Tuesday, 30 August 2011

EVEN MORE MIGHTY MARVEL MAGIC...






No pearls of profundity this time 'round.  The
above covers are featured for no other reason than
they're nice to look at.  So thank MARVEL...and,
of course, WORLD DISTRIBUTORS.

Monday, 29 August 2011

MIGHTY MARVEL MAGIC...



For no other reason than that it's a brilliant cover from my youth, above
is THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL #9, pencilled by JIM STARLIN and
inked (it looks to me, but I'm guessing) by JOE SINNOTT. Dated December
2nd 1972, it actually went on sale the previous week on November 25th,
which was the day I saw a double bill of JAMES BOND movies starring
SEAN CONNERY at my local cinema. Weren't we Brits spoiled? KIRBY
and DITKO art on classic stories of THE HULK, SPIDER-MAN and THE
FANTASTIC FOUR, all scripted by the one and only STAN LEE - all in
one comic for only 5p.

Ah, those were the days.

HE BELONGS TO GLASGOW...



Glasgow readers of this post will doubtless recognize famous 'KID
MEMORYMAN'-about-town, JOHN McSHANE, who appeared in a
recent BBC TV documentary about Scottish comicbook creators. John's
contribution was to propose the case that comics were invented by we Scots,
so that's yet another one the world owes us. John is a 'well-kent' figure in
Glasgow (and beyond), being actively involved in the city's thriving comics
scene for many years, and was one of the founding proprietors of AKA
BOOKS & COMICS, along with BOB NAPIER and the late PETE
ROOT. (Wee STEVE MONTGOMERY joined the team later.)


About 25 years ago (hard as it is for me to believe), I managed
to persuade John to leave the leafy suburbs of 'the dear green place'
and visit yours truly in the spacious abode in which I then lived. The
photos show John with an original, early piece of DAN DARE art (from
the famous EAGLE comic of the 1950s), which I once owned. John is so
well-known in the professional comics community that he even featured
in a cameo appearance in MARVEL's CAPTAIN BRITAIN back in the
mid- '80s. 'Twas thanks to John ('cos he knows everybody) that I got to
meet the late, great ARCHIE GOODWIN and his wife ANN, and
spend a pleasant evening in their company.

   (There, John. Now will you let me off with that 5p I owe you?)   

Sunday, 28 August 2011

THE NEWS OF THE WORLD - FACT OR FICTION?



"You are what you eat!" is a principle that doesn't just apply to
food.  Psychologists recognize that what you 'feed' your mind with helps
shape your personality to a greater or lesser degree.  That's why, when
it comes to children in particular, it's wise to exercise caution in what we
allow them access to.  We don't want unsuitable material - whatever form
it takes - working its influence on their impressionable young minds.
However, as I've said before, it's the content and not the 'carton'
which defines whether something is suitable or not.

At one time or another it
seems that almost all of society's
problems have been blamed on
either movies, music, video games,
books, TV - and, of course, comics.
That's not to say that the afore-
mentioned mediums don't some-
times play their part, but other
factors are also culpable, some-
times even more so.  Often, it's
just too easy to point the finger
at a handy scapegoat than it is
to look at the whole problem
from a wider perspective.

One such instance appeared in
the late and largely unlamented
NEWS OF THE WORLD on April 3rd, 1994.  I have excised the names
to spare any possible distress to the families of those involved, and omitted
any paragraphs which did not pertinently pertain to comics, but the tone
of the piece remains intact.

******


STAB MAN WAS CAPTAIN MARVEL CRAZY - He collected violent mags.

The man accused of stabbing a 12 year old schoolgirl to death in her
classroom spent hours poring over violent Captain Marvel comics.  The
loner was enthralled by the scenes of death and mayhem in the American
superhero magazines.  In one edition Captain Marvel is seen battling with
a knife-wielding alien.  Characters say things like "Death should be a
glorious event," and "Life should be a continuous series of pains."

******

Stop there for a moment.  The
paper fails to distinguish 'twixt
heroes and villains or to mention
that the good guys consider the
baddies' actions, motivations and
rationalizations to be thoroughly
reprehensible.  It neglects to inform
us that the bad guys make their
pitch, the good guys resist - and,
eventually, overcome all obstacles
to triumph in the end.  In short, a
morality tale.  It's as if the paper
has gone out of its way to rip
things out of context and mis-
represent what these comics
are actually about.  So, what
else does the NOTW say?

