Tuesday, 23 October 2018

ROOM WITH A VIEW...



Something that occurred to me only recently is that when I was younger, I only ever looked out any of my windows for one specific purpose or another, never merely for the sake of it.  Things like, to see which of the neighbourhood kids were playing in the field across from my house, or to check what the weather was like, or to catch the approach of someone I was expecting a visit from, or to see what the source of some noise was.  I never, as far as I can recall, looked out of the window just to appreciate the view.  At school, I would gaze out of the windows and lose myself in dreams, but I wasn't really focussing on the scenery.

And now, having typed that, a couple of exceptions have just occurred to me.  I'd look out at freshly-fallen snow, because there's something magical about snow I'm sure you'll agree, and sometimes at night, me and my brother used to look out of our bedroom window at the lights of Glasgow (or its outskirts), twinkling on the far horizon like tiny, dancing fireflies or the glint of frost on the pavement when it catches the sun or the beam of a street-lamp.  I last saw that night-time scene over 46 years ago, though I've seen the view in daytime on occasional visits to my old home - the first of which was 30 years ago, and the last 27 years back.

I first became aware of looking at the view for its own sake during the countdown to my family and myself flitting from my present house to a new one back in 1983.  For some reason it filled me with sadness to realise, as I gazed out into the familiar distance one evening, that I would probably never see twilight again from that bedroom window and that an era was passing.  (Melodramatic?  Me?)  Of course, as many of you will know, just over four years later, we moved back to this house, and I was reunited with my old room and former view from the window.  Strangely, although I'd never wanted to flit to that new house, I now find myself even missing that view, and I'm glad I took quite a few photos of it in the four-plus years we resided there.

Views can change however, as mine has to a certain extent, what with new houses and flats being built on 'spare' ground.  Of course, it was never spare (or 'underdeveloped' as the local council later categorised it), it was intended for recreational use, and to alleviate the monotony of the brick and roughcast-bedecked structures surrounding it;  to provide a welcome oasis of greenery amidst the grey 'sentinels' which stood on its borders, and to provide a sense of space in what has now become an overcrowded concrete ghetto.

Do you ever think back to once familiar views you knew in your youth, readers, and wish you could return and see them again, even though you know that the harsh reality of time and so-called 'progress' consigned them to the phantom mists of history long ago?  Feel free to relive those bitter-sweet memories in the comments section.

******

(Incidentally, the above photo was taken in August 1988, 16 years after moving away in 1972, and a year and a day after returning to the house we'd flitted to in '72 and vacated in '83.)

BABE OF THE DAY - LYNDA CARTER...



If aliens ever landed on Earth and asked to see a
prime example of a human female, then I'd show them
this picture of the stunning LYNDA CARTER.  Well,
you can't go wrong with Lynda, can you?

Monday, 22 October 2018

FROM PANEL TO PAINTING...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Red is my favourite colour, so it should come as no surprise that the above cover really grabbed me when I saw it in the shop window of W. & R. HOLMES back in late 1972.  Of course, it's not just the colour that appeals to me, but also the fact that it's The HULK doing what ol' Hulkie does best - going on a rampage!  I don't know who the artist is on the cover of the MARVEL Annual for 1973, but I can tell you that the scene is based on a panel from one of the interior stories, pencilled by JACK KIRBY and inked by STEVE DITKO.  Isn't it a stoater?!

However, this wouldn't be a Crivens! post without a critical observation or two.  In the original panel, Jack hasn't drawn The Hulk large enough as he looks smaller than the soldiers, and the cover artist has repeated this oversight in his rendition of the scene.  Still great though.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

FAB & FREAKY FRANKIE STEIN HOLIDAY SPECIAL COVERS, CENTRE-SPREADS AND ALSO AWESOME ANNUALS (UPDATED)...


Images copyright relevant owner

Apart from the centre-spreads, I've shown these images before, but this time there's a difference.  Previously, the covers for the 1975, '79 and '82 Specials were 'borrowed' from eBay, but the ones you see here are all from my own personal collection.  I've even replaced the scans on the first post where I featured them, so uniformity now rules in Crivens!  I considered using a bit of computer technology to disguise the spines of the centre-spreads, but decided against it as it'd be too much like hard work.  Maybe one day.

