Monday 31 December 2012


Copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

As a special HOGMANAY treat, here's the DESPERATE DAN story from the NEW YEAR edition of The DANDY, cover-dated January 8th, 2000.  This story, illustrated by the mighty KEN H. HARRISON, comes from a time when the strip was being drawn to a far higher standard than in the last few years.  That's probably why the digital edition of the comic has returned Dan to his classic look (so I'm told).  Long may it be so.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Sunday 30 December 2012


Logo by me

Here's a question for everyone, so put on your thinking caps.  If, from this point on, you could re-acquire only one toy from childhood (assuming you wanted to, that is, and not counting any you may already have), which one would it be - and why?  Reveal all.

Saturday 29 December 2012


Take a look at the little beauty in the accompanying photographs.  It's only yer actual CECIL COLEMAN toy SUPERCAR from the 1960s - wow!  I've had this item for quite a number of years now, but it took me even longer to acquire from when I first saw this imitation BUDGIE TOYS plaything back when I was a mere kidlet.  (The flash has wiped out some colour and detail, but you get the picture - pun intended.)

Talking of Budgie Toys, I actually owned one of their diecast Supercars for half an hour or so (might've been a wee bit longer) way back in 1965.  I'd swapped a red toy yacht and a water pistol with a boy around the corner (BILLY THOMSON* if I recall correctly) for his rather beat-up "marvel of the age" - only to soon change my mind when I realized it was on the verge of falling to bits.  He was somewhat reluctant to swap back, but I 'insisted'.  (*Funnily enough, we'd lived next to another Billy Thomson in our previous house just a few minutes up the road.)

Regarding the Cecil Coleman version however, I first saw this toy circa 1966 or '67 in my local SAFEWAY store, hanging on an end-of-aisle display, whilst being dragged around the shops by my mother.  If I recall correctly, it was only 2'6d, but, despite my heartfelt pleas, I came away empty-handed.  A couple of years later, I saw another one on a stall in Glasgow's famous BARROWLAND market ('The Barras'), but again (even though it was only 1'9d this time) my earnest entreaties fell on deaf ears.

Cut to around 30 years later when I saw one advertised for £350 in a collectors mag.  I had to have it, of course, so promptly stumped up the admittedly over-priced amount, even by then-current standards.  (I bought it from a well-known seller who tends to charge on the extreme side compared to other dealers.)  What can I say?  These toys are as rare as hens' teeth and it's only money.

It came in a card-backed blister-pack, with plastic figures of MIKE MERCURY, PROFESSOR POPKISS, Dr. BEAKER, JIMMY (not the one from The Krankies), and MITCH The MONKEY.  I'll show them on the blog another time, as they're tucked away somewhere at the moment.  (And I want to repaint them the figures to a higher standard first.)

It must be admitted that dear ol' Cecil's Supercar is a rather flimsy, underwhelming vehicle in the cold light of day, compared to how I remembered it from my childhood.  Then, it seemed like a plaything of unlimited possibilities; in reality, it's a two-colour, fragile affair that looks as if it might fall apart if someone breathes too hard in its direction.

Now, I have to admit that I've got quite a few items in my collection for which I've paid rather steep prices, but I don't buy collectables to cash in at a future date when they've increased in value.  I purchase things merely because I want them, and I don't mind bringing an item up to my rather high standards if I consider it can stand improving.  I'm lucky in being able to repaint things to a far higher specification than when they were originally issued.

A Coleman Supercar without 'improvement'

Case in point: when I acquired my excellent STEVE ZODIAC and ZOONY on a JETMOBILE toy by GOLDEN GATE, Steve's body wasn't glued together properly, leaving a one millimetre gap between the two parts.  Also, his hands weren't painted, and the seat of the jetmobile wasn't fitted properly.  They are now, and the overall look has been vastly improved since it came into my possession.

Same with my Coleman Supercar.  Previously, it boasted a mere two colours - red and silver, and was rather boring to look at.  Now, with a bit of 'detailing', it looks far more substantial than it actually is.  Some collectors would regard my 'improvements' as sacrilege, but, as I said, the monetary potential in the collectors' market is of no interest to me; all I'm concerned with is an item looking as good as it possibly can.

And doesn't my Supercar look brilliant?!

Friday 28 December 2012


In the comments section of the previous post, someone asked to see my collection of GERRY ANDERSON toys, so feast your eyes on a few random photos of just some of my goodies.  Not shown are more recent items, or books, records, annuals, comics, or my PEDIGREE CAPTAIN SCARLET action figure.  (Got two - nyahh!)  First up, above, is me in 1968 with my STEVE ZODIAC & ZOONY on a jetmobile, plus my bendy Captain Scarlet figure.  From the collection below, I have the boxes and packaging for all but two of the items (the TB2 and FAB 1).  Replica boxes are available though, so maybe one day.

And finally, here's me again circa 1967, with my CENTURY 21 (J. ROSENTHAL TOYS) friction-drive TB1, which came in blue with grey wings and grey with blue wings.  I had both colour variations of this toy as a kid (at different times), plus the TB2 with a wee green jeep in the pod.  Handsome little devil, if I say so myself.  (Me, I mean.)

