Sunday 30 September 2012


If I remember my DOCTOR WHO history correctly, a DALEK's 'sink-plunger' appeared on the programme on December 21st, 1963, but it wasn't until the following week (28th) that the pepper-pot perpetrators of planetary pulverisation appeared in their full glory and subsequently took the kiddie-contingent of the country by storm.  MARX TOYS were amongst the first to jump on the merchandising bandwagon that followed, with an assortment of friction-drive, ball-bearing and battery-powered bump 'n' go plastic playthings in varying sizes and colours.  (Silver and black initially, with red and yellow ones a few years later.)

Although the demand for these toys was huge, it has to be admitted in the cold light of adulthood that they weren't entirely accurate in terms of detail.  True, they captured the essence of the aggressive aliens perfectly and were even used as stand-ins in the programme itself, but could hardly be considered as exact reproductions of their TV counterparts.  (Though Marx were not the only manufacturers of Dalek merchandise whose product differed from their cathode ray tube incarnations.)

At least, that's the generally-held view of collectors of these popular 'metal' mutants.  However, a few years back, in the pages of DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE, I spied an early production sketch by designer RAY CUSICK, which suggested a possible means of propelling the Scions of SKARO around the BBC studios.  Take a good look at the drawing below - doesn't it seem remarkably similar to the Marx Dalek to you?  Look at the shape of the head - it's almost a dead-ringer for the Marx version.  (It's also got the same lights as the movie version - a couple of years before the big-screen adventure had even been thought of.)  

So, to all those inclined to write off the Marx Dalek as an inaccurate representation of the Doctor's arch-enemies, perhaps it's now time to re- evaluate that assessment.  The fact that it bears quite a resemblance to an approved (in appearance, if not in propulsion) production sketch by the actual designer means we can safely regard the most sought-after toy of Christmas '64 as an 'official', if variant, member of the Dalek ranks.

Obviously, as has been seen down through the years, Daleks come in various versions, and each one is as valid as another.  I can't help wondering, though, if the terrifying tin-pot tyrants would have been as successful if either of the following two designs had been approved by the suits in charge.  Perhaps the whole future of the programme would have been different - if, indeed, it would even have had one.

So, go on - dig out your Marx Dalek today (if you're lucky enough to own one) and give him pride of place once more on your shelf or sideboard.  No longer need he play second-fiddle to his later brothers and cousins.  No hiding him behind the rest of them, mind - stick him up-front where he rightfully belongs. 

Thursday 27 September 2012


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Hard to believe the above issue is nearly 50 years old.  I acquired it just over two decades after it was published, which means I've now owned it for close to 30 years - something else I find difficult to wrap my mind around.  The first half-dozen F.F. Annuals all had new content alongside select reprints, but with #7 they became all-reprint material - which lasted until 1976 and the release of Annual #11.

The seventh King-Size Special Annual, reprinted the contents of #2 (above), while #8 re-presented the first in the series, minus the opening chapter of the foursome's origin from their 1961 debut in F.F. #1 (which had faces and figures redrawn in places, to update the look of some of the characters).

The above cover was one I re-created for the original printing of Volume 25 of MARVEL MASTERWORKS, and was featured in several publications over the years until an earlier, superior source was discovered and utilized for the OMNIBUS volumes and recently updated Masterworks editions.  JACK ('KING') KIRBY was still alive when I re-inked, re-created and restored this page (and others), and it was an immense thrill to see my name in the credits section of the book alongside some of the (then) living legends of the Marvel Age.

Annual #4 featured the return of the original HUMAN TORCH, but it was the reprints which made this issue a 'must-have'.  Re-presenting F.F. #s 25 26, the second meeting 'twixt The HULK and The THING was a real classic.  I confess to never being overly fond of GEORGE ROUSSOS's inks (under the name of George Bell) over Kirby's F.F. pencils, but, some way, somehow, they work in this two-part slug-fest from the scintillating '60s.

