Tuesday 30 July 2013


Copyright relevant owner

I've always been fascinated by how a mere glimpse of a picture from one's past can conjure up specific recollections of a particular time and place from so very long ago.  The above book cover photo is just such an example, as looking at it instantly transports me back to my father's greenhouse on a sunny summer day in the mid-'70s, where, surrounded by tomato plants and the accoutrements of the keen gardener, I sat and immersed myself in the world of BOND... JAMES BOND as the magnified heat of the sun beat down upon me.

The book - COLONEL SUN, by ROBERT MARKHAM (alias KINGSLEY AMIS), was already a few years old by the time I discovered it in my local R. S. McCOLL's, but that didn't bother me at all, if I was even aware of it at the time.  Unusually for me, apart from a couple of scenes, I don't recall much of the story itself (though I'm sure it will all come back to me when I read it again), but that day in the back garden greenhouse is as fresh as if it were only last week.

The copy I used to have was printed circa 1973 or '74, but the one I've just re-acquired is the first edition from 1970.  Not that it matters, as the cover is exactly the same, which is why I bought it - to more fully re-experience the memories that resurfaced upon sight of a thumbnail image of the paperback on eBay.

One day I plan to sit down and re-read it, when I can devote myself to it uninterrupted.  My father's greenhouse and tomato plants are long-gone (as is he), but some sunny day, I'll put out a chair on the spot they once occupied and try and recapture that glorious summer afternoon when I accompanied 007 as he yet again saved the world - all from the comfort of a red, white and yellow striped deckchair in a greenhouse in my back garden.

Me (and my Smash Martian pal) in my back garden in 1977.  Look at that
collar.  My father is reading a newspaper in his greenhouse behind me

Monday 29 July 2013


Copyright relevant owner

As promised to all you Crivvies last time, here's the second part of the GERRY ANDERSON content from the 1963 TV COMIC ANNUAL (released in '62), including the game on the back cover and the accompanying spinner and counters.  Now, printer permitting, you have everything you need to have a go at reliving a game from your long ago childhood. 

When the FIREBALL XL5 story was being prepared for the annual, the show had not yet aired on TV, and it's clear from the art that some drawings of the actual craft were based on concept pictures of Fireball at an early stage in its development, when it had a slightly sleeker design and was called CENTURY 21.  That's right - Fireball XL5 was originally named Century 21 and was a silvery-blue-ish  colour.  (See pic.)

It seems that the artist, NEVILLE MAIN, only had reference to black and white photos, as the colours of the crew's uniforms don't match up to their TV counterparts.  However, this was the first time that Fireball had appeared anywhere, so it's a genuine collectors' item.  Not quite up there with mighty MIKE NOBLE's supeb strips in the later TV CENTURY 21 comic, perhaps, but a nice enough little tale for the slightly younger readership that TV Comic attracted.

And once again, BILL MEVIN turned out a nicely drawn story of SUPERCAR, with an effective application of colour that would've had a greater impact on readers of the '60s than it does us, as the programme was made and broadcast in monochrome.  That was one of the attractions of TV21 when it made its 1965 debut  - viewers could see the characters and craft of their favourite puppet programmes in colour, many for the very first time if they'd missed the TV Comic publications.
Anyway, that's enough prattling preamble from me - we now unleash you upon all the pretty piccies.  Enjoy.


Not from the annual, here's a concept drawing by DEREK MEDDINGS of Fireball XL5 when it was originally called Century 21.  As you can see, the first drawing  (as well as one or two others) of XL5 in the story below seems to have been based directly on the visualisation above.  (In regard to shape - especially the nose-cone - not colour, obviously.)

Note that Commander Zero is called Captain Zero in the above page and is absolutely nothing like his
television puppet counterpart.  Also, Professor Matic isn't wearing glasses throughout the entire strip

Sunday 28 July 2013


Copyright relevant owner

I now bestow upon all you cavortin' Crivvies the first of a two-part presentation of the GERRY ANDERSON content from the TV COMIC ANNUAL for 1963.  We start, though, with a non-Anderson, mighty MIKE NOBLE illustrated adventure of The RANGE RIDER.  Is there anything that Noble can't draw?  (Obviously a rhetorical question.)  And BILL MEVIN does a great job on the SUPERCAR story which follows it, capturing the spirit of the TV show perfectly!

