Tuesday 30 August 2011



No pearls of profundity this time 'round.  The above covers are featured for no other reason than they're nice to look at.  So thank MARVEL... and, of course, WORLD DISTRIBUTORS.

Monday 29 August 2011



For no other reason than that it's a brilliant cover from my youth, above is The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL #9, pencilled by JIM STARLIN and inked (it looks to me, but I'm guessing) by JOE SINNOTT.  Dated December 2nd 1972, it actually went on sale the previous week on November 25th, which was the day I saw a double bill of JAMES BOND movies starring SEAN CONNERY at my local cinema.  Weren't we Brits spoiled?  KIRBY and DITKO art on classic stories of HULKSPIDER-MAN and FANTASTIC FOUR, all scripted by the one and only STAN LEE - all in one comic for only 5p.

Ah, those were the days.


Glasgow readers of this humble post will no doubt instantly recognise (in)famous 'KID MEMORYMAN'-about town, JOHN McSHANE, who appeared in a recent BBC TV documentary about Scottish comicbook creators.  John's contribution was to propose the case that comics were invented by we Scots, so that's yet another debt of gratitude the world owes us.  John is a 'well-kent' figure in Glasgow (and beyond), being actively involved in the city's thriving comics scene for many years, and was one of the founding proprietors of AKA BOOKS & COMICS, along with BOB NAPIER* and the late PETE ROOT.  (STEVE MONTGOMERY joined the team later I think.  Or maybe I just didn't meet him until later.)

*Update: Sadly, Bob passed away a good number of years after this post was first published.

About 25 years ago (hard as it is for me to believe), I managed to persuade John to leave the leafy suburbs of 'the dear green place' and visit yours truly in the spacious, artistically decorated abode in which I then lived.  The photos show John with an original, early piece of DAN DARE art (from the famous EAGLE comic of the 1950s), which I once owned.  John is so well-known in the professional comics community that he even featured in a cameo appearance in MARVEL's CAPTAIN BRITAIN back in the mid-'80s.  'Twas thanks to John ('cos he knows everybody) that I got to meet the late, great ARCHIE GOODWIN and his wife ANN, and spend a pleasant evening in their company.

(There, John.  Now will you let me off with that 5p I owe you?)   

Sunday 28 August 2011


"You are what you eat!" is a principle that doesn't apply only to food.  Psychologists recognize that what you 'feed' your mind helps shape your personality to a greater or lesser degree.  That's why, when it comes to children in particular, it's wise to exercise caution in what we allow them access to. We don't want unsuitable material - whatever form it takes - working its influence on their impressionable young minds.  However, as I've said before, it's the content and not the 'carton' which defines whether something is suitable or not.

At one time or another it seems that almost all of society's problems have been blamed on either movies, music, video games, books, TV - and, of course, comics. That's not to say that the aforementioned mediums don't sometimes play their part, but other factors are also culpable, sometimes even more so.  Often, it's just too easy to point the finger at a handy scapegoat than it is to look at the whole problem from a wider perspective.

One such instance appeared in the late and largely unlamented NEWS Of The WORLD on April 3rd, 1994.  I have excised the names to spare any possible distress to the families of those involved, and omitted any paragraphs which did not pertinently pertain to comics, but the tone of the piece remains intact.

STAB MAN WAS CAPTAIN MARVEL CRAZY - He collected violent mags.

The man accused of stabbing a 12-year-old schoolgirl to death in her classroom spent hours poring over violent Captain Marvel comics.  The loner was enthralled by the scenes of death and mayhem in the American superhero magazines.  In one edition Captain Marvel is seen battling with a knife-wielding alien.  Characters say things like "Death should be a glorious event," and "Life should be a continuous series of pains."

Stop there for a moment.  The paper fails to distinguish 'twixt heroes and villains or to mention that the good guys consider the baddies' actions, motivations and rationalizations to be thoroughly reprehensible.  It neglects to inform us that the bad guys make their pitch, the good guys resist - and, eventually, overcome all obstacles to triumph in the end.  In short, a morality tale.  It's as if the paper has gone out of its way to rip things out of context and misrepresent what these comics are actually about.  So, what else does NOTW say?

