Friday 30 September 2011


A copy of the finished artwork

I readily confess - it was me.  Yes, I'm the one you're looking for.  How can I deny it?  After all, I put my name to it.  I sit here, consumed by guilt in my participation in the worst ever spate of litter-bugging that Scotland has ever seen.  "How can this be?" I hear you ask, and, not wanting to disappoint your eager expectations, I am only too ready and willing to tell you.

In a previous post, I alluded to a company for which I occasionally did a bit of advertising work.  Amongst their diverse interests were various food outlets, including that great Scottish stalwart and home of the deep-fried MARS BAR - the humble chippie.

A copy of the original 'rough'

No, nothing to do with building sites; I of course refer to the traditional fish and chip shop, that bastion of British (well, at least Scottish) civilization as we know it.  (And I'm well-aware that there are some amongst you who will gleefully proclaim that the words 'Scottish' and 'civilization' do not belong together in the same sentence.  Youse are claimed!) 

Here's how it happened.  This particular fish and chip shop needed a cartoon illustration for their bags - I provided it.  (The 'rough' and the finished article can be seen on this very page.)  However, the company which owned the shop also had quite a few other food outlets in various parts of Scotland.  Whenever any of them were short of bags, they were supplied from any excess stock of bags which I had designed.  (This, of course, would sometimes happen in reverse.)

Add to that the fact that one of these shops was right next to a bus terminal to which hordes of hungry travellers called in for fish suppers and the like on their way home, and you can well understand the reasons as to how this humble little paper bag managed to get around.  

The finished, printed result

This resulted in the situation that, no matter where I happened to be, at some stage I was likely to see a bag with my name on it drifting down a high street or across a field, or stuck in a hedge somewhere - not only in the remotest areas of my own home town, but also in Hamilton, Rutherglen, Glasgow - and even as far afield as Edinburgh for goodness' sake!  That bloody bag got everywhere - I'm sure it was haunting me.  I never dropped a bag myself, but I somehow felt responsible.

Anyway, I feel better now.  Whoever it was who said that confession is good for the soul was right, bless 'em.  Hopefully, I'll now be able to sleep at nights, and face myself in the mirror with an untroubled conscience.  Only time will tell.

Right now, however, I'm off down the chippie for a fish supper and a deep-fried Mars Bar.  Braw!


What was a fella to do?  I'd forgotten her birthday and the shops were closed.  What could a woman want by way of a belated card for her neglected birthday celebrations?  And then it came to me: "A picture of myself of course!".

So I set to work.  I quarter-folded a blank piece of A4 paper and then did a quick pen and acrylic ink coloured pic of myself (as I then looked, with beard and short hair), added a humorous message and popped it in the post.  (That's a black and white photocopy of the original colour illo above.)

They say it's the thought that counts; well, I thought about enclosing a tenner with it - but then I thought better of it.  Two thoughts are better than one, right?

Apparently not.

Women!  Never happy, are they?

Thursday 29 September 2011


Front cover

Back when I had a full-time career working in comics, I occasionally found time to involve myself in outside projects.  One such job was for a company run by two local entrepreneurs (brothers), who at that time had a vast 'empire' of diverse business operations in various towns and cities across Scotland; shops, restaurants, cafes, ice rinks, food outlets, etc.

In an attempt to promote one of their restaurants (situated above an ice rink), they asked me if I'd come up with something to highlight the family appeal of their establishment.  They wanted to emphasize that the restaurant wasn't just for adults to come to on a night out, but also somewhere to bring the kids during the day and on special, fun occasions.


Borrowing a leaf from McDONALDS (although this place wasn't a burger bar by any means - it was a proper, fancy, Italian restaurant), I created a mascot and came up with a little activity 'booklet' to occupy the kids once they were in the door and to make them want to come back again.  (The idea was that I'd update it every so often.)

Here's the first and only one ever produced.  (Which was a shame, as the money was good.)  It was done in a hurry, hence my inclusion of a couple of cartoons I'd produced for some camping posters back in the late '70s, early '80s, in order to save time.  The kids loved it, apparently, but unfortunately the management failed to persuade enough people that it wasn't the high-class, expensive restaurant it really was.

