Friday, 16 June 2017

CRIVENS! GUEST POST: WINDOWS TO ANOTHER WORLD...



Okay, peeps, here's yet another guest post, this time from the
commenter formerly known as Dunsade Dave (now Dave S).

******

American comics meant a lot to me as a kid in the mid '80s.  Not
only because of the mind-boggling stories and dynamic art, but also
because they were a window into another world.  I read literally every
word of the US comics I fell in love with – and I mean every word;
adverts, letters pages, indicias, statements of ownership, the lot.


To me, they were like travel agents' brochures advertising a trip
to the limits of imagination and the outer edges of sanity – the heroes
swung, soared and scrapped their way through vast cities full of towering
skyscrapers and sinister alleys;  villains struck poses, grimaced and ranted
even when they were on their own in their secret labs and hideouts.  It was
a far cry from the British comics I'd previously experienced – as much as
I loved The Leopard from Lime Street or The Visible Man, the
stories always looked static to me - they never had the vibrancy and
energy of The Fantastic Four or The Mighty Thor.


But that was only one of the worlds that comics let me peek
into.  They showed me another, almost as intriguing world too.  One
that flaunted itself through attention-grabbing adverts for sweets called
Snickers and StarBurst, which sounded so much more alluring that dull
British confectionery like Marathon or Opal Fruits.  They showed me a
world where you could claim prizes for selling copies of a paper called Grit
– I would peer for ages at pages festooned with minute drawings of micro-
scopes, disguise kits, baseball hats and digital watches.  Single-page comic
strips promoting Twinkies & Hostess Fruit Pies puzzled and beguiled
me – foods so tasty that even the vilest baddie would change their ways
for a nibble.  (I can't tell you how disappointed I was when I finally
tasted a Twinkie a few years ago - it was nice, but not quite so
nice as to drive every evil impulse from my mind.)


Everything in those comics amazed me – adverts for comics
shops with lists of what surely must be every comic ever printed, cut-
out-and-mail forms where the reader could send for sea monkeys, false
beards and unnecessarily large numbers of plastic soldiers.  Even the let-
ters page was a source of fascination - addresses had house numbers in the
3000s.  My brain boggled at how long the streets must be;  I imagined long
rows of houses stretching toward a far-distant vanishing point that not even
The Flash could reach in a hurry.  Names were no less fascinating.  Grow-
ing up in Glasgow, the most exotic name I'd known was someone called
Lloyd;  now I was seeing names like Buscema, Giordano, Ditko,
Salicrup, and they seemed like some kind of poetic secret words
that opened the door to the magical realms they created.


The world seems a little smaller these days, and less able to
surprise and enchant me as often as it once did.  Although I can still
sometimes look back at those comic mags and feel exactly the way I did
back then – excited, intrigued, bewitched – it usually only lasts for a mere
second or two, before I'm flicked back into the present day.  In that brief
time though, I feel elated - as if I'm at the beginning of a whole new ex-
istence, with new possibilities and an infinity of days ahead, and it
always seems like I can hold on to that feeling forever.


Thanks DS.  Anyone else like to write a guest post?  Then
let me know in the communicative comments section.

42 comments:

steve said...

I had a similar love of American comics when I was a boy in the 60,s D.S..
The hero,s were in colour and came out with with some fantastic lines,the
only real costumed heroes I remember from British comics from then was the
Phantom Viking and Billy The Cat.I would read with envy all the Ads that American
boys could send for.For 98 cents you could buy ,apparently,a nuclear submarine,
a tank and become a martial arts expert. I would drool over the G.I. Joe adverts,
this was before Action Man was released here.When I asked my parents if
we could go to America I was told don't be silly that's another world,and back
then it really did seem like another word.

Kid said...

You're right, it did seem like another world back then, S. I never imagined that I'd be able to buy things from these ads - after all, it was an entirely different currency for a start.

There you are, DS - fan mail already. You're a star!

John Pitt said...

Dave, that was a bloody good post! - I mean it was a BLOODY GOOD POST! You put into words just how it was for me too! How I wished that I could have actually gotten hold of some of those toys, like the 200 soldiers, 100 magnets and those famous X-Ray spex! Not to mention the Tootsie rolls and those strange cereals, like Lucky Charms and Cheerios, which did eventually make it to these shores! But for the most of it, all we could do was yearn and dream....
Plus, the in-house ads for other comics sold me every time!
Oh, and the letters page, - one name kept cropping up time and time again - Irene Vartanoff!
I could go on, but, hey, this is YOUR famous post!

