Sunday, 22 November 2020

THE NAME'S STEEL - JOHN STEEL...

And he's a secret agent man...

Copyright REBELLION

Picked this up in WHS a few days back and it's a fairly well-written reprint collection of two tales of British agent John Steel, which, going by the first story, is written with Raymond Chandler in mind.  I could drone on, but I don't want to put you off, so here's publisher Rebellion's official spiel about this nice publication. 

Sharper than Bond, cooler than The Saint – the indefatigable British spy John Steel is back!

The John Steel Files collects two Steel stories from the golden age of spy fiction, featuring stunning art from legendary artist Luis Bermejo (Creepy, Vampirella).

Re-presented for a modern audience, these never-before-reprinted comics have been coloured by breakout colourist Pippa Bowland (2000 A.D.) and feature a brand new cover by V. V. Glass (The Last Witch).

The 128-page comic book special features the stories 'Bullets in the Sun' (from Thriller Picture Library #371), where a British MP turns to his old WWII comrade, John Steel, after being blackmailed by sinister forces to keep him quiet about an international double-cross; and in 'Play It Cool' (Thriller Picture Library #379), while investigating the disappearance of Senator Harding's son in France, Steel discovers a link to what seems to be a murder on the streets of Paris!

Originally a secret service agent during World War II, Steel first appeared in Super Detective Picture Library #157 in September 1959 and became a regular in the pages of the publisher Fleetway’s popular Thriller Picture Library from November 1960, a line of 64-page digest-sized black and white comic books that ran serialized stories, usually consisting of two comic panels per page.

Steel’s exploits helped make Thriller Picture Library one of the best-selling titles on the newsstand and it featured a variety of war, spy, and detective heroes such as ‘Battler Britton’, ‘Spy 13’, and ‘Dogfight Dixon’.

Bermejo took over the series in 1960 and may have influenced the decision in early 1961 to transplant Steel from World War Two into the Jazz Age.  Gone were his spying exploits in favour of life as a private detective.

Influenced by the contemporary sophistication of the early James Bond novels, Steel found himself in a world of jazz cafes and shady deals.  This switch was reflected in the title of Steel’s stories too – this collection features the classics ‘Play it Cool’ and ‘Bullets in the Sun’.

Luis Bermejo Royo’s diverse career spanned Spanish, British, and American comic book industries and his style is instantly recognisable on series such as Adventures of the FBI, Apache, Tarzan, John Steel, Johnny Future, Vampirella, Captain Thunder, and his adaptations of Lord of the Rings and books by Isaac Asimov and Raymond Chandler.  He passed away on 12 December 2015.




FREE FUN SECTION FACSIMILE...

Oor Wullie & The Broons...

Copyright D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd

For all lovers of Dudley Dexter Watkins, there's a free, complete (all 8 pages) facsimile of the very first Fun Section starring Oor Wullie & The Broons (and more) in today's Sunday Post.  Quick - run out and buy one now!

THE DALEKS - POETRY IN MOTION...

Oo-er! It's Doctor Who & The Diabolical Daleks...


                                           Doctor Who was in his TARDIS,
                                           which can move through time and space.
                                           Thought he'd go and tease The Daleks,
                                           self-appointed 'Master-Race'.

                                           Off he went to Planet Skaro,
                                           spinning through the endless void.
                                           Righting wrongs while facing danger
                                           were the things he most enjoyed.

                                           When he landed he soon noticed
                                           what a fearful place it was.
                                           But the Doc was used to walking      
                                           into danger's gaping jaws.

                                           Off he marched to find their city,
                                           when he got there, no surprise -
                                           Daleks soon had him surrounded,
                                           ray guns waving, stalks for eyes.

                                           But the Doctor, nothing daunted,
                                           (did you know he's got two hearts?),
                                           had a lethal secret weapon
                                           known as Gallifreyan farts!

                                           Stuffed his face before he landed
                                           with a dozen tins of beans.
                                           Knew he'd need a huge advantage
                                           to defeat those Dalek fiends.

                                           Popped off farts in all directions -
                                           My!  Did those guffs really rate.
                                           Solid objects?  Easy targets!
                                           Farts they can't "exterminate".

                                           Soon the Daleks were in turmoil,
                                           trapped within their metal shells,
                                           There was simply no escaping
                                           nauseating farty smells.

                                           He was soon back in the TARDIS,
                                           showed those Daleks he was smart.
                                           They'll give him a wide berth next time -
                                           now they know Time Lords can fart.

                                           As he travelled in his TARDIS,
                                           put his feet up, drank some tea.
                                           That's the way it really happened -
                                           just as he told it to me.
 
******
                      
    Delbert - The Friendliest Dalek In The Universe...
          
 
                                             Delbert Dalek was an oddball,
                                             simply just did not belong.
                                             Wouldn't answer to the shrill call,
                                             thought 'extermination' wrong.

                                             Delbert's Dalek-heart was loving,
                                             such a gentle, friendly soul.
                                             Didn't go for people-shoving -
                                             cosmic conquest not his goal.

