Thursday 31 October 2013


As it's HALLOWE'EN tonight, here's a little treat from the pages of WHAM! back in October 1965.  The story doesn't have a Hallowe'en theme as such, but FRANKIE STEIN himself fits right in with the mood of the evening, so I'm sure you'll all still enjoy his madcap escapade, as drawn by the mighty KEN REID


Copyright relevant owner
Along with my THUNDERBIRDS book that I received the other day from the generous people at EGMONT, was the above boxed set of 100 F.A.B. Postcards - and something else.  Let's look at the postcards first, which are excellent.  (Remember to click on the images to see them larger.  Then click again for larger yet.)

The cards feature different high-quality images from the TV show, including snapshots of the credits sequence at the beginning of each programme, as well as Tracy Island, Thunderbirds machinery, the Hood, the Tracy family and Lady Penelope.  Contained in a sturdy and attractive gift box, this makes the perfect gift for all fans and collectors of GERRY ANDERSON's iconic show.
There's one major problem with them though - which is that they're simply far too good ever to use as postcards.  I certainly won't be sending any of them to anyone.  They can buy their own - which is what you should do right away.

Available now for £14.99.


Also enclosed with my goodies was the above signed A3 print by GRAHAM BLEATHMAN (limited to 500) to celebrate the launch of the Thunderbirds book and Postcard box.  (That's getting framed, that is.)  Many thanks to Egmont and Graham.

Wednesday 30 October 2013


Images copyright Egmont Publishing Group

It's always exciting to receive a book in the post and when my review copy of the new THUNDERBIRDS volume arrived today, courtesy of those extremely nice people at EGMONT, it was no exception.  I already have all the stories in one form or another, either in their original TV CENTURY 21 printings, or their various reprintings in THUNDERBIRDS The COMIC, RAVETTE, REYNOLDS & HEARN or SIGNUM editions, but a sturdy hardback book is always very welcome to this particular bibliophile.

Nothing, of course, can compare to the actual artwork or original printings, but this is a very handsome edition which is sure to inspire memories of many a childhood, not only in the 1960s and 1970s, but also 1991, when GERRY ANDERSON's premier puppet programme enjoyed a resurgence of interest all across the U.K. after being networked by the BBC for the first time in the series' history.  Featuring strips by FRANK BELLAMY, FRANK HAMPSONERIC EDEN and JOHN COOPER, the book is an absolute delight for all lovers of action and adventure.

One of the disappointing aspects of previous collections is that the centrespreads never fared too well, often having word balloons or captions split in two (and the parts not quite matching up) on account of being printed on two separate pages instead of just one double-pager.  This book sensibly avoids that problem by presenting stories consisting mainly of individual pages rather than double-page panoramic spreads.  Fortunately, GRAHAM BLEATHMAN's cutaway centrespreads aren't too affected by being divided by the binding method.

Talking of Graham Bleathman, his work is right up there with the very best artists who ever illustrated Gerry Anderson-themed comic strips, and it's a shame that no such high-quality periodical like TV21 is around today to give artists of Graham's calibre the opportunity to dazzle the current crop of youngsters, who would surely lap up such fantastically detailed 'video-grams'.

Now that's what I call an endpaper

Thunderbirds: The Comic Collection is a heavy, extremely lavish book, which would make an ideal present for anyone who enjoyed the programme or experienced these strips the first time around.  With Christmas fast approaching, it could save you the headache of trying to decide what yuletide present to buy for the big kid in your life.  In fact, it'd make an ideal gift at any time of the year.  With an informative introduction (and, alas, art credit errors in the list of contents - but, hey - no-one's perfect) it deserves pride of place on any true Thunderbirds fan's bookshelf.  Yours for only £25.  F.A.B.


Coming next:  The THUNDERBIRDS POSTCARDS review.

Tuesday 29 October 2013


Page from The Fly.  Art by Jack Kirby, images copyright relevant owner

Okay, this is a difficult one, so bear with me.  Everyone knows that STAN LEE has a pretty poor memory, something which he himself readily acknowledges, so I'm not saying anything with which he'd disagree.  Stan's not the only comicbook icon who suffered from this 'handicap' though, as his long-time collaborator JACK KIRBY was similarly afflicted.  This, of course, has sometimes led to discrepancies between both men's accounts in the 'who created what?' arguments that have raged for decades.

