Saturday, 23 September 2023

ROM SPACEKNIGHT #1 Facsimile Edition...


I can't remember whether I ever definitely bought a ROM comic or not.  I have a feeling I may've bought either the last issue or an Annual, but I couldn't swear to it.  If I did, I'll still have it, so maybe I'll find it tucked away in a cupboard one day.  I also have an inkling that I may've read some of his adventures reprinted in b&w in a Marvel UK mag, but can't recall which one. 

One thing I do know is that I never bought the first issue, but now, thanks to Marvel's superb series of Facsimile Editions, I own it now as it popped through my letterbox this morning (Friday).  Haven't read it yet, may not do so for a while, but good to have in my collection nonetheless.  (And it's got the 'Continued After Next Page' lines before the ads.)

So why not run around to your local comicbook store and obtain a copy for yourself?  You'll only regret it if you don't. 

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

A.A.B. - IN MEMORIAM - TEN YEARS LATER... (Updated Again - See Bottom Of Post)

Me, as Best Man, December 1978.  The marriage was short-lived

On Monday 14th January 2013, I published a post about someone I once knew.  (Click here for details if you're interested.)  Little did I know (only having found out on Sunday just gone) that a Facebook comment ten years earlier (on Sunday 13th January 2013 - the day before my post) had expressed sadness at news of his demise sometime the previous week.  Well, what a shocker!  (Thing is, if he's dead, who subsequently amended some of the things on his Facebook page that I alluded to in my 'piece'?  But that's for pondering on another day, perhaps.)

Don't ask me how, but when I recently did a 'Google Search' to again find his FB page, there were some photos and comments from somewhere that aren't actually visible on his site, but seemingly on some other.  It's only when I use one particular browser that they can be seen, not on any of the others which are available to me.  (That's how I discovered the comment about his passing.)  The photos show a ravaged man who looks far older than the 52 or 53 years he was at the time, likely as a result of him being an alcoholic, something he admitted to a woman he called 'Auntie Margaret' when he visited our home town sometime in the late '90s or thereabouts.  (He'd lived 'down south' since late 1977.)

In case you're wondering how I know this, the woman herself told me when I ran into her around 1999 or 2000, and she mentioned that he'd been up for a visit a year or two before.  She'd attended the same church as him, his sister and their parents (as in the same denomination, though maybe a different congregation) and was therefore a friend of the family, but he regarded her as an 'aunt-type' figure so that's how he referred to her.  Whether she minded or not (or was actually flattered) is something I'm not privy to, not that it's important.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the news of his passing (if information that's ten years old can accurately be described as 'news' - though it was certainly news to me), as I now wouldn't have crossed the road to pee on him if he were on fire (as I said somewhere before).  However, this guy was once one of my best friends (if not my very best friend - when I was young enough to subscribe to such a notion), so for the sake of our childhood friendship, I felt a little sad on learning he'd passed away.  (I'd met him on my first day at my second primary school, on Wednesday 10th November 1965.)  Strange, now, to think that while I'd subconsciously assumed he was yet gadding about somewhere, he'd embarked on the 'long sleep' ten years ago.

Sadly, he was a compulsive liar and inveterate fantasist who never seemed to realise that the 'tall tales' he told were so completely unlikely that many people who knew him as an adult regarded and dismissed him as a pathetic object of silent ridicule.  Who knows what made him like that - a need for attention, perhaps?  So the person whose death I'm sad about is the 6 (going on 7) to 21/22 year-old I once knew and liked, not the person he later became (or perhaps always was, but I just never noticed at the time).  Undoubtedly, a large part of my small sadness is related to the reminder of my own mortality that his passing begets, but it's also to do with a life he wasted and a potential he never fulfilled.

In previous posts, I've referred to him as Billy Liar, which is probably more apt than Walter Mitty, as there was an element of pathos to Billy Liar's predicament, whereas Walter Mitty's was more humorous, being played for laughs more than anything else.  I also called him 'Adam Cowie' on my blog, but his real name was Alan Bowie, which, long after I jettisoned him, he amended to Alan Bowie-McDonald - though don't ask me why.  When we were teenagers he lamented the fact that he didn't have a 'middle' name, so I suggested Adam and he became for a good long while Alan Adam Bowie.  (Or A.A.B. when he was writing it on lampposts and walls with a felt marker.)

Anyway, unless reports of his death are 'greatly exaggerated' (and if they are, he'll probably be behind it), that's him gone from this softly-spinning green and blue globe which hangs upon nothing, and I'll never see him again this side of doomsday.  Except in memories and old photographs of course, when I still held his friendship in high regard before his slow-but-seemingly-certain slide into decadency and despair.  So here's to Alan Bowie - but not the Alan he became, but rather the Alan I believed him to be before the scales finally fell from my eyes and I saw him as he was.  However, that was down to him, not through any fault of mine.  

Ah, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

The 10 year-old Facebook comment about his death, which I only saw on Sunday 17th

(Update:) On his Facebook profile are numerous lies that bear little or no resemblance to reality, but one is so easily checkable that I'm surprisingly surprised (after all, none of his lies should ever have surprised me) at the audacity of it.  He claimed to have a rare form of Motor Neurone Disease called A.T.O.L., but it's so 'rare' that it doesn't exist.  I checked with the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) and they've never heard of it, even asking me what the initials stood for.