The above was the cataclysmic issue that featured The SILVER SURFER in his very first solo story.  By this time, Kirby's figure-work had lost some of the grace and fluidity with which he had imbued NORRIN RADD when he first appeared in what would later become known as the GALACTUS TRILOGY.  I have to say that I think STAN LEE made the right choice when he picked Big JOHN BUSCEMA to illustrate the regular adventures of the Surfer in his own mag.  Short-lived though it was, I fear it would have been even shorter had Jack been at the helm.

The sixth in the series was the one which made comicbook history by introducing childbirth into the world of superhero sagas.  Nothing graphic, and all 'off-camera', but, as far as I'm aware, no other super-powered couples had ever entered into parenthood before.  REED and SUE's son, FRANKLIN, is with us yet and is still only a kid - I just wish I knew his secret.

Which brings us back to the beginning - in reverse - for this series of Specials, as the above ish reprinted the story from the second Annual from 1964.  I'd be interested to know if the reprint editions sold as well (or better) as the ones which contained new material, but I'm assuming so as they must have cost less to produce.  Anyone know for sure?

We end our journey where it began - with a re-presentation of the tale from the very first '63 Annual.  It's always nice to come full-circle, don't you think?  And isn't it interesting to compare JOHN ROMITA's cover with Jack Kirby's?  On balance, I think that Romita's is far more dynamic, with Kirby's being a little sedate for such an action-packed adventure.  However, we aren't restricted to one or the other - we have both to enjoy whenever the fancy takes us.  'Nuff said!


In answer to a request in the comments section, what follows (eventually) is the restored cover of F.F. Annual #3 for Marvel Masterworks Vol 25, published in 1993.  First up (below) is what I had to work with, taken from an issue of SMASH! printed back in the 1960s.  I later found a much sharper copy of this ad in an issue of FANTASTIC, but by then it was too late - I'd already completed all the work and wasn't willing to do it again.

And below is the finished result, a combination of re-created lettering and some taken from my own copy of the actual issue.  You'll see that I had to add two missing figures, as well as re-ink the entire page.

When I first started restoring pages, my aim was to make them as exact as I could, but then I succumbed to the temptation to leave my own 'stamp' on them.  If you look closely, you'll find occasional little deviations from the original.  However, this was accentuated by Marvel not following the original colouring of the published comics.  Nowadays, Marvel strive to make their Masterworks volumes as close to the originals as possible.  The recent softcover editions really are worth acquiring for your collection.

Above is a section from the cover - isn't that gilded frame a thing of beauty?  Below is a section from the credits page - Stan Lee's name kicks it off, I bring up the rear.

And now, what you've been waiting for - the published result.  Unfortunately, the outline of 'King-Size' in the banner at the top of the page was somehow 'lost' in the colouring process, but it was fixed when the cover was later reproduced in other publications.

Considering I used only a Marsmatic technical pen to re-ink a photocopy on cheap paper (copied in my local library), it turned out not too badly.  I also worked on Volume 26 (THOR) - the series was cancelled after Volume 27, but was revived a few years later.


Art by John Buscema
40 years ago, on September 30th, 1972, The MIGHTY WORLD Of
MARVEL #1 (cover dated October 7th) burst onto newsagents' counters
all over Britain.  I hadn't seen the STAN LEE-voiced TV ad (although I did
later), so it came as a surprise when I spotted the comic on a wall-rack out-
side a newsagent's along from Glasgow's famous BARROWLAND market
(aka The BARRAS), where I and my parents were heading on that
particular Saturday morning.

Art by Jack Kirby
Art by Jack Kirby
I couldn't talk my folks
into buying it for me on the
way in, but I'd managed to
wear them down into submis-
sion by the time we made our
way out an hour or so later.  We
were soon ensconced in the cosy
confines of a comfy cafe, and it
was with great joy that I pored
through its contents over a glass
of cola and reacquainted myself
with the pals I'd first met in the
pulsating pages of ODHAMS'
POWER COMICS, way back
in what even then seemed like
the dim and distant days of
the '60s.  Suddenly, life
was exciting again.

Art by Jack Kirby

DEZ SKINN once revealed that Stan had told him the comic's original
title was going to be The WONDERFUL World of Marvel (after the
Disney TV show of almost the same name), but thankfully 'twas not to be.
Besides, MIGHTY and MARVEL go so well together it seems the obvious
choice, so I'm amazed that any other name was even considered.

