Wednesday, 31 October 2012

BORIS SAYS "BOO!"

 
 
Whooooooooo!! It's HALLOWE'EN tonight, and happy memories spring
to mind of when I was still young enough to go out 'on the scrounge' every
October 31st. As well as the usual assortment of monkey nuts, apples,
oranges and stuff to look forward to, there was also a tidy pile of cash to
be reaped from grown-ups who couldn't be bothered to get fruit in for the
'guisers' who came to their door. We'd give them a verse or a song, and
a shilling (or two) would be quickly pressed into our eager little hands
before the door was hastily shut so they could get back to watching
CORONATION STREET on the telly.
 
We Brits were more innocent in our approach to All Hallows' Eve than
our Stateside counterparts. Essentially, we were begging - but we also
offered a few minutes of entertainment in return for the treats and cash
pressed upon us. In America, it was extortion, pure and simple. "Trick or
treat!", these masked terrorists would proclaim, threatening to inflict some
form of mischievous retribution upon any poor householders who didn't
meet their demands. Well, I don't know about you, but I know which
version of the age-old tradition I prefer.
 
I couldn't quite think of a suitable picture to accompany this post, so in
the end I decided to feature film-fandom's favourite fright-meister, BORIS
KARLOFF! However, just to be different, here he is not as the Monster or
the Mummy, but as simply - himself
 
Happy Hallowe'en!

VALIANT - THE FIRST ISSUE...

 
 
VALIANT #1, cover-dated October 6th, 1962, was an anthology
title published by FLEETWAY PUBLICATIONS which managed an
impressive 14 year run before being merged into BATTLE PICTURE
WEEKLY in 1976. In its time, it had consumed quite a few comics
itself, including KNOCKOUT, SMASH!, TV21, and LION.
 
Some of the famous strips featured in its pages over the years
were CAPTAIN HURRICANE, THE STEEL CLAW, KELLY'S
EYE, MYTEK THE MIGHTY, THE HOUSE OF DOLMANN,
THE CROWS, THE NUTTS, and BILLY BUNTER.
 
Here, for your reading pleasure, are just a few of the strips
from the very first issue. Keep your eyes peeled for the final
issue, coming up in a future post.
 











Tuesday, 30 October 2012

THE FIRST JUDGE DREDD...

 
 
As a pre-Hallowe'en treat, here's the first published (but not the first
produced) episode of JUDGE DREDD from 2000 A.D. #2 in 1977. (JD
had appeared in number 1, but only in an ad for the next issue.) Note how
Dredd was somewhat scrawny (if not downright puny) in this early version,
and not quite as imposing as he would later become. Makes me wonder if
the citizens of MEGA-CITY ONE made comments to themselves about cops
looking younger and younger. This story was written by PETE HARRIS &
PAT MILLS (who extensively rewrote Harris's original submission) and
drawn by MIKE McMAHON. Dredd was created by JOHN WAGNER
and CARLOS EZQUERRA (who designed the look of the character),
with input from Mills as to how the strip should be developed.
 
Anyway, enjoy ol' Dreddy's first appearance - 'cos he is the law!
 



Monday, 29 October 2012

PART TWO OF THE THING FROM THE SWAMP...

 
 
PSSSTT!! Wanna see some pretty pictures? Then you're in luck, 'cos
here are six li'l beauties to feast your peepers on. This was the second
series to feature ol' SWAMPY, published way back in the early '80s when
BRUCE FORSYTH was merely old, but not yet ancient. (Word is, Brucie
was on board the Ark, but when asked whether this was true or not,
 family friend and spokesman, NOAH JUNIOR, refused to comment.) 
 
Anyway, enjoy these dazzling drawings by TOM YEATES, which evoke
the spirit of BERNIE WRIGHTSON without being a slavish imitation of his
style. And remember to feel free to express your opinion on these covers
in the comments section, if you so wish. 





Sunday, 28 October 2012

GREAT COVER - SHAME ABOUT THE INSIDES...



When Marvel 'officially' established itself in the U.K. with THE MIGHTY
WORLD OF MARVEL in 1972, they had a good-looking product on their
hands that readers responded to. Forty pages, six of them in full-colour,
the remainder in spot-colour and/or Zipatone (as it was called in America,
Letratone in Britain) - and all for only 5 pence. With issue #5, the full-
colour pages were increased to eight per issue, which lasted until #19,
with only four in #20 from that point on.