I'm of the opinion that Stan is basically an honest man, who - whenever his memory fails him - fills in the dots with whatever seems probable in order to make sense of events.  True, in the best storyteller tradition, he sometimes hyperbolically embellishes his reminiscences to make them more entertaining, but I don't believe he deliberately distorts anything out of a selfish intent to deny others credit.

Page from The Fly.  Art by Jack Kirby.  Do I detect Bill Everett inks on the last three panels?

That doesn't mean, though, that distortion doesn't sometimes inadvertently happen.  Case in point: SPIDER-MAN first appeared in AMAZING FANTASY #15, which was the final issue of the mag.  It now seems clear that, at the time of preparation, it wasn't actually intended to be the last issue, but rather the first ish of a 'new direction'.  Publisher MARTIN GOODMAN, however, noticed the low sales figures for previous issues of AF and ordered its immediate cancellation - despite Stan's 'rescue' plans for the title.

In Stan's mind, looking back after the fact, all he remembered was that Spidey appeared in AF's final issue.  Relating events years later in ORIGINS Of MARVEL COMICS, Stan tells what seemed to him at the time the most likely account of why things happened as they did, perhaps even unknowingly confusing the details with a similar situation involving another character and title.
C.C. Beck's earlier pencils for The Silver Spider.  Compare to Kirby's page at the top of the post

We've all done it - remembered things as we think happened, rather than as they actually occurred.  A good example of this, as related in a recent blog post, is that I recall two RONNIE HILTON songs from my childhood as being sides A & B of the same 45 rpm record.  When I decided to hunt down and re-acquire the record a few weeks ago, I discovered that they were, in actual fact, two separate singles - not the one, as I'd seemed to recall.

Now consider the creation of Spider-Man.  In Stan's account, he came up with the character, gave it to Jack Kirby to draw, saw the first few pages - then thought "Nah, that's not what I'm looking for!"  So he turned the job over to STEVE DITKO and the rest is history.  Jack's recollection of events is different, but first, let's backtrack a few years.  According to JOE SIMON, he and his brother-in-law, JACK OLECK, had come up with a hero called Spiderman (no hyphen), later changed to the SILVER SPIDER, which was given to former CAPTAIN MARVEL artist C.C. BECK to pencil.  (Before the name change, Simon had already lettered a large Spiderman logo for the proposed strip.  This was around 1953.)

Spiderman/The Silver Spider.  Art by C.C. Beck

The idea never got off the ground 'til around six years later, by which time the insect-hero had metamorphosed into The FLY, drawn by Jack from Simon's original Spiderman script, and published by MLJ/ARCHIE COMICS in 1959.

Now, here's where it gets interesting.  Steve Ditko recalls seeing Jack's first few pages of 'Spider-Man' and noticing that they bore an amazing resemblance (plot-wise) to The Fly.  He informed Stan of the fact, who jettisoned JK's version and reworked the concept, which he then had Steve draw.  For years now, fans have dreamt of seeing Kirby's rejected Spidey pages so they could compare them to Ditko's, but so far, they remain undiscovered.

Or do they?

Logo by Joe Simon

In Jack's account, he took Simon's Spiderman logo to Stan and suggested the idea for the character.  The pages he showed to Lee may well have been redrawings of the Spiderman/Fly pages, as they were essentially based on the same script, which may have been why Ditko mentioned to Stan that they were too close to Archie's The Fly, resulting in the reworked concept that became MARVEL's very own Spider-Man.  (It's interesting to note that, if Jack did indeed take the idea to Stan, in later claiming that he had created the character, he never mentioned Simon's, Oleck's or Beck's involvement in the original process, thereby depriving them of their rightful credit.)

So - might we have actually already seen versions of the Kirby 'Spider-Man' pages of which legend tells?  And if so, does it discredit Stan's account of the creation of the ol' Web-spinner?  Not necessarily.  Even if Jack had suggested the name to Stan and shown him some pages, the finished product by Lee and Ditko bore no relation to the character that Jack may have presented (and which was dreamt up by Simon & Oleck, remember).  And, of course, Stan may have come up with the idea, and Jack submitted un-inked stats or redrawn pencils of his earlier pages, thinking that they would serve what Stan had roughly in mind.