Art by Jack Kirby

Art by Jack Kirby
40 pages, some in full-
colour (the rest with green
'spot' colour), for only 5p -
containing the origins of The
SPIDER-MAN - plus a Hulk
iron-on transfer (left) - Wow!
I wish they still produced
comics like that today!

Well, in a sense - they do!
I still buy MWOM today,
although it's now published
monthly, has 76 full-colour
pages and costs £2.95.

The Mighty World of Marvel - I hope it's still around in
another 40 years.  In fact, I hope I'm still around also.

Art by Steve Ditko

Hopefully, you won't mind me resurrecting a post from two years ago -
but (with a little revision) it was perfect for the purpose of celebrating the
debut of MWOM back in 1972.  And, to be honest, I simply couldn't think
of saying it any better than I did a couple of years back.  I wish I could relive
those Autumnal days from so long ago when I was a mere thirteen year old
boy, but, in a way, I can.  Whenever I look at those pulse-pounding pages
in the very first issue of The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL, I'm
once more back in the heady days of the sensational '70s.

Art by Steve Ditko

Incidentally, you may be interested to know that, despite a later
issue's claims to the contrary in response to a reader's enquiry, page
seven was edited out of SPIDER-MAN's origin.  The opening caption
of page eight was amended to cover this, and so unobtrusively was it
   done that the story's flow remained largely unaffected by the cut. 

Wednesday 26 September 2012


Copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

As a special treat, I'm bestowing upon all you rabid readers a few pages from the third DENNIS The MENACE book for 1960 (issued at the end of '59).  I'm fortunate enough to own every Dennis book ever printed (one of each, obviously - not the entire print run of every book) and they're well-worth having.  Published in an era before political correctness had been invented, the early books were the epitome of riotous, rebellious, rip-roaring FUN! 

The Dennis books didn't become actual 'annuals' until 1984 (for '85), which was the first to be released a year before the next one.  Before then, they had been published every two years until 1977 (for '78), whereupon it was 'rested' for a few years before resurfacing in 1982 (for '83).  The final edition was the Dennis & Gnasher Annual for 2011, issued at the end of 2010, but by then, Dennis was a pale imitation of his former self.  Will the Dennis books ever return?  Who knows, but in the meantime, enjoy the following classic capers from the heyday of the world's wildest boy.

All art in this post by Davey Law

Tuesday 25 September 2012



It's a wet and windy Autumn day outside, as the rain runs down my window and leaves swirl past as if they need to be somewhere in a hurry.  I almost feel like I should be preparing to brave the elements whilst getting ready for school, so evocative is it of days of long ago when such weather was something to be enjoyed (if you were ten years old) rather than cower from like a big feartie.

I can smell that 'woody' tang in the air, with hints of fireworks and Hallowe'en, and find myself wondering why, when I was younger, All Hallow's Eve and Guy Fawkes' Night seemed separated by a period of several weeks instead of the actual five days that exist between them.  I can remember, in school, as the night of October 31st approached, the afternoon being given over to making masks for the big event to come.  Then it would all happen again for November 5th, and I defy anyone to cast their minds back without seeming to 'remember' these two celebrations as being separated by a far longer period of time than they actually were.

I've often wondered how such a thing can be so.  If October 31st fell on a Monday, mask-making day would have been on Friday the 28th.  That means Guy Fawkes Night would have been on the following Saturday, and mask-making day would have occurred on Friday the 4th - a whole week later with a Saturday and Sunday in between.  Well, weekends obviously seemed far longer to us as kids back then than they do now, but not all mask-making afternoons were partitioned by a full weekend, so the seemingly elongated interval between the two events is not fully accounted for by such an explanation.

We'll just have to put it down to that same mysterious phenomenon which makes all our yesterdays, in retrospect, seem better, brighter and longer than they really were.  Don't we all feel that the summers of our childhoods were gloriously sunny for months on end, and that every Christmas morn we woke to find a deep carpet of snow spread before us outside our bedroom windows?

I doubt I'm alone in preferring to recall some things as they seemed to be, as opposed to how they actually were.  ("I think, therefore it was" - as someone surely must have said.)

