Monday, 31 December 2012

A DANDY TREAT AT HOGMANAY...

 
 
As a special HOGMANAY treat, here's the DESPERATE DAN story
from the NEW YEAR edition of THE DANDY, cover-dated January 8th,
2000. This story, illustrated by the mighty KEN H. HARRISON, comes from
a time when the strip was being drawn to a far higher standard than in the
last few years. That's probably why the digital edition of the comic has
returned Dan to his classic look (so I'm told). Long may it be so.
 
Happy New Year, everybody.

 

Sunday, 30 December 2012

THE WORLD'S TOUGHEST QUESTION?

 
 
Here's a question for everyone, so put on your thinking caps. If,
from this point on, you could re-acquire only one toy from childhood
(assuming you wanted to, that is, and not counting any you may
already have), which one would it be - and why?

Saturday, 29 December 2012

IT'S THE MARVEL OF THE AGE - CECIL COLEMAN SUPERCAR...


Take a look at
the little beauty in
the accompanying
photographs. It's
only yer actual
CECIL COLEMAN
toy SUPERCAR
from the 1960s -
wow! I've had this
for quite a number
of years now, but it
took me even longer to acquire from the time I first saw this imitation BUDGIE
TOYS plaything back when I was a mere kidlet. (The camera flash has wiped
out some colour and detail, but you get the picture - pun intended.)

Talking of Budgie Toys, I actually owned one of their diecast Supercars
for half an hour or so (might have been a bit longer) way back in 1965. I
had swapped a toy yacht and a water pistol with a boy 'round the corner
for his rather beat-up "marvel of the age" - only to soon change my mind
when I realised it was on the verge of falling to bits. He was reluctant to
swap back, of course - but I 'insisted'.

Regarding the
Cecil Coleman
version, however,
I first saw this toy
circa 1966 or '67 in
my local SAFEWAY
store, hanging on an
end-of-isle display,
while being dragged
'round the shops by
my mother. If I
recall correctly,
it was only 2'6d,
but, despite my pleas, I came away empty-handed. A couple of years later,
I saw another one on a stall in Glasgow's famous BARROWLAND market
('The Barras'), but again (even 'though it was only 1'9d this time 'round)
my entreaties fell on deaf ears.
 
Cut to around thirty years later when I saw one advertised for £350 in
a collector magazine. I had to have it, of course, so promptly stumped
up the admittedly overpriced amount, even by then-current standards. ( I
purchased it from a well-known dealer who tends to charge rather on the
extreme side compared to other dealers.) What can I say? These toys
are as rare as hens' teeth and it's only money.

It came in a carded blister-pack, with figures of MIKE MERCURY,
PROFESSOR POPKISS, DOCTOR BEAKER, JIMMY (not the one from
The Krankies), and MITCH THE MONKEY. I'll show you them another
time, as they're safely tucked away at the moment. (Besides, I want to
repaint the figures to a higher standard first.)

It must be admitted
that dear ol' Cecil's
Supercar is a rather
flimsy, underwhelming
vehicle in the cold light
of day, compared to
how I remembered it
from my childhood
Then, it seemed like
a plaything of unlimited possibilities; in reality, it's a two-colour, fragile affair
that looks as if it might fall apart if someone breathes too hard in its vicinity.

Now, I have to admit that I've got quite a few items in my collection
for which I've paid rather steep prices, but I don't buy to cash in at a
future date when they've increased in value. I purchase things merely
because I want them, and I don't mind bringing an item up to my rather
high standards if I consider it can stand improving. I'm lucky in being
able to repaint things to a far higher specification than when they
were originally issued.


A Coleman Supercar without 'improvement'
Case in point:
when I acquired
my excellent
STEVE ZODIAC
& ZOONY on a
JETMOBILE toy
by FAIRYLITE,
Steve's body wasn't
glued together
properly, leaving
a one millimetre
gap between the two parts. Also, his hands weren't painted, and the seat of
the jetmobile wasn't fitted properly. They are now, and the overall look
of the toy has been vastly improved since coming into my possession.

