Wednesday 27 July 2011


The one and only Bob Hope

October 13th, 1984.  That was the day I fulfilled my long-time ambition of drinking in a pub called The RED LION.  (Okay, it was only a Coke, but it still counted.)  I had always wanted to do so since reading the name in The WIND In The WILLOWS many years before, when Mr. TOAD had sauntered into a pub of the selfsame title and ended up stealing a motorcar on his departure.

Not that I had the intention of doing anything similar (though I could've nabbed an ashtray as a memento if I'd wanted to) - it's just that there was something about the name that appealed to me.  It conjured up images of old-world charm, of another era when things seemed simpler and more pure.  Ruddy-faced gents crouched 'round a roaring fire, quaffing from flagons of ale held nonchalantly in their weather-beaten hands, as coachmen and travellers, filled and fortified, prepared to embark on the next leg of their journey.

I repeated the feat two or three years later, when I had lunch with the assistant editor of IPC's BUSTER in another Red Lion pub just across from Downing Street in London.  That was still in the future however; for now the heady rush that came from watching JOHN LOWE score the first-ever televised nine-dart finish in history (on another pub's TV later that evening), and then meeting the legendary BOB HOPE before attending his show at The EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE an hour or so afterwards.

I met Bob again in 1994 at The GLASGOW ROYAL CONCERT HALL, and had my photograph taken with the great man and his wife.  I have his autograph several times over, on records, books, magazines and photos.  Above is the one he sent me a few weeks before his concert in Edinburgh on that magical and eventful night back in 1984, and below is the photo taken ten years later.


Art by Neal Adams

The past few days have been of the gloriously warm, sunny, summer kind that we imagine all our childhood summers to have been like, and as I stepped off the train from Glasgow early yesterday evening with The DEADLY HANDS Of KUNG FU #12 in my possession (bought from a back issue shop in the city), my mind drifted back to a similar gloriously warm, sunny, summer late afternoon of 36 years before, when - as a mere freckle-faced teenager - I'd first purchased my original copy of this black and white magazine.

I'd also obtained the very first MONSTER FUN Holiday Special on the same day.  (IPC were quick off the mark with this one, as the weekly publication had only been out for a very short period - a matter of weeks, in fact.)  I remember that it reprinted the initial SAM'S SPOOK strip by LEO BAXENDALE, which first appeared in SMASH! in Jan/Feb of 1971.  It still sported the "starts today" blurb on the top left-hand side of the logo, no doubt the result of an editorial oversight as such blurbs were usually removed from out-of-sequence reprintings.

(NOTE: My memory of this was confirmed when, a week after typing the previous paragraph, I obtained a back issue of this comic also.  I've inserted the cover and Sam strip above.  Click to enlarge.  Interestingly, the page had previously been resized into two for the Smash! Annual for 1975, issued towards the end of '74.)

Art by Rudy Nebres

Back in 1975, a friend was with me when I bought these two publications, at some stage during a day out in Glasgow.  On our return, I accompanied him (still clutching my precious comics) as he visited his sister's in-laws, who resided not too far from the house I'd lived in when Sam's Spook first made his debut, and from which my family had moved only three years before in 1972.  (In fact, their house was the architectural double of my old one, so it was almost like revisiting my former home.)  It's because of this that I associate both these comics with my previous neighbourhood just as much as with my then (and still) current one.  Funny thing, memory, eh?

Art by George Perez, Rico Rival, and The Tribe

I'd bought this ish mainly for The MAN With The GOLDEN GUN cover art and article, having seen (with the same friend) ROGER MOORE's second 007 movie not too long before.  (It had its UK premiere on December 19th 1974, but my local cinema didn't screen it until sometime in '75.)  Reading it again for the first time in nearly 40 years, I was surprised by how much of it I remembered - even down to actual paragraphs.  The mag also had SHANG-CHI, MASTER Of KUNG FU and SONS Of The TIGER, with artwork by RUDY NEBRES and GEORGE PEREZ, plus a BOND pin-up by the great GRAY MORROW.

I often think back fondly to that particular summer day - and many another day from long ago also.  (Perhaps I may even have warm recollections of yesterday in the years to come - I hope I've got at least another 50 ahead of me, optimistic as that may be.)  Little did I then realize that my friendship with the pal I'd known since I was 7 would last barely another six years, but such is life - something to look forward to in blissful ignorance of what might happen, and to look back on in fond reminiscence (hopefully) of what did.