Now, I very much doubt that he actually had MND, but if he did, you'd have thought that was bad enough without having to invent a 'rare form' of it, wouldn't you?  Or perhaps he just had to be different from your 'average' MND sufferer.  All I can say is that I'm extremely glad I don't suffer from his overwhelming compulsion to tell great big obvious stonking whoppers.  Now, you'll have to excuse me - I've got to take my new spaceship out on a trial trip to Alpha Centauri, but don't worry; thanks to its nuclear-powered warp-drive I should be back before teatime.

What do you mean you don't believe me?  Cheek!

A.A.B. in the back garden of his bedsit in St. Andrews Road, Southsea, in 1978 

Stop The Bus Dept: I've just found a recent email from the MNDA in my Junk file, which made me wonder for a moment whether I might've been doing my former friend an injustice in regard to his 'A.T.O.L.'  Here's a 'cut and paste' of part of its contents...

There is a form of MND called Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS): 
This is the most common form of MND, with weakness and wasting in the limbs, muscle stiffness and cramps. Someone may notice they are tripping when walking or dropping things. Life expectancy is usually two to five years from the onset of symptoms.

I don’t know if this is perhaps what your friend had, but it may be that he was using an incorrect acronym. There are many variations of MND but I am not familiar with ATOL.

However, according to my ex-pal, A.T.O.L. is a rare form of MND, whereas ALS is the most common, so simply getting the acronym wrong wouldn't really account for the discrepancy.  I'm therefore disinclined to be charitable and give him the benefit of the doubt - especially as there's no doubt all his other lies were definitely just that. 

Monday, 18 September 2023


I have several photos of me as a child, most of which I recall being taken.  I often wonder, though, whether I would remember them were it not for the fact that I saw the prints not long after they'd been developed.  If you see a photograph within a couple of weeks or so after it was snapped, it's really no great feat of memory to remember the occasion it was captured on camera as the print is a reminder of the event.  However, if I were to see a photo for the first time 20 or 30 years after it was taken, I'm uncertain as to whether I'd remember my presence or participation when it happened.  What I'm suggesting is that memories of some things often need reminding of at an early stage, otherwise they 'shrivel and die' on the vine without ever 'flowering', never having been 'watered'.  (Figuratively speaking, that is.)

That may mean, of course, that every subsequent time after the first that we look at a photo and remember it being taken, we're not actually recalling the event itself, but rather the memory of having been reminded of it the first time we saw the photo, then the second, then the third, etc.  In other words, the 50th time you look at a photograph and remember, you're remembering the 49th recollection of the event (which was a memory of the 48th), not the actual event itself.  A 50th-generation memory, so to speak.  Has the memory deteriorated in the same way that a 50th-generation copy of a video would, or am I pushing the analogy too far?  

Any thought, Crivvies, or am I talking my usual load of old pants?

Hang on, I've just remembered an exception.  In my post Field Of Dreams, I show a couple of photos which I remember being taken even though I didn't see the prints until at least 40 years later.  Why those two and not others?  Haven't a clue.   

Sunday, 17 September 2023


The lovely Valerie gazes adoringly at me across the room as I
snap this photo of her.  It's amazing how irresistible a man becomes
in a pair of Yogi Bear pajamas.  (I think my luck's in tonight.)

Friday, 15 September 2023


When I look back on my childhood, there are some aspects of it which seem to have made a disproportionate impression on my memory banks in relation to their actual duration.  For example, when I think of comics like Wham!, or Fantastic - or any of the Power Comics in fact - it feels like they were on sale for years and years, whereas the reality is that Wham! lasted for only around 3-and-a-half years and I bought it for probably less than half its lifespan before it was merged with Pow!

Fantastic lasted for 89 issues - a mere year-and-9-months - yet, again, to my mind, it was part of my life for 3 or 4 times that.  Thunder?  Jet?  Each only survived for 22 issues, but in the misty mazes of my memory, seem to have extended way beyond their far-too short lifespan.  Another example from my own experience is the first issue of the revamped Smash!  I sold my copy to a classmate after only 4 days, but the images of its contents were so seared into my consciousness that when I obtained a replacement 15-and-half years later, I remembered every page as though I'd last laid eyes on them only a day or two before.

And it's the same with toys.  There will be many a toy that I probably owned for weeks or months (perhaps even days or hours in some cases) that I still recall with startling clarity as though they accompanied me through life from childhood to adulthood.  And isn't it strange how we seem to retroactively remember each toy as though we owned them all at the same time for the same duration, when in fact, some will have been dispensed with before others ever came into our possession?

Strangely, that illusion still holds sway even when we know that one particular toy was bought in 1965 and another in 1969 after the '65 toy had been swapped, given away, or thrown out.  The two (and others) survive in memory as contemporaries, even though they weren't.  It's even the same with people.  I had friends and acquaintances who never made it into their 20s (or who just got their foot over the threshold) who still seem relevant and current to me as if they yet lived and hadn't bowed out of life's race (not that it was their choice) two-thirds of my life away.

