Sunday 31 October 2010


Just for fun, here are some more frightfully fiendish images suitable for Hallowe'en.  First up, an AURORA ad from any number of DC COMICS mags from the 1960s - followed by the box art (painted by JAMES BAMA) of ol' FRANKENSTEIN's and DRACULA's plastic model kits by the selfsame company.  (AURORA, that is - not DC.)

Don't you just wish you had these two little beauties in your collection?  (I have.)

Okay, so I lied about the witches - sue me.



Hallowe'en - and this cover by JOHN ROMITA for the FIRESIDE book, BRING On The BAD GUYS, is the perfect image to illustrate a blog about comicbooks on this particular day of October 31st - it's even got a pumpkin on it.

One word of warning though.  If you get a knock on your front door and open it to find this assortment of colourful characters on your step, you'd better have more than a few monkey nuts and an apple each for them.  If not, slam it shut and get out the back door as fast as you can.  These guys don't mess around.

Wednesday 27 October 2010


Inked with a Windsor & Newton #3 sable brush

This page was pencilled by DOM REGAN and inked, dialogued and lettered by myself.  Dom doesn't seem to use a ruler, so his perspectives aren't always as precise as they could be, requiring a bit of sorting out at the inking stage.  His rendering is also a bit vague at times (though not so much on this page), which means the inker isn't quite sure exactly what he's looking at on occasion - but his artwork certainly packs a punch.

As the page features a CAPTAIN AMERICA stand-in (MAJOR AMERICAN - a name I coined), I tried to give it a CHIC STONE-type finish. I've probably over-inked the machinery in the first couple of pics, which are far too laboured, but it didn't come out too bad overall.

Monday 25 October 2010


Superman #233, featuring Ira Schnapp's logo.
(Art by Neal Adams) 
SUPERMAN's logo is as iconic as that of COCA COLA and is recognized the world over, but it took a little while before it was standardized by NATIONAL PUBLICATIONS' ace designer and calligrapher IRA SCHNAPP (on the cover of issue #6), based on JOE SHUSTER's original design.  Did you ever wonder, however, why it had that peculiar shaped angular "U" which didn't match any of the other letters?

Superman Ashcan edition. (Art by Joe Shuster)

I thought I had solved the mystery when I first saw the cover of the Ashcan Edition of Superman (SUPERMAN COMICS), and noticed that the "C" of "Comics" cuts into the lower part of the "U" of "Superman".  Closer examination shows that the "U" had almost the same squarish curve (if that's not a contradiction in terms) as the "P" and the "R".  Was it simply a case of this rough logo being relettered for issue #1 with the word "Comics" omitted, and someone taking the easy way out by angling-off the letter to complete the bottom line of the "U"?

Superman #6. 1st appearance of Ira's logo.
(Art by Joe Shuster)
It would be easy to assume so, going by the cover (and centre pages) of the actual first issue (which, legend has it, was originally intended as a one-off - hence the un-numbered cover).  It therefore didn't seem unreasonable to suppose that, when Ira Schnapp came to letter the definitive version, he was provided with a printed copy of the then-relatively recent SUPERMAN #1 for reference.  It certainly couldn't have been issues 2-5, as each cover logo featured a curved "U".  (For the cover of issue #1, see previous post.)  So - mystery solved?

Well, no.  Despite my fine speculations, after a bit more digging I found that JOE SHUSTER had occasionally rendered the "U" in that way from as early as ACTION COMICS #2 - which predates the Ashcan and the first issue by quite a margin.  (As that story was actually reprinted in SUPERMAN #1, I could have saved myself needless hypothesizing by simply reading the comic.)  It seems entirely possible, therefore, that Ira Schnapp was provided with a copy of the angular lettered logo for reference instead of the curved one merely on a whim of fate.  (Though I have to concede that, with it's distinctive "U", maybe the editor - or Ira himself - just preferred that version.)  But just think - comics history could so easily have been different.
Ira's logo lasted for over 40 years, until 1983, when it was relettered by MARSHALL ARISMAN to more closely resemble the earliest regular incarnations of the title.  I actually think it's excellent, though I have reservations about the top curve of the "S" overlapping the top of the "U".  Maybe one day I'll have a go at doing it.

(Note: An "Ashcan Edition" is an in-house, non-distributed publication used for the purpose of securing copyright on a title.)

Now, be honest - did you ever wonder.....?

Superman #386, 1st appearance of Marshall
Arisman's logo. (Art by Gil Kane)

Sunday 24 October 2010


SUPERMAN's first issue of his own comic

Consider, if you will, fellow Criv-ites, the following scenario.  A person buys an orna-ment for £2 from a charity shop.  Later, upon reflection, they decide that they don't really like it, so when someone collecting for a jumble sale chaps their door, the ornament is handed over to help raise funds to repair a leaky church roof.

