Friday 30 November 2012



Near the end of January 1966, the first issue of a new comic went on sale in British newsagents - SMASH!  Cover-dated February 5th, it featured a mix of traditional humour and adventure strips, and was a sister publication to WHAM!, published by ODHAMS PRESS.  In April of that year, POW! was launched, but out of the three of them, Smash! was the longest-lasting, managing a relatively impressive five years.

One of the best-remembered strips was BRIAN'S BRAIN, featuring the adventures of  BRIAN KINGSLEY, a schoolboy who owned an electronic brain shaped like a skull, which he carried around in a box.  Bizarre indeed, but it proved popular with the readers at the time.  Just to give all you Criv-ites a taste of what you may've missed, here, for your eyes only, are the first two instalments of Brian's Brain.


The time has come to say goodbye to The MISSING LINK, as this
episode marks the last time the strip appeared under this title.  With the
next instalment, it was renamed JOHNNY FUTURE, and transformed
into a bona fide superhero series.  However, it's always best to leave the
table wanting for more, so the strip will be 'resting' for a while, as I've no
immediate plans to feature the remaining episodes.  All that can change
if there's enough demand, 'though  - so if you want to see the rest of
Johnny's adventures, cast your vote in the comments section.

Wednesday 28 November 2012


Art by CHARLES GRIGG from the 1987 Dandy Annual.  Copyright DCT

You're looking at the cover of the latest DANDY (featuring a decades-old illustration) which, even if I wasn't already buying the last few issues, I'd definitely purchase for the above picture alone - simply because it's just so nice to look at.  That's something that seems to have been forgotten by a whole slew of contemporary cartoonists working in what is laughably called the 'industry' today.  In their desire to be 'modern', or 'cutting edge', or 'with it', or 'down with the kids' (or whatever), they overlook what can be achieved by merely producing an attractive, well-rendered drawing that is simply a pleasure to look at.  Good art that not only tells a story but stands on its own two feet in and of itself.  Art for art's sake, as it were.

When I reviewed two pages in last week's Dandy, I received some criticism from certain minority quarters attempting to cast doubt on the motives behind my honest observations.  Coated in a superficial veneer of 'politeness' and 'civility', but equally mined with thinly-veiled facetiousness and sarcasm, comments came in from obviously emotionally-stunted individuals who clearly took exception to my detailed and specific analysis of the glaring deficiencies which were all-too apparent in sections of the 75 year old comic.  (Never mind that I also featured what I liked about the self-same issue.)

However, as I've pointed out before, I've never once compared the work of any artist in The Dandy to any level of artistic ability I perceive, pretend, imagine, wish, or delude myself that I may have, but rather against the recognized greats of yesterday and today.  (And there's far too many to list.)  Any acerbic aspersions on my motivations, therefore, simply do not bear up to even the mildest scrutiny.  Interestingly, going by recent reader reactions to the new BILLY WHIZZ strip in The BEANO, it seems there is far wider agreement with my view than my critics allow for.  Current artist WILBUR DAWBARN has elected to emulate the style of original artist, MALCOLM JUDGE, and so far there has been no negative reaction (that I've seen) to a return to a more traditional style.  (I feel obliged to say that there's no good reason why that lettering balloon in panel 6 should stray so far outside the border, but that's not Wilbur's fault.)

When I look at the art of some alleged cartoonists working in comics today, all it does is make my head hurt with a violent assault of almost-abstract imagery.  Oh for the days when comic strip art was nicely rendered, crystal clear and easy on the eye.  Just like the pages on this post, in fact.

As usual (fool to myself), the comments section is open to all those who want to agree, disagree, argue the toss, or simply hurl outrageous aspersions and vile invective.  Ready, steady... GO! 

Tuesday 27 November 2012


Back in 2004, I was shopping in my local supermarket one night ('twas the servants' day off), when I espied a box of FAB iced lollies in the refrigerated display cabinet designated for such items.  The box featured a promotional tie-in to the THUNDERBIRDS film released at the time, and I was heartened to see that this humble iced lolly had not forgotten nor abandoned its 1960s roots.