******

Former schoolpals yesterday recalled the teenage years when
they devoured the tales and disturbing illustrations in the fantasy
world of horror comics.  "We all read them, but he took it much further,"
said one.  "He was always drawing the characters and was excellent at it
 He made up his own stories with all the Marvel heroes.  We enjoyed the
Captain Marvel comics, with all their violent images.  But it never occurred
to me as being unusual.  He seemed totally normal.  The only thing dif-
ferent about him was he spent so much time with comics.  He had a
huge collection of them.  He was obsessed with violent comics like
Captain Marvel, The Incredible Hulk and (sic) Spiderman."

******

One naturally wonders if the
quotes are accurate.  Would any
comic reader really describe 1970's
code-approved superhero comics
like the ones named as "violent"?  I
somehow doubt it.  Action-packed,
certainly - but violent?  Not only
does the NOTW reiterate the
alleged "violent" aspect, but also
pours fuel on the fire by describing
these comics as "disturbing",
"horror" comics.  (I know from
experience that newspapers often
'punch up' stories by rendering
paraphrases as direct quotes and
isolating sentences from their
frame of reference.)

In short, it's a hatchet job.  The reporter doesn't seem to be familiar
with the actual content of the comics named, otherwise he would never
have described them in the way he did.  (If he cared about accuracy that
is.)  However, comics don't have a monopoly in being picked on like this.
Newspapers, because they cast themselves in the role of crusaders in
pursuit of truth, justice, morality and decency (instead of just another
business chasing a buck), often target other mediums that - like
GALACTUS - they consider themselves to be above and
beyond in the scheme of things.

The truth is much simpler.  Some newspapers are nothing more
than purveyors of all the worst aspects of society.  They pander to the
seedier and more salacious appetites of certain sections of the public
while claiming, rather ridiculously in my opinion, to be "family" news-
papers.  (Even the scurrilous DAILY and SUNDAY SPORT make
this claim, while counting down the days until some 15 year old
girl is old enough to 'get her kit off' for their readers.)


One wonders how a paper which peddles nudity (page 3), gambling
(bingo), and panders to an interest in the supernatural (horoscopes),
while reporting rape, paedophillia, murder, etc., in the most lewd, prurient
and unnecessary detail can presume to claim the moral highground when
pontificating on society's ills.  Now, obviously I'm indulging in a slight bit
of ironic hyperbole with the first part of the preceding sentence in order
to make a point, but perhaps we should be asking ourselves what effect
a steady diet of such content day after day or week after week could
have on the minds of some of those exposed to it.  (You are
what you eat, remember!)

In short, was the "loner" who murdered that 12 year old girl
 a News Of The World reader?  Makes one wonder, eh? 

Thursday, 25 August 2011

THE DALEKS ARE COMING...



RON TURNER (1922-'98), famous as the artist for RICK RANDOM
and numerous other strips, was responsible for nearly half of the 104
DALEKS pages which appeared on the back cover of TV CENTURY 21
from 1965-'67. 30 years later, MARVEL UK asked him to return to the strip
for a 6-part adventure which started where the last Daleks story had ended
three decades before. These new episodes appeared in DOCTOR WHO
MAGAZINE #s 249-254, March-August, 1997. The above strip is
the last one from 1967. Below is what happened next...
 



Click on images to enlarge - click again for optimum size.
 
******
 
Sadly, Ron died before he could complete the next part of the
saga, DEADLINE TO DOOMSDAY. Two unlettered pages
were published in DWM #276, which are presented below.
 

 
(I'm not too sure if these pages are complete because, even
allowing for a page-wide logo along the top of each strip, they
each look a tier short to me. Just think - this was perhaps the
last comic strip art that Ron ever produced.)

DON'T DARE CALL HIM A 'PRATT'...



I thought that as I had devoted a fair bit of attention to the comics
character FRANKIE STEIN in a couple of recent posts, it would be
only fitting to show the original character who inspired him. Above is an
AURORA FRANKENSTEIN plastic model kit, assembled and painted
by myself. This kit was re-released by REVELL not too long ago and
should still be available in model shops to those of you who would like
to obtain your very own. Price is around £19.99, but shop around if
the option is available to you.