Over the course of the first year, the spot-coloured pages decreased as
the use of Zipatone became more prevalent, until, eventually, the interiors
of Marvel's U.K. weeklies became distinctly grey. Issue #42 was the last
one to feature green spot-hues, and when the comic was awarded a glossy
cover with number 67, the contents became little more than a muddy mess.
This wasn't confined to just MWOM, but was also a blight on SPIDER-MAN
COMICS WEEKLY and THE AVENGERS. (Although, truth to tell, as the
first British weekly Marvel comic to sport a glossy cover from issue #1,
The Avengers had always been cursed with that affliction.)


SMCW, launched in February '73, only ever had four full-colour
pages, the remainder featuring red and orange spot-colour - and Zipatone -
until issue #23, which was the very last one to feature the crimson and amber
hues. With number 24, the comic became all-grey (apart from the full-colour
matt paper covers), but although the tones were a bit overwhelming, the art,
for the most part, was still discernible. However, with issue #48, everything
changed - and all for the worse. The comic was also given a glossy cover
and, overnight, became one monumental murky morass of dark grey and
pitch-black blotches. This deplorable situation lasted for months, and I'm
surprised that Marvel allowed it to go on for as long as it did.


Theoretically, it shouldn't have been a problem. After all, as far
as I can ascertain, the tones were applied to the pages by the same
team responsible for Marvel's black and white U.S. magazines - and
they turned out fine. It seems obvious, therefore, that the problem was
a direct result of the cheap printing process utilised by the British printers
responsible for producing Marvel's U.K. weekly output. For far too long
a period, British Marvels were an unattractive and unappealing alternative
to the much more popular, cleanly printed (by comparison) IPC and D.C.
THOMSON periodicals with which they had to share newsagents' shelves.
It was surely only the unswerving loyalty of devoted Marvel fans that
enabled 'The House of Ideas' to turn any kind of profit. (Here's
an idea - get your printing sorted out, you thickos!)


Perhaps you think I exaggerate? Take a look at the pages illustrating
this post (especially the second Spider-Man one) and you'll see how
bad it really was. In fact, it wasn't just the tones that were awful - so
was the reproduction. Look at the Spidey splash-page - his webbing
is practically invisible. Thankfully, things eventually improved.

******

BEST LAID PLANS DEPT: When I first posted this, I thought I
was being original. However, I've just been browsing on STEVE DOES
COMICS blog and noticed that ol' Stevie-boy had already touched on this
subject (and this very comic) some time ago. What's more, I'd even left a
comment on it, yet I had absolutely no recollection of previously reading
Steve's post when I came to write my own. Spooky, eh? Has such a thing
ever happened to you?  

YIPPEEE! PART FIVE OF THE MISSING LINK...

 
 
When I was a much younger kid than I am now, people (usually
teachers) often told me that I had a 'great' imagination. Thing is, it wasn't
intended as a compliment, and carried with it the strong suggestion that I
was tethered to reality by only the most gossamer and fastly-fraying thread.
Huh! What do teachers know? (I should've called down my alien allies
from the planet XRILLFON to sort them out, but they were busy.)
 
It seems to me, looking at the opening panel of the above artwork,
that GEORGE LAZENBY as JAMES BOND is looking out at us from the
left-hand side of the page. And isn't that the Saintly ROGER MOORE as
SIMON TEMPLAR helping a woman out of the car on the right? Or am I
just imagining it? What's that? You don't think it's meant to be them? All
I can say then, is that it's a much more interesting place in my world
than it seems to be in yours.
 
And here's me being generous to you by presenting the next episode of
THE MISSING LINK, as drawn by LUIS BERMEJO, for your reading
pleasure. It wouldn't have hurt you to agree with me, now, would it? Pah!
(Don't panic - it's only mock-indignation for comic effect. You're allowed
to disagree with me if you want to.)

 
Interestingly, I remember sitting in the 2000 A.D. offices one day in
the mid-'80s and looking through the ODHAMS PRESS bound file copies
of the first 50 or so issues of FANTASTIC (whence comes the saga of The
Missing Link). When my eyes fell upon the pages, above, I made the same
observation about the first panel to ol' THARGY's team of droids. (I also
speculated as to whether Bermejo may have used publicity photos from
Bond movie ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, as I felt
that the girl in the piccie faintly resembled DIANNA RIGG.)
 
Let me see now, that would have included STEVE MacMANUS,
SIMON GELLER, ROBIN SMITH and art assistant PAUL AILEY.
(Paul had worked on the old POWER COMICS, which is why he had these
two red-bound volumes in the bookshelf behind his desk.) If I remember
correctly, Robin Smith agreed that there was a similarity and also thought
it possible that the artist had used photographic reference.
 