Former schoolpals yesterday recalled the teenage years when they devoured the tales and disturbing illustrations in the fantasy world of horror comics.  "We all read them, but he took it much further," said one.  "He was always drawing the characters and was excellent at it.  He made up his own stories with all the Marvel heroes.  We enjoyed the Captain Marvel comics, with all their violent images.  But it never occurred to me as being unusual.  He seemed totally normal.  The only thing different about him was he spent so much time with comics.  He had a huge collection of them.  He was obsessed with violent comics like Captain Marvel, The Incredible Hulk and (sic) Spiderman."

One naturally wonders if the quotes are accurate.  Would any comic reader really describe 1970's code-approved superhero comics like the ones named as "violent"?  I somehow doubt it.  Action-packed, certainly - but violent?  Not only does NOTW reiterate the alleged "violent" aspect, but also pours fuel on the fire by describing these comics as "disturbing", "horror" comics.  (I know from experience that newspapers often 'punch up' stories by rendering paraphrases as direct quotes and isolating sentences from their frame of reference.)

In short, it's a hatchet job.  The reporter doesn't seem to be familiar with the actual content of the comics named, otherwise he would never have described them in the way he did.  (If he cared about accuracy that is.)  However, comics don't have a monopoly in being 'picked on' in this manner.  Newspapers, because they cast themselves in the role of righteous crusaders in pursuit of truth, justice, morality and decency (instead of just another business chasing a buck), often target other mediums that - like GALACTUS - they consider themselves to be above and beyond in the scheme of things.

The truth is much simpler.  Some newspapers are nothing more than purveyors of all the worst aspects of society.  They pander to the seedier and more salacious appetites of certain sections of the public while claiming, rather ridiculously in my opinion, to be "family" newspapers.  (Even the scurrilous DAILY and SUNDAY SPORT make this claim, while counting down the days until some 15-year-old girl is old enough to 'get her kit off' for their readers.)

One wonders how a newspaper which readily peddles nudity (page 3), gambling (bingo), and panders to an interest in the supernatural (horoscopes), while reporting rape, paedophillia, murder, etc., in the most lewd, prurient and unnecessary detail can presume to claim the moral highground when pontificating on society's many ills.  Now, obviously I'm indulging in a slight bit of ironic hyperbole with the first part of the preceding sentence in order to make a point, but perhaps we should be asking ourselves what effect a steady diet of such content day after day or week after week could have on the minds of some of those exposed to it.  (You are what you eat, remember!)

In short, could the "loner" who murdered a 12-year-old girl have been a News Of The World reader?  Makes one wonder, eh?

Thursday 25 August 2011


The DALEKS copyright BBC TV and the Estate of TERRY NATION

RON TURNER (1922-'98), the comics artist famous for RICK RANDOM and numerous other strips, was responsible for nearly half of the 104 DALEKS pages which appeared on the back cover of TV CENTURY 21 from 1965-'67.  30 years later, MARVEL UK asked him to return to the strip for a 6-part adventure which started where the last TV21 Daleks story had ended three decades before.  These new episodes appeared in DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE #s 249-254, March-August, 1997.  The above strip is the last one from 1967.  Below is what happened next...

Click on images to enlarge - click again for optimum size.


Sadly, Ron passed away before he could complete the next part of the saga, DEADLINE To DOOMSDAY.  Two unlettered pages were published in DWM #276, which are presented below.  I'm not too sure if these pages are complete because, even allowing for a page-wide logo along the top of each strip, they each look a tier short* to me.  Just think - this was perhaps the last comic strip art that Ron ever produced.

(Update: *Apparently, Ron asked to be reminded of the page size, but mistakenly assumed that the dimensions he was given included the logo, so he reduced the height of the pages to accommodate it.)  


I thought that as I'd devoted a fair bit of attention to the comics character FRANKIE STEIN in a couple of recent posts, it would be only fitting (and fair) to show the original character who inspired him.  Above is an AURORA FRANKENSTEIN plastic model kit, built and painted by myself.  This kit was re-released by REVELL not too long ago and should still be available in model shops to those of you who'd like to obtain your very own.  Price is around £19.99, but shop around if the option is available to you.

