further 3-pager and 2-pager of BIG 'EAD, plus a 2-pager of BAD
PENNY. A big challenge, but great fun to tackle these different styles. I
never looked back after that - I was happy to have a go at 'ghosting'
many more styles.

The Baves supplied script and art for The Swots & the Blots
for the SMASH! Fun Book 1971

WHAM!, SMASH!, and POW! were owned by ODHAMS PRESS,
then IPC/FLEETWAY took over, continuing to run SMASH! in a
'revamped' form for a little while longer. But not before I had added
EAGLE EYE, DANNY DARE, THE DOLLS OF ST. DOMINICS
and WEE WILLIE HAGGIS to my 'ghosted' list.

Big 'Ead, from Smash! Fun Book 1971

Over the following years, I 'ghosted', amongst others, SWEET
TOOTH in WHIZZER & CHIPS, HIRE-A-HORROR and VAL'S
VANISHING CREAM in COR!, THE KATTS, JELLY BABY and
TOFFEE NOSE in KNOCKOUT, and SHIVER, SHAKE, SOGGY
THE SEA MONSTER and DAMSEL IN DISTRESS in SHIVER
& SHAKE.

Bad Penny, from - go on, take a guess

 Also SNAP HAPPY and FUN FEAR in WHOOPEE, X-RAY SPECS,
MUMMY'S BOY, GUMS, and ART'S GALLERY in MONSTER FUN,
RITCHIE RAGS in JACKPOT, NUMBER 13, BASH STREET KIDS,
BILLY WHIZZ, THE GERMS and IVY THE TERRIBLE in THE
BEANO and KORKY THE CAT in THE DANDY. I've even had a go
at DESPERATE DAN in the Fun-size DANDY books.

A lot of challenging drawing, but what a lot of fun 'ghosting' the work
of so many favourite comic artists.

******
Terry & Shiela Bave (October 2004.)

******

And thanks to Terry and Shiela for all the years of hard work they put
into making a lot of happy childhood memories for millions of readers.

******

Please note that this was originally the second instalment of a two-part
article,but both parts have now been combined on this page. However,
part one is still advertised in the 'You might also like:' feature, but no longer
exists as a separate post. If you click on it, a link will direct you to this page.
Part two is also still advertised separately, but is now the complete article
which you have just read and hopefully enjoyed. 

"GHOSTING ALONG WITH SAM'S SPOOK!"


Part One of this post has now been merged with Part Two and can be
found here.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

WHO IS THE MAN...THE MAN CALLED FLINTSTONE?


In the latter half of 1972,
my local cinema (the first
purpose-built cinema in the
U.K. since the war and
with the largest screen in
Scotland) was showing a
double bill of LIVING FREE
(the sequel to BORN FREE,
about ELSA the lioness)
and - wait for it - THE MAN
CALLED FLINTSTONE.

Back in those days, the
programme probably ran
about a fortnight before
being changed, and, one
day, having nothing better
to do, I wandered in to see
it. I was instantly entranced
and enthralled by the larger
than life exploits of FLINTSTONE...FRED FLINTSTONE, as he filled in
or incapacitated secret agent ROCK SLAG on account of being the spittin'
image of the afore-said prehistoric person. (Apparently, the first title con-
sidered was THIS MAN FLINTSTONE, as a nod to OUR MAN FLINT,
starring ol' stone face himself, JAMES COBURN.)

Right from the start of the movie
(HANNA-BARBERA's second big
screen outing, the first being HEY
THERE, IT'S YOGI BEAR in
1964), the audience knows that
this is something different to the
BEDROCK family's TV episodes.
There's WILMA, larger than life,
holding aloft the famous torch,
in a parody of the famous
COLUMBIA logo; then we're hit
with a JAMES BOND style theme
song before the film proper
begins. And what a film it is! How
a cartoon film can have a "big-
budget" feel (at least at the
beginning) in comparison to a
TV episode, I'm not sure - but this movie (first released in 1966 at the end
of the final season of the TV show) certainly gives the programme a whole
new dimension and is well worth seeing if you haven't already.