Same with my Supercar. Previously, it boasted a mere two colours - red
and silver, and was rather boring to look at. Now, with a bit of 'detailing',
it looks like a far more substantial toy than it actually is. Some collectors
would regard my 'improvements' as sacrilege, but, as I said, the monetary
potential in the collectors' market is of no interest to me; all I'm concerned
with is an item looking as good as possible.

And doesn't my Supercar look brilliant?!

Friday, 28 December 2012

GERRY ANDERSON MERCHANDISE FROM THE '60s...

 
 
In the comments section of the previous post, someone asked to see
my collection of GERRY ANDERSON toys, so feast your eyes on a few
random photos of just some of my goodies. Not shown are more recent
items, or books, records, annuals, comics, or my PEDIGREE CAPTAIN
SCARLET action figure. (Got two - nyahh!) First up, above, is me in 1968
with my STEVE ZODIAC & ZOONY on a jetmobile, plus my bendy
Captain Scarlet figure. From the collection below, I have the boxes
and packaging for all but two of the items (the TB2 and FAB 1).
 


 
 
 
And finally, here's me again circa 1967, with my CENTURY 21
(J. ROSENTHAL TOYS) friction-drive TB1, which came in blue with
gray wings and gray with blue wings. I had both colour variations of
this toy as a kid (at different times), plus the TB2 with a jeep in the
pod. Handsome little devil, if I say so myself. (Me, I mean.)
 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

THUNDERBIRDS ARE GONE...



So, after PATRICK MOORE, CHARLES DURNING and JACK
KLUGMAN, comes the sad news that GERRY ANDERSON, creator of
shows like FIREBALL XL5, THUNDERBIRDS and the indestructible
CAPTAIN SCARLET, has gone to that great TV studio in the sky. Gerry
more than deserves his place in television history, but I have to confess
that I often found watching or listening to him being interviewed over
the years to be quite an uncomfortable experience.


The reason for this is that Gerry himself seemed uncomfortable
about being associated with kids programmes; appeared frustrated
by it - to resent it, in fact, and spoke with apparent reluctance about his
involvement in the cult shows which had made him a household name.
He always went to great pains to point out that it was never his ambition
to produce entertainment for children, and that his shows were merely a
showcase to demonstrate that he was capable of far more 'respectable'
and prestigious projects, if only given half a chance by any movie
moguls who might be watching.


Perhaps he was just painfully shy, but he more often than not came
across as being embarrassed by his classic puppet programmes and
only too eager to distance himself from them, although never quite able
to escape their shadow completely. After all, they were his main (maybe
only) claim to fame, so it's understandable if he decided that he might as
well try and salvage something from the situation - exploit it (however
reluctantly) until something better came along.


At least that's how it seemed (to me) for most of his career. Then
something happened, and I can only hazard a guess as to what. In later
years, he seemed to finally give in and accept the cards that fate had dealt
him; seemed to come to terms with his situation and realise that there was
no shame in creating magic and enchantment that kids would remember
for the rest of their lives. He began to relax and accept the high regard in
which he was held as his due; see that the gratitude expressed by adults
whose childhoods he had enriched as genuine expressions of respect
and affection, as opposed to fawning flattery by a bunch of geeks
and freaks who simply couldn't grow up.


I read his autobiography a couple of years ago and, in my opinion,
it didn't always portray him in an entirely favourable light, 'though he
was presumably unaware of the negative aspects he revealed about him-
self and his personality. However, now is not the moment to dwell on the
human failings that all are heir to; rather, it is a time to celebrate the life
and achievements of a talented, creative man, whose triumphs touched
the hearts and minds of a great many children and adults, and will
doubtless continue to do so for a very long time to come.

To paraphrase LADY PENELOPE: "Oh, Gerry...well done!"
In Memoriam: Gerry Anderson - 1929 - 2012.

JUST HOW FAST IS A FART FROM THE FLASH?



If ever I needed something to remind me of just how fleeting time is
(which I don't), the above comic would have to be considered a leading
contender. The 50th Birthday issue of THE DANDY, which I really do
remember buying as if it were only a few months ago, as opposed to
the quarter century it actually happens to be.


