Wednesday 31 October 2012


Whoooooooo!!  It's HALLOWE'EN tonight, and happy memories spring to mind of when I was still young enough to go out 'on the scrounge' every October 31st.  As well as the usual assortment of  apples, monkey nuts, oranges and stuff to look forward to, there was also a tidy pile of cash to be reaped from grown-ups who couldn't be bothered to get fruit in for the 'guisers' who came to their door.  We'd give them a verse or a song, and a shilling (or two) would be quickly pressed into our grasping little hands before the door was hastily shut so they could get back to watching CORONATION STREET on the telly.

We Brits were far more innocent in our approach to All Hallows' Eve than our Stateside counterparts.  Essentially, we were begging - but at least we also offered a few moments of entertainment in return for the treats and cash pressed upon us.  In America, it was nothing less than extortion, pure and simple.  "Trick or treat!", these masked, tiny-terrorists would proclaim, threatening to inflict some form of mischievous retribution upon any poor householders who didn't meet their demands.  Well, I don't know about you, but I know which version of the age-old tradition I prefer.

I couldn't quite think of a suitable picture to accompany this post, so in the end I decided to feature film-fandom's favourite frightmeister, BORIS KARLOFF!  However, just to be different, here he is not as the Monster or the Mummy, but as simply - himself

Happy Hallowe'en!



VALIANT #1, cover-dated October 6th, 1962, was an anthology title published by FLEETWAY PUBLICATIONS which managed an impressive 14 year run before being merged into BATTLE PICTURE WEEKLY in 1976.  In its time, it had consumed quite a few comics itself, including KNOCKOUT, SMASH!, TV21, and LION.

Some of the famous strips featured in its weekly pages over the years were CAPTAIN HURRICANE, The STEEL CLAW, KELLY'S EYE, MYTEK The MIGHTY, The HOUSE Of DOLMANNThe CROWS, The NUTTS, and BILLY BUNTER.

Here, for your reading pleasure, are just a few of the strips from the very first issue.  Keep your eyes peeled for the final issue, coming up in a future post.

Tuesday 30 October 2012



As a pre-Hallowe'en treat, here's the first published (but not the first produced) episode of JUDGE DREDD from 2000 A.D. #2 in 1977.  (JD had appeared in number 1, but only in an ad for the next issue.)  Note how Dredd was somewhat scrawny (if not downright puny) in this early version, and not quite as imposing as he would later become.  Makes me wonder if the citizens of MEGA-CITY ONE made comments to themselves about cops looking younger and younger.  This story was written by PETE HARRISPAT MILLS (who extensively rewrote Harris's original submission) and drawn by MIKE McMAHON.  Dredd was created by JOHN WAGNER and CARLOS EZQUERRA (who designed the look of the character), with input from Mills as to how the strip should be developed.

Anyway, enjoy ol' Dreddy's first appearance - 'cos he is the law!

Monday 29 October 2012


Images copyright DC COMICS

PSSSTT!!  Wanna see some pretty pictures?  Then you're in luck, 'cos here are six li'l beauties to feast your peepers on.  This was the second series to feature ol' SWAMPY, published way back in the early '80s when BRUCE FORSYTH was merely old, but not yet ancient.  (Word is, Brucie was on board the Ark, but when asked whether this was true or not, family friend and spokesman, NOAH JUNIOR, refused to comment.) 

Anyway, enjoy these half-dozen dazzling drawings by TOM YEATES, which evoke the spirit of BERNIE WRIGHTSON without being a slavish imitation of his style. And feel free to express your opinion on these covers in the comments section, if you so wish.

Sunday 28 October 2012



When Marvel 'officially' established itself in the U.K. with The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL in 1972, they had a good-looking product on their hands that readers responded to.  40 pages, 6 of them in full-colour, the remainder in spot-colour and/or Zipatone (as it was called in America, Letratone in Britain) - and all for only 5 pence.  With issue #5, the full-colour pages were increased to 8 per issue, which lasted until #19, with only 4 in #20 from then on.