The 1970s Aurora box

Interestingly, although the actual model's face is clearly and unmistakeably based on that of BORIS KARLOFF as he appeared in The BRIDE Of FRANKENSTEIN, the face on the Aurora box art seems to be an amalgam of Karloff and GLENN STRANGE.  Note the extra big clamps or spikes, which only ever appeared on Karloff's test makeup before the finished look was decided upon.  (And, in case you were wondering, Karloff was born WILLIAM HENRY PRATT, hence the title of this blog post.)

The new Revell box

Wednesday 24 August 2011


Images copyright relevant owners

While I'm wallowing in the self-indulgent practice of airing old photographs (see two posts back), I thought I'd show a couple from 1965, taken in Port Bannatyne when I was on holiday in Rothesay on The Isle of Bute in Scotland.  It was the one and only time we went on holiday with my grandparents, and I can remember it as if it were yesterday.  Well... last week at least.  (In fact, scratch that - I'm not even sure I can remember either last week or yesterday - but you know what I mean.)

So... why am I boring you with my old holiday snaps, you may be asking?  Simple - take a look at the comic I'm holding - an actual issue of TV CENTURY 21!  At the time, it was undoubtedly Britain's best-selling comic, and today's publishers would be ecstatic if their comics could sell even a quarter of the circulation figures of TVC21 at its height.

Sadly, they just don't publish comics like that anymore.  TV Century 21 (later shortened to just TV21) lasted for four months short of seven years, but by the time its revamped 2nd series (minus any GERRY ANDERSON content) was merged with VALIANT on September 25th 1971 (dated October 2nd), it had been a shadow of its former self for almost half of its lifespan.

It had arrived with a bang, but departed with barely a whimper.  After sharing Valiant's masthead as junior partner for around two-and-a-half years, its esteemed name appeared for the final time on its host comic on April 13th 1974.  (Issue dated 20th.)

Thus ended the last link to what had once been Britain's best and brightest comic of the sensational '60s.

Incidentally, photography buffs may be interested to know that the above holiday pics were taken with an old KODAK BOX BROWNIE, which had to be held at either waist or chest level (depending on one's eyesight) while the 'snapper' looked down into a little viewfinder before taking the picture.  That no doubt explains why so many photos from my childhood are lopsided. (Either that, or the person taking them had one leg shorter than the other.) 

Tuesday 23 August 2011


The very first FRANKIE STEIN strip from WHAM! #4.  Copyright REBELLION
FRANKIE STEIN, drawn by KEN REID, first appeared in issue #4 of LEO BAXENDALE's WHAM! on July 4th, 1964.  (Issue dated 11th.)  The comic was intended as a 'SUPER-BEANO' by publishers ODHAMS PRESS, to be a direct rival to D.C. THOMSON's then twenty-six year old companion paper to The DANDY.

Wham! only lasted for around three and a half years, so measured against the longevity of the Beano, plus its own aspirations, it must be considered a failure; though, truth to tell, it no doubt made its money back - and then some - for Odhams.  Frankie Stein, on the other hand, managed a respectably long run in one form or another, especially in the later ROBERT NIXON incarnation of the '70s.

After Wham! ended, Frankie (sans PROFESSOR CUBE's son, MICKY) popped up again in SHIVER & SHAKE in 1973, moving to WHOOPEE! when the two titles merged in '74.  He also appeared in MONSTER FUN COMIC in 1975, as well as eight Holiday Specials ('75-'82) devoted to his loveable self - plus a pair of softcover Annuals ('76 & '77).  He continued to appear in reprinted form in various publications by IPC/FLEETWAY/EGMONT in the late '80s and early '90s, before finally succumbing to the oblivion that had engulfed his birth-comic back at the beginning of 1968.

Although Bob Nixon's version had its own charm for a new audience, nothing could really compare to the original Ken Reid Frankie of the '60s - utter comic lunacy at its very best.


When Frankie re-appeared in the '70s, I was disappointed to see that, except for reprints (where him saying 'dad' was often changed to 'prof'), Micky was absent - and sometimes he was excised even from them.  However, looking over Frankie's old strips recently, I was surprised to discover that, out of the last 16 stories to appear in Wham!, Micky appeared in only one of them.  Perhaps, then, the '70s, Micky-less, version was merely picking up where the '60s run had left off - namely, with Professor Cube's boy more or less permanently phased out of the picture.