Back cover

The moral of the story?  If you want to capture the McDonalds kiddie-contingent, then you have to provide more than bits of paper for them to colour in;  you need to compete at the same price level as well.

The same thing also applies to comics.  One of the reasons for falling circulation nowadays is that they're just far too expensive in relation to everything else.  Publishers take note.



When I was at secondary school in the '70s, my main claim to fame was drawing POPEYE.  My classmates were always pleading with me in earnest tones, "Draw Popeye, Robson, draw Popeye!"  They were entranced by the sailor's image coming to life on the page (in the back of a school jotter usually) with only a few deft scribbles.  The celebrity status accorded me, the adulation bestowed upon my exalted self, the esteem in which I was held - it was almost intoxicating as I strode heroically through the school corridors.

"Look!", cried awestruck lesser pupils as I passed, prostrating themselves in obeisance, "Tis the Mighty Robson, he who is to be regarded as unto a god by we lowly mortals!  All hail the Mighty Robson!"  Even teachers aligned themselves with the 'Cult of Robson' as it came to be known; I often used to hear them refer to me (in hushed tones and from a respectful distance naturally) as "a bit of a cult!"

Well, okay - I might, perhaps, have indulged in just the slightest bit of hyperbole halfway through that little reminiscence, but only a tad.  The reality was pretty close to how I recall.  (Cough!)

Anyway, I've continued to draw Popeye from time to time over the years, and above is a picture I whipped up for someone-or-other in the mid-'90s.  DUNN KWIK is one of many pseudonyms I use on occasion, the afore-mentioned being reserved for stuff produced in a bit of a hurry.  Still - not too shabby, is it?

Wednesday 28 September 2011


Characters copyright MARVEL COMICS

While I rack my brains in pursuit of anything remotely interesting to write about, here's an old standby.  My own version of the cover of THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #150, which I may even get around to inking one day.  (Or, then again, maybe not.)

Not traced, not projected, not graphed;  merely drawn using the printed comic as a model - just like real artists do, drawing from observation and study of something in front of them.  The original was too big to scan, so the above pic is actually a photo of the original art.

Incidentally, the original cover was drawn by JOHN ROMITA JR.BOB LAYTON.


Look at the above photo.  Difficult as it may be for you to believe, this is the result of a bit of computer repair work on the magazine pin-up below.  Someone I know is a massive DEEP PURPLE fan and this picture once adorned his bedroom wall when he was a teenager.  (Whatever takes your fancy I suppose - I had Page 3 girls on mine.)

Rediscovering this reminder of his youth, he was sadly disappointed to note that it had succumbed to the ravages of time and asked me if I could do anything with it - so I did.  The framed improvement now hangs on his living-room wall for all his visitors to see.  (Honest, it's the same picture.)

Isn't technology wonderful?

Tuesday 27 September 2011


Boris Karloff in real life

WILLIAM HENRY PRATT - or BORIS KARLOFF as we know him better - appears to be a vastly under-rated actor nowadays, despite all the fame and acclaim once rightly bestowed on him for his penetrating portrayals of The FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER and IMHOTEP (or ARDETH BEY), to name just a couple of his more celebrated roles.

Art by Kid Robson

Quiet, soft-spoken, and with a hint of a lisp, he was the quintessential English gentleman, who never lost his love for the game of cricket, even in far-off Hollywood, thousands of miles away from his native land.  There has probably never been another actor whose personality was so diametrically opposed to his on-screen persona as that of dear old Bill.  A big, superstitious softie in real life; often a snarling, vicious, psychopathic killer in the movies.  Apparently, just like GEORGE CLOONEY, he also had a pet pig at one time, which he used to rush home to see after filming.  (Wonder if he liked bacon?)  

Test makeup not used in the film

Born on November 23rd, 1887 (the same month that the Baron's creature first opened his yellow, watery eyes), he died on February 2nd, 1969 at his home in Bramshott, Hampshire.  Star of stage, screen, TV, and spoken-word recordings, he had a long and varied career after first finding fame in the 1931 classic, Frankenstein.  However, forget the Monster and the Mummy... Karloff gave entrancing performances in many films over the years, whether horror-themed or not.  Next time you see a Karloff movie in the TV listings, give it a look-see - it'll be well worth your while.  So here's to KARLOFF... The UNCANNY!