Thursday 27 December 2012


So, after PATRICK MOORE, CHARLES DURNING and JACK KLUGMAN, comes the sad news that GERRY ANDERSON, creator of shows like FIREBALL XL5, THUNDERBIRDS and the indestructible CAPTAIN SCARLET, has gone to that great TV studio in the sky.  Gerry more than deserves his place in television history, but I have to confess that I often found watching or listening to him being interviewed over the years to be quite an uncomfortable experience.

The reason for this is that Gerry himself seemed uncomfortable about being associated with kids programmes; appeared frustrated by it - to resent it, in fact, and spoke with apparent reluctance about his involvement in the cult shows which had made him a household name.  He always went to great pains to point out that it was never his ambition to produce entertainment for children, and that his shows were merely a showcase to demonstrate that he was capable of far more 'respectable' and prestigious projects, if only given half a chance by any movie moguls who might be watching.

Perhaps he was just painfully shy, but he more often than not came across as being embarrassed by his classic puppet programmes and only too eager to distance himself from them, although never quite able to escape their shadow completely.  After all, they were his main (maybe only) claim to fame, so it's understandable if he decided that he might as well try and salvage something from the situation - exploit it (however reluctantly) until something better came along.

At least that's how it seemed (to me) for most of his career.  Then something happened, and I can only hazard a guess as to what.  In later years, he seemed to finally give in and accept the cards that fate had dealt him; seemed to come to terms with his situation and realise that there was no shame in creating magic and enchantment that kids would fondly remember for the rest of their lives.  He began to relax and accept the high regard in which he was held as his due; see that the gratitude expressed by adults whose childhoods he had enriched as genuine expressions of respect and affection, as opposed to fawning flattery by a bunch of geeks and freaks who simply couldn't grow up.

I read his autobiography a couple of years ago and, in my opinion, it didn't always portray him in an entirely favourable light, though he was presumably unaware of the negative aspects he revealed about himself and his personality.  However, now is not the moment to dwell on the human failings that all are heir to; rather, it is a time to celebrate the life and achievements of a talented, creative man, whose triumphs touched the hearts and minds of a great many children and adults, and will doubtless continue to do so for a very long time to come.

To paraphrase LADY PENELOPE: "Oh, Gerry... well done!"

In Memoriam:  Gerry Anderson - 1929 - 2012.


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

If ever I needed something to remind me of just how fleeting time is (which I don't), the above comic would have to be considered a leading contender.  The 50th Birthday issue of The DANDY, which I really do remember buying as if it were only a few months ago, as opposed to the quarter century it actually happens to be.

Think about that just for a moment; this comic is now 25 years old and comes from a time when The Dandy was but two-thirds of the way through its 75 year journey which ended only this month.  Those under a certain age will not yet be able to fully appreciate the enormity of the scenario I'm trying to describe.  If you're around 30 years of age, imagine going to your bed last night as a five year-old and waking up today the age you are now.  That's how mind-bogglingly awesome is the realisation that I actually purchased this comic back in 1987.

Well, while I sit here reeling from the shock of practically half my life going by faster than a fart from the FLASH, you can have a look at some of the contents of this anniversary issue from (gasp) so long ago - perhaps from a time before some of you were even born.  To those of you under 30 who bought the last ever Dandy and are wondering what the heck I'm wittering on about - comprehension will smack you right in the face like a wet kipper in around 25 years from now (if not sooner).  Hopefully I'll still be around to say "See?  I told you so!"


Wednesday 26 December 2012


Copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd
Remember when comics were cheap, cheerful, and Christmassy at the appropriate time of the year?  Then you're sure to love this Yuletide edition of The BEEZER from 1986.  Let's not bother with any waffle from me - fling yourselves headlong into these lovely cartoon capers, lads and lasses (or 'lassies' if you're Scottish).  Most of your old favourites are here.  And be sure to record your reminiscinces in the comments section.

Tuesday 25 December 2012


Me on my family estate (he lied, shamelessly) around 1988 or '89

As we grow up and pass through the various, inevitable 'chapters' of our lives - like infancy, childhood, teenage years, young adulthood, etc., - we do so unselfconsciously, without realizing at the time that we're exiting one stage and entering another.  It's only when we look back many years later, that we come to recognize that certain phases of our lives (depending on individual circumstances, naturally) each fall into their own separate and distinct 'compartments'. (Or, at least, that's how it seems in retrospect.)

That's probably a bit vague and ambiguous, so let me attempt to clarify what I'm trying to convey.  One of my fondest childhood memories is sneaking downstairs with my brother in the wee, small hours of a Christmas morning to unwrap our presents, as our parents snored away in blissful ignorance of what we were up to. Another is going out on Hallowe'en and chapping neighbourhood doors in the company of three or four others, and reciting a verse or three in exchange for monkey nuts, some apples and oranges.

Sliding down slippery slopes on sledges my father had built was another boyhood joy, with the spray from the snow splattering my face with its exhilarating tingle as I raced recklessly downhill with seemingly suicidal intent.  I christened my sledge 'Fireball XL5' and still had it right up 'til my early twenties, when it mysteriously disappeared ere I had a chance to protest.  My father probably used the wood for something, or it was thrown away in the early '80s when I wasn't looking.

