Friday, 30 November 2012

THE UNCANNY TALE OF BRIAN'S BRAIN...

 
 
Near the end of January 1966, a new comic went on sale in British
newsagents - SMASH!  Cover-dated February 5th, it featured a mix of
traditional humour and adventure strips, and was a sister publication to
WHAM!, published by ODHAMS PRESS. In April of that year, POW!
was launched, but out of the three of them, Smash! was the longest
lasting, managing a relatively impressive five years.
 
One of the best-remembered strips of the comic was BRIAN'S BRAIN,
featuring the adventures of  BRIAN KINGSLEY, a schoolboy who owned
an electronic brain shaped like a skull, which he carried around in a box.
Bizarre indeed, but it proved popular with the readers at the time. Just to
give all you kid-ites a taste of what you may have missed, here, for your
eyes only, are the very first two instalments of Brian's Brain.
 
 
 

THE LAST LINK TO THE FUTURE...

 
 
Alas, the time has come to say goodbye to THE MISSING LINK, as this
episode marks the last time the strip appeared under this title. With the
next instalment, it was renamed JOHNNY FUTURE, and was transformed
into a bona fide superhero series. However, it's always best to leave the
table wanting for more, so the strip will be 'resting' for a while, as I've no
immediate plans to feature the remaining episodes. All that can change
if there's enough demand, 'though  - so if you want to see the rest of
Johnny's adventures, cast your vote in the comments section.




Wednesday, 28 November 2012

DOOMED DANDY NOT DEAD YET - ONE ISSUE TO GO...

 
Art by CHARLES GRIGG from the 1987 Dandy Annual
 
You're looking at the cover of the latest DANDY (featuring a
decades-old illustration) which, even if I wasn't already buying the last
few issues, I'd definitely purchase for the above picture alone - simply
because it's just so nice to look at. That's something that seems to have
been forgotten by a whole slew of contemporary cartoonists working in
what is laughably called the 'industry' today. In their desire to be 'modern',
or 'cutting edge', or 'with it', or 'down with the kids' (or whatever), they
overlook what can be achieved by merely producing an attractive, well-
rendered drawing that is simply a pleasure to look at. Good art that not
only tells a story but stands on its own two feet in and of itself. Art for
art's sake, as it were.
 
When I reviewed two pages in last week's Dandy, I received some
criticism from certain minority quarters attempting to cast doubt on the
motives behind my honest observations. Coated in a superficial veneer
of 'politeness' and 'civility', but equally mined with thinly-veiled facetious-
ness and sarcasm, comments came in from obviously emotionally-stunted
individuals who clearly took exception to my detailed and specific analysis
of the glaring deficiencies which were all-too apparent in sections of the
75 year old comic. (Never mind that I also featured what I liked about
the selfsame issue.)
 
However, as I've pointed out before, I've never once compared the
work of any artist in The Dandy to any level of artistic ability I perceive,
pretend, imagine, wish, or delude myself that I may have, but rather against
the recognized greats of yesterday and today. (And there's far too many to
list.) Any aspersions on my motivations, therefore, simply do not bear up
to even the mildest scrutiny. Interestingly, going by recent reader reactions
to the new BILLY WHIZZ strip in THE BEANO, it seems there is far wider
agreement with my view than my critics allow for. Current artist WILBUR
DAWBARN has elected to emulate the style of original artist, MALCOLM
JUDGE, and so far there has been no negative reaction (that I've seen)
to a return to a more traditional style. (I feel obliged to say that there's
no good reason why that lettering balloon in panel 6 should stray
so far outside the border, but that's not Wilbur's fault.)
 
 
When I look at the art of some alleged cartoonists working in comics today,
all it does is make my head hurt with a violent assault of almost-abstract
imagery. Oh for the days when comic strip art was nicely rendered, crystal
clear and easy on the eye. Just like the pages on this post, in fact.
 
As usual (fool to myself), the comments section is open to all those who
want to agree, disagree, argue the toss, or simply hurl outrageous
aspersions and vile invective. Ready, steady...GO! 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

TAKE A LOOK AT THIS LOLLY...

 
 
Back in 2004, I was shopping in my local supermarket one night
('twas the servants' day off), when I espied a box of FAB iced lollies in
the refrigerated display cabinet designated for such items. The box
featured details of a promotional tie-in to the THUNDERBIRDS movie
which was out at the time, and I was heartened to see that this humble
iced lolly had not forgotten nor abandoned its roots.
 