Monday 24 September 2012


Images copyright respective owners

BARRY PEARL, author of The ESSENTIAL MARVEL AGE REFERENCE PROJECT and blogger of BARRY'S PEARLS Of COMIC BOOK WISDOM (here), recently asked me for my personal reminiscences as to how I first discovered comicbooks.  (Just like STAN LEE, I prefer to render it as one word.) 

First of all though, let me relate what I can recall of the earliest comics I encountered when I was but a few years old.  It would be impossible to list them in the sequential order I first experienced them, as my memories of that particular period of my life tend to run into one another and it's nigh-impossible to separate them at this late stage.  However, I remember being aware of SUPERMAN from about three or four years of age, and even reading one of his comics, doubtless bought by my older brother.  Whether it was a U.S. original or U.K. reprint is beyond my ability to recollect - not that I'd have known the difference at that young age anyway.

Back in the early and mid-'60s, which is the time I first became aware of them, Britain still had a decent comics industry, with myriad publications vying for the pocket-money of post-war 'baby-boomer' children.  Titles such as BEANO, DANDY, BEEZER, TOPPER, SPARKY, VICTOR, HOTSPURVALIANT, LION, TIGER, EAGLE, BUSTER, TV COMIC, TV CENTURY 21, and a whole host more - the majority of which were aimed mainly at boys.  Girls had their own 'pictorial papers' to amuse and entertain them.  Unlike American comics, their British counterparts were published weekly, so U.K. kids were spoilt for choice when it came to having something to read.

I probably first became aware of American comicbooks (as American comicbooks) around 1964 or '65, while visiting (with my mother and brother) a former nearby neighbour whose son bought them.  Sometimes he would even let us take some of them home - to keep.  More often than not, they were all from the same stable of NATIONAL PERIODICAL PUBLICATIONS (DC COMICS nowadays), and included such full-colour titles as SUPERMAN, BATMANThe FLASH, etc.  As most readers will know, U.S. comics came to Britain as ballast in ships, and were usually displayed on spinner-racks along with other monthly magazines in a shop corner, whereas U.K. comics were normally given space on the newsagent's counter.  This perhaps accounts for why I didn't discover 'yankee' superhero mags sooner.

I first became acquainted with MARVEL COMICS heroes in 1966, in the pages of a British title called SMASH!, published by ODHAMS PRESS.  First The HULK and then The FANTASTIC FOUR (the foursome's origin being reprinted in two comics simultaneously), followed soon after by the rest of the mighty Marvel powerhouse pantheon in sister-publications such as WHAM!, POW!FANTASTIC and TERRIFIC.  Three of these weekly comic papers (Wham! Smash!, and Pow!) ran the Marvel reprints alongside home-grown humour, adventure, war, and sports strips, typical of what British comics had been producing from the '50s onwards.  Of course, British comics go back much further than that, and Glasgow comics historian JOHN McSHANE has unearthed evidence that appears to suggest that comics first originated in Scotland - the real 'home of the brave and the land of the free'.

As for comicbooks from before my time, I first became aware of them through reprints in 80 page GIANTS and, later, when DC COMICS upped their price to 25 cents an issue in the early '70s and included 'Golden Age' bonus tales in the extra pages.  Classics from the '40s, such as The BOY COMMANDOS, The NEWSBOY LEGION, The SANDMAN, etc., re-presented for a (then) modern audience, added to my growing knowledge of (and appreciation for) what had gone before.  I learned about early U.K. comics from books by collector and historian, the late DENIS GIFFORD, whose collection contained periodicals unknown to even the British Museum.

So, that's how it all happened in my case, and I'm pretty sure it's not too different for those U.K. readers of a similar age and background to myself. I'd like to thank Barry for allowing me to indulge in my favourite pastimes - comicbooks and reminiscing about the past.  (Or 'talking about myself', as some cynics might prefer to describe it.)

Do you recall when you first became interested in comics, and at what point you became a dedicated collector?  Then don't be selfish - share your reflective recollections with your fellow Crivs and enjoy reliving your far-away youth.  The comments section awaits your esteemed presence. 