Over the course of the remainder of the movie's run, I went back several
times, not even bothering with the live-action film with which it was paired.
Indeed, on one occasion when I dragged my friend JOE along, the cinema
let him in for nothing as a reward for my frequent attendances. (Some free
popcorn and Cokes would've been nice, but you can't have everything.)
Thanks to the late MR. JOHNSTONE, the manager of THE CINEMA
(as it was imaginatively known) for its nearly 20 year run.


I obtained the video release of the movie in the early or mid-'90s, and
it was just as much fun as I remembered it to be. It's not yet available on
DVD in this country, but overseas editions no longer include the witty
"Columbia" opening because of copyright issues - which is a shame.
The movie is available on YOUTUBE - why not check it out now?!

That first purpose-built cinema in the U.K. since the war (with
the largest screen in Scotland, remember) is now a bingo hall - but,
somehow, magically, I'm back there in its heyday whenever I watch
this highly amusing and entertaining film.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

SUPERMAN SEES DOUBLE...


Never let it be said that
DC COMICS ever gave up
on a good idea when they
saw it. If CLARK KENT
was SUPERMAN, how
could both of them
appear in the same place
at the same time?

Regardless of how it was
achieved, editors and
writers recognized
that readers couldn't
fail to be intrigued if the
concept was featured
on the cover, and would
be more likely to
purchase the issue
to solve the mystery. Cue
a slew of covers showing
Clark interacting with
Supes when such a thing
was impossible - or was it? Not in the whacky world of comicbooks it isn't.
(Admittedly, three of the covers are symbolic, but they're clearly
designed.to "hoodwink" the casual reader into buying the issue.)

The following covers are culled from my own collection and are by no
means comprehensive. Doubtless there are quite a few others spanning
the decades since Superman first appeared in all his four-colour glory.
  



Remember, the images can be enlarged by clicking on them, and
enlarged further by clicking on them again.

Monday, 14 February 2011

THE MACABRE MYSTERY OF THE GORBALS VAMPIRE...


Type of comic which caused outcry
Have a read of the
following spiel from BBC
RADIO SCOTLAND's ad
for their programme on THE
GORBALS VAMPIRE,
broadcast on Sunday, 31st
October, 2010:

***

"Glasgow's Southern
Necropolis is an eerie
place at the best of times,
but when two local police-
men answered a call there
in September 1954 they
encountered a bizarre sight.
Hundreds of local children,
ranging in ages from 4 to
14, were crammed inside,
roaming between the crypts.
They were armed with sharpened sticks, knives stolen from home and stakes.
They said they were hunting down "A Vampire with Iron Teeth" that had
kidnapped and eaten two local boys.

The policemen dispersed the crowd, but they came back at sundown
the next night and the next. The local press got hold of the story and it
soon went national. There were no missing boys in Glasgow at that time,
and press and politicians cast around for an explanation. They soon found
one in the wave of American Horror comics with names like "Astounding
stories" and "Tales from the Crypt" which had recently flooded into the
West of Scotland. Academics pointed out that none of the comics featured
a vampire with iron teeth, though there was a monster with iron teeth in the
Bible (Daniel 7.7) and in a poem taught in local schools. Their voices were
drowned out in a full-blown moral panic about the effect that terrifying
comics were having on children. Soon the case of the "Gorbals
Vampire" was international news.

Southern Necropolis gatehouse, Glasgow
The British Press
raged against the
"terrifying, corrupt,"
comics and after a
heated debate in the
House of Commons
where the case of the
Gorbals Vampire was
cited, Britain passed
the Children and
Young Persons (Harm-
ful Publications) Act
1955 which, for the
first time, specifically
banned the sale of magazines and comics portraying "incidents of a repulsive
or horrible nature" to minors.