The 1970s Aurora box

Interestingly, although the actual model's face is clearly and
unmistakeably based on that of BORIS KARLOFF as he appeared in
THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the face on the Aurora box art
seems to be an amalgam of Karloff and GLENN STRANGE. Note the
extra big clamps or spikes, which only ever appeared on Karloff's test
makeup before the finished look was decided upon. (And, in case you
were wondering, Karloff was born WILLIAM HENRY PRATT,
hence the title of this blog post.)

The new Revell box

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A VALIANT EFFORT FOR TV21...



While I'm wallowing in the self-indulgent practice of airing old
photographs (see two posts back), I thought I'd show a couple from 1965,
taken in Port Bannatyne when I was on holiday in Rothesay on The Isle of
Bute in Scotland. It was the one and only time we went on holiday with my
grandparents, and I can remember it as if it were yesterday. Well...last
week at least. (In fact, scratch that - I'm not even sure I can remember
either last week or yesterday - but you know what I mean.)


So...why am I boring you with my old holiday snaps, you may be
asking? Simple - take a look at the comic I'm holding - an actual issue of
TV CENTURY 21! At the time, it was undoubtedly Britain's best-selling
comic, and today's publishers would be ecstatic if their comics could sell
even a quarter of the circulation figures of TVC21 at its height.

 
Sadly, they just don't print
comics like that anymore. TV
Century 21 (later shortened
to just TV21) lasted for four
months short of seven years,
but by the time its revamped
2nd series (minus any GERRY
ANDERSON content) was
merged with VALIANT on
September 25th, 1971 (dated
October 2nd), it had been a
shadow of its former self  for
almost half of its lifespan.

It had arrived with a bang -
but went out with barely
a whimper. After sharing
Valiant's masthead as junior partner for around two and a half years,
its name appeared for the final time on its host comic on April 13th, 1974.
(Issue dated 20th.)

Thus ended the last link to what had once been Britain's best
and brightest comic of the sensational '60s.

The back cover of the comic featured in the photos above
 
Incidentally, photography buffs may be interested to know that the
above holiday snaps were taken with an old KODAK BOX BROWNIE,
which had to be held at either waist or chest level (depending on one's
eyesight) while the 'snapper' looked down into a little viewfinder before
taking the picture. That no doubt explains why so many photos from my
childhood are lopsided. (Either that, or the person taking them had one
leg shorter than the other.) 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

BUT WHERE DID MICKY GO...?

 
The very first Frankie Stein strip from Wham! #4
  
FRANKIE STEIN, drawn by KEN REID, first appeared in issue
#4 of LEO BAXENDALE's WHAM! on July 4th, 1964. (Issue dated
11th.) The comic was intended as a 'SUPER-BEANO' by publishers
ODHAMS PRESS, to be a direct rival to D.C. THOMSON's then
twenty-six year old companion paper to THE DANDY.

Wham! only lasted for about three and a half years, so measured
against the longevity of the Beano, plus its own aspirations, it must be
considered a failure; although, truth to tell, it no doubt made its money
back - and then some - for Odhams. Frankie Stein, on the other hand,
managed a respectably long run in one form or another, especially in
the later ROBERT NIXON incarnation of the '70s.

After Wham! ended, Frankie (sans PROFESSOR CUBE's son,
MICKY) popped up again in SHIVER & SHAKE in 1973, moving to
WHOOPEE! when the two titles merged in 1974. He also appeared in
MONSTER FUN COMIC in 1975, as well as eight Holiday Specials
(1975-1982) devoted to his loveable self - plus a couple of softcover
Annuals (1976 & 1977). He continued to appear in reprinted form in
various publications by IPC/FLEETWAY/EGMONT in the late '80s
and early '90s, before finally succumbing to the oblivion that had
engulfed his birth-comic back at the beginning of 1968.

Although Bob Nixon's version had its own charm for a new
audience, nothing could really compare to the original Ken Reid
Frankie of the '60s - utter comic lunacy at its very best.