                                             All the other Daleks plotted,
                                             didn't want him in their ranks.
                                             With his single eye he spotted
                                             their approach from all four flanks.

                                             Although Delbert was a softie,
                                             he got quickly off his mark.
                                             Never mind pretens'ons lofty,
                                             scarpered off into the dark.

                                             As he cowered all a-tremble,
                                             hidden by concealing rocks,
                                             something started to assemble -
                                             an imposing big blue box.

                                             Doctor Who had come to rescue
                                             Delbert from the Dalek throng.
                                             Del had not and never would do
                                             anything remotely wrong.

                                             "Quickly, Delbert, I will save you,
                                              jump in to my time machine."
                                              So he did and off they both flew,
                                              rescue's seldom been so clean.

                                              Delbert now lives down in Southsea,
                                              has a cottage all his own.
                                              In his garden he sips green tea,
                                              green tea he himself has grown.

                                              All the neighbours really love Del -
                                              wave when passing his front gate.
                                              When the postie rings his doorbell,
                                              it chimes out "Exterminate!"

Friday, 20 November 2020

COMICS AND COLUMBINE...

Comics, bigotry, and school shootings...

Here's a book that some of you might find interesting.  It was given to me by the author, famous man-about-town and talented Glasgow artist Tom Campbell, and though I couldn't say I agree with all of Tom's observations or conclusions on the subject, it's a strangely-compelling and sometimes disturbing read which offers several fascinating insights and theories as to perhaps why some ostracized loners resort to violence in disproportionate and seemingly indiscriminate ways in order to settle scores with those whom they believe have persecuted them.  (And they're not always wrong in that perception.)

That's the 'Reader's Digest' version of the book in my own words, but there's more to it than that.  Tell you what, take a look at the back cover below and read what no less a personage than Alan Moore has to say about Tom's autobiographical work, which is handsomely illustrated (in black and white) by the author and available from Waterstones, Blackwell's, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.  For more info, visit http://www.sparsilebooks.com

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Barry Pearl's Guest Post - A Question Of Colour...

The answer is there in black and white...

Images copyright respective owners

Well here goes:

It's not usual for me to mention my own blog here, but I recently put up something that's of great interest to me, and may be to you, too.  I published a Silver Age chronology of black characters who'd appeared in American comics, which you can see by clicking here.

One thing I noticed was that in the Gold Key Star Trek comics of the 1970s, there was barely a trace of Uhura on the covers or in the stories.  Even when the rest of the crew were on the bridge of The Enterprise, she wasn't shown.

Yet, at the same time, she was prominently featured in the British Star Trek comic strip series.

Can anyone tell me when black characters appeared in comics in Great Britain in the 1960s and 1970s?  I also have James Bond's Dr. No from the 1960s British newspaper comic strip.  Black people are featured in that.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

THE DALEKS HAVE LANDED...

 At least, they have in MY house...

Copyright BBC TV & Estate of TERRY NATION

By all accounts this has proved a tricky publication for a lot of people to get their hands on, with it not having appeared in many (if any) WHS shops that I've heard of.  Thankfully, a few Sainsbury's stores have had them, but there must be thousands of readers looking to add this great mag to their collections who have thus far been disappointed.  So popular was the demand for it, it sold out within hours (or was it minutes?) of it appearing on Panini's online comics shop on the 11th, though apparently it will be available from other online outlets on the 18th.

Anyway, what's all the hoo-hah about and is it worth its £9.99 cover price?  You're darn tootin' it is - and then some!  All 104 back page Daleks strips from TV Century 21, the majority being sourced from the original art boards and the remainder being scanned from good quality issues of TV21 itself, all digitally cleaned up and restored where necessary.  The result is the best presentation of these strips ever - possibly even better than their original appearance back in the '60s.  (You can read the interesting article about their restoration for yourselves to see how such a thing is possible when you finally track down a copy.  There's also a feature on the strips' background, as well as an interview with Ron Turner.)

However, that doesn't mean you'll be seeing these strips exactly as they were originally presented in the pages of TV21.  Why?  Let me explain.  Having worked on some Marvel Masterworks volumes back in the '90s, where I utilised black and white UK '60s reprints to re-create and restore pages, one of the things I noticed was this:  Perhaps because of the roller method used to print them at the time, or maybe because of the photostat technology by which images were copied to supply foreign publishers - pages were stretched either height-wise or width-ways - and sometimes even both, but never proportionately.

This meant that, years later, when I reduced an image to its original page width, the height was out of proportion to it - and vice versa.  So, taking the cover of Fantastic Four Annual #3 as an example, my finished re-creation was either slightly taller or wider than its original presentation.  Nowadays I'd be able to compensate for that particular problem and bypass it, but I didn't have the necessary digital-manipulation technology at the time.

So what's that got to do with The Daleks Special?  I'll tell you.  Because original art was being used in most cases, the Daleks opening panel containing the logo, as well as the 'stop press' box in the final panel, had to be copied from printed issues (as the originals had been removed or gone missing over the years), then cleaned up and replaced onto the art, either digitally or physically (not sure which).  This has resulted in the gutters around those panels not being of exactly the same width as they were originally, meaning that not all of those particular panels precisely fill the space they occupied back in the day.  Consider the following examples above.