Think about that for a moment: this comic is 25 years old and
comes from a time when The Dandy was only two-thirds of the way
through its 75 year journey which ended only this month. Those under
a certain age will not yet be able to fully appreciate the enormity of the
scenario I'm trying to describe. If you're around 30 years of age, imagine
going to your bed last night as a five year-old and waking up today the
age you are now. That's how mind-bogglingly awesome is the
realisation that I actually purchased this comic back in 1987.


Well, while I sit here reeling from the shock of practically half my life
going by faster than a fart from the FLASH, you can have a look at some
of the contents of this anniversary issue from (gasp) so long ago - perhaps
from a time before some of you were even born. To those of you under 30
who bought the last ever Dandy and are wondering what the heck I'm wit-
tering on about - comprehension will hit you in the face like a wet kipper
in about 25 years from now (if not sooner). Hopefully I'll still be
around to say "See? I told you so!"







  

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A BOXING DAY 'BEEZER' OF A CHRISTMAS CLASSIC...

 
 
Remember when comics were cheap, cheerful, and Christmassy at the
appropriate time of the year? Then you're sure to love this Yuletide edition
of THE BEEZER from 1986. Let's not bother with any waffle from me -
fling yourselves headlong into these lovely cartoon capers, lads and lasses
(or 'lassies' if you're Scottish). Most of your old favourites are here. And
be sure to record your reminiscinces in the comments section.
 










Tuesday, 25 December 2012

THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY...


Me on my family estate (he lied, shamelessly) around 1988 or '89

When we're growing up and passing through the different, inevitable
'chapters' of our lives - like infancy, childhood, teenage years, young
adulthood, etc., - we do so unselfconsciously, without realizing at the time
that we're exiting one particular stage and entering another. It's only when
looking back, many years later, that we come to recognize that certain
phases of our lives (depending on individual circumstances, of course)
each fall into their own separate and distinct 'compartments'. (Or, at
least, that's how it seems in retrospect.)

That's probably a bit vague and ambiguous, so let me try and clarify
what I'm trying to convey. One of my fondest memories from childhood
is sneaking downstairs with my brother in the wee, small hours of the
morning on Christmas day to unwrap our presents, while our parents
snored away in blissful ignorance of what we were up to. Another is of
going out at Hallowe'en and chapping the neighbourhood doors in the
company of three or four others, and reciting a verse or three in
exchange for monkey nuts, some apples and oranges.

Sliding down slippery slopes on sledges my father had built for us was
another childhood joy, with the spray from the snow splattering our faces
with its exhilarating tingle as we steered recklessly downhill with seemingly
suicidal intent. I named my sledge 'Fireball XL5' and I still owned it right
up 'til my early twenties, until it mysteriously disappeared before I had a
chance to protest. My father probably used the wood for something else,
or it was thrown away in the early '80s when I wasn't looking.

A very poor, out-of-focus photo of me from arounnd 1978 - or perhaps
even 1980. That's my sledge leaning against our dog Tara's kemmel
on my left  

It occurs to me that one of the worst cruelties that parents can inflict
on their children is to decide, in their absence and without consultation,
to dispose of their childhood treasures on the grounds that they're 'too
old' for them and don't need them anymore. (Many a lifelong obsession
has resulted from such thoughtless parental behaviour, I'm sure.)

If you're an adult who still lives in your childhood home, perhaps
happy halcyon days don't seem so very far away, and, if so, you're in
an extremely enviable position. I first moved into my present habitation
aged around 13-and-a-half when the immediate past seemed far closer
than it does now. However, these days, I often find it a source of great
disappointment that fondly-recalled moments associated with child-
hood belong to previous houses rather than my current abode.

It never seemed to matter much before, but as I get older, my past
appears even further removed from me, and it galls me that I never got
to sneak downstairs at Christmas in this house, or went sledging down
the hill in the nearby park in winter, or guising 'round the neighbours'
houses at Hallowe'en. These things all happened elsewhere.