Colin Jones said...

Kid won't be amused to hear that Marathon and Opal fruits sounded dull...eh, Kid ? I started reading UK Marvel comics in November 1974 but I discovered proper American Marvel comics in July 1976 while on a school day-trip to the zoo. I'll never forget the moment when I discovered Marvel comics which were familiar yet alien at the same time. These Marvel comics were IN COLOUR and each comic was devoted to a single character or team unlike the UK anthology weeklies. And so many adverts...every two pages there were adverts. They cost 10p each so I bought ten for £1 - the ones I remember most clearly were Conan The Barbarian #62 ("Death In The Land Of Dagon") and Daredevil featuring Uri Geller, international spoon-bender extraordinaire. Soon after, American Marvel comics started appearing in my town - sold in packs of three.

Kid said...

JP, Irene Vartanoff's blog is in my bloglist - give it a visit.

******

They'll always be Marathon and Opal Fruits to me, CJ. As for Uri Geller, I thought he was a bender the moment I first saw him. (A spoon-bender of course.)

John Pitt said...

I looked her blog up years ago, Kid. I receive an email whenever she makes a new post!
I may have even left the odd comment over there!
As Dave says, the world is much smaller now with the web - it brings us all together!
It makes me so angry that people abuse the web and use it for unsavoury and evil things!
Whenever something good comes along, some shit houses have to go and spoil it!

Kid said...

"language, Timothy!" (And sh*thouses is usually one word.) I think some people regard my blog as one of the things that have ruined the internet. I, of course, think differently.

Mike said...

That was very nice. I always had a "comic book world" going on in my head while growing up as I lived and breathed the books, cover to cover. Looks like you did too! No comparison to now when any fool can read them, such as they are, digitally. Ugh!

One story I can tell is I finally did try to buy from an ad in one of those magazines, I think it was Famous Monsters of Filmland or such and bought 3-D comics, which eventually I as a fourth grader was swindled out of by an older kid for a few dollars, big money back then.

Kid said...

I remember trying to buy a copy of Superman - From the '30s to the '80s (a revised edition of the '70s book) through an ad in an American comic or mag back in the mid-'80s. Sent extra money to cover the cost of postage to Britain, but my cheque was sent back with a note saying they were sold out. I suspect they just couldn't be bothered shipping to the U.K. Bought one a few years later (in Glasgow) from a different source. Those '60s & '70s ads sure were fascinating though.

John Pitt said...

There's a whole world of difference between disagreeing with someone on the net and spreading hatred/terrorism/paedophilia, etc. on the net!
And yet they can find ways to clamp down on unofficial downloading and streaming, etc.
Seems to me the web policing needs to get its priorities right!

John Pitt said...

Dave, I couldn't half do with one of those wigs right now!
Do you think they're still available?

TC said...

Well, if it's any consolation, most of the merchandise was crap. The nuclear submarine was a cardboard mock-up, the adorable sea monkeys were microscopic brine shrimp, and the x-ray glasses just blurred your vision so if you held your hand in front of your face, it sort of looked like an x-ray.

The battle scenes in the toy soldier ads looked cool, but the fine print said "imaginary war scene shown." The soldiers were flat, 2D, monochrome pieces of hard plastic. When it was supposed to be two opposing armies, they might be two different colors, but otherwise identical, obviously made from the same molds. For example, with the Revolutionary War set, the American troops were all blue, and the British were all red. Or, in the WWII set, the Allies were green, and the Germans were all gray.

There was also an ad for an inflatable life-size doll. I never had one, but the ad showed a hot blonde in a mini skirt and go-go boots. I suspect customers who did not notice the fine print ("live model shown") were disappointed.

Kid said...

I'm surprised what's allowed on the net, JP. I've been left gob-smacked by what I've seen on some sites with innocent sounding names. I saw a link once to what looked like a comics site, but it was something dirty. I didn't hang around. Incidentally, JP, I don't need a wig as I have a full, luxuriant head of hair. Jealous?

******

Was it one of 'those' inflatable life-size dolls that some adults are so fond of, TC, or something more innocent? Not that you'd know from experience of course, but reading between the lines of the ad, was that what you think it was (or not)?

TC said...

The "live model shown" in the ad was an attractive young woman, so I would assume that the customers would expect it to be one of "those."

Kid said...

Er, you don't remember the address, do you? (I have a 'friend' who might like one of 'those'.)