SPECIAL BONUS: Feast your eyes on this photo of an original piece of Ken Reid Frankie Stein art, first published in Wham! #134, December 31st, 1966.  (Issue dated January 7th, 1967.)


Copyright relevant owner

The above page is from a 1961 issue of TV EXPRESS WEEKLY.  It's our old pal YOGI BEAR and his little chum BOO BOO, with a little 'extra' strip featuring Mr. JINKS and PIXIE & DIXIE.  It's scanned in two halves, so when you double-click to enlarge to optimum size, you'll have to do each half separately.  Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy them.

Sunday 21 August 2011


I found this old photo of myself the other day, taken circa 1979 or '80.  It puts me in mind of something BOB HOPE said when I saw him perform at The EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE in October 1984.  During the show, he quipped, "Every Saturday night, myself, George BurnsMilton Berle and a couple of older guys get together at my house and hold a seance. We all sit around a table, clasping hands... and try and contact the LIVING!"  (Bob was in his eighties at that time.) Then he said, "I'm so old that whenever I catch one of my old movies on late-night TV, it's like watching a son I never knew I had."

Looking at the above photo, I know exactly how he feels.  Just who is that younger, better-looking guy?  (And look at that shirt-collar. Did we really dress like that back then - or was it just me?) Incidentally, the photo was taken about 20 years before the one in the right-hand side (from your perspective) column at the top of the page.


And, in case you're interested, it was a great show that night and Bob was on top form.  "People keep asking me what sex is like at 80," he drolled.  "I tell 'em GREAT - but it's even better if you pull over to the side of the road!"  And there's more.  "Did you folks hear about the doctor who was arrested for making love to one of his patients?", enquired the comedy legend.  A pause, then the punchline... "What's worse is - the guy's a TREE SURGEON!" 

Saturday 20 August 2011


Art by Francisco Solano Lopez

Sadly, as recently announced on numerous other blogsites, legendary Argentine comic artist FRANCISCO SOLANO LOPEZ (born Oct 26, 1928) died on August 12th. I'll leave further biographical details to others far more knowledgeable of the man's life and career than I am; suffice it to say that comic-reading children of the '60s and '70s had their lives enriched by exposure to all the many strips that Lopez (and his assistants) illustrated in British publications of the period.
Francisco Solano Lopez.  1928 - 2011

Who can forget GALAXUS, RAVEN ON THE WINGKELLY'S EYE, JANUS STARK, ADAM ETERNO and a whole host of other classics, still fondly recalled by readers of the time? To those who experienced U.K. comics when there was a thriving industry in this country, his demise is a stark reminder that - in the words of LEWIS CARROLL"We are but older children, dear, who fret to find our bedtime near."

Alas, the sands of time are draining into the bottom half of life's hourglass - which, sadly, can't just be turned over when the final few grains have settled.

Friday 19 August 2011


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS.  Cover art JACK KIRBY & GEORGE KLEIN

Recently, over on Jaunty JIM SHOOTER's blog, Jim was discussing why the original AVENGERS/JLA team-up comic never materialized - the plot was pants, apparently.  It just didn't make much sense, and by the time it had been pummelled into an acceptable shape, most of the participants had lost their enthusiasm for the beleaguered project.

However, dodgy plot-holes that you could steer the TITANIC through are nothing new in comics; plots are usually (or used to be) just an excuse to get the heroes together for a fight - before they realize their mistake, become the best of pals, and then team up and rush off to confront the villains.  In an age when comics were primarily aimed at kids, logical, intricately thought-out plots were hardly considered a necessity, and, as long as events galloped along at an exciting, rip-roaring pace, it's unlikely that young readers ever dwelt on (or even noticed) any deficiencies in the details.

Take FANTASTIC FOUR #1 for example. Allegedly the greatest brain on the planet, REED RICHARDS decides to take a rocket into space - knowing that it doesn't have sufficient shielding to protect them from cosmic rays.  What's more, he drags along his fiancee and her kid brother - who are presumably about as useful as a fart in a spacesuit when it comes to piloting the ship.  Talk about irresponsible?

