Thursday 24 February 2011


Forget any lukewarm reviews you may have read about the new YOGI BEAR movie - it's a belter!  I was expecting to be disappointed after seeing a few indifferent and even negative responses to the film featuring everybody's favourite bruin, but I needn't have worried - it's funny, it's daft, and it's thoroughly entertaining.  I just can't understand what some critics were expecting from a movie based on a cartoon bear, but it does exactly what it says on the tin.  It's called YOGI BEAR - and that's precisely what you get.  What more could anyone want?

Go and see it NOW!  And don't take your eyes off Yogi.

Yogi and Boo Boo from the movie

Above: The poster and comicbook adaptation of Yogi's first big screen adventure. (1964.)

Sunday 20 February 2011


The above is a letter from the late, legendary ALAN FENNELLeditor of TV CENTURY 21 and LOOK-IN, as well as the writer of various GERRY ANDERSON TV shows and numerous other projects.  Alan's self-financed eight issue run of THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO, the follow-up to EGMONT/FLEETWAY's 89 issues of THUNDERBIRDS The COMIC, had just limped to an end, no doubt losing him quite a bit of money in the process.

I had missed the last issue and 'phoned Alan about obtaining a back number, which he generously said he'd send me for nothing.  My conscience wouldn't permit me to take advantage of his good nature, however, so I forwarded him a note with enough money to cover the cost of the comic and postage.  The above letter was his response, and I couldn't help but notice the air of melancholy which ran through his thoughtful missive.  'phoned him shortly afterwards to inform him that, although I didn't know when it would be, I'd take him up on his kind offer the next time I was in London (though, as a non-drinker, it would've been a few jars of Coke in my case), but, alas, it was not to be.

One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to sit down with the editor of one of my favourite comics and writer of some of the best-loved TV shows from my childhood and "shoot the breeze", but at least have the memory of a few 'phone chats, and two or three letters from him which I still treasure.  Another time, another place perhaps, Alan - and the first round's on me.

Remind me to tell you my other Alan Fennell story sometime soon.


Transcript follows:

19 September 1995

Dear Gordon

Thank you for your letter and the "donation" to the Fennell benevolent fund.

You are right, it is frightening to think that all our ideas about the next century look
as though they are going to be wrong.  Far from the exciting, glamourous new world,
it looks as if we get something similar to the twentieth century, but perhaps less of it! 

I need to get away from the Thunderbirds past for a while - this evening I have just
returned from the funeral of Derek Meddings, the man who put the word special into
special effects.  Derek was a monarch in the film business and when I remember that
we worked together on more than fifty films, I realise what a privilege it was for me
to have rubbed shoulders with an Oscar winning great.

The occasion was less sombre than expected, for I met up with a whole team of old
Century 21 acquaintances, but it was sad to see the ranks dwindling.

Let me know when you are paying a visit to Fleetway, and perhaps we can meet in
London and have a few jars.

Best wishes


For that other story mentioned above, click here.

Saturday 19 February 2011


Regular readers of my humble posts will have noticed the excellent LETTERS OF NOTE website in my blog list on the right-hand side of the page. Taking a leaf out of its book, here's a letter which cartoonist TERRY BAVE sent to me in response to an inaccurate (obviously) report of his demise in an issue of CRIKEY!, a magazine mainly devoted to British comics and strip cartoons.

It demonstrates Terry's wonderful sense of humour in even the most morbid circumstances, and I'm (fairly) sure he wouldn't mind me sharing it with you here.

Incidentally, Terry is still with us - Crikey! isn't.


Transcript follows:

                                                Hi Gordon,

                                                You are not the first to be taken
                                                in by that stupid 'CRIKEY' story I'm afraid.
                                                At least it's nice to see what people say about
                                                me 'after I'm gone!'

                                                All good wishes,
                                                Terry & Shiela

Friday 18 February 2011


B&W copy of colour cover (sans logo) of the ICJ, in which
the Baves' article was originally intended to appear

Back in 2004, famous cartoonist TERRY BAVE responded to my request for a submission to The ILLUSTRATED COMIC JOURNAL by writing the following article.  The ICJ, alas, languished in limbo, so I then passed it on to CRIKEY!, who were going to print it, but ceased publication before they could.  Since Terry was kind enough to write it, it seems only fair that others get the chance to read it; so here for the first time anywhere, are Terry and his wife Shiela's reminiscences about 'ghosting' for comics.  All illustrations from this point on were provided by Terry himself.