I've also thrown in the Annual covers, even though I showed them recently in another post, but I thought the completists among you might like to see them here - so here they are.  I sometimes amaze myself with just how generous I am to you lot, I really do.  Show me you appreciate it by leaving a comment and reassuring me that I'm not talking to myself.  Go on. 



















BONUS:  And just because it's a belter of an illustration, below is the cover to the SHIVER & SHAKE Annual for 1976.  Frankie got everywhere back then - Shiver & Shake, WHOOPEE!, and MONSTER FUN, as well as his own publications.  That's what you call a monster success!

COMPLETING A COLLECTION...



If you're a collector, you'll know the thrill of finding that elusive issue (or issues) to complete a run of comics.  I've been doing that very thing recently, tracking down missing numbers years after the fact, and what adds an extra sense of satisfaction for me is completing a series in the very house I started it.  You see, after living in my present abode for eleven years back in the '70s and early '80s, my family relocated to a new house in another area for just over four years, before moving back again to our previous home.  I've now been back here for 31 years, and today I received the 1979 WHOOPEE! FRANKIE STEIN Holiday Special, which completed the set of eight Specials issued between 1975 to '82.

The first and only one I bought at the time was the one for 1976, but around ten years later, BOB PAYNTER, Youth Group editor of the IPC mags, gave me another four from the shelves in his office on the 20th floor of KING'S REACH TOWER in Stamford Street in London.  These were the 1977, '78, '80 and '81 issues, though I think I was living in the afore-mentioned other house when I got them.  In the last few months I was able to acquire the '75 and '82 issues, and the '79 edition that arrived this morning completes the set.  That means I got four of them in this house and four of them in the other, so it's an equal split - though the quartet that Bob gave me have been in my present residence for 31 years.  What's significant to me is that I started and finished the collection in this house.

I found a replacement for the 1976 Frankie Annual I used to have a good many years back, but only recently (a couple or so months ago) managed to find two copies of the '77 Annual, though they weren't in great condition.  (I don't recall ever having this book back in the '70s.)  Just in the last week, however, I managed to get superior condition copies of both Annuals, so I'm now the proud owner of every Frankie Stein-titled publication from the '70s and '80s.  Of course, the definitive version of Frankie was by KEN REID back in the '60s, but the character enjoyed even greater popularity under the hand of ROBERT NIXON in the '70s, perhaps the only artist who could do any kind of visual justice to Frankie in Ken's wake (as testified to by his cover of the 1976 SHIVER & SHAKE Annual).  Interestingly, I think it was Nixon who took up the reins on Reid's RODGER The DODGER strip when he left DCT to go to ODHAMS in the '60s, so there was already a precedent for Bob stepping into Ken's shoes.

Another milestone (for me) was when I finally managed to track down LEO BAXENDALE's third WILLY The KID book a few years back, over 30 years after buying the first two back in 1976 and '77.  Again, started in this house, completed in this house.  Then there are the missing issues from my collection of X-MEN and FANTASTIC FOUR Pocket Books from the early '80s, which were lacking two numbers and four numbers respectively.  I managed to obtain them around a year or so ago, so that was another sense of accomplishment for me.  Anyway, there are loads of comics and books that fall under this label, so I won't labour the point.  Of course, it's good to fill a gap in a run regardless of where you live, but it gives an added thrill of accomplishment when you do it decades later in the same house where you started (especially if there was a break in tenancy), don't you think?  It somehow makes the past seem less distant - for a short while at least, but I'll take what's going.

What's the longest period of time it's taken you to complete a collection, Criv-ites?  Do tell!    

Friday, 19 October 2018

BABE OF THE DAY - LAUREN HOLLY...



