Sunday 26 December 2010


Steve & Zoonie - but how did they fit in the box?  (I know)

Here's a nice little Christmas present for you - a picture of GOLDEN GATE's STEVE ZODIAC & ZOONIE The LAZOON on a FIREBALL XL5 JETMOBILE.  The copyright date on the box is 1962, so it must have been released to toyshops no later than 1963, as it wasn't unusual for a toy to carry a copyright date of the year before it came out.  (Another example is MATTEL's MAJOR MATT MASON - it came out in 1967, but bears the date 1966.)  Of course, it may well have come out in 1962 just like the box says.

I didn't actually get this friction-drive toy until 1968, in the Scottish town of Millport (just across the water from Largs) on the Isle of Cumbrae, so it was old stock when I bought it.  Good as it was, I'd have loved to get one of Steve and ROBERT The ROBOT on a jet-mobile, but - alas - such a toy never existed (although my brother pretended lied that he'd seen one in a local newsagent's shop.)
Gordie, Steve, Zoonie & Paul

Above is me as a 9-year-old lad somewhere in Largs or Millport with my original jetmobile toy on my lap.  (Taken a day or two after purchase, if memory serves.)  I'm also holding a bendy CAPTAIN SCARLET figure bought at around the same time (a day or two either way).  You'll need good eyesight, but if you focus hard, you can just make them out.  (Now all I have to do is track down a replacement Captain Scarlet figure.)

Sometimes I look at these old photos and wish I were a lad again.  Life was just so much simpler then.  Anyone else agree?

Thursday 16 December 2010


'Mr. Velvet' - Jim Reeves

If you're looking to relax, unwind, and get into the Christmas spirit (no, we're not talking alcohol), here's probably the best way to do it.  Find yourself a copy of the JIM REEVES' 12 SONGS OF CHRISTMAS CD, then kick back your feet and let the velvet-voiced King of Country crooners melt all your troubles away.  Described as having a voice like "someone who walks through snow but leaves no footprint", this is the best Christmas album of all time.  First issued in 1963, it's been a perennial favourite ever since.

You'll probably have to track down the original CD on the Internet, but the 12 Christmas songs are on an album called The JIM REEVES CHRISTMAS SONGBOOK, which mixes them with some of his gospel songs (slightly diluting the pure Christmas effect in my opinion).  Never mind, this can be overcome by programming your CD player to play only the 12 Yuletide tracks - available now at your local HMV store.

Sunday 12 December 2010


Back in 1989, RAYMOND CUSICK, the designer of the DALEKS, was invited by DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE to design a new version of the pepper-pot menaces - what you see above is the result.

Mr. Cusick explained: "The original Dalek design was governed by cost.  I think we produced the original three for something like £250.  I visualised the surface of the new Dalek as textured, some metal or substance quite unlike anything found on earth.  The original Daleks were very smooth and polished.  It (the new version) would be dark green or blue in colour.  Also, I didn't want to make them any smaller - they should have menace. Generally, small objects lack that. But they still wouldn't be as big as humans.  I imagine my design would be film-scale budget, but it could be modified for television.  I'd like to develop it further..."

And there you have it - yet another fascinating  glimpse into the world of 'what might've been'.


Century 21.  Art by Derek Meddings

Two posts back, I referred to the fact that, when FIREBALL XL5 was first envisaged, it was called CENTURY 21.  In the above illustration by the late DEREK MEDDINGS, we can see what the craft was originally intended to look like.  Why did they change it?  At this point I don't know - the original design was certainly more futuristic, so one can only wonder as to the reasons for the revision.
Century 21/Fireball XL5 hybrid by Neville Main

In the above picture drawn by NEVILLE MAIN, we can see that this is the Century 21 ship with Fireball XL5's colour scheme.  This comes from the 1963 TV COMIC Annual, published before the series had even premiered on TV, so presumably Neville was supplied with the original design as his primary source of reference.  Perhaps the XL5 colours were added at the last moment before the strip was shipped to the printers - any further information from anyone knowing the pertinent facts will be welcome. However, going by the shape of the ship, my speculation seems like a reasonable one, as there's no other scenario I can think of which would explain the results.