You see, dear reader, this particular item of frozen confectionery was linked to Thunderbirds from its very inception, being named after the GERRY ANDERSON programme's 'call sign' and touted as "The First Iced Lolly For Girls".  Of course, such sexist distinctions have long since been forgotten and, as far as I'm aware, this LYONS MAID favourite is still around today.  I know ZOOM iced lolly (as advertised by FIREBALL XL5's STEVE ZODIAC) was likewise obtainable a few years ago, but does anyone know if that's still the case?

I must look in the fridge the next time I'm in SAINSBURY'S.



The MISSING LINK is in serious trouble, so let's not waste a second!  How is this exemplary example of evolution going to extricate himself from his problematic predicament?  Sit back and see how artist extraordinaire, LUIS BERMEJO, draws all the dangling threads of this FANTASTIC story together.  And don't miss the next instalment, when events take a twist in a new and fascinating direction!

Monday 26 November 2012


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

DOCTOR STRANGE, Master of the Mystic Arts is aptly named - better by far than DOCTOR DROOM, the 'prototype' who preceded him, despite their very similar origins.  Strange by name, strange by nature - and also in logic if his third story in STRANGE TALES #114 is anything to go by.

So here's the plot: The mystic master receives a telephone call from Sir CLIVE BENTLEY, asking him to come at once.  Faster than QUICKSILVER can run to the loo, Strange is next seen stepping out of a British taxi (presumably having grabbed the fastest 'plane to England) and paying off the driver.

However, turns out it wasn't Bentley, but rather BARON MORDO in disguise who'd summoned Strange - who has now stepped into a trap.  Here we see what seems to be yet another infamous discrepancy between what artist STEVE DITKO drew, and what writer STAN LEE scripted.

It looks to me that Strange is trapped between a pair of mystic candles, the incense of which paralyzes him.  When the candles have burned out, Strange's life will also end.  However, Stan's scripting seems to indicate that Strange's dire predicament is caused by only a single candle.  It's just as well it wasn't four candles, or we could've found ourselves in the middle of the classic sketch by the TWO RONNIES.

Anyway, the good Doc, by the power of his mind, summons the nearby VICTORIA BENTLEY (Sir Clive's daughter), to come and extinguish the candle(s), thereby prematurely ending the spell which would've killed him.  (They had to burn out in their own time, apparently, for the spell to be effective.)

Mordo returns to gloat over Strange's death, and - on discovering him still alive - mentally saps his will, making him his slave.  But then the real Strange turns up, and reveals that Mordo had only enslaved his mental projecto-image, as he's just stepped off the 'plane from America.  Only his ethereal self could've arrived so quickly, explains Strange.

But here's where it all breaks down.  At first, it appears that Strange's 'mental projecto-image' is something entirely different to his metaphysical spirit which can float through walls, and is ghostly in appearance.  (We'll assume he can make himself visible to whoever he wishes, but I'm unsure if the 'rules' were ever established.  Wasn't The HULK supposed to be the only person capable of seeing him?)  However, he also refers to it as his 'ethereal self', suggesting that the two are the same.

Now I'm confused.  Why would Strange's ethereal self require a taxi to get to the castle?  (He could've simply used his mystic powers to take him where he was needed.)  Where does the dosh for the fare come from?  And how does his 'actual' body function independently when his mind is elsewhere?  If his mind was in his metaphysical self when Mordo enslaved it, how could he switch it over to his actual body upon arrival?  (And would these candles even be able to affect his non-physical form?)

The impression given is that both forms have independent thought, which we know from later tales just isn't so.  Also, why doesn't his ethereal self (also called ectoplasmic in subsequent stories) look, er - 'ethereal' - as opposed to a solid manifestation?  It has to be said that the conclusion seems rushed and is rather unsatisfying, depending, as it does, on the reader ignoring more holes than a vat of Swiss cheese.

As the denouement of the story depends on readers thinking Strange is there in physical form, these apparent discrepancies are maybe nothing more than deliberate misdirection, which - with a little mental exercise - can be reconciled to some degree, no?  Perhaps, but readers shouldn't have to work that hard; the best plots are always those which tie up loose ends, not leave more straggly bits than a plateful of spaghetti.

H'mm, cheese, spaghetti - all this talk of food  has made me hungry.  I'm off to raid the fridge.

Sunday 25 November 2012


Images copyright DC COMICS

When 'Jolly' JACK KIRBY jumped ship from MARVEL to DC in 1970, the repercussions didn't really reverberate in Britain (or, at least, my part of it) 'til around 1972.  (Comics still mainly came to these shores as ballast in ships, sometimes resulting in a delay of several months - and even years in some instances.)