Sometimes, when I look back on yesteryear, my life seem to have consisted of one single large tapestry 'woven' together from various experiences; at other times, lots of separate, individual, unconnected 'pieces', each one occupying its own private space in my mind.  Though when it comes down to it, is it all ultimately the same thing?  If that makes any kind of sense to you (and that'll depend on whether I've managed to convey my thoughts with even a hint of clarity or coherence), feel free to add your own musings in the comments section.


Update: As is typical of me, I knew where I intended to go when I started writing this post, but soon forgot in which direction I was headed not too long into it.  (The ol' 'brain fog', alas - I just can't seem to maintain my mental focus for long these days.)  One thing I meant to say was that it seems strange to me that moments in my youth which were relatively short periods of time in the scheme of things, whether they be days, weeks, months, or a couple or so years, feel like they lasted for a far longer span than succeeding decades.  For example, the last 35 years or so don't seem anywhere near as long or as memorable as much shorter 'episodes' which preceded them.  Go figure, as the saying goes.

Thursday, 14 September 2023


Picked up these two little 3-and-a-half inch (approximately) figures in a charity shop yesterday for 50p each.  The one on the left is Thor (obviously), but I don't know who the one on the right is supposed to be or whether he's even a Marvel character.  An out-of-proportion Frost Giant perhaps?  If anyone knows anything about them (name of manufacturer or whether they're home-made, etc.), feel free to enlighten me.

Sunday, 10 September 2023

Heavenly Hauntings By The GHOST Of STAN LEE - Part Six: The UNCANNY X-MEN...


Hi, true believers, Smilin' Stan Lee here again, inhabiting the form of a Mego 8 inch action figure through which I communicate with you earthbound fans from my comfy cloud in the Heavenly Hills.  Thus far, we've looked at ThorIron ManSpider-ManDoctor Strange, and the good ol' Fantastic Four, so let's now turn our attention to The Uncanny X-Men.

Sometimes I just can't win.  Back in the '60s I gave writer Arnold Drake a crack at writing the X-Men, only to later learn that he thought I'd ripped-off his Doom Patrol series for DC Comics.  Both mags featured a wheelchair-bound leader of strangely-powered misfits, and each team had a group of baddies they fought on a regular basis.  In Doom Patrol's case it was The Brotherhood of Evil, and in the X-Men's case it was The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  Doom Patrol debuted around 3 months before X-Men, but it usually took around 6 months to put a new comic together, so the timeline doesn't really allow for Arnold's claim.  He tried to get around that fact by claiming I must somehow have learned of his idea before it appeared in print - perhaps in a tip-off from someone at DC.

Then there are those who claim it was Jolly Jack Kirby who dreamed up the X-Men and all I did was dialogue his pages based on his margin notes - yet Jack is never accused of ripping-off the Doom Patrol, only me.  So if I had nothing to do with creating the X-Men, how can I have ripped-off the Doom Patrol?  And if Jack came up with Marvel's merry mutants, why does he get a pass on having plagiarised DC's team?  See what I mean?  I lose out either way - it's no wonder I suspect there are some people who just plain don't like me.  Anyway, contrary to those calumnious claims, I, along with Jack, created the X-Men, and the Doom Patrol had nothing to do with their birth.  It was simply one of those curious coincidences that occur from time to time in the world of comics.

I was the first scripter of the X-Men, followed by Roy Thomas, Arnold Drake, and almost countless others since then.  I gotta say I'm proud of Roy, who took on the mag without missing a beat and continued in a style almost indistinguishable from my own.  If it hadn't been for the credits, I'd probably never have been aware that I wasn't still writing the strip.  (I've got a terrible memory y'know - can't recall whether I've mentioned it before.)  Good on ya, Roy.  Incidentally, Arnold's up here too and I've forgiven him for his rash claims, so panic ye not, Merry Marvel Maniacs - harmony reigns in these here Heavenly Hills.

Excelsior!  And may your amulet never tickle!

Incidentally, if you're interested in reading an informed take on the old 'who did what' debate, Amiable Al McKenzie has published a well-researched post over on his blog, which can be found by clicking this link.

My very own ish of DP's debut.  Copyright DC COMICS

Saturday, 9 September 2023


I was just giving my kitchen's woodwork a fresh coat of paint
when there came a knock at my door.  It was the voluptuous Valerie
Leon, offering to give me a hand in my decorating tasks.  Valerie's
 an expert in decorating, as you can plainly see from this photo.

Wednesday, 6 September 2023

The BEANO & The BROONS - Not Forgetting Oor WULLIE...

Copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

Who among us of a certain age ever thought we'd see The Beano Annual priced at £11.99, or Oor Wullie & The Broons (combined) Annual at £15.99?  That's £28 for two Annuals, for crying out loud!  Fortunately, WHS are selling any two D.C. Thomson Annuals this year for only £12, meaning that, essentially, you're getting Oor Wullie & The Broons Annual (if that's one of your choice of two, that is) for virtually nothing.

The Beano is celebrating its 85th Anniversary this year and this milestone is highlighted in the Annual, which contains all-new material.  The Oor Wullie & The Broons book must surely just be regurgitating (again) pages that have already appeared in previous books in this series, but that won't matter if you haven't seen them before, I guess.  Regular Crivvies may remember me speculating a few years back whether the Dennis who appears in the modern Beano is the original Menace or the son of the original, and now it seems official - he's the son of the one who first appeared in 1951.