Art by Reg Hill

Next up (above) is a presentation illustration of the Century 21 logo, as well as a couple of pics of, again, (in my humble opinion) far more futuristic-looking jetmobiles.  These illos are by REG HILL, who was joint designer - along with Meddings - of the Fireball XL5 ship.

Steve on jetmobile.  Art by Reg Hill

Art by Reg Hill

A fascinating look at what could have been, don't you think?

Thursday 9 December 2010


Delbert Dalek

This poor unwanted DALEK was left abandoned in a state of neglect at the side of a busy road, along with some other items of rubbish awaiting collection.  He was found in a sad and confused state, not understanding what was happening, and completely unaware of the fate which awaited him.  Obviously his owners had got bored with him and could no longer be bothered looking after the affectionate and friendly alien.  Fortunately, a kindly passerby noticed his distress and rescued him (and his control unit) from the street, and passed him into the hands of a "rescue shelter" for unwanted toys.  (Everyone say "Aaahh!")

With a bit of love and attention (his missing half-sphere was recreated and replaced, and he received a two-battery transplant), he was restored to fully-working condition.  He merrily screams "EXTERMINATE!" and other catchphrases at the drop of a hat, doubtless having learned them from his previous cruel and heartless owners.  "Staff" have christened him DELBERT and have grown so fond of the lovable scamp that they've decided to adopt him.


(Amazing, isn't it?  A £100 toy, discarded because of two dead batteries.  Wish I had that kind of dosh to throw away!  Well - their loss is my gain.  Thanks to Tom C  for 'phoning to ask if I wanted a deserted Dalek that someone had dumped in his street.)

Tuesday 7 December 2010


Copyright relevant owner

Hard as it may be for you Crivvies to believe, the original name for FIREBALL XL5 was CENTURY 21 - and though remarkably similar to the shape we all know and love, was actually a silver, sleek and shiny futuristic sky-craft which really did look as if it was a product of the 21st century.  In fact, if memory serves, FIREBALL appeared (or was prepared) as a comic strip in TV COMIC (might've been an annual) before it was broadcast on TV and, although the colours were accurate, the shape was much more in accord with the original Century 21 design by DEREK MEDDINGS

So why was it changed?  Honest answer -  I don't know, but the first version of the craft looks as if it had been designed today, not back in the early '60s - it hasn't dated at all.  However, you'll just have to take my word for it until I can dig out the relevant source material and scan it for your perusal.

But that's a post for another time.  For the moment, you'll just have to be satisfied with the covers of the four annuals and the GOLD KEY comic from back in the '60s. Fireball XL5 was the only GERRY ANDERSON programme to be broadcast on network TV in America (the others were syndicated), and consequently was the most successful of all the AP/CENTURY 21 productions in that country.

Remember - click on an image to enlarge, then repeat to enlarge again.  As a bonus, here's the box art illustration from the 1963/'64 QUERCETTI parachute toy.

Monday 6 December 2010


Copyright BBC TV and the Estate of TERRY NATION

Back around 1994, MARVEL UK did everyone a favour by gathering together all 104 back-page episodes of TV CENTURY 21's The DALEKS comic strip in one handy collectors' item package, with a brand-new cover by artist RON TURNER. True, they did get one page out of sequence, but we won't hold that against them as, in every other respect, it was a superb package and well worth the money.

However, I think the time is now right for a deluxe, hardcover collection of these classic tales (often referred to as The DALEK CHRONICLES), which should also include the later six-part follow-up adventure first published in DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE (again illustrated by Ron Turner) and continuing on from the final TV21 episode.  With the resurgence of interest in all things Who, I'm sure it'd sell well enough to justify the endeavour.