The lovely LAUREN HOLLY is our Babe today,
fellas.  I always like to see a bit of 'holly' at Christmas,
so who knows - maybe she'll chap my front door on
December 25th?  That'd be a nice present.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

HEROES OR HALFWITS? YOU DECIDE...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

SUSAN STORM, alias The INVISIBLE GIRL!  Beautiful blonde bombshell and fabulous fiancee of REED RICHARDS, the modestly self-proclaimed Mister FANTASTIC!  Look at the above scene and consider it for a moment.  Why does she turn invisible instead of just explaining to her friend that she's suddenly remembered an urgent appointment?  Why push her way through passing pedestrians instead of walking around them?  Why not turn visible before entering the cab, and then ask the driver to take her to her destination instead of trusting to blind chance?  Why am I asking so many questions?  Because there's something about the opening scenes in FF #1 that just doesn't make much sense.

BEN GRIMM, aka The THING!  Mighty muscled monster and sometimes mutinous member of the fabulous FANTASTIC FOUR!  There he is in a gents' outfitters, wearing a trench-coat that, going by the loose folds in the fabric, doesn't look constrictive.  Then, when the FF flare appears, he takes off his outer clothes, claiming they're too tight, and demolishes the doorway on his way out.  "Why must they build doorways so narrow?" he complains.  But hang on - he obviously must have managed to pass through the doorway without much difficulty on his way in to the shop, so why should it suddenly present any kind of a problem on the way out?


And another thing - why remove his outer garments and thereby draw attention to himself?  Why not just exit the shop as he entered, then unobtrusively make his way to the FF's headquarters without panicking the populace and drawing fire from the police, as well as wrecking a manhole cover and a car?  Doesn't really make any sense when you think about it, does it?  (Also, if clothes his size are so hard to come by, why leave them in the shop?  And why didn't he just go to wherever he got those clothes as, despite his assertion, they clearly fit him?)

JOHNNY STORM, also called The HUMAN TORCH, teenage brother of Susan Storm, is another idiot.  He 'flames on' while still inside a car he's working on, melting it to slag (and risking igniting the petrol tank), instead of exiting the vehicle before making with the hero bit.  I bet he's really popular with his pals after that, the little show-off.  These elements aren't in STAN LEE's two-page synopsis of the tale, so JACK KIRBY must shoulder the blame for these honking howlers.  Sure, they're dramatic in their presentation and intended to bestow a sense of excitement to proceedings (as well as being a handy way of introducing the powerful protagonists), but it makes the threesome seem like a trio of brain-dead dunderheids who are as much a threat to life-and-limb as the vile villains they oppose.


And as for their leader, he's just as bad.  Allegedly the greatest brain on Earth, he flies a rocket into space knowing that its shielding is insufficient to protect them from cosmic rays.  And he takes along his fiancee and her kid brother, who'd be about as useful as a fart in a spacesuit when it comes to piloting their ship.  Talk about irresponsible?

However, what do you think readers?  Should we be prepared to sacrifice common sense in favour of dynamic drama and awesome action in a comic strip, or are we entitled to expect our heroes to behave in a more responsible manner instead of going off half-cocked whenever humanity requires their super-powered services?  If Ben Grimm was visiting me for a cuppa char, I wouldn't want him demolishing my house when leaving if he were suddenly called upon to battle the dastardly DOCTOR DOOM!  And if I were making love to Sue Storm, I wouldn't want her turning invisible as that would remind me too much of my usual 'love life'.  (Oo-er, I didn't just admit to that in public, did I?  Er, I was talking about a friend, not me.) 

Anyway, what are your thoughts on the matter, readers?  Feel free to contribute to our comments section.

MIGHTY MARVEL CHECKLIST - ON SALE NOW!!!


Images copyright MARVEL/PANINI

For all MARVEL lovers (and who isn't?) here's the current crop of cataclysmic comic mags that go on sale from today.  Published by PANINI.

******

DEADPOOL UNLEASHED #20

100 big pages of the Merc with the Mouth! Three great stories!

To save his family, Deadpool had to promise Stryfe he'd kill Cable!  But that's easier said than done!  Don't miss an action-packed new saga by Gerry Duggan & Scott Koblish!