******
 
When Frankie re-appeared in the '70s, I was disappointed to see
that, except for reprints, Micky was absent - and sometimes he was
excised even from them. However, looking over Frankie's old strips
recently, I was surprised to discover that, out of the last 16 stories to
appear in Wham!, Micky appeared in only one of them. Perhaps, then,
the '70s, Micky-less, version was merely picking up where the '60s
run had left off - namely, with Professor Cube's boy more or less
permanently phased out of the picture.
 
******  

SPECIAL BONUS: Feast your eyes on this photo of an original
piece of Ken Reid Frankie Stein art, first published in Wham! #134,
December 31st, 1966. (Issue dated January 7th, 1967.)

LOOK...HE'S 'BEAR'-NAKED...



The above page comes from a 1961 issue of TV EXPRESS WEEKLY.
It's our old pal YOGI BEAR and his little chum BOO BOO, with a little
'extra' strip featuring Mr. JINKS and PIXIE & DIXIE.  It's been scanned
in two halves, so when you double-click to enlarge to optimum size,
you'll have to do each half separately. Hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

"I'VE GOT A SON I NEVER KNEW I HAD!"



I found this old photo of myself the other day, taken circa 1979 or
'80. It puts me in mind of something BOB HOPE said when I saw him
perform at THE EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE in October 1984. During
the show, he quipped, "Every Saturday night, myself, George Burns,
Milton Berle and a couple of older guys get together at my house and
hold a seance. We all sit around a table, clasping hands...and try and
contact the LIVING!" (Bob was in his eighties at that time.) Then he
said, "I'm so old that whenever I catch one of my old movies on
late-night TV, it's like watching a son I never knew I had."

Looking at the above photo, I know how he feels. Just who is
that younger, better-looking guy? (And look at that shirt-collar. Did
we really dress like that back then - or was it just me?) Incidentally,
the photo was taken about 20 years before the one in the right-hand
side (from your perspective) column at the top of the page.

******


And, in case you're interested, it was a great show that night and
Bob was on top form. "People keep asking me what sex is like at 80,"
he drolled. "I tell 'em GREAT - but it's even better if you pull over to
the side of the road!" And there's more. "Did you folks hear about the
doctor who was arrested for making love to one of his patients?",
enquired the comedy legend. A pause, then the punchline...
"What's worse is - the guy's a TREE SURGEON!" 

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A BELATED GOODBYE TO AN ARTIST OF NOTE...


Art by Francisco Solano Lopez

Francisco Solano Lopez. 1928 - 2011

As announced on various other sites,
legendary Argentinian artist FRANCISCO
SOLANO LOPEZ (born Oct 26, 1928)
died on August 12th. I'll leave further
biographical details to others more
knowledgeable of the man's life and
career than I am; suffice to say that
comic-reading children of the '60s and
'70s had their lives enriched by exposure
to all the many strips that Lopez (and
his assistants) illustrated in British
publications of the period.

Who can forget GALAXUS, RAVEN ON
THE WING, KELLY'S EYE, JANUS STARK, ADAM ETERNO and a whole
host of other classics, still fondly remembered by readers of the time? To
those who experienced British comics when there was a thriving industry
in this country, his demise is a stark reminder that - in the words of
LEWIS CARROLL"We are but older children, dear, who fret to find
our bedtime near."

Alas, the sands of time are draining into the bottom half of life's
hourglass - which, sadly, can't just be turned over when the final
few grains have settled.
 
Art by Tom Kerr

Friday, 19 August 2011

LOOPY LAPSES IN LOGIC DEPT...



Recently, over on JIM SHOOTER's great blog, Jim was discussing
why the original AVENGERS/JLA team-up comic never materialized -
the plot was pants, apparently. It just didn't make much sense, and by
the time it had been pummeled into an acceptable shape, most of the
participants had lost their enthusiasm for the beleaguered project.

However, dodgy plot-holes that you could steer the TITANIC
through are nothing new in comics; plots are usually (or used to be)
just an excuse to get the heroes together for a fight - before they realize
their mistake, become the best of pals, and then team up and rush off to
confront the villains. In an age when comics were primarily aimed at kids,
logical, intricately thought-out plots were hardly considered a necessity,
and, as long as events galloped along at an exciting, rip-roaring pace,
it's unlikely that young readers ever dwelt on (or even noticed) any
deficiencies in the details.