What do the rest of you think?  

Saturday, 27 October 2012

IS HE MAN OR MONSTER? OR...IS HE BOTH? (HE'S BOTH, ACTUALLY!)



Continuing our occasional series of DEAN WHITE's painted
extravaganzas for the softcover editions of MARVEL MASTER-
WORKS, here's Dean's version of JACK KIRBY's illustration for
THE INCREDIBLE HULK #1. I happen to think that Dean's ren-
ditions of these classic covers are pretty durn hot, but, surprisingly
 there hasn't been much (if any, in fact) comment, either for or against
them, on the previous entries in the series. Don't be shy - let every-
 one know what you think of these powerhouse paintings NOW!  

Friday, 26 October 2012

MASKS AND MEMORIES - TO BOLDLY GO...

 
 
Memory is a funny thing, don't you think? Not 'funny ha-ha', but 'funny
peculiar'. I consider myself to have a good memory, but am sometimes
amazed when I'm reminded of things I hadn't even realized I'd forgotten.
Take these six STAR TREK masks for example. Had I merely been asked
if I remembered them on the back of KELLOGG'S CORN FLAKES boxes
way back in 1971, I'd probably have thought they sounded familiar, but
not been 100% sure whether I actually (if vaguely) remembered them
or only imagined I did.
 
However, when I recently laid eyes on this ad from the back of one of
my VALIANT & SMASH! comics, I recalled them immediately. I definitely
had the SPOCK one, and maybe even one or two others. Thing is, I hadn't
thought about them in forty-one years, and probably wouldn't have done
if not for seeing the ad again. Isn't it strange how it sometimes requires a
visual reminder of something for us to realize we'd forgotten it?
 
Who knows what memories lurk in the minds of men? (H'mm, that's a
good line - someone should have used it for something.) 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

SHRIEK! PART FOUR OF THE MIGHTY MISSING LINK...

 
 
Here we go again, as Britain's answer to the HULK goes on the rampage
in the heart of London. Marvel at the might of the livid LINK as he shows
his magnificent mastery of the English language; gasp in gratitude as he
demonstrates just how tight trousers should be worn; stand still and be
startled by his animal magnetism and his uncanny ability to make women
swoon; dribble in disbelief at the amount of total tripe I can write in a
single paragraph. Whatever you do 'though, don't forget to notice the
amazing art of LUIS BERMEJO - it really is something to shout about!
 
 

A VALIANT ATTEMPT AT A SMASHING COMBINATION...



Three weeks after the amalgamation of LION and THUNDER
(as seen here), VALIANT and SMASH! succumbed to the same fate.
It's interesting to note how much more attractive and dynamic the cover
to the first combined issue of Valiant & Smash! is compared to that of
Lion & Thunder.  Frankly, the editor who accepted the cover lettering
for L&T was asleep at the wheel;  he'd have been far better following
the example of the editor of V&S, who clearly had a much sharper
eye for recognising what makes a striking cover banner.



Take a look at the banner-blurbs over the mastheads (above) of the
first two issues of L&T;  poorly executed, inconsistently spaced - and
completely unexciting.  Now look at the one on the V&S cover at the
top of this post;  neat, zippy, punchy, colourful - all the things that a
cover banner should be.



Well, now that I've vented about poor display lettering, let's take a
look at the first issue itself.  Unlike L&T, V&S remained predominantly
Valiant, with nine strips consisting of a whopping twenty pages, whereas
Smash! was represented by only four strips totalling nine pages.  Valiant
stories included CAPTAIN HURRICANE, THE CROWS, THE NUTTS,
BANGER & MASHER, RAVEN ON THE WING, KELLY'S EYETHE
WILD WONDERS, THE GHOSTLY GUARDIAN, and BILLY BUN-
TER.  Representing Smash! were JANUS STARK, THE SWOTS &
THE BLOTS, SIMON TEST, and HIS SPORTING LORDSHIP.


So why were these two comics amalgamated?  Declining sales
of at least one of them is surely a given, but what had led to such
a situation?  A few months earlier, industrial action by printers had
resulted in the suspension of various titles for around twelve weeks.
When publication eventually resumed, many readers had been lost
along the way.  This resulted in some titles being amalgamated in
an attempt to combine the circulation of two comics into one.


Anyway, that's more than enough waffle from me for one post.
Here's a few select pages from forty-one and a half years ago to
hopefully refresh fond memories from yesteryear.  Enjoy.





Remember to click on images to enlarge,
then click again for optimum size.