Saturday 27 July 2013


Image copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co, Ltd

What you're looking at above is The BEANO's sub-editor IAN CHISHOLM's first sketch of DENNIS The MENACE, drawn on a cigarette packet when the idea of the character was first being discussed.  (Followed by the first-ever strip drawn by DAVID LAW.)  The name was nicked from a once-popular song called DENNIS The MENACE From VENICE, about a gay gondolier, although obviously the word was used in its old-fashioned sense, and not in the way it's more often used today.

What with a gondolier and a sailor having such a hand in Dennis's 'birth', it's obvious that the young scamp must come from seafaring stock.  Maybe he'll join the navy one day.


(And, lest it isn't clear to some people, it's the gondolier called Dennis who I'm alluding to in the title of this post, not the famous comic strip character from The Beano.)

Thursday 25 July 2013


Copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

I was in my local WH SMITH's yesterday and, not seeing it on display, I asked whether they had The BEANO 75th BIRTHDAY SPECIAL.  "It never came in today, although it was supposed to - it'll probably come in tomorrow", was the response of some disinterested assistant.  That meant, of course, that it was sitting in the back shop, waiting for someone to extract the digit and put it out on sale.

I was in again today and there it was, so I ventured to ask about The LAST EVER DANDY SUMMER SPECIAL as I dug out some dosh to make my purchase.  "They don't publish The Dandy anymore"  I was told in response to my query.  "Yes, I know - but this is a special bookazine called... etc., etc.," I explained, rapidly losing the will to live. "I'll ask one of my colleagues if she knows," he replied, and, with me in tow, made his way over to where she was.


We'll be here all night if I relate the back-and-forth dialogue that ensued - did I mean The Beano?  They don't publish The Dandy anymore, blah, blah, blah - so I'll cut to the chase. Eventually the woman said: "I'll take a look in the back because, if we might have it, I know where it'll be kept." A few minutes later she returned, holding half-a-dozen copies of the aforesaid publication that, according to her and her colleague, hadn't existed a mere five minutes before.

If I hadn't asked about it and not taken no for an answer, I can't help but wonder if it would ever have made it out to the shelves, or simply sat in a corner somewhere in the back shop until being returned to the distributor.  What a way to run a business. WHS staff seem to regard most of their magazines as a nuisance, forgetting the fact it's one of the primary reasons for the company's existence.


Anyway, I finally purchased the two Specials, and in the main, they're worth the dosh.  One thing I find irritating about DCT's reprint books and magazines however, is the way they 'busy' up the pages, instead of just having plain and simple white margins 'round the strips as they were originally published. They often have something obscuring part of the strip or simply adding clutter to the pages and it drives me up the wall.  Are you listening, Dundee publishers?  Stop ruining the strips at once!  (Having said that, these two mags aren't as bad as on previous occasions.)

Clearly, the two publications should be similarly priced at £5.99, but DCT seem to have have shaved £1 off The Dandy Special (£4.99) and added it to The Beano one (£6.99).  Perhaps they knew WHS would be hiding the former in the back shop and this was a way of cutting down on their losses?  (Yes, I'm joking!)

Anyway, two Specials that every Beano and Dandy fan should have in their collections.  The Dandy is marked #2, following on from last year's, so no doubt there'll be more in the future.  (Probably not with the word 'Summer' in the title though.)

Wednesday 24 July 2013


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

Picked up the latest issue of The BEANO today, celebrating 75 years of publishing.  Took a quick look through it and was glad to see that they've now switched back to an upper case lettering font which, despite claims by some, does not give the impression that everyone is shouting - and is also much easier to read.  (And just looks better!)

The bad news though, is that long-running stalwart, ROGER The DODGER has been murdered - and replaced with a strange, alien-looking creature that seems immensely juvenile in both art and lettering.  Having ditched the nursery look in the rest of the comic, whatever possessed DCT to let the artist letter his own work?

The lettering, which is not much more than a scrawl, and the balloons, which are far too large, dominate the panels, and are not only sore on the eyes but utterly uninviting.  I didn't even bother trying to read the strip, which is populated by basic, unappealing, bug-eyed jellyfish-type doodles, 'illustrated' in the 'How to Draw Comics Quickly and Without Much Effort' style that the artist is (in)famous for.