Take FANTASTIC FOUR #1 for example. Allegedly the greatest
brain on the planet, REED RICHARDS decides to take a rocket into
space - knowing that it doesn't have sufficient shielding to protect them
from cosmic rays. What's more, he drags along his fiancee and her kid
brother - who are presumably as useful as a fart in a spacesuit when
it comes to piloting the ship. Talk about irresponsible?

But there are even more howlers than you can shake a stick at. Are
secret rocket bases so negligently guarded that four people could 'sneak
past the guards', gain access to the rocket, and then take off without the
assistance of the ground-based launch crew which would be required to
accomplish lift-off? Well, in the world of four-colour comics it seems
anything is possible.

Let's now jump to issue #2
- THE SKRULLS FROM
OUTER SPACE. Hark at
this amazing piece of 'logic'
from JOHNNY STORM
as he comes up with a
'cunning plan' for smoking
out the Skrull aliens who
are impersonating them.
Reading in THE DAILY
GLOBE that a new rocket
is to be tested, Johnny
indulges in an amazing
display of brain-power.
Are you ready for this?
"Our four imitators may
get confused if one of us
tries to sabotage that
rocket site! They may think
it's one of them and reveal
themselves!"

Sure! The four aliens who are impersonating the four humans
and are likely to be hiding out together in a group of four. For the 'plan'
to succeed, the alien impersonating Johnny would have to be absent from
the group at just the right time, and what are the chances of that happening?
As a plan it falls far short of even being half @rsed, but - can you believe it?
Reed Richards - the greatest mind on Earth, remember - actually approves
it. (And, astoundingly - to say nothing of preposterously - it actually
happens that way in the comic.) Is it only me, or does anyone
else think Reed is a bit of a dipstick?

Issue #3? THE
MIRACLE MAN, greatest
hypnotist on the planet, is
also the thickest hypnotist
on the planet. Rather than
go to all the bother of
hypnotizing everybody so
that he can rob jewellery
stores and banks and
thereby amass a fortune,
why not just hypnotize them
into thinking he has a wallet
full of cash whenever he
pops out on his weekly
shopping jaunt to Tesco's?
"Say, miss - can you change
this $100 note?", he'd say,
waving a piece of Monopoly
money in front of the check-
out girl's fizzog. It always
works for me.

One can multiply examples of this kind a thousandfold with the
application of a little thought when reading these bygone classics of
yesteryear. However, perhaps I'm being a little harsh. These stories were
intended to be read by undemanding kids who were only interested in
action, adventure and excitement - logic was never part of the package
and it hardly seemed to matter as long as the story thrilled and
entertained its young readership.

Remember, we're talking about 'long-underwear characters' -
absurdity is inherent in the basic premise from the get-go. So, next time
you're reading your favourite comic, don't get hung up on the details - just
enjoy it for what it is. Unless, that is, it takes itself so seriously that the
writer deserves a slap on the head if you ever run into him. (And, if so,
give him a good slap from me while you're about it.)

For more Loopy Lapses in Logic, click here.

Monday, 15 August 2011

LEO'S LAST STAND...


The 1st issue of Monster Fun

MONSTER FUN COMIC was released on June 7th, 1975
(dated the 14th) and heralded the start of legendary creator
LEO BAXENDALE's swan-song in British comics, with his
series of BADTIME BEDTIME STORYBOOKS being
given the entire centrespread of the weekly comic. (Other
artists also contributed from time to time.) After this, he
would go on to create his 3 volume WILLY THE KID run
before fading from high-profile comics consciousness - his
madcap, anarchic drawing style being kept alive by the likes
of artists TOM PATERSON and Leo's son MARTIN.

FRANKIE STEIN, who'd first appeared back in 1964 in
WHAM! illustrated by the magnificent KEN REID, before
re-appearing  n 1973 in SHIVER & SHAKE drawn by the
amazingly prolific ROBERT NIXON (and then-currently
published in WHOOPEE) was the figurehead editor, an
obvious choice given the comic's 'comedy-horror' theme.

Sadly, the comic only lasted for 73 issues before being merged
with BUSTER in October, 1976. By that time, however, Leo's Willy
The Kid was about to explode onto an unsuspecting British public.
Here, then, is the first of Leo's last weekly comics output - enjoy.
And be sure to visit his website by clicking on the link in the right-
hand side (from your point of view) column.