A very poor, out-of-focus photo of me from around 1977/'78.  That's
my sledge leaning against our dog Tara's kennel on my left

It occurs to me that one of the worst cruelties parents can inflict on their children is to decide, in their absence and without consultation, to dispose of their childhood treasures on the grounds that they're 'too old' for them and don't need them anymore.  (Many a lifelong obsession has resulted from such thoughtless parental behaviour, I'm sure.)

If you're an adult who yet lives in your childhood home, perhaps happy halcyon days don't seem so very far away, and, if so, you're in an extremely enviable position.  I first moved into my present address aged around 13-and-a-half when the immediate past seemed far closer than it does now.  However, these days, I often find it a source of great disappointment that fondly-recalled moments associated with childhood belong to previous houses rather than my current abode.

It never seemed to matter much before, but as I get older, my past appears even further removed from me, and it galls me that I never got to sneak downstairs at Christmas in this house, or went sledging down the hill in the nearby park in winter, or guising 'round the neighbours' houses at Hallowe'en.  These things all happened elsewhere.

The house with the dark front door is the one I lived in when
my sledge was built.  Photo taken around 2009 or 2010

Last year, at Christmas, I revisited the area I used to live in from about one-and-a-half years old until I was six, going on seven.  It's only about 25 minutes away on foot, which might not sound like any kind of a journey, but the 'reality' of travelling 46 years into the past is an immense distance in anyone's book.  It was between seven or eight o'clock at night and some local teenagers (about 17 years old, I'd guess) were sledging down the very hill that I had done all those years before. I was with a friend, so not having to worry about being mistaken for some lone, sinister stranger, I hailed them and asked if I could have a shot on one of their sleds.

I explained my connection to the area and they were entirely agreeable, no doubt hoping to witness this old duffer come a cropper on the slopes.  It was one of those modern plastic sleds, red in colour (my favourite), so the blood wouldn't show if I happened to injure myself.  What an experience!  It was great to relive a moment in the same place as nearly 50 years previously, and I'm glad I did so before the local council decide to sell the land for houses or whatever.

But I digress.  As my very existence ticks faster and faster away, what once seemed like one cohesive 'whole' now seems fragmented and scattered to the far corners.  I refer to the various aspects that make up my life of course.  Sometimes, I look at my comics and toys from childhood and am suddenly beset by a feeling that they belong elsewhere, and seem curiously out of place.  One item recalls one house to memory, another summons forth recollections of a different one.  Mostly, such mementos afford me a great deal of comfort and pleasure, but, occasionally, can also cast a pall of sorrow over my ruminations.

A similar occasion to the one described, but in a different place around
20-odd years earlier, in 1989 or '90.  (Same colour of sled though)

As I've no doubt ruefully reflected before in my melancholy musings, it sometimes seems like the 'spirit of youth', which once beat so strongly within me, slipped off somewhere to die when I wasn't looking, leaving me tired and empty, a mere husk of my former self.  All that remains is a dim and distant echo that yet reverberates in the vast caverns of memory, but even echoes eventually die.  The ghost of my childhood now resides in former homes, having fled this current one.  It deigns to visit me on occasion however, so I must be thankful for small mercies.

Usually, surrounding oneself with familiar objects from the past helps perpetuate the notion that it's not so very far away after all; that, in fact, there is no past, present or future - only one big 'now'.  However, the mind is a fickle mistress, and sometimes delights in torturing us with a 'reality' far different to the one we'd prefer.  On that mournful note, I'd be interested in reading the opinions and perceptions of my fellow Criv-ites.  Is the past, to you, not only a foreign country, but also a forgotten one?  Or, like me, do you constantly endeavour to keep it in view, like MOLE in Kenneth Grahame's The WIND In The WILLOWS, to completely abandon the old life for the new?

Well, I'm not sure whether any of the above screed is as clear as I'd have liked, but, if you can understand what I was trying to say, feel free to analyze, soliloquize, theorize, rationalize - or even agonize - about it in the comments section.

My faithful dog, Zara, three quarters of the way down the actual hill
I sledged on as a child - and once as an adult.  Taken around 1996

Click on photos to enlarge.  In the case of photo #3, clicking again will  enlarge even further.  (In case you want to look through the windows.)


Copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

Merry Christmas to all readers of this blog, and here's hoping that SANTA was as good to you as you could afford him to be - or even more so, if possible. Harking back to to the days when comics were inexpensive fun that sold in the many hundreds of thousands, I thought I'd let you take a little keek at a select few pages from The CHRISTMAS BEANO of 1986.  Look at that lovely snow on the logo. Maybe that's why old farts like myself seem to remember it having snowed every year when we were kids - after all, it always did in the comics we read, and they perhaps influence our memories of the past when we look back on it so many years later.

Anyway, whether that's a profound thought or not, just enjoy these pages from the days when comics were fun, simple and easy to read, instead of the headache-inducing, visual obstacle courses that some of them are today.  (What few that are left, that is.)

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