Monday 26 September 2011


"Why are you called 'Kid'?  Is it because you act like one?"

If I had a pound for every time I've been asked that, I'd have - well, I'd have a pound actually, so I don't suppose there's really too much interest in the topic.  However, I have to fill this blog with something, so - assuming you'll bear with me in yet another act of shameless self-indulgence - I shall address the issue in the forlorn hope that anybody even remotely cares.

There was a period during my early teenage years when I called everyone "kid".  It was short, snappy, and it meant never having to worry about remembering people's names.  One day, I ran into a pal of mine in the company of a group of his friends.  Anticipating my familiar, well-worn greeting, he thought he'd get in first in a daring act of mockery at my little peccadillo.  (Feel free to supply your own amusing rejoinder to that last sentence.)  "Hi Kid!" he said with a cheeky grin upon his smug countenance, immensely satisfied with himself for - in his mind - 'beating me to the punch'.

His pals were unaware of his intended 'irony' however, and merely assumed it to be my nickname. But ours is a drama decreed by the fates to be acted out (always loved that line by LARRY LIEBER); I subsequently became friendly with that little group, who - in their innocence - always referred to me by that appellation.  And so the name stuck and I've been known as "Kid" - to them and to others - ever since.

But whence came the habit which led to me effectively naming myself?  Why did I call people "kid" to begin with?  I'm glad I pretended you asked.  You see, back in the early 1970s, there was a brilliant comedy show called WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE LIKELY LADS, starring JAMES BOLAM and RODNEY BEWES.  In fact, as their names had alternating billing from week to week, if you re-read that last sentence, reverse the order of their names so that I don't hear from their agents or solicitors.

Although the programme was a comedy, it also had pathos, poignancy and profundity - otherwise known as the three Ps.  During the course of their frequent nostalgia-laden soliloquies, the characters often addressed each other as "kid" or "kidda".  In my devotion to the programme and my desire to emulate the two main characters, I soon adopted the practice of referring to everyone I knew (and even some I didn't) as "kidda", which resulted in some fairly puzzled looks.  That's because the words "kidda" and "kidder" sound pretty similar when pronounced with a lazy Glaswegian accent, and this made folks think I was accusing them of pulling my leg in some way.

"Kidder?" they'd say in a slightly bewildered manner (likewise mispronouncing it as "kidda") - "Kiddin' about what?"  Well, it didn't take me too long to realize that adopting the shorter option - "kid" - would avoid any unnecessary confusion amongst my sturdy band of companions and free me from having to endlessly explain myself.  It could've been far worse, as I'd once been in the habit of exclaiming "Jings, man!" in response to anything of even a vaguely interesting or surprising nature.

This inevitably led to all my friends and acquaintances calling me "Jings-Man" every time I appeared on the horizon.  Fortunately, I soon dropped the use of this 'oath' (doubtless acquired from reading too many BROONS and OOR WULLIE strips in The SUNDAY POST) and thus escaped any longterm association with the name which could've resulted in lasting damage to my delicate sensibilities.  I much prefer being called "Kid" - or "Sir", even.  (In fact, now that I come to think about it, "Master" is good as well.)

And there you have it!  The hitherto secret origin of how I gained my teenage nickname which has remained with me to this day.  And you also have an object lesson in the art of writing something about nothing - but you should only ever do so if your very life depends on it, so I have absolutely no excuse.


Images copyright respective owners

I love this time of year.  Autumn has its own scents and hues, and, as it starts to give way to Winter, assumes a magical, hybrid quality of the two seasons peculiar unto itself.  When any last faint remnants of lingering Summer have finally disappeared and been replaced with the preliminary signs of Jack Frost's rapidly oncoming kingdom, I can't help but think back to what an enchanted time it seemed to be when I was a kid.

Arising on dark mornings, streetlights a-twinkle; the first spidery glints of frost on the windows and pavements outside; warm milk on cornflakes to fortify me for my trek to school; sitting before the electric fire, hypnotized by shadows of dancing, flickering simulated flames; the fresh, biting chill of the air - all those memories - or any combination of them - embody that particular period of my personal history.  Even today, the alluring nature of the season is as much to do with the warm glow of memory as enjoying it for its own sake.