Images copyright their respective owners

Isn't it strange how, when we look at the past through the muggy mists of memory, periods of time we experienced as children seem to have lasted far longer than they actually did?  For instance, when I was getting FANTASTIC back in the '60s, it felt like I was reading the ODHAMS PRESS weekly periodical for years before it eventually discontinued publication and was merged into SMASH!, one of its stablemates.  However, Fantastic lasted for only 89 issues - which is (if my calculations are correct) a period of exactly one year and nine months.  Surely such a thing is impossible?  To me, it feels like I was buying it for about three or four years at the very least.

It's the same with WHAM!, another of the five POWER COMICS, as they were collectively known.  I didn't become a regular reader until the comic started featuring The FANTASTIC FOUR, sometime around August of '66.  The title was merged into POW! an issue or two into January of '68, which means that I had only been buying it for less than a year and a half before its untimely demise.  Yet, when I think back, it seems (and seemed) that the weekly periodical was a feature of my life for a far longer time than was actually the case.

Regular readers may remember that, some time ago, I mentioned in a previous post a quotation I heard on the radio a good few years back which ran something like this: "The memories of childhood are without time and without end."  When I revisit my own memories of childhood, I'm convinced of the truth of that insightful piece of wisdom.  If anyone can tell me its source I'd be much obliged. 

Wednesday 12 September 2012


Just to let all you cataclysmic comic fans out there know that I'm currently having computer and scanner problems, so posts might be a bit thin on the ground over the next few days - if not completely non-existent.  Responses to comments may also be a bit slow.  Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. (I hope.)

Monday 10 September 2012


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Presented for your appreciation and approval, the covers of the first three The INCREDIBLE HULK King-Size Specials, along with the fourth, which has fewer pages than the previous trio and therefore not exactly 'King-Size' (though still 'Special').  Hulkie's face on #1 was redrawn by MARIE SEVERIN, although JIM STERANKO's original fizzog remained untouched on the cover reproduction used in ads for the title.  There was something magical about these mags that today's 'Specials' just can't match.  I wish they'd bring 'em back.

Saturday 8 September 2012


Images copyright relevant and respective owners

One of the things that every blogger has to concern themselves with is just what to write about for each new post, in the hope that at least someone will be interested in reading the result.  One can never really tell with any certainty just what will float a reader's boat so it's a bit of a gamble whenever a blog host takes the plunge with yet another entry for his members' perusal and hopeful appreciation.  Will a catchy title arouse their curiosity?  Will a dramatic opening illustration grab their attention?  Sometimes I'm surprised as to just what attracts a significant number of hits - and sometimes I'm disappointed in equal measure as to what seems to escape under the radar.

So, "what's the recipe for today, Jim?" - and will it be enough to lure you into my blog's web for a few enjoyable minutes of reading pleasure?  Let's look at the subject of Summer Specials - or Holiday Specials as they were also sometimes called.  Asides from three new Ultimate Beano Summer Specials which graced the shelves of WHS not long ago, the particular breed known as the Summer Special seems to be extinct.  Hardly surprising given the dying interest in comics in general, but no less disappointing for that inarguable fact.

Those of a certain age will recall the glory days, when - for a mere 2'6d (usually) - 96 pages of fun and adventure could be had to pore over again and again.  There was just something about those extra thick publications that seemed to beckon to us from the newsagents' counters - enticing us to spend the halfcrown that a kindly and indulgent grandparent or uncle had given to us only a day or two before.  We were mainly unaware that, inevitably, these bumper packages contained an allocation of reprinted strips from comics or annuals of an earlier era - and what did it matter anyway?  They were definitely new to us.

So come with me now on a short journey, and let us return to an age when Holiday Specials were a welcome distraction as we sheltered under the leafy shade of an overhanging branch from the heat of the sweltering Summer sun.  A bottle of pop in one hand, an oversized paper periodical in the other, the future remained an undiscovered country - in which, sadly, all too soon we would find ourselves residing while wondering how we got there. 

And below is one of my all-time favourite Specials - the TV CENTURY 21 Summer Extra for 1965.  Took me years to track down this replacement, but got it for a very reasonable price.

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