Phil S said...

I did in fact sent off for the Roman soldiers and thanks to a friend got them sent to me in the UK. They were cheap and a few were so badly made they stuck together but I had fun with them. I pretended they had fused together thanks to a death ray, what I really should have dos was but collectors comics!

Dougie said...

That's a beautifully written post. I remember several names from DC letter columns: Bob Rodi, Guy H Lillian III and T.M. Maple. They were often fascinating and diverting supplements, like the extras on dvds or Big Finish audios.

I first tasted a Twinkie about five years ago in Aberdeen. It was revolting. Our own confectionery is far better - but the blogger's point about the romance of distant places still stands. Not for Aberdeen,though, maybe.

Kid said...

Er, you lost me with the end of your last sentence, PS. Translate?

******

T.M. Maple died a few years back, D, but I remember seeing his name quite often in the letters pages.

Dave S said...

Thanks for posting my stuff, Kid, glad people seem to have enjoyed reading my rantings!

Dougie, I also remember Uncle Elvis who was a frequent writer to letter columns, and seeing the occasional letter from the UK was always interesting too - I remember John Miller from Edinburgh used to pop up fairly often (I think he wrote to The Spectre a lot, IIRC). I've never tried a Hostess Fruit Pie because I really don't want to be as disappointed by them as I was by Twinkies. I'd much rather think of them as food so tasty that it can reform hardened supervillains.

JP, thanks for the kind words! What I remember about the advert for false beards and moustaches was the sheer variety of styles available. I think they actually sold fake sideburns too - who ever decided that selling artificial sideys was a viable business plan? Try getting some money for that one on Dragon's Den.

Kid said...

Nae bother at a', DS. You'll have noticed some small edits, which was more to accommodate the symmetry of the layout than anything else. I always try to make the paragraphs look neat and tidy.

Colin Jones said...

Inflatable sex dolls remind me of that hilarious 'Only Fools & Horses' episode.

On that first ad the boy says "Look fellows" which sounds oddly un-American. What happened to "Hey guys" ?

Kid said...

Perhaps 'guys' denoted older teenagers and adults, while 'fellows' was reserved for younger kids? Or maybe it was just because, being a newspaper of sorts, it was aiming to sound a bit more highbrow. Anyone know for sure?

B Smith said...

Hey, the grass is always greener, y'know...south of the equator one would see not only US comics with ads promising treasures galore, but UK weeklies (always three months late) with similar intriguing things...reading the News From The Floor Of 64 (and those lists of "20 more Power Pack readers"), one would read public service strips (that fellow who normally sat on top of the mast who couldn't quite reach the lad in trouble because he'd taken up smoking), the polar bear pushing some orange drink ("It's frothy, man"), wonder just what was going to happen to Clark's Commandoes next...as well as new Corgi and Matchbox releases...'twas a cornucopia of wonder to these young eyes, believe me!

Kid said...

Yeah, the things you can't have often seem more alluring than the things you can, eh? Such is the way of things.

Gerry said...

It's amazing reading posts like this. Takes me right back to the early 70's with Avengers Weekly and MWOM. The newsagent would get a big pile of American comics and it was a gateway to a completely exotic world. Those full page adverts with little ads for X-ray specs and Sea Monkeys, Wow ! What a place America seemed .Later on buying back issues and seeing ads for real Monkeys !
Pretty sure I was the only one reading comics at my school and man did I suffer for it !
Nice to read so many interesting posts from like minded people :)

Kid said...

That's an interesting point you raise, G, about thinking you were the only person at school reading comics. I often felt like that, but many years later as an adult, I'd be surprised to hear some people I knew from school say that they used to read the same comics that I did. I guess they just kept it a secret at the time to avoid embarrassment.

John Pitt said...

I take it that we are talking about secondary schools here?
Perhaps in mixed schools, boys have to keep the activity secret in case the girls see them as geeky or childish?
Now then, at age 11 I went to an all-boys school and there, there were no such qualms! Loads of boys would read them openly and not just the geeks either! - Big, sporty boys would read them too! Perhaps developing through such an environment has led to my "not giving a stuff about reading comics anywhere as an adult" attitude which I have adopted throughout my life! In fact, I am PROUD to be a comics enthusiast!

Kid said...

Yeah, it was secondary school I was referring to, JP, when teenagers were concerned with what image they projected, and reading comics was seen as kids' stuff. They still read them I later found out, they just didn't advertise it to their fellows.