Ten years later, the first person is watching ANTIQUES ROADSHOW and sees "their" ornament declared as being worth £20,000.  Do they have a moral or legal claim on any of that money if the current owner decides to sell?

Now consider this scenario.  An artist is asked to paint a picture of someone's house and gardens. He charges £300 and is extremely pleased at the amount he has secured for himself.  Five years further on, a visitor to the purchaser's house is so enamoured of the painting that he offers them a whopping £5,000 for it.  Over the years, it changes hands for increased amounts until it's worth £50,000.  Does the artist have a moral or legal claim on any of the money it has changed hands for over the years?

The answer is surely "no" - isn't it?

So - what's the difference between those two examples and what happened to SIEGEL and SHUSTER over SUPERMAN, or JACK KIRBY and the many char-acters he created or co-created for MARVEL or DC COMICS?  Or the work LEO BAXENDALE (or any artist you care to name) did for D.C. THOMSON or IPC/FLEETWAY?  I would suggest none at all.

BATMAN's first issue of his own comic

If you consent to sell something outright for an agreed fee, then it's really nothing to do with you what the purchaser does with his purchase or how much he profits from it in the years to come. If you buy a house for £80,000 and then sell it for £100,000, the previous owner (even if he built the house) is neither legally nor morally entitled to a share of your profit.  And, back in the day, that's the way it was done in the world of comics.

That's not to say that I have anything against present-day creators' rights, profit-sharing, copyright ownership, artwork return, or anything like that - because that's the way things are done nowadays.

However, back in the 1930s (until the late '70s, early '80s), comics were just a job to the writers and artists - 'twas the publishers who took the financial risk in launching a new comicbook, so why shouldn't their share of the profits proportionately reflect that risk?

When a publisher bought a character, they bought it outright - if it was a success, they made money, if it was a failure, they didn't.  It's a safe bet that there were a lot more failures than successes in those days. That was just the way the cookie crumbled back then.

Anyone got any thoughts on the matter?  Let's hear them.


May I present a few logos I lettered relatively recently?  Everything is done freehand - apart from a ruler for the horizontal pencil guidelines before inking.  Feel perfectly free to tell me how talented I am, whether you mean it or not.  Hey, I don't care - compliments are compliments, sincere or otherwise.

Saturday 23 October 2010


Can you name them all?

The accompanying illustration is a scan of a very poor quality colour photocopy taken about fourteen or more years ago when I was preparing a cover for The ILLUSTRATED COMIC JOURNAL.  The copier (in a local garage of all places) didn't have the right paper and was so badly in need of toner that the resulting copy was unusable.  However, it's the only one I have to hand so it'll have to suffice for the moment.

The Illustrated Comic Journal was a fanzine created and published by ALAN CADWALLANDER back in the early '80s (I think) and then taken over by BRYON WHITWORTH some time later.  At first it was a black and white A5 publication, but when I became involved as assistant editor in the early '90s or thereabouts, it became A4 with colour covers.  Bryon picked the articles and I proofread and corrected them - though he always managed to overlook some of my corrections and add a few new mistakes once the edited version was returned to him.  Such were the drawbacks of the pre-computer "cut and paste" method he employed.

The late DENIS GIFFORD, celebrated comics historian and collector (and compiler of the A.C.E. section of the mag), was much taken with the new logo I designed, drew, coloured and lettered as it featured his STEADFAST McSTAUNCH character from WHIZZER CHIPS, saying at the time "What a find in Gordon Robson" (to be sung to the tune of "WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS" - only kidding) - despite me having been a professional comics contributor for quite a few years by that time.

Denis didn't seem to remember that he'd suggested I become a letterer back in the '70s after I'd submitted a one page comic strip to his short-lived monthly (four issues) ALLY SLOPER magazine.  Denis wrote to me to say that he couldn't print it because the inking technique I'd used wouldn't reproduce too well, but adding that I could easily make a living as a letterer in his opinion.  He even supplied me with some names at IPC (Jack Le Grand - and another, which I forget) and D.C. THOMSON (W. Stirton) to contact.

Black and white photocopy of the original artwork

Anyway, I'm quite proud of the logo - everything on it was produced by my own fair hand, with the exception of the words "illustrated" and "Incorporating", which were done with LETRASET.  Bryon eventually passed the mag on to other hands and only one further issue was produced before it unfortunately faded into comics limbo.  Shame really.