I base this on the fact that when the modern Dennis's grandparents are seen in flashbacks to when dad was a boy (and the spitting image of today's Dennis) they're the doubles of mum and dad as they appeared in the '50s right up until a few years ago, when a 'new look' was suddenly introduced.  It may well be that this has been an established fact for a while now, but not being a regular reader of the weekly comic, I missed the precise moment if or when it happened.

However, there's no doubting it in the Dennis stories in the book for 2024, though whether Gnasher and Gnipper are the originals (and therefore really old) or whether they're the offspring off the originals is something I'm still unsure of.  I've taken a quick look through The Beano book and it all looks top-notch, art-wise (except I still don't like the cutesy, smiling Dennis as opposed to the surly, frowning one I read as a boy), and Oor Wullie/Broons volume has some classic Dudley D. Watkins art, as well as pages by Ken H. Harrison, Robert Nixon, and others.

So, unless you're prepared to wait and see whether the books will be further reduced around Christmas or New Year, I'd advise that now is the time to buy them before stock runs low.  You could spend your £12 in far worse ways, so run down to WHS at the earliest opporchancity and plonk your pounds on the counter and give yourself a treat.  (Cover images borrowed from DCT shop to spare me the hassle of scanning my own copies.)

Sunday, 3 September 2023


Seeing as it's Sunday, Valerie thought she'd dress up
in something nice for me.  The gal done good, eh?

Thursday, 31 August 2023

GHOST With The MOST - STAN LEE Presents: Part Five - The Creation Of The FANTASTIC FOUR...


Hi gang, Stan Lee, inhabiting his Mego 8 inch action figure, back to rap with you again.  I should probably have kicked-off this series with an affectionate look at The Fantastic Four (after all, they started the Marvel ball rollin'), but better late than never.  Y'know, some people have asserted that the alleged similarities between the FF and DC's Challengers Of The Unknown prove it must've been Jack Kirby who came up with our Cosmic Quartet and that I had nothing to do with it.  Let's take a look at those so-called similarities.

1) There are four members in each group.

2) Both groups survived plummeting from the sky.

3) Both strips were drawn by Jack Kirby.

From my point of view, the first two are superficial and are outweighed by the differences, which are...

1) The FF had superpowers, the Challengers didn't.

2) One of the FF was a woman, whereas the Challengers were all men.

3) The Challengers survived a plane crash which should have killed them, whereas the FF's rocket returned safely (if roughly) to earth once the automatic pilot took over.

4) The Challengers didn't know one another before the crash, whereas the FF were friends before undertaking their space flight.

Also, it was surviving a crash which should've killed them that motivated the Challs into undertaking their adventures; with the FF it was being transformed by cosmic ray-endowed superpowers which inspired them to band together as a team - not quite the same thing.  There might be other similarities and differences, but that's enough to work with for now.  My point being that I think any comparisons made between the FF and the Challengers in an attempt to ascribe total creative authorship to the same man are exaggerated and don't stand up to scrutiny.

Also, the FF came about because my publisher, Martin Goodman, tasked me with creating a group that would cash-in on the success of DC's Justice League Of America, which was proving to be a popular hit at the time, so there was a specific reason as to why they came to be.  The FF mag wasn't just some casual creation, randomly churned out on a whim to see what might stick - it was a specific response intended to capture a slice of the relatively recent re-emerging market for comicbook superheroes.

The fact that a re-envisioned Human Torch was part of the group suggests that Martin Goodman (or myself) might have at first wanted to use some of our back catalogue of Timely's heroes.  It may well be that Captain America (maybe Bucky as well) and Sub-Mariner were among those considered for inclusion before I (possibly with some input from Jack, possibly not) came up with the line-up as seen in the published mag.  There had already been an attempt to revive the aforementioned wartime heroes only a few short years before which hadn't been the success we'd hoped for, hence, possibly, that idea being abandoned.

My synopsis (below - click to enlarge) for the first issue still exists (no surprise that some of my critics doubt its authenticity), but I simply can't recall whether or not I'd already talked things over with Jack before typing it.  However, there are aspects of it that Jack changed at the drawing stage, and the Mole Man section may well have been entirely down to the Jolly one.  Though again, we might have discussed it at some point prior to Jack drawing it, just can't remember.  Things like that just didn't seem important at the time - we were all too busy doing it to dwell on it.

However, once the series was well under way, Jack assumed a more creative input into the plots with only minimal 'interference' from me, though I'd say my editing, scripting, and characterisation, along with occasional plot tweaks, were essential elements in why the mag became so popular.  That's why, when divvying up the credits, it's in no way a disservice to either of us to regard myself and Jack as co-creators of 'The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!'

'Cos we were, and it was!


Tuesday, 29 August 2023


Yesterday, JACK KIRBY, had he yet been alive, would've been 106.  Cue various blog writers waxing eloquent and lyrical about what a great guy he was, what a fantastic artist/writer/ideas man he was, how prescient he was about graphic novels, collected editions, the fate of comicbooks, etc.  And, of course, how he healed the sick, walked on water, foretold the future, and performed many signs and wonders.  Oh, my mistake regarding the previous sentence, but it's a natural false impression that some may get, given the over-the-top deification of the man in some comicbook circles.