It's Halloween, and that can only mean one thing:  Lots of Deadpool cosplayers!  How's the real thing going to react to that...?  By Chynna Clugston Flores!

Forbush Man's killer is still at large!  Maybe Doctor Strange can lend Deadpool a hand...?  By Joshua Corin & Todd Nauck!

Featuring material first printed in Despicable Deadpool #287-288, Gwenpool Holiday Special #1 and Deadpool:  Too Soon? #3-4.

On sale 18th October.

£4.50.


ESSENTIAL X-MEN #7

76 pages of mutant mayhem!

One of the X-Men's worst enemies is back from the dead:  Omega Red is reborn!  By Marc Guggenheim & Len Medina!

The Goblin Queen and her Hex-Men have Cyclops and Marvel Girl on the run!  By Cullen Bunn & Douglas Franchin!

Featuring material first printed in X-Men Gold #11-12 and X-Men Blue #11-12.

On sale 18th October.

£4.50.


MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL #8

76 pages of Marvel Universe adventure!  Four great stories!

A hot new series begins!  Hawkeye takes a break from the Young Avengers to make a name for herself on the West Coast - as a private eye!  By Kelly Thompson & Leonard Romero!

The Guardians of the Galaxy are caught between the Collector and the Grandmaster!  Cosmic adventure by Gerry Duggan & Aaron Kuder!

Nova searches in space for his brother - but the sinister Raptors have other plans for him!  By Gerry Duggan & Roland Boschi!

Doctor Strange battles Baron Mordo around the world!  A 1960s Marvel classic by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko!

Featuring material first printed in All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #10-11, Hawkeye #1, and Strange Tales #125.

On sale 18th October.

£4.50.

******

Well, wotcha waiting for?  Rush out and buy 'em all now!

BABE OF THE DAY - GILLIAN DUXBURY...



Back in the early '70s, one of my favourite Page
3 Girls was GILLIAN DUXBURY.  There were a
couple of things about her that I liked, but I just
can't put my finger on them at the moment.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

WHO REMEMBERS FRANK STONE? (UPDATED)...


Images copyright relevant and respective owners

Hard as it is for me to believe (and perhaps for you to care), it's around 50 years since I last saw or held this UK FRANKENSTEIN Comic Album (published by WORLD DISTRIBUTORS), which I first read in primary school (the annexe huts I think) during a break back in 1967 or '68.  Stop and think about that for a moment - 50 years, maybe 51.  Yet when I received this 'replacement' this afternoon, the decades rolled away as if they'd never happened, and I was once again a young boy with nary a care in the world except for what I'd get for my birthday or Christmas.

I say 'replacement' in inverted commas, 'cos the fact is that I never possessed this publication myself - it belonged to a classmate with whom I'd no doubt swapped one of my own comics or annuals for the duration of our break before swapping back again.  No point asking me what comic strip item I lent to him - or even who he was - because I can no longer recall, but I still remember some of the panels from this album even 50 years later.  Amazing, eh?  Sometimes images make such an indelible impression that they resurface fully-blown in our memory banks with only the slightest reminder to prompt them.

The school where I first (and last) saw this book was demolished over four years ago (having not long celebrated its own half-century), but just like this album, it yet survives in the 'filing cabinet' of my mind (and in extensive photos I took prior to demolition).  Unfortunately, I can't open the book wide enough to scan without risk of cracking the spine, so I can show no internal images, alas - you'll have to be content with the cover - but what a cover it is, eh?

In the same package as the above album were also the two FRANKIE STEIN annuals from the '70s.  I already have them, but the ones I received today are superior condition copies.  (And when I say 'copies' I don't mean facsimiles - they're the original ones.)  So, just because the covers are by the mighty ROBERT NIXON, I decided to show them in this post too.  Frankenstein and Frankie Stein together - what could be more apt?  (Note that the 1977 cover shows Frankie as a superhero crashing through a wall - similar to the scene above, but with a dash of humour.) 

Enjoy.