SHIELA and I have been creating, writing and drawing many, many children's comic strips since way back in 1967.

Our break came via ALBERT 'COS' COSSER, the editor of WHAM!.  He bravely handed me SAMMY SHRINK, "The Smallest boy in the World" - my 'first' of many 'ghosted' features, and one we were able to make our own.  In fact, over the following years, we supplied many of the weekly scripts and drew the strip for over 20 years.  SAMMY SHRINK appeared in WHAM!, SMASH!, POW!, KNOCKOUT and WHIZZER & CHIPS.

Terry's version of Danny Dare, from Wham! Annual 1971

Now and again a comic artist would be called upon to 'ghost' (copy) another artist's strip on a weekly basis for a while when, for example, the regular artist was either sick or perhaps found himself in the rather enviable position of having far too heavy a workload.

As each artist has his own individual style of drawing, it was important to 'ghost' that particular style as closely as possible.  With luck, and if the Editor showed willing, over a period of time it would be possible to 'make the strip your very own' by gradually introducing your own distinctive style of drawing.  This didn't happen too often, and certainly not in the short term.

I was very lucky - I found it a reasonably easy task to copy LEO BAXENDALE's basic drawing style, which appeared in WHAM!SMASH!, and POW! at that time.

Shiela & Terry Bave 

Being particularly keen to make my way in this FUN business, I jumped at the chance when 'COS' offered me the chance to create a brand-new comic character of my own.

He wanted a wicked 'baby' fun character as a mascot for WHAM!, so Shiela and I came up with BABY WHAMSTER, who was quickly followed up by BABY SMASHER, the new mascot for SMASH!.  We supplied scripts and artwork for both babies, who were very successful in their respective comics, and later appeared in both WHAM! and SMASH!.  Each baby made a perfect foil for one another.

Sam's Spook, from Smash! Fun Book 1971

To date, Shiela and I have created, written and drawn many original comic strips.  At the same time, we have been called upon to write and 'ghost' many others.  In 1968, we scripted and drew GRIMLY FEENDISH and PERCY'S PETS for SMASH!.  At the time, these strips were being drawn (also 'ghosted') weekly by STAN McMURTY, one of our favourite and most respected cartoonists.

In November of 1969, we got another wonderful break.  GIL PAGE, then Editor of the 'new' SMASH!, invited us to contribute to the 1971 SMASH! FUN BOOK, a 96 pager full of favourite fun characters.

We scripted and drew a SAMMY SHRINK 2-pager, scripted and 'ghosted' two 4-page strips of The SWOTS & The BLOTS, and again for a 2-pager of SAM'S SPOOK.  The scripts were supplied by editorial staff for a further 3-pager and 2-pager of BIG 'EAD, plus a 2-pager of BAD PENNY.  A big challenge, but great fun to tackle different styles.  I never looked back after that - I was happy to have a go at 'ghosting' many more styles.

The Baves supplied script and art for The Swots & the Blots for the SMASH! Fun Book 1971

WHAM!, SMASH!, and POW! were owned by ODHAMS PRESS, then IPC/FLEETWAY took over, continuing to run SMASH! in a 'revamped' form for a little while longer.  But not before I had added EAGLE EYE, DANNY DARE, The DOLLS Of St. DOMINICS and WEE WILLIE HAGGIS to my 'ghosted' list.

Big 'Ead, from Smash! Fun Book 1971


Bad Penny, from - go on, take a guess


A lot of challenging drawing, but what a lot of fun 'ghosting' the work of so many favourite comic artists.


Terry & Shiela Bave (October 2004.)


And thanks to Terry and Shiela for all the years of hard work they put into making a lot of happy childhood memories for millions of readers.


Please note that this was originally the second instalment of a two-part article, but both parts have now been combined on this page.  However, part one is still advertised in the 'You might also like:' feature, but no longer exists as a separate post.  If you click on it, a link will direct you to this page.  Part two is also still advertised separately, but is now the complete article which you have just read and hopefully enjoyed. 