Anybody out there listening?

Friday 3 December 2010


Copyright BBC TV

Forget all the pretenders who have impersonated him since, because there's only ever been one DOCTOR WHO in my book - and that's the real one - WILLIAM HARTNELL.  Which is not to say that some of the many other actors who assumed the role down through the years didn't do a creditable job, but - for my money - the definitive version of the Doctor was portrayed by dear old Bill.

Was his Doctor a goodie or a baddie?  In the early episodes it wasn't quite clear which side he was on - apart from his own, of course - and this only added to the mystery and intrigue of the character.

The Doc made his debut on Saturday, 23rd November, 1963 - just over 47 years ago. So, as a special treat, here's the front cover of the very first DOCTOR WHO ANNUAL from 1965 (for 1966).  The artist, WALTER HOWARTH, obviously worked from a photo of Hartnell for reference because the likeness is spot-on.  It's just a shame that he wasn't also given a photo of a police box, as that's the worst looking TARDIS I've seen in my life.  You could ski off that roof - and where's the flashing light?  And there should definitely have been a DALEK on that cover!

Oh well, never mind - can't have everything I suppose.

Thursday 2 December 2010


Copyright relevant owner.  Art by DON MARTIN

One day I'll maybe learn the reason why there's no longer a British edition of the long-running MAD MAGAZINE, but, up until its inexplicable and sudden disappearance, for quite a number of years it managed to hold its own amongst a myriad of other publications on newsagents' shelves and spinner-racks across the length and breadth of the country.  Let's now take a look at a couple of my personal favourites of this classic and iconic magazine.


Back in the early '70s, "8 JAMES BOMB BOMB MOVIES" appeared in issue #146, affectionately ripping the p*ss out of DR. NO to LIVE And LET DIE.  I might be wrong, but I think this may have been the first time that Mad had parodied the JAMES BOND movies, and with superb art from the magnificent MORT DRUCKER, they couldn't fail to strike comedy gold.


Another copy of Mad I got in the early '70s was issue #59, though this comic was actually published in the '60s.  I only got my paws on it because one of my art teachers (Mr. BOB BELL) brought it into school one day amongst a box of other comics.  Good bloke that he was, he let me keep it when I mentioned how much I liked it.  This one features a parody of the ADAM WEST/BURT WARD BATMAN TV show, and once again features the superlative art of Mort Drucker.


I can't remember the last time I saw a copy of the U.S. edition of Mad outside of a specialised comic shop, and I've certainly never seen one in years in my local W.H. SMITH's - which makes me wonder why this magazine isn't more readily available in Britain?  And why, after so many presumably successful years, did the U.K. edition cease to be published?

Anyone know the answers?

FOOTNOTE: Yup - the mighty DEZ SKINN knows the answers.  Read what he has to say in the comments section.

The first British edition, 1959.  Art by NORMAN MINGO



...SURFBOARD!  Well, almost naked.  Seems that MARVEL couldn't quite make up its mind about the bold NORRIN RADD.  When he first appeared (in The FANTASTIC FOUR #48) he was trunkless, but shortly thereafter he started sporting a natty pair of swimming trunks to hide his - what exactly?  Couldn't have been his modesty because he'd nothing on display (thank goodness) and, apart from a barely discernible outline around his nether-regions, trunks made absolutely no difference to his appearance.  (And, when he did wear them, were they supposed to be over or under his cosmic coating?  We deserve to know.)

Anyway, here's three more cataclysmic covers from ol' Surfie's magnificent mag back in the '60s - enjoy!  Only another eleven SILVER SURFER covers to go for the full set - stay tuned.

(And for those of you who thought you were visiting some other kind of site - SHAME ON YOU!  What would your mother think?)

Wednesday 1 December 2010



Speaks for itself, doesn't it?