The walk to school, the chatter of friends, the sheer exuberance of childhood - how it all comes rushing back to me in torrents.  A large part of those memories is shaped by whatever comics I was buying at the time: TV CENTURY 21, WHAM!, SMASH!, FANTASTIC, WHIZZER & CHIPS, The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL, SPIDER-MAN COMICS WEEKLY and many more - all those publications seem to blend into one big memory (regardless of whether they were actually available or I was buying them concurrently or not), and span a goodly number of years from primary to secondary school.  (I often smuggled a newly purchased comic into the classroom in my schoolbag and then had to suffer an agony of waiting 'til I could peruse it during the interval.)

And just think what we had to look forward to at that time of the year; Hallowe'en, Guy Fawkes' Night, Christmas - and I had the added bonus of having my birthday fall at around the same time.  No wonder I tend to look back on those events with such fondness - I was just the right age to appreciate them in all their spectacular, multi-coloured, atmospheric glory.  I'm sure it's the same for most people.   

So, in an unseemly fit of sentimentality and nostalgia, I've dug through my files and unearthed some comic covers which would've been on sale towards the end of the year back in the 1960s & 1970s, in an attempt to crystalize not only my happy recollections of days gone by, but - if you're around the same age as myself - perhaps also your own.  Hope you enjoy them.

See?  You can go home again - even if it's only for a short visit.   



Above is the cover from the second THOR KING-SIZE SPECIAL from 1966, below is a reprint from 1994 - which still carries the original indicia, but with the words 'second printing' appended to it.  Sharp-eyed readers will notice that ol' Goldilocks' right arm is different on the two versions, the first having been amended before printing, the second featuring the cover as KING KIRBY originally drew it.

The reason for this is pretty obvious: Marvel's file copies of artwork were usually photocopied before any alterations were made, hence many reprints down through the years sported pages as they'd originally been drawn, not published.  Thankfully, in recent years, Marvel has addressed this issue and striven to ensure that reprints are as close to archival quality as possible.

Thought you might enjoy seeing Kirby's original version.

But hold!  There's even more to the story!  Take a good look at this third version of the cover, below.

While thumbing through my hardbacked volume of THOR MASTERWORKS Vol 5 recently, I espied this amazing oversight.  Either the patch covering Thor's original arm has fallen off (which would mean that Marvel had access to the original art), or an art restorer re-created the new arm on a file photostat, but then simply forgot to delete the original Kirby limb it was intended to replace.  Who knows the truth behind this Marvel mystery?  Answers in the comments section if it happens to be you.

Sunday 25 September 2011


Image copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

Well, it made ME laugh.

(From The Beano & The Dandy Celebrate Dennis
The Menace - available now from all good bookshops.)

Friday 23 September 2011


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

It was intended to be a single-series revolving-door showcase for a roster of MARVEL's mightiest heroes, but no sooner had the 1st ish hit the stands than those plans underwent revision.  GIANT-SIZE SUPER-STARS #1 starred The FANTASTIC FOUR, with the second issue scheduled to feature none other than your friendly neighbourhood SPIDER-MAN.  (PETER PARKER's amazing alter-ego would doubtless be first choice to launch any new alternating series nowadays, but, back then, the Fab Four were still accorded premier position in the Mighty Marvel firmament of Super-Stars.)

However, it soon became apparent to the 'powers-that-be' that, rather than restrict the idea to one title, it would be potentially more profitable to give each chosen group or hero their own giant-size mag.  And so, Spidey was awarded his own 68 page comicbook series and what would've been the 2nd issue of Super-Stars evolved into GIANT-SIZE FANTASTIC FOUR #2, followed by another four successive issues over the course of the next fourteen months or so.

There were quite a number of different titles in the various Giant-Size quarterly series on sale back in '74-'75.  GIANT-SIZE SPIDER-MAN, GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS, GIANT-SIZE CONAN, GIANT-SIZE CAPTAIN MARVEL, GIANT-SIZE DOCTOR STRANGE, GIANT-SIZE DRACULA, GIANT-SIZE DEFENDERS and a host of others got the same treatment, proving the when Marvel has an idea, they exploit it to the full.  However, it's only the good ol' FF that we're concerned with today.