I didn't know Mr. Kirby, but I'm quite prepared to believe that he was a very nice man, and as far as comicbooks are concerned, he certainly was (when at the top of his game) a fantastic artist and ideas man.  Writer?  H'mm, well he certainly wasn't the wordsmith that STAN LEE was, and even at its best, his scripting lacked the grace and the charm - to say nothing of natural-sounding dialogue - of his MARVEL collaborator, but he could certainly hang a story together.  Okay, some of his plots you could fly a 747 through, but he did a good job of producing ephemeral comics to amuse kids and teenagers for 20 minutes or so, and for a time he did it better than most.

However, let's look at things in context.  Jack was reputedly a voracious reader of books and magazines, fictional and factual, historical and scientific, and derived many of his ideas from them.  He didn't originate the concept of DNA and cloning, or indeed time-travel, or any other concept that ever appeared in his strips.  He regurgitated what he had read, often simplifying the ingredients to their most basic level for the purpose of filling a comicbook for what was assumed to be unsophisticated readers.  Remember, we're talking about comics, which, at the time Jack was prominent in them, were never regarded as being anything more than an inexpensive way of amusing kids and teens.  I wonder what Jack's reaction would've been, had the writers he'd been 'inspired' by demanded credit and compensation from him?

Jack was a great visual storyteller, but his artwork was also filled with many inconsistencies and flaws.  Characters cast shadows that bore no resemblance to reality, sported two left (or right) hands and feet, or were sized totally out of proportion to one another.  As for his abstract and idiosyncratic depiction of musculature, well, it's perhaps as well that he never decided to be a physician or surgeon, given his seemingly elastic 'grasp' of human anatomy.  But did all that matter?  In a sense, no - not if you read one of his comics in the same way that it had been written or drawn, which was at speed, without paying too much attention to detail.  Just jump aboard and enjoy the ride while it lasts, then jump aboard the next one.

Now, I never met Jack, but like I said, I'm perfectly prepared to accept that he was a decent guy in the main - but, just like the rest of us, he wasn't perfect.  He didn't always credit JOE SIMON for his contributions during their partnership when recounting a list of his (Jack's) achievements in later years, something you think he'd have gone to great pains to do, given his perception of how he himself was denied credit for his own work.  He became bitter and angry (fuelled, it has to be said, by some of those around him) at not receiving what he considered proper financial compensation for his many creations or co-creations, and unwisely (as well as inaccurately) accused Stan Lee of never having created or written anything in his life.

However, as I've pointed out a few times before, Jack knew how things operated at the time, and knew and accepted that the copyright of any feature belonged to the publishers.  That was only natural (as well as sensible), because why should a publisher shell out many thousands of dollars to launch a comicbook series, only for the writer or artist to take it elsewhere if it became successful?  They'd have spent thousands and then have nothing to show for it.  There's nothing to indicate that Jack or Joe treated their contributors any differently to the established norms of the time when the ran their own company, MAINLINE COMICS.

Jack sold his creations to keep himself in a job, by which he earned a good living to support his family.  The fact that his work later appreciated in value didn't really entitle him to cry 'foul' after the fact.  Otherwise that Aston Martin D.B.5 I sold for £200,000 a few years ago and which is now worth 5 million - well, I'm entitled to a slice of that, so I am.  (No, of course I didn't - I'm just illustrating the point.)  British cartoonist LEO BAXENDALE likewise felt cheated (with no real basis in my view), but it's interesting (and relevant) to consider the opinion of another UK cartoonist, the late TERRY BAVE.

I once asked Terry if he'd ever felt cheated, and tempted to seek reimbursement for all the characters and strips he'd created (with his wife SHIELA) over the years that IPC were still reprinting, and his response was "Nah!  Kept me in a job, it did.  Who needs the grief of all that palaver?"  (Despite the quotes to indicate speech, that's a paraphrase of what Terry said as best as I can remember it, but it carries the full essence of his sentiment.)  Terry enjoyed his career in comics, enjoyed the creative process, regarded himself blessed to have worked in the industry for so long, and didn't feel cheated, or deprived, or bitter about anything.  Why?  Because he knew the deal going in and accepted it - and didn't whinge about it later.

I note that some blog writers are claiming that Jack has been vindicated by time, seeing as how some of his later work, regarded as failures when it was first published, is now being reprinted in hardcover volumes.  This proves, they say, what they knew all along, that it was just the rubes who were too dim to realise what masterpieces Jack was producing.  Well, no (simply).  What it proves is that once 'cult status' has been built up around a figure by dedicated fans over the years since he died, then an interest has been generated in his work, not that the work was necessarily or automatically deserving of unqualified success back in the day.  It also proves that, given the growing industry in collected editions of material that has already been paid for, there is a market to be exploited and an appetite to be developed that will need fed.  I have a lot of Jack's original comics, as well as many and various editions of reprints of the same material.  I find that it doesn't read any better or worse now than it did at the time I first read it, decades ago.

So Jack was a nice guy, who may have believed (or held hopes of) how the comicbook industry would develop in the future, but I'm sceptical that Jack knew  - he couldn't 'know'.  But just for argument's sake, even if he did (and remember, he'd have been aware of what other countries were doing in the field of comics publishing, so there was a template), it wasn't necessarily because he thought that his comics were intrinsically deserving of such treatment (deluxe collected editions, blockbuster movies, etc.), merely, perhaps, that he was cynically aware of just how 'big business' eventually gets around to mining and exploiting absolutely everything down to the very last molecule.  In short, if there's money to be made from something, they'll find every which way to make it.  Jack certainly knew that.

