Friday, 30 November 2012


Near the end of January 1966, 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, featur-
ing 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
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 facetious-
ness 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 selfsame 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 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 predicament is
caused by but 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 have 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 dis-
covering him still alive - mentally saps his will, making him his
slave.  But then the real Strange turns up, and reveals 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 one who can see 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 need
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?

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 think-
ing Strange is there in physical form, these apparent discrep-
ancies 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 are all 15 covers to the most enjoyable
run of comics that he produced for Marvel's 'Dynamic Competition'.
They're available in two softcover volumes called JIMMY OLSEN
ADVENTURES By JACK KIRBY - well-worth checking out.

Issue #140 was a non-JK Giant reprint issue,
so isn't included here.  (And yes, I do have it.)

In the second of the softcover volumes mentioned above, the inking of
this cover is wrongly attributed to VINCE COLLETTA, whereas, in
actual fact, it was inked 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 sprung to life in front of me.  (7 year old boys are probably 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 long blonde hair and a short skirt can do, 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 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?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...