The editor, the same man responsible for the decisions behind the demise of The DANDY, doesn't seem to have learned much (apart from in the lettering dept - bar one), from his previous mistakes and seems determined in trying to convince us that, when it comes to what comic art should look like, he knows best.  We can only hope that what is so far only a small irritating rash does not turn into the same full-blown terminal disease that doomed The Dandy.

Fingers crossed, eh?


"We Shall Remember Him."


Images copyright EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS Plc

"Oh, RUPERT, RUPERT The BEAR - everyone sing his name!"  So ran the theme tune to the lunchtime television show which was broadcast between 1970 and '74.  However, as most fans know, the correct way to refer to the bruin is simply Rupert Bear - without the definite article.

Created by MARY TOURTEL and making his debut in The DAILY EXPRESS on November 8th, 1920, Rupert soared to even greater heights of popularity under ALFRED BESTALL, who took over the strip in 1935 until 1965.  (Though he continued to draw covers and endpapers for the Annuals for years afterwards.)

Rupert's newspaper strip usually consisted of two illustrated panels (four in the Annuals, in two tiers), with text underneath, instead of incorporated into the art like other comic strips.  However, back in 1988, the first of three RUPERT FUN books was released, featuring the little brown bruin's adventures in the more 'modern' form, with captions and speech balloons within the panels.

The first two were hardback (48 pages, including covers), with the third being cardboard covered, with a 48 page interior page- count.  Along with repackaged reprints of earlier strips, the books also featured puzzles and games, and were full-colour throughout.  Costing only £1.99, they represented extremely good value for money, and it's a shame the series didn't continue.

So, just in case you've never seen them before, here are the covers of all three books, along with a small selection of interior pages from the first.  Hum the theme tune while you look.


Click here for more about Rupert.

Monday 22 July 2013


Copyright relevant owner

As promised a few posts back, here's the CAPTAIN SCARLET adventure drawn by RON TURNER from the Annual for 1968.  Any comments by me are pretty redundant, as you can see for yourselves what a fantastic artist he is.  I'm unsure whether he ever drew SUPERCAR anywhere, but he did illustrate most of the other GERRY ANDERSON characters and vehicles.  FIREBALL, STINGRAY, THUNDERBIRDS, CAPTAIN SCARLET and JOE 90 as well.  And just think - once you've enjoyed this tale, there'll be another one along in just a few posts time.  You lucky readers you! 

Sunday 21 July 2013


How do you choose your friends?  What qualities or attributes do you look for or expect in those individuals with whom you socialise or make time for in your lives ?

Why do I ask, you may be wondering, so I'll tell you.  I've been reading a few blogs by professional comicbook contributors past and present, and one of the things that strikes me is that quite a few of them have one particular thing in common.  Which is?  Arrogance!  It may be an arrogance concealed by a cloak of humility or politeness, but it still lurks beneath the folds of that cloak just the same.  Of course, sometimes it isn't cloaked at all, and the person concerned may come across as an utterly odious and obnoxious character - and often is.

That arrogance rears its ugly head when someone - even a long-term friend or acquaintance - happens to voice an opinion different to that of the blogger.  I recently read one blogger say that he wasn't sure he considered someone a friend anymore, because he'd received an email from him concerning some controversial matter that didn't agree with his own view of the situation. He might not have articulated his altered attitude in precisely that way, but that was the essence of his reasoning, sure enough.

Another blogger, a one-time minor player (though status is relative, I suppose) in the lower echelons of comicbook history, has no hesitation in calling anyone a bigot who doesn't see things his way on (but not retricted to) the topic of homosexuality.  If you have reservations about same sex marriage or gay adoption, based on religious, cultural or historical traditions - even if you believe in tolerating dissenting opinions to your own and aren't calling for anyone to be spat on, abused, jailed, beaten or strung up - then, according to this belligerent individual - you're an intolerant bigot who he doubtless wouldn't cross the road to pee on if you were on fire.  (Perhaps it's simply a facade, but it's certainly a convincing one.)

This led me to ponder my own views on friendship.  Do I associate only with those whose opinions on various topics are in accord with my own?  Do I resent dissent and shun anyone who might hold completely opposite philosophies to the ones I embrace?  Well, no, actually.  I have friends who live totally different lifestyles to my own and align themselves with beliefs and practices that I don't happen to share, but as long as they aren't obnoxious in expressing why they believe (or do) as they do then there isn't a problem.  This doesn't mean that we never discuss controversial subjects, but we always do so with a respect for the other's point of view.  (Or, at the very least, the other's right to hold - and express - that point of view.)