I didn't even know of the existence of these mags at the time they first came out - it wasn't until 1979 or '80 that I obtained the 1st issue when I ordered it unseen from a back issue dealer in Bournemouth.  And it was a battered copy containing only the main story, the back-up features having been 'surgically' removed from the comic.  It must have been sometime around the mid-'90s perhaps, before I was able to obtain the full six issue set and finally see the complete contents of issue #1.  (Only to find that the missing pages were pin-ups reprinted from FF ANNUAL #1, which had been in my collection for some time.)

The main stories in the first four issues were all brand-new material, with reprints from the early days of the FF as back-up content.  (Annual #1, and regular issues #13, 21 & 28.)  The last two in the series reprinted FF Annuals #5 & 6 as their main features, with #5 also including another tale from the quartet's early days.  (Issue #15, and not the MOLECULE MAN story from #20 as erroneously stated on the cover-blurb.)

So, let's return to an earlier, more innocent time; the seemingly sun-soaked, carefree days of the sizzling '70s, and enjoy all six scintillating covers in their full, unadulterated, cataclysmic glory.


Copyright relevant owner

Here's the second part of The PERRY RHODAN FILES, featuring more covers from his 1967 comic and some photographic stills from the movie based on the characters and concepts.  Try as I might, I can't really generate any enthusiasm for the comic - it just seems well below par.  And the movie doesn't look up to much either, to be honest.  If anyone wants to weigh in with their opinions on why ol' Perry was the greatest thing since sliced bread, then feel absolutely free.

Assuming that anyone is interested, be sure to tune in again for Part Three whenever I can't think of anything else to write about.  The blonde sure looks okay though, doesn't she?

Wednesday 21 September 2011


Copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

As the proud possessor of every DENNIS The MENACE book ever printed, I greeted the news that there's to be no regular Dennis book this year with mixed emotions.  On the one hand I'm disappointed that his annual escapades have ended; on the other I'm somewhat relieved to be able to write 'finis' to a collection which stretches back to the mid-'50s and is now complete.

However, do not despair, fellow Dennis-lovers.  D.C. THOMSON have released this beautifully bound hardback volume showing Dennis at his very best, with comic capers from his earliest appearances in The BEANO, right up to his modern-day madcap meanderings.  (Also includes other features and strips.)  What's more, as well as a DVD containing two of Dennis's TV cartoons, the book also includes a separate, good-quality complete reproduction of his first Beano appearance back in 1951.

Dennis may be 60 years old, but he's still the world's wildest boy at heart. Don't miss this superb collectors' item - available now from all good bookshops.  Priced at £12.99, it can be ordered direct from DCT for £9.99.  Also, some shops are bound to include it in a 'buy one, get one half-price' deal in conjunction with other books, so be sure to shop around. 

ISBN # 9781-1-84535-462-2  

Monday 19 September 2011


So far on this blog, I've related a couple of anecdotes about two of my old art teachers, Mr. BOB BELL and Mr. SLOSS, with a passing reference to Mr. McLEAN along the way.

Now it's time to draw back the curtain and introduce yet another teacher from the dim and distant days of my youth; so let's have a big hand for Mr. DOUGIE SMITH, one of the more popular teachers at DUNCANRIG SENIOR SECONDARY.  Not that any pupil ever dared call him Dougie to his face as far as I know, but that was how they affectionately referred to him throughout the school.

Mr. Smith's classroom under fire-escape stairway

You know that sense of amazement one feels when, years after having left school, you see a teacher who doesn't seem to have aged in the slightest since you were a kid?  When you're a youngster, anyone over 21 seems older than they actually are, which probably accounts for my inability to supply an accurate assessment of what age Mr. Smith would've been back in the early '70s.  He could have been anything from 35-45, but it'd be pointless trying to narrow it down any further because I simply don't have a clue.  Not that it's important I suppose, but I like to give my readers (both of them) a fully rounded picture of the subject under discussion.

Mr. Smith's old Maths class in 2007.  By the looks of things, at some point the room
had been opened up at the front and extended out into part of the hallway...