I recall leafing through issues of NEW GODS and FOREVER PEOPLE in my local newsagent's and, although recognising Jack's artistic style as the same one which had drawn most of my favourite Marvel characters, being unimpressed by the rather drab colouring and underwhelming characters. (The BLACK RACER anyone?  Surely an attempt to replicate the popularity of The SILVER SURFER,  but being far too way-out - even for Kirby!)

I later came to appreciate Jack's series of FOURTH WORLD mags, but I thought his best comic at DC was SUPERMAN'S PAL JIMMY OLSEN, where the dialogue was closer to the STAN LEE-scripted collaborations Jack produced at Marvel.  Sure, there were still examples of Jack's clunky turn of phrase from time to time, but they weren't quite as glaring as in his other DC books.

To me, the Fourth World panoply of New Gods would've worked better as supporting characters in FANTASTIC FOUR, much like The INHUMANS, who I never thought interesting enough to have their own series.  Jimmy Olsen, however, worked like a dream.

In tribute to 'the King', here, then, are all 15 covers to the most enjoyable run of comics that he produced for Marvel's 'Dynamic Competition'.  They're available in a couple of full-colour softcover volumes entitled JIMMY OLSEN ADVENTURES By JACK KIRBY - well-worth checking out.  (Update: The stories have now also been issued in a single softcover volume.)

Relax!  Issue #140 was a non-Kirby Giant reprint issue, unconnected to the regular comic's storyline, so isn't included here.  (And yes, I do have it.)

In the second volume, the inking of this cover is mistakenly attributed to
VINCE COLLETTA, whereas it's actually by MURPHY ANDERSON

In the same volume, SUPERMAN's face is inked by MIKE ROYER,
not the MURPHY ANDERSON one (above) as published


Images copyright DC COMICS

A while back, in a rare mad moment of indiscretion, I somewhat impetuously revealed my schoolboy crush on SUSAN STORM (aka The INVISIBLE GIRL), but I have an even more shameful confession to make.  I could never quite remain faithful to sweet Susie, swiftly switching my fickle infatuation 'twixt a succession of four-colour cosmic cuties whenever my attention was diverted by some slinky, seductive temptress provocatively posing and pouting at me from whatever captivating comic I happened to be rabidly reading at the time.

SCARLET WITCH, SATURN GIRL, The WASP, and MARVEL GIRL were just some of the many superpowered seductresses to whom I felt oddly drawn - unlike them, who were awesomely and alluringly drawn (little pun there) and stirred such strange sensations in my stomach.  Another was KARA, alias SUPERGIRL (who actually bore a striking resemblance to both Susan and Saturn Girl), and - whether drawn by JIM MOONEY or KURT SCHAFFENBERGER - she set my young pulse racing with passions I didn't quite understand and would've been unable to 'express' had the divine diva magically sprang to life in front of me.  (7 year old boys are probably much more clued-up on such 'affairs of the heart' nowadays, I imagine.)

Anyway, in tribute to Kara, here's a selection of images carefully culled from my comic collection to hopefully give you an idea as to why the heavenly honey so transfixed me.  Curiously, I never found her secret identity of LINDA DANVERS quite so attractive.  Strange what effect long blonde hair and a short skirt can have, eh?  (Looking at Linda now though, she's actually quite striking.  (Oh no!  I thought I'd grown out of it.)

ADVENTURE COMICS #384, which heads this post, is an odd little tale, lounging in the 'land of latent lesbianism' (and transvestism), perhaps without even being aware of it, and presumably going straight over the heads of kids who read it back in the day.  Reading it today as an adult, however, it seems unbelievable that the editors didn't spot the inherent implications of the story at the time.

Anyway, did anyone else out there harbour such secret desires for sexy statuesque superheroines, or was I the world's only paper pin-up perv?  Please tell me it ain't so!  (Go on, 'fess up.  You'll feel better for it.)

For another reminiscence in a similar vein, click here.

Saturday 24 November 2012



Here's all you Crivvies need to know: The MISSING LINK drawn by LUIS BERMEJO, published by ODHAMS PRESS in FANTASTIC back in 1967.  There, short and sweet - why waste words?

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