The higher panel is from my own copy of TV21 #1, and the lower one is from the Special.  Note that the gutter is slightly wider on the latter example.  That said, the width is more in accord with the other panels, as in the original printing it was perhaps a bit tight.  Whether the new gutter width is by accident or design I couldn't say, but on some other pages, it's a bit more noticeable, and in some cases it's an improvement, on others it isn't.  (Though not a detriment either.)  Admittedly, had this one been reproduced slightly larger, it would've filled the original space more precisely, but the same can't be said of other instances, where they're too high in relation to their width for the space provided, or vice versa.

But of course, that's a very minor quibble, and overall the magazine is a sterling accomplishment.  A few pages seem to be marred by slight colour 'splurges' and 'blotches' in places, but this is a printing flaw and not as a result of the restoration process, and I'm sure it won't spoil your overall enjoyment.  One ebay seller is currently asking around £125 for the 1994 publication of the same material (unrestored, with page ripples and other defects), but I can't see him getting that price for it now, as this new edition effectively renders it obsolete.  Grab a copy (if you find one) while you can.

So let's give thanks to Panini/Marvel for publishing this magnificent Bookazine, and also praise all those individuals involved in its production.  All we want now is a hardback edition the same size as the TV21 pages, with every strip sourced from the original art.  That's not too much to ask, is it?  Get cracking boys and girls! 

 
 
And in case any of you are even remotely interested, below is the wraparound cover of the 26 year old predecessor to the above publication.
 

Monday, 16 November 2020

ARE YOU A TRUE BELIEVER OR A 'MERE' FACSIMILE...?

 Grab 'em while they're going...

Copyright MARVEL COMICS

The Facsimile Edition of X-Men #4 arrived today, along with True Believers reprints of FF #52 and Avengers #83.  Perhaps it's an oversight, but the original 12c price is still in the cover corner box, whereas previous FEs have substituted the current cost of the mags.  I wonder if future FEs will follow the same route?  Time will tell.  One quibble I have is that the indicia has been placed under the splash page, whereas, in the original, it appeared under the ad inside the cover.

Next up, below, is the TB version of Fantastic Four #52, featuring the debut of The Black Panther.  No real complaints with this one and although I have a prior 'facsimile edition' (scanned from an original ish), the reproduction here is far superior, having been sourced from pristine new proofs.


Next is another little beauty of a TB - Avengers #83.  While I'm not crazy about the 'pc' corner caption on the splash, I don't mind it so much on the True Believers, but they did something similar with the facsimile of Tales Of Suspense #39.  On a facsimile, it compromises the historical integrity of the mag, and should be relegated to a line in the indicia where it wouldn't be so intrusive.


 
Anyway, that's your lot for now, Crivvies.  If you don't already have these mags, run out and buy them right away - or order them online.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

BEHOLD - FACSIMILES & BELIEVERS...

Now these are what I call Comics...

Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Dunno about the rest of you Crivvies, but most new comics do nothing for me.  I'd much rather revisit the glories of yesteryear and live again the four-colour superhero adventures that thrilled me as a youth.  Two new comics that fulfill that purpose for me are the True Believers reprint of The Avengers #48, and the Facsimile Edition of The Avengers #57, just recently released (and only newly arrived at Castel Crivens).

I'm not sure what Marvel's doing that DC isn't, but even the old ads in the Marvel mags look clean and new, whereas with DC, they're faded and ancient-looking, merely having been scanned from original published issues with all their printed defects.  Anyway, I don't know if DC are still doing their facsimiles, but if so they should ask Marvel for advice on how to do them properly.  (Though I prefer the paper that DC uses.)

Available now, though I suppose that most of you have already bought 'em!  Smart move.



Friday, 13 November 2020

HOW TO DRAW COMICS - AND MORE BESIDES (UPDATED)...

 Starting off with the BIG one...

Images copyright respective owners

As every Crivvie is sure to know, I'm a hugely-respected artistic figure within the comics community, being every bit as talented in one aspect of the field as another.  Writer, artist, letterer - you name it, I can do it - but one thing I'm even greater at is my ability to type sh*te with my tongue in my cheek and a straight face*.  So getting back to the real world, I thought I'd show you some of the books in my collection that are designed to help aspiring artists fulfill their potential, as well as their dreams and ambitions.  (In my case, they made an exception.)

No further comment from me is necessary, as I've included the back cover spiel so that you can read for yourselves what they're all about.  I've got a couple more lying around somewhere, which I'll add whenever I stumble across them (now done).  Incidentally, the ripples on Will Eisner's book are on the clear protective sleeve over the dustjacket, not the dustjacket itself.  Wouldn't want you to worry that I've got a less-than-perfect copy (autographed too) on my bookshelf.

Now - unleash the books of art!

(*Slightly amended as I don't think readers got the humour in the opening paragraph.)





















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