So why do some comicbook contributors behave as they do, with such an arrogant, pompous and even superior attitude towards those they seemingly look down their noses at?  (Some, of course, don't necessarily express their views in an openly disdainful or hostile manner, but it's pretty obvious that it lies at the heart of their thinking, whether they're aware of it or not.  I think I understand*, so let me digress for a moment in order to explain.

When I was a freelance contributor to 2000 A.D., believe it or not, I was frequently asked for my autograph.  Not because I was deserving of such a compliment in my own right, but because of my (admittedly) minor association with Britain's cult comic and its iconic characters.  I was bathing in reflected glory, in other words, not my own.  Had I been the office tea boy, the fans would probably still have sought my signature on scraps of paper, so ardent were they in their desire to 'connect' with the object of their adoration.  (The comic, not me.)  Fortunately, I was smart enough to realise it and never let the attention go to my head.

However, some individuals who experience repeated instances of people lapping up every uttered syllable as if it's the wisdom of the ancients, and whose fans eagerly seek to ingratiate themselves with them because of their connection to a particular comicbook character or company, eventually start to believe that they're important and that their opinion (on any subject whatsoever) counts for something.  It's not long before they come to regard such adulation as their due and, because of the understandable reluctance of some fans to fall out of favour with their idols, they soon get used to never being challenged on their various 'divine pronouncements'.

So, when the day comes (as it inevitably must) that someone dares disagree with them, their noses are put seriously out of joint.  It's the old "Don't you know whom I am?" scenario, writ large.  (And I know just what you're thinking - "So why are you such a pompous buffoon, you Scottish git?"  Well, do what you're good at, I always say.)

Seriously though, many of the people these contributors cast off wouldn't disown them for holding an opposing point of view, so just who then are the real intolerant ones, the bigots, as these self-styled 'models of tolerance, fairness and goodwill' are quick to call anyone who fails to see eye-to-eye with them on their 'pet' issues?

That's the problem with only choosing your friends and acquaintances from those who share your likes, dislikes, tastes or opinions.  You're not choosing them for themselves, but rather for the reflection of yourself that you see in them.  That makes you your own favourite person - which may be hardly surprising, but doesn't necessarily make you a particularly good judge of character.

Just saying.


(*Of course, the people to whom I refer may always have been as they are, but there seems to be a pattern behind their attitudes which I thought would be interesting to explore.  Feel free to disagree - I won't fall out with you or ban you from the blog - unlike some.)    


Here we are with the final part of the current JOHNNY FUTURE adventure, wherein he battles the bombastic brutality of CAPTAIN CAVEMAN!  Well, not quite - but surely a close relative of the classic cartoon character, except rendered somewhat more realistically.
Johnny's taking a wee holiday for the foreseeable future, but if you'd like to see more of FANTASTIC's British 'Man of Tomorrow' (as daringly drawn by ace artist LUIS BERMEJO) then let me know in the comments section.  Every vote counts.

Saturday 20 July 2013


Characters copyright MARVEL COMICS

A few years ago, I was asked by someone acting on behalf of the then-current copyright owner of MICK ANGLO's MARVELMAN as to whether I'd be interested in lettering some pages for submission to MARVEL, as part of a proposal to interest them in buying the character.  Well, of course I would.  It was all very hush-hush, and I had to sign a confidentiality clause which would be in effect during negotiations, and until they had been concluded one way or the other.

Well, we all know what the result was.  Out of courtesy to both Marvel and the previous copyright owner (and I know there's still a lot of controversy over who actually owns what and whether anyone had the rights to sell in the first place), I've held off from featuring any pages here, waiting for Marvel to do something with the character first - apart, that is, from publishing reprints of '50s stories that I don't imagine a lot of Americans will be much interested in.

However, as certain promises made to me by a certain person have not materialised, and as that person seems to be 'unavailable' and has not responded to requests made to their representative that they contact me, I no longer feel inclined to extend any further courtesy or consideration than I have up 'til now.

So what you're now looking at, Crivs, is an exclusive!  It's one of several pages of a proposal submitted to Marvel, written and drawn by someone who prefers to remain anonymous, and lettered by me.  One of the Marvel head honchos described the pages as "model comic art" (and had a few nice things to say about my lettering as well) during a 'phone conversation with me a couple of years back.