Over the course of the first year, the spot-colour decreased as the use of Zipatone became more prevalent, until, eventually, the interiors of Marvel's U.K. weeklies became distinctly grey.  Issue #42 was the last one to feature green spot-hues, and when the comic was awarded a glossy cover with number 67, the contents became little more than a muddy mess.  This wasn't confined to just MWOM, but was also a blight on SPIDER-MAN COMICS WEEKLY and The AVENGERS.  (Although, truth to tell, as the first British weekly Marvel comic to sport a glossy cover from issue #1, The Avengers had always been cursed with that affliction.)

SMCW, launched in February '73, only ever had 4 full-colour pages, the remainder featuring red and orange spot-colour - and Zipatone - until issue #23, which was the very last one to feature the crimson and amber hues.  With number 24, the comic became all-grey (apart from the full-colour matte paper covers), but although the tones were a bit overwhelming, the art, for the most part, was still discernible.  However, with issue #48, everything changed - and all for the worse. The comic was also given a glossy cover and, overnight, became one monumental murky morass of dark grey and pitch-black blotches.  This deplorable situation lasted for months, and I'm amazed it was allowed to continue for as long as it did.

Theoretically, it shouldn't have been a problem.  After all, as far as I can ascertain, the tones were applied to the pages by the same team responsible for Marvel's black and white U.S. magazines - and they turned out fine.  It seems obvious, therefore, that the problem was a direct result of the cheap printing process utilised by the British printers responsible for producing Marvel's U.K. weekly output.  For far too long a period, British Marvels were an unattractive and unappealing alternative to the much more popular, cleanly printed (by comparison) IPC and D.C. THOMSON periodicals with which they had to share newsagents' shelves.  It was surely only the unswerving loyalty of devoted Marvel fans that enabled 'The House of Ideas' to turn any kind of profit.  (Here's an idea - get your printing sorted out, you thickos!)

Perhaps you think I exaggerate?  Take a look at the pages illustrating this post (especially the second Spider-Man one) and you'll see how bad it really was.  In fact, it wasn't just the tones that were awful - so was the reproduction.  Look at the Spidey splash-page - his webbing is practically invisible.  Thankfully, things eventually improved.


BEST LAID PLANS DEPT: When I first posted this, I thought I was being original. However, I've just been browsing on STEVE DOES COMICS blog and noticed that ol' Stevie-boy had already touched on this subject (and this very comic) some time ago.  What's more, I'd even left a comment on it, yet I had absolutely no recollection of previously reading Steve's post when I came to write my own.  Spooky, eh?  Has such a thing ever happened to you?  



When I was a much younger kid than I am now, people (usually teachers) often told me that I had a 'great' imagination.  Thing is, it wasn't intended as a compliment, and carried with it the strong suggestion that I was tethered to reality by only the most gossamer and fastly-fraying thread.  Huh!  What do teachers know?  (I should've called down my alien allies from the planet XRILLFON to sort them out, but they were busy.)

It seems to me, looking at the opening panel of the above artwork, that GEORGE LAZENBY as JAMES BOND is looking out at us from the left-hand side of the page.  And isn't that the Saintly ROGER MOORE as SIMON TEMPLAR assisting a woman out of the car on the right?  Or am I just imagining it?  What's that?  You don't think it's meant to be them?  All I can say then, is that it's a much more interesting place in my world than it seems to be in yours.

And here's me being generous to you by presenting the next episode of The MISSING LINK, as drawn by LUIS BERMEJO, for your reading pleasure.  It wouldn't have hurt you to agree with me, now, would it?   Pah!  (Don't panic - it's only mock-indignation for comic effect.  You're allowed to disagree with me if you want to.)

Interestingly, I remember sitting in the 2000 A.D. offices one day in the mid-'80s and looking through the ODHAMS PRESS bound file copies of the first 50 issues of FANTASTIC (whence comes the saga of The Missing Link).  When my eyes fell upon the pages, above, I made the same observation about the first panel to ol' THARGY's team of droids.  (I also speculated on whether Bermejo used publicity photos from Bond movie ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, as I felt that the girl in the pic faintly resembled DIANNA RIGG.)

Let me see now, that would have included STEVE MacMANUSSIMON GELLER, ROBIN SMITH and art assistant PAUL AILEY.  (Paul had worked on the old POWER COMICS, which is why he had these two red-bound volumes in the bookshelf behind his desk.)  If I remember correctly, Robin Smith agreed that there was a similarity and also thought it possible that the artist had used photographic reference.