Apparently, Kirby's Spider-Man looked similar to the above figure

Alas, it seems that nobody will ever know for certain.  Even were Kirby still alive, his memory seems to have been no more reliable than Lee's, so the issue would doubtless remain unresolved anyway.  However, it's an intriguing notion, don't you think?  Regardless of whether Stan first approached Jack, or Jack first approached Stan with the idea, you may now be looking at something very close to the rejected pages which Stan himself mentioned in his Origins book back in 1974, and for which comics historians have been searching ever since.

Feel entirely free to register your thoughts, theories and fancies in our ever-lovin' comments section.

Monday 28 October 2013



At the very same time that the BUSTER and WHIZZER & CHIPS Comic Libraries were on sale, so too was the EAGLE Picture Library.  Just like W&C, it lasted 14 issues, and the covers are reproduced on this very post for you to peruse at your leisure.  It was good to see JANUS STARK again, even if (as far as I know) he never appeared in any other Eagle-related publication.

If you've enjoyed seeing these classic covers of yesteryear, then feel free to leave a sentence or two of appreciation in the comments section.  You know how insecure we bloggers are.

Sunday 27 October 2013


In a previous post (here) I explained the background to this strip I drew when I was only 17.  I thought it might be good to see it in colour, so I dug out my acrylic inks and gave it a go, Unfortunately, I'm handicapped by being slightly colour-blind, so I freely admit my limitations in that department.  Also, I was working on an A4 photocopy, which I found rather limiting when applying my brush.

Anyway, hardly the finest example of a comic strip you'll ever see, but for a 17 year old lad working in a warehouse (as I was at the time) who hadn't yet developed any kind of style of my own, I'm sure that most impartial commenters will agree that it ain't too bad at all.

Or am I being unrealistically optimistic?


And below (no expense spared) is the black & white copy, obviously.


Images copyright relevant owner

Well, you've already seen the BUSTER COMIC LIBRARY covers, so let's now look at the WHIZZER & CHIPS ones - all 14 of them.  These first came out in early 1985, and I was one of the re-size artists to work on the digest-sized periodicals.  Guess how much I got paid for each issue, which took about a day, day-and-a-half tops, to do.  £100 per issue.  That's good money today, never mind 28 years ago, and I had my lettering work on top of that.  If that's being a 'failure', as some bitter and misguided visitors to this blog occasionally seek to imply, then give me excess of it.  Yup, it was a nice little earner.

You'll note that each title was issued as a separate publication, unlike the weekly comic.  Both went on sale at the same time though, sitting alongside one another on newsagents' shelves.  Obviously a cunning marketing ploy designed to shift twice as many copies.  (What true fan would ever buy Whizzer without also buying Chips?) 

One good thing about working on the comic libraries (apart from the financial aspect) was in getting to 'connect' with strips I had first read as a child and leaving my mark on them in the process of adapting them to a smaller page size.  I also got to indulge my artistic sensibilities by adding my own art whenever any panels needed extending in order to fill the space.  (There are examples elsewhere on the site.)

Anyway, I'm sure you're not interested in what I was up to  nearly 30 years ago, so let's stick to the script.  Here, for your pleasurable perusal, are the covers of which I spoke.  Hope you enjoy them.


LUIS BERMEJO ROJO was born in Madrid in 1931 and worked for many companies as a book illustrator and comic artist throughout his long career, including U.S. publishers WARREN and DC COMICS. His work appeared in U.K. comics such as EAGLE, TELL ME WHYONCE UPON A TIME and FANTASTIC, where he drew the fondly recalled (by people of a certain age, obviously) JOHNNY FUTURE.  (See? Who said this blog wasn't educational?)
Right, that's the boring introduction out of the way - now let's get into the power-packed action! And away we goooooo!

Friday 25 October 2013


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

I have to confess that I was never much of a fan of GEORGE ROUSSOS's inking on JACK KIRBY's pencils for FANTASTIC FOUR #s 21-28 - with the exception of issues #25 & 26, that is.  For some reason, George (working under the surname of BELL) managed to lift his game for the two-part adventure, wherein The HULK and The THING have one of the best 'knock 'em down, drag 'em out' battles ever seen in the pages of a comicbook (or two).

However, that's another post for another time, perhaps.  For the moment, we're more interested in the 10 cataclysmic covers that graced these classic issues - so here they are, presented just for you!  Peel back your palpitating peepers and simply enjoy, frantic ones!  Got a favourite?  Then let's hear all about it in the comments section.

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