What can I say?  VENUS - in Roman mythology the goddess of love; in the 21st Century the well-fit doctor of medicine burd from FIREBALL XL5 that lucky pilot STEVE ZODIAC is probably... well, you know.  Yeah, probably.  I don't think I like Steve all that much any more, but I still have to admire his taste.  Though for all I know, she might well have had a thing for PROFESSOR MATTHEW MATTIC - but that's just sick!  (Venus - h'mm.  Well, I would - wouldn't you?)

FROM THE '30s TO THE '70s...

Art by Wayne Boring (main figure) & Joe Shuster

A book I absolutely loved when it came out was SUPERMAN - From The '30s To The '70s, published in the U.K. by SPRING BOOKS.  (CROWN BOOKS in the States.)  I first saw it in W. & R. HOLMES (a bookshop, stationers, toyshop, tobacconists, artstore and newsagents) back around October 1972, alongside its companion volume, BATMAN - From The '30s To The '70s.  (Okay, so they had the apostrophes in the wrong place, but hey - nobody's perfect.)

For 'Atomic Comics' read 'Action Comics'

These two books were the bees' knees, being over an inch thick and containing what was purported to be the milestone adventures of DC COMICS' top heroes, SUPERMAN and BATMAN.  I bought the Superman volume and pored over its pages, absorbing every word of E. NELSON BRIDWELL's informative, well-written introduction.  Oddly, the back cover claimed that Supes first appeared in ATOMIC COMICS, whereas, as we all know, it was ACTION COMICS #1 that contained his momentous four-colour debut tale.

Art by Carmine Infantino & Murphy Anderson

I didn't obtain the Batman volume 'til its second printing in 1979 (though I now have 1st and 2nd editions of both volumes) and it's also a highly commendable publication.  There were also WONDER WOMAN and CAPTAIN MARVEL (SHAZAM) volumes, but I've never seen the Wonder Woman one - though I managed to get a hardback U.S. edition (complete with dustjacket) of Captain Marvel from a church jumble sale around 1985.

Only £1.25 - wotta bargain!

One drawback to the Batman book is that his first appearance from DETECTIVE COMICS #27 (and one or two other tales, I suspect) is a re-created version and not the original.  The pages were taken from an anniversary presentation of the tale from a '60s issue of Detective Comics and has been reprinted several times - even in the deluxe hardcover ARCHIVE EDITIONS from a few years back.  The good news is that proofs from the original 1939 version were used in the MILLENNIUM EDITION of DC #27 ten years ago, so that's the one collectors should look out for.  (I'll have to check to see which version was used in the 1970s Treasury Edition.)

These two books are well worth having though, and shouldn't be too difficult to obtain from eBay.  There was an updated version of the Supes volume, entitled SUPERMAN - From The '30s To The '80s, and that's also worth seeking out.

FOOTNOTE: The second printings of these books (in '79) weren't quite as thick as the earlier editions, but this was merely due to being printed on slightly thinner paper - the page count and contents weren't reduced in any way.


Images copyright DC COMICS

Let's travel back in time and space to a dark winter's eve in Glasgow in 1967 or '68.  The precise location is under a bridge (now gone) in Stockwell Street, where I'm gazing through a shop window at the cover of a BATMAN colouring book which was simply crying out to me.  The shop was shut, so my mother promised to buy the book at a later date for my fast-approaching birthday.  And she did, though I've no idea whether she purchased it from another source or had to return to that particular shop to obtain it.

I recall once taking it to school and colouring various bits in during the break, and letting ROSS CAMPBELL colour-in one of the pages in return for allowing me to do the same in his different Batman colouring book.  His book may well have been the other one featured here - but then again, may well not have been - so don't go betting your house on it.  You wouldn't want to have to live in a cave, would you?  (Unless it was the BATCAVE of course.)

Ah, many happy hours of innocent fun, to be had from the mere application of some coloured pencils or wax crayons - why aren't kids today so easily pleased as we once were?

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