I hope all your summers turn out to be gloriously warm and sunny - even if only in memory.

Art by Gray Morrow

Friday 22 July 2011


Copyright DC COMICS

Above is an extremely rare LOUIS MARX BATMAN toy from the 1960s.  I had two of this figure (at different times) when I was a kid, and have very happy memories of playing with them, especially the second one I received for Christmas in 1966 or '67.  (Could even have been '68.)

Marx had a soldier figure out at the same time (in fact, it actually predated the Batman one), which had the exact same head (minus the black mask - a sticker - on the face in the above pic) as his Caped Crusader counterpart.

I had a great time dressing up 'little Bruce' in his various pieces of equipment and subjecting him to all sorts of imaginary ordeals and adventures.  (Oo-er, it's just clicked  how pervy that sounds, so I'll deny it in court.  Someone please tell me I wasn't the only one.)

Incidentally, despite the backing card's claim, the only thing that moved on the legs were the boots, which turned from left to right - or all the way 'round if you preferred.  Hardly what one would call fully-articulated.

I eventually swapped the toy with a pal for the soldier version and then, the very same night, watched Bats meet his doom as an older lad (ROBERT FORTUNE) launched him into the air while saying "Let's see if he can fly..." - only to see Batman smash to pieces on his descent.  My stunned pal immediately wanted to effect an annulment of our swap, but I was having none of it.  Poor Bats.

Anyway, if you were fortunate enough to have had one of these figures as a kid, here's a look back into the past - happy reminiscing.  (If not, this is what you missed.)

Wednesday 20 July 2011


Issue #1.  Images copyright relevant owner

One of my favourite comics as a boy was THUNDER, containing such gems as ADAM ETERNO, STEEL COMMANDO, BLACK MAX, GAUNTLET Of FATE, and various others, including a couple of one-page humour strips.  Looking back at my collection, over 40 years later, I'm surprised by how boring the covers were - perhaps the most effective were issues 23 - and it was probably the comic's inability to stand out on the newsagent's counter which contributed to its remarkably short lifespan of only 22 issues.

Issue #2

Thunder's most impressive strip was undoubtedly Adam Eterno, the man who couldn't die - unless struck a fatal blow by an object made of solid gold.  (So a glancing blow on the back of his head from a gold-plated cigarette lighter was hardly going to bring him down.)  Adam survived for quite a few years, first when Thunder was absorbed by LION, and then when Lion was merged with VALIANT - before disappearing into comics limbo and the fond memories of former readers lucky enough to have caught this short-lived comic thunderclap.

Issue #3

Below:  The first-ever instalment of Adam Eterno from Thunder #1.

See also here - and here.

Tuesday 12 July 2011


Art by Ian Gibson
I've just watched a programme called SCOTLAND'S AMAZING
COMIC BOOK HEROES on TV. How nauseating to see a particular
ex-editor gush sycophantically about one of two currently high-profile
writers he once described to me as "a couple of pretentious w*nkers!"
when they contributed to the comic on which he used to work. Funny
how those who never had a good word to say about someone suddenly
change their tune when the person becomes famous and successful -
especially if there's 5 minutes screen time on the telly to be had.

And why was PAT MILLS, the creator of 2000 A.D., 'airbrushed'
from the comic's history and not given a mention? (Apart from the
fact that he's not Scottish that is?)

Friday 8 July 2011



Yeah, don't worry about the title - it doesn't make much sense.  (Grabbed your attention though, didn't it?)  Look at the above photo - I can't help but think that it actually goes some way to capturing the dark and mysterious aspect of BATMAN as he was originally envisioned.  It makes me wonder what the result would have been had the TV Producers decided to go down that avenue instead of the one they ultimately chose.  Would it have been as successful as it was?  Who knows?  One thing's for sure, however - the childhoods of kids in the '60s would have been markedly different.  Anyone got any thoughts on the matter?

Adam's screen test costume

Monday 4 July 2011


Artwork by Jack Kirby

Due to be released any time soon is the above little beauty.
Keep an eye out for it and if you see it before I do, give me
a shout. Just love that cover!

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