Writer Louise Welsh explores how the Gorbals Vampire helped
bring the censorship of comic books onto the statute books."

******

Note what it says about none of the examined comics having any
vampires with iron teeth. Proof, say people who react angrily to any
suggestion that certain types of comics may have a less than desirable
influence on children's impressionable minds, that such is not the case.
And it may well be so. (But, then again, may not.)

However, what amazes me is that those people (who are perfectly
entitled to their view) don't seem to find anything to be concerned about
on the matter of HUNDREDS of children armed with sticks, KNIVES
and stakes, roaming a graveyard in the early hours of the morning over a
period of three days, looking for a vampire (or reasonable facsimile) to
impale. Had they come across someone even vaguely strange looking,
the results could have been catastrophic.

So what does the episode prove, if anything? That comics can
corrupt? No, although the subject is deserving of further investigation.
What it most certainly does seem to prove, however, whatever the source
of the "hysteria" on those October and November nights all those years
ago, is just how impressionable and susceptible to suggestion children can
be. That being the case, surely there's something to be said for exercising
a little caution in what we allow them to be exposed to? Something that
those smug, pompous, self-satisfied types with a vested interest in
producing (or purchasing) anything they want under the excuse of
"artistic expression and creative freedom" should bear in mind.  

Saturday, 12 February 2011

THE MAGNIFICENT MAJOR MATT MASON...MATTEL'S MAN IN SPACE...


Mattel's Man In Space - but how does he go to the toilet?

1969's "giant leap for mankind" was still two years in the future when one
of America's leading toy manufacturers, MATTEL, released MAJOR MATT
MASON and his space-age buddies in 1967. (The copyright date was 1966, but
the toys didn't appear in shops 'til the following year.) There was CALLISTO
(from Jupiter), SERGEANT STORM, DOUG DAVIS,  LIEUTENANT JEFF
LONG and CAPTAIN LAZER, who was a giant plastic figure in contrast
to the smaller rubber-and-wire bodies of Matt and his colleagues.


How embarrassing - they both turned up at
the Venusian Ambassador's ball in
matching space sleds
Major Matt Mason was
a brilliant toy and also a
rubbish one at the same
time; brilliant because it
looked great and the play-
time possibilities seemed
unlimited due to the loads
of equipment one could
purchase for the astronaut.
(Moon suits, space stations,
etc.) Rubbish because the
paint on the rubber bodies
started to peel off within
hours, and the wire within
the figures broke within
days. So perishable were
they that it's a miracle any
of them survived to the
present day.
  
Storm and Davis - just good friends
However, in their time, they
were the "must-have" toys
of the moment, and many
a childhood was brightened
by its association (short-lived
as it may have been) with the
first man on the moon - in
Mattel's universe at least.

Apparently, TOM HANKS
is to star in an upcoming
MAJOR MATT MASON
movie. Perhaps we'll soon
see Matt and all his buddies
gracing toy shop shelves
once more. Now wouldn't
that be something? 

(Photos from my own personal collection. Please excuse the dust.)

Sunday, 6 February 2011

THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS...


Aurora '74/'75 Batman model - with added
owl. Built & painted by Kid Robson
Here's another 'Rambling
Robson Reminiscence' which
hopefully you'll all find at
least vaguely interesting.

Back in  early 1983, a friend
told me that a model shop in
Glasgow had an AURORA
BATMAN model going for
the paltry amount of £1.50.
If I wanted it, he'd pick it up
the next time he was in town
 Having had this kit back when
I was a boy, dang-tootin' I
wanted it. I duly gave him the
dosh and sat back to wish my
life away 'til I got my grubby
hands on the model.

When I did, I was surprised to see that the box was different to the one I
had as a kid, and when I opened it, I was slightly disappointed to note that
there had been a few changes made; namely, the owl had been omitted,
and the name on the tree and the circular bat-emblem on the chest had
been removed. (An oval sticker was supplied in its place.)