Anyway, Mr. Smith was blond-haired and what I assume would be regarded by the fairer sex as a fairly handsome Maths teacher who, like many another teacher at that time, still wore the classic bat-like gown as immortalised by Mr. CREEP in the WINKER WATSON strip in The DANDY.  I seem to recall him also wearing the mortarboard hat on occasion, but quite possibly I'm imagining it.  (Although as he had the gown he would most likely have had the hat too, one would presume.)  The fact that teachers still wore such traditional educational apparel most likely accounts for why I never found strips like BILLY BUNTER or the aforementioned Winker to appear outdated - it was yet an everyday sight that didn't appear unusual in the slightest.

...and how it would have looked in my day

As the saying goes, Mr. Smith was a 'good egg'.  I remember him telling me one day, "Gordon, some of the other teachers say that they regard you as a difficult pupil, but I find that as long as I don't try and make you do anything you don't want to, then you're no trouble at all."

Which is not to suggest that I was a troublemaker of any sort, but I was a daydreamer.  If I wasn't doodling on the covers or margins of my school jotters then I was staring out a window off into space, lost in my own little world.  Mr. Smith was wise enough to realize that it was better to leave me there, rather than try and compel me to apply myself to a subject I had no interest in, or, indeed, aptitude for.  Unlike another teacher (whose name escapes me, otherwise I would readily identify the guilty party), who once gave me 'six of the best' for my inability to master the intricacies of an Algebra equation.

View from one of the windows

But now to the point of this tale.  ("At last!" cry those who haven't yet abandoned the arduous trek.)  Mr. Smith, if I remember the details correctly after almost 40 years, was in charge of producing a Maths booklet for use in schools throughout what was then known as The COUNTY COUNCIL Of LANARKSHIRE.  He asked if I'd provide some cartoon illustrations for said project, and I didn't need to be asked twice.  It took a few days for him to determine precisely where my artwork would be required, but once armed with the necessary information I got to work.

A week or two later and much to my surprise, he presented me with an envelope containing a whopping £5 (which was a lot of money to a 14-15 year old at the start of the '70s) as payment for my contribution.  "It comes out of the budget" he said, by way of explanation - though I wouldn't be at all surprised if it came out of his own pocket.

The picture (from an initial 'rough') inspired by one below

I was especially proud of one picture in particular, and had it specifically in mind when I produced my KEVIN & His TALKING SOCKS strip for possible inclusion in a comic called OINK!  A period of a dozen or so years lay between the execution of these two drawings, which, as I relate this, strikes me as requiring further, completely unnecessary, long-winded exposition. (Even if that last sentence is a total contradiction in terms.)

Back in 1985/'86, my schooldays seemed like an inordinately long time past.  It was practically half my life away after all, which probably accounts for that particular period appearing almost prehistoric from my mid-'80s perspective.  Nowadays, however, anything that happened 10 or 12 years back seems to have occurred no more than two or three years ago at the very most.  It's scary to consider that the quarter of a century gap between 1986 and today doesn't feel anywhere near as long as the far shorter (almost by half) period between 1973 and 1986.  Yup, it really is true; time seems to go by faster the older one gets.

Not having a photo of Mr. Smith, one of comic artist
supreme George Tuska will 
have to suffice.  To my
mind, they were 
extremely similar in appearance

Anyway, returning to the point of this personal reminiscence before even I lose track, a belated thank you is long overdue to Mr. Smith for giving me what could be described as my very first paid 'professional' assignment - and for simply being such a thoroughly decent bloke.  He's probably been retired for some years now, but it would be nice to think that he might in some way hear of this 'tribute' to him and be touched by it.  Knowing you made a difference to someone's life can sometimes make a difference to your own.

Here's to you, Dougie.  Hope you're hale and hearty.


And below, in all their unretouched glory, are the four illustrations drawn with a black ink BIC biro in a blank jotter on a lazy afternoon in Mr. Smith's Maths class all those years ago.  Nothing brilliant by any means, but while I indulged myself, my classmates had to get on with doing their sums.  I wonder if I'm the only pupil ever to get paid for doing something else during school hours?

(Actually, now that I think about it, I remember finishing the fourth one at home, so the Maths period must have been the last one of the afternoon.)


FOOTNOTE: Since first posting this, I've been beset by a nagging suspicion that I may have misremembered the amount of remuneration involved.  Perhaps it was only £2 and not £5 in that envelope.  However, if so - two quid was still a lot of money for a young teenager back then. Especially as I mostly earned it during school hours when I should've been doing something else.  

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