Jack Kirby was a very fine man by all accounts, and also a great comicbook creator, but let's dial down the more 'godlike' attributes that some fans and former associates are prone to ascribe to him, eh?  However, that'll probably never happen while there are people and publishers with a vested interest in promoting (and sometimes exaggerating to the point of deifying) his achievements in order to sell books by or about him.

Let me tell you what I know.  This post well receive a lot of visits, that's for sure.   However, whether or not it'll generate a lot of comments depends on you.

Saturday, 26 August 2023

GET READY FOR ACTION - In A 'Knock-Off' Capacity...

Still to get him a jacket and boots

If memory serves (memory backed up by checkable data), my family holidayed in Rothesay back in June of 1970.  While there, I bought a cheap Action Man 'knock-off', but whose face was the double of AM's nearest rival, Tommy Gunn.  Its arms were rubber with wire inside, though the legs bent in the traditional 'riveted' manner, while the torso didn't move at all.  For some now long-forgotten reason, I'd taken a pair of boots from Pedigree's Captain Scarlet figure with me on holiday and fitted them to the figure, but due to them being so tight and inflexible, I inadvertently pulled off its feet when trying to remove the red-hued footwear.

After retrieving the feet, I angrily threw the boots into the sea from Rothesay Pier, an act which still makes me recoil in horror at my callousness even after all this time.  (Luckily, I've now got two replacement pairs.)  I tried a hardware store in Rothesay and managed to make a temporary repair with a couple of small nuts and bolts, similar to ones in a Meccano set.  At a later stage, back home, I took the figure along to the lockup of a friend of my brother's (while he was there) to see if the feet could be pop-riveted back on.  No success, so the ankle nuts and bolts remained for however long I retained the figure, though I no longer recall just how long that was.

I was only 11 years old at the time, which nowadays would no doubt be considered far too old to own an action figure, but I was unapologetically still a mere child who, subconsciously at least, steadfastly refused to grow up.  But wait, I'm perhaps overstating the case; it's probably more likely that I was just blissfully unaware that I should - grow up I mean.  The following year we holidayed in Largs, where I bought yet another action figure - a superior one to its predecessor - and it strikes me as odd that the last two action figures I ever purchased as a youth were both bought when I was on holiday.  Thirteen years were to pass before I bought another one, and that was a brand-new Action Man I got for half price (£7 or thereabouts) from a local R.S. McColl's in 1984.  I still have it too, though it's not shown here.

Why buy it at that age?  Because it was reported in the newspapers that Palitoy had recently announced they were no longer going to produce 12 inch action figures as they felt kids were no longer interested in them.  I therefore decided to obtain one as a memento of what seemed to me - drama merchant that I was - to be a passing era.  However, a new 12 inch version of Action Man returned in the early '90s, this time made by Hasbro, the original manufacturer of G.I. Joe in 1964, who was renamed in the UK as Action Man a mere two years later.

Around four years back I managed to acquire a replacement for the 1971 figure (above), and just a few days ago, I also got my hands on a replacement for the one from 1970 (top of post).  (Remarkably, the wire in the arms remains unbroken.)  The rivets through his ankles were a little bent and corroded, and didn't quite close over properly on the inside - so I removed them as both joints were slightly loose.  Isn't it odd that 53 years after the fact, I detached the second figure's feet (though this time deliberately) as I had with the first one?  I used a couple of plastic 'pegs' from a couple of spare parts to re-attach the feet, which will serve until I find some spare metal rivets, though, truth to tell, it would be fine just as it is.

Any point to this post?  Not really, I just wanted to say how pleased I am that I've managed to reclaim yet another item from childhood and, by doing so, feel closer-connected to that long-gone period of my past, which, sometimes when I'm caught unawares, doesn't really seem that long ago at all.  However, the spell (for that's what it is) is a gossamer one, and it only takes the slightest intrusive distraction to shatter it and return me to the present.  At least until the next time the spell holds sway - these are the moments I live for.

Thursday, 24 August 2023


Working on the assumption that most Crivs won't be averse to some pictures of pussy (oi, behave, you dirty-minded lot), I thought I'd show you this trio of photos of a 'stray' cat which has adopted me.  I call her 'Baby' and she has her own wee 'hoose' in my front porch.  Today, she decided to do a bit of sunbathing in my back garden and promptly commandeered a set of chairs for the purpose.  She looks like the cat who got the cream, eh?

"Nobody puts Baby in a corner" - except herself, obviously, as she's in a corner of the garden.  (See what I did there?  Clever me.)

Wednesday, 23 August 2023



Hi, Stan Lee here yet again, inhabiting the form of my Mego 8 inch action figure, to rap about one of Marvel's most popular characters. However, before that, I have to set the stage by indulging in a fair amount of preamble, so bear with me, Merry Marvel-ites.

One of the many amazing things about the human mind is that it's tremendously susceptible to suggestion.  For example, ask someone what the difference is between two seemingly identical objects, and you've planted the notion in their heads that there is a difference (even when there might not be), and their thoughts then set off in search of an answer which didn't exist before you asked the question.  Many poems, for instance, arise from a line suddenly popping into the writer's head and them then making it up line-by-line as they go along (following rather than leading), not necessarily because they decided to write something on a particular subject.