Phil S said...

I have no idea what I was trying to say now! Autocorrect how I hate you

Kid said...

At least it comes in handy to blame for incomprehensible sentences, eh?

Mike said...

I remember being shocked, too, at finding another boy in my class at Sacred Heart Grade School who read comics. Most boys back then were into sports. Now it is so wonderfully mainstream. I get lots of compliments from younger folks when I wear my Spidey vs Sandman or Captain American t-shirt when out and about.

paul Mcscotty said...

Another excellent post - it was a great idea to have these Kid.

I remember from my first trip to New York (about 10 years ago) noticing just how much certain parts of it reminded me of Glasgow (obviously NY is a lot larger). On my trip I was desperate to seek out a NY newsstand, one of those huts you used to see on US TV detective shows in the 70s that was covered in magazines and comics , I eventually managed to find one near Times Square, but it didn’t have a single comic on sale. I did however manage to pick up some of the US chocolate bars I used to read about in US comics , and noted here, such as Baby Ruth , Butterfinger, 3 musketeers , Hershey kisses (yuk awful tasting chocolate), Milk Duds, Tootsie rolls and Reese pieces - I have to say that apart from dicing with diabetes, I wasn't a fan (except “Baby Ruth” which was like a UK "Picnic" bar was ok) and rarely finished any of them – a wonderful city and amazing folk (cheeky buggas though) all the same. Personally I think “Opal Fruits” is a brilliant name.

I was sad to read here that T.M Maple (Jim Burke) had passed , he was a regular part of my comic reading day, he couldn’t have been that old when he passed away.

Kid said...

I got laughed at back in the '60s, M, for dressing like Batman. Now everyone does it. (I was ahead of my time.)

******

Still waiting for your guest post, PM - don't let your fellow Criv-ites down. I remember Bob Paynter (Group Editor of the Humour Dept in IPC's Youth Group) coming back from America with different chocolate bars back in the mid'80s, Snickers amongst them. (This was when we still called it Marathon.) If I remember correctly, their Mars Bar was more like our Milky Way, so I don't know what their Milky Way was like. Yeah, Opal Fruits is a brilliant name - I still call 'em that.

Yeah, shame about T.M. Maple, who, as you say, wasn't that old. His death was actually mentioned in the comics, so he was a well-respected 'letter-hack' (as they're called). I had a letter published in the latest issue of MWOM by the way - an instant collectors' item (in my house anyway).

Colin Jones said...

Congratulations on your letter, Kid - my local Tesco doesn't sell MWOM but it does sell 4 of the Panini comics including 'Deadpool Unleashed' which I noticed on passing so I bought it. Can you remember which comic your first ever letter appeared in ?

Kid said...

I believe it was MWOM #105, issue-dated October 26th 1974, CJ. Nearly 43 years ago.

Colin Jones said...

And I discovered Marvel comics just four weeks later ! Most Crivens readers probably won't see your latest letter so why don't you reproduce it on the blog (unless that is copyright infringement or something) ? It would be interesting to see what you wrote about.

Kid said...

I doubt that there'd be any interest, CJ, and therefore not worth the bother of me typing it all out again. It was nothing special, just a response to their plea for letters as they don't seem to get many. Maybe I'll scan and post it if any other Criv-ites demand it.

paul Mcscotty said...

I used to have isuse 105 (Starlin Hulk cover) I will check to see if its still in my colelction, but would be good to see it. I am travelling with my work at presnet but would like to submit a wee guest post for your approval/ rejection when I get back.

Kid said...

Will look forward to it, PM - as will your fellow Criv-ites I'm sure.

Colin Jones said...

Yes, it is odd that Panini get very few letters - you'd think they'd get more in this age of e-mail. Sending an e-mail is a lot easier than faffing around with notepaper, envelopes and stamps. The issue of 'Deadpool Unleashed' that I bought didn't have a letters page either.

And do you own MWOM #105 ? I know you had a letter in POTA #8 too. I had every issue of POTA from #5-116 except #8 and #62 so I never saw your letter.

Colin Jones said...

But I have read it on the Hunter's POTA website which reprints all the POTA weeklies and their letters pages :)

Kid said...

Only a fraction of readers ever write to a comic, CJ, so if Panini often don't get any letters at all, it perhaps indicates that their sales could be a lot better than they are. Yup, I've got MWOM #105, but I mistyped in my above comment - it was actually MWOM #108 that my letter appeared in. (Yes, I've got that too.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...