You see, dear reader, this particular item of frozen confectionary
was linked to Thunderbirds from its very inception, being named after
the GERRY ANDERSON programme's 'call sign' and touted as "The
First Iced Lolly For Girls". Of course, such sexist distinctions have long
since been forgotten and, as far as I know, this LYONS MAID favourite is
still available today. I know ZOOM iced lolly (as advertised by STEVE
ZODIAC from FIREBALL XL5) was likewise obtainable a few years
ago, but does anyone know if that's still the case?
 
I must look in the fridge the next time I'm in SAINSBURY'S.

YET ANOTHER LINK IN THE CHAIN - PART 14...

 
 
THE MISSING LINK is in serious trouble, so let's not waste a
second! How is this exemplary example of evolution going to extricate
himself from his problematic predicament? Sit back and see how artist
extraordinaire, LUIS BERMEJO, draws all the dangling threads of this
FANTASTIC story together. And don't miss the next instalment, when
events take a twist in an entirely new and fascinating direction!
  


 

Monday, 26 November 2012

YET ANOTHER OF THOSE LOOPY LAPSES IN LOGIC DEPT - STRANGE TALES...

 
 
DOCTOR STRANGE, Master of the Mystic Arts is aptly
named - much better than DOCTOR DROOM, the 'prototype' who
preceded him, despite their incredibly similar origins. Strange by
name, strange by nature - and also strange in logic if his third
adventure in STRANGE TALES #114 is anything to go by.
 
 
Here's the plot: The good ol' mystic master receives a telephone
call from SIR CLIVE BENTLEY, asking him to come and see him
at once. Faster than QUICKSILVER can dash to the loo, Strange is
suddenly seen stepping out of a British taxi cab (presumably having
grabbed the fastest 'plane to England) and paying off the driver.
 
However, turns out it wasn't Bentley, but BARON MORDO in
disguise who had summoned Strange - who has now stepped into a
trap. Here we see what appears to be yet another of those infamous
discrepancies between what the artist - in this case STEVE
DITKO - drew and STAN LEE scripted.
 
 
It looks to me that Strange is trapped between a pair of mystical
candles, the incense of which paralyzes him. When the candles have
burned out, Strange's life will also end. However, Stan's dialogue
seems to indicate that ol' Stephen's predicament is caused by only
one candle. Just as well it wasn't four candles, or we could've
found ourselves right in the middle of the classic sketch by
the TWO RONNIES.
 
Anyway, the good Doc, by the power of his mind, summons
the nearby VICTORIA BENTLEY (Sir Clive's daughter), to
come and extinguish the candle(s), thereby prematurely ending
the spell which would have killed him. (They had to burn out
in their own time, apparently, for the spell to be effective.)
 
 
Evil Baron Mordo returns to gloat over Strange's death, and -
upon discovering him still alive - mentally saps his will, making
him his slave. But hold on there; the real Doctor Strange then turns
up, and reveals that Mordo had only enslaved his mental projecto-
image, as he has just stepped off the 'plane from America. Only his
ethereal self could have arrived so quickly, explains Strange.
 
Here's where it all seems to break down. At first, it appears that
Strange's 'mental projecto-image' is something entirely different to
his metaphysical spirit which can float through walls, and is ghostly
in appearance. (We'll assume that Strange can make himself visible to
whoever he wishes, but I'm unsure whether the 'rules' have ever been
established. Wasn't the HULK supposed to be the only one who could
see him?) However, he also refers to it as his 'ethereal self, which
suggests here that the two are the same.
 
 
Now I'm confused. Why would Strange's ethereal self need a
taxi to get to the castle? (He could've simply used his mystical
powers to take him where he was needed.) Where does the money
for the fare come from? And how does his 'actual' body function
independently when his mind is elsewhere? If his mind was in
his metaphysical self when Mordo enslaved it, how could he
switch it over to his actual body upon arrival?
 
The impression given is that both forms have independent
thought, which we know from later tales isn't the case. Also, why
doesn't his ethereal self  (also called ectoplasmic in subsequent
stories) look, er - 'ethereal' - as opposed to a solid manifestation?
It has to be said that the conclusion seems rushed and is rather
unsatisfying, depending, as it does, on the reader ignoring more
holes than a vat of Swiss cheese.
 

As the denouement of the story depends on the reader thinking that
Strange is there in his physical form, these apparent discrepancies are
maybe nothing more than deliberate misdirection, which -  with a little
mental exercise - can be reconciled to some degree, no? Perhaps, but
the reader shouldn't have to work that hard; the best plots are always
those which nicely tie up the loose ends, not leave more straggly
bits than a plateful of spaghetti.
 