It's almost as if the idea has a life of its own and must simply take its course, quite independent of the writer.  However, ask what their inspiration or motivation was, and they respond as if there'd actually been one, and do so quite unconscious of the fact that they'd never even thought about it until you asked.  They recount what seems most likely now that they've been directed down that avenue of thought, and by the time they've finished, they've come to subconsciously believe their explanation as the truth simply because it seems entirely plausible and even extremely likely.

The Mystic Master's debut issue

I've done that, and so has Jack KirbySteve Ditko, and just about any other creative person you care to name.  Ask them for a reason for doing something and they'll give you one, even if there was no specific reason other than trying to earn a living.  In my case, I was once asked how I came up with the idea for Spider-Man, so I gave what seemed to me an entirely plausible account of watching a spider crawling up or down a wall one day, and getting the idea from that.  I was also, as a kid, a big fan of The Spider radio show, and that also figured in my thinking when relating my inspiration for Spidey years after the fact.  Contrary to some assertions, the two accounts are not mutually exclusive; both could have played a part, but I suspect I hoodwinked myself into believing the 'spider on the wall' tale because, hey, it might've happened and, besides, it made for a much more interesting 'reminiscence'.

Jack did the same thing when he later recounted that he'd created The Hulk because he'd once seen a woman lift a car off her son who was pinned underneath, and the idea that rage could fuel some kind of super-strength was his inspiration (or part of it) for the character.  The only thing wrong with his reminiscence is that Jack wasn't responsible for Bruce Banner's rage-induced transformations, which didn't happen 'til after Steve Ditko had taken over the strip.  Whether it was Stevey or me who came up with that angle, or whether it came from both of us after talking things over is something else lost in the mists of history.  

However, don't think I'm suggesting that Jack was lying; what likely happened was, looking back years later when The Hulk's rage-morphs were long established, his subconscious mind joined the dots to come up with a 'picture' of events which made some kind of sense.  However, he just misremembered, joined the dots up in the wrong order and thereby came up with the wrong picture.  Sometimes we just don't remember, and in trying to recall what we've forgotten, we come up with what seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation and then find ourselves believing that it really happened that way.

Which now brings us to Doctor Strange.

While writing my best-selling book, Origins Of Marvel Comics, I cast my mind back and recounted what I felt must have happened, based on whatever sequence of events I could remember, even when I couldn't recollect absolutely everything.  I didn't deliberately or knowingly lie, but I probably didn't represent the full unedited picture.  If you ask me now who came up with the idea of Doctor Strange, Steve Ditko or myself, I can't actually remember whether it was him or me, though I felt it was me back in 1974 when I wrote Origins.  (Having said that though, nowhere do I explicitly state in my intro to the reprinted strips that I created the character, even if that's the impression given.)

Steve's version of events is that he brought the fully illustrated first story in to me with no prior involvement on my part, but whether he's referring to the character or the plot is by no means certain.  As the commissioning editor, it's not altogether impossible that I said "Hey, Stevey, why not do a strip involving a sorcerer?" and left him to it.  I'd already done Doctor Droom with Jack Kirby (which Steve had inked), but that hadn't really worked and was short-lived, so maybe I wanted to see how Ditko would do with a similar idea.  Now, I know what you're thinking.  What about my letter to Dr. Jerry Bails in 1963 in which I say " 'twas Steve's idea" ?  Below is the paragraph in full - click to enlarge.

Read it carefully.  I say that the first story is nothing great and that it was Steve's idea, but what precisely am I referring to - the plot or Doctor Strange?  If I meant the character, wouldn't I have said "he was Steve's idea"?  It could be interpreted either way, so it's not exactly conclusive proof that I had nothing to do with initiating the Doctor's existence - even his name was down to me.  However, for the purpose of discussion, let's assume that Ditko dreamt up the character and the plot on his own before bringing it in to show me.  As Steve has so often said himself, an idea is not fully realised until it's brought to fruition.  Steve might have created the look of Strange, but 'twas me who christened him, supplied him with his origin (significantly similar to that of Doctor Droom), scripted his sorcerous dialogue and mystic incantations - in short, his character and personality, which are all part of bringing a comicbook hero (or villain) to life for the reading public.

And there's always a chance that Steve misremembered things.  Below, in his own handwriting, he admits that just like Jack and me, he didn't have a perfect memory either.  If Steve deserves the credit of being the published Spidey's co-creator for his input into the web-spinner, then I'd say I'm entitled to be accorded the same respect for my input into the Sorcerer Supreme.  What the readers saw was the result of both of us, not just Steve on his own.  Sure, he gets full credit for the visuals and most of the plots, but dare I say there was an equal measure of magic in the scripting and characterisation?  So who created the Doctor Strange that Marveldom Assembled saw in the pages of Strange Tales  and the Doc's own mag?

Well, it would be no lie to say that we were both responsible for the finished creation.  That's just the way comic mags are usually produced.  Anyway, you'll believe what you want to, but I'm giving it to you straight, I'm not trying to hoodwink you into believing a deliberate untruth.  There are always alternative explanations to any contentious issues that are worth considering and I've presented you with one that I think is entirely reasonable.  Whether you see it that way or not is entirely up to you. 