Part One of this post has now been merged with Part Two and can be
found here.

Thursday 17 February 2011


Copyright relevant owner

In the latter half of 1972, my local cinema (the first purpose-built cinema in the U.K. since the war, with the largest screen in Scotland) was showing a double bill of LIVING FREE (the sequel to BORN FREE), and - wait for it - The MAN Called FLINTSTONE.

Back then, the programme probably ran about a fortnight before being changed, and, one day, having nothing better to do, I wandered in to see it.  I was instantly enthralled by the exploits of FLINTSTONE... FRED FLINTSTONE, as he filled in for incapacitated secret agent ROCK SLAG on account of being his spittin' image.

(Apparently, the first title considered was THIS MAN FLINTSTONE, as nod to OUR MAN FLINTstarring ol' stone-face JAMES COBURN.)

Right from the very beginning, the audience knows that this is going to be something different to the TV show.  There stands WILMA, larger than life, holding aloft the famous COLUMBIA torch; then we're hit with a JAMES BOND style theme song before the film proper begins.  And what a film it is!  How a cartoon film can have a "big-budget" feel (at least at the beginning) in comparison to a TV episode, I'm not sure - but this movie (released in 1966 following the TV show's final season) certainly creates whole new dimension and is well-worth seeing.

Over the course of the remainder of the movie's run, I went back several times, not even bothering with the live-action film which preceded it.  Indeed, on one occasion when I took along a friend, he got in for free as a reward for my frequent attendances.  (Some complimentary popcorn and Cokes would've been nice, but I guess you can't have everything.)  Thanks to the late Mr. BOB JOHNSTONE, manager of The CINEMA (as it was imaginatively known) for its nearly 20-year run.

I obtained the video of the movie in the early or mid-'90s, and it was just as much fun as I remembered it to be.  It's not yet available on DVD in Britain, but overseas editions no longer include the witty "Columbia" opening because of copyright issues - which is a shame.  (It's available on YouTube - why not check it out now?!)

That first purpose-built cinema in the U.K. since the war (with the largest screen in Scotland, remember) is now a bingo hall - but, somehow, magically, I'm back there in its glory days whenever watch this highly amusing and entertaining film.

Wednesday 16 February 2011


Images copyright DC COMICS

Never let it be said that DC COMICS ever gave up on a good idea when they thought they had one.  If meek and mild bespectacled newspaper reporter CLARK KENT was also secretly the mighty-muscled superpowered hero known as SUPERMAN, then how could both incarnations of his dual identity appear separately in the same place at the same time?

Regardless of how it was achieved, editors and writers recognized that readers couldn't fail to be intrigued if the concept was featured on the cover, and would be more likely to purchase the issue to solve the mystery.  Cue a slew of covers showing Clark interacting with Supes when such a thing was impossible - or was it?  Certainly not in the ever-whacky world of comicbooks it isn't.  (Admittedly, three of the covers are symbolic, but they're clearly designed to 'hoodwink' the casual reader into buying the issue.)

The following covers are culled from my own collection and are by no means comprehensive.  Doubtless there are quite a few others spanning the decades since Superman first appeared in all his four-colour glory.

Remember, the images can be enlarged by clicking on them, then enlarged to optimum size by clicking on them again.

Monday 14 February 2011


Type of comic that caused outcry

Have a read of the following spiel from BBC RADIO SCOTLAND's ad for their programme on The GORBALS VAMPIRE, broadcast on Sunday, 31st October 2010:


"Glasgow's Southern Necropolis is an eerie place at the best of times, but when two local policemen answered a call there in September 1954 they encountered a bizarre sight. Hundreds of local children, ranging in ages from 4 to 14, were crammed inside, roaming between the crypts.  They were armed with sharpened sticks, knives stolen from home and stakes.  They said they were hunting down "A Vampire with Iron Teeth" that had kidnapped and eaten two local boys.

The policemen dispersed the crowd, but they came back at sundown the next night and the next. The local press got hold of the story and it soon went national.  There were no missing boys in Glasgow at that time, and press and politicians cast around for an explanation.  They soon found one in the wave of American Horror comics with names like "Astounding stories" and "Tales from the Crypt" which had recently flooded into the West of Scotland.  Academics pointed out that none of the comics featured a vampire with iron teeth, though there was a monster with iron teeth in the Bible (Daniel 7.7) and in a poem taught in local schools.  Their voices were drowned out in a full-blown moral panic about the effect that terrifying comics were having on children.  Soon the case of the "Gorbals Vampire" was international news.