But there are even more howlers than you can shake a stick at.  Are secret rocket bases so negligently guarded that four people could 'sneak past the guards', gain access to the rocket, and then take off without the assistance of the ground-based launch crew which would be required to accomplish lift-off?  Well, in the world of four-colour comics it seems anything is possible.

Cover art JACK KIRBY & DICK AYERS (though The TORCH's
face has a hint of GEORGE KLEIN inks about it to my eyes)

Jump now to issue #2 - The SKRULLS From OUTER SPACE.  Hark at this amazing piece of 'logic' from JOHNNY STORM as he comes up with a 'cunning plan' for smoking out the four Skrull aliens who are impersonating them.  Reading in The DAILY GLOBE that a new rocket is to be tested, Johnny indulges in an amazing display of brainpower.  Are you ready for this?  "Our four imitators may get confused if one of us tries to sabotage that rocket site!  They may think it's one of them and reveal themselves!"

Sure!  The four aliens who are impersonating the four humans and are likely to be hiding out together in a group of four.  For the 'plan' to succeed, the alien impersonating Johnny would have to be absent from the group at just the right time, and what are the chances of that happening?  As a plan it falls far short of even being half-@rsed, but - can you believe it?  Reed Richards - the greatest mind on Earth, remember - actually approves it.  (And, astoundingly - to say nothing of preposterously - it actually happens that way in the comic.)  Is it only me, or does anyone else think Reed is a bit of a dipstick?


Issue #3?  The MIRACLE MAN, greatest hypnotist on the planet, is also the thickest hypnotist on the planet.  Rather than go to all the bother of hypnotizing everybody so that he can rob jewellery stores and banks and thereby amass a fortune, why not just hypnotize them into thinking he has a wallet full of cash whenever he pops out on his weekly shopping jaunt to Tesco's"Say, miss - can you change this $100 note" he'd say, waving a piece of Monopoly money in front of the checkout girl's fizzog.  It always works for me.

One can multiply examples of this kind a thousand-fold with just the application of a little thought when reading these bygone classics of yesteryear.  However, perhaps I'm being a little bit harsh.  These stories were intended to be read by undemanding kids who were only interested in action, adventure and excitement - logic was never part of the package and it hardly seemed to matter as long as the story thrilled and entertained its young readership.

Remember, we're talking about 'long-underwear characters' - absurdity is inherent in the basic premise from the get-go.  So, next time you're reading your favourite comic, don't get hung up on the details - just enjoy it for what it is.  Unless, that is, it takes itself so seriously that the writer deserves a slap on the head if you ever run into him.  (And, if so, give him a good slap from me while you're about it.)

For more Loopy Lapses in Logic, click here.

Monday 15 August 2011


The 1st issue of Monster Fun

MONSTER FUN COMIC was released on June 7th, 1975 (dated the 14th) and heralded the start of renowned creator LEO BAXENDALE's swan-song in British comics, with his series of BADTIME BEDTIME STORYBOOKS being given the entire centrespread of the weekly comic.  (Other artists also contributed from time to time.)  After this, he would go on to create his 3 volume WILLY The KID run before fading from high-profile comics consciousness - his madcap, anarchic drawing style being kept alive by the likes of artists TOM PATERSON and Leo's son MARTIN.

Click second image to enlarge text

(FRANKIE STEIN, who'd first appeared back in 1964 in the fourth issue of WHAM! illustrated by the legendary KEN REID, was the comic's figurehead editor, an obvious choice given its 'comedy-horror' theme.  He was 'resurrected' in 1973 in SHIVER & SHAKE, this time drawn by the amazingly prolific ROBERT NIXON, before moving over to WHOOPEE in 1974 when S&S was merged into it.)
Sadly, Monster Fun comic lasted for only 73 regular issues before being merged with BUSTER in October, 1976.  By that time, however, Leo's Willy The Kid was about to explode onto an unsuspecting British public.  Here, then, is the first of Leo's last weekly comics output - enjoy.  And be sure to visit his website by clicking on the link in the right-hand side (from your point of view) column.

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