'Nuff said!

Tuesday, 22 August 2023



Spider-Man Comics Weekly #48 - the first issue to have a glossy cover after 47 newsprint covers since its first appearance in 1973.  Unfortunately, the reproduction inside the mag was pretty terrible, with murky, obscured, black, white, and grey artwork which was sore on the eyes and must've annoyed any of the artists who saw what was being done to the fruits of their labour, reprints or not.  Marvel eventually sorted out the problem, which was caused by poor printing rather than the Zipatone (Letratone was the UK equivalent) applied to b&w stats of the pages in the States, but it's surprising that readers put up with it for so long.

Anyway, having showed you the first glossy covered ish of MWOM yesterday, I thought you might appreciate seeing its stablemate, SMCW, today.  Enjoy.

Monday, 21 August 2023



Having shown you Crivs all the newsprint paper covers of The Mighty World Of Marvel in an 'Omnibus' post recently, I thought I might as well show you the first issue of MWOM to feature a glossy cover.  Why?  For no other reason than because I can, that's why!  Sometimes, that's the only reason required on this 'ere blog of mine.  I'll add it to the other post as well, but I thought it deserved a space of its own first.

Sunday, 20 August 2023


Copyright relevant owner

As far as I'm able to determine, there were at least 36 Century 21 Mini Albums back in the '60s, though four of them weren't Gerry Anderson-related and are therefore not included in this post.  (They were comprised of The Daleks, Topo Gigio, Tingha & Tucker Nursery Rhymes, and Space Age Nursery Rhymes.  The Daleks album came in two versions and is probably the most sought-after of all of them, with prices usually being extremely high.)

The album covers you see before you are scans of miniature CD facsimiles of the original 7 inch vinyl records, produced by Fanderson, who, despite some less than satisfying membership conditions, manufacture a fair amount of superb quality merchandise related to Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation TV shows that those of us of a certain age grew up on.  Due to copyright reasons, the only two not replicated by Fanderson are The Daleks and Topo Gigio.

I've got several of the original vinyl records, though the reproduction quality of the CDs is far superior, not being prone to any crackles, hisses, skips, or pops usually found on their vinyl incarnations.  To acquire a full set of originals, you'd probably first have to secure a modest Lottery win, so the CD option is probably the best way to go if you'd like to add these classic recordings to your collection.  Unfortunately, you can only obtain them if you're a Fanderson member - if not, then forget it.  (Unless you find some unwanted ones on eBay.)

As I've related before, after paying for a year's membership, five months later I received a renewal request, on account of, apparently, a year not meaning a year - despite what it said in the terms and conditions of membership on the Fanderson site.  "We never say anywhere that membership is for a year" I was told, despite the inaccuracy of such a claim.  When I pointed out several instances to the contrary (including a start and end date precisely 12 months apart in my membership confirmation), the terms and conditions received a swift overhaul to remove most references to the offending word - year

Fanderson have now revised their membership terms and conditions to say that everyone's membership expires once they receive their FAB Express summer magazine, but unless every single member renews at the same time, it seems to me that this situation still leaves a substantial problem.  For example, if you join as a new member a month before the summer mag comes out, your membership then expires once you receive it and you then need to renew, meaning that your membership has lasted for only a month.  Or am I missing something?  (Entirely possible.)

Perhaps a Fanderson member will be kind enough to comment and clarify the situation as, despite the revisions to the 'rules', it seems that they've not really solved the problem.  All members should be entitled to the same duration of membership, but if people are joining at different times through the year, this doesn't seem possible.  Anyway, apologies for making your head hurt - just enjoy the pretty pictures by way of compensation.

Any of you cavortin' Crivs ever have any of these albums back in the day?  If so and you've got a favourite (or favourites), tell your fellow readers all about them and just what they meant to you.  And remember - Thunderbirds Are Go and Spectrum Is Green!

(I should just point out that the Fireball XL5 Journey To The Moon album was a membership gift at some stage and is not available as part of the various sets of facsimiles.)

Incidentally, the eight images seen here are each comprised of four separate covers placed together by me in order to conserve time and space, they're not eight compilation discs of 'four-albums-on-one'.  (Just in case it wasn't clear.)   

Friday, 18 August 2023



You may have seen these 18 Savage Sword Of Conan covers before on Crivens in three separate posts a good while back, but I thought you might like to refresh your memories with an all-in-one omnibus re-presentation of them.  Issue 11 is the odd one out as it was specially drawn for the UK weekly edition it adorns and was never used in America (as far as I know), so it's unique among the Conan covers that Marvel produced.

Although the weekly survived for only 18 issues, a couple of years later the title was resurrected as a 52 page (I think) monthly, which lasted for 93 issues into 1985, but I no longer have them, having held onto only the first and the last.  However, I do have a long run of Conan Saga, which reused most of the same monthly covers, so if I ever find the time to dig them out of my cupboard and scan them, I'll do a post sometime in the future.

In the meantime, enjoy those on offer and let your fellow Crivvies know which ones are your favourites.  (Click on images to enlarge, then click again for optimum size.) 

Below, the first issue of the title in its revived monthly format a couple of years later...

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