What do the rest of you think?  

Saturday 27 October 2012



Continuing our occasional series of DEAN WHITE's painted extravaganzas for the softcover editions of MARVEL MASTERWORKS, here's Dean's version of JACK KIRBY's illustration for The INCREDIBLE HULK #1. I happen to think that Dean's renditions of these classic covers are pretty durn hot, but, surprisingly there hasn't been much (if any, in fact) comment, either for or against them, on the previous entries in the series.  Don't be shy - let everyone know what you think of these powerhouse paintings NOW! 

Friday 26 October 2012


Copyright relevant owner

Memory is a funny thing, don't you think?  I don't mean 'funny ha-ha', but 'funny peculiar'.  I consider myself to have a fairly good memory (in the main), but am sometimes astounded when reminded of things I hadn't even realized I'd seemingly forgotten.  For example, take a look at the above ad for these half-dozen STAR TREK masks.  Had I merely been asked if I remembered them on the back of KELLOGG'S CORN FLAKES boxes back in 1971, I'd probably have thought they sounded familiar, but not been 100% sure whether I actually (if vaguely) remembered them or only imagined I did.

However, when I recently laid eyes on this ad on the back of one of my VALIANT & SMASH! comics, I recalled them instantly.  I definitely had the MR. SPOCK one, and maybe even one or two others.  Thing is, I hadn't thought about them in forty-one years and would probably never have done so if not for seeing the ad again.  Isn't it strange how it sometimes requires a visual reminder of something for us to realize we'd 'forgotten' it?

Who knows what memories lurk in the minds of men?  (H'mm, that's a good line - someone should have used it for something.)

Thursday 25 October 2012



Here we go again, as Britain's answer to The HULK goes on the rampage in the very heart of swinging '60s London.  Marvel at the mountainous might of the livid LINK as he shows his magnificent mastery of the English language; gasp in gigantic gratitude as he demonstrates just how tight trousers should be worn; stand still and be startled by his animal magnetism and his uncanny ability to make women swoon; dribble in disbelief at the amount of total tripe I can write in a single paragraph.  Whatever you do though, don't forget to notice the amazing artwork of LUIS BERMEJO - it really is something to shout about!


Copyright relevant owner

Three weeks after the amalgamation of LION and THUNDER (as seen here), VALIANT and SMASH! succumbed to the same fate.  It's interesting to note how much more attractive and dynamic the cover to the first combined issue of Valiant & Smash! is compared to that of Lion & Thunder. Frankly, the editor who accepted the cover lettering for L&T was asleep at the wheel; he'd have been far better following the example of the editor of V&S, who clearly had a much sharper eye for recognising what makes a striking cover banner.

Take a look at the banner-blurbs over the mastheads (above) of the first two issues of L&T; poorly executed, inconsistently spaced - and completely unexciting.  Now look at the one on the V&S cover at the top of this post; neat, zippy, punchy, colourful - all the things that a cover banner should be.

Well, now that I've vented about poor display lettering, let's take a look at the first issue itself.  Unlike L&T, V&S remained predominantly Valiant, with nine strips consisting of a whopping twenty pages, whereas Smash! was represented by only four strips totalling nine pages. Valiant stories included CAPTAIN HURRICANE, The CROWS, The NUTTSBANGER & MASHER, RAVEN On The WING, KELLY'S EYEThe WILD WONDERS, The GHOSTLY GUARDIAN, and 'heavyweight chump' BILLY BUNTER. Representing Smash! were JANUS STARK, The SWOTS The BLOTS, SIMON TEST, and HIS SPORTING LORDSHIP.

So why were these two comics amalgamated?  Declining sales of at least one of them is surely a given, but what had led to such a situation? A few months earlier, industrial action by printers had resulted in the suspension of various titles for around twelve weeks.  When publication eventually resumed, many readers had been lost along the way.  This resulted in some titles being amalgamated in an attempt to combine the circulation of two comics into one.

Anyway, that's more than enough waffle from me for one post.  Here's a few select pages from forty-one and a half years ago to hopefully refresh fond memories from yesteryear.  Enjoy.

Remember to click on images to enlarge, then click again for optimum size.

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