The British Press raged against the "terrifying, corrupt," comics and after a heated debate in the House of Commons where the case of the Gorbals Vampire was cited, Britain passed the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955 which, for the first time, specifically banned the sale of magazines and comics portraying "incidents of a repulsive or horrible nature" to minors.

Writer Louise Welsh explores how the Gorbals Vampire helped bring the censorship of comic books onto the statute books."

Southern Necropolis gatehouse, Glasgow


Note that it says none of the examined comics featured any vampires with iron teeth.  Proof, say people who react angrily to any suggestion that certain comics could have an undesirable influence on children's impressionable minds, that such is not the case.  And it may be so.  (But, then again, may not.)

However, it amazes me that those folk (who are perfectly entitled to their view) don't seem to find anything to be concerned about on the matter of hundreds of children armed with sticks, knives and stakes, roaming a graveyard in the early hours of the morning over a period of three days, looking for a vampire (or reasonable facsimile) to impale.  Had they come across someone even vaguely strange looking, the results could have been catastrophic.

So what does this historic episode prove, if anything?  That comics can corrupt?  No, though the subject is surely deserving of further investigation.  What it most certainly does seem to prove, however, whatever the source of the "hysteria" on those October and November nights all those years ago, is just how impressionable and susceptible to suggestion children can be.  That being the case, surely there's something to be said for exercising a little caution in what we allow them to be exposed to?  Something that all those smug, pompous, self-satisfied types with a vested interest in producing (or purchasing) anything they want under the excuse of "artistic expression and creative freedom" should bear in mind.

Saturday 12 February 2011


Mattel's Man In Space - but how does he go to the toilet?

1969's "giant leap for mankind" was still two years in the future when one of America's leading toy manufacturers, MATTEL, released MAJOR MATT MASON and his space-age buddies in 1967.  (The copyright date was 1966, but the toys didn't actually appear in shops 'til the following year.)  There was CALLISTO (from Jupiter), SERGEANT STORM, DOUG DAVIS, LIEUTENANT JEFF LONG and CAPTAIN LAZER, who was a giant plastic figure in contrast to the smaller rubber-and-wire bodies of Matt and his colleagues.

How embarrassing - they both turned up at the Venusian
Ambassador's ball in matching space sleds

Major Matt Mason was a brilliant toy and also a rubbish one at the same time; brilliant because it looked great and the playtime possibilities seemed unlimited due to the loads of equipment one could purchase for the astronaut.  (Moon suits, space stations, etc.)  Rubbish because the paint on the rubber bodies started to peel off within hours, and the wire inside the figures broke within days.  So perishable were they that it's a miracle any of them survived to the present day.
Storm and Davis - just good friends

However, in their time, they were the "must-have" toys of the moment, and many a childhood was brightened by its association (short-lived as it may have been) with the first man on the moon - in Mattel's universe at least.  Apparently, TOM HANKS is to star in an upcoming MAJOR MATT MASON movie.  Perhaps we'll soon see Matt and all his buddies gracing toy shop shelves once more.  Now wouldn't that be something? 

(Photos from my own personal collection.  Please excuse the dust.)

Sunday 6 February 2011


Aurora '74/'75 Batman model - with added owl.  Built & painted by me

Here's another 'Rambling Reminiscence' which hopefully you'll all find at least vaguely interesting.

One day back in early 1983, a former colleague told me that a model shop in Glasgow had an AURORA BATMAN model going for the paltry amount of £1.50.  If I wanted it, he'd pick it up the next time he was in town.  Having had this kit back when I was a young boy, dang-tootin' I wanted it.  I duly gave him the dosh and sat back to wish my life away 'til I got my grubby hands on the model.

When I did, I was surprised to see that the box was different to the one I had as a kid, and when I opened it, I was slightly disappointed to note that there had been a few changes made; namely, the owl had been omitted, and the name on the tree and the circular bat-emblem on the chest had been removed.  (An oval sticker was supplied in its place.)