Wednesday 20 October 2010


Pencils by Werner Roth, inks by Dick Ayers, layouts by Jack Kirby

Here's the comic that was on sale from October 21st (dated a week ahead, naturally) 43 years ago.  The cover art has been extended to accommodate the different page size to the original U.S. dimensions and, to be honest, hasn't been done too well.  That was one of the problems with the 'bodgers' of yesteryear (and no doubt some of today) - they just weren't competent when it came to executing such tasks.  Look at CYCLOP's arm and neck - they're far too thin and out of proportion to the rest of the figure.  And ICEMAN doesn't seem much of a threat - on account of him being 'armless.  That's what comes from merely extending the curve of a line (or the line of a curve, even) without giving thought to what the 'missing' part of the picture should look like.
A Power-House Pin-Up by Barry (Windsor) Smith (?)

That said, FANTASTIC (published by ODHAMS PRESS) really was a fantastic comic, and I've got loads of very happy memories from when it was being published back in the '60s.  It only lasted for 89 issues, a Summer Special and three Annuals - and I've got a full set.  (Nope - they're not for sale.  Getcher own!)

89 issues - only about a year and nine months.  Funny how periods from the past, once they've been dated and placed in their own little compartments of the mind, don't seem to measure up in duration to our perceptions of them.

Sunday 17 October 2010


"Er...trick or treat?"

Okay, peeps - as it's almost Hallowe'en, I thought I'd put us all in the mood by unleashing something suitable for the occasion.  This gruesome goodie is a pencil drawing I did back in the '70s as a teenager.  Of course, when I look at it now, I see only all the mistakes and imperfections - but back then I could still only see all the mistakes and imperfections.  So what can I say?  I'm my own fiercest critic.

Perhaps one day I'll do it again properly - maybe even as an atmospheric painting.  That'll be after I finish (or should I say start?) the drawing I promised DAVID PERT back in 1973/'74 when we were both only 15 year old schoolboys.

Saturday 16 October 2010


"There's Kid over there - I hope he notices me."

Here she is, you lucky peeps - the stunning
SALMA HAYEK.  No words can do justice to the
perfectly-proportioned 'pocket Venus', so there's no
point in me even trying - especially as one picture is
supposedly worth a thousand of them.  So, just sit
back and gaze lovingly at super Salma.  We are
not worthy.  (Well, I am - you're not.)

Friday 15 October 2010


"My name's Bond - James Bond!"

I posted this photo for no other reason than I quite fancy myself (I could've ended that sentence there) as secret agent JAMES BOND 007.  And it's my blog so I'll pose if I want to.  And unlike SEAN CONNERY, my hair and teeth are all my own.  And I've got an ASTON MARTIN DB5 (even if it is only a CORGI TOYS one from the '60s).  (And because you never know when the absolutely gorgeous SALMA HAYEK might be looking in.)

"But James Bond doesn't have a beard", I hear all you Crivvies cry.  Aha!  I was on a secret mission and impersonating a Russian SPECTRE agent, GETYA KNICKERZOFF - and as everyone and their granny knows, all Russians have beards.  (Even the men!*)

(*I'm only jesting of course.  I've said the same thing  about Scottish women when the joke has required it.)

Wednesday 13 October 2010


Black Max.  Images copyright relevant owner

It's funny what you think about when you look at the cover of a book or comic from your past, isn't it?  When I cast my gaze over the cover of THUNDER ANNUAL 1972, my mind jumps back to a snowy day in December 1971 when I was given a Christmas tip of 50 pence by one of the households on my paper round.  It was presented to me in an envelope marked "milk-boy", and to this day I fervently hope that the envelope meant for me had the same amount as the one I was actually presented with, lo, all those many years ago.

(I'm not quite sure what bothers me more - the thought of the milk-boy's disappointment at possibly finding only a couple of 10 pence coins, or his triumphant jubilation at perhaps discovering a £1 note - but I still find myself hoping that the kindly couple on the top floor of that block of flats held us both in equal esteem and didn't play favourites.)

And why does that particular memory spring to mind, perhaps you may be wondering?  Well, that 50 pence took care of most of the cost of the book (60p), which I bought in the newsagents I worked for when I'd completed my round for the day.  (Incidentally, I was paid £1 per week for morning and afternoon deliveries - before and after school - Monday to Friday, plus a single delivery on Saturday and Sunday - so that tip was an extremely generous one.)

The Steel Commando

The weekly THUNDER was launched on the 10th October 1970 (dated 17th) and survived for only 22 issues, the last being on the 6th March 1971 (dated 13th) - so had been absent from newsagents' shelves for several months before the Annual hit the shops.  Work on the book had probably begun towards the end of 1970 or the beginning of '71, so it seems obvious that IPC were hoping the comic would have a good long run.  Unfortunately, such optimistic aspirations were doomed to dis-appointment.

The comic was absorbed by LION, and two of the most popular strips - ADAM ETERNO and The STEEL COMMANDO (as well as others) - continued for another few years and are still fondly remembered today by readers of the time.