H'mm, cheese, spaghetti - all this talk of food has made
me hungry. I'm off to raid the fridge.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

JACK KIRBY'S JIMMY OLSEN...



When jolly JACK KIRBY jumped ship from MARVEL to DC in
1970, the repercussions didn't really reverberate in Britain (or, at least,
my part of it) 'til around 1972. (Comics still mainly came to these shores
as ballast in ships, sometimes resulting in a delay of several months -
and even years in some instances.)


I remember leafing through issues of NEW GODS and FOREVER
PEOPLE in my local newsagent's and, although recognising Jack's
artistic style as the same one which had drawn most of my favourite
Marvel characters, not being too impressed by the rather drab colouring
and underwhelming characters. (The BLACK RACER anyone? Surely
an attempt to replicate the success of the SILVER SURFER, but just
being far too way-out - even for Kirby!)


I later came to appreciate certain aspects of Jack's FOURTH WORLD
comics (especially BEAUTIFUL DREAMER and BIG BARDA - even
LAURA CONWAY rang my bell), but for me, the King's best mag at DC
was - wait for it - SUPERMAN'S PAL JIMMY OLSEN. There are some
issues of this series where the dialogue is closer to the STAN LEE-scripted
collaborations Jack produced at Marvel. Sure, there were still examples of
Jack's clunky turn of phrase from time to time, but it didn't seem quite as
glaring as in Jack's other DC books.


To me, the Fourth World panoply of New Gods would've worked
better as supporting characters in FANTASTIC FOUR, much like the
INHUMANS, who I never considered interesting enough to have their
own series. Jack's Jimmy Olsen, however, worked like a dream.


Here, in tribute to 'the King', are all 15 covers to the most enjoyable
run of comics that Kirby produced for Marvel's 'Dynamic Competition'.
They're available in a softcover, two volume set entitled JIMMY OLSEN
ADVENTURES BY JACK KIRBY. Well-worth checking out.



Issue #140 was a non-Kirby Giant reprint issue, so isn't included here.








O, MERRY MAID OF MIGHT, PLEASE WON'T YOU MARRY ME?

 
 
A while back, in a rare mad moment of indiscretion, I somewhat
impetuously revealed my schoolboy crush on SUSAN STORM (aka
THE INVISIBLE GIRL), but I have an even more shameful confession
to make. I could never quite remain faithful to sweet Susie, swiftly switch-
ing my fickle infatuation 'twixt a succession of four-colour cosmic cuties
whenever my attention was diverted by some slinky, seductive temptress
provocatively posing and pouting at me from whatever captivating
comic I happened to be rabidly reading at the time.
 
 
SCARLET WITCH, SATURN GIRL, THE WASP, and MARVEL
GIRL were just some of the  many superpowered seductresses to whom I
felt oddly drawn - unlike them, who were awesomely and alluringly drawn
(little pun there) and stirred such strange sensations in my stomach. 

Another was KARA, alias
SUPERGIRL (who actually
bore a striking resemblance
to both Susan and Saturn
Girl), and - whether she was
drawn by JIM MOONEY or
KURT SCHAFFENBERGER
- she set my young pulse racing
with passions that I didn't quite
understand and would've been
unable to 'express' had the
divine diva magically sprung
to life in front of me. (7 year
old boys are no doubt much
more clued-up about such
'affairs of the heart' nowa-
days, I imagine.)
 
Anyway, in tribute to
Kara, here's a selection of
images carefully culled
from my comic collection
to hopefully give you an
idea as to why the heavenly
honey so transfixed me.
Curiously, I never found
her secret identity of
LINDA DANVERS quite
as attractive. Strange what
blonde hair and a short
skirt can do, eh? (Although,
looking at Linda today,
she's actually quite striking
(Oh no! I thought I'd
grown out of it.)

ADVENTURE COMICS #384, which heads this post, is an odd
little tale, lounging in the 'land of latent lesbianism' (and transvestism),
perhaps without even being aware of it, and presumably going straight
over the heads of the kids who read it back in the day. Reading it today
as an adult, however, it seems unbelievable that the editors didn't spot
the inherent implications of the story at the time.
 
 
Anyway, did anyone else out there harbour such secret desires for sexy
statuesque superheroines, or was I the world's only paper pin-up perv?
Please tell me it ain't so! (Go on, 'fess up. You'll feel better for it.)

 
For another reminiscence in a similar vein, click here.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

CLICK ON THIS LINK - NOW! (PART 13)

 
 
Here's all you need to know: THE MISSING LINK drawn by LUIS
BERMEJO, published by ODHAMS PRESS in FANTASTIC back in
1967. There, short and sweet - why waste words?