The back cover is the same as the front, so no point repeating it

But hold!  It occurs to me that you may wish to learn more about the superhero known as Frankenstein (whose secret identity was FRANK STONE, and who wore a rubber human mask to hide his green face).  A mixture of elements from CLARK KENT/SUPERMAN and BRUCE WAYNE/BATMAN comics, the title was launched in 1966 by DELL Publishing and lasted for three issues.  It had companion comics likewise loosely based on the UNIVERSAL Monsters - DRACULA and WOLFMAN.  Frankenstein was written by DON SEGALL and drawn by TONY TALLARICO and BILL FRACCHIO, and started with #2, #1 being an adaptation, published in 1964, of the 1931 movie starring BORIS KARLOFF, and bearing no connection to the issues which followed apart from the name and numbering.  So that's about it, but I can't go without showing you the covers.




The 'first' issue - but only the name was the same in the three that followed

WHEN THINGS ARE WHAT THEY SEEM - PRINT THE TRUTH...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

"Where men are the most sure and arrogant they are commonly the most mistaken..." wrote Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and essayist DAVID HUME.  He was right.  Nearly a year ago, someone I knew gave me the above comic mag.  I was extremely pleased as it had a JACK KIRBY cover, so I put it on my blog, first submitting it to some computer technology to lessen the fingerprints which mar its surface - clearly seen in the un-retouched scan before you.

This is what I wrote at the time:

"Originally the splash page of FANTASTIC FOUR #51, this great JACK KIRBY image of The THING now graces the cover of this new MARVEL 2 IN ONE first issue.  Superb stuff, eh?  Unfortunately, there were a few fingerprints (none of them mine) on the cover which have lifted the colour, but I've digitally disguised them as much as I can.  Still a great pic though, eh?"

As you can see, I attributed no blame to anyone, namely because I didn't know at what stage it had acquired the unsightly digit-daubs before passing into my possession.  I received an angry text (which I didn't see until a couple of days after Christmas because I never checked my 'phone over the yuletide period) from the bloke who'd given me the comic, saying that in 40-odd years of handling comics, he'd never given anybody one with fingerprints on it.  (Actually, he had, as I'd received similarly-defaced comics from him before, but I wasn't going to argue the point as they'd been free and I didn't want to appear ungrateful.)

I replied, wishing him a merry Christmas, and explained that I wasn't blaming anyone or even complaining (I had merely mentioned the fingerprints in case any readers noticed some 'fogginess' about the cover), but he was so intent on feeling offended that he ignored my festive felicitations and informed me how insulted he was.  Know what?  Dancing around the hyper-sensitivities of people who go through life with a chip on their shoulder and are determined to be offended or insulted at the slightest thing, especially where no offence or insult is intended (or even exists), is not something I'm prepared to do, so I closed the door on that source of potential vexation in no uncertain terms.  I've found that people who continually take offence often do so in order to have others apologising to them all the time and indulge their overblown sense of self-importance, but as far as I'm concerned they can play that game on their own.

Thing is, it only just occurred to me (half an hour ago in fact) to check out the cover on eBay and see if, as had been claimed by the person in question, the fingerprints were a deliberate effect intended by the colourist, instead of, as I had assumed, careless handling by some anonymous, inadvertent vandal whose hands were in need of a wash.  (Could've happened at the distributor's warehouse for all I know.)

As you can see in the image below (taken from eBay), the fingerprints in the picture above are conspicuous by their absence, meaning that I was right in my initial assumption and the other bloke was wrong - he had given me a comic with marks on the cover.  Maybe I should take offence and feel insulted at being accused of causing offence and being insulting when I was right all along?

And I have to admit - I love it when I'm right!  But then again, who doesn't?

See?  The prints aren't on the printed comic

Click to enlarge and compare

Monday, 15 October 2018

WHO CREATED DOCTOR STRANGE? STAN LEE, STEVE DITKO - OR BOTH?



Take a look at the above extract from a letter by STEVE DITKO in response to a fan.  In it, Steve candidly admits that his memory is not perfect and that there are some strips he drew (and maybe even wrote) in the 1960s that he can't even remember doing.  Yet, when it comes to his written reminiscences about SPIDER-MAN and DOCTOR STRANGE, rabid Ditko fans (I mean the ones who are usually equally rabid STAN LEE haters), never question his accounts of his work on, arguably, the two most famous characters he collaborated on.