Anyway, I overcame my disappointment and started to assemble and
paint the kit, which was the 1974/'75 reissue. I had to put my efforts on
hold while we moved house, applying the finishing touches to the model
in our new abode. Over four years later, due to circumstances too long
and boring to relate here, we decided to move back to our previous
home - and Batman made the return journey with us.  

The U.S. version of the box. U.K. kits
did not have the comic
However, that absent owl always
bothered me - so imagine my delight
when, 24 years after first acquiring
the reissue, I eventually managed to
obtain a spare '60s owl, finally
allowing me to complete the model
to my satisfaction. I was only 24
when I started the kit and 48 when
I gave it the final finishing touch -
in the same house in which I had
begun it, half my life away almost
to the very month.
 
Is it just me, or is there an immensely
satisfying level of ironic profundity
in that little accomplishment?
 
H'mm - just me then.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

ANYONE REMEMBER FRY'S 5 CENTRE?



AZTEC BAR, SUPER MOUSSE, FRY'S 5 BOYS, JUNGLIES
JELLIES, CRESTA, ZING, MB BAR, SPANGLES, BAR SIX, AMAZIN'
RAISIN BAR - those are just a few of the delights of yesterday which are no
longer with us. One of my favourites was FRY'S 5 CENTRE, which was the
same idea as FRY'S CREAM (which is still with us) but containing five
fondant cream flavours in each bar as opposed to just one.

Fry's 5 Centre
probably had a few
wrapper designs in
its lifetime, but the
one I remember
best is the one
from the '60s.
Every Sunday
night at eight o'clock precisely, my brother and myself would each be
allowed to pick two bars of chocolate (one to eat there and then, one to
be kept for school on Monday) from the stash kept in the small brass box
at the side of my Grandpa's chair. (Sunday being not only the day of rest,
but also the day we visited my Grandparents, you see.) Invariably, Fry's
5 Centre would be one of my choices.

If you're around the same age as myself, the above images will bring
back hopefully happy memories from your youth. Look at that wrapper -
you can almost taste that chocolate and its delicious five-flavour fondant
filling, can't you? Yummmm! Every person's mind has its own time
machine - all it requires is the right image to operate the controls and
return you to an earlier age.

See also: http://kidr77.blogspot.com/2012/03/blast-from-past.html

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

IT'S FLIPPIN' FANTASTIC...


The fantastic 1st issue of Fantastic!

 Well, I'm a little early, but in about 11 days it'll be an astounding 43
years since FANTASTIC made its debut on the newsagents' counters and
shelves of Great Britain. Published by ODHAMS PRESS, the comic was
the next stage in the evolution of titles like WHAM!, SMASH! and POW!,
which featured U.K. humour strips amongst MARVEL reprints. (Or vice
versa if you prefer.) Unlike its companion papers 'though, the contents of
Fantastic were not resized to fit a typical British comic's page, instead
being granted the privilege of appearing (more or less) in their original
format - albeit in a slightly larger size and in black and white.


True, the credit boxes were omitted, and U.S. spellings, references
and speech patterns were routinely changed ("I ain't" to "I'm not" for
example), but that didn't matter; just to see classic art by JACK KIRBY,
DON HECK and, later, STEVE DITKO in all its crisp and cataclysmic
glory, was what mattered to the readers back in the day - to say nothing
of the power-packed dynamism of scripting by STAN LEE, LARRY
LIEBER and ROY THOMAS.


The comic did contain some home-grown produce however, in the
form of the occasional humour page, plus THE MISSING LINK/
JOHNNY FUTURE strip that lasted for the first 51 issues, drawn
throughout its entire run by Spanish artist LUIS BERMEJO.


Despite lasting only 89 issues, a Summer Special and 3 Annuals,
Fantastic remains one of the more fondly remembered comics of the
'60s by those who were fortunate (and discerning) enough to have
bought and relished it at the time.