I didn't actually obtain the subsequent two Annuals until many years later (probably around 25 years later, in fact), being unaware of their existence at the time (my attention was probably distracted by the arrival of the MARVEL annuals), so their covers don't have quite the same significance for me as the 1972 one.  (Presumably the first Annual sold well enough to warrant further editions.)  However, for the sake of all you hungry completists out there, I herewith present all three cataclysmic covers anyway - enjoy!

Adam Eterno

See also here and here for more about Thunder.

Wednesday 6 October 2010


Art by Ernie Colon, written by Michael Fleisher.  Copyright relevant owner

Way back in 1974/'75, the newly launched ATLAS COMICS released a plethora of titles to compete with the company that first bore its name - Marvel.  When MARTIN GOODMAN sold MARVEL COMICS in '72, he anticipated that his son, CHIP, would be given the role of publisher - but he was passed over in favour of STAN LEE.  So, in what many people saw as an act of revenge, Goodman Senior revived Marvel's previous name (after TIMELY) and launched an all-out assault on the comics market.

Sadly it was short-lived, but one of the titles I particularly enjoyed was The GRIM GHOST, about a hanged 18th century highwayman (Matthew Dunsinane) who makes a pact with ol' Nick and returns to 20th century Earth to despatch evil-doers to his new master's domain.

Art by Ernie Colon, written by Michael Fleisher

I only ever bought two issues before it vanished from the face of spinner-racks everywhere, and some months after purchasing them, I passed them on to one of my friends.  Cut to nearly 35 years later, when he visits me one night with a bag of comics.  "Here," he says, "I thought you might like these back."  Amongst the pile is - you guessed it - The Grim Ghost #s 1 & 2.

Now, anyone who's ever acquired a replacement for a comic from their past knows the feeling that usually accompanies the achievement.  The replacement, in some mysterious, mystical, magical way, actually becomes the very one which was lost or relinquished years before.

Art by Ernie Colon, written by Tony Isabella

Imagine then, if you can, how this feeling is magnified when one manages to obtain the actual, original issue from the dim and distant days of one's teenage years. It's a sensation that is almost impossible to describe.  Not long after this I discovered that there had only ever been three issues of The Grim Ghost, and this third issue I obtained - quite by chance - at a Glasgow comic mart not long after for a mere two quid.  In a strange quirk of fate, the friend who'd given me back the first two issues was with me at the time.

It may have taken me 35 years, but I finally managed to complete the set.  Ah, the sense of accomplishment that fills my soul.

Art by Qing Ming Pui

However, there's more: not long after re-reading the comics in sequence and lamenting that the title didn't last longer, I learned that ol' Ghosty is being revived. What's the old saying?  "All things come to he who waits."  Let's just hope that the new series (if it takes off) is as entertaining as the short-lived original run.

(Little did I realize when I first bought issues 1 & 2 that, 15 or 20 years later, I'd be lettering writer MICHAEL FLEISHER's scripts for ROGUE TROOPER in 2000 A.D.  Talk about fate, eh?) 

Sunday 3 October 2010



Just over 38 years ago, on September 30th, 1972, The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL #1 (cover-dated October 7th) burst onto newsagents' counters all over Britain.  I hadn't seen the STAN LEE-voiced TV ad (although I did later), so it came as a surprise when I spotted the comic on a wall-rack outside a newsagent's along from Glasgow's famous BARROWLAND market (aka The BARRAS), where I and my parents were heading on that particular Saturday morning.

I couldn't talk my folks into buying it for me on the way in, but I'd managed to wear them down into submission by the time we made our way out an hour or so later.  We were soon ensconced in the cosy confines of a comfy cafe, and it was with great joy that I pored through its contents over a glass of cola and reacquainted myself with the pals I'd first met in the pulsating pages of ODHAMS' POWER COMICS, way back in what even then seemed like the dim and distant days of the '60s.  Suddenly, life was exciting again.


DEZ SKINN once revealed that Stan had told him the comic's original title was going to be The WONDERFUL World of Marvel (after the Disney TV show of almost the same name), but thankfully 'twas not to be.  Besides, MIGHTY and MARVEL go so well together it seems the obvious choice, so I'm amazed that any other name was even considered.
40 pages, some in full-colour (the rest with green 'spot' colour), for only 5p - containing the origins of The INCREDIBLE HULK, The (FABULOUS) FANTASTIC FOUR and The AMAZING SPIDER-MAN - plus a Hulk iron-on transfer (below) - Wow!  I wish they still produced comics like that today! 


Well, in a sense - they do!  I still buy MWOM today, although it's now published monthly, has 76 full-colour pages and costs £2.95.  The Mighty World of Marvel - I hope it's still around in another 38 years.  In fact, I hope I'm still around also.

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