I should make it clear that the above page (and the other ones yet unseen) do not necessarily represent any plans Marvel may have for the character or intended storylines - the writer/artist merely gave his imagination free rein, unhampered by any corporate restrictions on his creativity (because there were none).  Should Marvel ever get around to doing anything with their CAPTAIN MARVEL imitation (the DC COMICS one, formerly FAWCETT), it's highly unlikely that any ideas or plotlines suggested in the sample pages will be used.  So, with that in mind, enjoy the above page.


And it's just come to my attention that Marvel intends to make an announcement about the character soon.


The Town Centre in the 1960s

Ah, where do the years go?  Y'know, it sometimes galls me that there are places I can no longer visit because they simply don't exist anymore.  Once upon a time, I would drag myself from bed, get dressed, washed, brushed, have breakfast, and set off for school in the mornings, subconsciously absorbing the details of my surroundings as I did so.  When I wake up nowadays, I do so in the same room as I did when I was 13, but my school no longer exists and the route along to where it once stood has changed in quite a number of ways as well.

Even the shopping centre I once explored in wide-eyed wonder has changed beyond all recognition, having quadrupled (at least) in size and been roofed-over to protect shoppers from inclement weather.  Ironically, although it's now larger, many of the best and biggest shops have moved to an out-of-town retail park where the rents are apparently cheaper, leaving the original centre with numerous empty premises.  Indeed, many of the newer units built in the last few years have never been occupied since completion.

Outside W. & R. Holmes.  (Out of shot to the right -
you can just see part of the shop sign)

I miss certain shops, havens of my youth, where I'd idle away the minutes looking at books, toys, comics or annuals.  I still have quite a few items (or replacements) from my childhood, with which I associate the places I first purchased them.  SUPERMAN From The '30s To The '70s, The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL Annual 1973, EL TEMPO marker pens, PRITT glue sticks, and a whole host of other items instantly transport me back to W. & R. HOLMES, a bookshop, stationers, toyshop, tobacconist, art department, etc., which has never been equalled by any subsequent would-be replacements since it closed its doors in the late '70s.

And what about that old standby that everyone of a certain age must surely miss as much as I do? WOOLWORTH'S, where every child of the '60s and '70s obtained some of the best toys ever released at that time, to say nothing of two ounces of PIC'N'MIX whenever one wanted some jelly babies, dolly mixtures or jap desserts.  'Woolies' was usually the place my elasticated black plimsolls were purchased for gym classes in primary school.  No such thing as designer trainers for kids back then - Woolworth's was a great 'equalizer' when it came to blurring the distinctions between better-off families and the not so prosperous ones.

W. & R. Holmes - now that's what I call a shop!

R. S. McCOLL's was another haunt of mine in bygone days.  'Twas in McColl's I obtained my first MARX friction-drive DALEK (1967), my CORGI TOYS diecast orange bubble-car (1969 or '70), The INCREDIBLE HULK Annual #2 (1973), a TITCH stapler that sits to the side of me as I type (1978 or '79), and a COCA-COLA sign which still adorns my wall to this very day (again, '78 or '79, I think).  In the early or mid-'80s, it moved from the premises it had inhabited since I was a lad to another unit further up the street, and though I still frequented it for years afterwards, it was never quite the same.  (Though I did buy my very first brand-new ACTION MAN there in 1984.)

Well, I could go on and on, and perhaps some of you think I'm going to, but I'll call it quits with this last little thought.  If someone were to ask me what my idea of Heaven is, I'd have to say that my home town exactly as it was in 1969 or '70 would come pretty close.  To be able to walk the streets and run through the green fields I knew as a child, to visit the shops I liked from my earliest days and which could always be relied upon to supply the simplest and the best of pleasures - well, that sounds pretty heavenly to me.

R.S. McColl's is under the awning to the left of the
pillars.  Further up the street is Woolworth's

Sometimes, in dreams, I once again wander the familiar haunts of my youth, where long-vanished people and places welcome me warmly and invite me to spend some time with them.  However, such moments are fleeting, and the harsh reality of the here-and-now lies in wait to disappoint me when I awaken to a new day.


We thought there was no more behind
But such a day tomorrow as today
And to be a boy eternal.

William Shakespeare


So, any places from your childhood or teenage years that you wish still existed, or do you prefer things the way they are now?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. 

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