Anyway, I overcame my disappointment and started to assemble and paint the kit, which was the 1974/'75 reissue.  I had to put my efforts on hold while we moved house, applying the finishing touches to the model in our new abode.  Over four years later, due to circumstances too long and boring to relate here, we decided to move back to our previous home - and Batman made the return journey with us.  

The U.S. version of the box.  U.K. kits didn't have the comic

However, that absent owl always bothered me - so imagine my delight when, 24 years after first acquiring the reissue, I eventually managed to obtain a spare '60s owl, finally allowing me to fully complete the model to my satisfaction.  I was only 24 when I started the kit and 48 when I gave it the final finishing touch - in the same house in which I'd begun it, half my life away almost to the very month.

Since then, I've done the same thing with comics - completing runs that I started in this house before we moved to the other one and then back again.  It's almost like time travel, plugging the gaps in runs of comics that I bought, say, in 1981, then completed in 2015 (to pluck two dates from thin air) - finishing them in the same house I lived when they first went on sale.  Is it just me, or is there an immensely satisfying level of ironic profundity in that little accomplishment?  

H'mm - just me then.  (Incidentally, in 1984 or '85, I managed to acquire the original '60s version of the model, though I didn't get around to building and painting it until sometime in the '90s.  I later managed to obtain an original box and instructions to complete the kit, so I'm well-chuffed.)

Saturday 5 February 2011


AZTEC BAR, SUPER MOUSSE, FRY'S 5 BOYSCRESTA, ZING, MB BAR, SPANGLESJUNGLIES JELLIESBAR SIX, AMAZIN' RAISIN BAR - those are just a few of the delights of yesteryear which are no longer with us.  One of my favourites was FRY'S 5 CENTRE, which was the same idea as FRY'S CREAM (which is still with us) but containing five fondant cream flavours in each bar as opposed to just one.

Fry's 5 Centre probably had a few wrapper designs in its lifetime, but the one I remember best is the one from the '60s.  Every Sunday night at eight o'clock precisely, my brother and myself would each be allowed to pick two bars of chocolate (one to eat there and then, one to be kept for school on Monday) from the stash kept in the small brass box at the side of my Grandpa's chair. (Sunday being not only the day of rest, but also the day we visited my Grandparents, you see.) Invariably, Fry's 5 Centre would be one of my choices.

If you're around the same age as myself, the above images will bring back hopefully happy memories from your youth.  Look at that wrapper - you can almost taste that chocolate and its delicious five-flavour fondant filling, can't you?  Yummmmm! Every person's mind has its own time machine - all it requires is the right image to operate the controls and return you to an earlier age.

Tuesday 1 February 2011


The 1st issue of FANTASTIC!  Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Well, I'm a tad early, but in about 11 days it'll be an astounding 43 years since FANTASTIC made its debut on newsagents' counters and shelves across Britain.  Published by ODHAMS PRESS, it was the next stage in the evolution of comic titles like WHAM!, SMASH! and POW!, which featured U.K. humour strips alongside MARVEL reprints (or vice-versa if you prefer).  Unlike its companion papers though, the contents of Fantastic were not resized to fit a typical British comic's page, instead being granted the privilege of appearing (more or less) in their original format - albeit in a slightly larger size and in black and white.

True, credit boxes were omitted, and U.S. spellings, references and speech patterns were routinely changed ("I ain't" to "I'm not" for example), but so what?  Just to see classic art by JACK KIRBYDON HECK and, later, STEVE DITKO in all its crisp and cataclysmic glory, was what mattered to readers back in the day - to say nothing of the power-packed dynamism of scripting by STAN LEE, LARRY LIEBER and ROY THOMAS.

The comic contained some home-grown produce however, in the form of the occasional humour page, plus THE MISSING LINK/JOHNNY FUTURE strip that lasted for the first 51 issues, drawn throughout its entire run by Spanish artist LUIS BERMEJO.

Despite lasting only 89 issues, a Summer Special and 3 Annuals, Fantastic remains one of the more fondly remembered comics of the '60s by those who were fortunate (and discerning) enough to have bought and relished it at the time.  Below is the trade ad for the comic to alert newsagents to its upcoming launch.

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