Why is this?  Is it possible their critical faculty is blunted by their antipathy towards Stan Lee, in the same way that rabid JACK KIRBY fans take anything that Jack said as gospel, while dismissing everything that Stan says as an utter lie?  For proof of the latter half of that sentence, check out this link.  Read it?  I'd say it's compelling evidence of Jack's memory being at least as unreliable as Lee's.  So why do some people regard Steve's memory as being infallible when he himself never claimed it to be, and allowed for the exact opposite in fact?

It's a huge subject, but I'm going to focus on Doctor Strange in this post.  Those who claim that Stan wasn't a co-creator of the sorcerer often quote from Stan Lee's 1963 letter to Dr. JERRY BAILS a few months before the strip debuted.  "'Twas Steve's idea" they declare, as 'proof' that Stan originally admitted that he had nothing to do with the genesis of the character.  In actual fact, it doesn't necessarily prove that at all.  Read the full paragraph below.  (Click to enlarge.)


It occurs to me that this can easily mean something other than the anti-Stan brigade say it does.  Consider:  "We have a new character in the works..."  Who does he mean by 'we' - Stan and Steve, or MARVEL COMICS itself?  If the former, this suggests that Stan was involved in the idea.  "The first story is nothing great, but perhaps we can make something of him -- 'twas Steve's idea..."  What was Steve's idea?  Seems to me that this could well apply to the 'nothing great first story', not necessarily the character himself (otherwise wouldn't Stan have said "he was Steve's idea"?).  But what about Steve's own account of events?  I'm glad you asked.

"On my own, I brought in a five-page, pencilled story, with a page/panel script..." writes Steve in one of his much later essays.  Assuming Steve's recollection is accurate, this does not preclude Stan - who was the commissioning editor remember - asking Steve to do a story about a 'magician'.  Steve, therefore, may merely have meant that Stan left the story up to him and had no direct input into the plot.  However, even if Stan didn't request such a strip, Strange followed in the wake of Dr. DROOM, a similar character (at least in the beginning, before he was turned into a mere hypnotist), whose debut Steve had inked and could well have been influenced by, unconsciously or otherwise.

What's important to remember however, whatever view you take, is that creator status in comicbooks is usually defined by the printed product, the comic itself.  JERRY SIEGEL came up with the idea for SUPERMAN, but JOE SHUSTER gave him substance, based on Jerry's description.  BOB KANE came up with the idea for BATMAN, but it took BILL FINGER to refine the concept and add much that made the character popular.  (Though it was decades before his contribution was publicly acknowledged.)  Jack Kirby originated a guy on a surfboard, but it was Stan Lee who gave the SILVER SURFER his back-story and motivation with which the comic-reading community are so familiar.

When it comes to Doctor Strange, even if we accept the by-no-means-certain assertion by nay-sayers that Stan didn't initiate the character by asking Steve to come up with something (commissioning editor remember), it was Stan's christening of Strange, his dialogue and captions - in short, his characterisation - which helped define the good Doctor, and shaped the readers' perception of who he was and how he came to be.  (The fact that Strange's origin so closely mirrors Droom's is compelling evidence to the likely truth of that statement.)

So who created Doctor Strange?  The Strange that you and I know was the product of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, whether you agree with the sequence of those two names or not.

                                                       "By the pow'r of the Faltine,
                                                       In the name of Satannish,
                                                       Let your hatred of 'Smiley'
                                                       Immediately vanish!"
    
Here's to Stan and Steve - together they were invincible!

Sunday, 14 October 2018

MASTER OF THE CLASSIC ARTS...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Back in 1984, JOHN BYRNE and AL MILGROM collaborated on new covers for a four-issue series of DOCTOR STRANGE CLASSICS, based on (some might say 'copied') STEVE DITKO illustrations inside the mags.  I think they're pretty good, and though I might've shown them before, art like this is always worth another look.  So what're you waiting for?  Start looking.



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