The house with the dark front door is the one I lived in when my
sledge was built. Photo taken around 2009 or 2010

Last year, at Christmas, I revisited the area I used to live in from
about one-and-a-half years old until I was six, going on seven. It's
only about 25 minutes away on foot, which might not sound like any
kind of a journey, but the 'reality' of travelling 46 years into the past is
an immense distance in anyone's book. It was between seven or eight
o'clock at night and some local teenagers (about 17 years old, I'd guess)
were sledging down the very hill that I had done all those years before.
I was with a friend, so not having to worry about being mistaken for
some lone, sinister stranger, I hailed them and asked if I could
have a shot on one of their sleds.

I explained my connection to the area and they were entirely agreeable,
no doubt hoping to witness this old duffer come a cropper on the slopes.
It was one of these modern plastic sleds, red in colour (my favourite), so
the blood wouldn't show if I happened to injure myself. Wow! What an
experience! It was brilliant to relive a moment in the same place as nearly
50 years previously, and I'm glad I did so before the local council
decide to sell the land for houses or whatever.

But I digress. As my very existence ticks faster and faster away,
what once seemed like one cohesive 'whole' now seems fragmented
and scattered to the far corners. I'm talking about the various aspects that
make up my life of course. Sometimes, I look at the comics and toys of my
childhood and am suddenly beset by a feeling that they belong elsewhere,
and seem curiously out of place. One item recalls one house to memory,
and another summons forth recollections of a different one. Most of the
time, such mementos afford me a great deal of comfort and pleasure, but,
occasionally, they can also cast a pall of sorrow over my ruminations.

A similar occasion to the one described, but in a different place around
20-odd years earlier, in 1989 or '90. (Same colour of sled 'though)

As I've no doubt ruefully reflected before in my melancholy musings,
it sometimes seems like the 'spirit of youth', which once beat so strongly
within me, slipped off somewhere to die when I wasn't looking, leaving
me tired and empty, a mere husk of my former self. All that remains is a
dim and distant echo that yet reverberates in the vast caverns of memory,
but even echoes eventually die. The ghost of my childhood now resides
in former homes, having fled this current one. It deigns to visit me on
occasion however, so I must be thankful for small mercies.

Usually, surrounding oneself with familiar objects from the past
helps perpetuate the notion that it's not so very far away after all; that,
in fact, there is no past, present or future - only one big 'now'. However,
the mind is a fickle mistress, and sometimes delights in torturing us with
a 'reality' far different to the one we'd prefer. On that mournful note, I'd be
interested in reading the opinions and perceptions of others. Is the past, to
you, not only a foreign country, but also a forgotten one? Or, like me, do
you always try to keep it in view, reluctant, like MOLE in THE WIND
IN THE WILLOWS, to completely abandon the old life for the new?

Well, I'm not sure whether any of the above screed is as clear as I'd
like it to be, but, if you can understand what I was trying to say, feel
free to analyze, soliloquize, theorize, rationalize - or even agonize -
about it in the comments section.

My faithful dog, Zara, three quarters of the way down the actual hill
I sledged on as a child - and once as an adult. Taken around 1996.

 Click on photos to enlarge. In the case of photo #3, clicking again will
 enlarge even further. (In case you want to look through the windows.)

THE 1986 CHRISTMAS BEANO...

 
 
Merry Christmas to all readers of this blog, and here's hoping that
SANTA was as good to you as you could afford him to be - or even more
so, if possible. Harking back to to the days when comics were inexpensive
fun that sold in the many hundreds of thousands, I thought I'd let you take a
little keek at a select few pages from THE CHRISTMAS BEANO of 1986.
Look at that lovely snow on the logo. Maybe that's why old farts like myself
seem to remember it having snowed every year when we were kids - after
all, it always did in the comics we read, and they perhaps influence our
memories of the past when we look back on it so many years later.
 
Anyway, whether that's a profound thought or not, just enjoy these
pages from the days when comics were fun, simple and easy to read,
instead of the headache-inducing, visual obstacle courses that some
of them are today.